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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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New Victoria Publishers

New Victoria Publishers Records, 1974-2009
6 boxes (11 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 883
Image of From the top down: Beth Dingman, Claudia McKay Lamperti, Petey Becker, Bonnie Arnold, and ReBecca Béguin (ca. 1976)
From the top down: Beth Dingman, Claudia McKay Lamperti, Petey Becker, Bonnie Arnold, and ReBecca Béguin (ca. 1976)

Founded in 1975 in Lebanon, NH, by Beth Dingman, Claudia McKay (Lamperti), Katie Cahill, Nina Swaim, and Shelby Grantham, New Victoria Printers became one of two all-female print shops in New England at the time. Believing strongly that “the power of the press belongs to those who own it,” they began to solicit work from non-profit and politically-oriented groups. Like its namesake Victoria Press, an 1860s women run print shop in London owned by Emily Faithful, an early advocate of women’s rights, New Victoria was also committed to feminist principles. The shop offered work and training in printing, machine work, and other traditionally male dominated fields; initially focused on printing materials from the women’s movement; and was organized as a collectively owned and democratically run organization.

Additionally, the shop functioned as a de facto women’s center and lesbian hub for Lebanon and the surrounding area, often overlapping with the lesbian social club Amelia Earhart’s Underground Flying Society, (a.k.a. the Amelia’s). The print shop was a place of education, community, creativity, and activism, and soon publishing opportunities, as the group founded New Victoria Publishers in 1976 to publish works from their community. The print shop closed in 1985, with Dingman and McKay taking over the running of the non-profit publishing company out of their home in Norwich, VT, with an emphasis on lesbian fiction in addition to other women-focused works. An early bestseller, Stoner McTavish by Sarah Dreher, put them on the map, with the company publishing over a hundred books by and about lesbians, winning three Lambda Literary Awards and several other honors.

The New Victoria Publishers Records consist of photographs, newsletters, and cards put out by the collective, materials printed by the press, marketing and promotional materials, author correspondence, graphics and cover art, book reviews, financial and legal records, histories of the organization, news clippings, and an almost full run of the books published by the company. The collection is particularly rich in documenting the work and production of a women owned business within the feminist press movement as well as the lesbian publishing industry.

Subjects
  • Collective labor agreements – Printing industry
  • Feminist literature – Publishing
  • Lesbian authors
  • Lesbians' writings -- Publishing
  • Women printers – New England
  • Women publishers – New England
Contributors
  • Beth Dingman
  • Claudia McKay
  • New Victoria Printers
  • New Victoria Publishers
Types of material
  • Photographs

New WORLD Theater

New WORLD Theater Records, 1979-2010
41 boxes (61.5 linear feet)
Call no.: RG 025/F2/N4
Image of Photo by Edward Cohen, 2002
Photo by Edward Cohen, 2002

New WORLD Theater was founded at UMass Amherst in 1979 by Roberta Uno with the mission of presenting innovative works of theater by contemporary artists of color, with the goal of fostering creative communities, promoting cultural equity, and embracing diverse cultural backgrounds, social engagement, and a commitment to justice. For more than thirty years New WORLD Theater produced many dozens of plays and other dramatic works representing new voices in the theater, as well as plays from the traditional multicultural repertory, and they have supported the arts through performance residencies, conferences and colloquia, and a variety of initiatives aimed at the diverse communities they serve, youth, and theater professionals. New WORLD Theater has contributed significantly to national conversations on cultural equity. After more than three decades of acclaim and recognition, New WORLD Theater was closed by UMass Amherst in summer 2010.

The bulk of the New WORLD Theater collection consists of administrative records documenting the day-to-day activities of the theater, however, it also contains an extensive and exceptionally rich archive of taped interviews, conferences, and theatrical productions. Taken together, the audiovisual material traces the history of New WORLD through the words and performances of artists who both contributed to and benefited from the theater.

Subjects
  • African Americans--Drama
  • American drama--Minority authors
  • Asian Americans--Drama
  • Ethnic groups--United States--Drama
  • Hispanic Americans--Drama
  • Minorities--United States--Drama
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
Contributors
  • New WORLD Theater
  • Page, Priscilla
  • Uno, Roberta, 1956-
Types of material
  • Audiovisual materials
  • Sound recordings

Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA)

Northeast Organic Farming Association Records, 1977-2007
12 boxes (6.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 461

The Northeast Organic Farming Association began as the vision of a New York City plumbing supplies salesman and has grown into a large association supporting information-sharing, education, collaboration, and certification. Increasingly influential non-profit organization with chapters in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont, NOFA has “nearly 4,000 farmers, gardeners and consumers working to promote healthy food, organic farming practices and a cleaner environment.”

The NOFA collection includes records, publications, ephemera, photographs, and other materials from NOFA chapters in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont, along with material from the Interstate Council. The collection includes information on NOFA’s conferences and programs, educational work, lobbying, and their initiatives in organic certification and organic land care.

Subjects
  • Agriculture--Massachusetts
  • Organic farming
  • Organic gardening
  • Sustainable agriculture
Contributors
  • NOFA Massachusetts

Obear, Clark H.

Clark Hopkins Obear Diaries, 1845-1888
4 vols. (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 601

A resident of New Ipswich, N.H., Clark Obear was an ardent supporter of the temperance and antislavery movements, and was deeply involved in the affairs of his church and community. A teacher in Hillsborough County schools, Obear also worked as a farmer and insurance agent, and served in public office as a deputy sheriff, a Lieutenant Colonel in the militia, a fence viewer and pound keeper, and for several years he was superintendent of schools. Obear and his wife Lydia Ann (Swasey) had two children, Annabel and Francis.

The four diaries in this collection contain brief, but regular entries documenting Clark Obear’s daily life in New Ipswich, N.H. during the middle years of the nineteenth century. Despite their brevity, the diaries form a continuous coverage of many years and offer details that provide a compelling sense of the rhythms of life in a small New Hampshire village. Of particular note, Obear carefully notes the various lectures he attends in town and the organizations of which he is part, including reform movements like temperance and antislavery.

Acquired from Benjamin Katz, Apr. 2009
Subjects
  • Abolitionists--New Hampshire
  • Antislavery movements--New Hampshire
  • New Ipswich (N.H.)--History
  • Temperance--New Hampshire
Contributors
  • Obear, Clark H.
Types of material
  • Diaries

People for Economic Survival

People for Economic Survival Records, 1974-1977
3 boxes (1.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 535

Established in October 1974, People for Economic Survival (PES) was a Socialist group based in Northampton, Massachusetts, first organized with the short-term goal of pressuring local banks to sell food stamps. The group’s vision for the longer term, however, was to stimulate change that would result in the replacement of an economy based on corporate profit with one based on people’s needs. After two and half years of community activity, including working for lower utility rates and against cutbacks in welfare, human services, and unemployment benefits, PES disbanded.

The PES collection consists of flyers, meeting minutes, and a full run of Take It, the group’s newsletter.

Gift of Jan Nettler, 2007
Subjects
  • Food stamps--Massachusetts
  • Northampton (Mass.)--Economic conditions
  • Northampton (Mass.)--History
  • Public welfare--Law and legislation--Massachusetts
  • Socialism--Massachusetts
  • Unemployment--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • People for Economic Survival

Powell, James R.

James R. Powell Collection, 1958-2010
27 boxes (16.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 701

A devoted reader of newspaper cartoon strips, Jim Powell began collecting Peanuts cartoon books in the mid-1970s, prompted by obtaining two pure-bred beagles for his son.

The Powell cartoon book collection consists of 419 mass market paperback copies of popular cartoon books, representing the work of well-known cartoonists such as Charles M. Schultz, Johnny Hart, Gary Larson, Garry Trudeau, Jim Davis, and Berke Breathed. The collection has particularly rich runs of Peanuts, Garfield, and Doonesbury.

Gift of James R. Powell, June 2010
Subjects
  • Comic books, strips, etc.
Contributors
  • Davis, Jim, 1945 July 28-
  • Schulz, Charles M. (Charles Monroe), 1922-2000
  • Trudeau, G. B., 1948-
  • Watterson, Bill
Types of material
  • Cartoons

Radical Right Collection

Radical Right Collection, 1966-1995 (Bulk: 1978-1993)
3 boxes (1.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 816

The sharp revival of the U.S. political right in the late 1970s and early 1980s was accompanied by a proliferation of white supremacist and other extremist organizations. Drawing on an mix of Neo-Nazi, white supremacist, Christian supremacist, and Libertarian ideologies, long-established organizations such as the John Birch Society, newly formed coalitions, and a new generation of leaders such as David Duke sought to shift the American political spectrum rightward through both formal political means and underground agitation.

The Radical Right Collection consists of newspapers, newsletters, and other publications from far-right organizations during the late 1960s through 1980s, along with associated ephemera and lists of extremist literature. The collection includes a significant run of the white supremacist magazine Instauration, the Neo-Nazi newspapers Attack and National Vanguard, the National Alliance Bulletin, and Richard Berkeley Cotten’s Conservative Viewpoint, along with publications from Christian rightists Gerald L. K. Smith (The Cross and the Flag), Billy James Hargis (Christian Crusade), and Chick Publications.

Subjects
  • Antisemitism--Periodicals
  • Duke, David Ernest
  • Racism--Periodicals
  • Radicalism
  • Right-wing extremists
Contributors
  • Cotten, Richard Berkeley
  • National Association for the Advancement of White People
  • National Vanguard (Organization)
Types of material
  • Newsletters

Radical Student Union (RSU)

Radical Student Union Records, 1905-2006 (Bulk: 1978-2005)
22 boxes (14.5 linear feet)
Call no.: RG 045/80 R1

Founded by Charles Bagli in 1976, the Revolutionary Student Brigade at UMass Amherst (later the Radical Student Union) has been a focal point for organization by politically radical students. RSU members have responded to issues of social justice, addressing both local, regional, and national concerns ranging from militarism to the environment, racism and sexism to globalization.

The RSU records document the history of a particularly long-lived organization of left-leaning student activists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Beginning in the mid-1970s, as students were searching for ways to build upon the legacy of the previous decade, the RSU has been a constant presence on campus, weathering the Reagan years, tough budgetary times, and dramatic changes in the political culture at the national and state levels. The RSU reached its peak during the 1980s with protests against American involvement in Central America, CIA recruitment on campus, American support for the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and government-funded weapons research, but in later years, the organization has continued to adapt, organizing against globalization, sweatshops, the Iraq War, and a host of other issues.

Subjects
  • Anti-apartheid movements--Massachusetts
  • Central America--Foreign relations--United States
  • College students--Political activity
  • Communism
  • El Salvador--History--1979-1992
  • Guatemala--History--1945-1982
  • Iraq War, 2003-
  • Nicaragua--History--1979-1990
  • Peace movements--Massachusetts
  • Persian Gulf War, 1991
  • Political activists--Massachusetts--History
  • Racism
  • Socialism
  • Student movements
  • United States--Foreign relations--Central America
  • United States. Central Intelligence Agency
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
Contributors
  • Progressive Student Network
  • Radical Student Union
  • Revolutionary Student Brigade
Types of material
  • Banners

Service Employees International Union, Local 925 (Tufts University)

SEIU Local 925 (Tufts University) Records, 1978-1980
2 boxes (1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 589
Image of SEIU Local 925
SEIU Local 925

In October 1978 a group of clerical workers at Tufts united in an effort to organize their coworkers with Local 925, S.E.I.U. Isolated and scattered across campus, the clerical employees at the university greeted this call to unionize with support, hoping it would mean an improvement in salaries and in grievance procedures. By the summer of the following year, 60% of eligible employees signed authorization cards, more than required to vote on the issue, and an election early that fall was expected. Tufts administration, however, delayed the election by disputing the composition of the bargaining unit. Formal hearings took place from September through the end of the year, but instead of resolving the case, the Boston Labor Board referred it to Washington on January 25, 1980. Nine months later the election was finally held, but the results were not what were anticipated more than a year earlier. Rather than an easy victory to unionize, the majority of clerical staff at Tufts voted not to make Local 925 their exclusive bargaining representative. The administration’s anti-union campaign waged throughout 1979 and 1980 had a tremendous impact on the employees at the university, and a number of concessions made on wages, health insurance, and vacations further eroded support for organizing with Local 925.

The collection documents the efforts of Tufts clerical workers to unionize during 1978-1980. The group’s biweekly newsletter, Inside Tufts, written by the university’s employees and published by Local 925, offers an important behind-the-scenes look on two fronts: the issues and grievances of the clerical staff at Tufts and the reasons behind their decision to unionize. Materials relating to the efforts of other Boston-area institutions, in particular colleges and universities, are also included.

Subjects
  • Labor unions--Massachusetts
  • Labor unions--Organizing
Contributors
  • Service Employees International Union. Local 925

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