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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

Swift, Sarah J.

Sarah J. Swift Papers
1890-1942
1 box (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 932

A Quaker and philanthropist from Worcester, Mass., Sarah J. Swift was a noted supporter of Friends’ missions in Palestine and Jamaica for over half a century. The wife of D. Wheeler Swift, an innovator in the manufacture of envelopes, Swift began to support the Friends’ foreign missions by the 1890s, becoming a major benefactor of the Eli and Sibyl Jones Mission and girls’ school in Ramallah and of the small Quaker mission at Buff Bay, Jamaica.

The Swift papers contain a thick series of letters from the Society of Friends’ Eli and Sybil Jones Mission in Ramallah, Palestine, documenting their activity between 1890 and 1942, with a much smaller series of letters relating to the mission at Buff Bay, Jamaica. The missionaries’ letters — including circular letters to supporters and others addressed to Swift personally — discuss school operations and local affairs in Palestine and Jamaica. Of particular note are letters discussing the work at Ramallah around the turn of the twentieth century and several letters discussing the hardships of wartime and recovery from war.

Gift of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, 2016
Subjects
  • Eli and Sybil Jones Mission (Ramallah, Palestine)
  • Jamaica--History--20th century
  • Missionaries--Jamaica
  • Missionaries--Palestine
  • Palestine--History--20th century
  • World War, 1914-1918
  • World War, 1939-1945
Contributors
  • Jones, Alice W.
  • Kelsey, A. Edward
  • Vincent, Charles S.

Topol, Sidney

Sidney Topol Papers
1944-1997
52 boxes (78 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 374
Image of Sidney Topol
Sidney Topol

An innovator and entrepreneur, Sidney Topol was a contributor to several key developments in the telecommunications industries in the latter half of the twentieth century. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts (1947) and an engineer and executive at Raytheon and later Scientific-Atlanta, Topol’s expertise in microwave systems led to the development of the first effective portable television relay links, allowing broadcasts from even remote areas, and his foray into satellite technologies in the 1960s provided the foundation for building the emerging cable television industry, permitting the transmission of transoceanic television broadcasts. Since retiring in the early 1990s, Topol has been engaged in philanthropic work, contributing to the educational and cultural life in Boston and Atlanta.

The product of a pioneer in the telecommunications and satellite industries and philanthropist, this collection contains a rich body of correspondence and speeches, engineering notebooks, reports, product brochures, and photographs documenting Sidney Topol’s forty year career as an engineer and executive. The collection offers a valuable record of Topol’s role in the growth of both corporations, augmented by a suite of materials stemming from Topol’s tenure as Chair of the Electronic Industries Association Advanced Television Committee (ATV) in the 1980s and his service as Co-Chair of a major conference on Competitiveness held by the Carter Center in 1988.

Subjects
  • Boston (Mass.)--Social conditions--20th century
  • Cable television
  • Electronic Industries Association
  • Raytheon Company
  • Scientific-Atlanta
Contributors
  • Topol, Sidney

Twiss, Thomas D.

Thomas D. Twiss Account Book
1829-1873
1 vol. (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 921 bd

A farmer and laborer in Antrim, N.H., Thomas Dimon Twiss was born in Beverly, Mass., in 1801. At the age of 24, Twiss married a local Antrim woman, Betsey Brackett, with whom he raised a family of three children.

This typical single-column account book of the mid-nineteenth century records Twiss’s diverse economic transactions, providing labor for the town in “braking rods” [breaking roads] and “digin graves”and to neighbors and for a wide variety of manual farm labor, including killing hogs, plowing, threshing, haying, and assorted carpentry work.

Subjects
  • Antrim (N.H.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Farmers--New Hampshire--19th century
  • Grave diggers--New Hampshire--19th century
Types of material
  • Account books

Valley Women’s History Collaborative

Valley Women's History Collaborative Records
1971-2008
15 boxes (10 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 531

During the early phases of second wave feminism (1968-1978), the Pioneer Valley served as a center for lesbian and feminist activity in western Massachusetts, and was home to over 400 hundred, often ad hoc, groups, such as the Abortion and Birth Control (ABC) Committee, ISIS Women’s Center, the Mudpie Childcare Cooperative, and the Springfield Women’s Center.

The records of the Valley Women’s History Collaborative document the activities of these groups as well as the efforts of the founders of the Women Studies program and department at UMass Amherst to preserve this history. Of particular value are the many oral histories conducted by the collaborative that record the history of women’s activism in the Pioneer Valley, especially as it relates to reproductive rights.

Gift of Susan Tracy, 2006, 2009
Subjects
  • Abortion--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--History--20th century
  • Birth control--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--History--20th century
  • Feminism--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--History
  • Feminists--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--Political activity--History
  • Mary Vazquez Women's Softball League
  • Women--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--Political activity--History
Contributors
  • Valley Women's History Collaborative
Types of material
  • Oral histories

Whitaker, Elizabeth W.

Elizabeth W. Whitaker Collection
1802-1989
1 box (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 682
Image of Gravestone, No. Guilford, Conn.
Gravestone, No. Guilford, Conn.

A physical education teacher from Rome, New York, Elizabeth W. Whitaker became an avid recorder of gravestone inscriptions in the 1940s. She died in 1992 at the age of 93.

The core of the Whitaker collection consists of 25 receipts and accounts relating to the early marble industry in western Massachusetts. The key figures in this series are Rufus Willson and his father-in-law, John Burghardt, who quarried stone near West Stockbridge, Mass., conveying it to Hudson, N.Y. The collection also includes a selection of photographs and postcards of gravestones, mostly in New England and New York; two folders of typed transcriptions and newspaper clippings of epitaphs from the same region, ranging in date from the early colonial period to the mid-19th century; and a price list of Barre granite from Wetmore and Morse Granite Co., 1934.

Subjects
  • Gravestones--Massachusetts
  • Marble industry and trade--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • Association for Gravestone Studies
  • Burghardt, John
  • Whitaker, Elizabeth W
  • Willson, Rufus
Types of material
  • Photographs
  • Receipts (Financial records)

Williams, Roger

Roger Williams Account Book
1808-1822
1 vol. (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 619 bd

During the early decades of the nineteenth century, Roger Williams ran a ferry in West Springfield, Mass., carrying passengers and freight across the Connecticut River.

The Williams ledger is a combination daybook and account book, recording several dozen transactions of a Connecticut River ferryman, centered on the years around the War of 1812. Most of the entries are brief records of trips carrying individuals or freight across the river, however a few provide indications of other economic activity, including framing and joining, making a coffin, fixing sleds, and cidering.

Subjects
  • Ferries--Massachusetts--Connecticut River
  • West Springfield (Mass.)
Contributors
  • Williams, Roger
Types of material
  • Account books
  • Daybooks

Wood, Robert Coldwell, 1923-2005

Robert Coldwell Wood Papers
1964-1977
43 boxes (21.5 linear feet)
Call no.: RG 003/3 W66
Image of Robert Coldwell Wood
Robert Coldwell Wood

A distinguished political scientist, specialist on urban affairs, and advisor to two U.S. Presidents, Robert Coldwell Wood was named the first President of the new University of Massachusetts system. A graduate of Princeton and Harvard (PhD 1949), Wood built his academic reputation on the faculty at MIT. An advisor to John F. Kennedy on urban policy, he served in the Johnson administration as Under-Secretary, and briefly Secretary, of Housing and Urban Development before coming to UMass in 1970. His Presidency was marked by considerable turmoil as he navigated the reorganization of the university into a system of three campuses and as he struggled with discontent among students and faculty and conflict with the legislature. Wood died in April 2005 at the age of 81.

Although far from a comprehensive record, the Wood papers offer insight into the tumultuous tenure of Robert C. Wood as President of the University of Massachusetts, 1970-1977. The largest series in the collection (Series 2) consists of the central office files from Boston, including a fairly full record of outgoing correspondence, materials on staff and facilities at the various campuses, minutes of meetings and reports, and records of Wood’s numerous trips and lecture engagements while in office.

Subjects
  • University of Massachusetts (System). President
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • University of Massachusetts Boston
  • University of Massachusetts Worcester
Types of material
  • Appointment books
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