Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Collection of Arms and Armor

During my preservation internship at the State Library I worked on a fascinating volume by Bashford Dean called The Collection of Arms and Armor of Rutherfurd Stuyvesant (1914). Stuyvesant (1843-1909) was a member of several prominent New York families, and a great collector of arms and armor as well as European art of all kinds. During his travels to Europe to see art first-hand and to purchase pieces for himself and for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Stuyvesant’s purchases resulted in a collection of 120 pieces of armor, 14 shields, 135 swords, 84 daggers, 83 shafted weapons, 12 crossbows, 17 guns, 29 pistols, and assorted other objects such as horse trappings, spurs, and powder horns. The objects ranged in date from 1400 B.C. to the eighteenth century.

Through his long association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art as an advisor and board member, Stuyvesant helped start the Museum’s own collection of arms and armor. The author of the book I worked on, Bashford Dean, established the Museum’s Department of Arms and Armor in 1912.

Dean’s catalog of the Stuyvesant collection was the first to describe an American collection of Early European arms and armor. The catalog describes 218 items, with 54 leaves of plates. The volume came to the State Library in 1915, as a gift from the author and at the bequest of Stuyvesant’s widow.

When the catalog came across our desk, it was in relatively poor condition. The front cover had become detached, dust and grime had infiltrated the book and discolored the edges of the pages and the flyleaves, the spine was fraying, and the leather binding was coated in red rot. Our goals for the repair were to fix the spine and cover, clean the book, and treat the red rot.

I began my repair by cleaning up the spine, separating the front and back covers from the text block, trimming away the frayed parts, and making clean edges. This allowed me to have discrete pieces that I could clean and treat before putting the book back together.

Notice the difference between
the left side of this page, which
has been cleaned, and the right
side, which has not.
I first applied Cellugel to all of the leather on the remaining spine leather and the leather of the covers. Cellugel is a combination of cellulose ethers and isopropanol, which treats red rot by helping to bond the leather layers back together and protect it from further atmospheric damage. While the leather dried, I began to surface clean the pages of the book. With each stroke of the cleaning tools, you could see a noticeable difference in the color of the page as the dirt was removed from the surface.

Once all of the parts were cleaned, I re-bound the book in a brown bookcloth. This created a stronger spine and cover attachment than the old, crumbling leather. I reinforced the interior joints with Japanese tissue to help reinforce the covers. Finally, I re-applied the remaining spine label.

This project, one of the last completed before the end of my internship here, was also one of the most fulfilling. It was a pleasure to work with the catalog, with its beautiful plates and rich history, so it can once again be safely used by researchers.

Andra Langoussis
Preservation Intern

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Preserving the Past: Massachusetts Historical Commission

For many citizens, a major part of living in Massachusetts is the historic properties that make up our cities, towns and neighborhoods. Massachusetts is rich with Native American archeological areas, homes still standing from 17th and the 18th century, as well as early infrastructure associated with our landscape and coastline. These historical sites are what make Massachusetts the state it is today, with an established sense of the past in all of our daily lives. But with our ever changing lifestyles and the power of time, these areas and objects are often in need of protection, preservation or even just recognition within the community. When looking to preserve and restore our historic places, citizens can turn to their local historical groups as
well as the statewide Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC).

The MHC was established in 1963 under M.G.L. Ch. 9 ss. 26-27D and is chaired by the Secretary of State. In total, the commission is made up of 17 members, from various agencies and private institutions, who work as a State Review Board for both state and federal preservation projects. The members are responsible for identifying, evaluating and protecting the many historical assets of Massachusetts. To meet this challenge, the MHC work with a number of local and federal preservation programs, grants, projects and awards. They also have a number of user-friendly resources including the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System or MACRIS, a database that allows anyone to search for information on historic properties, archeological publications and online exhibits, as well as a detailed explanation of their Review and Compliance policies.

The MHC has a wide range of responsibilities and programs to oversee. As a commission, they are authorized to determine whether a proposed state or federally funded project will negatively impact any Massachusetts historical properties, oversee Historical Rehabilitation Tax Credits, provide assistance and aid to local commissions, as well as administer the National Register of Historic Places in Massachusetts.

The MHC’s connection to the National Register comes from the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Under the act, every state has to establish a State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the MHC was established as Massachusetts’ SHPO in 1971. As the SHPO, the MHC has certain responsibilities, including reviewing nominations for the National Register. Other responsibilities include conducting a survey of historical properties and putting forth a statewide preservation plan to meet with the National Park Service’s requirements.

The MHC’s Preservation Plan for 2011-2015, as well as many other resources, is available on the MHC website. If you wish to research certain properties further, the State Library of Massachusetts has many resources for state and local history as well as many of the MHC’s publications.

The State House Library is located in room 341 and is open between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday.

Stephanie Turnbull
Reference Department

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Proclamations at the State Library

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, the harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621. To commemorate this date the Library is displaying here some of our historical Thanksgiving proclamations from our collections. In addition to the proclamations we have included a description of the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims, by William Bradford from his manuscript Of Plimoth Plantation.

Massachusetts officials have been issuing Thanksgiving proclamations since 1676. The library’s collection spans the years 1779 through 1893.  

Earliest Thanksgiving proclamation in
the collection dates to 1779.
1783 proclamation by John Hancock, first and third governor of Massachusetts.

1796 proclamation by Samuel Adams, fourth Governor of Massachusetts.

William Bradford's account of Thanksgiving in 1621. From
his Of Plimoth Plantation.

Silvia Mejia
Special Collections Librarian

Monday, November 17, 2014

Where is Bartlett Hall?

At the State Library of Massachusetts we get questions about a multitude of subjects.  They can run the gamut from legislative history questions to finding a state report.  We also get questions about the State House including where Governors’ portraits are hanging to when the State House was built.

Recently we got the following question: “Where is Bartlett Hall?”  Even though I have worked at the library for over 25 years I had not heard of it.  I found the answer in a booklet entitled Massachusetts Facts published by the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Office.

Barlett Hall is a small hall between Doric Hall and Nurses Hall and it was designed in the Italian Renaissance style by Charles Brigham in 1895. The hall contains a bronze statue of Civil War hero, William Francis Bartlett, sculpted by Daniel Chester French.

Another statue of Bartlett, also by French, exists in Memorial Hall at Harvard University. After Memorial Hall was built in 1874 Bartlett gave a moving speech about reconciliation after the Civil War.

William Francis Bartlett was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1840. He was a graduate of Harvard and Civil War hero, who rose through the ranks to become a General.  He was injured several times during the war and after recuperating he would go back to fighting. He lost a leg at Yorktown in early 1862.  He died from tuberculosis on December 17th, 1876 in Pittsfield, Mass., he was 36 years old.

In addition to Barlett’s statue the Hall also houses two busts: one of Henry Cabot Lodge and the other of his grandson Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.  Henry Cabot Lodge (1850-1924) served as a State Representative from 1880-81.  Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (1902-1985) served as a State Representative from 1933-1936.  Both went on to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, November 10, 2014

Early Boston City Documents Relating to the Pure Water Issue

As the city of Boston continued to develop and increase in population, supplying pure water to the city “for the domestic use of the inhabitants, as well as for extinguishing fires, and for all the general purposes of comfort and cleanliness”* became a pressing issue.

Earlier attempts by private developers had been made to address the need for an enhanced public water works, including the 1795 legislative approval for “The Aqueduct Corporation” to oversee the laying of “subterranean pipes” that would route water to Boston from Jamaica Pond in Roxbury.  In 1816, a preliminary look into routing additional water from Spot Pond in Stoneham was found “inexpedient.”

It wasn’t until May of 1825 that Boston’s city government first took action on the water issue and formed a commission, which was chaired by then-Mayor Josiah Quincy, Jr.  That same year, the Water Commission was authorized to conduct a survey to collect information, and Professor Daniel Treadwell, one of its appointed members, issued the first of many investigative reports that would survey Boston’s nearby freshwater sources and estimate the feasibility and probable costs of transporting water to the city.  Some of the later reports, authored by subsequent Boston commissions and by various civil engineers, included maps, plans for proposed pipelines, and examples of other domestic and foreign public water works.  The State Library has many of these reports within its collection, as well as additional Boston city documents, communications, and citizen testimony pertaining to the water supply issue during the 19th century.

"Plan of a proposed route of pipes from Spot Pond in Stoneham to Boston," issued in the 1837 report of the city's Water Commission. Spot Pond was one of the options Boston considered in its surveys of pure water sources.

One valuable resource compiled by a member of Boston’s Water Board, titled History of the Introduction of Pure Water into the City of Boston (1868), is available online and provides an early history on the delivery of pure water into Boston.

A past exhibit by the State Library, titled “The Time of Action Has Come”: Introducing Pure Water into the City of Boston, can be viewed online, and chronicles the history of Boston’s water supply up through the 20th century.

For further information regarding Boston’s water documents, please contact the library by phone at 617-727-2590, or by email at  The library is open from 9am to 5pm Mondays through Fridays.

*Quoted from Daniel Treadwell’s 1825 report to the mayor and alderman of the city of Boston.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sandy Point Reservation on Plum Island: A Bird Sanctuary and a Treasured Coastal Beach Area

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a mecca for tourists, students, and of course, for residents who flock to her many famous landmarks. The state is known for her beaches and for beautiful state parks.  It is the Department of Conservation and Recreation  which oversees these areas. The State Library’s collection includes many documents from this agency.  In fact, one main focus of the library is to make materials from all state agencies available.

Perhaps one of the most interesting parks is Sandy Point Reservation on Plum Island near Newburyport because it has much to offer and it is well-traveled.

Lest tern
Some special things about this area include:  a “nesting area” for threatened birds such as the piping plover and the least tern.

In terms of swimming, one can approach the beach and the beautiful scenery through the town of Newburyport.  The drive is lovely and one passes salt and freshwater marshes and dunes. For those interested in bird watching, as mentioned above, there are several hundreds of species other than the endangered birds pictured.

A visit to Sandy Point is a special experience.  Just be careful not to go during  the “Green Head Fly” season, which usually lasts from the middle of May through the first week of July.

You can check both the tides and the bird information in the Boston Globe: (this example is from the September 30th, 2014 paper).

Recent bird sightings as reported to the Massachusetts Audubon Society:

This great state has much to offer for all who live here or visit.  Sandy Point is definitely a highlight for those wishing to visit the North Shore.

Pamela Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cold Feet

Sometimes we find surprises while we’re doing our jobs. A few weeks ago, while helping a researcher search for articles in 1854 newspapers, we found a notice that made us all laugh.

The State Library holds a set of the nineteenth-century paper called the Boston Atlas. For the edition published Wednesday morning, May 24, 1854, we found the following notice on page 2:

“A woman has sued for divorce in Indiana, on the ground that her husband’s feet were so cold it distressed her. A case of clear incompatibility of temperament and of sole.”

Did the woman from Indiana ever get her divorce? We don’t know. She may have gotten cold feet.

Beth Carroll-Horrocks
Head of Special Collections

Monday, October 20, 2014

In Celebration of Open Access Week: Enhancing Discovery and Access to Historical Collections at the State Library

For the past two years, the Special Collections Department has been working on a project to standardize descriptions of its manuscript collections, so that more people can find them and use them for research.

The project started in early 2012 when intern Abigail Cramer joined us as an intern from the Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. There were two major components of her work:
  • to locate the existing guides, or “finding aids,” to the collections, and reformat them so they conform to current standards, and then deposit those findings aids in our digital depository, DSpace
  • to update and improve the descriptions of those collections in our online catalog

The project was much more complicated than it may appear to non-archivists! Finding aids, when they existed at all, were in so many different formats (handwritten, typed, created in WordPerfect, or in MS Word) and in so many different styles that researchers couldn’t be quite sure what they were looking at. Even more important: researchers couldn’t find descriptions of the collections online, so they had to contact staff and have descriptions photocopied and mailed. Not efficient, and not conducive to research.

Old guide to Salvatore Albano Papers (Ms.Coll. 43)

Updated guide to Salvatore Albano Papers (Ms.Coll. 43)

Thanks to Abby’s hard work, that situation has changed. She not only completed work on over 140 collections, now all described in our online catalog with finding aids available with a single click, and findable through major search engines, but she also wrote out clear, comprehensive instructions for all aspects of the project, so it can be continued by Library staff and interns.

Example of an old catalog record 

Example of an updated catalog record

Results of improved accessas shown by increased use of the collectionswere immediate, and extremely gratifying to Library staff.  Improving access to our collections is why we come to work every day!

Special thanks to Abigail Cramer for the superb work she did on a very complicated project.

Beth Carroll-Horrocks
Head of Special Collections

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Opinions Issued By the Attorney General

An entry from Shepard's Citations for
Chapter 796 of the 1949 Acts, providing a
reference to page 29 of the 1949 Report
of the Attorney General   
Legislators, state officials, agencies, and district attorneys often require advice on the legality or constitutionality of a law or issue that has an “immediate concrete relation to the official duties of the state agency or officer requesting the opinion.”  The Attorney General is authorized to provide formal opinions and legal advice on such matters if the request falls within the scope of the AG’s requirements, and these opinions are published in the AG’s annual reports (also known as Public Document 12).  For current information on the types of requests to which the AG will and will not respond, you can visit the office’s opinions overview page.  However, it is important to know that, as of right now, the last formal opinion issued by the AG was on October 11th, 2001.

State and federal legislation, as well as case law, are almost always referenced in the opinions depending on the subject.  Often pieces of legislation are the main subject about which the AG opines, and there are a few ways to see if the legislation you are researching was once submitted for review. One way is by using Shepard’s Citations and/or Westlaw’s KeyCite, which provide citations to relevant opinions (ex. 1949MaAG29).  The editors of the annotated editions of the Massachusetts General Laws also provide citations, but are selective as to which they include.

A helpful hint when researching: prior to 1968, opinions were not numbered individually.  Any citations to opinions that were issued before 1968 will refer to the page number of the report; later citations refer to the assigned opinion number.

Researchers should also keep in mind that the Massachusetts fiscal year begins on July 1st and ends on the following June 30th.

Want to access a report but can’t visit the State Library?  The library maintains a digital collection of reports of the Attorney General in our DSpace electronic documents repository, starting from 1832 up to the most current issue.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Astronomical Almanac

The Astronomical Almanac is a publication of both the United States and Britain. Its publishing history is as follow: in 1766, the British published Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris. It was renamed: The Astronomical Ephemeris in 1960.  In 1852, America published The American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac. In 1981 both were combined and the title became:  The Astronomical Almanac.

In the United States the Almanac is published by the United States Naval Observatory (USNO) and in Britain by Her Majesty’s Nautical Almanac Office, United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (HMNAO). It is printed only in the United States and uses reproducible materials from both offices. Data is received from scientists all over the world, and it is considered to be a worldwide resource for astronomical information.

There are 12 sections, including:  a glossary, notes and references, observatories, natural satellites, the sun, the moon and the planets.

There is an online version which does not duplicate the data in the printed volume. Among other data, maps have been added to this version. The yearly Almanac is available for purchase from the Government Printing Office (GPO).

The State Library has the 2015 edition of the Almanac in print (call # D213.8: 2015).  It is available by requesting it from the Reference Desk in room 341 of the State Library. The online version can be accessed at any one of the 8 public access computers available in rooms 341 or 442.

The State Library is open to the public Mondays through Fridays from 9am to 5pm.

Bette L. Siegel
Documents Librarian

Monday, September 29, 2014

State Library Reading Room Update

Beginning October 1st, the State Library’s main reading room and mezzanine will be closed for renovations. The library’s Special Collections Department in State House Room 55 will be open and operate normally during this time. Although these dates may change, the main reading room is expected to reopen on December 1 and the mezzanine is expected to reopen on February 1.

Researchers seeking materials in the library’s main library’s collections are advised that staff will have limited or no access to collections during these renovations and are urged to contact the library staff via email ( for inquiries regarding access to materials in advance of a planned visit. Staff will do everything possible to access needed materials, but there may be some delays in doing so.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Transition Reports of Massachusetts State Offices

Researchers gathering information on particular executive branch state offices (i.e. agencies, offices, departments, commissions, etc.) should be aware of an important type of publication titled “Transition Report” or "Transition document".  These documents are submitted in preparation for a new administration or when other major changes are taking place, and many can be found within the library's collection.  For example, in 2006 Massachusetts agencies were required to submit transition reports in preparation for incoming Governor Deval Patrick.  These reports, which are published either by individual state offices or by their respective overseeing executive offices, provide detailed analyses on how offices are structured, how they function, and how they operate within the state government; the reports can also contain supplemental historical background information, data, and other materials.  Another reason why these reports are so important is that they are helpful in identifying any existing issues that need to be addressed in future strategic planning. The 1990 “Eight year record and transition report” issued by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) in preparation for incoming Governor William Weld does just this and includes a list of prospective problems “if present programs and policies are continued”.

It is expected that this process will continue as we get closer to the November 2014 Massachusetts statewide gubernatorial election, and it will be interesting to see what kinds of materials are published in preparation for the new incoming administration.

A transition report published by the Mass. Department of Social Services in 1990.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, September 15, 2014

Amendment Article 48: What it means for Massachusetts Voters

In November, the people of Massachusetts will take to the polls to vote for Governor, Attorney General, Senators, Representatives, and other elected officials. Included on the ballot, will be a number of questions pertaining to state legislation. In 2013, over 30 petitions were filed to add or change a state law and four will be voted on this year in the form of ballot questions. How these questions got onto the ballot is not always understood, even though it is an important part of the Massachusetts Constitution.

In 1918, voters approved Amendment Article 48 to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This article states that, “the people reserve to themselves the popular initiative, which is the power of a specified number of voters to submit constitutional amendments and laws to the people for approval or rejection; and the popular referendum, which is the power of a specified number of voters to submit laws, enacted by the general court, to the people for their ratification or rejection.” This means that the citizens of Massachusetts have the right to affect the laws within their state. Voters have the ability to repeal laws, create new ones or even add amendments to the state Constitution.

Petitioning for a question to appear on the biennial state election ballot, while a constitutional right, can be a complicated process with many steps that follow a strict timeline over two years. An important part of this process is that once a petition is filed with the Office of the Attorney General, the Attorney General then must decide if the petition meets certain constitutional requirements as put forth in Amendment Article 48. The first requirements are simply that the measure is submitted in the correct format and that a substantially similar measure has not been submitted in either of the two proceeding state elections. The final qualification for certification is more complicated. It is stated that the measure can not contain any subjects that the constitution excludes from the initiative process. Some of these excluded subjects are religion, judges, local issues, and state constitutional rights. This review process can bring up difficult legal issues and so the discussion is open to both sponsors and opponents of the proposed law.  Interested parties are welcome to participate by submitting memoranda on if the law should be certified or not, or by reviewing and commenting on draft summaries of the measure. While it is up to the Attorney General to determine whether or not the petition is certified, these petitions come from the public and their input is crucial.

While this process can be arduous, there are multiple detailed guides and outlines to help you understand each step and meet each deadline:

You can also check out ballot questions from every election since 1919 on the Secretary of State’s site, as well as this year’s petitions and their current statuses on the Attorney General’s site.

Stephanie Turnbull
Reference Department

Monday, September 8, 2014

State Library’s New Exhibit: Legends and Lore of Massachusetts

Opening today at the State Library of Massachusetts: a new exhibition featuring selected stories based in the Commonwealth, from the ghosts at Edith Wharton’s home—The Mount—in Lenox to the famous Sea Serpent in Gloucester Harbor.

The exhibit runs from September 8 through December 31, 2014 and can be viewed outside of the Library, Room 341 of the State House. Library hours are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. This exhibit will be available to view online as a set of images on the State Library's Flickr site.

Reports on the Opioid Drug Crisis

The news today, in Massachusetts and across the country, is filled with stories of heroin and oxycontin abuse and of tragedy which follows usage of and addiction to these drugs. During this year in particular, Governor Patrick of Massachusetts has done much to help the state face this crisis. There have also been numerous earlier initiatives about this during his administration. In November 2009, Recommendations of the OxyContin and Heroin Commission Commonwealth of Massachusetts was published and emphasized the state’s commitment to tackling this crisis.

In the five years since the above report was written, there has been a tremendous increase in the numbers of people touched by these addictions.  In response, on March 27th of this year, Governor Patrick declared a Public Health Emergency and outlined new goals for addressing it.  This initiative echoed our neighboring Governor, Vermont’s Peter Shumlin’s 2014 address decrying the crisis in his State of the State Vermont.

Our Governor’s goals saw the development of a Task Force to study the crisis. Membership included not just experts in the field and community leaders, but also first responders, members of the judiciary and family members touched by these addictions. On June 10th their findings were released in a report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health titled Findings of the Opioid Task Force and Department of Public Health Recommendations on Priorities for Investments in Prevention, Intervention, Treatment and Recovery.

To view these two major state reports online please go to the State Library’s digital collections and search by subject. Because these two studies are available online, people from all over can learn about ways to address this epidemic.

The mission of the library includes the attempt to retrieve state documents such as these as quickly as possible. They are used by state agencies, by legislators, research organizations, by the medical community and also by the general public.

We would also be delighted to help you in person. The State Library is located in Rooms 341, 442 and 55 (our Special Collections Department) of the Massachusetts State House. The hours are 9AM to 5PM. We have public computers for visitors.

Pamela W. Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Brown Bag on Boston’s Cycling Craze: 1880-1900

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
on Thursday September 11th, 2014
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442, State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and join us to hear Lorenz J. Finison talk about the history of cycling in Boston, from his book:  Boston's Cycling Craze, 1880-1900: A Story of Race, Sport, and Society, recently published by UMass Press. You will hear about why Boston was the Hub of American cycling.  Also about the cycling personalities of the North, South, and West Ends of Boston, including Kittie Knox, a biracial cyclist of and seamstress from Irving Street, and about her 1895 fight against the "color bar" with support from some Boston cyclists.  You will get an account of the struggles over cycling space and time on the roads, the railroads, and in the parks, including an ill-fated attempt, supported by Boston's mayor, to create a cycle track across Boston Common in 1898.  Local racers, including the famous African American champion, Major Taylor, and the first integrated professional sports team in America - the Boston Pursuit Team will be featured as they defeated a cycling team from Philadelphia, at the Cambridge Cycle track, in 1898.

Lorenz J. Finison, PhD is Principal Consultant with Sigma Works, a public health consulting company, specializing in issues of health disparities.  He is a founding Board member of Cycling Through History:  The African American Heritage Bike Route, and has been actively involved in other Boston cycling organizations. Larry has published widely in public health and the history of bicycling. In addition, he helped to found the Boston cycling history archive at UMass - Boston.

To register, please visit: You may also call the Reference Department at 617-727-2590 or send an e-mail to to let us know you will attend.

Future Brown Bags include:
  • October 2nd, 2014 - National Park Ranger Michael R. Marciello, rescheduling of The Multiple Meanings of Faneuil Hall
  • October 16th, 2014 - state geologist Steven Mabee, The Massachusetts Geological Survey
  • November 25th, 2014- Hilary Jacobs from the Department of Public Health, rescheduling of the Brown Bag on the Opiate Crisis


Monday, August 25, 2014

Souvenir 73: Postcards Relating to Transportation in Massachusetts, 1902-2011

The State Library’s souvenir collections contain a wide variety of items of historical interest, in formats not usually found in research libraries: puzzles, banner, artifacts old and new, figurines, and postcards.  This new collection, assembled for our summer 2013 exhibition Moving Massachusetts: The History of Transportation in the Commonwealth, contains over one hundred postcards, as well as transit tokens no longer used by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA).  The postcards range in date by over one hundred years, from  1902 to 2011.  The images on the postcards portray the broad range of transportation options in Massachusetts and related buildings and locations.  There are eight different series in the collection, organized by image subject matter.

Series I, “Massachusetts Train Stations,” contains thirty postcards of  train stations, with the greatest concentration in the greater Boston area.  Included are several images of both South Station and North Station (in all its incarnations!) and several other stations across the Commonwealth.  Images show stations themselves, the trains arriving at stations, and well-known buildings and landmarks near the stations.  Series II, “Trains and MBTA,” contains eight postcards portraying MBTA vehicles including trains, snow plows, and a bus.  Series III, “Massachusetts Bridges,” contains thirty-eight postcards portraying bridges from various locations in Massachusetts, including Boston-area bridges such as the Harvard Bridge and the Charlestown Bridge, and others from as far west as Greenfield.  

Series IV, “Sites near MBTA Stations,” features images of well-known areas in the Boston area where stations such as Harvard Square and Tremont Street,  among others.  Series V, “Massachusetts Lighthouses,” features images of four lighthouses in Boston Harbor.  Series VI, “Boston Harbor and Ships,” includes images of the harbor  itself, as well as images of other locations such as the Boston “T” Wharf, and images of ships and boats.  Series VII, “Stevens-Duryea Automobiles,” features two images of Stevens-Duryea model automobiles from 1906 and 1907. The automobile manufacturer Stevens-Duryea was active in Chicopee Falls from 1901 until 1915, and again from 1919 until 1927. Series VIII, “MBTA Tokens,” contains six brass-colored MBTA tokens, a form of payment phased out by 2012.

Wes Fiorentino
Special Collections Intern

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Brown Bag on The Multiple Meanings of Faneuil Hall Postponed

Due to unexpected work in the main library today’s brown bag on The Multiple Meanings of Faneuil Hall has been postponed. We will let you know once the event has been rescheduled. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Vital Role of Vital Statistics in Massachusetts History

As a repository for official state documents, the State Library of Massachusetts has many annual reports from agencies and entities of the commonwealth. The Annual Report of Vital Statistics, or Public Document #1, is an interesting example of our documents collection due to its unique history and value to researchers.

Vital events in Massachusetts, such as births, marriages and deaths, have been kept through a government-operated system since 1639. At this time, most countries with any sort of system for recording and keeping vital events did so through religious officials. But Massachusetts mandated that the responsibility would be given to the clerks in the communities, keeping all vital events at a local level for many years.

This process changed in 1842 when legislature passed a Statewide Act requiring every town and city clerk to send copies of vital events to the Secretary of State, who would, “…prepare therefrom such tabular results as will render them of practical utility, and shall make report thereof annually to the legislature…” The first year covered was 1841, and Massachusetts has continuously collected, processed and published vital statistics every year since then.

Since 1964, some of the responsibilities of collecting and publishing the Annual Report of Vital Statistics were transferred to the Department of Public Health under Chapter 508 of the Acts of 1964. This was done so that vital statistics could be easily connected with health and population research. Nevertheless, the registration of vital records was still the Secretary of State’s job until 1974, when the entire process was taken over by the Department of Public Health.  While certain tables and formats were changed with the transfer of responsibility, the main information about births, deaths, marriages, divorce and population continued.

This data that has been continuously collected for over 150 years is incredibly important for developing policy and programs whether looking at demographics, education or health plans. Being able to easily notice trends in Massachusetts population can aid legislature, specialists and public programmers to better understand who is living, learning and working in our state. But these vital statistics are also a great tool for historians, genealogists and citizens hoping to do local history on their families or towns. The fact that the State Library not only has original copies in our stacks but also digital copies of the Annual Reports  going back to 1841 (as well as Vital Records up to 1850) allows access to data and information that can give anyone a better understanding of our state’s past.

To learn more about how vital records are received and processed under M.G.L 111, Section 2, visit: 

Stephanie Turnbull
Reference Librarian

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Brown Bag on “The Multiple Meanings of Faneuil Hall”

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
On Thursday, August 21st, 2014
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442, State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and join us to hear National Park Ranger Michael R. Marciello speak on the History of Faneuil Hall. He will discuss the ways American usages and views of this storied building have changed markedly over the centuries.  From Patriots to Abolitionists to Suffragettes,  Faneuil Hall can be connected to any social changes in American History.

To register, please visit: You may also call the Reference Department at 617-727-2590 or send an e-mail to to let us know you will attend.

Future Brown Bags include:
  • September - to be determined
  • October 16th - State Geologist Steven Mabee, The Massachusetts Geological Survey
  • November 25th - Hilary Jacobs from the Department of Public Health, rescheduling of the Brown Bag on the Opiate Crisis


Monday, August 11, 2014

Researching Early Corporations in Massachusetts

A page from the Report of the
Tax Commissioner
(PD 35) of 1877-1878
The State Library often receives questions about early Massachusetts corporations, specifically information on their date of organization or how to view their charter.  Gathering information on 19th and early 20th century corporations requires a little research, and it’s a good idea to first understand the early history of corporation laws in Massachusetts.  Before 1851, corporations were required to go through the legislature in order to organize, and the organization was subsequently recorded as a special act.  After 1851, there were different layers of reform to the Massachusetts General Laws, and the status of the corporation (manufacturing, printing, distilling, etc.) determined organization eligibility and the legal procedure. Today, corporations are still subject to the Massachusetts General Laws, and filings are processed through the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State’s Office.  For information on relatively recent corporations (mid-20th century to current) it’s best to contact the Division; the MA Trial Court Law Libraries website has also compiled current state law, selected case law, and other resources on the subject.

One way to locate the special statutes of corporations that organized through the legislature is by performing a keyword or citation search in our Acts and Resolves database.  If you find you’re not having much luck with this approach, it’s important to know that early state taxation documents are particularly helpful.  These documents were published by the Tax Commissioner for, among other reasons, the benefit of tax assessors in the various cities and towns around the Commonwealth.

The following series provide lists of taxable corporations in MA that existed at the time each document was published.  The amount of historical information included in the lists is dependent on the publishing date--later reports provide lists that are much more simplified.  An entry may contain the date a corporation was organized, chartered, or certified, and a statute citation (often when the corporation listed is a new entity); if there is no statute citation, the date provided (especially prior to 1851) will be helpful in tracking the statute down.  Some entries also note when a corporation was reorganized and/or renamed, also with statute citations when applicable.

Each of these titles is available for use in the library, which is located in room 341 of the State House.  For more information, please contact our reference desk at 617-727-2590 or send us an email at

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

NOAA and the Climate Federal Documents of Interest

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a United States Agency that has as its mission:  “science, service and stewardship; to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts; to share that knowledge and information with others; and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems resources”.

The Survey of the Coast was the first scientific agency of our Nation in 1807.  Today there are 6 units in NOAA:  National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service; National Marine Fisheries Service; National Ocean Service; National Weather Service; Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and Office of Program Planning and Integration.

Recently a climate report entitled: Climate Change Impacts in the United States was released. The 60-person Federal Advisory Committee (the “National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee”) utilized the services of over 250 authors as specialists in the varying areas of concern.  The result was a draft report that was released for a public comment period.  The report was then reviewed and adopted.

A climate assessment of the country was last produced in 2009.  This report was released by the White House; and as recently as June 14, 2014 in a speech before the graduates of the University of California Irving the President is quoted as saying “the question is whether we have the will to act before it is too late”.

There are varying environmental areas in this report including:  rural communities; biogeochemical cycles; water resources; transportation; ecosystems; human health; energy, water and land use; and indigenous peoples, lands and resources.

We invite you to read this report and other federal documents on one of our 8 public access computers in either room 341 or room 442 of the State House between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm Mondays through Fridays.

Bette L. Siegel
Documents Librarian

Monday, July 28, 2014

Brown Bag on The Opiate Crisis in Massachusetts Postponed

Tomorrow's Brown Bag on the Opiate Crisis in Massachusetts has been postponed. We will let you know once the event has been rescheduled. 

Massachusetts Volunteer Aid Association Collection

A photograph of the Bay State on top of technical drawings of
the ship from different angles. 

One of the United States’ less-remembered wars, the Spanish-American War took place over ten weeks in 1898. Reports of Spain’s repression in Cuba and the sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in the Havana harbor combined to heighten hawkish public sentiment, and political and corporate interests pushed a reluctant President William McKinley to reject Spanish attempts at compromise. The U.S. sent Spain an ultimatum demanding the surrender of Cuba, after which Spain formally declared war. The war was fought in Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean, and the Philippines and Guam in the Pacific.

The State House Special Collections department holds the records of the Massachusetts Volunteer Aid Association (MVAA, Ms. Coll. 20), a voluntary relief organization formed in May of 1898 by prominent and wealthy citizens to assist the government during the war. It was a charitable endeavor meant to care for wounded veterans and to assist in furnishing supplies and relief to the men of the Army and Navy, particularly those from Massachusetts.  Although the MVAA was a private organization, it worked closely with military and naval authorities.

Page from a shipping log noting destinations of shipments and types of goods.
Note the columns dedicated to Soup, Malted Milk, and Jelly.
The initial ten-member, all-male Executive Committee appointed a Women’s Committee, who began to meet in June of 1898. The Women’s Committee immediately formed sub-committees and began promoting the formation of similar volunteer aid associations across Massachusetts, gathering supplies, and raising funds to buy what was not donated.

Committee members decided that one of the most practical ways of providing help would be to outfit a steamship to serve as a floating hospital, supply ship, and transport for the sick and wounded.  The MVAA was able to raise the funds to purchase and outfit the steamer Bay State, which received an authorization signed by President McKinley himself. The ship sailed from Boston on its first trip on August 6, 1898, returning to Boston on August 30, 1898, with 99 sick men on board.  The Bay State made a total of three trips from Massachusetts to Cuba and Puerto Rico.

The MVAA received an authorization signed by President
William McKinley to outfit the Bay State as a
hospital ship.

In addition to the items shown here, the Special Collections department holds more important records from the MVAA, including a two-volume set of carbon copies of correspondence sent out between May 6, 1898 and April 21, 1899, the ship’s log from the Bay State’s first trip in 1898, and a card file listing the admitting hospital and follow-up information on each returning wounded soldier. Together, they provide invaluable insight into the lives of numerous soldiers and the nature of civilian war relief work at the turn of the century.

Katie Seitz
Special Collections Intern