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