Monday, December 25, 2023

Season's Greetings from the State Library

From the State Library to you, our digital greeting card wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!

Monday, December 18, 2023

Books As Gifts are Always a Hit

Special Collections recently received a gift from the State Library of Maine – a first edition of Shaggycoat: The Biography of a Beaver by Clarence Hawkes, published by George W. Jacobs & Co. in 1906. This is not the first time this well-loved copy was gifted. Its inscription reads,

Chester A. Baker.
Christmas 1909.
From S.J.B.

Shaggycoat is one of many children’s nature books written by blind naturalist Clarence Hawkes, who was known for writing Black Bruin: The Biography of a Bear, and Shovelhorns: The Biography of a Moose. Hawkes primarily wrote about wildlife in New England and was highly regarded for his scientifically accurate descriptions of animals in nature. Hawkes attended Perkins School for the Blind, having lost his sight in a hunting accident when he was 13 years old. According to the Perkins Archives Blog, Hawkes became friends with Helen Keller. Keller felt Hawkes was unmatched in his writings on nature and praised his colorful, captivating narrations of life in the great outdoors.

This adventurous tale of a beaver’s life with his animal friends in the wilds of Canada can be found in our catalog; it is also available along with dozens of Clarence Hawkes’ other works in the public domain.

It is easy to see why Shaggycoat made for an excellent children’s Christmas present at the turn of the century. We here at the State Library feel that the holiday season is still the perfect time to gift loved ones, both young and old, the joy of reading. We wish you warm, safe, and happy holidays, hopefully curled up beside a fire with a good book!

Work consulted:

Coit, Susanna. “Patience, perseverance, and pluck: Clarence Hawkes, the blind naturalist.” Perkins Archives Blog, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown MA. June 19, 2020.

Alyssa Persson
Special Collections Processing Librarian

Monday, December 11, 2023

Santa, Lighthouses, and Airplanes: New England’s Flying Santa Tradition

One of my favorite things about working at the State Library is coming across a fun historical fact or story that I had never heard before, while working on something completely unrelated. A few weeks before Halloween I was looking for a book about New England legends in the stacks and came across a book with an eye-catching cover. I flipped through it and while it didn’t have any information I was looking for, I did come across a picture of Santa and an airplane and it made me wonder what the two had in common (this was Santa with an airplane after all, and not a team of reindeer). I took the book back to my desk and started reading and discovered a fun New England story I had never heard about before. If you’re like I was and don’t know the story behind Flying Santa, this blog post is for you!

Image courtesy of Friends of the Flying Santa

The Flying Santa tradition began in 1929 during a harsh winter storm. An airplane pilot caught in the storm used lighthouse beacons along Maine's Penobscot Bay to fly home to safety. The pilot’s name was William Wincapaw of Friendship, ME. To show his thanks to the lighthouse keepers, he dropped packages filled with treats for their families as he flew over the lighthouses. Throughout that year, Wincapaw would get stuck in other storms and the lighthouse keepers would keep an eye out for him, letting airfield know when he had safely passed over their lighthouses. Wincapaw and later his son, Bill Jr., kept this joyous tradition going each year and expanded their Flying Santa trips to also cover Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The Wincapaws moved to Winthrop, MA in 1933 and by that point, their Flying Santa routes brought them to 91 lighthouses and Coast Guard stations in New England.

William Wincapaw, Sr. (left) and William Wincapaw, Jr. (right)
Images courtesy of Friends of the Flying Santa

Edward Rowe Snow came into the world of the Flying Santa only a few years later. He was born in Winthrop, MA in 1902, and stayed in Winthrop where he became a high school history teacher. In 1936, Rowe Snow, who knew Bill Jr., joined the Wincapaws to assist them with their continuously-expanding Flying Santa program. That first year he covered the 25 southern routes with Bill Jr. flying, while Bill Sr. flew the northern routes.

Image from The Lighthouses of New England, 1716-1973,
by Edward Rowe Snow

Image from The Lighthouses of New
England, 1716-1973
, by Edward Rowe Snow
The Flying Santa tradition was carried on by Rowe Snow until 1980. What’s important to note is that Mr. Snow was not a pilot. After the Wincapaws could no longer take part in the tradition, Mr. Snow had to hire a pilot and a plane for the lighthouse flights. He kept this beloved New England tradition going despite the obstacles that stood in his way and despite the funds that he had to contribute to keep Flying Santa alive. After Snow’s Flying Santa days were behind him due to old age, the tradition was kept alive through the work of the Hull Lifesaving Museum and its members, and later with the help of WCVB-TV 5. By 1997, the Flying Santa tradition had expanded so much that it had outgrown the museum. A group of volunteers got together to form the non-profit educational group called Friends of the Flying Santa, Inc. Over the next decade and beyond, many people stepped in to help the Friends keep Santa flying through the New England skies each holiday season.

Be sure to read much more about the history and evolution of this program on the Friends of the Flying Santa website. The full story of this tradition is rich with detail and the Friends have shared lots of photos on their website as well. You can also learn more about this tradition from the New England Historical Society.

Flying Santa in 2022, the tradition's 93rd year. 
Image courtesy of WCVB.

Thank you to the Friends of the Flying Santa for the work they did to document the history of this tradition. It’s a tradition that still lives on today! December 2023 marks the 94th year of the Flying Santa! You can see photos and videos from last year’s flight here. Keep an eye out for photos from this year as well--Flying Santa made a stop at the Hull Lifesaving Museum on Saturday, December 9th!

Jessica Shrey
Reference Librarian

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Two Pairs of Two Turtle Doves in the Library!

While two turtle doves from your true love might not be the most practical of gifts, they are a fun print for us to share this holiday season! Visit us from December 8 through January 11 to see Audubon's Carolina Turtle Doves (plate 17) on display in our reading room.

The two sets of turtle doves are depicted looking pretty cozy in the branches of the Stuartia tree, which Audubon wrote symbolized purity and chastity. In the bottom scene, the female sits in the nest while the male tends to her, and in the top scene, the female is perched on the edge of the branch with the male reaching out to her. The turtle dove is also known as the mourning dove, and in the past was referred to as the Carolina turtle dove or Carolina pigeon, which is how Audubon referred to the bird when he depicted it in the 1830s. Read more about the turtle dove here and here, and also check out their entry in the Guide to North American Birds.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, December 4, 2023

On Display in the State Library

Prior to 1939, the Commonwealth included four towns that are now no longer in existence: Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott. This past September, we were excited to mount a new exhibit outside of the library, “The Four Lost Towns of the Quabbin Reservoir,” which shared information and period documents about these towns and the sacrifices that they made so that the Commonwealth could develop the Quabbin Reservoir. This month, we are excited to welcome author Elena Palladino to speak on her recent book Lost Towns of the Swift River Valley: Drowned by the Quabbin. To complement both the new exhibit and our upcoming Author Talk, this month in our Collection Spotlight case, we are displaying two historical maps that depict the Commonwealth before and after the development of the Quabbin Reservoir.

1902 map is shown on the left and 1939 map is shown on the right

As my colleague wrote in the exhibit’s introduction panel, “In 1938, the towns of Greenwich, Dana, Enfield, and Prescott were disincorporated, evacuated, and flooded to accommodate the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir. Centrally located in the Swift River Valley, the Quabbin was constructed as the solution to providing drinking water to the state’s metropolitan areas. To facilitate this plan, the legislature created the Metropolitan District Water Supply Commission in 1926 (Act Chapter 375). The MDWSC undertook the project, overseeing the creation of the reservoir and flooding of the Swift River Valley. In addition to the four towns, villages and parts of other towns were also taken by the state for the project. It was the first time the legislature had to disincorporate a whole town. Per 1938 Act Chapter 240, the four towns would cease to exist in Massachusetts.” Read more about each of these towns in the online version of the exhibit.

In our Collection Spotlight case, we are sharing two maps of the Commonwealth, one from 1902 and one from 1939, which was just after the completion of the Quabbin. The 1902 map is the simply titled “Map of Massachusetts,” and was published by George H. Walker & Company, a prolific publisher of lithographs located in Boston. To the left of center of the map, and also highlighted in the image here, you will see the boundary lines for Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott, all grouped together. Of note is the train track that is shown running through the towns and labeled as the B&A - this is the Athol branch of the Boston and Albany Railroad. The majority of this branch was closed in the 1930s when construction of the reservoir began. The map also identifies post offices and money order post offices, of which there are a few located within these towns. Even this small designation on the map emphasizes that these were active communities that people lived and worked in before they were destroyed, thirty-seven years after the publication of this map. The 1939 map is titled “Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Public Health: showing location of cities and towns and health districts.” Though the reservoir is not actually shown in this map, if you look in the circled portion in the map above,  you will see that Enfield, Greenwich, Dana, and Prescott are not shown and that the nearby towns of Belchertown, Pelham, New Salem, Petersham, Hardwick, and Ware have grown in size. That is because any land of the four lost towns that remained after the development of the reservoir were then incorporated into the surrounding municipalities.

While these maps will only be on display through January 4, you can visit us to view the Quabbin exhibit through September 2024. We are open Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 5:00 and the online version of the exhibit is available anytime! More information about our upcoming Author Talk on  Lost Towns of the Swift River Valley is available here; we hope that you'll be able to join us on December 6, but if you are unable to make it, a recording will be uploaded to our YouTube page a few days following the event.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Friday, December 1, 2023

State Library Newsletter - December Issue

Happy December! Our monthly newsletter is out today, and is full of information about our online store, upcoming events, exhibited 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.