Archives Exhibition Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Black Student Sit-In at Wilbur Cross Library in 1974.

Anthropology Protest, Nutmeg 1974

Please Respond Personally: Commemorating the 1974 Black Student Sit-In 

March 11th – July 19th, 2024, Schimmelpfeng Gallery 

Dodd Center for Human Rights, University of Connecticut 

Exhibit Opening Event: March 28th, 3-5pm @ Archives & Special Collections, Dodd Center

Opening to the public Monday, March 11th, 2024, the UConn Library’s Archives & Special Collections will mount a 50th Anniversary Exhibition commemorating the direct action taken by Black and Brown students on the Storrs campus to challenge structural racism in higher education by sitting in at the Wilbur Cross Library on April 22nd 1974.  This historic event of activism, where roughly 370 students occupied the library at varying times across 3 days, was the culminating event during a semester long campaign of student organizing to demand representation and resources for students of color at the University of Connecticut.  Through curated documents this exhibition will feature the perspectives of the student organizers, the Afro-American Cultural Center, the University and its administration to portray this campus-wide call to action which resonates to our present day.  This 50th anniversary is also an opportunity to highlight approaches to student activism and the centrality of the library as an institutional setting both for democracy and also one vulnerable to upholding systems of oppression. 

This exhibition draws from the experiences of alumni Rodney Bass (’75BA/’76MA) who read the demands during the sit-in and was co-chair of the Organization of African American Students (OAAS). The archives podcast d’Archive produced an interview with Rodney about Black student organizing in the mid-1970s on the Storrs campus which is revealing in understanding their approach to making demands upon the university for their representation in the student body.

There’s Something About an Aqua Velva Man: the J.B. Williams Company, Connecticut’s Maker of Men’s Toiletries

An exhibit of historical records and items manufactured by the J.B. Williams Company, shown on the Plaza Level of Homer Babbidge Library through March 2024.

The exhibit shows photographs, advertisements, and historical documents from the J.B. Williams Company Records, but includes a special component — almost 80 collectible items manufactured by the company.

All of the collectibles shown in this display are from the collection of Boyd and Melissa Williams, residents of Franklin, Tennessee.

Melissa and Boyd Williams, 2023

About eight years ago Mr. and Mrs. Williams were in an antique store and found a J.B. Williams Company shaving soap box. Knowing nothing about the company, with no connection to Connecticut, they purchased the box on the basis that the company’s name was theirs as well. After that, they perused antique shops and Ebay for other company items and slowly amassed their collection of about 150 items, which they display in a vacation cabin they own.

The focus of the collection is solely on items that indicate that they were produced in Glastonbury, 1960 and earlier.

In June 2023 Mr. Williams contacted the UConn Archives asking for information from the J.B. Williams Company Records about their products, to supplement his knowledge of the company. When the archives staff learned about the Williams’ extraordinary collectible collection, the couple generously agreed to loan the items for this display.

About the J.B. Williams Company:

James Baker Williams was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, in 1818 and worked at a general store in Manchester beginning at the age of 16. When he was 22 he began to experiment with soaps to determine which were best for shaving, and developed Williams’ Genuine Yankee Soap, the first manufactured soap for use in shaving mugs.

In 1847 Williams opened his soap company on Williams Street in Glastonbury, where he continued to manufacture shaving soap and other products.

By the early 1900s the company was known throughout the world for its line of shaving creams, talcum powder, toilet soaps, and, later, for Aqua Velva, Lectric Shave, and Skol. After 1950 the company, in mergers with other businesses, became known for producing Conti Castile Soap, Kreml Hair Tonic, and Kreml Shampoo.

In 1957 a New York based conglomerate, Pharmaceuticals, Inc., acquired the J.B. Williams Company and moved the headquarters to New Jersey. In 1971 the company was sold to Nabisco.

The plant in Glastonbury was taken over by former Williams Company employees and became Glastonbury Toiletries, producing shaving soaps, bathroom soaps, aerosol shaving creams, body lotions and shampoos. This company closed in 1977. The original 1847 factory was converted to condominiums and, in 1983, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The company records were donated to the UConn Archives in 1967.

Forgotten, Neglected and in Ruins: Abandoned Industrial Spaces in Connecticut

Sometimes it is hard to recall that the Connecticut of not too long ago was an industrial powerhouse. From the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s the state was a major producer of brass, tools, textiles, clocks and household goods that were valued throughout the nation, and the world. While Connecticut today is still an industrial engine, we remember a time when large factories teemed with workers and railroad lines traveled into almost every town and city in the state.

There is a mix of emotions when we view images of abandoned factories and railroad stations. There is a nostalgia for the past, one that we know through old photographs or movies, a time we somehow imagine was simpler. Or there is a curiosity in the creepy side of the structures, covered in vines, roofs sagging, broken windows, old equipment splayed about the factory floor, and, if we’re lucky, perhaps a spray of graffiti on the walls.

Now available in the Richard Schimmelpfeng Gallery in the Dodd Center for Human Rights is an exhibit that shows photographs from the Railroad History Collections and the Connecticut Historic Preservation Collection, both held in the UConn Archives.

The foundational collection for the Railroad History Archives are the corporate records of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, better known as the New Haven Railroad, which was established in 1872 from the merger of smaller lines throughout Connecticut, Rhode Island, southern Massachusetts and eastern New York, and spanned from Grand Central Terminal in New York City to Boston. Other collections, from photographers, collectors and historians, supplement the corporate records and provide resources that illustrate the impact of the railroad on the industry and culture of the region until it was absorbed into Penn Central in 1969.

While the railroad collections provide documentation on the entire New Haven Railroad region, for purposes of this exhibit we have focused exclusively on Connecticut sources.

The Connecticut Historic Preservation Collection (CHPC) is comprised of architectural and archaeological surveys, maps and documentation studies of historic buildings and sites in the state. They are provided to the UConn Archives by the State Historic Preservation Office. The CHPC materials you see in the exhibit are almost solely those in the documentation studies series, which were created by professional industrial historians to document historical properties that were planned for demolition or renovation.

The exhibit is available Mondays through Fridays, 8:00a.m. to 4:30p.m., until October 13.

Several historians have graciously aided us with this exhibit, by either providing their advice or expertise of railroad properties, or by allowing the use of photographs they have taken of abandoned sites.

Robert Joseph Belletzkie has done extensive research into the history of Connecticut railroad stations. He created and maintains a website – Tyler City Station, at http://www.tylercitystation.info/ — that details the history of virtually every station and depot in Connecticut.

Matthew Chase is dedicated to a project to document the deterioration of the Cedar Hill Rail Yard, located in New Haven. His Facebook page, Friends of Cedar Hill Yard, has hundreds of photographs of the yard, both historical and in its deteriorating condition in the present day.

Richard A. Fleischer is a historian, writer and photographer with a broad and deep knowledge of the history of New England’s railroads.

J.W. Swanberg is a former railroad employee, photographer and historian of the New Haven Railroad, with a lifetime of knowledge about railroads in Connecticut, the region and the world. He is the author of the seminal history of the New Haven Railroad’s locomotive fleet, New Haven Power, and has written extensively on topics related to railroads in the region.

RE:Reference Exhibit


May 19 – August 11, 2023
Archives & Special Collections
Dodd Center for Human Rights
Curated by Graham Stinnett, Archivist


On display is the creative work of David Sandlin (b.1956), comics artist and printmaker. His multi-volume Guggenheim Fellowship project, 76 Manifestations of American Destiny, charts a dreamlike interstellar course from the Big Bang to the present historical moment. Volume 1 of this series depicts iconic references which continuously appear throughout each volume as specters of a disembodied past. In Sandlin’s work, America’s presidents, military icons, and cultural trademarks wreak havoc on the psyche of the family (the artist’s own) caught between cultural performance and the dead weight of its umbilical living past.

Additionally on display are monographs and artist’s books drawn from Archives & Special Collections which illustrate the source material for an artists’ interpretation and the proliferation of ideas through varying degrees of enculturation in print. Featured are early printed pamphlets of President George Washington’s farewell address from 1796 (a character featured prominently in Sandlin’s 76 series), as well as other art forms like poetic interpretations of the Declaration of Independence, and children’s books relating to the science of the Big Bang, the founding fathers, and histories of the Western frontier and the myth-making they engendered. Featured across from Sandlin’s work is the Artists’ Book author Mike Taylor (b.1976) who similarly explores the current state of politics in America through the historical record of presidential speeches, congressional documents, and their foretelling of a dystopian future.

Starting in 2021, Archives & Special Collection’s acquired 76 Manifestations of American Destiny Volumes 1-4 and will add the final volumes to the collection as they are completed.

The Many Faces of Vivien Kellems, 1896 – 1975 

Archives & Special Collections announces the opening of a new exhibition, “The Many Faces of Vivien Kellems,” featuring the life and achievements of the inventor, activist, businesswoman, political candidate, and philanthropist, Vivien Kellems.  The exhibition marks the completion of a multi-year project to digitize the Kellems Papers; generously funded by Suzy Kellems Dominik over the past several years. 

Vivien Kellems was born 7 June 1896 in Des Moines, Iowa, to David Clinton and Louisa Flint Kellems. Shortly after her birth, her parents, both Christian Ministers, moved their family to the west coast and settled in Eugene, Oregon. The only girl of a family with seven children, Vivien developed a rugged and competitive personality from an early age. Attending the University of Oregon, she made her mark as the only female on the debate team. Vivien Kellems obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1918 and a master’s degree in economics shortly thereafter. After graduation, she moved to New York City pursuing a doctorate from Columbia University and then, nearer the end of her life, University of Edinburgh.  

While she resided in New York, her older brother, Edgar E. Kellems, invented a significant improvement to an existing cable grip, which he patented in the late 1920s. With the patent as a foundation, Ms. Kellems founded Kellems Cable Grips, Inc. in 1927, moving the new company to Stonington, Connecticut. In the early years, the company’s devices were used most notably during the construction of the Chrysler Building, George Washington Bridge, and later played a vital role in production of wire and artillery shell grips used during World War II.  Her thirty-year tenure as president of the Kellems Company brought many challenges, travel, and opportunities for expansion.  For example, during WWII, Kellems’ business interests and travels converged with her personal life—bringing unwanted attention and controversy. Vivien’s connections and subsequent relationship with Count Frederic von Zedlitz, a German national from a prestigious family, was scrutinized by the U.S. Congress because of her “love letters” to a “Nazi agent.” 

In addition to her business interests, Vivien Kellems was actively engaged in various struggles for justice as she fought for women’s equality, equal suffrage along party lines, and tax reform. As a member of the Liberty Belles, Vivien led by example as the group encouraged equality of women in the home, workplace, and society. Running as an independent candidate for U. S. Senate, Ms. Kellems protested strict party line voting that only required a single lever pull rather than voting individually for a preferred candidate. She made several bids for United States Senate, for the Connecticut Governorship in 1954, and, in 1964, led the Barry Goldwater Presidential Campaign in Connecticut. 

Vivien Kellems practiced active civil disobedience to support her positions on state and government practices, particularly those of taxation and party voting. She famously sat in a voting booth for nine hours straight before fainting from exhaustion in her protest of the party lever. With her degree in economics, unfair taxation by the government was a frequent and long fought battle. In 1948, alongside her business partner and brother David Kellems, she protested the “requirement” of withholding taxes from her employees’ checks claiming, “if they wanted me to be their (tax) agent, they’d have to pay me, and I want a badge.” A lengthy court battle ensued, during which it was determined that the Kellems Company would go bankrupt if taxes were not withheld and paid. Admitting defeat on this issue, Kellems turned her focus to the inequality of taxes paid by single individuals compared to married couples.  The income tax law enacted after World War II required unmarried citizens to pay twice the amount of income tax than did those citizens of equal earnings who were married. In protest, from 1965 until her death, Vivien Kellems would send in blank tax forms with her signature. Coming close to victory many times in the United States Supreme Court during the first half of the 1970s, Ms. Kellems’ fight in this case came to naught.  She died before her final appeal was heard in 1975.  On this issue, she traveled the country speaking at numerous events and appearing on television to highlight the cause of the singles income tax.  She amassed a nationwide fanbase who wrote to her extensively in support and admiration for her campaign against unfair taxation. 

Vivien Kellems left a vibrant legacy, documented in an impressive collection of photographs, business records, legal and tax documents, political ephemera, and memorabilia that is available for research and study in the University of Connecticut’s Archives & Special Collections.  Come and explore the story of a trailblazing firebrand who faced great odds but refused to back down. 

The exhibit is scheduled to run through 13 January 2023 and features highlights from Vivien Kellems storied life, focusing on her activist causes, business achievements, and political aspirations.  The installation of exhibit documenting the life of this remarkable woman is also in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the University of Connecticut Women’s Center.  

Days and Nights of Print and Punk

Design by Melica Stinnett

Exhibition on view August 30 – October 16, 2022

Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m

Schimmelpfeng Gallery, UConn Archives & Special Collections

Virtual Zine Workshop September 29, 12:30-1:30pm

Closing Event & Archives Open House October 12th, 4 – 6 pm.

The UConn Archives & Special Collections presents Days and Nights of Print and Punk, showcasing the roughly four decades of punk rock aesthetic documented through the Alternative Press Collection. From the 1970s punk rock of bad attitudes and discontent in England and the U.S., seeds were sown to propagate a unified front of thumbed noses to the status quo. Those same attitudes of youth rebellion were reinterpreted from problems into solutions by each successive generation drawing from positive mental attitude, feminism, DIY socioeconomics, animal rights, and anti-racism. Through show flyers, riot grrrl and skate zines, t-shirts, stickers, vinyl, cassettes, and posters, the evolution of the scene has demonstrated its adaptability for youth movements from the late 1970s to the present day. This exhibition also features selections of performance photographs from the traveling exhibition Live at The Anthrax from the Joe Snow Punk Rock Collection. Joe photographed the thriving Connecticut Hardcore Punk (CTHC) scene in the late 1980s during the final years of The Anthrax club in Norwalk, CT (’86-’90).  Shot on 35mm black and white Kodak film, these images represent historical documents that bring the viewer as close to the action as possible, providing an intimacy into this subcultural space from 35 years ago.  The photographs were selected and reprinted with the intent to highlight the primacy of analog at that time as well as the aesthetics of the not-so-distant past illuminated by a sweat tinted flash bulb. 

This exhibition is drawn from the following archival collections:

Andrews Punk Rock Collection, Fly Zine Collection, Kauffman Zine Collection, King Alternative Press Collection, Noelke-Olson Button Collection, and Snow Punk Rock Collection.

This exhibition is programmed in conjunction with the William Benton Museum of Art exhibition Wild Youth: Punk and New Wave from the 1970s and 1980s running concurrently.

D-I-Y Zine Basics September 29, 12:30-1:30pm via Zoom
Zines are DIY publications that have served as modes of expression as well as communication for underrepresented subcultures and social movements, including punk. They are analog and use a collage aesthetic to combine image and text in visually engaging ways. In this virtual workshop, learn about DIY publications with Archivist Graham Stinnett and Metadata Librarian Rhonda Kauffman to get started making your own zines. Held in conjunction with the exhibitions, Days and Nights of Print and Punk at UConn Archives’ Schimmelpfeng Gallery and Wild Youth: Punk and New Wave from the 1970s and 1980s at the William Benton Museum of Art.

Suggested materials list: • 1 sheet of letter sized paper • Magazines, newspapers, stickers to collage with, preferably images with high contrast. • Glue stick or tape • Sharpie fine and ultra fine permanent markers • 1-inch and ¾ inch alphabet stickers in various colors • Patterned Washi tape

Level Up materials list: • Label maker • Plastic bone folder • Alphabet stamps w/ink pad • Long arm stapler • Typewriter • Photocopier 

There & Back Again: A Hobo’s Tale

An exhibition is currently on display about Hobo culture, train hopping, and boxcar art over the last 150 years. The exhibit will run from January 9 – February 28, 2020 in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Gallery at the University of Connecticut. Drawing from the extensive railroad collections at the UConn Archives & Special Collections, this exhibit seeks to present the love of trains from an alternative approach through art, folklore, and travelogue.

The exhibition will feature an opening reception and film showing of Bill Daniel’s Who is Bozo Texino: the epic account of the improbable discovery of the true identity of the world’s greatest boxcar artist. (2005) on Thursday, February 6th, 2020 from 7-9pm.

DAYGLO AND NAPALM – In Closing: The Making of a Dissident

Peace March, New York City, April 15,1967.
Howard S. Goldbaum Collection of Connecticut Daily Campus Negatives.

The following essay is an extended closing remark to the exhibition Day-Glo and Napalm: UConn from 1967-1971, by guest curator and contributor, George Jacobi (’71).The exhibition runs until Friday, October 25th, 2019.

Thanks to the GI Bill, the Fifties are a favorable time for most Americans home from the war to build a career and raise a family. Powered by Unions as well, the rise of the largest middle class in history finally includes some Black and Latino citizens. Suburbia is invented. The 1964 World’s Fair in New York promises we’ll all be working far fewer hours and getting there in a flying car, asserting that technology only benefits mankind. Robots will do the tough jobs. The future seems so far away that this is almost believable. Are white kids in New England spoiled? Compared with previous generations, sure we are, and so has each generation since. Growing up then is generally benign, and the result is a chance to examine ourselves and America with less national responsibility than our parents. Our patriotism thus leans toward social betterment, not defense or personal economic progress.                                                              

Under the veneer of white middle-class American life rumblings of unrest have begun. Academics are suggesting that modern society is unfulfilling. Rachel Carson has shown America that it is in the process of killing nature with chemicals. Kerouac has been “On the Road” and Jackson Pollock has blown up the art world. Jazz has turned from big band dance music into individual expression. Ginsburg writes “Howl” and thus comes out as a gay man; the book is immediately banned. Yet in Greenwich Village people are “suddenly free of the shackles, the baggage of tradition”: Liam Clancy. Nevertheless, beatniks are portrayed as a joke on TV.                                                                                                                                                  The political and cultural events that took place at UConn during the years 1967 to 1971 of course reflect wider American historical forces. For simplicity, label these Politics, Spirituality, Culture, and the Arts. In reality, they are jumbled together; breaking them down in order to clarify each is a rare side benefit of the passage of time.                                                                                                                                         

The following account lists this history, phenomena that took place or began prior to 1967. By that year, society is increasingly seen by an influential youth minority as hypocritical or empty of value. It has become apparent that the norms are mythological and serve only the powerful. Alienation results with what is initially a quiet insurrection against uncritical acceptance of the status quo. While most of the country isn’t paying attention, there is a cultural shift; all of a sudden something changes. Several small groups at first, an anti-establishment minority slowly appears. Most folks in America and at UConn in the mid-1960s go about their own lives whether they are sympathetic to this rebellion or not. A majority of UConn students, including us, will spend most of our hours being students.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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DAYGLO AND NAPALM: Singular Sixties Stories

The following guest posts by alumni Ken Sachs (’71), Michael Pagliaro (’72), Lori Wallach (’70), and Janet Rogers (’72) are in conjunction with the current UConn Archives exhibition Day-Glo & Napalm: UConn 1967-1971 guest curated by George Jacobi (’71). The exhibition is on display until October 25th in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

Guest Post by Anonymous:

In 1969 I had a IIs deferment at UCONN that would run out in January 1970 when I completed my B.A. My roommate had served in Vietnam where he survived the battle that has been called “Hamburger Hill.” When I received my physical notice, he informed me that I needn’t worry about the draft as he would “kill me” before I was drafted rather than let me participate in that ill-advised war. Fortunately, T_____had access to some black beauties (little black capsules containing an amphetamine commonly referred to in those days as “speed”).

On the morning of my physical in the fall of 1969, I popped one of the “beauties” into my mouth and headed off to our local draft board. At age 22, I was the oldest on the bus, surrounded by a lot of naïve 18-year-olds, many just out of high school. Before the bus left, the middle-aged clerk at the draft board got on the bus waving a little U.S. flag and telling us all “how proud” she was of us all. Frankly, I wanted to strangle her for her “patriotism.” Before the bus arrived in New Haven I popped my last black beauty.

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Day-Glo & Napalm: Committed Sixties

The following guest posts by alumni Chris Malis (’72) and Ellie Goldstein/Erickson (’70) are in conjunction with the current UConn Archives exhibition Day-Glo & Napalm: UConn 1967-1971 guest curated by George Jacobi (’71). The exhibition is on display until October 25th in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. The Gallery is open Mon-Fri 9-4pm, with a Saturday viewing on October 12th, 9-5pm.

Guest Post by Chris Malis (’72):

We Are Stardust

Coming of age in the Sixties (c.1965-c.1972) was a gift; it made me who I am now. Contrary to the changes of many as they age, I have not grown more conservative over the years. Am I the same person I was then? Of course not. Would my 20-year-old self like my 70-year-old self? Perhaps not so much. Would I do (or not do) certain things differently if I could go back in time? Sure. But on the whole, I feel grateful to have come of age in that time and space. It was the most magical, earth-shaking decade of the 20th Century. I won’t say earth-changing, because … look around. Who would have thought that, 50 years later, we’d still be fighting racism, poverty, war, women’s reproductive rights, income inequality, sexual violence, and impending environmental collapse?

In the words of Lincoln’s first inaugural address on March 4, 1861: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell … when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

The Sixties, for me, was a time of better angels coming to the fore. I desperately hope they return in force… and soon!

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Day-Glo & Napalm: Conflicted Sixties

The following guest posts by Asst. Prof. Charlie Brover and Alumnus John Palmquist (’71) are in conjunction with the current UConn Archives exhibition Day-Glo & Napalm: UConn 1967-1971 guest curated by George Jacobi (’71). The exhibition is on display until October 25th with an evening reception on September 19th, from 6-8pm in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

Guest Post by Asst. Prof. Charles Brover:

My Lear year reflection: Was it pissing in the wind?

I will be 80 in September. I’m King Lear’s age. (“Fourscore and upward, not an hour more nor less”). Some 50 years ago in my course on Shakespeare’s tragedies, we talked about how much easier it was to identify with Hamlet, that flashy student on spring break from Wittenberg, than the benighted old man who hath ever but slenderly known himself. Lear began his education at 80, and one hell of an education it was—a fierce warning against the unreflected life. So now in the fifth act of my own education I am grateful to my old comrade Larry Smyle for reaching out to me and to George Jacobi and Graham Stinnett for the opportunity to reflect on those superheated days at UConn 50 years ago. Were they formative in my life? Were they just an episode of frothy anti-authoritarian rebellion?

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UConn Archives Punk Photography at Counter Weight Brewing Co.

The next installation of the traveling exhibition, Live at The Anthrax, is currently hosted at Counter Weight Brewing Co. in Hamden, CT and will run from September 5th-December 15th, 2019. This exhibition features 20 black & white photographs from the Joe Snow Punk Rock Collection, taken by Joe in the late 1980s during the final years of The Anthrax club in Norwalk, CT.  Bands featured in the selection include local CTHC staples such as Wide Awake and NY Hardcore bands Up Front and Absolution to seminal acts such as Fugazi.  This curated exhibition highlights the dedication, energy and lived values of those who formed the hardcore scene and turned it into a community.  This exhibit seeks to expose the public to archival collections outside of a traditional archives setting in order to promote access to rich cultural materials like those of the Joe Snow Punk Rock Collection in everyday spaces like record stores, breweries and community spaces. This exhibition is free and open to the public.