Tuesday, May 31, 2022

On Display in the State Library

June 17th marks 247 years since the Battle of Bunker Hill in Charlestown, one of the earlier battles of the Revolutionary War. To mark the anniversary, this month we’re exhibiting “A plan of the Action at Bunkers Hill on the 17th of June 1775 between His Majesty's troops, under the Command of Major General Howe, and the American Forces.” This map is a 1793 facsimile of an original from 1775. 

The map was originally prepared by Sir Thomas Hyde Page, who was a British military engineer and cartographer. He was sent with a corps of engineers to America and served under Sir Robert Page. At Bunker Hill, he acted as aide de camp to General William Howe, who was in command of the British forces for that operation. During the battle, Page was severely wounded and lost his leg, and was evacuated back to England. During his recovery, he drew maps of various conflicts in Boston, including the one on display here. The map is an accurate and detailed depiction of the battle, done by someone who was there. You can read more about Page on this page.

Our version of this map is not a 1775 original, which was published soon after the battle and has a slightly different title, referring to the “American Forces” as the “Rebel Forces.” Our version was published in 1793 in London as part of The History of the Origin, Progress, and Termination of the American War by Charles Stedman. If you visit us and look closely at the display, you’ll see that the map is actually in two pieces, showing where it was removed from a bound book. The 1793 version also differs from the original by including a reference to the plan, which identifies key movements of the military forces. The map depicts hedgerows, redoubts (a temporary fortification), the placement of British and American forces, and lines of fire from ships in the Charles River and a section of Boston that we now know as the North End. 

In the center of the map is a noticeable illustration labeled “Warren’s redoubt,” which was constructed at the top of the hill. “Warren'' refers to Joseph Warren, who was a member of the Sons of Liberty, a physician, the 2nd President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, and as of a few days before the battle, a commissioned major general in the Massachusetts militia. This spot on the map references where he was killed when British troops stormed the redoubt. Warren, who chose to engage in battle as a private rather than staying a safe distance away as his rank would allow, was honored in death as a martyr for the patriot cause. The British did win the battle by taking the hill, but their casualty losses were higher than expected and the colonial militia was not as easily defeated as expected.

Visit the main library’s reading room throughout the month to see this map on display, or click here to see the digitized version in the collection of the Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library. And if you’d like to read more about Joseph Warren, check out Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero by Christian Di Spigna.

By Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, May 23, 2022

Researching Municipal Law

We often receive questions centering on the operation and organization of local governments. These questions can range from researching city zoning laws to how does my town elect school committee members? A good place to start is with the Massachusetts General Laws and locating any relevant governing statues. It is also helpful to understand what type of charter or municipal constitution your local government employs (see previous blog posting on municipal constitutions). You can find your town charter, regulations, and more on your town or city’s local site.

2010 Act, c. 52 - Example of Bridgewater updating
 its town charter through Legislation

Another helpful, secondary resource to understanding municipal law is West’s Massachusetts Practice Series, Municipal Law and Practice volumes. This treatise covers a wide range of local government practice within Massachusetts including topics such as elections, schools, and highways and streets. The State Library offers access to this series through Westlaw (in-library use only). In addition, the State Library’s digital collection of city and town annual reports are also helpful when researching town committees, meetings, budgets, etc.  

Town sites usually end in ‘.gov’ or ‘.org.’ Note the Town Code in lower, right corner.

Please see below for some helpful links and popular resources for conducting municipal
research. For more information or research assistance, contact us at reference.deparment@mass.gov.

April Pascucci
Reference Librarian

Monday, May 16, 2022

The Quacky Story behind Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings

    During the month of May many children and their families celebrate Duckling Day in Boston. It coincides with Mother’s Day and has been a tradition for over 30 years. This event celebrates the official children’s book of Massachusetts, Make Way for Ducklings. Every year, hundreds of children parade through Boston’s most beautiful parks, dressed like characters from the story. For the past two years this event was virtual due to the pandemic; this year, however, COVID 19 restrictions have been lifted, so participants were thrilled that they could return to the outdoors and celebrate this uplifting story. This event is one of the many ways in which McCloskey’s book has warmed people’s hearts over the years. 

     First published in 1941, Make Way for Ducklings tells the story of a pair of mallards who raise their brood of ducklings on an island in the lagoon in the Boston Public Garden. This book won the 1942 Caldecott Medal for Illustrations. Since its publication, Make Way for Ducklings has sold millions of copies all over the world.

     McCloskey went on to win another Caldecott Medal in 1957 for his book, Time of Wonder. Make Way for Ducklings, however, is his most well-known book, and it has taken on a life of its own over the years.  

In a 2003 interview, McCloskey recalled what motivated him to write the book:

''I had first noticed the ducks when walking through the Boston Public Garden every morning on my way to art school. When I returned to Boston four years later, I noticed the traffic problem of the ducks and heard a few stories about them. The book just sort of developed from there.''

     While this quote from McCloskey sounds kind of humdrum, the effort he made to make his illustrations perfect is fascinating and quite a funny story. Author and educator Nancy Larrick interviewed Robert McCloskey for an article in 1960 and got the inside scoop about the creative process behind this celebrated classic children’s book.

     After attending art school in Boston, the young struggling artist went to live in New York City.  When he got the idea to write and illustrate Make Way for Ducklings, he went to the American Museum of Natural History in New York to study everything he could about mallard ducks. McCloskey said he studied stuffed birds, skins and nests, and made hundreds of sketches. He said, “But you can’t draw ducks unless you live with them. So I went to old Washington Market to get some of my own.” 

     McCloskey bought a bunch of ducks and went home on the subway with them in a carton. He recalled that when the ducks started quacking, passengers looked at him suspiciously; below is a sketch that McCloskey drew of his experience on the subway with the noisy ducks. 

Robert McCloskey's sketch from N. Larrick's article, 
"Robert McCloskey's 'Make Way for Ducklings'"

     When he arrived home with his new roommates, he let them run around his apartment so he could sketch exactly how they looked in action. McCloskey said, “One trouble was that the ducks go too fast.” He needed to slow them down to make sketches. He said, “The only thing that worked was red wine. They loved it and went into slow motion right away.” Soon neighbors were complaining about quacking noises and water leaking from the ceiling because McCloskey had the ducks swimming in the bathtub, and water was all over the place.

    The author said that living with the ducks caused an unexpected change in the original text.  At first the ducklings were to have such ordinary names as Jane, Sarah, Jim, and so on. After a few weeks with dawn-to-dusk quacking, however, the author realized that the ducklings should have names from their own language. Thus, it was Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack who disturbed the neighbors and now entertain generations of children in Make Way for Ducklings.

     Below are some of his famous sketches of the ducks. We hope this blog post gives you more context and perspective about the work that McCloskey put into perfecting his illustrations.

Sketches courtesy of Boston Public Library/Digital Commonwealth

    McCloskey’s children’s book has made a lasting impression on millions of people, including sculptor Nancy Schon, who paid tribute to McCloskey by creating a bronze sculpture of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings. This sculpture, entitled “Make Way for Ducklings,” was installed in the Boston Public Garden in 1987 and has been enjoyed by Bostonians and tourists from around the world ever since. Not only is this sculpture a precious gem for Bostonians, but the same sculpture is also a treasure for Muscovites! In 1991 Schon recreated the duck sculpture for former First Lady Barbara Bush. Mrs. Bush offered the sculpture to Raisa Gorbacheva as a symbol of peace during a summit that was part of the START Treaty. This sculpture is now displayed in Moscow’s Novodevichy Park, where children and their families enjoy the ducks as much as Bostonians do. 

Nancy Schon's original "Make Way for Ducklings" 
sculpture in the Boston Public Garden

Russia – "Make Way for Ducklings" sculpture in Moscow's
Novodevichy Park Ducks--a close up" by Barbara L. Slavin,
CC BY-NC 2.0.

    As you can see, McCloskey’s “simple” idea to write and draw a children’s book about a family of ducks not only turned into a classic children’s book, but the story also inspired two world-renowned sculptures, a presidential gesture of peace between two countries, and a time-honored annual parade in Boston. We are very curious what new stories lie ahead for the Mallard Family.

For more information, consult these references:

Dava Davainis
Head of Reference and Information Services

Monday, May 9, 2022

May 18th Virtual Author Talk: Haroon Moghul

Haroon Moghul, author of How To Be A Muslim: An American StoryHow To Be A Muslim: An American Story and essay contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Guardian will talk about his new book, Two Billion Caliphs: A Vision of a Muslim Future, which explains the attraction of Muslims to their faith, discusses the challenges contemporary Islam confronts, and explores how we might imagine an Islamic theology and identity ready to face tomorrow. This free online program is presented in partnership with the Boston Public Library.

About the book:
Two Billion Caliphs advocates for a way of being Muslim in the world, ready for today and prepared for tomorrow. Unlike stale summaries, which restrict themselves to facts and figures, Haroon Moghul presents a deeply Muslim perspective on the world, providing Islamic answers to universal questions: Who are we? What are we doing here? What happens to us when we die? Moghul describes what Islam has been and what it is, who its heroes are, what its big ideas are, but not only to tell you about the past or the present, but to speak to the future. Two Billion Caliphs finds that Islam was a religion of intimacy, a faith rooted in and reaching for love, and that it could be and should be again. Fulfilling that destiny depends on the efforts of Muslims to reclaim their faith, rebuild their strength, and reimagine their future, on their own terms.

About the author:
Haroon Moghul is a thought leader, professor, public speaker, and Friday preacher, whose work explores the intersections of pop culture, philosophy, futurism, and faith. A one-time stand-up comic in New York City (literally, just that one time) and award-winning writer, his essays have been featured by the New York Times, NPR’s Fresh Air, CNN, Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and the Guardian, among many others. Not long after publishing his most recent book, How To Be A Muslim: An American Story, he moved to suburban Cincinnati, where he’s become an enthusiastic soccer dad.

To register for this free online event, please visit this link. Additionally, to order a copy of this book from Trident Booksellers and Cafe, one of the Boston Public Library’s community bookstore partners, please visit this link. Use coupon code BPLSHIP for free media mail delivery! 

Author Talks Committee
State Library of Massachusetts

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Friends of the Library Newsletter – May issue

Want to know what’s happening at the State Library? Then check out our May newsletter, out now! Pictured here is a preview, but the full version can be accessed by clicking here. And you can also sign up for our mailing list to receive the newsletter straight to your inbox.

Monday, May 2, 2022

On Display in the State Library

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so as we were preparing to change the item in our monthly display case we wanted to select something from our collection that would align with that designation. On exhibit throughout the month of May are the 1930 and the 1931 Chinese Directory of New England, published by Hop Yuen Company at 14 Oxford Street in Boston, which was also the home of the United Chinese Association. 

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month began as just a ten-day long celebration in early May of 1978 before it was expanded by Congress in 1992 so that it would last the entire month. According to a Census.gov website, the week was initially established to “coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants (May 7, 1843) and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad completed May 10, 1869.” Asian immigrants arrived in Boston and New England a little bit later than that, the City of Boston has recorded that the first influx of Chinese immigrants were single men who arrived in 1873 to work in a factory in North Adams. By the time these directories were published nearly fifty years later, the Chinese population in New England had greatly increased.

The New England directories in our collection date to 1930 and 1931, and both are on display in our main library reading room. The directories list Chinese owned businesses by category for each New England state, along with many advertisements, a few of which are pictured below. The bulk of the advertisements are for Chinese owned businesses, like the one below left that features two restaurants in Boston’s Chinatown. But there are also a fair amount for non-Chinese owned businesses, like the one below right. Freeman O. Emerson (general insurance) and Dublin Brothers (cigars and tobacco) both took out ads in the directory and wrote about their services in Chinese to reach new audiences. The advertisements for non-Chinese owned businesses written in Chinese show that business owners acknowledged the importance of New England’s Chinese residents as a vital part of the community and economy. 

 In addition to the bi-lingual business listings and advertisements, the directories also included welcome letters by the Massachusetts Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Boston Mayor, along with essays on immigration and trade, and a list of Chinese students enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard. In the 1931 directory, the letter from Boston Mayor James Curley was addressed to Mr. Wong C. Poy, and a search of his name lead us to a Boston Globe article published on May 5, 1931 about the publication of this directory. The article identifies Mr. Poy as a prominent Chinatown merchant and as the compiler behind this directory. We can assume that he wrote the preface, which explains the impetus behind this directory as follows, “for the past few years, the ever-growing Chinese population in this section of the country has been demanding a concise and complete directory of their nationals in New England” and that “practically every city or town of any importance, within the confines of New England, numbers among its merchants, a Chinese laundry, restaurant, or store.” The need for a directory of this nature, which both served as a valuable resource for Chinese residents and helped non-Chinese business reach a Chinese audience that might have otherwise been unattainable, highlights the role that Chinese Americans played in New England in the early 20th-century as their population grew in size. 

Visit the library this month to see these directories in person and learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month here.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian