Monday, December 17, 2018

Remembering the Boston Tea Party on its 245th Anniversary

On December 16, 1773, a third ship entered Boston Harbor carrying a load of tea courtesy of the British East India Company. The Beaver was the last to arrive, as the final ship William ran aground at Cape Cod several days before. The Dartmouth, which had arrived on November 28, and the Eleanor, which had arrived December 2, were still loaded with over 100 cases of tea each – and Bostonians were refusing to unload the tea and pay the required tax.

Parliament levying taxes on the colonies was no new issue. Especially since the end of the French and Indian War (1756–1763), the British government had been trying to find a way to raise revenue that would pay for the cost of running and defending their newly enlarged empire in the Americas. Earlier laws such as the Sugar Act (1764) and Stamp Act (1765) had been met with consternation, as the colonies believed they were being forced to pay taxes for which they and their representatives had not voted. While these previous acts caused such an uproar that they were subsequently repealed, Parliament bitterly passed the Declaratory Act in 1766, insisting they had the right to legislate the colonies “in all cases whatsoever.”

The town of Boston in New England by John Bonner (ca. 1723 – 1733)
courtesy of the Boston Public Library’s Norman B. Leventhal Map Center

The issue of “taxation without representation” revived with the passage of the Townshend Revenue Act in 1767, which placed taxes on glass, lead, painters' colors, tea, and paper and reaffirmed the legality of the writs of assistance to combat smuggling. Another act passed only days later, the Indemnity Act reduced taxes on the struggling British East India Company and allowed them to sell their tea more cheaply in the colonies. However, American merchants protested by organizing a non-importation agreement and discontent culminated in the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. That year, in the wake of this backlash, the Townshend Acts were also repealed except for the duty on tea.

The legislation in favor of the East India Company did not help the company get back in good standing, and by the time the Indemnity Act expired in 1772 it was in even more dire circumstances. Therefore, Parliament passed the Tea Act in 1773, which allowed the East India Company to ship directly to the colonies, who were now responsible for paying importation duties. The act also allowed the appointment of colonial merchants to receive the tea on consignment. These consignees were chosen by the royal governors, who often chose their favorites for their position. The Governor of Massachusetts Bay, Thomas Hutchinson, chose two of his own sons to be tea brokers. These terms were no better than those originally put in place by the Townshend Acts, and when the Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver arrived with their loads of tea, the people of Boston wanted them sent back to England.

Notice from the "Chairman of the Committee for Tarring and Feathering" in Boston who denounced the tea consignees as "traitors to their country" (1773)

Unfortunately, the only person who could send back the ships was Governor Hutchinson, whose sons were set to make a fortune as tea brokers. Governor Hutchinson refused to send the ships back and demanded that the ships be unloaded and the duties paid. With neither side willing to settle, the ships sat in the harbor awaiting the deadline when the taxes must be paid: December 17.

Several meetings occurred in the days leading up to the deadline, with citizens from across Massachusetts trying to figure out a way to prevent the East India Company ships from being unloaded. The ships’ owners, from Nantucket and Boston, and the captains did not want to risk their ships by trying to leave Boston Harbor without governmental permission. Hutchinson still refused to let the ships go. Finally on December 16, thousands had gathered first in the streets, then Faneuil Hall, and finally at the Old South Meeting House to await the final judgement.

During the meeting it was decided that Francis Rotch, owner of the Beaver and Dartmouth, and an accompanying committee would approach the Customs House and demand a pass for the ships to leave the harbor. As it was not under their authority to issue a pass, Rotch and the committee were forced to go out to Milton, Massachusetts, where Hutchinson was staying at his country estate. After traveling over ten miles for the meeting, Rotch and the committee were once again denied.

The other attendees of the meeting had been waiting for hours for Rotch and his committee to return with news. Unknown to many of them, the Sons of Liberty had secretly planned to take action. After the news of the final denial was delivered to the crowd at the Old South Meeting House, Sam Adams declared, “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country!” With this signal, the Sons of Liberty emerged from the meeting house and marched to the Harbor.

Boston Tea Party by W.D. Cooper (1789) courtesy of the Library of Congress

The participants in the Boston Tea Party riot were described as disguised in “Indian dress,” though it seems unlikely that they would be mistaken for actual Native Americans. According to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, the symbolism of the costumes is more likely to be a statement of citizenship, identifying the colonists as Americans rather than British subjects.  Numbering in the hundreds, these men climbed aboard the three ships and smashed open about 340 chests of tea, weighing over 92,000 pounds, dumping them into the Harbor. Curiously, the ships were not damaged, nor was anything other than the tea stolen or looted. The captains and their crew were not harmed.

After the Tea Party, many participants fled Boston to avoid arrest, and some participants remained anonymous for many years for fear of being arrested. Only one man, Francis Akeley, was caught and imprisoned for his participation. Still not all of the participants are known, but the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum has a list of men who took part on their website. What is remarkable about this list is that most of their names are not recognizable today. These everyday people were mostly of English descent, though men of Irish, Scottish, French, Portuguese, and African ancestry also made up the hundreds that participated that night. Recently, colonial reenactors working with the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum marked dozens of gravestones at the Central Burying Ground in Boston to indicate the final resting place of men who took part in the Boston Tea Party. This gesture will remind future visitors that the American Revolution and the creation of the United States took place because everyday people stood up to make a difference.

Tea leaves in glass bottle collected on the shore of Dorchester Neck the morning of 17 December 1773,
courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Alexandra Bernson
Reference staff

Monday, December 10, 2018

Unique Gift Ideas at the State Library’s Online Store

Are you looking to wrap up your gift giving this holiday season? Our online store is your go-to place for beautiful reproduction maps and notecards, as well as various items featuring the State Library’s logo, including mugs, aprons, tote bags, and magnets. New this year is a 2019 poster-style calendar featuring images of marbled paper from our collection!

Surprise the map enthusiast in your life with a reproduction map of a Massachusetts city or town! Bird’s-eye-view maps from nineteen different towns, including Boston, Arlington, Plymouth, and more, are available in our online store.

For more information, visit the State Library’s website at And remember, your purchase directly supports the services and programs at the State Library.

-State Library of Massachusetts Staff

Monday, December 3, 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018

December Author Talk: Dick Lehr

Trell by Dick Lehr
Wednesday, December 12, 2018—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

Bestselling author of Black Mass and award-winning investigative journalist Dick Lehr will be speaking at the State Library on Wednesday, December 12, about his recent novel, Trell.

Soon to be adapted into a motion picture, Trell is the gripping story of a teenage girl who teams up with a Boston Globe reporter in an effort to free her wrongfully-convicted father.  Written for a young adult audience, this novel is a departure from Lehr’s previous true-crime bestsellers; however, much like his previous books, Trell focuses on the issue of social justice. The novel is inspired by the true story of Shawn Drumgold, a Boston man wrongfully convicted of the murder in the 1980s of a 12-year-old girl from Roxbury. Lehr’s investigative reporting on Drumgold’s case ultimately led to his release from a life sentence without parole.
Author Dick Lehr is currently a Professor of Journalism at Boston University and previously has worked as a reporter at the Hartford Courant and The Boston Globe. During his time at the Globe, Lehr was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in investigative reporting and served as a longtime member of the newspaper’s Spotlight Team.

We encourage you to register in advance and to join us on December 12 for this free author talk. Copies of Trell will be available for purchase and signing at the conclusion of the talk. For more information about the State Library and our Author Talk series, please visit our website at

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, November 19, 2018

The World’s Fair

Did you know the State Library has books about various World’s Fairs? The guides to these expositions are quite diverse and include maps, advertisements, pictures of the fairgrounds (including iconic buildings), and sculptures.  The World’s Fairs are frequently called expositions or expo for short.  In 1928 an organization called the International Bureau of Exhibitions started running these fairs. The purpose of these exhibitions was to showcase achievements of nations. These fairs or expositions also provided entertainment, introduced artwork and architecture, celebrated history, technology and industry.

In 1876 Philadelphia hosted an historical exposition which celebrated the centennial of the Declaration of Independence and they hosted another exposition in 1926 for its 150th birthday. 

The Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889 put the Eiffel Tower on display.  In fact the tower was not finished and workman worked throughout the night to finish the 2nd floor observation deck. The Paris Exposition of 1889 is the centennial of the Storming of the Bastille which opened May 6, 1889. The Eiffel Tower was used as the entranceway for the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle.  This exhibition was devoted to the technological achievements of the past century.  Paris has been host to 6 World’s Fairs the most of any country, including 1855, 1867, 1878, 1889, 1900, and 1937.

In 1893 Chicago hosted the Columbian Exposition to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus coming to the New World in 1492.  The buildings were done in the beaux arts style which is a classical Greco-Roman style. There were many white buildings that were built and it became known as the white city. Some buildings from the fair still exist including the Museum of Science and Industry which is housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts.  The Art Institute of Chicago was built for the 1893 fair.  Various states in the U.S. put up exhibits including Connecticut who featured the Pope Manufacturing Company makers of the Columbia bicycle.  The Ferris Wheel was also introduced at the Columbian Exposition.

In 1904 St Louis, Missouri hosted a World’s Fair for the one hundredth anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase which was in 1803.  Originally this fair was going to be held in 1903 but more time was needed to allow more states and foreign countries to participate.  It is also known as the fair that introduced the most food.

New York is the only city to have a World’s Fair where one fair lasted more than one year.  They did this twice from 1939-1940 and 1964-1965.  The 1939 World’s Fair has a guidebook which features descriptions of exhibits such as the bobsled ride, which was nicknamed “The Flying Turns” where “visitors hurtle at terrific speed down a banked runway reminiscent of a real bobsled course. Some of the turns are taken at a stomach-jolting ninety-degree angle, the sleds being held to their course by centrifugal force.”  Various companies display their products such as the Continental Baking Company, which have a demonstration of Wonder Bread and Hostess Cake being slo-baked. The guidebook uses Art Deco imagery and architecture.

We have two guides for the World’s Fair in New York City from 1964-1965: one for 1964 and one for 1965. The metal globe and the bronze statue from the Fair are still at the location where the fair was held.  Tennis fans might recognize this picture because it is where the US Open of tennis is held in Flushing Meadows, NY.  Nowadays there still are World’s Fairs just not as often as in the past.  Instead they now focus on such topics as the environment.

For more information consult these resources:

Philadelphia Exposition 1876

The Columbian Exposition 1893

St Louis World’s Fair of 1904

Philadelphia Exposition 1926

Naomi Allen
Reference Staff

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Magazines are Now Available in Overdrive!

That’s right!  Nearly 100 popular magazine titles have now been added to Overdrive.  What is
Overdrive?  Overdrive is a free service offered through libraries that allows patrons to borrow eBooks, audiobooks, movies, and now magazines from a collection of millions of titles.  And the best thing about the magazines is that they are always available to anyone who wants to read them—no holds, no waiting!

So how do you get in on this awesome deal?  State government employees can access Overdrive with their State Library card by logging in here (choose “CW MARS Patrons” in the dropdown menu).  If you are a government employee and have not yet applied for a card, you can do so by visiting this page on our website.

Not a state employee?  No problem!  Most local public libraries offer this service, so get in touch with one today.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, November 5, 2018

A Broadside Trapped in Plastic

Recently an item came to the Preservation Lab that needed a fair amount of work. This 11 x 17.5" document had vertical and horizontal crease lines from when it had previously been folded, and had been encased in what looked like clear, adhesive, plastic casing, almost like what we think of today as a laminating sheet. The plastic casing is not original to the document; it was added by a library employee in the 1920s or 1930s in an effort to preserve the document. They likely had good intentions, but this repair does not align with the techniques or supplies that we use to preserve our important documents today. Text was printed on the front of the document, though the back had no text, and there were no handwritten notations. The paper itself was in good condition, so I knew that I wanted to try to remove it from the plastic casing. I also noticed that the document was torn along its creases, so the plastic casing was keeping it together, and when it was removed the document would be in four different pieces and would need to be reconnected.

The document covered in plastic, with one section removed.

Before I began the task of removing the plastic casing I noted that the entire front had been covered, along with a good portion of the back.  Some of the plastic had lost its adhesion and become brittle as it aged, so I used a microspatula to work my way under the plastic and lift it up from the document, and then snipped it away with scissors. This process took some patience because I needed to be careful not to lift up any of the paper along with the plastic. The document also spent a bit of time in a humidification chamber, in an effort to introduce some humidity to loosen up the areas that remained firmly adhered. This process, while slow, resulted in the document being almost entirely free from its plastic casing. There are some areas where the plastic remains, since trying to lift it from the document would have resulted in too much loss of paper and text.

Once the bulk of the plastic casing was removed, the document was in four pieces. I used a thin Japanese paper and wheat paste to back all four individual sections and then join them together. The Japanese paper served two purposes; it reconnected the sections, and provided an extra layer of support on the back of the document, thus making it stronger and easier to handle. After the document was backed with Japanese paper, I covered it with a sheet of spunbonded polyester and a sheet of blotter paper, and then placed it under weights overnight. This would ensure that the paper dried flat and evenly. The next morning, I did some light cleaning and made a custom folder as a new enclosure.

A few pieces remain, but most of the plastic was
removed from the document. 

I spent a lot of hours hunched over this document, so I got a close look at what exactly I was working on. This document is a broadside addressed "To the Electors of the Counties of Bristol and Norfolk" from "An Elector" - an anonymous individual who wrote what is essentially a political endorsement for Caleb Strong, running for Governor of Massachusetts in 1812. Strong had previously served as governor from 1800 to 1807, and he would go on to win this election and serve again from 1812 to 1816. The broadside also endorsed William Phillips for Lieutenant Governor, and Samuel Crocker, Sylvester Brownell, and Joseph Heath for Senate. It goes into detail about current events of the early 1800s and provides opinions about commerce, trade, and taxes. While that content might not be very relatable today, the broadside begins with a more general plea that still applies in 2018. It states, "You will soon be called to the polls to exercise once more the right of suffrage; a right which though often neglected is of inestimable value, though often irksome in practice may secure your permanent prosperity and peace . . ." Occasionally when I'm working with historical documents, I am struck by how an idea or sentiment may still ring true today, even though decades or centuries have passed. With Election Day on the horizon, please keep this plea in mind - confirm your polling location and make time in your schedule to vote. It may be irksome, but it was important in 1812 and it's important today!

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, October 29, 2018

History and Halloween: Ancient Graveyards and Burial Grounds

Graveyards take on an especially spooky feel during the Halloween season, particularly those with ancient stories to tell. Almost four hundred years have passed since the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, an event that will be commemorated by Plymouth 400 throughout 2020, and many of the original graveyards from the early days of Massachusetts Bay Colony still exist throughout the commonwealth.

The oldest maintained cemetery in America is located in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Named for its most famous resident, Myles Standish Burial Ground has existed since about 1638. Several other individuals who arrived on the Mayflower are also buried there, including John Alden and his son Captain Jonathan Alden, who died in 1697 and whose gravestone is the oldest extant carved gravestone in the cemetery. The burial ground was abandoned in the late 1700s, but following the publication of The Courtship of Miles Standish by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1858, New England experienced a revival of interest in their colonial roots. In the late 1800s, the Duxbury Rural Society cleaned up the overgrown burial ground and worked to identify Standish’s remains. Today, he rests under a large memorial marked with four cannon, and other historical figures have been identified and labeled with 20th century markers.

A vintage postcard featuring the grave of Myles Standish (Source)

But one doesn’t have to leave the city to visit a colonial graveyard. Bostonians and tourists alike can easily visit three historic burial grounds adjacent to the Freedom Trail. The King Chapel Burying Ground is the oldest cemetery in the city and is the final resting place for Mary Chilton, another Mayflower passenger and the first European woman to step foot in Massachusetts.  John Winthrop, one of the founders of Boston, is also interred there. The Granary Burying Ground is notable for including many figures involved in the American Revolution, including Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Robert Treat Paine, and James Otis, Jr., as well as the victims of the Boston Massacre.  Lastly, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in the North End is another colonial cemetery notable for the gravesite of Prince Hall, an African-American abolitionist who founded the Black Freemasonry branch within North American Freemasonry. Another grave is special not only for its resident: the gravestone of Daniel Malcolm, successful merchant and smuggler who resisted British authority, still bears the bullet marks of British sharp shooters who used the stone for practice.

Daniel Malcolm’s gravestone at Copp’s Burying Ground,
 courtesy of  Curious Old Gravestones in and about Boston (1924)

With 17th and 18th century gravesites throughout the Commonwealth, often the graves themselves are interesting whether or not they mark the burial site of a notable historical person. The Puritans were concerned with piety and morality and disliked anything considered extravagant, and their graves reflect these ideas. Visit a colonial gravesite and note the common symbols that adorn gravestones: a winged face represents the soul of the deceased while a winged skull shows the flight of the soul from the mortal body; a sheaf of wheat represents an eternal harvest, and a rising sun symbolizes renewed life.

Colonial Williamsburg offers a helpful glossary of symbols and terms related to ancient cemeteries available on their website that will be helpful as you explore local cemeteries and burial grounds and discover your town’s local history this Halloween. If visiting gravesites during the spookiest time of the year is not your cup of tea, many of these symbols and more can be seen on gravestones featured in our photo collection from Curious Old Gravestones in and about Boston (1924), available on our Flickr page and accessible safely from home.

The impressively detailed gravestone of John Foster,
the first printer in Boston, courtesy of
Curious Old Gravestones in and about Boston (1924)


Alexandra Bernson
Reference staff

Monday, October 22, 2018

November Author Talk: Melinda Ponder

Celebrating the Armistice One Hundred Years Ago: Boston, the Yankee Division, and “America the Beautiful”
An Author Talk with Dr. Melinda M. Ponder 
Wednesday, November 7, 2018—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library of Massachusetts invites you to our next author talk and book signing on Wednesday, November 7, with Dr. Melinda M. Ponder, author of the recent book Katharine Lee Bates: From Sea to Shining Sea.

One hundred years ago, on November 11, 1918, Massachusetts poet and Wellesley College professor Katharine Lee Bates joined the throngs of ecstatic Bostonians who were celebrating the Armistice that ended World War I. That same morning, on a hillside in France, the soldiers of the 26th Infantry “Yankee” Division celebrated the news of the Armistice by singing Bates’ patriotic song, “America the Beautiful.” In remembrance of Armistice Day, author Melinda Ponder will discuss the roots of “America the Beautiful” in Bates’ life and career, including Bates’ Cape Cod childhood and her travels that inspired the words of her famous patriotic poem. At the conclusion of Dr. Ponder’s presentation, tenor soloist Teddy Crecelius will sing “America the Beautiful.”

In addition to her book and numerous articles and essays about Katharine Lee Bates, Dr. Ponder has also published two books about another celebrated Massachusetts author: Nathaniel Hawthorne. A graduate of Wellesley College and Boston College, Dr. Ponder is now Professor Emerita of English at Pine Manor College.

Dr. Ponder’s illustrated lecture at the State Library is free and open to all, and registration is encouraged but not required. For more information about the State Library and our Author Talk series, please visit our website at

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, October 15, 2018

New England Court Records

Tracking down New England court records can be a confusing experience because such records are often spread out in different repositories.  If you’ve found yourself stuck and not sure where to look, the book New England court records: a research guide for genealogists and historians will give you all the information you need and then some.  This comprehensive guide, written by professional genealogist and former attorney Diane Rapaport, includes chapters on the American legal system, the federal and state courts in New England, and the types of records that were and still are produced by these courts; there’s also a helpful glossary of common legal terms one might find during their research.  A large portion of Rapaport’s book is devoted to each New England state, covering the histories of their court systems and breaking down into great detail where court records are kept, what format they are in, and what years are available.  It also includes recommendations for other helpful print and electronic resources to consider while researching.  As this book was published in 2006, some of the websites that are cited may no longer exist or have changed URLs.  Despite this, the information compiled by Rapaport is and will continue to be an incredibly valuable tool for those seeking court records, from colonial times to present, that are housed in this region.

New England court records: a research guide for genealogists and historians can be found at the State Library’s reference desk in room 341 of the State House.  If you have any questions about where certain court documents are located, feel free to email our reference department at or call our reference desk at 617-727-2590.  We’re happy to look it up for you!

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, October 8, 2018

Interlibrary Loan: Lending books at the State Library

The State Library has a vast collection of books that cover a wide variety of subjects,  especially on Massachusetts and New England politics; such topics include politics, history, notable people, the molasses flood, capital punishment, and woman’s right to vote.

Only Massachusetts employees may check books out of the library; however, non-state employees can request to borrow our materials either through their public or academic library. We lend to libraries across the United States, with an average of 550 per year. We do not loan out items that fall into the following categories:
  • local history
  • microfilm or fiche
  • newspapers
  • books before 1930
  • reference materials
  • CDs and most videos
  • genealogical items
  • items from Special Collections 
  • and items from our Mass Room which includes annual reports from state agencies
  • anything that is in too bad of a condition to be shipped

Some books that are requested on interlibrary loan include: Nudge improving decisions about health, wealth, and happinessA short history of BostonGive me liberty! an American historyThe quest for environmental justice human rights and the politics of pollutionNew directions in special education: eliminating ableism in policy and practice.

We also scan articles from books and periodicals as long as the request does not violate copyright law (e.g. copying only one chapter or up to ten percent of a book.)

If you are a state employee and want to learn more about requesting books or articles check out this blog on borrowing materials.  If you would like to submit a request (and are a state employee) you can email our ILL department directly at or fill out a request form on our website.

Naomi Allen
Reference Department

Monday, October 1, 2018

Monday, September 24, 2018

October Author Talk: Barbara Berenson

Massachusetts Leaders in the Woman Suffrage Movement
By Barbara Berenson 
Wednesday, October 17, 2018—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

Photo by Liz McEachern
Hall/Three Twelve
The State Library invites you to our next author talk on Wednesday, October 17, with Barbara Berenson, Senior Attorney at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and author of the new book Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement: Revolutionary Reformers.

In anticipation of the 2020 centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement explores the Bay State's pivotal role in the amendment’s passage. According to Berenson, “the women’s rights movement began in Massachusetts, the nation’s most important abolitionist center.” Her well-researched book focuses on the dedication and sacrifices of Massachusetts activists such as Lucy Stone and Abby Kelley Foster, who helped launch the national movement that eventually led to the constitutional amendment securing women’s right to vote.

Barbara Berenson is the author of two other recent books focusing on local history: Boston and the Civil War and Walking Tours of Civil War Boston, and she is the coeditor of the book Breaking Barriers: The Unfinished Story of Women Lawyers and Judges in Massachusetts. A graduate of Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Kennedy School, Berenson served as Assistant District Attorney for Middlesex County and Assistant Attorney General of the Commonwealth before becoming a Senior Attorney for the Supreme Judicial Court. She also serves on the Boards of Boston by Foot and the Royall House and Slave Quarters.

To register for this author talk, please visit:

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Upcoming Author Talks at the State Library:

Monday, September 17, 2018

Joy Books and the War Camp Community Service

November 11, 2018 will mark one hundred years since the ceasefire came into effect ending the First World War (1914-1918). Some of our blog’s readers may be familiar with many of the World War I-related materials we have here at the State Library of Massachusetts, including our collection of World War I soldier photographs given to us by the Boston Globe or histories of different military divisions, such as this Pictorial History of the Twenty-sixth Division of the U.S. Army from 1920. But in addition to these fantastic resources, our stacks contain evidence of bright moments amid this dark time. One such item is a thin volume published by the Boston War Camp Community Service Committee on Hospitality in 1918. It’s title? Simply: Joy Book for Soldiers and Sailors.

Cover of Joy Book for Soldiers
 and Sailors

The Joy Book serves as a guide book for soldiers and sailors stationed in and around Boston, with “suggestions of places which the Committee hopes may interest and entertain.” And truly the book includes something for everyone: club rooms, vaudeville and movies, gymnasiums, music, and libraries are listed in their own categories, with the State Library listed under “Books” on page 6. The book also includes a helpful foldout map of Boston for those visiting, and features travel and hospitality information “if your women folks are coming to Boston” (page 4).

Foldout map from Joy Book for Soldiers and Sailors (1918)

Guide books like these were published by the War Camp Community Service, one of the two secular groups involved in the United War Work Campaign dedicated to providing entertainment to American troops at home and abroad (the only other secular group involved with the UWWC? The American Library Association). War Camp Community Service (WCCS) groups were devoted to acting as a facilitator between the community and the soldiers stationed nearby: “One of the manifestations of this spirit is the widespread and wholehearted effort to make the man in uniform feel that, wherever he may be in this country – whether in his home town or a thousand miles from his native state – he has both the friendship and respect of the community, and that his uniform entitles him to feel at home wherever he is stationed” wrote Paul Robert Jacques in an article about the efforts of the WCCS. He also proclaimed that “New England has been a leader in this excellent work. At Portsmouth, N.H. for instance, a committee, representing the summer colony at Rye Beach and Little Boars Head, was formed early last summer to meet the social needs of the men at the Navy Yard… In the vicinity of Boston, a number of delightful homes have also been thrown open for purposes of hospitality to men in uniform. They include the homes of Mr. and Mrs. Stanwood G. Willington at Brookline; Mr. John E. Oldham and Miss Smith at Wellesley Hills; and Mr. George D. Hall at Dedham.”

Photograph of Edward J. Dunlea,
101st Infan. Co. E.
from our World War I
Soldier Photographs collection
By providing entertainment and hospitality, those involved in the WCCS believed they were providing a vital service, one which President Woodrow Wilson called ‘a military and social necessity.’ Paul Robert Jacques went on to explain that the WCCS’s “special care is the comfort, welfare, and recreation of the enlisted men of the Army and Navy, and to this end its ramifications spread through countless activities which touch upon the soldier when he is off duty. To quote the President [Wilson] once more: ‘The spirit with which our soldiers leave American and their efficiency on the battlefronts of Europe will be vitally affected by the character of the environment surrounding our military training camps’” (What We Are Doing for the Boys in Camp).

What would you have recommended to soldiers stationed in Massachusetts? Are they listed in the Joy Book, now available online? Learn more about the State Library’s World War I-related materials and Massachusetts’ involvement via our blog or by searching our catalog.


Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, September 10, 2018

New Fall Exhibition: Bird's-Eye View Maps in the State Library of Massachusetts

Opening today at the State Library: Bird's-Eye View Maps in the State Library of Massachusetts. This exhibition draws from the library’s extensive collection of historic bird’s-eye view maps. Dating from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, the maps provide a fascinating view into a town’s past. Every Massachusetts county is represented in the exhibition, and the full collection will be available through our digital repository.  

The exhibition runs from September 10 through December 31, 2018 and can be viewed outside of the Library, Room 341 of the State House. Library hours are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. This exhibition will be available to view online as a set of images on the State Library's Flickr site.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Tips When Researching Legislation: Rejected Bills

Histories of bills from the 2005-2006
legislative session that were either sent
to a study order—a common way to
 “kill a bill”—or on which no further
action was taken.
Researching a law in Massachusetts usually involves tracing it back to its beginning, reviewing primary documents(1) and secondary resources(2) along the way.  Bill histories are essential tools that greatly help with tracing laws and understanding their background; however, it’s important to keep in mind that they will only help you trace as far back as a law’s own initial filing.  If you’re researching a law that passed, there may have been several previous attempts at passing the same or a similar law that weren’t so successful.  Here are some things to consider when conducting your research:

  • Have there been any similar bills that were submitted and ultimately rejected in the past?  Even though they might not be part of the direct history of the law you’re researching, they can provide a further backstory on how the law came to be, who was involved, and how it was treated in previous legislative sessions.  It’s even possible that the text of a passed law wholly or partly derives from an earlier version that was rejected.
  • If you do find earlier unsuccessful bills, were public hearings held and were the bills debated?  Even though they were rejected, they still might have gone far enough through the legislative process that the House and Senate were given the opportunity to discuss them during floor sessions.  Looking at the histories of these earlier unsuccessful bills will help determine how far they made it through the process.
  • Are there any patterns?  Did local and/or world events act as a catalyst for previous bill attempts?  What are the differences between the law that passed and the previous rejected bills?  Did the political climate change over time?

An easy way to find bills, passed and not passed, and other legislative documents is by searching the library’s DSpace online repository.  Other materials not available online can be found in the library’s reading room in room 341 of the State House.  In addition, the library’s website also provides helpful information on how to compile legislative histories in Massachusetts.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

(1) Primary materials include, but are not limited to:  legislative documents (bills, reports, communications), House and Senate Journals, and videos of hearings and floor debates (if available).
(2) Secondary materials include, but are not limited to:  news and journal articles, outside commentary, and other unofficial publications that discuss the law or the general subject.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Cold War and the Building of Fallout Shelters

As a reference librarian sometimes I get very interesting questions.  Recently I got a question where a patron wanted to know about a bomb shelter in the State House.  When I researched this question I found out that in 1961 President John F. Kennedy, worried about the threat of nuclear attack, created a program to determine where public community fallout shelters were located.  According to the podcast The Global Politico, on October 6, 1961 “President John F. Kennedy advised U.S. families to build bomb shelters as protection from atomic fallout in the event of a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union.”  Media outlets followed with stories about shelters and how to build them.  Shelters should be made with concrete blocks for a basement shelter, sand or gravel fill for an above ground shelter and both have waterproof plywood.  “Congress voted to appropriate $169 million to locate, mark and stock fallout shelters in existing public and private buildings.”

In order to become a fallout shelter a building had to meet certain criteria and then the Office of Civil defense would let it be marked as a fallout shelter.  WGBH reports the criteria for a building to be designated a fallout shelter as suitable if they met three criteria.  First was that they provided physical protection usually meaning they were fairly airtight with thick concrete walls:  “They had to have a protection factor of at least 40 which meant you would receive 1/40th the radiation inside the building than you would outside, unprotected.” The building also had to be built away from likely fallout therefore shelters were built in basements of schools, and in the middle floors of taller buildings.  The third requirement was that there had to be room for at least 50 people with 10 square feet of space per person.

Shelter sign at the Boston
Public Library
According to the blog Fallout Five Zero, on November 5, 1962 Governor John Volpe posted a shelter sign in front of the State House. Some unconventional places such as theaters, department stores and office buildings became shelters. The shelters were marked with a yellow and black sign which was designed by Robert Blakeley, a US Army Corps of Engineers employee.  The Macy’s in downtown Boston and the central branch of the Boston Public Library still have shelter signs on their buildings.

Bomb shelters and fallout shelters are two different entities and the terms are frequently confused with each other.  A bomb shelter is designed to protect people from the physical force of a bomb, while a fallout shelter is supposed to protect one from the radioactive particles in the air after the bomb drops.  The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency bunker in Framingham is designed to protect people against a severe bomb blast making it an example of a bomb blast.

 As a result of the nuclear threat in the 1960s’, people were building shelters in their own backyards. The Boston Globe Magazine published an article on December 12, 1999 about a family in Tewksbury that has a bomb shelter in their backyard.  Several families got together to build a 22 by 38 foot shelter space after President Kennedy, responding to the Berlin crisis gave a speech in the summer of 1961 telling citizens to build fallout shelters.  The project started out amicably with each family chipping in $600. Then disagreements started with what foods to stock.  Then there was a discussion about what to do if neighbors wanted to break into the fallout shelter during a nuclear attack.  One neighbor, who participated in the building of the shelter said to shoot them which made another participant want to scrap the whole project.  The shelter is still there because it is hard to remove something that is built out of concrete and steel. There could be hundreds or more of these backyard shelters in backyards all over Massachusetts and the country unbeknownst to current residents.

Resources for Further Reading and Research

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, August 13, 2018

September Author Talk: Karilyn Crockett

People before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making, by Karilyn Crockett 
Tuesday, September 18, 2018—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library of Massachusetts has a great lineup of authors for our new season of Author Talks, starting with our September speaker, Dr. Karilyn Crockett, author of People before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making. We invite you to join us for Dr. Crockett’s talk and book signing at noon on Tuesday, September 18th, in Room 341 of the Massachusetts State House.

People before Highways explores a 1960s grassroots movement to halt the planned extension of the interstate highway system through the city of Boston. When it became clear that the planned highway would disproportionately impact poor communities of color, activists began to organize in order to push back. Now, thanks to this victorious multiracial coalition of anti-highway protestors, Bostonians are able to enjoy a highway-less urban corridor and a linear central city park—testaments to the power of citizen-led city making. 

Author Karilyn Crockett is the former Director of Economic Policy and Research, and Director of Small Business Development, for the City of Boston and Lecturer of Public Policy and Urban Planning at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies & Planning. Prior to her graduate studies at Yale University and the London School of Economics, Dr. Crockett co-founded Multicultural Youth Tour Of What's Now (MYTOWN), an award winning, educational non-profit organization in Boston. During its nearly 15 years of operation, MYTOWN created jobs for more than 300 low and moderate-income teenagers and was touted by the National Endowment for the Humanities as being “one of ten best Youth Humanities Programs in America.”

The State Library’s Author Talks are free and open to everyone. We invite you to register in advance, and we look forward to seeing you on September 18th at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, August 6, 2018

Before it gets cold!: Recreational Resources for Massachusetts

With the beginning of August comes the slow end of summer, but still there is plenty of time to pack every last bit of summer fun in! While winter brings with it its own seasonal recreational activities, the opportunities to tour and trek throughout New England are abundant during the warmer months, with the most popular remaining the same for decades, perhaps even centuries.

Throughout history, locals and tourists alike have pursued the historic, cultural, and environmental recreation that the Commonwealth offers in abundance. Our library’s collection offers a few documents about recreation throughout Massachusetts from the 1930s that show that we have more in common with our ancestors that we may have thought.

One book entitled Recreation in and about Boston; a handbook of opportunities, published 1930, includes subject-specific essays on all that the commonwealth’s capital city offers. The chapter titles offer a glimpse of the book’s suggestions: “Cruising Afoot,” “Architecture Worth Seeing,” “Outdoor Sports,” and “An Approach to Art,” all of which directly correlate to today’s walking tours, architecture tours, sports stadiums, and art museums that are still popular. Even the Freedom Trail, which wouldn’t be organized for another 20 years after the book was published, is alluded to in two essays on “Historical Walks.” One reason we at the State Library particularly like this book is that we are featured in the essay “The Libraries of Greater Boston”:

Recreation in and about Boston; a handbook
of opportunities (1930)

“It contains a great collection of law reports, session laws, Federal, State, and town documents...” Some things never change!

Another particularly interesting look back into the region’s recreational history is a marketing pamphlet entitled “Come Again to New England.” The pamphlet’s introductory paragraph waxes on about the features, amenities, and recreational opportunities that abound in New England, but is particularly charming about the region’s people: “The ruggedness of her hills is reflected in the ruggedness of her people – statistics show that New Englanders live longer than the average – and that is one reason why New England is vacationland to so many thousands of visitors. Like them, if you come once, you’ll come again.” Whether this statistic is still true (or was ever true) we do not know, but the pamphlet goes on to list recreational literature about other sites throughout the region. In Massachusetts, it highlights Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, as well as historic Plymouth, the beautiful Mohawk Trail in Western Massachusetts, and more historic and outdoorsy spots to visit.

Come Again to New England (1930)

What are your favorite things to do in Massachusetts? It’s possible that people here have been enjoying exactly what you like to do for generations. Our catalog contains a wealth of information like the histories of your favorite cultural institution, the organization of the public recreational facilities by the state’s many recreational or environmental departments since 1898, and even guidebooks that led visitors throughout our state from as early as 1829. Our old and new resources can help whether you are planning your own getaway or wondering what your great-great-grandparents might have done for fun in Boston in the 1840’s.


Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, July 30, 2018

The “Zimmer” Newspaper Index

Although the State Library’s “Zimmer” newspaper index has been mentioned in some of our previous blogs, it’s such a great resource that I felt it deserving of its own post.  Developed and maintained by library staff, it was a card index to the “current events” of the time that were featured in late 19th and 20th century Massachusetts newspaper articles.  The bulk of the index covers the years 1878-1937, with some selected entries for earlier and later dates.  Entries include obituaries, political events, speeches, visits of foreign dignitaries, disasters (fires, floods, etc.) and other general newsworthy events.  A later index, which focuses primarily on political and governmental articles featured in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald, covers the years 1960-1983.

The card index is nicknamed after Lowell native George Dana Zimmer, who was first appointed as an assistant in the library’s newspaper department by State Librarian Edward H. Redstone in 1924, and later became a senior library assistant.  Its history, however, can be traced back to the year 1891—over 30 years prior to Mr. Zimmer’s appointment.  State Librarian John W. Dickinson, in the library’s 1891 annual report, expressed a dire need for a newspaper index:

The modern newspaper covers so wide a field, in addition to the news of the world embodying carefully prepared special articles upon almost every subject of modern thought or material activity; it has become such an encyclopaedic treasure-house of information upon all subjects which are of interest to the historian or genealogist, the publicist or the student of political, economic or social questions, the merchant or the mechanic, the scientist or the man of letters, that the advisability of the employment of some competent person to make a comprehensive card index to some leading current newspaper, which shall also embody special features and the most important articles in other papers so far as may be practicable, is hereby commended to the careful consideration of the Legislature.  Such an index would save the patrons of the library a vast amount of time which is now spent in research, -- often to no purpose, -- and it would render accessible to public use a vast store-house of valuable material which is now practically unavailable after the day of its publication.

The next year, in 1892, the legislature, via Chapter 140 of the Acts, authorized the library trustees and the librarian “to cause to be prepared, at their discretion, an index to current events, and such other matters as they may deem important, contained in the newspapers of the day.”  James F. Munroe, who was in charge of the newspaper department at the time, created and maintained the “Current Events Index” (as it was previously known) until Zimmer succeeded Munroe in 1924.  Munroe’s “patient care and good judgment” to the project is noted in the library’s 1911 annual report.

The State Library has scanned the main part of the index (1878-1937) and hopes to make the collection available online in the future.  If you have any questions or would like for us to look up a person or event in the index for you, please send us an email ( or call our reference desk at 617-727-2590.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department