Monday, April 29, 2019

May Author Talk: Lorenz J. Finison

Boston’s Twentieth-Century Bicycling Renaissance: Cultural Change on Two Wheels, by Lorenz J. Finison
Tuesday, May 14, 2019—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

Are you a Boston history buff or a cycling enthusiast (or both)? If so, then our next author talk is for you! Join us at the State Library at noon on Tuesday, May 14, for a presentation by historian and avid cyclist Lorenz J. Finison, author of the new book Boston’s Twentieth-Century Bicycling Renaissance: Cultural Change on Two Wheels.

Boston’s Twentieth-Century Bicycling Renaissance shares the stories of cycling hobbyists, racers, commuters, bike builders, and others who have participated in the resurgence of bicycling in Boston since the 1970s. The book delves into the difficulties of deciding where bikes belong in the Boston area: on the roads? Bikeways? The T? Among other topics, the book also explores the challenges faced by Boston-area African-American and women cyclists over the years.

Author Lorenz J. Finison is a public health consultant and bicycling historian who has taught at several area universities, including Harvard and Boston University. He is a founding member of Cycling Through History, a nonprofit organization that links cyclists with maps and information about African-American heritage and history in Massachusetts. Since 2015, he has helped to establish the Bicycling History Collection in the UMass Boston University Archives & Special Collections. In addition to this latest book, Dr. Finison is the author of the 2014 book Boston’s Cycling Craze, 1880-1900: A Story of Race, Sport, and Society.

Copies of both of Dr. Finison’s books will be available for purchase and signing at the conclusion of his talk. Boston’s Twentieth-Century Bicycling Renaissance will be available for $20 (cash or check), and Boston’s Cycling Craze, 1880-1900 will be available for $25.

We invite you to register in advance, and we look forward to seeing you on May 14 at the State Library!

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Upcoming Author Talks at the State Library:

Monday, April 22, 2019

When Does a Bill Go into Effect in MA?

According to the Legislative Research and Drafting Manual, in Massachusetts a bill has the “force of law” when “(1) the Governor signs it, (2) when the Governor lets a bill become law by taking no action on the bill for 10 days after it is ‘laid before the Governor,’ (3) when both houses of the Legislature, each by a two-thirds roll call vote, pass the bill over the Governor’s veto, or (4) if an initiative petition is successful.”

When a bill becomes a law, it doesn’t usually go into effect right away.  It’s important to first look at the language of the bill, which will help determine what kind of law it is and when it will take effect in Massachusetts.  Here are some rules to keep in mind:

90 Days:
General legislation of a permanent nature, without an emergency preamble, becomes effective 90 days after being signed by the governor, which includes weekends and holidays.  The delay gives voters time to start the referendum petition process if voters want to repeal the law.

30 Days:
Acts that are not subject to a referendum typically take effect after 30 days, unless otherwise stated in the text of the law.  Special acts often fall under this category.

Laws that are not subject to a referendum include laws about: religious matters; the appointment, tenure, and removal of judges; the powers of the courts; if the law is restricted to a specific city or town; or appropriation acts.

Some acts are declared “emergency laws” and have emergency preambles that state that the passage of the law is “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience [or health, or safety];” both the House and Senate must first approve emergency preambles.  Emergency laws go into effect immediately, even if they are subject to a referendum process.

Similarly, the governor can also file an emergency letter with the secretary of the commonwealth’s office to have a law become effective immediately, even if it is subject to a referendum.

Resolves take effect immediately unless the text of the resolve states otherwise.

Some acts have specific provisions regarding effective dates, which can usually be found in the last section of the act.  It’s also important to note that an act can also be made up of sections that have different effective dates.

Legislative Research and Drafting Manual (downloads as pdf)

Handbook of Legal Research in Massachusetts by Mary Ann Neary et al.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

ArtWeek Event at the State Library of Massachusetts

Sample pin cushion postcards made from facsimiles of
postcards in the State Library of Massachusetts collections.

The State Library will participate again this year in ArtWeek, a state-wide festival that runs from April 26 to May 5, 2019, and that features hundreds of unique and creative experiences that are hands-on, interactive, or offer behind-the-scenes access to artists or the creative process.

Example of an historic pin
cushion postcard.
Our event will take place on Thursday, May 2: A PIN CUSHION POSTCARD WORKSHOP.

After a brief introduction to the history of pin cushion postcards (a type of novelty postcard popular in the early 1900s) and a viewing of the State Library’s vintage Massachusetts State House postcards, participants will use facsimiles of the vintage postcards to create their own State House pin cushion postcards to take home. This is a hands-on creative exercise that promises to be both fun and informative!

There is no charge, and all supplies will be provided. Seats are limited, so registration is required:

Thursday, May 2, 2019 – 3 to 4:30pm
State Library of Massachusetts, Special Collections Department
Massachusetts State House, Room 55
24 Beacon Street / Boston, MA 02133

Questions? Please contact the Special Collections Department:

Monday, April 8, 2019

Colonial Laws and Blue Laws

Massachusetts government officials have been passing laws since the seventeenth century, and all of them are documented in the holdings of the State Library. The Library’s collections include both original printings of the laws themselves, and compilations printed later, with annotations. For example, The First Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, published in 1981, is a facsimile reprint of The perpetual laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, published in 1788-1789. These volumes include laws that concern many of the same topics we talk about today: a law where there is a penalty of thirty pounds if one destroys a white pine tree of certain dimensions, and another law against gaming for money or property with a penalty for “playing at cards, dice or billiards;” and one can be put to death by participating in a duel even if it did not result in death.

Another book called: Massachusetts Province Laws 1692-1699 (1978) quotes from the charter: “The Charter Granted by their Majesties King William and Queen Mary, to the inhabitants of the Province of The Massachusetts-Bay in New England” from 1699. There are laws against Atheism and Blasphemy.  The titles of these laws are written in a script that mimics typefaces used in the 1600s, with a long “S” looks like an “F”.

The expression “blue laws” has caused confusion over the years.  Some people thinks this means they were printed on blue paper, but an article in Boston Magazine says that this has been discounted and that the expression most likely means that they were laws done by a “bluenose,” or morally rigid person.  They also mention that nowadays it mostly refers to laws that restrict activities on Sundays. This included “drinking, but also card games, cussing, and just about any activity…especially ones that could affect church attendance on Sunday. The earliest known reference to these strictures as “blue laws” comes from a Connecticut history written in 1781 by the Reverend Samuel Peters.” The State Library has a letter edition of Peters’ work.  Some sources claim that Reverend Peters book has exaggerations or false claims about blue laws.

In March 1983 Governor Edward King signed a law allowing stores to be open on Sundays and Governor Mitt Romney signed a law in November 2003 allowing liquor sales on Sundays, Chapter 141 section 31 of the acts of 1983.

For More reading about this topic see these sources:

Blue Laws

Colonial Laws

Naomi Allen
Reference Staff

Monday, April 1, 2019

Poets of the Commonwealth

April is National Poetry Month, a monthly observation that cannot go unnoticed here in Massachusetts. Since the founding of the American colonies, poetry has remained a crucial part of the state’s already impressive literary legacy. Read on for a sampling of Massachusetts poets throughout history, and share with us your favorite poets both past and present from our commonwealth!

Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) was the first poet to be published in the American colonies. She and her family arrived in what would become Boston on the Arabella in 1630. Both her father, Thomas Dudley, and her husband, Simon Bradstreet, would serve as governors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but she would make a name for herself with her poetry, which was first published in 1650 in a collection entitled The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America. The collection was supposedly published both in North America and England without her knowledge, though it’s possible that Bradstreet simply downplayed her publication ambitions to which ameliorated the criticism regarding whether or not women could or should write. Another edition of her poems was published posthumously in 1678. Her most famous poems include the epic “The Four Monarchies,” “"Upon the Burning of Our House July 10th, 1666” in which she laments the loss of her library, and the intimate “To My Dear and Loving Husband.”

Phillis Wheatley (c.1752-1784) was the first published African-American female poet. Born in West Africa, she was sold into slavery and eventually was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston. The Wheatley family taught her not only to read and write in English, but also Greek and Latin, and later supported her literary ability. However, many doubted that her work was her own, and she was even interviewed by 18 Boston gentlemen, including John Hancock and Thomas Hutchinson, who signed an attestation clause verifying that she wrote her poems herself. Her Poems on Various subjects, Religious and Moral was published in 1773, and her most famous poems include "On Being Brought from Africa to America,” “To His Excellency General Washington,” and “To S. M. a young African Painter, on seeing his Works” dedicated to Scipio Moorhead, an enslaved African-American artist in Boston.

Title page of Poems on Various subjects,
Religious and Moral
by Phillis Wheatley.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was the leader of the transcendentalist movement in the 1800’s and a poet, essayist, and philosopher. While his philosophical essays are better remembered than his poetry, he influenced many poets in his day, including Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, William Ellery Channing, and Ellen Sturgis Hooper. He also published an anthology of poetry called Parnassus in 1874, featuring both male and female authors. His famous poems include “Threnody” regarding his grief after the passing of his son, and “Concord Hymn,” written for the 1837 dedication of the Battle of Concord monument.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) remains a mysterious figure in the Massachusetts literary world. While a prolific poet, hardly any of her poems were published during her lifetime. She lived much of her life as a recluse, and only after her death were her poems discovered by her sister, Lavinia. The first collection of her poetry to be published appeared in 1890 under the simple name Poems. Despite being unknown during her life, she is now one of the most popular and famous of the commonwealth’s legendary poets.

Robert Frost (1874-1963) lived throughout New England during his lifetime. He would live at various times in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, for which he served as the state’s poet laureate. His poetry often used rural New England life to illustrate his social and philosophical themes and was nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature many times. His legacy includes the Robert Frost Trail near Amherst and the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College, where he taught from 1916 to 1938. His famous poems include “Fire and Ice,” “The Road Not Taken,” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

Chapter 359 of the Acts and Resolves of 1998, which created
an annual Robert Frost Day on the fourth Saturday of October.l

e e cummings (1894-1962) was a poet, novelist, and playwright best known for modernist, free-form poetry. His distinctive style was influenced by art forms like Dada and Surrealism, and his first collection of poems, Tulips and Chimneys, was published in 1923. Later in life he returned to Harvard University as a guest professor and his lectures were later collected as i: six nonlectures. His most famous poems include “i carry your heart with me,” “in Just-“, and “anyone lived in a pretty how town.”

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) was a poet and short-story writer born in Worcester. She travelled often, particularly to Brazil, where she lived for 15 years. She avoided personal and confessional themes in her poetry and labels such as “female poet” or “lesbian poet” as she wanted to be considered based on the quality of her writing, not on her gender or sexual orientation. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1956 for Poetry for Poems: North & South - A Cold Spring. Her most famous poems include “First Death in Nova Scotia,” “In the Waiting Room,” and “The Fish.”

Want to learn more about poetry both historical and contemporary in Massachusetts? Check out Mass Poetry (

Alexandra Bernson