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.

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.

Deep Dives: Bringing the APC Files Collection Online

Patrick Butler, Assistant Archivist for the Alternative Press Files Collection and Human Rights Collection, is a 2018 Ph.D. graduate of the UConn Medieval Studies Program.  During his time as a graduate student he worked in the UConn Archives to broaden his materials handling experience and develop skills as an archivist.  He has specialized training in medieval paleography and codicology. 

Over the past year I have been shepherding a project in order to make the APC Files Collection discoverable outside of a card catalog cabinet in the lobby of the UConn Archives.  This collection consists of over four-thousand subject files of single issue publications, fliers, newsletters, comic books, and various ephemera relating to the underground press and political activism from the 1960s to the present.  The ultimate goal of the project is to digitize and upload the entire APC Files collection to the Connecticut Digital Archives (CTDA).

At the moment I am uploading the first collection of scanned materials, which means this project, as a whole is entering into what could be considered its final phase.  Final of course may belie the fact that it will require a tremendous amount of effort and continuing coordination to scan these materials in conjunction with the staff of the digitization lab at Homer Babbidge Library, without whom this project would not be possible.

This project has come with a new host of challenges for me as an aspiring archivist and seasoned academic, and has given me new opportunities to engage my more specialized research interests through different materials and addressing a broader audience as a result.

The Activist -A Student Political Quarterly published out of Oberlin College: 11.1, 1970

Continue reading

25th Annual Connecticut Children’s Book Fair THIS Weekend – With Exhibition on View

For 25 years, the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair has welcomed families, collectors, teachers, students and librarians to UConn to meet and to hear talented, award-winning authors and illustrators discuss their work.  This weekend on November 4 and 5, we are excited to once again foster the enjoyment of reading among Connecticut’s youth with two days of dynamic programming. The Book Fair takes place at the Rome Commons Ballroom on the UConn campus — visitor information can be found on the event website.

Archives and Special Collections celebrates the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair in this milestone year by featuring the collections of authors and illustrators found in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection (NCLC). The Book Fair is also an opportunity to highlight recent research conducted in the papers and archives of NCLC authors and illustrators.

The following is an excerpt of an exhibition essay by Nicolas Ochart, Student Exhibitions Intern in Archives and Special Collections, for an exhibition currently on view in the McDonald Reading Room in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. This semester, Nicolas is responsible for conceiving and developing small-scale exhibitions that highlight archival material found in the collections. He hopes to pursue professional curatorial work in an effort to promote the work and experiences of marginalized and underrepresented communities in the United States. In December, Nicolas will receive his B.A. in Art History from the University of Connecticut.

The Northeast Children’s Literature Collection was developed in 1989 to collect and preserve the history of children’s literature and illustrations, and comprises the archives of over 120 notable authors and artists. Among completed editions of beloved children’s books, the collection also includes countless preliminary sketches, letters, dummies, manuscripts, notes, and correspondence with family, editors, and other writers and artists.

The collection’s extensive holdings have made the University of Connecticut a nexus for scholars and children’s book writers and illustrators across the nation interested in studying the literary and aesthetic qualities of the form. In an effort to support and encourage study of the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection, Archives and Special Collections have developed a number of awards for researchers, including the Billie M. Levy Travel and Research Grant and the James Marshall Fellowship. Grantees and Fellows have written on such varied topics as queer American Jewishness in the art and writings of Maurice Sendak, as well as influences of modernism and fashion design in the work of Esphyr Slobodkina. Aspiring and established authors and illustrators have also looked at papers by James Marshall, Natalie Babbitt, Tomie dePaola, and Eleanor Estes for guidance in their own practice.

The objects on display in Archives and Special Collections represent just some of the archival materials past Fellows and Grantees have found noteworthy in their research. These objects also dialogue with others in Archives and Special Collections, and together offer rich and surprising stories of classic tales.

The collection’s extensive and cross-historical nature provides a visual and narrative mapping of the perseverance of certain character types and situations. One of the most persistent topics of interest in children’s literature concerns problems that arise from class conflicts, and the tensions between members of the aristocracy, bourgeoisie, and working class communities. Where a character is from and the spaces they are permitted to navigate reveals much about their personality, goals, and interactions with other characters in their environment. These works show desire and punishment, as characters’ morality largely dictates whether they are granted social mobility or afflicted with poverty or other penalties.

Even if clear moral distinctions between classes are not drawn, the picturing of difference is almost always apparent. The objects displayed in Archives and Special Collections represent a sampling of the visualization of class and “otherness” in popular children’s fables and fairy tales, as well as the ways in which characters’ bodies, properties, and reputations are threatened by these factors.

We encourage exploration of the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection, or explore the blog for Archives and Special Collections, to learn more about scholarship conducted by visiting academics, writers, and artists.

– Nicolas Ochart

 

 

Teaching Activism and Leadership through Archives

The following guest blog post was written by Laura Wright, PhD candidate in UConn’s English Department and first-year writing instructor as well as excerpts from students in her 2016 English 1010S seminar. 

War on Drugs, 1981 (Alternative Press Collection)Building towards the Presidential Election in November 2016, Students in ENGL 1010S: Seminar in Academic Writing considered different definitions of “leadership.”  The final project asked students to think critically about leadership historically through particular artifacts from the Archives & Special Collections Alternative Press Collection and Bread and Puppet Theater holdings.  In one class session, Graham Stinnett, the Curator of Human Rights Collections and Alternative Press Collections, provided an overview of materials and their historical contexts.  During this session, students learned about radical movements on UConn’s campus and how materials from these movements arrived in the Dodd Center.  The collections students observed encompassed a range of media, including Alternative Press newspapers, like The Rat and Rising Up Angry, as well as performance programs and promotional materials from the Bread and Puppet Theatre.

For this project, students argued for the relationship between activism and leadership represented in these particular collections.  Rather than writing a research paper, students compiled dossiers of material, using their unique artifacts as a jumping off point for further research.  Students offered a detailed interpretation of the archival material, located it in a larger historical narrative, researched peer-reviewed sources for an annotated bibliography, and wrote a short essay putting all their materials into conversation with one another.  Continue reading

World War Two Newsmap Collection Added to the Archives

Just a few months after its transfer from the main library’s Federal Documents Collection, the World War Two Newsmap Collection is now available for patron use! The finding aid can be found here.

For me, processing this new acquisition was a real pleasure; while I consider myself fairly well-versed in the history of the Second World War, I had never heard of the Newsmaps, and welcomed the opportunity to educate myself on them.

Newsmaps would often feature informational lay-outs for service members, like this one from the July 5, 1943 edition.

These large, two-sided posters were first published in the spring of 1942 by the U.S. Army’s Information Branch. At a minimum, they were meant to inform American service members on the progress of the war in the various theaters of conflict, and expose them to information on both enemy and friendly equipment and tactics. By 1943, many of them followed a common format: brief snippets of war news accompanied by maps and photographs on one side, and either a full-page detailed map or illustrated informational lay-out (how to prevent disease, how to avoid unexploded ordnance, the layout of a German infantry regiment, etc.) on the reverse. As the war progressed and Allied victory seemed more and more certain, the themes for these lay-outs transitioned to topics like the GI Bill, post-military life, and U.S. occupation policies.

Several versions of Newsmaps were produced. Large posters like the ones in this collection were distributed to military installations in the United States, while smaller Newsmaps were sent to units overseas. An industrial version was also published for display in war production facilities. In total, Newsmaps were published weekly from April 1942 until March 1946, with an additional eight issues produced after that.

An example of the large-scale maps featured on many of the posters. From the October 25, 1943 edition.

Our collection consists of forty-four posters, most of them two-sided, measuring 36 by 48 inches each. Publication dates range between 1943 and 1946, with the bulk of the posters dating from 1943. It should be noted that this represents only a fraction of the entire run, as more than two hundred posters were eventually published. If you’d like to see the entire set, or can’t make it in to examine our physical collection, check out this page from the University of North Texas Digital Library, which has digitized the entire run of Newsmaps for online use.

Stop the Presses: UConn’s Student Newspaper is Now an Online Resource

Viewing a newspaper issue in the digital repository

Have you ever wondered when the first female editor-in-chief of the UConn newspaper was elected? Or wanted to examine student reactions to the attack on Pearl Harbor? Have you ever desperately needed to know the time and location of the Philosophy Club meeting on November 28, 1945? Thanks to an ongoing project here at Archives & Special Collections, the answers to these and other questions concerning campus history will soon be just a few clicks away. Several staff members, myself included, have been working since last summer on uploading past issues of the campus newspaper, from its inception in 1896 until 1990, to the Archives’ digital repository, a component of the Connecticut Digital Archive (CTDA).

To date, everything up to the 1942-1943 school year has been completed, as well as some years in the 1970s and late 1980s. Once uploaded, every issue becomes a permanent digital object that is searchable within the repository. Associated metadata includes publication date, editor, genre, and, when applicable, a short description that lists any errors particular to that issue (i.e. a mislabeled volume or issue number or date.) Users can conduct term searches within each issue, and there’s also the option to download and print a PDF version.

Prior to this project, access to most of the student newspaper archive was available only through the use of paper copies, like this one from 1940

Want to check out what we’ve completed so far? Visit the digital repository here.

Access to UConn’s student newspaper archive, in both physical and digital form, is relatively old news (pun intended.) Researchers who visit Archives & Special Collections have been able to examine bound volumes or microfilm reels for years, and the UConn Digital Commons has offered online access to some copies of the newspaper since early 2012. Frequent use and the passage of time, however, have begun to show their effects on both the physical copies and the microfilm, and although plans were made to make all issues available online through the Digital Commons by the end of 2012, the project was never completed. Finally having the collection completely digitized will address these concerns and essentially make the newspaper a “self-serve” resource, available at any time and from anywhere.

Completing the project is no small task, in part because there is so much material to process. For the paper’s first eighteen years, for example, it was published monthly during the school year with an occasional summer issue. That works out to approximately 170 issues produced for the years 1896-1914. At an average of 20-25 pages per issue (although some, like the Commencement Issue, ran much longer), the total number of pages is more than 4,000! The numbers only increase as the years progress and the paper becomes a semi-monthly, weekly, biweekly, and finally a daily in 1953.

Editorial staff, Connecticut Campus, 1924

Another challenge has been tracking the changes undergone by the paper to ensure that the proper metadata is created and recorded for each individual issue. Just as the university has changed its official name several times over the course of its existence, so too has the campus newspaper gone by a number of different titles: the S.A.C. Lookout­ (1896-1899); the C.A.C. Lookout/Lookout (1899-1914); The Connecticut Campus and Lookout (1914-1917); the Connecticut Campus (1917-1955); the Connecticut Daily Campus (1955-1984); and finally the Daily Campus (1984-Present). There is also the Connecticut Scampus, an annual satirical issue first published in the 1920s. In addition, a new editor-in-chief was elected at least annually, and sometimes more frequently than that.

Luckily, the necessary groundwork had already been completed before we began the project. Realizing the historical significance of the newspaper, the UConn Libraries funded the scanning of the entire collection onto microfilm in the early 1990s. The Library again offered its support in 2012 when that microfilm was scanned and .txt, .jp2, and .pdf files were created for each individual page. It was from this cache of digital images that the Digital Commons issues were produced, and it is from there that we’ve been doing the majority of our work, grouping the individual pages into zip files (each one representing a single issue), ingesting them into the repository, and then adding the necessary metadata and PDF files.

Quality control is an important step throughout this process. The editors of yesteryear were far from perfect, and there are plenty of instances where volume and/or issue numbers are mislabeled and page numbers are out of order (or omitted entirely.) There are also errors from the microfilm scanning that need to be accounted for, like removing duplicates resulting from the same page being scanned more than once.

Challenges notwithstanding, progress has been steady, and we are looking forward to completing our work. In its entirety, the newspaper represents an integral part of UConn’s historical record, and is an ideal complement to the several excellent histories of the university that have been written (the out-of-print Connecticut Agricultural College: A History by Walter Stemmons, Bruce Stave’s Red Brick in the Land of Steady Habits, and Mark J. Roy’s University of Connecticut) which, owing to limitations of space and other factors, can never hope to include everything. When finished, the online archive will span more than a century and include thousands of pages. In using it, researchers will be given a unique perspective into the everyday nuances of campus life, and the reactions of students, staff, and the Storrs community to events, both major and mundane, that affected the campus, the nation, and the world.

A Brief History of the Student Newspaper:

1896 — Students of the Storrs Agricultural College establish a student newspaper, the S.A.C. Lookout.  It begins as a monthly, and the first issue is published on May 11, 1896. The cost of a subscription? 50 cents a year, paid in advance.

1899 — The school is re-named Connecticut Agricultural College, and the paper becomes The C.A.C. Lookout.

1902 — The paper transitions to the simpler title the Lookout.

1914 — The paper changes its name to the Connecticut Campus and Lookout, and is published semi-monthly during the college year.  It also takes on the standard newspaper format.

1917 — The paper simplifies its name to the Connecticut Campus beginning with the October 30, 1917 issue.

1919 — The paper begins publishing weekly with the October 3, 1919 issue.

1942 — The Connecticut Campus is published semi-weekly, on Tuesdays and Fridays. It will revert to a weekly two years later.

1946 — The paper again becomes a semi-weekly.

1950 — The paper is published three times a week.

1953 — Beginning with the September 21, 1953 issue, the Connecticut Campus becomes a daily.

1955 — The paper is renamed the Connecticut Daily Campus, and is published every weekday morning.

1984 — The school paper again simplifies its name, becoming the Daily Campus.

 

Teaching Nineteenth-Century Media

A fascinating interview with UConn Professor Jennifer Terni went live this week on the Humanities Institute’s new blog Brain Bytes: Digital Humanities and Media Studies. Professor Terni discusses her teaching methods and “experiments” incorporating 19th-century artifacts into the classroom experience.  She reflects on a recent visit with her students to Archives and Special Collections where they examined 19th-century photographs with Archivist Kristin Eshelman.  Below is a clip from that interview

This past semester I taught a new graduate course on 19th-century media.  It would have been impossible to give this course even a decade ago, since it was built on the shoulders of major digitized archives including Gallica at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Hathi Trust, and ARTFL, to name but a few.  To make use of them effectively, however, I had to build an extensive website as a platform from which to organize the many primary sources that we explored as a group as well as to give a picture of what 19th-century media would have looked like. What is more, I tried, as much as possible, to get the students to experience what it would have been like to consume media in the 19th century, for instance, by reading a pulp fiction novel in installments in a newspaper.

This experiment was more successful than I could have hoped.  What is more, occasionally I sent the students to the Dodd archive to encounter 19th-century artifacts more directly (illustrated newspapers, daguerreotype, stereoscopes, photographic technology).  The impact of those encounters was intense in large part because the students had been engaged with primary sources throughout the semester: they had seen the exploding variety of media forms in the 1800s, but also knew firsthand how even very disparate forms were interconnected. They had also read theoretical and historical articles that helped them think about what kinds of cultural work these different genres and platforms were performing.  Touching the actual artifact was meaningful because to them it was already embedded in a web of references and ways of thinking about media, but also because it contrasted with all of the digital content they had been using throughout the semester.  It was thus doubly a material encounter with material culture.

Read more…

The Romano Papers: Stolen Childhoods in 4D

Students from Prof. Anna Lindemann's Motion Graphics I course explore the Romano Stolen Childhoods Collection.

Students from Prof. Anna Lindemann’s Motion Graphics I course explore the Stolen Childhoods Collection, part of the U. Roberto (Robin) Romano Papers.

At the end of October, I was delighted to help facilitate a class visit to the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, along with Graham Stinnett, the Archivist for Human Rights Collections and Alternative Press Collections at the Archives & Special Collections Department. Digital Media & Design Professor Anna Lindemann brought her Motion Graphics I course to see the U. Roberto (Robin) Romano Papers in person; the two classes were able to get a look behind the curtain of the Stolen Childhoods collection, to see and handle the physical materials and to learn some context surrounding the digital collection that they were already familiar with.

Professor Lindemann charged her students with exploring the application of motion graphics to still photographs, and then added the challenging component of upholding the intentions of a collection dealing with the gravity of child labor. To Lindemann, it was integral that the students experience the physicality first-hand, and were able to learn more about the motivations behind Romano’s work.

“Working with the Robin Romano collection was eye-opening. Seeing his life-long devotion to photographic art form as a way to raise awareness about child labor definitely made the class and me reflect on our own modes of working and the potential significance of our work. There was something especially striking about seeing his boxes upon boxes of work prints, negatives, photographs, and hard drives, including one of his hard drives labeled “not working.” This brought to mind so many of the aspects that we grapple with in digital media classes: the great mound of (often unseen) work behind a single effective image, and the capacity for an image or animation to be at once impactful and ephemeral.” – Professor Anna Lindemann

Continue reading

Graphic Novelist Gene Luen Yang at UConn

gene-yang-flyerThis Thursday, October 27 at 4 pm, acclaimed author and illustrator Gene Luen Yang will give a talk in the Student Union Theater on the UConn campus. Recently named a MacArthur Genius Fellow, Yang is presently the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, an appointment given by the Library of Congress, Every Child a Reader, and the Children’s Book Council.

Yang’s first book, American Born Chinese (2006), was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award.  The book was also the recipient of the Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album-New. His second book, Boxers and Saints (2013), was nominated for a National Book Award and won the L.A. Times Book Prize. A leading figure in contemporary comics, Yang has been affiliated with Dark Horse Comics’ continuation of Avatar: The Last Airbender and D.C. Comics Superman!.

Mr. Yang’s books can be found in UConn’s Archives and Special Collections in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection, together with a large and growing collection of graphic novels.  Visitors to the Archives’ Reading Room are welcome Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm.

For more information about the author talk and event, contact the Asian American Cultural Center or cathy.schlund-vials@uconn.edu.