About Laura Smith

Archivist

Resources in the Archives to Find an Obscure Person

 

Historians usually have no trouble finding information about famous people. After all, if someone was prominent and well known then there is often a record of him or her. A book may have been written, photographs taken, official documents deliberately saved, all because of that person’s fame, or notoriety. If someone was famous then finding enough information to put together the puzzle that was his or her life is relatively easy.

But what about finding resources about someone who wasn’t famous? Someone who was decidedly UNfamous, just a regular person, a “common” man or woman? How do we find historical evidence that a certain obscure person existed? How do we create a narrative of that person’s life to the point that we know where he or she lived, worked, married, and parented on his or her journey through life?

[Let me now pause to write that when I use the words “obscure,” “ordinary,” or “common,” I am not making a value judgment on a person’s worth. We all know that people who lived their lives without becoming famous can be virtuous and extraordinary.  I am referring only to people whose lives were lived but there is now scant evidence in the way of physical documents that were saved and available in a place like Archives & Special Collections.]

Archivists routinely help researchers find information about people who led lives that didn’t lead to fame. Often the questions come from genealogists, when people research their ancestors. This type of researcher often only has family lore, or stories passed from generation to generation, about their ancestors who may have lived perfectly normal lives but whose moments passed without much documentation to support these moments. Having worked with countless genealogists I can assure you that these searches are often the most frustrating, and heartbreaking, that we have to deal with. Frustrating because the information is so elusive; heartbreaking because of the researcher’s hopes for information.

So what resources can we refer to in Archives & Special Collections that may provide something – anything – for the researcher of an obscure person? The good news is that there are many potential sources; the bad news is that all of them would require extensive research time and it is very likely to provide nothing verifiable for a researcher. But we’ve worked with enough genealogists to recognize that they are the hardiest of researchers, willing to slog through countless handwritten labor journals, hoping for that one nugget of information.

[Let me pause again to note here that if you’re looking for information about someone who was affiliated with the University of Connecticut, as a student or faculty or staff member, that’s a whole different story. While we can’t guarantee that we can find information about every person who spent time at the university it is at least a possibility. Please contact our reference desk at archives@uconn.edu and you will be directed to our University Archivist.]

The collections that are most likely to have something about obscure people are from our Connecticut Business Collections. While many of these collections have no worker files, there are many that do have labor records that may have an individuals’ name. These records include:

  • Worker cards from the Cheney Brothers Silk Manufacturing Company of Manchester, Connecticut. These worker cards were created from the 1900s to the 1930s and give a plethora details about the company workers that allow an almost complete record of a worker’s life, listing the jobs he or she worked while employed by the company with dates, noting the address where he or she lived, place of birth, nativity of the worker’s parents, if he or she could understand English, and other vital details. These worker cards, thousands of them, were scanned and are available in our digital repository, at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3AMS19840026
  • The Wauregan and Quinebaug Company, a textile mill in Wauregan, Connecticut, has an extensive set of labor records with a file for each worker who stopped working for the company from 1938 to 1957. The listing of the workers can be found here: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860134117. Please note that there are some restrictions on the use of these records.
  • For some of our collections the only information that provides names of workers can be found in company newsletters. The collections where you can find these types of sources include the New Britain Machine Company Records (https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860115781), the Southern New England Telephone Company Records (https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860138740) and the Thermos Company, Taftville Plant, Records (https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860132926).
  • One of our largest business company records are those of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad (better known as the New Haven Railroad), and we get countless inquiries for information about those who worked for the railroad system, which encompassed all of southern New England from 1872 to 1969. At the peak of its business in the 1920s the New Haven Railroad employed over 30,000 people in the four states of New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. When the New Haven Railroad’s successor made the donation of the railroad’s records in the 1980s no personnel files came to UConn. But, there is one source to refer to, which are issues of “Along the Line,” the company’s employee newsletter, which began publication in the 1920s. Although the newsletter stopped publication during the Great Depression it resumed in the early 1940s and continued, sporatically, into the early 1960s. While by no means a thorough source for information about every worker it is the only item we can provide that has the potential for information about those employed by the railroad.

Many of the business collections have extensive sets of photographs, but a researcher will invariably find that an extremely small number of them will have any identification of the persons in the image. I would ballpark that of the tens of thousands of photographs of non-noteworthy persons that we have in the archives perhaps 1% of them will include the name of the person.

There are a small number of other resources in the archives where there is the possibility of information about an ordinary person, many of them sets of oral history interviews usually done for ethnic history studies. Among them include:

This list is by no means complete simply because almost any archival resource from any of our collections has the potential to provide information about an obscure person. Check the digital repository (http://archives.lib.uconn.edu/) and inquire at our reference desk for sources about your personal favorite ordinary person and we’ll see what we can find.

Resources in the Archives about Women at UConn

 

In 1893, after an act of the Connecticut General Assembly, the rustic Storrs Agricultural School was remade into Storrs Agricultural College, a first step on its way to becoming the major research university we know today as the University of Connecticut.

Along with a new name, the college expanded its course offerings, hired new faculty, and admitted new students—most notably, it officially opened its doors to women. Some members of the General Assembly initially tried to bar women from attending, only to be defeated in the end. Even so, it would have been a belated effort. Records indicate that by 1893 about twenty women had already taken classes at the school, either because of the forward-thinking president Benjamin F. Koons or simply because no law existed to discourage them.

Either way, women’s presence at UConn continued to expand in subsequent years. More and more female students attended classes, played on sports teams, and engaged in student activities in and around the campus, while female faculty and staff assumed a greater number of academic and administrative positions. Today, women account for a slight majority of students at UConn, and the evolution from that first twenty students to women’s prominent role on campus today is amply documented by the university archives.

Archives & Special Collections holds a wealth of materials for those interested in exploring the integral role of women at UConn. Among the relevant collections are:

  • President’s Office Records. The collection comprises extensive material relating to each presidential administration at UConn. The records from Glenn W. Ferguson’s presidency (1973-1978) are especially relevant. They contain significant material on attempts to include women’s concerns in the university’s affirmative action plan, and the controversy and activism around the denial of tenure to English professor Marcia Lieberman. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860134674
  •  UConn Women’s Center Records. The collection comprises books, correspondence, notes, fliers, clippings, publications, legal records, and transcripts relating to the University of Connecticut’s Women’s Center from 1970 to 1989. The UConn Women’s Center was founded in 1972 after concerted student activism and continues to exist today. It provides a range of social services, educational opportunities, and community outreach at the University of Connecticut around a host of issues relating to women and beyond. The finding aid can be found at http://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860116494
  •  UConn Women’s Studies Program Records. The collection comprises grant files, administrative records, announcement, fliers, and publications. The University of Connecticut’s Women’s Studies Program began in 1974 and was the first official program for women’s studies in Connecticut. Similar to UConn’s Women Center, the Women’s Studies Program formed after concerted efforts by students, faculty, and staff to include women’s interests and issues on campus, especially amid a renewed wave of feminist organizing in the 1960s and 1970s. The finding aid can be found at http://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860115771
  • One Hundred Years of Women at UCONN Collection. The collection comprises the contents of a scrapbook created to document the 100 Years of Women activities at UConn during the 1991-1992 academic year. The scrapbook contained photographs, clippings, programs, announcements, memoranda, correspondence, flyers, brochures and posters. The scrapbook was created by a committee formed by President Harry J. Hartley in 1991, and then led by Professor Cynthia Adams, to develop a year-long program of activities to celebrate the role of women in UConn’s history. The activities included a convocation, lectures, presentations, awards and an exhibition. The finding aid can be found at http://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860131611
  • Athletic Communications Office Records. The collection comprises materials concerning the full range of UConn athletics, including basketball, softball, field hockey, tennis, swimming, 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 and provides a detailed portrait of women in sports at UConn. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860123050
  • 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 some of the most far-reaching and wide-ranging coverage of student life at UConn. Both the student newspapers and the student yearbook supply a useful means to chart the history of women at UConn. 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. Similar to the student newspapers, the student yearbook provides a useful means of understanding the evolving place of women at UConn. The yearbooks contain information on individual students, clubs, sports, campus activities, academics, and information on particular academic years. The yearbooks furnish an especially useful means to survey the expanding presence of women at UConn, both in terms of faculty and students. 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 of photographs documents women in all aspects of university life, from sports and academics to university clubs and social life. 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. 

Litchfield County Writers Project Presentations, 1993-2014, Now Available Online

This post was written by Sarah Morin, a Simmons University graduate student who completed a digital stewardship and metadata internship in Archives & Special Collections.  Ms. Morin received her MLIS degree in December 2018.

For over two decades, the Litchfield County Writers Project (LCWP) has endeavored to support, preserve, display, and celebrate the writers of Litchfield County in ways that further enrich UConn and our community’s creative life.

This program was originally created by Adrienne Lyon, a former director of UConn Torrington, and further developed by Davyne Verstandig, a gifted interviewer, poet, and lecturer at UConn. From 1993 to 2014, the LCWP hosted a range of rich and fascinating lectures, interviews, dramatic readings, and performances by writers and artists of all types and genres. In the earliest days of the program, Lyon spoke of her dearly held dream of making these presentations accessible to the world. Today, over 100 of them are now available online for public viewing.

There is such a wide and wonderful variety of topics that everyone is sure to find a presentation that piques their particular interest. Notable luminaries who gave moving and memorable presentations include Frank McCourt (author of Angela’s Ashes), Madeleine L’Engle (author of A Wrinkle in Time), Tom Schiller (writer for Saturday Night Live), Paul and Linda Fusco (creators of ALF), Candace Bushnell (author of Sex and the City), Barbara Parsons (wrote her memoirs in prison under the tutelage of Wally Lamb), and Gina Barreca (acclaimed academic and humorist). And this list is by no means a comprehensive or complete accounting of all the distinguished writers, artists, musicians, poets, scholars, reporters, filmmakers, and documentarians who presented in the program.

The LCWP presentations can be viewed at the Connecticut Digital Archive

Resources in the Archives on Artistic Responses to the U.S. Participation in the Vietnam War

 

The United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War was a divisive chapter in American history. Lending economic and military support to the South Vietnamese government against the Communist North, Washington’s participation in the conflict lasted from the early 1950s to 1973. While in the beginning there was general public acceptance of the war, by 1965 opposition to American involvement in Vietnam grew due to the increasing deployment of troops and the rising number of casualties. In July of 1965, the U.S. government doubled the number of draftees to 35,000 each month. Graphic news footage of the fighting also contributed to the public’s disapproval. Opposition took the form of anti-war demonstrations and draft resistance, and protests broke out on university campuses across the country. Although the U.S. officially withdrew from Vietnam in 1973, it left an indelible mark on the lives of veterans, local communities, and American society.

During and after the United States’ involvement in the conflict in Vietnam, citizens reacted to the war through varied artistic expression. Art became a powerful form of protest and activism, as it was used to raise awareness of social issues and inspire Americans to join the movement against the war. Additionally, once the U.S. began to withdraw troops, people used art to commemorate the war and the loss of life, as well as to consider U.S. involvement overseas. The creative response demonstrates how people participated in American society and civic life, as well as how they contributed to a growing social movement during the 1960s and 1970s.

The collections available in Archives & Special Collections allow us to examine a variety of artistic responses to U.S. engagement in the Vietnam War:

  • Poras Collection of Vietnam War Memorabilia: This collection includes a wide variety of materials from the Vietnam War era, including buttons, photographs, fliers, booklets, posters, stamps, flags, audio recordings, and comic books. The collection contains pamphlets and flyers with artistic illustrations in protest of the war, as well as official propaganda in support of the war. The finding aid is available at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860115772.
  • First Casualty Press Records: This collection is comprised of poetry and fiction submitted to First Casualty Press to be considered for publication. The works were written by Vietnam War veterans concerning their experiences of the war. The collection also contains correspondence between the First Casualty Press and authors, publishers, and readers, as well as materials related to the publication process. The finding aid is available at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860138522.
  • Adam Nadel Photography Collection: This collection consists of thirteen large photographs of Cambodian and Vietnamese people who were affected in some way by the Vietnam War. Recognized internationally for his work, Adam Nadel completed a project on war and its consequences in 2010. Many of the individuals featured in the photographs of this collection are war veterans, both male and female. The finding aid is available at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860114426.
  • Bread and Puppet Theater Collection: Founded in 1963, the Bread and Puppet Theater was made up of an experimental theater troupe whose performances combined puppets, masks, and dance. Performances focused on political and social issues, including protesting the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. The collection consists of illustrated story scripts, handbills, and performance programs, including a small newspaper from 1967 with illustrations from the theater’s story script about the violence in Vietnam. The finding aid is available at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860130712.
  • Storrs Draft Information Committee Records: The Storrs Draft Information Committee was a counseling center on the University of Connecticut’s campus that was established to help men of draft age during the Vietnam War. This collection includes information associated with draft counseling, draft resistance, and protest movement groups at UConn. In particular, the collection contains information on how to renounce U.S. citizenship, documents detailing draft law, and American deserter and draft resistance newspapers from Canada. Some of these documents contain unique illustrations and photographs. The finding aid is available at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860124336.
  • Alternative Press Collection (APC): Founded by students in the late 1960s, the APC includes newspapers, books, pamphlets, and artifacts covering activism for social and political change. This includes multiple volumes of a bulletin called the “Viet Report” from 1965-1986. While the “Viet Report” primarily consists of articles from a variety of perspectives on the war and the state of Vietnam, artwork in the form of illustrations and photographs are also included. These reports can be found in our digital repository beginning here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A01641656.

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 on the artistic response to the Vietnam War. 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 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.