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Mission and history

Mission

Cattle judging at Mass. Agricultural College

Judging cattle at Mass. Agricultural College

A steward of the past for generations to come, SCUA inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry; the production, exchange, and preservation of knowledge; and joy in learning.

Department history

African dancers

African dancers
From the Horace Mann Bond Papers

In 1931, nearly half a century after Librarian Henry Hill Goodell first authorized the permanent retention of the official records of Massachusetts Agricultural College, the Library established a College History Collection. Containing official records of the university’s administrators and faculty and reflecting the life of its students, the College History Collection grew steadily until in 1953, the Library dedicated a room named in honor of Dean William L. Machmer to serve as the first true home of the University Archives.

Goodell’s foresight in assembling the College archives coincided roughly with the university’s first efforts to build a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. As early as 1868 — just one year after the arrival of the first students — the college accepted the donation of twenty scarce volumes on bee culture from the apiculturist (and state Adjutant General) Henry K. Oliver. By the time the college issued its first library catalog in 1875, rare books were a small, but notable part of the collections, closely focused on the primary academic interests of the early college: agriculture, horticulture and botany, and the natural sciences. Included among the Library’s earliest acquisitions were the first London edition of William Bartram’s Travels Through North and South Carolina (1792), François Augier de Marigny’s The History of the Arabians (London, 1758), and early bee manuals by John Keys, The Practical Bee-Master (London, 1780) and The Antient Bee-Master’s Farewell (London, 1796) — both courtesy of Oliver. Each of these volumes remains part of the collections today.

David Axelrod, Class of 1965

David B. Axelrod, ca.1980, Class of 1965, poet, author of The Man who Fell in Love with His Chicken (1980)

From these beginnings, the collection of rare books and manuscripts has co-evolved with the university and its academic programs. In 1973, the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski marked an expansion of scope beyond into personal papers and organizational records of historical significance beyond the narrow confines of the university, and the arrival of the papers on W.E.B. Du Bois in that same year marked a turning point. The rare book and manuscript collections were merged with the University Archives in the early 1990s to form the current Department of Special Collections and University Archives.

SCUA’s initial foray online came with a simple page on the library’s website in 1997, and by 2007, it had evolved into the UMarmot project, one of the earliest efforts to use freely-available software to create a comprehensive online archival catalog. SCUA launched its online digital repository, Credo in 2011, with the generous support of the Verizon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. Available free to all researchers, Credo is now a robust and heavily used presence on the internet, containing hundreds of thousands of pages of content and dozens of complete collections, including every item in the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois and Horace Mann Bond.

Mile markers

Each of the library’s million-volume milestones has been celebrated by the addition of a special volume to SCUA’s collections:

One millionth volume:
Jonathan Edwards, A careful and strict enquiry into the modern prevailing notions of that freedom of will; which is supposed to be essential to moral agency, vertue and vice, reward and punishment, praise and blame. Boston: S. Kneeland, 1754.
SCUA’s copy of this classic theological work on Free Will from the New Light minister from Northampton belonged to Rev. John Cleaveland of Ipswich, Mass., one of the subscribers. It is signed and dated by Cleaveland in several locations.
Two millionth volume:
Phillis Wheatley, Poems on various subjects, religious and moral. London: A. Bell, 1773.
A classic of American literature written by a young woman enslaved in Boston, and the first book published by an African-American woman. Gift of Randolph W. Bromery.
Three millionth volume:
James Baldwin, Gypsy and other poems, with etched portraits by Leonard Baskin. Northampton, Mass.: Gehenna Press, 1989.
When Baldwin, a former faculty member at UMass Amherst, died unexpectedly, he was working with the great printer Leonard Baskin on a special volume of unpublished poems. Celebrating SCUA’s strengths in African American history literature and reflecting the fine-printing heritage in Massachusetts, SCUA’s copy includes a signed portfolio of etchings of Baldwin by Baskin, each signed. It is one of fifty copies bound specially by Daniel Gehnrich in leather and paste paper, made by Babette Gehnrich, over boards, and laid into a cloth traycase. Also laid in are Baskin’s proof, 1989, and touched proof, 1989, of two of the portraits. Gift of Lisa Baskin.
Four millionth volume:
The proclamation of emancipation of the President of the United States, to take effect January 1st, 1863. Boston: John Murray Forbes, 1862.
The first separate printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, this volume was printed in miniature so that Union army troops in the south could more easily distribute it.

Learn more:

Mungo, Raymond, 1946-

Raymond Mungo Papers, 1966-2008
6 boxes (3 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 659
Raymond Mungo Papers image
Raymond Mungo, 1967

Born in a “howling blizzard” in February 1946, Raymond Mungo became one of the most evocative writers of the 1960s counterculture. Through more than fifteen books and hundreds of articles, Mungo has brought a wry sense of humor and radical sensibility to explorations of the minds and experiences of the generation that came of age against a backdrop of the struggles for civil rights and economic justice, of student revolts, Black Power, resistance to war, and experimentation in communal living.

Consisting of the original typescripts and manuscripts of ten of Raymond Mungo’s books, along with corrected and uncorrected galleys and a small number of letters from publishers. Among the other materials in the collection are thirteen photographs of Mungo taken by Clif Garboden and Peter Simon during and immediately after his undergraduate years at Boston University; a DVD containing motion pictures of life at Packer Corners in 1969 and 1977; and an irate letter from a writer regarding the status of poems he had submitted to Liberation News Service.

Subjects
  • Communal living--Massachusetts
  • Communal living--Vermont
  • Liberation News Service (Montague, Mass.)
  • Montague Farm Community (Mass.)
  • Nineteen Sixties
  • Packer Corners Community (Vt.)
  • Porche, Verandah
Contributors
  • Garboden, Clif
  • Mungo, Raymond, 1946-
  • Simon, Peter, 1947-
Types of material
  • Photographs

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends Quaker History Collection, 1783-1950
1 box (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 926

During the early twentieth century, the library at the Moses Brown School (formerly the Friends Boarding School) became an informal repository for Quaker manuscripts reflecting the history and work of the Society of Friends. Most of these materials were later transferred for custody to the school’s governing body, the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.

This miscellaneous assortment of letters was apparently set aside by the staff at the Moses Brown School due to their historical content and preserved in the “vault.” Many of the letters appear to have been retained as good examples of Quaker expression of family and friendly bonds or as documentation about significant periods in Quaker history, particularly the Gurneyite-Wilburite controversy of the 1840s, and several touch on Quaker involvement in the antislavery and peace movements. Of special note are four interesting letters from the Quaker minister and social reformer, Elizabeth Comstock, written during and just after the Civil War; a series of nine lengthy letters from a visiting English minister Isaac Stephenson, traveling through New England meetings; a substantial series of letters from prominent Friend Samuel Boyd Tobey; and three letters from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Sarah F. Tobey regarding attempts to connect Stowe with Alexander T. Stewart in hopes of raising funds for her plans for the education of women.

Gift of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, 2016
Subjects
  • Antislavery movements--United States
  • Gurney, James Joseph
  • Society of Friends--History
  • Wilbur, John,
Contributors
  • Comstock, Elizabeth L.
  • Stewart, Alexander Turney, 1803-1876
  • Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 1811-1896
  • Tobey, Samuel Boyd, 1805-1867

Norfolk Prison Colony Collection

Norfolk Prison Colony Collection, 1932-1934
1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 074
Norfolk Prison Colony Collection image
Howard B. Gill and daughter Joan, Mar. 1934

In the late 1920s, the sociologist and prisoner reformer Howard Belding Gill proposed building a “model community prison” at Norfolk, Mass., that would represent a radical new approach to dealing with crime and punishment. Integrating social work and sociological theory into the workings of the prison system, Gill reasoned that it would be possible to diagnose and treat the root problems that led to crime and redirect inmates toward constructive behaviors. Built by inmates themselves, the prison opened in 1932, but with opponents decrying the experiment as a “country club” that coddled prisoners, Gill was forced from the superintendency within just two years.

The collection consists of several drafts of a manuscript by a supporter of Gill’s, Thomas O’Connor, that was intended for publication in The Survey magazine, along with associated correspondence and photographs. Although The Survey’s editor, Arthur Kellogg, was sympathetic enough to pass through several drafts and seek opinions widely, the manuscript appears to have been rejected so as not to cause the governor undue political problems.

Subjects
  • Massachusetts Correctional Institution, Norfolk
  • Prison reformers--Massachusetts
  • Prisons--Massachusetts--Norfolk
Contributors
  • Gill, Howard B. (Howard Belding)
  • Kellogg, Arthur
  • O'Connor, Thomas
  • Parsons, Herbert Collins, 1862-1941
  • Wilkins, Raymond S.
Types of material
  • Photographs

Obear, Clark H.

Clark Hopkins Obear Diaries, 1845-1888
4 vols. (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 601

A resident of New Ipswich, N.H., Clark Obear was an ardent supporter of the temperance and antislavery movements, and was deeply involved in the affairs of his church and community. A teacher in Hillsborough County schools, Obear also worked as a farmer and insurance agent, and served in public office as a deputy sheriff, a Lieutenant Colonel in the militia, a fence viewer and pound keeper, and for several years he was superintendent of schools. Obear and his wife Lydia Ann (Swasey) had two children, Annabel and Francis.

The four diaries in this collection contain brief, but regular entries documenting Clark Obear’s daily life in New Ipswich, N.H. during the middle years of the nineteenth century. Despite their brevity, the diaries form a continuous coverage of many years and offer details that provide a compelling sense of the rhythms of life in a small New Hampshire village. Of particular note, Obear carefully notes the various lectures he attends in town and the organizations of which he is part, including reform movements like temperance and antislavery.

Acquired from Benjamin Katz, Apr. 2009
Subjects
  • Abolitionists--New Hampshire
  • Antislavery movements--New Hampshire
  • New Ipswich (N.H.)--History
  • Temperance--New Hampshire
Contributors
  • Obear, Clark H.
Types of material
  • Diaries

Perske, Robert

Robert and Martha Perske Papers, 1964-2005
13 boxes (19.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 772
Robert and Martha Perske Papers image
Bob and Martha Perske with their dog, Wolfie, 2004

While serving with the U.S. Navy in the Philippines during World War II, the teenaged Bob Perske became aware of the vulnerable and disabled in society and turned his life toward advocacy on their behalf. Studying for the ministry after returning to civilian life, Perske was appointed chaplain at the Kansas Neurological Institute, serving children with intellectual disabilities for 11 years, after which he became a full-time street, court, and prison worker — a citizen advocate — laboring in the cause of deinstitutionalization and civil rights of persons with disabilities, particularly those caught in the legal system. After Bob married his wife Martha in 1971, the two became partners in work, with Martha often illustrating Bob’s numerous books and articles. In 2002, Perske was recognized by the American Bar Association as the only non-lawyer to ever receive the Paul Hearne Award for Services to Persons with Disabilities.

The Perske Papers contains a fifty year record of published and unpublished writings by Bob Perske on issues surrounding persons with disabilities, along with correspondence, photographs, and other materials relating to the Perskes’ activism. The correspondence includes a particularly rich set of letters with a fellow advocate for persons with disabilities, Robert R. Williams.

Gift of Robert and Martha Perske, 2013
Subjects
  • Mental retardation--Social aspects
  • People with disabilities--Deinstitutionalization
  • People with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.
Contributors
  • Perske, Martha
  • Williams, Robert R.
Types of material
  • Photographs

Quabbin Towns

Quabbin Towns Annual Reports Collection, 1864-1937
4 boxes (2 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 368

During the 1920s and 1930s, the populations of four towns in the Swift River Valley, Mass., were relocated to make way for completion of the Quabbin Reservoir. Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott were formally disincorporated in 1938, marking an end to nearly a century of small town government in the region.

The annual reports of the four towns of the Quabbin region provide important documentation of the activities of the local officials and the lives of residents in Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott. Issued under various titles and with variable content, these reports include information on the activities of town officials, including the Selectmen, Overseers of the Poor, School Committee, and Library. In most years, the reports also include town expenditures and a list of residents with a valuation of property and taxes paid. Although substantial, this collection is not complete, particularly prior to 1880.

Subjects
  • Dana (Mass.)--History
  • Enfield (Mass.)--History
  • Greenwich (Mass.)--History
  • Prescott (Mass.)--History
  • Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--History

Radical Student Union (RSU)

Radical Student Union Records, 1905-2006 (Bulk: 1978-2005)
22 boxes (14.5 linear feet)
Call no.: RG 045/80 R1

Founded by Charles Bagli in 1976, the Revolutionary Student Brigade at UMass Amherst (later the Radical Student Union) has been a focal point for organization by politically radical students. RSU members have responded to issues of social justice, addressing both local, regional, and national concerns ranging from militarism to the environment, racism and sexism to globalization.

The RSU records document the history of a particularly long-lived organization of left-leaning student activists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Beginning in the mid-1970s, as students were searching for ways to build upon the legacy of the previous decade, the RSU has been a constant presence on campus, weathering the Reagan years, tough budgetary times, and dramatic changes in the political culture at the national and state levels. The RSU reached its peak during the 1980s with protests against American involvement in Central America, CIA recruitment on campus, American support for the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and government-funded weapons research, but in later years, the organization has continued to adapt, organizing against globalization, sweatshops, the Iraq War, and a host of other issues.

Subjects
  • Anti-apartheid movements--Massachusetts
  • Central America--Foreign relations--United States
  • College students--Political activity
  • Communism
  • El Salvador--History--1979-1992
  • Guatemala--History--1945-1982
  • Iraq War, 2003-
  • Nicaragua--History--1979-1990
  • Peace movements--Massachusetts
  • Persian Gulf War, 1991
  • Political activists--Massachusetts--History
  • Racism
  • Socialism
  • Student movements
  • United States--Foreign relations--Central America
  • United States. Central Intelligence Agency
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
Contributors
  • Progressive Student Network
  • Radical Student Union
  • Revolutionary Student Brigade
Types of material
  • Banners

Ross, Laura

Laura M. Ross Papers, 1945-2003 (Bulk: 1967-1990)
13 boxes (6.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 515
Laura M. Ross Papers image
Laura Ross

Born in the coal mining town of Blossburg, Pa., in 1913, Laura Ross (nee Kaplowitz) grew up in poverty as one of seven children of Lithuanian immigrants. In about 1932, Ross married Harry Naddell, a wine merchant, and settled into a comfortable life Brooklyn, N.Y., raising a son and daughter. During the Second World War, however, she became intensely politicized through her work with Russian War Relief, joining the Communist Party and eventually divorcing her les radical husband. Moving to the Boston area, she married Max Ross in 1963, an attorney for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and became a noted presence in a wide range of political activities, working for civil rights, the antiwar movement, and for many years, helping to run the Center for Marxist Education in Central Square , Cambridge. Perhaps most notably, between 1974 and 1984, Ross ran for Congress three times on the Communist Party ticket, taking on the powerful incumbent Tip O’Neill and winning almost a quarter of the vote. An activist to the end, Ross died in Cambridge on August 5, 2007.

The Ross papers are the legacy of a highly visible activist, organizer, educator, and member of the Communist Party USA. Heavily concentrated in the period 1967-1990, the collection includes material relating to her affiliation with CPUSA and her work with the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge, Mass., including information on party membership, platforms, and conventions, minutes from various district committee meetings, material relating to the People’s Daily World, and course information and syllabi. Scattered throughout the collection are materials pertaining to contemporary political issues and elections, particularly the policies associated with Ronald Reagan. Ross was a vocal and persistent opponent of Reaganomics and the nuclear arms race that Reagan accelerated.

Gift of Eugene Povirk, 2007
Subjects
  • Center for Marxist Education (Cambridge, Mass.)
  • Communist Party of the United States of America
  • Peace movements--Massachusetts
  • People’s Daily World
  • United States--Politics and government--1981-1989
Contributors
  • Ross, Laura

Rotundo, Barbara

Barbara Rotundo Photograph Collection, ca.1970-2004
9 boxes (10 linear feet)
Call no.: PH 050
Barbara Rotundo Photograph Collection image

A long-time member of the English Department at the University of Albany, Barbara Rotundo was a 1942 graduate in economics at Mount Holyoke College. After the death of her husband, Joseph in 1953, Rotundo became one of the first female faculty members at Union College, and after earning a master’s degree in English at Cornell University and a doctorate in American Literature from Syracuse University, she served as an associate professor of English at the University of Albany, where she founded one of the first university writing programs in the United States. Avocationally, she was a stalwart member of the Association for Gravestone Studies, helping to broaden its scope beyond its the Colonial period to include the Victorian era. Her research included the rural cemetery movement, Mount Auburn Cemetery, white bronze (zinc) markers, and ethnic folk gravestones. Her research in these fields was presented on dozens of occasions to annual meetings of AGS, the American Culture Association, and The Pioneer America Society. In 1989, after residing in Schenectady for forty-six years, she retired to Belmont, NH, where she died in December 2004.

Consisting primarily of thousands of color slides (most digitized) and related research notebooks, the Rotundo collection is a major visual record of Victorian grave markers in the United States. The notebooks and slides are arranged by state, with an emphasis on the eastern states, and white bronze (zinc) markers also are represented in photographs and a separate research notebook. The collection also includes several rare or privately published books.

Subjects
  • Cemeteries--New York (State)
  • Gravestones--New Jersey
  • Gravestones--New York (State)
  • Gravestones--Pennsylvania
Contributors
  • Rotundo, Barbara
Types of material
  • Photographs
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