Resources in the Archives about Labor Strikes in Connecticut

Near the center of the University of Connecticut campus sits Hawley Armory, one of many oblong brick buildings. Built in 1915 and named after Willis Nichols Hawley, a UConn graduate who died of yellow fever in the Spanish-American War, the armory has long served as a site for athletic events, campus gatherings, and military exercises.

Yet as the historian Jeremy Brecher reminds us, sturdy brick-buildings like Hawley Armory once appeared across the United States for another purpose. They were designed to help defend the country, though not from distant enemies but rather disturbances at home.

In the late nineteenth century, working people across the country began to organize and agitate for higher wages, improved working conditions, and a better quality of life. In these efforts, their key weapon was the strike—the mass refusal to work. But capitalists and their political allies had weapons of their own, and they didn’t hesitate to use them.

During the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, for example, when local police refused to break up strikes, governors called in state militias to do it for them. In these grisly skirmishes, armories proved useful to government officials intent on breaking the power of workers. Even though the Great Railroad Strike ended in failure, labor militancy continued in the following decades, and the strike remained an essential tactic for workers.

As a leading industrial state, Connecticut has been home to a fair share of labor unrest, much of it well documented in the business and labor collections held by Archives & Special Collections.

One early example was the 1935 strike of 1,000 workers at the Colt Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company located along the Connecticut River in Hartford. In the middle of the Great Depression, workers routinely used work stoppages and picket lines to improve their working conditions. And the workers at the Colt plant had good reason to strike. As one striking worker, Leo LaForge, later recounted, “There was, in them days, no holidays, no vacation, no sick days, no time and a half.”

The strike was a raucous affair, involving violence and intimidation against workers, as well as an attempted bombing of the plant manager’s home. Students from Yale and Wesleyan University even joined the picket lines. Yet despite new laws protecting collective bargaining, the company refused to negotiate with the workers and the strike was eventually called off after a few weeks.

Workers at the Pratt and Whitney Division of the Niles-Bement-Pond Company had greater success when they went on strike in 1946. Organized by Unity Lodge 251 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, several thousand workers refused to work in an effort to achieve higher wages. They aimed to raise their pay 18 ½ cents an hour, equal to industry-wide rates. The company’s president, Charles W. Deeds, rejected the worker’s demands, citing labor costs and supply shortages left over from World War II.

But the striking workers had the wind at their backs. In the years 1945-1946, the United States saw the largest strike wave in the nation’s history. In 1946 alone, as many as four million workers walked off the job. Despite concerted opposition from management, and tensions with local authorities, thousands of Pratt & Whitney workers led mass pickets at the plant. After twenty-one weeks, the company eventually settled, agreeing to a 12-cent raise.

The years after the Pratt & Whitney strike saw significant improvements in the lives of American workers. Between 1947 and 1973, the working-class standard of living nearly doubled, and much of that growth owed to the strength of organized labor. Yet the heyday of the labor-management accord would not last long. Organized labor’s fortunes began to wane as early as the late 1960s.

In 1967, for example, 100 workers at the Sessions Clock Company in Bristol, Connecticut, voted to go on strike. Through their union, Local 261 of the International Union of Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers, the workers at Sessions, many of them women, sought a 20-cent pay increase. The company response was all too familiar. Picketing workers were beaten at one point during the strike, sending one union organizer, James Ingalls, to the hospital.

After nine weeks, the union accepted a 10-cent pay increase and the workers returned to the factory. Despite the measured success, the writing was on the wall: organized labor was in decline. Only a few years later, the same union representing workers at the Sessions Clock Company was lobbying members of Congress to increase worker protections. Foreign competition combined with laws allowing corporations to easily move production was battering once-thriving union towns. Rather than face strikes, companies closed plants and moved them to areas with low taxes, low wages, and laws that made it difficult to unionize.

Since the 1970s, the declining fortunes of organized labor has been a key feature of American life. But this trend may soon be changing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018 saw more work stoppages than at any time since 1986. Either way, there’s no better time to explore the exciting history of strikes in Connecticut, and no better place to do it than Archives & Special Collections at the University of Connecticut. Among the relevant collections are:

Henry Stieg Collection of the Pratt & Whitney Company The collection comprises materials gathered by Henry R. Stieg, a master gage inspector at the Pratt & Whitney Division of the Niles-Bement-Pond Company from 1940 to 1973 and departmental steward in the Unity Lodge Local 251 of the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers and, after 1948, Unity Lodge, Local 405 of the United Automobile, Aircraft and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, CIO. The materials include publications, newsletters, flyers, and memoranda related to the company and unions, including the 1946 strike. They also contain drawings and machine plans, reports and maps, correspondence, contract proposals, as well as other union-related material, such as work agreements, job evaluations, newspaper clippings, and pamphlets. The finding aid can be found here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860129469

James A. Ingalls Papers The papers comprise materials generated and gathered by James A. Ingalls when he served as a Field Representative of the International Union of Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers, AFL-CIO. They include contracts, correspondence, legal records, financial records, and newspaper clippings. They also contain notes from when Ingalls represented Connecticut local chapters to negotiate contracts, resolve strikes and lockouts, and develop collective bargaining agreements, pension plans, and compensation and health benefits packages. Included in the papers is material on the 1967 strike at the Sessions Clock Company. The finding aid can be found here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860131622

Nicholas J. Tomassetti Papers Nicholas J. Tomassetti was a labor organizer associated with the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers Union, as well as a Democratic representative to the Connecticut General Assembly. The papers document Tomassetti’s labor activities and involvement in the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers Union (UE) and include correspondence, reports, administrative and legal records, strike and negotiation materials, directories, minutes, publications, scrapbooks, photographs, and newspaper clippings. The finding aid can be found here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133876

Ralph J. Pancallo Papers Ralph Pancallo was a long-standing member of the International Typographical Union (now the Communications Workers of America). Pancallo also served as vice president of the Connecticut State Labor Council, secretary and president of the New Britain Central Labor Council, and as both president and treasurer of the New Britain Typographical Union #679 (now the Connecticut Typographical Union #679). The papers comprise materials collected by Pancallo, including union meeting minutes, financial ledgers, printed materials, correspondence, clippings, convention reports, programs, and films. Other materials include publications from a variety of local typographical unions, as well as the AFL-CIO. The finding aid can be found at
https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860131309

University of Connecticut, Center for Oral History Interviews Collection The collection comprises interview transcripts conducted by the University of Connecticut Center for Oral History, and individuals and programs associated with the Center. The Center began life as the Oral History Project in 1968 and after expanding over the 1970s was made a center by the UConn Board of Trustees in 1981. The collection includes the transcripts of interviews with workers who participated in the 1935 Colt strike, along with other collections focused on labor and industry in Connecticut. The finding aid can be found here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133922 and digitized material can be found here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A19840025

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. 

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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The Death of Gardner Dow

On September 27, 1919, Connecticut Agricultural College student Gardner Dow, class of 1921 and 20 years old, was looking forward to the first football game of the season, an away game to be played at New Hampshire State College. The football team and the CAC student body were particularly looking forward to the game because it signaled an end to the suspension of the team during the years of World War I. Dow, who played center, was originally not slated to play the game due to an ankle injury, but he rallied and thus traveled with the team up to Durham with high hopes of coming back to Storrs as the victors.

What happened at the game was well told in the October 3 issue of The Connecticut Campus, the CAC student newspaper:

Gardner Dow

“It  was during the last quarter that the tragedy occurred. Hopwood punted to Farmer, New Hampshire’s Right Half-back, who started down the field and was tackled by Voorhees, who caught him by one ankle and tripped him, but he regained his feet and plunged forward, coming in contact with Dow who had rushed in to tackle him. Dow was knocked unconscious and, after vainly trying to bring him to, for a few minutes, a doctor was called. The doctor had him moved from the field into the office of the Athletic Director, where he worked over him until the close of the game, when he was removed to the A.T.O. fraternity house.

It was thought at first that he had received a solar plexis blow, as the doctor was unable to find any injury on his body. Later, however, the doctor found a bump on his head and the patient seemed in a deeper stupor than he had been at first, so an ambulance was called for his remove to the Dover Hospital. He passed away before the ambulance arrived in spite of all that could be done to revive him. The body was removed at once to an undertakers establishment in Dover where it was prepared for subsequent removal to Dow’s home in New Haven.”

The football team returned to Storrs in stunned silence, unable to believe that a treasured teammate was gone. For the next three days all activities on campus of “light amusement, ” including the Freshmen dance, were canceled or postponed while the students mourned their loss. Students took up a collection for flowers and undertaking expenses for Dow’s family.

On Tuesday, October 1, at the time that Dow’s funeral was taking place in New Haven, all afternoon classes were canceled and the entire student body, faculty and staff assembled in the Armory for a ceremony to honor Dow. President C.L. Beach described Dow as “a friend, a scholar and a gentleman.” Others spoke of “our College Hero;” the members of the football team placed a spray of flowers on a vacant seat.

Less than a week later the Athletic Association voted to name the college’s athletic field the Gardner Dow Field. The field extended from the rear of Hawley Armory westward toward what is now Hillside Road. For five decades following Dow’s death it was the home court for the CAC/University of Connecticut’s football, baseball, soccer, field hockey and track teams. By the 1970s building on campus overtook the field, with Homer Babbidge Library, the School of Business and the Information Technology Engineering buildings now on the site.

A plaque that had been placed at the field was moved to Hawley Armory, where it stands today.

The 1920 yearbook was dedicated to Dow and the college posthumously granted him a varsity letter which was sent to his family. Dow’s father Arthur wrote to the campus community on October 16, 1919, expressing his appreciation for the “sympathy extended in our sorrow,” confirming “the love that Gardner had for his college, and our one hope is that you will all work for it as he did, until the very end, thereby making it better and bigger as the years go by.”

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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Resources in the Archives on Naturalists and Environmental History in New England

In Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year, famed naturalist Edwin Way Teale writes, “The long fight to save wild beauty represents democracy at its best. It requires citizens to practice the hardest of virtues—self-restraint…To provide protection for wildlife and wild beauty, everyone has to deny himself proportionately. Special privilege and conservation are ever at odds.” As relevant today as when his book was first published in 1953, Teale’s message of the necessity of conservation lies at the core of the study of environmental history. Defined generally, the study of environmental history examines the interaction between humans and the natural world over time. Naturalists contribute to our understanding of environmental history through their fieldwork, where they observe and comment on the behavior of species within their natural environments. As described by author John Terres, a naturalist is “a lover,” different from the scientist, who is “an investigator.”

Archives & Special Collections holds the writings of several influential New England naturalists. These include Edwin Way Teale (1899-1980), John K. Terres (1905-2006), and Margaret Waring Buck (1905-1997). Continuing in the august tradition of Henry David Thoreau, Teale and his fellow naturalists helped facilitate a discovery and interest in the natural world among a variety of audiences, including children. For example, Teale’s book The Strange Lives of Familiar Insects encourages an appreciation for the insect world by drawing attention to often overlooked and misunderstood creatures. The collections of these naturalists housed in the archive include field notes, diaries, photographs, illustrations, letters, publications, and artifacts. These materials allow for an examination into the mentality and practices of people who devoted themselves to the documentation and preservation of the natural world, which has furthered the study of environmental history.

Edwin Way Teale Papers: Born in Illinois in 1899, Teale was interested in nature from an early age. After earning degrees at Earlham College and Columbia University, Teale pursued a career writing articles for the magazine Popular Science. Teale left the magazine in 1942 in order to work full-time on his own books. In 1959, motivated by a desire for a more bucolic way of life, Teale and his wife purchased seventy-five acres in Connecticut. Teale wrote thirty-two books throughout his lifetime, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1966. Teale and his wife donated their land to the Connecticut Audubon Society. His papers at the Archives & Special Collections include field notes, drafts for his books, magazine and newspaper articles, letters, family documents, photographs, and his personal library. The finding aid is available at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860134418 .
To find a digitized copy of Teale’s “Trail Wood Journal” from 1962-1965, go to https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860204261#page/1/mode/2up

John K. Terres Papers: Award-winning author and naturalist John Terres was born in 1905 in Pennsylvania. He attended Cornell University and New York University before becoming a field biologist for the Soil Conservation Service in 1936. He wrote and edited more than fifty books concerning natural history, and became well known for his books on North American birds. One of his best-selling books, Songbirds in Your Garden (1968), teaches readers how to attract and feed birds in their own backyards. Another acclaimed book, The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds (1980), earned Terres the Merit Award of Art Directions Club of New York and the Silver Medal and Citation from the German government. The collection includes Terres’ professional and personal correspondence, research notes, publications, photographs, and manuscripts of his work.The finding aid is available at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860124281

Margaret Waring Buck Papers: Buck was a Connecticut-based naturalist and artist. She illustrated a variety of books on the natural world, including Where They Go in Winter, published in 1968, and Animals Through the Year, published in 1979. Buck also practiced and wrote about physiognomy, the study of face reading. Her papers contain original artwork and manuscript items for several of her books. The collection also holds her personal papers, including photographs, notebooks, and newspaper clippings. The finding aid is available at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860138800

We invite you to view these items 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.

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

The Kid in Upper 4, a wartime advertising campaign of the New Haven Railroad

The first in The Kid in Upper 4 advertising campaign, reprinted in the December 1942 issue of the New Haven Railroad’s employee magazine Along the Line.

During World War II the New Haven Railroad, which provided passenger and freight service to southern New England including New York City and Boston, found that despite wartime stresses on the railroad company the riding public would consistently and constantly complain about poor service. The railroad suffered during the Great Depression but had a resurgence during the war, which began in December 1941. Its efforts to transport troops, munitions and other wartime supplies to the ports, which were then shipped to the various war fronts in Europe, North Africa and Asia, strained the railroad’s limited resources and resulted in fewer seats and trains available for the general riding public.

The railroad soon turned to its advertising agency, the Wendall P. Colton Company of Boston, to find a way to mollify the complaints and griping. The agency’s first efforts tried to educate the public about the important role played by the New Haven Railroad in the country’s efforts to win the war and defeat fascism. Two ads, “Right of Way for Fighting Might,” which ran in newspapers in New York City and New England in October 1942, and “Thunder Along the Line,” which ran in November 1942, were marginally effective and the complaints continued.

In late 1942 the advertising company gave control of the campaign to Nelson Metcalf, Jr., a 29-year-old Harvard graduate who was fairly new to the advertising profession. Metcalf decided that the best approach was to talk directly to the readers of the ad and play at their emotions. At that time the war touched virtually every citizen of the country, and almost every rider of the railroad had a father, husband, brother or son in the military. Metcalf’s approach played on the thoughts of one soldier, to which all could relate, going to the front on a troop train.

The ad included an image of a fresh-faced young man lying awake in a berth in a sleeping car, and the prose of the ad could not be more compelling. Here is the text in full:

It is 3:42 a.m. on a troop train.
Men wrapped in blankets are breathing heavily.
Two in every lower berth. One in every upper.
This is no ordinary trip. It may be their last in the U.S.A. till the end of the war. Tomorrow they will be on the high seas.
One is wide awake … listening … staring into the blackness.
It is the kid in Upper 4.
Tonight, he knows, he is leaving behind a lot of little things – and big ones.
The taste of hamburgers and pop … the feel of driving a roadster over a six-lane highway … a dog named Shucks, or Spot, or Barnacle Bill.
The pretty girl who writes so often … that gray-haired man, so proud and awkward at the station … the mother who knit the socks he’ll wear soon.
Tonight he’s thinking them over.
There’s a lump in his throat. And maybe – a tear fills his eye.
It doesn’t matter, Kid. Nobody will see … it’s too dark.
A couple of thousand miles away, where he’s going, they don’t know him very well.
But people all over the world are waiting, praying for him to come.
And he will come, this kid in Upper 4.
With new hope, peace and freedom for a tired, bleeding world.
Next time you are on the train, remember the kid in Upper 4.
If you have to stand enroute – it is so he may have a seat.
If there is no berth for you – it is so that he may sleep.
If you have to wait for a seat in the diner – it is so he … and thousands like him … may have a meal they won’t forget in the days to come.
For to treat him as our most honored guest is the least we can do to pay a mighty debt of gratitude.

The ad ran first in the New York Herald Tribune, on November 22, 1942. It was immediately obvious that the ad struck a chord with not just the railroad’s ridership but across America. The railroad and the ad agency immediately started fielding calls and receiving letters with positive responses from the public, other businesses in the industry, and government offices. The ad was soon running in newspapers around the country, as well as Life, Newsweek and Time magazines.It was used to raise money for the Red Cross, to sell U.S. War Bonds, and by the U.S. Army to build morale among servicemen.

As noted by Charles Pinzon and Bruce Swain in their Journalism History article of Fall 2002 about the ad campaign, “by the end of January 1943 even competing railroads had hung full-color posters of the advertisement in their terminals. Within four months of its publication a radio station had dramatized the ad, [famous comedian and actor] Eddie Cantor had read the copy over the air on his hit radio show, a popular song had been written and MGM was in production on a film short.” By March 1943 55,000 reprints had been requested.

The New Haven Railroad was delighted by the ad’s success and ordered the ad agency and Metcalf to create similar “Kid” ads. Although the additional ads, for “The Kid in the Convoy,” “The Kid in the Ward Car,” and others, were similar in tone, none had as much of an impact as the original “Kid” ad. The agency and Metcalf received multiple journalism awards and the railroad was able to guilt the riding public into ceasing their complaints about bad service, at least for a while.

James Twitchell’s book 20 Ads That Shook the World, published in 2000, lists “The Kid in Upper 4” among the most successful campaigns in American history but notes that its success was based on the fact that unlike the typical advertisement it was not selling anything but was “drawing attention away from the client’s lousy product.”

The “Kid” ads shown above are those published in the New Haven Railroad’s employee magazine Along the Line, which can be found in our digital repository at
https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860565482

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.

Anarchism at UCONN (Believe It or Not!); The Inner College Experiment

This guest post by Prof. Len Krimerman is in conjunction with the current exhibition Day-Glo & Napalm: UConn 1967-1971, an exhibition guest curated by alumnus George Jacobi (Class of ’71) on the student times of the late 1960s and early 1970s at UConn and in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969. Currently on display until October 25th, 2019.

By Len Krimerman*

BEFORE THE BEGINNING

“Anarchism at UCONN” may seem a baffling title or an attempt at dry humor. We are, after all, not talking about the ‘60s and ‘70s at UC Berkeley or Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan. And today our own state’s flagship university is safely and securely nestled within what its region delights in calling itself – “the quiet corner”.

But I can assure you, there really were years, not days or months, when anarchy, or something very much akin to it, had a place within and was tolerated by UCONN. Though there is now no tangible trace of this anarchic educational venture, and no documentation of it in the official histories of this University, it actually did emerge, and it had a great run.

So let me tell a bit of this radical experiment’s story. The idea of it came to life in an undergraduate course in social and political philosophy I was teaching in the Fall of 1968. We were discussing social critic Paul Goodman’s The Community of Scholars, which certainly sounds tame enough. But his book’s challenging anarchic thesis was that several of Europe’s finest universities were founded, during the Italian Renaissance, by “secession”. Faculty thwarted by rigid state or clerical bureaucracy simply quit, taking with them dozens of their students, and created self-directed places like the University of Florence.

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The Lady Edith Society…and the Lengths Some Will Go To Save a Steam Locomotive

During the nineteenth century, railroads expanded dramatically across the United States, turning the steam locomotive into a potent symbol of progress in American life. As railroads moved people, goods, and information around the country like never before, the steam-engine seemed to rework the basic nature of time and space. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a keen observer of industrializing America, wrote in 1834 that when riding on a train, “the very permanence of matter seems compromised … hitherto esteemed symbols of stability do absolutely dance by you.”

Yet by the mid-twentieth century, railroads had become a symbol of the past. While trains remained in use, the automobile and airplane replaced them as markers of modernity. Nevertheless, the era of the steam-engine continued to fascinate many Americans, and rescuing relics of the nineteenth century became a hobby for some. One group of hobbyists, calling themselves the Lady Edith Society, even traveled across an ocean to rescue a retired locomotive from the forward march of time.

The Lady Edith Society was founded in 1959 by Edgar T. Mead, Jr., Rogers E. M. Whitaker, and Oliver Jensen, all then living in New York City. None of the men had any engineering background, but they shared an enthusiasm for railroads and their history. Mead, a Wall Street financial analyst, had already spent years preserving railroad equipment and even worked for a railroad in Maine as a young man. Whitaker, who helped to publish The New Yorker and wrote about railroading under the pen name “E.M. Frimbo,” had reportedly traveled over four million miles by train in forty different countries. Jensen, the managing editor of American Heritage magazine, often directed his editorial efforts to covering railroad history.

The three men came together to rescue the “Lady Edith,” the No. 3L steam-engine train for the Cavan & Leitrim Railway of Ireland. The 4-4-0 type locomotive was originally built in 1887 by the noted firm of Robert Stephenson & Company, of New Castle-upon-Tyne, England. The Lady Edith was one of eight steam-engines built by the company for the Cavan & Leitrim Railway. All the trains except one were named after the wives or daughters of the company directors (the final train was named after Queen Victoria).

The Cavan & Leitrim Railway was a 3-foot narrow-gauge railway located in the Irish counties of Cavan and Leitrim. The lighter gauge rail suited the sharp turns and steep grades of the northern Irish landscape. The line was primarily used to haul coal and livestock, though it carried passengers as well. In 1925, the line was absorbed into the Great Southern Railways Company and began to face stiff competition soon after. First highways drew away livestock and passengers, and finally, new mines eliminated the need to transport coal. The line ran for the last time in March 1959.

A few months later, the members of the Lady Edith Society pooled their money together, made arrangements with the transatlantic shipping firm United States Lines, and soon had the Lady Edith and a couple other pieces from Cavan & Leitrim sailing across the Atlantic toward Boston. Once the Lady Edith arrived in the United States, the train was moved to the Pleasure Island Amusement Park in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Cleaned and painted, the Lady Edith and the other pieces from Cavan & Leitrim stayed on display at Pleasure Island for a number of years.

But in 1961, a change in park policy meant the Lady Edith Society had to find a new home for their rescued locomotive. The Lady Edith and its passenger car were then moved to the Pine Creek Railroad Museum near Freehold, New Jersey, for storage and display. Still, the society members longed to see the train run again, so they launched a series of costly and difficult repairs. In 1965, amid the repairs, the Lady Edith was moved a third time to Allaire, New Jersey, home of the new Pine Creek Railroad Division of the New Jersey Museum of Transportation, Inc.

After many years of repairs, and many delays due to inadequate information, the Lady Edith finally steamed again on May 13, 1967, eight years after leaving Ireland. Although it was a rough ride, everyone gathered was excited to see the train moving under its own power. In subsequent years, the train made additional trips along the tracks in Allaire, usually accompanied by a subsequent series of repairs. By the end of the 1970s, the Lady Edith Society members gradually divested themselves of ownership, with Edgar Meade reportedly the last to transfer his shares.

Today, the Lady Edith remains with the New Jersey Museum of Transportation, Inc., though some efforts have been made to return it to Ireland.

We know the story of the Lady Edith Society and their efforts to save this steam engine through the papers of Oliver Jensen, which we hold here in Archives & Special Collections. Jensen (1914-2005) was born in New London, Connecticut, and spent much of his life in the state. A railroad enthusiast all of his life, he served as president of the  Connecticut Valley Railroad Company and from 1976-1980 as chairman of the board of directors. The  Connecticut Valley Railroad Company restored tracks along the original Valley Railroad line, transforming the railroad into a popular tourist attraction based in Essex, Connecticut. For more information about Oliver Jensen see the finding aid to his collection at
https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860118803

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 on Immigration and Ethnic Groups in Connecticut

When John Lukasavicius first came to this country, he went weeks without seeing the sun. In 1903, Lukasavicius left his native Lithuania at the age of twenty to join his father in the Pennsylvania coal fields. Soon after he arrived, he found himself heading underground before sunrise and working in the pits until after dark. He only lasted three weeks. Lukasavicius told his father he didn’t like the miner’s life, and left to look for something better.

He joined some relatives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he found work in a furniture factory. This job was more to his liking. Not only did it pay better, but bright sunlight streamed in through the windows each day, bathing the shop floor in a warm glow. Despite his rough beginnings, Lukasavicius grew to enjoy his new life in the United States, eventually settling in New Britain, Connecticut.

Lukasavicius told his story to an employee of the Works Progress Administration in 1939. Created by President Franklin Roosevelt four years earlier, the WPA grew to be one of the largest and most diverse New Deal jobs programs. It employed millions during the Great Depression, often in public works projects like roads, bridges, and dams. But it also hired writers, artists, and photographers to study and document local communities.

One such project was the Connecticut Ethnic Survey, a local part of the larger WPA Ethnic Group Survey conducted by the Federal Writers’ Project. Harry Alsberg, head of the Federal Writers’ Project, wanted to represent America’s diverse population in their work. Connecticut would prove a welcome site for the project since by the 1930s, immigrants made up two-thirds of the population.

For researchers interested in the history of Connecticut’s ethnic heritage and immigration, Archives & Special Collections at the University of Connecticut holds a wealth of material on these subjects. In addition to the extensive files of the Federal Writers’ Project, the archive also holds a number of valuable oral history collections that provide a direct window onto the lives and experiences of the state’s many peoples. Among the relevant collections are:

Connecticut Federal Writers’ Project (Works Projects Administration) The collection comprises research materials for the Connecticut Ethnic Survey, carried out by the local office of the WPA Federal Writers’ Project between 1936 and 1939. The material covers all aspects of the immigrants experience and represents people from England, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Poland, and other European countries. It also covers the experience of African Americans who migrated to Connecticut during the Great Migration. Along with surveys and interviews with individuals, the material contains extensive written research produced by WPA employees on work, housing, history, community organizations, education, racial resentment, and many other aspects of the immigrant experience. While a finding aid is not available online, an extensive card catalog is available for researchers to consult in the Archives & Special Collections reading room. Digitized materials can be found here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A19720002

University of Connecticut, Peoples of Connecticut Project Records The collection comprises a wide variety of material from the Peoples of Connecticut Project. The Project began in 1974 with the goal of educating students about Connecticut’s ethnic heritage. Through research, oral history, and curriculum development, the project provided teaching and learning guides to help students learn about the Connecticut’s rich ethnic heritage. Materials from all aspects of the project are reflected in the collection, from administrative and research files, curriculum guides, bibliographies, and photographs. The oral history materials have been moved to the Center for Oral History Interviews Collection. The finding aid is available here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860140982 and digitized material can be found here: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002:19790014

University of Connecticut, Center for Oral History Interviews Collection The collection comprises interview transcripts conducted by the University of Connecticut Center for Oral History, and individuals and programs associated with the Center. The Center began life as the Oral History Project in 1968 and after expanding over the 1970s was made a center by the UConn Board of Trustees in 1981. Among other collections, the Center holds the oral history transcripts for interviews conducted as part of the Peoples of Connecticut Project. These interviews were conducted by Professor Bruce Stave, who also served as Director of the Center. The finding aid can be found here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133922 and digitized material can be found here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A19840025

Waterbury (CT) Area Immigrant Oral History Collection, University of Connecticut Urban and Community Studies Program The collection comprises digitized transcripts from oral history interviews conducted by students enrolled in Professor Ruth Glasser’s history courses at the University of Connecticut, Waterbury campus. Most of the interviews are with immigrants living in Waterbury and surrounding towns who came to the United States after 1965. Immigrants from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, especially Puerto Rico, are well represented. As are immigrants from Albania and ethnic Albanians from Macedonia. But the collection also features interviews with immigrants from other parts of Europe, Asia, the Cape Verde islands, and elsewhere. The finding aid can be found here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860115453 and digitized material can be found here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A20090014

Italians of New London Oral History Collection The collection comprises video tape recordings of oral history interviews with people of Italian descent living in the area of New London, Connecticut. The interviews were conducted by Jerome Fischer, director of the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut, based in New London. The finding aid can be found here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860120112

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. 

DAY-GLO AND NAPALM: UCONN FROM 1967 to 1971

Formal Dinner, McMahon Hall, 1968. Personal Collection of George Jacobi.

August 5th – October 25th, 2019

Reception: September 19th, 2019 6-8pm at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Gallery

Archives & Special Collections Gallery

Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

An exhibition guest curated by alumnus George Jacobi (Class of ’71) on the student times of the late 1960s and early 1970s at UConn and in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969. Jacobi has curated materials from the Archives & Special Collections photography, periodicals and Alternative Press Collections and incorporated personal collections and narratives from those who lived through it to create a robust personal exploration of the times.

The following essay is an extended introduction to the exhibition Day-Glo and Napalm: UConn from 1967-1971 by guest curator and contributor, George Jacobi (’71).

DAY-GLO AND NAPALM: UCONN FROM 1967 to 1971

Recollections and Impressions for my University of Connecticut Archives Exhibit

George Jacobi ©2019

A small innocuous on-campus house is surrounded by angry UConn students, its front porch protected by armed, helmeted State Police and University Security Officers. The Riot Act has already been read to the 100 or so protesters, whose shoulders are hunched in Navy pea coats against a bitter north wind. It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, 1968. Some of those students spent the previous night with faces lit only by black lights, psychedelic music swirling around them. Smoke from illegal hash pipes drifted out dorm windows. A relaxed but resolute fellowship, they temporarily dwelt in an imaginary world.

Today, back in the daylight, they want UConn to divest itself from the military industrial complex, to end its involvement with Olin Matheson, manufacturer of missiles for the Vietnam War. In fact, they insist. They chant, they yell, they watch as the most committed among them climb onto the recruiting location’s porch to put their bodies in the way of the war machine. This world is far from imaginary. Clubs swing, rocks fly, heads are bloodied. Twenty-one are arrested.

Within two years, the Student Union Mall will be filled with 4000 UConn students – now the entire college is on strike. What is it with these young people? For many, trust in the establishment, from government to church to the University, has completely evaporated. Something is badly broken. How have these middle-class kids, in just a year or two, come to a point of complete resistance to America herself?

The 50th Anniversary of 1969 is more than an appropriate time for this exhibit; it’s also the last significant anniversary when many participants in this bit of history will be alive. Most of the counter-cultural political drama at UConn took place between 1968 and 1970 – ‘69 is a fitting centerpiece. Despite continued racial and anti-war protests, such communal events as the Woodstock Music Festival made 1969 almost feel like a short respite between the more violent bookends of the other two years.

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Resources in the Archives: Pre-1830 Materials

While most of the papers, records, and collections housed in the Archives & Special Collections date from the mid-nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we do get inquiries for documents from periods before the 1830s. There are a variety of collections that document the history of Connecticut and the United States before the 1830s, some even dating from the colonial period. Some of these collections include materials on the administration of the local and federal government, such as the Gaines Collection of Americana. Other collections, such as the records from the Slater Company and Hartford Bank, present a variety of lenses with which to view the establishment and growth of influential Connecticut businesses. Also collections which have documents before 1830 include the personal papers of Connecticut families. Family papers, besides being valuable for genealogical purposes, offer a wealth of information in the form of deeds, wills, receipts, and personal correspondence and papers. One notable example is the Henry Hill Papers, which includes a journal documenting life on a plantation in Brazil in the 1820s.

Local and Federal Government documents:

Gaines Collection of Americana: this collection contains a variety of documents from 1786 through 1842, which were collected by Connecticut scholar and attorney, Pierce Welch Gaines (1905-1977). The materials in this collection include legal documents, personal and professional correspondence, receipts, and official reports issued by the federal and state government. One notable document signed by Alexander Hamilton in 1790 details the Treasury Department’s concern with the payment of duties. The collection contains other interesting examples of commerce and government business during the early American republic, some detailing aspects of Connecticut’s history. For example, the collection includes a tax notice issued by Connecticut’s government from 1800 announcing the tax on “Dwelling-Houses, Lands and Slaves” within the district. Gaines also collected political pamphlets and periodicals, some related to Connecticut’s constitutional politics in the early nineteenth century, however these are part of the library’s main catalog. The finding aid is available at: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860138330

Connecticut Business & Local History

Slater Company Records: These records detail the history of a Griswold, Connecticut cotton textile mill shortly after its founding in 1809. First established by John and Lafayette Tibbits in the Jewett City borough of Griswold, the Jewett City Cotton Manufacturing Company experienced limited success until it was eventually sold to Samuel and John Slater in 1823. Samuel Slater had immigrated to America from England in 1789 and built the U.S.’s first cotton mill in Rhode Island, and with the help of his brother, incorporated the latest technological advancements from England. The Slater brothers made significant improvements to the Jewett mill, turning it into a prosperous cotton manufacturer and providing employment for many in the area. The mill remained under the control of the Slater family for the rest of the nineteenth century. Much of the materials in this collection concern the financial business of the Slater mill at Jewett City. These include administrative accounts, correspondence, daybooks, cashbooks, ledgers, as well as labor and production records. The finding aid is available at: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860135006

Hartford National Bank & Trust Company Records: this collection includes documents from the Hartford Bank from the late eighteenth century through the twentieth century. Established through the efforts of influential Connecticut men, including Noah Webster, John Trumbull, and Jeremiah Wadsworth, the bank was granted a charter from the state on May 29, 1792. It opened to the public on August 8, 1792 on Pearl Street in Hartford. Although it would eventually move to other locations, the bank has always been an important part of Hartford’s business center, and it contributed to the development of Connecticut’s insurance industry. It became the Hartford National Bank in 1865, when it became part of the national bank system. The collection includes financial records dating back to 1792, some of which include daybooks, deposit ledgers, checkbooks, and balance sheets. Also part of the collection are an assortment of corporate records, such as minute books, records of agreements and contracts, and correspondence, with some documents dating to before 1830. The finding aid is available at: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860289303

Hartford National Corporation Records: In 1969, the Hartford National Bank and Trust Company was purchased by the Hartford National Corporation (HNC). The documents in this collection supplement the Hartford National Bank & Trust Company Records, as they include records from the Hartford Bank from the time of its founding. The pre-1830 records in this collection includes an assortment of financial records, such as a daybook, ledgers, and a record of original subscriptions.
The finding aid is available at: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860124073

Hampton Antiquarian and Historical Society Collection: this collection is comprised of the Hampton Antiquarian and Historical Society’s archive. While the collection includes items that date up until the early twentieth century, it also contains a variety of documents from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that illustrate the lives and business of people who lived in Hampton, Connecticut. Documents dating before 1830 in this collection include wills, deeds, and family letters, as well as store ledgers and account books from businesses in Hampton. Also included are official town documents, for example legal contracts and correspondence concerning road construction in the area.  The finding aid is available at: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860133980

Wauregan and Quinebaug Company Records: this collection holds the records of the Wauregan and Quinebaug textile mills, as well as a variety of documents related to members of the Atwood family, who were connected to the management of the mills from the early nineteenth century. While most of the materials in this large collection date from between 1850 and 1950, there are some records before 1830. These detail Atwood family history, and include land transactions, surveys, and deeds going back to 1809. The finding aid is available at: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860134117

Sargent and Company Records: Founded in the mid-nineteenth century, Sargent and Company was a manufacturer of locks and hardware based in New Haven, Connecticut. Established by Joseph B. Sargent, Sargent and Company began as a commission business in New York City. In 1865, Sargent moved his company to New Haven, Connecticut, where it made small hardware items which were then sold to manufactures in New York. By 1900, the company had grown to become one of the largest in the lock and hardware industry. Most of the records in this collection are from after 1850, however it contains earlier materials related to Joseph Sargent and his family. This includes family correspondence (the earliest from 1720), as well as records such as receipts and contracts that detail the business and finances of the Sargent family from the early nineteenth century. The finding aid is available at: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860134544

Family Papers:

Fitts Family Papers: this collection is made up of personal documents from a family located in Ashford, Connecticut. The primary individuals mentioned in the collection are Stephen Fitts, John Moore, and Frederick Knowlton. The collection includes correspondence, legal papers, bills and receipts, tax records, deeds, and other papers dating from 1770 to 1909.  The finding aid can be found at: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860128094

Leavenworth Family Papers: this collection includes both personal and professional documents that span many generations of the Leavenworth family of Connecticut. The first Leavenworth documented in the collection is David Leavenworth, who fought in the Revolutionary War. The collection contains a small assortment of legal documents from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, many of which concern the granting and division of land. The finding aid is available at: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860118336#ref3

Smith Family Papers: The Smith family founded and ran mills in the Canterbury area of Connecticut from the mid-eighteenth century until the 1940s. The collection includes personal and business-related documents, including letters, financial records, ledgers, account books, and daybooks, with the earliest business records date from 1774. The finding aid is available at: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860138668

T.S. Gold Family Papers: this collection contains a wide variety of personal papers, legal and financial documents, correspondence, printed material, and memorabilia regarding the Gold and Cleveland families. Much of the collection details the life and work of Theodore Sedgwick Gold (1818-1906), who was the co-founder of the Cream Hill Agricultural School in West Cornwall, Connecticut. Gold also helped establish the Connecticut State Agricultural Society in 1853, and was a trustee of the Storrs Agricultural School from 1881 to 1901. While most of the collection dates from the second half of the nineteenth century, it contains a number of legal and financial documents from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, as well as family letters from the 1820s. The finding aid is available at: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860134074

Henry Hill Papers: this collection contains family correspondence to and from Henry Hill, who was born in Guilford, Connecticut in 1778. Hill was appointed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1808 as U.S. Consul to San Salvador, Brazil. He resigned from this post due to health issues in 1819, and moved to a large plantation, Columbiano. Eventually, in 1833, he returned with his family to the U.S., and lived in Buffalo, New Yok, until his death in 1841. The Henry Hill Papers include many personal letters from Henry Hill to his wife, Lucy, before she joined him in Brazil. In one notable letter to Lucy, Hill gives a description of San Salvador upon his arrival. The collection also contains letters from Henry and Lucy’s children and other family members. Besides correspondence, the collection includes financial and government documents, as well as a fascinating account of Hill’s voyage to Columbiano, which includes details of everyday life on a plantation growing coffee, cotton, and sugar cane. The finding aid is available at: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860120373#ref3

We invite you to view these items 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.

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