A Neglected Nexus: Railroads, Forestry, and the Shakers

By Darryl Thompson

I grew up with one foot in one world and the other foot in another.  My father, Charles “Bud” Thompson, was a close friend of the members of one of the world’s last surviving Shaker communities—in Canterbury, New Hampshire—and eventually came to work for them.  With the crucial aid of Sisters Bertha Lindsay, Lillian Phelps, and Marguerite Frost and the consent of the rest of the members of the community, he founded the museum that gradually grew into the major historical restoration that can be found there today.  As a result, I regularly shuttled back and forth between the Shaker world and that of mainstream American society.

Photograph of Darryl Thompson as a small child, with Eldress Bertha Lindsay of the Canterbury, New Hampshire Shakers

Photograph of Darryl Thompson as a small child, with Eldress Bertha Lindsay of the Canterbury, New Hampshire Shakers

At a very early age I learned to make this transition regularly and easily.  At the age of thirteen I became a museum guide and reveled in the role of interpreting one of these worlds to the other. History was the air that I breathed, and so it was natural that I would take a bachelor’s and master’s degree in American history and devote myself to Shaker studies.  I wanted to explore unusual aspects of Shaker history that had not been adequately explored before.  What fascinated me were the edges in Shaker history—the places in which the two worlds overlapped, the ways in which the Shakers impacted the greater society and those in which the outside world affected them.  And, of course, in the whole sweep of American history nothing better symbolized and facilitated the meeting of edges, the unifying of different worlds, the interplay of local cultures and the dominant society than the railroad.

I came to thinking about Shaker connections with railroads through my research into Shaker contributions to forestry, and in the process I discovered that not only did the Shakers have links to both forestry and railroads, but forestry and railroads were intertwined in American history in ways that have often been overlooked.  This is a neglected nexus that deserves to be delved into by researchers.

Nineteenth-century America’s railroad industry was a beast with an appetite that would not be satiated, one of the nation’s most voracious consumers of wood in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  Sarah H. Gordon in Passage to Union: How the Railroads Transformed American Life, 1829-1929, records that the railroads of the northeastern United States “proceeded to triple their mileage of track in the 1850s, chiefly in the Northeast itself.  Miles of track in the United States jumped from 9,021 in 1850 to 30, 626 ten years later.” By the time that the first shot of the Civil War was fired at Fort Sumter, most of the railroads in the eastern part of the country had moved from wood to coal to fire their locomotives, but they still used a good supply of kindling (for which they preferred to use hardwood).  In other parts of the country, many railways were still using wood for fuel at the time of the war’s outbreak.  The network of railways across the nation had ballooned to 60,000 miles of track by 1870.  This meant that wood was needed for the construction, maintenance, and repair of buildings, bridges, railroad cars, cross ties, switch ties, piling, platforms, fencing, guardrails, tunnels, trusses, trestles, telegraph lines, and a variety of miscellaneous items.[1]

However, if railroads were the cause of the destruction of vast tracts of American forests, they also were in the vanguard of reforestation efforts.  A railroad company would sometimes experiment with planting trees in order to insure its future supply of wood.

Photograph of Omar Pease’s pines after thinning in the 1890′s. Source: A Paper on Forestry by John Dearborn Lyman, New Hampshire Agriculture Report of the Board of Agriculture, 1894 1 November

For instance, Eric Rutkow in American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation states: “The Kansas Pacific Railroad created three tree stations in 1870, and the idea quickly spread to other train lines.”  These experiments in railroad forestry would eventually be abandoned, but they did contribute to the spreading of the idea of growing trees as a crop.[2]

It was the story of Brother (later Elder) Omar Pease, a pioneering, self-taught amateur forester from the Enfield, Connecticut, Shaker village that first led me to investigate Shaker connections to railroads.  A member of Enfield Shaker Village’s North Family (each Shaker village was divided into social/governmental/economic units called “families” since they were spiritual families) in the nineteenth century, he planted several hundred acres of white pine on his village’s property, and his plantings included sandy, worn-out tracts of wasteland that served as a dramatic demonstration of the feasibility of turning such barren terrain into profitable timberlands.  I am researching his life with the intention of writing a book about this forgotten forester.

I discovered old newspaper articles that showed the Enfield Shakers were among the investors who put up money ($10,000 in the case of the Enfield Shakers) to launch a short line ( its length, including sidings, being only 21 miles) called the Connecticut Central Railroad, which should not be confused with a modern line of the same name that ran from 1987-1998.  The Shakers would even open a station on this line that they would operate for years.  In early February of 1873 Omar Pease was among those elected by the company’s corporators to the new board of directors.  Yet in February of 1875 he is not among the directors listed in an article in the Connecticut Courant of Hartford.  However, the May 31, 1875 issue of the Springfield Republican of Springfield, Massachusetts, recorded: “The grading on the Connecticut Central Railroad is now being pushed rapidly through the Shaker Village [at] Enfield, and over a mile from the state line south is entirely completed.  The Shakers are making quite a business of getting out railroad ties.”

On July 6, 1875, the Springfield Republican announced that Enfield Shaker Village’s Elder George Wilcox and his Church Family were furnishing all the ties for a short line railroad that was allied to the Connecticut Central.  Wilcox must have become part of the Central’s board of directors at some point in 1875, because the February 11, 1876 Boston Traveler includes his name on the slate of directors “re-elected” by the stockholders.  Had the Shaker brothers referred to in the May 31st passage been cutting ties under the direction of Pease or Wilcox?  The December 24, 1883  Springfield Republican , published just months after Omar’s death, reported the sale of parcels of Shaker timberland by Richard Van Deusen, Omar’’ successor, and recorded that Omar would buy in wood rather than sell it: “Elder Pease would not sell timber, but bought all he could get at a low price.  But Elder Van Deusen is selling off the out lots pretty rapidly.”[3]

I put together the information in the two articles and pondered it.  Had the men described in the May 31st, 1875 article cut the ties from timber bought in for that purpose by Omar or had they cut down village trees? [4]

I smelled the possibility of some sort of battle or intrigue.  Was Omar pressured to leave the board and replaced with Wilcox because Omar was reluctant to cut?  The railroad would not have ousted him if he refused to sell.  They would just have bought the wood from another source.  But could Omar have been pressured to resign by his superiors or his fellow Shakers because they wanted the greater margin of profit arising from cutting down trees on their own property instead of purchasing timber and cutting it for ties?  This possibility fascinates me because such an incident would represent Omar’s sudden discovery of a conflict of interest between his traditional role as protector of the Enfield Shakers’ timber resources and his new role in the voracious timber-consuming railroad industry. Such a clash would have resonance with each one of us who is both a consumer of resources and a would-be conservationist.

Photograph of Omar Pease's pines after being felled by the Hurrican of 1938.

Photograph of Omar Pease’s pines after being felled by the Hurrican of 1938.

Thinking that such a conflict might have taken place in Omar’s life and hoping that I might find evidence of it in company documents, I turned to the institution where the records of the Connecticut Central Railroad are located—Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center of the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

The history field is not well-known for being remunerative, and the challenge for me was how I was going to fund this research trip.  I was delighted when a call to Archives & Special Collections revealed the existence of the Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grants that help pay for researchers’ expenses when they come to use the great resources of the center.  I applied and when I received news that I had been awarded one of the grants, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to both the administration and staff of Archives & Special Collections and to Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz for leaving such a wonderful legacy to aid scholarly research. I soon found myself ensconced in a modest, comfortable, and reasonably-priced motel room. It is hard to describe the joy, eager anticipation, and sense of adventure that I felt every day as I traveled to UConn.  I could hardly wait to dive into the treasures of the archive!

And what treasures they were.  In addition to the ledgers and papers of the Connecticut Central, there were also materials relating to several other railroad companies that were connected to the Central over the years.  In addition to ledgers, these items included board of directors’ minutes, bills, receipts, financial statements, cash books, vouchers, legal papers, contracts and agreements.   However, as wonderful as these materials are, Archives & Special Collections’ most precious possession is its hugely knowledgeable and incredibly committed staff.  In the days that would follow, I would come to know the great courtesy and help of the staff members who man the desk and the graciousness ofMelissa Watterworth Batt, Archivist for Literary & Natural History Collections.  I would also benefit from the extremely valuable assistance, guidance, and advice of Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad, Labor and Organizational Collections.  All of these individuals go far beyond the call of duty in aiding researchers.

In Archives & Special Collections’ collections I did not find any information that would explain the departure of Omar Pease from the Connecticut Central’s board of directors and his replacement by George Wilcox.  But I found so much more!  The materials helped me to reconstruct the history of the Connecticut Central Railroad and allowed me to consider how the ups and downs of that history would have impacted the Enfield Shakers as they operated what became known as Shaker Station on the line.  Chartered in 1871 and built in 1875, the Central leased itself to the Connecticut Valley Railroad in 1876 but, since the Connecticut Valley soon defaulted on its second mortgage bonds and was quickly placed in receivership, the Connecticut Central Railroad operated as an independent entity until 1880.  In that year of 1880 the Central leased itself to the New York & New England Railroad.  One of the great discoveries I made at Archives & Special Collections was a copy of this lease agreement.  Also greatly helpful were the bound volumes of board of directors’ minutes of the NY & NE.  While I am still trying to understand the exact details of the legalities and financial arrangements, in essence it can be said that the New York and New England held the mortgage on the Connecticut Central.  When the latter could not make payments, the NY & NE began proceedings to foreclose in 1885.  However, the Central mounted a legal resistance that meant the wrangle dragged on until the closing months of 1887.  In the years following its gobbling up of the Connecticut Central Railroad, the New York and New England would itself, in turn, be eventually absorbed by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.

It has long been claimed among Shaker scholars that the railroad that ran through Enfield Shaker Village only carried freight and not people.  It primarily did carry freight, and lumber was one of the things it transported. However, the ledgers of the Connecticut Central that I saw at Archives & Special Collections clearly show income from carrying passengers.  A notation that I saw later in an outside source shows that the line did not carry commuters (its schedule perhaps not making it convenient for regular travel to and from individuals’ workplaces) but passengers were definitely riding this train.

Sarah H. Gordon says in Passage To Union: “Organizing nationally was the work of the age, and ticketing records show that railroads made possible the growth of organizations with a national membership of people with middling means.”  Agricultural, forestry, and conservation organizations mushroomed into existence with the development of the railroad.  Archives & Special Collections contains the papers of the Gold family, including those of T.S. Gold, who served for years as the secretary of the Connecticut Board of Agriculture and who belonged to a myriad of such national, regional, and local organizations.  While I have yet to find evidence that Omar Pease had an association with any such group, in the Gold collection I found a very interesting letter from Richard Van Deusen, Omar’s successor, to T.S. Gold.  It reveals Van Deusen’s involvement in one of these agricultural organizations. Another letter is to Gold is written on Connecticut State Board of Agriculture letterhead and printed on that letterhead is a list of all members of the board in 1884, the year following Omar’s death.  This list will enable further research to find out if Pease had contact with any of these men.[5]

Ken Burns, the nation’s foremost maker of historical documentary films, has said that archives, libraries, and museums contain the DNA of our civilization.  Archives & Special Collections at the Dodd Research Center is a treasure house that contains a wealth of material that is a precious resource for scholars.  I will always have wonderful memories of the time that I spent there and gratitude that such a special place exists.  I invite others to discover the historical riches that can be found there.

Darryl Thompson, Shaker historian, spent years at the Canterbury, New Hampshire Shaker village as the sisters there employed his father, Charles “Bud” Thompson. Mr. Thompson has lectured widely about the Shakers, authored articles about them, assisted in the editing of Shaker-related books, taught classes in Shaker history, and has led tours at Canterbury Shaker Village for decades. An American history instructor at the New Hampshire Institute of Art at Manchester, Mr. Thompson has assisted in the research for Ken Burns’ PBS series on World War II and the national parks and was, along with his father, among the consultants used by Ken Burns in his documentary film The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God (Walpole, NH: Florentine Films, 1984).  In 2015, Mr. Thompson was awarded a Strochlitz Travel Grant from Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut to support his ongoing research.     

Sources cited:

[1] Sarah H. Gordon, Passage to Union: How the Railroads Transformed American Life, 1829-1929 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 1997), 106; Sherry H. Olson’s The Depletion Myth: A History of Railroad Use of Timber (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1971), 4. 10, 12 [Table 1: ”Crosstie estimates, 1870-1910”].

[2] Eric Rutkow, American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation (New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, New Delhi: Scribner, 2012), 130.

[3] “East Longmeadow “ column, “Hampden County News” section, Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), December 24, 1883,  6.

[4] “Annual Meetings. Connecticut Central Railroad…,”Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, MA), Thursday, February 6, 1873 (Issue 32), 2, column c; “Railroad Matters. New Lay-Out of the Connecticut Central in Enfield—Recovery of Commissioner Northrop—Election,” Saturday, February 20, 1875, Connecticut Courant (Hartford, CT), Vol. 111, Issue 8, 4; “Connecticut” column, Springfield Republican, Monday, May 31, 1875 pg. 6;“Springfield and Vicinity,” column in “Local Intelligence” section, Tuesday, July 6, 1875, Springfield Republican (Springfield, MA), 6;  “Railroad News,” Friday, February 11, 1876, Boston Traveler (Boston, MA), 1.

[5] Sarah H. Gordon, Passage To Union: How the Railroads Transformed American Life, 1829-1929 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 1997) , Pg. 181.


National Festival Celebrates the Art of Puppetry | UConn Today

PuppetsWYATT_CENAC-794x1024From August 10 to 16, UConn will be alive with puppet shows, classes, workshops, exhibitions and events for the 2015 National Puppetry Festival.  A special exhibition of puppetry books, artwork, and illustrations from the collections of Archives and Special Collections will be on display from August 1 to 31 in the McDonald Reading Room in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.  Find out more in today’s UCONN Today article…

National Festival Celebrates the Art of Puppetry | UConn Today

Puppeteers from 12 nations on five continents and from 40 U.S. states will converge on the UConn campus during the week of Aug. 10-16 for the 2015 National Puppetry Festival, a whirlwind week of puppet-related activities including workshops, master classes, and performances.

The festival is presented by Puppeteers of America and is expected to be the largest and most extensive gathering of its kind. It will also mark the 50th year of the internationally renowned UConn Puppet Arts Program, which was founded by the legendary Frank W. Ballard. The last time the festival was hosted by UConn was in 1970.

Highlights of the festival will include 30 public performances by more than 25 national and international puppeteers, 30 professional workshops, six visual art exhibitions, “Reel Puppetry” film series, a giant puppet parade, and nightly Festival Pub Showcase. …

The Ku Klux Klan, Rebel Pride and Anti-Klan Resistance

Anti-Racism Coalition of Connecticut, pamphlet.

Anti-Racism Coalition of Connecticut, pamphlet.

On June 18 2015, Dylann Roof, 21 years old, shot and killed nine African-Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  When Roof was apprehended, he wore the flags of Apartheid-Era South Africa and Rhodesia, former white supremacist settler colonial states in Southern Africa.  Roof also had Confederate flags hung on his walls and frequented white power websites.  These race based murders fueled an ongoing debate about Confederate symbolism and its usage in the private and public spheres.  The Alternative Press Collection at the Archives & Special Collections is comprised of fringe publishing from both ends of the political spectrum such as White Patriot and Death to the Klan.  The current debate around the Confederate flag draws on long standing uses of historical interpretation and cultural identity dating to the Civil War and Reconstruction era of 1861-1877.  As demonstrated in this exhibition currently on display in the Archives through these selected materials from the Alternative Press, Northeast Children’s Literature and Labor collections, figures such as Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, abolitionists John Brown and Frederick Douglass serve as symbolic totems of heritage, spirituality and citizenship. Continue reading

From the Researcher’s Perspective: Following Charles Olson to Connecticut

by Casie Trotter, MA student in English Literature at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and awardee of Archives and Special Collections’ Strochlitz Travel Grant.

For someone like the poet Charles Olson, visiting an archive is very important. He was all about the “record,” the “document”—two words he often used in and about his own work. It’s not surprising, then, that he preserved much of his life, from personal notebooks to ongoing iterations of new poems and essays. Thousands of letters from people as diverse as his parents, lovers, William Carlos Williams, John Huston, and Carl Jung remain in his files.

trotterblog01I know because thanks to the generosity of Archives and Special Collections and a Strochlitz Travel Grant, I got to spend a week there early this spring, exploring the depths of the Charles Olson Research Collection. Five days was enough to see over eighty unpublished poems, about seventy prose pieces, hundreds of letters, a dozen notebooks and journals, and several books from his personal library. These were only a fraction of the wealth of Olson materials in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, but it was more than enough to strengthen my ongoing research. The archive’s tangible nature enabled me to witness Olson’s creative process on a whole new level. Bottle rings stood out on his leather notebooks; cigarette burns dotted his manuscripts. Sometimes I found letter drafts on the backs of other pieces, whether to the Gas Company or T.S. Eliot.

In the process, I uncovered plenty of links to themes and ideas in Olson’s work I’d already been tracing. My MA project at the University of Tulsa developed over the course of two years—starting as a love affair with The Maximus Poems duringmy first semester as a grad student and culminating in this trip to Connecticut a month before graduation. What began as a critical analysis of Olson’s pre-Maximus life and work, an attempt to construct a theoretical framework that led to his Gloucester epic, turned into a very personal journey as I found his ideas and experiences increasingly relevant to mine too. His conflicted relationship with academia mirrored my own; his open and visceral love for the world and who shaped it found a home in the ways I interact with other people. These connections made the project important not only for my academic career, but also gave it larger dimensions that could translate into other parts of my life.

When not in the reading room, then, I also visited Worcester (Olson’s hometown) in nearby Massachusetts and Middletown (where Olson attended Wesleyan). UCONN’s proximity to these locations made it easy to expand the trip into an even more immersive experience. The side tours were particularly valuable ways to encounter the spirit of Olson’s world(s) on some level. Driving through Worcester, sea gulls flew overhead; a Catholic church loomed over the street where newer three-story flats have replaced the one where he grew up. Around Wesleyan, neighborhoods and small businesses evoked a sense of place unique to their environment. This part of the research process was not only how I think Olson would want his work and life to be studied—a poet rooted deeply in the local, the concrete—but helped further tie me to the primary aspects of what it was like to be Charles Olson, almost as meaningfully as the direct experience of the archive itself. I’d been absorbed in his work for so long that feeling my way through his stomping grounds came naturally and powerfully. The commute between campus and my hotel through rural areas provided further reflective avenues for understanding the writer’s world and the backdrop to many of his words that have been the ongoing soundtrack to my grad school years.

The catalyst for my project was discovering Olson’s complicated paternal relationship with Ezra Pound in the aftermath of WWII and EP’s treason trial. Within weeks after Pound was committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital, the younger poet started visiting the elder and providing a source of encouragement. For two and a half years, Pound was another “Papa” in his life. Olson carried drafts of the Pisan Cantos between Pound and his publisher, James Laughlin. Between visits, they corresponded back and forth. The Collection at the Dodd Research Center includes about two dozen postcards from Pound to Olson, among other fragments and pieces the young poet wrote while trying to make sense of a fascist genius. He struggled to understand how someone who could write such beautiful, innovative poetry could also perpetuate such hate-filled ideas.

Although Catherine Seelye edited and published materials from Olson’s “Pound File” at Storrs several decades ago (another great use of their Collection), reading this compilation in paperback form could not compare to observing the pieces firsthand. Seelye’s book made me want to know everything about Olson, to piece together all the people and moments that built him into the giant he was (literally and figuratively). Pound was so crucial to his developing conception of what it means to be a poet that he was the ideal place to start. By the time I got to Connecticut, I’d read all of the Cantos, the Maximus Poems, and spent six months actively compiling and consuming everything else Olson had written before his epic (the Storrs Collection’s unpublished materials also gave me a lot more to work with). While I didn’t get to read everything with equal attention, I’d built enough of a foundation to understand what Olson was capable of and to better appreciate how significant his connections to earlier figures were. And I’d become attached enough to him that he had carried me through some very difficult personal experiences as I was trying to figure out how to “love the world and stay inside it” as he later said in Maximus.

trotterblog02So when I opened the folder with Pound’s postcards, it took a conscious effort not to let my misty eyes drip onto his penciled signature. Since most other scholars (including Seelye) have prioritized Olson’s own words about Pound over what Pound actually wrote to him, these cards were almost like experiencing another world in their relationship. Having studied Olson’s reflections on their frustrated interactions, I was able to reenact his process through each note and gain a better sense of how his feelings were being influenced at the time. Digging through the correspondence files, I unearthed the initial telegram from Olson’s early publisher, Dorothy Norman, asking him to cover Pound’s trial in Washington, and the letter from Laughlin encouraging the young writer to visit his client in the first place. Laughlin also later sent and inscribed a hardcover of the Pisan Cantos to Olson, which remains in his personal library at Storrs.  In his WWII-era notebooks, I found his early (unpublished) writings about Pound as the controversy unfolded. But the most heartbreaking postcard was written a few months after Olson stopped visiting Pound in 1948, too weary of the old poet’s racism and closed-mindedness. Wanting to know where he’d gone, EP wrote, “Yes my deah [sic] Charles I just [wonder] wot [sic] are you up to O[?]”. Olson wouldn’t see Pound again for about fifteen years, so this postcard didn’t soften him too much—but I can imagine the effect it still must have had on him after how much energy and affection he’d invested in Pound during some of Olson’s most formative years as a writer.

Charles Olson to Frances Boldereff, January 10, 1950, Box 183. Archives and Special Collections  at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

In this respect, spending time at the Dodd Research Center was extremely fruitful, both in terms of research and my ever-more intimate connection to a writer who must be studied through primary documents and an empathetic point of view. To do a person like Charles Olson justice requires closer attention than someone without the primal experience of an archive can give. At this point, I may still be working through how my own work will speak for him in the future, but I know that it needed a pilgrimage like this trip to give it firm roots to cling to.


South Africa, Archives and the African National Congress

Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg

Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg

My visit to South Africa on assignment for Global Affairs/UNESCO and Archives & Special Collections began in the first week of June in Johannesburg during an unusually cold winter (for South Africa).  The purpose of the trip was to explore and convene on the archival landscape which had been mapped in 2000 through a partnership between the African National Congress (ANC) and the University of Connecticut.  The initial archives project was funded by the Mellon Foundation to organize, describe and make accessible the ANC archives documenting its activities while in exile under Apartheid.  These archives, located at the National Heritage and Cultural Studies Center (NAHECS) University of Fort Hare (UFH) in Alice, Eastern Cape, have been available in their reading room for public research since 2005.  Between 2000 and 2005, UConn sent faculty, archivists, librarians and oral historians to UFH to hold training sessions and benefit from this skill sharing partnership.  In conjunction, UFH sent archivists and librarians to receive training within the UConn libraries. Continue reading

Hot off the presses!

Archives & Special Collections occasionally shares posts by scholars who have consulted materials found in the collections and the staff has always found it interesting to learn what gems researchers have found.  Recently, A&SC has received copies of publications by these same scholars, the results of research conducted in Storrs (and elsewhere) and we thought we’d share this as well.  Our congratulations to the authors and an invitation to any of our readers to come in and ask to look through any of these that might interest you:

The Hartford Courant at 250 : telling Connecticut’s stories : the moments that make up our state’s richly textured history, Pediment Publishing, 2015 (University Photograph Collection, Southern New England Telephone Company Records, C. H. Dexter Company Records, Leroy Roberts Railroad Collection)

Allison, Raphael. Bodies on the Line: Performance and the Sixties Poetry Reading, University of Iowa Press, 2014 (Charles Olson Papers, Larry Eigner Papers)

Charters, Samuel. Songs of Sorrow: Lucy McKim Garrison and “Slave Songs of the United States, University Press of Mississippi, 2015 (Charters Archive of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture)

Dessner, Bryce (composer). Bang On A Can All Stars (DVD), Field Recordings, 2015 (Charles Olson Papers)

Ed Dorn; Justin Katko and Kyle Waugh, editors. Derelict Air: From Collected Out, Enitharmon Press, 2015 (Ed Dorn Papers)

Lister-Kaye, John.  Gods of Morning: A Bird’s Eye View of a Changing World, Pegasus, 2015 (Edwin Way Teale Papers)

Savage, Sean.  The Senator from New England: The Rise of JFK, Excelsior editions, 2015 (Thomas J. Dodd Papers)

Zack, Ian. Say No to the Devil: the Life and Musical Genius of the Rev. Gary Davis, University of Chicago Press, 2015 (Charters Archive of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture)


Terri J. Goldich to retire


Terri J. Goldich, June 2015

It is with heavy hearts that we will soon bid farewell to our colleague Terri J. Goldich, who currently serves as Curator for the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection, when she retires on July 1.  Terri has greatly contributed to many successes in Archives & Special Collections and the UConn Libraries, where she has been an employee in many different capacities for the last 38 years.

Hired in March 1977 to participate in the Pioneer Valley Union List of Serials cooperative program, the first ever effort for libraries in the region to automate information about serials, Terri soon moved on to other positions in the UConn Libraries, including as the Connecticut List of Serials coordinator and to serve on the reference and information desks.

Terri was among the first staff in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, dedicated in October 1995 by President Bill Clinton, which opened in January 1996 to house Archives & Special Collections.  Her first position in the building was as Events and Facilities Coordinator but she soon became Curator for the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection, and for a time the Alternative Press Collections, working under former Director Tom Wilsted.

Terri’s tenure as Curator for the NCLC was a period of great growth and distinction, as evidenced by an expansion of the archival collections from 30 to its current number of 128 and the acquisition of the papers and illustrations of such well-known authors and artists as Tomie dePaola, Natalie Babbitt, Richard Scarry, and Suse MacDonald.  Terri was also responsible for the great growth of the children’s book research collection from 13,000 to 46,000 under her oversight.

Terri played a pivotal role in the prominence and popularity of the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair, held the second weekend in November every year since 1992.  Terri joined the Book Fair Committee in 1998 and became Co-Chair in 2006, taking on the responsibilities of fundraising and as a primary contact with the authors and illustrators invited to present their books.

Other important contributions undertaken by Terri while at the UConn Libraries was as a judge of the Rabb Prize, a contest for UConn students in the illustration program, and as head of the library’s Exhibits Committee for many years.

When asked for a noteworthy reminiscence of an event that occurred while at the UConn Libraries, Terri told us that in 1996, on her second day of work in Archives & Special Collections, Tom Wilsted asked her to spend a day with a Norwegian gentleman who turned out to be Dr. Francis Sejersted, the Chair of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.  Dr. Sejersted was visiting campus to participate in one of the symposia organized around the closing of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center’s Year of Introspection, in which Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev also played a part.  He had a free day and wanted to see the local sights; Tom was unavailable and so corralled Terri to act as chaperone.  They scared up a limo and driver and went off on a lovely daytrip to Sturbridge Village.  Terri noted that the Dr. Sejersted had a particular fascination with the sawmill operations.

Terri tells us that after a short visit to her daughter Rose, who currently lives and works in Montana, she plans to enroll in the state’s foster parent program.

Terri’s coworkers will sorely miss her deep knowledge of the children’s literature collections, her spirit of collegiality and kindness, her wicked good party planning expertise as well as her infectious laugh and delightful humor.  We wish Terri the best for her retirement and thank her for her hard work and good humor through her years at the UConn Libraries.

Brass City/Grass Roots exhibit highlights Waterbury’s agricultural past

Professor Ruth Glasser and her exhibit Brass City/Grass Roots, on display at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center in June and July, 2015

Professor Ruth Glasser and her exhibit Brass City/Grass Roots, on display at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center in June and July, 2015

Now available in the Dodd Research Center corridor is the exhibit Brass City/Grass Roots, which tells the story of Waterbury, Connecticut’s little known agricultural past.

Created by UConn Assistant Professor in Residence Ruth Glasser, who teaches in the Waterbury campus’s Urban and Community Studies Program, the exhibit boards beautifully detail the rich history of farming in Waterbury, with photographs, quotes from interviews of members of farming families, and historical documents.

The exhibit shows that Waterbury, best known as the “Brass City” due to its wide renown as an industrial center, has had far more farms and farmers than may have been previously supposed. As Dr. Glasser writes in the exhibit: “Farming did not disappear when the first factories started. But farmers have had to constantly reinvent themselves as they faced hilly land, rocky soil, mechanization, and competition in an increasingly tough regional, national, and international market.” Presently the city has a wealth of community gardens and greenhouses, and thousands of vegetables are raised for personal use as well as for soup kitchens.

Dr. Glasser began her research for the project in 2013, when she connected with Sue Pronovost, the Executive Director of Brass City Harvest, a non-profit organization that alleviates food deserts in the city and educates city residents about the legacy of farming and the present opportunities for farming in the city. In her efforts to gather sources for the project Dr. Glasser spoke on local radio programs, gave presentations, and conducted interviews. She conducted extensive research into land records in the town clerk’s office, consulted historical maps, and studied photographs from private collections as well as from such cultural heritage institutions as the Mattatuck Museum, the Connecticut Historical Society, and the Silas Bronson Library. She also was able to access the archive of Waterbury’s local newspaper, the Republican-American.

With funding from the Connecticut Humanities Fund, the Connecticut Community Foundation, and the Waterbury Environmental Benefits Fund, and with the assistance of students in her Historical Methods seminar, Dr. Glasser wrote the exhibit script and captions, chose preferred photographs for the boards, and worked with a designer on the look of the exhibit panels. Last summer the exhibit was shown at local farmers markets, and has been available at UConn’s Torrington and Waterbury campuses.

The exhibit will be up in the corridor until July 31.

UConn Professor Ruth Glasser shows her exhibit Brass City/Grass Roots to UConn Libraries staff member Bill Miller, June 2015

UConn Professor Ruth Glasser shows her exhibit Brass City/Grass Roots to UConn Libraries staff member Bill Miller, June 2015