Monday, June 30, 2014

Files and Indexes: Ms. Coll. 88 - The Burrill File

It’s not uncommon for libraries, or other institutions concerned with the collection and accessibility of information, to have home-made files and indexes in their collections; in fact, the State Library has many that were created by our own staff members over the years to assist with research questions. Files served to collect and organize subject-specific, often ephemeral, materials that were considered informational but supplementary to published items that could more easily be found within a card catalog.  Items such as pamphlets, brochures, newspaper clippings, photographs, and even menus are examples of what one might find in a file.
Zimmer index card with citations to newspapers covering
Pres. Theodore Roosevelt's Oath of Office at Buffalo, NY. (1901)
In the same vein, indexes aimed to organize bits of information for a specific purpose—often accompanied by citations to other resources for further research.  For example, our Zimmer newspaper indexes, covering the years 1878-1937 and 1962-1978, focus on what were the current events of those time periods.  It’s important to note that the terms “file” and “index” are sometimes used interchangeably, especially with index card formats.

These home-made files and indexes were labors of love (emphasis on the word labor), but with the emergence of computers and databases that can perform complex searches and organization for us, as well as companies that compile annotations and citations for us, they are not as commonly found today.  However, that isn't to say that they aren't tremendously useful.

Sergeant-at-Arms Thomas F. Pedrick turns the
first sod, marking the beginning of the construction
of the East Wing of the State House.
From the Burrill File. (1914)
One of my favorite files in the State Library is the Burrill File (a.k.a. Ms. Coll. 88)  It is one of my go-to resources for historical materials—materials that I will not find in our regular stacks—relating to the Massachusetts State House, state government, and political figures.  This large and fascinating collection, which includes everything from photographs to correspondence, newspaper clippings to pamphlets, was compiled by author and historian Ellen Mudge Burrill (1872?-1937).  Burrill, who penned a number of guides to the State House, was compelled to document particular events of her day for her own research and other purposes; it is not uncommon to find items, such as photographs, that she herself created for later use.  After her death in 1937, the collection has continued to grow with new items added frequently by State Library staff members.

You can access the Burrill File finding aid online in our DSpace electronic documents repository: For more information, please contact our Special Collections Department at 617-727-2595.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, June 23, 2014

Those who served in the Congress: Blacks, Hispanics and Women

The Government Printing Office (GPO)’s website,, has varied features about our government.  Included are regulations, laws, hearings, reports, and access to specific publications about groups of specific legislators by their ethnicity.

Hispanic Americans in Congress 1822 – 2012 is a 775 page book which starts with the first Territorial Delegate from Florida, Joseph M. Hernandez.  The book is divided into 3 parts: 1. Former Hispanic-American Members of Congress; 2. Current Hispanic-American Members of Congress; 3. Appendices and Index.

Black Americans in Congress 1870 – 2007: During this period more than 120 African Americans have served in Congress. This book is also over 700 pages long and is divided into 2 parts including the appendices and index.  The first part deals with the former Black Members of Congress and part two deals with the current members.  There are 10 appendices delineating those who have chaired committees; party leaders; Black caucus chairmen and chairwomen and Constitutional Amendments plus major civil rights acts of Congress.

Women in Congress 1917 – 2006 is over 1000 pages long.  It is interesting to note that it is 95 years after the election of the first Hispanic member of Congress that a woman served.  Part 1 of the book is divided into 4 chapters: 1. Women Pioneers on Capitol Hill; 2. Onto the National Stage Congresswomen in an Age of Crises; 3. Changing of the Guard:  Traditionalists, Feminists, and the New Face of Women in Congress; 4. Assembling, Amplifying, and Ascending: Recent Trends among Women in Congress. Part 2 is about Current Women Members followed by appendices and an index.

The books contain images, portraits, graphs, and detailed information about their subject and are available for purchase from the GPO Bookstore:

We invite you to see these books, in our paper collection or online using one of our public access computers.  We are in room 341 of the State House on Mondays through Fridays between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Bette L. Siegel
Documents Librarian

Monday, June 16, 2014

State Library’s New Exhibition: Exploring the World Through Natural History

Aprosmictus splendens. (Peale.)
Opening today at the State Library of Massachusetts: a new exhibition featuring images from scientific exploring expeditions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While the exhibition’s main focus is on the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842 (also known as the “Wilkes Expedition,” or the “U.S. Ex.Ex.”), it also discusses more well-known expeditions such as the Michaux Expedition of 1793, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806.

Actinia impatiens.
The United States Congress authorized funding for the Wilkes Expedition in 1836 with the expectation that the fleet of ships would circumnavigate the world to promote commerce and to offer protection to the heavy investment in the whaling and seal hunting industries, and to collect information on the flora, fauna, and peoples of countries relatively unknown to the federal government.  Under the command of U.S. Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, the Expedition’s personnel included naturalists, botanists, a mineralogist, taxidermists and a philologist, and was carried by the sloops-of-war USS Vincennes and USS Peacock, the brig USS Porpoise, the full-rigged ship Relief, which served as a store-ship, and two schooners: the Sea Gull,  and the USS Flying Fish, which served as tenders.

The Wilkes Expedition strongly promoted the development of 19th-century science, particularly in the growth of the American scientific establishment. Many of the species and other items found by the expedition helped form the basis of collections at the new Smithsonian Institution.

Vespertilio semicaudatus.
Most of the images in the exhibition came from the atlas volumes of the exploring expedition’s resulting publication:  United States Exploring Expedition During the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842, a donation to the State Library from the United States Congress and available in the State Library’s Special Collections department. The exhibition also features facsimiles of several documents from the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia: the subscription list from the proposed Michaux Expedition, in the hand of Thomas Jefferson and containing the pledge amounts and signatures of the first four presidents of the United States; and three manuscript journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Beth Carroll-Horrocks
Head of Special Collections

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Brown Bag on the Caning of U.S. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts and the coming of Civil War

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
On Thursday, June 19th, 2014
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442, State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and hear Boston-area author and historian Stephen Puleo (The Caning, Dark Tide, A City So Grand, The Boston Italians) talk about one of the most dramatic and provocative events in American history, which was the "no-turning-back" incident leading to the Civil War.  On May 22, 1856, Charles Sumner, anti-slavery United States Senator from Massachusetts, was beaten severely in the Senate Chamber by ardent pro-slavery South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks. It was a retaliatory attack  forty-eight hours earlier, Sumner had concluded a speech, during which he vilified Southern slave-owners for violence occurring in Kansas, and personally insulted Brooks's second cousin, South Carolina Senator Andrew Butler.  Brooks not only shattered his cane during the Sumner beating, but also destroyed any pretense of civility between North and South.  The caning convinced each side that the gulf between them was unbridgeable and that they could no longer discuss their vast differences of opinion regarding slavery on any reasonable level.  This transformative event had an enormous impact on events that followed over the next four years  the meteoric rise of the Republican Party and Abraham Lincoln, the Dred Scott decision, the increasing militancy of abolitionists. As a result of the caning, the country was pushed, inexorably and unstoppably, to war.

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.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Constitutionally Speaking

The Massachusetts Constitution is an important legal document in Massachusetts history. One interest researchers have in the Massachusetts Constitution is seeing the amendments that have passed, and when and how they have passed. The state constitution has three different ways it has been amended since it took effect in 1780.

The 1780 Massachusetts Constitution provides for the people to hold a vote on whether they wanted a special constitutional convention in 1795, which the people voted against. Another special convention was held in 1820 and the first nine amendments to the constitution passed. One was held in 1853 and the voters rejected all the amendments which were brought forth. A Special Constitutional Convention was held in 1917, 1918 and in 1919. In 1917 and 1918 Article 48 was passed which got rid of the provision for special constitutional conventions.

Another way to pass an amendment to the state constitution is to have the legislature propose constitutional amendments in a constitutional convention.  State constitutional conventions are held yearly. The legislature must pass an amendment in two consecutive sessions and then have the voters approve the amendment in the form of a ballot question in order to become law. All amendments to the constitution must be ratified or approved by the voters.  Some amendments passed by the legislature include:
  • Amending Article 18    Free exercise of religion; support of public schools; use of public money or credit for schools and institutions. 1855
  • Amending Article 64 Gubernatorial succession prior to inauguration. 1950
  • Amending Article 69 Enabling women to hold any state, county or municipal office. 1924
  • Amending Article 120 Prohibiting the right to vote for persons incarcerated due to a felony conviction. 2000
A third way to amend the state constitution is by initiative petition.  Article 48, sections 4 and 5, and articles 74 and 81 of the state constitution govern the procedures for initiative petitions.  This method of amending the state constitution was established in 1918 when article 48 was passed in a vote by the people. To get an amendment on the ballot ten qualified voters in Massachusetts write and sign an original petition. The Attorney General decides whether the petition is valid and prepares a summary. This summary and the petition are filed with the Secretary of State. Then it goes to the General Court and the initiative needs to get at least 25% of the legislators in two successive legislatures. It goes on the ballot and if at least 30% of the voters who cast ballots in the election vote on the question, and if a majority of the ballots cast approve the ballot question then it passes. Some amendments that went through the initiative petition process include:
  • Amending Article 101  Apportionment of senatorial, representative and councilor districts. 1930
  • Amending Article 106  Equal Rights amendment. 1976
  • Amending Article  114 Prohibit discrimination against handicapped persons. 1980 
A court case cannot directly change the Massachusetts Constitution. The matter would have to appear before the legislature and would have to appear on the ballot. The
Mum Bett (1781) and the Quock Walker (1781-1783) cases essentially got rid of slavery in Massachusetts but the Massachusetts Constitution was not changed until 1869 when the federal constitution changed.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, June 2, 2014

Unexpected Annotations: An Inserted Note From Eliza Susan Quincy

Josiah Quincy's portrait,
in Eliza's handwriting,
reads: "Aged 89. Sixteen
years after he resigned the
Presidency of Harvard, thirty
five year after he left
the Mayoralty."
Historian, amateur artist, and genealogist Eliza Susan Quincy (1798-1884), on May 13th, 1869, presented to the State Library a copy of her father’s 1852 work titled A municipal history of the town and city of Boston during two centuries.  Eliza’s father, Josiah Quincy III (1772-1864), was a Massachusetts state and congressional legislator, the 2nd Mayor of Boston, and President of Harvard University; Quincy Market was also named in his honor. In addition to these accomplishments, he was also a published historian.  His father, Josiah Quincy II (1744-1775), was a prominent Massachusetts lawyer and patriot who died shortly after the start of the Revolutionary War.

Faneuil Hall engraving caption reads:
"View of the Market House erected
in 1826, and of Faneuil Hall from
the east."
What’s interesting about this particular copy is that Eliza inserted a handwritten note annotating the engravings that were included as frontispiecesinformation that she, a historian and student of the arts, felt was important for the reader to know.  Eliza collaborated with her father on many of his works, so it is not surprising that she continued to add information where she felt it was needed. The note reads:
The frontispiece of the work was partially copied from a sketch taken in 1827, soon after the Market was finished.  The hanging gardens belonging to the mansion of Peter Faneuil (in 1827, the property & residence of William Phillips) are seen on the left side of the engraving near the roof of Faneuil Hall.  A tower slightly indicated by the engraver, was a summer house built by Mr. Phillips on the site of that of Mr. Faneuil.  The trees beside it were a landmark to ships entering the harbor of Boston.  This interesting coincidence was probably accidental.  The artist sketched the distance as it existed in 1827.  The site of these gardens now forms part of Pemberton Square.  Eliza S. Quincy.  May 1869. 

Another copy of this title is available online, and that copy, which was donated to the Library of the University of Michigan by Eliza in 1872, also includes a longer and more detailed handwritten note inserted into the pages of the book.

For more information on Eliza Susan Quincy the artist, please visit the following website:

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Librarian