Westborough Local History Pastimes – For the Week of April 27, 2020

pas·time – /ˈpasˌtīm/ – noun

  1. an activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work; a hobby. “his favorite pastimes were shooting and golf [and local history!]” (Source: Lexico – https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/pastime)

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Despite the stereotypes (or because of them), librarians are sometimes characterized as superheroes. People come up to the reference desk or send us an email with what they assume is an impossible question to answer, and within minutes, we are miraculously able to find the answer. How do we do that? (Email me or stop by the Westborough Center for History and Culture the next time the library is open and I’ll be happy to try to explain.)

But sometimes–probably more often than we want to admit–we make mistakes. After all, we are human (and not actual superheroes). And recently, I made a mistake. Well, sort of. In a past issue of Westborough Local History Pastimes, I said that I had conducted a “thorough search” in the Westborough Chronicle for any reference to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 and could not find any. Well, since that time, I came across a search term that I had neglected to use before, went back to our local newspaper database to try it out, and was finally able to uncover an article about the pandemic. By all indications, this article should have come up using my original search terms, but for whatever reason, it did not. I must have made a mistake somewhere, or perhaps the quirks of the database eluded me.

Now it’s your turn. Read the first pastime entry below and try your hand at becoming a librarian superhero!

–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian

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  • Westborough and the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 – The following article appeared in the Westborough Chronicle on October 11, 1918. To date, it is the only article I have been able to find on the topic in our local newspaper. Want to see if you can do better than I can? Explore our Westborough Historical Newspapers database, and let me know if you discover any more articles about this historical pandemic.


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As of this writing, the U.S. Census Bureau says that Massachusetts has a 54.9% response rate, compared to a national average of 53.2%. (Click here to find out the updated number.) Filling out the Census is important, because it determines the number of representatives that we get to send to Washington and the amount of federal funds that will flow to our state and town. If we are undercounted, then we will not receive our full benefits and lose influence in setting public policy.

Because we own the government by virtue of being citizens in our democratic society (and more literally because we pay taxes), we also own all of the records that are produced by our government. That means we have access to all kinds of data that comes out of the U.S. Census Bureau. Even more, you can find loads of fascinating historical data, and even see Famous and Infamous Census Forms for people like Thomas Jefferson, Groucho Marx, Malcolm X, Emily Dickinson, and John Dillinger. I could spend hours exploring all that the Census website has to offer!

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The exhibit chronicles how maps were used to shape ideas and attitudes towards our country’s westward expansion. Its addition of Native American viewpoints alone brings to relief how maps hold meanings that go beyond their seemingly neutral spatial representations. The content of the exhibit was so absorbing that I purchased the exhibition catalog to learn more. Fortunately, you can click on the link above to “visit” the exhibit and learn how important maps were to America’s nineteenth-century mindset.

One thought on “Westborough Local History Pastimes – For the Week of April 27, 2020”

  1. Wow. What a great article to have recovered. I was most impressed by the fact that the treatment/prevention of a virus was known and practiced as it it today. Even in Shakespeare’s day in the late 14th and early 15th centuries his theatre troupe productions would be shut down for a year or more during an onset of influenza. Very early social distancing. I am thankful for one noted change. We don’t “spit on the floor” anymore. At least I hope not.

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