Monday, December 23, 2013

Eben Norton Horsford and His Norumbega

Ever wonder why there are Norse references dispersed in and around the Boston area?  Eben Norton Horsford (1818-1893), scientist, Harvard professor, and amateur archaeologist, began his life-long effort in the mid-19th century to prove that an ancient Viking settlement, believed to have been established in the year 1000, once thrived in the Cambridge and Watertown areas along the Charles River, and at the confluence of the Charles River and Stony Brook tributary on the Waltham-Weston boundary.

The mythological ancient Norse city of Norumbega was once understood to have been located in the northeastern section of North America, in what the Vikings called “Vineland” (or “Vinland”), long before Horsford’s findings.  In the 16th century, French explorer Jean Alfonse (or Allefonsce) described finding the city and its inhabitants in the Penobscot River region of Maine, and many early maps of North America place Norumbega in this region.  In the early part of the 17th century Samuel de Champlain set out to locate Alfonse’s discovery, but was not able to find any trace of the city; as a result, Champlain removed all mention of it from his maps.

Horsford authored many works on the subject, which included a lot of visual evidence (such as photographic plates of his archaeological discoveries, and maps of areas he deemed significant) that supported his theory that Norumbega was located in Cambridge and Watertown.  He went so far as to erect Norumbega Tower in 1889 on the Weston-Waltham border of the Stony Brook on the site where he believed the city’s fort was once situated.  A plaque was also placed along the Charles River in Cambridge that marks the supposed site of Leif Erikson’s house, and a statue he commissioned of Erikson can be seen on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.  In addition to the physical evidence, Horsford claimed to have found etymological connections between Old Norse used in the sagas and Algonquian vocabularies, suggesting that similarities in place names further proved there was Viking influence in the area.  His research, though, was not without strong criticism from the academic community (see The Defences of Norumbega), and the archaeological discoveries in L’Anse aux Meadows on the island of Newfoundland are widely accepted as being the only true evidence (so far) of Norse pre-Columbian contact with North America.

The library’s collection includes a number of books and pamphlets authored by Horsford and his daughter, Cornelia, who followed in her father’s research footsteps, on the topic of Norumbega.  For further information on these items or others in the library’s collection, please call our reference desk at 617-727-2590 or email us via our our “Ask a Librarian” page.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Civil War Remembrance: The Sesquicentennial of the Consecration of the Gettysburg Battlefield: Two Speeches on that Day

November 19th of this year marked the 150th anniversary of the day in 1863 when people gathered to remember those who died in the battle at Gettysburg. It was there that one of the most famous speeches in American history, The Gettysburg Address, was given by President Abraham Lincoln:
Address Delivered at the Dedication of the
Cemetery at Gettysburg
Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Students all over the United States study this speech,and in many cases are required to memorize and to recite it. The battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania had taken place on July 1st-3rd 1863 and the enormity of the losses there still echo.

What is less well-known is that it was not President Lincoln,  but Governor Edward Everett of Massachusetts who delivered the oration at the consecration that day.   It was Lincoln’s role instead to give what was termed the “Dedicatory Address.”             
This begs the question: Who was Edward Everett?

Everett had had a distinguished and varied career serving as a Congressman from Massachusetts, and also as the state’s United States Senator and its Governor.  His career path included teaching Greek at Harvard and serving for a short time as President of the college. He served in the ministry as well.

His speaking prowess was well-known. He was considered one of the most prominent orators of the Antebellum and Civil War era and when the search was held to determine who would give the oration on November 19th, 1863, he was the unanimous choice of the seventeen Governors involved in planning the momentous occasion. After accepting their invitation, Everett spent two days in Gettysburg preparing and studying the geography of the battlefield.  His speech lasted almost two hours, an amount of time not unusual for the day.

Everett spoke of the young men who had perished on the battlefield, for it was their bravery and sacrifice which was being remembered.  His eloquent oration has also been remembered for its noting of the need for reconciliation.

Soon after the day and its historical remembrances, Everett and President Lincoln exchanged congratulatory letters about how highly each viewed the other’s rhetoric.
As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war, it is so important to mark once again that day in Gettysburg. A gathering was held in Pennsylvania to mark this important piece of history. Civil War historian James McPherson was the keynote speaker.
President Lincoln’s famous “address” will continue to honor the nation for many years to come.   And, although Edward Everett’s oration is seldom mentioned, it will also be studied by those with a keen interest in the Civil war, be they scholars or citizens, who remember the overwhelming losses suffered during this war, and the ultimate sacrifices on the battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Pamela Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian
State Library of Massachusetts

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Federal Medical Information Available Online

There are two special websites available to obtain free medical information from the Federal Government:  the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The National Library of Medicine started in 1836 and it is the world’s largest medical library. The library’s medical dictionary is a multi-faceted book designed to help understand the complexities of medicine.  Available online, the dictionary has three main sections: health topics; drugs and supplements; and videos & cool tools. The dictionary also has pages about word parts, their meanings and common abbreviations.  There is a tutorial available entitled:  Understanding Medical Words.

Health topics cover symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention for more than 900 diseases. This area of the dictionary is updated daily and is divided into areas such as: body location/systems; health and wellness; demographic groups; disorders and conditions and diagnosis and therapy.
Videos & cool tools have interactive tutorials; surgery videos and anatomy videos.  Games and quizzes also are found on the website.

Drugs, supplements and herbal information contain information about over-the-counter medicines; dosages; side effects and special precautions. Dietary supplements and herbal remedies are also detailed. Some of the topics included are: vitamins, steroids, pain relievers, cold medicines, cancer chemotherapy, blood thinners and anti-depressants.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) started in 1887 as a Hygienic Laboratory to study bacteria.  In 1922, the name was changed to Public Health Services and a special cancer investigations laboratory unit was established at Harvard Medical School.  In 1930 it was re-designated the National Institutes of Health.

Starting in 1967, Congress awarded grants, to research heart disease, cancer and strokes. There are now 27 separate institutes and centers doing research in biomedical science. Included in the institutes are: National Institute in Aging; Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; Human Genome Research; Advancing Translational Sciences; Neurological Disorders and Stroke; and Dental and Craniofacial Research. Ten percent of the funding for NIH is “in house” and eighty percent is to outside researchers at more than 3,000 institutions. 
The NIH website,, and the NLM website, are available to all on any computer, but we invite you to access them at the State Library in rooms 341 and 442 of the State House on Mondays through Fridays from 9am to 5pm. 

Bette Siegel
Government Documents Librarian

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Brown Bag On “Learning About Your Family History”

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
on Tuesday December 17th, 2013
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442, State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and come hear Mary Ellen Grogan, President of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council and her colleagues, teach you how to research your family history.   You have probably seen celebrities on TV programs like “Who Do You Think You Are?”  Genealogy is not as easy as it seems on television, but everyone can do it, especially in Massachusetts. It is rewarding and will give you insight into the story of your family. Come and join us for the basics of research and be prepared to open whole new topics for discussion at the holidays. The presentation will include discussion of usage of vital records and the census.  The subject of DNA will also be broached.

We will look at some of the resources at the State Library used in Massachusetts family history: town histories, vital records, maps, city directories, and town reports.

To register, please go to 

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Social Security Documents for the Blind

One of the priorities of the Social Security Administration (SSA) is supporting disabled persons who want to work. The SSA publishes a reference book entitled the Red Book which serves as a reference resource for disabled beneficiaries. Its correct subtitle is: A Summary Guide to Employment Supports for Persons with Disabilities under the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Programs. This book is published in Braille.

The book is written for advocates, counselors, educators, rehabilitation professionals, and others who want a working knowledge of the provisions, policies and services available to them. Among the chapter headings are:  What’s New in 2013; How Do We Define Disability; Returning to Work; SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Social Security Insurance) Employment Supports; Special Rules for Persons Who Are Blind and a Glossary.

One of the purposes of The Red Book is to assist people in moving from dependency to independency. The book is online in both English and Spanish. The Braille paper is a 2 volume set and it is available in the State Library with the call number: SSA1.2/15: EM 7 v. I 2013.

The SSA also publishes other Braille books such as: Your Ticket to Work; Understanding the Benefits; How Work Affects Your Benefits; Benefits for Children with Disabilities.Copies of these Braille books are available in the State Library.  They are also available on the Social Security website; in Braille, large print, audio CD and audio cassette tape.

Bette Siegel
Government Documents Librarian

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

An Act By Any Other Name: General vs. Special Acts

Patrons often contact the State Library wanting to know the difference between an act that is general in nature, and what is commonly called a “special act” (or “special law”).  Massachusetts acts are made up of both types, and it’s easy to be confused by this concept since they are published together in no particular order other than that in which they were passed during a specific year; however, prior to 1920, you will find that they were published in separate volumes.  It’s important to be able to recognize the difference between the two, as research methods can vary depending on the type in question.  Also note that the Massachusetts Acts and Resolves are commonly known under the umbrella term “session laws”, and you may see this term used throughout your research.

An act that is general in nature will most often apply to all Massachusetts residents (for example, laws regarding divorce in the state), or it may involve the organization and administration of the state government (for example, the state budget).  Also keep in mind that general acts are passed with the intent of permanence.  This type of act makes up the majority of the acts passed, and together they form the body of the Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) and all of its additions, amendments, repeals, etc. that the MGL has undergone since its codification.  In other words, each general act is codified into the MGL.  The MGL, like most existing bodies of law, is mutable and subject to continual changes that are effected by these general acts.

“Special acts” are acts that are more specific in nature.  They apply to a limited number, such as one person, one event, a specific city or town, etc.  Like general acts, they are subject to amendments brought about by subsequent acts; however they are not codified into any body of law.

A good way to distinguish between the two types of acts is to take a look at the language used and the subject matter at hand.  Good questions to ask are: What is the scope of the subject matter?  Is it specific, or does it apply to the Massachusetts community as a whole?  Does it affect the organization or administration of the state government?  Is it meant to be temporary?  Key language usually appears in the first couple sentences of the act.  Does it specifically state that the act is an amendment or insertion being applied to the General Laws?  If so, then it is a general act.  If you’re still not sure, Shephard’s Citations, which is available in the library, is a good resource to look at because it distinguishes between acts codified and not codified.

To make matters more complicated, sometimes an act can have both.  A great example of this is 1993 Chap. 71, a huge act concerning educational reform.  Many of the sections are general acts with references to the MGL, but look at section 70; section 70 is not codified in the MGL and is considered a “special” part of this act.

Special Act:  2009 Chap. 201. An Act Designating A Certain Traffic Circle In The City Of Lowell As The Micky Ward Rotary.

General Act:  1980 Chap. 63. An Act Establishing Town Meeting Day.

The State Library has digitized all of the acts from 1692 to 2009; later acts can be found on the legislature’s website.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Dept.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Minimum Wage Laws: Massachusetts in the Forefront in the United States

The issue of the minimum wage is very much in the news today, with both sides on the question of whether it should be raised giving a strong voice to their concerns.

The earliest such laws were not in the United States, but in Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain. In 1896, in Victoria, Australia, the “Factories Act” was amended and a “wage board” was created.  This board set basic wages for six industries and by 1904, it covered 150 different industries.

In 1894, New Zealand enacted the first actual minimum wage laws. In 1907, the British government reported on its investigation of the laws in Australia and New Zealand and in 1909, Winston Churchill, then President of the Board of Trade, introduced the “Trade Boards Act.” This act allowed for boards to set minimum wage standards.

In the United States, Massachusetts was the first state to enact minimum wage legislation. The initial acts concerned women and children only and were in reference to labor in the industries where the majority of workers were of course, female.  Page 17 of a “Report of the Commission on Minimum Wage Boards (House Bill 1697 of 1912)” speaks to the view of “Women in the workplace” at that time:

A Minimum Wage Commission was established in 1911 and started to publish “Bulletins” in January of 1914. The first bulletins of the Commission were reports on “Wages of Women in the Brush Factories in Massachusetts,”  “Wages of Women in the Corset Factories of Massachusetts,” and “Wages of Women in the Laundries of Massachusetts,” among others.  The emphasis on factory workers in these industries reflects the times and the employment of women.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s, there were many attempts to enact a federal law.  It was not until 1938, during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that such a law was enacted and stood up to challenges.   That law is called FLSA, the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Although the law only covered one fifth of the workforce at the time, it set an hourly wage of twenty five cents and banned oppressive child labor.
There have, of course, been many changes to the laws over the years.  On September 25th of this year, Governor Jerry Brown of California, for example, signed a law setting the minimum wage there at $10.00 per hour.  In Massachusetts, the rate is currently $8.00.

The State Library, located in the Massachusetts State House, is the perfect place to research the laws of the Commonwealth.   As one researches the state’s history, one will find time and again that Massachusetts has been first in the nation to study and tackle important legislation concerning not just wage equality, but many other issues.

Please visit us in the Massachusetts State House, Room 341.  Our website will give you information about our services and our holdings.

Pamela W. Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian
State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, October 28, 2013

Parliamentary Procedure: Manuals and Rules Congress, State Legislatures, Organizations

Parliamentary  procedure, sometimes called parliamentary practice, is applied to a code of reference, a book or manual, that contains parliamentary rules that are adopted for use by varying  organizations. Three distinct groups use this form of practice as described below.

Manual of Parliamentary Practice for the Use of the Senate of the United States was written by Thomas Jefferson in 1801. This is the first American book on parliamentary procedure.
Jefferson studied parliamentary procedure at the College of William and Mary.

In 1828, the Senate published a version of “Jefferson’s Manual,” eliminating the Senate Rules. Then starting in 1888 through 1977, the Senate Manual included Jefferson’s Manual in the biennial editions. The Senate removed Jefferson’s Manual because their manual was growing in a section entitled “General and Permanent Laws Relating to the United States Senate.”

The House of Representatives incorporated Jefferson’s Manual into its rules starting in 1837. The House prints an abridged version entitled Constitution, Jefferson’s Manual and Rules of the House of Representatives. This version is online starting with the 104th Congress in 1995 to the present time. The State Library has the current  paper edition at the Reference Desk.

Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure is the only publication designed for state legislature. It is published by NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) and is divided into ten parts: including Parliamentary Law and Rules; Rules Governing Particular Motions; Quorum, Voting and Elections; Conduct of Business and Investigations and Public Order.

Mason’s is available for purchase from the NCSL bookstore, information about the publication can be found here. The State Library has a copy at the Reference Desk.

Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, was originally published in 1876 by General Henry Martyn Robert who was involved in church and civic organizations and had studied parliamentary law. Its original title was: Pocket Manual of Rules for Deliberative Assemblies. There has been 11 revised editions of the rules starting in 1876.

The cover states that Robert’s is “the only current and authorized edition of the classic work on parliamentary  procedure.” The book is primarily designed for societies. The most current edition recognized that technology has created change. The index has references to emails, videoconferences and teleconferences.

The State Library welcomes all to room 341 of the State House from 9am to 5pm, Mondays through Fridays.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Atlas of the Heavens

Delphinus, Equuleus, and Antinous Constellations
 During the nineteenth century, the State Library’s collection policy brought in publications in a wide range of topics and formats. One such example is a beautiful volume for the study of uranography –a branch of astronomy that deals with making maps of the constellations– entitled Atlas of the Heavens; Showing the Places of the Principal Stars, Clusters and Nebulae (1849).
Sagittarius Constellations
 This book features 18 plates of constellations printed on a blue background. Created by Erza Otis Kendall, the plates show the principal stars in each constellation forming animal and human shapes. The illustration at left shows the Sagittarius constellation. The one above shows the Delphinus (Dolphin), Equuleus (Little Horse) and Antinous constellations. (While Delphinus and Equuleus constellations remain among the 88 modern constellations recognized by the International Astronomical Union, Antinous is no longer in use by astronomers).

This book of plates accompanies E. Otis Kendall’s Uranography: or, a Description of the Heavens; Designed for Academies and Schools, published by E.H. Butler & Co. in 1849 and also in the State Library’s collections.

To see this and other titles visit the State Library, in the Massachusetts State House. The Library is open Monday through Friday 9 am to 5 pm.

Silvia Mejía
Special Collections

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Brown Bag on the Folly Cove Designers (1938-1969)

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
on Tuesday October 22nd, 2013
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442, State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and come hear Ingrid Swanson and Patsy Whitlock, Associates from the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester, present “The Folly Cove Designers: The Spirit of a Place.”

The Folly Cove Designers were a group of 45 designer-craftsmen who worked together between 1938 and 1969 producing carefully wrought designs cut into linoleum blocks and printed (primarily) on fabric. Their common interest was in producing solid designs and in good craftsmanship.

The group was composed almost entirely of women, most being residents of Cape Ann and a majority having no artistic training prior to becoming involved in the group. They worked under the leadership of children’s book author/illustrator Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios (Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel, Little House, Katy and the Big Snow), who devised a design course which she offered to her friends and neighbors in the Folly Cove neighborhood. Participants were urged by Demetrios to look to their surroundings for inspiration, to draw "what they knew" and to sketch their subjects over and over again until they made them their own. This illustrated talk will present the history of the group, examples of its work and brief biographies on a few of the practitioners.

To register, please go to:

You may also register by calling 617-727-2590 or e-mailing

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall From Favor: Massachusetts U.S. Representative Charles Hudson’s Address to the Citizens of His District

The sum of my offending, as you all know, consists in this: I preferred Gen. Taylor to Martin Van Buren. I exercised the right of every freeman, and gave my vote in accordance with the dictates of my own conscience.

In 1849 in Washington D.C., Massachusetts U.S. Representative Charles Hudson of penned a 12-page address to the citizens of Massachusetts’ 5th congressional district, which he represented, regarding his retirement from office.  Still reeling from his (possibly expected) failure to secure reelection, and from the constant accusations hurled against him (“cowardice and pro-slavery, desertion and treachery”), the published speech was intended as an explanation and justification of the beliefs he held and the choices he made, as unpopular as they were among his fellow Whigs and supporters, during the latter part of his tenure in office.

As a member of the Whig party, which was prevalent in Massachusetts and other northern states, Hudson strongly opposed slavery and the further annexation and admittance of territories into the Union.  This was most apparent in 1845 when the annexation of Texas became a hot button issue in Congress.  Hudson and his fellow Whigs feared that Texas would eventually establish itself as a slave state and wield substantial congressional influence, putting northern anti-slavery states at a great disadvantage.  Despite the opposition’s protests, Texas was admitted into the Union during that same year.

Hudson’s fall from favor occurred in 1848 at the conclusion of the presidential election.  Three candidates were on the ticket: Zachary Taylor (Whig), Louis Cass (Democrat), and former president Martin Van Buren (Free Soil).  Despite Taylor’s party affiliation, he was a southerner and former slave-owner—which did not sit well with Whigs in the north.  Cass’ campaign favored the annexation of territories and threatened to not sign any bills that included the Wilmot Proviso, which went against the Whigs’ political policies.  Instead, they gave preference to Van Buren, a northerner and former Whig who chose to run as a third-party candidate.  Unfortunately, Van Buren’s unpopularity, resulting from his administration’s inaction during the Panic of 1837, was still high, and Hudson felt that a vote for the former president was essentially throwing it away; in other words, voting for Van Buren would ultimately benefit Cass.  Against his party’s wishes, Hudson, who argues that he “exercised the right of every freeman” and never swayed from his principles, voted for Taylor.  The backlash the legislator received from his fellow party members, supporters, and friends— who all felt he betrayed the Whigs’ political cause—was ugly and personal, and Hudson was not reelected for another term.

The original 1849 publication, titled An address of Charles Hudson, of Mass., to the citizens of the fifth congressional district of that state, on retiring from the Office of Representative in Congress, can be viewed in person in the library; it’s also available online

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, September 30, 2013

Abandoned Buildings and Renovation in Boston

I recently came across a book entitled A Blight on Boston: How Shall it be Removed written by John Albree and published in 1906. The book talks about idle land and abandoned railroad property in Park Square, located near the Back Bay, on the corner of Boylston Street, Columbus Street and Charles Street where the Boston Common and the Public Gardens meet. The land was abandoned by the Boston and Providence Railroad in 1899 and by 1906 when the book was written it was still abandoned. The author describes the land as unproductive and “not earning up to its potential in taxes.” By 1906 the buildings have been occupied by an automobile dealership and by a roller skating rink with the Shubert Theater moving in a few years later on January 24, 1910. 

Park Square is no longer identified on 2013 maps but there are many businesses that use Park Square in their titles.  Some of the streets have changed. For instance Arlington Street was shorter and did not cross Boylston Street in 1906.

The abandoned Boston and Providence railroad station was replaced by South Station.  According to the South Station website it took two years to build and was dedicated on December 30, 1898, the largest rail station ever built at the time.  There were five railroads before South Station was built and only two railroad companies, the New Haven Railroad and the Boston and Albany Line survived to move into South Station.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, September 23, 2013

Presidential Executive Orders and Proclamations

The President of the United States issues Executive Orders to instruct the actions of executive agencies or government officials.  Executive Orders also set policies for the executive branch of the United States Government to follow.

Executive Orders have the full force of law; they clarify Congressional or Constitutional laws.  During the Presidency of Harry S. Truman; there was a Supreme Court Case (Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 US 579, 1952).

This case determined that President Truman’s Executive Order was an attempt to make law; rather than clarify a law.  Some Executive Orders have been criticized as having exceeded the authority of the President.

President George Washington, in 1789, issued orders which today we term an executive order.  He issued eight of them.  John Adams, James Madison and James Munroe issued one each.  William Henry Harrison issued none as his presidency lasted 32 days.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued 3,522.  FDR has issued the most!

The American President Project is a fascinating resource for information about our Presidents.  It was started in 1999 at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Its archives hold over 100,000 documents related to the study of the Presidency.  Included in these documents are:  Executive Orders, Proclamations, Press Conferences, Inaugural Addresses, Veto Messages, Radio & TV Correspondents Dinners, FDR’s Fireside Chats and other varying documents.

Presidential proclamations are either “ceremonial” or “substantive.” Ceremonial proclamations celebrate national holidays and special observances; whereas substantive proclamations often relate to foreign affairs and other executive duties of the President.  Two of the more well known proclamations are:  Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863: and George Washington’s Proclamation of Neutrality in 1793.

We welcome you to the State Library in room 341 of the State House between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm on Mondays through Fridays  to use our public access computers.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Brown Bag on The British in Concord in 1775

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
on Tuesday September 24th, 2013
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442, State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and come hear J. L. Bell, proprietor of the Boston 1775 website, speak on: “What Were the British Soldiers Looking for in Concord in 1775?”

Everyone who’s been through fifth-grade social studies in Massachusetts knows the story of the British march to Concord on April 19, 1775, the military mission that set off the Revolutionary War. But why exactly did Gen. Thomas Gage send troops so far into the countryside? This illustrated talk will show how the story begins beside Boston Common the previous September when four brass cannon disappeared from militia armories even though they were under redcoat guard.

To register, please go to:  

You may also register by calling the Reference Department at 617-727-2590 or by e-mailing to

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A new exhibit on the Beginnings of the Textile Industry in Massachusetts

Doubling frame in a large woolen mill, Lawrence, Mass.
Keystone View Company, early 1900s. Stereoview.

The State Library invites you to our newest exhibit, The Beginnings of the Textile Industry in Massachusetts.

The exhibit concentrates on the flourishing textile industry in early 19th-century Massachusetts: the machinery of the Industrial Revolution, water rights, modern business practices, and the early labor force of educated farmers’ daughters. The display features holdings from the State Library Collections.

The exhibit runs from September 10 through December 31, 2013 and can be viewed outside of the Library, Room 341 of the State House. Library hours are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

A special thanks to Mary Salzman, a former Reference/Exhibitions intern, who researched the topic, scanned many of the documents, wrote the panel text, and designed the exhibit layout.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tom Meagher: the Original “Candy Man” for the Massachusetts Legislature

If you ever get a chance to flip through one of the late 19th or early 20th century Souvenirs of Massachusetts Legislators (available online), which provide photographs and biographical sketches of Massachusetts legislators during the years in which they served, you’ll come across an interesting character.  In the 1897 souvenir, editor Arthur Milnor Bridgman states in his introduction: “This Souvenir contains also a special feature in the picture of Tom Meagher, the gallant one-armed veteran of the War, who has been for many years a popular fixture as the ‘candy man.’”  But don’t be fooled by his tongue-in-cheek nickname--Tom was a cigar dealer.

Bridgman’s caption for photo (left): “’Tom Meagher,’
the Veteran of the War of the Rebellion, Who has been the popular 
“Candy Man” of the Legislature for, lo, these many years.” 
Meagher was located on the 3rd floor, outside
 the entrance to the House Lobby.
Meagher, a kind and familiar face in the State House for “lo, these many years”, worked his concession counter toward the latter half of the 19th century.  The timeframe of his tenure is unclear, but by the mid-nineteen teens, when the publication went through a reformatting, his “feature” was no longer included.  By 1919, a new proprietor by the name of Pierce O’Connell took up residence in Meagher’s stead.  Notice anything familiar behind O’Connell’s counter?

From the 1920 book Public Officials of
Massachusetts ('Bird Book')
 With the scant information provided by Bridgman, and from the caption accompanying Meagher’s photograph, what we do know is that he was a Civil War veteran.  Additional research tells us that he was born in Ireland sometime around 1835 and immigrated to the United States in 1855.  Assuming that he fought under the auspices of Massachusetts, one will find that there are a handful of entries for Thomas Meaghers in the multi-volume set Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War.  One entry in particular, for a soldier who fought in Company C of the 1st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, sticks out among the rest:

(Vol. I, p. 21)

This is the only entry that mentions wounds received in battle--undoubtedly a reference to Meagher’s gravely injured right arm (for which he later received a government pension).  Virginia was the scene of much violence during the Civil War.  From June 25th to July 1st, 1862, under the Union campaign leadership of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan against Confederate campaign under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, Henrico (which includes Fair Oaks) and Hanover Counties experienced a series of six battles known as the Seven Days Battles; it’s probable that our Tom Meagher sustained his injuries during the first at what is now called the Battle of Oak Grove.

I wish we could know a lot more about Tom Meagher.  As a Civil War veteran who, in his youth, experienced the horrors of battle in a country divided, who then retired to the humble life of selling cigars and chit-chatting with members of the Massachusetts General Court, we can only imagine the fascinating stories he could relate to us today.  It’s certain that he was well-loved and respected by all that had the pleasure of talking with him, and the inclusion of his “feature” in over a decade’s worth of legislative souvenirs, as well as his near life-size portrait that hung on the wall outside the House lobby, is testament to their appreciation.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Dept.

Monday, August 19, 2013

1963 March on Washington

On Saturday, August 24th, the nation will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march held in the nation’s capital. Led by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. the 1963 crowd at the march was estimated at 250,000.  

The march has been called “The March for Jobs and Freedom” by some and “The Great March on Washington” by others.  It was there that Reverend King, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, delivered perhaps his most famous speech.The words touched millions with its calls for a fairer America.  
Two days before the gathering, members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives filed resolutions supporting the march and calling on Congress to pass major civil rights legislation filed by President Kennedy.  Their efforts epitomized the state’s tradition of leadership in the movement for equality in this country. House document no. 3682 from 1963 contains the resolution and is located in the State Library: 

Reverend King spoke at the Massachusetts State House on April 22, 1965 in front of a joint session of the Massachusetts General Court. You can view his eloquent speech here.

Visit the Library in Room 341 of the State House to view books and other materials about the civil rights movement. We welcome visitors.  Our hours are Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5PM.

Pamela W. Schofield
State Library of Massachusetts