About Laura Smith

Archivist

Resources in the Archives of Connecticut’s Captains of Industry

 

Much of Connecticut’s standing as an industrial powerhouse in the 19th and early 20th centuries had its roots in small businesses of the early and mid-19th century. Often these businesses, founded by industrious people (usually men) and formed as family firms, provided resources needed at the time, such as grist mills or small-town merchants or craftsmen. As years passed they evolved to become prominent companies that provided goods for a developing nation. For example, the C.H. Dexter Company began in 1767 as a paper mill in Windsor Locks, Connecticut; two hundred years later the company had grown to be an international conglomerate of specially papers with factories in North America, Europe and Asia.

These businesses were formed by businesspeople (usually men) who had strong visions for success. Often headed by descendants of the founders, these businesses took great pride in the company’s legacy and frequently harkened back to the founder’s vision and achievements.

The Business History Collections in Archives & Special Collections holds the records of many prominent companies that were formed by visionary people (usually men). The collections noted here are mostly those consisting of the company records, but many of the records also include the personal papers of the founders and their families. It is these documents that provide a fascinating look into the motivations and mindsets of the people (usually men) who formed and headed some of the state’s most powerful companies.

  • The Somersville Manufacturing Company, formed in 1890 by Rockwell Keeney in the Somersville section of Somers, Connecticut, was a manufacturer of fine woolens. Every successive president and administrator of the company, until it closed in 1969, was either a son or grandson of Rockwell Keeney. The records hold a great amount of information created by the Keeney family, particularly Robert Leland Keeney, Sr., who served as Vice-President and Treasurer of the company from 1926 to 1960. You can find his extensive correspondence from the 1930s and 1940s online in our digital repository beginning here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A20130030  and the finding aid to the collection at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860127019.
  • The E. Ingraham Company, maker of clocks and watches, was founded in 1831 by Elias Ingraham, a cabinetmaker and designer of clock cases in Bristol, Connecticut. Elias partnered with others for the next 20 years but by 1855 he was president of the company, serving until his death in 1885. Descendants of Elias continued to run the company or served on its board of directors into the 1960s. Archives & Special Collections holds the personal papers of Elias’s great grandsons Dudley Ingraham (see the finding aid at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860140173)  and Edward Ingraham II (see the finding aid at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860140224).
  • The Dexter Corporation originated in 1767 as a family-owned saw, grist and paper mill in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, by Seth Dexter. In its 233 years of operation, the company grew from manufacturing tissues, toilet paper, and tea bags to marketing more specialized products like medical garments and industrial finishes. The company records have documents related to Seth’s descendants in the Dexter and Coffin families; see the finding aid at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860127029.
  • In 1838, six brothers of the Cheney family of Manchester, Connecticut, established the Mount Nebo Silk Company. In 1843 the company was renamed as the Cheney Brothers Silk Manufacturing Company and by the late 1800s the company was one of the largest and most profitable silk mills in the country. Cheney Brothers was an integral part of the Manchester community, and known nationally for its benevolent system of welfare capitalism. Members of the Cheney family ran the company until 1955. The finding aid to the records can be found here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133921.
  • Founded in 1848 by Almon Farrel, the Farrel Company of Ansonia and Waterbury, Connecticut, was a foundry for copper, iron products and machinery. Descendants of Almon served as presidents until 1981. For more information see the finding aid at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133177.
  • The story of the Branford, Connecticut, metal foundry, Malleable Iron Fittings Company, is slightly different than the other companies discussed here. It was originally founded in 1841 by Joseph Nason, who left the company later to be run by Elizur Rogers. Two Danish immigrants, Emil and Thorvold Hammer, joined the company and were soon in charge of its day-to-day management. It was the descendants of the Hammer brothers who became company presidents and guided it to its technological contributions to the iron industry. While you can find the finding aid to the company records at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860134073, Archives & Special Collections also holds the personal papers of Thorvald Hammer II, grandson of the original Thorvald. The finding aid is available at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860139935.
  • Sargent and Company, a manufacturer of locks and hardware with headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut, was formed by Joseph B. Sargent in 1822. Through the years, until 1928, the company was run by Joseph or his brothers Edward, George and Harrison. The finding aid is available at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860134544.
  • James S. Atwood, born in 1832, was the superintendent of a textile mill in Wauregan, Connecticut, and served as the company’s president. In 1897 he became superintendent of the Quinebaug Company, also a textile mill, in Danielson, Connecticut. James’s twin sons John Walter Atwood and James Arthur Atwood also worked for the company. In 1932 the two companies merged and soon after World War II James A. Atwood III became company president. Extensively damaged in the Floods of 1955 the mills ceased operations in 1958. The finding aid to the Wauregan and Quinebaug Company can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860134117
  • In 1870 Rev. Thomas N. Dickinson took control of a company in Essex, Connecticut, that produced witch hazel extract. He soon sold his interest in the company to his son, Edward E. Dickinson, who then named it E. E. Dickinson & Co. Edward’s son and grandson, Edward Jr. and Edward III, continued to run the company until 1983. The finding aid to the company records can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860138808.
  • And finally, a note about a female Captain of Industry. Vivien Kellems founded  Kellems Cable Grips, Inc., in 1927, manufacturing the cable grip patent developed by her brother Edgar. Kellems was president of the company for over thirty years, with the plant based in Southington, Connecticut. Kellems extensive papers and company records can be found in our digital repository beginning here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3AMSS19920033

We invite you to view any of these collections in the reading room in Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Our staff is happy to assist you in accessing these and other collections in the archives.

Vivien Kellems, Political Firebrand

This post was written by Jennifer Hayner, who completed a semester long internship processing and preparing for digitization a significant portion of the Vivien Kellems Papers pertaining to Ms. Kellems’ congressional and gubernatorial aspirations.  Ms. Hayner completed her MLIS degree at Simmons University in May 2018. 

 

Given the current political climate and the recent 2018 mid-term elections, Vivien Kellems’ anti-tax stance is particularly resonant. In an era of tax cuts for billionaires, is it any wonder that the issues Kellems represents are on the mind of many?

Vivien Kellems, out-spoken Republican, feminist, activist, and Connecticut business owner drew America’s attention in 1944, when she protested the newly formed ‘Victory Tax’. The Revenue of Act of 1942 proposed the Victory Tax in part as a way to help finance World War II. It changed the way Americans were taxed. Gone was the annual lump sum tax payment that most citizens were used to. In its place, a withholding tax was introduced that required businesses to hold back revenue from employee paychecks and send it directly to the IRS. After Kellems announced her decision to stop paying her income tax, she was publicly derided for not supporting the country during the war. This did not stop her from raising the hackles of the IRS once again to protest the withholding tax. To make her point, Kellems began to not withhold her employees’ taxes in 1948.

If ‘High Tax Harry’ wants me to get money for him, then he must appoint me an agent of the Internal Revenue Service…I want a badge.” Vivien Kellems in a speech at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, 1948

Kellems was feisty from the start. She was born on June 7, 1896 in Des Moines, IA, to parents who were preachers. Vivien was the only girl out of seven children. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.A. (1918) and M.A. (1921, Economics). While there, she was the only woman to make the debate team. In 1927, Kellems went into business with her brother Edgar who patented a cable grip he had refined. Together, they founded Kellems Grips, Inc. in New York City. She eventually served as president of the company for over 30 years.

Having previously campaigned for Wendell Wilkie in 1940, Kellems received encouragement from the political operatives she met on the campaign trail, and from friends and acquaintances she knew in the business community. In 1942, she ran for the Republican nomination of the 4th Congressional District of Connecticut against the well-known war reporter and play write Clare Booth Luce, who was also the wife of Time and Life publisher Henry Luce. Convinced that the Republican Party “machine” had already chosen their candidate, Kellems released her delegates and withdrew her nomination during the Republican Primary Convention. Luce went on to win the seat but not before the two Republicans exchanged barbs. Kellems said of Luce “[she is] just a pawn for moneyed New York interests seeking to dominate Connecticut politics” (Arizona Republic 1942)

Did you know Vivien Kellems ran for public office in Connecticut six more times?

In 1950, Kellems ran for a seat in the Connecticut State Senate as an Independent against the incumbent, Senator William Benton (D), and Prescott Bush (R). She announced her candidacy at a Connecticut chapter meeting of the ‘Minute Women’, a conservative grassroots organization of politically active women founded by Kellems and the fiery and controversial Suzanne Stevenson in 1949. The Minute Women were anti-communist upper middle and upper class suburban housewives who fought to preserve traditional moral values and not pay their taxes. They were against universal health care and integration and very much for the oil industry, Joe McCarthy, and patriotism. While many of the women hailed from Texas, there were plenty of members from the wealthy enclaves of Connecticut. When they weren’t busy heckling their opponents, they were pushing anti-Semitic and anti-New Deal literature written by extreme right-wingers John T. Flynn, Joseph P. Kamp, and Dr. John O’Beaty. (Huret 2014) Many of the groups’ activities were shrouded in secrecy for fear of communist infiltration. While Kellems was decidedly pro-McCarthy and anti-New Deal, it is hard to imagine that she did not grapple with the implications some of their activities. While the Minute Women initially backed Kellems’ run for Senate, Stevenson, in particular, wanted her to run as a Republican, not an Independent. When Kellems refused, the organization denounced her and she left group. In the end, Kellems failed to gather the required petition signatures that she needed in order to get on the ballot.

Kellems never gave up. She persevered and ran again in 1952 for the Senate as an Independent Republican against incumbent William Benton (D), William Purtell (R), and socialist and Mayor of Bridgeport, Jasper McLevy. This time she made it onto the ballot and gathered over 22,000 votes in the race, beating McLevy. She had help from the Liberty Belles, an organization founded by Kellems in 1951 to seek the repeal of the withholding tax. The Liberty Belles were an ardent force, supporting Kellems in her political endeavors by writing letters and sending her donations to finance her campaign. Men could join the group as ‘Liberty Boys’, but this really was a pro-woman organization that advocated for women’s rights, and equality at home, at work, and in society.

“There may be some scratching and hair pulling, but that’s a lot better than guided missiles and hydrogen bombs.” Vivien Kellems, in a speech to announce her candidacy for governor of Connecticut – May 14, 1954

The issues drove Kellems to run for governor of Connecticut in 1954 as an Independent Republican and as a Republican since candidates could run on two different tickets. Connecticut was one of the last states to still have a party lever on their voting machines. Kellems had advocated destroying the party lever for years, stating that they were illegal. If voters wanted to split their votes between parties, they first had to pull a party lever and wait for a bell to ring. She was in favor of a direct primary system as well. Kellems considered a vote for her a “protest vote” against the “political bossism” of the Connecticut convention system. In a close race between the party nominees, Kellems drew voters away from the incumbent John D. Lodge (R). Abe Ribicoff (D) won the governor’s race, beating Lodge, Kellems, and McLevy.

Kellems used the media, both radio and television, to educate and captivate potential voters in many of her campaigns. The media proved to be very useful in the 1956 and 1958 campaigns when she had to ask supporters to sign petitions so that she could get on the ballot. In her ‘56 Senate campaign, Kellems requested that she receive the same amount of air time as her opponent, incumbent Prescott Bush (R). Some stations agreed with her, while others defiantly did not. Kellems could not run as a Republican because at the time the state did not allow same party candidates to run against an incumbent. She had to battle Connecticut Secretary of State Mildred P. Allen in court to get onto the November ballot as an Independent. Allen refused to approve and certify Kellems’ nominating petitions, saying many of the signatures were forged. Kellems prevailed, and ran against Bush, Thomas Dodd (D), Minute Woman Suzanne Stevenson (IR), and Jasper McLevy (SP). Bush won the race.

Vivien Kellems ran for Senate in 1958 and 1962. She ran as an Independent in ’58 against incumbent Senator Purtell (R) and Thomas Dodd (D) who won the race. In the 1962 election, Kellems ran for the GOP nomination against Rep. Horace Seely-Brown and former Gov. John D. Lodge. Kellems withdrew from the race at the convention. Brown lost the election to Democrat Abe Ribicoff.

For the rest of her life Kellems fought the system. She never gave up on her fight against the income tax or the unfair taxation of single people. She fought government fraud and corruption at every level. She believed in the power of women and wanted more women in political offices. Kellems devoted the rest of her life to women’s rights and gender equality. She died on January 25, 1975 at 78 years old. To find out more about Vivien, her political ambitions, and her life-long fight against taxes, please visit the Kellems Papers in the University of Connecticut Library’s Archives & Special Collections digital repository.

References

Arizona Republic. 1942. “Women politcal enemies wage ladylike campaigns.” Arizona Republic. Phoneix, AZ, 09 12. Accessed 2018-05-03. https://www.newspapers.com/image/116789645/?terms=kellems+and+luce#.

Huret, Romain D. 2014. American Tax Resisters. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Resources in the Archives about the History of UConn Athletics

 

In the University of Connecticut’s early years, the only thing that passed for organized sports was the mandatory practice of picking up rocks from the fields around campus for three hours each day. Much resented by the students, this “instructional labor” was soon abandoned as football, baseball, and other teams began to form around the turn of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, many of these early teams performed about as well as the aforementioned rocks (though the Board of Trustees proudly reported that the 1900-1901 women’s basketball team was undefeated).

Nevertheless, athletic teams continued to grow and flourish at the university, expanding from those early staples to a wide range of sports whose teams have both achieved great victories and suffered stunning defeats. The growing importance of athletics in university life sometimes produced controversy and concern, but also healthy rivalries and an endless amount of school spirit. All throughout, the story of UConn athletics has been filled with colorful personalities, extraordinary events, and incredible performances.

Archives & Special Collections holds a wealth of materials for those interested in the rich history of UConn athletics. Among the relevant collections are:

  • Athletic Communications Office Records. The collection comprises materials concerning the full range of UConn athletics, including baseball, basketball, rugby, archery, rifle marksmanship, and many other sports. Records for individual sports contain publications, media guides, statistics, correspondence, press releases, newspaper clippings, and other materials, many over long periods of time. The collection also holds a significant archive of press releases and other general materials. Overall, the collection represents some of the most extensive coverage of UConn athletics. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860123050
  • President’s Office Records. The collection comprises broad materials relating to each presidential administration at UConn. Among these materials are files relating to athletics in general, as well as specific athletic directors. Much of this material consists of correspondence with outside groups or details internal deliberations on athletic issues. Topics include everything from athletic cheating scandals to television contracts to outside sponsorships. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860134674
  • Athletic Publications. The collection comprises digitized versions of athletic press guides and programs. The focus is on football and basketball, and the most extensive collection is the University of Connecticut Football Press Guide, which has issues covering the period 1950–1979. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20004%3AAthleticsPublications
  • University of Connecticut Memorabilia Collection. The collection comprises ephemera and artifacts associated with UConn that add a material depth and diversity to the textual collections on university life. While covering a wide range of subjects, the collection features significant athletics-related material from throughout UConn’s history. Examples included basketballs and footballs, tickets, clippings, programs, and other materials. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133446
  • University Scrapbook Collection. The collection comprises scrapbooks that document programs, activities, events, and individuals associated with UConn. Similar to the memorabilia collection, the scrapbooks add another useful supplement to the official textual materials from university offices. While they cover a range of subjects and time periods, some are dedicated to university athletics. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133444
  • University of Connecticut Trophies Collection. The collection comprises trophies, awards, photographs and other materials related to the placement of individuals and institutions at UConn in various competitions. Most of the competitions are athletic, though some awards were received by poultry-related departments, reflecting the university’s early focus on agricultural science. Recent trophies have been transferred directly from sports teams, while older awards arrived after department offices were moved. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860124616
  • Student Newspapers. The collection comprises digitized issues of student newspapers from multiple UConn campuses. The most significant collection comes from the Storrs campus, including extensive runs of early to contemporary student newspapers like the Lookout and the Daily Campus. These newspapers provide access to daily updates on UConn athletics, covering everything from game listings and scores to general coverage and in-depth analysis. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/islandora%3Acampusnewspapers
  • Nutmeg. The collection comprises digitized copies of UConn’s student yearbook from 1915 to 2008. The yearbooks provide useful information about teams, such as rosters, images, and scores, along with information about related athletic clubs on campus. They also provide some information about unofficial athletic activities that take place on campus each year. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133446
  • University of Connecticut Photograph Collection. The collection comprises digitized photographs from throughout UConn’s history. The extensive collection includes photographs of teams, individual players and coaching staff, games, practices, and a host of other subjects related to university athletics. Some of the most notable photographs were taken by Jerauld Manter, a UConn graduate who also played on the basketball team. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3AMSS19880010

We invite you to view these collections in the reading room at Archives & Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Our staff is happy to assist you in accessing these and other collections in the archives.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

Resources in the Archives about the Cheney Brothers Silk Manufacturing Company

 

In 1838, six brothers of the Cheney family founded a silk manufacturing company in Manchester, Connecticut. Utilizing innovative silk production methods and new spinning technology, the company became the largest and wealthiest silk mill in the country by the late 1880s. Its success particularly shaped the developing community of Manchester. By the early 1920s, Cheney Mills employed twenty-five percent of all Manchester residents, including many immigrant workers. The company’s domain stretched over 175 acres, including mill buildings, houses, schools, churches, recreation centers, and even a railroad. The company became known for its progressive stance toward its employees, and practiced a form of welfare capitalism.

However, the prosperity of Cheney Mills was not to last. Overproduction in the silk industry and competition from the production of new synthetic fibers led to the company’s decline by the mid-1920s. During the Great Depression, the company had to take out loans to keep the mills in operation. Increased labor conflict in the 1930s eventually forced the company to accept the unionization of its workers under the United Textile Workers in 1934. By 1937, Cheney Mills declared bankruptcy. The company’s prospects improved slightly during World War II when it converted to wartime manufacturing to make silk parachutes for the military. However, the company could not keep up with the high labor costs and competition in the post-war years, and the Cheney family was forced to sell the company to J.P. Stevens & Company in 1955. The mills closed permanently in 1984.

The company records available in Archives & Special Collections allow us to trace the rise and decline of this great Connecticut company. Specifically, how the company’s history reflected its place in American life and culture are included in the collection:

  • Records concerning the general management of the company over time. These include an assortment of documents detailing the company’s earliest history, as well as Board of Directors’ minutes, by-laws, policy letters, information about pay and protocol, and company correspondence.
  • Documents showing Cheney’s marketing strategies. In particular, the collection holds an assortment of Cheney advertisements, particularly from the 1920s. This includes a Cheney publication on the history of fabrics and clothing styles, as well as many advertisements from newspapers and magazines.
  • Information related to silk production in the United States in the early twentieth century. Included in the collection are publications gathered by the company about silk production, Board of Director’s minutes that detail company decisions on directing the course of business, and purchasing ledgers including dealings with suppliers from Japan and China in last half of the nineteenth century.
  • Reports on strikes and the company’s efforts to subvert the unionization of their workers, including records on labor relations stretching from 1930 to 1974. The collection contains reports on strikes, documents from court cases, financial reports, and union contracts.
  • Information about Cheney employees from a collection of personnel files and workers’ cards. These cards contain not only work-related information, such as position held and department, but also personal information, such as ethnicity, country of origin, family size, and if relatives were in the company’s employ. Available in our digital repository are employee record cards: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3AMS19840026.
  • Evidence for Cheney Mills’ practice of welfare capitalism, which involved providing housing, amenities, services, and recreational activities for their employees. Documents include a pamphlet intended to attract immigrants to work for Cheney Mills, titled “The Miracle Workers.”
  • The collection has records as one of the first textile mills to use Frederick Taylor’s methods of scientific management. Taylorism involved applying the scientific method to the management of workers in order to maximize productivity and profit.
  • “Hiring Specifications” scrapbooks from the mid-1920s, which describe each job that workers did for the company from weavers to bobbin boys, and a list required skills and previous training.

The finding aid for the Cheney Brothers can be found in our digital repository at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002:860133921

We invite you to view these collections in the reading room in Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center if you need resources about the Cheney Brothers Silk Manufacturing Company. Our staff is happy to assist you in accessing these and other collections in the archives.

This post was written by Alexandra Borkowski, a UConn PhD student and student assistant in Archives & Special Collections.

Resources in the Archives about Connecticut Labor History, post World War II to the 1970s

 

Many imagine the years after World War II as a period of warm relations between labor and management in the United States. Building on the victories of the New Deal and adjusting to the demands of the Cold War, workers and their bosses, so the story goes, reached a steady accord across a range of industries. But labor-management relations in the United States have waxed and waned since the late nineteenth century, and the decades after 1945 were no different.

Archives & Special Collections holds a range of materials that shed light on this important topic through the history of trade unionism in Connecticut. Among our relevant collections are:

  • The Henry Stieg Collection of the Pratt & Whitney Company. The collection comprises material gathered by Henry L. Stieg, a master gauge inspector at the Pratt & Whitney Division of the Niles-Bement-Pond Company from 1940 to 1973 and shop steward in the Unity Lodge Local 251 of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America. Chief among the collection is a wealth of materials chronicling a strike by Pratt & Whitney workers in 1946, including flyers, newsletters, fact sheets, and company correspondence. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860129469
  • Diocesan Labor Institute Records. The collection comprises material from the Diocesan Labor Institute, an organization founded in 1942 by Father Joseph Francis Donnelly to help educate Connecticut workers on the social teachings of the Catholic Church. Especially useful for researchers is a series of interviews with workers across the state conducted by members of the institute. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133880
  • The University of Connecticut, Labor Education Center Records. The collection comprises material from a program founded at the University of Connecticut in 1946 to educate Connecticut’s unionized workforce and promote greater understanding about trade unionism among business leaders, government officials, and the general public. Useful materials included educational materials, workshop materials, and reports on labor issues in Connecticut. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860134460
  • The Nicholas J. Tomassetti Papers. The collection comprises the personal papers of Nicholas J. Tomassetti, a labor organizer and leader associated with the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers Union, as well as a Democratic representative to the Connecticut General Assembly. Tomassetti’s papers span a wide range of labor history (1916-1978) and contain a wealth of materials, including correspondence, reports, administrative and legal records, strike and negotiation materials, minutes, publications, and newspaper clippings. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133876
  • Additional materials on trade unionism in Connecticut held by Archives & Special Collections include the records of many Connecticut labor unions, like the AFSCME, Council 4 Records, the state’s largest AFL-CIO union, as well as many publications on labor and labor issues contain in our extensive Alternative Press Collection.

We invite you to view these collections in the reading room at Archives & Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Our staff is happy to assist you in accessing these and other collections in the archives.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

Resources in the Archives about Communism and the Red Scare of the 1940s-1950s

 

After World War II the United States faced a widespread fear of the rise of Communism referred to as the Red Scare, which generally lasted between the late 1940s to the mid-1950s. Led by Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, this fear revolved around the apprehension that Communists would infiltrate and subvert society, academia, the workplace and the federal government. Accusations of subversion and treason were made to thousands of citizens and many lost their jobs or were put on trial for perceived sympathy with Communists or for membership in the Communist Party. Many were prosecuted for violating the Smith Act, whereby penalties were imposed for those who advocated for the overthrow of the government.

Archives & Special Collections has many resources that illustrate the fear and paranoia of this period in history. They include:

  • Records of the University of Connecticut’s “Committee of Five.” In March 1953 a standing committee of the University Senate was appointed to investigate charges that four members of the faculty were Communists. The collection consists of transcripts of interviews with the faculty members, correspondence and meeting minutes of the determinations of the committee. The finding aid to this small but powerful collection can be found in our digital repository at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860138593
  • The papers of UConn President Albert Jorgensen also include a small amount of information about the accusations of UConn faculty in the 1950s.
  • Jack Goldring of Trumbull, Connecticut, served in the National Guard and as a serviceman in the Air Force during World War II but was a longtime member and official with the Connecticut Communist Party. In May 1954 he was arrested by the F.B.I. and charged under the Smith Act for pursuing subversive activities. His papers, consisting of court documents, newsletters of Communist groups and other publications, and writings, tell the story of his trial and his beliefs and activities as a member of the Communist Party. The finding aid to his collection is available at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860132174. Available in our digital repository are transcripts of interviews conducted by UConn’s Center for Oral History of Goldring (https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860320454#page/1/mode/2up) and his wife Harriet (https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860320141#page/1/mode/2up)
  • The Sargent Company of New Haven was a manufacturer of locks and hardware. In the late 1940s the management of the company actively tried to prevent the workers’ union from infiltration by Communists. They collected and studied publications of the Communist Party of America and monitored workers protests around the city. The files they compiled are included in the Sargent Company Records; the finding aid to the collection can be found here: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860134544
  • The Labor History Archives has information about Communism scattered across many collections, and the Alternative Press Collection can also provide resources. Please ask at the reference desk for more information.

The collections also include many contemporary published sources, mostly pamphlets and flyers, from the Alternative Press Collection, about the Red Scare. They include the pamphlet “Why Negroes are Joining the  Communist Party,” from 1946.

We invite you to view these collections in the reading room in Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center if you need resources about the Red Scare, McCarthyism, the Smith Act, or the general climate of the United States in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Our staff is happy to assist you in accessing these and other collections in the archives.

Merlin D. Bishop Center

Merlin D. Bishop was born in 1907 in Illinois, worked at the Ford Motor Company between 1925 and 1931 and attended  Wayne University in Detroit, Michigan, while serving as a member of the Extension Staff of Brookwood Labor College. Following Brookwood, he joined the teaching staff of the  Federal Emergency Relief Administration as assistant state supervisor of the worker education program. In 1936, he was appointed temporary education director of the  United Automobile Workers (UAW) and became the union’s first full-time director in 1937-1938. He was the educational director of the Philadelphia joint board of the  Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (1939-1943). In 1943 he was the international representative, sub-regional director, of the International Union, UAW, and held that position in Hartford beginning in 1947. In his career as a labor leader he also wrote several labor education leaflets, pamphlets and instruction guides.

Mr. Bishop was also active in higher education in Connecticut, serving on the Governor’s Fact-Finding Commission on Education from 1948 to 1951. In 1950, he was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the  University of Connecticut and served as secretary of the Board from 1963 until 1972; he left the board in 1975. He was also on the Governor’s Library Study Commission (1961-1962), the Governor’s Higher Education Study Commission (1963-1964), and the Labor Education Center Study Committee (Bishop Committee) (1964-1967).

We hold Bishop’s papers in Archives & Special Collections, and they include  publications, correspondence, reports and notes relevant to labor and labor education, the Young Women’s Christian Association,  the United Auto Workers and multiple University and State commissions. For more information about the Bishop Papers see the description in our digital repository at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860130716

Merlin D. Bishop died on August 1, 2002, at the age of 94

The building named in his honor was completed in 1971 and then known as the Merlin D. Bishop Center for Continuing Education. For years it held the Labor Education Center. Today it holds the Digital Media and Design Department and the College of Continuing Studies.

Weston A. Bousfield Psychology Building

 

In 1972, when ground was broken for what would be a new home for the Psychology Department, the university’s Building Names Committee was contacted by several members of the faculty who advocated for the building to be named in honor of Professor Weston A. Bousfield, who served as head of the department from 1939 to 1960 and continued on as a respected Professor until his retirement at the end of the Spring semester in 1972.

Bousfield’s colleagues, including Karl Hakmiller, A. Robert Rollin and Sam L. Witryol, pleaded with the committee, writing  that he “built the department in every sense and has been as strongly identified with the University of Connecticut as he has been with the Psychology Department.” Also, “In addition to his tireless and dedicated efforts on the local scene, he achieved national prominence for his research on organization in memory and recall…he is a pioneer in this area which really flourished 10 years after his initial investigation…”

Albert Van Dusen, the committee chairman, wrote Dr. Hakmiller on May 22, 1972, to tell him that the committee would “keep in mind the name of Weston A. Bousfield for future reference in connection with the Psychology Building…[but] believed, however, that it would be wise to adhere to the Trustees regulation that an academic building be named only for a deceased faculty member. Committee members individually, without exception, expressed the highest praise for Bousfield as a man and scholar. Everyone was very unhappy about this decision, yet we all felt that it was the correct one.” Three days later, on May 25, a petition was sent to the committee, making clear that the faculty was disappointed with the decision, but to no avail.

Weston A. Bousfield was born on April 22, 1904, and came to UConn in 1939 as an Assistant Professor and Head of the Department of Psychology after teaching at Tufts University. He earned degrees from Northeastern University, Boston University and Harvard University (including his PhD from the latter). At UConn he was promoted to Associate Professor in 1941 and full Professor in 1946. He was a pioneer in the concept of organization in memory, clustering in recall, and the knowledge that materials we have learned become organized in memory, even though they were originally learned as separate, unconnected units. Bousfield was a prolific author in the field with over seventy publications to his credit.

Professor Bousfield died on September 6, 1986, and the building was finally named for him on April 29, 1989.

Benjamin Franklin Koons Hall

 

In recent years, the University of Connecticut has seen ever-larger classes of students arrive on campus each fall, swelling the school’s already overburdened facilities. But it was ever thus. Around the turn of the twentieth century, an expanding student population at what was then called the Connecticut Agricultural College similarly overwhelmed classrooms and dormitories.

A 1904 issue of The Lookout, an early version of the student newspaper, reported that laboratories once built for soil physics were being outfitted with rows of beds. And even the president’s residence was overtaken by nine students and two instructors. The president and his wife had to relegate themselves to two small rooms in another building on campus.

In response, the Connecticut General Assembly appropriated funds for new construction in 1911. One building to emerge out of this appropriation was Koons Hall, built in 1913 as a men’s dormitory at the cost of $75,000. The building was almost an exact replica of Storrs Hall, built just a few years before in 1906. Koons Hall was named after Benjamin Franklin Koons, an early faculty member and the first president of what would become the University of Connecticut.

Koons was born in Sulphur Springs, Ohio, in 1844. He was one of twelve children in a typical farm family, and his parents sent him and his siblings to the local school. In 1862, Koons enlisted in the Union Army and fought in several major battles, including Cedar Creek and Appomattox. He escaped major injury, and his regiment even received special praise from General Ulysses S. Grant.

After the war, Koons returned to his education, enrolling in Oberlin College in 1870. He graduated in 1874, and then spent several years teaching in schools across the South. He returned to Oberlin in 1878 to continue his education and then went on to study at Yale University. He graduated from Yale in 1881 and took a job teaching at the Storrs Agricultural School, which opened in the fall of that year.

Koons was hired as a professor of natural history, and taught classes as well as published research in a range of fields. He dedicated much of his career to the kinds of research that would serve the school’s initial focus on agricultural education. But he was also drawn into administrative work early on, and when the Board of Trustees voted to change the school’s name to Storrs Agricultural College in 1893, they appointed Koons as its president.

Yet Koon’s time as president would prove short-lived. He resigned from the position in 1897 and stepped down the following year. Although the reasons for his resignation are largely unknown, some have speculated that Koons rankled the Board of Trustees by allowing professors too free a hand on campus. Still, the school grew significantly under his direction. During the Koons years, the number of students and faculty multiplied, female students were admitted for the first time, and educational activities grew along with state funding.

After he left the presidency in 1898, Koons retained an appointment as professor of natural history and political economy. He was also appointed curator of the Natural History Museum, and his family moved into a newly-built cottage on campus. Koons died on December 17, 1903. The ceremony began at his home before moving to a local Congregational church for public services. He was finally buried in Storrs cemetery. In a final symbol of his influence on campus, former graduates served as coffin bearers while students in uniform led the procession from the church to his grave.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

The Ramnapping Incident of 1934

 

In 1934 the football rivalry between Connecticut State College (as the University of Connecticut was known then) and the Rhode Island State College (now the University of Rhode Island) was white hot. As these two institutions of higher learning looked forward to the showdown of the game in Storrs on November 10, their rivalry was jolted by what is now known as the infamous Ramnapping Incident of 1934.

In the early hours of Friday, November 9, intrepid students of the CSC drove east to Kingston, Rhode Island, stole into one of the campus barns, kidnapped the RISC’s mascot, a two-year old ram with the regal name of Rameses II, and brought him back to the Storrs campus. Rameses was briefly paraded, wearing a Connecticut banner and hat, before the students during a pep rally that evening but was otherwise hidden in various buildings, including fraternity houses. It was said that while Rameses was hosted in Storrs he feasted on oats, alfalfa and cabbages and seemed quite content.

In the early hours before the game on November 10 several carloads of RISC students hightailed it to Storrs, intent upon rescuing their beloved mascot. Connecticut students surrounded their cars and forced them to return to Kingston without the ram.

As it is written in the November 13, 1934, issue of the student newspaper, the Connecticut Campus, before the game commenced “while the grandstand strained its collective ear, the ram was brought around in an automobile to the Rhody side of the field and presented to Rhode Island with due ceremony and the snapping of camera shutters.” The heist failed to help the Connecticut team with their efforts on the field, for Rhode Island won the game 19-0.

Also as written in the student newspaper, “Rumors as to who had a hand in the odd disappearance of the Rhody ram have been flying thickly and furiously around the Connecticut State campus. Thousands of solutions have been put forth by would be Philo Vances, but it is likely that the Rhody ramnaping [sic] will remain forever unsolved in the annals of Connecticut crime.”

Hugh S. Greer Field House

The Hugh S. Greer Field House was built in 1954. It originally served as the University of Connecticut’s basketball stadium, replacing the “Cage,” a temporary structure composed of two airplane hangars. In 1990, it became part of the student recreational facilities after the basketball teams left for the new Gampel Pavilion. A year later, the University Board of Trustees voted to rename the building after former UConn basketball coach Hugh S. Greer.

Hugh Scott Greer was born in Suffield, Connecticut, on August 5, 1904. He attended the Connecticut Agricultural College, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in 1926, and later received a Masters of Education from Springfield College. After a successful career as a high school coach, Greer came back to the University of Connecticut in 1946. He was hired as an Assistant Professor of Physical Education and coached the Men’s Basketball team. According to one report, Greer “never lost his composure on or off the court,” and he was awarded the Gold Key from the Connecticut Sports Writer’s Alliance in 1957 for outstanding contributions to sports in his home state.

At the time of his death in 1963, Greer held the record for most wins as UConn basketball coach. After he unexpectedly died from a heart attack, a plaque was installed in the Field House to commemorate his celebrated service at the University of Connecticut.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

Francis L. Castleman Building

Francis L. Castleman Building

The Francis L. Castleman building rests along one edge of the quad on the University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus. It’s marked out by its central stone façade and curved staircases. Originally called Engineering I, the building was officially completed in 1941 (though it opened for partial use the year before). It was constructed during a major period of campus renovation carried out by the Works Progress Administration in the late 1930s-early 1940s under the direction of President Albert N. Jorgensen (whose presidency from 1935 to 1962). In 1970, the building was renamed after Francis Lee Castleman, Jr., a noted professor of civil engineering at UConn.

Francis L. Castleman Building

Castleman was born in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1902. He received an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from Lehigh University in 1925 and received the John B. Carson prize for distinguished work there. He later pursued graduate study at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving his doctorate in 1935.

After completing his studies, Castleman designed bridges for the well-known American Bridge Company, formed out of a merger of twenty steel companies in 1900 by J. P. Morgan & Company. He also served as a professor of structural engineering at Vanderbilt University before coming to UConn in 1942.

Francis L. Castleman, Professor of Engineering

At UConn, Castleman was appointed professor of civil engineering and named chair of the department. He was then named Dean of the School of Engineering just a few years later in 1946. He was a member of several professional organizations and published widely on topics involving structure and mathematics. In addition to his teaching and administrative duties, Castleman was active in and around Storrs. He served as a faculty adviser to UConn’s Engineers’ Club and on the Connecticut State Building Code Commission. Castleman died on December 30, 1955.

Francis L. Castleman Building

The Castleman Building continues to house offices for the Dean of the School of Engineering, as well as classrooms, laboratories, and faculty offices for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. It remains one of the older buildings on campus, though it underwent significant renovation in the 1990s.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections.