Western Massachusetts was an early and important center of both industrialization and the development of organized labor, and in recent years, it has experienced many of traumatic effects of de-industrialization and economic transformation. The Department of Special Collections and University Archives seeks to document the history of organized labor, the experience of work, and business and industry in New England.
At the heart of the SCUA holdings is a suite of collections documenting the organized labor movement in New England. The official records of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, a large and important collection, is joined by records for trades ranging from clothing and textile workers to carpenters, electrical workers, and granite cutters.
Of particular note is the John W. Bennett Labor History Collection, a large assemblage of labor-related realia and ephemera, including hundreds of badges, pins, watch fobs, lighters, and other artifacts distributed to union members at annual conventions and other union events. The collection is a unique resource for study of the iconography of organized labor and includes items from representative unions and locals ranging from the Knights of Labor in the 1870s to the present. While centered on New England, the Bennett Collection extends nationally.
View our brochure on documenting labor, work, and industry (pdf).
- Organized Labor
- From the records of the Massachusetts State AFL-CIO to the papers of union locals and labor leaders.
- See all Business and industry
- The industrial heritage of New England is represented in collections ranging from the records of the Clement Co., Lamson and Goodnow, and the Northampton Cutlery Company (manufacturers of cutlery), the American Writing Paper Company, the Rodney Hunt Co. (a manufacturer of textile machinery and waterwheels), and Smith and Wesson. The most recent collection is the papers of Sidney Topol, CEO of Scientific-Atlanta, a corporation at the forefront of the growth of cable television in the United States.
- Merchants and mercantile exchange
- Account books and other business records for a number of New England merchants dating back to the eighteenth century, ranging from small scale traders to keepers of rural general stores to shipping merchants trading in the Atlantic economy.
New York City Draft Riot Letter, 1863.
Call no.: MS 278
This letter, dated July 14, 1863 from New York, is addressed simply to “Brother.” The correspondent is unknown, as the letter is incomplete and consists only of a single sheet of paper. The subject of the letter is the ongoing draft riots in New York City, which began on July 13th and ended on July 16th. The rioters set fire to many businesses and homes, tore up railroad tracks and brought down telegraph lines during the three day ordeal.
- Draft Riot, New York, N.Y., 1863
- United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
New York Farm Bureau Photograph Collection, 1915-1916.
Call no.: PH 053
Founded as a non-governmental, volunteer organization in 1911, the New York Farm Bureau offers resources to support and enrich rural life and encourages farmers to work collaboratively for better marketing and production.
This small collection of photographs documents inspection tours conducted by the New York Farm Bureau of farms, apparently in the Mohawk River Valley, in 1915-1916. The intent, as the caption of one photograph suggests, was to bring “science into the field.”
- Fort Plain (N.Y.)--Photographs
- Ilion (N.Y.)--Photographs
- Street-railroads--New York (State)--Photographs
Types of material
New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation Records, ca.1975-2005.
Call no.: MS 663
Founded in 1977, the New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation is a non-partisan policy making and political action organization devoted to informing the public about the deleterious physiological effects of fluorides. With a membership comprised of professionals and non-professionals, physicians, scientists, and environmentalists, the Coalition works to raise awareness among elected officials at all levels of government about the need for environmental protection and works with an international network of similar organizations with the ultimate goal of ending the fluoridation of public water supplies.
The NYSCOF collection documents two decades of an organized, grassroots effort to influence public policy relating to water fluoridation in New York state and elsewhere. In addition to 7.5 linear feet of subject files relating to fluoridation, the collection includes materials issued by and about NYSCOF, several audio and videotapes, and documentation of their work with elected officials.
- Antifluoridation movement--New York (State)
- Drinking water--Law and legislation--United States
- Fluorides--Environmental aspects
- Public health
- New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation
Alternative Energy Coalition, ca.1975-1985.
Call no.: MS 586
A product of the vibrant and progressive political culture of western Massachusetts during the early 1970s, the Alternative Energy Coalition played a key role in the growth of antinuclear activism. In 1974, the AEC helped mobilize support for Sam Lovejoy after he sabotaged a weather tower erected by Northeast Utilities in Montague, Mass., in preparation for a proposed nuclear power plant, and they helped organize the drive for a referendum opposing not only the proposed plant in Montague, but existing plants in Rowe, Mass., and Vernon, Vt. Forming extensive connections with other antinuclear organizations, the AEC also became one of the organizations that united in 1976 to form the Clamshell Alliance, which made an art of mass civil disobedience.
The AEC Records provide insight into grassroots activism of the 1970s and 1980s, galvanized by the seemingly unrestrained growth of the nuclear power industry. The records, emanating from the Hampshire County branch, contain both research materials used by the AEC and organizational and promotional materials produced by them, including publications, minutes of meetings, correspondence, and materials used during protests. Of particular interest are a thick suite of organizational and other information pertaining to the occupation of the Seabrook (N.H.) nuclear power plant in 1979 and minutes, notes, and other materials relating to the founding and early days of the Clamshell Alliance. The collection is closely related to the Antinuclear Collection (MS 547).
- Antinuclear movement--Massachusetts
- Hampshire County (Mass.)--History
- Nuclear energy--Massachusetts
- Political activists--Massachusetts
- Renewable energy source
- Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant (N.H.)
- Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station
- Alternative Energy Coalition
- Clamshell Alliance
Types of material
ACWA Boston Joint Board Records, 1926-1979.
Call no.: MS 002
The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America originated from a split in the United Garment Workers in 1914 and quickly became the dominant force for union in the men’s clothing industry, controlling shops in Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, and New York. The Boston Joint Board formed at the beginning of the ACWA and included locals from a range of ethnic groups and trades that comprised the industry. It coordinated the activities and negotiations for ACWA Locals 1, 12, 102, 149, 171, 172, 173, 174, 181,183, 267, and 335 in the Boston area. In the 1970s the Boston Joint Board merged with others to form the New England Regional Joint Board.
Records, including minutes, contracts, price lists, and scrapbooks, document the growth and maturity of the ACWA in Boston and the eventual decline of the industry in New England. Abundant contracts and price lists show the steady improvement of conditions for workers in the men’s clothing industry. Detailed minutes reflect the political and social influence of the ACWA; the Joint Board played an important role in local and state Democratic politics and it routinely contributed to a wide range of social causes including the Home for Italian Children and the United Negro College Fund. Minutes also document the post World War II development of industrial relations in the industry and include information relating to Joint Board decisions to strike. Minutes also contain information relating to shop grievances, arbitration, shop committees, and organizing. The records largely coincide with the years of leadership of Joseph Salerno, ACWA Vice President and New England Director from 1941 to 1972.
- Boston (Mass.)--Economic conditions--20th century
- Clothing trade--Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Labor unions--Massachusetts--Boston
- Textile industry--Massachusetts
- Textile workers--Labor unions--Massachusetts--Boston
- Textile workers--Massachusetts--Economic conditions--20th century
- Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. Boston Joint Board
- Salerno, Joseph, fl. 1907-1972
Types of material
- Financial records
Antislavery Collection, 1725-1911.
Call no.: RB 003
The Antislavery Collection contains several hundred printed pamphlets and books pertaining to slavery and antislavery in New England, 1725-1911. The holdings include speeches, sermons, proceedings and other publications of organizations such as the American Anti-Slavery Society and the American Colonization Society, and a small number of pro-slavery tracts.
- Antislavery movements--United States
- Slavery--United States
- American Anti-Slavery Society
- American Colonization Society
Association for Gravestone Studies Book Collection, 1812-2005.
Call no.: RB 004
Founded in 1977, the Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS) is an international organization dedicated to furthering the study and preservation of gravestones. Based in Greenfield, Mass., the Association promotes the study of gravestones from historical and artistic perspectives. To raise public awareness about the significance of historic gravemarkers and the issues surrounding their preservation, the AGS sponsors conferences and workshops, publishes both a quarterly newsletter and annual journal, Markers, and has built an archive of collections documenting gravestones and the memorial industry.
The AGS Books Collection contains scarce, out of print, and rare printed works on cemeteries and graveyards, epitaphs and inscriptions, and gravemarkers, with an emphasis on North America. The AGS Books Collection also includes the AGS publication, Markers. The collection is divided into three series: Series 1 (Monographs and Offprints), Series 2 (Theses and Dissertations), and Series 3 (Markers).
- Sepulchral monuments
- Association for Gravestone Studies
Hugh Potter Baker Papers, 1919-1951.
Call no.: RG 003/1 B35
Hugh Baker served as President during most of the existence of Massachusetts State College, taking office in 1933, two years after it changed name from Massachusetts Agricultural College, and retiring in 1947, just as the college became the University of Massachusetts. A forester by training, Baker began his career as a professor, and later dean, in the College of Forestry at Syracuse University. In 1920, he left Syracuse to become Executive Secretary of the American Paper and Pulp Association, and for nearly a decade, he worked in the forestry industry. He returned to academia in 1930, when he resumed the deanship at the New York State School of Forestry. During his presidency at Massachusetts State College, Baker oversaw the construction of improved housing and classroom facilities for students, a new library, the expansion of the liberal arts curriculum, and a near doubling of student enrollment. Further, chapel services were reorganized to be voluntary, and a weekly convocation was initiated. Baker also founded popular annual conferences on recreation and country life.
The Baker Papers include correspondence with college, state, and federal officials, college suppliers, and alumni; speeches and articles; reports and other papers on topics at issue during Baker’s college presidency, 1933-1947, particularly the building program. Also included are several biographical sketches and memorial tributes; clippings and other papers, relating to Baker’s career as professor of forestry at several colleges, trade association executive, and college president.
- Clock chimes--Massachusetts--Amherst--History
- College buildings--Massachusetts--Amherst--History
- Massachusetts State College--Anniversaries, etc
- Massachusetts State College--Buildings
- Massachusetts State College--History
- Massachusetts State College--Student housing
- Massachusetts State College. President
- Massachusetts State College. School of Home Economics
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1865-1950
- Old Chapel (Amherst, Mass.)--History
- Student housing--Massachusetts--Amherst--History
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--History
- Baker, Hugh Potter, 1878-
Solomon Barkin Papers, 1930-1988.
Call no.: FS 100
Born in 1902, Solomon Barkin was an economist, education director for the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA ), and from 1968 to 1978 a professor at the University of Massachusetts and research associate at the Labor Center.
The bulk of the Barkin collection, over 10.5 linear feet, consists of bound notebooks containing speeches, typescripts, and printed versions of articles, book reviews, congressional testimony, forewords, and introductions — nearly 600 in all — written by Barkin. One box (0.5 linear foot) contains correspondence, bibliographies, tributes and awards, and a biography. Generally, the collection illustrates Barkin’s life as both a union organizer and an economist. His writings reflect his attempts to create “a system of trade union economics” as a counterpoise to standard “enterprise economics,” as well as his belief that labor should not be viewed as a commodity.
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Textile Workers Union of America
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Labor Relations and Research Center
- Barkin, Solomon, 1907-