75 Years Later: Pearl Harbor Remembered

Editor's column, December 8, 1941 edition of the Connecticut Campus

Editor’s column, December 8, 1941 edition of the Connecticut Campus

December 7, 1941 was a Sunday. In Storrs, UConn students prepared for end-of-the-semester exams and the upcoming winter break. That evening, History Professor Andre Schenker traveled to Hartford with his family to see a play. At some point, an usher approached him with an urgent message. Five thousand miles to the west, at 1:18pm that afternoon (7:48am Hawaiian time), Japanese naval and air forces had attacked the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, inflicting heavy casualties and causing severe damage. Schenker immediately set off for radio station WTIC, where he served as a world affairs commentator. Later that night, he began his broadcast with the following words:

“It has happened. Japan has decided to commit suicide by attacking the strongest power on earth, the United States…As you all know by now, this morning in the Far East, which means this afternoon our time, a Japanese force suddenly attacked Manila, in the Philippines, and another force attacked the Gibraltar of the Pacific, our base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands.”

(You can hear Professor Schenker’s full commentary on the attack here)

Maurice “Moe” Daly

Maurice “Moe” Daly

The next day, President Franklin Roosevelt called for a declaration of war against Japan, which led to Germany and Italy issuing similar declarations against the U.S. on December 11th. America had officially entered the Second World War.

Even as the students and faculty at Storrs processed the news, Connecticut alumni halfway around the world already found themselves in harm’s way. Major Maurice F. “Moe” Daly, a popular football player from the Class of 1923, was stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines during the Japanese attack there on December 8th. After participating in its heroic defense, he would eventually be taken prisoner when Bataan fell the following April, and died in captivity.

The attack on Pearl Harbor signaled a major transformation in campus life at Storrs. Blackouts were put into effect, ROTC training was ramped up, and the pages of the student newspaper were increasingly filled with war-related news. Soon, male students and faculty members alike left the campus in droves to join the armed forces. At least 114 of them would not return after the war’s end in 1945.

Happy Earth Day from Archives & Special Collections!

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than by planting a tree? This particular photograph depicts the planting of a white oak tree (Quercus alba) near Beach Hall on the Storrs campus in 1947. The ceremony was likely in response to Governor James L. McConaughy’s declaration of April 16, 1947 which designated the white oak as the official state tree of Connecticut.

White Oak illustration. From F. Andrew Michaux, "North American Sylva: Forest Trees of America, Vol. I" (Philadelphia: W.M. Rutter & Co. ,1871)

White Oak illustration. From F. Andrew Michaux, “North American Sylva: Forest Trees of America, Vol. I” (Philadelphia: W.M. Rutter & Co. ,1871)

The choice of tree can be attributed to the legend of the Charter Oak, a white oak which stood from around the 12th or 13th century until 1856 in present-day Hartford. It is said that in 1687, Sir Edmund Andros arrived in North America as Governor-General of New England. In order to consolidate his power over Connecticut, he attempted to seize the charter given to the colony in 1662 by King Charles II, which granted them an unusual degree of autonomy. Andros arrived in Hartford with an armed force to seize the document, and it was laid out before him on a table. At some point, however, the lights in the room were doused, and in the ensuing confusion the charter was spirited away by Captain Joseph Wadsworth and hidden in the nearby oak tree.

An interactive map of trees and shrubs on the UConn campus can be found on the website of the UConn Arboretum Committee.

The Geigel at the Archives: A look at the Géigel Family’s impact in documenting Puerto Rican socioeconomic and cultural history through the Puerto Rican Collection


Luis Géigel and his daughter, Bianca Géigel Lonergan in the stacks where part of the Puerto Rican collection is located (06/18/2014).

Luis Géigel and his daughter, Bianca Géigel Lonergan in the stacks where part of the Puerto Rican collection is located (06/18/2014).

Last June 18, 2014 I had the pleasure to welcome to the archives two family members of the late Luisa Géigel—the last owner of what it is known as the Puerto Rican Collection, A.K.A. the Geigel Family Collection. Bianca Géigel Lonergan contacted me in June to see if we could arrange a visit to the collection so her father, Luis Géigel, could see the books her cousin (*), Luisa Geigel de Gandia sold to the archives. For the visit I gathered a selection of the books published by several members of the Géigel family in the collection as a way to reflect on the importance of this family in the development of Puerto Rico as a modern nation since the late 19th century.

As I mentioned in previous blog postings about this collection (2010 and 2012), the Archives and the Special Collections department, with the help of a former UConn History professor Francisco Scarano, acquired this collection in 1982 through several grants and financial supports from the Research Foundation, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Center of Latin American Studies, the Class of ’26, and the University of Connecticut Foundation, from Luisa Géigel de Gandia. Luisa Géigel de Gandia was an important artist in Puerto Rico especially in the 1940s. She was the first Puerto Rican female sculptor. She also was a painter and was the first women artist to exhibit several nude figure studies in Puerto Rico. She was a co-founder, together with Nilita Vientos Gastón, of the Arts Division at the Ateneo Puertorriqueño. From 1958-1986 she taught Sculpture, Drawing and Artistic Anatomy at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She was also a published author.

Index and inventory created by Luisa Géigel of the titles and location of all the books in the Géigel collection in her home in San Juan, PR

Index and inventory created by Luisa Géigel of the titles and location of all the books in the Géigel collection in her home in San Juan, PR

Together with her father and grandfather, she maintained, expanded and inventoried her family’s books and serials collection. As Dr. Scarano aptly described it, “this magnificent research collection, painstakingly nurtured by the Géigel family of San Juan for three generations, constitutes a bibliographic resource of national scholarly significance” (1).

José Geigel y Zenón

José Geigel y Zenón (1841-1892)

From rare literature gems from the 19th century and 20th century to agricultural and political treatises, this collection serves as a snapshot of the different cultural, political, scientific, and economic movements experimented in Puerto Rico in the past two centuries. The collection also reflected the various interests that drove the family members, José Géigel y Zenón (1841-1892), Fernando Géigel y Sabat (1881-1981), y Luisa Géigel de Gandia (1916-2008) to amassed this collection. Other individuals that donated materials to the original collection was Ramón Gandia Córdova, Luisa Géigel’s father-in-law who donated a good portion of the agricultural books found in this collection. There are other members of the Géigel family represented in the collection such as Vicente Géigel y Polanco (politician and former president of the Ateneo Puertorriqueño), A.D. Géigel (a translator of foreign novels during the 19th century), and Luis M. Géigel (agronomist and father and grandfather of our visitors).

The Geigel family members were great contributors to the cultural and political life of Puerto Rico and their work reflected their deep love and concerns about the past, present and future of Puerto Rico. José Géigel y Zenón, known as Pepe by his contemporaries, was part of the intellectual elite in 19th century Puerto Rico and was friend and/or relative to many important cultural figures such as Alejandro Tapia y Rivera and Manuel Zeno Gandia—who signed and dedicated their books to their dear friend Pepe. In term of cultural contributions, José Géigel y Zenón, together with Abelardo Morales Ferrer wrote one of the most definite Puerto Rican bibliography of their time titled, Bibliografía Puertorriqueña 1492-1894 which was produced between 1892 -1894. Later on his son, Fernando Géigel y Sabat published the first edition of this work in 1934. In addition, Fernando published a compilation of his father satirical writing that he published in different 19th century newspapers such as El Progreso, Don Simplicio, El Derecho, y La Azucena, titled, Artículos político-humoristico y literarios por Jose Géigel y Zenón (1936).

Fernando Géigel y Sabat

Fernando Géigel y Sabat (1881-1981)

Fernando Géigel y Sabat was also an important member of the family. A lawyer by training, he was a Manager of the City of San Juan (1939–1941) and published author. He authored several books which range from political topics such as El ideal de un pueblo y los partidos politicos (1940) to historical treatise, Balduino Enrico (1934), and Corsarios y piratas de Puerto Rico 1819-1825 (1946)—inspired in part by Alejandro Tapia y Rivera novel, Cofresí, which Tapia dedicated to Fernando’s father. Also present in the collection are several important titles from Vicente Géigel y Polanco. A politician, reporter, essayist, ateneísta, he was a pivotal figure in Puerto Rico during the mid-20th century. The collection has several of his books such as El problema universitario, on the role of the university in Puerto Rican culture, La independencia de Puerto Rico about independence as a political option for Puerto Rico, and his memoir about his work at the Ateneo Puertorriqueño, Mis recuerdos del Ateneo.

There are two books from Luisa Géigel in the collection, La genealogía y el apellido de Campeche and El paquete rojo o informe sobre la extinción de la moneda Macuquina. Luis M. Géigel’s work at the Estación Experiemental in Puerto Rico is also present with the title, El algodón “sea-island” en Puerto-Rico which is available at the Internet Archives. I have compiled a list with the books published by the Geigel family in the collection for your enjoyment.

Marisol Ramos, Curator, with Luis Géigel at the stacks

Marisol Ramos, Curator, with Luis Géigel at the stacks

This visit by Bianca and Luis Géigel was quite a walk into memory lane. It helped me to contextualize this collection as part of a bigger project of imaging Puerto Rico as part of a broader cosmopolitan project that connected Puerto Rico with its past, present and possible futures. The vision of the Géigel family for Puerto Rico was multifaceted and its collection represented that diversity of thoughts, history, politics and cultural projects experimented during the 19th and 20th century. Walking with Luis and Bianca into the stacks at the Archives and Special Collections to see the books up close and personal, was like embarking in a time-traveling adventure similar to the ones imaged by the Alejandro Tapia y Rivera in one his stories; a type of magic only find in the archives…

Note: (*): Luis Géigel is Luisa’s first cousin once removed.


Scarano, Francisco A. “The Géigel Puerto Rican Collection”. Harvest. The University of Connecticut Library, Fall 1982: 1-2.

Biographical Data for Luisa Géigel available at these sites:

Marisol Ramos, Curator for Latina/o, Latin American and Caribbean Collections

Unpublished Seuss manuscripts rediscovered

Random House announced yesterday that it will publish What pet should I get? which features the brother and sister from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.  The manuscript and sketches were found in a box along with the original materials for at least two other books.  Random House will announce the publication dates for the other new releases later.

(The cover of a previously unknown Dr. Seuss book titled, What Pet Should I Get?)

Dr. Seuss’s widow, Audrey Geisel, set the box aside after her husband’s death in 1991, during a renovation of their home.  She and a longtime friend recently rediscovered the box, explaining in a statement to Random House:  “Ted always worked on multiple projects and started new things all the time — he was constantly drawing and coming up with ideas for new stories.”

ABC’s Good Morning America announced the story this morning as well as USA Today. 

What fantastic news for fans of Dr. Seuss.

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.