Monday, July 30, 2012

State Library Legislative Photograph Collection

Thanks to the hard working folks at the Boston Public Library, our large collection of legislative photographs has finally been digitized! The collection, which spans inclusively from 1855 up to 1908, is comprised of various formats of loose photographs, as well as bound legislative portrait albums depicting members of the Massachusetts General Court during their years served. Also digitized are the versos of photographs when necessary, which provide important identifying information and, in many cases, the name of the photography studio.

As mentioned in our previous blog post, which details our efforts to produce a comprehensive database based on our legislative biographical file, our goal is to make all of these images electronically accessible to the public in the near future. The photographs will compliment images already available in our digitized collection of “Bird Books” and Souvenirs of Massachusetts Legislators, as well as fill in some of the years that are not currently available.

While browsing through the photographs, one thing I found interesting was that many images (as evidenced on those from the 1855 Senate) were signed by their respective legislators and have various handwritten messages such as “With great respect”, “Yours in love”, “Fraternally yours”, and “Receive my considerations”. Also notable in this collection is a wonderful early image of John James Smith (1825-1906), a native Virginian, entrepreneur, and African American legislator who was elected to serve Boston in 1868, three years after the conclusion of the Civil War.

In addition to the services provided by the BPL, the project was supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. For more information about our legislative photograph collection, please contact our library’s Special Collections Dept. at 617-727-2595.

Kaitlin Connolly
Library Technician, Reference Dept.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Capital Blooms: Art & Artifacts

Starting on July 30th 2012 the State Library will feature an exhibit Capital Blooms, Art & Artifacts: Floral interpretations from the State Library Collection that will run until August 3, 2012.

This inaugural exhibit will feature floral arrangements which were created by members of the Beacon Hill Garden Club and the Waltham Garden Club. Each arrangement interprets through flowers and other natural materials four different items from our collection.

Please stop by the State Library during the exhibit to view the beautiful floral arrangements that have been created by the garden clubs.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Treasures of the State Library for July 2012: Massachusetts Travel Brochures over the years

Summer is, of course, the busiest time for going on vacation! And other seasons have their own special vacation pleasure here in the Commonwealth.

This guide, published by the Massachusetts Department of Commerce and, Division of Tourism in 1969, divides the state by counties and contains maps of each one.

Massachusetts Tourism offices and other groups have published guides for many years for those wishing to spend their relaxing days in the state.

This piece, also published by the Massachusetts Department of Commerce, lists “How, Where, When and What to Catch” and “fishing tournaments” and “Governor’s Salt Water Fishing Awards.” It was published in 1970.

Other booklets reflect all seasons and point out events for each time of year.

They are published by the Massachusetts Division of Tourism, later named The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. The fall and summer pieces were published in 1987, the winter one in 1992.

These brochures or pamphlet guides have become part of the state library’s vast collection of materials for those who vacation for a week or who wish to spend a day sightseeing. Their covers reflect the changing times! Famous for its transportation system, Massachusetts vacationers have travelled by many means over the years.

This booklet, by Katharine M. Abbott and published privately by Charles B. Webster & Company., Boston, provides a view into early twentieth century travel. The sections, arranged by city or town, each contain a part on “What to see.” Its publication date is 1901.

In our role as the State Library of Massachusetts, we not only collect all items published by the state, but also are in receipt of thousands of other materials about the Commonwealth. These holdings on tourism reflect just one small part of the rich collections we own.

Pamela W. Schofield
Reference Department
State Library of Massachusetts

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Americans with Disabilities Act: An Anniversary

On July 26th, 2012 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will observe its 22nd anniversary. The Act was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. It helped to make American society, for those with disabilities, more accessible. Its full title is: An Act to establish a clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability. The State Library has the original act in its collection of documents entitled Statutes at Large (104 Stat. 327).

ADA defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. There are five major areas of concern: employment, public services, public accommodations, telecommunications and miscellaneous.

In 2008, President George W. Bush signed into law the ADA Amendments Act. It is available in the State Library’s collection of Statutes at Large (122 Stat. 3553), all federal laws are available online at:

Massachusetts created its Office on Disability in 1981. Details of the agency are on its website: The Massachusetts Office on Disability provides client services, community services and government services. Client services include information and help with individual problems; community services provide assistance based on community concerns and government services assure that state and federal laws are adhered to.

The State Library is located in room 341 of the State House and its hours are 9 AM to 5 PM Mondays through Fridays.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Liberty Bell

Although no military battles took place on Massachusetts soil during the Civil War, the abolitionists’ battle for the emancipation of slaves began in Boston as early as the 1830’s. When one thinks of Boston abolitionists, names such as Garrison, Governor Andrew, Douglass, and Sumner often come to mind; however, the women of Boston played a significant role in educating the public and raising funds for anti-slavery activities.

One example of the contributions of female Boston abolitionists can be found in the Special Collections of the State Library. In 1899, Samuel May donated a 15 volume set of The Liberty Bell to the State Library, an annual gift book first published in 1839 by the American Anti-Slavery Society and edited by Maria Weston Chapman. These ornate publications were sold at the annual Boston Anti-Slavery Bazaar, a fair founded by Lydia Maria Child and Louisa Loring and sponsored by the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society.

Each volume of The Liberty Bell contains poems, essays, and other pieces, as Weston described, “from those whose names are dear to the abolitionists.” Contributions such as these were made by New England and European literary figures and abolitionists including Lydia Maria Child, Harriet Martineau, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lucretia Mott, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, and Alex de Tocqueville, among many others.

You don’t have to be a published historian or State House employee to visit Special Collections. Anyone can come to view our collections and spend time exploring the Commonwealth’s history. For more information about our location and hours, please visit our website at

Casey E. Davis
Reference/Exhibition Intern
Special Collections Department

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

The Biographical Directory contains detailed historic information about our government from 1789-2005. It contains five (5) distinct sections: The Executive Officers of the United States from 1789 – 2005; The Continental Congress which includes the meeting dates and places where these occurred; the apportionment of Congress through the 2000 Census; the individual Congresses from 1789-2005 and the biographies of those who served in Congress from 1789 to 2005.

The Executive Officers section includes information such as cabinet officers, and it reveals the growth of the Presidency aligned with the growth of the cabinet.

The Continental Congress section lists those delegates who were elected to serve; those who attended and those who declined to attend.

The census apportionment of the House of Representatives is the smallest section of the book; in essence each state and the number of representatives it was allowed as a result of the census.

The individual Congresses section is very detailed including the name of the doorkeeper of the House and Senate and the Sergeant at Arms of the House. The earlier Congresses contain information about Territories and their delegates; for example, Territory of Idaho; New Mexico; Arizona before they became states.

The biographical section contains information including birth, education, previous employment, death and place of internment.

An example of the individual entries is:

ROGERS, Edith Nourse (wife of John Jacob Rogers), a Representative from Massachusetts; born in Saco, York County Maine, March 19, 1881; graduated from the Rogers Hall School, Lowell, Mass; graduated from Madame Julien’s School, Paris, France; volunteered, American Red Cross, 1917-1922; Presidential inspector of veterans’ hospitals, 1922-1923; president, board of trustees, Rogers Hall School, Lowell, Mass; elected as a Republican to the Sixty-ninth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of her husband, United States Representative John Jacob Rogers; reelected to the Seventieth and to the sixteen succeeding Congresses (June 30, 1926-September 10, 1960); chair, Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (Eightieth and Eighty-third Congresses); died on September 10, 1960, in Boston, Mass; internment in Lowell Cemetery, Lowell, Mass.
THE BIOGRAPHICAL DIRECTORY is available at the Reference Desk at the State Library in room 341 of the State House. The hours of the Library are 9 AM to 5 PM Mondays through Fridays. More current information is available on line at:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Brown bag on Election Reform and Citizens United

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
on Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442, State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and join us to hear Pam Wilmot talk about the Citizens United vs. FEC decision. She will speak on its impact on politics, and what is being done to address it and will also talk about other current election reform issues such as National Popular Vote for President and the election laws bill pending before the Massachusetts Senate. Come hear the latest news and ask your own questions about money in politics, election reform, or government transparency.

Ms. Wilmot is executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of Common Cause, a national non-partisan organization that lobbies for an open and accountable government and democratic election procedures. She has been an advocate for government reform and consumer and environmental issues for 30 years.

To register, please go to

You may also register by calling the Reference Department at 617-727-2590 or by e-mailing to  

Future Brown Bags will include:

  • Thursday, August 23rd
    Connie Reik, Tisch Library, Tufts University, The Civil War Veteran in Federal and Massachusetts State Documents and Publications
  • Thursday, September 20th
    Elaine Grublin, The Massachusetts Historical Society, Civil War Papers of the Society with emphasis on the Battle of Antietam and its 150th anniversary
  • Tuesday, October 16th
    Alexandra S. Baker, The U.S. Census Bureau, The 2010 Census
  • Thursday, November 15th
    Dr. Marcia Hohn, The Immigrant Learning Center, Massachusetts Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

On July fourth…

July 4 is a significant date in United States history that commemorates our independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain –a worthy cause for celebration, of course– but many other notable events have also taken place on this day. The acquisition of Louisiana Purchase was announced, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was first published, the NASA probe Pathfinder landed on Mars, and in 1802, the United States Military Academy first opened in West Point, New York. 

A room inspection in 1870

During the Revolutionary War, the forts at West Point were considered the most strategically important in the colonies for two reasons- the natural advantage of high ground, and also its position in relation to the narrow “S” bend in the Hudson River that forced ships to move slowly. From this superior vantage point, the Continental Army would be able to spot incoming British ships, slow their progress, and prevent the attempt to seize the area and thus divide the colonies. Despite Benedict Arnold’s infamous attempt to turn the post over to the British, West Point has remained the longest occupied post in US history. On March 16, 1802, Thomas Jefferson signed legislation to establish a military academy at West Point.

An exercise class from 1902
Although first founded on May 16, 1802, the first academic term began that year on July 4. Surprisingly, the school produced less than 100 graduates in the first ten years it was open. In 1812, the academy made substantial adjustments regarding admission and curriculum due to the impending war with England, and still more changes in 1817 when alumnus (then Major) Sylvanus Thayer became superintendent. By this time, focus on the refinement of “academic, military, and physical domains” had become standard.

A signaling class in 1951
Many notable generals and soldiers are alumni of “West Point,” including Stonewall Jackson, William Tecumseh Sherman, Robert E. Lee, George Armstrong Custer, Douglas MacArthur, George S. Patton, Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and more recently, CIA Director David H. Petraeus.

The State Library has a wide variety of literature about the United States Military Academy, including detailed histories, depictions of cadet life in the 19th century, and even a book on the history of academy dress and uniform. If you are more interested in general military history, we also have a generous assortment of materials relating to the United States Calvary, United States infantry, and a large collection of books about the United States Navy. To see these materials and more, visit the State Library from 9-5, Monday through Friday… but not on the Fourth of July, as the library will be closed for the observance of Independence Day.

Bianca Hezekiah
Program Coordinator, Reference Department

Declaration of Independence

The Fourth of July is celebrated by Americans as Independence Day. This is considered the nation’s birthday because on July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was signed proclaiming our independence from Britain.

A copy of the Declaration of Independence can be found in the State Library collection as well as other documents relating to the country’s independence—including a Resolve from the Massachusetts House of Representative from 1776 relating to the possibility of the Congress declaring the colonies to be independent and another from the Colony of Massachusett’s-Bay, in 1776, supporting the war.

Visit the Independence Hall Association’s site at to find information about the Declaration of Independence and information about the signers. Be sure to compare the terms inalienable and unalienable at: The Declaration of Independence uses the term “unalienable rights” while some earlier versions use the term “inalienable rights”.

To learn additional facts about the signers of the Declaration of Independence visit

Naomi Allen
Reference and Government Documents Departments