Monday, December 15, 2014

A Collection of Arms and Armor

During my preservation internship at the State Library I worked on a fascinating volume by Bashford Dean called The Collection of Arms and Armor of Rutherfurd Stuyvesant (1914). Stuyvesant (1843-1909) was a member of several prominent New York families, and a great collector of arms and armor as well as European art of all kinds. During his travels to Europe to see art first-hand and to purchase pieces for himself and for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Stuyvesant’s purchases resulted in a collection of 120 pieces of armor, 14 shields, 135 swords, 84 daggers, 83 shafted weapons, 12 crossbows, 17 guns, 29 pistols, and assorted other objects such as horse trappings, spurs, and powder horns. The objects ranged in date from 1400 B.C. to the eighteenth century.

Through his long association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art as an advisor and board member, Stuyvesant helped start the Museum’s own collection of arms and armor. The author of the book I worked on, Bashford Dean, established the Museum’s Department of Arms and Armor in 1912.

Dean’s catalog of the Stuyvesant collection was the first to describe an American collection of Early European arms and armor. The catalog describes 218 items, with 54 leaves of plates. The volume came to the State Library in 1915, as a gift from the author and at the bequest of Stuyvesant’s widow.

When the catalog came across our desk, it was in relatively poor condition. The front cover had become detached, dust and grime had infiltrated the book and discolored the edges of the pages and the flyleaves, the spine was fraying, and the leather binding was coated in red rot. Our goals for the repair were to fix the spine and cover, clean the book, and treat the red rot.

I began my repair by cleaning up the spine, separating the front and back covers from the text block, trimming away the frayed parts, and making clean edges. This allowed me to have discrete pieces that I could clean and treat before putting the book back together.

Notice the difference between
the left side of this page, which
has been cleaned, and the right
side, which has not.
I first applied Cellugel to all of the leather on the remaining spine leather and the leather of the covers. Cellugel is a combination of cellulose ethers and isopropanol, which treats red rot by helping to bond the leather layers back together and protect it from further atmospheric damage. While the leather dried, I began to surface clean the pages of the book. With each stroke of the cleaning tools, you could see a noticeable difference in the color of the page as the dirt was removed from the surface.

Once all of the parts were cleaned, I re-bound the book in a brown bookcloth. This created a stronger spine and cover attachment than the old, crumbling leather. I reinforced the interior joints with Japanese tissue to help reinforce the covers. Finally, I re-applied the remaining spine label.

This project, one of the last completed before the end of my internship here, was also one of the most fulfilling. It was a pleasure to work with the catalog, with its beautiful plates and rich history, so it can once again be safely used by researchers.

Andra Langoussis
Preservation Intern

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Preserving the Past: Massachusetts Historical Commission

For many citizens, a major part of living in Massachusetts is the historic properties that make up our cities, towns and neighborhoods. Massachusetts is rich with Native American archeological areas, homes still standing from 17th and the 18th century, as well as early infrastructure associated with our landscape and coastline. These historical sites are what make Massachusetts the state it is today, with an established sense of the past in all of our daily lives. But with our ever changing lifestyles and the power of time, these areas and objects are often in need of protection, preservation or even just recognition within the community. When looking to preserve and restore our historic places, citizens can turn to their local historical groups as
well as the statewide Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC).

The MHC was established in 1963 under M.G.L. Ch. 9 ss. 26-27D and is chaired by the Secretary of State. In total, the commission is made up of 17 members, from various agencies and private institutions, who work as a State Review Board for both state and federal preservation projects. The members are responsible for identifying, evaluating and protecting the many historical assets of Massachusetts. To meet this challenge, the MHC work with a number of local and federal preservation programs, grants, projects and awards. They also have a number of user-friendly resources including the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System or MACRIS, a database that allows anyone to search for information on historic properties, archeological publications and online exhibits, as well as a detailed explanation of their Review and Compliance policies.

The MHC has a wide range of responsibilities and programs to oversee. As a commission, they are authorized to determine whether a proposed state or federally funded project will negatively impact any Massachusetts historical properties, oversee Historical Rehabilitation Tax Credits, provide assistance and aid to local commissions, as well as administer the National Register of Historic Places in Massachusetts.

The MHC’s connection to the National Register comes from the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Under the act, every state has to establish a State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the MHC was established as Massachusetts’ SHPO in 1971. As the SHPO, the MHC has certain responsibilities, including reviewing nominations for the National Register. Other responsibilities include conducting a survey of historical properties and putting forth a statewide preservation plan to meet with the National Park Service’s requirements.

The MHC’s Preservation Plan for 2011-2015, as well as many other resources, is available on the MHC website. If you wish to research certain properties further, the State Library of Massachusetts has many resources for state and local history as well as many of the MHC’s publications.

The State House Library is located in room 341 and is open between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday.

Stephanie Turnbull
Reference Department

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Proclamations at the State Library

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, the harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621. To commemorate this date the Library is displaying here some of our historical Thanksgiving proclamations from our collections. In addition to the proclamations we have included a description of the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims, by William Bradford from his manuscript Of Plimoth Plantation.

Massachusetts officials have been issuing Thanksgiving proclamations since 1676. The library’s collection spans the years 1779 through 1893.  

Earliest Thanksgiving proclamation in
the collection dates to 1779.
1783 proclamation by John Hancock, first and third governor of Massachusetts.

1796 proclamation by Samuel Adams, fourth Governor of Massachusetts.

William Bradford's account of Thanksgiving in 1621. From
his Of Plimoth Plantation.

Silvia Mejia
Special Collections Librarian

Monday, November 17, 2014

Where is Bartlett Hall?

At the State Library of Massachusetts we get questions about a multitude of subjects.  They can run the gamut from legislative history questions to finding a state report.  We also get questions about the State House including where Governors’ portraits are hanging to when the State House was built.

Recently we got the following question: “Where is Bartlett Hall?”  Even though I have worked at the library for over 25 years I had not heard of it.  I found the answer in a booklet entitled Massachusetts Facts published by the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Office.

Barlett Hall is a small hall between Doric Hall and Nurses Hall and it was designed in the Italian Renaissance style by Charles Brigham in 1895. The hall contains a bronze statue of Civil War hero, William Francis Bartlett, sculpted by Daniel Chester French.

Another statue of Bartlett, also by French, exists in Memorial Hall at Harvard University. After Memorial Hall was built in 1874 Bartlett gave a moving speech about reconciliation after the Civil War.

William Francis Bartlett was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1840. He was a graduate of Harvard and Civil War hero, who rose through the ranks to become a General.  He was injured several times during the war and after recuperating he would go back to fighting. He lost a leg at Yorktown in early 1862.  He died from tuberculosis on December 17th, 1876 in Pittsfield, Mass., he was 36 years old.

In addition to Barlett’s statue the Hall also houses two busts: one of Henry Cabot Lodge and the other of his grandson Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.  Henry Cabot Lodge (1850-1924) served as a State Representative from 1880-81.  Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (1902-1985) served as a State Representative from 1933-1936.  Both went on to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, November 10, 2014

Early Boston City Documents Relating to the Pure Water Issue

As the city of Boston continued to develop and increase in population, supplying pure water to the city “for the domestic use of the inhabitants, as well as for extinguishing fires, and for all the general purposes of comfort and cleanliness”* became a pressing issue.

Earlier attempts by private developers had been made to address the need for an enhanced public water works, including the 1795 legislative approval for “The Aqueduct Corporation” to oversee the laying of “subterranean pipes” that would route water to Boston from Jamaica Pond in Roxbury.  In 1816, a preliminary look into routing additional water from Spot Pond in Stoneham was found “inexpedient.”

It wasn’t until May of 1825 that Boston’s city government first took action on the water issue and formed a commission, which was chaired by then-Mayor Josiah Quincy, Jr.  That same year, the Water Commission was authorized to conduct a survey to collect information, and Professor Daniel Treadwell, one of its appointed members, issued the first of many investigative reports that would survey Boston’s nearby freshwater sources and estimate the feasibility and probable costs of transporting water to the city.  Some of the later reports, authored by subsequent Boston commissions and by various civil engineers, included maps, plans for proposed pipelines, and examples of other domestic and foreign public water works.  The State Library has many of these reports within its collection, as well as additional Boston city documents, communications, and citizen testimony pertaining to the water supply issue during the 19th century.

"Plan of a proposed route of pipes from Spot Pond in Stoneham to Boston," issued in the 1837 report of the city's Water Commission. Spot Pond was one of the options Boston considered in its surveys of pure water sources.

One valuable resource compiled by a member of Boston’s Water Board, titled History of the Introduction of Pure Water into the City of Boston (1868), is available online and provides an early history on the delivery of pure water into Boston.

A past exhibit by the State Library, titled “The Time of Action Has Come”: Introducing Pure Water into the City of Boston, can be viewed online, and chronicles the history of Boston’s water supply up through the 20th century.

For further information regarding Boston’s water documents, please contact the library by phone at 617-727-2590, or by email at  The library is open from 9am to 5pm Mondays through Fridays.

*Quoted from Daniel Treadwell’s 1825 report to the mayor and alderman of the city of Boston.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sandy Point Reservation on Plum Island: A Bird Sanctuary and a Treasured Coastal Beach Area

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a mecca for tourists, students, and of course, for residents who flock to her many famous landmarks. The state is known for her beaches and for beautiful state parks.  It is the Department of Conservation and Recreation  which oversees these areas. The State Library’s collection includes many documents from this agency.  In fact, one main focus of the library is to make materials from all state agencies available.

Perhaps one of the most interesting parks is Sandy Point Reservation on Plum Island near Newburyport because it has much to offer and it is well-traveled.

Lest tern
Some special things about this area include:  a “nesting area” for threatened birds such as the piping plover and the least tern.

In terms of swimming, one can approach the beach and the beautiful scenery through the town of Newburyport.  The drive is lovely and one passes salt and freshwater marshes and dunes. For those interested in bird watching, as mentioned above, there are several hundreds of species other than the endangered birds pictured.

A visit to Sandy Point is a special experience.  Just be careful not to go during  the “Green Head Fly” season, which usually lasts from the middle of May through the first week of July.

You can check both the tides and the bird information in the Boston Globe: (this example is from the September 30th, 2014 paper).

Recent bird sightings as reported to the Massachusetts Audubon Society:

This great state has much to offer for all who live here or visit.  Sandy Point is definitely a highlight for those wishing to visit the North Shore.

Pamela Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cold Feet

Sometimes we find surprises while we’re doing our jobs. A few weeks ago, while helping a researcher search for articles in 1854 newspapers, we found a notice that made us all laugh.

The State Library holds a set of the nineteenth-century paper called the Boston Atlas. For the edition published Wednesday morning, May 24, 1854, we found the following notice on page 2:

“A woman has sued for divorce in Indiana, on the ground that her husband’s feet were so cold it distressed her. A case of clear incompatibility of temperament and of sole.”

Did the woman from Indiana ever get her divorce? We don’t know. She may have gotten cold feet.

Beth Carroll-Horrocks
Head of Special Collections