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
Worthington (Mass.) Tavern Account Book, 1826-1854.
Call no.: MS 421 bd
By the turn of the nineteenth century, the Hampshire County town of Worthington, Massachusetts, was a significant crossroads on the Boston-Albany Turnpike, belying its small size. The population in Worthington peaked at barely over 1,000 in 1810, and declined slowly thereafter, although it remained an active stopover on the road for many years.
This standard double column account book provides a concentrated record of financial and other transactions in the antebellum period, probably associated with a tavern in Worthington, Mass. Although the ledger’s keeper is unidentified, it records an assortment of odd jobs filing saws, smoking meat, lending horses, carting, pasturing cattle, and tending sheep, along with the sale of significant quantities of beer and cider and a regular stream of hard brandy and rum. There are records as well of providing meals and, in one instance, caring for prisoners and their keepers overnight (p. 21). Most of the clients who can be positively identified were residents of Worthington (e.g., Persis Knapp, Chauncy B. Rising, Nathan Searl, Shubal Parish, Elisha H. Brewster, Addison D. Perry, Merritt Hall, and Otis Boies), however others are noted as wayfarers, passing through from towns such as Whately or Hadley. Clients settled their accounts with a motley mixture of cash, goods, and labor.
- Taverns (Inns)--Massachusetts--Worthington
- Worthington (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
Types of material
- Account books
J. William Belanger Papers, 1932-1986.
Call no.: MS 117
A leader in organized labor, William Belanger began as an organizer for the AFL’s United Textile Workers in 1932, eventually becoming the New England Regional Director and International Vice President of the TWUA and in 1958, the first President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.
The Belanger Papers provide insight into the long career in labor activism, and include correspondence, writings, subject files, and printed materials. Of particular interest is a series of four oversized scrapbooks that cover Belanger’s career from 1934 through his final position as Director of the Massachusetts Department of Employment Security. These are especially enlightening on labor’s political activities, the CIO’s success in thwarting anti-labor referenda in 1948, and the efforts to expel Communists from the labor movement.
- Elections--Massachusetts--History--20th century
- Labor leaders--New England--Biography
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1865-1950
- New England--Economic conditions--20th century
- Textile Workers Organizing Committee
- Textile Workers Union of America
- Textile industry--Massachusetts
- Textile workers--Labor unions--New England
- Belanger, J. William, 1907-1986
Types of material
Boston & Albany Railroad Engineering Department Map Collection, 1833-1920.
Call no.: MS 130
The Boston and Albany Railroad was formed between 1867 and 1870 from the merger of three existing lines, the Boston and Worcester (chartered 1831), the Western (1833), and the Castleton and West Stockbridge (1834). The corporation was a primary east-west transit through the Commonwealth, with branches connecting towns including Athol, Ware, North Adams, and Hudson, N.Y.
The nineteen atlases comprising this collection include detailed plans documenting the location and ownership of rights of way, land-takings, and other land transfers to or from the railroad company. Dating from the early years of operation for the corporation to just after the turn of the century, the atlases include maps of predecessor lines (Boston and Worcester Railroad Corporation and Western Rail-Road), as well as the Grand Junction Railway Company (Charlestown, Somerville, Everett, and Chelsea), the Ware River Railroad, and the Chester and Becket Railroad.
- Boston and Albany Railroad Co.--Maps
- Boston and Worcester Railroad Corporation--Maps
- Chester and Becket Railroad--Maps
- Grand Junction Railway Company--Maps
- Real property--Massachusetts--Maps
- Ware River Railroad--Maps
- Western Rail-Road Corporation--Maps
- Boston & Albany Railroad Company. Engineering Department
Types of material
Mark Brinsfield Poster Collection, 1979-1994.
Call no.: MS 854
Mark Taylor Brinsfield studied languages and law in Europe before receiving his MA in European Studies at the University of Exeter. His research has included work in the history of multiracial people in post-World War II Southeast Asia. Brinsfield currently lives in Northampton, Mass.
The posters in the Brinsfield Collection represent a cross-section of West German political campaigning during the decade leading up to reunification. Focused primarily on national, rather than regional elections, the collection includes representative work from the major left- and right-leaning political parties (CDU and RCDS, SDU, the Greens) as well as a few posters addressed at major political issues, including the antinuclear and antiwar movements.
- Antinuclear movements--Germany
- Antiwar movements--Germany
- Christlich-Demokratische Union Deutschlands
- Germany--History --1945-1990
- Germany--Politics and government--1945-1990
- Grünen (Political party)
- Ring Christlich-Demokratischer Studenten
- Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
- Staeck, Klaus
Types of material
Kenyon Leech Butterfield Papers, 1889-1945.
Call no.: RG 003/1 B88
An agricultural and educational reformer born in 1868, Kenyon Butterfield was the ninth president of Massachusetts Agricultural College and one of the university’s most important figures. An 1891 graduate of Michigan Agricultural College and recipient of MA in Economics and Rural Sociology from the University of Michigan (1902), Butterfield entered university administration early in his career, becoming President of the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1903 and, only three years later, of the Massachusetts Agricultural College. Possessed of a Progressive spirit, Butterfield revolutionized the college during his 18 years in Amherst, expanding and diversifying the curriculum, quadrupling the institutional budget, fostering a dramatic increase in the presence of women on campus and expanding the curriculum, and above all, helping to promote the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 and developing the Cooperative Extension Service into a vital asset to the Commonwealth. Nationally, he maintained a leadership role in the field of rural sociology and among Land Grant University presidents. After leaving Amherst in 1924, Butterfield served as President at Michigan Agricultural College for four years and was active in missionary endeavors in Asia before retiring. He died at his home in Amherst on Nov. 25, 1936.
The Butterfield Papers contain biographical materials, administrative and official papers of both of his presidencies, typescripts of his talks, and copies of his published writings. Includes correspondence and memoranda (with students, officials, legislators, officers of organizations, and private individuals), reports, outlines, minutes, surveys, and internal memoranda.
- Agricultural education--Massachusetts--History--Sources
- Agricultural education--Michigan--History--Sources
- Agricultural extension work--Massachusetts--History--Sources
- Agricultural extension work--United States--History--Sources
- Agriculture--United States--History--Sources
- Education--United States--History--Sources
- Food supply--Massachusetts--History--Sources
- Higher education and state--Massachusetts--History--Sources
- Massachusetts Agricultural College--Alumni and alumnae
- Massachusetts Agricultural College--History
- Massachusetts Agricultural College--Students
- Massachusetts Agricultural College. President
- Massachusetts State College--Faculty
- Michigan Agricultural College--History
- Michigan Agricultural College. President
- Rural churches--United States--History--Sources
- Rural development--Massachusetts--History--Sources
- Women--Education (Higher)--Massachusetts--History--Sources
- World War, 1914-1918
- Butterfield, Kenyon L. (Kenyon Leech), 1868-1935
Judi Chamberlin Papers, ca.1970-2010.
Call no.: MS 768
A pioneer in the psychiatric survivors’ movement, Judi Chamberlin spent four decades as an activist for the civil rights of mental patients. After several voluntary hospitalizations for depression as a young woman, Chamberlin was involuntarily committed for the only time in 1971, having been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Her experiences in the mental health system galvanized her to take action on patients’ rights, and after attending a meeting of the newly formed Mental Patients’ Liberation Project in New York, she helped found the Mental Patients’ Liberation Front in Cambridge, Mass. Explicitly modeled on civil rights organizations of the time, she became a tireless advocate for the patient’s perspective and for choice in treatment. Her book, On Our Own: Patient Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System (1978), is considered a key text in the intellectual development of the movement. Working internationally, she became an important figure in several other organizations, including the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilition at Boston University, the Ruby Rogers Advocacy Center, the National Disability Rights Network, and the National Empowerment Center. In recognition of her advocacy, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities in 1992, the David J. Vail National Advocacy Award, and the 1995 Pike Prize, which honors those who have given outstanding service to people with disabilities. Chamberlin died of pulmonary disease at home in Arlington, Mass., in January 2010.
An important record of the development of the psychiatric survivors’ movement from its earliest days, the Chamberlin Papers include rich correspondence between Chamberlin, fellow activists, survivors, and medical professionals; records of her work with the MPLF and other rights organizations, conferences and meetings, and her efforts to build the movement internationally.
- Ex-mental patients
- People with disabilities--Civil rights
- People with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.
- Mental Patients Liberation Front
- Mental Patients Liberation Project
- National Empowerment Center
Types of material
John G. Clark Papers, 1960-1969.
Call no.: MS 499
With a life long interest in politics, John G. Clark of Easthampton, Massachusetts worked on a number of campaigns before running for office himself. He ran for state senator in 1958, but lost in the Democratic primary. Two years later he ran again, this time for state representative of the 3rd Hampshire District, and won. Clark served in the State House of Representative for eight years until he was appointed clerk of the district court in Northampton and chose not to run for reelection.
While this collection is small, it is packed with campaign materials, letters, position statements, speeches, and press releases that together offer a good sense of the political climate in Massachusetts during the 1960s, especially issues of local concern for Hampshire County. Four letters from a young neighbor written while serving in Vietnam provide a personal account of the war.
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975
- Clark, John G., d. 1972
Connecticut Valley Breeders Association Records, 1908-1947 (Bulk: 1908-1930).
Call no.: MS 425
Established in Northampton, Mass., in May 1908, the Connecticut Valley Breeders Association was part of the burgeoning Progressive-era movement to apply scientific principles to better agriculture. In its charter, the CVBA announced the ambitious goal of promoting “the live stock development of the Connecticut Valley and as far as possible the entire New England states in every way as affecting its educational, economic, legislative, health or other influences.” Led by Oren C. Burt of Easthampton, and George E. Taylor of Shelburne (its first President), it sponsored lectures and other information sessions that attracted as many as 500 attendees at its peak of popularity. Although the organization appears to have waned in the period of the First World War, it was revived in 1925 and four years later, the new Hampshire Herd Improvement Association assumed many of its functions. The HHIA, however, appears to have succumbed to the Depression.
This slender ledger records the minutes of the Connecticut Valley Breeders Association from its founding in 1908 through about 1930. In addition to the constitution and by-laws of both the CVBA and HHIA, the ledger includes minutes of the organizations’ meetings from 1908-1930, with a gap from 1916-1925. The collection is accompanied by a U.S. Department of Agriculture pamphlet, Cow Testers Handbook (1924).
- Burt, Oren C
- Connecticut Valley Breeders Association
- Hampshire Herd Improvement Association
- Taylor, George E
William F. Field Papers, 1948-1986.
Call no.: RG 030/2 F5
The University’s first Dean of Students, William F. Field held the post from 1961 until his retirement in 1988. The 27 years Field was Dean of Students was a critical time of growth and unrest, as the University’s student population more than tripled in size and the nation-wide movements for civil rights and against the Vietnam War were reflected through student activism and protest on the University’s campus. Responsible for ending student curfews and overseeing all dorms becoming co-ed, Field also worked with minority students and faculty to support the Black Arts Movement on campus and the founding of the W.E.B Du Bois Afro-American Studies Department.
The William F. Field Papers document Field’s career as an administrator at the University of Massachusetts and specifically his role as Dean of Students from 1961-1988. The correspondence, memoranda, reports, notes, and other official printed and manuscript documents are a rich resource for one of the most important and volatile eras in the University’s history. Of particular interest are extensive files on student protests and activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s and the growing diversity of the campus student population, flourishing of the Black Arts Movement on campus and the founding of the W.E.B. Du Bois Afro-American Studies Department.
- African American college students--Massachusetts
- Field, William Franklin, 1922-
- Race relations--United States
- Universities and colleges--United States--Administration
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dean of Students
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Afro-American Studies
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements--United States
Types of material