Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Vintage Souvenir View Books of Massachusetts

Before human beings could carry camera with them as they travelled, and definitely before those cameras became embedded in our phones, travelers collected view books to remember the places they visited. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s, these affordable books containing photographs and sketches of notable streets, views, and buildings in a town or city were popular souvenirs. 

Today, the souvenir view books in the State Library’s collection give us a great look into what Massachusetts and its regions, cities, and towns looked like at the turn of the century.

Sometimes these souvenirs covered more than a specific town or city. They could focus on a particular industry, subject, or regional attraction:

A view of North Adams, from Souvenir of the Mohawk Trail, 
Massachusetts (1900)

The State Library has been digitizing many of these view books and making them available in our catalog and our Flickr page. Take a look at the list below, or visit our Flickr page to browse these viewbooks as well as exhibits, photographs, atlases, and other digitized materials.

The Old Manse from the book Concord Sketches (1869)

Greenfield Illustrated (circa 1880’s)
Picturesque Salem (circa 1880-1890)
Views of Medford (circa 1888)

Springfield Illustrated (1882)

If your town is not listed here, don’t worry! We are finding new souvenirs all the time. Maybe someday soon we will find an old view book of your town! 

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, July 20, 2020

Official Massachusetts COVID-19 Publications Archived at the State Library

Although the State Library’s physical location may be closed temporarily, we librarians have been hard at work these past few months on various projects to serve your information needs. One significant ongoing project has been to catalog and archive the Commonwealth's official COVID-19 resources that are being published daily by state agencies.

As the legally designated depository library for Massachusetts state publications, our mission is to provide long-term access to state agency publications that are intended for public use. Recently, the Commonwealth has published a wealth of resources related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which we’ve been working diligently to archive in our online repository. Additionally, we’ve created a helpful webpage that organizes these resources by publication date.

Significant COVID-19 collections in our repository include:
… and many more.

So far, we have archived nearly 1700 COVID-19 publications, with more being added each weekday. Do you know of a publication we’re missing? If so, please send it to us via our online submission form or via email, and as long as the publication conforms to our collection policies, we will catalog and upload your submission to our online archive.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, July 13, 2020

Massachusetts District Maps

The “Gerry-Mander”: a famous political
cartoon by Elkanah Tisdale that was
originally published in the March 26, 1812
issue of the Boston Gazette.  The cartoon
illustrates Governor Elbridge Gerry’s
practice of unfair boundary manipulation
in Essex County’s state senatorial district.
The State Library holds within its collection several Massachusetts district maps, many of which are digitized and available online.  These maps are often requested by researchers who are interested in learning how Massachusetts congressional and state legislative (senatorial and representative) voting districts were divided at certain points in time.  Changes to district boundaries, also known as redistricting, must first pass through the legislature; they must also adhere to federal and state constitutional laws, which exist to prevent unfair manipulation of boundaries in order to create political advantages and election outcomes—a practice known as “gerrymandering.”

There are currently 27 maps and 2 booklets in the Library’s online collection, which span from 1842 to 2020.  If you are curious about proposed and/or approved boundary changes that are not represented in this collection, try keyword searching the Acts and Resolves or Legislative Documents for related laws, bills and reports.

Map of senatorial districts of Massachusetts, as established by the legislature
of 1886: with population and legal voters, according to census of 1885.
In addition, the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Elections Division website is where you can find the most current information regarding voting and other types of districts, such as the Governor’s Councillor, District Attorney, and Register of Deeds districts.  If you have any questions about maps or other items in the Library’s collections, send us a message via email at reference.department@mass.gov or call us at 617-727-2590.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, July 6, 2020

On (Virtual) Display in the State Library

This July our virtual display case features an 1891 photograph of the State House, part of our Special Collections holdings. The photograph depicts the building when it was adorned with bunting for a Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) reunion. The G.A.R. was a fraternal organization of Union veterans of the Civil War, with posts (or chapters) located throughout the country. 

If you look closely at the image you can see that in addition to bunting, there are also placards reading Fort Sumter / 1861 / 1865 / Appomattox. These two battles and accompanying dates represent the first and one of the last battles of the Civil War. In the years after the war, the G.A.R. functioned in large part as a means for Union veterans to gather with others who would understand the ongoing trauma of having served in the Civil War. The G.A.R. was also politically active, and listed among its causes advocating for soldier’s pensions, expanding voting rights for black veterans, and the establishment of “Decoration Day” on May 30 - which we know of today as Memorial Day. 

Since some veterans moved south and further west after the war, there were G.A.R. posts located throughout the country. Though some of the posts were segregated, a good number were integrated groups of both black and white veterans. In 1890, around the time of this photograph, membership numbers reached a high of 410,000. The G.A.R. held an annual national encampment, or reunion, each summer for veterans from various posts to meet together in one location. The encampments would often include related groups, such as the Women’s Relief Corp, and the Sons of Veterans. The multi-day event would include parades, “camp-fire” chats, excursions to local sites, and formal dinners. Similar to today’s conferences and conventions, the G.A.R. would produce badges, directories, and programs in conjunction with the encampment. Some of these publications can now be found in library and archival collections throughout the country, including some in the State Library, the Library of Congress, various state historical societies and libraries, and universities. A program for the 1890 Boston encampment is held at Harvard’s Widener Library and can be accessed through Google Books.

We’ll end with a note about the State House, which looks like a smaller version of itself in this photograph. That’s because it is missing its east and west wings! Those additions, designed by architects Sturgis, Bryant, Chapman & Andrews, were not completed until 1917. This photograph has a date written on the back, but in the event that it was undated, architectural features and neighborhood details can serve as a clue to help provide an approximate or circa date for photographs. Researching when the G.A.R. national encampment occurred in Boston would also help us to date this photograph. 

To take a closer look at this photograph, click on the above image or view it on DSpace. There is much more to read about the G.A.R. but if you’re looking for a book to start with, check out The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic by Barbara Gannon. 

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Thursday, July 2, 2020