Monday, October 5, 2015

World War II Coloring Book from the Federal Government

Most of the State Library’s federal documents are produced by the various agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Census, Internal Revenue Service, and the Social Security Administration. These documents include annual reports containing a lot of statistical information on the issuing agency. However, some of them are quite unique.  One such document was published by the Office of the President during World War II and is titled John's Book.

John’s Book was received in the State Library September 20, 1945 and it is a children’s coloring book about servicemen during World War II. The book tells the story of John’s father, a pilot in the Ferry Command which ferried planes across the ocean.  The book contains black and white photographs and pictures to color including a ship, a star of freedom and the American flag.  One of the most interesting aspects of this book is its own two-sided pencil attached to a sleeve in the book’s spine. This patriotic book was translated into different languages and the State Library has the English, French, Portuguese and Spanish versions.

If you are interested in browsing these resources visit the State Library of Massachusetts in room 341 of the State House, Monday through Friday 9-5.

Naomi Allen
Reference Department 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Massachusetts Through the Lens is now available in Flickr

Gymnasium at the Normal School,
Bridgewater, Massachusetts
Our current exhibit: Massachusetts Through the Lens: Photograph Collections at the State Library of Massachusetts is now available to view online as a set of images on the State Library’s Flickr site. This exhibit features collections that hold photographs of people, places, and events in Massachusetts history, from tintypes and cartes de visite of the Civil War to snapshots from the 1970s.

The exhibit runs from September 14 through December 31, 2015 and can be viewed outside of the Library, Room 341 of the State House. Library hours are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Funeral Sermons: A Useful Genealogical Resource

An often-overlooked resource for genealogists and historians, funeral sermons can provide interesting details about the lives of our ancestors. The State Library’s holdings include a number of funeral sermons and orations, the majority of which are from the 18th and early 19th centuries. During that time in history, funeral sermons were often printed and distributed to family members and other mourners as keepsakes.

Although these publications tend to be brief, they often include details that might have been omitted from an obituary, such as the personality and temperament of the deceased, family details, and information about the funeral service itself. For example, the following sermon for Mary Skinner of Colchester, CT, printed in 1746, includes eight pages of personal details about her temperament, such as, “As she had a Genius and Turn for Government beyond what is common for Persons of her Years, so she was regular and strict in ruling those under her Care.”

Another common trait of funeral sermons is the use of a mourning border, which is a heavy black border typically found on the cover or title page of a sermon and often printed on stationery used in periods of mourning. These borders are sometimes embellished with drawings, such as the skull and crossbones found in this 1765 sermon for the rector of Christ Church in Boston, the Rev. Timothy Cutler:

One of the most interesting funeral sermons in the State Library’s collection was printed in Boston in 1717. This sermon, which includes a preface by Increase Mather, was preached by his son Cotton Mather at the funeral for Wait Still Winthrop, one of the magistrates for the Salem witch trials and grandson of John Winthrop, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The sermon includes interesting details about Winthrop’s life, such as, “This Gentleman, having furnished himself with Medical Skill, became also a Master of Medicines, which he freely gave away as well as his Counsils, unto a Great Multitude of People, who from all parts flock’d unto him.”

Whether they are used to research important historical figures or distant relatives, funeral sermons are a resource that can provide a glimpse into the personal lives of our ancestors. To find these and other sermons, search our online catalog for the phrase “funeral sermons,” or visit us at the State Library’s Special Collections Department, Room 55 in the Massachusetts State House.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, September 14, 2015

New exhibition on Photograph Collections at the State Library of Massachusetts opens today

Photographs tell very different stories than the printed texts in the State Library. Opening this week at the State Library of Massachusetts is a new exhibition entitled Massachusetts Through the Lens: Photographic Collections at the State Library of Massachusetts. This exhibition features collections that hold photographs of people, places, and events in Massachusetts history, from tintypes and cartes de visite of the Civil War to snapshots from the 1970s.

The exhibition runs from September 14 through December 31, 2015 and can be viewed outside of the Library, Room 341 of the State House. Library hours are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. This exhibition will also be available to view online as a set of images on the State Library's Flickr site.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

ArtWeek Boston at the State Library

This fall the State Library will participate again in ArtWeek Boston, a “twice-annual 10-day collection of events throughout the city that features unexpected and creative experiences that are interactive or offer behind-the-scenes access to artists or the creative process.”

Our event, a Special Collections Tour, will take place on Thursday, October 1, from 1-2pm, in the Special Collections reading room. Visitors will see treasures from the State Library collections that are not normally on public view, including some of the earliest published laws of Massachusetts, a realistic facsimile of Mayflower passenger William Bradford’s manuscript journal Of Plimoth Plantation, broadsides recruiting soldiers for the Civil War, photographs of African-American soldiers, a handwritten journal by a Civil War soldier from Massachusetts, early maps of Boston, and 19th-century birds-eye view maps of other Massachusetts cities and towns.
Seats are limited, and reservations are required. Participants can sign up through the ArtWeek Boston website, which provides a link for reserving a seat, and directions to the Special Collections department.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Legal View: from Native American Nations to Territories to States at the Massachusetts State Library

The earliest origins of the State Library’s collections date back over 200 years to 1811 when a formal exchange program of law books with other U.S. States, Territories, and Native American Nations was established by the Massachusetts General Court.  These legal collections expanded to a point where the State Library was formally established to house them in 1826.  Over the past two centuries, the collections eventually grew to number almost 24,000 volumes and form a vast and vital part of the library’s 19th and 20th century holdings, making it one of the largest collection of state publications in existence. 

While some might call these “dusty old law books” in the era of Westlaw and Lexis legal research, the volumes collectively tell the story of our nation’s legal foundations as a democracy, and the growth of the individual states to create the present United States of America.  The State Library’s legal collections include such varied items as the Laws of California written in their original Spanish, the laws of Native Indian tribes and nations (i.e. Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Osage), some even in the original native language, and the laws of various territories that eventually became the familiar U.S. States we recognize today (i.e. Dakota, Illinois, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Hawaii). 

One of the most curious volumes in the collection has to be the Laws of the Jefferson Territory, the one and only law volume printed for the Jefferson Territory that existed from 1859 to 1861 and encompassed a land area that would eventually become the states of Kansas and Colorado but was never legally recognized by the United States government.  The dissolution of the Jefferson Territory coincided with the fallout from the 1860 election of President Abraham Lincoln that precipitated the subsequent secession of the original seven states to form the Confederate States of America.  In order to augment the number of free states, the U.S. Congress quickly moved to admit the state of Kansas to the Union on January 29, 1861.  This action left the remainder of the Jefferson Territory unorganized until February 21, 1861, when it was made part of newly formed Colorado Territory, leaving its legal legacy behind for posterity in one 303 page volume.

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Monday, August 31, 2015

Must-Read Books at the State Library

The State Library is known for its legislative, historical, and special collections, but did you know that we have contemporary fiction and non-fiction books in our collections, as well? While the bulk of our popular books are available as eBooks, we also have an important collection of popular print books dating back to 2001: the Massachusetts Book Awards Must-Read Books.

Given to the State Library every year by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, the Must-Read Books include notable fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and children’s/young adult books that are either about Massachusetts or written by Massachusetts-based authors. This year’s books include The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant, The Map Thief by Michael Blanding, Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire, and many others.

We encourage you to stop by the library to browse this year’s Must-Read Books, which are located just inside the library’s third-floor entrance, or to request previous years’ award-winning books from our stacks. All of the Must-Read Books are available for checkout by State Library card holders and are also available to the general public via interlibrary loan.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian