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Mission and history

Mission

Cattle judging at Mass. Agricultural College
Judging cattle at Mass. Agricultural College

SCUA inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials for the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond, contributing to the vital conversation between past and future. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, services, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry; the production, exchange, and preservation of knowledge; and joy in learning.

Department history

African dancers
African dancers
From the Horace Mann Bond Papers

In 1931, nearly half a century after Librarian Henry Hill Goodell first authorized the permanent retention of the official records of Massachusetts Agricultural College, the Library established a College History Collection. Containing official records of the university’s administrators and faculty and reflecting the life of its students, the College History Collection grew steadily until in 1953, the Library dedicated a room named in honor of Dean William L. Machmer to serve as the first true home of the University Archives.

Goodell’s foresight in assembling the College archives coincided roughly with the university’s first efforts to build a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. As early as 1868 — just one year after the arrival of the first students — the college accepted the donation of twenty scarce volumes on bee culture from the apiculturist (and state Adjutant General) Henry K. Oliver. By the time the college issued its first library catalog in 1875, rare books were a small, but notable part of the collections, closely focused on the primary academic interests of the early college: agriculture, horticulture and botany, and the natural sciences. Included among the Library’s earliest acquisitions were the first London edition of William Bartram’s Travels Through North and South Carolina (1792), François Augier de Marigny’s The History of the Arabians (London, 1758), and early bee manuals by John Keys, The Practical Bee-Master (London, 1780) and The Antient Bee-Master’s Farewell (London, 1796) — both courtesy of Oliver. Each of these volumes remains part of the collections today.

David Axelrod, Class of 1965
David B. Axelrod, ca.1980, Class of 1965, poet, author of The Man who Fell in Love with His Chicken (1980)

From these beginnings, the collection of rare books and manuscripts has co-evolved with the university and its academic programs. In 1973, the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski marked an expansion of scope beyond into personal papers and organizational records of historical significance beyond the narrow confines of the university, and the arrival of the papers on W.E.B. Du Bois in that same year marked a turning point. The rare book and manuscript collections were merged with the University Archives in the early 1990s to form the current Department of Special Collections and University Archives.

SCUA’s initial foray online came with a simple page on the library’s website in 1997, and by 2007, it had evolved into the UMarmot project, one of the earliest efforts to use freely-available software to create a comprehensive online archival catalog. SCUA launched its online digital repository, Credo in 2011, with the generous support of the Verizon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. Available free to all researchers, Credo is now a robust and heavily used presence on the internet, containing hundreds of thousands of pages of content and dozens of complete collections, including every item in the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois and Horace Mann Bond.

Mile markers

Each of the library’s million-volume milestones has been celebrated by the addition of a special volume to SCUA’s collections:

One millionth volume:
Jonathan Edwards, A careful and strict enquiry into the modern prevailing notions of that freedom of will; which is supposed to be essential to moral agency, vertue and vice, reward and punishment, praise and blame. Boston: S. Kneeland, 1754.
SCUA’s copy of this classic theological work on Free Will from the New Light minister from Northampton belonged to Rev. John Cleaveland of Ipswich, Mass., one of the subscribers. It is signed and dated by Cleaveland in several locations.
Two millionth volume:
Phillis Wheatley, Poems on various subjects, religious and moral. London: A. Bell, 1773.
A classic of American literature written by a young woman enslaved in Boston, and the first book published by an African-American woman. Gift of Randolph W. Bromery.
Three millionth volume:
James Baldwin, Gypsy and other poems, with etched portraits by Leonard Baskin. Northampton, Mass.: Gehenna Press, 1989.
When Baldwin, a former faculty member at UMass Amherst, died unexpectedly, he was working with the great printer Leonard Baskin on a special volume of unpublished poems. Celebrating SCUA’s strengths in African American history literature and reflecting the fine-printing heritage in Massachusetts, SCUA’s copy includes a signed portfolio of etchings of Baldwin by Baskin, each signed. It is one of fifty copies bound specially by Daniel Gehnrich in leather and paste paper, made by Babette Gehnrich, over boards, and laid into a cloth traycase. Also laid in are Baskin’s proof, 1989, and touched proof, 1989, of two of the portraits. Gift of Lisa Baskin.
Four millionth volume:
The proclamation of emancipation of the President of the United States, to take effect January 1st, 1863. Boston: John Murray Forbes, 1862.
The first separate printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, this volume was printed in miniature so that Union army troops in the south could more easily distribute it.

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North Bridgewater (Mass.). Treasurer

North Bridgewater (Mass.) Treasurer Account Book
1858-1881
1 vol. (0.15 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 223 bd

In the years after it separated from Bridegwater in 1821, North Bridgewater emerged as a center of manufacturing. During the industrial boom years of the mid-nineteenth century, it grew into the largest producer of shoes and boots in the nation, boasting 97 factories by the end of the century. In 1874, the town changed to its current name, Brockton, and it was incorporated as a city seven years later.

Nearly two thirds of this town treasurer’s account book from North Bridgewater (later Brockton), Massachusetts, is devoted to a monthly accounting of money paid to the families of Civil War volunteers, beginning in April 1861 and carrying through 1881, made mostly by town treasurer R.P. Kingman; accounts of school district expenses and revenues for the years 1858 to 1869, for the 14 school districts in North Bridgewater (teacher salaries, supplies, and accounts with textbook publishers such as Harper & Bros. and Heath & Co.); and listings of salaries paid town officers, including the Superintendent of Streets, Overseer of the Poor, city clerk, city treasurer, and the Police Department.

Acquired from Charles Apfelbaum, 1987
Subjects
  • Police--Massachusetts--North Bridgewater
  • Schools--Massachusetts--North Bridgewater
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
Contributors
  • North Bridgewater (Mass.). Treasurer
Types of material
  • Records (Documents)

Prescott (Mass.)

Prescott (Mass.) Collection
1822-1952
8 vols. (digital)
Call no.: MS 021

Rural and sparsely populated, Prescott, Massachusetts, was founded in 1822 along the ridge separating the West and Middle branches of the Swift River. Its three villages (North Prescott, Atkinson Hollow, and Prescott Hill) never amounted to more than a few houses each, and the town’s total population never exceeded 500. Prescott became the first of four towns to vacate after the Swift River Valley was ordered cleared and dammed to create the Quabbin Reservoir, ceding its administration to the state in 1928 before formally disincorporating in 1938.

The records of Prescott, Mass., document the history of the smallest of the four towns inundated to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Held by the Swift River Valley Historical Society, the materials in this collection consist of records of town meetings and of the activities of the town Selectmen, 1822-1938, as well as sparser records of the School Committee, the Treasurer, and Overseers of the Poor.

Subjects
  • Education--Massachusetts--Prescott--History
  • Poor--Massachusetts--Prescott--History
  • Prescott (Mass.)--Appropriations and expenditures
  • Prescott (Mass.)--History
  • Prescott (Mass.)--Politics and governmen
  • Prescott (Mass.)--Social conditions
  • Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--History
  • Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--Social life and customs
Contributors
  • Prescott (Mass. : Town)
  • Prescott (Mass. : Town). Overseers of the Poor
Types of material
  • Account books
  • School records

Sunderland (Mass.)

Sunderland Town Records
1620-1912
4 reels (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 409 mf

Although the Connecticut River Valley town of Swampfield was set off from Hadley in 1673, European settlement there was decimated by King Phillip’s War and with continued turmoil in the region, the town was not resettled by Europeans until after the turn of the eighteenth century. Officially incorporated as the town of Sunderland on Nov. 12, 1718, the town’s economy has been rooted in agriculture, taking advantage of the valley’s rich soils.

The five reels of microfilm of Sunderland’s records include vital records and information on town meetings, militia, and town finances.

Subjects
  • Sunderland (Mass.)--History
Types of material
  • Microfilm

United Congregational Church of Holyoke (Holyoke, Mass.)

United Congregational Church of Holyoke (Holyoke, Mass.) Records
ca.1830-1990
9 boxes (13.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 787
Image of First Congregational Church, ca.1910
First Congregational Church, ca.1910

The present day United Congregational Church of Holyoke is the product of complex history of growth and consolidation of five separate churches responding to the changing demographics and spiritual needs of the city. Established in 1799, the First Congregational Church in Holyoke was initially a small congregation perched above the floodplain south of the center of town, sharing preachers with the equally sparse population of Baptists until the establishment of the First Baptist Church in 1826. The First Congregational Church was finally erected in 1838, and ten years later, the Second Church was established in to serve the needs of the growing Protestant population in the city center, building their own church in 1853 as the mill economy was booming. Reaching out to the millworkers, members of the Second Church opened the Grace Mission in 1870, which spun off into its own church in 1896. Skinner Chapel was founded in 1909 as an addition to the Second Congregational Church, dedicated to the prominent Skinner family. Finally, the German Reformed Church was organized in 1892, though meetings were held years earlier. In the latter part of the twentieth century, however, declining memberships in each of these churches led to a series of mergers, beginning in 1961 when the German Reformed Church united with the First Congregational to become the First United Congregational Church. Grace Church and the First UCC merged in 1973 to become Grace United, and in 1996, Grace joined with the Second Congregational Church to become the present UCC of Holyoke.

The records of the UCC of Holyoke document over 200 years of the ecclesiatical history of an industrial city. In addition to records of membership, baptisms, marriages, and church governance, the collection includes valuable records of the women’s missionary society, the German Maenner Bund, and a long run of church newsletters that offer insight into the weekly course of events in the religious community. Materials relating to Skinner Chapel are part of the collections of Wistariahurst Museum.

Subjects
  • Congregational churches--Massachusetts--Holyoke
  • Holyoke (Mass.)--Religious life and customs
  • Missionaries--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • First Congregational Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
  • German Reformed Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
  • Grace Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
  • Second Congregational Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
Types of material
  • Newsletters
  • Photographs

Watchmaker (Springfield, Mass.)

Watchmaker's Account Book
1882-1883
1 vol. (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 623 bd

The mid-century success of the Waltham Watch Company set the stage for a period of innovation and corporate ferment in the manufacture and distribution of watches in the United States. As watchmakers and technologies spread and new companies sprouted and split at a rapid pace, Springfield emerged as a center for the production of high quality, mass produced watches. Perhaps best known among the large local corporations, the Hampden Watch Company was established in 1877 from the New York Watch Company and was bought out in turn by the Dueber Watch Company and relocated a decade later.

The unidentified owner of this slender account book maintained itemized records of income and expenses for a relatively small watchmaking concern in Springfield between May 1882 and September 1883. Most of the trade consisted of sales of accoutrements and repair work.

Acquired from Dan Casavant, 1999
Subjects
  • Springfield (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Watchmakers--Massachusetts--Springfield
Types of material
  • Account books

Whately (Mass.)

Whately Town Records
1717-1900
4 reels (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 408 mf

The Connecticut River Valley town of Whately, Mass., was first settled by Europeans in about 1672, separating from the northern section of Hatfield and displacing the Norwottucks, or Fresh Water Indians. Officially incorporating in 1771, the town’s economy has been based primarily in agriculture, including the production of tobacco, potatoes, and dairy.

The four reels of microfilm that comprise this collection contain records of the town of Whately, Mass., from settlement in the middle of the nineteenth century, including records of the Congregational Church, deeds, and vital records (births, baptisms, marriages, deaths).

Subjects
  • Whately (Mass.)--History
Types of material
  • Microfilm

Valley Women’s History Collaborative

Valley Women's History Collaborative Records
1971-2008
15 boxes (10 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 531

During the early phases of second wave feminism (1968-1978), the Pioneer Valley served as a center for lesbian and feminist activity in western Massachusetts, and was home to over 400 hundred, often ad hoc, groups, such as the Abortion and Birth Control (ABC) Committee, ISIS Women’s Center, the Mudpie Childcare Cooperative, and the Springfield Women’s Center.

The records of the Valley Women’s History Collaborative document the activities of these groups as well as the efforts of the founders of the Women Studies program and department at UMass Amherst to preserve this history. Of particular value are the many oral histories conducted by the collaborative that record the history of women’s activism in the Pioneer Valley, especially as it relates to reproductive rights.

Gift of Susan Tracy, 2006, 2009
Subjects
  • Abortion--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--History--20th century
  • Birth control--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--History--20th century
  • Feminism--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--History
  • Feminists--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--Political activity--History
  • Mary Vazquez Women's Softball League
  • Women--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--Political activity--History
Contributors
  • Valley Women's History Collaborative
Types of material
  • Oral histories

New Approaches to History

New Approaches to History Collection
1967-1985
23 boxes (10.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 182

During the late 1960s, the Department of History at UMass Amherst created a new undergraduate course entitled New Approaches to History, relying almost exclusively on primary sources. The theme of the course varied from the Salem witch trials to Daniel Shay’s Rebellion to the Lizzie Borden murders.

The collection includes the course proposal, correspondence, syllabi, course assignments, and resources for three units: Salem witchcraft, Shay’s Rebellion, and Lizzie Borden.

Subjects
  • History--Study and teaching
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of History

Akin, Benjamin

Benjamin Akin Daybook and Ledger
1737-1764
1 vol. (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 204 bd

A tanner, currier, and shoemaker, Benjamin Akin was born into a prominent Bristol County family in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, on May 18, 1715. With a prolific and well-connected family and successful in his own business endeavors, Akin attained some stature in Dartmouth. First appointed town clerk in 1745, he filled that office from 1754-1770 and again from 1776-1780, adding the title “Esq.” to his name by the 1760s. During the Revolutionary years, he served on the town’s public safety committee. He died on April 10, 1802.

The Akin ledger offers insight into the fortunes of an 18th-century artisan during the most productive years of his life, as well as into the structure of a local community in southeastern Massachusetts. The ledger includes accounts of with customers for tanning and currying of calf and sheepskin, day-book entries, and accounts with the Town of Dartmouth for services performed at Town Clerk.

Acquired from Charles Apfelbaum, 1987
Subjects
  • Artisans--Massachusetts
  • Dartmouth (Mass.)--History--18th century
  • Earthquakes--Massachusetts
  • Shoemaking--Massachusetts
  • Tanning--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • Akin, Benjamin, 1715-1802
  • Akin, Eunice Taber, 1711-1762
Types of material
  • Account books
  • Daybooks
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