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