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

Human Rights in the Former Yugoslavia

–This is a guest post by UConn Senior Matthew Kosior (Political Science and French/Francophone Studies Major and a Human Rights, Spanish and International Studies Minor), currently interning at the Archives & Special Collections, focusing his work on the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet Collection.  

Violence and Terror in Kosovo, SOS-Kosovo Committee, Geneva, Switzerland. Human Rights Internet, box 99.

With ever normalizing relations between the Balkan states, especially with the recent Serbia-Kosovo talks as well as Montenegro’s invitation to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), from an outsider’s perspective the progress made in the region seems ordinary. One cannot however ignore the fact that the former Yugoslavia has endured violent waves of wars that would permanently strain relations between the various ethnic groups and nation-states that would emerge from the chain of conflicts. The complicated history of the region and its path towards stabilization can be found through the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet Collection (HRIC) found in the Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, which contains a plethora of articles, resolutions, and books relating to the former Yugoslavia. Continue reading

Orienting Oneself Inside Charles Olson’s Thought – A Prospector’s Guide

by Matthew L. Kroll

To say that readers need a roadmap to guide them through the prolific, often perplexing work of American poet Charles Olson (1910–1970) perhaps edges too close to cliché —  the kind of bland and general statement which Charles Olson successfully and adamantly avoided throughout his career.  But it is, I think, true.  As is the fact Charles Olson spent much of his career making ‘maps,’ of one kind or another.  Olson’s interest in cartography and archival maps, and his almost ontological understanding of geography, manifest his acute thinking of and through space and place.  But Olson also created ‘maps’ of thought across his writings and lectures: uncovering and connecting people, places, languages and literatures across various eras of human history, including his own.  The work of the Olson scholar involves tracing these ‘thought-maps,’ if you will, to the benefit of readers and students of Olson.

To add clarity and depth to the scholarly exploration of Olson’s idiosyncratic thinking and writing, a researcher will surely benefit from the vast and varied Olson material available at the Archives and Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.  Thankfully, this carefully curated collection has a detailed finding aid, and the staff has a wealth of knowledge to further help visitors navigate the collection.  But all that guidance could not fence me from the inevitable sense of disorientation I felt after my first day engaging with the Olson archives during my research trip.

Suffice to say, the breadth of Olson’s knowledge can make his readers’ head spin, leaving us grasping for a sense of direction.  The archived material available in Storrs attests to the immense range of thinkers and writers of various fields and genres with which Olson engaged.  The unpublished material there can help us fill in the gaps and make our own pathways through his dense thought.  The Olson scholar must, I think, (paraphrasing his line) “find out for him-/herself” a way to orient oneself to Olson’s mind.[1]  For my own research purposes, this has been to focus on Olson and early Greek thought.

Before arriving in Storrs I was confident I had a good plan of research going in.  Within only a few minutes of arriving at the Charles Olson Research Collection, however, I realized the most important, and unexpected, task of my week: orienting myself to Olson’s often unintelligible handwriting!  The image below demonstrates both the difficulty in reading Olson’s handwriting, and offers us a glimpse of how his mind worked.  Note the multiple directional orientations of his handwriting across these two pages from a notebook dated 11 November – 13 December, 1964 (Box 56, folder 103).

KrollCOB56f103pp45revA dizzying experience, indeed.  This image is particularly relevant here as it shows us Olson working through Whitehead’s concept of the ‘extensive continuum’ (from Process and Reality), essentially, the spatio-temporal extensiveness of the world.  This is vintage Olson: working through a philosophical concept which is fundamental to how human beings orient themselves in the world, doing it with such freedom and instantaneous changes of direction that he actually writes along several different axes across the page.

But for all the frustration readers and researchers may find in Olson— his layered and obscure allusions, his frequently challenging syntax, his penmanship—there are some constants in Olson’s writing, especially in his magnum opus, The Maximus Poems.  Olson’s modern verse epic is populated with many historical and geographical explorations of his adopted hometown of Gloucester, MA.  We see through Maximus’ (Olson’s?) eyes Stage Fort Park, Dogtown, the waters and islands off Cape Ann and its surrounding environs, the settlers and early inhabitants of the area, its fishermen, its modern inhabitants, its poets…we even get a sense for life inside his 28 Fort Square apartment and the very desk he enveloped with his physical and intellectual magnitude.  The early published versions of each of the three volumes of Maximus featured maps on their covers, maps which would later feature as the first pages of the volumes in the collected edition (ed. George F. Butterick, 1983).  This was not merely a decision by Olson and his publishers to add cover art to the Maximus volumes.  These maps serve to orient the reader to the directions which the subsequent poetry will take: from Gloucester out to the sea; from Gloucester back through deep and mythological history; and finally from Gloucester toward the West.

KrollCO710HomermapcovrevAs I came to “find out for myself,” Olson himself mapped out the geography present in his favorite literature.  I couldn’t help but laugh when I came across Olson’s Modern Library Edition (1935) of The Complete Works of Homer (Olson #710).  Upon opening the front cover, I found a rather impressive freehand map of Greece which Olson drew in pencil.

And later in the volume, on the first page of Book IX of The Odyssey, Olson again appears to be orienting himself to his reading, this time drawing a map of the west coast of Italy and the Tyrrhenian Sea.  In his challenging fashion, the map is drawn right through the type!

This kind of interaction with his books is apparent throughout his library—as if Olson were responding to the text in his own hand in live time, creating a sort of interactive textual dialogue with whatever he was reading.


To conclude, Olson’s work is if nothing else rooted in place.  It expresses particular locales with an energy that, for me at least, few poets have been able to transfer “all the way over to the…reader” as successfully as he does.[2]  Fitting that a particular place exists—the University of Connecticut, where Olson taught briefly during what became the last year of his life—where Olson scholars can enact the very “prospecting” which his projective verse calls for, digging through his archived material to, hopefully, uncover some new place on the map of his thought—a new connectivity between his writing, his life, and the places, peoples, histories, and literatures which live in his work.  Thanks to the generous support of a Strochlitz travel grant, I was able to at least begin the digging for my own research project.  The Charles Olson Research Collection reinforced the aspect of his work which I think most gives it a unique vitality: it emanates a multiplicity of intense localities he’s “prospected”: places (physical, literary, and psychological) he inhabited, studied, and mapped.

Matthew Kroll is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy at Purdue University working on his dissertation titled “The Poet and the Polis: Early Greek Thought in Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems.”  Mr. Kroll was awarded a 2015 Strochlitz Travel Grant from Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut to support his ongoing research.


[1] Olson’s line is in “A Later Note on Letter # 15” [Maximus, 249 (II.79)], in reference to Herodotus’ “concept of history”, ‘istorin, which Olson tells us “was a verb, to find out for yourself.”  This understanding of the term is largely informed by J.A.K. Thomson’s The Art of the Logos (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1935).  Olson’s copy is in the Charles Olson Research Collection in Storrs, call no. Olson 450.

[2] “Projective Verse”, in Selected Writings, ed. Robert Creeley (New York: New Directions, 1966), p. 16.


Semiotics in the archives: Reflections on ‘Eviction and the Archive’ by scholar Daniel Nemser

image of front cover of Book written by the architect Lucas Cintora defending his work at the Lonja de Sevilla which will housed the new Archivo General de Sevilla.

Book written by the architect Lucas Cintora defending his work at the Lonja de Sevilla which would later housed the new Archivo General de Sevilla.

“Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.” ― Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose.

Today’s story is not about books talking about books necessarily but of a book talking about archives and their buildings, and the rationale, in this particular story, to evict people from a building to replace them with books and records in the name of history and imperial memory. In a way you can say that this is story of semiotics of archives, signs and meanings found in an article talking about a book talking about an archive to be born…

As I said in a previous post, it is valuable to hear from our researchers and to learn about how they used our archival materials in their work. Professor Daniel Nemser contacted me in April 2014 asking for access to one of our rare books titled, Justa repulsa de ignorantes y de émulos malignos: Carta apologético-crítica en que se vindica la obra que se está haciendo en la Lonja de Sevilla (1) written by the architect Lucas Cintora in 1786. Prof. Nemser needed to consult the piece for a scholarly article he was writing. As far as we know, there are two known copies in the world, one located at the University of Seville’s library and the other at the Archives and Special Collections here at UConn Storrs (2). Prof. Nemser was able to visit us last May 2014 to consult the book and last September 2015 he contacted me to let me know that his article, “Eviction and the archive: materials for an archaeology of the Archivo General de Indias” was published in Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies that month.

I was immediately intrigued and enchanted by the title of the article. It is not common to see literature scholars studying archives and their place in history. But this article delved into the history of the establishment of one of the most important archives ever created – an archive which documents “four centuries of Spanish colonial rule” and is considered the “first modern archives in Spain and one of the first in Europe” (page 131), el Archivo General de las Indias.

The article documented how a particular building known as La Casa Lonja de Mercaderes in Sevilla, designed by architect Juan de Herrera, a magnificent building to house the Consulado de Mercaderes (the city merchant guild), was repurposed to become the Archivo General de las Indias. After the construction “la Lonja”, the guild moved their office to the city of Cádiz and the building was abandoned, but right after people of poor means moved in and occupied the upper levels. The article explored how the founding of the archive, the eviction of its inhabitants and the modifications to the original building were part of an Enlightenment project by the Spanish crown to create a “modern archive” that justified their imperial project. Prof. Nemser explained that “the materiality of the archive itself would tell an epic tale about Spain’s colonial achievements and highlight the value of its ongoing colonial enterprise” (page 136).

The rare text from our collection was key to Prof. Nemser’s argument that the modifications of the original building by architect Lucas Cintora served to reshape the building’s functionality to conform to this enlightenment project. The modifications also represented a break with the past and the embrace of a new future, one that emphasized the importance of the Spanish empire and its validity to rule its colonies in the Americas. Prof. Nemser explained:

Since each type of building has a specific function and as such requires different formal characteristics, it will be necessary to “destroy” – Cintora does not pull his punches here – any elements of the original that are contrary to this new purpose. Of primary importance for an archive, he argued, was an open layout with what he called a “diaphanous” character. This was especially the case for an Enlightenment project such as the AGI [Archivo General de Indias], and as such it is understandable that the metaphor of light runs through much of the writing about the archive. In the structural transformation of the building, however, this metaphor takes on an architectural dimension: the need for light, clarity and transparency was precisely why the separation walls [inside the Lonja] had to be demolished (136).

As an archivist, it was fascinating to discover through the work of this scholar that Archives and Special Collections had a text in its collection that sheds light on the colonialistic root of the AGI. Prof. Nemser’s research left me pondering about the origins of other archival institutions, including our own. As Umberto Eco deftly explained in his novel The Name of the Rose, archives and libraries’ books are full of signs and meanings in constant dialogue with each others through the eyes of its readers.

We are honored and delighted to have facilitated Prof. Nemser’s research and to learn more about the complex history of archives.



1: We recently digitized this book and now it is available at the Connecticut Digital Archive.

2: From the article, “According to Humanes Bustamante, 200 copies of Cintora’s book were printed but later withdrawn and destroyed (339n11). However, at least two copies remain. Zerner has analyzed a copy held at the AGI, while the copy I consulted is located at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut. I am grateful to Marisol Ramos for her assistance.”

Can We Save the Botany Degree? Naturalist & Teale Researcher Richard Telford’s Latest Post, from Connecticut’s Trail Wood

By Richard Telford, The Ecotone Exchange, 23 October 2015 (excerpt)

fungi-trail-wood-rOn October 17, 1959, less than six months after moving to Trail Wood, the beloved private nature sanctuary where he would spend the rest of his life, American naturalist writer Edwin Way Teale wrote the following entry in his private journal:

We are presented with life memberships in the Baldwin Bird Club and  given a fine vasculum for collecting plants. So we round out our long association with this nature group—over a period of more than 20 years.  Now we ‘have other lives to live.’  We watched them go with thankfulness in our hearts that we could stay.

I first read this passage two summers ago while researching Teale’s early days at Trail Wood with the generous support of the University of Connecticut, where Teale’s papers are permanently housed in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. At the time, I was examining the extraordinary transformation that occurred in the lives of Edwin and his wife and collaborator Nellie with their move to Trail Wood, a site Edwin would subsequently declare to be “our Promised Land” (September 8, 1959). Teale chronicled this transformation in The Hampton Journal, 1959-1961, the first of four 500-page unpublished observation journals he kept at Trail Wood over a period of twenty-one years.  Continue reading…

Esphyr Slobodkina – Modernist (Children’s Book) Illustrator/Author

by JoAnn Conrad

Part of my ongoing research into children’s picturebooks of the mid-twentieth century has to do with the ways in which the work of illustrators has insinuated itself into the public memory even as the names of individual artists may be relatively obscure. This is the case with the rare female artist and, particularly, Esphyr Slobodkina, as her influence is inversely proportional to the obscurity of her name.  “Esphyr Slobodkina . . .helped pave the way for the acceptance of abstract art in the United States and translate[d] European modernism into an American idiom.”[1]


A simple and serendipitous anecdote demonstrates this: While researching her papers at UConn’s Archives and Special Collections this summer, I was living across the street from the UConn Bookstore. One day, I noticed a display in the window announcing “Caps for Sale” [Fig. 1], clearly alluding to one of Slobodkina’s most popular books of the same name [Fig. 2]. The power of the sale poster derives from and depends on the reference to the book, which is assumed to be automatic.

There is a fair amount about Slobodkina’s life and work available. The Finding Aid for the Slobodkina Papers at Archives and Special Collections provides a brief biography as does the website of the Esphyr Slobodkina Foundation.  The 2009 Rediscovering Slobodkina: A Pioneer of American Abstraction includes information on her life as well as her contributions to the art world, but the full biography has yet to be written.  Esphyr Slobodkina anticipated that it would be written, however, and drafted a comprehensive, detailed, 5-volume manuscript “Notes for a Biographer” which resides in her papers. The Slobodkina Papers contain much more than is in her books – things that would never be published but which give a researcher like me access to insights into the thoughts and motivations of the artist. One of the pleasures of this kind of archival research is not only this intimate and personal connection one makes across time, but also the unexpected revelations into the personality of the artist that informs her work. My intention here is to provide some of those “off the books” glimpses into the work and person – Esphyr Slobodkina.

Esphyr Slobodkina was born to a wealthy Russian-Jewish family in Russia before the Revolution. After the Revolution and her fig3scrapbookpeddlerfamily’s fig4scrapbookdressdesignchange in fortune and status, they moved east, to Harbin, and then, via Vladivostok, to the United States. The readjustment to their diminished financial situation was the beginning of her fashion design career – helping her mother sew dresses for clients in Harbin. Throughout her life, Esphyr (whose friends called her Phyra) would sew and consult on fashion and home décor to supplement her income, just as she did with children’s books (in amongst her papers in Box 13 are two experimental fabric children’s books; an attempt at combining her two skills).  Slobodkina kept scrapbooks, using large binders of wallpaper samples as her medium. Here, along with dummies for greeting cards, sketches, reviews, letters from children thanking her for her books, fashion design [Fig. 3], the peddler from Caps for Sale interacts with Slobodkina’s “poodies” from her very first children’s book attempt – Mary and the Poodies [Fig. 4]. In these scrapbooks, then, Slobodkina’s various artistic and commercial endeavors combine and interact. Unlike her biographers, perhaps, she did not segregate her work into compartments.

After arriving in the US in 1929, Esphyr became one of the founding members of the American Abstract Artists Association, and worked on various WPA projects during the Depression (including many murals in the New York City area).  But in 1937, as the Artists’ Union was disintegrating and the New Deal was succeeding, those WPA jobs became more scarce. Phyra again turned to the industrial arts – as a fabric print designer at the Arrow Printing Co. in Patterson, NJ, under the name Phyra Nay.

While still in Russia during those turbulent days, Phyra was not only tutored in art, but was also exposed to the work of the avant-garde that so dominated the art scene of the 1910s and 1920s in Russia: “I liked the early Russians, the Constructivists. And there were some very good women artists – Nathalia [sic] Goncharova. And there were of course decorative Russian artists. I happen not to sneeze at the decorative artists either.” And from another passage about living in Harbin:

We didn’t hear everything but some things reached us . . . There was a great big exhibit of Cubist art in Ufa . . . the next town from the town where I was born [Chelyabinsk]. That was the Cubists of the Italian type, Futurism, and it was all in those primary colors, broken up colors, purple and green . . . and all the nudes were triangles and squares and all broken up like spectral colors. That was as far as we got and we went and we stared and of course we understood nothing, but everyone laughed and said that was modern art [Interview transcript March 23, 1991, in Box 4, Esphyr Slobodkina Papers].

fig5turnipLater, living in the US in the 1930s she describes other influences: “We were into the German Expressionists, with a dash of [Oskar] Kokoschka and [Chaim] Soutin[e] here and there”(Box 1, Esphyr Slobodkina Papers, MSS pg. 517). [2] The avant-garde was to be a major influence in her artistic career as she deepened her interest in abstract art and that most deconstructive of techniques – collage. Here again, Slobodkina was able to translate the techniques of the avant-garde into the “decorative” or public arts, and in the process normalizing an avant-garde aesthetic in the popular imagination. In her collaboration with the great children’s book author Margaret Wise Brown, first with The Little Fireman (1938), then with The Little Farmer (1948) and The Little Cowboy (1948), Slobodkina introduced collage into children’s picturebooks.  Barbara Bader would later refer to this pioneering picturebook as “perhaps the apogee of modernism in the picture book.”[3] Slobodkina’s published children’s picturebooks featuring collage are readily available, but in the collection in Archives and Special Collections there are four large collages for an unpublished story “The Turnip that Grew” which she refers to as a “Russian Folktale” (the manuscript for the story is in Box 2, the pictures are framed but are also part of the collection) [Fig. 5].

Collage was also the basis for the illustrations of Caps for Sale and the one of the original collages is pasted in the aforementioned scrapbook [Fig. 6]. Preserved under plastic wrap, the image not only makes emphatic the link between handiwork and art, but also is penetrated by the impish Poodies. Slobodkina, in an interview, relates that the inspiration for the book came from a story she heard being told by the teacher of her sister-in-law’s child, and because of this ambiguous authorship, that William Scott had been hesitant to publish it. On the advice of Bertha Mahoney (of The Horn Book), Esphyr gave the peddler a name, and developed the plot more, whereby it was published by Harper Collins (1940) under the editorship of Ursula Nordstrom, and then later by Scott.

I want to close this insider’s look into the Slobodkina papers with the one item that is not fig8poodiesonly my favorite, but which shows how funny, creative, and engaging Phyra was. It again is related to Mary and the Poodies [Fig. 7], an unpublished children’s book that served as Esphyr’s introduction to Margaret Wise Brown and Wm. Scott Publishers. The book was not an ideological fit with the Bank Street “Here-and-Now” pedagogues because it featured the whimsical imaginary creatures – the eponymous Poodies.[4]  But the art work and use of collage attracted their attention and eventuated in the collaborative work between MWB and Slobodkina that began with The Little Fireman. In the Slobodkina Papers, however, was a small “promotional” sheet that she’d worked up for Mary and the Poodies, a kind of contest for kids to name the Poodies. To the first to respond awaits either a  Bachelors or a Masters of Poodology, conferred by Prof. Amoritus Maximus!

JoAnn Conrad is a professor of Anthropology and Folklore at California State University, East Bay (Hayward).  Her current research focuses on the impact of immigrant artists on the American cultural landscape in the post-WWII period, particularly in their role as illustrators of children’s picture books. Conrad feels that these immigrant artists, through their work in such quotidian, mass-produced materials as children’s books, magazines, and even film and animation, were important translators of a modernist aesthetic into the day-to-day lives and sensibilities of millions for whom the art world was a distant and foreign sphere. Conrad has researched such artists as Feodor Rojankovsky, Tibor Gergely, and Gustaf Tenggren.  In Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, she was specifically researching Esphyr Slobodkina and Leonard Weisgard (not an immigrant to the US, but influenced by European modernism). Conrad is the recipient of the 2015 Billie M. Levy Travel and Research Grant.

Sources cited:

All archival material referenced is from the Esphyr Slobodkina Papers.  Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center,  University of Connecticut Libraries.

[1] Slobodkina, Esphyr, and Sandra Kraskin. Rediscovering Slobodkina: A Pioneer of American Abstraction : [ Catalog of an Exhibition Held at the Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, Ny … between Jan. 10, 2009 and Apr. 18, 2010]. Manchester, Vt: Hudson Hills Press, 2009. Print.

[2] In an email correspondence with John Bowlt, dated Aug. 6, 2015, he indicates that David Burliuk, the so-called “Father of Russian Futurism”, held a one-man show in Ufa in 1916.

[3] Barbara Bader, “A Lien on the World.” (New York Times Book Review, November 9, 1980): 66.

[4] For more on the collaborative work of Margaret Wise Brown and Esphyr Slobodkina, see Leonard Marcus, “Modernist At Story Hour: Esphyr Slobodkina and the Art of the Picture Book” (


Reflections on Archival Silences: Wrapping Up A Summer in the Stacks

by Nick Hurley, Graduate Student Intern, Summer 2015

20150615Nickblog01For my final blog post of my summer internship, I want to touch on something that’s been nagging at me ever since I began my work.

In his book Silencing the Past, anthropologist and historian Michel-Rolph Trouillot talks about reading “silences” in the archives. According to Trouillot, honest scholars try to tell their stories as accurately as possible from the records available to them. Many times, however, these records are incomplete, as conscious choices were made by those who collected them regarding what to preserve, what to discard, and what to highlight. Thus, what is not present in an archive may at times be just as important as what is.

A cursory examination of the Bruce Morrison Papers will give any researcher an excellent overview of Morrison’s professional career. There is ample material documenting his time as an immigration lawyer, a U.S. Congressman, and a candidate for governor.  But what isn’t there, or is barely there, is equally significant. Aside from being a lawyer, politician, and activist, Morrison was also a husband and father, who enjoyed playing tennis and had a profound interest in science.  Where is that man?

Morrison, a former Congressman from Connecticut who served from 1983-1991, served as Chairman of the House Immigration subcommittee and authored the Immigration Act of 1990. After an unsuccessful campaign for Governor of Connecticut in 1990, Morrison became heavily involved in the quest for peace in Northern Ireland and was instrumental in paving the way for the eventual IRA ceasefires in 1994 and 1997. During this time he also served as the director of the Federal Housing Finance Board and as a commissioner on the Commission for Immigration Reform (1992-1997).

We have no way of knowing how many “filters” the papers went through before they arrived at the Dodd Research Center. Morrison’s assistants, secretaries, and Morrison himself all could have gone through and arranged files or removed documents deemed too personal or irrelevant. It should be remembered that this collection is designed to provide researchers with information on Morrison’s career as a politician, activist, and lawyer. It is not a bruce morrisondiary, nor does it pretend to be.  Are the Morrison Papers an example of a collection that has been “silenced”? Perhaps—to a certain extent. However, a closer look at the Morrison Papers yields more personal insights than we might expect. Where do we see Morrison the man? The human being?

We can see it in the letters received—and promptly replied to—from ordinary people, many of them underprivileged, immigrants, or both, seeking legal advice or assistance from Morrison. No matter what the issue, how busy he was, or the extent to which he could help them, he always made it a point to send a reply, or to forward the letter to a colleague that could better address the issue.

We can see it in the weekly calendars filled out by Morrison’s assistants during the height of his political career, or in the midst of his run for governor. Weekdays and weekends, morning and night, he was constantly on the move, but somehow managed to find time for the occasional game of tennis, or a short weekend getaway with his wife and son.

We can see it in the heartfelt and handwritten letter sent to Irish PM Bertie Ahern following the death of his mother in 1998.

We can see it in the time stamps on his faxes; so many are after 10pm or later. Clearly, Morrison was not a “9 to 5” type of guy.

And so within volumes of seemingly routine correspondence, news clippings, and research papers contained in this collection, we can get a sense of Morrison the professional and Morrison the man. The overall impression I get is of a man incredibly dedicated to his work, but, like so many of us, equally dedicated to maintaining a home-work balance. Despite his hectic schedule, he seemed to always have time for those who needed him, whether it was his family or an underprivileged immigrant with nowhere else to turn.

Scholars, researchers, and anyone else seeking to consult an archive would do well to remember the lesson here. When a collection seems “tapped out”, dig a little deeper, or come at it from a different angle. There is always something new that can be gleaned from its pages.

It’s been a real pleasure to work on the Bruce Morrison Papers and in Archives and Special Collections this summer. I’ve enjoyed my first taste of archival work, and I’m coming away from the experience with a far better understanding of what goes into arranging the collections that we as researchers utilize for our various projects. I hope those who utilize the Morrison Papers from this point forward will find it a bit more user-friendly and informative, thanks to my efforts. It is an excellent resource, and one that we are proud to have here at the University of Connecticut!

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.


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.


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)


Emily Arnold McCully gets a new finding aid

      A new finding aid is now available for the Emily Arnold McCully Papers.  The collection consists of sketches, dummies, research materials and artwork for eight of her books: The Taxing Case of the Cows,  the Divide,  Old Home Day,  Ballot Box Battle,  Ballerina Swan,  My Heart Glow,  Secret Seder, and  The Helpful Puppy.  Emily Arnold McCully, an American writer and illustrator, won the Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration in 1993, for Mirette on the High Wire which she also wrote.

Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux (New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010)

Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux (New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010)


She was born in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1939, and grew up in Garden City, New York. She attended Pembroke College, now a part of Brown University, and earned an M.A. in Art History from Columbia University. At Brown she acted in the inaugural evening of Production Workshop and other plays, co-wrote the annual musical, Brownbrokers, and earned a Phi Beta Kappa key.


In 1976, she published a short story in The Massachusetts Review. It was selected for the O’Henry Collection: Best Short Stories of the Year. Two novels followed:  A Craving in 1982, and  Life Drawing in 1986. In 2012, Ms. McCully published  Ballerina Swan with Holiday House Books for Young People, written by legendary prima ballerina Allegra Kent. It has received rave reviews from The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, and School Library Journal and was praised in the “Talk of the Town” column in The New Yorker. 

Ballot Box Battle (New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1996)

Ballot Box Battle (New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1996)


As an actor, she performed in Equity productions of Elizabeth Diggs’ Saint Florence at Capital Rep in Albany and The Vineyard Theater in New York City.  In addition to the Caldecott Award, Ms. McCully has received a Christopher Award for Picnic, the Jane Addams Award, the Giverney Award and an honorary doctorate from Brown University.

Nature, Wondrous and Fragile: The Correspondence Of Rachel Carson and Edwin Way Teale Preserved in the Edwin Way Teale Papers

By Richard Telford

Overwhelm.  No other word so aptly describes the feeling of entering the world of Edwin Way Teale as it has been preserved in the Edwin Way Teale Papers housed in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut.  The collection, comprised of 238 linear feet of boxed materials, is extensive.  In it, one finds expected things—journals; assorted draft manuscripts; early publications; correspondence; news clippings; thousands of photographic prints and negatives; materials related to his spiritual mentors like Thoreau and Burroughs; and a host of other like contents. One also finds unexpected things—a passbook for a savings account maintained from 1943-1957; an unidentified back door key; a stack of cardstock paper, each sheet containing lines of evenly spaced “Edwin Way Teale” signatures in neat script; a pair of glasses absent their lenses; and Edwin and Nellie’s 1927 motor vehicle registration, to name a few.  And within the collection there are myriad trails, so to speak, between items.  The draft manuscripts of book chapters in one part of the collection link to corresponding photographic prints housed elsewhere, or to a “biography” of the final book—a kind of scrapbook that Teale created for a book following its publication.  Just as Teale documented the natural world in extraordinarily fine detail, so too did he document his life.  In both cases, it seems, preservation was central in his mind.  Clearly, he aimed in his public life to pass on to coming generations a record of the natural world shaped by his vision of it, with the hope that they too might likewise value and, ultimately, conserve it.  His compulsion to preserve a record of his private life, for whatever value that record might likewise confer to future generations, is unequivocal.  In both cases, Teale left a record of extraordinary value, a record that is maintained with great care by the staff of Archives and Special Collections at the Dodd Carson and TealeResearch Center.

My mother-in-law sometimes invokes an analogy to speak of the approach to seemingly overwhelming tasks: “You need to put water in the sink.”  This analogy is framed by the experience of beholding an overwhelming pile of dirty dishes in the sink, and her point, of course, is that you have to begin somewhere.  Arriving to the Dodd Center in the late spring of 2014, through the generosity of a Strochlitz Travel Research Grant, I felt overwhelmed by the question of where to begin.  Having researched Teale’s influence on the DDT controversy that started around 1945 and enlisted such notables as Teale, Richard Pough, and E.B. White, I had learned of the correspondence between Teale and Rachel Carson on this subject and many others.  Though my larger goal for the summer was to delve deeply into Teale’s four 500-page journals kept at Trail Wood from 1959 to 1980, I felt the need to start more simply.  For me, the water in the sink of the Edwin Way Teale Papers was the file of correspondence between Rachel Carson and Edwin Way Teale, which starts in 1949 and ends in 1966, shortly after Carson’s death.  The correspondence is largely one-sided, in that only a few of Teale’s letters to Carson are preserved in the file via carbon paper copies or rough drafts—though some of this correspondence is also preserved in the Rachel Carson Papers at Yale’s Beinecke Library.  These letters in the Teale Papers, albeit limited in number, are rich and full of meaning, inviting deep exploration and careful exposition.

In 1942, seven years before the first correspondence in this file, Teale had published Near Horizons: The Story of an Insect Garden to great acclaim, winning the John Burroughs Medal for distinguished natural history writing in 1943.  Building on his success with Grassroot Jungles, published in 1937 and featured on page one of The New York Times Book Review, Teale had established himself as an expert on insect life and as one of the foremost macro photographers in the world, pioneering many insect photography techniques that subsequently came into common use.  Nonetheless, despite its national prominence, the rented four-acre Baldwin, Long Island plot that had been the subject of Near Horizons and the material source for both books was soon sold by its landlord to the Baldwin School Board.  The insect garden that Teale had painstakingly built over six years was abruptly subject to the bulldozer of progress.  This devastated Teale, and Carson, in a typed September 19, 1950 letter in which she invites him to be a part of the 1951-1952 National Audubon Society lecture series, adds the following handwritten postscript:  “I am sad about the Insect Garden. One lovely thing after another is swallowed up by ‘progress.’  But it will live on in your books.”

Carson Letter ExcerptEdwin Way Teale thought a great deal of Rachel Carson, both personally and professionally, and in this modest collection of letters, we see several examples of his mentorship of her.  On November 3, 1950, she writes to tell him, after the fact, of her inclusion of his name as a reference for a Guggenheim Fellowship application, noting, “There was no time to ask you if it was all right, as I would always want to do in such a case.”  While such an action might seriously strain both a professional and personal relationship, it also makes clear the degree to which Carson knew she had Teale’s support.  Having been awarded the fellowship, she writes on April 2, 1951, “I’m most grateful for the boost you gave it [the application] and hope when you eventually see the book you will feel repaid.”  When she wins the John Burroughs medal for distinguished natural history writing in 1952, for the l951 publication of The Sea Around Us, she expresses concern that she will not be logistically able to attend the ceremony and asks Teale if he might accept the award on her behalf.  In a March 22, 1952 letter, she notes, “There’s no one I’d rather have represent me on that occasion.”  Ann Zwinger, who would later collaborate with Teale on his final, posthumously published book, A Conscious Stillness (1982), identifies the critical role that Teale played in Carson’s literary rise.  In her introduction to a 1989 special edition of The Sea Around Us, Zwinger characterizes Teale as “the quiet and quintessential nature writer” who “immediately recognized Carson’s greatness” (xxiv), freely offering his support to her by any means possible.

In addition to lending the weight of his name and literary stature to her endeavors, Teale lent the weight of his insights on the reading public and the kind of book to which they might be drawn.  In a November 3, 1950 letter, Carson writes, “Do you remember that several years ago you told me you wished I would write a seashore book that would tell you, not just what the animals were, but some whys and wherefores of their existence?  It seems I’m about to do something of the sort.”  This “seashore book” would later take the form of her 1955 The Edge of the Sea, illustrated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illustrator Bob Hines.  Realizing the strength of Teale’s influence and the depth of his kindness, she adds the following postscript to an August 18, 1953 letter in which she laments her struggle to finish The Edge of the Sea:  “I neglected to say that I think it would be fine if you will use your influence in Bob’s behalf, and I know he would appreciate it enormously.”  She adds, “Bob does not realize his own ability and I am hoping his work on this book will attract enough notice to build up his self confidence.”  After the publication of the first serialized section of the book in the summer of 1955, Teale writes to Carson on August 22, declaring that her writing in the book “is serene and fresh and strong with no residue of fatigue or stress in it—and that, in truth, is a very great accomplishment.”  In this exchange, and in many others in these letters, we readily see what Ann Zwinger characterizes as “the generosity typical of the natural history community” (xxiv).

As Rachel Carson embarked on the writing of Silent Spring, she once again turned to Teale both for encouragement and to tap his vast knowledge of the insect world and his connections to others with like knowledge.  In an August 15, 1955 letter to Teale, having just finished The Edge of the Sea, Carson writes, “Just now the thought of having to write makes me ill—so you know how deeply I feel for you, tied to an unfinished book!  Of course I’m ‘tied’ to one not even begun, but I’m resolutely not thinking about that!”  This seems a likely reference to Autumn Across America (1956) for Teale, and, though it is never directly corroborated in these letters, for Carson the book that she is “resolutely not thinking about” seems likely to be Silent Spring.  The fact that Carson does not further elaborate on her book “not even begun” suggests that Teale may already have been aware of its potential contents.  Given the inevitable minefield of public, corporate, and governmental response that such a book was certain to engender, it is impossible to fully comprehend the depth of Carson’s inevitable internal struggle to come to terms with writing and publishing it.

Nearly a year later, on December 30, 1956, Carson writes to Teale, excited about his upcoming visit to Washington, D.C., which she suspects is meant to overlap with the inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower.  She is living in nearby Silver Spring, Maryland at the time and notes, “I’ll be delighted to have a chance to talk over a couple of ideas that are whirling about in my mind.”  Here again this seems a likely reference to Silent Spring. Sixteen months later, on April 17, 1958, amidst a series of letters querying Teale’s recommendations for her purchase of 35mm camera equipment, Carson writes, “As perhaps you heard, I suddenly find myself writing about insecticides.  I hadn’t meant to, but it seems to me enormously important, and I decided far too many people (including myself only a few months ago!) knew what they should about it.”  Ironically, she adds, “So now I’m into it, but hope to do it quickly and rather briefly.”  With the hindsight of history, the understatement of these sentences is striking, but perhaps it aptly illustrates the impossibility of predicting the sea-change in environmental consciousness that the publication of Silent Spring would spur as well as the tempest of controversy that would spur that sea-change—a controversy that remains in full force in some circles today.

Despite the fact that Carson’s statements above suggest a project recently begun, a letter one month later suggests otherwise.  In a May 19, 1958 letter to Teale, she writes, “Besides the mountain of stuff I have here, I already have some 300 references on insecticides waiting for examination before I go to Maine.  I do have the prospect of some help, but even so it is an appalling job.  However, I am eager to have every scrap of information available, so I am grateful for all you have sent, or anything you may come across in the future.”  It seems unlikely, if not impossible, that Carson could have gathered this volume of material in the span of a few months, especially in a pre-Internet era.  Instead, one has the distinct impression that the groundwork for the writing of Silent Spring was laid deliberately over several years, despite Carson’s matter-of-fact tone on April 17th.  That tone, consciously or unconsciously, may represent an attempt to mitigate the ominousness of the task that would subsequently define her life for posterity.  In the correspondence that follows, we see Teale’s Teale DDT Article Image 1important role both in the development of Silent Spring and, more broadly, in the evolution of the twentieth-century environmental conservation movement.

From Carson’s perspective, Teale was the ideal resource: an expert entomologist, albeit not formally trained; a past president of both the New York and Brooklyn Entomological Societies, with extensive professional connections;  a supportive friend and colleague willing to lend his clout to her work; and a pioneer himself in terms of his vehement opposition to the indiscriminate use of DDT.  In the March 1945 issue of Nature Magazine, Teale had published a blistering, high-profile critique of indiscriminate DDT use, painting a dire picture of the potentially catastrophic results it would wreak on the natural world. Illustrating the article’s significance, the editors of the magazine dedicated a full page of commentary to it, beginning, “We commend for serious and mature consideration the leading article in this issue of the magazine.  It is, we believe, significant in thought and implication, even beyond the subject it discusses—the new insecticide, DDT” (145).  Teale’s article, in fact, foreshadows Silent Spring, both in message and tone.  This is especially evident in the following passage:

If the insects, the good, bad, and indifferent insects, were wiped out in a wide area, the effects would be felt for generations to come.  Songbirds, depending upon insects, or on seeds mainly produced by the pollinating activity of insects, would flee the area. A winter stillness would fall over the woods and fields.  There would be no katydids, no crickets, no churring grasshoppers or shrilling locusts, no bright-winged and vocal birds.  Trout and other gamefish, poisoned by the DDT or starving as the insects disappeared, would die in the lakes and mountain streams.  Wildflowers, in all the infinite variety of their forms and shades, would gradually disappear from the openings and the hillsides.  The landscape would become drab, clad in grays and greens and browns. […]. No drought, no flood, no hurricane could cause the widespread disaster that would follow in the train of the annihilation of the insects.


Although Teale’s article is not referenced in any of Carson’s correspondence preserved in the Teale Papers at the Dodd Center, it seems certain that she would have been aware of it.  A simple search of the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature for 1945 would have identified Teale’s article.  Since DDT had not been widely used as an insecticide until the latter half of World War II, the timeframe for Carson’s literature search of DDT’s pesticide use would have been necessarily narrow, further upping the likelihood that Teale’s article would have come to her attention.  Additionally, the material which he sent and for which she expresses gratitude on May 19, 1958 would almost certainly have come, at least in part, from the files he had compiled while preparing his own article.  In this way, the conspicuous absence of Teale’s article from the extensive references at the end of Silent Spring seems a little enigmatic, though it might be explained by the general absence of popular literature in her source material in favor of peer-reviewed academic literature.

In reviewing the Carson-Teale correspondence in the Teale Papers, it is too easy to get fixated on the DDT-related materials, given the titanic role of Silent Spring in the shaping of the modern environmental conservation movement.  To do so, however, ignores the larger importance of the correspondence—its capacity to illustrate by example the complex, private interactions that shape the lives of prominent writers in a given period.  The relationship between Carson and Teale, as it is illustrated in these letters, is rich and varied, informative and vital.  In their letters, for example, we see gentle humor when Carson, lamenting a book-signing appearance before the Maria Mitchell Association of Nantucket, quips in an August 12, 1952 letter, “What will you give me not to tell them that Edwin Way Teale is coming to Nantucket, too, and they can have a double tea and autographing??”  We see authentic sympathy for the physical and emotional rigors of the writing process when, as referenced above, Carson confides that, after completing The Edge of the Sea, “the thought of having to write makes me ill” (August 16, 1955), and Teale reassures her that “the strain and struggle and frustration that I know went into shaping the book” are not evident in the writing (August 22, 1955).  We see the profound need of each for seclusion in nature when Carson writes, “I now have about 350 feet of shoreline, with the house well protected on both sides […]. Such wonderful ferns, mosses, lichens, glades full of bunchberry and Clintonia, wood lilies, Indian pipes, ladies slippers—real Maine woods” (August 16, 1955), and when she writes on June 9, 1959 to congratulate the Teales on their purchase of Trail Wood, noting her certainty that “you and Nellie will have the time of your lives in such a place.”  Finally, we see the deepest intimacy of friendship when, in a December 10, 1960 letter, Carson confides that she has undergone a “radical mastectomy” to treat the cancer that will later kill her.  Ultimately, these letters illustrate an abiding friendship underpinned by a deep commonality of view, of purpose, of artistic impulse, and—perhaps most importantly—of a far-reaching vision of nature, both in its wondrousness and its terrible fragility.

Richard Telford teaches literature and composition at Woodstock Academy in Connecticut.  He has a BA in English from the University of New Hampshire, an MS in English Education from the University of Bridgeport, and an MS in Environmental Studies from Green Mountain College. Working with the Connecticut Audubon Society, he helped design and found the Edwin Way Teale Artists in Residence at Trail Wood program, which he directs.  He was recently awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant by the University of Connecticut to support his ongoing research on naturalist writer and photographer Edwin Way Teale.  



“Carson, Rachel, 1949-1966.” Correspondence.  Box 150, Folder 3040.  Edwin Way Teale Papers, Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “DDT: The Insect-killer that can be Either Boon or Menace.” Nature  Magazine, March 1945, 121-4, 162.

Zwinger, Ann H.  Introduction.  The Sea Around Us. By Rachel Carson. 1950. Oxford: Oxford   University Press, 1989. xix-xxvii.  Print.