Monday, March 26, 2012

Taxing Lemons or Using a Lottery to Build a Hall at Harvard:

 Pictured is a bond to pay a winner of a lottery
There are many interesting acts during the colonial period. Acts, also known as session laws are passed each year and put into separate volumes by year. Sometimes many years exist in one volume. In other words acts are laws. Nowadays, they get put into the Massachusetts General laws by subject. The early acts were put into books called Acts and Resolves of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

Some acts were about goods that were taxed such as spirits, oranges, limes, and lemons. It was spelled lemmons during colonial times. There are many acts concerning preservation of alewives, which is a fish located in various rivers of the Commonwealth. Alewife Station on the red line is named for this fish.

• There is an act allowing Quakers to use an affirmation instead of a solemn oath—Chapter 20 of the Acts of 1743-44 page 126.

• Another law, chapter 6 of the acts of 1774 page 392 exempts "Quakers and Antipedobaptists from paying taxes for the support of ministers... and for the building and repairing [of] meeting-houses or places of public[k] worship."

Chapter 8 of 1776-77 page 555) concerns small pox inoculation.

Finally there are laws about having a lottery to raise money for specific items such as building a hall at Harvard. A lottery in this time period is really a bond.

• A lottery for completing putting down pavement at Boston neck (Chapter 38 of 1758-59 see page 222, or Chapter 24 of 1755-56 page 888).

• A lottery for repairing Fanueil Hall (Chapter 26 of 1760-61 page 425).

• A lottery for repairing Long Wharf (Chapter 4 of 1779-80 page 1070).

• A lottery to repair a highway in Roxbury (Chapter 39 of 1758-59 page 223).

• An Act that prevents gaming for money or other gain (Chapter 27 of Acts of 1742-43 page 45).

Naomi Allen, Reference Librarian

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Treasures of the State Library for March 2012- Materials about President Calvin Coolidge

When one thinks of Calvin Coolidge, it is most often of his Presidency. His public service included a long list of political positions, however, beginning with posts as City Councilor and Mayor of Northampton, Massachusetts. He served also as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1907-1908 and he was in the State Senate from 1910-1915, serving as its President from 1914-1915. While Senate President, he was a Trustee of the State Library.

His elections as Lieutenant-Governor and Governor followed before he became Vice President under Warren G. Harding and then President when Harding died in office in August of 1923.

As is the case today, the role of the candidate’s spouse was prominent in the 1920’s, and much was written about Grace Coolidge. The newspaper article on the left refers to one of the major issues of the day, women’s suffrage.

The State Library owns a plethora of material about Coolidge as well as about his wife. Many items are listed in the online catalog. Of great value to those interested in Coolidge’s political careers in Massachusetts and in Washington are some “treasures” -a manuscript collection and scrapbooks- located in the Special Collections department of the State Library.

Scrapbook collection 10 is comprised of 34 volumes of newspaper clippings covering the years 1915 through 1928, with some also concerning his death in 1933. Most are from Massachusetts newspapers and coverage of his political campaigns, beginning with his run for Lieutenant- Governor, is robust. To help the researcher with this newspaper collection, there is a card file which indexes this vast collection.
Manuscript Collection 19, the Calvin Coolidge Papers, has information covering the dates 1895-1933. Holdings include speeches and messages, statements and letters. The scan on the right, concerning Coolidge’s reelection as Senate President was done from an entry in the collection. There are materials about the Boston Police Strike of 1919, one of the most studied events of the Coolidge Governorship.

The collections are available for research in the Library’s Special Collections department, room 55 of the State House. The staff can be reached at 617-727-2595 or email

Pamela Schofield
State Library Reference Department

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Human Face of the Great War 1914-1918

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
Tuesday, March 20th 2012
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442 State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and hear Daniel Leclerc, vice-president of the Belmont Historical Society, former history teacher and past member of the Belmont Board of Selectmen, speak on the shocking human cost of World War I. The war staggered all involved and had a deep impact on culture, art and literature. Mr. Leclerc will discuss life in the trenches, shell shock, poetry, art and the impact of devastating sorrow and grief then and now.

His presentation ties into the State Library’s collection of World War I photos: as he will trace the battlefield experience of one Massachusetts soldier.

To register, please go to:

You may also call the Reference Department at 617-727-2590 or e-mail to let us know you will attend.

Monday, March 12, 2012

100 Years of Scouting in the US

Today marks the centennial of the founding of the Girl Scouts! Inevitably, you’ve already munched on a Girl Scout cookie or two this year, but the organization is about so much more than selling treats. For 100 years the Girl Scouts have been a place for girls to learn about the importance of community, leadership, and independence, all while spending time amongst great friends.

One hundred years ago, Juliette Gordon Low brought girl scouting to the United States after meeting Scout Movement founder Sir Robert Baden Powell. Low met the “Chief Scout” while summering in Scotland in 1910, and the two became fast friends based on their mutual love of the outdoors. Low admired Baden Powell’s work with the Boy Scouts, and learned a girls’ scouting movement had begun in the form of Girl Guides. Enthusiastic about the cause, Low started a handful of small scouting companies in Scotland and London alongside Agnes Baden Powell, Sir Robert’s sister and the informal head of the Girl Guides.

Through scouting, young girls were given the opportunity to learn and refine useful skills like first aid, cooking, and sewing, and were also able to experience the joys of nature through camping, bird watching, hiking, and more. The program was a huge success, and was met with equal fervor when Low brought the idea back to the United States in 1912. By 1916, enrollment had grown to 3,000 girls and the organization was still expanding.

Girls in the US were no strangers to social groups, though; another scouting group called the Camp Fire Girls had informal roots reaching back to 1910, and a US division of the Girls’ Friendly Society was started in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1877.

Girl Scouting reached Boston in 1913, and with the eventual help of prominent social figure Helen Storrow, grew into a great success. Massachusetts had over 3,000 girls enrolled by the time they had opened a state headquarters in 1917, and the organization had such a presence within the state that the Girl Scouts held their national meeting in Boston in 1934.
Today, there are so many Girl Scouts in Massachusetts they are managed by two separate organizations, with over 45,000 scouts in Eastern Massachusetts alone. The Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts will be holding a Forever Green Gala Celebration as part of their centennial activities on Thursday, March 29th. To learn more about the Girl Scouts visit

To find out more about educational organizations, girls’ interest groups, Juliette Low, and the Girl Scouts, visit the Reference Department at the State Library to see select materials. Avid researchers will even find the original recipe for the first Girl Scout cookie!

The State Library of Massachusetts is open from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday.

Bianca Hezekiah
Program Coordinator, Reference Department

Monday, March 5, 2012

In the Works! An Electronic Legislative Biographical Database

Here at the State Library, we receive numerous requests for information regarding past and current Massachusetts legislators. In addition to our “Bird Books”, one great resource that we’ve provided for over one hundred years is our Legislative Biographical File, which is located behind the library’s reference desk on the 3rd floor.

This collection contains well over 20,000 index cards, alphabetically indexed by last name, with legislative biographical information that spans over 300 years—beginning from as early as the 18th century. Information provided on both the front and back of each card contains the legislator’s first and last names, and, if known, his or her middle name or initial, birth and death dates, birthplace and place of death, place(s) of residence, date(s) in which the individual served in the House or Senate, party affiliation, occupation, and education; other information that sometimes appears includes date of baptism, further details concerning a legislator’s death, and the location in which the legislator is buried.

This collection of biographical materials would not exist if it had not been for Caleb Tillinghast, Massachusetts’ first State Librarian. Tillinghast (b. 1843-d. 1909) was deeply interested in genealogy, and was driven by his passion to compile biographical information about all of the Massachusetts legislators. In his efforts to retrieve this information, he estimated that he had sent out more than 75,000 letters and questionnaires total; much of these manuscript materials, upon which our Legislative Biographical file is based, can be located in our Special Collections. For more information on Caleb Tillinghast, please visit our blog entry, which discusses his life and contributions he made during the span of his career:

As part of the State Library’s reference department, I am currently in the final stages compiling this legislative biographical information into a database for in-house use. It is our hope in the near future to convert the database to one that is electronically accessible for library users through our DSpace repository. Every index card in the collection has been digitized, and it is our ultimate plan to link searchable metadata to each card image, as well as link digitized images from our legislative photograph collection.

This huge endeavor, though, has not been without a few bumps along the way. Some of the cards provide inconsistent, ambiguous, or even incorrect information that has snagged the process, and further research has not always proven successful in untangling questions that arise. In addition, many cards provide decidedly little or no information other than the legislator’s name. City and town names, as well as municipalities, have changed over the years, so information on locations and naming conventions has been an issue during the compiling process, as well.

If you’re doing research or have general questions about a specific Massachusetts legislator, please come by Room 341 of the State Library. In addition, you can contact us by phone at 617-727-2590, or through our Ask a Librarian online form at:

Library hours are: 9:00am – 5:00pm Monday through Friday

Kaitlin Connolly
Library Technician, Reference Department