Thursday, July 30, 2009

Finding information about past legislators

A generous donor has recently given the State Library of Massachusetts a collection of photographs of legislators dating from 1880 to about 1920. These are platinum prints (or platinotypes), a photographic process that achieved widespread use in 1880 and continued to be popular until 1930. Of particular value is the fact that most of the recently donated images are signed on the back by the legislator.

Depicted below is Anthony Smalley, a retired ship's master from Nantucket, who served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a Republican from 1890 to 1894.

According to the 1894 Souvenir of Massachusetts Legislators, he served on the Committee on Fisheries and Game as well as the Committtees on Public Service; Street Railways; and Finance, Expenditures, and Revision of Corporation Laws during his time in office.

The State Library holds another collection of photographs of representatives and senators from about 1855 to 1908 for which we have a detailed alphabetical list in the Special Collections department. This new acquisition is a valuable supplement to that larger collection.

Shown above and at right are front and back examples (again for Anthony Smalley) of another valuable source of information about individuals who have served in the Massachusetts General Court prior to the early 20th century: legislative bio cards in Special Collections. These date from the late 18th century to 1915 and often list date of birth, birth place, date of death, names of parents, place of death, occupation, years served in the Massachusetts or U.S. House or Senate, posts held in the state or federal government, and community represented.

Paige Roberts
Head of Special Collections

Friday, July 17, 2009

Interesting Find: The Dedication of a Rest Room

With the summer exhibit posted, in Special Collections we've begun researching two future exhibits, one on the town of Holyoke and another on women in politics. While searching the Burrill File subject list for records of women legislators we came across the subject folder State House - Women's Rest Room. With a heading like that we had to see what was inside.

The folder contains a typed address by Thomas F. Pedrick, Chairman of the State House Commission, given upon the dedication of the Women's Rest Room in the State House. Additionally, two copies of the photograph at left are included in the folder. The photographs (circa 1918) are marked as having been taken at the dedication. The photographs and full text of the address can be viewed in the Special Collections Department, but two excerpts from the address are included below.

"When it became an assured fact that the Wings* were to be erected, I was in hopes that a suitable retiring room might be provided for the ladies employed here, and with that idea in view, I addressed a communication to the State House Building Commission in 1913, urging them to set apart the necessary space for that purpose. ... But owing partly, I presume, to the unavoidable change in the personnel of the Building Commission, and largely to the changes they had to make in plans to provide quarters for the continually growing business of the departments, the right kind of a room for this special need could not be provided."

"But since the declaration of war against Germany, every line of business has passed through a great change, and the working conditions in this building have likewise changed, owing to the great increase in the work. Massachusetts has ever been foremost in giving her all when the country needed her, and again she is in the forefront. Her young men, in large numbers, are serving in the American army across the seas, on the battle fields of Flanders, Picardy, the Marne, and in the Toul sector. Her civilians are all enlisted in the Home army for the protection of the health of her people, and the conservation of food and fuel, in order that we may back up the boys at the front. One of our patriotic duties, surely, is to see that the young women in industry and office work are properly cared for in case of sickness."

With the men away at war, the influx of women to the workforce required concrete changes in the work place. And while I'm not sold on Pedrick's "women's rest room as patriotic duty" idea, the installation of such a space signaled that the times were definitely changing.

To make this item even more intersting, Pedrick's address was given in the presence of the then-Lieutenant Governor, Calvin Coolidge. Future President Coolidge can be seen in the above picture, front row, second from left.

- Lacy Crews, Preservation Librarian

* The East and West wings were erected between 1914 and 1917.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sen. Moore presents book on industrial history of the Blackstone Valley to State Librarian

July 15, 2009 ... Sen. Richard T. Moore, D-Uxbridge, recently presented a copy of Landscape of Industry: An Industrial History of the Blackstone Valley, by the Worcester Historical Museum, to the State Librarian, Elvernoy Johnson, at the State House. The book, which features a foreword from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-MA, describes the history of one of the most important regions in the nation that contributed to the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th century. The book previously had a ceremonial unveiling on Tuesday, June 7th, welcoming Sen. Moore, Congressman Richard Neal, MA-2, and Congressman James McGovern, MA-3.

As An Industrial History of the Blackstone Valley recounts, in 1790, American craftsmen built the first machines that successfully used waterpower to spin cotton. America's first factory, Slater Mill, was constructed on the banks of the Blackstone River. The revolution in harnessing the power of water spread quickly through the Valley and in other areas of New England, leading to the erection of new structures, changes to the landscape, and radically altered ways in which people lived and worked. The unique history of the region unfolds within the book, including the life and economy of the mills, the complex transportation networks, the role of slaves and the history of abolition in the Valley, the struggle for workers' rights, and the creation of the unique National Heritage Corridor itself.

Sen. Moore, who is a member of the Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission, presented the book to Ms. Johnson as a donation to the State Library. Upon presenting the book, Sen. Moore remarked upon the important contributions of the Blackstone Valley industry not only in the Commonwealth, but the United States. The book will be displayed in the front of the library within the State House.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chapter 40B

The Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight has issued a new report entitled: BUILDING ACCOUNTABILITY INTO THE MASSACHUSETTS AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROGRAM,

Chapter 40B has been a controversial issue for over a decade.

The committee heard varying testimony about the cost certification process. As a result, the report contains both findings and recommendations.

Bette L. Siegel
Documents Librarian

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Learning about maps

Thanks to New England Archivists’ Hale Award for professional development, in June I was able to attend a course on the history, collection, description, and use of maps at Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. Taught by Alice Hudson, chief of the Map Division at New York Public Library, this class of 14 students included lively and knowledgeable map librarians, collectors, and antiquarian dealers from around the country. This course was a fascinating and helpful mix of group exercises and fun hands-on work with original maps, atlases, and globes. Below instructor Alice Hudson explains the cartouche used in this early atlas.

We learned map concepts and the elements of a map as well as approaches to cataloging maps. Because an understanding of printing history is crucial for dating early maps, we were fortunate to be able to actually operate a printing press. Shown below is Terry Belanger, founder and director of Rare Book School, demonstrating to the class how to work the press.

The maps in the Special Collections department of the State Library of Massachusetts are very well preserved, stored, and cataloged. This terrific course gave me a much deeper understanding of the history of cartography in general as well as ideas about new ways to approach our map collection here at the State House. I look forwrad to offering a workshop about the State Library’s own map and atlas collection in the coming months.

Paige Roberts
Head of Special Collections

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

State Library to be open Friday and Monday

The State Library of Massachusetts will be open as usual 9:00am to 5:00pm Friday July 3 and Monday July 6.

If you are looking for an appropriate way to celebrate Independence Day this year, you may want to consider a 3-hour walking tour of the entire Freedom Trail. It will leave from the State House at 9:00am and run until noon on Saturday.

Footloose on the Freedom Trail

Best wishes to all our patrons for a joyous 4th of July!