Metanoia at UConn

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. All photographs are from the University of Connecticut Photograph Collection.

Metanoia. A curious word with multiple meanings. Most trace its origins to the Greek, though its definition varies. Some have said it means repentance or reorientation. Others have argued it means to change your mind, or even further, to change your way of life.

National Urban League President Whitney Young meets UConn President Homer Babbidge, 1970.

For the University of Connecticut, metanoia has been the name for a time of “meditation and reflection” on an important issue to the campus community and the wider world.

The idea (and word) originated with former UConn President Homer Babbidge in the fall of 1969, and the first Metanoia was held on May 6, 1970. It sought to increase “racial awareness, racial respect, and racial sensitivity” on campus.

Since that first occasion, University by-laws have included provisions for holding a Metanoia whenever necessary. Any group on campus has the right to petition for a Metanoia day, and once approved by the administration, an ad hoc committee of faculty and students is formed to plan the day’s activities.

National Urban League President Whitney Young speaks at the first Metanoia in May 1970.

Metanoia events usually include speakers, panels, workshops, and other activities planned by the ad hoc committee with support from other campus groups. Classes have often been canceled in observance of the day’s activities, and some Metanoia have even stretched beyond a single day.

In keeping with its origins, issues of race have been a frequent subject of Metanoia days at UConn.

In 1979, a series of racist incidents against black students on campus, combined with a shocking incident in which a female graduate student was severely beaten while jogging

UConn students practice a whirling dance reminiscent of Sufi ceremonies at Metanoia in 1987.

on Separatist Road, spurred the University to hold a Metanoia day in early October.

Speaking on the occasion, former UConn President John A. DiBiaggio told a crowd of faculty and students that “each violent event ripples through the campus.” But feelings of anxiety and fear must be coupled with action. In the bitter days of the Reagan era, it seemed to DiBiaggio that “society at large may be moving to a posture of indifference to its members.”

Issues beyond campus have also prompted Metanoia days over the years. One in 1972 focused on the American war in Vietnam, while another in 1974 on constitutional crisis and the presidency reflected the Watergate scandal then-engulfing President Richard Nixon.

UConn students practice a whirling dance reminiscent of Sufi ceremonies at Metanoia in 1987.

Metanoia days have regularly featured notable guests. National Urban League President Whitney Young spoke at the first Metanoia in May 1970. Held amid tense discussions over a planned student strike against the Vietnam War, Young told students to fight for their beliefs but not to close the universities.

A Metanoia day on world peace held in April 1987 included a musical performance by folk singer Mary Travers along with speeches by Linus Pauling, the Nobel Prize-winning chemists and Barry Rosen, one of the 52 Americans held prisoner at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran.

Students on a candlelight walk from the Student Union to Mirror Lake, which ended the 1987 Metanoia dedicated to world peace.

Perhaps more significant than the famous speakers have been the campus activities organized around Metanoia days. At the first Metanoia in 1970, groups of three—a black student, a white student, and a faculty member—visited each residence hall to hold frank and open discussions on issues of racism and education.

A Metanoia held in March 1975 focused on the world food crisis. For one of the day’s activities, around 2,000 students fasted to “sensitize” themselves to the deprivations of hunger. They also donated the money they would have normally spent in the dining halls to charities working to eliminate hunger around the world.

Students release balloons to celebrate the opening of Metanoia in April 1987. Linus Pauling, the Nobel Prize-wining chemist who spoke that day, is pictured at the bottom left.

Metanoia has sometimes come under criticism, most often because of its name. In a faculty survey before the first Metanoia in 1970, one respondent wondered if “metanoia” might be confused with “paranoia.” A 1979 committee report suggested keeping the event but changing the name. “Time spent explaining the term,” they wrote, “results in a tremendous loss of energy.”

Nevertheless, Metanoia lives on at the University of Connecticut. The tradition continues in 2017 under the banner “Together: Confronting Racism.” This year’s theme reflects the perennial problem of racism in American life. But it also signals the campus community’s continued desire to set aside time to confront that essential fact.

Reflecting on the idea of Metanoia, the late-Irving Cummings, a former Professor of English at UConn, perhaps put it best: “I find the term Metanoia both appropriate, humane, and risible—a disease, maybe? Metanoiacs of the world, unite!”

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



Harry Allard Is Missing! Collaborations of James Marshall and Harry Allard in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection

The following guest post is by Jerrold Connors, an award-winning application developer, writer and children’s book author and illustrator from California. He was recently awarded the James Marshall Fellowship to pursue a picture book project based on Harry Allard’s Miss Nelson stories. The James Marshall Fellowship encourages the use of unique materials in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection and provides financial support to authors and illustrators for travel to University of Connecticut’s Archives and Special Collections to conduct their research.

James Marshall, considered by Maurice Sendak to be one of the wittiest and most genuine children’s book author-illustrators, created the popular George and Martha stories, the charming Fox readers and the everlasting Miss Nelson picture books. He wrote and illustrated most of his stories himself, collaborated on several others with his friend and co-author Harry Allard, and illustrated the works of a few others. Marshall published upwards of 80 books from 1967 until 1992 when he died, aged 50, from AIDS. Though awarded few professional honors, Marshall is considered by many as one of the picture book greats—his works are held alongside those of Maurice Sendak and Arnold Lobel (with whom Marshall shared close friendships) as classics.

Miss Nelson Gets a Telephone Call (2014)

Despite growing up an avid reader in the early 1980s, I have no memories of reading any James Marshall books. It was only later, as a teenager reading to my nephew and niece, that I would discover the Miss Nelson books. And it was much later as a young adult reading picture books for my own enjoyment that I would discover George and Martha. I became a confirmed James Marshall fan and sought to find as many of his works as I could. I can think of very few creators whose entire body of work—unmistakable for its sense of fun, economy of language, subtle play between words and illustration and great respect for his young audience—I hold in higher regard.

Relatively little has been written about Marshall’s life and works but I have tracked down what I could and have come to consider myself something of a Marshall expert, so it was with great surprise and interest that I discovered a fourth Miss Nelson book, Miss Nelson Gets a Telephone Call, written, illustrated and self-published by Harry Allard in 2014, twenty two years after James Marshall’s death.

Miss Nelson Gets a Telephone Call is a peculiar work. It features all the Miss Nelson standards: a kind teacher, a befuddled principal, an elementary school setting, and a mystery surrounding a secret identity (the hallmark of the Miss Nelson series). But it also has an enormous cast of characters, a generous amount of exposition, a bizarre wordiness (gothic adjectives such as graustarkian, eldritch and stygian abound) and a distinctly creepy tone. And it is missing, notably, any children.

All these facts made me wonder how similar Miss Nelson Gets a Telephone Call is (if at all) to the original Miss Nelson trilogy. It’s a known fact that James Marshall heavily edited the authors’ texts that passed his drawing table (an unusual practice for an illustrator) but I wanted to know just how far Marshall went in shaping Allard’s manuscripts into the illustrated stories we have come to know. The books credited to Marshall and Allard are nearly identical in voice, pacing and humor to those credited solely to Marshall. So much so that it has even been suggested that Harry Allard might have been an invention, like Marshall’s “cousin” Edward Marshall, to serve as a pseudonym. While this would be wholly appropriate given the Miss Nelson tradition of dual-identity and disguise, it is not true. Harry Allard was a real person.

The two became acquainted at Trinity College in San Antonio, Texas where Allard taught French and Marshall was an undergraduate. An academic, Allard held a Masters degree and PhD in French from Northwestern and Yale. He was an admirer of French illustrators and drew and sketched as a hobby and in this sense found a kindred spirit in the artistically minded Marshall. They collaborated on a few picture books with Allard credited as author and James Marshall as illustrator before developing the character of Miss Nelson. As the story goes, Allard called Marshall at three in the morning and said “Miss Nelson is missing!” This bizarre non sequitur became the seed that would grow into three books about the teacher and her class.

The Northeast Children’s Literature Collection holds a rich and rewarding amount of materials related to the working relationship between James Marshall and Harry Allard. Of those materials related to the Miss Nelson book, the most complete were those for the second Miss Nelson book Marshall and Allard worked on together, Miss Nelson Is Back.

Miss Nelson Is Back: In the collection in Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut is a series of dummies for Miss Nelson Is Back. The earliest of these dummies hints at what must have been Harry Allard’s original manuscript for this story. The story opens with Miss Nelson having to leave her class for a tonsillectomy. Filling in for her is a new character, Mr. Otis Delancey, a well-intentioned if inexperienced substitute teacher. The kids of Room 207 are more than ready to take advantage of him. Rounding out the cast is Miss Gomez, the school’s secretary, Detective McSmogg (a private investigator from the first Miss Nelson book, this time acting as a truant officer), and Mother Judkins, “special investigator” for the Board of Education.

Dummy for Miss Nelson Is Back

With all these characters, the strictest substitute teacher in the world, Viola Swamp (the true star of the Miss Nelson books), gets very little screen time; in fact, her appearance is gratuitous. There is none of the guessing and second-guessing of double identities that made the first Miss Nelson book so much fun.

Looking through the collection of dummies and storyboards, I saw that within two drafts Marshall had put Harry Allard’s story through its paces, trimming the number of characters to a splendid few, namely, Principal Blandsworth, Miss Nelson, Viola Swamp and, of course, the kids of Room 207. The greatest fun in the story—the kids impersonating Miss Nelson in a terribly obvious and obviously terrible disguise—had been fully fleshed out and the text had been trimmed to nearly what would appear in the final printed version.

Book dummy for Miss Nelson Is Back

The edits on these dummies are all executed in Marshall’s distinct handwriting. Entire sections have been cut, others invented on the fly, hastily scribbled in between and alongside blocks of discarded text. Editing happens not just of Allard’s work but also of Marshall’s own. Marshall writes several versions of the line “So this is your little game?”, trying “What is this?” and settling on “So thats your little game!” (In method it is very similar to a book done entirely by Marshall alone, The Cut Ups Carry On, which also exists in the archives and is splendidly detailed by Sandra Horning in her blog entry here.

Tracking changes through these drafts, it is very clear that what would appear as the final version of Miss Nelson Is Back was very much a Marshall story. For his part, Allard must have been okay with Marshall’s reworking of his script. Miss Nelson Is Back was their ninth book together, their second Miss Nelson book and they would go on to do another. I noticed also that Marshall sought to preserve some of Allard’s inventions through his drafts. Otis Delancey survived the transition from first draft to a storyboard before he was cut.

Last appearance of Mr. Otis Delancey, Storyboard, Miss Nelson Is Back

Miss Nelson Has a Field Day: The first pages of the dummy for Miss Nelson Has a Field Day* (Marshall and Allard’s third Miss Nelson book) is a combination of pencil illustrations with pasted down clippings from a typewritten manuscript. Whether or not the manuscript came directly, unedited, from Allard is unknown, but some clues indicate that it did. For one, the school in this story is named “Alice J. Gomez Elementary.”  According to Marshall’s partner William Gray, Allard could become fixated on certain details such as odd words or funny names—that he would bring Miss Gomez back to the Miss Nelson universe seems in keeping with this habit. And, as in Miss Nelson Is Back, Allard has attempted to enlarge the faculty, this time with Miss Witherspoon, the cheer squad coach.

Dummy and final print comparison, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day

Dummy and final print comparison, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day

Eight pages into this dummy Marshall begins composing the pages by typing directly onto his drawing paper. A few pages beyond that and Marshall begins writing in his distinct hand, using shorthand to get his ideas quickly onto the paper as they occur to him. As with Miss Nelson Is Back, Marshall appears to be inventing on the fly, using this stage of his process to both trim and flesh out the story and ultimately make it his own.

*footnote: Holding the original cover concept for Miss Nelson Has a Field Day up to the light revealed that the working titles to this story were at one point Miss Nelson Tackles Trouble and Miss Nelsons Secret Play.

Cover concept sketch, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day

Cover concept sketch closeup, flipped, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day

Miss Nelson Takes a Back Seat: The collection also held a three page typewritten manuscript by Allard for an unpublished story titled Miss Nelson Takes a Back Seat. Dated 1989, this story expands Horace B. Smedley Elementary’s world to include a school bus service, an appropriate enough story device, but there is little else in the way of character or plot. The entire story is mainly a vehicle for some gags about members of a circus sideshow.

“Better watch your ‘P’s’ and ‘Q’s’’ , kids,” the midget threatened, brandishing his bull whip.”
Typewritten draft by Harry Allard, Miss Nelson Takes a Back Seat

There are no marks by Marshall on this document, and no evidence I could find in the abundant collection of sketchbooks (used often for brainstorming and testing story ideas) that he ran with the idea. Whether this was because Marshall at this point in his career was focusing on retelling fairytales or because he felt the Miss Nelson adventures had been played out is unknown. Although not a trilogy in a strict storytelling sense, the three Miss Nelson books form a tidy whole. Miss Nelson Takes a Back Seat doesn’t add anything to the Miss Nelson world.

Miss Nelson Is Missing!: From the previous examples, it is obvious that the majority of  work that shaped the Miss Nelson books into what the public has come to know was executed by Marshall. This isn’t to say that Marshall didn’t value Allard’s contribution. Allard was a brainstorming partner, a writer who could turn out pages of script allowing Marshall to indulge in editing, evidenced many times in the collection as one of Marshall’s great strengths.

Cover concept sketch, Miss Nelson Is Missing!

Late in my research I discovered a single page near the back of one of James Marshall’s sketchbooks. This book, sitting nondescriptly in the middle of Box 20, held a cover concept sketch for Miss Nelson Is Missing! Dated July 27, 1976, the sketch would have been made about one year before the first Miss Nelson book was to be published. At the top of the page Marshall had written “Written by James Marshall and Harry Allard”.

He then drew a double headed arrow to transpose his and Allard’s name to give Allard top billing. Eventually the cover page would remove the “written by” and “illustrated by” lines and feature the two names as collaborators with Allard’s name featured generously at the top of the page.

But despite the vast source of materials related to the Marshall/Allard collaborations, it was a very small thing that most informed my understanding of their relationship. In the seventeen minute James Marshall In His Studio video (one in a series produced by Weston Woods/Scholastic to introduce authors to their audience) Marshall speaks directly to the camera, explaining his process in creating picture books. In talking about where his ideas come from, Marshall describes the infamous 3am phone call from Allard. I’ve alway read the line “Miss Nelson is missing!” as an exuberant, even manic, exclamation on Allard’s part. But as Marshall tells the story (at the nine and half minute mark if you should ever be so lucky to find a copy of this recording) it is far more nuanced. Marshall does an impression of Allard’s voice. It is theatrical, a little affected, mysterious. It’s done with a smile and, clearly, affection for his friend.

Marshall appreciated in Allard all those things I found peculiar. His eccentricities delighted Marshall. What’s more, Allard’s inspirations—whether they ultimately served to chart the inappropriate, or uncover the promising—informed Marshall’s talents. Given the amount of work Marshall put into their collaboration, that he would give his friend top billing is testimony to Marshall’s generosity. But it would be shortsighted to consider it charity. Marshall truly valued his partnership with Allard. Like Miss Nelson and Viola Swamp, in this story one could not have existed without the other. If Harry Allard were missing, so too would be missing these three books.

Still image from video, James Marshall In His Studio

Archivist Kristin Eshelman featured on Humanities LIVED

“You Should…Listen. Watch. See. Read. Go. Experience. Explore. Join.” asserts the clever new initiative You Should – Humanities LIVED sponsored by the UConn Humanities Institute.  The aims of the project are straightforward: to communicate the value that the humanities provide in our daily lives, to share our experiences, and to inspire others to do the same.

Should—the word has a hint of urgency, a bit of bossiness, and even a dash of guilt. Here, it is mostly a suggestion about something that inspired passion. Thus, you really should.


Every few weeks a member of the UConn faculty or staff offers a recommendation of a book, film, piece of music, podcast, or other inspiring work in the humanities that “should be consumed far and wide,” according to series editor Alexis L. Boylan, an Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at UConn and Associate Director of the Humanities Institute.

You Should check out this recent post by our own Kristin Eshelman, Archivist for Multimedia Collections, to read about her explorations with artists, photographers, and fellow-travelers in the magazine Holiday….



Romano Photography Exhibit “Lifting the Veil” On Display

Lifting the Veil: A Photographic Archive of Child Labor in Light Manufacturing

September 28th – October 31, 2017
Archives & Special Collections Gallery
Thomas J. Dodd Research Center
University of Connecticut


Bangle Making

A young boy puts glass ornaments onto bangles to be sold in the United States and Europe. Child workers are chronically tired from long hours and irregular rest, increasing probability of disease and malnutrition.

From silver gelatin processing of the 19th century to 4k Ultra-High-Definition film of the 21st, photography has served not only to illustrate and document human activity but to also demonstrate and agitate on behalf of its subjects.  Likeminded activists and journalists have similarly sought to employ the camera as a tool for advocacy to change policy, discourse and public perception around past events which inform our future as consumers in a global capitalist world.  Curated and on display in this exhibition are photographic works from light manufacturing industries and the workers they employ as documented through the lens of photographer and documentarian U. Roberto (Robin) Romano.  In particular, the role of children at work remained a constant feature of Robin’s photography and film which became a hallmark of labor activism beginning in the early 20th century with the work of Lewis Hine.  In Robin’s eyes, acceptance of shared concerns across cultures and corners of the globe became the starting point for making concrete change, which he portrayed through photography as his device for “lifting the veil of perceived evil that comes from bias and stereotyping.”  His framing of the inherent concerns in society drew him to document the most vulnerable elements, “I think there is an a priori appreciation that we have within us of a sense of our common humanity. It seems to me it takes a lot of work and a lot of noise to create environments that forget that. And as a result, we are suffering the consequences of our forgetting.”[1]

Continue reading

On Charles Olson: poetics and / as pedagogy


Dr. Michael Kindellan is a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Sheffield, UK. He has published research articles on several 19th and 20th century Anglo-American poets, and has recently completed a book on Ezra Pound’s late cantos (to be published in September by Bloomsbury). Made possible by a generous a Strochlitz Travel Grant, in January he travelled to the Archives and Special Collections at the Dodd Research Center to consult the Charles Olson Research Collection, along with other, related collections, such as the Ed Dorn, John Wieners, Michael Rumaker, Fielding Dawson and Ann Charters Papers. This trip marks the beginning of work on his new project, tentatively called “Present Knowledge: Charles Olson and the Poetics of Pedagogy”.

I have been meaning to begin this project since late 2011, when I was first awarded a Strochlitz Travel Grant. Sadly, I was forced to defer that in favour of a temporary lectureship position. One thing led to another, and two intervening post-docs later, I am thrilled to have been afforded the time and opportunity, both by Sheffield and by UConn, to properly get started.

Charles Olson [FIG. 1] was a poet and a pedagogue. He began his teaching career at Clark University in the mid-1930s. In 1938, he took up a Guggenheim Fellowship in support of research on Herman Melville, leading to the publication of Call Me Ishmael. During the 1940s Olson also worked in various positions for the US Government: as Associate Chief of the Foreign Languages Division for the Office of War Information and as Foreign Nationalities Division Director for the Democratic National Committee). In the late 1940s, partly on account of his poetic debut Y & X (in collaboration with the Italian artist Corrado Cagli) and partly after a strong recommendation from Edward Dahlberg, Josef Albers invited Olson to give a series of classes on writing at Black Mountain College,[1] where he eventually took up a permanent position before becoming its rector until its closure in 1957. [FIG. 2] These academic posts were followed by others in the 1960s, initially at SUNY Buffalo and then at the University of Connecticut. Olson’s reputation as poet/theorist was secured by his seminal 1950 essay “Projective Verse”; from that point on, he wrote poems until the day he died.

With that in mind, setting his poetics (the theory and practice of verse composition) in relation to his pedagogy (the theory and practice of teaching) seems an obvious thing to do. However, my project attempts something slightly more ambitious, namely to read Olson’s poetics and pedagogy as both complementary and also as coincident undertakings. Some of Olson’s comments in the minutes of BMC faculty meetings, where the subject of conversation is how best to go about teaching, often sound exactly like his ideas concerning good writing practice and procedure; similarly, his verse is frequently didactic in tone and instructional in form. Just how Olson’s prosody can be seen to issue the reader with “instructions” is the subject of an essay I published in Contemporary Olson (Manchester UP, 2015), a work that serves as a starting point the larger project at hand. Throughout, I mean to argue that Olson’s ideas and methods of writing are identical to his ideas and methods of teaching, and to explore the consequences of that.

As Eleanor Berry and Alan Golding have recently suggested, Olson sought to extend “his formal concerns into the epistemological realm in arguing that projective verse involves a ‘stance towards reality’ that he labels ‘objectism’”. Olson understood “objectism”, Berry and Golding rightly note, as the “getting rid of the lyrical interference of the individual as ego”, which they describe as “an ethically anti-humanist move to take poetry beyond mere self-expression into more culturally capacious realms of statement”.[2] As a poet as well as a teacher, Olson might well have wanted to strip away all traces of the “individual as ego”, but it is not necessarily how he went about the actual business of either teaching or writing poems. Indeed, a good deal of archival material demonstrates that, in actual and historical fact, Olson’s methods are highly egoistic, often radically so (where by “egotistic” I do not mean “excessively conceited”, but rather interested in the “self” as a foundation for both practice and comportment).

Consider, as a case in point, the exam questions he set for students taking his 1964 “Literature and Myth” course at SUNY Buffalo. Question 4 in particular, which begins “My own belief is that…”, demonstrates the extent to which Olson exerted strong control over the parameters of whatever horizons of understanding his students operated within. [FIG. 3] By all accounts, Olson was, as his long-time correspondent J. H. Prynne recently put it, “an influential and powerful teacher”; but he and his “Black Mountain team”, Prynne goes on to contend, “practised ascendency over the students and dominated their development, and offered themselves as exemplary models to be followed, not as choices to be made”.[1]  This assessment is consistent with reports given by Olson’s actual students who never quite fell under his spell, such as Francine du Plessix (later Gray); likewise, Olson’s often bad tempered and downright condescending notes to Cid Corman in Letters for Origin portray an authoritative teacher who suffered dissent badly.[2] Charles Boer also reported, speaking to Olson in the second person, “your classrooms were for your ideas. If a student thought otherwise, he was soon set straight on the matter”.[3]

The question for me is, how to square this authoritarian streak with Olson’s anarchic, deeply anti-technocratic approaches to teaching and writing.[6] In regards to both he admonished students and burgeoning writers to practice “istorin’”, an activity he attributed to Herodotus’s historiography and defined as “finding out for yourself”. The implications of this are far too numerous to encapsulate here, but foremost amongst them is Olson’s total refusal of conventional curricula: Olson was profoundly skeptical about lesson plans and learning outcomes, all of which promised to curtail in advance any line of inquiry that organically emerged from the pedagogical process itself.[7] Several former students of Olson’s recount how he would habitually stay after class to study the chalk board, as though trying to make sense of what had happened, what was said. In “FIELD COMPOSITION”, or “projective verse” practice, the poet “puts himself in the open—he can go by no track other than the one the poem under hand declares, for itself”.

The examinations Olson wrote for Clark University students reveal a key aspect of his pedagogical drive, namely the prioritisation of writing well over reading well. He was constantly interweaving questions of personal style, form and the like, into questions ostensibly about other texts. The idea here is that, for Olson, the most important texts were always one’s own. A headnote to a 22 January 1935 mid-year English II examination begins: “keep in mind that this is a course in writing. Clarity, accuracy, even beauty of expression is expected. No paper carelessly written will be considered satisfactory, in spite of content”.[8] [FIG. 4]

What exactly to make of all this I have yet to rightly determine, and giving a good answer will be the aim of my work over the next couple of years. But the plan is to conceptualise and then critique Olson’s pedagogy as poetics, and visa versa. What is clear, however, from the two weeks I was able to spend exploring and working in this extensive archive—a task made all the more challenging by Olson’s increasingly illegible handwriting and his tendency to write with dull pencils on acidic paper or the backs of dirty envelopes—have proven invaluable in terms of grounding a rather abstract idea in the hard facts of archival materials. For instance, the Charles Olson Research Collection holds large numbers of documents categorised as “prose”, which, upon inspection, are clearly notes for lectures or seminars given (mostly) at Black Mountain College. Though not a systematic thinker, not by a long shot, Olson, in many of these documents especially, is forever attempting to enumerate and order his thoughts on myth, on writing and on history. In others, such one that “begins” (if it can be said to begin anywhere) “You can’t use words as ideas”, Olson’s writing is (dis)organised spatially, composed quite literally “by field”, that is to say, in different intersected planes of the page space. [FIG. 5]

The archive also contains a great bulk of correspondence, written both by Olson, especially in his capacity as Rector of Black Mountain College, and by hundreds of correspondents, many of whom either taught with Olson (such as Robert Duncan and Robert Creeley) or were taught by him (such as Dorn, Dawson and Wieners). These letters have an obvious historical importance, given the established reputations of Olson’s peers. Of equal if rather different interest are letters Olson wrote to and received from lesser known interlocutors: officers at funding bodies, benefactors, university administrators, invitees to BMC’s summer “institutes” programme and parents of students. I expect many of these to feature significantly in my completed work. Naturally the manuscripts and other pre-publication material of the poetry—those pertaining to The Maximus Poems particularly—will feature throughout my work as well. The first drafts of Olson’s poems, written mostly in longhand and sometimes to spectacular effect [FIG. 6], demand readers reassess the value and importance of the typewriter to this work. But it’s the less glamorous reaches of the archive that have thrown up the most interesting preliminary findings.



– Michael Kindellan
Sheffield, March 2017




  1. Fielding Dawson Drawing of Charles Olson (ink on paper), Fielding Dawson Papers. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Black Mountain Ephemera, Fielding Dawson Papers. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series III, Box 268. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series III, Box 259. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series I, Box 26. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series I, Box 5, Folder 273. “I have been an ability—a machine”. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.



[1] Josef Albers, 24 September 1948 Letter to Charles Olson, Series II Box 124, Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

[2] Eleanor Berry and Alan Golding, “Projective Verse”, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 4th ed., ed. Roland Greene et al, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 1109.

[3] J. H. Prynne, “The Art of Poetry No. 101”, The Paris Review 218 (Fall 2016): 183.

[4] Charles Olson, Letters for Origin: 1950-1956, ed. Albert Glover (London: Cape Goliard, 1969).

[5] Charles Boer, Charles Olson in Connecticut (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1975), 54.

[6] As Martin Duberman reports, John Cage esteemed Olson’s Black Mountain College a truly anarchic community, in contradistinction to Josef Albers’s, where the “anarchic feeling… was only on the surface”. Martin Duberman, Black Mountain College: An Exploration in Community (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1972), 367.

[7] Cf. Olson’s statements on the matter in “Minutes of a Meeting of the Black Mountain College Faculty, 1951”, Olson: The Journal of the Charles Olson Archives 2 (Fall 1974): 16-24.

[8] Charles Olson, “Clark University English II Mid-Year Examination, Series III Box 258, Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.


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

d’Archive: Archives on the Radio!

Stay in the loop and on top of the NOW!

Tune in to WHUS Radio 91.7 fm  – UConn’s Sound Alternative – tomorrow, August 31, from 10:00am to 11:00am for d’Archive, a new radio program hosted by Archivist Graham Stinnett.

Each Thursday this 50-minute series features interviews and audio recordings about, by, of archives, information workers, researchers, collections specialists and more. Each show contains interviews with guests interspersed with recorded playback of archival content or topical audio from other collections.

This podcast is available on itunes and available at the WHUS website.




Nobody and Somebody: The Loving Ways of Lone Oak – Reexamining the Life and Writing of Edwin Way Teale (Final post in the series)

by Richard Telford

Author’s Note: Though the product of many hours of research, writing, and revision, this chapter is nevertheless a draft; it will be subject to revision as the larger book in which it will appear takes shape. This chapter follows the book’s prologue and first chapter, both of which provide important context for my writing here. This is the sixth chapter to be published on this site. The first three, published this past winter, were later chapters of the book, chronicling the Teales’ loss of their son David during wartime service in 1945. Those chapters can be accessed here. As of now, I do not plan to pre-publish additional chapters. I welcome critical response to all of this work, either in the comment section of this site or through direct e-mail. I am grateful to the Archives and Special Collections staff for providing me the opportunity to share this work, and to the Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees for awarding me a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 school year. Contextual information about the project and manuscript can be found here.


Chapter 2: Nobody and Somebody: The Loving Ways of Lone Oak


It was a warm, or fairly hot day in spring—the grass was turning green, and the budding trees sent a pleasant odor thru the evning air. The patient lowing of the cattle in the lane, was distinctley heard above the scuffling on the roosts in the chicken coop; the grunting and squeeling from the pig-pen, and the blating of the hungry calves. The sparrows churped loudly from the Tamarack in frunt of the house and from across the road in the woods came the song of a whip-poor-will and numerous other songsters….These sights and sounds—usually interesting to any city boy, were especially so to me.[i]


Edwin Way Teale, Tails of Lone Oak, 1908


On both sides I am descended from a long line of those who were not the kind of folk whose names name-droppers drop. They were not the kind to provide ammunition for excessive boasting. They were, in the main, common people. But the world was not made worse because they lived in it.[ii]


Edwin Way Teale, autobiography draft, July 27, 1974


I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog![iii]


Emily Dickinson, poem 288


The old man stood atop the open platform of the Furnessville train depot, the right side of his face lit by “station lamps gleaming on the snow,” the left by a kerosene lantern held high, as five-year-old Edwin stepped from the train with Clara and Oliver following at his heels. The Teales had arrived for a week-long Christmas visit to Lone Oak. It was the earliest such visit to remain forever etched in Edwin’s memory. The old man, “bundled in a fur coat until he resembled a great grizzly bear,”[iv] was Edwin Franklin Way, Clara Teale’s father and Edwin’s grandfather. Ed Way’s roots, like those of his bride, were eastern. His father, Hiram, a New York lumberman, had moved his family west during the pioneer days of the mid-nineteenth century, settling in Porter County, Indiana in 1855[v]—fourteen years prior to the start of the family peregrinations chronicled by Laura Ingalls Wilder. At the time, Ed Way, the second of five children, was twelve. When he turned eighteen at the outset of the American Civil War, he “enlisted as a private in the Fourth Indiana Artillery, attached to the Army of the Cumberland,”[vi] later fighting in several major battles. The first, the October 1862 Battle of Perryville, expelled the Confederate Army of General Braxton Bragg from Kentucky, forcing an overnight retreat through the Cumberland Gap into Tennessee. Three months later, the forces met again on New Year’s Eve day in the battle of Stones River, also called the Second Battle of Murfreesboro. Of the major battles of the American Civil War, the casualty percentage at Stones River was second only to that of Gettysburg.[vii] Ed Way was amongst the seriously wounded at Stones River and was discharged for disability and sent home to recuperate. In 1865 he reenlisted, this time with the ninth Illinois Cavalry, and served out the remainder of the war.[viii] Afterward, he used his Army pension to buy a homestead at the edge of the Indiana dunes.

A studio portrait of Edwin Way Teale, circa 1904.

Exiting the train platform on that bitter, Solstice-dark December night in 1904, the Teales packed themselves into the waiting bob-sled that would hurry them out to Lone Oak. Edwin later recalled how “the horses stamped and jingled their sleigh-bells and sent out clouds of silver steam into the cold night air.”[ix] At the clean, modest farmhouse, the young boy’s gaze was drawn first to the freshly-cut Christmas tree “trimmed with polished apples, strings of popcorn, paper decorations and marshmallow fish.” These fish, he recalled later, “had a flavor which haunted me for years afterwards.”[x] But his gaze and his admiration shifted quickly to the loving pair who would remain at the center of all of his later Lone Oak exploits, a pair “as remarkable as the dune country itself, as remarkable as the varied fields of the farm from which they had so long wrung a living.”[xi] That winter visit, and another during the summer that followed, preceded his matriculation at the Woodland School in Joliet.[xii] Thus, these visits comprised an early, critical education for Edwin, an education that contrasted sharply and restoratively with that of the twig-bending kind to which he had grown accustomed at home. It was palliative and healing, an antidote both for the trials of his earliest years and for the “new, strange world” of formal schooling still to come—a sphere whose governors often showed little patience for a mind “like a butterfly flitting about in a field of flowers.”[xiii] In a “world [that] was so full of interest,” he wrote in his unpublished autobiography, “I could not concentrate on any one thing.”[xiv] “It was not that I was dull witted,” he observed elsewhere. “It seemed more that my mind was too lively.”[xv] At Lone Oak, Edwin’s lively mind could flit unfettered. At Lone Oak, he could escape the disapprobation and shame that haunted his childhood. At Lone Oak, his grandparents set him free in nature, “a liberal mother who gave me room to expand, freedom to seek my own level, time to think my own thoughts.”[xvi]

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

Gramp Way, Edwin remarked in Dune Boy, “was probably not a very efficient farmer.” He paid little attention to “proper soils or [crop] rotation.”[xvii]  In farming and in life he eschewed routine; it “galled his spirit.”[xviii] For Edwin, this was an endearing quality: “Gramp was one of those unschooled men whose minds are not molded to conventional patters. He was himself, never anyone else.”[xix] Despite a lack of formal schooling, Gramp’s was a percipient mind that expressed itself in tenaciousness and ingenuity, in wit and compassion. He was, Edwin reflected, “a living refutation of that specious fallacy of the literate—the belief that illiteracy and ignorance are synonymous.”[xx] Though he had never read a book before marriage, he became, through his wife’s tutelage, an engaged reader by the time Edwin made his holiday pilgrimages to Lone Oak. In a journal he kept during the summer of 1911, Edwin noted, “…gramp’s deep in the mistarys of ‘The Silver Hord,’” Rex Beach’s popular 1909 novel of the Pacific fisheries. “I hear grampa exclaming from the corner couch,” Edwin continued, “so I suppose he has found an extra instering part….”[xxi] Edwin’s profound struggles with spelling as a child—at which he later poked fun both in Dune Boy and his unpublished autobiography—likely deepened his capacity in later reflection to fully discern Gramp’s vigorous if unschooled intellect. Despite his proclivity to “blithely ignore the dictates of Webster and the grammarians,”[xxii]  Ed Way sacrificed much to send his three daughters through college. He knew the pioneer landscape was giving way to a new, more educated world in which tenacity alone might not ensure one’s future.

In Edwin’s view, Gramp’s love of subtle humor was the greatest expression of his keen mind. This humor, most conspicuous in the stream of aphorisms the older man interjected into daily conversation, was a staple of Lone Oak life. Edwin recorded many of these aphorisms both in Dune Boy and in his autobiography notes. Waking from an after-dinner catnap, Gramp would proclaim, “Don’t know what you folks expect to do—but I know I’m about prepared to rear and tear and mount!” After this, he would “saunter off to bed.”[xxiii] Of his daily financial plight, he’d remark, “If the whole meetin’ house was for sale fer a cent I couldn’t buy a shingle today!”[xxiv] When guests arrived, he’d quip, “Sit down boys, just as cheap as standing up!”[xxv] Growing impatient over the slow preparation of a meal, he’d say “Today, tomorrow and the next day will be three days since I had anything to eat.”[xxvi] Or, “I don’t git hungry very often. But when I do ‘ts about now.”[xxvii] Once, when a new pair of shoes had given him blisters, he declared, “I must be like a Jay bird with my longest toe behind.”[xxviii] About a jacket Gram had sewn for him, he complained, “Say mother, ye put these pockets in my jacket so high I had to git up on a stump to pull out my handkercher.”[xxix] And he reveled in the story of a young female school teacher who boarded briefly at Lone Oak. As the three ate breakfast one morning, Gram said, “Sometimes I wish you’d cut your whiskers off!” Gramp held his tongue, but the young lady responded, “I think a kiss without a mustache is like an egg without salt!” Gramp retold the story often.[xxx] “The ax and the hoe and the pitchfork,” Edwin reflected later, “the years of toil which had bowed his shoulders and enlarged the knuckles of his hands, had never dulled his sense of humor nor his love of the joke.”[xxxi] For Ed Way, humor released the injurious steam of daily struggle. It reflected his desire “to ‘camp out’ at home,”[xxxii] to live contentedly in the present, imprisoned neither by past regrets nor dim future prospects.

Edwin Way Teale with his maternal grandparents Edwin F. and Jemima Way at Lone Oak, their Indiana farm, circa 1916-1918.

Gramp Way’s easygoing nature sometimes belied the fierceness of spirit that allowed him to eke a living from “an uncompromising tract” of land and to combat the steady stream of hucksters and thieves who plied the uneducated country folk at the edge of the dunes. Once, two men arrived at Lone Oak, a pair of “crooks [who] tried to get Civil War veterans to mortgage farms for $500 for [a] pair of glasses to keep Gramp from going ‘blind before morning.’” Gramp surreptitiously sent Edwin outside to let air out of the front tire of their car and to bring in cordwood. Gramp then “use[d] [a] stick on [the] crooks” and sent them hastily on their way.[xxxiii] Another time, a wandering tramp offered to chop stove kindling in exchange for a meal. Gramp assented and went back to his own work, realizing shortly afterward that the tramp had “shouldered the ax and set off at a trot down the road.” This prompted Gramp to set off “in hot pursuit.” When caught and confronted, the tramp dropped the ax and fled for the woods. Later, Gram expressed her dismay that the tramp might have killed Gramp, to which he replied, “What d’ y’ think I’d a bin doin’ about thet time?”[xxxiv]

Gramp’s earliest experiences on the Indiana frontier and his wartime service provided rich fodder for storytelling, an act bolstered by his “gift for the colorful phrase, the humorous twist, [and] the original observation.”[xxxv] On late summer evenings, sitting by “a smudge fire which kept the mosquitoes away,” Gramp wove elaborate tales “of the early days, the Indians, the wolves, the deer, the struggles of the pioneers.” At the start of the twentieth century, the dune edges had been converted to farmland “devoted to corn and oats, melons and potatoes,” but Gramp could remember the time when forests still blanketed the landscape. For Edwin, those stories “were like windows looking back into a glorious and adventurous past.”[xxxvi] Another such window lay in the southwest corner of Lone Oak, in a small “marshland ‘island’ where Gramp’s cows stood in the shade and flicked away the flies…during the hottest hours of the August noontide.”[xxxvii] Local lore told of this island as a former battleground of warring native tribes. From the “sand which lay beneath the sparse grass” of the island, young Edwin unearthed “a storehouse, a museum, of Indian implements…more than 100 arrowheads, spearheads and tomahawk-heads.” The plowing of the neighboring Gunders’ field yielded up similar treasures. It is no wonder that Edwin saw Lone Oak as “a sort of Never-Never-Land come true,” and no wonder that, in the confines of Joliet and under his mother’s critical eye, he would “cross off the days on the calendar and count the number remaining before the next vacation when I would return again to the green pastures of that Indiana farm.”[xxxviii]

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

In late August of 1852, three years before Hiram Way would move his family to the edge of the Indiana dunes, Jemima George was born in Ogdensburg, New York, spending “her early years near the banks of the St. Lawrence River.” Her father, “a prosperous masonry contractor” who was “engaged in building large churches in the region,” was able to send her to “a select seminary for young ladies” in Ogdensburg for 1865 and 1866.[xxxix] Henry George’s health failed in 1867, however, and with it his finances, so the family headed west in search of opportunity and healing, possibly encouraged by the prospects of “the prairie cure,” the widely-held belief in the power of “the clear dry air of the Midwest to allay” tuberculosis[xl] and other ailments. By the spring of 1867, they arrived in Morgan’s Sidetrack—later renamed Furnessville—and settled on a farm several miles from Lone Oak. “For the young girl,” Edwin noted, “this swift change…was like a plunge from daylight into darkness.”[xli] Jemima “floundered about” for several months, feeling “bewildered and uncertain, shy and misunderstood.”[xlii] Then she met Ed Way, who, “at the time, possessed nine white shirts”—a potent if amusing symbol of his post-war prosperity. For “state occasions,” he still donned the brass-buttoned blue Army overcoat he had brought home from the war.[xliii] He cut an impressive and benevolent figure, and Jemima, now 16, and Ed, now 25, were married on November 12, 1867.[xliv]

The main barn at Lone Oak, the site of many of Edwin Way Teale’s childhood exploits.

In post-Civil War pioneer society at the ede of the Indiana dunes, it was “the harder qualities of mind and character that [were] at a premium,” Edwin wrote later. “Men and women, struggling desperately to make ends meet, [were] like tightrope-walkers who [could not] forget for a moment the business of preserving their lives.”[xlv] Despite her initial shock and floundering, Jemima Way adapted quickly to the rigors of her newly-entered world, a process accelerated by her father’s death in 1869. Still, the physical and emotional rigors of frontier life cut deeply. On Christmas Day 1868, just over a year into marriage, she gave birth to a daughter, Alice. Alice lived only a few hours, and “as often was the custom in those early days—a grave was dug under an apple tree, about 2 rods from the house and a little home-made wooden box containing the infant was lowered into it.”[xlvi] Clara Teale later remembered how “For many years we younger children planted flowers and cut grass on that little spot of ground.”[xlvii] Ed and Jemima went on to have four more children: Clara Louise, in 1870; Allan Henry, in 1874; Winnifred Margaret, in 1880; and Blanche Elizabeth, in 1885. Tragedy came again for the Ways when Allan, who had been diagnosed with an enlarged heart, died shortly after the celebration of his twenty-first birthday. At the time, he was studying law with a Judge in Valparaiso; it was a halting end to a once-bright future.[xlviii] Such early deaths were common enough in a time when “it was the unusual thing for any farmer’s wife to have a doctor for childbirth”[xlix] and malaria was so rampant “that a little dish of quinine was placed on the table and every member of the family had to dip out a quantity and swallow it at breakfast-time.”[l] Still, the expectation of such loss did little to temper its sting.

Jemima Way spent her days “bending over her scrub-board or laboring at the churn,” often “wracked by chills and fever.” When farm help was scant, “she hoed in the blistering sun”[li] and took on nearly any other work that needed doing, often singing “old folksongs and ballads from England” to help pass the long hours.[lii] She rarely complained, but there were times during Edwin’s boyhood visits when Gramp would pull the boy aside and say, “Mother’s got alum on ‘er tongue this mornin’. Better steer clear o’ the’ kitchen.”[liii] Of these moments, Edwin wrote poignantly, “Fatigue is Life’s great poison.”[liv] Still, he noted further, “This hard labor which was her lot never broke her spirit.”[lv] A chance event that occurred when her children were young helped nurture and sustain that spirit; the effects of that event would ripple over decades, shaping the lives of a host of passers-through at Lone Oak, none more than the boy who “whirled like a satellite” around Ed and Jemima Way “from June to September in the golden days of summer and youth.”[lvi]

Lone Oak was located in the center of Pine Township, in Porter County. Sometime during the 1880s, “The Township trustees purchased a set of 140 of the world’s classic books of history and literature.” The books, “bound in leather and housed in a special bookcase,” were to serve as a public library.[lvii] Despite her constant toil at Lone Oak, Gram never forsook her educated roots. She had carried the intellectual flame kindled at Ogdensburg to the Indiana frontier, and there she had banked it beneath the ash of daily struggle, refusing to let it die. The Township library provided fuel for her inward fire, and the trustees’ selection of Jemima Way as its custodian, and Lone Oak as the site where it would be housed, yielded a cascade of effects they could never have anticipated. Throughout the decades that followed, Gram Way “read aloud every one of the millions of words” entrusted to her, over and over again, not just to her own family but to anyone who would listen. Long before young Edwin’s arrival at Lone Oak, “neighbors and hired men from near-by farms used to stroll over after the chores were done…stretching out on the front porch, puffing silently at their pipes” as Gram sat beside a kerosene lamp “inside the screen door…[and] read on and on, her expressive voice rising with the exciting passages.”[lviii] It was one of a host of Gram’s “nameless, unremembered acts/Of kindness and of love”[lix]—love for her family and for neighbors, and love for the power of the written word, a power that could both validate and transcend daily human struggle.

The north view of the farmhouse at Lone Oak. Edwin F. Way is seated in a rocking chair, reading in the breezeway.

Gram’s love of knowledge and the extraordinary value she placed upon the written word were not bound by her custodianship of the Pine Township library. “Possibly the greatest pleasure she had while living at Lone Oak,” Clara Teale recalled in the 1940s, “was her connection with the Grange…She wrote both prose and poetry for their programs.”[lx] She also wrote and published numerous articles for The Rural New Yorker, some of which were “reprinted in New York [City] papers.” Edwin recalled later how “she would write, by the light of an oil lamp,” despite her exhaustion of the day.[lxi] These articles, reflective of the time, were printed unsigned, rendering her a nameless voice from the country, at once somebody and nobody—a paradox driven home to her by events surrounding a particular article of which she was especially proud. After publication, she recopied its text, sent it to her only brother, and waited “anxiously for his reply.” When it came, he had written not with praise but doubt of her authorship: “Why did you tell me [that] you wrote that article? I read it some weeks ago in a New York City paper.”  The slight “hurt her deeply,” as “she had thought above all people—he would be the one who would see its worth,”[lxii] and likewise recognize hers.

While her brother could not see the deep well of her talents, Edwin could; and for her beloved grandson, Jemima Way dipped that well even more deeply. During one of his earliest summer visits to Lone Oak, Edwin recalled, “She put me to sleep each night with a new installment of a continued story about the River Pixies,” a complex, extempore creation sprung from her imagination. Accompanied by the “chorus of the katydids and crickets swelling outside the bedroom window,” Gram sat nightly on the edge of Edwin’s bed and conjured “faint, long-ago images of little people, with peaked caps, running about the banks of a dark stream.”[lxiii] Those images “remain with me still,” he wrote nearly four decades later.[lxiv] Amidst the life-preserving desperations of frontier life, he reflected, “A sensitiveness to the color and poetry of Nature” was “unessential, excess baggage.”[lxv] In that world, the majority, Thoreau’s “mass of men…so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life,”[lxvi] spent their lives “stifling the desire for luxury.”[lxvii] Jemima George Way was an exception, and thus was she exceptional in her grandson’s memory. “It is only the rare and superlative character,” Edwin wrote, “who is able to retain the softer qualities, beneath his armor, in a world of constant struggle. This Gram did and she stands out in my mind as one of the indomitable, great women of my meeting.”[lxviii]  Jemima Way not only retained such qualities but shared them freely: with family and neighbors, with farm hands and strangers, and with her beloved grandson, for whom her influence endured to his last days. She nourished Edwin’s acute sensitivities when it mattered most, when much of the world seemed bent on smothering them. She helped his emotional and intellectual waters find their level.

Reflecting on his childhood, Edwin understood fully how erratic the spotlight of memory could be, but he likewise understood how it was inevitably drawn to fixed points, to anchors, to holdfasts in the flood and ebb of life’s waters. Such were the memories of Gram and Gramp Way. Later, he came to associate these benevolent centers of his childhood orbits with three lines from Irish poet William Butler Yeats:

For life moves out of a red flare of dreams

Into a common light of common hours

Until old age brings the red flare again.[lxix]


Reflecting on these lines decades later, Edwin wrote, “Thus it was that my grandparents seemed to understand best of all, the world of dreams, of fantastic plans, of make-believe in which I spent so many hours.” “When we are young,” he continued, “we know least of all how different we are, or how different from the norm are those around us. It takes perspective to see ourselves in relation to the world at large. It was only after many years had passed that I understood how strange a boy I must have been or how unusual were the two who were my closest summer companions.”[lxx] Long after Gram and Gramp Way had returned to the earth they had spent their lives tending, Edwin took comfort in the fact that he had memorialized them through his writing. “Thinking of those golden duneland days,” he wrote in the spring of 1962, “I realize, with something of a start, that I am the only person in all the world who remembers them. Who remembers Lone Oak now? I alone. But in a way there are thousands more—all who have lived those days with Gramp and Gran in the pages of ‘Dune Boy.’”[lxxi] To the broader world, Ed and Jemima Way were nobody; to their friends and neighbors, they were somebody; to a strange, self-conscious, highly sensitive satellite of a boy, they were everybody.


Richard Telford has taught literature and composition at The Woodstock Academy since 1997. In 2011, he helped found the Edwin Way Teale Artists in Residence at Trail Wood program, which he now directs. He was a long-time contributing writer for The Ecotone Exchange. He was recently awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant by the University of Connecticut to support his work on a book about naturalist, writer, and photographer Edwin Way Teale. The Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees likewise granted him a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 academic year to support this work.



Civil War Trust, The. “Ten Facts: Stones River.” Accessed 24 7 2017.

Dickinson, Emily. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Ed. Thomas H. Johnson. Boston, London, New York: Little Brown and Company, 1960.

Goodspeed, Weston A., and Charles Blanchard, Eds. “Edwin F. Way.” Counties of Lake and Porter Indiana: Historical and Biographical.  Chicago: F.A. Battey and Co., 1882.

Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Clara Barton, Professional Angel. Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987.

Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s autobiography, Circa 1945-1950. Box 63, Folder 2170, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut  Libraries.

Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s autobiography, Circa 1945-1950. Box 63, Folder 2188, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut  Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Days of Hearsay” chapter notes, drafts, 1974. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2167, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Days of Hearsay,” draft, 25-27 July, 1974. Most Complete Manuscript, undated. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2187, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist. Lone Oak Edition. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1943, 1957.

Teale, Edwin Way. Edwin Way Teale’s Composition Book [Circa 1910-1912]. Box 85, folder 2664, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Memories of a Bent Twig” chapter notes, drafts, 1974 July 31. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2169, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “My Earliest Home” chapter notes, drafts, 1974 July 31. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2168, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. Tails of Lone Oak. 1908-9. Unpublished manuscript. Box 84, Folder 2585, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. The Trail Wood Journal, 1962-65, unpublished journal. Box 120, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Woodland Days” chapter notes, research, drafts of manuscript, correspondence, 1974 August 19. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2170, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Woodland Days,” draft, 10-19 August, 1974. The Long Way Home, most complete manuscript. Box 63, folder 2187, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden: or Life in the Woods. Ed. Edwin Way Teale. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1946.

Wordsworth, William. “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798.” Wordsworth’s Complete Poetical Works. Cambridge Edition. Ed. Andrew J. George. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1904. 91-3.

Yeats, William Butler. The Land of Heart’s Desire. Chicago: Stone & Kimball, 1894.



[i] Teale, Edwin Way. Tails of Lone Oak. 1908-9. Chapter 1. Box 84, Folder 2585.

[ii] Teale, Edwin Way. “Days of Hearsay,” draft, 25-27 July, 1974. The Long Way Home, most complete manuscript. Box 63, folder 2187. 5-6

[iii] Dickinson, Emily. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Ed. Thomas H. Johnson. Boston, London, New York: Little Brown and Company, 1960.

[iv] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 7

[v] Goodspeed, Weston A., and Charles Blanchard, Editors. “Edwin F. Way.” Counties of Lake and Porter Indiana:  Historical and Biographical. 398

[vi] Ibid. 398

[vii] Civil War Trust. Ten Facts: Stones River. Accessed 24 7 2017.

[viii] Goodspeed, Weston A., and Charles Blanchard, Editors. “Edwin F. Way.” Counties of Lake and Porter Indiana: Historical and Biographical. 398

[ix] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 7

[x] Ibid. 8

[xi] Ibid. 12

[xii] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “My Earliest Home.” Box 63, folder 2168.

[xiii] Teale, Edwin Way. “Woodland Days,” draft, 10-19 August, 1974. The Long Way Home, most complete manuscript. Box 63, folder 2187. 1,5

[xiv] Ibid. 5

[xv] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Woodland Days.” Box 63, folder 2170.

[xvi] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Memories of a Bent Twig.” Box 63, folder 2169.

[xvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 17

[xviii] Ibid. 17

[xix] Ibid. 16

[xx] Ibid. 16

[xxi] Teale, Edwin Way. Edwin Way Teale’s Composition Book [Circa 1910-1912]. Box 85, folder 2664

[xxii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 16

[xxiii] Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s Autobiography, Circa 1945-50. Box 63, folder 2170.

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] Ibid.

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 141

[xxviii] Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s Autobiography, Circa 1945-50. Box 63, folder 2170.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 14

[xxxii] Ibid. 17

[xxxiii] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Woodland Days.” Box 63, folder 2170.

[xxxiv] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 20

[xxxv] Ibid. 14

[xxxvi] Ibid. 11

[xxxvii] Ibid. 29

[xxxviii] Ibid. 10

[xxxix] Ibid. 20

[xl] Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Clara Barton, Professional Angel. 67

[xli] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 21

[xlii] Ibid. 21

[xliii] Ibid. 21

[xliv] Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s autobiography, Circa 1945-1950. Box 63, folder 2188.

[xlv] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 25

[xlvi] Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s autobiography, Circa 1945-1950. Box 63, folder 2188.

[xlvii] Ibid.

[xlviii] Ibid.

[xlix] Ibid.

[l] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 21

[li] Ibid. 21

[lii] Teale, Edwin Way. “Days of Hearsay,” draft, 25-27 July, 1974. The Long Way Home, most complete manuscript. Box 63, folder 2187. 5

[liii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 22

[liv] Ibid. 22

[lv] Ibid. 22

[lvi] Ibid. 26

[lvii] Ibid. 22

[lviii] Ibid. 22-3

[lix] Wordsworth, William. “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798.” 34-5 [See also Prologue, note 14]

[lx] Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s autobiography, Circa 1945-1950. Box 63, folder 2188.

[lxi] Teale, Edwin Way. “Days of Hearsay,” draft, 25-27 July, 1974. The Long Way Home, most complete manuscript. Box 63, folder 2187. 5

[lxii] Teale, Clara Louise Way. Notes for Edwin Way Teale’s autobiography, Circa 1945-1950. Box 63, folder 2188.

[lxiii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 25-6

[lxiv] Ibid. 26

[lxv] Ibid. 25

[lxvi] Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. Ed. Edwin Way Teale. 9, 7

[lxvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 25

[lxviii] Ibid. 25

[lxix] Yeats, William Butler. The Land of Heart’s Desire. Quoted in Dune Boy, Lone Oak Edition, 1957. 11

[lxx] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. 11

[lxxi] Teale, Edwin Way. The Trail Wood Journal, 1962-65. 26 May, 1962.

Conservation Tour of 1951

Written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History doctoral candidate, who is currently serving as a Graduate Intern in Archives & Special Collections.


When summer rolls around, the idea of a road trip entices many Americans into their cars and out onto the open road. The University of Connecticut was no exception to road trip fever.

In the summer of 1951, Dr. A. Raymond Kienholz of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife , who had previously served as Connecticut State Forester, organized a conservation road trip. Its purpose was to survey the nation’s natural features and instruct tour members in conservation science. Several years before the creation of the interstate highway system, 32 people ranging in age from 19 to 62 and coming from all over the United States hopped on to a university bus and set out to see the country. In just two months, they traveled 12,000 miles through 26 states, studying the environment by day and camping out at night.

Tour members (pictured here) learn some camping basics on the Storrs campus before the tour. More photographs of the conservation workshop from Archives and Special Collections can be found in our digital repository

The Handicapped Homemakers Project at UConn in the 1950s

Written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History doctoral candidate, who is currently serving as a Graduate Intern in Archives & Special Collections.

In the mid-1950s, the University of Connecticut led a pioneering studying in the rehabilitation of disabled homemakers. The study sought to examine the challenges faced by orthopedically handicapped women in caring for young children.

Mrs. Mathews of the Handicapped Homemakers Project

Supervised by Elizabeth E. May, Dean of the School of Home Economics, the project received generous funding from the U.S. Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, a part of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. It ran from 1955 to 1960 and included a pilot program of in-home research and a series of academic conferences.

The immediate goal was to produce educational materials for disabled homemakers and their families. But the project had loftier aims as well. Expanding the abilities of disabled homemakers, May thought, could boost individual morale, smooth family relations, and increase the numbers of workers both in and outside of the home.

Mrs. Mathews of the Handicapped Homemakers Project

When organizing the project, May and research coordinator, Neva R. Waggoner, adopted a team approach. The project team comprised a diverse group of researchers – including nurses, therapists, engineers, sociologists, and home economists. Together, they hoped to develop labor saving devices and techniques to help disabled homemakers more easily perform household tasks and increase their overall independence. Collaboration would be key. As May made clear in one report, “This is not an ‘ivory tower’ project!”

The bulk of the study involved holding interviews with disabled homemakers throughout Connecticut. The project team developed a list of interview questions and then identified around 100 suitable subjects. The women chosen came from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds and lived with various disabilities.


The team then dispatched a field worker to conduct in-home interviews. This was no small undertaking. Because the interview subjects were scattered around the state and sometimes difficult to locate, the field worker ultimately traveled 8,000 miles over the course of the project.

Mrs. Wilson of the Handicapped Homemakers Project

The interviews were extensive, with questions running to ten pages. Despite the careful research design, the responses left the researchers feeling somewhat discouraged. It became difficult to group the responses into general categories because the subjects experienced their disability in highly individualized ways.

But according to the field worker, the interview subjects cooperated willingly and appreciated the researcher’s interest. The worker even remarked on the “ingenious” ways those interviewed had already adapted their abilities to routine household tasks.

Advertisement for the Handicapped Homemakers Project

After the initial round of interviews, the research team chose to continue working with some women. One case was Mrs. M., “a warm, friendly woman” who had lost an arm to cancer but was eager to return to work. Over a series of visits, a social worker observed Mrs. M. throughout her day and suggested how to adjust her daily tasks or use new equipment as needed. Changes could range from using new cutting sheers or adjustable ironing boards to relearning how to type or drive a car.


The project even had an international dimension. At one point, May took a sabbatical from her teaching and research to explore the European approach to helping disabled homemakers. She traveled across a number of countries in Great Britain, Scandinavia, and elsewhere. At each stop, May lectured about the project underway at UConn and learned about the programs available in the countries she visited. Finland, she found, had made some of the greatest strides in meeting the needs of disabled people in the home.

Mr. Ackerman of the Handicapped Homemakers Project

By the time the project ended in 1960, the research team had made significant progress in understanding the needs of disabled homemakers. The final step involved translating the study into

Mrs. Fersch of the Handicapped Homemakers Project conducted by the University of Connecticut in the 1950s

educational materials that included films, slideshows, and pamphlets. May and Waggoner, along with another co-author, also published a book based on the study. Ultimately, the project had achieved its goal of drawing attention to the needs of disabled people working in the home.

For more information about the Handicapped Homemakers Project, see the finding aid to the Elizabeth E. Mays Papers at and several hundred photographs from the project at

Hartford Electric Light Company and the Marketing of Electric Appliances

Written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History doctoral candidate, who is currently serving as a Graduate Intern in Archives & Special Collections.

A. C. Dunham, president of the Hartford Electric Light Company

A. C. Dunham had a mind that rarely sat idle. Much to his frustration, the electric works he oversaw often did. As president of the Hartford Electric Light Company, Dunham sought to use every ounce of energy his company generated, and water wheels turning in the bright light of day symbolized for him so much wasted energy. But as America became wired in the late nineteenth century, Dunham exhibited an uncanny ability to find new channels for electrical current to flow down.

Shortly after Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb appeared in 1879, a group of New England merchants banded together to invest in the burgeoning electrical industry. On April 12, 1881, the Hartford Electric Light Company (HELCO) received its charter from the Connecticut General Assembly. The first shareholders meeting took place about a year later in February 1882, and the board chose Austin Cornelius Dunham – A.C. as he was known – for president.

The company’s first display of electric light came the following year. On April 7, 1883, HELCO used twenty-one arc lamps to illuminate the Asylum Street train depot in Hartford. The Hartford Courant reported that “hundreds of people gathered at the depot during the evening and the comments were universally favorable.” From then on, HELCO would flourish as a leading producer and distributor of electricity in Hartford and the surrounding area.

Despite intense competition and the rapid pace of change, HELCO stayed at the forefront of the electrical industry. By 1896, the company could already claim several firsts. According to company records, HELCO was the first to use batteries to store excess electricity, the first to run cables through underground ducts, and the first to use forced cooling for transformer oil.

100-ton steam turbine in Pearl Street station, nicknamed “Mary Ann”

Most famously, HELCO was the first company to generate electricity using a steam turbine. In 1900, the company purchased a new 100-ton steam turbine designed in England to replace part of their hydraulic system. The mammoth machine arrived at the company’s Pearl Street power station in January 1901 and was soon nicknamed “Mary Ann” by a HELCO employee. By April, it was pumping out 1,500 kilowatt-hours of energy.

The company’s early success did not slow its restless president. Dunham was convinced that electricity in the home would open a vast new market for the industry. In 1902, he convinced HELCO to hire an outside contractor to begin wiring homes for electric light. The company also began selling electric refrigerators around this time. Still, HELCO faced an uphill battle as few Americans used electricity for anything other than lighting in this period. Dunham set out to change this.

Rose M. Greene in 1953

In a makeshift workshop on the company’s Pearl Street property, Dunham dreamed up one invention after another. He had a particular interest in using electricity for cooking. In 1906, he hired Rose M. Greene, a student at Hartford High School, to serve as test cook. One early success involved using a light bulb in an insulated pail to cook beans.

Original test range from Hartford Electric Light Company, c. 1912-1913

But Dunham’s real interest was in perfecting the electric oven. In 1908, he converted a vacant church into a model apartment equipped with electric lights, an experimental range, and other electric appliances he hoped to popularize. He invited employees and other local businessmen to taste the food Greene cooked on the new appliances. Employees reportedly never missed a chance to dine in the model kitchen.

As with any kind of innovation, the experiments sometimes faced setbacks. In one instance, HELCO employee Ralph D. Cutler came up with the idea to improve insulation by lining a test oven with cork. Since ovens took about four days to heat up at the time, Cutler started the oven before he left work for the day. Four hours later, he got a call notifying him that the oven had caught fire. Despite the accident, his idea had succeeded in speeding up the heating process.

1914 Advertisement for Hartford Electric Light Company

Dunham retired as president of HELCO in 1912 after leading the company for thirty years. His persistence had helped the company continually grow, and his promotion of home appliances would prove prescient as the consumer revolution took off in the 1920s. After leaving the company, he moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, where he died in 1918.

For more information about the Hartford Electric Light Company Records, please see the finding aid at