Tuesday, December 27, 2022

2023 Mass Reading Challenge!

Are you looking for a fun new year’s resolution for 2023? Then look no further than the 2023 Mass Reading Challenge, hosted by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Join with other book lovers across the Commonwealth (and beyond) for a literary adventure in the new year!

To participate in this challenge, sign up using this form, and then choose a book to read each month that fits the categories listed below:

When you’ve finished reading your book each month, fill out this online form to report on your selection. If you read and report on at least one book in 2023, you’ll be invited to a year-end celebration hosted by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. And if you submit an entry for each of the twelve months of the year, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win one of two totes filled with books and Massachusetts goodies! See this FAQ page for more information on how to participate in the challenge. 

When you’re ready to select your book for March, be sure to browse the Massachusetts Book Awards collection in the State Library’s online catalog. As the official depository library for all Massachusetts Book Awards books, we have a comprehensive collection of award-winning books that are available to check out via interlibrary loan. Simply submit an interlibrary loan request through your local library (preferably in mid-February to allow time for shipping), and we’ll send the book your way!

We’re also an official Reading Partner for this challenge, so don’t hesitate to contact us at reference.department@mass.gov if you’re looking for guidance on a book to read for a particular month.

Happy reading in 2023!

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, December 19, 2022

Massachusetts Textile Schools

When you think of the higher education system in Massachusetts, UMass probably comes to mind, or maybe one of the state universities at Bridgewater or Worcester. Or maybe you think of Bristol Community College or even MassArt. But did you know at one time Massachusetts was home to three textile schools which offered courses in cotton manufacturing, chemistry and dyeing, and even knitting?  

In 1895, the legislature passed Act Chapter 475, An Act Relative To The Establishment Of Textile Schools, as a way to bolster the state’s textile industry and as a way to bring textile education to cities within the Commonwealth. Textile institutes would open in New Bedford, Lowell, and Fall River.  

Original building on Purchase Street.
In 1898, the New Bedford Textile School opened on Purchase Street. The original building included an office, library, classrooms, as well as space for the necessary machinery for the manufacturing of cotton yarns and fabrics. Throughout the years, the school would expand and evolve. In 1902, the school at New Bedford would be the first to offer a course in knitting. In 1947, the school would change its name to the New Bedford Textile Institute (NBTI) and offer more course subjects like rayon processing, hosiery finishing, physics, and electrical engineering. Just like other colleges, NBTI had a thriving campus life. Students could join fraternities and sororities, partake in school athletics, and even published their own yearbook, aptly titled, The Fabricator.  

The NBTI's football team, The Red Raiders. The team would play
against other state colleges, like Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
Image from the Fabricator, 1951.

The Lowell Textile School would open in 1897 in downtown Lowell. Like its New Bedford counterpart, the school offered courses in cotton and woolen manufacturing, chemistry, and mechanical engineering. In 1928 the school would also officially become a Textile Institute and would begin offering evening courses. While the textile school would close in 1971, the state college at Lowell would continue its focus in engineering and technology courses. Today, University of Massachusetts Lowell is known for its prestigious engineering program. For more information on the history of UMass Lowell’s College of Engineering, visit the UML site

From the Bradford Durfee College
of Technology Bulletin, 1962-64
Located in Fall River, the Bradford Durfee College of Technology first began as a state textile school. Along with the school in New Bedford, it would also become part of the larger University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Opened in 1904, the textile school in Fall River boasted a mill building and dye house for the education of its students. Unlike the schools at Lowell and New Bedford, the Fall River institution was named for a prominent, local textile leader. UMass Dartmouth notes that the land for the school was donated by Sarah S. Brayton, who had one request that the school be named in honor of her relative, Durfee. See the 1901 Act Chapter 175 authorizing the Trustees of the school to officially change the name from the Fall River Textile School to the Bradford Durfee Textile School. Like the others, the school would expand and change with the demands of the textile industry as well as with demands for more diverse course offerings. By 1957, the institute was now a recognized college adding courses in languages, business administration, and fashion design and illustration. For more information on the history of UMass Dartmouth and its role in textile education, see the University’s Archives and Special Collections guides

If you are interested in learning more about these textile schools, want to check out the historical course catalogs, or yearbooks, contact the Reference Department by email: reference.department@mass.gov, phone: 617-727-2590, or stop in for a visit! 


April Pascucci
Reference Librarian 

Monday, December 12, 2022

Genealogy Research at the State Library & Beyond

One of the more common types of questions we get at the State Library are questions related to genealogy. We have some great resources that can help you in your hunt for information.

The first is our Guide to Genealogical Resources. This guide is a great place to start your research as it can send you in so many different directions. We break down resources by topic, starting with geographical resources. You can search through tax valuations, vital records, and probate records. We even have an alphabetical list of Massachusetts city and town reports. Many of these reports, which contain vital information such as births and deaths, have been digitized and are available in our digital repository. Those that haven’t been can be viewed in our Special Collections Department with an appointment made in advance.

In terms of biographical resources that can help you with your genealogy research, the State Library has a few different things to offer. Our historical newspaper collection spans the 18th-20th centuries with a focus mostly on newspapers from Massachusetts. We also have a collection of published family histories and a Legislative Biographical File, pictured on the left.

This file was put together by Caleb Tillinghast, the first State Librarian of Massachusetts. Consisting of over 20,000 hand-written cards, it is indexed alphabetically by last name and includes legislative biographical information for each member of the Massachusetts General Court and Constitutional Offices starting in 1780. It can be used on-site during the Library’s open hours.

Photograph of F. B. Dwier,
101st Infan. 3rd. Recruit Co.
If you’re interested in genealogy research related to Massachusetts soldiers and sailors, check out this guide for some helpful resources. We have a WWI Soldier Card File with close to 40,000 index cards containing biographical and service information for Massachusetts soldiers who served in WWI. That can be viewed in our Special Collections Department by appointment. If you’d like to take a look at some WWI soldier photographs that we have digitized, check out this collection on DSpace, our digital repository. These 8,500 or so photographs were given to the State Library by the Boston Globe in 1935. The photos appear to be the professional military photo of each soldier and contain the name, rank, unit, and division of each person. Some photos contain additional information, if an article had appeared in the Globe. 

Sergeant Andrew Jackson Smith
(from the Col. Alfred S. Hartwell
Additionally, we digitized volumes of Massachusetts soldiers, sailors & Marines of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. You’ll find biographical information in these resources, as well as information related to their service. We also have the Colonel Alfred Stedman Hartwell Papers. This collection contains photographs of Civil War soldiers in the 44th and 55th regiments of the Massachusetts Infantry. Our Special Collections Department holds these papers, so be sure to contact them if you’d like to take a look, but you can also view this collection on DSpace.

If you need further help with your research, we can point you in the direction of other organizations to reach out to. A few of these organizations include:

Massachusetts Archives: Repository for Massachusetts vital records (births, marriages and deaths) for the period between 1841 and 1920. A guide to their genealogical resources is available on their website. The Archives also houses the historical military records of the Massachusetts Adjutant General. This collection is one of the most complete state records of MA servicemen and women from 1775-1940.

Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics: Official repository for all Massachusetts birth, marriage and death records from 1921 to the present.

Boston Public Library: Collection of governmental records, city and town directories, New England newspapers, family and town histories, and more. A guide to their genealogical resources is available on their website. Their newspaper databases include the Boston Globe (1872-present), New York Times (1851-2015), 19th-century and international newspapers. [BPL eCard required for access to their newspaper database; free to all Massachusetts residents]

Google newspaper archive: Includes the freely accessible Boston Evening Transcript (1851-1915), and the Boston Daily Evening Transcript (1866-1872)

For a more comprehensive list of outside sources, we’ll refer you once again to our Genealogical Resources guide and our guide on Massachusetts soldiers and sailors. You’ll find contact information for these other organizations towards the middle/bottom of those guides. For an easy-to-read version of genealogical resources, take a look at the digital version of our genealogical resources pamphlet.

The State Library has a lot to offer when it comes to genealogy resources and the research process itself can sometimes seem daunting to start. We’re here to help though! Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have and we’ll point you in the right direction. You can email us at reference.department@mass.gov, chat with us virtually, or visit us in room 341 of the State House (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm).

Jessica Shrey
Reference Librarian

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Audubon’s Blackbirds land in the Library!

The fourth day of Christmas brought four calling birds as a gift – but did you know that some interpretations recite that as four "colly birds"? A colly bird is a blackbird, which is why this month's displayed Audubon print is Red-winged Starling or Marsh Blackbird (plate 67) – it is a happy coincidence that there are four of them depicted! Visit us from December 6 through January 10 to see this print on display.

Audubon has illustrated adult and young blackbirds, and "placed them on the branch of a water maple, these birds being fond of alighting on trees of that kind, in early spring, to pick up the insects that frequent the blossoms." In addition to the full print, we’ve included a close-up of the young male. Read more from Audubon's account here

Monday, December 5, 2022

On Display in the State Library

Photo credit Louis Oliveira,
Wikimedia Commons.
If you visit Boston during the holiday season and walk by the Common you can’t miss a large, brightly lit Christmas tree on display – this is the Boston Christmas Tree, Massachusetts’ official Christmas tree. In 1918 and from 1971 onward, the tree has been donated to the Commonwealth from Nova Scotia as thanks for the assistance that the Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee provided in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion. This month in our library display case, we’re exhibiting a selection of materials related to those relief efforts.

Halifax is the capital of the province of Nova Scotia, and its largest city. The Halifax Explosion occurred on December 6, 1917 when two ships, the SS Mont-Blanc and the SS Imo, collided in its harbor. The Mont-Blanc was transporting munitions from New York to France, and though the damage from the collision was not too severe, the Mont-Blanc caught fire. This led to a devastating explosion and subsequent tsunami that caused a large loss of life and structural damage to the city. When news of the explosion reached Massachusetts Governor Samuel McCall, he offered the mayor of Halifax unlimited assistance. In the immediate aftermath, a train of Massachusetts doctors, nurses, and medical supplies were dispatched to Halifax. In the weeks following, the Massachusetts-Halifax Relief Committee raised money to assist residents of Halifax who had lost their homes and all their belongings. More information about the explosion and aftermath can be found in a previous post on our blog.

This month’s display focuses on the efforts of the Massachusetts-Halifax Relief Committee. The State Library’s holdings include the Massachusetts-Halifax Relief Committee Records, 1917-1919 (Ms. Coll. 90), which was acquired from the Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety in March 1921. Through photographs, blueprints, reports, and meeting meetings, the collection documents the relief efforts undertaken by the committee to aid the residents of Halifax in the wake of the destruction caused by the explosion. The goal of the committee was to raise money for the replacement of homes and furnishings, as well as provide care for individuals who had been injured in the explosion. The Massachusetts-Halifax Relief Committee ultimately raised over $500,000 in donations from Massachusetts citizens.

We’ve chosen to display just two of the many pages of transcribed “thank you” notes that are part of this collection. The relief committee had determined that one of the best uses of the donated funds was to provide furniture to individuals who had lost their homes. The notes of appreciation are in response to that aid and are addressed to members of the Halifax Branch of the committee, meaning men and women who resided in Halifax and who represented Massachusetts in disbursement of the donated funds. Of note are the letters addressed to Mr. Pearson, as he was the chairman of the Halifax Branch. The notes are dated throughout 1918, showing the speed in which the funds were raised and distributed. The men and women who wrote the letters expressed extreme gratitude to the committee for replacing items lost in the explosion and helping them to feel as though they had a home again.

Also on display are two images of the Governor McCall Apartments, which were erected by the Halifax Relief Commission and are located on Massachusetts Avenue in Halifax. They are named after Massachusetts Governor McCall, as he was so quick to offer aid to Halifax immediately after the explosion. The group photograph was taken on November 8, 1918 on the occasion of Gov. McCall’s visit to Halifax – he is shown standing in the second row, second from the left. To his right is Fred Pearson, to whom many of the “thank you” notes described above were addressed. The children in the front row are all residents of the apartments. In total, the apartments housed 325 families or nearly two thousand people who had been displaced by the explosion. The full size of the apartment complex can be seen in the bird’s-eye view photograph, which shows the apartments when they were “roofed in” on January 28, 1918. Construction of the apartments began on Christmas Day 1917 and were completed in 320 working hours. Note the American, British, and French flags flying from the rooftop in recognition of the aid received. You can see many other photographs from this collection in our digital repository.


If you are in town to see the Christmas tree, head up Park Street to stop in and visit us and see some of the materials that shed light on the significance and meaning behind the tree. These materials are on display in our main library reading room through January 4.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian                                


Thursday, December 1, 2022

State Library Newsletter – December Issue

December is here and with that comes a new issue of our newsletter! Pictured here is a preview, but the full 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.