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.
American Friends Service Committee Records, 1975-2005.
Call no.: MS 459
Established in 1968 in response to the war in Vietnam, the AFSC office in western Massachusetts did not limit its focus to draft and military counseling, instead the organization broadened its focus over time to include educational and outreach programs for a variety of peace and socal justice issues. Today the chapter focuses on economic justice, campaigns against U.S. military intervention, and actions to combat racism and classism. With an emphasis on serving the community of western Massachusetts, the program is equally committed to calling attention to issues of both national and local importance. Recent campaigns range from ending the war in Iraq and supporting peace in Columbia to preventing the construction of a new jail in Chicopee.
The collection consists chiefly of subject files that together provide a picture of the various issues in which the western Massachusetts AFSC was involved. Topics range from the organization’s earliest focus, the Vietnam War, to the first Gulf War, landlord/tenant relations, immigration, and landmines. The collection also includes materials relating to public figures, some of whom traveled to the region to speak.
- Massachusetts--Economic conditions
- Peace movements--Massachusetts
- Social justice--Massachusetts
- American Friends Service Committee. Western Massachusetts
Associated Industries of Massachusetts Collection, 1944-1986.
Call no.: MS 155
Associated Industries of Massachusetts (A.I.M.), established in 1915, is the largest non-profit, nonpartisan association of employees in the state. Their primary mission is to improve the economic condition of the Commonwealth and to advocate for fair and equitable public policy.
The collection consists entirely of publications, chief among these are the group’s newsletter dating from the 1940s-1950s.
- Massachusetts--Economic conditions--20th century
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--20th century
Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts Hampshire-Franklin County Chapter Records, 1947-1973.
Call no.: MS 303
Minutes and correspondence of the Executive Committee, correspondence and general files of chairmen Philip Eddy, David E. Matz, and Donn Kesselheim, as well as correspondence, briefs, and clippings related to legal cases and inquiries undertaken by the chapter.
- Civil rights--Massachusetts
- Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. Hampshire-Franklin County Chapter
- Eddy, Philip
- Kesselheim, Donn
- Matz, David E
Communist Party of Massachusetts Collection, 1942-1954.
Call no.: MS 538
Documenting Communist Party activities in Massachusetts during the 1940s-1950s, this small collection consists of pamphlets, broadsides, and election materials, which cover issues such as housing, freedom of speech, McCarthyism, and the war in Korea.
- Communism--United States--History
- Communist Party of Massachusetts
Fifth Massachusetts Turnpike Company Records, 1799.
Call no.: MS 088
Authorized in March 1799, the Fifth Massachusetts Turnpike Company constructed a toll road through miles of rough terrain and sparse settlements, connecting Leominster, Athol, Greenfield, and Northfield. Having opened areas to land travel that had previously been accessible only over rivers, the Fifth Massachusetts Turnpike ceased operations in 1833 after years of declining revenues.
The collection consists primarily of one volume of records of the directors of the Fifth Massachusetts Turnpike, including minutes of meetings, accounts of tolls collected, and drafts of letters.
- Toll roads--Massachusetts
- Fifth Massachusetts Turnpike Company
Franco-American Oral History Collection, 1980-1984.
Call no.: MS 123
With a population of nearly a million French Americans, Massachusetts bears witness to the largest continental migration experienced in the Northeast. Under a grant from the Massachusetts Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy, 44 interviews of Franco Americans in the region were conducted from August 8, 1982 to January 18, 1983.
These interviews document the lives of those individuals, covering a period beginning in the late nineteenth century through 1984.
- French Americans--Massachusetts
Types of material
- Oral histories
Massachusetts Locales Collection, 1905-1989.
Call no.: MS 300
Materials, such as clippings, maps, and photographs, relating to Amherst, but also including items from other western Massachusetts towns. Topics covered include are Amherst writers such as Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, town history, trees and birds of Amherst, and Connecticut River Valley history.
- Amherst (Mass.)--History
Types of material
Massachusetts AFL-CIO Directly Affiliated Local Unions Records, 1930-1980.
Call no.: MS 044
This small collection provides background on labor unions in Massachusetts that, lacking a national scope, join the AFL-CIO as Directly Affiliated Local Unions (DALUs). Taken together, these records provide some basic information on the names and descriptions of companies that have agreements with DALUs, the numbers of union members involved, the occupations represented, and jurisdiction.
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Massachusetts AFL-CIO
Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs Posters Collection, 1852-1860.
Call no.: MS 169
With one of the first agricultural fairs in the country taking place in Massachusetts in 1807, the state has a special place in the history of agricultural fairs in the United States. Twenty antebellum posters promoting agricultural fairs in western Massachusetts, primarily from agricultural societies in Hampshire, Hampden, Franklin, and Berkshire Counties.
- Agricultural exhibitions--Massachusetts--Posters
- Agricultural exhibitions--Rhode Island--Providence--Posters
- Agriculture--Social aspects--Massachusetts--History
- Agriculture--Social aspects--Rhode Island--History
Types of material