Resources in the Archives about Communism and the Red Scare of the 1940s-1950s

 

After World War II the United States faced a widespread fear of the rise of Communism referred to as the Red Scare, which generally lasted between the late 1940s to the mid-1950s. Led by Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, this fear revolved around the apprehension that Communists would infiltrate and subvert society, academia, the workplace and the federal government. Accusations of subversion and treason were made to thousands of citizens and many lost their jobs or were put on trial for perceived sympathy with Communists or for membership in the Communist Party. Many were prosecuted for violating the Smith Act, whereby penalties were imposed for those who advocated for the overthrow of the government.

Archives & Special Collections has many resources that illustrate the fear and paranoia of this period in history. They include:

  • Records of the University of Connecticut’s “Committee of Five.” In March 1953 a standing committee of the University Senate was appointed to investigate charges that four members of the faculty were Communists. The collection consists of transcripts of interviews with the faculty members, correspondence and meeting minutes of the determinations of the committee. The finding aid to this small but powerful collection can be found in our digital repository at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860138593
  • The papers of UConn President Albert Jorgensen also include a small amount of information about the accusations of UConn faculty in the 1950s.
  • Jack Goldring of Trumbull, Connecticut, served in the National Guard and as a serviceman in the Air Force during World War II but was a longtime member and official with the Connecticut Communist Party. In May 1954 he was arrested by the F.B.I. and charged under the Smith Act for pursuing subversive activities. His papers, consisting of court documents, newsletters of Communist groups and other publications, and writings, tell the story of his trial and his beliefs and activities as a member of the Communist Party. The finding aid to his collection is available at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860132174. Available in our digital repository are transcripts of interviews conducted by UConn’s Center for Oral History of Goldring (https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860320454#page/1/mode/2up) and his wife Harriet (https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860320141#page/1/mode/2up)
  • The Sargent Company of New Haven was a manufacturer of locks and hardware. In the late 1940s the management of the company actively tried to prevent the workers’ union from infiltration by Communists. They collected and studied publications of the Communist Party of America and monitored workers protests around the city. The files they compiled are included in the Sargent Company Records; the finding aid to the collection can be found here: https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860134544
  • The Labor History Archives has information about Communism scattered across many collections, and the Alternative Press Collection can also provide resources. Please ask at the reference desk for more information.

The collections also include many contemporary published sources, mostly pamphlets and flyers, from the Alternative Press Collection, about the Red Scare. They include the pamphlet “Why Negroes are Joining the  Communist Party,” from 1946.

We invite you to view these collections in the reading room in Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center if you need resources about the Red Scare, McCarthyism, the Smith Act, or the general climate of the United States in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Our staff is happy to assist you in accessing these and other collections in the archives.

1966: Collections from 50 Years Ago on Display

At the Archives & Special Collections, we have been ramping up our interoperability.  What does that mean exactly?  Twinkling screens, chatter of audio recording and tactile interactions with materials on exhibition.  Currently, we are featuring collection materials from 50 years ago in the archives to help highlight the year 1966.  These selections contain personal correspondence and work from famous artists and activists like Ed Sanders, Allen Ginsberg, Diane Di Prima and Abbie Hoffman.  Popular culture and ephemera from comic books to Life magazine relating to the politics of War in Vietnam, LSD, the rise of Black Power and the battle against Communism.

Included in the exhibit are Alternative Press Collection materials documenting the War in Vietnam ranging from the scholarly to the ephemeral. The Poras Collection of Vietnam War Memorabilia contains posters, death cards, publications and satirical army culture objects demonstrating the antagonisms of war at home and abroad.  From a personal collection of Navy Corpsman Cal Robertson, his correspondence from Vietnam in 1966 while deployed over two tours as a medic attached to a marine platoon, detailing the daily grind and uncertainties of waiting in the jungle and relaying safety concerns to loved ones back home.  The Alternative Press also includes a trove of anti-war publications such as the Committee for Nonviolent Action.

CQo9zv4VEAAjShs.jpg largeThe physical exhibit in our reading room is but one element of our program to promote access to collections through outreach.  Media displays within the Archives Reading Room featuring additional photographs and videos demonstrate the interactive qualities of physical objects outside of a static display.  Currently, the newest arrival to the reading room is a large tablet-like touch table which has digital content loaded from our Omeka exhibit on1966 which will be unveiled in the coming month on the web.

For more information, follow us @UConnArchives on twitter and facebook where we1 promote exhibits like this one and events happening around the Archives.

 

More about “The Bosses Songbook”

Satirical lyrics for "This Land is Their Land"

The booklet these lyrics are from, discussed in a blog posting I did on January 19, is a complex work, in many ways posing more questions than providing answers.  I asked our readers to analyze the lyrics and think about the intent of the authors.  Here is some more information to inform you about this item:

There is no published date for the book but from some lyrics it appears that it was published in 1947.

The lyrics in the booklet are highly satirical of the conflict between those in power, both polititians and others in control by virtue of wealth or ownership of businesses, and workers.  The lyrics are very bitter to those who own Cadillacs (a very fancy and expensive car, especially in the 1940s), are landlords, are on Wall Street and in Hollywood, as in the song “This Land is Their Land,” or to the President (at that time Harry S Truman), implying that he is playing golf while workers suffer, as in the song “The Right to Suffer Blues.”  Burning Tree is a reference to an exclusive golf club in Greenwich, Connecticut.

There are references to publications of the Communist Party, including The Daily Worker, and the Socialist Workers Party, who published Labor Action.

The lyrics to “The Right to Suffer Blues” has an interesting play on the word “putts,” with a note to those who speak Yiddish that it means “to hit the ball.”   It actually is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Yiddish word “putz,” which means a stupid person.

This primary source conforms to the Connecticut Social Studies Curriculum Framework for high school students, particularly Strand 1.1, grade level expectation 7 — compare and contrast various American Beliefs, values and political ideologies.

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

Class warfare or the working man’s discontent? Analyzing “The Bosses Songbook” — a source for teaching and learning

Here are some pages from an odd little booklet in the Alternative Press Collection.  Examine these lyrics and try to devise the intent of the songs.  As you look at the pages of the “songbook” ask yourself these questions:

Who may have written these lyrics?  Do you really think it was people who were someone’s bosses?

What year was this booklet created?  What was happening in the world at that time?

Is this written as a satire or do you think the writers meant for the reader to take them at face value?  Who do you think the audience for these lyrics was?

What change do you think the writers of the lyrics hoped would take place?

Who is J. Edgar Hoover and why would the songbook be dedicated to him?  In the song “The Good Old Party Line” there are references to “’41,” “Willow Run,” and “Chiang Kai Chek.”  What do these mean?

I will add some information about the booklet in a post in a few days.  In the meantime, analyze this document and ask a lot of questions of it.  Let me know if you have other questions, or what your comments may be.

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collection

The Communist Party in Connecticut — a source for classroom instruction

Portion of a flyer advocating for the release of seven members of the Communist Party of Connecticut jailed for subversive activities in 1954.

In 1954 seven members of the Communist Party of Connecticut were arrested on charges of violating the Smith Act.  The Smith Act, also known as the Alien Registration Act, was enacted in 1940 to set criminal penalties for anyone prosecuted for advocating the overthrow of the United States government.  In the 1940s and 1950s, a time of the fear of Communism in the country, the Smith Act was used against political organizations and persons who disagreed with the government, even those who did so in non-violent ways. 

Questions to ask when considering these documents:

1) Is it right to jail someone just for his or her beliefs?  Would it be right to put someone in jail if the government thought his or her beliefs would cause harm to America?  Does the Smith Act violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution?

2) What is the purpose of this flyer?  Does this flyer show that the Communist Party of Connecticut was trying to overthrow the government of the United States?

3) How do people think and behave when they are afraid?  How does this flyer give evidence to the fears of the American people in the 1950s?

This primary source conforms to the Connecticut Social Studies Curriculum Framework for High School students, particularly Strand 1.9 — the rights and responsibilities of citizens, grade level expectation 47 — Analyze the tension between the need for national security and the protection of individual rights.

Larger images of the pages of this flyer are available here: page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4.

This flyer is from the papers of Jack Goldring, a member of the Communist Party of Connecticut and one of the seven arrested for subversive activities in May 1954.  Goldring was eventually released on a technicality.  By 1957 convictions under the Smith Act were deemed unconstitutional but the statute has never been repealed.

More information about the Smith Act can be found at this site from the University of Illinois: http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/jerome/smithact.htm; and the Encyclopedia Brittanica Online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/549923/Smith-Act.

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections