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.