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