The Department of Special Collections and University Archives houses approximately 30,000 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 built strength in several distinct areas, ranging from the history of social change to the extraordinary collection of Japanese rarities collected by the geologist Benjamin Smith Lyman during the 1870s. Other noteworthy collections include those pertaining to the culture of the Cold War era: 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. UMarmot includes summary descriptions of most major book collections, but not individual titles.
Selected areas of collecting interest:
Agriculture, horticulture, natural history
The library holds key works in apiculture, entomology, gardening, landscape design, pomology, 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
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.
Books by and about Robert Francis, Archibald MacLeish, William Manchester, William Lederer, and the Broadside Press, among others, as well as 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 William Morris and William Butler Yeats, signed first editions of works by Thomas Mann, and collections of French and Scottish writers.
New England history and culture
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. SCUA also collects works printed in small towns and rural districts of Massachusetts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
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.
John P. Roche Collection, 1866-1955.
Call no.: Rare Book Collections
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.
- United States--Foreign policy--20th century
- World War, 1939-1945
- Coughlin, Charles E. (Charles Edward), 1891-1979
- Roche, John P.
Association for Gravestone Studies Collection
Barbara Rotundo Photograph Collection, ca.1970-2004.
Call no.: PH 050
A long-time member of the English Department at the University of Albany, Barbara Rotundo was a 1942 graduate in economics at Mount Holyoke College. After the death of her husband, Joseph in 1953, Rotundo became one of the first female faculty members at Union College, and after earning a master’s degree in English at Cornell University and a doctorate in American Literature from Syracuse University, she served as an associate professor of English at the University of Albany, where she founded one of the first university writing programs in the United States. Avocationally, she was a stalwart member of the Association for Gravestone Studies, helping to broaden its scope beyond its the Colonial period to include the Victorian era. Her research included the rural cemetery movement, Mount Auburn Cemetery, white bronze (zinc) markers, and ethnic folk gravestones. Her research in these fields was presented on dozens of occasions to annual meetings of AGS, the American Culture Association, and The Pioneer America Society. In 1989, after residing in Schenectady for forty-six years, she retired to Belmont, NH, where she died in December 2004.
Consisting primarily of thousands of color slides (most digitized) and related research notebooks, the Rotundo collection is a major visual record of Victorian grave markers in the United States. The notebooks and slides are arranged by state, with an emphasis on the eastern states, and white bronze (zinc) markers also are represented in photographs and a separate research notebook. The collection also includes several rare or privately published books.
- Cemeteries--New York (State)
- Sepulchral monuments--New Jersey
- Sepulchral monuments--New York (State)
- Sepulchral monuments--Pennsylvania
- Rotundo, Barbara
Types of material
Sampson Perkins & Co. Account Book, 1866-1873.
Call no.: MS 232 bd
Iron foundry in Taunton, Massachusetts that produced stoves for individuals and several large local companies. Includes monthly labor payments to workforce of thirteen, as well as monthly accounts of sales, merchandise on hand, and rent. Also documents the company’s worth, annual profits, and the worth of company partners in 1870.
- Boardinghouses--Massachusetts--Taunton--History--19th century
- Iron foundries--Massachusetts--Taunton--History--19th century
- Stove industry and trade--Massachusetts--Taunton--History--19th century
- Taunton (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Wages--Iron and steel workers--Massachusetts--Taunton--History--19th century
- Wages--Stove industry and trade--Massachusetts--Taunton--History--19th century
- Perkins, Sampson, b. 1806
- Sampson Perkins & Co
Types of material
- Account books
Shreve and Earl Account Book, 1807-1809.
Call no.: MS 625 bd
In the first decade of the nineteenth century, the firm of Shreve and Earl operated in Burlington County, New Jersey, trading in a range of sundries from molasses, sugar, and butter to fabrics and spices. They also sold large quantities of liquor, suggesting that they may have operated as wholesalers of whiskey and spirits.
Kept in standard double column format, the Shreve and Earl account book documents two years of a fairly extensive retail operation, probably located in Burlington County, N.J. The principals in the business are possibly Alexander Shreve (1769-1854), husband of Mary H. Earl, and his son Joshua, along with Alexander’s brothers-in-law Thomas and Caleb Earl. Several accounts are notable for the relatively large quantities of alcohol recorded: of 33 entries for Reuben Gauntt, for example, 29 are for either whiskey or spirits and one for molasses and coffee.
- General stores--New Jersey
- Liquor industry--New Jersey
- New Hanover (N.J.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Shreve and Earl
- Shreve, Alexander, 1769-1854
Types of material
- Account books
Stephen Siteman Papers, 1942-1998.
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
Blake Slonecker Collection, 2008.
Call no.: MS 795
An historian of twentieth century social movements, Blake Slonecker received his doctorate at the University of North Carolina in 2009 and joined the history faculty at Waldorf College soon thereafter. In a dissertation examining the utopian impulses of the New Left (published in 2012 as A new dawn for the New Left: Liberation News Service, Montague Farm, and the long sixties), Slonecker explored how the political and cultural activism of the 1960s helped reshape American political culture in the decade following.
In June 2008, Slonecker conducted oral historical interviews with four individuals who were part of the extended community centered on the Montague Farm and Packer Corners communes during the late 1960s: Tom Fels, Charles Light, Sam Lovejoy, and Richard Wizansky. In wide-ranging interviews, the former communards discuss topics ranging from the fraught politics of the era, political and cultural activism, gender roles and sexuality, and daily life on the communes.
- Amherst College
- Babbitt, Elwood, 1922-
- Bloom, Marshall, 1944-1969
- Brotherhood of the Spirit Community
- Clamshell Alliance
- Green Mountain Post Films
- Johnson Pasture Community (Vt.)
- Liberation News Service (Montague, Mass.)
- Montague Farm Community (Mass.)
- Musicians United for Safe Energy
- Packer Corners Community (Vt.)
- Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
- Fels, Thomas Weston
- Light, Charles
- Lovejoy, Sam
- Wizansky, Richard
Types of material
- Oral histories (document genres)
Lewis Smith Account Book, 1784-1828.
Call no.: MS 085 bd
Lewis Smith of South Hadley, Massachusetts kept a sporadic record of his business and personal credits and debits from 1784-1828. Smith ran a cider mill along a river, possibly the Connecticut. In his papers he mentions buying a part ownership in a sawmill in 1790. Smith also sold large amounts of hides, meat, tallow, lard, and soap, and he had a sizeable farm where he grew rye, barley, wheat, hay and raised cattle, pigs, and sheep.
- Farmers--Massachusetts--South Hadley
- South Hadley (Mass.)--History
Types of material
- Account books
Southeast Asia Collection, 1925-1986.
Call no.: MS 407
The Southeast Asia Collection highlights the regional wars from the 1970s to the 1980s, including a series on Southeast Asian refugees in America, along with materials on regional economic development, especially in the Mekong River Basin. The collection contains hundreds of reports on agricultural and industrial projects in the region, examining everything from the impact of electrification on village life in Thailand to a description of a Soviet-built hospital in Cambodia in 1961, to an assessment of herbicide in Vietnam in 1971.
Collected primarily by Joel Halpern and James Hafner, the collection includes background, field, and situation reports by U.S. Operations Missions and U.S. Agency for International Development; reports, publications, statistics, and background information from other U.S. government agencies, governments of Laos and Thailand, and the United Nations; correspondence, reports, and reference materials of nongovernmental organizations; reports and essays by individuals about Southeast Asia; news releases and newspapers; published and unpublished bibliographies; and interviews with U.S. military personnel. Most material comes from governmental and organizational sources, but there are papers by, and debriefs of, numerous individuals.
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975
- Hafner, James
- Halpern, Joel Martin
George Stocking Account Book, 1815-1850.
Call no.: MS 486 bd
The shoemaker George Stocking was born on May 23, 1784, on his family’s farm in Ashfield, Mass., the second son of Abraham and Abigail (Nabby) Stocking. At 25, George married Ann Toby (1790-1835) from nearby Conway, with whom he had nine children, followed by two more children with his second wife, the widow Mary Jackson Shippey, whom he married on Dec. 16, 1840. George succeeded Amos Stocking, his uncle, in the tanning and shoemaking business at Pittsfield, Mass., where he died on Christmas day 1864.
George Stocking’s double column account book documents almost 35 years of the economic activity of a shoemaker in antebellum Ashfield, Massachusetts. Although the entries are typically very brief, recording making, mending, tapping, capping, or heeling shoes and boots, among other things, they provide a dense and fairly continuous record of his work. They also reveal the degree to which Stocking occasionally engaged in other activities to earn a living, including mending harnesses and other leatherwork to performing agricultural labor. The book includes accounts with Charles Knowlton, the local physician was was famous as a freethinker and atheist and author of Fruits of Philosophy, his book on contraception that earned him conviction on charges of obscenity and a sentence of three months at hard labor.
- Ashfield (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Knowlton, Charles, 1800-1850
- Stocking, George, 1784-1864
Types of material
- Account books