Monday, February 25, 2019

March Author Talk: Dina Vargo

Hidden History of Boston, by Dina Vargo 
Friday, March 8, 2019—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library invites you to explore the cobwebbed corners of Boston’s hidden history with author and historian Dina Vargo, at our next author talk on Friday, March 8.

Dina Vargo’s new book, Hidden History of Boston, dives into some of the lesser-known “oddball” stories from Boston’s rich history. In this fun, well-written book, you’ll learn about fascinating and sometimes shocking episodes in Boston’s past, such as “Pope’s Night,” when colonial-era mobs celebrated their hatred of the pope, and the 1938 “Zoo Shipwreck,” when a freighter carrying exotic animals bound for East Boston struck an uncharted pinnacle of rock near Boston Harbor.

Author Dina Vargo developed her interest in Boston’s offbeat history during her time as a tour guide for Boston By Foot. She holds an MPA from the University of Pittsburgh and currently works in the affordable housing field. In addition to Hidden History of Boston, Ms. Vargo is the author of Wild Women of Boston: Mettle and Moxie in the Hub.

Ms. Vargo’s talk is free and open to all, and copies of Hidden History of Boston 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

Upcoming Author Talks at the State Library:

Monday, February 18, 2019

The House and Senate Journals and how to use them

One of the State Library’s goals is to digitize and provide access to the laws and legislative documents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The newest of these documents available online via DSpace are the published House and Senate Journals, posted annually alongside their respective bills and legislative documents. These journals include the record of proceedings of each legislative day in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, listing bills as they are introduced, read, amended, voted on, and sent to committee. The House and Senate Journals provide a valuable resource for those interested in the legislative history of a particular act or resolve.

The front page of the 1854 Journal of the House of Representatives,
available online on the State Library’s DSpace Online Repository

The Journal of the House of Representatives has been published annually starting in 1854, while the Senate Journals has been published annually starting in 1868. Major events like the American Civil War and World War II caused gaps in publication and further impacted or altered the frequency of the publication (for more information on the biennial legislative sessions in the 1940s, click here) but otherwise these Journals continue to be published yearly. Some journals before 1854 exist as manuscripts preserved and protected by our Special Collections department. While the State Library has the Senate Journals up through 2008 and the House Journals up through 2016, more recent journals can be found on the Legislature’s website. Both published and draft versions of the House Journal are available from 2001 to present, while both published and draft versions of the Senate Journal are available from 1998 to present.

On DSpace, each journal is separated into monthly sections for ease of use. In addition to the proceedings, earlier journals also provide an appendix to the journal that may include a register of the executive and legislative departments and the rules of the legislative body as well as joint rules for both the House and Senate. Additionally, the journal indexes provide a list of subjects addressed by bills during the session, and can be helpful to identify reports and other versions of a particular bill. Later journals may provide even more helpful appendices, such as a Yea/Nay Supplement that documents the votes taken by individual legislators on particular bills or resolutions. Starting in 1970, both the House and Senate Journals include a bill history addendum similar to those found in the Bulletin of Committee Work and the Legislative Record (where one can find bill histories from 1907 to 2000). These bill histories identify the dates when the bill was introduced, amended, or voted on in the House or Senate, as well as previous versions, reports, or scheduled hearings.

The third volume of the 1983 House and Senate Journals, as seen in DSpace,
includes an appendix, index, bill history list, an additional miscellaneous index,
a list of acts passed that year, and a Yea/Nay Supplement documenting the votes
that took place in the House that year.

When reviewing the Journals, the legal language used to describe the proceedings can sometimes be confusing for new legislative researchers. Please keep the following vocabulary and definitions in mind:

  • First reading: when a bill is introduced to the legislative body, given a number, and referred to the appropriate committee
  • Second reading: when a draft of a bill is reviewed by the legislative body and becomes open to amendment
  • Third reading: when a bill with all amendments is presented for consideration and passage to the legislative body
  • Engrossment: when a bill is proofread and verified in order to be certain that the bill before the legislative body is identical to the amended bill
  • Reported by committee: Phrase meaning that the committee made a decision favorably toward the bill but does not necessarily mean that there is a committee report available. These reports would be listed in the bill history with a separate bill number. You can also access several indices of special reports online here.

The House and Senate Journals are also available in print in our Reading Room.
Our print collection includes Journals of the House of Representatives from 1715-1779,
 published by the Massachusetts Historical Society privately.

As always, if you have any questions about the House and Senate Journals or the many other legislative resources available here at the State Library, our reference librarians are always ready to assist you.

Journals are available by year in DSpace’s Bills (Legislative Documents) and Journals collection:
Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Department

Monday, February 4, 2019