Thursday, December 22, 2016

From the State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Puritan “Christmas”

What we would describe as the familiar and quintessential “New England Christmas” celebrated today in the 21st century with decorated evergreen trees, light displays, caroling, gift-giving, and gatherings of family and friends bears no resemblance to the first Christmases spent in the “New World” of Massachusetts by the Puritans.

The Puritans held a special contempt for Christmas and the choice of December 25 being “co-opted” by early Christians as the birth date of Jesus Christ due to its supposed “pagan” origins marking that particular date as the winter solstice on the Roman Calendar during the popular feast of Saturnalia held in honor of the Roman god Saturn. In the ironically titled Puritans at Play, the author relates how the Puritans called December 25 “Foolstide” and that the particular date “aroused their special ire for a variety of reasons.” The main reason being that they believed that no holy days were sanctioned by the Scriptures and also because it was a popular holiday in England which allowed for the sanctioning of “excessive behavior” that was abhorrent and an abomination to them.

In the State Library’s most treasured possession, William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation (a.k.a. the Bradford Manuscript) he chronicles the first two Christmases in the Plymouth Settlement. In 1620, The Mayflower dropped anchor in Plymouth Harbor on December 16 and on the first Christmas Day, Bradford relates that they “begane to erecte ye first house for comone use.” It was definitely not a day of celebration but of hard, grueling work in the harsh New England winter weather.  Bradford relates a story of “mirth, rather than weight” of newly arrived non-Puritan immigrants to the Plymouth colony attempting to observe the Christmas Day “holiday” the following year on December 25, 1621. When he finds them “playing” he goes to them and takes away “their implements and [tells] them that was against his conscience, that they should play and others work.” From that year on, Bradford reported that “nothing hath been attempted that way, at least openly” on future Christmas Days, or “December 25” as the Puritans would just call it.

This “informal” condemnation of the observance of Christmas Day would evolve into an actual legal ban on Christmas in 1647 with a fine of five shillings for “whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by for-bearing of labor, feasting, or any other way” (Colonial Laws of Massachusetts). Five shillings was a pretty hefty fine in the day--a chicken, by contrast, cost but one shilling. Even though the law was repealed 22 years later in 1681, Christmas would not become a Massachusetts state holiday until much later in 1856 (Chap. 113, Acts of 1856) and a federal holiday on June 26, 1870 when the disapproving Puritan view of the past started to lose its hold on the celebration of Christmas Day as the festive and cheerful holiday that it would later become.

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Monday, December 12, 2016

Massachusetts Interactive Mapping & Geographical Data Tools

Geographical mapping technology has gone a long way in just a short 30 years.  Many interactive tools have been or are being developed and data can now be updated quickly—sometimes even through live raw data feeds.  Data can also be manipulated and shared openly with users through web viewers and downloadable formats (shapefiles, Keyhole Markup Language (KML), etc.) so that it can be integrated into other projects.

Massachusetts state agencies, such as the Office of Geographic Information (MassGIS) and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), have developed interactive mapping tools that are available for use by the public.  There’s a little bit of a learning curve when first attempting to use them, however just exploring their different functionalities is a lot of fun and often produces interesting results.  In addition to the tools linked below, use the search bar to find mapping tools other agencies provide (keywords such as “geographic information” and “GIS tool” are great starting points.)

Massachusetts' bedrock lithology as detailed through data layer
group B, using MassGIS' Oliver Online Map Maker.

Office of Geographic Information (MassGIS) tools:
  • Oliver: The MassGIS Online Map Maker:  Allows users to “interactively display and query nearly all of MassGIS’ data” and download up-to-date shapefiles from the database.
  • ArcGIS Online Web Mapping Platform:  “A statewide database of geospatial information.”  Interactive tools include Google Ortho Imagery and Index, MassUtilities, Surficial Geology, and property maps.
  • MassGIS Datalayers:  Datalayer descriptions with metadata and links to free downloadable data.

Massachusetts Department of Transportation tools:

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, December 5, 2016

December Author Talk: James C. O’Connell

Dining Out in Boston: A Culinary History, by James C. O’Connell 
Tuesday, December 13, 2016—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

Do you consider yourself to be a “foodie”? Do you enjoy dining out in Boston’s many varied restaurants? Do you like to eat? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then our next Author Talk is for you! On Tuesday, December 13, local author James C. O’Connell will speak at the State Library about his new book, Dining Out in Boston: A Culinary History, just published in November of this year.

Dining Out in Boston explores the fascinating history of restaurants in Boston, including those that have long since closed their doors, such as Julien’s Restorator (Boston’s first restaurant), as well as contemporary restaurants, such as the Parker House, Durgin-Park, and Union Oyster House. Included in this comprehensive book are many historic menus and photos, which illustrate the city’s ever evolving culinary traditions, from elaborate hotel dining in Boston’s early days to the trendy eateries of today.

In addition to Dining Out in Boston, Dr. O’Connell has written several other books and articles on New England history and contemporary planning and development. As a Community Planner at the Boston Office of the Northeast Region of the National Park Service, Dr. O’Connell specializes in planning for historic sites, and he also teaches part-time in Boston University’s City Planning and Urban Affairs Program. To learn more about Dr. O’Connell and his latest book, visit his website at

At the conclusion of Dr. O’Connell’s talk, copies of Dining Out in Boston will be available for purchase and signing. We invite you to register online and join us on December 13 at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Friday, December 2, 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

Preservation Lab finding

One of my tasks as an intern in the Preservation Lab is to replace the brittle, yellowing folders holding our library’s collections with bright, new acid-free folders. The documents in these folders are mostly government-issued publications describing routine mandates and procedures. One folder, however, held something decidedly out of the norm: an appeal from President Wilson Woodrow, dated June 6, 1918, urging Massachusetts residents to be thrifty, buy lots of stamps, and hold on to those Liberty bonds… all to aid in the WWI war effort. This appeal was found in a serial publication called Bay State Bulletin, published by the Massachusetts War Savings Committee. The goal of
this publication appears to be to gather not just moral support for the war, but to encourage citizens to "put their money where their mouths were." Public support of the First World War had been low at the beginning, with most Americans wanting to remain neutral. But by 1917, in light of the sinking of the Lusitania and the discovery of the Zimmerman Telegram, opinions had changed. Bay State Bulletin shows an enthusiastic response to that change. Throughout the publication are aphorisms about the virtues of patriotism and frugality, news of towns all over the state raising money for soldiers, and stories of local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts distributing literature to neighbors and friends. One issue from March of 1918 includes a touching testament from an Armenian immigrant on what American liberty means to him, and his resolve to contribute to the war effort by selling War Savings Stamps. Massachusetts’s role in WWI history can be found throughout the pages of these bulletins: enthusiastic, patriotic, and prepared to lend a hand.

Adrienne Galindo
Preservation Lab Intern

Monday, November 21, 2016

Conwell’s ‘Acres of Diamonds’ and Massachusetts

The  name ‘Russell H. Conwell’ may no longer be a household name (unless you are a student or alumni of Philadelphia’s Temple University), but his legacy as a passionate and tireless minister, educator, and orator shaped the United States at the turn of the century. His life began in Worthington, Massachusetts in Hampshire County, where his family owned a small farm, and he later enrolled at Yale University, though the American Civil War would interrupt his studies. He joined the Union Army and became a persuasive recruiter known for his passionate and patriotic speeches. At only 19 years old, he was elected captain of Company F, 46th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia and later re-enlisted under Company D, Second Regiment, Massachusetts Heavy Artillery in 1863. During the Battle of Kenesaw Mountain, a bursting shell broke his arm and shoulder and, despite being left for dead on the battlefield, he survived and retired from military service.

After graduating from law school at the University of Albany, he returned to Massachusetts to pursue ministry. He became the full-time pastor of a diminishing Baptist church in Lexington, Massachusetts, which he revived and helped grow. Due to his success there, Conwell was offered a pastorate at the Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia, where his ministry also continued to grow exponentially due to his energetic and passionate oratory. He began tutoring working class members of his congregation in the basement of the Baptist Temple. This educational mission continued to expand until Conwell established Temple College in 1884. The city of Philadelphia granted a charter to establish the Temple College of Philadelphia in 1888.

In the late 19th century, Conwell began travelling as a lecturer throughout the United States and became most famous for his speech “Acres of Diamonds.” This speech, the text of which is available online, told several stories of men who went in search of success far away from home when they could have found the opportunity for riches and greatness on their own land or backyard, where the supposed ‘acres of diamonds’ could be waiting just below the surface. Conwell refers back to Massachusetts many times in the speech, often telling supposedly true stories of success and failure, the difference of which depended on the subject identifying a need for the community rather than pursuing personal riches blindly:
“I remember meeting personally a poor carpenter of Hingham, Massachusetts, who was out of work and in poverty. His wife also drove him out of doors. He sat down on the shore and whittled a soaked shingle into a wooden chain. His children quarreled over it in the evening, and while he was whittling a second one, a neighbor came along and said, "Why don't you whittle toys if you can carve like that?" He said, "I don't know what to make!"
There is the whole thing. His neighbor said to him: "Why don't you ask your own children?" Said he, "What is the use of doing that? My children are different from other people's children." I used to see people like that when I taught school. The next morning when his boy came down the stairway, he said, "Sam, what do you want for a toy?" "I want a wheelbarrow." When his little girl came down, he asked her what she wanted, and she said, "I want a little doll's wash-stand, a little doll's carriage, a little doll's umbrella," and went on with a whole lot of things that would have taken his lifetime to supply. He consulted his own children right there in his own house and began to whittle out toys to please them.
He began with his jack-knife, and made those unpainted Hingham toys. He is the richest man in the entire New England States, if Mr. Lawson is to be trusted in his statement concerning such things, and yet that man's fortune was made by consulting his own children in his own house. You don't need to go out of your own house to find out what to invent or what to make.”

The speech goes on to celebrate the value of hard work, education, and opportunity as well as the role that capitalism and entrepreneurship have in contributing to the wealth and quality of life in your local community rather than solely to one’s personal wealth, which could easily be lost in the next generation:
“But there are ever coming to me young men who say, "I would like to go into business, but I cannot." "Why not?" "Because I have no capital to begin on." Capital, capital to begin on! What! young man! Living in Philadelphia and looking at this wealthy generation, all of whom began as poor boys, and you want capital to begin on? It is fortunate for you that you have no capital. I am glad you have no money. I pity a rich man's son. A rich man's son in these days of ours occupies a very difficult position. They are to be pitied. A rich man's son cannot know the very best things in human life. He cannot. The statistics of Massachusetts show us that not one out of seventeen rich men's sons ever die rich. They are raised in luxury, they die in poverty. Even if a rich man's son retains his father's money, even then he cannot know the best things of life.”
“Acres of Diamonds” is listed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A&M as the 24th best American speech of the 20th century and is considered a classic of New Thought philosophy. According to Conwell’s own count, it was so popular that he gave the speech over 6,152 times before his death in 1925. Throughout his life he also wrote several histories and biographies, including a tome on the Great Boston Fire of 1872. While Russell H. Conwell is most often remembered as the founder of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, his early life in Massachusetts continuously informed his work as a minister, educator, and orator.

Further Reading:
Additional Sources:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Each year, many countries around the world pause on November 11 to commemorate the armistice signed by the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France that ended hostilities of the “war to end all wars” on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

As we know now, looking back from almost 100 years in the future, unfortunately the “Great War” or World War I did not turn out to be the “war to end all wars.” What was once known as “Armistice Day” (made a legal holiday in the United States 1938 but observed since 1919)--a day dedicated to the cause of world peace and to honor veterans of World War I would become “Veterans Day” on June 1, 1954 as a day to honor American veterans of all wars, both living and deceased.

In other countries such as Canada, Australia and Great Britain, Armistice Day is now observed as Remembrance Day to honor the fallen veterans of all wars and not just World War I. The United States of course, honors its war dead on Memorial Day in May and reserves Veterans Day as an occasion to thank all veterans for their service and to acknowledge their contributions and their sacrifices during wartime and peacetime.

Since that first Veterans Day in 1954, the United States has seen many more wars and conflicts—Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan and we recognize, salute and sincerely thank all veterans for their willingness to serve, protect, and sacrifice for our common good.

The collections of the State Library are rich with the history and stories of those that served to protect—from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan:

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Monday, November 14, 2016

Researching Early (Legal) Name Changes in Massachusetts

A page from the 1905 Acts and Resolves 
listing the name changes that occurred
in Essex and Franklin counties during
the year 1904. 

Everyone has the right to legally go by the name of their choice, as long as it is not done for illegal or fraudulent purposes.  Today, the procedure for changing your name in Massachusetts includes filling out a form (petition), and filing the petition with your county’s Probate and Family Court (or the Juvenile Court for minors).  For more information, visit:

Prior to 1852, if an individual wanted to change their name, he or she had to submit a petition to the General Court; once approved, the petitions were subsequently published as special acts of the legislature.  Such special acts can be helpful to researchers and genealogists who are trying to track down the original name of a person, the name they legally adopted, when the person initiated the change, and in what city they were residing at the time.  Not too long ago it was discovered that the Gloucester painter formerly known incorrectly as “Fitz Hugh Lane” had actually adopted and used the name “Fitz Henry Lane” in his lifetime, as recorded in Chapter 124 of the Acts of 1832.  Such special acts containing name changes can be found, either by browsing or using a keyword search, in the library’s acts database-- which covers the years 1692 through 2010:
An 1835 pencil drawing of Fitz Henry Lane
by Robert Cooke.  Three years earlier Lane was
known by his birth name Nathaniel Rogers
Lane. By Robert Cooke (American
Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.)
 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Another great resource collated and published by the Secretary of the Commonwealth back in 1893 is the book List of Persons Whose Names Have Been Changed in Massachusetts: 1780-1892.  Unlike the acts database, it also includes data from the annual name change returns submitted to the Secretary by the county probate courts.  An online version of this book is also viewable and downloadable through

If you are looking for information after 1892, annual lists of name changes can also be found in the Acts and Resolves volumes from 1853 through 1913; these volumes have been digitized and can be accessed via the library’s website. 

Original petitions submitted to the legislature that were and were not approved can be found at the Massachusetts State Archives.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, November 7, 2016

November Author Talk: J.L. Bell

“Overthrowing the Government of Massachusetts: 
The Bottom-Up Revolution of 1774” 
Tuesday, November 29, 2016—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—
Room 341, Massachusetts State House

Join us at the State Library of Massachusetts on Tuesday, November 29th, for an Author Talk with historian J.L. Bell, who will speak about the dramatic opening of his book The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannon Ignited the Revolutionary War.

Published earlier this year, The Road to Concord explores the confrontations in New England that led up to the Revolutionary War. It starts with the action-packed days of September 1774, when a spontaneous rural uprising overthrew the royal government of Massachusetts outside of Boston. In the following months, the colony’s Patriots worked to build up a military force. Meanwhile, the British military, under the leadership of General Thomas Gage, tried to thwart those efforts. Central to this story are four small brass cannon belonging to the colonial militia that were smuggled out of Boston by radical Patriots and subsequently located by British spies on a farm in Concord. For different reasons, both the Patriots and Gage strove to keep these guns out of their public reports. In his thoroughly documented book, Mr. Bell argues that these little-known episodes sparked the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

In addition to The Road to Concord, Mr. Bell has written a comprehensive historic resource study for the National Park Service titled George Washington’s Headquarters and Home: Cambridge, Massachusetts, and he has also contributed to several journals, magazines, and books. Mr. Bell has been elected a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society and a Member of both the American Antiquarian Society and the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. Additionally, Mr. Bell maintains the Boston 1775 blog (, which is dedicated to providing “history, analysis, and unabashed gossip about the start of the American Revolution in Massachusetts.”

Copies of The Road to Concord will be available for purchase and signing at the conclusion of Mr. Bell’s talk. We invite you to register online for this free event and join us on November 29th at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Spirit(ualism) of Massachusetts

Happy Halloween! Salem, Massachusetts may be considered America’s “spookiest town” today due to its well-known past, however, that was not always such the case as the Halloween traditions that are familiar to us now were not always accepted customs due to the rigid practices of the Puritan’s Protestant belief systems. It wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century that the influx of Irish and Scottish immigrants to America helped popularize Halloween, whose origins are presumed to date back over 2,000 years to the annual Celtic festival of Samhain. For centuries, “All Hallow’s Eve” has been widely thought by many who believe to be the day when the veil between this world and the spirit world is at its thinnest point.

What may not be as known is that the adoption of these ancient Halloween celebrations and traditions into the mainstream culture in the United States also coincides with the rise of the Spirtualism movement. This influential movement at that same time in history started in the 1840’s in upstate New York and soon spread to Massachusetts. Spiritualism is defined by as “the belief or doctrine that the spirits of the dead, surviving after the mortal life, can and do communicate with the living, especially through a person (a medium) particularly susceptible to their influence.”  The longest lasting and most influential spiritualist newspaper of that era, Banner of Light, with a nationwide circulation happened to be published in Boston from 1857 until it ceased publishing in 1907. While perhaps not as famous as the well-established community of Lily Dale in western New York, two Massachusetts villages have the distinction of starting as popular Spiritualist summer camps—Onset Bay Grove (now known as Onset Village) in Wareham and Lake Pleasant in Montague. Lake Pleasant, founded in 1870, claims to be the oldest continuously existing Spiritualist center in the United States and both Onset Village and Lake Pleasant today still host spiritualist churches and treasure their open communal spaces and rich sense of community traditions in the “spirit” of their founding.

The State Library’s historical collections happen to be rich in materials on Spritualism as the fascination with the supernatural was a phenomenon that captured both the imagination and skepticism of the nation in the late 19th century as it probably still could be said to do still today here in the 21st!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Did Someone Say “Report”?

The word “report” shows up everywhere in state government, but it might not always mean what you think it means.  In fact, the word has many different meanings, which can be really confusing to researchers.  Here’s a helpful guide we hope will provide some clarification for this multi-faceted word.

Report (published):  Reports that are published (or commissioned) by state and federal agencies, by governor’s commissions, legislative committees, etc.  Examples include annual reports, progress reports, research reports on specific topics of interest, investigative reports, and studies.

Report (special legislative):  These are reports authored by special legislative committees and commissions that are established for the purpose of investigating and studying a particular issue, and then filing a report by a set deadline.  A large portion of these reports are filed with the bills as part of the legislative documents series.  For more information, see also: Special Reports Authorized by the General Court

Report (media):  Journalistic pieces based on the author’s own investigations or research are also often referred to as “reports” (examples: “investigative report”, “special report”).  These types of reports serve as secondary resources, and sometimes are themselves about the state government or legislature (so don’t get them confused!)

Report (committee):  All bills have to be reported out of the legislative committees to which they were assigned.  A committee report is simply the committee’s recommendation that a particular bill “ought to pass” (favorable report), “ought not to pass” (adverse report), or be given a study order (which is never a good sign).  Committees can also file a “discharge report” if it believes that a certain bill subject is out of its jurisdiction.

Report (conference committee):  When a bill is particularly contentious and neither the House nor the Senate can agree on the language of the bill, it will then go to Conference Committee where three members of each branch meet to some to a resolution.  The report issued by the Committee is their agreed upon version of the bill, which must be voted on and may not be amended.

Are you looking for a particular report?  Search the library’s online catalog or browse our online DSpace digital repository.  You can also email or call the library for further assistance.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, October 17, 2016

Researching the History of Your Property in Massachusetts

The doorway of "The Stearns House,"
which was built in 1776. Image from
Historic Doorways of Old Salem (1926)
by Mary Harrod Northend.
Massachusetts has some of the oldest and most historically significant buildings in the United States—in fact, you may own or live in one.  Researching the history of your home can be fun and informative, in understanding both past ownership as well as learning about the original footprint of the structure and surrounding property; the latter is especially important if you’re interested in preservation and restoration.  Below is a list of essential and supplementary resources that will help you gather documentation that traces the history of your home.

Online resources:
Massachusetts Land Records:  A database provided by the Registry of Deeds that maintains both historical and current land records for properties across the Commonwealth.

State and Federal Censuses:  The census population schedules record who and when people were living on certain properties.  They also include additional information, such as age, place of birth, occupation, and property value.  Most, if not all, early censuses are now available online.

Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS):  A database of historical properties provided by the Massachusetts Historical Commission.  Since this database should not be considered exhaustive, it may be good to contact the MHC to see if they have additional properties on file.

Partial image of a plate taken from the 1906 atlas
of the city of Lowell.
Real Estate Atlases: The State Library has digitized a large portion of its collection of real estate atlases that cover many of the cities and towns in the state.  These atlases, mostly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, document the names of property owners, the foot print of structures, as well as what the structures were made of.  The library also has atlases that were not able to be digitized; please check our online catalog for additional materials.

Historic New England Collection Database:  Users can browse or search for architectural drawings and interior photography of historic homes in this online database of Historic New England’s collections.

Resources not available online:
Massachusetts Directories:  City and town directories, which were usually published on a yearly basis, list residents alphabetically by last name (much like a phone book), along with their street address and occupation; the volumes also include the names and addresses of businesses.  Some directories have house guides with listings sorted by address and not by the residents’ last names.  Many Boston directories have been digitized and are available online.  Make sure to check with your local library to see if they have historical directories for your area.

City and town annual reports:  Early municipal fire department reports often list the location at which a fire-related event occurred, sometimes including the owner’s name(s), and, if known, the physical and monetary extent of the damage.  If you suspect that your house once experienced a fire, these reports may help you track down what happened and when.  Other departmental reports may also provide data about neighborhoods and development.  The State Library has a large collection of such reports, and your local library may also have their own collection.

Tax Valuations:  Tax valuations help identify individuals’ names and property holdings.  The library has valuations for various cities and towns up to 1811 on microfilm.

Probate Records:  These court records are especially helpful if a piece of property transferred ownership through an inheritance.

Private publications:  There are many books that compile the histories of cities and towns, as well as local architecture.  You can check our online catalog for such materials, and also make sure to check your local library.

Historical Newspapers:  Do you suspect something happened on your property on a specific date or within a certain time frame?  Maybe the event was covered in a local newspaper.  If you’re having trouble locating a particular title or issue, the Boston Public Library has one of the largest historical newspaper collections in the area. The State Library also has a collection of newspapers; peruse our online list to see which titles we have available.

Local government and cultural institutions:  Municipal departments oversee many functions that record changes to properties, such as building permits (the City of Boston even provides an online permit database) and tax assessments.  Most cities and towns also have a public library, an archives, and/or an historical commission.  Many of the resources listed in this blog, as well as records unique to the institution’s collections (photographs, maps, building plans, newspapers, etc.), can be accessed without having to travel too far from home.  In the case of local historical commissions, many homes already have compiled research on file.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

October Author Talk: Julie Winch

Between Slavery and Freedom: Free People of Color in America from Settlement to the Civil War by Julie Winch
Tuesday, October 25, 2016—Noon to 1:00 pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

On Tuesday, October 25, the State Library of Massachusetts will welcome author and UMass Boston history professor Julie Winch, who will be speaking about her most recent book, Between Slavery and Freedom: Free People of Color in America from Settlement to the Civil War.

Named a Choice magazine Outstanding Academic Title of 2014, Between Slavery and Freedom explores the lives of free people of African birth or descent from the colonial era to the beginning of the Civil War. According to the publisher’s description of this book, “noted historian Julie Winch shows the struggle of black people to gain and maintain their liberty and lay claim to freedom in its fullest sense. Refusing to be relegated to the margins of American society and languish in poverty and ignorance, they repeatedly challenged their white neighbors to live up to the promises of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.”

A prolific author, Dr. Winch has written numerous journal articles, book chapters, and a number of other books, including The Clamorgans: One Family's History of Race in America; A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten; and Philadelphia's Black Elite: Activism, Accommodation, and the Struggle for Autonomy, 1787-1848. Dr. Winch is currently at work on two more books: Reflections on Freedom: The Multiple Meanings of Freedom in the Lives of Free People of Color, 1776-1865, and Blessed Are the Cheese-Makers: Thomas Jefferson and the Mammoth Cheshire Cheese.

We invite you to register online for this free event at the State Library. Dr. Winch will be available after the talk to answer questions, and she will bring copies of her book for audience members to examine. She will also provide flyers from the publisher offering a generous discount for anyone who would like to order a copy of Between Slavery and Freedom.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016

Latino Heritage in Massachusetts

National Hispanic Heritage Month takes place between September 15th to October 15th and, appropriately, you may see events celebrating Latino heritage, culture, and community throughout Massachusetts. While the date range may seem odd, the period was chosen in order to encapsulate the independence days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (all on September 15), Mexico (September 16), Chile (September 18), and Belize (September 21) as well as the date on which Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas (October 12, 1492). The Southwest United States has long been home to many Latino or Hispanic communities, but New England’s Latino population has a shorter, though not less substantial, history.

“Individuals of Latin American descent who today would be called Latinos have lived in Cambridge [Massachusetts] for decades,” Deborah Pacini Hernandez wrote (Torres). In the early 20th century, many of the earliest Latino immigrants would have moved to the greater Boston area to attend Harvard, MIT, and other prestigious universities. One of these students was Pedro Albizu Campos, a student who contributed to The Harvard Crimson regarding Puerto Rican perspectives to international contemporary events. Campos graduated from Harvard Law School in 1921 and went on to become a leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, fighting for independence from the United States.

Large numbers of Latino immigrants did not begin to arrive in Massachusetts until the 1950s. The first major group came from Puerto Rico, which is part of the United States and therefore does not require immigration documents, and travelled to the major cities on the East Coast, especially New York and Boston. Many settled in Cambridge and Cambridgeport, which had been a large manufacturing center since the 1800s. Other Spanish Caribbean immigrants, specifically those from the Dominican Republic, often settled within or close to emerging Puerto Rican neighborhoods. Immigrants from Mexico as well as Central and South American countries began arriving in large numbers in the 1980s, many leaving their original countries due to economic issues or political conflict. However, these communities did not flourish without impetus. Many school systems were not equipped to serve Spanish-language students, a struggle which lead to Massachusetts implementing the first state-mandated, transitional bilingual-education program in the United States in 1969 (Uriarte, Chavez). Further, many Latino students were involved in the 1970s busing desegregation. But as communities continued to grow and Latinos became the largest minority group in Massachusetts, so did their impact in state-wide and local politics.

Today, the number of those that identify as Latino is steadily increasing in Massachusetts. Over all, Latinos grew more than any other ethno-racial group in both New York and New England between 1990 and 2000 and almost all communities in Massachusetts saw an increase in their Latino populations between 2000 and 2010, with an overall 46% population increase in the state (Torres).  Boston neighborhoods like East Boston and Jamaica Plain have large Latino communities and the Hyde Square Task Force has been campaigning to label their neighborhood Boston’s “Latin Quarter”, succeeding in gaining approval for the designation from the Boston City Council in April 2016. Lawrence, Massachusetts in Essex County is now almost 75% Latino (US Census 2015). Other Massachusetts cities and towns with large Latino populations include Springfield, Worcester, Lowell, Holyoke, and Chelsea (Hardy-Fanta, Gerson).  Despite the growing diversity of Latino immigrants to the North East, Puerto Ricans continue to be the largest Latino community in our state and the Festival Puertorriqueño de Massachusetts continues to be the largest Latino cultural festival in New England.

So this Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrate Massachusetts’ fastest growing community by attending events like the Festival Latino of the Berkshires in Lee, MA or checking your city, neighborhood, or networking organization calendars for events celebrating the history or culture of the many different Latino communities throughout our state.

Further Reading:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, September 26, 2016

“Married-Teacher Rule”

First page of results from the 1952 annual report of the
Massachusetts department of Education
Did you know that in the 19th century through the mid-20th century cities and towns throughout the United States, and even elsewhere in the world, had rules in place that prevented married women from holding permanent teaching positions? Such a rule seems very strange today, however the practice was pretty common and Massachusetts was no exception.  The general belief was that such full-time employment caused married women to neglect their responsibilities as homemakers.  This of course caused high turnover rates in the school systems as many female teachers were forced to submit their resignations once they married.

The Massachusetts Department of Education attempted to gather data on which cities and towns in the Commonwealth were still enforcing the “Married-Teacher Rule” by sending questionnaires out to all of the municipalities.  The Department’s 1950 and 1952 annual reports include their findings, and while many localities still officially had the rule on the books, by 1951 a great number of school systems noted that they had either suspended or no longer observed it.  One of the largest factors effecting the suspension or laxity of the rule was World War II and subsequent shortages of teachers in certain parts of the state.

One particular note regarding the city of Northampton in the 1952 annual report reads:  “Up to the time the questionnaire was sent out, Northampton did not appoint married women as permanent teachers, but there was to be a referendum on the city ballot this past November.”  The year 1951 ended up being a turning point for the city of Northampton:  chapter 653 of the acts of 1951 allowed the city to “ascertain the will of the voters” via a ballot question regarding “married women teachers being employed on a permanent basis and with the same tenure rights as single women teachers in the public schools.”  The result of the referendum on the November ballot was overwhelmingly in favor of the married teachers.

Links to the full reports with results:
1950 report:
1952 report:

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

On This Day… The Great New England Hurricane of 1938

While Boston’s weather patterns have a reputation for being inconvenient or unpredictable, thankfully today’s forecast is not as dire as the storm that struck New England on this day seventy-eight years ago.* On September 21, 1938, 100-mph wind blasts toppled trees that had long stood on the Boston Common. Buildings provided questionable shelter, as windows were smashed by flying debris, and some roofs were blown clean off. In the aftermath, the region struggled with mass blighted power and telecommunication systems. While Bostonians struggled mostly with the hassles of property loss and nonfunctional roads, in areas more exposed to the storm, the consequences of the hurricane left lasting trauma. Six hundred people and 5000 homes were gone in a single day, and in the chaos that followed, communities were forced to cope as they searched a flattened, transfigured landscape for missing family members. This natural disaster, remembered as “The Great New England Hurricane,” wrought changes that remain to this day.

Here at the Special Collections department at the State Library, we recently acquired a postcard illustrating storm damage right outside our door. This donation is not the only commemorative postcard that we hold. As a long-standing, public-serving institution, our library has had the opportunity to collect ephemera and memorabilia generated by the residents of our city in response to contemporary events. You can come by and view these historic documents; we are located in Room 55 of the gold-domed State House, and open to the public Mon.-Fri. 9am-5pm. For more information about the State Library and our collections, visit our website.

* See Celebrate Boston’s article on “the Great New England Hurricane, 1938.” Or check out Stephen Long’s Thirty-Eight: the Hurricane that Transformed New England (Yale University Press, 2016). The book is available at the State Library, Room 341 of the State House.

Caitlin Sanders
Special Collections Reference Intern

Friday, September 16, 2016

Origins of Constitution Day

September 17th is Constitution Day and it commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Schools and libraries will hold special activities in honor of this day.

In 1939 New York City news tycoon William Randolph Hearst suggested having a national holiday to celebrate American citizenship. In 1940 Congress designated the third Sunday in May as “I Am an American Day” and Harry Truman put forth a resolution on March 12, 1946.    

In 1952, Olga Weber of Louisville, Ohio petitioned city leaders to change the date of this holiday so it would coincide with the signing of the U.S. Constitution.  She also petitioned the state of Ohio and later the U.S. Congress. In 1952 Louisville, Ohio became the first city to celebrate the holiday on September 17th. President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law in 1953 and it became known as Citizenship Day.

In 2004 Louise Leigh founded a nonprofit organization called Constitution Day, Inc. to commemorate the Constitution. During the same year Leigh enlisted the help of Senator Robert Byrd to make Constitution Day an official holiday alongside Citizenship Day.  In May 2005, the U.S. Department of Education became involved and the law was amended so that each educational institution that receives Federal funds will hold programs for students on this day.

Many men were involved in the creation of the U.S. Constitution but only 40 signed the document. It is interesting to note who was involved, who signed or did not sign the Constitution. The Constitutional Convention started meeting in June 1787 in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Seventy men were chosen to attend the convention only fifty-five men attended most of the meetings.  Some states like Rhode Island, decided not to send any delegates.  Among those who signed the document include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton.  William Jackson, who was the secretary of the convention but who was not a delegate, signed the Constitution. John Dickinson of Delaware left the convention due to illness but asked his colleague Jacob Broome of Delaware to sign his name to the document.  “George Mason and Edmund Randolph of Virginia along with Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts refused to sign the final document because of basic philosophical differences.  Their refusal to sign the final document was due fearful of an all-powerful government and wanted a bill of rights added to protect the rights of the people.

Here are some proclamations relating to Constitution Day:

  • 1952 - President Truman proclaims the first Citizenship Day, Proclamation 2984, July 25, 1952, 3 C.F.R. 164 (1947-1953).
  • 1953 – President Eisenhower Proclamation 3028 commemorates Citizenship Day September 17th of each year.
  • 1955 - President Eisenhower proclaims the first Constitution Week, Proclamation 3109, August 19, 1955, 3 C.F.R. 56 (1954-1958). 
  • 2000 - President William J. Clinton’s Proclamation 7343 (PDF), Citizenship Day and Constitution Week, Sept. 17, 2000, 3 C.F.R. 7343 (2000).
  • 2005 - Department of Education Notice of Implementation of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on September 17 of Each Year.70 Fed. Reg. 29727 (PDF).
  • 2009 - President Barack H. Obama's Proclamation 8418 celebrating Constitution and Citizenship Day and designating the week of September 17-23 as Constitution Week, 74 F.R. 48129.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, September 12, 2016

New exhibition on the history of Education in Massachusetts

Opening this week at the State Library of Massachusetts is a new exhibition entitled Back to School A Retrospective View of Education in Massachusetts. Education has long been an important part of Massachusetts culture and commerce, the library’s resources documenting its development cover centuries of history, in a variety of formats, and a wide range of opinions. This exhibition, drawn from the collections of the State Library of Massachusetts, traces the history of education in the Commonwealth, starting with the first school-related legislation in 1642 through the Boston busing crisis of the early 1970s.
The exhibition runs from September 12 through December 31, 2016. It can be viewed outside of the Library, Room 341 of the State House, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. This exhibition will also be available to view online as a set of images on the State Library's Flickr site.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Adopt-a-Book Preservation and Digitization Program

YOU can Help Preserve and Digitize State Library of Massachusetts Resources for Everyone!
We are pleased to announce the creation of the Friends of the Massachusetts State Library Adopt-a-Book Preservation and Digitization Program!  And it doesn’t even have to be a book! We also have maps needing adoption!

Your personal sponsorship, or gift in honor of someone else, can help ensure the survival and enjoyment of State Library of Massachusetts’ resources for generations to come. We will put a custom, personalized book plate in each volume or on the item’s container so that users will know whose generosity provided for continuing and future use of the resource. Donors will also be acknowledged (with permission) on a special webpage.  With the help of sponsors like YOU, the State Library of Massachusetts can fulfill its commitment to the conservation, preservation, and digitization of our vast and unique collections with historical significance to Massachusetts and the world.

Please consider becoming a GOLD, SILVER, or BRONZE donor today! Thank you for your support.

Meet all our ADOPTEES here:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

September Author Talk: Megan Sullivan

Parental Incarceration: Personal Accounts and Developmental Impact edited by Megan Sullivan and Denise Johnston  
Tuesday, September 27, 2016—Noon to 1:00 pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library is pleased to invite you to an Author Talk on Tuesday, September 27, with Boston University professor Megan Sullivan. Dr. Sullivan will be speaking about her most recent book, Parental Incarceration: Personal Accounts and Developmental Impact, which she co-edited with Dr. Denise Johnston.

Parental Incarceration explores the ways in which the experience of having an incarcerated parent affects the health and development of children throughout their lives. As the number of prisoners in the United States has increased over the years, so too has the number of children with incarcerated parents increased. This book presents the stories of adults who experienced parental incarceration in childhood and discusses the impact of mass incarceration on families in the U.S.

In addition to Parental Incarceration, Dr. Sullivan is also the author of Irish Women and Cinema: 1980-1990 and Women in Northern Ireland: Cultural Studies and Material Conditions, as well as several journal articles. Dr. Sullivan serves as Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development, Associate Professor of Rhetoric, and Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning at Boston University.

Dr. Sullivan’s talk is free and open to the public, and copies of the book Parental Incarceration will be available for purchase and signing at the event. Please register online and join us on September 27th at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, August 29, 2016

To Be on the Ballot or Not to Be on the Ballot: That is the Question

This fall not only we will be voting for the President of the United States but we will have ballot questions to consider. All ballot questions go through the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office to make sure they follow the correct legal standards and are called petitions or initiative petitions.

Massachusetts’ citizens can submit petitions to repeal or amend a particular section of an existing law or constitutional amendment for approval. If the questions get approved they appear on the statewide ballot. Each petition must be signed by ten voters and submitted to the Attorney General’s office by the first Wednesday in August and certification happens on the first Wednesday in September.

After a petition is certified by the Attorney General thousands of additional signatures are gathered (the requirement in 2015 was 64,750) and filed with local election officials by late November and then with the Secretary of State by the first Wednesday in December.

If enough signatures are gathered, the measure is sent to the Legislature; the Legislature approves or disapproves the measure, proposes a substitute, or takes no action.

Unless the Legislature has enacted the measure, the proponents continue to gather additional signatures.  If they gather enough signatures, the measure and any legislative substitute are submitted to the people at the next biennial state election.

The Attorney General has designated the following questions as OB - On Ballot for November 2016:
15-34 An Act Relative to Expanded Gaming - Question 1
15-31 An Act to Allow Fair Access to Public Charter Schools   Question 2
15-11  An Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals   Question 3
15-27 The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act   Question 4

After a ballot question has been approved for the November ballot the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Commonwealth work jointly to prepare voter information materials per Massachusetts General Law chapter 54 section 53. This information includes a short title to the ballot question and fair and neutral sentence statements describing the effect of a yes or no vote.

For additional information on the Initiative Petition consult the Attorney General's web page.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, August 22, 2016

Happy Statehood Anniversary, Hawaii!

Official seal of the State of Hawaii 

August 21, 2016 marks the 57th anniversary of Hawaiian statehood.  What does this have to do with Massachusetts, you may ask?!  Missionaries who graduated from the Andover Theological Seminary (established in 1807 on the campus of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts) played a pivotal role in the story of the “Americanization” of Hawaii that ultimately led to the establishment of our 50th state in 1959. Hiram and Sibyl Bingham and Asa and Lucy Thurston were the first company of New England missionaries to lead a mission to the then Sandwich Islands, as we call now the Hawaiian Islands, for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (which was also founded in 1810 in Massachusetts by recent graduates of Williams College).

Hawaiian Bible

The missionaries arrived in Hawaii in 1820 and were the first to devise a written Hawaiian alphabet from what was until then only a spoken language. They translated the Bible into Hawaiian and taught the native Hawaiians how to read and write their spoken language. In 1841 a copy of one of the first translations of this Hawaiian Bible was presented to the General Court by the members of The Board (as detailed in 1841 Senate Bill 47) and placed in the keeping of the State Library, where this treasure still resides today. As a result of these very early Massachusetts missionary ties with Hawaii, the State Library’s collections on Hawaii and the history of the Hawaiian Islands are particularly rich and varied.

Some notable items include:

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Loyal Nine, a secret precursor to the Sons of Liberty

Boston’s rough and rowdy reputation goes back farther than the establishment of local sports teams and rivalries. In colonial New England, the anti-Catholic “Pope’s Day,” stemming from the tradition of Guy Fawkes Day in England, was widely celebrated by building large carriages with effigies of popes, bishops, and devils and parading these figures toward a great bonfire, where they would be burned. In Boston, however, the celebration became a bloody competition between gangs from the South End and North End. Each gang would attempt to possess the other’s carriages, resulting in “a ferocious battle” where “people were killed and maimed for life” (Paul Revere & the World He lived in). When England began enforcing stricter taxes on its American colonies in the mid-1700’s, Samuel Adams and his political contemporaries believed that they could harness the North End and South End gangs to further their political agendas.

Via Wikipedia Commons
In reaction to the Stamp Act, a group of nine middle-class artisans and shopkeepers joined together in a secret political group which referred to itself as the “Loyal Nine.”  These men were listed by John Adams as braziers John Smith and Thomas Chase, painter Thomas Crafts, printer Benjamin Edes, distiller Joseph Field, naval officer Henry Bass, and jeweler George Trott. While none of the members were high-profile political figures in Boston, they recognized the threat that the Stamp Act would have on their businesses and crafts. Samuel Adams was not listed as among their ranks but appears to have worked closely with these men to subvert the economic intentions of Great Britain.

Preferring to avoid publicity, the secret group enlisted the help of Ebenezer MacKintosh, the leader of the South End gang that had brutally defeated the North End gang in the last Pope’s Day Riots. On August 14, 1765, MacIntosh orchestrated the hanging of two effigies on the Liberty Tree: one, an effigy of Andrew Oliver, the official responsible for implementing the Stamp Act in Massachusetts, and the other a boot effigy containing a devil figure, a reference to the Earl of Bute who was mistakenly thought to be the architect of the act in England.  A crowd surrounded the tree and effigies and would not allow “peace officers” nor the local sheriff’s forces to cut them down. Eventually, the crowd removed the figures themselves and carried them toward Oliver’s home, where they beheaded and burned the effigy. MacKintosh further incited the mob into ransacking Oliver’s home and forcing Andrew Oliver to flee to Castle William, violence that may not have been part of the original plan. Days later on the 26th of August, MacKintosh also lead a mob which destroyed Governor Hutchison’s North End mansion.

Henry Bass, a member of the Loyal Nine, wrote in a letter to Samuel Savage that “we do every thing in order to keep this & the first Affair Private: and are not a little pleas’d to head that McIntosh has the Credit of the whole Affair… we Endeavour to keep up the Spirit which I think is as great as ever” ("A Note on Ebenezer MacKintosh"). Perhaps because their support of violent action against those supporting the Stamp Act, John Adams seems surprised that the night he spent with the Loyal Nine was unmarred by conflict or drama. Adams reported that he was “very civilly and respectfully treated by all present” and that he “heard nothing but such conservation as passes at all clubs, among gentlemen, about the times. No plots, no machinations. They chose a committee to make preparations for grand rejoicings upon the arrival of the news of a repeal of the Stamp Act, and I heard afterwards they are to have such illuminations, bonfires, pyramids, obelisks, such grand exhibitions and such fireworks as were never before seen in America. I wish they may not be disappointed” (The Works  of John Adams)

After the repeal of the Stamp Act, the Loyal Nine all became active members of the more public Sons of Liberty.  MacKintosh continued to be a persuasive leader for the Boston mobs during the revolutionary period and, along with four members of the Loyal Nine, was recorded as participants in the Boston Tea Party protest years later in 1773.

Further reading:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff