Monday, April 30, 2018

Library of Congress Magazine: A Plethora of Information

The State Library is a selective Federal documents depository library. One publication from the Library of Congress is called Library of Congress Magazine. This publication focuses on the collections and projects in the Library of Congress and frequently covers topics of a historical nature.  In the November/December 2017 issue one topic covered is “The Hamilton Papers: A Founding Father Online.”  The Library placed thousands of Hamilton’s letters online for the first time including one he wrote in 1769 as a 12 or 13 year old clerk in St Croix that covered topics such as excise taxes and how to avoid them, and his ambition to raise himself up to a higher station in life.  The Library goes on to say that “The Library holds the world’s largest collection of Hamilton papers, some 12,000 items concentrated from 1777 to Hamilton’s death by duel in 1804.” The letters include correspondence with well- known men such as George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Jay.  After Hamilton died his wife Elizabeth Schulyer Hamilton held onto her husband’s papers. She tried to get the US government to buy them and she succeeded in 1848 when Congress appropriated $20,000 to buy the papers.

This issue also has a story of “Veterans on the Homefront.”  This article includes a profile of Violet Clara Thurn Cowden of South Dakota who was a Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).  She served her country by being employed as a pilot to fly domestically in order to liberate men for service overseas.  She was underweight and under the height requirement so she gorged on bananas and put a wrap in her hair to pass the physical examination.  She thought joining the WASPS would allow her to “do the thing I love most, and I didn’t have to pay for the gas.”

In another article called “An App for Them,” two sisters have created a user-friendly tool that allows veterans to record their stories of their service using just their smartphones.  It was developed for the Veterans History Project, which the U.S. Congress created in October 2000.  The app was started by two sisters in Massachusetts Jean Rhodes and Nancy McNamara.  It started when Rhodes first encountered the Veterans History Project.  She was conducting interviews with veterans alongside her son and found the process cumbersome.  She called her sister who owns her own web design company for advice.  They built a pilot app and tested it out and hired a firm to develop the app. Their product which they are donating to the Library has been tested by folklorists, oral historians from universities, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.) and Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), who have both used the app to interview veterans in their home states.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

State Library participates in ArtWeek

The State Library will participate in the Spring 2018 celebration of ArtWeek (April 27-May 6) on Friday, May 4, at 3:30pm, with a presentation of treasures in the Library’s Special Collections Department. Visitors will see treasures from the State Library collections that are not normally on public view, including 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 Regiment, early maps of Boston, and especially for this year’s event, items relating to tourism in Massachusetts.

ArtWeek, now a state-wide event produced by the Boch Center and with continued support from the Highland Street Foundation, began in 2013 with mostly Boston-area events. The ArtWeek website describes it as an “innovative festival featuring unique and unexpected experiences that are hands-on, interactive or offer behind-the-scenes access to artists or the creative process.” Many events are free, including ours.

The State Library’s treasures tour has limited seating, so registration is required. Please join us!

Register here:

State Library of Massachusetts, Special Collections Department
State House, Room 55 (Basement level, West Wing)
24 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02133

Monday, April 23, 2018

May Author Talk: Kathleen Teahan

The Cookie Loved ‘Round the World: The Story of the Chocolate Chip Cookie by Kathleen Teahan
Wednesday, May 9, 2018—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

Did you know that the chocolate chip cookie is the official cookie of Massachusetts? We invite you to come to our next author talk on May 9th to hear author (and former State Representative) Kathleen Teahan share the story of the much-loved chocolate chip cookie, invented right here in the Commonwealth!

Kathleen Teahan’s children’s book, The Cookie Loved ‘Round the World: The Story of the Chocolate Chip Cookie is a fictionalized history of the invention of the chocolate chip cookie during the Great Depression in Whitman, Massachusetts. According to local legend, Toll House Restaurant owner and chef Ruth Wakefield stumbled upon this delicious creation due to a shortage of walnuts at the restaurant. Wakefield’s decision to substitute chocolate chunks in her Butter Do Drops cookies resulted in what would soon become the quintessential American cookie.

Author Kathleen Teahan taught English at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School and the Gordon Mitchell Middle School in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. She also represented the 7th Plymouth District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1997 to 2007, during which time she served on a number of committees and focused on the issues of equal rights, quality education, and improved health (especially oral health) for all. During her first year as a legislator, Rep. Teahan co-sponsored the bill (originally proposed by a third-grade class in Somerset) to make the chocolate chip cookie the official cookie of Massachusetts.

At the conclusion of Representative Teahan’s talk, she will be offering copies of her book for purchase and signing.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Our upcoming Author Talks:

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Interconnected History of the State Library of Massachusetts and the “Law Library of Suffolk County Massachusetts”

Why doesn’t Suffolk County have its own, dedicated law library like every other designated county in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? That is the question. The origins of a shared law library in Boston (which makes up most of today’s Suffolk County) go back to 1803 with the creation of what would come to be known as the “Social Law Library.” Formally incorporated on Oct. 21, 1814 by Ch. 79, Acts of 1814, the Social Law Library to this day still remains a quasi-public agency supported by both private membership fees and state taxpayer funds. A few years prior, on Feb. 16, 1811, the Massachusetts General Court passed a resolve that provided “for an exchange of laws with the several states in the Union”. The statute books collected in this exchange would eventually overwhelm the offices in the State House and would be assembled to make up the first collections of the State Library of Massachusetts, which was formally established as the Library of the General Court on Mar. 3, 1826 by Ch. 123, Acts of 1825.

The original “exchange of laws” that had begun in 1811 to start the Library of the General Court was expanded by a resolve on Mar. 11, 1844 to include “an exchange of reported decisions of the Supreme Court, with the several states of the Union” and then again by another resolve on Feb. 27, 1845  “to promote Mutual Literary and Scientific Exchange with Foreign Countries … to exchange copies of the state map … and bound copies of the laws and legislative documents of the Commonwealth … for books and other works of science and art from foreign countries, to be deposited in the Library of the General Court.”  This expansion in the scope of collections would lead to the Library of the General Court being called the “State Library” by Ch. 155, Acts of 1849 which put the library under the office of the Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education. Not long after this change, Ch. 182, Acts of 1850 placed the State Library under the “management and control of three trustees, appointed by the governor” but the Secretary of the Board of Education would remain also as the State Librarian.

State Library of Massachusetts
The State Library and its expanding collections moved to a newly dedicated library space in the State House “Bryant Addition” in 1856, however, this section would be removed by the later “Brigham Addition” to the State House where the State Library would eventually move again in 1895 (and where the main library still resides today in Rooms 341 and 442 of the State House) after having become its own department directly under the governor in 1893 (Ch. 86, Acts of 1893). The State Library is now under the administration of the Executive Branch Office for Administration and Finance (Ch. 329, Acts of 1980) after spending a short time under the former Executive Office of Educational Affairs (Ch. 704, Acts of 1969) until that department was reorganized. The State Library would officially and legally become the “depository library for Massachusetts state publications” by the passing of Ch. 259, Acts of 1966 (later amended by Ch. 412, Acts of 1984).

The State Library is laser focused on its legislative mandate to “maintain a complete collection of Massachusetts state publications, both current and historic” (M.G.L. Ch. 6, Section 39A) and on their digitization and addition to the State Library’s growing digital repository.  And what of practical legal research needs rather than the historical?  The State Library provides free in-library access to WESTLAW, Instatrac, the State House News Service, and Social Law Library legal databases. And what about those needs outside the scope of the State Library’s collections? Members of the public can freely use the collections of the State Library’s law library partners—any of the libraries of the Trial Court Library System (either in person or online), the First Circuit Law Library of the United States Court of Appeals in Boston, or by obtaining a courtesy pass to the Social Law Library at the John Adams Courthouse. We thank our legal partners for helping with the enormous and ever changing responsibility of excluding no one from accessing the legal resources they need.

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Great Elm on Boston Common

Did you know that the American elm (ulmus americana) is the official tree of Massachusetts?  Elm trees have played a significant role in Massachusetts history and folklore, many of which were venerated for their old age and associations with important people and events.  One famous American elm witnessed the founding of Boston, saw the excitement and violence during the American Revolution, stood through the city’s industrial age, and was finally felled by a winter storm in 1876—which caused an outpouring of sorrow in Boston and around the commonwealth.

A facsimile of a map drawn by John Bonner in 1722
 providing an early depiction of Boston, including
the Great Elm. (Source:  Library of Congress).
The “Great Elm” was considered old even as far back as the early 18th century, and it was estimated to have been planted sometime between the 1620s-1670s.  It stood in a central location on the Boston Common and later in its life drew many visitors due to its age and unusually large size; in 1855 the City Engineer measured it as “height, seventy-two and one-half feet; girth one foot above the ground, twenty-two and one-half feet; girth four feet above the ground, seventeen feet; average diameter of greatest extent of branches, one hundred and one feet.” (Source, p. 51)  In fact, one of the tree’s earliest depictions is on a 1722 map of Boston by John Bonner, which reveals it as being much larger than other trees in the area.

An engraving, circa 1792, that shows the Great Elm
centered on the Boston Common (Source). 
The Boston Common, founded in 1634, is a historically rich location, and it goes without saying that the elm bore witness to many events throughout its lifetime.  The British Red Coats encamped on the Common for eight years starting in 1768, and the colonial militia also mustered here; it is also said that the Sons of Liberty often met in the neighborhood near the tree during the Revolutionary era.  Methodist Episcopal clergyman Jesse Lee delivered a sermon under the Great Elm in 1790, and some believe that this was the origin of Methodism in New England.  A memorial of Jesse Lee’s sermon, published in 1875, traces the history of the elm and describes a duel that occurred nearby in 1728 between Benjamin Woodbridge and Henry Phillips.  The elm is also believed to have been the site of public executions, including the hangings of Quakers William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson in 1659, and Mary Dyer in 1660.

Over time, the effects of age, its size, weather-related events, and constant visitors caused the tree to weaken; Jerome V. C. Smith, the mayor of Boston from 1854-1855, took special interest in its care and preservation and built an iron enclosure around it—upon which was a tablet that read:

This tree has been standing here for an unknown 
period.  It is believed to have existed before 
the settlement of Boston, being full
grown in 1722.  Exhibited marks of
old age in 1792, and was nearly
destroyed by a storm in 1832.
Protected by an iron
enclosure in 1854.
J. V. C. Smith, Mayor

A photograph of the 1866 New England Centenary Convention,
with the Great Elm pictured in the background.(Source)

The elm weathered a damaging storm in 1860 and stood for another 16 years until a strong gale took it down on February 15, 1876.  People sought to collect pieces of its wood as mementos, and some even repurposed the wood to build various items, such as a chair that can be found today in the Boston Public Library’s rare book department.

For more information about the Great Elm and other famous trees in Massachusetts history, check out the following resources below.

Resources and Further Reading

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Friends Newsletter - April 2018

Monday, April 2, 2018

Laws during the Dominion of New England

The Province of Massachusetts Bay, far before it was ever a commonwealth in the United States of America, had the ability to form a legislative body or “General Court” in order to pass laws as part of their original charter. At the State Library, we have several volumes of laws from both the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Plymouth Colony, though these volumes stop at 1685. The laws then resume in 1692, and each of these acts and resolves are available online. But what happened between 1686 and 1692?

In 1684, King Charles II of England revoked the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s 1629 charter. The Puritans had been ignoring English civil law in favor of their own biblical teachings and voting requirements, specifically those regarding trade with other nations (known as the Navigation Acts) and the Crown had insisted that they revise their charter so that English civil law would be back on top. When the colony refused, Charles II revoked their charter. He died soon after, and his successor James II took action a step further: in an effort to organize and centralize government administration in the colonies, he combined the northern colonies including Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and Connecticut, as well as the Provinces of New Hampshire and later New York, East Jersey, and West Jersey in 1688. Together, they were the new Dominion of New England.

Seal of the Dominion of New England

The new government under the Dominion of New England consisted of an appointed gubernatorial council and no representative legislature, and in protest many of the individuals who were appointed to the council (and those elected to be military officers) refused to serve. The colonists in Massachusetts Bay also resisted paying taxes and establishing an Anglican congregation. When Edmund Andros, previously Royal Governor of New York and new Governor of the Dominion of New England, arrived in Boston at the end of 1686, he decided to pursue a hardline position with the rebellious colonists, arresting those rallying the people to protest and resist taxes, limiting town meetings to once a year, and challenging land titles. He also established the first Anglican congregation (today’s King’s Chapel) by claiming land by eminent domain. This choice was extremely unpopular due to the land being next to the oldest Puritan cemetery in Boston (now known as the King’s Chapel Burying Ground).

King's Chapel, Boston, Mass. circa 1930-1945

Needless to say, Andros’ reign was not popular and religious leaders like Cotton and Increase Mather petitioned the Crown to hear their case against Andros. At the same time, England’s Glorious Revolution began, and James II was replaced by sovereigns William and Mary. Increase Mather, who had gone to England to press charges against Andros, was there just in time to meet with the new monarchs regarding a new charter. At the same time, the news of the Glorious Revolution caused a political revolt in Boston in 1689, during which the insurgents arrested Andros and set up a new temporary government known as the Council for Safety.

The new Massachusetts Bay charter created the Province of Massachusetts Bay and absorbed Plymouth colony and Maine, but many of the original aspects of the 1629 charter were forever lost. While the province once again had a representative legislature, they had lost many of its other self-governing rights, including electing their governor, who would now be appointed by the Crown. English civil law was also elevated above the Puritans’ congregation-based laws to uphold as the Navigation Acts and remove religious restrictions on voting.

During this short period of time, the colony of Massachusetts Bay did not exist politically, which may account for the gap in laws at the State Library of Massachusetts. But where would the laws, passed by Governor Andros and his council, actually be located? In our collections, we have a 1928 reprinting of the Laws of the Dominion of New England from 1686, but no other years. The cover page states: “From the only known copy of the original issue, now in the archives of the State of New Hampshire.” A handwritten note adds, “These orders and others… may be found in Laws of New Hampshire (ed. By Batchellor) vol. 1, p. 102-138.”

Laws of the Dominion of New England

The 1902 edition of the Laws of New Hampshire, compiled by Albert Stillman Batchellor, appears to be the only time that the laws of the Dominion of New England have ever been published. It is possible that Batchellor traveled to England for certified copies of these laws so that his compilation would be as complete as possible. Thankfully, it is available online on courtesy of Harvard University and Google Books. Manuscript copies of the laws and council minutes are also available in the Massachusetts State Archives. These original engrossed acts have never been digitized, but thankfully researches can still locate laws from this time period via Batchellor’s edition.

Special thanks to Brian Buford of the New Hampshire State Archives and John Hannigan of the Massachusetts State Archives for their assistance in tracking down these laws.

Further Reading:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff