University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Mission and history

Mission

Cattle judging at Mass. Agricultural College

Judging cattle at Mass. Agricultural College

As participants in an ongoing conversation between the past and present for generations still 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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Newhall, James R. (James Robinson), 1809-1893

James Robinson Newhall Account Book, 1851-1883
1 vol. (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 177 bd

Prominent lawyer, judge, and author from Lynn, Massachusetts. Includes services as lawyer and judge (such as selling stocks, writing wills, mortgage notices, and lien certificates, and acting as administrator of estates), mention of various court cases, family members, and prominent townspeople. Also contains personal records pertaining to a rental property, and the sale of his book, History of Lynn.

Subjects
  • Curtin, Martha
  • Green, Benjamin F
  • Guardian and ward--Massachusetts--History--19th century
  • Hazeltine, Phebe
  • Hilton, John
  • Judges--Massachusetts--Lynn--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Lawyers--Massachusetts--Lynn--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Lindsay, James N
  • Merritt, Charles
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary--History
  • Munroe, James
  • Newhall, James R. (James Robinson), 1809-1893. History of Lynn
  • Practice of law--Massachusetts--Lynn--History--19th century
  • Rent charges--Massachusetts--Lynn--History--19th century
  • Rental housing--Massachusetts--Lynn--History--19th century
  • Usher, Roland
  • Vennard, John C
Contributors
  • Newhall, James R. (James Robinson), 1809-1893
Types of material
  • Account books

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

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

Smith and Wesson Company

Smith & Wesson Records, 1920-1973
30 boxes (15 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 267

World famous handgun and handcuff-manufacturing company founded in Springfield, Massachusetts in the 1850s.

The Smith and Wesson records are comprised of incoming sales and service correspondence with some outgoing correspondence and administrative and financial/legal subject files, including categories such as ads and advertising, American Railway Express, audits, counselors at law, debtors, insurance, legal actions, newsletters, patents and trademarks, personnel, photos, sample parts, sideline ventures, stocks and bonds awards, and Western Union Telegrams. Includes correspondence with the National Rifle Association, Small Arms Industry Advisory Committee, and the United States Revolver Association.

Subjects
  • Pistols--Design and construction
Contributors
  • National Rifle Association
  • Small Arms Industry Advisory Committee
  • Smith and Wesson
  • United States Revolver Association

Stockbridge, Levi, 1820-1904

Levi Stockbridge Papers, 1841-1878
(2 linear feet)
Call no.: RG 003/1 S76
Image of Levi Stockbridge, ca.1853
Levi Stockbridge, ca.1853

Born in Hadley, Mass., in 1820, Levi Stockbridge was one of the first instructors at Massachusetts Agricultural College and President from 1879-1882. Known for his work on improving crop production and for developing fertilizers, Stockbridge was an important figure in the establishment of the college’s Experiment Station. After filling in as interim President of MAC in 1879, he was appointed president for two years, serving during a period of intense financial stress. After his retirement in 1882, he was named an honorary professor of agriculture.

The Stockbridge Papers include correspondence, personal notebooks, travel diary, journal as a farmer (1842-1845), writings, lectures, notes on experiments, clippings, photocopies of personal and legal records, and biographical material, including reminiscences by Stockbridge’s daughter. Also contains auction records, notebook of Amherst, Massachusetts town records (1876-1890), and printed matter about Amherst and national elections, including some about his candidacy for Congress on Labor-Greenback party ticket 1880. Also contains papers (13 items) of Stockbridge’s son, Horace Edward Stockbridge (1857-1930), agricultural chemist and educator, including a letter (1885) from him to the elder Stockbridge, written from Japan while he was professor at Hokkaido University.

Subjects
  • Agriculture--Experimentation--History
  • Agriculturists--Massachusetts--History
  • Amherst (Mass.)--Politics and government--19th century
  • Greenback Labor Party (U.S.)--History
  • Japan--Description and travel--19th century
  • Legislators--Massachusetts--History--19th century
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College--Students
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College. President
  • Massachusetts Cattle Commission
  • Massachusetts--Politics and government--1865-1950
  • Stockbridge family
Contributors
  • Stockbridge, Horace E. (Horace Edward),1857-1930
  • Stockbridge, Levi, 1820-1904
Types of material
  • Diaries

Thurber, George, 1821-1890

Thurber-Woolson Botanical Manuscripts Collection, 1803-1918
4 boxes (2.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 065 bd

Largely self-educated, George Thurber (1821-1890) began a career as a pharmacist before signing on as botanist to the U.S. Boundary Commission from 1850-1854. After completing a masters degree at Brown University, he emerged as a important horticultural writer and editor of American Agriculturist from 1863 to 1885.

Letters, photographs, engravings, and clippings compiled primarily by George Thurber and bequeathed to George Clark Woolson (MAC class of 1871) who added to it and donated it as a memorial to his class, the first to graduate from the College. The collection includes 993 letters written by 336 correspondents, and 35 photographs and engravings, primarily botanists and other scientists, including Asa Gray, Louis Agassiz, John Torrey, Frederick Law Olmsted, John James Audubon, Henry Ward Beecher, Jefferson Davis, Edward Payson Roe, Donald G. Mitchell, and George Brown Goode.

Subjects
  • Botany--History
  • Horticulture--History
Contributors
  • Thurber, George, 1821-1890
  • Woolson, George Clark
Types of material
  • Photographs

Westhampton (Mass. : Town)

Westhampton Town Records, 1779-1900
10 boxes (5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 799
Image of Close-up of records from 1779
Close-up of records from 1779

Originally settled by Europeans in 1762, the town of Westhampton, Massachusetts, was separated from adjacent Northampton and incorporated in September 1778. Situated in the western reaches of Hampshire County, it was principally an agricultural town until the later twentieth century, producing apples, other fruit, and maple sugar, with only minor industry. The town still retains its rural character: a century after incorporation, the population had grown to just over 500, and nearly 1,500 by 2000.

The Westhampton collection provides an extensive record of public life and local governance in a typical small Hampshire County town. Spanning from 1779, just after the date of incorporation, through the turn of the twentieth century, the collection includes extensive records of town meetings, including warrants, agendas, and summaries; records of the Overseers of Poor, the schools, militia service, and parish; materials on roads and highways; and a large quantity of financial records.

Subjects
  • Churches--Massachusetts--Westhampton
  • Poor--Massachusetts--Westhampton
  • Roads--Massachusetts--Westhampton
  • Town meetings--Massachusetts--Westhampton

Westhampton Congregational Church (Westhampton, Mass.)

Westhampton Congregational Church Records, 1817-1970
17 vols. (1.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 806

The Congregational Church in Westhampton, Mass., was formally organized on Sept. 1, 1779, with the installation of a young graduate of Yale, Enoch Hale, brother of the patriot Nathan Hale. At the end of Hale’s fifty years in the Westhampton pulpit, the church experienced a crisis that resulted in the separation of a portion of the membership as the Union Church, led by the charismatic evangelical preacher John Truair. The churches were reunited in 1850.

The records of the Westhampton Congregational Church document nearly two hundreds of religious life in a rural western Massachusetts community. Beginning with the founding of the church in 1779, the collection include a nearly unbroken record of church activities including thorough records of membership, transfers, marriages, baptisms, deaths, and church discipline, and for the latter century, a complete record of church finances. Of particular note is a volume recording the activities of the secessionist Union Church, 1829-1849.

Subjects
  • Congregational churches--Massachusetts--Westhampton
  • Hale, Enoch, 1753-1837
  • Revivals--Massachusetts--Westhampton
  • Second Great Awakening
  • Truair, John, 1780-1845
  • Westhampton (Mass.)--Religious life and customs
Contributors
  • Union Church (Westhampton, Mass.)
Types of material
  • Account books

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