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Politella Family Papers

1915-2004 (Bulk: 1938-1956)
2 boxes (3 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 885

When Antonio Politella emigrated from Italy to Lawrence, Mass., in 1910, he joined an older half-brother Walter Pollano, but left behind his wife and infant son. Working as a pharmacist under Pollano, Politella was successful enough to reunite his family in 1919, and eventually raised a family of three, all of whom went on to earn undergraduate degrees at Massachusetts State College and dedicate their lives to education. The eldest child, Joseph ('33), served in the Army Air Corps during the Second World War, earned a PhD in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, and taught in eastern religions at Kent State University. Lillian ('42) became a French teacher, while Dario ('47), an aviator during the war, earned his doctorate at Syracuse and taught journalism at UMass Amherst for many years.

The Politella family collection contains correspondence received primarily by Lillian Politella ('42), the bulk of which reflects the impact on the war on both her family and college. Among the letters are dozens written by her brothers Joseph ('33) and Dario ('47) and friend Donald W. Cadigan ('39) while in the service, which are joined by an evocative series from their teacher and mentor, Ray Ethan Torrey. Torrey's letters in particular offer insight into Mass. State College during and after the war and are replete with news about acquaintances and complaints about liberals and current events.

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Background on Politella family


An image of: Dario, Antonio, Lillian, and Joseph Politella in Amherst, ca.1930

Dario, Antonio, Lillian, and Joseph Politella in Amherst, ca.1930

As a young man 1910, Antonio Politella (1887-1937) left his new wife and infant son in Roccamonfina, Italy (Caserta Province), to settle in Lawrence, Mass., where his older half-brother Walter Pollano was enjoying the fruits of an immigrant's success. An ambitious man who had arrived in 1901, Pollano learned English while working in the mills and studied pharmacy on the side, and by 1909, he struck out on his own, establishing the Lawrence Street Drug and Chemical Company. For a brief period after his arrival, Politella worked in the mills, but joined his slightly older relative as a clerk and (later) assistant pharmacist. Both men were associated with the underground newspaper Il Purgante and were supporters of the Bread and Roses strike of 1912, supplying striking workers with food, and for his efforts, Pollano earned the nickname "the priest of Lawrence Street."

Politella's fortunes rose enough by August 1919, that he was able to bring over his wife, Caterina Ionta, and their son, Giuseppa (Joseph). The couple immediately continued building their family with the arrival of daughter a Violet Lillian (1920-2015) and second son, Dario (1921-2003). Each of the Politella children graduated from Massachusetts State College and each made their career in education. Joseph (1910-1975) began college at Northeastern before joining the class of 1933 at Massachusetts State College. Under the influence of the charismatic botanist Ray Ethan Torrey, he discovered what would become a lifelong interest in Theosophy, mysticism, and "Eastern" religion, and he was encouraged on to graduate study at Amherst (MA, 1935) and the University of Pennsylvania (PhD, 1938). Like so many of his generation, Politella's infant academic career at Northland College was interrupted by the Second World War. Enlisting in the Army Air Corps in November 1942, he received a lieutenant's commission and was assigned to duty as a classification officer at stateside bases, with a short stay in Panama, earning promotion to Captain. He resumed his academic career in 1946, joining the faculty in Philosophy at Kent State (1946-1973). He was author of four books on mysticism, Buddhism, and Asian religion.

Violet Lillian (1920-2015) followed her brother to Mass State, studying French and graduating in 1942. Lillian taught at American Dependent schools in Japan during the mid-1950s and in schools in Ohio until her retirement in 1985. The youngest of the Politella children, Dario (1921-2003), began undergraduate studies at Calvin College College and the Virginia Military Institute, but he too suspended civilian life for the demands of the military. Barely twenty years old, he was commissioned a lieutenant in March 1942 and served as a liaison pilot with the 808th Field Artillery Battalion, earning the Air Medal with oak leaf cluster. During a second stint in the military, he earned the Bronze Star as an aviator in the Korean War. Dario completed his undergraduate career at the University of Massachusetts in 1947, receiving a degree in languages and literature, and went on to earn a doctorate from Syracuse. The author of ten books and dozens of articles, landed on faculty at UMass Amherst, teaching journalism for over twenty-five years until his retirement in 1990.

Scope of collection

The Politella family collection contains an interesting assemblage of materials associated with an Italian American family from Lawrence, Mass., three of whom studied at Massachusetts State College. About a third of the collection consists of correspondence received by Lillian Politella ('42) and reflecting the impact on the war on both her family and college. Among the letters are dozens written by her brothers Joseph ('33) and Dario ('47) and friend Donald W. Cadigan ('39) while in the service, which are joined by an evocative series from their teacher and mentor, Ray Ethan Torrey. Torrey's letters in particular offer insight into Mass. State College during and after the war and are replete with news about acquaintances and complaints about liberals and current events and occasional references to their mutual interest in Theosophy. The most frequent correspondent, Dora B. Fearing, ran a boarding house where Torrey lived in the 1930s and 1940s.

In addition to a number of essays and book manuscripts by Joseph Politella on mysticism and Eastern religions, the collection includes rich photographic content, including a Politella family album from the 1930s and 1940s and two photo albums kept by Lillian Politella while teaching in an American dependent school in Nagoya, Japan (1955-1956).

Inventory

Dana (including North Dana)
1897-1964
Box 1: 1
Contents:

Correspondence: Cadigan, Donald W.
1941-1985
Box 1: 1
Correspondence: Clark, C. C.
1961-1971
Box 1: 2
Correspondence: Fearing, Dora B.
1956
Box 1: 3
Correspondence: Fearing, Dora B.
1957
Box 1: 4
Correspondence: Fearing, Dora B.
1958
Box 1: 5
Correspondence: Fearing, Dora B.
1959-1960
Box 1: 6
Correspondence: Goding, Stowell
1943-1945
Box 1: 7
Correspondence: Hager, Fanny A. (Army Nursing Corps)
1943-1944
Box 1: 7
Correspondence: Mitchell, H. B. (Theosophical Society)
1942
Box 1: 7
Correspondence: Politella, Dario
1944-1945
Box 1: 8
Correspondence: Politella, Joseph
1940-1956
Box 1: 9
Correspondence: Putala, Eugene
1956
Box 1: 10
Correspondence: Torrey, Ray Ethan
1941-1947
Box 1: 11
Correspondence: Torrey, Ray Ethan
1951-1955
Box 1: 12
Correspondence: Wood, B. B.
1940-1941
Box 1: 13
Grocer's Manual [Radio Foods]. Lawrence, Mass.: M. J. Caplan Co.
1936
Box 1: 14
Photograph album: Politella family (Lawrence, Mass.)
1928-1948
Box 2:
Photograph album: Politella, V. Lillian (Nagoya, Japan)
1954-1955
Box 2:
Photograph album: Politella, V. Lillian (Nagoya, Japan), Number 2
1954-1955
Box 2:
Photograph album: Politella, V. Lillian (Nagoya, Japan)
1955-1956
Box 2:
Photographs: Dalai Lama visit to Ann Arbor, Mich.
1979
Box 1: 15
Photographs: Miscellaneous
ca.1915-1957
Box 1: 16
Photographs: Politella, Antonio
ca.1930
Box 1: 17
Photographs: Politella, Caterina and son Joseph
ca.1914
Box 1: 18
Photographs: Politella, Dario
1939-2003
Box 1: 19
Photographs: Politella, Joseph
1921-1973
Box 1: 20
Photographs: Politella, V. Lillian
ca.1938-1960
Box 1: 21
Photographs: Politella, V. Lillian at Middlebury language School
1941
Box 1: 22
Photographs: Politella, V. Lillian in Mexico
1946
Box 1: 23
Photographs: Politella, V. Lillian (snapshot packets)
1948
Box 1: 24
Photographs: Politella, V. Lillian (snapshot packets)
1949-1950
Box 1: 25
Photographs: Politella, V. Lillian in Nagoya, Japan
1956
Box 1: 26
Photographs: Politella, V. Lillian
1981-2004
Box 1: 27
Politella, Ellen Sue: Extracts from "Sue's journal"
1975
Box 1: 43
Politella, Ellen Sue: Lab course in Christianity
1979
Box 1: 28
Politella, Ellen Sue: Offprints of articles
1964
Box 1: 29
Politella, Joseph: Ephemera (includes obituaries)
1968-1980
Box 1: 30
Politella, Joseph: Sermons
1948
1 item
Box 1: 31
Politella, Joseph: Sermons
1949
4 items
Box 1: 31
Politella, Joseph: Sermons
1950
1 item
Box 1: 31
Politella, Joseph: Sermons
1952
3 items
Box 1: 31
Politella, Joseph: Sermons
1953
2 items
Box 1: 31
Politella, Joseph: Sermons
1955-1957
2 items
Box 1: 31
Politella, Joseph: Sermons
1958-1959
3 items
Box 1: 31
Politella, Joseph: Sermons (undated): A-C
undated
4 items
Box 1: 31
Politella, Joseph: Sermons (undated): D-E
undated
3 items
Box 1: 31
Politella, Joseph: Sermons (undated): F-I
undated
5 items
Box 1: 31
Politella, Joseph: Sermons (undated): L-O
undated
5 items
Box 1: 31
Politella, Joseph: Sermons (undated): R-W
undated
6 items
Box 1: 31
Politella, Joseph: Writings: Buddhism: A philosophy of the spirit and a way of the eternal. Iowa City: Crucible
1966
Box 1: 31
Politella, Joseph: Writings: Buddhist mysticism with eastern and western comparisons [p.181-326 only]
ca.1964
3 folders
Box 1: 32
Politella, Joseph: Writings: Fragments
ca.1955
Box 1: 34
Politella, Joseph: Writings: Glossary of philosophical terms
ca.1964
Box 1: 34
Politella, Joseph: Writings: Hinduism, its scriptures, philosophy, and mysticism. Iowa City: Crucible
1966
Box 1: 34
Politella, Joseph: Writings: Introduction to philosophy (with Maurice Baum)
ca.1964
Box 1: 35
Politella, Joseph: Writings: Mysticism and the mystical consciousness illustrated from the great religions
1964
Box 1: 36
Politella, Joseph: Writings: Mysticism and the mystical consciousness in world religions
1964
Box 1: 37
Politella, Joseph: Writings: Mysticism and the mystical consciousness in world religions, Chapter 2
1964
Box 1: 38
Politella, Joseph: Writings: Offprints of articles
ca.1964
Box 1: 39
Politella, Joseph: Writings: "Pricinples of Taoist meditation," Newsletter-Review 2:2
1967
Box 1: 40
Politella, Joseph: Writings: Seven Religions of the World, Part 2: Judaism, Islam, Christianity
1961
Box 2: 41
Politella, Joseph: Writings: Seven Religions, A philosophical and religious interpretation. Part 1: The Religions of India and China
1961
Box 2: 42
Politella, Joseph: Writings: Taoism and Confucianism. Iowa City: Crucible
1967
Box 2: 43
Politella, V. Lillian: Ephemera
ca.1939-1993
Box 2: 44
Politella, V. Lillian: Newspaper clippings
1941
Box 2: 45
Saint Teresa of the Little Flower
undated
Box 2: 46
Scrapbook: Politella, V. Lillian
1933-1939
Box 2:
Washington Buddhist, vol. 1:3, 3:5, 4:1-2, 5:3
1969-1974
4 items
Box 2: 47
Writings: "Vanity, the deep-rooted, and humility, the foundation of a new life
ca.1955
Box 2: 34
Writings: Andrews, Donald A., "Living in an atomic age"
1948
Box 2: 34

Administrative information

Access

The collection is open for research.

Provenance

Gift of Norma E. Porras, Nov. 2015.

Processing Information

Processed by I. Eliot Wentworth, Dec. 2015.

Language:

English

Copyright and Use (More information )

Cite as: Politella Family Papers (MS 885). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Search terms

Subjects

  • Buddhism--Study and teaching
  • Hinduism--Study and teaching
  • Massachusetts State College--History
  • Massachusetts State College--Students
  • Mysticism
  • Theosophy
  • World War, 1939-1945

Contributors

  • Politella Family [main entry]
  • Torrey, Ray Ethan, 1887-1956

Genres and formats

  • Photograph albums
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks

Link to similar SCUA collections