Monday, August 28, 2023

Rooted in Boston: The origins of a Revolutionary War symbol

The Liberty Tree, a popular symbol of resistance to British rule during the Colonial and Revolutionary War periods, has its roots in New England, specifically Boston, Massachusetts.

On August 14, 1765, a group of colonists in Boston, Massachusetts gathered under an elm tree on the corner of Essex and Orange Street with effigies in representing officials responsible for the Stamp Act. The group called themselves the Loyal Nine. Prior to their gathering under the tree, the Loyal Nine enlisted Ebenezer Macintosh, a shoemaker, to make the effigies. The effigies represented Andrew Oliver, who was chosen by King George III to enforce the Stamp Act in the colonies, and two ministers, the Earl of Bute and Lord George Grenville, who were considered responsible for creating the Stamp Act. 

Soon a mob gathered around the effigies led by Ebenezer Macintosh. The Loyal Nine began to “stamp” the mob’s belongings in mockery of the Stamp Act. At the end of the day, the effigies were removed by the mob and used in a mock funeral procession. One account written by Francis Bernard, the governor of Massachusetts, described the protestors beheading the effigy representing Andrew Oliver after parading it down the street in a coffin. According to Bernard, the mob’s actions culminated in the stamp office building being pulled down and the timber from it used for bonfire to burn the Andrew Oliver effigy. Bernard’s account also said Andrew Oliver narrowly escaped the stamp office as it was being ransacked. August 14, 1765 is considered by historians to be the first public protest against British rule.  It preceded the Boston Tea Party by eight years and the Pine Tree Riot by two years. 

After the events of August 14, 1765 the elm tree became the default meeting place for the Loyal Nine, who eventually became leaders of the Sons of Liberty.  Soon the tree was known as the Liberty Tree.  Ebenezer Macintosh was responsible so often for hanging effigies and gathering mobs around it that he was called the “Captain General of the Liberty Tree.” Eventually it became the regular meeting place of the Sons of Liberty. When the Stamp Act was repealed in 1766, people gathered in celebration around the Liberty Tree. During the festivities a commemorative sign was nailed to the tree. It had the following words: “This tree was planted in the year 1646, and pruned by order of the Sons of Liberty, Feb. 14th, 1766.”

After 1766 the tree continued to be a political meeting place and a protest site. During the Liberty Riot of 1768 a mob dragged a British naval ship all the way from the Boston Harbor to the Liberty Tree to protest the seizure of John Hancock’s ship. There were many protests about the Tea Act of 1773 held there. In 1774 John Malcom, a Loyalist and customs official, was seized by mob and brought to the site of The Liberty Tree where he was promptly stripped to the waist, tarred and feathered, and forced to resign from his office. By 1775 The Liberty Tree in Boston became so renowned as a political meeting place and symbol, Thomas Paine was inspired to write a poem about it. The Liberty Tree in Boston inspired other towns and cities across the 13 colonies to designate their own liberty trees.

Planted in 1646, the Liberty Tree’s life was cut short during the Siege of Boston in 1775.  A party of British soldiers and Loyalists cut down the tree and used it to build a fire. After the British evacuated from Boston, a liberty pole was erected on August 14, 1776 near the stump of the Liberty Tree.  For many years after the Liberty Tree stump was a local landmark occasionally mentioned in newspapers but for the most part forgotten. Marquis de Lafayette visited Boston in 1825 and visited the stump, remarking, “The world should never forget the spot where once stood Liberty Tree, so famous in your annals.” When the stump was removed from its location is unclear, but it most likely would have been sometime between 1825 and the 1850s. The Massachusetts Historical Society has fragments of the Liberty Tree’s roots.

Fragments taken from the roots of the Liberty Tree. Object.
Digital Commonwealth, (accessed August 15, 2023).

In the 1850s a wooden plaque commemorating the Liberty Tree was placed on the exterior of the third floor of a building located on Essex Street and Washington Street (formerly Orange Street). The Liberty Tree plaque can still be viewed today across the street from Liberty Tree Plaza. In Liberty Tree Plaza an elm tree was planted to commemorate the original Liberty Tree. 

 Other known former locations of liberty trees in Massachusetts are in Acton and Quincy. 

The Acton Liberty Tree was thought to have been planted by Henry Sparks who had built a house on the property 1715. Eventually the house was purchased in 1755 by Simon Hunt, Junior. During the Revolutionary War an elm tree in the southern yard of Simon Hunt was chosen as Acton’s Liberty Tree. The Acton Liberty Tree died in 1925. Near its former location the Acton Peace Tree was planted in 1915 by schoolchildren where it still stands today next to the Simon Hunt Homestead. A sign on the maple tree reads: “The Peace Tree planted with due ceremony by the school children of Acton on Arbor Day 1915 as a stand-in for the Liberty Tree.” 

In Quincy, Massachusetts, a liberty tree was located near Brackett’s Tavern. Very little is known about the tree and the role it played in the community. An entry from John Adam’s diary dated May 4, 1766 contains details about its location and its status as a liberty tree: “I saw for the first Time, a likely young Button Wood Tree, lately planted, on the Triangle made by the Three Roads, by the House of Mr. James Brackett. The Tree is well set and well guarded and has on it, an Inscription ‘The Tree of Liberty,’ and ‘cursed is he, who cutts this Tree.’”  The Brackett’s Tavern Liberty Tree was located on a triangular patch of land where Hancock Street, Elm Street and Mechanic Street intersect. In 1959 the Quincy Granite Manufacturer’s Association placed a commemorative stone to mark the site. The City of Quincy also installed a sign designating the location where the tree once lived.   

Photo credit: Jessica Shrey

Emily Crawford
Technical Services Librarian

Monday, August 21, 2023

Author Talk with Avi Loeb

  • Interstellar: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Our Future in the Stars
  • Wednesday, September 13, 2023. 12pm - 1:00pm
  • State Library of Massachusetts - Room 341, Massachusetts State House
  • Livestream:

The State Library of Massachusetts Author Talks Series returns in September! We have a great lineup of authors for our 2023-2024 program. Starting with renowned astrophysicist, Avi Loeb.

Please join us on Wednesday, September 13th at noon, in our historic reading room to hear Avi Loeb speak on his newly released title, Interstellar: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Our Future in the Stars. We will be livestreaming the talk on our YouTube channel for anyone who cannot make it into the library, courtesy of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Broadcast Services.

About the book: Interstellar is Loeb’s counterpart to his 2021 bestseller, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth. Extraterrestrial introduced readers to the theory that intelligent life exists beyond Earth and that not only does it exist, but that our solar system has been visited by alien technology. Interstellar delves into this theory further and provides readers with a realistic view of what alien contact will look like. Loeb provides an accessible and exciting overview of the scientific advancements in the search for contact. Loeb argues that it is imperative for us as a civilization to prepare for contact beyond our universe. 

About the author: Avi Loeb is the Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science at Harvard University. Loeb received a PhD in Physics at the age of 24 from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1993, Loeb began at Harvard University where he was the longest serving chair of the Astronomy Department. In addition to being a New York Times bestselling author, Loeb has published nearly a thousand papers on research topics ranging from black holes to extraterrestrial life. In 2012, TIME Magazine listed Loeb as one of the 25 most influential people in space. Read more about Loeb’s accomplishments and groundbreaking career on his personal site

If you are able to join us in person for this talk, attendees will be able to participate in a question-and-answer session with the author as well as purchase a copy of Interstellar. 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. Also follow us on Instagram and Facebook for updates! For more information on the State Library Author talks series, please visit our site:

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

The Piping Plover Alights in the Library!

It would not be summer in Massachusetts without a visit from the Piping Plover (plate 220)! Though it might be hard to get a good glimpse of this tiny bird as it scurries along the beach, you can visit us through September 6 to see Audubon’s plover print on display in the library. 

Piping plovers are small shorebirds that measure only six to seven inches long. Audubon has depicted both a male and female in this image, and we have included a detailed image of the female in this post. The piping plover’s alarm call is a very distinctive “chirp” which you can hear by clicking here

If you visit a New England beach during the summer, you may notice that some portions of it are sectioned off and beach access is restricted because plovers are nesting.  Piping plovers have a “threatened” conservation status both within Massachusetts and federally. But did you know that Massachusetts has the largest breeding population on the East Coast? By staying away from those restricted beach areas, you are doing your part to help protect the plover! You can learn more about the piping plover and the conservation efforts to increase their population on the MassWildlife's Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program website.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, August 7, 2023

National Immunization Awareness Month is here

August marks the last full month of summer and the last few weeks students and teachers are off from school. August is also National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), an important month when it comes to the upcoming back-to-school season. The purpose of NIAM is to highlight how crucial routine vaccinations are for people of all ages though, not just school-aged children.

Image courtesy of CDC
According to the CDC, vaccines are the best way to protect you and your loved ones from preventable disease. Vaccines have saved lives for over 100 years, lowering the rates of diseases that in the past have harmed or killed people. Despite the work that vaccines have done to curb disease, there is still a threat. Vaccination protection can fade over time, leaving you and others vulnerable to serious illness. This is why it’s important to receive your boosters and stay up to date on your vaccines, regardless of age.

Here at the State Library, we wanted to put a spotlight on some important resources you can use when it comes to thinking about vaccinations. First, you may want to access your own vaccination record. The Department of Public Health has created a helpful website to do just that. The Commonwealth may have a record of the vaccines you’ve received, including vaccinations for influenza, tetanus, and many others. The Massachusetts Immunization Information System (MIIS) is also where you can access your digital COVID-19 vaccination card. Just visit The Division of Epidemiology and Immunization created this handy guide, which you can access on our digital repository in several languages, to break down the process for you.

If you do have school-aged children, don’t forget to pay attention to vaccination requirements and give yourself plenty of time to get your child vaccinated before back-to-school season. Be sure to take a look at the Immunization Requirements for School Entry. These are requirements created by the Department of Public Health and are laid out in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (105 CMR 220.000), which you can view in the library or online via the Trial Court Law Libraries website

Parents and guardians can read more about childhood vaccines on the CDC’s website. The CDC breaks down vaccinations by age range (including during pregnancy) and provides information on why you should vaccinate your child. Colleges and universities require vaccination as well, so be sure to pay attention to these requirements. These requirements apply to all full-time undergraduate and graduate students under 30 years of age and all full-time and part-time health science students. Meningococcal requirements apply to all full-time students 21 years of age or younger.

Image courtesy of CDC
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has created a webpage dedicated to immunization resources as well. There you’ll find advisories and alerts, upcoming events, a link to the CDC’s vaccination page, and DPH’s flu website. You’ll also find contact information for the Immunization Division of DPH in case you have any questions not addressed in some of the resources listed above. 

For all other questions, please contact us at and we’ll be happy to assist you!

Jessica Shrey
Reference Librarian

Thursday, August 3, 2023

State Library Newsletter – August Issue

What do the Cape and Islands, lighthouses, and piping plovers have in common? Besides being parts of a quintessential summer in Massachusetts, they’re all featured in our August 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.