Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Going Bananas at the State Library

The Story of the Banana United Fruit Company
Educational Department, 1936

While the State Library’s current exhibit explores the history of agriculture in Massachusetts by highlighting the more traditional crops of the state such as apples and cranberries, it is a lesser known agricultural fact that Boston, Massachusetts was also once the center of the tropical banana trade.  While cataloging the library collections, I stumbled upon numerous items about America’s (and my) favorite fruit—the banana.  So why does the library have so many items on bananas? The answer is found in the history of the United Fruit Company, which donated a number of books on the banana trade to the State Library’s collection during its domination of the worldwide banana import business from 1899 to 1970. United Fruit Company was based in Boston from 1899 to 1933 when it moved its headquarters to New Orleans.  Today, we know United Fruit by its newer and more familiar name of Chiquita Brands International. Then, as now, the popularity of the banana (according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans eat an average of 25 pounds of bananas a year!) remains unchanged for its convenient mess-free eating on the go and its affordability and year-round availability. Peel on!

About Bananas United Fruit Company, Educational Department, 1931;
The Story of the Banana United Fruit Company, Educational Department, 1921; and
The Banana: its History, Cultivation and Place Among Staple Foods,
by Philip Keep Raynolds, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1927

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Monday, July 20, 2015

Interlibrary Loan Services at the State Library

Calling all Massachusetts state employees! Did you know that you have access to countless books and journal articles that are held in other libraries’ collections? All you need is a State Library card, which may be obtained by filling out our online form.

If you are looking for a journal article, your first stop is to check our online databases, which you may access remotely with your State Library card. If you don’t find the article that you need in our databases, simply fill out our online request form for journal articles. If the article is available from another library, we will email it to you when it arrives, sometimes even within 24 hours.

If you are looking for a book, you will want to check out our online catalog. If the book that you need is not held within the State Library’s collections, you will often have the option of placing a hold on a copy that is held by one of the other libraries in our consortium. Once you place a hold with your State Library card, the book will be shipped to us as soon as it becomes available, and then we will notify you via email when it is ready to be picked up at the State Library.

Alternatively, if the book that you need is not available in our online catalog, you may request the book by filling out our online request form for books. If the book is available from another library, we will email you as soon as it arrives at the State Library.

We are always happy to help you if you need any assistance with requesting library materials. If you have any questions, just send us an email at interlibrary.loan@state.ma.us.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Official This, That and the Other Thing of Massachusetts

Chapter two of the Massachusetts General Laws is titled Arms, Great Seal, and Other Emblems of the Commonwealth. The first few sections describe the Massachusetts State Seal, first adopted by Governor John Hancock in 1780, and the Coat of Arms, both made official by the General Court in 1885. The description of the seal and arms in the Acts of 1885, describe the text  ‘Sigillum Reipublicse Massachusettensis’ around a blue shield with an Native American in the center holding a bow and arrow. The narrative continues to paint a picture of the state’s seal and arms we still use
today and can be found on flags and signage all over the commonwealth. These early emblems
are meaningful symbols to Massachusetts and our early history as a colony and state.

The first few sections of chapter two continue with the laws regarding the use and display of these designs and flags, but the chapter goes on with another 60 sections describing official state emblems.  In 1918, an official state flower (the Mayflower) was added followed by a state bird (Chickadee) and tree (American elm) in 1941. Then in the 1970s and 80s, we started passing a lot of legislation for official emblems: state beverage, state horse, state insect and fish. We have a state gem, mineral, rock, historic rock, glacial rock and explorer rock. We even have a state building and monument stone. As I read all these state emblems, I started to wonder: How many official state symbols do we need? Does one state really need a state song, patriotic song, folk song and glee club song? We even have a state muffin, (in case you were wondering, it’s the corn muffin).

Then I read that the state dog is a Boston Terrier, a dog bred here in Massachusetts back in the late 19th century.  Lynda Morgenroth writes in her book Boston Firsts: 40 Feats of Innovation That Happened First in Boston and Helped Make America Great, that the Boston Terrier was first ignored by dog clubs because he was considered a, “working man’s dog,” bred by servants of the Beacon Hill elite and not considered a pedigree dog of Europe and Asia. But this smart little dog was found to be so, “fun loving, gregarious, good-natured, with an instinct for compromise, and also handsome, clean and mannerly,” that he could not help but be loved. Boston Terriers became a favorite breed of people from all backgrounds, not just in Boston but across Massachusetts and eventually the entire United States. Because of this breed’s history (and probably because I am a dog lover who finds the Boston Terrier to be incredibly cute,) my thoughts changed from, “Why do we need a state dog?” to, “Everyone should know about the Boston Terrier!” The breed is a part of our cultural heritage and a great symbol of our state’s past.

If you look up the history of these state icons and emblems, you will find that most of these bills are filed by school children or used in some way to teach students about the legislative process. Usually, these types of bills are passed without much concern as they are often used as an exercise in government and will not change the operations or governing of the state. But In 2002, students from Canton asked the legislature to pass a bill making Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings the official children’s book of the commonwealth and were blocked. Legislators from Springfield wanted a book by Springfield’s native Dr. Seuss and clearly cared enough about the decision to debate with a school group. Luckily, a compromise was made when the legislature passed the bill with an added section making Dr. Seuss the official children’s author and illustrator. An official donut was also attached but there did not seem to be much argument about the Boston Cream.

The list of state emblems goes on and on, (state marine mammal, official cookie, colors of the commonwealth, etc.) and it is hard to feel passionate about all of them. But it is important to be part of a state government that teaches children that they can make changes to our laws and their voices will be heard.  These official state symbols can also give great pride to citizens, cities and towns. Worcester is home to the official memorial to honor Vietnam War veterans and Orange’s World War I memorial is the official Peace Statue.  While you may not care that the official Polka of the commonwealth is “Say Hello to Someone in Massachusetts,” you may be grateful that state has recognized Taj Mahal as the official Blues Artists. When it comes to Massachusetts state emblems, there is something for everyone.

For information on these state symbols or legislative history on how these bills became law, check out our website or visit the Massachusetts State Library in room 341 of the State House, Monday through Friday 9-5.

Stephanie Turnbull
Reference Department

Monday, July 6, 2015

No Question Too Great Or Too Small

Finding information, no matter how minute, is something librarians take very seriously—and it can be incredibly rewarding for all parties involved.  One of my favorite questions was based on a small, unassuming pamphlet on a now-defunct Maine railroad company.  Titled Mortgage Deed From Sandy River R.R. [Railroad] Co. to John H. Kimball, Payson Tucker, Nathaniel B. Beal, the 8 page pamphlet was published in 1885 and is currently housed in only two known libraries in the U.S. (including the State Library of MA).  A researcher, thrilled to be able to access this seemingly rare title, went on to ask a question that is not often asked of us: “How in the world did the library acquire this pamphlet?”

It was a good question, and one that required just a little Sherlock Holmesian deduction to answer.  During the mid-19th to early 20th centuries, the State Library published annual reports that provide lists of new acquisitions added to the collection for each year.  In addition to the titles, the information also includes how it was acquired: either by donation, exchange, purchase, or from government officers.  Although the pamphlet was printed in 1885, it had a library stamp with the date “OCT 7 1891” on the front—the date it was either received or processed by the library.  I looked in the library’s annual report for 1891 and was at first disappointed that it was not included in the acquisition list.  However, October is pretty late in the year; I wondered if this title would be found on the list provided in the 1892 annual report.  I quickly flipped the pages until I found it:

Sandy River Railroad Company
.  Mortgage deed to J. K. Kimball, Payson Tucker, N. B. Beal. h.t.p. [1885.] 8o.  8p.  [3, J. H. Drummond, Portland.]

The number 3 was code that it was acquired “by donation,” and that J.H. Drummond of Portland, ME was the donor.  Drummond’s name was familiar to the researcher as he was in some way affiliated with the railroad company (the specifics escape me now).  He was also known to have been in Boston in October of 1891, and this entry from the library’s annual report now corroborated this fact.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Librarian