Kent State and Student Strike at UConn

The Week of the Strike, May 9 1970

In 1968 students at UConn demonstrated against the ROTC and military recruiting on campus as national uprisings began to foment against the war in Vietnam.  Corporate job recruiting by General Electric and Olin Mathieson on Gilbert Rd. drew confrontations between protestors and state police along with President Homer D. Babbidge’s approach toward a business friendly posture for the university.  The combative times of the UConn Crisis in 1968-1969 was the prologue to an even more eruptive year to come.  Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of the war led to major backlash in the mid to late 1960s which President Nixon’s administration promised to diminish by quietly widening military campaigns into neighboring Cambodia.

Student demonstrations in over 1,250 college campuses across the country led to confrontations with local police and the national guard.  On May 4th, 1970 protests at Kent State University in Ohio led to national guardsmen firing into demonstrators killing four individuals and wounding several others.  The events of 1970 galvanized much of the public’s perception on the war in Vietnam however clashes at home along class and race lines similarly disrupted any clear consensus about the war at home and abroad.  The days following the Kent State shootings on the University of Connecticut campus would produce the actions of students, faculty and administration which declared 1970 as the high water mark for social upheavel. The events below were extracted from the extensive archive documented by student organizations, administration and the Daily Campus:      Continue reading

Civil War diaries in the digital repository

The digital repository is growing at a record pace, with materials from almost every subject area within our collections.  Some of the latest items you will find in the repository are several Civil War diaries, in the Connecticut Soldiers Collection.

Page from the diary of D. Alonzo Smith

Page from the diary of D. Alonzo Smith

The diary of D. Alonzo Smith of Torrington, Connecticut, gives us an inside look at his service with the 19th Connecticut Regiment from 1862 to 1864.  Smith served as a prison guard at Fort Ellsworth, Virginia.  Above is a page from his diary where he writes “Received a letter from my Wife. a sorce of Comfort.”

The diary of Christopher Boon of Westbrook, Connecticut, tells us that he was wounded in May 1863, with details of his convalescence at a VR hospital in New Haven, Connecticut.

John L. Sage from  Cromwell, Connecticut served with Company D, 24th Connecticut Regiment. His diary includes entries from  Louisiana and  Mississippi dating from September 1862 through September 1863.

Gurdon Robins, Jr., of  Hartford, Connecticut, documents battle and camplife in 1863, followed by his experiences as a prisoner of war in Libby Prison. 

Spanish Periodicals and Newspapers: From online access to scholarly production

Page of Correo de las Damas (title page)

Correo de las Damas (title page) First issue, 1804

Have you ever wondered what happens after a researcher uses one of our archival collections available online or as a digital surrogate? Sometimes online or remote users are hard to track and most of the time we are unaware of how they end up using our materials but sometimes we are lucky and they will contact us and share their work with us.

I am happy to report about three scholars (one from Japan and two from Spain) who shared their works and their thanks for giving them access to our collection of Spanish Periodicals and Newspapers.

From Japan

In 2009 we got a request to scan a copy of all the issues of the newspaper, El Ebusitano, the first weekly newspaper (1846-1847) in the island of Ibiza, one of the Balearic Islands, Spain. Hirotaka Tateishi, professor and chairman of the Graduate School of Area and Culture Studies at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, was tracking down this rare newspaper which was not available either in Ibiza or in Spain’s National Library, to clarify the real beginnings of this publication (who was the first editor, how long was published, where it was published, etc.). Professor Tateishi mentioned in his publication that he had found many references to the existence of the newspaper in old reference books, but always with the caveat that the author(s) had never been able to see the originals. Fortunately for Prof. Tateishi, the Archives and Special Collections was able to provide a digital surrogate of this newspaper title for his research since we had acquired this collection around the 1970s–a collection amassed by one of the most famous bibliophiles in Spain, Juan Pérez de Guzmán y Boza, Duque de T’ Serclaes. In 2010, Prof. Tateishi published his findings, ” “El Ebusitano”: el primer periódico de Ibiza en los fondos de una biblioteca americana” in an open access journal, Mediterranean world, published by the Mediterranean Studies Group at Hitotsubashi University,

From Spain

Beatriz Sánchez Hita and María Román López are scholars and collaborators from the University of Cádiz, Spain. Their research focus on the role of women in the shaping of the nascent printing culture (in the form of newspapers) in Spain during the 19th century. One of the newspapers that they were looking to have access to was El Correo de las Damas (1804-1808). Until recently this newspaper was very difficult to access by Spanish scholars since there are no copies available in any of their main libraries, including Spain’s National Library. We got a request from them in 2009 to photocopy all 15 tomes for this newspaper but we could not do so at the time because of preservation concerns. Instead, I decided to apply for a library grant to digitize all the tomes for this title, which became the beginning of our Spanish Periodicals and Newspapers digital collection, which not only comprised of a selection of women’s magazines, but also includes a selection of 18th and 19th century magazines (mainly literary) from this collection, for a total of 39 digitized titles.

Diario de Cádiz (title page). First issue, 1796

Diario de Cádiz (title page). First issue, 1796

Although María Román López visited us at the archives right after we finished the digitization of Correo de las Damas in September of 2009—to study the physical characteristics of this title—the majority of their research was done online. Prof. Beatriz Sánchez Hita benefited immediately with the new access of Correo de las Damas, and later on the Diario de Cádiz, and was able to finish two scholarly articles published in 2009 and 2010, respectively, about the role of women (as writers or as readers of newspapers) in the debates developing in the Spanish press regarding the Constitution of 1812, “Escritoras y Periodistas ante la Constitución de 1812 (1808-1823)” and the War of Independence (from France), “Las escritoras en la prensa de la Guerra de la Independencia vistas por sus colegas : ¿lucha de género o política?“.

More recently, in 2014, Beatriz Sánchez Hita and María Román López finished a massive analytical study (220 pages) titled, La prensa femenina en Cádiz a principios del siglo XIX Aproximación al Correo de las Damas (1804-1808), that focused on the:

 …study of the Correo de las Damas (1804-1808), a journal aimed at women that was published in Cadiz as a supplement to Diario Mercantil (1802-1814). It was edited by Joseph Lacroix, Baron of Bruère, and appeared in print with a total of 17 volumes, of which we had access to all except No. 16. The study includes a consideration of the figure of his editor and promoter, in order to proceed with the characterization of this magazine aimed at women, which has often been overlooked in the historiography of journalism, being still a rarity today. It devotes special attention to the description of its contents following their arrangement in teh (sic) pages of the journal (3).

As Sáchez and Román explained about the rarity of Correo de las Damas:

Esto se debe a que no parecen haber quedado colecciones del mismo en las principales bibliotecas españolas, no en vano solo hemos podido localizar este periódico en la colección J. Thomas Dodd, de la Universidad de Connecticut, donde se conservan los tomos 1 a 15 en SPAN PER 16, a los que desde hace poco tiempo puede accederse online (5).

This study is freely available at Cuadernos de Ilustración y Romanticismo,

As you can see, making accessible rare archival materials digitally has an immediate impact on the production of new scholarly knowledge as these examples illustrate. It is always satisfying to see how increasing access to these cultural heritage collections benefit not only our local users but the global community of scholars–specially scholars from the country where the records were created. We will continue preserving these invaluable cultural heritage collections and making them more accessible through digitization for many years to come.

Marisol Ramos, Curator of Latina/o, Latin American & Caribbean Collections

Rollin Charles Williams, UConn’s first African-American professor

Faculty and staff at UConn's School of Social Work, ca. late 1950s

The first African-American professor at the University was Dr. Rollin Charles Williams, who was served as a professor in the School of Social Work from 1957 to his retirement in 1985.

Born in 1922 in Kansas City, Missouri, Dr. Williams was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, graduating from high school as its valedictorian and solo violinist in its orchestra. He graduated from Howard University and served in the U.S. Army during World War II, where he earned the rank of sergeant major. He earned his master’s degree in social work from Boston University and then worked as a medical and psychiatric social worker for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Williams was the first psychiatric supervisor at Norwich State Hospital. Soon after that he was recruited by UConn to do field training for the School of Social Work, and asked to join the faculty in 1957.

Upon his retirement in 1985 Dr. Williams returned to his first love – music, particularly classical and operas. When he died in September 2012, at the age of 90, UConn President Susan Herbst wrote that he “exemplified the highest ideals of service, scholarship and integrity, and [left] a legacy that we can all strive to emulate.”

This photograph, from the late 1950s, shows Dr. Williams third from the right. The man who is third from the left is Harleigh Trecker, dean of the School of Social Work from 1951 to 1968.

Harrison Fitch, the first African-American basketball player at Connecticut State College

Harrison "Honey" Fitch, the first African-American basketball player at the Connecticut State College, 1934

Harrison B. “Honey” Fitch was a basketball standout at his high school in New Haven, and in 1932 enrolled as a freshman at the Connecticut State College (the name changed later to the University of Connecticut).  He was a strong member of the CSC basketball team yet endured racism and harassment at times from the players of opposing teams, most notably in a game, on January 28, 1934, against the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London.  The Academy refused to play the game if Fitch was on the court, arguing, as Mark Roy wrote in the February 2, 2004, UConn Advance, that “because half of the Academy’s student body was from the southern states, they had a tradition ‘that no negro players be permitted to engage in contests at the Academy.'”

Fitch’s teammates threatened to leave the basketball court if he was not allowed to play, and Fitch joined them in warming up for the game, while the officials argued and delayed the start of the game for several hours.  Although the Coast Guard relented, and CSC won the game 31 to 29, the team’s coach, John Heldman, inexplicably kept Fitch on the bench the entire game.

Fitch left CSC at the end of the 1934 academic year and transferred to American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts.  He then worked in research for the Monsanto Corporation, married in 1939 and had two sons, and died in the early 1990s.  His son, Brooks Fitch, told Mark Roy that his father told him he had a good experience as a student at the CSC and was always a fan of UConn basketball.

Updated finding aids

We’re always working on our finding aids, the guides that help our researchers pinpoint materials in the collections.  Here are those that have been recently updated, some because content has been recently added to the digital repository, or additional materials have been donated:

Albert E. Waugh Papers (

Katherine Shelley Orr Papers (

Hartford Electric Light Company Records (

Feenie Ziner Papers (

New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Valuation Maps (

Tomie dePaola Collection (

Bob Englehart Collection (

Wendell Minor Papers (

Connecticut Soldiers Collection, George W. Hanford Papers (

American Montessori Society Records (

New Britain Machine Company Records (

Joe Snow Punk Rock Collection (

Edward J. Ozog Railroad Collection (

You can find a complete listing of all of our finding aids at

Alan Thacker Busby, the university’s first African-American student

Alan Thacker Busby, the university's first African-American student, 1990

In 1914 Alan Thacker Busby of Worcester, Massachusetts, enrolled at the Connecticut Agricultural College, the first African-American student to attend what would become the University of Connecticut.  He worked his way through college by milking cows, feeding hogs and cutting ice from the campus pond and was an honor student and a member of the football team his Junior year.  In 1918 became the college’s first African-American graduate. After he graduated from college he served in World War I as a member of the Army’s all-black Field Artillery Unit, which stayed in France months after the war ended. After his military service he was an Animal Husbandry professor at Bordentown Industrial School in New Jersey, Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College in Alcorn, Mississippi, and Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Busby Suites, a dormitory on the Storrs campus, was named in his honor.

This photograph shows Prof. Busby back at the University of Connecticut, when he returned to his alma mater in Fall 1990 to act as Grand Marshall of the Homecoming Parade.

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


Irena Urdang deTour, 2013

Irena Urdang deTour, 2013

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

Portion of deTour exhibit

Portion of deTour exhibit

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

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