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Sawin-Young Family Papers

Sawin-Young Family Papers

1 box 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 583
Image of Atop Mt. Tom
Atop Mt. Tom

At the turn of the twentieth century, Albert Sawin and his wife Elizabeth (nee Young) lived on Taylor Street in Holyoke, Massachusetts, with their three children, Allan, Ralph, and Alice. Elizabeth’s brother, also named Allan, traveled in the west during the 1880s, looking for work in Arizona, Utah, and Montana.

The bulk of the Sawin-Young Family Papers consists of letters exchanged between Elizabeth “Lizzie” Sawin, her sisters, and Jennie Young of nearby Easthampton. Later letters were addressed to Beatrice Sawin at Wheaton College from her father Walter E. Sawin, who contributed to the design for the Holyoke dam. The photograph album (1901) kept by Alice E. Sawin features images of the interior and exterior of the family’s home, as well as candid shots of family and friends and photographs of excursions to nearby Mt. Tom and the grounds of Northfield School.

  • Holyoke (Mass.)--Social life and customs
  • Montana--Description and travel
  • Sawin family
  • Utah--Description and travel
  • Young family
  • Sawin, Alice E.
  • Sawin, Beatrice
  • Young, Allan
  • Young, Elizabeth
Types of material
  • Letters (Correspondence)
  • Photographs

Schultze, Robert and Waldemar

Robert and Waldemar Schultze Papers

1 box 0.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 528

Robert and Waldemar Schultze were brothers from Buffalo, New York, held in disciplinary army barracks because of their status as conscientious objectors during the Second World War. Both Robert and Waldemar wrote to their mother, Jennie Schultze, frequently, and she to them. The collection contains roughly 120 letters, almost all of them dated, spanning mainly from 1943 to 1944. Robert, the younger of the two Schultze boys, also wrote to his fiancee Helen Anne Rosen.

The letters concern everything from the family dog to the family business. Due to strictly enforced censorship, the brother’s were cautious in the official letters home to their mother. Waldemar and Robert were able to sneak a handful of letters out of prison to their mother, however, and in those letters they wrote honestly about the conditions they encountered. In one such letter, Waldemar wrote his mother and told her about the threat of postponing his good behavior release date if he should slip up and write something that had to be censored, or even if she wrote something to him that needed to be censored. A small amount of correspondence exists that is addressed to Jennie from Attorneys J. Barnsdall and J. Cornell, regarding Robert and Waldemar’s case.

  • Conscientious objectors--New York
  • Pacifists--United States
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Schultze, Robert
  • Schultze, Waldemar

Sears, Roebuck and Company

Sears, Roebuck and Company Catalog Collection

104 vols. 19.5 linear feet
Call no.: RB 020

Sears, Roebuck and Company were pioneers in the concept of the mail order catalog. Beginning in 1894, company founder Richard Sears began sending thick catalogs offering a wild profusion of consumer goods, ranging from clothing and kitchen goods to toys, bicycles, furniture, and even homes themselves. With an affordable price tag, the catalogs became a staple in many homes, particularly in rural settings and locations with limited access to stores. Changes in the retail market and the country’s demographics led Sears to end publication of its “big book” catalogs in 1993, although the company continues to issue specialty and seasonal catalogs.

This collection contains over one hundred seasonal catalogs issued by Sears from its stores in Boston between 1929 and 1990.

  • Department stores
  • Mail-order business
Types of material
  • Mail order catalogs

Severy, Robert Bayard

Robert Bayard Severy Photograph Collection

5 boxes 5.5 linear feet
Call no.: PH 024
Image of Capt. Elisha Davis, d. Oct. 10, 1778
Capt. Elisha Davis, d. Oct. 10, 1778

A local historian and photographer from Dorchester, Mass., and an official in the Dorchester Historical Society, Robert Bayard Severy was born on October 11, 1944, at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Roxbury, Massachusetts. After high school Severy attended Suffolk University and received a certificate from the Franklin Institute in Photography in 1967. For over 32 years, he was employed in the Human Resources Division of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, pursuing his interests in photography throughout and documented the changing streetscapes of Boston and nearby towns. Since the early 1980s, Severy has documented gravestones in New England cemeteries.

The Severy Collection includes nearly 2,000 black and white prints (with some color) of gravestones in cemeteries in Massachusetts and Vermont. The collection is arranged by town and cemetery, and includes particularly good documentation of gravestones in Barnstable, Boston (Old Granary, King’s Chapel, Copps Hill), Brimfield, Dorchester (Cedar Grove, Dorchester North), Manomet (Manomet), Newbury (1st Parish), Norwell (First Parish), Quincy (Hancock), Watertown (Mt. Auburn), and Weymouth (Old North, Mt. Hope, Fairmount) in Massachusetts; and Bennington and Wilmington, Vermont. Larger collections of Severy’s work can be found in many other institutions, including Historic New England, The Bostonian Society, The Boston Athenaeum, The Boston Public Library, University of Massachusetts Boston, and several local public libraries and historical societies.

  • Gravestones--Massachusetts
  • Gravestones--Vermont
  • Association for Gravestone Studies
  • Severy, Robert Bayard
Types of material
  • Photographs

Shreve and Earl

Shreve and Earl Account Book

1 vol. 0.1 linear feet
Call no.: MS 625 bd

In the first decade of the nineteenth century, the firm of Shreve and Earl operated in Burlington County, New Jersey, trading in a range of sundries from molasses, sugar, and butter to fabrics and spices. They also sold large quantities of liquor, suggesting that they may have operated as wholesalers of whiskey and spirits.

Kept in standard double column format, the Shreve and Earl account book documents two years of a fairly extensive retail operation, probably located in Burlington County, N.J. The principals in the business are possibly Alexander Shreve (1769-1854), husband of Mary H. Earl, and his son Joshua, along with Alexander’s brothers-in-law Thomas and Caleb Earl. Several accounts are notable for the relatively large quantities of alcohol recorded: of 33 entries for Reuben Gauntt, for example, 29 are for either whiskey or spirits and one for molasses and coffee.

  • General stores--New Jersey
  • Liquor industry--New Jersey
  • New Hanover (N.J.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Shreve and Earl
  • Shreve, Alexander, 1769-1854
Types of material
  • Account books

Siteman, Stephen

Stephen Siteman Papers

5 boxes 2.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 503

A member of the Post War World Council, an ardent pacifist, and anti-imperialist, Stephen Siteman was a long-time member of the Socialist Party of America, serving for seventeen years as secretary to the party’s leader Norman Thomas. In his late teens, Siteman was imprisoned as a conscientious objector during World War II. Although he was later pardoned, his time as a prisoner led him into active involvement in prison reform and the peace movement.

During his long involvement in the Socialist Party, Siteman collected a large quantity of material relating to important socialist issues, including Socialist Reform, the peace movement, conscientious objection, and prison reform. The collection also includes a small selection of Siteman’s personal correspondence with Frank Zeidler, former Socialist mayor of Milwaukee, and the novelist Mark Harris.

  • Conscientious objectors
  • Democratic Socialists of America
  • Pacifists--United States
  • Peace movements--United States
  • Prison reformers
  • Prisons--United States
  • Socialists--United States
  • Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968
  • War Resisters League of America
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Harris, Mark, 1922-2007
  • Siteman, Stephen
  • Zeidler, Frank P

Smith, Gilbert, b. 1801

Gilbert Smith and Gilbert Smith, Jr. Account Books

2 vols. 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 205 bd

Gilbert Smith was a shoemaker and doctor from New Marlborough, Massachusetts, and his son Gilbert Jr. was a prosperous farmer from Sheffield, Massachusetts. Includes merchandise sales, labor accounts, lists of boarders, and documentation of the sale of homemade butter and cheese to local merchants, as well as trade with the substantial rural black community of the region.

  • African Americans--Massachusetts--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Agricultural laborers--Massachusetts--History--19th century
  • Agricultural wages--Massachusetts--History--19th century
  • Dairy products--Massachusetts--Marketing--History--19th century
  • Family--Economic aspects--Massachusetts--History--19th century
  • Farmers--Massachusetts--Sheffield--History--19th century
  • New Marlborough (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Sheffield (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Smith, Gilbert, 1801-
  • Smith, Gilbert, d. 1804
Types of material
  • Account books

Snow, Ephraim

Ephraim Snow Daybook

1 vol. 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 198 bd
Image of

The wheelwright Ephraim Snow was born in Rochester, Mass., on Sept. 9, 1821, the son of Samuel and Rhoda (Stewart) Snow. Apparently beginning as a general carpenter, he moved to neighboring Mattapoisett shortly after 1850, where he worked as a wheelwright for many years. He married Silvia A. Nickerson on July 1, 1858, who died after giving birth to their fourth child in 1874. Ephraim Snow appears to have died in Mattapoisett in either 1880 or 1881.

This unusual daybook offers an intimate glimpse into the lively shipbuilding and whaling village of Mattapoisett as these industries peaked and begin to decline. The earliest portions of the books include sparse accounts apparently kept by Samuel Snow, Ephraim’s father, with Ephraim’s day book covering the period 1842-1878. Most of his work involved repairing or manufacturing wagon wheels or shafts, but he applied his skills quite widely in repairing wheelbarrows, chairs, cradles, and boxes, hanging doors or doing general house carpentry, and taking boarders in his home. Interspersed in the volume are a large number of poems, a few nicely rendered pen and ink drawings, and a small handful of letters.

Acquired from Charles Apfelbaum, 1987
  • Mattapoisett (Mass.)--History
  • Mattapoisett (Mass.)--Social conditions
  • Wheelwrights--Massachusetts--Mattapoisett
  • Snow, Ephraim
Types of material
  • Pen drawing
  • Poems
  • Tintypes (Prints)

Social change

Anti-war sit-in, Whitmore Hall, ca.1971

Anti-war sit-in, Whitmore Hall, ca.1971

Building upon the activist legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives collects primary materials relating to individuals and groups devoted to the political, economic, spiritual, and social transformation of American society. Our intent in taking such a broad collecting scope is to view social change as a totality, rather than as isolated movements and to document how ideas about one set of social issues informs other issues, and how social causes cross-pollinate, organizationally and conceptually. By preserving a record of these activities, SCUA makes it possible for future scholars, activists, and members of the community to continue to engage with the ideas that have motivated so many.

Although our interests extend to any endeavors that reflect the efforts of individuals and groups promote social change, the collections in SCUA provide particularly valuable documentation of the movements for peace, social justice, and racial equality, environmentalism, labor activism, intentional communities, and gay rights.

View our brochure on documenting social change (pdf).


Significant collecting areas

  • Antinuclear movement
    • New England has been a hotbed of activity for the antinuclear movement, spawning groups such as the Clamshell Alliance, the Citizens Awareness Network, the Renewable Energy Media Service, and the Musicians United for Safe Energy.
  • Antiracism and civil rights
    • The Du Bois Papers document the lifelong commitment of W.E.B. Du Bois to addressing issues of racial and social injustice in the twentieth century, but SCUA houses a number of other collections that address various aspects of “the problem of the twentieth century,” and the varied approaches to its resolution. See also our research guide for African American history.
  • Community organizations and charities
    • SCUA houses the records of civic organizations involved in relief work, community assistance, and social justice.
  • Environmentalism
    • Collections relating to the history of the environment in New England and of environmentalism in the broad sense. SCUA is also interested in documenting the history of land use, organic farming and sustainability, and similar topics.
  • Intentional Communities
    • Communes seemed to spring up everywhere in New England during the 1960s, but communes of various sorts have been part of our landscape for two centuries. In both its printed and manuscript collections, SCUA documents a wide variety of approaches to communal living and the cultural legacy of communes. The Famous Long Ago Archive focuses intensively on documenting a cluster of related communes in Massachusetts and Vermont, including the Montague Farm, Packer Corners, Wendell Farm, and Tree Frog Farm.
  • Labor activism
  • Peace Collections
    • Among the department’s collections documenting peace and antiwar movements, SCUA holds the records of several regional peace centers, the AFSC Western Massachusetts branch, and a number of peace activists.
  • Political activism
    • As part of its collections on political life and culture, SCUA houses collections for individuals and organizations working within the political system or against it, and several relating to Socialism and Communism and Cold-War era Eastern Europe.
  • Social Justice
    • Social justice is a catchall term that captures the complex relationships between and among a wide variety of movements for economic justice, social and civic equality. In addition to the other collecting areas listed elsewhere on this page, SCUA documents gay rights, Animal rights, prison issues, and social reform in its various guises.

Learn more:

Soler, José A.

José A. Soler Papers

20 boxes 26.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 864
Image of José Soler (center) at District 65 rally
José Soler (center) at District 65 rally

A scholar of labor studies and activist, José Soler was born in New York City to a Dominican mother and Puerto Rican father and has been an activist in the cause of Puerto Rican independence and human rights since the 1970s. While a student at the University of New Mexico (BA 1972), Soler emerged as a leader in the Chicano rights organization, the Brown Berets, and while living in Puerto Rico in the late 1970s, he joined the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. Soler has subsequently worked in the labor movement as a shop steward, union organizer with UAW District 65, and labor journalist. As a committed Marxist and prolific writer and editor, he has taken part in causes ranging from anti-imperialist work in the Caribbean and Central America to the anti-apartheid struggle, and he has served on the Executive Board of the US Peace Council. From 1993 until his retirement in 2015, Soler worked as Director of the Arnold M. Dubin Labor Education Center at UMass Dartmouth where he has continued to work on behalf of public education and human rights and national self-determination.

The Soler Papers chronicle over forty years of a life-long activist’s interests and participation in left-wing political, labor, and social justice movements. There is a particular focus on topics relating to socialism and the pro-independence movement in Puerto Rico, anti-imperialist movements in South and Central America and Africa, and issues affecting Puerto Rican and Hispanic workers in the United States, New England, and the New York City area. Published and promotional materials such as periodicals, magazines, newsletters, and pamphlets make up the bulk of the collection, with extensive coverage of the concerns of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Puertorriqueño, PSP), the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA), as well as New Jersey chapters of the unions Communications Workers of America (CWA) and District 65, which eventually joined the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW). An additional seven boxes were added to the collection in June 2016, which remain unprocessed. The new materials offer additional documentation from the Dubin Labor Education Center and Soler’s work and interests in education (testing, privatization, and unions), labor, Marxist-Leninism, and various events in the United States and Latin America.

Gift of Jose Soler, 2015, 2016
  • Communications Workers of America
  • Labor unions--New York (State)--New York
  • Partido Socialista Puertorriqueño
  • United Automobile, Aircraft, and Vehicle Workers of America. District 65
Types of material
  • Photographs