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
Undertaker and Home Furnishings Dealer Account Book, 1881.
Call no.: MS 171 bd
Owner of business (identity unknown) who served in the vicinity of Wrentham, Massachusetts, as a purveyor of home decorating supplies and furnishings and as an undertaker. The account book includes records of goods for sale and services provided (repairing and upholstering furniture, packing bodies in ice, carrying to tomb, grave digging, etc.); forms of payment (cash, exchange of goods such as soap, eggs, tables, and chairs, and exchange of services); and lists of customers, including City Mills Felting Company, A.H. Morse, J.A. Guild, Joseph Hutchinson, Charles Scott, and Foster Smith.
- Undertakers and undertaking--Massachusetts--Wrentham
- Wrentham (Mass.)--History
Types of material
- Account books
United Congregational Church of Holyoke (Holyoke, Mass.) Records, ca.1830-1990.
Call no.: MS 787
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.
- Congregational churches--Massachusetts--Holyoke
- Holyoke (Mass.)--Religious life and customs
- First Congregational Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
- German Reformed Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
- Grace Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
- Second Congregational Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
Types of material
Wendell (Mass.). Treasurer Account book, 1794-1864.
Call no.: MS 090
A sparsely populated rural community in eastern Franklin County, Massachusetts, the town of Wendell was incorporated in 1781 after it was separated from the adjacent towns of Shutesbury and Erving. Primarily a farming community to the present day with only light manufacturing (particularly the manufacture of palm-leaf hats), Wendell remains one of the state’s least populous communities.
A standard double column account book, the Treasurer’s ledger from the town of Wendell was reviewed, settled, and approved annually by the selectmen. The transactions are the typical stuff of small town life in New England, recording taxes, payments for expenses relating to schools and maintenance of the poor, and during the Civil War, payments of bounty money for volunteers. Among the signatories are locally prominent figures such as Judge Joshua Green and the Treasurers Samuel Brewer, George W. Fleming, and Franklin Howe (and other members of the Howe family).
- Green, Joshua
- Wendell (Mass.)--History--19th century
- Brewer, Samuel
- Fleming, George W
- Howe, Franklin
- Wendell (Mass.). Treasurer
Types of material
- Account books
Yarn Finishers Union (Fall River, Mass.) Records, 1919-1922.
Call no.: MS 006
The Yarn Finishers Union was one of several autonomous craft bodies affiliated with the Fall River-based American Federation of Textile Operatives (originally known as the National Amalgamation of Textile Workers). Active in several shops — including Durfee Mills, Tecumseh Mills, Union Belt Co., O.B. Wetherell and Son, and Troy Cotton and Woolen Manufactory — the Yarn Finishers included membership from different segments of the work force, including rollers, quillers, and harness markers.
This slender collection documents two years of labor activism by the Yarn Finishers Union in Fall River, Mass. The minutebook begins in May 1919 as the Yarn Finishers voted to strike over low and unequal wages, particularly those to “girls,” and includes references to elections, financial issues such as the proposition to institute a minimum wage scale, and to settling disputes. The minutes continue through the end of a much quieter year, 1922. The second volume consists of a record of union dues collected, arranged loosely by craft.
- Fall River (Mass.)--History
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Textile workers--Labor unions--Massachusetts
- American Federation of Textile Operatives
Types of material
Young Women's City Club Records, 1931-1981.
Call no.: MS 045
Known as Girl’s City Club until 1954, the Young Women’s City Club was a non-sectarian, self-governing, and largely self-supporting club in Northampton, Massachusetts, that developed educational and recreational opportunities for young women through programs, social events, volunteer services, and fund-raising activities. The club met regularly under the auspices of the People’s Institute until November 1979 when their rooms at James House were taken over by the Highland Valley Elder Service and the club relocated to the People’s Institute.
The records of the Young Women’s City Club document the growth and activities of the club from 1939 to 1981, with the exception of the decade 1961 to 1971. Consisting of photocopies of originals still held by the People’s Institute, the collection includes minutes of council and business meetings and scrapbook pages.
- Women--Societies and clubs--Massachusetts
- Young Women's City Club (Northampton, Mass.)
Edward H. Abbe Papers, 1828-2004.
Call no.: MS 736
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.
- Abbe family
- Boardman family
- Booth family
- Electrical engineers
- General Electric
- Gifford family
- Kent School--Students
- Peck family
- Rectory School--Students
- Yale University--Students
- Abbe, Edward H
- Abbe, Gladys Howard
- Abbe, William Parker
- Peck, Edward F
- Peck, Mary Booth
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
William A. Adams Daybook, 1876-1878.
Call no.: MS 624 bd
During the 1870s, William A. Adams maintained a blacksmithing shop close to the intersection of Walnut and Hickory Streets in Springfield, Mass. His trade ran from farriery to repairing iron work, wheels, and wagons, and situated as he was near the southern end of Watershops Pond, one of the industrial centers of the city, his customers ranged from local residents to manufacturing firms, the city, and the Armory.
The Adams account book contains approximately 150 pages containing brief records of blacksmithing work for a range of customers located in the immediate area. Among the more names mentioned are the grocers Perkins and Nye, W. and E.W. Pease Co., J. Kimberley and Co., and Common Councilman William H. Pinney and J. W. Lull, all of whom can be located within a few blocks of Adams’ shop.
- Springfield (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Adams, William A
Types of material
Frances and Mary Allen Collection of Deerfield Photographs, 1900-1910.
Call no.: PH 001
Influenced by the arts and crafts movement, Frances and Mary Allen began taking photographs of their native Deerfield, Mass., in the mid-1880s. Displaying a finely honed pictorialist aesthetic, the sisters specialized in views of Deerfield and surrounding towns, posed genre scenes of life in colonial times, and the local scenery, earning a reputation as among the best women photographers of the period.
The Allen sisters photograph album contains ten gelatin developing out prints of street scenes in Deerfield, ca.1900-1910. Among these are two shots of the house they inherited from their aunt Kate in 1895, which thereafter became their home and studio.
- Deerfield (Mass.)--Photographs
- Women photographers--Massachusetts
- Allen, Frances
- Allen, Mary E. (Mary Electa), 1858-1941
Types of material
American Morgan Horse Association Registry Records, 1911-1981.
Call no.: MS 781
In 1789, Vermont native Justin Morgan acquired a bay colt in Springfield, Mass., that became the progenitor of a distinctly American breed of general purpose horse. Noted for its stamina, strength, disposition, and beauty, the Morgan became widely popular in western Massachusetts and Vermont, eventually spreading nationally and internationally. To support the breed, the Morgan Horse Club (later the American Morgan Horse Association) was founded in 1909 and today maintains the breed registry, publishes The Morgan Horse magazine, and offers a wide range of public information and educational services.
The Registry records of the AMHA are a product of concern during the late 19th century for documenting and preserving the integrity of the Morgan breed and a means for breeders to certify pedigrees for their stock. In 1894, Joseph Battell published the first volume of the Morgan Horse and Register containing nearly 1,000 pages of pedigrees for “any meritorious stallion, mare, or gelding tracing in direct male line to Justin Morgan and having at least 1/64 of his blood,” and although standards have been modified since, the registry remains the primary source for documenting the history of the breed. The records in this collection include approved applications for the AMHA registry, including pedigrees and supporting materials.
- Morgan horse