Tuesday, January 28, 2014

State Librarian Caleb Tillinghast and his Encounters with Charles J. Guiteau

The State Library recently came across an interesting article in the 6/17/1886 issue of the Boston Daily Globe titled “Theft and mutilation: dangers to which all libraries are subject.”  We were pleasantly surprised to find that one of our own long-running State Librarians, Caleb Tillinghast (1879-1893, Acting Librarian; 1893-1909, State Librarian), whose bust is prominently displayed behind our reference desk in room 341 of the State House, was interviewed for a portion of the article.

Tillinghast, while patient and reasonable, was a no-nonsense librarian devoted to the library and its collections. When a volume of citations from Supreme Court decisions went missing, a book that he describes as “not very valuable” and “easily replaced,” he saw it as an opportunity to make an example of the theft. He made unceasing efforts to recover the book and, after some months, Tillinghast’s persistence paid off; the missing volume was retrieved from a lawyer’s personal library—a lawyer who fled Massachusetts soon after. Unfortunately, the book was defaced with new stamps and the culprit’s signature in multiple spots, but Tillinghast kept the book and considered it a “memento” of the experience.

Charles Julius Guiteau
(image from Wikipedia)
The reminiscences of his encounters with Charles J. Guiteau are easily the most fascinating section of this article.  Guiteau, who assassinated President James A. Garfield in 1881, visited Boston briefly around 1880 and frequented some of the libraries in the area—including the State Library.  Tillinghast was immediately wary of this new patron, whom he describes as sometimes using the room as a “loafing place.”  Guiteau was generally left undisturbed unless he fell asleep, which “Mr. Tillinghast would not tolerate.”  It wasn’t until the patron removed his “dirty pair of culls and placed them on the table” that the librarian privately questioned Guiteau about his intentions.
…Guiteau took the inquisition pleasantly, and, producing a card that announced his profession as law and his experience as ten years, said that he was studying “government and politics, with a view to entering the field in the coming campaign.”  As the future assassin seemed sincere the librarian told him that he was welcome to the privileges of the library on three conditions, i.e.: He must not loaf there, not lodge there, and not perform his toilet there.  Guiteau promised to comply, and took no offence, but his visits soon ceased.
The State Library has a large collection of Massachusetts historical newspapers, including the Boston Daily Globe, which covers the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.  For further information regarding newspaper accessibility, you can contact us by phone at 617-727-2590 or via email at reference.department@state.ma.us.  We are open 9:00am until 5:00pm, Mondays through Fridays.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Day in the Preservation Lab

It has been very busy in the preservation lab mostly because of our recent project on reclassification. Interesting discoveries within our collection were made every day during this massive overhaul, and I had the pleasure of restoring many of these wonderful finds.  As the Preservation Librarian, it is very satisfying to salvage items that are in need of extensive repair, with the end result being a book, document, or map that patrons can continue to utilize and enjoy.

1872 Journal of the Senate
before preservation treatment

1872 Journal of the Senate
after preservation treatment  

As the reclassification overhaul progressed, items in poor condition were sent to the preservation lab on carts.  Using a number of conservation tools and materials including adhesive, repair tape, Japanese and heat-set tissues, mesh cloth, book cloth, spatulas, bone folders, and brushes, my intern and I continue to work our way through the collection.  Repairing books and documents with damage ranging from slight tears to disintegrating bindings and pages requires a lot of time and a lot of patience - but it never fails to be interesting and rewarding!

Boston Atlas
Before and after preservation treatment 

Kelly J. Turner
Preservation Librarian

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Brown Bag on “The Great Molasses Flood”

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
on Thursday January 23rd
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442, State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and listen to John Horrigan, host of the 2013 Boston/New England Emmy Award(™)-winning historical television program "The Folklorist," as he presents a short presentation on "The Great Molasses Flood.”   

You've probably learned of this compelling story through Steve Puleo's great book Dark Tide. The Purity Distilling Company hustled (and cut corners) to have a large storage tank built in Boston's North End to store a valuable cargo that was inbound to Boston. Molasses was a multi-purpose commodity. It was used to make explosives, confections and alcohol. There was a profit to be made. An unseasonably mild January day in 1919 followed some bitterly cold weather. Pressure built within the 50-foot tall tank and the structure suddenly collapsed, sending a 30-40 foot high wave of molasses at 35 MPH down Commercial Street during lunch hour. Twenty one people lost their lives. Please join us as Mr. Horrigan recounts this iconic part of Boston's history and shows the Molasses Flood segment from his television program.

To register, please go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FDKXDN7. You may also call the Reference Department at 617-727-2590 or e-mail to reference.department@state.ma.us to let us know you will attend.

Future Brown Bags which are planned for 2014
  • February 13th  Daniel Leclerc, Historian and Educator, The Yankee Division in the Great War
  • March 18th – Mary Ellen Grogan and colleagues from the Massachusetts Genealogy Council will do a second presentation on Genealogy
  • April 17th – Beth Carroll-Horrocks, Head of Special Collections, State Library of Massachusetts, Treasures of the State Library
  • May 22nd – Nancy Lusignan Schultz, author of Fire and Roses: the Burning of Charlestown Convent, 1934
  • date to be determined  Stephen Puleo, author of The Caning: The Assault that Drove America to the civil War” 

Monday, January 13, 2014

New World War I exhibit in the Library

Company L, 6th Regiment Band, ca. 1917-1919
The State Library invites you to our newest exhibit, Courage in the Commonwealth: Massachusetts and World War I.

Through portraits of soldiers who served, descriptions of training camps and regional military divisions, and examples of civilian involvement, this exhibit conveys a sense of what life was like in Massachusetts during World War I and the sacrifices that the people of the Commonwealth made to support the war efforts.

The exhibit runs from January 13 through May 31, 2014 and can be viewed outside of the Library, Room 341 of the State House. Library hours are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. This exhibit is also available to view online as a set of images on the State Library's Flickr site.

A special thanks to Irene Gates, a former Reference/Exhibitions intern, who researched the topic, scanned many of the documents, wrote the panel text, and designed the exhibit layout.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Collection Now Available: Military Records and Correspondence of Hugh Maxwell, a Colonel in the American Revolution

Recently processed, a collection of military records and correspondence of Hugh Maxwell (Manuscript 27) are now available for research in the Special Collection Department of the State Library.  Maxwell was an army officer who first saw battle when he volunteered for the American army during the French and India War.  He later reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the American Revolution.  Maxwell participated in the battles of Bunker Hill, Trenton, Princeton, Saratoga, and Monmouth, as well as the siege of Boston. 

A letter written by Maxwell during the American Revolution,
addressed to “My Dear,” assumedly his wife or one of his daughters,
to whom he wrote frequently while on tours.
The military records include a muster roll of Maxwell’s men while he was captain in Colonel Prescott’s Regiment in the Continental Army in 1776.  The roll includes the names and rank of the other officers in the company and the list of soldiers.  Also included are correspondences of General William Heath, Colonel John Baily, Lieutenant William Taylor, Captain Adam Baily, and Joseph Thomas.

Of note in the collection are items that evidence the struggles of the government to pay its soldiers and the worries of soldiers of how they would manage to live when they left the army.  Many of the officers and enlisted men had gone months, and in many cases years, without being paid for their services.  The treasury was empty and Congress lacked the means and power to raise money.  The little pay the army had received had not been in cash, but instead paper securities based on a future promise by the government to redeem them in cash. 

Congress, as the war was nearing an end, was becoming increasingly fearful of the ramifications of discharging a large mass of unpaid men all at once. To remedy the situation, Congress furloughed most of the men instead of discharging them, justifying the action by arguing that, while an army in the field was no longer necessary, it may be needed if negotiations with Britain broke down. Maxwell’s papers include a record of Maxwell’s men who had been paid for the month of July, 1776, a promissory note from Joseph Thomas concerning money owed Maxwell as a member of the Second Mass. Regiment, and a copy of a certificate of pay from the Office of Massachusetts Treasurer to Hugh Maxwell.

Caitlin Walsh
Special Collections Intern

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Take two pills: Statistics and records from the State Board of Health

The State Library collects annual reports from agencies across the Commonwealth.  These reports contain a wealth of information especially from the 19th and early 20th centuries. For instance, the Massachusetts State Board of Health annual report titled Monthly Bulletin contains information on death rates from diseases such as typhoid fever, diphtheria, whooping cough and scarlet fever as well as prosecutions for violations of the laws relating to food and drugs.  In July 1908 these prosecutions led to the convictions of 48 people for selling cider containing benzoic acid, and selling cider containing salicyclic acid (a drug in the same family as aspirin-salicylates) and for making preparations containing cocaine.  On March 31st, 1908 there was an extensive outbreak of milk-borne typhoid fever in Jamaica Plain.


The report also includes health laws that were amended in 1908 including admittance of hospital records as evidence in the courts, the use of water to humidify factories, and the emission of smoke called the smoke law.  The smoke law is not about smoking cigarettes but “an act relative to the emission of smoke in cities and towns” excluding locomotive engines and pottery kilns.”

The report also contains interesting charts, including a list of headache powders collected by the inspectors of food and drugs.  There are statistics on poisonings from the ingredients of some headache preparations.   Some of the headache cures mentioned include “Laxacold, a laxative treatment tablet treatment for coughs, colds, grippe, headache and neuralgia”; “Magic Headache Wafers, a sure cure for nearly every form of headache” which is “especially valuable in sick, nervous and periodic headache, brain fag and mental weariness.”  These health reports give us insight as to which public health issues were important to this agency in the early 20th century.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian