Friday, December 22, 2017

From the State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, December 4, 2017

December Author Talk: Michael Holley

Belichick and Brady: Two Men, the Patriots, and How They Revolutionized Football, by Michael Holley 
Monday, December 18, 2017—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

Are you looking for the perfect holiday gift for the sports fan in your life? Look no further, because our next author talk is for you! Come to the State Library at noon on Monday, December 18, for a conversation with bestselling author and sports commentator Michael Holley and to get your signed copy of his book Belichick and Brady: Two Men, the Patriots, and How They Revolutionized Football.

Belichick and Brady explores the partnership between the head coach and quarterback for the New England Patriots, the most successful coach/quarterback pair in NFL history. Based on interviews with current and former players, coaches, and executives, Belichick and Brady gives behind-the-scenes details about the rise and dominance of Brady, Belichick, and the New England Patriots.

Author Michael Holley is the co-host of the radio show “Dale & Holley with Keefe,” airing weekdays on WEEI and featuring an interview with Bill Belichick every Monday during football season. Mr. Holley began his career in journalism at the Akron Beacon Journal and in 1993 was one of several reporters who contributed to the Beacon Journal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “A Question of Color,” which studied race relations in Northeastern Ohio. Mr. Holley has also written for the Boston Globe and the Chicago Tribune and has written four books in addition to Belichick and Brady, including the New York Times bestseller Patriot Reign.

We invite you to register in advance, and we look forward to seeing you on December 18 at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, November 13, 2017

Monday, November 6, 2017

The 1883 Mystery of the Missing Bills

The State Library is getting ready to wrap up its years-long Massachusetts Legislative Documents digitization project!  The Legislative Documents are an ongoing series of volumes published by the state that contain mostly bills, but among these documents are also reports and other types of governmental communications.  This involved a lot of metadata creation and review on our part so that the documents are described in such a way that they can be found by researchers.  You can search or browse the collection by visiting the library’s DSpace documents depository:  

Having been heavily involved in the metadata side of this project, I’ve reviewed thousands of these documents going back to the early 19th century.  Early documents are especially interesting as they shed light on the state’s legislative activities during important periods of history; there was also much more published in the way of communications in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

A more amusing communication to the legislature, submitted formally in June of 1883 ¬by Governor Benjamin F. Butler, always stood out to me due to its personal nature.  It involves the case of the missing bills, which inexplicably disappeared from Butler’s desk.  Other objects, he states, had also gone missing from his desk drawers on more than one occasion—drawers which he “either kept unlocked, or locked and the key deposited for convenience in another drawer.”  He goes on to state that normally he would find only himself responsible for these losses, however since there were multiple duplicate keys to the Executive offices floating around, the situation (without pointing any fingers) seemed suspicious.  After trying to rationalize why the bill went missing, he concludes:   “It is difficult to see what object any one could have in taking away that bill except pure mischief.”

Four days later, in a separate communication, Butler explains that the bills were located somewhere in Boston but that he cannot divulge further as to who, when, how, and where they were found due to an ongoing inquiry into the matter.  Unfortunately I have not been able to find a report or further communications that satisfy this question:  whodunit?

Links to full communications:
1883 House No. 395: Communication regarding the missing items
1883 House No. 397: Communication regarding the located bills

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, October 30, 2017

Quiet in the library – or else!

Did you know that it is illegal to cause a ruckus in a library in Massachusetts?

Of the many stereotypes connected to libraries, the need for absolute quiet (and therefore the shushing librarian) is by far the most prevalent. In Massachusetts, this stereotype was practically applied when the Massachusetts Legislature passed an 1885 law against disturbing those assembled in a public library or reading room:

While the fine has been increased from $50 to $100, this law continues to be part of the current chapter of laws entitled “Crimes against Chastity, Morality, Decency, and Order” (MGL Chapter 272 Section 41).

Were libraries such rowdy places in the 1800’s that legislators saw these laws as necessary? The Representative that introduced the law, Clement K. Fay, was a donor to the Brookline Public Library and therefore may have had personal interests in discouraging disturbances in Massachusetts libraries. In 1886, the Boston Daily Globe published an article entitled, “Theft and Mutilation: Dangers to Which All Libraries Are Subject.” The article focused on the theft of library materials and the patrons that cut out pamphlets, engravings, and illustrations from valuable library items rather than those that caused disturbances in public places. Caleb Tillinghast, a past State Librarian whose exploits were mentioned in another State Library of Massachusetts blog post, was interviewed for this article and said, “The greatest danger to which libraries are subject from their patrons is mutilation by picture cranks – I mean men who have a passion for collecting portraits or engravings. You can’t trust a biography or magazine with them. First thing you know they will tear out a page containing a picture, map, or some kind of illustration. Of course I do not mean to say that all collectors of engravings are inclined to acts of vandalism, but it is a fact that with many of them the passion is so strong as to overcome all scruples of honesty or propriety. You cannot catch them at it either, except by a lucky accident, and unless caught in the act they can never be convicted.”

A busy day in the State Library, 1912.

This concern with vandalism inspired two other Massachusetts General Laws that remain on the books to this day. In 1883, the Legislature passed a law which made it illegal to “willfully and maliciously or wantonly and without cause detain any book [etc]” and that such action “shall be punished by a fine… or imprisonment in the jail not exceeding six months.” That is certainly a hefty punishment for a late library book! This law went on to form the basis of the current law against the “mutilation or destruction of materials or property” in libraries (MGL Chapter 266, Section 100). This law, as well as one regarding the theft of materials or destruction of records in libraries (MGL Chapter 266, Section 99A, was further amended as recently as 1990.

In the same article mentioned previously, an unnamed Boston Public Library librarian stated that, “Emmently respectable people, professional men, are sometimes caught in the act” of stealing library materials. While the development of library materials and security may suggest that these types of laws are antiquated, issues with vandalism and disturbances in libraries continues to be a contemporary issue. A recent case is described in the 2014 book The Map Thief by Michael Blanding, concerning Forbes Smiley III. A former professional map dealer, Smiley was convicted of stealing from libraries around the world, including Harvard’s Houghton Library and the Boston Public Library, in 2006.

Michael Blanding discussing The Map Thief  in the State Library as
part of our 2015-2016 Author Talk Series

Thankfully, we at the State Library are not aware of anyone being charged with or convicted of disturbing our library. As always, our reading room, Room 341 of the State House, is open 9am – 5pm for quiet researchers, visitors, and other members of the public. We hope to see you soon!

"THEFT AND MUTILATION." Boston Daily Globe (1872-1922): 3. Jun 17 1886. ProQuest. Web. 5 Sep. 2017.

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, October 23, 2017

November Author Talk: Stephen Kinzer

The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain,
and the Birth of American Empire, by Stephen Kinzer 
Monday, November 6, 2017—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library invites you to our next author talk to hear award-winning journalist Stephen Kinzer speak about his latest book: The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire. Join us at noon on Monday, November 6, for this talk from the journalist who, according to the Washington Post, is “among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling.”

Published earlier this year, The True Flag tells the story of America’s “first and greatest” debate about the possibility of imperial expansion, which occurred over a century ago at the end of the Spanish-American War. This question of America’s role in the world was hotly debated by some of the country’s best-known political and intellectual leaders, including Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, Booker T. Washington, and Mark Twain. According to the publisher’s description of the book, “All Americans, regardless of political perspective, can take inspiration from the titans who faced off in this epic confrontation. Their words are amazingly current. Every argument over America’s role in the world
grows from this one.”

Author Stephen Kinzer worked for more than twenty years as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, writing from and serving as the bureau chief in such locations as Nicaragua, Germany, and Turkey. After leaving the Times in 2005, Mr. Kinzer taught at Northwestern University and Boston University, and he is now a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. Additionally, Mr. Kinzer currently writes a column on world affairs for the Boston Globe.

Mr. Kinzer will be offering copies of The True Flag for sale and signing at the conclusion of his talk at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Leaf-Peepers Among Us

“Leaf-peeping” is a uniquely New England term, meaning the activities during which one travels to observe the beautiful changing colors of the foliage during the autumn season. Because of the beauty of our forests and woods, Massachusetts and its surrounding states are inundated with leaf-peeping tourists throughout autumn, particularly in October, and it is not uncommon to see tour companies advertising “leaf-peeper tours” or “leaf-peeper rides.” But where does this tradition come from?

Lithograph: Autumnal scenery, view in Amherst (1833),
Courtesy of Jones Library Special Collections

New Englanders have always been proud of the spectacular beauty of our local forests. “Europeans coming to America are surprised by the brilliancy of our autumnal foliage. There is no account of such a phenomenon in English poetry, because the trees acquire but few bright colors there,” Thoreau wrote for an essay in the Atlantic in 1862. He continues, “October is the month of painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world. As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint just before they fall, so the year near its setting. October is its sunset sky; November the later twilight.”

The specific phrase “leaf-peeper” appears to have evolved from “leaf-peeker,” originating in Vermont around the 1900’s. In 1966, “leaf peeper” appeared in print for the first time in a column of Vermont newspaper The Bennington Banner entitled “Thoughts of a Leaf Peeper,” which described the beauty of Vermont’s foliage. The same edition of that paper also included an editorial article discussing traffic caused by those chasing the fall foliage and mentions a disgruntled local’s car boasting a sign: “Tourists Go Home!” (Peterson). Traffic issues that accompany leaf-peeping season have always plagued the areas where the foliage is best. The pamphlet below from 1978 recommends “shunpiking” during foliage season, that is, avoiding turnpikes and using side roads to get to one’s destination.

Pamphlet from the State Library's Collection:
"Massachusetts Foliage: the Irresistible Beauty of Nature" (1978)

New England isn’t the only place to which tourists traditionally travel to witness spectacular foliage. Traveling to view spectacular fall foliage has become a tradition throughout the United States and throughout the world. In fact, the same activity that we know as “leaf-peeping” is known as momijigari in Japan, meaning “autumn leaf hunting.” This cultural activity is also referred to as koyo, meaning “fall colors” or “colorful leaves,” or kanpukai, meaning “getting together to enjoy the autumn foliage” (

Fall Foliage in the Boston Public Garden (2015)
Photograph by Alexandra Bernson

While the origins of the New England phrase “leaf-peeping” may have been derogatory, the phrase “leaf-peeper” has lost much of its negative connotation today. The activity of leaf-peeping has become so popular that there are entire guidebooks and websites dedicated to it. For example, publishes information regarding peak foliage time and scenic drives or vistas that best show off an area’s foliage. Massachusetts’ Department of Conservation and Recreation has a webpage dedicated to Fall Foliage Season in the Parks and the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism’s website includes an interactive InstaFoliage page that shows off different leaf-peeping driving routes throughout the state. And if you didn’t know about these resources, almost every newspaper in New England publishes some sort of guide every year, such as the Boston Globe’s “Six of the Prettiest New England towns for leaf peeping” and’s  “Your ultimate guide to New England fall foliage.”

Where are your favorite leaf-peeping spots in Massachusetts?

Further reading:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference staff

Monday, October 9, 2017

Best Practices Exchange: 2017 Conference

This November the Best Practices Exchange conference is being held in Boston and co-hosted by the State Library of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Archives, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.  The theme for this year’s conference will focus on topics relating to “Balancing Preservation and Engagement.”

What is the Best Practices Exchange (BPE)?  The BPE is a community of librarians, archivists, records managers and other information professionals that are dedicated to managing and preserving digital government information.  Once a year there is a 3-day informal gathering (an ‘un’conference) held in a selected location in the U.S. that allows the community to gather and learn new information, exchange ideas and experiences, and see how other institutions are tackling issues with digital management and preservation in government and non-government settings.

Are you a part of this community and want more information about the BPE and the 2017 conference?

When:  November 6-8, 2017
Where:  Columbia Point in Boston, Massachusetts

Questions or comments?
Contact:  Veronica Martzahl, BPE Co-Chair
Phone: 617-727-2816 ext. 258

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Staff

Monday, October 2, 2017

October Author Talk: Steven A. Rosenberg

Middle Class Heroes: Voices from Boston's Suburbs
by Steven A. Rosenberg 
Thursday, October 19, 2017—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

Our next author talk features the acclaimed journalist and editor Steven A. Rosenberg, author of Middle Class Heroes: Voices from Boston’s Suburbs. Join us at noon on Thursday, October 19, to hear Mr. Rosenberg speak about this recently published book, which is a collection of his most intriguing articles from his 2001-2016 tenure at the Boston Globe.

Middle Class Heroes presents the personal stories of everyday people living in Salem, Somerville, Lynn, and other Boston suburbs. These vignettes feature individuals from all walks of life, including a WWI veteran from Swampscott, a fisherman from Gloucester, and even Mr. Rosenberg’s father, Sam, who ran a deli in Chelsea and whose portrait graces the cover of  Middle Class Heroes.

Prior to his work at the Boston Globe, Mr. Rosenberg served as the editor of The Jewish Advocate and also worked as a documentary filmmaker whose works have been featured on such media outlets as PBS, CBS, and ESPN. After having spent fifteen years as a reporter, columnist, and photographer for the Boston Globe, Mr. Rosenberg is now the editor and publisher of the Jewish Journal.

Mr. Rosenberg will be offering copies of Middle Class Heroes for sale and signing at the conclusion of his talk at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, September 25, 2017

Pope, Columbia, and the History of the Bicycling Industry in Massachusetts

While using the book History of Massachusetts Industries: Their Inception, Growth and Success, by Orra Stone, I learned that Massachusetts had one of the largest factories for producing bicycles.  As a matter of fact, Massachusetts was the first place in the US that bicycles were manufactured.

Albert A. Pope, a Lieutenant-Colonel of the Union Army, who had first seen a bicycle at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, had decided to promote the bicycle in this country for health and recreational purposes.  In 1877 Pope organized the Pope Manufacturing Company with headquarters at 87 Summer Street, Boston, which later became the Westfield Manufacturing Company located in Westfield, MA.  To Pope, the quality of his product was paramount.  After the Philadelphia Exposition Pope went to Europe to study how bicycles were made. After acquiring the American rights to the patents, Pope approached the Weed Sewing Machine Company about using the empty wings of its Hartford plant to produce 50 test bicycles.

 Because of Pope’s high standards, by 1930 the Westfield Manufacturing Company (producer of the Columbia bicycle) was the largest industry of its kind in the United States.  In a short period of time the price of the bicycle steadily increased.  In 1878, the Standard Columbia (one of their bicycle models) sold for $80 to $90; by 1893 the best Columbia sold for $150.

The US had better machinery than in Europe so we were able to produce better bicycles. Some bicycles were shipped abroad, more and more every year.  Eventually the Europeans made improvements to their machinery and they could manufacture their own bicycles.

Company’s brief timeline:
  • 1878: Colonel Pope issued a trade catalog 
  • 1882: the Expert Columbia was launched-the first bicycle to be ridden around the world
  • 1883-1885: the Columbia racer, the light roadster, and the two track and three track tricycles first appeared.
  • 1886: the Columbia Safety Bicycle appeared.  A Safety bicycle is lower to the ground than the Penny Farthing also known as a high wheeler (bicycle with a big front wheel and small back wheel).  
  • 1887-1890: Pope introduced several models including the Columbia Tandem, the racing and light roadster tricycles, the rear driving safety bicycle, the Columbia light roadster safety, the tandem safety, and the women’s safety, and cushion tires first made their appearance on Columbia products.
  • 1891: the world’s record of a mile in 2 minutes, 15 seconds was made on a pneumatic racing safety Columbia bicycle.
  • 1897: Columbia built a bevel gear chainless bicycle which uses a beveled drive shaft where a chain would be.  
  • 1899: the American Bicycle Company was incorporated by Pope and took over the Pope Manufacturing Company and 47 other manufacturers of bicycles and bicycle parts.
  • 1901-1905: many wonderful advances were made by Columbia management including: the cushion frame, the Columbia hub coaster brake, the Pope coaster brake, the Pope cushion fork. These all deal with cushioning the bicycle by using shock absorbers. According to the Columbia Manufacturing Company, by 1897, the Pope Manufacturing Co. held over 50 patents. 
  • 1906: the company moved from Hartford, CT to Westfield, MA.
  • 1917: Columbia was chosen as the standard for the U.S. Army by U.S. transportation experts. Thousands of these bicycles were sent to France during the First World War.  The Westfield plant also helped the war effort by manufacturing high-explosive shells for the government. In 1917 and 1918 every American-made gas shell hurled by our army in France, was manufactured in the Westfield plant.”  

There is still a manufacturing company of Columbia bicycles in Westfield, MA but they are also now known for their school furniture.  They still have the original factory as its core, located at One Cycle Street in Westfield, MA.

Naomi Allen
Reference Staff

Monday, September 18, 2017

Special Event: Treasures of the State Library of Massachusetts

Cover of The Liberty Bell, vol. 14
Friday, Sept. 29th, 2017—12:30-1:15pm
State Library of Massachusetts, 
Special Collections—Room 55
Massachusetts State House

The Friends of the State Library of Massachusetts will present a special event in the Library's Special Collections Department on September 29th from 12:30-1:15pm: “Treasures of the State Library of Massachusetts.” Visitors will be able to view and learn about materials that are normally not on public view.  Items include some of the earliest published laws of Massachusetts, a realistic facsimile of Mayflower passenger William Bradford’s manuscript journal Of Plimoth Plantation, broadsides recruiting soldiers for the Civil War, photographs of African-American soldiers from the Massachusetts 54th and 55th Regiments, a handwritten journal by a Civil War soldier from Massachusetts, early maps of Boston, and beautifully illustrated books on natural history.  Space is limited so register today!

To register or learn more about the event, please visit: Treasures of the State Library of Massachusetts

Have a question?  Contact the library’s Special Collections staff directly via e-mail or by phone:
Phone: 617-727-2595

State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, September 11, 2017

New Exhibition, featuring Symbols of Massachusetts

Opening on Monday, September 11, the State Library of Massachusetts’s newest exhibition features the official symbols of the Commonwealth. The symbols, all officially approved by the state legislature, range from the whimsical (Ms. G., the State Groundhog) to the philosophical (“Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem,” the State Motto). The exhibition uses materials from the State Library’s collections, including artifacts that illustrate specific symbols. Don’t miss the Boston-style baked beans!

The exhibition, located outside the main library in Room 341 of the State House, will run through December 31, 2017. It is also available through the State Library’s Flickr site. Please come visit!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Trial of Jane Toppan

Jane Toppan (born Honora Kelley) was a Victorian-era serial killer who confessed to murdering 31+
people in Boston and on Cape Cod with lethal doses of poisonous admixtures over a span of about 20 years—starting in the 1880s up until her capture in October of 1901.  Her victims included patients at hospitals where she worked as a nurse, her friends, her landlords, and even her own foster sister.  In June of 1902, Toppan was brought before the Barnstable Superior Court on the charge of murdering Mary D. Gibbs and was found not guilty by reason of insanity.  She spent her remaining years in the Taunton State Hospital and died in 1938.

The State Library has recently digitized the transcript of the 1902 trial and it is now freely available to download through our DSpace digital repository: 

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Caption:  Jane Toppan (1857-1938)

Monday, August 28, 2017

September Author Talk: Larry Tye

Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon, by Larry Tye
Tuesday, September 12, 2017—Noon to 1:00 pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library is pleased to invite you to our first author talk of the new season: award-winning journalist Larry Tye will speak on Tuesday, September 12, about his recent book Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon. Tom Melville, Executive News Director at WBUR, will give the introductory remarks.

A New York Times bestseller, Bobby Kennedy explores the life of Robert F. Kennedy and his transformation from “cold warrior to fiery leftist.” This well-researched biography draws on unpublished memoirs and personal papers, unreleased government files, and hundreds of interviews with close associates and family members of RFK, such as his widow Ethel and his aide John Seigenthaler. In presenting the life of this much-loved but often misunderstood public figure, Larry Tye also offers insight into this turbulent period in American history.

Author Larry Tye was an award-winning reporter for the Boston Globe from 1986 to 2001 and has taught journalism at Boston University, Northeastern, and Tufts. Currently, in addition to writing, he runs the Boston-based Health Coverage Fellowship, a training program for medical journalists. Mr. Tye is also the author of six previous books, one of which he co-authored with Kitty Dukakis.

Mr. Tye will be offering copies of Bobby Kennedy for sale and signing at the conclusion of his talk at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, August 21, 2017

History and Fun Facts about Beacon Hill

Massachusetts State House
As most people know, the Massachusetts State House is located on Beacon Hill, which is an historic neighborhood in the city of Boston.  It was named after a wooden beacon that once stood on the hill to warn residents of an attack or a fire.  Beacon Hill is approximately one-half to three-quarters of a mile square, has 9,100 residents, and is bounded by Cambridge Street on the north, Somerset Street on the east, Beacon Street on the south, and Storrow Drive on the west. The State House with its gilded dome is Beacon Hill’s most prominent landmark and was built on land that once belonged to John Hancock.

Trimount, Boston, Massachusetts
Beacon Hill was originally one of three hills that existed in an area that was called Trimountain or Trimount; the two other hills were Mount Vernon and Pemberton Hillsometimes called Corn Hill.  Today’s Tremont Street comes from this original name of Trimount.  During the time the State House was being constructed (1795-1798), Harrison Gray Otis, Jonathan Mason and others started The Mount Vernon Proprietors group with the purpose of developing the area around the building; partners of the group also included Charles Bulfinch, Hepzibah Swan, and William Scollay.  About 19 acres of land was purchased by the group in 1795, most of it from painter John Singleton Copley; four years later in 1799 the hills were leveled.

Harrison Otis Gray house
on Mt. Vernon Street, Beacon Hill
Mansions were built on the newly created Mt. Vernon Street, and the 2nd Harrison Gray Otis House at 85 Mt. Vernon Street is a rare surviving example from this time period.

Another notable place on Beacon Hill is The Museum of African American History, which is located in what was once the first African Meeting House.  It was built in 1806 for the congregation of the African Baptist Church and was the first black church in Boston and is the oldest existing African-American church building in the United States.  It was a synagogue for the Anshei Lubavitch congregation from 1898–1972 and then was sold to become the Museum.  

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, August 14, 2017

Table Gossip

Celebrity news in newspapers is nothing new.  Recently I was looking in the Boston Globe issue of July 18, 1886 and found a section of the paper called “Table gossip.” This section of the paper tells us what certain people, including some socially prominent people, are up to, as well as what some businesses are doing.

One entry tells us that “Julia Ward Howe addressed the Womans’ Auxillary Conference at Newport, on Tuesday afternoon on “How to Widen the Sympathies of Woman.”” Also “Miss Louisa Alcott, Mrs. Celia Thaxter and Mrs. Ole Bull with Whittier, the poet, have made an interesting group at the Appledore the past week.  Mr. Whittier believes it will be the last visit he makes to the island". Doing a little internet research I found out that Appledore House was a hotel owned by the family of poet, artist and naturalist Celia Thaxter (1835-1894). She had soirees in the summer where she invited well known artists friends.  The American impressionist painter Childe Hassam was also a frequent visitor.  He painted hundreds of seascapes on the Isles of Shoals where Appledore is located.  Isles of Shoals are a group of islands near Kittery, Maine.  It appears that Mr. Whittier is so famous he does not need a first name.  He is John Greenleaf Whittier.

Some businesses used the column that week to make announcements, including that Jordan Marsh opened a store on Cottage Street in Bar Harbor, that the State House is getting carpeting, and that parasols are marked down in William H. Zinn’s store.  You can even get some fashion news.  Sunshades (another name for parasols) in ecru etamine (an off white color) are the fashionable parasols for the summer.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, August 7, 2017

Dighton Rock and its Portuguese-American Legacy

Immigrants from Portuguese-speaking countries have long chosen New England as their home. According to the 2010 census, Massachusetts has the third-largest number of residents with ancestry from Portugal, behind only Rhode Island and California, and New England has the highest density of Portuguese immigrants in the United States. The first wave of Portuguese-speaking immigrants came in the 1800s from Portugal, the Azores, and the Cape Verde Islands, many of them whalers, fishermen, and factory workers. However, there is evidence that a small number of Portuguese immigrants came to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket during Massachusetts’ colonial period (New England Historical Society), while others are convinced that the Portuguese were the first European pilgrims to set foot in Massachusetts in the 1500s.

This belief is centered around Dighton Rock, a 40-ton boulder originally embedded in the Taunton River covered in petroglyphs and curious markings that have sparked interest in its origins since 1680. At that time, Reverend John Danforth made a drawing of these markings, which was published in part by Reverend Cotton Mather in his book The Wonderful Works of God Commemorated (1689). Since then, scholars from around the world have puzzled over the rock’s meaning, with theories that assign the carvings to Native American, ancient Phoenician, Norse, and Chinese origins.

Drawing of the carvings as made by John Danforth in 1680

In the early 20th century, Edmund Burke Delabarre of Brown University introduced a new theory that tied Dighton Rock to a 15th century Portuguese explorer who never made it home. Miguel Corte-Real set out to explore the western Atlantic and had previously made it to the Coast of Labrador with his brother Gaspar. At the end of the 1500 expedition, Miguel was sent back to Portugal and Gaspar stayed behind, never to be seen again. In 1502, Miguel set out on a second expedition to find his brother, and he too disappeared. Historian Delabarre believed that the stone was marked by Miguel Corte-Real, whose voyages had brought him along the coast of North American to what is now Taunton. According to his research, Delabarre believes that the rocks states, “Miguel Cortereal. 1511. By the Will of God, leader of the natives of India in this place” in Latin followed by the Portuguese coat of arms.

Pictures of the inscriptions taken and outlined by Edmund
Burke Delabarre and published in the Bulletin of the Society
for the Preservation of New England Antiquities


Members of the Massachusetts Portuguese communities were instantly captivated with this theory. The Miguel Corte Real Memorial Society, formed in the 1950s, claimed Dighton Rock and fought the Department of Natural Resources, ordering them to surrender the rock to the historical society. These two organizations would continue to clash throughout the mid-1950s. First, the historical society had acquired about 50 acres of land near Dighton Rock to create a park in 1952, but a year before the Massachusetts Legislature had expropriated the same land for a state park. Later, these two organizations clashed again regarding how the rock should be preserved: the Department of Natural Resources wanted to remove the boulder to higher ground, while the historical society wished to build a coffer-dam around its original location in the Taunton River. Today, Dighton Rock is housed inside a small museum at Dighton Rock State Park.

Maritime historian and Harvard professor Samuel  Eliot Morrison refuted the Corte Real theory in his book Portuguese Voyages to American in the Fifteenth Century and later in a Letter to the Editor in the Boston Herald, in which he wrote that “It is, of course, possible that Miguel Cortereal visited these coasts in the early 16th century, and it is very gratifying to our Portuguese citizens to feel that one of their heroes was here more than a century before the Pilgrim Fathers. But there are a good many arguments against accepting Professor Delabarre’s interpretation as authentic.” To this day, there is no definitive theory regarding the origin of the petroglyphs on Dighton Rock, though many Portuguese-Americans remain convinced that it is an important part of Portuguese maritime history and American history in general.

Further Reading:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

We Asked and You Answered! Now We Try to Answer You!

A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out our State Library user survey back in the spring—we really appreciate your insightful feedback and suggestions.  And what are we going to do to meet your needs and answer your burning questions? Read on!

To start, we did have a few revelations:

  • 30% of survey respondents said they visited the library in person more than “rarely”
  • 40% of survey respondents said they visited the library’s website more than “rarely”
  • 24% of survey respondents said they visit the library’s DSpace digital repository more than “rarely”
  • 83% of survey respondents are not followers of the library’s accounts on social media

Clearly we have our work cut out for us to spread the word about our collections and services to you out there--wherever you may be.  Okay—so how can we improve?  First, let’s take a look at the five most popular reasons users actually come to the library in person:

  • to do legislative or legal research
  • to attend library programs
  • to have a quiet place to study, read, or just relax
  • to view library exhibits
  • to do historical or genealogical research

The most popular reason—legislative or legal research—has been traditionally the most requested service at the State Library, and we are working on getting more of the items needed to do legislative history digitized and available on our DSpace repository. The Acts are already available, and the Resolves are digitized and will be coming soon.  In the meantime, you can see our Resolves volumes in the State Library's Internet Archive collections. The final editing of the digitized Legislative Documents collection (the “as filed” House and Senate Bills) will be completed and loaded in their entirety to DSpace we hope by the end of 2017.  Also, the historical House and Senate Journals have been digitized as well and will soon be added to our DSpace repository.

Our popular, monthly lunch-time “Author Talks” series will resume after the summer on Tuesday, Sept. 12 with author Larry Tye on his book Bobby Kennedy: the Making of a Liberal Icon, so please plan on returning for these great library programs as this will be only the first of an exciting lineup of interesting books and authors! We are also planning a “Library Treasures” tour for September and a genealogy research program in November to showcase the library’s collections in these areas. So, how do you find out about these programs? They are always promoted on our website or please sign up for our email announcement list. Did you also know that we have a group for Friends of the State Library? If you want to join the Friends or receive the Friends’ monthly newsletter, NEWSBrief, just email us.

We are thrilled that you love our “newly refreshed” and welcoming space after the extensive top to bottom renovations that were completed in 2015. Thank you for just coming in to read or meet with colleagues and please don’t forget that library staff is always available to help you and answer any questions you may have. By the way, check out our fun photo album showing how things have changed over the last hundred years in the State Library space! Be sure to view our latest exhibit before you leave as we always have something interesting right outside our main entrance in room 341 of the State House. In case you didn’t know, we also host our exhibits “virtually” on flickr for those of you who can’t make it into Boston and want to check them out.

We are very proud of our extensive historical and genealogical collections here at the library and glad that you like them too!  We frequently highlight the most unusual, quirky and/or the most curious items in our library staff blog posts so you can also “discover” them along with library staff.  One of our most treasured holdings is William Bradford’s manuscript, Of Plimoth Plantation from 1630—you can read about its restoration and conservation by the Northeast Document Conservation Center, and you can “see” it for yourself digitally in our DSpace repository.

We are working on digitizing more and more of our unique, non-copyrighted, historical and genealogical collections, especially historical maps and Massachusetts city and town annual reports and directories which were particularly singled out by survey participants. We highlight our extensive holdings of genealogical resources in this informative brochure. Coming soon to DSpace we will have the entire digitized collections of the Massachusetts Public Documents which contain the historical annual reports of state agencies and commissions. We have also reformatted and digitized our finding aids for library manuscript and former legislators’ papers collections.

And what are the five most popular ways that users make use of the library’s collections and resources both in-person and remotely?

  • using the library's website and/or online catalog
  • performing onsite research
  • using digitized materials contained in the library's DSpace digital repository 
  • using the library's databases and electronic journals
  • finding digitized collections from search engine results that link to library resources

The overwhelming majority of you took the time to comment positively on the library and library staff and just want more of what we are doing already—more digitized items, more programs, and more promotion and outreach. We want you to know who we are and what we do! In that spirit, we are working on more “how-tos” and guides for our library resources and redesigning our library homepage on the new, which will be launching later this year. Thank you again for all your support!

State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, July 24, 2017

Collection Now Available: Denise Provost papers on legislation concerning gender identity and nondiscrimination

Now available is a collection level record which includes a link to a longer finding aid.

A collection of papers from Denise Provost (Manuscripts Collection 165) is now available for research in the Special Collections Department of the State Library.  First elected in 2006, Denise Provost is the representative for the 27th Middlesex District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. The collection of papers concerns her work on the Transgender Public Accommodations bill that was passed in 2016. The Transgender Public Accommodations bill was created to close a loophole in the 2012 Transgender Equal Rights Act that allowed for transgender people to be discriminated against in public accommodations like restaurants.

The papers include meeting materials of the Steering Committee working to pass the Transgender Public Accommodations bill. Included are the meeting notes and the names of local businesses they approached for support. Also included in the collection are documents related to a legislation briefing held for members of the House of Representatives in July 2015 regarding transgender rights and the Transgender Public Accommodations bill.

Of note in the collection are documents sent to Denise Provost from various organizations around Massachusetts, including the Massachusetts Family Institute and Freedom Massachusetts.  Organizations sent documents voicing their support or opposition of the bill to Denise Provost.

Also in the collection are documents Denise Provost used for research, including Massachusetts city ordinances, state laws, pamphlets, publications, as well as state guidelines on nondiscrimination. Denise Provost also collected newspaper clippings from local and national papers. These clippings document the discussion of transgender rights in the United States and more specifically Massachusetts from 2008-2017.  

Ariel Barnes
Special Collections Intern

Monday, July 17, 2017

Massachusetts Buildings That Once Housed Public Records

The State Library invites you to view our newest collection of photographs in Flickr! This collection comprises 182 black and white historic photographs of municipal buildings that once housed public records from various Massachusetts counties, cities, and towns. All of the photographs were taken between 1899 and 1905 by Robert Thaxter Swan, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Records at that time.

"City Hall and Public Library building, New Bedford, Mar. 4, 1902"

These photographs were pasted into a scrapbook, which was given the title Buildings in which Public Records are kept in Counties, Cities, and Towns in Massachusetts. Each photograph in the scrapbook is accompanied by a handwritten caption, which has been transcribed and included in the description for each image in Flickr. From Acton to Yarmouth, 102 of the 351 Massachusetts cities and towns (plus one New Hampshire city, Nashua) are represented in this collection.

"Town Clerk's house, Hamilton, safe in the porch, May 29, 1900"

"Vault intact, records slightly smoked, Hopkinton, Mar. 19, 1900"

This scrapbook is housed in the State Library's Special Collections Department in Room 55 of the Massachusetts State House and is available for viewing Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Friday, July 14, 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017

John Quincy Adams from Beyond the Veil

Of the many interesting books housed in the library’s collection, one in particular recently caught our eye: Twelve Messages from the Spirit of John Quincy Adams through Joseph D. Stiles, Medium, to Josiah Brigham.  The book was published in 1859 by Boston publisher Bela Marsh during a time in which the spiritualism movement was growing increasingly popular.  Followers and curious onlookers sought to gain greater knowledge from spirits and speak to their deceased loved ones, usually by attending séances or by consulting mediums.  Spirit photography arrived in the latter part of the 19th century, with one of the most famous examples being the image of a seated Mary Todd Lincoln with the ghost of her husband, Abraham, resting his hands on her shoulders.

According to the book’s preface, Josiah Brigham states that, from August of 1854 until March of 1857, the medium Joseph D. Stiles, while entranced, allowed the spirit of John Quincy Adams to communicate through him using automatic writing.  These sessions were held in Brigham’s home in Quincy, Mass. and at his son-in-law’s home in Boston, and it was Adams himself who requested that the messages be published.  Brigham further states:

Mr. Stiles is a respectable, unassuming young man, of only common-school education, with no pretensions to more than common capabilities.  He is a printer by trade, and worked at that business until he perceived he possessed mediumistic powers.  His organization is such that he is very susceptible to spirit-influence, and is one of the best writing-mediums in the country.

John Quincy Adams’ alleged discourse from beyond the veil is very Dante-esque.  Speaking from “Spirit Land, Sixth Sphere,” he vividly illustrates for the reader what he sees or has seen in the different spheres of the afterlife.  He also describes his meetings with relatives, as well as Biblical and historical figures in the spheres--delivering their many messages of philosophy and morality to the corporeal reader.  Adams also speaks of his visits to earth, during which he would visit living relatives and attempt to prove to mortals the existence of the afterlife.

This book is available online in its entirety and can be viewed by visiting: 

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Dept.