Monday, September 26, 2022

Now Online: Group Photos of WWI “Yankee Division” Soldiers

On October 31, 1938, the Boston Globe donated a collection of forty-four original photographs of World War I soldiers to the State Library of Massachusetts. Consisting primarily of members of the 101st, 104th, 301st, and 302nd Infantries of the 26th (“Yankee”) Division, this collection depicts groups of soldiers at military training camps, most often Camp Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts, and Camp Darling in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Co. D, 6th Regt., Mass. Infantry, Camp Devens, 1917

As part of our ongoing efforts to make our collections freely available online, we have digitized and uploaded this historical collection to our online repository, and it is now available for viewing at
this link

Although most of the photographs lack annotation, some do include a list of the soldiers’ names and addresses on the back, which might be of particular interest to genealogists. For example, several photos of soldiers from the 104th Regiment include handwritten names and addresses from Massachusetts cities such as Salem, Peabody, Beverly, and Quincy, as shown below.

This recently digitized collection is complemented by another large photograph collection: individual portraits of WWI “Yankee Division” soldiers, which were also donated to the State Library by the Boston Globe. You may view that collection in our online repository and read all about it in a previous blog post from the State Library.

If you have any questions about either of these WWI photograph collections, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Special Collections Department, either by phone at 617-727-2595 or by emailing us at And keep an eye on our online repository, as we are adding new publications and collections each weekday.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, September 19, 2022

Roll Call Votes

A common inquiry we receive at the State Library is researchers wanting to see roll call votes. Or more specifically, wanting to see how an individual legislator voted on a certain bill. While roll call votes are accessible through the House and Senate Journals, and online through the Massachusetts Legislature site, roll call votes are not required for every piece of legislation to pass. 

In general, roll call votes, or voting by “yeas” and “nays,” is a method in which the clerk or presiding officer calls each member’s name and their answer of yea or nay is recorded. In Massachusetts, legislators have the option of voting Yea (Y), Nay (N), Present (P), or Not Voting (X). An asterisk (*) next to a member’s name denotes that the vote was made after the roll call was taken. 

Example of House Roll Call from
Yea/Nay Supplement; Note Roll
Call No. 184.

Some bills and specific legislation in Massachusetts require roll call votes as determined by the state’s Constitution. For example, bills authorizing the Commonwealth to borrow or lend money or for land taking require roll call votes. For more information, see the Massachusetts Legislative Research and Drafting Manual

If you are researching a bill, and want to know whether a roll call vote occurred, you can check the bill’s history either in the journals or online. For the House, roll call votes are organized into the Yea/Nay Supplement of the journals. Each roll call vote is assigned an identifying number. In the print House journals, the supplement can be found at the end of the last volume. Researchers can also download roll call votes as PDFs using the specific roll call number or can download all roll call votes for a given year from the Massachusetts Legislature Site. For the Senate, roll call votes are included in the journals on the day in which the vote was taken; Senate roll calls are also numbered separately.

Another helpful resource to consult is the Massachusetts Political Almanac. The almanac compiles key Senate and House Roll Call votes from the yearly legislative session. It provides a summary of the bill as well as the outcome of the vote. The library holds print issues of the Massachusetts Almanac back to 1974. 

As the almanac notes, while it is beneficial to know how your legislator voted on a certain cause or bill, a simple “yea” or “nay” cannot encompass all motivations or reasoning behind a vote. That’s why it is encouraged to contact your legislator’s office to learn more about each issue.

For assistance on any of the resources mentioned, please contact the Reference Department at 

April Pascucci
Reference Librarian

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Audubon’s Hooping Crane lands in the Library!

Visit us now through October 12 to see the Hooping Crane (plate 226) on display in the Audubon case in our Main Library reading room. This crane is the tallest bird in North America - which is illustrated in this print! The birds portrayed in the double-elephant folio are drawn to life-size, so the crane is illustrated as bent over in order to fit on the page. And if you look closely, you can see that its tail feathers extend beyond the margins.

Audubon described the crane as, "Proud of its beautiful form, and prouder still of its power of flight, it stalks over the withering grasses with all the majesty of a gallant chief. With long and measured steps he moves along, his head erect, his eye glistening with delight." You can read his full account here.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Back to School in the Commonwealth

Image courtesy of Boston Latin School
It’s the beginning of September and we all know what that means: it’s back-to-school season! It’s the time of the year when caregivers are hunting down school supplies for children, teachers are readying their classrooms, and college students are reading over class syllabi. Education has always been an important part of Massachusetts’ history, starting with the development of the Boston Latin School in 1635, which was the first school in the colonies. This week we’d like to feature some items in our collection that celebrate this exciting time of year and highlight the history of education in the Commonwealth. 

Image available
in Special Collections
The Board of Education for what is now named the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, was established by 1837 Cha. 0241. This Act, titled An Act Relating to Common Schools, was pushed into motion by Horace Mann. Mann, who had been a Representative in the Massachusetts State Legislature and later became a State Senator, had a passion for education. In the 1800s he sought to improve Massachusetts' failing educational system. While serving as the Board of Education's first secretary, he had yearly reports published on the state of education in the commonwealth. These annual reports were his way of working to reform the struggling system and these are the same types of annual reports that the State Library has in its collection today. Here you can see the 1827 annual report of the Board of Education that named Mann as Secretary.

Not only did Mann work to have annual reports published, but he also established the Common School, which is today’s version of a public school. He believed that every child in the commonwealth was entitled to have a quality education paid for by taxes and local funds. He also was at the helm of the concept of the Normal School, which provided teachers with proper training. 

The first state-sponsored Normal School, established
in 1839 on the Lexington Battle Green. It would later
become Framingham State University.
As I was researching the above act related to Common Schools, I came across an act that is very exciting for librarians such as myself. 1837 Chap. 0147 established libraries in Common Schools. It allowed for every legally recognized school district to raise money to establish and maintain a library. As you can see in this act, the budget for a Common School library at the time was just a little bit different than the budgets of today’s libraries!

In order to serve all students in the area, the New England Asylum for the Blind opened in 1832. Now known as the Perkins School for the Blind, the New England Asylum for the Blind made Massachusetts home to the first school of its kind. The educational methods used there were inspired by Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe’s visits to institutions for the blind in Europe. 

Before the invention of Braille, Howe developed a raised, embossed type called Boston Line Type, or Boston Line Letter. Examples of this are rare, so we were excited to find pages of line type at the back of our 1833 volume titled Address of the trustees of the New-England Institution for the Education of the Blind to the public

If you’d like to learn more about the Perkins School for the Blind, you can view their annual reports here

Education in Massachusetts has come a long way since the start of the Boston Latin School and the work of Horrace Mann. If you’re curious about what is going on with education in Massachusetts these days, check DSpace, our digital repository. Here you’ll find some of the latest documents that the Executive Office of Education has produced, broken down by department or school system. A few collections to note include:

It’s thanks to an exhibit done by State Library staff in 2016 that brought the inspiration for this blog post. Please be sure to take a look at that now-virtual exhibit. It outlines a detailed history of education in Massachusetts and provides some great visuals as well. Happy start of the school year!

Jessica Shrey
Reference Librarian

Thursday, September 1, 2022

State Library Newsletter – September Issue

The September issue of our newsletter is out today!  Pictured here is a preview but the full September 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.