Special Collections and University Archives
UMass Amherst Libraries

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Votes for women, Enfield Collection
Votes for Women, ca.1919 (Enfield Collection)

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives houses approximately 40,000 volumes reflecting an evolving history of collecting at UMass Amherst. Beginning in the late 1860s with a focus on agriculture and the natural sciences, SCUA has developed into a resource for the study of regional and local history in New England, emphasizing our varied cultural, social, religious, and political histories.

Beyond New England, SCUA has developed strength in several distinct areas, ranging from the literature of social change to the extraordinary collection of Japanese rarities collected by the geologist Benjamin Smith Lyman during the Meiji era and the works of an eclectic assortment of poets and writers. Other noteworthy collections include those pertaining to Cold War culture: a growing collection of books printed in East Germany and one of the largest collections of materials in the United States from the Solidarity movement in Poland.


All books and periodicals held by SCUA are cataloged in the Library’s online catalog and summary descriptions of most major book collections, but not individual titles, are included in SCUA’s own online catalog, UMarmot.

Selected areas of collecting interest:

Agriculture, horticulture, natural history

The library holds key works in apiculture, entomology, gardening, landscape design, organic agriculture, pomology, sustainability, and viticulture, with numerous works in animal husbandry. Materials date back to the 16th century, however the strength of the collections lies in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Cookery in New England

Knox gelatin
The Collection

The collections of Beatrice A. McIntosh, Athena Savas, and Lynette Foucher, among others, include books, pamphlets, and ephemera relating to the culinary history of New England, including many thousands of cookbooks published by church and community organizations.

European history and culture

Diverse collections ranging from materials on Revolutionary-era Europe, 1789-1848 (the Binet and Brabançonne Collections); Anglo-American Political Economy; twentieth century German history (the Harold Gordon Collection on the Interwar period and the Hans Joachim Ring Collection on East German cinema); and Communist-era Poland (Basia Jakubowska Schlatner Solidarity Collection).

Gay and Lesbian Literature

The centerpiece extensive of our holdings is the collection of gay rights pioneer Barbara Gittings and her partner, Kay Tobin Lahusen, which includes books on the history of homosexuality in America, works by and about gay writers, gay activism, and related topics.

Literary collections

Books by and about Robert Francis, Archibald MacLeish, William Manchester, William Lederer, and the Broadside Press; records of the Cummington School for the Arts and Massachusetts Review; and the poetry libraries of Francis, Wallace Stevens, and Anne Halley. Although the literary collections focus largely on New England writers, SCUA houses fine collections of the works of Charles Lamb, William Morris, and William Butler Yeats, signed first editions of works by Thomas Mann, and collections of French and Scottish writers. We are stewards of the papers of several writers from New England and collect their works comprehensively, including Andrew Coburn, Mary Doyle Curran, Mary McGarry Morris, Raymond Mungo, Jodi Picoult, and Harvey Swados.

New England history and culture

Massachusetts Agricultural College postcard
Massachusetts Agricultural College postcard

Local and regional histories, novels, and other writing about Massachusetts from the eighteenth century to the present. These include an array of election, ordination, installation, dedication, fast-day, mission, farewell, and funeral sermons; Fourth of July orations; and addresses to or by benevolent, cultural, and civic organizations in the Commonwealth. The New England Yearly Meeting of Friends collection contains thousands of books, pamphlets, and periodicals relating to Quaker history from the seventeenth century to the present. With an emphasis on New England Quakerism, these collections include the libraries of Moses and Obadiah Brown and libraries amassed by several monthly and quarterly meetings. SCUA also collects works printed in small towns and rural districts of Massachusetts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Social change

Valuable collections for the history of antislavery in New England and politics of the left. The John P. Roche and Steven Siteman Collections focus on the American left from the late 19th century through the 1950s, with some European materials and materials from the political right.

Learn more:

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.


  • Communism
  • Fascism
  • Pacifism
  • Socialism
  • United States--Foreign policy--20th century
  • World War, 1939-1945


  • Coughlin, Charles E. (Charles Edward), 1891-1979
  • Roche, John P.

Laura M. Ross Papers, 1945-2003 (Bulk: 1967-1990)

13 boxes (6.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 515
Laura Ross
Laura Ross

Born in the coal mining town of Blossburg, Pa., in 1913, Laura Ross (nee Kaplowitz) grew up in poverty as one of seven children of Lithuanian immigrants. In about 1932, Ross married Harry Naddell, a wine merchant, and settled into a comfortable life Brooklyn, N.Y., raising a son and daughter. During the Second World War, however, she became intensely politicized through her work with Russian War Relief, joining the Communist Party and eventually divorcing her les radical husband. Moving to the Boston area, she married Max Ross in 1963, an attorney for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and became a noted presence in a wide range of political activities, working for civil rights, the antiwar movement, and for many years, helping to run the Center for Marxist Education in Central Square , Cambridge. Perhaps most notably, between 1974 and 1984, Ross ran for Congress three times on the Communist Party ticket, taking on the powerful incumbent Tip O’Neill and winning almost a quarter of the vote. An activist to the end, Ross died in Cambridge on August 5, 2007.

The Ross papers are the legacy of a highly visible activist, organizer, educator, and member of the Communist Party USA. Heavily concentrated in the period 1967-1990, the collection includes material relating to her affiliation with CPUSA and her work with the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge, Mass., including information on party membership, platforms, and conventions, minutes from various district committee meetings, material relating to the People’s Daily World, and course information and syllabi. Scattered throughout the collection are materials pertaining to contemporary political issues and elections, particularly the policies associated with Ronald Reagan. Ross was a vocal and persistent opponent of Reaganomics and the nuclear arms race that Reagan accelerated.


  • Center for Marxist Education (Cambridge, Mass.)
  • Communist Party of the United States of America
  • Peace movements--Massachusetts
  • People’s Daily World
  • United States--Politics and government--1981-1989


  • Ross, Laura

Rural American Women Conference Records, 1978-1981

5 boxes (2.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 146

Feeling the frustrations of millions of women and girls in rural America who lacked the support or resources necessary to combat unemployment, inadequate medical care, and domestic violence, Jane Threatt along with several other women decided to form a non-profit organization that would unite these women and give them a national voice. Established in 1978, Rural American Women (RAW) was organized to promote the interests of rural women in the areas of equal rights, employment, education, family life, and freedom of all forms of discrimination.

In 1981 RAW held a series of five regional conferences throughout the country, and the bulk of this collection consists of records relating to the New England meeting. The records also include some materials documenting the group’s activities at their national headquarters in D.C., such as minutes, correspondence, newsletters, and pamphlets.


  • Rural women


  • Rural American Women

Rural Massachusetts Imprints Collection, 1797-1897

48 items (3 linear feet)
Call no.: RB 012
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.


  • Children's books--Massachusetts
  • Printers--Massachusetts


  • Howe, John, 1783-1845
  • Howe, Solomon, 1750-1835
  • Metcalf, John, 1788-1864
  • Terry, Ezekiel, 1775-1829

Types of material

  • Almanacs
  • Broadsides

Samizdat Collection, 1955-1983

12 boxes (6 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 404

In the mid-1970s, the Center for the Study of New Russian Literature in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at UMass Amherst began collecting the self-published and underground literature of the Soviet Union as a means of documenting social and political dissent in the Communist state.

The Samizdat collection includes writings in several genres — chiefly fiction, poetry, drama, and literary, social, and political criticism — in handwritten, photocopied, and printed form, as well as photos, a passport application for Mikhail Baryshnikov, and memorabilia from an American production of one of the plays in the collection.


  • Underground literature--Soviet Union

Leon Shapiro Papers, 1939-1985

15 boxes (8.75 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 127

Historian, author, Professor of Russian and Soviet Jewish History at Rutgers University, who helped arrange the escape of Jews from Europe during World War II and was active in several organizations concerned with the emigration of Soviet and Eastern European Jews to Palestine. Papers include biographical materials, correspondence, legal documents, writings, lecture and research materials, statistical data in the world Jewish population before and after World War II, oral history transcripts, pamphlets, newspaper clippings, and four photographs.


  • Europe, Eastern--Ethnic relations--History--20th century
  • Israel--Emigration and immigration--History
  • Israel--History--1948-1967
  • Jews, Soviet--History--Sources
  • Jews--Europe, Eastern--History--Sources
  • Jews--Migration--History
  • Jews--Population--History
  • Jews--Soviet Union--History--Sources
  • Occupational training for Jews--History--Sources
  • Palestine--History--1929-1948
  • Romania--Emigration and immigration--History
  • Rutgers University--Curricula
  • Rutgers University--Faculty
  • Soviet Union--Ethnic relations--History
  • World ORT Union--History


  • Shapiro, Leon

Types of material

  • Oral histories
  • Photographs

Louise F. Shattuck Papers, 1881-2006

31 boxes (24 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 563
Louise Shattuck
Louise Shattuck

A life-long resident of Lake Pleasant, Massachusetts, and a third-generation Spiritualist, Louise Shattuck was an artist, teacher, and noted breeder of English cocker spaniels.

Shattuck’s work as a teacher, writer, artist, and dog breeder are documented in this collection through decades of correspondence and diaries, artwork, publications, and newspaper clippings. Of particular note are the materials associated with the Spiritualist history of Lake Pleasant, including three turn of the century spirit slates, samples of Louise’s automatic writing, a ouija board and dowsing rods, and an excellent photograph album with associated realia for the Independent Order of Scalpers, a Lake Pleasant.


  • Dogs--Breeding
  • English Cocker spaniels
  • Lake Pleasant (Mass.)--History
  • Mediums--Massachusetts
  • Montague (Mass.)--History
  • Spiritualism


  • Shattuck, Louise F
  • Shattuck, Sarah Bickford

Types of material

  • Diaries
  • Photograph albums
  • Photographs
  • Spirit slates
  • Spirit writing

Stephen Siteman Papers, 1942-1998

5 boxes (2.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 503

A member of the Post War World Council, an ardent pacifist, and anti-imperialist, Stephen Siteman was a long-time member of the Socialist Party of America, serving for seventeen years as secretary to the party’s leader Norman Thomas. In his late teens, Siteman was imprisoned as a conscientious objector during World War II. Although he was later pardoned, his time as a prisoner led him into active involvement in prison reform and the peace movement.

During his long involvement in the Socialist Party, Siteman collected a large quantity of material relating to important socialist issues, including Socialist Reform, the peace movement, conscientious objection, and prison reform. The collection also includes a small selection of Siteman’s personal correspondence with Frank Zeidler, former Socialist mayor of Milwaukee, and the novelist Mark Harris.


  • Conscientious objectors
  • Democratic Socialists of America
  • Pacifists--United States
  • Peace movements--United States
  • Prison reformers
  • Prisons--United States
  • Socialists--United States
  • Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968
  • War Resisters League of America
  • World War, 1939-1945


  • Harris, Mark, 1922-2007
  • Siteman, Stephen
  • Zeidler, Frank P

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.


  • 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


  • Solander, Arvo A

Types of material

  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks

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