Monday, February 24, 2014

New Massachusetts State House Postcard Collection Available in Special Collections

The State Library's collection of postcards depicting the Massachusetts State House has grown significantly over the past several years. The new additions (Souvenir no. 68.2) include postcards from approximately 1904-1970. Seen together, they depict the evolution of the architecture of the State House, from the original Bulfinch building to the Brigham addition, which was completed in 1895, to the final configuration of the building with the addition of the East and West Wings, added between 1914 and 1917.


Additionally, the postcards document the changing design and layout of the postcard.  Included are postcards with the original arrangement, when postcards were not allowed to have a divided back and correspondents could only write messages on the front of the postcard.  This configuration changed in 1907 when the Post Office allowed citizens to write on the address side of a postcard and could have a divided back, with messages on the left and the address on the right.  Many of the postcards are postmarked, with mailing addresses and messages both routine and mysterious.

Caitlin Walsh
Special Collections Intern

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Special Reports Authorized by the General Court

Part of the process of conducting a full legislative history is to see if there are any special reports that relate to the legislation being researched.  Special reports are reports that result from requests or study directives authorized by the Massachusetts General Court.  They can provide detailed research and background information on topics that were, or are, of particular interest to the legislature; they may (but not always) also help a researcher identify the intent behind a bill or statute.

Special reports can be found in two formats: (1) Many are filed with bills and bound in volumes called “legislative documents”.  These reports, like bills, have document numbers assigned by the House or Senate Clerk, and can be easily confused for bills because of this.  Reports, however, tend to be much longer in length than the average bill text.  (2) Other special reports were/are published as their own documents and are not part of the legislative documents series.

A note on the authors of special reports:  Up until the 1950s, the authors of such reports included standing committees, special commissions, and executive agencies.  In 1954, authorship narrowed with the establishment of the Legislative Research Council, whose purpose was to respond to the constant flow of research requests.  In 1994, the Council was defunct but many of their reports (1964 through 1994) can be accessed on the New England School of Law’s website. Since their disbandment, the responsibility of authoring special reports has once again been placed on legislative committees, special commissions, executive agencies, etc.

How do I find a special report relevant to my research?  The following are indexes that have been compiled by various authors, and organized by subject area.  Please make note of any important citation information in the introductions to each index.

Compiled by Francis X. Blouin, Jr.
1802 - 1882 Index and Guide to Massachusetts State Legislative Documents

Compiled by Francis W. Quinn, III
1883 - 1899 Index of Reports to the General Court

Compiled by Leonard Adams
1883 - 1899 Index to Massachusetts Legislative Documents

Compiled by the Massachusetts Legislative Research Bureau
1900 – 1988 Index of Special Reports Authorized By the General Court

Compiled by the State Library of Massachusetts
1988 – Mar. 1994 Index to Special Reports Authorized By the General Court
Jan. 1994 – Dec. 2005 Index to Special Reports:  Authorized By the General Court

Resources for most recent reports:
•  State Library’s online catalog
•  House, Senate, and Joint committees
• (agencies and special commissions often post reports to their webpages)

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Librarian

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Congressional Medal of Honor

The highest military honor decoration presented by the United States Government  to a member of its armed forces is the Medal of Honor.  It was created in 1861.  The President, in the name of the United States Congress, awards the Medal.  At the present time, there are 3, 471 awardees.

The award was created during the Civil War.  Recipients have received the award for their war service in:  Somalia, Vietnam, Haiti Campaign, Mexican Campaign, both World Wars, Indian War Campaign, Philippine Insurrection, the Boxer Rebellion and the War with Spain, among others.

The first Army Medal was awarded to Private Jacob Parrott of Ohio who was a member of the group who conducted the Great Locomotive Chase in 1862.  Parrott met President Lincoln and was awarded his medal by Secretary of War Stanton.

The first African American recipient was William Harvey Carney of Massachusetts.  Carney was a member of the famous Massachusetts 54th Regiment and during the Battle of Fort Wagner refused to let the American flag touch the ground.

The only female Medal of Honor recipient is Mary Edwards Walker who was a Civil War surgeon.  Walker was also known as a feminist, abolitionist and concerned with dress reform.

Exceptions have been made to the law which can be found at  Charles Lindbergh received his as a civilian pilot; and the British Unknown Warrior was awarded a Medal in 1921.  General Pershing presented that medal. Canadians who served in the U.S. armed forces (mostly in the Civil War) have also been recipients.

In 1979,  GPO (the Government Printing Office) produced  Senate Committee Print No. 3 from the 96th Congress, 1st Session entitled:  MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS 1863-1978.  This book is kept on reference in the State Library main reading room in room 341 of the State House.  Later recipients and additional information about the Medal can be found on the web pages of the Center for Military History.

Visit the State Library in room 341 of the State House between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm, Monday through Friday to use our public access computers to access information about the Congressional Medal of Honor available in our collection.

Bette Siegel
Government Document Librarian

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Brown Bag on the "Yankee Division" in the Great War

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
on Thursday February 13th, 2014
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442, State House
12 until 1:30 PM

With the 100th Anniversary of the Great War approaching, interest is building in learning more about the critical role that the American Expeditionary Force played in bringing that tragic conflict to a conclusion.  New England’s own Yankee Division was the first to organize, the first to reach France and the first to engage with the enemy. Bring your lunch and come hear Dan Leclerc, Educator and Historian present his multimedia program about the organizational creativity of the commanders and the courage and tenacity of our own “doughboys.”   Dan has visited Belgium and France four times and has visited many of the sites where the Yankee Division faced tough German opposition. One particularly heroic engagement was the “Battle of Apremont-La-Foret” after which the first ever regimental “Croix-de-Guerre” was awarded to the Yankee Division’s 104th Regiment. A very impressive mural memorializes that triumph in the Massachusetts State House. We will visit that site as part of this program with an explanation of particulars of that battle.

This talk coincides with the posting of the library’s new exhibit: Courage in the Commonwealth: Massachusetts in World War I which is on display outside the 3rd floor entrance to the library. The exhibit runs through May 31st.

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

Future Brown Bags which are planned for 2014
  • March 18th   Mary Ellen Grogan and colleagues from the Massachusetts Genealogy Council will do a second presentation on Genealogy.
  • April 17th   Beth Carroll-Horrocks, Head of Special Collections, State Library of Massachusetts, “Treasures of the State Library”
  • May 22nd   Nancy Lusignan Schultz, author of “Fire and Roses: the Burning of Charlestown Convent, 1934”
  • Stephen Puleo, author of “The Caning: The Assault that Drove America to the Civil War,” date to be determined

Monday, February 3, 2014

United States Courts in Massachusetts Documents Online

There are three Federal courts in Massachusetts: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit; United States District Court District of Massachusetts, and United States Bankruptcy Court District of Massachusetts. The courts are located at the John Joseph Moakley, U.S. Courthouse at 1 Courthouse Way in Boston.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals includes the Districts of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island. On its web page, one can find various types of information. There are also biographical profiles of the judges as well as the First Circuit Rulebook which is a 177 page tome including all 48 rules of the court.

The Library of the United States Courts in the First Circuit is at the Moakley Court House. There are branch libraries in the District Court courthouses in Concord, N.H., Hato Rey, PR, and Providence, R.I. (The branches are only open to court personnel).

Moakley Court House
The United States District Court District of Massachusetts is one of the 94 federal judicial districts.  District courts are the trial courts of the federal court system. These courts, with Congressional and Constitutional limits, hear almost all types of federal cases, both criminal and civil. (This is where the recent case of James Bulger was heard.)

The web page has all the pertinent information needed to access the court. In Massachusetts, there are branches of the Federal District Court in both Springfield and Worcester.

In addition to the Court’s website there are opinions on the website:, under the heading United States Court Opinions for the District of Massachusetts from 2005 to 2013.

The United States Bankruptcy Court District of Massachusetts has offices in Boston, Springfield, and Worcester. Bankruptcy courts help people who need a fresh start because they are unable to pay their creditors. Most bankruptcy cases are filed under Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code. Federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over bankruptcy cases. 

The District of Massachusetts Bankruptcy Court on its website: has information one needs to file for bankruptcy.

As with the District Courts, the Federal website:, under the heading United States Court Opinions; there are opinions for the Bankruptcy District of Massachusetts from 2005 to 2013.

Visit the State Library in room 341 of the State House between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm, Mondays through Fridays to use our public access computers to access all of the information about the U.S. Courts in Massachusetts.

Bette Siegel
Government Documents Librarian