Monday, March 26, 2018

New acquisition: 1897 “Boston Souvenir Calendar”

Images of the building we all work in make welcome additions to the State Library’s collection of artifacts relating to the State House. This small calendar (4 ¾” high by 3 ½” wide) has six sheets, with our own building featured prominently on the front. Other images include Old South Church, the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, Old North Church, and Trinity Church.

The calendar was published in 1896 by L. Prang & Co., Boston, the firm owned by Louis Prang (1824-1909), who was best known for his work in chromolithography. Except for a small loss in the lower left corner of the top card, the calendar is in very good condition. It came as a gift in March, 2018.

We plan to add it to Souvenir 90: Artifacts relating to the Massachusetts State House, 1865-2014.

Beth Carroll-Horrocks
Special Collections Department

Monday, March 19, 2018

April Author Talk: Amber Moulton

The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts 
By Amber D. Moulton 
Wednesday, April 4, 2018—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library of Massachusetts invites you to join us on Wednesday, April 4, to hear author Amber Moulton speak about her book The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts.

Based on information from court and church records, family histories, and popular literature, The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts chronicles the grassroots movement to overturn the Commonwealth’s ban on interracial marriage that culminated in its repeal in 1843. Even though Massachusetts was known as an abolitionist stronghold before the Civil War, a powerful racial caste system persisted, reinforced by a law prohibiting interracial unions. Dr. Moulton’s well-researched book details the work of activists and reformers to overturn this law and thereby help shape this early chapter in the fight for civil rights.

Author Amber Moulton leads the Unitarian Universalist
Service Committee’s emergent research program, where she conducts multidisciplinary research into human rights abuses to support advocacy and policy reform. Prior to her work at UUSC, Dr. Moulton taught at Harvard University, Northeastern University, and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She holds a Ph.D. in African American Studies from Harvard University and has published several articles on environmental justice and human rights.

Dr. Moulton will be selling and signing copies of The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts at the conclusion of her talk at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Upcoming Author Talks at the State Library:

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Closer Look at the MacArthur Scrapbook

I recently wrote about a scrapbook documenting General Douglas MacArthur's visit to Massachusetts that made its way to the preservation lab because it needed to be re-housed. When an item comes to the lab, my primary concern is addressing its preservation needs but I also spend a little time examining these items and appreciating their historical value. When I started working on this scrapbook I initially thought that it only contained photographs, but I was surprised to find that nestled amongst the pages was a menu for a dinner held in General MacArthur's honor. Personally, one of my favorite items in special collections are historical menus. On an aesthetic level, I love looking at the intricate designs, illustrations, and ornaments that adorn menus from the 19th and 20th centuries. On a research level, I appreciate the information that we can glean from them, which often provide insight into popular foods and dinner customs, entertainment culture, class, and the economy during a specific point in history.

The MacArthur menu is a dinner menu from the Oval Room at the Sheraton Copley Plaza (now the Fairmont Copley Plaza) and is dated July 25, 1951. According to the hotel's current website, the Oval Room is considered one of the most beautiful rooms in Boston with a sky and cloud mural painted on its ceiling. Given this location and the fact that a special menu was printed for the occasion, we can guess that MacArthur's dinner was a formal affair. The cover of the menu is illustrated with his profile and a welcome message, and our copy also includes his signature, written in pencil. The following two pages list the wide variety of items that were available for dinner, ranging from the "Chef's Special" - a grilled ham steak Hawaiian style for $2.00 - to the sirloin steak for two, which at $9.00 is the priciest item on the menu. When I come across a historical menu, I always like to examine the options and figure out what I would have ordered and how much it would have cost me. I also usually find that there are at least a few menu items that aren't familiar to me, or that don't sound appetizing at all to my 21st century palate. I encourage our readers to take a close look at the menu and do the same!

Beyond food items, the menu also tells us a little bit about nightlife culture in the 1950s. The menu indicates that music and dinner service was until 9:00 p.m., followed by dancing until close. There was no cover charge at the Oval Room, but I was curious about two taxes that were printed on the menu - a Massachusetts old age tax of 5% and an amusement tax of 20% (but only after 9:00 p.m.). A little bit of digging revealed that the Massachusetts old age tax was a 5% state tax on meals that cost over $1.00 to help fund the Old Age Assistance Fund, a state program that was similar to Social Security and was in existence from 1941 to 1955. A version of the amusement tax, also referred to as the fun tax, is still around today. Tickets to sporting events, concerts, and other "fun" activities are exempt from sales tax, but they can be subject to separate amusement tax. Luckily, eligible amusement and recreational services today are not taxed at 20% today like they were in 1951!  

The MacArthur menu is now housed in an acid-free paper sleeve and stored along with the photographs from the scrapbook. Taking some time to look deeper into the content of the items that I work on is a fun part of my job, and I look forward to the next interesting item that makes its way to the preservation lab.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Friends Newsletter - March issue

It is the first of the month and that means the Friends newsletter is out and it is full of information about the Library's coming events.