Monday, December 20, 2021

Monday, December 13, 2021

Author Talk Archive

As 2021 winds down, we’re looking back at all of the author talks that we were thrilled to present this year along with our local partners, including such institutions as the Boston Public Library, American Ancestors/New England Historic Genealogical Society, and the Museum of African American History. If you missed any of the talks, you can find recordings on our website. Here you'll also find links to our previous author talk blog posts, which provide additional information about each featured book and author.

Our video archive includes author talks dating back to 2020, so we hope you enjoy revisiting, or seeing for the first time, our collection of varied and diverse topics. And maybe one of the featured books will make a good holiday gift for someone on your list!

Author Talks Committee and the Friends of the State Library
State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, December 6, 2021

Hunnewell and Gay Collections at the State Library

Bookplate for the Hunnewell collection
The State Library may be known more for its law and legislative collections but two significant donations given in the past have enriched our collections in two very different, yet significant ways yet still both remain connected to the Library’s mission: supporting the research and information needs of government, libraries, and people through innovative services and access to a comprehensive repository of state documents and other historical items.

First, the collection of James Frothingham Hunnewell of Charlestown, Massachusetts was a major New England historian, antiquarian, and collector of rare books on his native town and state. Educated in Charlestown, he joined his father in his foreign merchant business, engaging in extensive travel overseas. Once retired, he became a member of the Bostonian Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the American Antiquarian Society, and the New England Historic Genealogical Society. As a collector, he was one of the founders of The Club of Odd Volumes. In his hometown community of Charlestown where his father’s family had lived since 1698 he served on many local boards and committees, including the Charlestown School Board, the Trustees of the Charlestown Public Library, and the Bunker Hill Monument Association. He lived in “Hunnewell House” on Green Street in Charlestown where he kept his library of Charlestown books and wrote his historical works.

His collection of books and pamphlets relating to Charlestown and Bunker Hill were bequeathed in his will to “the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to be kept together in, or in connection with the Library of said state [as he believed it was] a very unusual collection of printed matter relating to one of the oldest towns in the state and to its people. In time it will be almost impossible to make a like collection, and [he thought] this collection … an interesting and valuable illustration on such a subject.” 

The State Library’s 1914 Annual Report calls the Hunnewell collection “the most significant gift of the year … a collection of books and pamphlets relating to Charlestown and Bunker Hill, bequeathed to the library by the late James F. Hunnewell and accepted by vote of the trustees on April 14, 1914. At the present time 1,440 items, comprising the major part of the collection, have been turned over to the keeping of the library. In a broad sense the collection represents the literature of Charlestown. It is made up of works by founders of the town whose residence in it was not long, printed works and memorials of inhabitants, works relating to Charlestown both as town and city, including addresses and sermons delivered in it, and finally the history and literature of Bunker Hill. The collection is a notable one, and enriches the library’s accumulation of Massachusetts and New England historical material.”

Most of the volumes from the Hunnewell collection have a bookplate that was affixed by Mr. Hunnewell to the items in his personal library. In the State Library’s online catalog and on call number labels, the volumes have a prefix of “Hunnewell” to identify them as part of the Hunnewell gift bequest within the whole of the library’s collections.

Gay collection bookplate
Frederick Lewis Gay (Oct. 28, 1856-Mar. 3, 1916) of Brookline, Massachusetts was a noted antiquarian, historian, and genealogist. He graduated from Boston Latin School and attended Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, receiving his degree from the college in 1903. He was a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.  He researched and wrote about genealogy and the history of greater Boston and New England and was a collector of books, newspapers, and English Civil War materials.

A portion of his personal library was donated to the State Library in 1923 and was noted in the 1924 Annual Report of the State Librarian as “among the important gifts of the year we received some 2,000 volumes from the library of the late Frederick Gay consisting of local history, collections of Massachusetts Historical Proceedings, Dedham Historical Proceedings, Essex Institute, American Antiquarian Society Proceedings, and other important volumes.”  

Many of the volumes from the Gay Collection have a bookplate affixed by the State Library to distinguish them in the collection.  In the online catalog and on call number labels, the volumes have a prefix of “Gay Coll.” to identify them as part of the Gay gift collection within the whole of the library’s collections.

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Friends of the Library Newsletter – December issue

Pictured here is a preview of our December newsletter, to access the full version click this link:

Monday, November 29, 2021

On Display in the State Library

This month, our featured collection item is a fun map found in our Special Collections holdings. A Pictorial Map of the New England States, U.S.A. is by renowned cartographer Ernest Dudley Chase and dates to 1939. It shows, in great detail, the six states that comprise New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont.

If you were looking for a topographical map of New England, or a map that would show you how to get from point A to point B, you may want to look elsewhere. But this map is an excellent example of an illustrated map, which takes a more artistic, and less technical approach to cartography. Towns and cities are identified within each state and are accompanied by a drawing of an important building or landmark associated with that location. New England’s many lighthouses dot the coastline and various sailing vessels are found in the Atlantic. A fun aspect of this map is that sprinkled throughout it are illustrations of activities that can be enjoyed in that area; take a close look to see drawings of ice fishing at Sebago Lake in Maine, sunbathing at Falmouth on Cape Cod, and skiing in Gorham, Vermont. These are just a few examples, what other drawings do you spot within the map? Additionally, along the outer edges of the map are slightly larger drawings of important buildings with a title identifying their name and location, and found on the perimeter of the map, distinguishable by oval frames, are drawings of each state’s capital building - including our very own State House. 

Detail image of Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Ernest Dudley Chase was a prolific illustrator and cartographer from the early to mid-1900s. The State Library holds several of his maps in our collection, and we hope to have them all available digitally in the future, but for now a full list of our Chase holdings can be found here. As you can see, his maps were not limited to New England, but include world maps, other locations within the United States, European countries, and themed maps. 

For a high-resolution version of this New England map, please click here to explore the copy in Harvard’s map collection. There is a lot of detail to be found on this map, each time you look at it you can find something new! Zoom in on this digital version to see all of the intricate drawings - buildings, activities, landmarks - that make New England such a special place to live or visit.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, November 22, 2021

Connect with the State Library!

We are excited to announce that we have launched a new mailing list feature. By subscribing to our mailing list, you’ll receive occasional updates, news, announcements, and our monthly newsletter straight
from our library to your inbox. 

Signing up is easy! Head to this link and fill in your name and email address. 

And while you’re online, consider joining the Friends of the State Library. As a Friend, you will have the satisfaction of knowing your efforts and financial support are going towards bettering our library through purchasing new equipment, enhancing our print or electronic collections, or helping fund a new preservation project to protect and preserve Massachusetts history for generations to come. Find more information and our online membership form on our website.

Thank you for connecting with the State Library!

Monday, November 15, 2021

Redistricting in Massachusetts 2021

The Massachusetts legislature’s Special Joint Committee on Redistricting has released maps detailing proposed changes to the state’s House, Senate, Congressional, and Governor’s Council voting districts. These changes reflect the most recent 2020 federal census data for Massachusetts and is required every 10 years by the U.S. Constitution. Many of the Joint Committee’s proposed changes for this year’s redistricting efforts aim to improve minority representation in certain parts of the state. 

Some of the proposed changes and anticipated outcomes include:

Senate districts

  • Lawrence and a section of downtown Haverhill will move from the Second Essex and Middlesex Senate District to a new 19th District. Methuen and parts of Haverhill that are currently in the First Essex Senate District will move to this new 19th District. These changes aim to create a majority-minority district.
  • Sections of Haverhill, Amesbury and Merrimac will move to the Second Essex and Middlesex Senate District.
  • Topsfield will move from the Second Essex Senate District to the First Essex and Middlesex Senate District.
  • Newburyport will move from the First Essex Senate District to the First Essex and Middlesex Senate District.

House districts

  • Existing House districts will be reconfigured to create 33 new majority-minority opportunity districts where less than 50% of the population is non-Hispanic white residents. Of these new districts, 10 will be majority-minority districts where over 50% of the voting population are either Black or Hispanic.
  • The 16th and 17th Essex House districts will be reconfigured so that three majority-minority districts can be created in the Lawrence and Methuen area.
  • The 4th Essex House District will be reconfigured to create a majority-minority district.

Congressional districts

  • Fall River, currently split between the 4th and 9th Congressional districts, will instead be moved to the 4th Congressional District in its entirety.
  • Chesterfield and Heath will move to the 2nd Congressional District.
  • Parts of southern Worcester County will move from the 2nd to the 1st Congressional District.
  • The 7th Congressional District will see an increase in the percentage of people of color living in the district: from roughly 57% to 61.3%.

Important contemporary and historical resources on redistricting:

Proposed changes for 2021:
Current districts as of 2011:
Archived public hearings:
Historical Massachusetts district maps: 

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, November 8, 2021

November 22nd Virtual Author Talk: Barry Van Dusen

Please join us on November 22nd for a virtual author talk with artist and author Barry Van Dusen, whose new book, Finding Sanctuary: An Artist Explores the Nature of Mass Audubon, was recently recognized by the Massachusetts Center for the Book as one of the Commonwealth's must-read books of the year. This free online event is presented in partnership with the Tewksbury Public Library along with other public libraries across the Commonwealth.

Van Dusen’s statewide residency with Mass Audubon is featured in his new full-color book, Finding Sanctuary, which includes more than 250 watercolors and sketch studies, along with commentaries and essays by the artist. Over the course of four and a half years, Van Dusen visited all 61 of Mass Audubon’s public wildlife sanctuaries, nature centers, and museums, producing drawings and paintings at each location. Follow his travels and share in his adventures—from the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket to the mountain peaks of the Berkshires. Learn about hatching turtles on Cape Cod, rare orchids in the Connecticut River Valley, and a bear encounter in a western Massachusetts forest. Birders, naturalists, conservationists, gardeners, artists, art appreciators, and all outdoor folks will enjoy this presentation.

Barry Van Dusen is an internationally recognized wildlife artist living in central Massachusetts. His articles and paintings have been featured in Bird Watcher's Digest, Birding, and Yankee magazines, and he has illustrated a variety of natural history books and pocket guides in association with the Massachusetts Audubon Society. In 1994 Barry was elected a full member of London's Society of Wildlife Artists. His work has been exhibited regularly in the prestigious Birds in Art Exhibition (Wausau, Wisconsin) as well as in many galleries in the United States and Europe. At the invitation of the Artists for Nature Foundation, Barry has travelled to Spain, Ireland, England, Israel, India and Peru, working alongside other wildlife artists to raise money for conservation of threatened habitats. Learn more about Van Dusen here.

You may register for this free virtual event here, and also be sure to check out other upcoming events hosted by our partner! 

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Friends of the Library Newsletter – November issue

Our Friends of the Library Newsletter has a new look! In it, you’ll find everything that you love from past issues of our newsletter, but we’re happy to be able to provide expanded content and more features in our new format.  

A preview is pictured here, but the full version can be viewed at this link. If you'd like to receive the newsletter straight to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our mailing list.

Thanks for reading and reach out to us: with any questions!

Monday, November 1, 2021

On (Virtual) Display at the State Library

We might be biased, but we think one of the prettiest views in Boston is looking up from the Common to the State House. So this month, we’re sharing a lithograph of just that view in our virtual display case. Boston Common was drawn by James Kidder and published by Abel Bowen in Boston in 1829. It shows the State House and its neighbors atop Beacon Hill, with a swath of the Common in the foreground. Adults and children are shown strolling paths, cows graze on the grass, and young trees are shown in growing supports, all of which combine to create a bucolic scene in the middle of downtown Boston. 

A noticeable feature in this lithograph is that the State House is a much smaller building than its current size. This image shows the original building as designed by Charles Bulfinch and completed in 1798. A large addition, designed by Charles Brigham, was added to the back of the State House between 1885 and 1889, and the east and west wings, designed by architects Sturgis, Bryant, Chapman & Andrews, were added between 1914 and 1917. Though not visible from this exterior image, the State Library itself, which was established in 1826, would have been found within the walls of this 1829 State House, but not in the same location it occupies today. Visit the Flickr album from our past exhibit on the history of the State Library to learn more about the library’s location at its 1826 founding, its expansion and move in 1856, and the move to its current location in 1895. Just as the State House has grown over the years, so has the State Library!

While the State House dominates the view in this lithograph, there are a few other buildings of note visible. If you are facing the State House from the Common, as this view shows, the building that is visible to its right is the Amory-Ticknor House, located at 9-10 Park Street and 22-22A Beacon Street.  This is a Federal style mansion designed by Charles Bulfinch and built in 1804. Soon after its construction, however, the building’s owner Thomas Amory sold it and it was enlarged and divided into multiple dwellings (which is why it has door fronts on both Park and Beacon Streets). The rest of the building’s name comes from a later owner, scholar George Ticknor, who resided in the building at the same time that this lithograph was published. He lived in the building until 1871, followed by his daughter, Anna Eliot Ticknor, who lived in the building until 1884. After that, the building was used for retail rather than dwellings and has housed restaurants, coffee shops, and stores ever since. Over the years, the Amory-Ticknor house has seen some alterations, most noticeably, the addition of oriel windows on the upper levels, but the house still stands today. 

And to the left of the State House is another important building, but unfortunately, one that has not survived to the present day. The Hancock Manor was located at 30 Beacon Street, in fact, not far from where our Special Collections Department is located today. It was built in the 1730s for the merchant Thomas Hancock and his wife Lydia, who were John Hancock’s aunt and uncle. The stately mansion sat among outbuildings, gardens, orchards, and pastures - much different from the Beacon Hill that we know of today. John Hancock lived in the house after the death of his aunt and uncle, and it was after his death in 1795 that some of the pasture land was purchased by the Commonwealth to be used as the site of the future State House. For a number of years afterward, the State House and the Hancock Manor were neighbors until the mansion was demolished in 1863. Before it was torn down, relics and souvenirs were retrieved from the house, so even though it doesn’t live on in its entirety, pieces of the mansion can still be found in historical collections throughout Massachusetts and beyond.  

To take a closer look at the State House and its neighbors, click on the image above. And the next time you visit Boston Common, imagine what it looked like in 1829! 

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, October 25, 2021

November 4th Virtual Author Talk: Anne Willan

Join us virtually on November 4th for a daytime online conversation with culinary historian Anne Willan on her latest book, Women in the Kitchen: Twelve Essential Cookbook Writers Who Defined the Way We Eat, from 1661 to Today. Willan will be joined in conversation by award-winning food writer Sheryl Julian. Presented in partnership with American Ancestors/NEHGS, this virtual event is free and open to all.

Anne Willan, multi-award-winning culinary historian, cookbook writer, cooking teacher, and founder of La Varenne Cooking School in Paris, explores the lives and work of women cookbook authors such as Fannie Farmer, Julia Child, and Alice Waters, whose important books have defined cooking over the past three hundred years. Beginning with the first published cookbook by Hannah Woolley in 1661, Women in the Kitchen moves through history to show how female cookbook authors have shaped American cooking today. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about the key historical contributions and recipes of these influential cooks and chefs.

Anne Willan founded La Varenne Cooking School in Paris in 1975 and has written more than thirty books, including the double James Beard Award-winning The Country Cooking of France, the Gourmand Award-winning The Cookbook Library, and the groundbreaking La Varenne Pratique, as well as the Look & Cook series, showcased on PBS. In 2013 she was inducted into the James Beard Foundation Awards Hall of Fame. Willan serves as an Emeritus Advisor for The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts.

Sheryl Julian was the longtime award-winning Food Editor of The Boston Globe. She trained at the Cordon Bleu schools in London and Paris, was deputy director of La Varenne cooking school in Paris, is co-author of The Way We Cook and editor of The New Boston Globe Cookbook. She runs food styling workshops in the Boston area, writes regularly for The Boston Globe, and teaches food writing in the Gastronomy master's program at Boston University.

To register for this free virtual event, please visit the following link: 

And be sure to check out other upcoming events hosted by our partner! 

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, October 18, 2021

October 27th Virtual Author Talk: Reece Jones

Join us in partnership with the Boston Public Library and the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library (LMEC) for an online talk with Reece Jones, author of White Borders: The History of Race and Immigration in the United States from Chinese Exclusion to the Border Wall. Jones will be in conversation with Garrett Dash Nelson, President & Head Curator, LMEC.

With his newest book, White Borders, Reece Jones reveals that although the United States is often mythologized as a nation of immigrants, it has a long history of immigration restrictions that are rooted in the racist fear of the “great replacement” of whites with non-white immigrants. Connecting past to present, Jones uncovers the link between the Chinese Exclusion laws of the 1880s, the “Keep America American” nativism of the 1920s, and the “Build the Wall” chants initiated by former president Trump in 2016. Through gripping stories and in-depth analysis, Jones exposes the lasting impacts of white supremacist ideas on United States law.

Reece Jones is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow and a professor in and the chair of the Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Hawai‘i. He has researched immigration for over twenty years and is the author of Border Walls: Security and the War on Terror in the United States, India, and Israel and Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move, as well as over two dozen journal articles and four edited books. He is editor in chief of the journal Geopolitics and lives in Honolulu with his family. Connect with him on Twitter at @ReeceJonesUH.

To register for this free online event, please visit the following link: 

To purchase this book from Trident Booksellers & Café, please visit the following link and use the code BPLSHIP for free media mail delivery!

And be sure to check out other upcoming events hosted by our partners! 

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

October 19th Virtual Author Talk: Mae Ngai

We invite you to join us on Tuesday, October 19, for an online conversation with award-winning author Mae Ngai on her new book, The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics. This free virtual event is presented in partnership with the Boston Public Library, American Ancestors/NEHGS, the Boston Book Festival, and the GBH Forum Network.

Jia Lynn Yang, New York Times National Editor and author of the award-winning One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965, will moderate this discussion about how Chinese migration to the world’s goldfields upended global power and economics and forged modern conceptions of race.

Mae Ngai (Photo credit:
Beowulf Sheehan) 

In roughly five decades, between 1848 and 1899, more gold was removed from the earth than had been mined in the 3,000 preceding years, bringing untold wealth to individuals and nations. But friction between Chinese and white settlers on the goldfields of California, Australia, and South Africa catalyzed a global battle over “the Chinese Question”: would the United States and the British Empire outlaw Chinese immigration? Drawing on ten years of research across five continents, prize-winning historian Mae Ngai masterfully links important themes in world history and economics, from Europe’s subjugation of China to the rise of the international gold standard and the invention of racist, anti-Chinese stereotypes that persist to this day.

Mae Ngai is the Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and Professor of History at Columbia University. She is the author of the award-winning Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America and The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America. She lives in New York City and Accokeek, Maryland.

Jia Lynn Yang
(Photo credit: Lorin Klaris)

Jia Lynn Yang, the national editor at The New York Times, was previously deputy national security editor at The Washington Post, where she was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of Trump and Russia. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

If you’d like to purchase The Chinese Question from Porter Square Books, please visit the following link: 

And be sure to check out other upcoming events hosted by our partners! 

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Friends of the Library Newsletter - October issue

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


Monday, October 4, 2021

On (Virtual) Display at the State Library

As the calendar turns to October, we’re featuring an item related to one of the month’s unofficial mascots - cats! A quirky little pamphlet called Murthy’s Cattage: A Biographical Dictionary of Cats in Literature is this month’s item in our virtual display case. Inside the pamphlet, the reader will find a list of cats associated with literature and authors. Each entry includes a biographical note, which sometimes includes a physical description or breed like Tabby, or Maltese, or one of October’s favorite symbols - black cats!  

Murthy’s Cattage was compiled by Howard Millar Chapin and was published in Providence, Rhode Island in 1911. The pamphlet is dedicated to the memory of Chapin’s own cat, and the namesake of the book, Murthy, a picture of whom appears on the first pages. Within the pamphlet is an alphabetical listing of cats, and according to an introductory note at the beginning of the list, “this work is a brief biographical dictionary of cats in literature, that is of cats mentioned in literature or owned by literary or historical personages.” Many of the literary references and authors named in the dictionary might be unfamiliar to today’s readers but examining the list reveals some familiar names. There’s Chanoine, who belonged to Victor Hugo; Sour-Mash, who belonged to Mark Twain; and Puss-in-Boots, the folklore hero of a familiar nursery tale. 

National Black Cat Day is October 27 so we searched the list for a few black cats that were the well-loved pets of some nineteenth century authors. There’s Lucifer, who was the pet of Harriet Prescott Spofford, a New England author who published extensively from the 1850s into the 1920s. Spofford wrote newspaper serials, novels, detective stories, and poems. Gavroche and Eponine, both black cats, were the pets of French author ThĂ©ophile Gautier (and named soon after the publication of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables). Gautier loved cats so much that a carving of one is included on his headstone in Paris. And Dixie, who was the subject of Dixie Kitten by Eva March Tappen. Tappen was a Massachusetts resident and a graduate of Vassar College, who went on to be a teacher and a children’s book author. She was also the owner of Dixie’s kitten, and fellow black cat, Topsy. 

Beyond the introductory note and the alphabetical listing of cats, there’s no other information in this brief pamphlet, though we would be interested in reading about how Howard Millar Chapin selected cats for this list, how he found some of the biographical information, or how he traced the lineage of some of the cats included. A search of the title and the author’s name did reveal some interesting details about him, though. Murthy’s Cattage was just one of many books by Chapin (and might be one of his most whimsical topics); he also wrote at length about Rhode Island’s history and American colonial history. He served as the Librarian of the Rhode Island Historical Society from 1912 until 1940. His papers are held in the RIHS collection and the finding aid can be accessed here

Murthy’s Cattage is a brief pamphlet of less than a dozen pages, and it can be accessed in DSpace here. Even though not all the references found in the dictionary are immediately recognizable, it is still worth a read through for the cat descriptions. And it also serves as a bit of a literary time capsule, by highlighting authors and titles that might not be as well-known today as they were when this pamphlet was published in 1911. See what new cats you might find when you take a look at Murthy’s Cattage

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, September 27, 2021

Online Guides to the Art Collections of the Massachusetts State House

Did you know that the State House Art Commission’s recent publication Women Subjects, Women Artists in the Massachusetts State House Art Collection, can now be downloaded as a PDF from our online documents repository? This guide offers a wealth of information about the history of female representation, as artist or subject, in the State House’s art collections. And for those who enjoy looking at pictures (as I do!), this guide is full of carefully curated color and black & white images of paintings, sculptures, murals, photography, portraits, and more!

Our online repository also has downloadable guides by the Commission, the Secretary of State, and by the State Library that cover other interesting facets of the State House’s art collections:

The legislature’s website also offers a virtual tour of selected locations in the Massachusetts State House, which allows online visitors to explore additional art pieces on display that might not be included in the publications above:

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, September 20, 2021

Preservation Albums on Flickr!

Have you been to our Flickr page recently? Two albums made their debut there earlier this year: Collection Repair & Preservation and Preservation Tips

In Collection Repair & Preservation, we invite you to take a peek into the State Library’s preservation lab to see a compilation of past collection repairs and preservation measures taken to ensure the longevity of our collection. And in Preservation Tips, we share tips that can be easily applied to your own collection at home to make sure that books stay in tip-top shape! 

Additions will be made to both of these albums as new content is produced, so be sure to bookmark them and check back! And if you have any questions about our preservation practices, reach out to us by email to

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, September 13, 2021

Commonwealth Watch Party with Isabel Wilkerson and Conversation with Byron Rushing and Roopika Risam

Register Online

You’re invited to a statewide watch party! Join us on Wednesday, September 22, at 7pm to watch Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson as she discusses her new book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, in a video recorded for the National Book Festival. Then you’ll get the chance to join in a live community conversation led by former Massachusetts Representative Byron Rushing and Salem State University Professor Roopika Risam

This free online event is brought to you by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the Massachusetts Center for the Book, and libraries across the Commonwealth, in collaboration with the Library of Congress and the National Book Festival 2021. Open to all, this “Festival Near You” event promises to be a lively and informed discussion of the diversity, equity, and inclusion issues sparked by Wilkerson's analysis.  

Isabel Wilkerson is the author of The Warmth of Other Suns, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Stephen Ambrose Oral History Prize and the Heartland Prize for Nonfiction. Her second book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, made its way to the top of The New York Times bestseller list. In 1994 she received the Pulitzer Prize in journalism for her work with The New York Times, and in 2016 President Barack Obama awarded Wilkerson the National Humanities Medal for "championing the stories of an unsung history."

Byron Rushing served for 36 years in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a leader in the Boston delegation, rising to the position of Majority Whip. During his tenure, Representative Rushing advocated for and sponsored bills in the areas of health care, civil, human and gay rights, justice reform, drug addiction, and gun safety, among other initiatives to promote social and economic justice in the Commonwealth. He was a founding member of the Library Caucus in the Legislature and served as a Trustee of the Boston Public Library. Prior to his time in the legislature, Rushing was active in the civil rights movement, working for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and also served as director of the Urban Change Program at the Urban League and as President of the Museum of African American History. 

Roopika Risam is Chair of Secondary and Higher Education and Associate Professor of Education and English at Salem State University. Widely published, supported, and cited for her scholarship in postcolonial and African diaspora studies and humanities knowledge infrastructures, Dr. Risam is developing “The Global Du Bois,” a data visualization project on W.E.B. Du Bois. She also serves as editor or officer of numerous organizations promoting social justice, feminism, digital humanities, ethnic studies, and change in higher education. Her latest collection is The Digital Black Atlantic. She also cohosts “Rocking the Academy,” a podcast featuring interviews which explore the future shape of higher education. In 2018, the Massachusetts Library Association awarded its inaugural Civil Liberties Champion Award to Dr. Risam for her progress in promoting equity and justice in the digital cultural record.

You may participate fully in the live community conversation without having read Caste in its entirety. For background, you may wish to consult the information below: 

To register, please visit: 

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Labor Day Legacy

Today, Labor Day is generally when many Americans take a break from working and enjoy a nice long three-day weekend. But why are we able to enjoy leisure on Labor Day, and how did this holiday come to be? The state and then federally approved holiday was created during a long battle for workers’ rights throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

During the period now known as the Industrial Revolution, many states moved from a primarily agrarian economy to that based on industry and manufacturing, and business was booming. In Massachusetts, textile manufacturing became the dominant industry, and many of the commonwealth’s current towns originated as mill towns: settlements that developed around a mill or factory. Lowell, Massachusetts was the first large scale factory town in the United States and it was originally praised as the “cradle of the American Industrial Revolution.” Demand for textiles and other manufactured goods continued to rise during the 19th century, and production superseded working conditions in importance. Many workers would work 12 or more hours each day in crowded and cramped factories. As conditions continued to decline, factory workers began to organize and ask for higher pay, better and safer conditions, and shorter hours. Often, factories would employ children and new immigrants to the United States who would work for less and were generally less likely to strike.

Female mill workers (1910).
Courtesy of the Lawrence History Center.

As more and more workers joined together to fight for better conditions, the labor movement grew throughout the country. Activists and organizations wanted not only better conditions in the factories, but also recognition for the workers who were the backbone of the new industrial economy. In 1882, union leaders in New York organized the first Labor Day parade, where 10,000 workers marched through the city streets and enjoyed festivities such as speeches, fireworks, and dancing. In February 1887, Oregon became the first state to designate Labor Day as an official holiday, and Massachusetts was right behind them, passing their own holiday designation a few months later in May.

Chapter 263 of the Acts and Resolves of 1887 designating
the first Monday of September as Labor’s Holiday, or Labor Day.

However, the creation of Labor Day did not end the worker’s rights and labor movements – far from it. Strikes continued throughout the United States, and often the suppression of these strikes broke out into violence. In May 1886, the Haymarket Riot in Chicago saw days of demonstrations marked with violence between workers demanding an eight-hour day and police ordering the crowd to disperse. On May 4, a bomb detonated, killing both civilians and police officers. This violent event inspired many socialist activists to declare May Day, not Labor Day, the holiday honoring worker’s rights. However, the background of May Day was perceived as too radical, and President Cleveland urged state legislatures to recognize the September Labor Day instead.

Lawrence strike, strikers, 1912. Courtesy of the Lawrence History Center.

Despite these holidays, strikes, demonstrations, and clashes with local government and law enforcement continued throughout the United States. In an attempt to placate strikers and activists, the U.S. Government made Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894, but many activists saw the holiday designation as little more than a conciliatory act. The labor movement continued to grow, expanding throughout factories, mills, and other industries. Massachusetts would continue to be a battleground for workers’ rights, with the most famous events being the Bread and Roses Strike (or Lawrence Textile Strike) in 1912 and the Boston Police Strike in 1919. You can find more information on these strikes and others in the State Library’s exhibit One Hundred Years Ago: Massachusetts in 1919. In response to many of these events, the Massachusetts state government created commissions such as the Minimum Wage Commission, which published reports on wages in different industries. Read our blog post about the minimum wage in Massachusetts here.

The United States would finally pass the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, in which the federal government created a minimum wage, mandated shorter work weeks, and created restrictions on child labor. Labor Day remains on the American calendar as an early testament to the workers who built the United States and fought for the rights and benefits that we enjoy at our jobs today.

Further Reading: 

Related State Library Blogs and Collections:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Friends of the Library Newsletter - September issue

The September issue of the Friends of the Library newsletter is out! Click here to download your own copy.

Monday, August 30, 2021

On (Virtual) Display at the State Library

It goes without saying that we’re big fans of all the Commonwealth’s many libraries, so we’re happy to share this map, Public Libraries of Massachusetts, as our September featured collection item. September is Library Card Sign-Up Month, designated as such by the American Library Association. It’s a great time to visit your local branch, which might be depicted on this map, and see what wonders you can experience with a library card!

Published in 1904, this map of the Commonwealth’s libraries was designed and drawn with pen and ink by George Hartnell Bartlett. It shows the boundary lines for each town, and each town that includes a library also has a small but intricate drawing of said library. A larger drawing at the bottom of the map shows the Boston Public Library, along with circulation and volume statistics.  Bartlett created other versions of this map in both 1893 and 1914.

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners shared this map in 2015 as part of a timeline celebrating 125 years of service. On the timeline, they cite a reference to the map in the Fifteenth Report of the Free Public Library Commission, which we have available in DSpace. The report states, “The skilful [sic] hand of Prof. George H. Bartlett, principal of the Normal Art School, prepared for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition a large map of the State, containing pen and ink drawings of over 250 of our library buildings in the towns they serve. This map attracted great attention during the continuance of the fair at St. Louis, and will form a portion of the State exhibit at the coming Lewis and Clarke [sic] Exposition. It was awarded the grand prize at St. Louis. A reduced copy of the map forms a portion of this report.” The map was included as a folded insert at the beginning of the report, but the copy in our collection has been removed from the report so that it could be flattened and stored in a separate enclosure. From a preservation standpoint, we recommend removing folded inserts so that they don’t wear, and potentially tear, along crease lines.  

In the report mentioned above, George Hartnell Bartlett is referenced as principal of the Normal Art School, which was the original name of what is now known as the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The Normal Art School was founded in 1873 and is the oldest art school in the country. In addition to serving as an art instructor and drawing maps, Bartlett was also the author of Pen and Ink Drawing: A Series Of Drawings Showing Its Perfect Adaptability To The Modern Processes Of Reproduction, a copy of which can be found in our Special Collections holdings. 

For a closer look at the map, you can click on the above image. And for an even closer examination, a high-resolution copy of this map can be found through the Boston Public Library’s Leventhal Map Center. Click around to find the library from your own hometown or from a neighboring town. It is interesting to see what each library retains of its original elements, and to compare how they have grown and changed over the years. 

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, August 23, 2021

Massachusetts State Budgets From FY1919 to Current Now Compiled Into One Helpful Resource

The State Library recently compiled links to full copies of Massachusetts general appropriations acts (state budgets), starting from FY1919 up through FY2022 (the most current).  We’re happy to report that this resource is now available on our website!  We hope that this new and continually updated document will allow researchers and the public to locate past and present budget acts more easily and quickly.  Please note that supplemental budgets are not included in this resource; however, they can be searched for using the databases highlighted in the document.

For more information about the current budget process in Massachusetts, visit our webpage on the subject.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, August 16, 2021

August 24th Virtual Author Talk: Adam Stern MD

Register Online

Join us in partnership with the Boston Public Library for an online talk with Adam Stern, MD, author of Committed: Dispatches from a Psychiatrist in Training. This discussion will be moderated by Suzanne Koven, MD, writer-in-residence at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Adam Stern recounts his four-year psychiatry residency at Harvard Medical School in his heartfelt memoir, which brings readers along as he and his fellow doctors make the rounds on psychiatric wards, grapple with impostor syndrome, navigate their personal lives, and experience love and loss.

With compassionate portraits of his psychiatry patients and honest ruminations on the physical and emotional toll of a medical residency, Stern pulls back the curtain on what it’s like to be a doctor tasked with healing the mind. Candid, sometimes raw, and always entertaining, this memoir celebrates human connection through the eyes of a new doctor.

Photo by Kate McKenna,
Crabapple Photography
Adam Stern, MD, is a psychiatrist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has written extensively about his experience as a physician including in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the American Journal of Psychiatry. He lives with his family near Boston.

Suzanne Koven, MD, is a primary care physician and the inaugural writer-in-residence at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her memoir, Letter to a Young Female Physician, was released in May 2021. To learn more, visit her website and find her on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram).

To register for this free online event, please visit: 

Be sure to check out other upcoming events hosted by our partner:  

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts