Monday, November 21, 2022

Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month! This designated month celebrates and honors the history, cultures, and contributions of Native Americans to the United States. The idea for a day to recognize and honor the American Indian was first promoted around 1911 by Dr. Arthur C. Parker. Parker, of Seneca descent, was director of the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences and once President of the Society of American Indians, worked to educate the public on Native American history. As part of his efforts, Parker suggested the Boy Scouts of America adopt a “First Americans” day. Then, beginning in 1916, many states enacted an “American Indian Day” as the result of campaigns by the American Indian Association. In 1990, under President George H.W. Bush, the U.S. officially proclaimed November as Native American History Month.  

To celebrate, the State Library is highlighting a few titles in our collection that enhance the historical narrative of the nation’s indigenous populations. These engaging, informative titles shed light on the often-untold events and experiences of Native Americans.  

Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip's War (2018) by Lisa Brooks - Centered on the events of King Philip’s War (1675-76), or the First Indian War, which was primarily waged in southern New England between chief Metacom (also known by the English name Philip) of the Wampanoag Tribe and the English colonists of Plymouth Colony. Brooks crafts a compelling narrative of the war told through two different perspectives, one from Weetamoo, a female leader of the Wampanoag, and the other through James Printer, a writer and scribe of the Nipmuc Tribe. Lisa Brooks, a writer and historian of Abenaki descent, is an Associate Professor at Amherst College.  

Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory (2020) by Claudio Saunt - Described as “masterful and unsettling,” Saunt’s Unworthy Republic details the U.S. government's extreme efforts for ‘Indian Removal’ during the 1830s. This title provides an important and well researched retelling of the violence, betrayal, and political schemes to displace Native Americans from their lands and homes to benefit the expanding country. Saunt is a historian, author, and Professor in American History at the University of Georgia.  

Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America (2021) by Nicole Eustace - A gripping account of the 1722 murder of an indigenous man in the woods of Pennsylvania by two white colonists. Eustace relays the crime and the subsequent criminal investigation, while at the same time exploring the disparities between Native American forms of justice and the colonists’ ideas of British law. Eustace is a Professor of History at New York University.  

To learn more about Native American Heritage Month, including information on the exhibitions and webinars available for you to view this month, visit And for more information on the titles listed above, contact the State Library’s Reference Department by emailing, by calling 617-727-2590, or by chatting with us

April Pascucci
Reference Librarian

Monday, November 14, 2022

Food of the Wampanoag, Pilgrims, and Beyond

With the end of the calendar year approaching, it’s common for family and friend gatherings to take place in celebration of various holidays. In anticipation of lots of meals with loved ones, we wanted to highlight some of the cookbooks in our collection, plus books about the history of food and cooking in New England. Whether you have a sweet tooth or prefer something more savory, we’ve got a story or a recipe for everyone.

Let’s start by highlighting some food popular among the Wampanoags. The Wampanoags were the Indigenous people who settled the modern-day Plymouth area before the Pilgrims arrived in 1620. They were here long before Europeans arrived in North America and in the 1600s had around 40,000 people that made up the 67 villages of the Wampanoag Nation. Plimoth Patuxet Museums provides some information on the kinds of foods these Indigenous people consumed and cooked. Wampanoag families were assigned a plot of land on which they could garden, though there was food sharing amongst the community.They grew corn, beans, squash, and melons. Land shared among the community was where hunting, gathering, and fishing took place. Meat only made up about 20% of the Wampanoag diet since it wasn’t as readily available, while the foods they farmed made up the majority of their diet. They gathered berries, roots, and other plants to supplement their food supply as well. Today there are between 4,000 and 5,000 Wampanoag still living in New England and they continue to honor their ancestors and appreciate their way of life.

Plimoth Patuxet Museums also put together recipes based on primary sources and research done by their experts. You’ll find traditional Wampanoag dishes of the Indigenous people of Patuxet on their website, as well as some English versions of dishes.

Once the Pilgrims arrived in the Plymouth area, food developed further. Here are a few recipes from the book Plimoth Plantation: 1627 Autumn Recipes, which contains recipes similar to those of the Pilgrims’. Keep in mind that their food was influenced by the Wampanoag and was made according to what was available on the land where they just arrived rather than on the food they made while living in England. Many recipes needed to be adjusted based on what they had on hand, which you can read more about in the excerpt below along with a recipe for “pudding of native corn with dried blueberries.”

You can find more recent recipes based on the traditions of the Wampanoag in this cookbook, written by the former chief of the Mashpee Wampanoags and owner of The Flume restaurant in Mashpee, MA, Earl Mills Sr.  

The Flume is now closed, but over the 20+ years it was open, it was a warm, welcoming place abuzz with customers. Mills Sr. filled his menu (and this book) with recipes inspired by the traditions of his people and of his family growing up, as well as recipes that his customers shared with him.

We of course cannot talk about food in New England without talking about the chocolate chip cookie. The chocolate chip cookie was designated the state cookie of Massachusetts on July 9, 1997, but its history with our state started well before then. This now-classic cookie was born thanks to Ruth Wakefield, baker and owner of the Toll House Restaurant in Whitman, Mass., during the Great Depression. You can see the original recipe below and find more of Ruth’s recipes in her book titled “Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Tried and True Recipes.” Be sure to also take a look at one of our previous blog posts for more information.

Moving forward in time, let’s take a look at recipes that some of our Massachusetts elected officials liked to make in 1987. Yes, it’s true: we have a cookbook titled “What's cooking under the dome?: the Massachusetts state elected officials cookbook.” This book was compiled by Rep. Thomas Finneran and published in 1987 to benefit the Boston Center for Blind Children. It contains recipes for appetizers, soups, main dishes, and desserts, all from elected officials in the Commonwealth, including Governor Michael Dukakis.  

There are even helpful hints at the back of the book. For example: according to this book, did you know that if you’re baking, you’ll get better results if you preheat your cookie sheet, muffin tin, or cake pans? 

For more books related to cooking and food in New England, take a look at these titles below. You can read these books in person by visiting the Library (Monday-Friday, 9-5pm) or you can request them via interlibrary loan through your local public library.

Jessica Shrey
Reference Librarian

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Audubon’s Wild Turkey arrives in the Library!

The Wild Turkey (plate 6) has made its way to the library! It will be on display in the main reading room through December 6. Depicted in the print is the female turkey, surrounded by nine young turkeys. 

This is the second wild turkey print included in Birds of America, its companion is the male wild turkey (plate 1). Audubon writes that starting in October the males and females separate, and the females "are seen either advancing singly, each with its brood of young, then about two-thirds grown, or in connexion (sp) with other families, forming parties often amounting to seventy or eighty individuals." Read more of Audubon's account of the wild turkey here, and stop by this month to see this print in person.

Monday, November 7, 2022

On Display in the State Library

Election Day is tomorrow, November 8! With that occasion in mind, this month's displayed item is a
broadside of a resolution passed by the Massachusetts State Senate on November 19, 1788 stating that the Commonwealth would be divided into eight districts “for the purpose of choosing eight persons to represent the people thereof in the Congress of the United States.” The resolution further stated that selectmen should call town meetings on December 18 so that those qualified to vote should gather to cast their ballot for their respective representative.  The broadside in our collection was sent to the selectmen in the town of Manchester.

The Massachusetts state legislature was formed and a state Constitution ratified in 1780, but it would be nearly a decade later that the early republic would ratify the United States Constitution, form the federal government, and elect officials. The eight individuals elected from the districts announced in this resolution would serve in the very first session of the United States House of Representatives. 

The eight districts in the resolution are as follows:

  • The County of Suffolk, be one district
  • The County of Essex, one district
  • The Count of Middlesex, one district
  • The Counties of Hampshire and Berkshire, one district
  • The Counties of Plymouth and Barnstable, one district
  • The Counties of York, Cumberland and Lincoln, one district
  • The Counties of Bristol, Duke’s County and Nantucket, one district
  • The County of Worcester, one district

This looks different from today’s Congressional districts - there are currently nine districts, and they aren’t cleanly divided by county (for example, cities/towns from Worcester County can be found in five different Congressional districts). Also of note is the district that included the counties of York, Cumberland, and Lincoln - you may not recognize those as Massachusetts counties because they are in Maine! It wasn’t until 1820 that Maine was granted its statehood and separated from Massachusetts.

The voting process was also different in 1788 than it is today. This resolution instructs town selectmen to call for those eligible to vote to gather on December 18 to vote for a representative from their town. Specific candidates were not listed on a ballot – basically everyone was a write-in candidate. The town selectmen shall then “sort and count the votes, and form a list of the persons voted for, with the number of votes for each person.” Those results were announced at the town meeting and then the tabulation of votes for that town were sealed and sent to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, with a submission deadline of the first Monday of January 1789. The Secretary would then present all the town votes to the governor, who at the time was John Hancock, and the Governor’s Council. Several towns made up each district, so whichever candidate received the most votes within each district would receive a certificate from the governor announcing their election. If there was not a majority within a district, then the governor would issue a certificate with the names of the two individuals who received the highest number of votes to all of the towns within the district. The selectmen in those towns would then call a second town meeting for those eligible to vote to decide between those two candidates. As it turned out, of the eight districts, four of them did not have a majority in the first vote and went on to hold a second. More information about this election can be found in A Documentary History of the First Federal Elections, 1788-1790

This resolution was issued during a formative time in American history, as members of Congress were elected for the first time, and just before George Washington was elected as the first president. But it’s important to note that in many states it was only white landowning men who were eligible to vote. When you head to the polls this week, think about the changes and expansions that have occurred in the 234 years that have ensued since this resolution was issued, and if you’re in the area stop by through November 30 to see it on display in our main library reading room.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Thursday, November 3, 2022

State Library Newsletter – November Issue

November is here and with it is a new issue of our newsletter!  Pictured here is a preview, but the full issue can be accessed by clicking here. And you can also sign up for our mailing list to receive the newsletter straight to your inbox.

Monday, October 31, 2022

A Pickle for the Knowing Ones: A brief account of Lord Timothy Dexter

Lord Timothy Dexter with his dog.
From Kapp's biography
Happy Halloween from the State Library! ‘Tis the season to explore the legends, folklore, and odd tales of the Commonwealth. To celebrate, we are highlighting one North Shore tale from the mid-18th century that still to this day entertains many. The tale revolves around the life and times of one Lord Timothy Dexter of Newburyport. Dexter was a wealthy businessman residing in Newburyport around 1769 until his death in 1806. Dexter made his fortune in unconventional dealings and some would say his fortune was made through happenstance rather than smart business sense.

To start, Timothy Dexter was not a Lord, it was a title he granted himself and this best sums up Dexter’s eccentric nature and grandiose self-image. Dexter was not originally from Newburyport and was from a very modest background. Born in Malden in 1743, Dexter received little formal education and apprenticed in a leather workshop. Always driven by his desire to make money and be part of high society, Dexter first made his fortune by buying Continental currency during the Revolutionary War. At the time, the new paper money held little to no value, but once the war ended, Congress was able to make good on the new money and Dexter amassed quite a fortune. We do not know if Dexter had the foresight to know this transaction would turn in his favor, but in any case this started Dexter’s string of “lucky” business dealings.

Example of a bed-warmer.
Via Digital Commonwealth
One business venture included Dexter’s accrual of bed-warmers that he sent in bulk down to the West Indies. Mocked by his contemporaries for sending a tool used to keep beds warm during cold New England nights to a tropical climate, this business venture proved profitable for Dexter. The bed-warmers sold, not for their intended purpose, but to be used as ladles to scoop the West Indies' popular export, molasses. At the same time, Dexter sent mittens to the West Indies, and again this seemingly illogical idea proved fruitful. It just so happened that a vessel docked nearby destined for the Baltic, an area known for its long, cold winters, bought them up for the voyage (Marquand, p. 98).

With his fortunes, Dexter invested in his own mansion on Newburyport’s High Street. Dexter adorned the outside of his property with wooden statues resembling the nation’s leaders and prominent figures. In his Life of Lord Timothy Dexter, Dexter’s personal biographer, Samuel L. Knapp, writes “ his rage for notoriety, created rows of columns, fifteen feet at least, high, on which to place colossal images carved in wood. Directly in front of the door of the house, on a Roman arch of great beauty and taste, stood General Washington in his military garb. On his left hand was Jefferson; on his right, Adams, uncovered, for he would suffer no one to be on the right of Washington with a hat on” (p. 25).  

View of Dexter's mansion and statues.
Via Library of Congress

In another example of Dexter’s antics, he faked his own death. Complete with a coffin, funeral services, and reception at his mansion. During the reception, Dexter “entered the wake-room with the highest glee; shared in the wine, and threw small change from his window to the gaping crowd of boys who had gathered to witness the last solemn scene” (Knapp, p. 53).

Punctuation page from "A Pickle"
Finally, Dexter sought to add author to his resume and he did just that. First published in 1802, Dexter’s “A Pickle for the Knowing Ones,” is mostly a run-on compilation of Dexter’s thoughts and philosophies with no plot or punctuation. Dexter published a second edition, and addressed his critics in the appendix, adding one full page of punctuation, suggesting readers, “peper and solt it as they plese” 

A lot can be said about Dexter’s eccentricities, but he was a noted benefactor to the town of Newburyport. He commissioned and bought a new bell for the town meeting house. He bequeathed a large donation to the town after his death and also to his native town of Malden. Newburyport accepted the donation with “gratitude and thankfulness” (Coffin, page 274). Dexter was known to partake in municipal matters such as being named a proprietor for the erection of the Essex Merrimack Bridge. See the 1791 Act Chapter 35 naming him as such.

All of Dexter’s odd endeavors have cemented him as a notable figure in the annals of North Shore history books. For more reading on the one and only Lord Dexter, see below: 

April Pascucci
Reference Librarian

Monday, October 24, 2022

October Mountain State Forest: A Scenic Destination Any Month of the Year

Massachusetts state parks and forests are popular destinations during leaf-peeping season, when the fall foliage is on display in vibrant shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple. The Commonwealth is home to over 150 state parks and forests, but there's one state forest in particular that might come to mind this month due to its timely name: October Mountain State Forest. Located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, in the towns of Washington, Lee, Lenox, and Becket, October Mountain is the largest state forest in Massachusetts at nearly 16,500 acres.

Detail from Massachusetts Outdoor Recreation Map,  
showing the location of October Mountain State Forest

The name “October Mountain” is said to have been coined by the author Herman Melville, who owned a home in nearby Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Perhaps best known for his novel Moby-Dick, Melville also penned short stories, and it was in one of these stories, titled Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!, where he wrote, “…a densely wooded mountain on one side (which I call October Mountain, on account of its bannered aspect in that month)….” 

In the 1890s, before it became a state forest, the October Mountain region was part of the estate of William C. Whitney, who was the 31st United States Secretary of the Navy, under Grover Cleveland. During this period the estate was home to wildlife such as elk and bison, and moose from Canada were released on the estate in the early 1900s.

Bull moose on the Whitney Estate, 1915, from 
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife: 1866-2012,
by James E. Cardoza, published 2015

Eventually, in 1922, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts acquired the Whitney Estate and renamed it October Mountain State Forest. This purchase was authorized in 1921 by An Act to Provide for the Taking of October Mountain in the County of Berkshire as a State Forest, which stated, “The commissioner of conservation is hereby authorized to acquire by purchase, gift or otherwise, on behalf of the commonwealth, land known as the Whitney estate, situated on or about October Mountain, in the county of Berkshire.” The newly acquired forest was put under the management of the Massachusetts State Forester. 

Panoramic view of October Mountain State Forest,
published by the Massachusetts Division of Forestry, 1935

The forest conservation efforts of a century ago continue to benefit the Commonwealth’s citizens today, as October Mountain State Forest is open for recreation year-round. The state forest is traversed by a number of trails, including a portion of the Appalachian Trail, and natural features in the state forest include the Schermerhorn Gorge, Felton Pond, and Buckley-Dunton Lake, among others. Visitors can enjoy hiking, fishing, mountain biking, canoeing and kayaking, as well as seasonal snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and camping. To learn more about recreational activities at the state forest, be sure to visit the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s website.

Autumn colors at October Mountain State Forest,
courtesy of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation's website

References and further reading: 

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian