The Geigel at the Archives: A look at the Géigel Family’s impact in documenting Puerto Rican socioeconomic and cultural history through the Puerto Rican Collection

 

Luis Géigel and his daughter, Bianca Géigel Lonergan in the stacks where part of the Puerto Rican collection is located (06/18/2014).

Luis Géigel and his daughter, Bianca Géigel Lonergan in the stacks where part of the Puerto Rican collection is located (06/18/2014).

Last June 18, 2014 I had the pleasure to welcome to the archives two family members of the late Luisa Géigel—the last owner of what it is known as the Puerto Rican Collection, A.K.A. the Geigel Family Collection. Bianca Géigel Lonergan contacted me in June to see if we could arrange a visit to the collection so her father, Luis Géigel, could see the books her cousin (*), Luisa Geigel de Gandia sold to the archives. For the visit I gathered a selection of the books published by several members of the Géigel family in the collection as a way to reflect on the importance of this family in the development of Puerto Rico as a modern nation since the late 19th century.

As I mentioned in previous blog postings about this collection (2010 and 2012), the Archives and the Special Collections department, with the help of a former UConn History professor Francisco Scarano, acquired this collection in 1982 through several grants and financial supports from the Research Foundation, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Center of Latin American Studies, the Class of ’26, and the University of Connecticut Foundation, from Luisa Géigel de Gandia. Luisa Géigel de Gandia was an important artist in Puerto Rico especially in the 1940s. She was the first Puerto Rican female sculptor. She also was a painter and was the first women artist to exhibit several nude figure studies in Puerto Rico. She was a co-founder, together with Nilita Vientos Gastón, of the Arts Division at the Ateneo Puertorriqueño. From 1958-1986 she taught Sculpture, Drawing and Artistic Anatomy at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She was also a published author.

Index and inventory created by Luisa Géigel of the titles and location of all the books in the Géigel collection in her home in San Juan, PR

Index and inventory created by Luisa Géigel of the titles and location of all the books in the Géigel collection in her home in San Juan, PR

Together with her father and grandfather, she maintained, expanded and inventoried her family’s books and serials collection. As Dr. Scarano aptly described it, “this magnificent research collection, painstakingly nurtured by the Géigel family of San Juan for three generations, constitutes a bibliographic resource of national scholarly significance” (1).

José Geigel y Zenón

José Geigel y Zenón (1841-1892)

From rare literature gems from the 19th century and 20th century to agricultural and political treatises, this collection serves as a snapshot of the different cultural, political, scientific, and economic movements experimented in Puerto Rico in the past two centuries. The collection also reflected the various interests that drove the family members, José Géigel y Zenón (1841-1892), Fernando Géigel y Sabat (1881-1981), y Luisa Géigel de Gandia (1916-2008) to amassed this collection. Other individuals that donated materials to the original collection was Ramón Gandia Córdova, Luisa Géigel’s father-in-law who donated a good portion of the agricultural books found in this collection. There are other members of the Géigel family represented in the collection such as Vicente Géigel y Polanco (politician and former president of the Ateneo Puertorriqueño), A.D. Géigel (a translator of foreign novels during the 19th century), and Luis M. Géigel (agronomist and father and grandfather of our visitors).

The Geigel family members were great contributors to the cultural and political life of Puerto Rico and their work reflected their deep love and concerns about the past, present and future of Puerto Rico. José Géigel y Zenón, known as Pepe by his contemporaries, was part of the intellectual elite in 19th century Puerto Rico and was friend and/or relative to many important cultural figures such as Alejandro Tapia y Rivera and Manuel Zeno Gandia—who signed and dedicated their books to their dear friend Pepe. In term of cultural contributions, José Géigel y Zenón, together with Abelardo Morales Ferrer wrote one of the most definite Puerto Rican bibliography of their time titled, Bibliografía Puertorriqueña 1492-1894 which was produced between 1892 -1894. Later on his son, Fernando Géigel y Sabat published the first edition of this work in 1934. In addition, Fernando published a compilation of his father satirical writing that he published in different 19th century newspapers such as El Progreso, Don Simplicio, El Derecho, y La Azucena, titled, Artículos político-humoristico y literarios por Jose Géigel y Zenón (1936).

Fernando Géigel y Sabat

Fernando Géigel y Sabat (1881-1981)

Fernando Géigel y Sabat was also an important member of the family. A lawyer by training, he was a Manager of the City of San Juan (1939–1941) and published author. He authored several books which range from political topics such as El ideal de un pueblo y los partidos politicos (1940) to historical treatise, Balduino Enrico (1934), and Corsarios y piratas de Puerto Rico 1819-1825 (1946)—inspired in part by Alejandro Tapia y Rivera novel, Cofresí, which Tapia dedicated to Fernando’s father. Also present in the collection are several important titles from Vicente Géigel y Polanco. A politician, reporter, essayist, ateneísta, he was a pivotal figure in Puerto Rico during the mid-20th century. The collection has several of his books such as El problema universitario, on the role of the university in Puerto Rican culture, La independencia de Puerto Rico about independence as a political option for Puerto Rico, and his memoir about his work at the Ateneo Puertorriqueño, Mis recuerdos del Ateneo.

There are two books from Luisa Géigel in the collection, La genealogía y el apellido de Campeche and El paquete rojo o informe sobre la extinción de la moneda Macuquina. Luis M. Géigel’s work at the Estación Experiemental in Puerto Rico is also present with the title, El algodón “sea-island” en Puerto-Rico which is available at the Internet Archives. I have compiled a list with the books published by the Geigel family in the collection for your enjoyment.

Marisol Ramos, Curator, with Luis Géigel at the stacks

Marisol Ramos, Curator, with Luis Géigel at the stacks

This visit by Bianca and Luis Géigel was quite a walk into memory lane. It helped me to contextualize this collection as part of a bigger project of imaging Puerto Rico as part of a broader cosmopolitan project that connected Puerto Rico with its past, present and possible futures. The vision of the Géigel family for Puerto Rico was multifaceted and its collection represented that diversity of thoughts, history, politics and cultural projects experimented during the 19th and 20th century. Walking with Luis and Bianca into the stacks at the Archives and Special Collections to see the books up close and personal, was like embarking in a time-traveling adventure similar to the ones imaged by the Alejandro Tapia y Rivera in one his stories; a type of magic only find in the archives…

Note: (*): Luis Géigel is Luisa’s first cousin once removed.

References:

Scarano, Francisco A. “The Géigel Puerto Rican Collection”. Harvest. The University of Connecticut Library, Fall 1982: 1-2.

Biographical Data for Luisa Géigel available at these sites:

Marisol Ramos, Curator for Latina/o, Latin American and Caribbean Collections

Kent State and Student Strike at UConn

The Week of the Strike, May 9 1970

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

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

Civil War diaries in the digital repository

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

Page from the diary of D. Alonzo Smith

Page from the diary of D. Alonzo Smith

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

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

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

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

Spanish Periodicals and Newspapers: From online access to scholarly production

Page of Correo de las Damas (title page)

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

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

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

From Japan

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

From Spain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This study is freely available at Cuadernos de Ilustración y Romanticismo, http://revistas.uca.es/index.php/cir/article/view/1920

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated finding aids

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

Albert E. Waugh Papers (http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/Waugh/MSS19880059.html)

Katherine Shelley Orr Papers (http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/orr/MSS19940012.html

Hartford Electric Light Company Records (http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/Hartford_Electric/MSS19960010.html)

Feenie Ziner Papers (http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/ziner/MSS19980220.html)

New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Valuation Maps (http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/ValMap/MSS19980378.html)

Tomie dePaola Collection (http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/depaola/MSS19990033.html)

Bob Englehart Collection (http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/Englehart/MSS20040026.html)

Wendell Minor Papers (http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/Minor/MSS20040075.html)

Connecticut Soldiers Collection, George W. Hanford Papers (http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/Hanford/MSS20050140.html)

American Montessori Society Records (http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/ams/MSS20060230.html)

New Britain Machine Company Records (http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/nbmc/MSS20070049.html)

Joe Snow Punk Rock Collection (http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/snow_punk/MSS20130052.html)

Edward J. Ozog Railroad Collection (http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/ozog/MSS20140044.html)

You can find a complete listing of all of our finding aids at http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/dodda2z/AToZ.cfm

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Irena Urdang deTour, 2013

Irena Urdang deTour, 2013

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

Portion of deTour exhibit

Portion of deTour exhibit

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

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