Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The 102nd U.S. Field Artillery (26th Yankee Division)

While conducting research for the library’s World War I soldier photograph collection, I came across
a treasure from our shelves that was deserving of its own moment in the spotlight.  Titled A short history & photographic record of the 102nd U.S. Field Artillery, 1917, this book contains the history of the 102nd F.A as well as the photographs, names, and hometowns of the soldiers who served in the regiment’s different batteries.

The regiment, which was part of the 26th Yankee Division, was mobilized on July 30th, 1917 at Camp Curtis Guild in Boxford, Massachusetts, and “was formally drafted as part of the national forces on August 5, 1917.”  The majority of the soldiers were from Massachusetts, but other states are represented as well—such as Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Maine, New York, and Illinois.  There were even a couple soldiers from Nova Scotia, Canada!

After finding that this book was not available online, there was only one thing I could possibly do: digitize it in its entirety so others could benefit from the wonderful information it provides. The book is available to download in our DSpace digital documents repository; however, if downloading is not your style, you may also browse the title on our Flickr page.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Librarian

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Memorial Day and the State Library

With Memorial Day approaching, it is important to recognize this holiday and
to point to some holdings in the State Library which represent ways that the state has
marked the day.

Speech by former Senator Marian Walsh

Some Interesting Facts about the Day

Memorial Day was begun after the Civil War and was at one time called "Decoration Day." The numbers of dead and wounded from the war were unprecedented and the carnage was apparent to all.  After the Battles at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and also at Vicksburg, Mississippi, women decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers.  These  remembrances became known as Decoration Day and there is still debate as to where the “day” originated,  North or South.

In 1866, a union hero, Major General John A. Logan delivered an address in Carbondale Illinois which marked the first such speech and the first gathering of veterans.  Logan also commanded the Grand Old Army of the Republic, a group of union veterans and in early May of 1868, he issued an order setting May 30th aside “for the purpose of strewing flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in the defense of their country during the late rebellion.”

It was not until after World War I, however, that the Confederate states began to mark Memorial Day. By then, the term was used to honor the dead from all of the country's wars.  Many of those from the South still celebrate a Confederate Memorial Day. Some states use the birthday of General Robert E. Lee, January 19th, for this. Other southern states have chosen other dates.

On Nov. 11, 1921, President Warren G. Harding officiated at the interment ceremonies at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1967, Memorial Day, May 30th, was designated as a national holiday.  And, four years later, the remembrance was shifted to the last Monday in the month. This year it falls on the 25th of the month.

State Library Holdings which Mark the Day

Senator Walsh’s speech above represents the 100’s given each year by members of the
Massachusetts General Court.  Often, the legislator or his/her staff visit us here to do the research for their presentations.

Other holdings include items published by the Grand Army of the Republic:

Or Proclamations from Governors about the day:

In 2000, Congress added to the day by asking that people join in in a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 PM on Memorial Day.

Pamela W.Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Treasure Rediscovered

As a cataloger at the State Library of Massachusetts, I work with all sorts of interesting library materials, including not only books and journals, but also items in special formats such as maps, broadsides, and electronic publications. Recently, as part of a project to convert the library’s card catalog to our online catalog, I have been working with rare books in the library’s Special Collections Department. In the process of recataloging these antiquarian books, I have been rediscovering the treasures within the library’s collection.

One such treasure came as a bit of a surprise—while recataloging the book The Life of the Late Gen. William Eaton, published in 1813 in Brookfield, Massachusetts, I found a letter that had been pasted into the book in front of the title page. Still bearing traces of its wax seal, the letter is signed by General Eaton and is dated “Tunis 25 Sep. 1799.”

According to the subtitle of this biography, General William Eaton was “several years an officer in the United States' Army, Consul at the regency of Tunis on the coast of Barbary, and Commander of the Christian and other forces that marched from Egypt through the Desert of Barca, in 1805, and conquered the city of Derne, which led to the treaty of peace between the United States and the regency of Tripoli.” In addition to the role he played in the First Barbary War, General Eaton also served one term in the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1807-1808).

The letter is addressed to James L. Cathcart, Esq., American Consul, Tripoli. The “prominent facts” related by General Eaton in the letter concern the activities of the United States Navy in and around Tunis in the years 1798 and 1799 as well as prominent political and religious figures in the country. The text of the letter reads as follows:


This moment I recieve dispatches from Consul General OBrien—but have not time to detail the news—the most prominent facts are—

“The Heroe put into the west Indies and will refit and proceed to Algiers.”

“The Sophia was in Lisbon on the 23d June and would sail in a few days.”

“Mr. Smith is appointed Envoy to the Grand-Signor—and will soon be in this see—”

“Captain Truxtun of the Constellation has taken a French 44—”

“The Hassen Bashaw is taken by the French within the jurisdictional line of Cadis—the crew in chains—the Dey demands indemnity of the Spaniards.”

“Capn Cathcarts dispatches of the 7 July are received and his bills honored—all his requisitions shall be answered in due time—”

When I have more leisure you shall have more particulars—

                                                                                                        from your obed serv                                                                                                                                  Wm Eaton

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Legislative Documents Series is Not just full of bills!

An example of a memorandum issued by
the Secretary of the Commonwealth in 1977
Proposed legislation (i.e. bills) make up the majority of the material found within the Massachusetts Legislative Documents series. However, there are other types of documents included that may be important for your research.  What was published in the series can vary year by year, but it’s important to be aware of these types of documents.  Here are some examples of what you may find:
  • Governor’s inaugural speeches and annual messages:  Often published as Senate document 1.
    1941 Senate No. 0001 – Annual message
  • Governor’s veto and amendment messages:  In addition to the power to veto, Article LVI of the Amendments to the MA Constitution invests the governor with the right to return a bill, laid before him or her, to the originating branch of the General Court with amendment recommendations.  These messages issued to the legislature can explain why particular changes were made to a bill or why a bill was not ultimately signed.
    1947 Senate No. 637 - Governor’s veto message
    1948 House No. 2422 - Governor’s amendment recommendations
  • “Memoranda” from such offices as the Commissioner of Corporations and Taxation and the Secretary of the Commonwealth (see image):
    1946 House No. 1445 - Commissioner of Corporations and Taxation
  • Justices of the Supreme Court opinions:  the legislature often requests the opinions of the Justices of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts when the constitutionality or legality of a piece of legislation arises.
    1948 Senate No. 546
  • Other Legislative Recommendations:  The Governor is not the only official who can recommend legislation and amendments.  Any state officer or dept. head making an annual report may include therein, in even-numbered years, recommendations for legislative action and detailed explanations (see MGL Chap. 30, section 33).
    1946 House No. 94 - Secretary of the Commonwealth
    1948 House No. 93 - Department of Mental Health
    1941 House No. 66 – State Examiners of Electricians
The State Library’s legislative documents collection runs from 1802 to the most recent volume. To search what is currently available in our digital legislative documents database, please visit the following address and check back as more will be added in the future: http://archives.lib.state.ma.us/handle/2452/219464 

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, May 4, 2015

Brief and Sprightly Essays: The Toilet

The State Library’s collections are filled with curiosities and eclectic finds, particularly those from the early 19th century.  One recent re-discovery is a periodical from 1801 with the unwieldy and unlikely name of The Toilet: A Weekly Collection of Literary Pieces, Principally Designed for the Amusement of the Ladies.   Printed in Charlestown, Massachusetts, by Samuel Etheridge, this periodical lasted a mere 8 issues—from January 17, 1801 to March 7, 1801.  Like most titles in the early years of magazine publishing in this country (The American magazine: a compact history by John Tebbell counts fewer than 100 magazines published before the year 1825) The Toilet’s primary audience was ladies of leisure and was supported wholly by subscription rates and without advertising.  The price of The Toilet was “four penny bit” (4 pence); perhaps it was too much an exorbitant one for the time which led to its demise.

Today a magazine called “The Toilet” would elicit a chuckle from most people. However, in 1801 the title would have been unremarkable and chosen for its practical and literal use at the time—the English-language equivalent of the French word “toilette” —defined by the Oxford English dictionary as “the action of preparing oneself to appear in public”.  This little magazine with its “brief and sprightly essays” and poetry probably just was intended to inform and entertain its lady readers as they prepared themselves to face the day.

The Toilet was a magazine publishing experiment that did not even last 3 months, but looking at it today gives us a tiny glimpse into what was considered ladies’ entertainment over 200 years ago.  It still remains remarkable how The Toilet of yesteryear is comprised of the same type of short, easily-digested “snippets” that busy readers prefer in today’s modern world.

Judy Carlstrom
State Library of Massachusetts

Monday, April 27, 2015

Stories of Massachusetts

When a researcher called looking for items written by the Massachusetts Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration, one work, listed above caught my eye. The Stories volume was compiled on behalf of the Boston School Committee and sponsored also by the Massachusetts Department of Education. It was published in 1940/1941. Topics in the work include: The Great Boston Fire of 1872, Garrison the Liberator, The Building of the Constitution, and The Other Oliver Wendell Holmes.  But, one story, is particularly timely: The First American Subway. With the T, so much in the news, a look at its beginnings is an interesting endeavor.

Some points from history about the Boston subway:
  • During the years 1892-1894, the General Court passed legislation to set up the Boston Transit Commission whose task it was to find how the congestion in Boston could be lessened.  A “Tremont Street Subway” was proposed.
  • Even though people were using cars pulled by horses and there was only one electric line, the idea of a subway was met with great opposition, especially by the business community fearing commerce would be disrupted. An Anti-Subway League was founded, but their wishes were thwarted by a city vote in July of 1894 where those wishing the construction to go forward were successful, though only by 1000 plus votes.
  • During these early years, the Chief Engineer Howard Carson visited Europe, staying in London and Budapest to study their systems. He found that the air quality in the London Tube was poor and made sure to develop a better system for the city of Boston.
  • On March 28th, 1895, construction on the subway began at the meeting of Boylston and Charles Streets.  The Chief Engineer was joined by Governor Greenhalge, members of the Commission other dignitaries and interested parties.  There were also hundreds of laborers wanting to find work.
Governor Frederic T. Greenhalge,
Picture 1-55, State Library of Massachusetts.
There were several crises during the construction, including the finding of the bodies and burial places of hundreds of the dead. These were reburied.  Also, in March of 1897, a gas leak caused the deaths of 10 workers who were digging at the site.
  • In September of that year, the subway was opened to much amazement. On opening day, the Park Street to the Public Garden ride was taken by between 200,000 and 250, 000 people.  In awe of the new transportation system, it was the turnstyles which added to some consternation as well as to bewilderment.  Young couples in particular, it is documented, did not like the need to be separated from one another!!
Over the years, of course, the Boston subway system has grown and grown. The T is a very proud accomplishment for the city, though problems have surfaced over the last months of very unprecedented weather. What will happen in the future to this vital part of the life of the city is to be determined.  Our government leaders are and will be deciding what to do.  There will be new initiatives and legislation coming and coming soon.

To track all of the additions to this transportation system and to follow the current situation, a visit to the State Library in person or remotely can help.  For legislation passed each year, for example, one can visit our Acts and Resolves section on our website. Items on transportation which are online can be located in the Digital Collections section.

To find a wealth of material, one can visit us here in the State House. We are located in Room 341 and our Special Collections is in the West Wing, Room 55.  Please go to our website at: www.mass.gov/lib. You will see the link to Digital Collections on the left.

Pamela W. Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian
State Library of Massachusetts

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Poetry for Boston

April is National poetry month and Massachusetts has a number of famous poets who were born, raised, educated or lived their lives in our cities and towns. Robert Frost, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickenson and Stanly Kunitz could all call Massachusetts home and many wrote poems and stories inspired by the people they knew, places they lived and scenes they saw. The State Library of Massachusetts has a number of these poets’ works in our collection as well as biographies and compilations.

In honor of National Poetry Month, I went looking through our catalog for poets or specific poems to highlight. While searching, I came across a number of poetry books with a focus on the city of Boston. I was struck by the broad range of the subjects, authors and tones of these poems, each celebrating (and at times even lamenting) the same city. The three books I chose to further concentrate on for this blog where picked for their drastically different styles and years that they were written or published.

Poems of the "Old South" is a volume of poems published in 1877 by William F. Gill to help raise funds for the preservation of the Old South Church, also known as The Old South Meeting House. “Old South” was originally built in 1729 as a Puritan meeting house where people assembled up through the American Revolution. In 1877, the church was nearly demolished but was saved when it was established as a museum and Poems of the Old South was put together so raise money for preservation work needed at the time.

Most of the poems in the collection praise the church and its historical significance to Boston. Many of the poets regard it as a symbol of liberty due its connection with early colonizers who came to the new world. James Freeman Clarke’s poem boasts in his personified work The "Old South" Speaks that:
Though prouder domes are elsewhere swelling, 
And loftier spires salute the morn, 
Let Boston save the plain old dwelling
Where Freedom for mankind was born”

Boston in My Blood was written by Elizabeth F. Leach, a local school teacher and poet. Born in Brookline, a Boston University graduate and a teacher in the Somerville school system for 40 years, Leach was a Massachusetts native through and through.  In 1963, Leach privately printed and published the book of poetry, Boston in my Blood.

Leach’s poems have short lines that fall into simple rhyme schemes. Her poems offer witty remarks that at times may only be understood by a Bostonian. Her poems fall into distinct categories such as “Of Boston Bachelors” or “Spinsters of the Hub”.  Colleges get their own section with titles like BU? BC? BC? BU? B-Musing and The Man From MIT.  Other poems take us on a ride geographically, from Balloon Man at the Garden’s Gate to March Winds Along Boylston Street, winds that can still be felt as you walk through Copley Square.  Although published in 1963, many of the poems continue to ring true today including Subway Sputtering’s which describes subway woes at peak commuting house even 50 years ago:
When it’s Five o’clock at Park Street
As commuters mill about,  
One can hear the starters shouting,
“Let’em  out, please let ‘em out!” 
Once that last Lechmere survivor 
(We must hope that he is thin)
Has descended, comes the struggle, 
“Let’em in, please, let’em in!”

After the Boston Marathon Bombing in April of 2013, Deborah Finkelstein, a poet, playwright and professor, wanted to help. Like One: Poems for Boston is an anthology of poetry created to raise money for The One Fund, a charity for Boston Marathon victims. Finkelstein chose works from many well-known poets such as William Carlos Williams and Walt Whitman, but also has a large selection of modern writers as well.

What is incredible about Like One is that while a few pieces mention Boston, it is not a book focused on the city or the bombings per say. Instead, it brings together a series of poems that inspire unity and healing, like what happens to communities after a tragedy. Part of the reason for this feeling is that Finkelstein encouraged poets and people to send in poems that have lifted their spirits in their own lives. At the end of Jill McDonough’s poem Accident, Mass Ave., a piece describing a minor accident between herself and a woman, she writes after the two have yelled and swore at each other:
Well, there’s nothing wrong with my car, nothing wrong
with your car…are you Ok? She nodded, and started
to cry, so I put my arms around her, and I held her, middle
of the street, Mass. Ave., Boston, a couple blocks from the bridge.
I hugged her, and I said We were scared, weren’t we?
And she nodded and we laughed.”

McDonough finds a perfect way to describe the fear that was felt in the city at the time of the bombings and how we found ways to heal, whether it was with poetry or each other.

Check out more information for National Poetry month here. For events in Massachusetts see the Boston National Poetry month Festival and Massachusetts Poetry Festival.

Stephanie Turnbull
Reference Librarian