As one of the main repositories documenting the history of western Massachusetts and New England, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives collects primary materials relating to the political, cultural, economic, and intellectual life of our region, and the lives and experiences of its residents.
Concentrated in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the collections in SCUA touch on many aspects of the history of the region with developing depth in immigration, labor, work, and industry, social change and movements for social change, and literature and the arts. Among the more valuable collections for the political history of the region is the papers of Silvio O. Conte, Republican congressman from the First District of Massachusetts from 1959-1991. A member of the House Appropriations Committee (and its ranking minority member from 1979-1991), Conte is particularly remembered for his work in Health and Human Services, education, and the environment. SCUA also holds collections for state representatives John Haigis and Maurice Donahue, as well as other figures involved in political life in the Commonwealth.
Although the Department holds materials relating to individual communities in western Massachusetts, the history of the Quabbin watershed is a particular focal point. SCUA collects books printed in the Quabbin region and more generally, in rural New England prior to 1900, as well as manuscript, printed, and photographic collections relating to Quabbin towns.
- Business and industry
- In addition to collections relating to organized labor and the labor movement, SCUA attempts to document the experience of work and the business community to provide a rounded understanding of work life in New England. For a more complete listing, see our guide for Labor, Work, and Industry.
- Civic organizations and charities
- Collections ranging from the records of charitable organizations that provide social services to groups that foster civic engagement and social justice, benevolent and ethnic self-help societies, to organizations that support social and professional communities.
- Family history
- SCUA has a strong interest in “family collections,” typically collections that include correspondence, photograph albums, family and farm accounts, and other materials that reveal the every day lives of New Englanders. Researchers on family life and genealogy should note that many collections indexed under other subjects contain personal and family information of some importance. Our printed materials collections include many local and county histories, genealogies, and other resources which may be useful for understanding family life.
- Immigration, demography, and ethnicity
- Medical history
- Collections include daybooks and medical accounts of physicians, primarily from the nineteenth century, personal papers of physicians, and some materials on public health policy.
- Military history
- Political life and culture
- The distinctive political culture of Massachusetts and formal and informal political activity in the Commonwealth. Although the collections extend back into the nineteenth century, our focus is primarily on the post-World War II period.
- Printing in rural Massachusetts
- SCUA collects books, broadsides, and other materials printed in rural New England prior to 1900. The collections include a growing collection for the printers in the Quabbin region, Solomon and John Howes, but also includes works printed in small towns throughout Berkshire, Hampshire, Hamden, and Franklin Counties.
- Quabbin Regional collections
- Collections relating to all aspects of life and the legacy of the four towns inundated by the Quabbin Reservoir: Dana, Greenwich, Enfield, and Prescott, as well as surrounding communities such as New Salem, Petersham, and Wendell. In our rare books holdings, we have a number of works printed in Enfield or Greenwich, mostly by Solomon and John Howe.
- Religious life
- Our efforts to document the spiritual lives and religious commitments of New Englanders has resulted in a number of manuscript and archival collections. Our social change holdings include a number of collections on spiritually-motivated social reform, and our rare book holdings include hundreds of published sermons and other printed materials relating to religious life in the region.
- New England regional history
Edward H. Abbe Papers, 1828-2004.
Call no.: MS 736
Born in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1915 and raised largely in Hampton, Va., Edward Abbe seemed destined to be an engineer. The great nephew of Elihu Thomson, an inventor and founding partner in General Electric, and grandson of Edward Folger Peck, an early employee of a precursor of that firm, Abbe came from a family with a deep involvement in electrification and the development of street railways. After prepping at the Rectory and Kent Schools, Abbe studied engineering at the Sheffield School at Yale, and after graduation in 1938, accepted a position with GE. For 36 years, he worked in the Industrial Control Division in New York and Virginia, spending summers at the family home on Martha’s Vineyard. After retirement in 1975, he and his wife Gladys traveled frequently, cruising both the Atlantic and Pacific.
Ranging from an extensive correspondence from his high school and college days to materials relating to his family’s involvement in engineering, the Abbe collection offers an in depth perspective on an educated family. An avid traveler and inveterate keeper, Ed Abbe gathered a diverse assemblage of letters, diaries, and memorabilia relating to the history of the Abbe, Peck, Booth, Gifford, and Boardman families. The collection is particularly rich in visual materials, including albums and photographs, depicting homes, travel, and family life over nearly a century.
- Abbe family
- Boardman family
- Booth family
- Electrical engineers
- General Electric
- Gifford family
- Kent School--Students
- Peck family
- Rectory School--Students
- Yale University--Students
- Abbe, Edward H
- Abbe, Gladys Howard
- Abbe, William Parker
- Peck, Edward F
- Peck, Mary Booth
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
Miscellaneous Manuscripts, 1717-2003.
Call no.: MS 719
Miscellaneous Manuscripts is an artificial collection that brings together various single items or small groups of related materials. A wide range of topics and formats is represented, although there is an emphasis on Massachusetts history.
- Massachusetts--Economic conditions--18th century
- Massachusetts--Economic conditions--19th century
- Massachusetts--Politics and government
- Massachusetts--Social conditions--18th century
- Massachusetts--Social conditions--19th century
- Massachusetts--Social conditions--20th century
Types of material
- Account books
Louise F. Shattuck Papers, 1881-2006.
Call no.: MS 563
A life-long resident of Lake Pleasant, Massachusetts, and a third-generation Spiritualist, Louise Shattuck was an artist, teacher, and noted breeder of English cocker spaniels.
Shattuck’s work as a teacher, writer, artist, and dog breeder are documented in this collection through decades of correspondence and diaries, artwork, publications, and newspaper clippings. Of particular note are the materials associated with the Spiritualist history of Lake Pleasant, including three turn of the century spirit slates, samples of Louise’s automatic writing, a ouija board and dowsing rods, and an excellent photograph album with associated realia for the Independent Order of Scalpers, a Lake Pleasant.
- English Cocker spaniels
- Lake Pleasant (Mass.)--History
- Montague (Mass.)--History
- Shattuck, Louise F
- Shattuck, Sarah Bickford
Types of material
- Photograph albums
- Spirit slates
- Spirit writing
Bajgier Family Papers, 1925-1986.
Call no.: MS 400
On March 13, 1903, Joseph Michael Bajgier was born in Odrzykon, Poland, the youngest of three sons in a farming family. Schooled only through the third grade, Joseph served as a young man in the First Air Division of the Polish Army before following his older brother in emigrating to the United States in 1927. Settling in Chicopee, Mass., with its large and active Polish community, Bajgier began work as a slaughterer of pigs for a meat processing company, but within a few years, he had saved enough money to purchase a small grocery store in Longmeadow. In about 1935, he returned to Chicopee, purchasing a grocery and deli, Bell Market, that his family ran for 36 years. Bajgier was deeply involved in the local Polish community as a member of the Polish National Alliance, the Holy Name Society of St. Stanislaus Parish, and an organization of Polish veterans in exile (Stowarzyszenie Polskich Kombatantow). He and his wife Martha (Misiaszek) had two sons, Casimir and Edward
The Bajgier collection documents the lives of a Polish family in Chicopee, Mass., from the time of immigration through the 1970s. The core of the collection surrounds the life of Joseph Bajgier, and includes a number of documents and a diary from the time of his emigration in 1927, a fascinating series of letters from relatives in Turaszowka, Poland before and after the Second World War, and several photographs of the family and their business in Chicopee.
- Chicopee (Mass.)--Social life and customs
- Polish Americans--Massachusetts
- World War, 1939-1945
- Bajgier, Joseph M
Types of material
Belcher Family Account Books, 1847-1858.
Call no.: MS 208 bd
Owners of a butcher shop in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Includes customer names, prices of meat, form of payment (principally cash), and Belcher family information.
- Belcher family
- Foxborough (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Belcher, Lewis T., b. 1798
- Belcher, Lewis W., b. 1826
Types of material
- Account books
Champion and Stebbins Family Account Books, 1753-1865.
Call no.: MS 228
Account books from the Champion and Stebbins families of Saybrook, Connecticut and West Springfield, Massachusetts, who were involved in various businesses and professional activities. Includes lists of accounts by surname, services rendered, methods of payment, entries for treatments and remedies, lists of patients, and lists of banking activities. Volumes were kept by Reuben Champion (1720-1777), Jere Stebbins (1757-1817), and Reuben Champion, M.D. (1784-1865).
- African Americans--Massachusetts--West Springfield--History
- Agriculture--Economic aspects--Massachusetts--History
- Atwood, Elijah
- Barter--Massachusetts--West Springfield
- Champion family
- Connecticut River Valley--Economic conditions--18th century
- General stores--Massachusetts
- Homeopathic physicians--Massachusetts
- Homeopathy--Materia medica and therapeutics
- Pottery industry--Massachusetts--History
- Saybrook (Conn.)--History
- Shipping--New England--History
- Stebbins family
- West Springfield (Mass.)--Economic conditions
- West Springfield (Mass.)--History
- West Springfield (Mass.)--Social conditions
- Champion, Reuben, 1727-1777
- Champion, Reuben, 1784-1865
- Stebbins, Jere, 1757-1817
Types of material
- Account books
Children's Aid and Family Service Records, 1910-ca. 2001.
Call no.: MS 008
Agency providing traditional child and family service and extensive mental health services that worked closely with the SPCC, was a member in the Child Welfare League of America, and was the Northampton representative for the National Association of Travelers Aid Societies. Includes 10 versions of the constitution, typed personal recollections from the 25th anniversary, annual reports, minutes, and the correspondence of President Miriam Chrisman (1952-1957). Of special note, Mrs. Calvin Coolidge was the Chair of the Home Finding Committee of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children which helped to found the CAFS.
- Child mental health services--Massachusetts--Hampshire County--History
- Child welfare--Massachusetts--Hampshire County--History
- Children--Institutional care--Massachusetts--Hampshire County--History
- Coolidge, Grace Goodhue, 1879-1957
- Foster home care--Massachusetts--Hampshire County--History
- Franklin County (Mass.)--Social conditions
- Hampshire County (Mass.)--Social conditions
- Homeless children--Massachusetts--Franklin County--History
- Homeless children--Massachusetts--Hampshire County--History
- Northampton (Mass.)--Intellectual life--History
- Northampton (Mass.)--Social conditions
- Social service--Massachusetts--Hampshire County--History
- Children's Aid Association (Hampshire County, Mass.)
- Children's Aid and Family Service of Hampshire County (Hampshire County, Mass.)
- Children's Home Association (Franklin County, Mass. and Hampshire County, Mass.)
- Chrisman, Miriam Usher
- Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Home Finding Committee
Clark Family Papers, 1679-1814.
Call no.: MS 654
The Clark family played a prominent role in the colonial and early national history of Newton, Massachusetts. John Clark and his wife Elizabeth Norman settled in Cambridge Village (now Newton), Massachusetts, in about 1681, and played an active role in the public life of the town. His son William, grandson Norman, and great-grandson Norman followed in John’s footsteps, serving as Selectmen and, in the case of Norman, Jr., as the Collector of taxes during and after the Revolutionary War.
This small collection traces the early history of Newton, Mass., through the lives and activities of four generations of the family of John Clark. While the majority of the collection consists of deeds or related legal documents pertaining to properties in Newton (or in one case, Connecticut), a few items provide glimpses into other Clark family activities. As tax collector for Newton during and after the Revolution, Norman Clark, Jr., left an interesting documentary trail that touches on financial priorities in town, including the collection of taxes for support of the church, Revolutionary War soldiers, and road building.
- Clark Family
- Newton (Mass.)--History--18th century
- Real property--Massachusetts--Newton
- United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783
- Clark, John
- Clark, Norman
- Clark, William
Types of material
Lyman Family Papers, 1839-1942.
Call no.: MS 634
Associated with intellectual circles in mid-19th century Boston, the Lyman family produced a remarkable succession of scientists, savants, businessmen, and travelers. Joseph Lyman (an engineer and geology, abolitionist, and railroad investor), his brother-in-law J. Peter Lesley (geologist), and nephew Benjamin Smith Lyman (mining engineer and student of Japan) all had significant careers in the sciences and significant involvement in the public affairs of the day.
Consisting primarily of letters received by Benjamin Smith Lyman, many from his uncle Joseph, along with dozens of photographs from three generations, the Lyman family collection offers valuable insight into the life of the Lyman lineage extending from Edward Hutchinson Robbins Lyman (b. 1819) through Frank Lyman Jr. (b. 1908). Particularly rich in the period 1860-1880, it includes a long series of letters written during a tour of Germany and France and family letters written from both Jamaica Plain and Northampton. Perhaps most significant is an important series of nearly 800 letters to Joseph Lyman while he served as Treasurer of the Kansas Land Trust, an affiliate of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, regarding the purchase of “surplus” Delaware Indian lands in Kansas for antislavery settlers in 1856-1857. Although the majority concern inquiries on investment in the lands and financial arrangements, many letters also make reference to the political struggle over slavery in the territory, the founding of Quindaro as an antislavery town, and related matters. Many of the letters, which were originally bound into a letterbook, are addressed to Amos A. Lawrence, founder of the NEEAC and one of John Brown’s “Secret Six.” Among the correspondents are Gerrit Smith (who curtly declines), Charles Robinson, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson.
- Antislavery movements--Massachusetts
- Kansas Land Trust
- New England Emigrant Aid Company
- Lawrence, Amos Adams, 1814-1886
- Lyman, Benjamin Smith, 1835-1920
- Lyman, Joseph B, 1812-1871
Types of material