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New England history

Two girls in carriage, Quabbin region, ca.1910

Two girls in carriage, Quabbin region, ca.1910

SCUA is dedicated to documenting New England history, including primary materials relating to the political, cultural, economic, and intellectual life of our region, and the lives and experiences of its residents.

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. Of particular note are two exceptionally large and rich collections: the records of the Hampshire Council of Governments, which contains over 325 years of county-level governance in western Massachusetts, and the records of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, which contains 350 years of Quaker history.

The recent political history of the region is documented through the papers of congressmen Silvio O. Conte and his successor John Olver, Governor Jane Swift, state Senator Stanley Rosenberg, state representatives John G. Clark, Maurice Donahue, Whiting Griswold, and John Haigis, and other figures involved in the political life of the Commonwealth.

In addition to holding material relating to many individual towns and communities in western Massachusetts, SCUA maintains a special interest in the history of the towns of the Quabbin watershed.

Significant collections

  • 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
    • Although SCUA has scattered holdings relating to earlier wars, the department houses interesting materials relating to World War II and the War in Vietnam, with the latter concentrated on the antiwar movement.
  • 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

Learn more:

Newland, Jacob and John E.

Jacob and John E. Newland Account Book
1798-1849
1 vol. (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 197 bd

Jacob Newland and his son John Everit Newland were farmers in Mansfield, Mass., during the earlynational period. A Revolutionary War veteran, Jacob died in 1823, leaving much of his operation to John, his second son.

The account book kept by Jacob Newland and later John E. Newland of Mansfield, Massachusetts, details much about the work of these farmers and their interaction with neighbors in eastern Mansfield during the early nineteenth century. The customers, most of whom seem to have been fellow farmers, made frequent use of the Newlands’ animals and animal-drawn vehicles (carriage, “waggon,” “slay”) for riding and work, in addition to purchasing products, using the Newlands’ labor, and leasing pasture land. The book also served as a leaf press and scrapbook for newspaper items bearing upon the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, mention of social events and anniversaries, children’s sayings, short romantic fiction, and as a copybook for poetry.

Acquired from Charles Apfelbaum, 1987
Subjects
  • Farmers--Massachusetts--Mansfield
Contributors
  • Newland, John E. (John Everit)
Types of material
  • Account books

Northampton State Hospital

Northampton State Hospital Annual Reports
1856-1939
74 items (digital)
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.

Putnam, William

William Putnam Papers
1840-1886
1 box (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 014

For several decades in the mid-nineteenth century, William Putnam (1792-1877) and his family operated a general store in Wendell Depot, Massachusetts, situated strategically between the canal and the highway leading to Warwick. Serving an area that remains rural to the present day, Putnam dealt in a range of essential merchandise, trading in lumber and shingles, palm leaf, molasses and sugar, tea, tobacco, quills, dishes, cloth and ribbon, dried fish, crackers, and candy. At various times, he was authorized by the town Selectmen to sell “intoxicating liquors” (brandy, whiskey, and rum) for “Medicinal, chemical and mechanical purposes only,” and for a period, he served as postmaster for Wendell Depot.

The daybooks and correspondence of William Putnam record the daily transactions of an antebellum storekeeper in rural Wendell, Massachusetts. Offering a dense record of transactions from 1840-1847, the daybooks provide a chronological accounting of all sales and credits in the store, including barter with local residents of the community and with contractors for the new Vermont and Massachusetts Railroad. The last in the series of daybooks lists a surprisingly high percentage of Wendell’s residents (by name, in alphabetical order) who owed him money as of October 1846. The correspondence associated with the collection continues into the 1880s and provides relatively slender documentation of Putnam’s litigiousness, his financial difficulties after the Civil War, and the efforts of his son John William to continue the business.

Gift of Donald W. Howe, 1957; Robert Lucas, 1987 (correspondence); and Dan Casavant, 2001
Subjects
  • Barter--Massachusetts--Wendell
  • Consumer goods--Massachusetts--Wendell
  • Consumers--Massachusetts--Wendell
  • General stores--Massachusetts--Wendell
  • Liquor stores--Massachusetts--Wendell
  • Panama hat industry--Massachusetts--Wendell
  • Schools--Massachusetts--Wendell
  • Vermont and Massachusetts Railroad
  • Wendell (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Wendell (Mass.)--History--19th century
Contributors
  • Putnam, William
Types of material
  • Daybooks

Roche, John P.

John P. Roche Collection
1886-1965
324 items
Call no.: RB 008

A political scientist, writer, and government consultant, John P. Roche was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on May 7, 1923, the son of a salesman. A liberal Social Democrat and fervent anti-Communist, Roche spent his academic career at Haverford College and Brandeis and Tufts Universities, writing extensively on American foreign policy, constitutional law, and the history of political thought in America, and maintaining a strong interest in the history of the American left. During the 1960s and early 1970s, he served as an adviser to the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations.

The Roche Collection consists of over 300 publications pertaining to the political left in the United States, with a smaller number of works from the radical right and from European Socialists and Communists. Concentrated in the years spanning the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the McCarthy hearings, many of the works were produced by formal political parties in response to particular political campaigns, current events, or social issues, with other works geared primarily toward consciousness raising and general political education on trade unionism, fascism, war and peace, American foreign policy, and freedom of speech and the press.

Gift of John P. Roche, 1964
Subjects
  • Communism
  • Fascism
  • Pacifism
  • Socialism
  • United States--Foreign policy--20th century
  • World War, 1939-1945
Contributors
  • Coughlin, Charles E. (Charles Edward), 1891-1979
  • Roche, John P.
Restrictions: Collection currently unavailable due to renovation in SCUA

Rodney Hunt Company

Rodney Hunt Company Records
ca.1850-1987 (Bulk: 1862-1943)
316 boxes, 150 vols. (158 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 105

The Rodney Hunt Company Records document the operation of one of the region’s major producers of textile machinery, water wheels, turbines, and other specialty industrial products. Founded in Orange, Massachusetts, in 1840, the company was incorporated in 1873. Still an active concern, it continues to sell its products in international markets.

Due to a fire in 1882, and several floods, relatively few early records of the Rodney Hunt Company survive, but from the time of its incorporation in 1873, documentation improves, with nearly complete coverage from the period 1883–1914. The collection provides an excellent introduction to the history of technology and industry in 19th- and 20th-century Massachusetts. Of particular note is the incoming correspondence from 1876 to 1903, which is nearly complete. Other materials include company histories, correspondence, board minutes, blueprints, installation drawings, sketchbook drawings, patents, payroll ledgers, account books, price lists, sales books, brochures, catalogs, newsletters, subject files and photographs.

Subjects
  • Orange (Mass.)--Economic conditions
  • Textile industry--Massachusetts
  • Turbines--Design and construction
  • Waterwheels
Contributors
  • Rodney Hunt Company
Types of material
  • Account books

Rural Massachusetts Imprints Collection

Rural Massachusetts Imprints Collection
1797-1897
48 items (3 linear feet)
Call no.: RB 012
Image of John Metcalf
John Metcalf

Although printing requires a substantial capital investment in equipment before any hope of profitability can be entertained, there have been numerous attempts over the years to set up printing houses in communities with astonishingly small population bases. In even the most remote Massachusetts towns, people like John Metcalf (Wendell), Ezekiel Terry (Palmer), and John and Solomon Howe (Enfield and Greenwich) operated as printers during the nineteenth century, specializing in a quotidian array of broadsides, song sheets, almanacs, toy books, and printed forms, hoping to supplement, or provide, a decent living.

This small, but growing collection consists of materials printed prior to the twentieth century in small Massachusetts towns, defined as towns with populations less than about 2,500. Although few of these houses survived for long, they were important sources for rural communities. Typically simple in typography, design, and binding, even crude, the output of such printers provides an important gauge of the interests and tastes of New England’s smallest and often poorest communities.

Subjects
  • Children's books--Massachusetts
  • Printers--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • Howe, John, 1783-1845
  • Howe, Solomon, 1750-1835
  • Metcalf, John, 1788-1864
  • Terry, Ezekiel, 1775-1829
Types of material
  • Almanacs
  • Broadsides

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:

Solander, Arvo A.

Arvo A. Solander Papers
1930-1958
8 boxes (4 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 587

Graduating from Harvard in the thick of the Great Depression, Arvo A. Solander worked as a civil and sanitary engineer for a variety of state and federal agencies, including the Civil Works Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. During the 1930s, as opportunity arose, he filled positions as a road engineer, in the design and construction of water and sewage plants, in pollution control, as a safety engineer in the shellfish industry, and in mosquito control, taking jobs throughout Massachusetts and as far away as Tennessee. After using his talents as an officer in the Sanitary Corps during the Second World War, based primarily in Arkansas, Solander returned home to Massachusetts and opened a private engineering office in South Hadley. He worked as a civil engineer and surveyor until his death in January 1976.

The Arvo Solander Papers consists of twenty-four bound volumes documenting thirty years of varied work as an engineer, including his contributions to the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir. Within the bound volumes are a wide range of reports, typescripts, sketches and diagrams, graphs, contracts and design specifications, photographs, and postcards.

Subjects
  • Civil engineers
  • Civilian Conservation Corps (U.S.)
  • Depressions--1929
  • Fisheries--Massachusetts
  • Mosquitoes--Control
  • Quabbin Reservoir (Mass.)
  • Roads--Design and construction
  • Sanitary engineers
  • Sewage disposal plants--Design and construction
  • United States. Federal Civil Works Administration
  • Water--Pollution--Tennessee
  • Water-supply--Massachusetts
  • Westfield State Sanatorium
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Wrentham State School
Contributors
  • Solander, Arvo A
Types of material
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks

Soler, José A.

José A. Soler Papers
1972-2014
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
Subjects
  • 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
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