Monday, August 29, 2022

On Display in the State Library

It’s time to head back to school! For our display this month, we’re featuring a circular distributed by the Quincy School Committee in 1835 with advice for both teachers and parents. And referenced at the bottom of the circular are a few of the textbooks that the students will be using during the school year – some of which we have in our Special Collections holdings!

The Quincy School Committee issued this circular on September 1, 1835 with the full title of “Rules and regulations for the public schools in Quincy: also, some remarks on the due observance of the rules, addressed to parents.” On the webpage for the current Quincy School Committee, their mission reads as “the purpose of the School Committee is to establish policies and make decisions on the basis of educational philosophy and goals, the most crucial of these being facilitating the optimal learning experience of the children enrolled in the Quincy Public Schools.” Comparing that with the text of this circular shows that the purpose remains relatively unchanged 187 years later.

The section for teachers covers five points, some of which fall into generalities like start and end times to the day, absences, and tardiness. The fourth point is the most lengthy, and addresses student conduct. In this section, teachers are tasked with trying to keep their students with instructions as follows, “You are also requested to prevent their throwing stones or any other hard substances at each other, or into any of the enclosures about the premises you occupy . . . Allow no quarreling among the scholars at any time - nor any vulgar or profane language . . . Impress upon their minds the importance of correct manners and habits; inspire in them a strict regard for truth, honesty and amiable deportment . . .”

The list goes on! But regulations and suggestions were extended to parents and guardians, too. That section begins by informing them that success in school is dependent on the guardian's cooperation with the teacher. It also includes the following, with printed emphasis, to stress the role that teachers play “You, undoubtedly, have your patience tried with your own children, though you may have but a half dozen under your care, while the teacher has from fifty to a hundred or more perhaps: – You have only to govern them – the teacher has to govern the multitude, and advance them in their studies at the same time – You are accountable to no human power for your management – he is responsible to numberless parents and the public generally.” The circular really lays down the law for guardians, and stresses the importance of education by including that “to get an education is a great object of childhood.” Click on the above image to read the circular in full.

According to the circular, at meetings on May 7th and August 31st, the committee voted on the textbooks that would be used for the school year. We were lucky to find that some of those  are part of our collection. Accompanying the circular on display are The National Spelling-Book and Pronouncing Tutor, published in 1828, and First-Class Reader: a Selection for Exercises in Reading, published in 1834. Both books are by Benjamin Dudley Emerson, who was the principal of the Adams Grammar School in Boston, and published textbooks on spelling, reading, and arithmetic, which were widely used in schools in the 1800s.

The committee voted that a copy of the circular should be printed and a copy sent to every family in the town. On the back of our copy is a handwritten notation dated September 1835 that reads “to the School Committee, Dorchester” so it’s possible that the circular was sent to other local school committees to serve as a reference. A stamp on the back indicates that the State Library received it as a gift on August 25, 1936, though a search of the 1936 annual report did not provide any additional information about the gift.

If you’d like to mark the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year by checking out some school resources and textbooks from the 1830s, then be sure to visit us from September 1 through October 3 to see these items in person!

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, August 22, 2022

Using the State Library’s Conference Room

The State Library of Massachusetts offers a wide array of free services to Massachusetts state employees, including the use of our conference room, located on the library’s mezzanine level in Room 442 of the Massachusetts State House, overlooking the library’s historic reading room. The conference room, which is also available to non-profit organizations, is furnished with a table and ten permanent chairs and is equipped with a large screen television/monitor. A projector and screen are also available for use within the conference room when requested in advance of a scheduled meeting. 

The library’s policies regarding conference room usage may be viewed in their entirety on our website. Please be advised that due to the library’s architectural design, sounds from the conference room may carry to other parts of the library.

The conference room may be reserved for use during the library’s regular hours of 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. To make a reservation, you may fill out our online reservation form, email us at, or give us a call at 617-727-2590. We look forward to accommodating your next meeting at the State Library!

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, August 15, 2022

Henry Hobson Richardson and his Public Libraries in Massachusetts

Trinity Church, Boston Andrew Dickson White
Architectural Photograph Collection, #15-5-3090.
Division of Rare and Manuscripts Collections,
Cornell University Library.
Located in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, Copley Square is a bustling spot for tourists and residents alike. Surrounded by landmarks like the Boston Public Library, Old South Church, and the John Hancock Tower, sits the Trinity Church. Noted for its arches, unique stonework, and compelling facade, Trinity Church was designed by famed architect Henry Hobson Richardson. Considered a leader in American architecture, Richardson’s seminal works include churches, municipal buildings, private homes, and libraries. Richardson was responsible for designing four public libraries in Massachusetts. Bringing his unique, elevated style to Woburn, Easton, Quincy, and Malden, Richardson designed these public libraries in his sophisticated Romanesque style. 

  • Woburn - After completing the Trinity Church commission (1872-1877), Richardson embarked on his first public library commission with Woburn’s Public Library. At the bequest of Charles Bowers Winn, a portion of his will was left for the construction of a public library. Coming straight from his latest achievement with Trinity Church in 1877, Richardson’s plans for the Woburn Public Library were unanimously accepted by the Library Committee in the same year. 

Woburn Public Library. Image via Digital Commonwealth.

  • Easton - Similar to the circumstances in Woburn, the Ames Free Library (commissioned September 1877, opened in 1883) was commissioned at the bequest of Oliver Ames II who in his will left instructions for the construction of a library for the residents of Easton. It was his son Frederick Lothrop Ames who would bring in Richardson for the library. Frederick, a graduate of Harvard University, first struck a friendship with HHR while at school. Later, Frederick would use his elite Harvard contacts to bring Richardson to Easton. The Ames Family, a prominent family in Easton, played a large part in the industrial advancement of the town as well as in the construction of other municipal buildings. In addition to the public library, Richardson was responsible for four other buildings in town. Most notable is the Oakes Ames Memorial Hall in which Richardson collaborated with esteemed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted on the greenery and rock work.  

North Easton Public Library (Ames Free Library) 
Andrew Dickson White Architectural Photograph Collection,
 #15-5-3090. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections,
Cornell University Library.

  • Quincy - Not unlike Woburn and Easton, the public library in Quincy was also constructed as a memorial to a benefactor. The Thomas Crane Public Library (commissioned 1880, opened in 1882) was commissioned by the Crane family in honor of their father Thomas Crane, a former resident and Quincy businessman. The library is noted for its “architectural coherence and charm” as described by Richardson’s friend, biographer, and architecture enthusiast, Marian Griswold VanRensselaer.

Thomas Crane Library, Quincy
Image via Digital Commonwealth

  • Malden - Commissioned in 1883, the Converse Memorial Public Library in Malden opened in 1885. Again, the building was constructed as a memorial by the Converse family for their son. The Malden Library was Richardson’s most expensive library design; the building includes an art gallery, reading rooms, fireplace, and a library with a capacity for 60,000 volumes (Breisch, 1997).

Malden Public Library
Image via Digital Commonwealth

All four of these libraries remain open today and are beautiful as they are functional. So why not take a trip this summer to see some of the magnificent and historic public libraries in Massachusetts!

Resources on Henry Hobson Richardson and his works: 

April Pascucci
Reference Librarian

Monday, August 8, 2022

Audubon Prints on Display in the Library

We are excited to announce that our collection of prints from John James Audubon's Birds of America has recently been conserved! To share these beautiful prints with the public, we have also acquired a custom case that allows us to safely display them in the main reading room at the State Library.

John James Audubon (1785-1851) was an artist, naturalist, and ornithologist. His four-volume Birds of America was his attempt to illustrate every bird in America and its territories. While he was not successful in achieving that scope, he did complete 435 bird illustrations. Audubon drew each bird as life-size, resulting in some very large images that required a large page. As such, the original version of Birds of America, printed between 1827 and 1838, is often referred to as the Double Elephant Folio, on account of its large page-size.  No more than 200 copies of this version was produced at the time and only 120 are known to be in existence today – including the one in the collection at the State Library. 

In 1833, the Massachusetts General Court appropriated funding to acquire all four volumes for the State Library’s collection. The volumes were purchased by subscription directly from Audubon, the last of which was received in 1839, for a total cost $1,055.  The volumes have been part of the library’s collection ever since. However, over the years, the condition of the prints deteriorated due to handling and display. In 2020, all the volumes were sent to the Northeast Document Conservation Center so that the prints could undergo treatment. The talented conservators at NEDCC spent two years cleaning, mending, and digitizing all 435 oversized prints. We are thrilled to have them returned to stable condition!

We will be exhibiting the prints on a rotating basis, with each on display for a one-month period. Visit us now to see "Key-west Doves" – a pair of male and female birds that are surrounded by vibrant florals and vegetation. And be sure to follow us on social media and our blog to see which Audubon lands in the State Library next.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Friends of the Library Newsletter – August Issue

The August issue of our newsletter is hot off the press!  Pictured here is a preview but the full August issue 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, August 1, 2022

On Display in the State Library

You’d be hard-pressed to read the real estate pages in any major area newspaper right now and not
see something about how hard it is to buy a house! With that theme in mind, we selected an item for our August display that speaks to the housing market in 1847. Visit us this month to see “Sale of valuable house lots in South Woburn: near the railroad” - a broadside that was published in Boston by Eastburn’s Press. 

This broadside encouraged potential homebuyers to attend a land auction held in South Woburn on Thursday, May 27, 1847. And though it was written 175 years ago, the text of the broadside reads much the same as property listings today. It boasts that the lots for sale are within a three-minute walk of the train depot, with trains to and from Boston stopping at the station 18 times per day, as well as nearby churches, good schools, and a thriving village. Who wouldn’t want to live near all of these amenities! The lots were good-sized, too, ranging from 6,000 to 15,000 feet and located near Wedge Pond. There was a second auction held earlier in the day for a “modern two-story house and lot of land” - for those who don’t want to construct their own home. Unfortunately, we don’t know the results of this auction, though it would be interesting to see how much the land sold for! 

Next, we tried to find this area on a map and used the reference to Wedge Pond as our guide. On modern maps, this area is identified as part of Winchester rather than Woburn. A search on Winchester’s history led us to the Winchester Historical Society where we learned that “the thriving village [Winchester] soon began to feel the need to separate from the parent town of Woburn, and it was the South Woburn Congregational Church that initiated the move. In 1840 the South Woburn Congregational Church provided the first house of worship within the village boundaries. By 1850, the town was ready to establish its independence from Woburn.” This land auction dates to three years prior to the incorporation, so the plots eventually became part of the town of Winchester, not Woburn. We would guess that the area looks much different today than it did in 1847, but you can get a sense of what it looked like by viewing this bird’s-eye view map of Winchester from 1886, found in the collection of the Norman Leventhal Map Center

And returning to the broadside, we noted that the auction was led by N.A. Thompson, whose office is listed as in the Old State House. But why would an auctioneer have an office in a historic structure that is part of the Freedom Trail? That’s because the 1713 structure has served a number of purposes over the years! It was the seat of colonial and state government before the construction of the State House (and our home) on Beacon Hill, and then it served as Boston City Hall. But at the time of this auction, the Old State House was rented out for commercial use! From 1841 until 1881, various merchants had their offices in the building - including N.A. Thompson, who occupied space until at least the late 1860s. Pictured is an image from our collection of the Old State House in 1858, with business placards affixed to its exterior. 

We hope that you’ll have the opportunity to visit us this month to see this broadside on display in our main reading room. Click here to see a higher resolution version in DSpace.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian