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 Compi├Ęgne, 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