University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Mission and history

Mission

Cattle judging at Mass. Agricultural College

Judging cattle at Mass. Agricultural College

A steward of the past for generations to come, SCUA inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, 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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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

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Oral history

Class of 1889 in front of Durfee Greenhouse

Oral historian at the First National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, 1977. Photo by Diana Mara Henry

No matter how rich our archival collections may be, there are always parts of the historical record that never make it onto the page. Memories, emotions, and attitudes are notoriously difficult to document, and there a variety of all-too human reasons that people choose not to write down every detail of their lives. As a result, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) has been actively engaged in recording oral histories as a way of capturing a more complete record of the many voices and diverse experiences that comprise .

SCUA first ventured into oral historical work in the mid-1970s with efforts to document the history of the university prior to the massive expansion of the previous decade, and the department has subsequently engaged in oral historical projects to document the university’s 125th and 150th anniversaries. In the past decade, SCUA has extended its work to documenting the histories of persons represented in its collections and to a broader array of projects documenting the history and experience of social change and the people and cultures on New England. Furthermore, SCUA is the repository for hundreds of oral histories recorded by other people, ranging in scope from interviews with Franco-Americans in the 1980s, 20th century Argentine political figures, and former residents of the Quabbin towns in Western Massachusetts.

Many of SCUA’s oral histories are available online through our digital repository Credo. These include audio and video recordings and, in a few cases, they may be fully transcribed.

Supporting material

For donors of oral histories:

SCUA is happy to accept donations of oral histories that fit within its collection policy.

SCUA accepts materials in most audio and video formats — cassette, reel to reel, RDAT, VHS, Betacam, or digital — but in every case, we prefer to receive the interview in the format in which it was recorded and in the highest quality available. When possible, we prefer digital files that are uncompressed, however we appreciate receiving a compressed derivative (e.g., mp3 for audio, mp4 for video). When available, transcripts in print and electronic form are a very valuable addition.

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Portland Granite Company

Portland Granite Company Records, 1836
1 vol. (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 648 bd

Three months after it was incorporated by the state of Maine in March 1836, the Portland Granite Company acquired 17 acres of land from Seth Clark in Westbrook, Me., and began its quarrying operation. With 160 shares of common stock, the company’s members elected a board of three directors (Henry Iseley, M.P. Sawyer, and George Clark), with Henry R. Stickney serving as Treasurer and Secretary.

Recorded in a bound ledger, the records of the Portland Granite Company provide slender, but critical documentation of the organization of a significant quarrying operation. Included are the formal act of incorporation for the company, a record of approval by the corporation to accept their charter; a list of company by-laws; approval for the distribution of stock to members of the company (160 shares); and an agreement with Seth Clark to purchase 17 acres in Westbrook for the operation. The records were apparently kept by Stickney.

Subjects
  • Granite industry and trade--Maine
  • Gravestones--Maine
Contributors
  • Stickney, Henry Rolfe, 1799-1887
Types of material
  • Ledgers (Account books)

Sears, Roebuck and Company

Sears, Roebuck and Company Catalog Collection, 1929-1980
104 vols. (19.5 linear feet)
Call no.: RB 020

Sears, Roebuck and Company were pioneers in the concept of the mail order catalog. Beginning in 1894, company founder Richard Sears began sending thick catalogs offering a wild profusion of consumer goods, ranging from clothing and kitchen goods to toys, bicycles, furniture, and even homes themselves. With an affordable price tag, the catalogs became a staple in many homes, particularly in rural settings and locations with limited access to stores. Changes in the retail market and the country’s demographics led Sears to end publication of its “big book” catalogs in 1993, although the company continues to issue specialty and seasonal catalogs.

This collection contains over one hundred seasonal catalogs issued by Sears from its stores in Boston between 1929 and 1990.

Subjects
  • Department stores
  • Mail-order business
Types of material
  • Mail order catalogs

Stanze Monument Company

Stanze Monument Company Records, ca. 1921-1970
7 boxes, 13 drawers
Call no.: MS 734
Image of Stanze Monument Co. drawing
Stanze Monument Co. drawing

Established in 1921 in St. Louis Missouri, the Stanze Monument Company was family-owned and operated until it was sold in the mid-1980s. The company custom-cut gravestones for more than sixty years and was one of the last monument companies to cut gravestones by hand.

The collection consists of gravestone, monument, and mausoleum technical and architectural drawings. Most of the tracings and drawings of headstone patterns were used to make glass molds for sand-blasting granite headstones, while the rubbings represent reproductions of designs and font sizes and styles. Some of the architectural drawings depict conceptual plans for a typical forty-acre cemetery. The drawings were transferred from the Kibbe Hancock Heritage Museum in Illinois; a small portion of the materials were identified as being part of the “Gustafson Collection.”

Subjects
  • Sepulchral monuments--Design
Contributors
  • Stanze Monument Company
Types of material
  • Architectural drawings (Visual works)
  • Technical drawings

Urbana Wine Company

Urbana Wine Company Records, 1881-1911
6 boxes (9 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 660
Image of Urbana Wine Co. document
Urbana Wine Co. document

Founded by John W. Davis, H.H. Cook, A.J. Startzer and others in 1865, the Urbana Wine Company was among the earliest and most successful wineries in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Organized in Hammondsport, N.Y., the center of the eastern wine industry, Urbana’s claim to fame was its widely popular Gold Seal Champagne and other sparkling wines and along with Walter Taylor, they dominated regional wine production during the Gilded Age. The winery survived passage of Prohibition in 1919 , both World Wars operating under the Gold Seal label, but was closed by its parent company, Seagrams, in 1984.

The Urbana Records are concentrated in the period 1881-1885, as the company was growing rapidly. Among other materials, the collection includes a range of correspondence, receipts, some financial records, and tallies of grapes. Additional material on the company is located in Cornell University’s Eastern Wine and Grape Archive.

Subjects
  • Grapes
  • Viticulture
  • Wine industry--New York
Contributors
  • Urbana Wine Company

Abbe, Edward H.

Edward H. Abbe Papers, 1828-2004
22 boxes (28.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 736
Image of Ed Abbe in Bora Bora, 1987
Ed Abbe in Bora Bora, 1987

Born in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1915 and raised largely in Hampton, Va., Edward Abbe seemed destined to be an engineer. The great nephew of Elihu Thomson, an inventor and founding partner in General Electric, and grandson of Edward Folger Peck, an early employee of a precursor of that firm, Abbe came from a family with a deep involvement in electrification and the development of street railways. After prepping at the Rectory and Kent Schools, Abbe studied engineering at the Sheffield School at Yale, and after graduation in 1938, accepted a position with GE. For 36 years, he worked in the Industrial Control Division in New York and Virginia, spending summers at the family home on Martha’s Vineyard. After retirement in 1975, he and his wife Gladys traveled frequently, cruising both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Ranging from an extensive correspondence from his high school and college days to materials relating to his family’s involvement in engineering, the Abbe collection offers an in depth perspective on an educated family. An avid traveler and inveterate keeper, Ed Abbe gathered a diverse assemblage of letters, diaries, and memorabilia relating to the history of the Abbe, Peck, Booth, Gifford, and Boardman families. The collection is particularly rich in visual materials, including albums and photographs, depicting homes, travel, and family life over nearly a century.

Gift of Edward Abbe, Mar. 2012
Subjects
  • Abbe family
  • Boardman family
  • Booth family
  • Electrical engineers
  • General Electric
  • Gifford family
  • Kent School--Students
  • Peck family
  • Rectory School--Students
  • Yale University--Students
Contributors
  • Abbe, Edward H
  • Abbe, Gladys Howard
  • Abbe, William Parker
  • Peck, Edward F
  • Peck, Mary Booth
Types of material
  • Diaries
  • Letters (Correspondence)
  • Photographs

Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. Local 125

Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, Local 125 Records, 1928-1984
16 boxes (8 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 001

Based in New Haven, Connecticut, Local 125 was a chapter of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA) that worked to improve wages and hours of work, to increase job security, to provide facilities for advancing cultural, educational, and recreational interests of its members, and to strengthen the labor movement. Key figures in Local 125 included Aldo Cursi who, with Mamie Santora, organized the Connecticut shirtworkers and served as Manager from 1933 to 1954; John Laurie who served as Business Manager from 1933 to 1963; and Nick Aiello, Business agent in 1963 and Manager from 1964 to 1984.

The collection includes constitution, by-laws, minutes, contracts, piece rate schedules, accounts, subject files, scrapbooks, newsclippings, printed materials, photographs and a phonograph record. These records document the history of Local 125 from its founding in 1933 to 1984, when the Local office in New Haven was closed. Included also are correspondence and case materials pertaining to grievance and arbitration proceedings (access restrictions apply).

Subjects
  • Clothing trade--Labor unions--Connecticut
  • Labor unions--Connecticut
  • Labor unions--Massachusetts
  • Textile industry--Connecticut
  • Textile workers--Labor unions--Connecticut
Contributors
  • Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. Local 125
Types of material
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
  • Sound recordings

Anglin family

Anglin Family Papers, 1874-1955 (Bulk: 1914-1926)
2 boxes (1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 699
Image of Anglin family and friends, ca.1921
Anglin family and friends, ca.1921

Born in Cork, Ireland to a prosperous family, the Anglin siblings began immigrating to Canada and the United States in 1903. The first to relocate to Canada, brothers Will and Sydney pursued vastly different careers, one as a Presbyterian minister and the other as a salesman at a Toronto slaughterhouse. George and Crawford both served in the military during World War I, the former in the British Infantry as a medical officer and the latter in the 4th University Overseas Company first in France and later in Belgium where he died saving the life of a wounded soldier. Gladys Anglin trained as a nurse, but worked in a Canadian department store and at the Railway Office before suffering a mental breakdown and entering the Ontario Hospital as a patient. Ethel remained in Ireland the longest where she taught Domestic Economics at a technical school. The only Anglin to immigrate to the United States and the only female sibling to marry, Ida and husband David Jackson settled in Monson, Massachusetts where they raised four daughters.

The Anglin siblings were part of a close knit family who stayed in contact despite their geographic separation through their correspondence. Siblings wrote and exchanged lengthy letters that document not only family news, but also news of local and national significance. Topics addressed in their letters include World War I, the Irish revolution, medicine, religious ministry, and domestic issues from the ability of a single woman to support herself through work to child rearing.

Subjects
  • Anglin family--Correspondence
  • Ireland--Emigration and immigration--History
  • Ireland--History--War of Independence, 1919-1921
  • Irish--Canada--History
  • Irish--United States--History
  • World War, 1914-1918

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