Monday, June 5, 2023

Great Outdoors Month is here!

June brings with it the official start of summer and what better way to enjoy summer than to celebrate Great Outdoors Month?! This celebration was started as Great Outdoors Week in 1998 by President Bill Clinton. It grew over the years into what is now a month-long celebration honoring nature and its benefits to the world.

The State Library has all sorts of materials to help you learn more about the great outdoors or books that state employees can check out and enjoy while in the great outdoors. We’ve rounded up some items in our collection to highlight because who doesn’t love a good beach read or a travel guide to reference while exploring a new place? 

Quincy Shore Reservations, Quincy;
image courtesy of Department of Conservation & Recreation

Feel free to browse the lists below for things that might spark your interest. If you aren’t a state employee and are interested in these books, you can borrow our books by submitting an interlibrary loan request via your local public library. You can also search WorldCat to see what other libraries might own that title.

Beach/park/backyard/anywhere reads

The great outdoors around New England

Southwest Corridor Park, Boston
image courtesy of Department of Conservation & Recreation

Perhaps you’d rather not carry a book around on your hike or to a local park. Have no fear because we’ve got you covered with e-books! If you’re a state employee you can use your State Library card to download the Libby app which will allow you to access ebooks through CW Mars. If you aren’t a state employee, you can access ebooks through the Boston Public Library by signing up for a BPL e-card. BPL e-cards are available to all Massachusetts residents.

There are some other great resources produced by the state that can help you in your quest to enjoy the great outdoors this month. The Department of Conservation and Recreation has a guide to the 150+ state parks around Massachusetts, as well as self-guided hikes and walks, plus events and programs. DCR also has a set of trail maps you can print out or use on your smartphone.

Blue Hills Trail Map
courtesy of Department of Conservation & Recreation

These resources should help you celebrate and appreciate everything about the great outdoors! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions about any of the resources here and remember to enjoy the great outdoors, especially this month!

Jessica Shrey
Legal Research Reference Librarian

Thursday, June 1, 2023

State Library Newsletter – June Issue

From postcards of the Mohawk Trail, to gulls from the coast, and a map of Boston, you can travel the state with this month's newsletter! Pictured here is a preview, but you can read about all those items and more by clicking here. And you can also sign up for our mailing list to receive the newsletter straight to your inbox.

Monday, May 29, 2023

On Display in the State Library

Happy June! Now that the summer months are upon us, Boston will become even busier with visitors. Whether you are a local playing tourist for the day, or an out-of-towner experiencing the city for the first time, our displayed item will provide some inspiration for things to do and places to see. Visit us throughout the month to see the Ernest Dudley Chase map Boston and Vicinity: A Pictorial Map on display in our main reading room.  

Ernest Dudley Chase was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1878 but lived most of his life in Winchester (which case be found at the top center of this map). He was an illustrator who was known for his greeting cards and his pictorial maps. Pictorial maps will not help you out very much if you are trying to figure out how to get from one location to another, but they will entertain you with their whimsical illustrations and depictions of an area. While many of Chase’s maps focus on New England, he did not limit himself to the region. The State Library holds several of Chase’s maps in our collection, and while not all of them have been digitized yet, you can explore a full list here. Many of Chase’s maps focus on New England, but you can see from our holdings that he did not limit himself to the region. Maps in our collection include world maps, other locations within the United States, European countries, and themed maps - like “love” and “peace.” You can also explore more of Chase’s life and work in our 2009 online exhibit Ernest Dudley Chase: A Worldview in Maps.

Our displayed map of the Boston metro area is so detailed that each time you look at it, you are bound to find something new. It is peppered with illustrations of buildings, landmarks, train routes and various modes of transportation, and bodies of water. The map extends north to Melrose, Lexington, and Concord, west to Wayland and Natick, and south to Needham, Mattapan, and Wollaston. Boston Harbor and Thompson’s Island, South Boston, East Boston, and Revere are shown to the east. Countless numbers of schools, churches, municipal buildings, and libraries are among the illustrated buildings,  along with recreational related sites like golf courses, yacht clubs, and beaches and amusement parks. For those who want a little bit of history included in their maps, Chase even included the route of Paul Revere’s midnight ride! He’s depicted on horseback leaving Old North Church, and then you can follow the horseshoe tracks all the way to Concord (the map does not address that William Dawes and Samuel Prescott were also part of this ride, and that Revere was detained and didn’t make it all the way to Concord!). 

Whether you are visiting the Boston metropolitan area for a week-long vacation or just looking for inspiration for a daytrip, you can find numerous destination suggestions in this map. And be sure to stop by one of the featured locations, the State House, to visit the State Library and see this map on display through June 27. 

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Author Talk with Ilyon Woo

  • Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom
  • Tuesday, June 6, 2023. 12pm - 1:00pm
  • State Library of Massachusetts - Room 341, Massachusetts State House
  • Livestream:

Please join us on Tuesday, June 6th at noon, in our historic reading room for an exciting author talk event with Ilyon Woo who will be discussing her New York Times Bestseller, Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom. We will also be livestreaming the talk on our Youtube channel, courtesy of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Broadcast Services.

About the bookMaster Slave Husband Wife is the riveting, true story of Ellen and William Craft. The Crafts were a young, enslaved couple who, in 1848, made the perilous decision to flee from Macon, Georgia to seek freedom in the North. A journey like no other, Ellen disguised herself as an older, wealthy white man traveling with his slave, William. The book follows the Crafts as they make their way to Philadelphia, Boston, and eventually Canada. Along the way, the couple gained a certain celebrity status, joining the abolitionist movement with such leaders like Frederick Douglass. Woo’s well-researched book presents a story of the Crafts and antebellum America which reads almost like it could be a major movie with themes of freedom, self-emancipation, and love. 

About the author: In addition to Master Slave Husband Wife, Woo is the New York Times best-selling author of The Great Divorce: A Nineteenth-Century Mother’s Extraordinary Fight Against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times. She received a Whiting Creative Nonfiction Writing Grant for Master Slave Husband Wife. Woo’s writing has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and The New York Times. Woo holds a BA in the Humanities from Yale College and a PhD in English from Columbia University. For more information on Woo and her work, visit her site:

If you are able to join us in person, attendees will be able to participate in a question-and-answer session with the author as well as purchase a copy of the book. As always, this author talk is free and open to all. Assisted listening devices will be made available upon request. Any questions or concerns, please email us at

Want to stay up to date on future Author Talks at the State Library? Join our mailing list. For more information on the State Library Author talks series, please visit our site:

Monday, May 15, 2023

Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Month!

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Month! This month celebrates the numerous Asian/Pacific communities within the United States. Initially introduced to Congress in the late 1970s as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week, the first 10 days of May were selected to honor the cultures and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. It was not until 1992, that the entire month of May was designated and annually proclaimed AAPI month. 

Image from Hawaiian Schools Photo Album

To celebrate and observe Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, the State Library has curated a selection of titles related to Asian American and Pacific Islander history, experience, cultures, and communities within Massachusetts and beyond. Please contact the Reference Department if interested in any of the below titles.

In addition, our Special Collections department has put on display in our main reading room images of Hawaiian schools, teachers, and students from a period between 1897-1922. The album of photographs was donated to the State Library in 1924. You can view the full digitized album on our Flickr account

Finally, on May 9th, the State Library hosted author, researcher, and Asian American activist, Michael Liu. Liu spoke on his book, Forever Struggle: Activism, Identity, and Survival in Boston's Chinatown, 1880-2018. You can view the entire recorded talk on our YouTube channel!

For more information and events happening this month, please visit

April Pascucci
Reference Librarian

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Pigeons in the Library!

City pigeons sometimes make their way into public buildings with plentiful food scraps and multiple opening and closing doors – like cavernous and bustling train stations. From May 9 through June 6, pigeons have made their way into the library too – but in this instance it is in the form of Audubon’s print of the Band-Tailed Pigeon (plate 367)!

Shown here are the adult male and female, depicted perched in the blooming leaves of a dogwood tree. Read Audubon’s account of the pigeon here.   

Monday, May 8, 2023

What is a commonwealth and why is Massachusetts considered one?

Have you ever wondered what the term “commonwealth” means or why Massachusetts is considered one? You aren’t alone; we get that question fairly often here in the Reference Department! 

The short answer is: because of the Massachusetts Constitution. Let's dig a little deeper though and look at the history as to how this came about. From the years 1776 to 1780, the phrase “the State of Massachusetts Bay” was used at the top of all Acts and Resolves. Leading up to 1780, the term “Commonwealth” was popular when referring to “a whole body of people constituting a nation or state.” Some political writers even preferred this term and the usage of this term may also have been a reference to anti-monarchic sentiment. In 1780, however, the Massachusetts Constitution went into effect. Part 2 of the Constitution states “that the people ... form themselves into a free, sovereign, and independent body politic, or state by the name of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts." From there on out, Massachusetts legally became known as a commonwealth because it was written in the Constitution as such. Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky also called their states commonwealths.

Image of Massachusetts Constitution,
courtesy of Mass. State Archives

It’s important to note that commonwealths are states, but states are not commonwealths. States and commonwealths are equal, however, and one does not have any special political status or a different kind of legal relationship to the rest of the country than the other does. Being a commonwealth just comes down to the question of whether or not the term was used in a state’s constitution.

The Massachusetts Constitution, written by John Adams in 1780, is the oldest functioning written constitution in the world. It served as a model for the Constitution of the United States, which was written in 1787 and went into effect in 1789.

Check out our webpage to find out why this term may have been used and what John Adams’ thoughts may have been while framing the Constitution. Merriam-Webster has some information on this as well. If you’re interested to read more about the history of the Constitution and Massachusetts, be sure to check out this website. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at if you have any questions about this or another topic!

Jessica Shrey
Reference Librarian

Thursday, May 4, 2023

State Library Newsletter – May Issue

There’s a lot happening this May! Read about the library’s new resources, upcoming events, displayed items, and more. 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.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Author Talk with Michael Liu

  • Forever Struggle: Activism, Identity, and Survival in Boston's Chinatown, 1880-2018 
  • Tuesday, May 9, 2023. 12pm - 1:00pm
  • State Library of Massachusetts - Room 341, Massachusetts State House
  • Livestream:

In honor of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, the State Library Author Talks Series is excited to host author Michael Liu. Liu will be speaking on his 2020 book, Forever Struggle: Activism, Identity, and Survival in Boston's Chinatown, 1880-2018. Please join us on Tuesday, May 9th at noon, in our historic reading room for this event. We will also be livestreaming the talk on our Youtube channel, courtesy of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Broadcast Services.

About the book: Forever Struggle, details the history of Boston's well known Chinatown neighborhood. From early immigration to urban renewal projects, Liu enlightens readers to the efforts of the Chinatown community to maintain its identity and presence in an ever-changing city. Forever Struggle demonstrates the power of ethnic communities as they endure urban transformation. 

About the author: Michael Liu is a former Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Liu grew up in Boston’s Chinatown and is currently an activist for Chinatown and Asian American communities. Liu is coauthor of The Snake Dance of Asian American Activism: Community, Vision, and Power.

If you are able to join us in person, attendees will be able to participate in a question-and-answer session with the author as well as purchase a copy of the book. As always, this author talk is free and open to all. Assisted listening devices will be made available upon request. Any questions or concerns, please email us at

Want to stay up to date on future Author Talks at the State Library? Join our mailing list. For more information on the State Library Author talks series, please visit our site:

Monday, May 1, 2023

Preservation Week at the State Library: A Conserved Item on Display!

Happy Preservation Week! April 30 through May 6 has been designated by the American Library Association as time to raise awareness of the preservation measures that are taken in libraries, archives, and museums to ensure the long-term integrity of their collections. Here at the State Library, our preservation program covers book and paper repair, reformatting, environmental monitoring and disaster preparedness, and re-housing and cleaning our collection. The physical repair of items in our collection is called conservation, and while we undertake a fair amount of that work on-site in our preservation lab, we also occasionally send out items to be treated at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC). This month, we are celebrating Preservation Week by exhibiting an item in our display case that has undergone treatment at NEDCC, along with a facsimile of it in its “before” state. Displaying these items side-by-side really emphasizes the transformation that an item undergoes when it’s conserved!

The displayed broadside is An Act to Prevent Profane Cursing and Swearing, published by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1798. It was part of an NEDCC project in 2017/2018 to conserve some of the historically significant broadsides in our Special Collections holdings. When we work with NEDCC, they begin by sending us a condition assessment and proposed treatment plan. Once the item has been conserved, we receive before/after images, along with a detailed description of the item’s condition upon receipt and subsequent treatment. Having thorough documentation of condition and treatment allows us to maintain a comprehensive record of the items in our collection. In this instance, the broadside had tape and residual adhesive removed, it was humidified and cleaned, and tears were mended with toned Japanese paper. Then the back of the page was lined with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste, making it safer for handling. The result is a cleaner and sturdier broadside that looks almost as good as it would have back when it was first printed in the 18th century!

And now a note on the content of item that so much work went into to conserve! This broadside was issued in June 1798 after an act was passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives that states, “if any person, who has arrived at discretion, shall profanely curse or swear, and shall be therefore convicted, such person so offending, shall forfeit and pay a sum not exceeding two dollars, nor less than one dollar, according to the aggravation of the offense.” The act went on to state that if swearing occurred in the presence of any Sherriff, Deputy Sherriff, Coroner, Constable, Grand Juror, or Tythingman, then they should report the act to the Justice of the Peace so that the offender could be convicted and punished. Broadsides such as this were then sent to Town Clerks throughout the Commonwealth to be read aloud at town meetings, and they were also sent to public teachers of religion (or pastors) to be read to their congregations annually. So in sum, if you wanted to avoid paying a fee in the Commonwealth in the late 1700s, you better not swear in the presence of any public official!  And while seemingly not enforced, blasphemy is still on the books of Massachusetts law! 

If you have an item in your personal collection that needs professional conservation treatment, you can find a list of local conservators through the American Institute for Conservation directory. But much of the information shared by organizations during Preservation Week can be applied to your collection on your own. We will be posting preservation content on our social media channels every day this week, so we hope that you will follow along as we celebrate all things preservation! And if you are in the area, be sure to visit us through May 30 to see our conserved broadside on display in our reading room.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, April 24, 2023

Poetry Month at the State Library

April has been designated as National Poetry Month, and there is no shortage of poets found in the Commonwealth! Revisit some of our past blog posts that highlight poetry in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts has an impressive literary history, and more than a few well-known poets hail from the Commonwealth. This post highlights Phillis Wheatley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Elizabeth Bishop and more!

This post highlights three collections of poetry found within the library's collection whose common denominator is that they all feature Boston as their subject. Dating from the late 1800s to 2013, the collections present a varied view of the same city.

Here in the Commonwealth, Patriots’ Day is celebrated on the third Monday of April and commemorates the Revolutionary War battles of Lexington, Concord, and Menotomy. Patriots' Day was first proclaimed as a holiday in 1894 by Governor Frederick Thomas Greenhalge. 

To celebrate both Patriots’ Day and Poetry Month, check out a small album available on our Flickr page with selections from Poems of American Patriotism, 1776-1898, compiled by Frederick Lawrence Knowles and published in 1898. Highlighted poems honor Lexington and Concord, the Boston Tea Party, and Paul Revere.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, April 17, 2023

Greenery and gardens throughout Boston’s history

The sun is shining longer, birds are chirping, and there is a hint of freshness in the air which can only mean one thing: spring is here! While spring officially started on March 20th, you never know what kind of weather we’ll get here in New England. April always has much more of a “spring feeling” and with it comes National Garden Month, as designated by the National Garden Bureau. To honor this month-long spring-focused celebration, we wanted to share a brief history of a few topics related to gardening that might pique your interest, especially this time of year.

For those of you who have been to the State House before, you’ve likely been to Beacon Hill, exploring shops and restaurants while walking over the old cobblestone streets. Did you know there are hidden gardens throughout Beacon Hill? In the 1820s and 1830s, row houses were built in Beacon Hill and behind them were long, narrow yards. These yards, which were strictly functional in those days due to the lack of modern plumbing and other services, were used for the outhouse, trash pits, laundry, and summer cooking. 

Image of garden on
Mt. Vernon St, Beacon Hill
Image of garden on
West Cedar St, Beacon Hill

By the 1920s, a few homeowners were able to transform these backyard functional spaces into areas of enjoyment and in 1929, the Beacon Hill Garden Club was established. Gone were the days of laundry lines, outhouses, and sheds and in their place, flowers started to bloom and greenery took over, as you can see from the following more-modern day images.

Image of garden on West Cedar St, Beacon Hill

The Beacon Hill Garden Club, an organization committed to urban landscaping and education, offers a tour of a handful of these gardens each year. This year’s tour is taking place on Thursday, May 18th with spaces open between the hours of 9am and 5pm.

Image courtesy of Beacon Hill Garden Club

Community gardens also have a long history here in Boston and elsewhere, though community gardening started in England during the 1700s. At the time, the countryside was transformed from open, common land to fenced off land owned by commercial farms. Cities were also being built up, with blocks upon blocks of streets containing narrow workers’ housing, and lacking open space or gardens. These rural and urban changes prevented thousands of people from accessing land that they previously depended on for food. As a result of these needs, wealthy landowners were prompted to lease small pieces of their land to farm workers as community gardens. Crafters in cities also banded together to rent land on the outskirts of town so they could plant flowers and vegetables. Around a century later, these two movements merged to create a national policy for the municipal provision of land for the purpose of community gardening.

A similar situation happened in the United States, which brought the community gardening movement overseas from England. The trigger in the US was the economic depression that took place between 1893-1897. At the start of that financial crisis, 491 banks failed. Railroad traffic was impacted over the course of the next year, which caused one-third of railroad companies to go bankrupt. At that point in history, railroads were the nation’s main industry and when they started experiencing bankruptcy, thousands of people lost their jobs. Over the course of the next few years, cities were full of workers without jobs. Cities were also becoming more built up, with skyscrapers and tall tenements replacing houses and smaller downtown buildings. It became more difficult for families to feed themselves due to all of these changes. As a result, owners rented their vacant land to workers so that they could plant potatoes, beans, and other vegetables. Changes like this were happening throughout the country, leading to the rise of community gardens.

Berkeley Community Garden
(Creative Commons)
Community gardening lives on throughout the country, including here in Boston. You can even become part of this long-standing movement! The Trustees is the largest nonprofit owner of community gardens in Boston, managing 56 gardens in the city for a total of 15 acres across eight neighborhoods. For a yearly dues, you can have a plot of land in one of the gardens in Dorchester, East Boston, the Fenway, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Mattapan, Mission Hill, or the South End. If you’re not ready to take the dive to tend to a garden plot or if you’re just visiting the Boston area, entrance to any of those community gardens is free of charge and is open to the public during events and programs.

Image from State Library 
Digital Repository
Of course, we can’t talk about gardens in the Boston area without talking about the Boston Public Garden. Established in 1837, the Boston Public Garden was America’s first public botanical garden.Did you know it was established two-hundred years after Boston Common? The Common was America’s first public park. It served as a practical space with walkways made so that people could cross town. The Public Garden, however, was decorative. It was (and still is) filled with flowers, greenery, and paths made for wandering and enjoying the outdoors. You’ll also find fountains, monuments, and of course the swan boats! This year the swan boats take to the water on April 15th! Click here for more information.

Image circa 1935-1955, courtesy
of Digital Commonwealth
Boston Public Garden, May 2005

Boston Public Garden, May 2018

With spring in the air and National Garden Month upon us, we hope you can get out and enjoy all that New England, and especially Boston, has to offer this time of year!

Works consulted:

Jessica Shrey
Reference Librarian

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Happy Spring - Meadowlarks Have Landed in the Library!

Spring is in the air in the northeast, and one of the markers of the change of seasons are the bird songs that you might hear outside your window! One of those could be that of the meadowlark (plate 136). Four are shown here in their nest, among the yellow-flowered gerardia. From the Audubon field-guide, we learned that males defend their nest by singing.

Click here to hear the meadowlark's call, provided by the American Bird Conservancy, and visit us through May 9 to see the print on display!

Monday, April 10, 2023

Special Speaker Event: Carmen Ortiz

The State Library Author Talks Series is honored to host a special speaker event with former U.S. District Attorney, Carmen Ortiz. From 2009-2017, Ortiz served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, leading an office of over 200 attorneys throughout Boston, Worcester, and Springfield. During her extensive career as a trial lawyer and investigator, Ortiz has directed many civil and criminal cases, including the high-profile investigations against Whitey Bulger and the Boston Marathon bomber. 

To commemorate the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Ortiz will speak on her experience leading the prosecution against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Carmen Ortiz is currently a Partner at Anderson & Kreiger. Read more about her career and achievements here.

We hope you can join us for this special event as we honor the 10th anniversary of the bombings. The event is free and open to all. Assisted listening devices will be made available upon request. Can’t make it in person? View the livestream on our YouTube channel.

Please send any questions to: For more information on the State Library Author Talks series, visit our site:

Thursday, April 6, 2023

State Library Newsletter – April Issue

Curious about what's going on at the State Library this month? Wonder no more, and check out our April newsletter! It's full of information about our new books, new events, new displays, and more. 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.

Monday, April 3, 2023

On Display at the State Library

This month, we’re sharing a 19th century broadside from our collection that pertains to track work and commuting to and from Boston - a topic that continues to dominate local news today! Commuters taking the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in and out of the city are currently experiencing a slower ride because of “slow zones” and track inspections on most of its lines. In track news of a different sort, in 1888, residents in Quincy were notified that they might soon find it easier to get into the city - the item we’re sharing is a notice that was issued calling for a Quincy town meeting to hear proposals for the laying of tracks and use of motive power of the Quincy and Boston Street Railway Company. 

Much like how the MBTA currently holds public meetings, on January 17, 1888 a notice was issued by the Selectmen of Quincy to inform the general public of an upcoming town hall meeting to discuss the petition of the Quincy and Boston Street Railway Company for the construction of a track from Neponset Bridge to the intersection of Hancock and Squantum Streets. At the town meeting, they were also scheduled to hear about the petition of the Quincy and Boston Street Railway Company to use motive power (i.e. powered by water or steam) on its tracks as authorized by the General Laws of the Commonwealth. Readers familiar with Quincy will recognize many of the street names listed on the notice: Hancock Street, Granite Street, and Willard Street, to name a few. 

But does this proposed track relate at all to the current MBTA track? The short answer is yes, the Quincy and Boston Street Railway Company is an early relative of today’s MBTA. In 1900, it was sold to the Brockton Street Railway Company, whose name was changed to the Old Colony Street Railway Company in 1901 - this is not to be confused with the Old Colony Railroad, which was a major railroad system in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Old Colony Street Railway Company then merged with the Boston and Northern Street Railway Company and formed the Bay State Street Railway Company, which operated in Boston and as far north as New Hampshire and as far south as Rhode Island. In 1919, Bay State was absorbed into the Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway, which was then acquired by the MBTA in 1968. In the eighty years that passed from the issuance of this notice to the MBTA acquisition, these tracks changed ownership a number of times. 

Visit us through April 25 to see this notice on display in our main reading room. And if you attend a public MBTA meeting now, you can rest assured in the knowledge the Boston area residents have been contending with public transportation for quite some time! You can also keep up to date on all things MBTA by checking out the resources in our digital repository. Here you’ll find copies of annual reports, “week in reviews and lookaheads” for each subway line, and more.  

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, March 20, 2023

Author Talk with Jacqueline Jones

Register Online    

  • No Right to an Honest Living: The Struggles of Boston’s Black Workers in the Civil War Era by Jacqueline Jones
  • Monday, April 3, 2023—Noon to 1:00pm
  • State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House
  •  Livestream: 

We invite you to join us at the State Library on Monday, April 3, for an author talk with Pulitzer Prize Nominee and Bancroft Prize Winner Jacqueline Jones. Dr. Jones will be speaking about her latest book, No Right to an Honest Living: The Struggles of Boston’s Black Workers in the Civil War Era

For anyone unable to attend this talk in person, we will be livestreaming this event on our YouTube channel, courtesy of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Broadcast Services.

About the book: No Right to an Honest Living is described by the publisher as a harrowing portrait of Black workers and white hypocrisy in nineteenth-century Boston. Impassioned antislavery rhetoric made antebellum Boston famous as the nation’s hub of radical abolitionism. In fact, however, the city was far from a beacon of equality. In No Right to an Honest Living, Dr. Jones reveals how Boston was the United States writ small: a place where the soaring rhetoric of egalitarianism was easy, but justice in the workplace was elusive. Before, during, and after the Civil War, white abolitionists and Republicans refused to secure equal employment opportunity for Black Bostonians, condemning most of them to poverty. Still, Jones finds, some Black entrepreneurs ingeniously created their own jobs and forged their own career paths. Highlighting the everyday struggles of ordinary Black workers, this book shows how injustice in the workplace prevented Boston—and the United States—from securing true equality for all.

About the author: Jacqueline Jones is the Ellen C. Temple Professor of Women’s History Emerita at the University of Texas at Austin, and she has also previously taught at Wellesley College and Brandeis University. Her fields of study include U.S. labor, urban, southern, African American, and women’s history. She is the author of ten books, two of which were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in History. Dr. Jones has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Bancroft Prize in American History, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Taft Prize in Labor History, and in 2021 she served as president of the American Historical Association.

Dr. Jones’ talk is free and open to everyone, and those who attend in person will have the opportunity to participate in a question-and-answer session with the author. Additionally, assistive listening devices will be available upon request, courtesy of the Massachusetts State House ADA Coordinator.

If you’d like to learn more about the State Library’s author talk series, including our lineup of future speakers, please visit our website at

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, March 13, 2023

What's in our Reading Room? We’re more than just a pretty face!

If you haven’t visited the State Library before, one of the first things you’ll notice when you walk in--after the high ceilings, beautiful stained-glass windows, and artwork throughout--are the books that line the walls of our reading room on the third floor of the State House. Though these books give the room that “old library feel” and add to the overall look of the space, Reference staff here use them all the time, as do our researchers. So what are those books that we have? Who is allowed to use them? Do you need to wear gloves while handling them? Today we’ll give you a “virtual tour” of the resources in our reading room.

Before we get into that though--all are welcome at the State Library! While we are here to serve the legislature, governor, public officials, and Massachusetts state employees, the library is also open to the general public. Anyone is welcome to use and view our collections or just sit and enjoy our space while doing work. And no--you don’t need permission to take a book off the shelf and you don’t need to wear white gloves when using our materials (but please do make sure your hands are clean and you keep your snacks and beverages in your bag).

When you walk through our doors and look to your right, you’ll notice an elevator which is original to our 1895 reading room. While people cannot ride in it, staff use this elevator to move books between the reading room and the 4th and 5th floors of the library. To the right of the elevator starts our wall of resources that encase the room in its entirety. Some of the first things you’ll see here are the Massachusetts Law Reporter, Massachusetts Digest, Shepard’s Massachusetts Citations, and the current set of official Massachusetts General Laws (in burgundy). You can also look at the unofficial version of the MGL on the Massachusetts Legislature’s website if you’re interested.

After the MGL, you’ll find several volumes of Massachusetts Reports, Supreme Court Reporter, and even the United States Supreme Court Digest. To the right of the entrance as you’re looking out of the library starts our collection of legislative documents and House and Senate Journals. These volumes wrap around most of our Reading Room and definitely help to provide that “old library feel” that so many love. 

The House and Senate Journals contain a record of the daily happenings in the House and Senate and are used quite often. They’re especially helpful when working on a legislative history, which is something that comes up regularly for us. Please note that while the Journals in our reading room start at 1900, you can find earlier volumes of the House Journals online courtesy of the State Archives and earlier volumes of House and Senate Journals in our digital repository.

Next up come the shorter bookshelves along the windows. These shelves contain more House and Senate Journals, plus the Bulletin of Committee Work, which is also helpful when doing a legislative history. On the last side of these short shelves, you’ll find a set of black binders which contain the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, also known as the CMR. The CMR is updated bi-weekly by filings in the Massachusetts Register. You can use our physical copy of the CMR in the Library or you can look at the unofficial copy online via the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries. The State Library also has the Mass Registers available in our digital repository. For more information on the CMR, take a look at our webpage.

After that you’ll come across a couple tall, thin shelves containing Massachusetts Legislative Documents, an assortment of other materials, and then the Annotated Massachusetts General Laws by LexisNexis (black). You’ll then find an assortment of Reference materials, including the Dictionary of American Biography, a facsimile of “Of Plimoth Plantation,” also known as the Bradford manuscript, and a set of books called “Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War.” 

Phew! That was quite the tour around the reading room! Are you still with me? We’ve just got the resources around the Information Desk left to cover. Starting with the shelves that jut out from the Information Desk are Massachusetts Acts and Resolves dating back to 1802 and continuing to the present. These have been digitized and are available in our digital repository, but you are always welcome to use these print copies as well.

Moving on to the front of the Information Desk you’ll find the Annotated Massachusetts General Laws by West (green). You’ll note that we have two different versions of the annotated MGL. While they contain similar information, some people have a preference of one over the other due to variations in citations included in the volumes. I personally like to look at the West and LexisNexis versions when I need to use an annotated version of the MGL--but that is up to you!

Your tour is now complete! Next time you come into the library, take a look around for the resources mentioned in this blog. If you can’t make it into the library, you can always take our virtual tour as well! We covered a lot of information today, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to the State Library with any questions you may have. You can reach us at or by calling 617-727-2590.

Jessica Shrey
Reference Librarian

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Woodpeckers have landed in the library!

Happy March! If you're looking for a little bit of luck this month, you don't need to find a leprechaun, you just need to visit the library through April 4 to see Audubon's Pileated Woodpecker (plate 111) on display! Woodpeckers are seen as a sign of good luck in many cultures and are associated with wishes coming true.

Audubon has depicted the adult male, adult female, and young male woodpecker. They are pictured among the branches of the racoon grape. Read more from Audubon's account here.

Friday, March 3, 2023

State Library Newsletter - March Issue

What do phone chargers, woodpeckers, and the RMV's "History of the Plate" have in common? They're all part of our March newsletter! Pictured here is a preview, but the full issue can be accessed by clicking here. And if you'd like to receive the newsletter straight to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our mailing list.

We're pleased to share that we've recently launched a notification list for our Author Talk series. To sign up for that list, please click here.  

Monday, February 27, 2023

On Display in the State Library

One of the earliest incidents of the Revolutionary War was the Boston Massacre, which occurred in front of the Old State House on March 5, 1770. As we approach that anniversary, we’re sharing two items from our collection related to the incident: an account published in the March 12, 1770 edition of the Boston Gazette and Country Journal and a 1970 restrike of Paul Revere’s engraving The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King Street, Boston, March 5, 1770, by a party of the 29th Regiment.

In the winter of 1770, tensions were high in Boston. British troops had been stationed there since 1768 to enforce Parliamentary legislation, and in late February an eleven-year-old named Christopher Seider had been killed by a British customs officer during a protest. On the night of March 5, a group of Bostonians gathered in front of the Old State House where a member of the British 29th Regiment of Foot was standing sentry. The group verbally assaulted the soldier and the incident escalated. Additional soldiers were called the scene as the number of participants grew to between 300 and 400. The crowd grew more agitated and rowdier, and shots were fired by the British soldiers. In the end, five individuals died; Crispus Attucks, Samuel Grey, and James Caldwell at the scene, and Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr from their injuries in the days that followed. The event turned public sentiment even further against King George and British rule, and in describing the day, John Adams wrote that the "foundation of American independence was laid."

The March 12, 1770 edition of the Boston Gazette and Country Journal included a description of the incident. The Boston Gazette was an influential colonial newspaper published by John Gill and Benjamin Edes. Printed weekly, it shared news from abroad as well as from within the colonies, and its patriot-leaning content was critical of British rule. The State Library holds a run of the newspaper, including the March 12 edition which was the first printed account of the massacre and comprised four columns across two pages. The account covers not just the event of March 5, but also provides a description of the days that followed up to the victims’ funeral on March 8. The funeral account describes a large procession that moved through the city from Faneuil Hall to the Granary Burying Ground, and stated that “on this occasion most of the shops in town were shut, all the bells were ordered to toll a solemn peal, as were also those in the neighboring towns of Charlestown, Roxbury, etc.”

Immediately following the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere engraved a print known of as The Bloody Massacre that went on to become an iconic representation of the incident. It takes a patriotic view, by placing the victims of the massacre in the foreground and including the sign “Butchers Hall” above the British soldiers. The print was then printed by Boston Gazette publishers Edes and Gill, and garnered further support for the patriotic cause while moving public sentiment away from the crown. Only around twenty-five copies of Revere’s print are still in existence, but his original engraving copperplate is part of the collection at the Massachusetts State Archives. In 1970, the Imprint Society of Barre, Massachusetts requested that restrikes be taken from the original plate, and after consultation with the Massachusetts Historical Commission, it was determined that a limited number of restrikes could be produced without damaging the plate. The result was a beautiful publication that included the restrike as well as a reprint of the account from the Boston Gazette. A limited number of these commemorative publications are in existence, and the State Library was gifted one from the President of the Imprint Society in 1972.

Visit the library throughout March to see the Boston Gazette article exhibited alongside the 1970 restrike of Paul Revere’s Bloody Massacre print. These two items together provide a vivid contemporaneous account of a key moment in our nation’s formation. And to read more about the Boston Massacre, check out The Boston Massacre: A Family History by Serena Zabin.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian