Reading Room Closed December 22, 2014 to January 4, 2015

The Archives and Special Collections Reading Room in the Dodd Research Center will be closed December 22, 2014 through January 4, 2015.  The Reading Room will re-open on January 5, 2015 with regularly scheduled hours Monday through Friday, 9:00a.m. to 4:00p.m.

For more information about Reading Room hours and policies, contact the Reference Desk in Archives & Special Collections at 860.486.2524 or email us at


Farewell to Norman Bridwell, creator of Clifford the Big Red Dog | NE Children’s Lit Collection

Norman Ray Bridwell of Edgartown, who brought delight to millions of readers young and old as the author of Clifford the Big Red Dog series of books, died on Friday, December 12, at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. He was 86. Norman Bridwell was born in Kokomo, Indiana, in 1928, according to a biography by Scholastic Books. He studied at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis and Cooper Union Art School in New York before working as a commercial artist for 12 years.  Read More >

Activist, author, secretary — she’s done it all


Irena Urdang deTour, 2013

Irena Urdang deTour, 2013

Ninety years ago today, Irena Ehrlich vel Sluszny Urdang deTour was born in Warsaw, Poland, the eldest daughter of Seweryn and Felicia (Lubelczyk) Ehrlich vel Sluszny.  Experiencing the tragedies of war first hand, Irena emigrated to the United States in 1947 and has been active involved in many activities ever since.  To honor Ms. deTour’s extraordinary ninety years of experiences, Archives & Special Collections has installed a small exhibit illustrating her family heritage, World War II era experiences and interest in documenting and supporting research related to the Holocaust and its survivors.  Items on display are from her personal collection as well as materials that have been donated to the University of Connecticut.

Portion of deTour exhibit

Portion of deTour exhibit

Ms. deTour is the widow of Laurence Urdang and the proud mother of two UConn graduates, Alexandra and Nicole, and three grandchildren.

The exhibit is open and available for viewing during posted A&SC Reading Room hours through January 23, 2015.




Passing of Emeritus Professor of English, and Friend, Charles Boer

Charles-BoerCharles Boer was a respected and wildly popular professor at UConn arriving in 1966 and retiring in 1992 as a full professor from the English Department, where he specialized in teaching mythology, poetry, and individual 20th-century writers from Charles Olson to Frank O’Hara, Gertrude Stein to Ernest Hemingway. He also helped establish the Charles Olson Archives, now the Charles Olson Research Collection, along with George Butterick, which are part of the University’s Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.  Boer was also a gifted translator of ancient Greek and Latin. He was nominated for the National Book Award for his translation from ancient Greek of The Homeric Hymns in 1971, and is known for his translation from Latin of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1989) and Marsilio Ficino’s Book of Life (1980).  His personal papers and manuscripts will be preserved in Archives and Special Collections…   Read More >

Riding in style

Are you traveling during the holidays?  Wouldn’t it be great to take a cross-country train trip riding in this fancy parlor car?

New Haven Railroad parlor car 2129, ca. 1904

New Haven Railroad parlor car 2129, ca. 1904

This parlor car, owned by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, would be so luxurious you would never want to get to your destination.

You’ll find this image and more in the digital repository, in the New Haven Railroad Glass Negatives Collection.


Encountering the Hand, the Ephemeral, the Unexpected in the Archive

Louis Goddard is a PhD candidate in English at University of Sussex and describes his research experience during a visit in September as recipient of a 2014 Strochlitz Travel Grant. Travel grants are awarded bi-annually to scholars to support their travel to and research in Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut. 

My PhD project focuses on the prose writings of the contemporary British poet J.H. Prynne. As well as at least thirty volumes of poetry, Prynne has, over the half-century course of his career, produced a wide range of prose work, including reviews, essays, lectures and commentaries. Perhaps his most favored outlet, however, has been in correspondence. The Thomas J. Dodd Research Center holds hundreds of letters written by Prynne, the vast majority to the American poets Charles Olson and Ed Dorn, making a two-week trip to the University of Connecticut a vital part of my research as I head into the second year of the PhD.

Having read quotations from the letters in a number of existing scholarly works – notably those by my supervisor at the University of Sussex, Keston Sutherland – I thought I had a fairly good idea of what to expect from the archives: letters full of clear opinions about art and poetry, both Prynne’s and other people’s – almost crib sheets for the poems themselves, though this is an attitude that Prynne himself would certainly not endorse. Many of the letters did indeed conform to my expectations; Prynne writes to Olson, in particular, in an at times shockingly direct style, revealing his profound hopes for what, in the early- to mid-1960s, he conceived as their shared poetic project, and his equally profound disappointment when Olson began to withdraw from the correspondence as the decade progressed. prospect

Even more interesting, however, were the aspects of the letters that I hadn’t anticipated. As part of my research, I recently completed a paper on a number of ‘little magazines’ of the 1960s, looking particularly at the legacy of Gael Turnbull’s seminal Migrant (1959–60). One of the beneficiaries of this legacy was the Cambridge-based Prospect (1959–64) – no relation of the current political magazine of the same name – which Prynne edited for its much-delayed final issue in 1964. Prynne’s opening letters to Olson and Dorn are both typed on Prospect-stamped stationery, with the younger poet tentatively soliciting work to be published in the forthcoming issue. As the correspondence progresses, the reader gets a sense of the practical and financial obstacles confronting any would-be little magazine publisher in the early ’60s, and is given insight into to the decisions which led Prynne to change the format for Prospect‘s final issue, making the magazine physically larger, removing all advertisements, and ultimately giving it away for free to interested parties.

Another aspect of the letters which struck me was the frequency of comparisons between the British and North American poetry scenes at the time, and Prynne’s efforts, both poetic and practical, to bridge the Atlantic gap. Though I had visited California and Florida as a child, arriving at Storrs involved a certain amount of ‘culture-shock’ – situated near the seaside town of Brighton, Sussex barely has an on-campus supermarket, let alone a hotel, a high school and a dairy farm (though, being British, it does have the advantage of its own dedicated railway station). I can only imagine this as the reverse of what Ed Dorn must have felt when, partly as a result of Prynne’s ministrations, he was offered a teaching post at the new University of Essex in 1965, an institution whose campus was at that point only half-built.

As well as scheming to secure fellowships and teaching positions for his American correspondents, and even offering to put up visiting poets in his rooms at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge, the young Prynne was active in promoting new American work to mainstream British publishers. Writing to Dorn in October 1963, having received an encouraging letter from Calder Publishing about Dorn’s novel The Rites of Passage, Prynne jokes about ‘the lit. agency which I seem (& am more than pleased, as you know) to be running.’ Dorn, for his part, was skeptical – as he more or less correctly predicted in a note to Olson the previous month, ‘Prynne writes from england that he sent the novel to John Calder and go [sic] back a very favorable letter. But I’m not that dumb that I don’t dig that in 3 months I’ll get a letter from him saying they almost took it.’ When further efforts were made to place the novel with André Deutsch, not only was it again rejected, but the typescript was lost in the post, setting off a chain of increasingly irate letters from Prynne to Diana Athill.

The lIMG_20140916_132022203etter from Dorn to Olson quoted above is part of a collection that I hadn’t originally planned to consult when applying to visit the Dodd Center, but which turned out to be one of the most fruitful aspects of the trip. Having spent some time mastering the two poets’ near-impenetrable handwriting, it was fascinating to switch from letters by Prynne to letters about him, revealing a certain ambivalence in both Olson’s and Dorn’s attitudes to the reception of their work in Britain. Similarly instructive were references to Donald Davie, the British poet formerly associated with ‘the Movement’ who played a crucial role in supporting Prynne’s early academic career and served as head of the Literature Department at Essex when Dorn first came to England. In one particularly opaque letter to Olson, Dorn shifts from an assessment of Davie – often referred to, tellingly, by his initials, ‘D.A.D.’ – to the following ambiguous statement: ‘I can’t but think of the English interest in our things other than interesting, and for myself unseful [sic], because I need to think there with them.’ Whether he meant to type ‘useful’ or ‘unuseful’ is difficult to determine, even in context.IMG_20140916_132127895

When reading correspondence fifty or more years down the line, short notes and other apparent ephemera often turn out to be more interesting than long, deliberate letters. This was certainly the case with the letters from Helene Dorn (née Buck), Ed Dorn’s first wife. In her letters to Olson, I came across a pressed rose picked not far from where I grew up in East Anglia, carried across the Atlantic, then posted to Olson’s house at 28 Fort Square, Gloucester, MA. Dorn’s two-way correspondence with Valarie Raworth, meanwhile, could have served as the basis for an entire PhD thesis on the unenviable position of ‘poet’s wife’ in a ’60s artistic scene no less patriarchal for its avant-garde credentials. Dorn often writes to Raworth with a real weariness about her day-to-day tasks, typing up her husband’s work from near-illegible manuscripts while simultaneously looking after the children and keeping their house in Pocatello, Idaho.

During my time in Storrs, I was lucky enough to stay at the Altnaveigh Inn, where there were few such household obligations to distract me – dating from 1734, the inn is known locally for hosting Olson while he taught a course at the university in the autumn of 1969. Writing this account back in London, I could wish for at least another two weeks at UConn, exploring letters from the less famous members of the Dorn-Olson correspondence nexus. But as Lytle Shaw of New York University pointed out when I met him briefly at the Dodd Center, working in archives is a bit like shopping – even if you arrive with a fixed plan, you’re as likely as not to leave with something completely unexpected.

- Louis Goddard

Janet Lawler’s final post: It’s all about story.


When I began my research on the relationship between text and art in picture books, I was hoping to uncover the “secrets” of some of the author/illustrators whose work is housed in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection archives. I studied a number of different collections, and I am leaving with many ideas of how to improve my craft. My writing process will now include consistent creation of picture book mock-ups (dummies), and I have a greater understanding of specific approaches to writing text that “leaves room” for an illustrator.

Interestingly, though, I conclude my research with one overriding thought. The very best picture books—whether written by an author and illustrated by someone else, or created by an author/illustrator—have at their heart a good story. So authors and author/illustrators have equal opportunity to begin their creative picture book journeys in the same place – at the deep well of great stories we each have within us, stories about memorable characters who change as they solve problems or encounter conflict.

Revising text plays an important role in refining such stories (although the author/illustrator also revises art to strengthen his or her work). But always, it is the story that is the starting point. I will share a fine example:


The kernel of this story appears to have been James Marshall’s vision of an old, hungry fox trying to outwit foolish fowl to find a meal. A preliminary sketch shows the disguised fox tricking a chicken into a bag.

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Marshall, James. WINGS: A Tale of Two Chickens. Sketch of fox bagging chicken. Series I, Box 12: Folder 217 of James Marshall Papers. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

When two silly geese sisters offer to help transport the heavy bag, the fox says, “This is too good to be true.”

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Marshall, James. WINGS: A Tale of Two Chickens. Sketch of fox and geese, in Series I, Box 12: Folder 217 of James Marshall Papers. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

An incomplete, early dummy of this story line shows a “chicken crossing” sign and a fox hiding behind a tree:

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Marshall, James. WINGS: A Tale of Two Chickens. Untitled, incomplete dummy, p.3. Series I, Box 12: Folder 216 of James Marshall Papers. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

The text on this opening page reads:

At a spot where chickens were

frequently known to cross the road,

a hungry fox came to stand and wait.

As he was no longer young

and agile, he had learned

to rely more heavily on his wits.

And for this occasion, he had come

in disguise.

The focus on the fox as protagonist continues in this version of the story, where we see the fox waiting in his chicken disguise:

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Marshall, James. WINGS: A Tale of Two Chickens. Untitled, incomplete dummy, pp. 4–5. Series I, Box 12: Folder 216 of James Marshall Papers. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

However, it appears that James Marshall soon decided he could tell a better story from  another angle (the incomplete dummy ends on page 6).

The first complete dummy reveals that the plot has taken a very different turn. Marshall completely switches the beginning to focus on two chickens who are close friends (maybe the two silly goose sisters in his preliminary sketches inspired this turn); the fox still plays a key role, but he is no longer a protagonist.

The title of the book, shown on this hand-drawn dummy cover, is:



insert_5 small

Marshall, James. WINGS: A Tale of Two Chickens. Sept. ’85 dummy, cover. Series I, Box 12: Folder 215 of James Marshall Papers. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

Two chickens, with parasols, stand side by side at the edge of a precipice, and a fox hides in bushes in the background. The reader immediately knows this is a story of friendship and danger, and the first line of the dummy introduces Edna and Winnie (Harriet and Winnie in the published version) who are “as different as two chickens could possibly be.”

insert_6 small

Marshall, James. WINGS: A Tale of Two Chickens. Sept. ’85 dummy, p.3. Series I, Box 12: Folder 215 of James Marshall Papers. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

The first page in the published book shows the two good friends sharing tea:

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Marshall, James. WINGS: A Tale of Two Chickens (New York: Viking Kestrel, 3. Photo taken from CLC C38, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Edna (Harriet) loves reading and hobbies. Winnie would “rather swat flies than read” and is easily bored. Marshall sets up this pair of friends immediately, and when the disguised fox appears and offers foolish Winnie a ride in a hot air balloon, Edna (Harriet) fears for Winnie’s safety. A whole series of events follows, with the dastardly fox ultimately outwitted by Harriet, disguised as a fox. The plot twists and understated text are hilarious, and readers cheer for the friends right up until the closing page, when Harriet tucks Winnie into bed.

Marshall revised and refined his text zealously—on the top of the cover of his Sept. ‘85 draft (see above) there is a parenthetical note he wrote to himself in blue pen, “too wordy.”  The following pages are replete with red pencil cross outs and revisions, to pare the text of this story. For example:

insert_8 small

Marshall, James. WINGS: A Tale of Two Chickens. Sept. ’85 dummy, pp.4–5. Series I, Box 12: Folder 215 of James Marshall Papers. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

Marshall clearly thought about pacing and forward movement as he revised. The above page 5 has a crossed-out, bracketed note he wrote to himself: [Some lead in here for story?]. He created that lead-in by penciling in the line spoken by Winnie just before the hot air balloon floats into the garden:

 “I wish something wild would happen,” said Winnie.

And the story takes off from there. James Marshall continued to revise his text to strengthen his story and characters throughout that first complete dummy, a second dummy, a final dummy, and various pages of text revised within some of his sketchbooks.

As for character growth? Winnie is at last reading a book— about foxes. She exclaims, “Mr. Johnson was a fox!” Meanwhile, Harriet hasn’t given up on her friend. “Maybe there’s hope for her yet,” said Harriet. 

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Marshall, James. WINGS: A Tale of Two Chickens (New York: Viking Kestrel, 32. Photo taken from CLC C38, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.


 I am concluding my research at the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection greatly inspired.  For several months, I have been working on a picture book, Chipmunk and Robin, about two close friends who are very different. As I polish and revise this story, I will draw on my new knowledge of how some of the best picture book story tellers (who happen to also be illustrators) craft character, crisis, and resolution into a full and satisfying story arc. Even though it will be a lot of work, the real secret is—it will be a lot of fun!

Connecticut History

Connecticut History Online

Connecticut History Online

Launched in 2001, Connecticut History Online has grown in thirteen years and has now evolved into Connecticut History Illustrated (CHI).    CHI is an aggregation of digital primary resources about Connecticut contributed by Libraries, Archives, Museums, Galleries, Historical Societies, and other Cultural Heritage institutions in Connecticut. It contains material as varied as the history of the state, from documents to images, from maps to audio and video covering the entire spectrum of work, play, and life in Connecticut.

CHI currently contains content from three of the original CHO partners (UConn, Connecticut State Library and the Connecticut Historical Society) and migration continues while new partners (Trinity College and Fairfield Museum and History Center) have expanded the content available for research and discovery.  New content and partners are being added regularly

Happy Thanksgiving, from all of us in Archives & Special Collections

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  We here in Archives & Special Collections wish you all a safe and happy holiday.

Here is a page from The Constructive Triangle, a publication of the American Montessori Society, on how to create Thanksgiving theme placemats and paper plate turkeys.  Enjoy!

Page from Constructive Triangle on how to make Thanksgiving placemats and paper plate turkeysAnd, please note that the University of Connecticut is closing today at 12:30p.m. for the snow storm.  Our reading room is closing at that time as well.  Stay safe, everyone!