Monday, August 19, 2013

1963 March on Washington

On Saturday, August 24th, the nation will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march held in the nation’s capital. Led by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. the 1963 crowd at the march was estimated at 250,000.  

The march has been called “The March for Jobs and Freedom” by some and “The Great March on Washington” by others.  It was there that Reverend King, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, delivered perhaps his most famous speech.The words touched millions with its calls for a fairer America.  
Two days before the gathering, members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives filed resolutions supporting the march and calling on Congress to pass major civil rights legislation filed by President Kennedy.  Their efforts epitomized the state’s tradition of leadership in the movement for equality in this country. House document no. 3682 from 1963 contains the resolution and is located in the State Library: 

Reverend King spoke at the Massachusetts State House on April 22, 1965 in front of a joint session of the Massachusetts General Court. You can view his eloquent speech here.

Visit the Library in Room 341 of the State House to view books and other materials about the civil rights movement. We welcome visitors.  Our hours are Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5PM.

Pamela W. Schofield
State Library of Massachusetts

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Brown Bag on the Massachusetts Gaming Commission

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
on Tuesday,  August 20th, 2013
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442, State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and come to hear James McHugh,  Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner speak about: Expanded Gaming in Massachusetts. Where did it come from? Where is it going? How and when will it get there and who is watching over it? You will learn the answers to these questions and have an opportunity to ask your own. 
To register online, please go to:

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

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sensational Cases: The Case of Theodore Tilton vs. Henry Ward Beecher

Henry Ward Beecher
Tilton vs. Beecher was one of the most famous scandals of the late 19th century. With New York as the backdrop, it involved American newspaper editor, abolitionist, and cuckold Theodore Tilton, his wife, Elizabeth, and the famed Congregationalist clergyman, abolitionist, and social reformer Henry Ward Beecher. Reverend Beecher, also known as the father of author Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and women’s rights leader Isabella Beecher Hooker, was accused by Tilton of adultery. Beecher’s personal history was riddled with rumors of extramarital affairs that had begun circulating since the early to mid-19th century. In 1870, Elizabeth Tilton confessed her affair with Beecher to her husband, who then made it known to women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Stanton subsequently told fellow activists Isabella (Beecher’s daughter) and Victoria Woodhull. Woodhull, enraged by what she viewed as flagrant hypocrisy practiced by the popular religious leader, who himself held a public stance against such free love, wrote an article about the affair in her newspaper Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly in 1872. The article sparked massive national interest. Beecher was successful in having Woodhull arrested on the grounds of distributing obscene materials through the mail, which split the allegiances of the clergyman’s two daughters; Woodhull, given her own trial, was eventually released on a technicality. 
Elizabeth Tilton
After an inquiry conducted by his church, he was exonerated of all charges and Tilton was excommunicated from the church. In 1875, Tilton then brought a civil case to the city court, which could not arrive at a verdict; this prompted the Congregational church to hold a final hearing that, to the anger of many, resulted in Beecher’s 2nd exoneration.

The 3 volume set titled Theodore Tilton vs. Henry Ward Beecher, action for crim. con. tried in the city court of Brooklyn … verbatim report by the official stenographer (1875), which can be found in our library’s collections, is an important and in depth record of this civil trial. It includes court proceedings, affidavits, the opinions of judges, transcriptions of arguments put forth by the attorneys representing each party, the testimonies delivered by witnesses, witness cross-examinations, and sketched portraits of important figures in the trial.

If you are curious about the current legalities of adultery in Massachusetts, you can search the Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) online by entering “adultery” into the keyword search bar.

Theodore Tilton
Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Dept.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Library Classifications of Yore: Shurtleff’s Decimal System

Did you know that, before the Dewey Decimal System was invented in 1876 and widely adopted by libraries, there were other decimal-based library classification systems in place? One interesting system was developed by Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, M.D., chairman of the State Library of Massachusetts trustees in the mid-19th century. His self-designed, self-published classification system and manual titled A Decimal System for the Arrangement and Administration of Libraries (1856) was originally introduced into the Boston Public Library where it had been in “practical operation there since the summer of 1852.”

The classification system was heavily geared toward library administration as well as the physical arrangement of books in a library. It dictated that the alcoves and shelves should be arranged in multiples of ten, with each shelf labeled with a number. For example: “if a book is on shelf No. 208, it will be found on the 8th shelf of the 10th range, and (deducting 1 from the 2 in place of hundreds) of the 1st alcove.” Each book was also to be marked with the shelf number, as well as another number that represented its “true position on its shelf”—starting with 1 at the left. Further letters and numbers help denote multiple volumes in a set, multiple copies of a book, newly added books, etc.

 This system benefitted item retrieval and reshelving, but put both patrons and librarians at a disadvantage when wanting to conduct more precise searching and discovering of materials by subject matter on shelves. Card catalogs at this time were also simplistic in design, and were just beginning to give patrons an idea on what library collections had to offer. In 1857, as the State Library was changing to a new classification system, State Librarian George S. Boutwell, in the library’s 1857 annual report, acknowledges Shurtleff’s assistance during the process. Although the library did not adopt Shurtleff’s system, as Boutwell concedes that it was designed for “library apartments constructed with reference to the system, and for large circulating libraries”, he does praise its “simplicity, completeness and practicalness,” its potential to save on time and labor, and its ability to “promote convenience and despatch”. In this sense, Boutwell believed that the system would still be of great service to the library. It wasn’t until Melvil Dewey’s subject-based hierarchical decimal system was designed that the modern-day concept of library classification began to evolve and meet the needs of both the institutions and patrons alike.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department