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.
Benjamin Smith Lyman Papers, 1831-1921.
Call no.: MS 190
A native of Northampton, Massachusetts, Benjamin Smith Lyman was a prominent geologist and mining engineer. At the request of the Meiji government in Japan, Lyman helped introduce modern geological surveying and mining techniques during the 1870s and 1880s, and his papers from that period illuminate aspects of late nineteenth century Japan, New England, and Pennsylvania, as well as the fields of geology and mining exploration and engineering. From his earliest financial records kept as a student at Phillips Exeter Academy through the journal notations of his later days in Philadelphia, Lyman’s meticulous record-keeping provides much detail about his life and work. Correspondents include his classmate, Franklin B. Sanborn, a friend of the Concord Transcendentalists and an active social reformer, abolitionist, and editor.
The papers, 1848-1911, have been organized into nine series: correspondence, financial records, writings, survey notebooks, survey maps, photographs, student notes and notebooks, collections, and miscellaneous (total 25 linear feet). A separate Lyman collection includes over 2,000 books in Japanese and Chinese acquired by Lyman, and in Western languages pertaining to Asia.
- Geological surveys--Alabama
- Geological surveys--Illinois
- Geological surveys--India--Punjab
- Geological surveys--Japan
- Geological surveys--Japan--Maps
- Geological surveys--Maryland
- Geological surveys--Nova Scotia
- Geological surveys--Pennsylvania
- Geological surveys--Pennsylvania--Maps
- Geologists--United States
- Geology--Equipment and supplies--Catalogs
- Geology--Japan--History--19th century
- Japan--Description and travel--19th century
- Japan--Social life and customs--1868-1912
- Mining engineering--Equipment and supplies--Catalogs
- Mining engineering--Japan--History--19th century
- Mining engineers--United States
- Lyman, Benjamin Smith, 1835-1920
- Sanborn, F. B. (Franklin Benjamin), 1831-1917
Types of material
- Account books
- Book jackets
- Field notes
- Letterpress copybooks
- Trade catalogs
Arthur P. Mange Photograph Collection, 1965-2010.
Call no.: PH 044
Arthur P. Mange taught in the Biology Department at University of Massachusetts Amherst for 31 years before retiring in 1995. A co-author of numerous works in human genetics, Mange served on the chair of the Conservation Committee in Amherst, and currently serves on the Burnett Gallery Committee. In 1983, his New England images were featured in Across the Valley (from Cummington to New Salem) held at the Burnett Gallery. This exhibition was followed at the Hitchcock Center in 1984 with Delight in Familiar Forms (celebrating some well-known plants and animals), with Ring Bell to Admit Bird at the Jones Library and Net Prophet at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Architectural Sights — Big and Small, Mange’s most recent show (2002), appeared at the Burnett Gallery. In addition to exhibitions, Mange has also donated collections for fund-raising auctions at New York University, the Cooley Dickinson Hospital, the University of Massachusetts Fine Arts Center, the Amherst Historical Society, Jones Library, and the Amherst Community Arts Center.
His photographic collection spans more than half a century of subjects reflecting his varied interests in animals, plants, our region, gravestones, what he calls “whimsical signs,” and attention-grabbing shadows.
- Amherst (Mass.)--Pictorial works
- Cemeteries--Pictorial works
- Hadley (Mass.)--Pictorial works
- New England--Pictorial works
- New Salem (Mass.)--Pictorial works
- New York (N.Y.)--Pictorial works
Types of material
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
Northampton State Hospital Annual Reports, 1856-1939.
Call no.: Digital
The Northampton State Hospital was opened in 1858 to provide moral therapy to the “insane,” and under the superintendency of Pliny Earle, became one of the best known asylums in New England. Before the turn of the century, however, the Hospital declined, facing the problems of overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate funding. The push for psychiatric deinstitutionalization in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in a steady reduction of the patient population, the last eleven of whom left Northampton State in 1993.
With the Government Documents staff, SCUA has digitized the annual reports of the Northampton State Hospital from the beginning until the last published report in 1939. The reports appeared annually from 1856 until 1924 and irregularly from then until 1939.
Carl Oglesby Papers, ca.1965-2004.
Call no.: MS 514
Reflective, critical, and radical, Carl Oglesby was an eloquent voice of the New Left during the 1960s and 1970s. A native of Ohio, Oglesby was working in the defense industry in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1964 when he became radicalized by what he saw transpiring in Vietnam. Through his contacts with the Students for a Democratic Society, he was drawn into the nascent antiwar movement, and thanks to his formidable skills as a speaker and writer, rose rapidly to prominence. Elected president of the SDS in 1965, he spent several years traveling nationally and internationally advocating for a variety of political and social causes.
In 1972, Oglesby helped co-found the Assassination Information Bureau which ultimately helped prod the U.S. Congress to reopen the investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. A prolific writer and editor, his major works include Containment and Change (1967), The New Left Reader (1969), The Yankee and Cowboy War (1976), and The JFK Assassination: The Facts and the Theories (1992). The Oglesby Papers include research files, correspondence, published and unpublished writing, with the weight of the collection falling largely on the period after 1975.
- Assassination Information Bureau
- Gehlen, Reinhard, 1902-1979
- Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963--Assassination
- King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
- Political activists
- Student movements
- Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
- United States--Foreign relations
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975
- Watergate Affair, 1972-1974
- Oglesby, Carl, 1935-
Robert and Martha Perske Papers, 1964-2005.
Call no.: MS 772
While serving with the U.S. Navy in the Philippines during World War II, the teenaged Bob Perske became aware of the vulnerable and disabled in society and turned his life toward advocacy on their behalf. Studying for the ministry after returning to civilian life, Perske was appointed chaplain at the Kansas Neurological Institute, serving children with intellectual disabilities for 11 years, after which he became a full-time street, court, and prison worker — a citizen advocate — laboring in the cause of deinstitutionalization and civil rights of persons with disabilities, particularly those caught in the legal system. After Bob married his wife Martha in 1971, the two became partners in work, with Martha often illustrating Bob’s numerous books and articles. In 2002, Perske was recognized by the American Bar Association as the only non-lawyer to ever receive the Paul Hearne Award for Services to Persons with Disabilities.
The Perske Papers contains a fifty year record of published and unpublished writings by Bob Perske on issues surrounding persons with disabilities, along with correspondence, photographs, and other materials relating to the Perskes’ activism. The correspondence includes a particularly rich set of letters with a fellow advocate for persons with disabilities, Robert R. Williams.
- Mental retardation--Social aspects
- People with disabilities--Deinstitutionalization
- People with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.
- Perske, Martha
- Williams, Robert R.
Types of material
Planning Services Group Records, 1956-1986.
Call no.: MS 335
An urban planning firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that assisted New England cities and towns with initiating and managing urban development projects. The firm had two main types of contracts, urban renewal and comprehensive community planning, and many of their projects were supported with funds designated by the Federal Housing Act of 1949.
Includes organizational histories, memoranda, correspondence, proposal guidelines, materials for citizen participation, job inventories and reports, brochures that document urban growth management and the problems of suburbanization in New England, background studies, planning reports, growth management policies, zoning bylaws and amendments, and the files of Katharine Kumala.
- Urban planning--Massachusetts
- Planning Services Group (Cambridge, Mass.)
Polish Jubilee Catalogs and Souvenirs, 1906-1988.
Call no.: MS 057
Includes booklets containing parish and community histories, photographs, and local advertisements celebrating Jubilee, other anniversaries, and events in over twenty Massachusetts Polish American parishes; booklets furnishing histories and names associated with Polish American groups (such as the Brotherly Aid Society and Polish American Veterans); an historical paper on the Chicopee Polish Community; a pamphlet including songs and recipes; photographs; a booklet; and two books.
- Chicopee (Mass.)--History
- Polish Americans--Massachusetts
Sawin-Young Family Papers, 1864-1924.
Call no.: MS 583
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)