Monday, January 31, 2022

On (Virtual) Display in the State Library

This month, our featured collection item is a broadside dating to February 1787 and issued by the Massachusetts General Court while James Bowdoin was governor. Titled in part as “An Act for Preventing Persons Serving as Jurors, Who in Consequence of Having Been Concerned in the Present Rebellion, Are by Law Disqualified Therefor,” the broadside addresses some consequences for those who participated in Shays’ Rebellion, which concluded earlier in the month that this Act was passed. 

James Bowdoin was elected as governor in May 1785, following John Hancock’s resignation partway through his term. Once in office, Bowdoin worked to collect back taxes, which Hancock had been reluctant to actively pursue while governor. But in a depressed post-Revolutionary War economy, Bowdoin made it a priority to both raise taxes and collect back taxes in an effort to raise funds for the state’s portion of foreign debt payments to European war investors. This was met by protest from those in the central and western parts of the state who were struggling financially since they had not been paid for their wartime service. Individuals now found themselves having to pay high taxes that they could not afford, or risk losing their livelihood, a situation that caused unrest and ultimately led to what we now know of as Shays’ Rebellion. 

This month marks 235 years since the conclusion of Shays’ Rebellion, which was an armed uprising that occurred in western Massachusetts beginning in the summer of 1786. Residents of the area organized protests in response to the fact that the legislature had adjourned without addressing their concerns about taxation. From August to October, groups of protesters successfully forced the closure of courts in Northampton, Worcester, Great Barrington, Concord, and Taunton. In January 1787, led in part by Daniel Shays, groups of protesters organized in an attempt to overtake an armory in Springfield. They were met by a militia organized by Gov. Bowdoin, which consisted primarily of individuals from the eastern part of the state. Clashes continued from the end of January into early February, before the protesters’ forces fell apart and many participants fled north.

The broadside in our collection was Issued by the General Court in the weeks after Shays’ Rebellion. The Act printed on it stated that anyone who favored the rebellion, or gave aid or support to the rebellion, was prohibited from serving as a juror for three years. Selectmen from the towns in which the participants resided were instructed to remove their names from the jury-boxes (from which names would be drawn to serve as jurors). Earlier in February, the legislature also passed the Disqualification Act, which disqualified any known participant in the rebellion to serve in some elected or appointed positions. There is a lot more to the economic climate leading to Shays’ Rebellion, the rebellion itself, and its aftermath than we can address in this blog post. To learn more, check your local library for books like Shays's Rebellion: Authority and Distress in Post-Revolutionary America by Sean Condon and Shay’s Rebellion: The American Revolution's Final Battle by Leonard L. Richards.

And lastly, a note on the condition of this broadside, since it looks pretty good for having been printed 235 years ago! We do a lot of collection repair and preservation work in-house, but we send items out to the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) for more involved work. In 2018, this broadside was one of a few that underwent treatment at NEDCC. It was removed from its plastic enclosure and then cleaned to reduce staining, discoloration, and acidity. It was also humidified so the edges could be uncurled and creases reduced, and then any tears and losses were mended with thin Japanese paper and wheat starch. Check out the image to the right to see how it looked before treatment and compare that with the “after” photo featured at the beginning of this post! 

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, January 24, 2022

19th and Early 20th Century Massachusetts Campaign Literature

The State Library has a wonderful collection of historical literature from various 19th and early 20th century Massachusetts political campaigns. It’s interesting to see how early campaigns were run, the issues that were addressed, and what slogans were used. Here are some examples from our collections:

Full versions of some of the pamphlets shown above are available in the library’s DSpace repository:

You can also search our online catalog for additional early campaign literature and other political publications.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Librarian

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

City Directories at the State Library of Massachusetts

The State Library's collection of Massachusetts city directories is one of the most heavily-used resources in the Library. The earliest volumes in our collection, dating all the way back to 1789, provide information about town residents such as names, addresses, and occupations; business listings were added later.
railroad fee schedule,
Boston directory, 1855.

In addition to residents and business information, many city directories include lists of churches, city offices, and even railroad fees and schedules. And although the collection mainly covers Massachusetts communities, listings for border towns like Tiverton and Pawtucket in Rhode Island, and Salem and Plaistow in New Hampshire can be found in the collection.
The Massachusetts city directories were published in languages other than English, illustrating the many groups that immigrated to Massachusetts in the 19th and 20th centuries. The State Library’s collection includes city directories published in: Chinese, French, Italian, and Scandinavian (which included Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and Finnish).

By looking at the advertisements published in these volumes, researchers can also see the trends in Massachusetts industries over the years. If you would like to view some of these historical advertisements, check out our online exhibit: From Common to Uncommon: Advertisements in Massachusetts City Directories.
The publication of city directories ended in the early to mid-1980s, replaced by the telephone book and other sources.

The State Library’s collection is available in print format in our Special Collections Department. If you have any questions regarding this collection, please reach out to us via email at

To see a complete list of the Library’s city directory holdings, please visit City Directories and Voting Lists in the Collections of the State Library of Massachusetts.

Silvia Mejia
Special Collections Librarian

Monday, January 10, 2022

Virtual Author Talk: Charles R. Gallagher

We hope you’ll join us for our first author talk of 2022, with Dr. Charles R. Gallagher, S.J., author of the gripping new book, Nazis of Copley Square: The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front. This virtual event is presented in partnership with the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society and the Boston Public Library. 

In Nazis of Copley Square, Dr. Gallagher provides a crucial forgotten chapter in the history of the American far right, whose adherents conspired to overthrow the government and formed an alliance with Hitler. The members of the Christian Front imagined themselves as crusaders fighting for the spiritual purification of the nation, under assault from godless Communism, and they were hardly alone in their beliefs. The front traced its origins to vibrant global Catholic theological movements of the early twentieth century, and their anti-Semitism was inspired by Sunday sermons and by lay leaders openly espousing fascist and Nazi beliefs.

Dr. Gallagher chronicles the evolution of the front, the transatlantic cloak-and-dagger intelligence operations that subverted it, and the mainstream political and religious leaders who shielded the front’s activities from scrutiny. Nazis of Copley Square is a grim tale of faith perverted to violent ends and a lesson for those who oppose the spread of far-right ideologies today. Dr. Gallagher also examines the forces that enabled it to take root in Boston; Nazis of Copley Square has been called "a searing examination of how a city―where for nearly four centuries the phrase ‘cradle of liberty’ has slipped effortlessly off the tongue with a distinct Boston accent―played host to a group whose leading figures spoke favorably of Nazi Germany.”

Charles R. Gallagher, S.J., is Associate Professor of History at Boston College. His scholarly interests include American Catholicism, papal diplomacy, international relations, the Holocaust, and intelligence history. In 2017 he was the William J. Lowenberg Memorial Fellow at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

To register for this free online event, please visit:

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Friends of the Library Newsletter – January issue

Start the new year with a new issue of the Friends newsletter! Pictured here is a preview of our January newsletter, to access the full version click here.

If you would like to receive the newsletter straight to your inbox, you can sign up for our mailing list here. And if you would like to join the Friends, find more information on our website

Monday, January 3, 2022

On (Virtual) Display at the State Library

““Happy New Year! I wish you a happy new year!” Is the kind of greeting among friends on the first of this month, the commencement of a new year.” This quote is found in the introductory note in Peter Parley's Almanac for Old and Young, which was published for the year 1837. Following in the footsteps of years prior, we’re starting the year by sharing an historical almanac from our collection. Peter Parley was the pseudonym for Samuel Griswold Goodrich, a 19th-century author, publisher, and bookseller who also served as a member of the Massachusetts State Senate and House of Representatives. 

The contents of an almanac do not typically seem like the sort of publication that would appeal to a younger audience, but that is one way that Peter Parley’s differs from other almanacs. In addition to providing the sort of lunar charts and weather predictions found in most almanacs, this almanac includes a few extra details that makes it more accessible to younger readers. The title page shows the New Year chasing the Old Year into the woods, while Time looks on, and there are whimsical drawings for each month. We’ve included January here, complete with snowy hills and horse drawn carriages. Each month is also accompanied by two pages of text that describes nature (specifically birds and plants) to observe and activities to undertake. We especially liked this excerpt from January’s outdoor activities that describes the best way to construct a snowman:

Select from the wood-pile a forked stick, long enough for a full grown giant, say eight or ten feet; fix it upright with the forked end downwards. This is to answer for the skeleton; which you are to load with snow instead of muscles and sinews. Build up the figure with masses of snow to the shoulders of top of the stick, and here fix two sticks of a proper length for arms: cover these also with snow, and on top of all, place a huge snowball for the head. To enable you to reach high enough, you can roll up a large snowball or two, to stand upon. When you have added snow enough, with a shovel, shingle, or garden trowel, you can fashion the figure according to fancy, giving it a hat, a nose, mouth, &c., with eye-brows and a beard of moss, and a pipe to smoke if you like, by placing a long slender stick in his mouth, and coating it with snow.

The bulk of the almanac contains descriptions for each month, but the last twenty pages are comprised of “Varieties from my pocket-book” a collection of information that is described by Peter Parley as, “I have a habit of putting scraps that please me into my pocket-book. Among the collection that I have thus been making I find the following.” Included is everything from instructions to make hard water soft to an analysis of the meaning of the phrase “there is time enough” with random items like a list of things a farmer should not do in between. It is a miscellaneous listing of items with topics that are sure to appeal to readers of all ages! 

The copy in our collection has not been digitized, but we found a digital version available through Tufts University. Their version is identical to ours, except that it was printed in New York at Freeman Hunt & Co. and our version was printed right in Boston at Otis, Broaders & Co. on Washington Street. The last page of the Tufts version has been torn, so it is missing the last entries in Parley’s pocket-book. And if you want to kick off your year with even more almanac content, but sure to check out our post from 2020 on Isaiah Thomas’s New England Almanac and our 2021 post on Fleet's Pocket Almanack for the year of our Lord 1789: Being the First after Leap Year and the Thirteenth of American Independence. Happy New Year!

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian