Monday, December 28, 2020

From the State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, December 21, 2020

From the State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, December 14, 2020

Free Streaming Videos

Libraries offer such a wealth of free resources that sometimes even we librarians are surprised to learn about all of the amazing benefits provided by the simple library card. If you’re anything like me, you were delighted to learn in last week’s blog that one of the benefits of a State Library card is access to free streaming videos! This is especially welcome news now that so many of us are spending more time at home. As soon as I read about this option, I logged into my State Library account and was thrilled to see that there were over a thousand videos available to stream instantly, including movies and TV shows in a variety of genres: comedies, dramas, documentaries, children’s videos, and many more.

If you’re a permanent Massachusetts state employee, you too can stream free videos with your State Library account. Simply log in to the C/W MARS Overdrive site with your State Library card number (be sure to select “CW MARS Patrons” from the dropdown box upon login), and navigate to the “Videos” section in the “Collections” tab. Another option is to use the Overdrive app, which allows you to watch streaming videos on your Android, Chromebook, iOS, or Fire device. 

Some of the videos available for streaming

If you need help setting up your account or getting started with streaming videos, you can view Overdrive’s Help page or get in touch with us at the State Library Mon-Fri 9am-5pm via chat, phone (617-727-2590), or email (

It’s easy to sign up for a State Library card if you don’t already have one: just fill out our online form for state employees, and we’ll send you your new library account information so that you, too, can explore all of the free videos brought to you by your library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, December 7, 2020

State Employees: Sign Up For an “Electronic” State Library Card Today!

Even though the State Library’s physical location is closed, our librarians continue to work diligently to provide remote services to our patrons.  And as a reminder, state government employees can still sign up for a new library card or request a card renewal.  What can a library card do for you?  Many things!

  • Sign-in and manage your State Library patron account online.  Patrons can view books that have been checked out, as well as change their password (from the default password that we issue upon sign-up) and other personal information.
  • Borrow from thousands of ebooks, audiobooks, popular magazines, and even movies—for free!  Just use your library card and password to sign into your CW/MARS Overdrive account:
  • Access journal and newspaper databases provided by Ex Libris, including JSTOR, GALE Academic OneFile, the Boston Globe, and New York Times.  Choose a database by name or subject by visiting our serial solutions page.
  • Submit requests for books and journal articles via interlibrary loan.  Here’s how: 
    • Note: book lending has been suspended at this time.

An example of some of the thousands of ebooks
that are available to borrow.

Applying for or renewing a State Library card is easy!  All you have to do is fill out our online form here:  Once the form is processed, we will send you your library card information. 

If you have any questions about signing up for or renewing a library card, or if there’s anything else the library can do for you, contact us!  Our librarians are working Monday-Friday, 9AM-5PM and can best be reached via email ( or through our new chat service.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Friends of the Library Newsletter - December issue

Keep up with the State Library's activities and programs with the Friends Newsletter. To download your own copy visit:

Monday, November 30, 2020

On (Virtual) Display in the State Library

As Thanksgiving ends and we look towards the upcoming holiday season, it’s time to pick a new item for our virtual display! This December, we’re sharing Christmas Eve on Beacon Hill, a small twenty page booklet from our collection that dates to 1918.

Christmas Eve on Beacon Hill was written by Richard Bowland Kimball, a resident of the neighborhood, with drawings done by Maurice Day. Kimball, who was a new arrival to Beacon Hill, writes that he was unaware of Beacon Hill’s Christmas Eve celebrations when he first accepted an invitation from a friend to participate. He describes walking around the neighborhood and seeing “candles beyond counting in the windows. Delia Robbia Madonnas or painted medieval ecclesiastical carvings fastened to the old housewalls, green wreaths on the old white doors, Christmas trees behind the panes; and moving among the groups, church choirs, led by trumpeters, stopping and singing before the houses old carols.” Kimball was experiencing a popular Beacon Hill tradition that had begun almost a decade prior. 

Beacon Hill decorated with candles in the windows and carolers on the streets can be attributed to Elizabeth Cram, wife of architect Ralph Adams Cram. Circa 1907, Elizabeth urged her friends to place candles in their windows on Christmas Eve, and after being well received, the group formed the Chestnut Street Christmas Association. The association began formally organizing Christmas Eve candle and caroling festivities, and it proved to be so popular that people came from around the city to visit Beacon Hill. In the coming years, the tradition of lighting candles even spread elsewhere in the city as well as to cities far and wide. As Kimball writes in 1918, “Last year Christmas Eve was celebrated with candles and carols as far west as San Francisco, as far north as Labrador.” As a fun Christmas addition, you can also click here to see a Cram family Christmas card designed by Ralph Adams Cram and held in Historic New England’s ephemera collection. 

As the preservation librarian, I should also note that this booklet could use a little repair work! Based on the digitized images, it looks like there is a fair amount of non-archival adhesive tape that was used for mending over the years. In the lab, we would try to remove that tape, mend the pages, and perhaps re-do the simple pamphlet stitch that was done as the binding. Some general cleaning would give it a nice fresh look, too! Though we’re not in the lab at the moment, I can flag this item for preservation attention once we’re back on-site, and maybe it will look good as new by the time the holiday season rolls around in 2021! 

We are featuring the cover of this booklet here on the blog, with its ornate font and a beautiful night time illustration looking up Chestnut Street to the golden dome of the State House. The image is flanked by taper candles, similar to the ones that would have been found in the windows of Beacon Hill homes. To see the full booklet, be sure to check it out on DSpace. Take a close look at all of the festive drawings of Beacon Hill windows adorned with wreaths and candles. And regardless of how or if you celebrate the holiday season, we wish everyone a happy and healthy December full of good cheer.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, November 23, 2020

December Author Talk: Nicholas Basbanes

Register Online

On Monday, December 7, enjoy a lively dialogue about the life and work of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) and his multi-talented second wife, Fanny Appleton Longfellow (1817-1861). Nicholas Basbanes, author of Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, will be joined by Diana Korzenik, compiler of the Appleton Family Archives, to discuss their respective views of this dynamic couple at various stages of their lives.

Cross of Snow, the result of more than twelve years of research, is the first major literary biography of Longfellow in more than fifty years. Since the biography’s release in June, reviewers have taken particular note of the modern feminist approach Basbanes has employed to give full biographical attention to Fanny, taking in her work as a brilliant artist, diarist, correspondent, and chronicler of her times.

Nicholas Basbanes is an award-winning investigative journalist and the author of ten critically acclaimed works of cultural history; his first book, A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction and was a New York Times Notable Book. His 2013 book On Paper: The Everything of Its Two Thousand Year History was one of three finalists for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction and was named a best book of the year by six national news organizations. Basbanes also writes the “Gently Mad” column for Fine Books & Collections magazine, lectures widely on book-related subjects, and is a frequent contributor to Humanities magazine and other publications.

This free virtual event is presented as a partnership between the American Inspiration author series by American Ancestors/NEHGS and the State Library of Massachusetts, produced by GBH Forum Network. To register, please visit: 

Be sure to check out the other upcoming author events hosted by our partner, American Ancestors/NEHGS:

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Good news from the State Library of Massachusetts!

In this year of the 400th anniversary of the arrival in 1620 of the Mayflower in the Wampanoag homeland, in what is now called the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Plimoth Patuxet Museums and the State Library of Massachusetts announce the publication of a groundbreaking new edition of William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation

For the last year or so we have worked with our colleagues at Plimoth Patuxet to take digital images of the original manuscript and transform them into a brand new publication: a full facsimile of a document that is almost 400 years old. 

The State Library has been the custodian of the Bradford Manuscript since its return from England in 1897. After then-Governor Roger Walcott placed the manuscript with the State Library, the original volume was on public display downstairs in our reading room for many years in a specially-designed secure display case. Since then our curatorial responsibilities have evolved significantly, so we now work very hard to make the work accessible to as many people as possible through digitization and facsimiles. You can see the entire volume on our website, and, when we re-open after the pandemic protocols have ended, you can visit us here in the State House to see many different published transcriptions and facsimiles. 

In 2012, we secured funding to have the manuscript conserved and digitized, using the expert services at NEDCC—the Northeast Document Conservation Center, in Andover, Massachusetts. The conservators there performed a careful evaluation of the volume, digitized it to document its condition, tested all paper and ink, and then dis-assembled it to repair damage the volume had suffered during its long lifetime. You can read about this process on the NEDCC website if you’re interested. After the volume’s pages were repaired, it was digitized again, and then sewn back into its original vellum binding, and placed in a handsome custom-designed box. We keep it stored securely, in an environment with consistent temperature and humidity, and rarely bring it out of those conditions.

The digital images from NEDCC allowed us to put the entire volume in our digital repository, DSpace, so anyone with a computer and internet access can see it in great detail by starting at the home page of the State Library web site. We also had those images printed and bound, in a few copies for people to see in the State Library, and one of those copies is on display in our reading room.

But we wanted to do more to make the volume more accessible to more people. So last year we started working in earnest with our colleagues at Plimoth Patuxet to design a brand-new facsimile that could be printed and sold at a reasonable cost. We wanted people to be able to read Bradford’s own words, in his own handwriting, so they can see the actual words of one of the primary players in the Pilgrim story. 

The book, available exclusively through Plimoth Patuxet’s gift shops and at, will be launched November 19, 2020 at 7:00 p.m., via a special online event hosted live by Plimoth Patuxet and featuring comments by bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick. The event is free, but registration is required at

Books will be available for purchase on November 19; however, those wishing to be notified of its availability are welcome to sign up at the link here:

Monday, November 16, 2020

Resources Documenting the Development of Transportation Systems in Massachusetts

Image from the Massachusetts Department
of Transportation-Highway Division
Provincetown to Boston, station no. 248, Sandwich.
The State Library of Massachusetts has a robust online resource documenting the development of transportation systems in Massachusetts during the 19th and 20th centuries. This site brings together information on canals, railroads, and highways and provides easy access to digitized state documents and other materials in its collection, such as maps, manuscripts, photographs, annual reports, and hearings. 

Researchers interested in accessing the site and documents can do it through this link:

Image from the Hoosac Tunnel Photographs
Hoosac Tunnel : view of machine shop--east end
This project was supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

Silvia Mejia
Special Collections Librarian

Monday, November 9, 2020

Massachusetts, a Pioneer in the “Good Neighbor” Policy

The State Library of Massachusetts has enjoyed a rich and colorful history since its origins, which date all the way back to 1811.  One of the Library’s most important early functions was exchanging statutes with other states; from there it evolved into a comprehensive research library with one of the largest collections of national and foreign government documents in the country.  In fact, as a participating member of state library interchange agreements, these collections were instrumental in helping other libraries in the United States and around the world—especially those affected by war and disasters—rebuild their own collections.  Before the Internet, the best and quickest way to access any type of library material was by having a physical copy onsite.  Loss of collections could be devastating to a library, its patrons, and its surrounding community.

The State Library’s Reading Room in 1912.

A Boston Globe article, published in 1956, states that “Massachusetts was a pioneer in the practical ‘good neighbor’ policy.  Many State libraries or their equivalent which suffered in the Civil War were helped to rebuild by duplicates from Massachusetts.”  Here are some examples of libraries that the State Library has helped through the years:

  • The State Library of New York, which lost over 500,000 books and 300,000 manuscripts to a fire on March 29, 1911.
  • The Michigan State Library, which lost over 500,000 books and documents to water and falling debris after a 1951 fire.
  • The library at the University of the Philippines and the Legislative Library at Manila, which suffered damage and loss to their collections during wartime.
  • Duplicate publications in the State Library of Massachusetts, used to replace or complete library collections, have also been sent to the national libraries of Great Britain, Canada and Australia.

In recent decades the Library’s focus has narrowed on collecting Massachusetts-centric historical and government publications and making them available online in our digital repository whenever possible.  Because of greater electronic access, as well as related “good neighbor” services such as interlibrary loan, these types of requests are now rare.

Example of publications, documented in the Library’s 1880 annual report,
that were received from Canada as part of the State Library’s exchange program.

The State Library’s early annual reports provide lists of books and other materials received through exchange during a given year, as well as how many were sent out to other libraries.  You can view the Library’s annual reports from 1849-current by clicking the following link:

Article cited:
Bartlett, K. S. “State Preserves Key to Canadian History.” Daily Boston Globe, 5 April 1956, p. 18.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Friends of the Library Newsletter - November issue

Keep up with State Library news with the Friends of the State Library Newsletter. To download your own copy visit:

Monday, November 2, 2020

On (Virtual) Display in the State Library

In honor of Veteran’s Day, this month our virtual display case features four “Welcome Home Day” souvenir programs. Dating to 1919, the programs were printed in conjunction with the Welcome Home Day celebrations that occurred throughout the Commonwealth and the country as soldiers returned to their hometowns from service in World War I. The four programs in our collection are from Somerset, Falmouth, Longmeadow, and Barnstable.

It was spring of 1919 when soldiers began returning home after World War I ended in November of 1918. Large celebrations and parades were held as boats arrived in Boston and other port cities. When soldiers made their way back to their hometowns, Welcome Home Days were organized to honor the service of local sons and daughters. The day was a time for the community to come together to both celebrate the end of the war and soldiers’ return home, and to mourn and honor those that had not come home. Though there was some variation to how each town celebrated a Welcome Home Day, for the most part they included parades, speakers, songs, a presentation of medals, a community meal (sometimes a clambake), and activities like a ball game or tug of war. Some towns used this as an opportunity to unveil an honor roll in the town green, which was frequently also printed within the souvenir program, with a special indication or memorial for those residents who died in service. 

Various towns have uploaded historical images from their own Welcome Home Day celebrations to the Digital Commonwealth. The photographs show parade participants and spectators, buildings draped in patriotic bunting, and signs welcoming home soldiers. You can see these images by visiting the Digital Commonwealth and using “Welcome Home Day” as your keyword search term. 

Veterans Day is celebrated every November 11, and has its origin in World War I. It was originally known as Armistice Day, designated by President Woodrow Wilson on November 11, 1919 as a day to commemorate the formal end of World War I and the soldiers who gave their lives in the war. The federal holiday as we know it now, which has been expanded to honor all those who served in the armed forces, was established as Veterans Day in 1954 and is still celebrated on November 11. Many communities mark the day with a parade, not unlike the parades that were held as part of the Welcome Home Day celebrations.

The souvenir programs have been digitized in their entirety and can be found in DSpace: Somerset, Falmouth, Longmeadow, and Barnstable. Beyond the souvenir programs, the State Library also holds an extensive collection of photographs of World War I soldiers. The Boston Globe donated the collection in 1935, and it includes over 8,000 portrait photographs of soldiers primarily of the 101st Field Artillery, 101st Engineers, 102nd Field Artillery, and 104th Infantry of the 26th (Yankee) Division, in 1935. Also included are some biographical cards that provide basic information about each soldier’s assignment, rank, merit awards, and sometimes a few extra facts from newspaper clippings. The collection is fully digitized and can be searched in DSpace.

The soldier photographs and souvenir programs in the State Library’s holdings serve as an important genealogical and historical resource for the Great War, and also give us a more personal look at the individuals who served. This Veterans Day, commemorate the day by spending some time taking a close look at each in DSpace.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, October 26, 2020

November Virtual Author Talk: Nathaniel Philbrick

Register Online

  • Baxter Lecture with Nathaniel Philbrick: Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War
  • Thursday, November 12, 2020—6:00pm
  • Presented by the Boston Public Library, American Ancestors/New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), and the State Library of Massachusetts
  • Hosted on Zoom by GBH Forum Network

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower. In commemoration of this historic event, bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick will be giving an online talk about his award-winning book Mayflower. The State Library is delighted to partner once again with the Boston Public Library and American Ancestors/NEHGS to bring you this free event on November 12, as part of the BPL’s James Phinney Baxter Lecture Series.

How did America begin? That simple question launched the acclaimed author of In the Hurricane's Eye and Valiant Ambition on an extraordinary journey to understand the truth behind the origins of Plymouth colony and the voyage of the Mayflower. As Philbrick reveals in this electrifying history of the Pilgrims, the story of Plymouth Colony was a fifty-five year epic that began in peril and ended in war. New England erupted into a bloody conflict that nearly wiped out the English colonists and natives alike. These events shaped the existing communities and the country that would grow from them.

In addition to Mayflower, Nathaniel Philbrick is the author of several award-winning works of nonfiction, including the New York Times bestseller In the Heart of the Sea, winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction, as well as Sea of Glory, winner of the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prize and the Albion-Monroe Award from the National Maritime Historical Society. Mayflower was a finalist for both the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in History and the Los Angeles Times Book Award and was winner of the Massachusetts Book Award for nonfiction. His writing has also appeared in Vanity Fair, the New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe. He has appeared on the Today Show, the Morning Show, Dateline, PBS’s American Experience, CSPAN, and NPR. He earned a BA in English from Brown University and an MA in America Literature from Duke University, where he was a James B. Duke Fellow. He is the founding director of the Egan Maritime Institute and a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association.

This online event will be moderated by Ryan J. Woods, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of American Ancestors/NEHGS, and BPL President David Leonard will introduce the program. To register, please visit:

Be sure also to check out the other upcoming events hosted by our partners:

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, October 19, 2020

Cranberries: the Berry of Massachusetts

Did you know that the cranberry is the official berry of the commonwealth of Massachusetts? Just like apple picking, leaf peeping, or riding along a haunted hayride, the sight of those bright red cranberry bogs is an essential part of autumn in Massachusetts.

Cranberries are indigenous to the northern United States and were enjoyed by Native peoples in New England long before European colonists arrived. The Narragansett and Wampanoag called these berries sasemineash and used cranberries to make pemmican (sun-dried meat or fish cakes), nasampe (grits), or combined the berries with maple sugar to create a sweet sauce. In addition to being an important food source, cranberries were also used to dye fabric and also had medicinal properties good for blood poisoning and poultices.  

Cover of $5,000,000. of Cranberries: interesting
facts concerning the cultivation of cranberries
on Cape Cod (1930). Courtesy of SAILS Library Network.

Cranberries proved to be equally important to the British colonists’ diet when they arrived in 1620. Most historians believe that cranberries must have been part of the first Thanksgiving meal, though perhaps not in a form that might be recognizable to us in the modern day. However, we know for certain that both Native Americans and English colonists were making a version of modern-day cranberry sauce around this time thanks to English traveler John Josselyn. He mentioned cranberries in his 1671 work New England's Rarities, discovered in Birds, Beasts, Fishes, Serpents, and Plants of that Country, noting that the “Indians and English use them much, boyling them with Sugar for Sauce to eat with their Meat; and it is a delicate Sauce, especially for roasted mutton: Some make tarts with them as with Goose Berries.” This may be the first written reference to cranberry sauce! Despite this early reference however, it is difficult to find colonial recipes for New England staples like cranberry sauce. Author and blogger Peter Muise theorized that making cranberry sauce was so simple that it took 200 years for anyone to think about preserving a recipe for it: “I suppose it would have been like including a recipe for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

John Josselyn’s description of cranberries, or “bear berries,” from his 1671 book
New-England's rarities discovered in birds, beasts, fishes, serpents,
and plants of that country.
Courtesy of University of Michigan Library.

Throughout colonial Massachusetts, cranberries continued to be a food gathered rather than cultivated. However, in the early 1800’s a sea captain and Revolutionary War veteran named Henry Hall transplanted cranberry vines to his property in North Dennis, Massachusetts. There on Cape Cod, Hall found that cranberries did best when they received sandy soil from the nearby dunes, and soon he was producing enough cranberries to ship them to Boston and New York. In 1860, Reverend Benjamin Eastwood published a book on cranberry cultivation and the practice surged in popularity, with farmers growing cranberries as far away as Oregon and Washington State. 

“Caroline, Helen, and Gorham Pulsifer cranberry picking” circa 1917-1920.
Courtesy of the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth.

By the late 19th century, Plymouth and Barnstable Counties had thousands of acres dedicated to the cultivation of the cranberry. The American Cranberry Growers Association was formed in 1871, and the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association was established in 1888. The growing and harvesting of cranberries was so essential to the economy of southern Massachusetts that up until 1927 children could be excused from school to work the bogs during harvest time.

Traditionally, cranberries grew in wetlands, and today even the manmade cranberry beds are referred to as cranberry bogs. Contrary to popular belief, these bogs are actually dry for the majority of the growing season and only flooded at harvest time. When the bogs are flooded, the cranberries are dislodged and float to the top of the water, making it easy to collect them. The vast majority of cranberries are harvested in this way and then are processed to make dried fruit, sauce, and the official beverage of Massachusetts: cranberry juice. A small percentage of cranberry bogs are “dry harvested,” or picked by mechanical harvesters or by hand rather than being flooded. Dry harvested cranberries are usually sold as fresh fruit.

Postcard showing an early reference to the Ocean Spray
cooperative. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth.

While the contemporary cranberry industry in the United States now harvests over 40,000 acres of cranberries each year, many of the largest cranberry producers, researchers, and growers are still based in southern Massachusetts. In Carver you can find the not-for-profit Cranberry Institute, and in Wareham you can find the U.S. Cranberry Marketing Committee, for promotion of the American cranberry, as well as the UMass Cranberry Station, which focuses on outreach and research. A.D. Makepeace, also based in Wareham, is the world’s largest cranberry grower. In 1930, a group of cranberry growers, including A.D. Makepeace, formed the cranberry cooperative Ocean Spray in Hanson, Massachusetts. Today, Ocean Spray has over 700 members and is responsible for 70% of North American cranberry production. Based in Lakeville, you can view a live cam of their Lakeville cranberry bogs on their website.  

Vintage Ocean Spray canning label.
Courtesy of SAILS Library Network.

Cranberries have been and continue to be an important part of Massachusetts cuisine, agriculture, and business. To visit a Massachusetts cranberry bog or purchase local cranberries this fall, visit the Cape Cod Cranberry Grower’s Association’s website for more information.

For more information:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The State Library’s Guide on Researching Constitutional Amendments is Live!

The State Library’s new guide on researching Massachusetts constitutional amendments is now live!  The guide includes a brief introduction to the Massachusetts Constitution, common questions asked by researchers, and links to suggested resources where researchers can find the information they are seeking.  While it is not intended to be an exhaustive guide, it aims to point researchers toward important primary collections and secondary publications.

In addition, the Library has improved the look and content of the page: State Library Resources On Past and Current Massachusetts Political Figures.  It now includes links to even more collections and publications, and also shows some examples from these collections.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, October 5, 2020

On (Virtual) Display in the State Library

This October, we’re changing our virtual display case to feature a women’s suffrage pamphlet from the early 1900s. Titled “Why Women Should Vote” the pamphlet was published by the National American Woman Suffrage Association as part of the Political Equality Series. With Election Day only one month away, we thought this was a fitting time to share a suffrage publication! 

This pamphlet was written by Alice Stone Blackwell, a well-known suffragist, feminist, and journalist who spent much of her life in Massachusetts. Blackwell was the daughter of Lucy Stone, an abolitionist and one of the most prominent early advocates for women’s suffrage. Among her many accomplishments and activities, Lucy Stone was the editor of the Woman’s Journal, the periodical of the American Woman Suffrage Association. Alice Stone Blackwell followed in her mother’s footsteps by serving in that same role, and she was also instrumental in facilitating the reunification of two suffrage groups - the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association, which merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the organization that published the Political Equality Series

Pamphlets published in the Political Equality Series covered a variety of topics related to women’s suffrage, including “Suffrage for Women Wage Earners” and “Equal Suffrage in Australia,” which was essentially a case-study from a country where women already received the right to vote. When the pamphlet in our collection, “Why Women Should Vote,” was published in 1905, women were still over a decade away from obtaining the right to vote. But this pamphlet lists out sixteen reasons why women should vote alongside men, and gives an explanation for each of those reasons. A selection are included below: 

Because laws unjust to women would be amended more quickly           It cost Massachusetts women 55 years of effort to secure the law making mothers equal guardians of their children with the fathers. In Colorado, after women were enfranchised, the very next Legislature granted it. After more than half a  century of agitation by women for this reform, only 13 out of 45 States now give equal guardianship to mothers.

Because it would help those women who need help the most
Theodore Roosevelt recommended woman suffrage in his message to the New York Legislature. On being asked why, he is reported to have answered that many women have a very hard time, working women especially, and if the ballot would help them, even a little, he was willing to see it tried. Mrs. Maud. Nathan, president of the National Consumers' League, said in an address at the National Suffrage Convention in Washington, in February,. 1904: "My experience in investigating the condition of women wage-earners warrants the assertion that some of the evils from which they suffer would not exist if women had the ballot. In the state where women vote, there is far better enforcement of the laws which protect  working girls. 

Because woman's ballot would make it harder for notoriously bad candidates to be nominated or elected
In the equal suffrage states, both parties have to put up men of respectable character, or lose the women's vote.

Click on the image to see a closer look of page one of the pamphlet and read the full four-page pamphlet on DSpace.

2020 marks one hundred years since the passage of the 19th Amendment, which legally granted women the right to vote. However, some states had discriminatory voting laws in place that kept minority women from exercising their right even after the amendment passed. It is undeniable that the 19th Amendment was a huge accomplishment that was hard fought by many women’s organizations starting in the 1840s, but we must also remember that the struggle to vote continued after 1920. 

As you make your voting plan this November, be sure to visit the Massachusetts Elections Division website for answers to any questions you may have, as well as a number of other useful voting resources.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Friends of the Library Newsletter - October Edition

To download a copy of the newsletter visit our digital repository, DSpace

Monday, September 28, 2020

Halloween in Massachusetts

October is right around the corner, and many have already started putting up their spooky decorations in celebration of Halloween! However, Halloween was not always a major holiday, especially in New England.

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival Samhain. This festival celebrated the Celtic new year, which took place on November 1, and marked the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. For the Celts, this line, between the life-giving harvest and the cold of winter, marked a boundary between life and death itself. They believed that on October 31st, the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead were blurred and that the dead returned to earth at this time, causing ruckus like destroying crops. To avoid this mayhem, the Celts would build large sacred bonfires where they burned offerings to the Celtic gods. They would also wear costumes to distract or confuse the spirits trying to cause trouble. Celts also carved turnips with hideous faces to ward off evil spirits, a precursor of the modern Jack O’ Lantern.

Cover of The Item, a Dorchester High School
newspaper, featuring iconic harvest and
Halloween imagery (November 1920).
Courtesy of the Boston City Archives.

By the early 8th century, the Roman Empire had long since conquered the Celts and had converted to Christianity themselves. Pope Gregory III attempted to transform old pagan holidays into Christian holidays, and therefore declared November 1 to be All Saints Day, which is still celebrated by Catholics today. The day before All Saints Day was called All Hallows Eve, the eve of the holy day, and slowly became “Halloween.”

It is possible that some of the early European colonists in Plymouth or Massachusetts Bay Colony knew about Halloween, but they did not celebrate it. Certainly, they would not have celebrated a “pagan” holiday like Samhain and their schism with the Church of England would have discouraged them from celebrating All Saints Day. However, in southern American colonies like Maryland, some Halloween traditions were performed by Scotch Irish settlers, such as “guising” or wearing costumes on October 31st. 

The House of the Seven Gables in Salem,  Massachusetts

But the traditions of Samhaim were not completely lost. As European and Native American beliefs and customs began to mesh together, New England settlers began to celebrate the end of harvest just like the ancient Celts, with dancing, singing, telling stories of the dead, and perhaps (most likely secretly) telling their neighbors’ fortunes. Autumn festivals like these evolved into parties where costumes, pranks, and ghost stories were commonplace as early as the mid-1800’s. John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) remembered the “wild, ugly faces we carved” into pumpkins as a boy, “glaring out through the dark with a candle within!” in his poem “The Pumpkin.” Stories like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” during which a shattered pumpkin is found next to Ichabod Crane’s hat after his encounter with the headless Horseman, popularized not only the carving of pumpkins, but also the smashing of pumpkins by mischievous youths – all in the name of Halloween.

 As more and more Irish immigrants arrived in Massachusetts, the celebration of All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day became more widespread. The carved pumpkins of New England harvest festivals were merged with the Irish tradition of Jack O’ Lanterns, and Halloween became a popular community-centered holiday where neighbors would come together to have parties, dress in costumes, and make foods synonymous with Fall. Community leaders cautioned against vandalism and indulging in the frightening or gruesome parts of the holiday, which secularized Halloween and removed many of the superstitious and religious overtones of Samhaim or All Hallows Eve. Trick or treating, as the name suggests, may have also began around the 1920’s as a way to curb vandalism by promising children a treat of sweets in order to spare a “trick” later in the night.

A 1902 Dance card for Halloween dance,
Sarah (Sallie) M. Field, Abbot Academy. Courtesy of
Phillips Academy Andover Archives and Special Collections.

Today, Halloween is extremely popular, and Massachusetts history, architecture, and literature has had a tremendous impact on the modern imagery of American Halloween. New England writers from Washington Irving to Stephen King have created iconic horror characters, and historical events like the Salem Witch Trials are so synonymous with Halloween tradition that thousands of tourists visit Salem every year in October. Some theorists draw a direct line between the black cat image popular at Halloween and Pilgrims shunning witchcraft in the Plymouth Colony. 

Postcard circa 1919 courtesy of
Historic New England

Halloween 2020 may look a little different this year, but the people of Massachusetts will certainly find a way to celebrate one of their favorite holidays! For more about anything spooky in Massachusetts, check out our blog posts on graveyards and burial grounds, the rise of spiritualism, the Witches of Dogtown, and an entire exhibit on the Legends and Lore of Massachusetts.

Further Reading: 

Exhibit on Halloween by the Massachusetts Office of the Secretary of State:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, September 21, 2020

October Virtual Author Talk: David Michaelis


  • Eleanor by David Michaelis
  • Thursday, October 8, 2020—6:00pm on Crowdcast
  • Presented by American Ancestors/New England Historic Genealogical Society, the State Library of Massachusetts, and Porter Square Books

You’re invited to our next virtual author talk with David Michaelis, author of the biography Eleanor, a breakthrough portrait of America’s longest-serving First Lady, rich with family history. Join us at 6pm on Thursday, October 8, for this free event presented in partnership with American Ancestors/New England Historic Genealogical Society and Porter Square Books.

This cradle-to-grave biography—the first single-volume portrait in six decades—rediscovers Eleanor Roosevelt’s life of transformation, from her Gilded Age childhood as the orphaned niece of President Theodore Roosevelt; to an irreconcilable marriage with her ambitious fifth cousin Franklin, with whom she became a New York “power couple;” to her life-culminating role as world-circling activist, diplomat, and chief architect of international human rights.   

Drawing on new research, Michaelis’s riveting portrait is rich with insight into Eleanor’s emotional life and relationships, her struggles with motherhood, and role as her husband’s surrogate in which she transformed the career-ending storm of polio into the sunrise of the U.S. president who brought the nation out of the Depression and on to victory in World War II. Don’t miss learning more about this major American figure, a role model for heartfelt and effective political engagement.

David Michaelis is the bestselling author of Schulz and Peanuts and N.C. Wyeth, which won the Ambassador Book Award for Biography & Autobiography.

To register for this free virtual event, please visit: 

Be sure also to check out the other upcoming events hosted by our partners:

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, September 14, 2020

Exhibits at the State Library of Massachusetts

Did you know that you can access past library exhibits through the library’s Flickr page? The library exhibits cover an array of topics including education, wildlife, WWI soldiers, histories of the State House and the State Library, and many more. 

We invite you to browse these interesting and colorful exhibits online. Feel free to reach out to the library's Special Collections Department with any questions at

Special Collections Department
State Library of Massachusetts

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The State Library’s First Zoom Webinar—A Success!

On August 26th, from 2:00pm-3:00pm, the State Library’s Reference Department held its first ever Zoom webinar meeting to talk about collections available online through the Library that can help with legislative, regulatory, and government research.  Many government, law, and higher education libraries are still working remotely or are not yet providing onsite services to their patrons, so we thought it was important for this target audience to learn more about what resources are available through the State Library’s online repository, DSpace, as well as on our website.  

As it was our first online webinar hosted solely by Reference Department staff, we were unsure what the audience turnout would be.  We were surprised and excited to have a turnout that greatly exceeded our expectations!  (About 57 audience members!!!)  Thank you to everyone who joined us—we hope you found the webinar informative.  For those who were unable to join us, you’re in luck!  Both a recording of the webinar and the presentation slides are now available online:

Webinar recording (YouTube)
Presentation slides (downloads as a PDF)

The State Library also continues to provide remote services to patrons, so please feel free to reach out to us via chat, email (, or our online form.  We’re happy to answer any questions, help you find and navigate resources, and provide research assistance.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Monday, August 31, 2020

On (Virtual) Display in the State Library

A new month means that it is time for a new item in our virtual display case! This September we’re sharing one of the many bird’s-eye view maps that is found within our Special Collections holdings. Featuring a view from Boston all the way to Provincetown, this map highlights the ins and outs of Massachusetts’ southern coastline and the islands that fill its harbor. 

The map, titled “Bird’s eye view of Boston Harbor along the South Shore to Provincetown,” was published in 1920 by the Union News Co. in Boston and printed and engraved by the Federal Engraving and Publishing Co., also in Boston.  Bird’s-eye view maps rose to prominence in the mid-1800s, and as their name suggests, they depict towns and landscapes as if seen from above. Though they do show roads, boundary lines, and in this case, shipping routes, bird’s-eye views differ from more technical wayfinding maps because they also include some artistic details and distinguishable features of a location’s built environment. If you look closely at this map, you’ll see miniature representations of lighthouses and boats, and in the bottom center of the map you can even see the golden dome of the State House. Bird’s-eye view maps are also an important resource because they provide a glimpse into what a location looked like at a specific time in history, since they often depict local industries and factories and the size of various towns as they spread into the surrounding open space.  

The key at the bottom of this map provides helpful assistance with locating landmarks found within it. Many of the locations are picturesque sites that can still be visited today, like Fort Warren on George’s Island (10) and Race Point Light in Provincetown (23). But the map also depicts locations that were prominent enough in 1920 to be included but are no longer in existence, like the grand Pemberton Hotel (13) which was located at the very end of Nantasket Beach in Hull. The hotel was demolished in the 1950s, but an image of it that dates to the same year as this map can be found in the Boston Public Library’s Leon Abdalian Collection and accessed through the Digital Commonwealth. One other interesting item to note is the New Custom House (B). The tower of the Custom House is an iconic part of Boston’s skyline, but the structure as we know it today was relatively new to viewers in 1920. The 496 foot tower was added to the existing building on State Street between 1913 and 1915. This map is dated, but if it were undated, then the inclusion of “new” in front of Custom House could have helped to give it a circa 1915 date. 

These are just a few of the many intricate details in this map. To give it a close examination, check it out on DSpace. And while you’re in DSpace, be sure to peruse our large collection of digitized bird’s-eye view maps. Maybe you’ll find one from your own town! 

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, August 24, 2020

September Author Talk: Pam Fessler


You won’t want to miss our next virtual author talk, featuring NPR correspondent Pam Fessler! Join us at 6pm on Thursday, September 10, to hear this acclaimed broadcast journalist speak about her new book, Carville’s Cure: Leprosy, Stigma, and the Fight for Justice. This event is free and open to everyone and will be presented in partnership with American Ancestors/New England Historic Genealogical Society and the Boston Public Library.

Carville’s Cure explores the largely forgotten history of leprosy in the United States–its impact on patients and their families, doctors, and, particularly, the swampy bayou town of Carville, Louisiana, where a “leprosarium” was established in 1894. Carville evolved into a nexus for research and "treatment" that came at a huge personal cost to liberty as patients were stripped of their names, their rights, and their dignity. 

Understood today to be one of the least infectious diseases in the world, leprosy, now called Hansen’s disease, instilled a coronavirus-level of fear and an outsized reaction from public health authorities well into the 20th century. Carville’s Cure chronicles in riveting detail how America treated, contained, and demonized its sufferers before wiser heads prevailed.

Author Pam Fessler is an award-winning correspondent with NPR News, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues. For this author talk, she will be joined by guest moderator Dr. Laura Kolbe, a physician and a fellow in the Division of Medical Ethics at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

This free virtual event will be hosted on Zoom by WGBH Forum Network. To register, please visit: 

Be sure to check out the other upcoming author events hosted by our partners:

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, August 17, 2020

Online Tutorials and Guides from the State Library

While the State Library of Massachusetts may still be closed, the librarians are creating more and more online content to assist you in your legislative research!

Previously, we were able to assist you in person, providing more information on where to find different legislative documents, the different types of law and regulation in the commonwealth, and how to use our online and print materials to compile a legislative history. Now, we are hoping to provide the same assistance to you with our new tutorials series

The State Library’s Reference Department has been diligently creating video tutorials regarding different aspects of legislative research. So far, these videos include:

These videos will talk you through these different topics, while showing you where you can find these items online.

In addition to these videos, our website contains a wealth of information regarding legislative research and what we have in our collections, often with direct links to the documents you were looking for!

As we continue to serve our patrons virtually, please let us know if there are any video tutorials or guides that you would like to see!

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Team