Betsy Pittman

About Betsy Pittman

University Archivist at UConn since 1997, Betsy is also responsible for the political, public polling, nursing and Connecticut History collections.

Dana T. Leavenworth – A Connecticut Soldier’s Experience

Dana T. Leavenworth was born 25 June 1888, presumably in Roxbury, Connecticut.

Dana T. Leavenworth

He attended  Yale College and graduated in 1910.  Like many of his generation, Leavenworth joined the Army in 1914 and saw action along the U.S. –  Mexico border prior to joining the American Expeditionary Force in  France in 1918.

 

While in France he served as an officer and the documents in his papers reflect the range of his responsibilities as part of the “Fighting Yankee Division.”

Plans for action in the field

 

While he was abroad, Leavenworth received correspondence from friends and family.  Sentiments throughout the correspondence he received, from 1917 until his return to the States, resonate with the unified effort the entire country was undergoing to support the war effort, both home and abroad.

Many wrote of their personal contributions to the war effort while others conveyed pride and gratitude for Dana’s service. His future bride applied for service in both the Red Cross and Y. M. C. A. War Service, similar to other women, anxious to do their part.

Marie Schmitz’s application to the Red Cross, 1917

15 September 1918, Carlton Redmond having moved to the Washington, D.C. area writes, “I simply got desperate, while I was giving considerable of my spare time to war work for the past year, I wanted to do more…”  And in another letter on 24 October 1918,  “I am working very hard to aid in the production of Ordnance for you boys.”

Another friend wrote on 18 November 1917, “Everyone is busy—Ladies with their knitting and at Present the men are in the throes of a YMCA campaign raising money to promote them in the army corps and at the front for in them we figure is the big saving influence of the men.”

Antoinette Pierce wrote on 14 November 1917, “You don’t know how you soldiers are the center of all our thoughts nor how proud we are that our defenders in these hard times are of the sort we can safely rely upon in every need.”

Letter from Antoinette Pierce, 14 November 1917

The activity on the home front is highlighted in the 6 December 1917 letter from Pastor Charles A. Dinsmore, “Waterbury is about the same as usual. We are very busy, raising money most of the time for the Red Triangle, the Red Cross, and just now it is the Knights of Columbus.  Personally, I am kept pretty busy as chairman of the Waterbury Red Cross, as a member of the local Council of Defense…the girls are all working in the Red Cross.  There seems to be no fun going on anywhere.”

Chalmers Holbrook writes on 9 January 1918, “Who knows but by this time you are tasting the trenches and the wildest stretch of the imagination cannot see it as you do because we never know what reality is until we actually experience it.”

And even representatives of his employers at the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance contacted him, “It is very gratifying that, in spite of the fact that you left us early to go into the service, you had accomplished enough to qualify you for the year’s Leaders List.” [2 February 1918, Superintendent of Agencies, Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance]

Dana was one of the fortunate ones to survive the war, returning to the States in 1919 and resuming his civilian life. In 1924, he married  Marie Christina Schmitz, daughter of  Charles W. Schmitz of Waterbury and continued his employment as an estate councilor at  Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company.  Dana and Marie established their household at 25 Staples Place in  West Hartford, Connecticut. There they raised three sons, Robert, Donald and Alden.

 

Dana T. Leavenworth and Marie Schmitz

Dana T. Leavenworth — A Connecticut Soldier’s Experience

is one of several World War I themed exhibitions on display in Babbidge Library and the Dodd Research Center this Spring, marking the centennial of the official involvement of the United States in World War I. The United States Congress declared war on the German Empire on 6 April 1917.

The Land-Grant College at War

 The following guest blog post is by Allison Horrocks, Ph.D. ’16. Dr. Horrocks received her B.A. in History and American Studies from Trinity College and her M.A. in History from the University of Connecticut. Her research explores the history of Home Economics in higher education in the twentieth century.

 

One hundred years ago, students at the Connecticut Agricultural College were trudging through campus to attend spring classes and to take part in one or many extracurricular activities, most of which would still be familiar today. While some co-eds might seek out or even play basketball, others could pass the time by writing for the school paper, acting in a drama club, or attending social meetings at a fraternity.

But the spring of 1917 was also charged with a feeling of anticipation. These same students were gearing up for war.

30 April 1917 Connecticut Campus

Between March and April of 1917, students and faculty members at Connecticut Agricultural College, hereafter cited as CAC, saw their futures change dramatically within a matter of weeks. On April 6, 1917, the United States formally entered the global conflict known as the Great War. How the people of Connecticut, and those at CAC in particular, mobilized to “do their part” in order to win the war is the subject of a new retrospective exhibition hosted in the galleries of the Dodd Center.

When considering how the people of Connecticut contributed to the war, service in the armed forces is usually what comes to mind. A small, but proportionally significant number of male students from CAC (and other in-state institutions, of course) would be called up for military service. But this was not the only way that Nutmeggers or CAC students demonstrated their loyalty. This focus on student life at CAC between 1917 and 1918 shows a much wider concept of service to the war effort, work that did not marshal guns as its weapon of choice.

Grove Cottage

Though war had loomed for years, the US’s official entry changed campus life rather dramatically. By April 30, the student paper, The Connecticut Campus and Lookout was filled with news of student departures and other adjustments to be wrought on campus. In addition to those who would be called overseas, there was a buildup of forces to do work on the agricultural front in the fields and farmlands of Connecticut. Each age group, indeed every citizen, male and female, was thought to have a special role in serving the warring nation. Throughout the state, youth grew corn and managed crops for the Junior Food Army and adult women joined up with a farming program known as the Women’s Land Army. Meanwhile, faculty at CAC taught thousands how to conserve food and agents traveled to provide demonstrations on food conservation. The central thread with all of this work was the notion that food and crop management were vital to winning the war. For contemporaries, the notion of a “homefront” was expansive, including domestic spaces as well as on-campus laboratories, farms, and civic halls where families learned proper food saving methods.

In addition to shedding new light on the war effort in Connecticut, the objects curated for this exhibition offer a wide view of what life on campus was like a century ago. Alongside propaganda posters from the period, photographs of dormitory rooms, dance cards, and other student belongings will be put on display. Other objects from throughout the state, including letters from “the front” in France and images of youth activities with the Food Army will also be on view.

Memorial Oak

In all, this exhibition draws from a range of archival materials from the Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries. In addition to objects from the University of Connecticut Memorabilia Collection, photographs and other artifacts from the Connecticut Soldiers Collection and Augustus Jackson Brundage Papers (among others) will also be on display.

 

The Land-Grant College at War is one of several World War I themed exhibitions on display in Babbidge Library and the Dodd Research Center this Spring, marking the centennial of the official involvement of the United States in World War I. The United States Congress declared war on the German Empire on 6 April 1917.

Bibliotherapy: From library war service to science

The following guest blog post is by Mary Mahoney, doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Connecticut. Ms. Mahoney received her B.A. in History and English from Trinity College and her M.A.  in History from the University of Connecticut. She is currently completing a dissertation on the history of bibliotherapy, or the use of books as medicine.

 

Have you ever read a book and felt healed by it?

Most readers can think of a novel that offered some comfort, a poem that presented

Distributing books to wounded veterans

direction, or even a biography that provided inspiration. The notion that books can heal is as old as reading itself but, during World War I, doctors and librarians joined together to apply reading as a form of therapy.

 

A new exhibit at the Dodd Center, “From Library War Service to Science: Bibliotherapy in World War I” tells that story.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, troops travelled to the front with the help of massive mobilization efforts to provide weapons, food, and books. The Library War Service, formed by the Library of Congress and the American Library Association, created a national system to collect and distribute books to troops at home and abroad during and after the war. Between 1917 and 1920, the Library War Service distributed approximately 7­10 million books and magazines. The Service built 36 camp libraries to incorporate reading into daily life, and provided library collections to over 500 locations, including military hospitals.

At camps, military hospitals, YMCA huts and other relief stations, librarians distributed books believing that reading played a vital role in the war effort. Books could provide education, entertainment, war training, vocational training and therapy.

Ward Library Service, Base Hospital, Camp Pike, Arkansas

In 1918, the Library War Service stationed librarians in military hospitals to provide dedicated service to the sick and wounded. By 1919, the Service established libraries of approximately 1000 volumes in hospitals without dedicated librarians, and collections of roughly 3,500 in hospitals where a librarian lived and worked on site. There the mostly female librarians wore specially designed uniforms intended to help them fit in among doctors and nurses, and equate their work with the authority of medical professionals. This was important as doctors were often sold on the necessity of books for their patients, but not librarians. “All the army hospitals wanted books,” one librarian noted, “but not all wanted librarians.”

In these hospitals, librarians noted that fiction circulated at an estimated rate of 3 to 1 (to non­fiction). As one hospital librarian noted, “The epidemic of authors is more common than that of disease. Periods of Zane Greyism will be followed by feverish cravings for ‘Tarzanry.” Using the language of disease, this librarian spoke to the desire patients had for books that offered escape, entertainment, and in some cases, consolation. While books in camp libraries primarily offered information about the war or resources to prepare for postwar careers, books in hospital libraries were put to a different use. Yes, books could educate and entertain, but they could also serve as medicine.

“Stories are sometimes better than doctors,” one wartime librarian noted. “Men were brought in from the front, self-control gone, nerves shattered, sleep impossible. A compelling story would often calm them and start them on the road to recovery,” another noted.

Hospital librarians developed this emerging “science” with physicians during the war. “The librarian is often asked by a doctor or nurse to “prescribe” for a patient who is in need of a stimulation which can come from a good book,” one article on the hospital library service explained. But how should librarians prescribe books? What genres made the best medicine?

“Books that take the mind off the war are frequently prescribed by the physicians, and selected reading of a crisp, bright variety proves very helpful,” one librarian observed at the front.

Connecticut’s military hospitals played a role in this history. Louise Sweet, the hospital librarian stationed at United States Army General Hospital No. 16 in New Haven, Connecticut, experimented with matching the right literary prescription to her patients’ needs. Her work posed multiple challenges. During and after the war, the hospital exclusively treated soldiers suffering from tuberculosis.

To “prescribe” books of therapeutic value to these patients, librarians like Louise Sweet

Serving convalescents, U. S. General Hospital, Bronx, New York.

had to consider several potential dangers. Some librarians feared that certain genres, such as detective stories and westerns, could raise the temperature of TB patients or quicken their pulse rates. There was also considerable debate as to whether TB patients should be allowed to read fiction or non­fiction that referenced their disease in any way. Was a healing book one that offered escape from illness, or one that allowed a reader to confront it?

This question, along with the challenge of matching book to patient, continued to shape the emerging practice of what became known as bibliotherapy.

 

For more information on this exhibit, and on the history of bibliotherapy in Connecticut during the war, please visit the website accompanying the exhibit: http://www.booksasmedicine.com

There, along with more information about the exhibit, you can try your hand at writing your own literary prescription, just like Louise Sweet and other librarians during the war.

From war service to science: Bibliotherapy is one of several World War I themed exhibitions on display in Babbidge Library and the Dodd Research Center this Spring, marking the centennial of the official involvement of the United States in World War I. The United States Congress declared war on the German Empire on 6 April 1917. This exhibit will be on display in Babbidge Library through May 15, 2017.

[Images Courtesy of American Library Association Archives.]

Commemorating the Centennial

Known as “The Great War” and “The War to end All Wars”, World War I triggered by the diplomatic crisis brought about by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Gavrilo

Adventure and action, Library of Congress WWI Poster Collection

Princip in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. On 25 July Russia began mobilization and on 28 July, the Austro-Hungarians declared war on Serbia. Germany presented an ultimatum to Russia to demobilize, and when this was refused, declared war on Russia on 1 August. Germany then invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg before moving towards France, leading the United Kingdom to declare war on Germany on 4 August.

At the outbreak of the war, the United States pursued a policy of non-intervention, avoiding conflict while trying to broker a peace. In the face of repeated attacks at sea and unsuccessful attempts to mediate a settlement, President Wilson warned the German government that the United States would not tolerate unrestricted submarine warfare, in violation of international law.

Grove Cottage, Connecticut Agricultural College

In January 1917, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare, realizing it would mean American entry. The German Foreign Minister, in the Zimmermann Telegram, invited Mexico to join the war as Germany’s ally against the United States. In return, the Germans would finance Mexico’s war and help it recover the territories of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The United Kingdom intercepted the message and presented it to the US embassy. From the embassy it was passed to President Wilson who released the Zimmermann note to the public, and Americans saw it as casus belli. Wilson called on antiwar elements to end all wars, by winning this one and eliminating militarism from the globe. He argued that the war was so important that the US had to have a

Field message on the front, 1918

voice in the peace conference. After the sinking of seven US merchant ships by submarines and the publication of the Zimmermann telegram, Wilson called for war on Germany, which the US Congress declared on 6 April 1917. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I#Entry_of_the_United_States]

In commemoration of the centennial of the involvement of the United States in this historic and world changing event, Archives & Special Collections has installed five World War I themed exhibitions located in Homer Babbidge Library and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Two of the exhibits highlight the research of UConn graduate students Allison Horrocks (History, Ph.D., 2016) and Mary Mahoney (History, Ph.D candidate). The exhibitions are scheduled to be open from 6 April – 15 May 2017.

Please join our guest curators for a gallery talk on Thursday 6 April 2017 from 11:30-12:30.  The talk will begin in Homer Babbidge Library in the West Alcove and then walk over to the Dodd Center.  Light refreshments will be served after the talk in the Dodd Center.

Exhibitions in this series include:

Posters of World War I from the collections of the Library of Congress illustrate the need for men, resources and financing necessary to support the efforts of the United States in its support of its allies. [Dodd Center, West Corridor]

The Land-grant College at War: A Centennial Retrospective traces the turn-of-the-century activities and role of Connecticut Agricultural College through its involvement in food production, research, military training, and the active participation of its staff and students. [Horrocks, Dodd Center Gallery]

From Library War Service to Science: Bibliotherapy in World War I outlines the implementation of a theory that books can heal. Put in practice in Connecticut during World War I, doctors and librarians joined together to apply reading as a form of therapy. [Mahoney, Homer Babbidge Library, West Alcove]

Dana T. Leavenworth – A Connecticut Soldier’s Experience from the Leavenworth Family Papers, the documents highlight the concerns of an officer serving in France as well as the activities and emotions of those serving on the home front.  [Dodd Center, Reading Room]

Commemorating the Centennial utilizes archival materials selected from the holdings of Archives & Special Collections.  The individual cases each represent a format or range of activity unified to illustrate the variety of perspectives, activities, emotions and consequences of the United States actively participating in the war effort. [Homer Babbidge Library, Gallery on the Plaza]

ROTC TURNS 100: UConn and Military Training, Part One: The Early Years, 1893-1920

This is the first of a series of blog posts by Nick Hurley, who recently completed his M.A. in History at UConn and now works as Research Services Assistant here at Archives & Special Collections.

How time flies!

Since its founding in 1916, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (better known as ROTC) has become a fixture on many U.S. college campuses, and UConn is no exception. More than two hundred Huskies are currently serving as Cadets in either the Nathan Hale Battalion, the Army’s only ROTC unit in Connecticut, or Air Force ROTC Detachment 115, “Snake Eyes Five”.

I spent four years in the Nathan Hale Battalion, from 2009-2013, reaching the rank of Cadet Captain and eventually commissioning as a Field Artillery officer. Given my personal connection to UConn and the military (not to mention my love of all things history), I thought it would be appropriate, especially because ROTC is turning 100 this year, to examine the long and fascinating story of military training at UConn.

Cadets conducting a "mock battle" on campus, WWI era.

Cadets conducting a “mock battle” on campus, WWI era.

To do so, there was no better starting point than the holdings here at Archives and Special Collections. Series VI of the University of Connecticut Photograph Collection contains three boxes of photographic prints which document all aspects of Cadet life from the early 1900’s to the present, including training exercises, social events, and inspections. There are also numerous portraits of Cadets, Instructors, the Cadet Band, and the Color Guard. A small number of these photographs have been uploaded to our digital repository. Physical artifacts are contained in the UConn Memorabilia Collection, including a dress uniform jacket from the late 1930’s and a unit patch dated 1918, and general administrative files from both Army and Air Force ROTC can be found in the UConn Office of Public Information (OPI) Records.

CAC Cadet Band, circa 1907. Note the blue uniforms and collar insignia marked “C.A.C”. These would be replaced by Army green uniforms and ROTC insignia beginning in 1917.

Though this year marks the centenary of ROTC, UConn’s affiliation with military training in general dates back to 1893, when the Storrs Agricultural School was renamed the Storrs Agricultural College. Along with the name change came the conferral of land-grant status to the university. Under the terms of the Morrill Act of 1862, land-grant colleges received federal land and assistance in return for offering academic programs in agriculture, engineering, and military tactics. The administration at Storrs deemed it appropriate to not only offer military classes, but make them mandatory, and thereafter every male student who enrolled at the school received instruction under the direction of a newly-hired Professor of Military Science. This training was not intended to produce commissioned officers, however, and students incurred no military obligation upon graduating from Storrs Agricultural College, which in 1899 became the Connecticut Agricultural College (CAC).

Members of the CAC Cadet Battalion, 1905. The officer in the second row, fourth from left is Lieutenant E. R. Bennett, Commandant of Cadets

Members of the CAC Cadet Battalion, 1905. The officer in the second row, fourth from left is Lieutenant E. R. Bennett, Commandant of Cadets

The roots of what we now know as ROTC can be traced back to the National Defense Act of 1916. Among its other provisions, it provided federal assistance for the establishment of officer training programs at a number of universities. UConn was one such institution, and on November 1st, 1916, War Department Bulletin No. 48 announced the creation of “an Infantry unit of the Senior Division, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps” at Storrs.

The introduction of ROTC brought both change and continuity. Activities like the Cadet Band and Color Guard remained integral components of ROTC life, and drill continued to be held in Hawley

Rifle range, Hawley Armory basement, circa 1920

Rifle range, Hawley Armory basement, circa 1920

Armory, named for SAC graduate Willis Nichols Hawley following his death during the Spanish-American War. Completed in 1915, the facility also housed facilities for athletics, an auditorium, and even a rifle range in the basement. (Today, the armory continues to serve as a supply room and exercise area for UConn Cadets—but, not surprisingly, the rifle range is no more!)

Still, no one could deny that a significant shift in military training at Storrs had occurred. An article in the April 30, 1917 edition of the Connecticut Campus noted that:

A young man now entering the Connecticut Agricultural College, if a citizen of the United States and physically fit, becomes a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Without cost he is furnished with rifle, uniform and necessary equipment. For two years he devotes three hours a week to military training under the prescribed course. At the end of the two years, if he so elects, and if he is recommended by the President of the college and the Commandant he may sign an agreement to devote five hours a week to the advanced course in Military Training for the remaining two years of the college course…a graduate of the college who has completed the advance course is eligible for appointment by the President of the United States as Second Lieutenant in the regular army for a period of six months with pay at $100 per month and to a commission in the Officers’ Reserve Corps.

Calisthenics in Hawley Armory, 1920

Calisthenics in Hawley Armory, 1920

There were more visible changes as well; students no longer wore the Cadet blue uniform, exchanging them for Army greens with an olive drab cuff insignia emblazoned with the letters “U.S.” and “R.O.T.C.” In addition, new rifles and other equipment were soon delivered to campus courtesy of the War Department, and Lieutenant Frank R. Sessions arrived in October of 1917 to replace Captain Charles Amory as Commandant. The arrival of Lieutenant Sessions was not a moment too soon. War had been declared that April, and many male students had already left campus for the battlefields of France and Belgium. Of the nearly six hundred CAC students and alumni who would ultimately serve in the Great War, at least seven would not live to see the armistice declared in November of 1918.

Those who remained in Storrs trained with a new sense of purpose and urgency. By the summer of 1918, however, the Cadet contingent at CAC was overshadowed by a new government-initiated program: the Students’ Army Training Corps (SATC). The Corps essentially placed participating universities on a war footing; students and staff alike were inducted into the military, and remained on campus for instruction in trades and skills deemed vital to the war effort. At the completion of such courses, the intent was to assign graduates to officers’ school, regular duty as enlisted men, or further technical training. Some four hundred CAC men had signed up by the time the short-lived program was disbanded in December of 1918. Following a brief lull, ROTC was reinstated the following January with the arrival of Captain Claude E. Cranston as the new Professor of Military Science. By the end of that year, Cadet training had more or less returned to what it had been before the introduction of the SATC.

ROTC Cadets standby for inspection of their encampments and equipment, 1919. Hawley Armory is in the background. Laurel Hall now stands on the site of the parade field

ROTC Cadets standby for inspection of their encampments and equipment, 1919. Hawley Armory and Koons Hall are in the background. Oak Hall now stands on the site of the parade field

Notwithstanding a brief suspension during the First World War, then, ROTC had by 1920 established itself as a fixture on the Storrs campus. The future of the program would be anything but tranquil, however, as the remainder of the twentieth century would prove eventful, both on campus and abroad. In my next post, we’ll look at the debates over compulsory participation in ROTC. Stay tuned!

–Nick Hurley

Breaking news — 74th anniversary of the “day which will live in infamy”

Andre Schenker, 1930

Andre Schenker, 1930

About 1935, Andre Schenker, Associate Professor of History at UConn, began a regular broadcast series entitled “History in the Headlines” airing on WTIC.  The series provided context and analysis of current events for the listening audience. In a reminiscence, Dr. Schenker’s son remembers attending a performance in Hartford on the evening of December 7, 1941, when an usher came to quietly speak with his father. Immediately leaving the performance, Dr. Schenker went on the air later to share the breaking news. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States had declared war.

This and other broadcasts are available in the Schenker Papers held by Archives & Special Collections and online.

 

A Summer in the Stacks: Bruce Morrison, The Reluctant Irishman

Graduate intern Nick Hurley updates his progress in the Bruce Morrison Papers–

It has been a while since my introductory blog post, and much has happened between then and now! I have examined and rearranged two series of the Morrison Papers (about seven boxes of material) and prepped them for digitization, and also prepared new finding aids for each.

Processing the Bruce Morrison Papers

Processing the Bruce Morrison Papers

Series VII deals with Morrison’s time on the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform (1993-1997). It is a small collection—only two boxes—but had an interesting mix of correspondence, press clippings, and copies of government documents to look through, and was a good way to ease into my new job at the archives.

Organizing the Bruce Morrison Papers

Organizing the Bruce Morrison Papers

Series VIII was far more complex. It deals exclusively with Morrison’s involvement in Irish affairs. Among the five subseries I established in the new finding aid, researchers will now have access to information about topics such as Morrison’s leadership of Americans for a New Irish Agenda (ANIA) and Irish Americans for Clinton-Gore, his work on Irish immigration, and his role in urging President Clinton to take a more active role in the peace process in Northern Ireland.

It’s clear from looking through these papers that Bruce Morrison was a man incredibly committed to his work. His involvement in the Irish peace process, for example, seems manageable until you realize that while he was leading fact-finding missions to Northern Ireland and petitioning the White House for a new Irish agenda, he was also serving on the Commission on Immigration Reform (1993-1997), practicing as an immigration lawyer in New Haven, and chairing the Federal Housing Finance Board (1995-2000). He also had a wife and young son (born 1992) at home.

It’s also clear that Ireland played a huge role in much of his career. In the 1990s, he became a veritable superstar amongst the Irish-American population, due in large part to his authorship of the Immigration Act of 1990. A provision of that bill, known as the “Morrison program”, allotted more than 16,000 visas to immigrants from Ireland and Northern Ireland attempting to enter the United States. For much of the early 1990s, Morrison was a guest of honor at countless social functions at Irish clubs and institutions, and was even named one of Irish America magazine’s Top 100 Irish-Americans.

 

Collection materials

Collection materials

Here’s what really surprised me, however; Morrison’s upbringing and personal life don’t at all reflect his high standing in the Irish-American community, or the deep interest in all things Ireland that came to define his political career. Adopted as a baby, his Irish roots consist of a biological father who was, in Morrison’s words, “somewhat Irish.” He was raised Lutheran, not Catholic. One reporter offered the following description in a March 1997 article for the Hartford Courant:

No Irish flag waves from his porch on St. Patrick’s Day. He isn’t much of a storyteller, doesn’t quote from W. B. Yeats, and doesn’t sing Irish songs, or even profess to know any of the words. In his home, the paintings and sculptures reveal a preference for primitive art from Africa and South America. Only some expensive Irish crystal ware — gifts and awards from groups in both Ireland and America — offer any clues that Morrison has an Irish connection.

It was clear from my examination of these collections that Morrison was never destined, by virtue of his childhood experiences or family background, for the career he ended up having. So I had to ask; why Ireland? The simple answer is that as a young Congressman, spurred on by reports of human rights abuses in Northern Ireland, he was persuaded to leave the Friends of Ireland, which consisted of politicians who rarely criticized the British and limited their activities to what Morrison called “St. Patrick’s Day blather,” and join instead the Ad Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs, a more “radical” element of Congress which took a deep interest in the Ireland issue.

Even once on the committee, however, his involvement in Ireland was characterized by a certain sense of emotional detachment. In the March 1997 article, Morrison pointed to a “radicalizing experience” in 1987 that began to reverse that trend. While on a fact-finding mission to Northern Ireland, Morrison’s car was stopped by a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC, a British-backed police force) armored vehicle:

A dozen officers surrounded the car. When he was asked for papers, Morrison handed over his passport, stamped with “Member of Congress.” The policeman refused to return it, and a shouting match ensued, with congressman and officer pulling on the passport. Other officers rifled through the trunk.

Infuriated but ever the lawyer, Morrison pulled out a notepad and began to write down police badge numbers. An RUC officer grabbed the pad. It was a crime, he said, to collect information about security forces. They were released 30 minutes later. 

All that would follow—the peace process, the Morrison visas, and the outpouring of support from the Irish community—would now be more than just a political agenda for Morrison. The man himself perhaps said it best:

“Here I had this fortuitous coming together of opportunities that had made me a hero in Irish America and in Ireland . . . and it was like, ‘That’s great, I can just bask in the glory of it all and get upgraded on Aer Lingus [Ireland’s national airline], but I’m an activist. That’s who I am. How do I take this and make something different in the world?’”

Put simply, his dedication to all things Irish came not from his ethnic heritage, but from a life lived as an activist. While attending the University of Illinois, he formed an advocacy group for graduate students, and after his graduation from Yale Law School he practiced at a firm which specialized in “poverty law”, helping those without the means to help themselves. Bruce Morrison went where he was needed, and in the early 1990s, that place just happened to be Ireland, and he just happened to have an Irish background.

Questions of motive aside, one thing is certain: Bruce Morrison has become a cult figure in the Irish-American community, and the prestige he earned from his work in 1990s isn’t likely to fade anytime soon.

 

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)

 

12th Annual Conference of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC)

ACSC Program packet and authorized researcher pin

ACSC Program packet and authorized researcher pin

 

Archives & Special Collections is a founding member of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress, an organization which encourages the preservation of material that documents the work of Congress, including the papers of representatives and senators, and supports programs that make those materials available for educational and research use.  Last week I attended the 12th annual meeting of ACSC, hosted by the National Archives and Records Administration’s Center for Legislative Archives located in Washington, D.C.

Over the years I have been representing UConn in this organization, I have taken the opportunity of the location to meet with the staff of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation and this year was no exception.  On May 12th, I met with the Chief/Deputy Chief of Staff for Representatives Larson and Esty and Senators Murphy and Blumenthal to remind them that UConn would be interested in being identified as a repository for their papers and to answer any questions they may have regarding congressional research collections or Archives & Special Collections at UConn.  Having already spoken with representatives of Rosa DeLauro and Joe Courtney earlier in the year, I hope to hear from all of them when the time comes for the records to find a permanent home!

The conference itself is a great opportunity to meet with colleagues from repositories with similar collecting interests and to learn what is happening in the wider world of documenting Congress, as well as hear from scholars and former members about their concerns, interests and activities associated with congressional papers.  Sessions throughout the remainder of the week touched on think tanks, instruction support tools for the Bill of Rights, financial and friend support, women in Congress in the 1980s, electronic records and current research, and oral histories with a focus on the Voting Rights Act.  Rounding out the two and half day conference was a presentation by a small group of ACSC members who have begun a collaborative online exhibition, an online Omeka instance hosted by the University of Delaware, that shares items from a variety of institutions illustrating issues associated with the 89th Congress (1965-1966).  Definitely a project to which UConn will be contributing!  It was also a pleasant surprise to have our own Barbara Kennelly, who served in Congress for 17 years representing the 1st District, speaking as part of the women in Congress presentation.  This annual conference is always informative and sends one home bursting with ideas and plans…but having been away from the office for a week, I have some catching up to do first.

For more information about

The Association of Centers for the Study of Congress 

The political collections in Archives & Special Collections

The Great Society Congress online exhibition

Congress creates the Bill of Rights information (app/ebook/pdf)

Barbara Kennelly Papers

Senate Oral histories

National Archives and Records Administration (Archives I), Washington, DC

National Archives and Records Administration (Archives I), Washington, DC

Remember when?

Media guide, 1994-1995 Women's Basketball

Media guide, 1994-1995 Women’s Basketball

April 2, 1995–a significant event in UConn history. Twenty years ago today, the UConn Women’s Basketball won the first NCAA Division I Basketball Championship by defeating the Lady Vols 70-64 at the Target Center in Minneapolis.  Women’s basketball has never been the same–especially in Connecticut.  Best wishes to the 1994-1995 as the 2014-2015 team strives to follow in your footsteps to make it a record-breaking 10!

Media guide, 1994-1995 Women's Basketball

Media guide, 1994-1995 Women’s Basketball

 

New Digital Content available

For those of you who may be interested in keeping up to date on our digitization efforts, we’ve added quite a bit to our digital repository.  Just over a year ago, the only collection with digital surrogates was the Thomas J. Dodd Papers.  Over the course of the summer, the Archives & Special Collections materials that had been made available via webpages and Connecticut History Online (now Connecticut History Illustrated) was migrated to the new platform.  More recent additions include Albert Waugh’s daily journal, Bruce Morrison video recordings, historical and architectural reports from Litchfield, Manchester, Groton and Mansfield, images of bookplates (Ercolini Collection), sound recordings documenting opinions of American politics (Everett Ladd Papers), Francelia Butler’s “Melted Refrigerator,” and books from the Puerto Rican and Skating collections–among many, many others!  Please take a moment and browse through the thousands of pages and images now available for research online at http://archives.lib.uconn.edu/.

 

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.