Our new exhibit — Hard Work: Connecticut’s Laborers in the Industrial Age

Farrel Company workers, undated


This exhibit shows scenes of Connecticut’s workers doing Hard Work. Capital H, Capital W.  The kind of work where you surely need the brains but if you ain’t got the brawn it’s not gonna happen.  And we’ve got plenty of photographs in our business collections showing the men and women in the state in various depictions of work where some of the main job requirements are muscle and sweat.  I’m sure tears were there somewhere but the photographs don’t really show that.

In the late 19th and early 20th century — a time period in America known for big industry — Connecticut was one of the major players, producing brass, iron, steel, tools, textiles and more for the state, the country, and the world.  These products didn’t just happen.  It took a workforce of thousands, many of them new immigrants who flocked to Connecticut for these types of jobs, to produce, to make, to build, and to work.

The exhibit is currently up in the Dodd Research Center Gallery until the end of the year.  I’ll show photographs from the exhibit periodically through the next three months but if you can stop by (the building is open Mondays through Fridays, 8:30a.m. to 4:30p.m.) you’ll see them all in one fell swoop.

Photographs from Archives & Special Collections part of an exhibit at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans


Employee of the New Britain Machine Company during World War II

 Several months ago I worked with Laura Blum, a student at E.O. Smith High School in Mansfield, Connecticut, who needed photographs from the Connecticut Business History Collections for a project she was working on for the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.  Laura was selected, with fifty other high school students in every state in the country and the District of Columbia, to provide images of how their states contributed to the challenges of World War II on the homefront.  Laura chose six photographs from our collections, all depicting Connecticut workers and the efforts they made on behalf of the war effort, and wrote an introduction.

The photographs that Laura chose are available in the Connecticut window of the Salute to Freedom website of the National World War II Museum, at http://salutetofreedom.org/.  We are happy that Laura used photographs from our collection for this national-oriented project and very impressed with the good work she did in highlighting and describing the photographs.

The museum blogged about the exhibit on December 31, 2012, available here: http://www.nww2m.com/2012/12/student-scholars-honor-local-contributions-to-wwii/

A New Exhibit in the Dodd Center Gallery — “Workers at Play” showing photographs from the Connecticut Business History Collections

Winners of a rolling pin throwing contest at a Bristol Brass Company picnic, 1950

An exhibit now in the Dodd Center Gallery — “Workers at Play: Baseball Teams, Basketball Competitions and Company Picnics” — shows photographs from the Connecticut Business History Collections of workers around the state participating on all types of company-sponsored sports teams and enjoying company picnics, parties and outings.  You’ll see photographs of operators from the Southern New England Telephone Company at a beach outing in 1913, workers of the Thermos Company in Norwich enjoying a movie at Christmastime in 1954, and the men’s bowling team of the Hartford Electric Light Company in the 1950s, among many dozens of other fascinating historical images.  Companies represented include the New Haven Railroad, Cheney Brothers Silk Company of Manchester, New Britain Machine Company of New Britain, and Wauregan-Quinebaug Textile Company, all companies for which we hold historical records.

Sports teams and recreational activities were encouraged in companies around the United States in the early to mid-1900s because the companies believed it engendered worker loyalty, reduced worker discontent, and improved productivity.  Employees participated to reduce the monotony of work on the factory floor, to bond with coworkers, and to develop athletic skills for fun and fitness.  It was a win-win situation for all involved!

We’re having a reception for the exhibit on Sunday, July 29, from 2:00 to 4:00p.m. The exhibit will be up in the gallery until October 19, available when the building is open 8:30a.m. to 4:30p.m., Mondays through Fridays.  For more information about the exhibit please contact me at laura.smith@lib.uconn.edu or 860-486-2516.  After October this exhibit will be a traveling exhibit and we will be happy to loan it out to facilities around the state, so let me know if you’re interested in hosting it.

UConn Today, the campus magazine, featured the exhibit in their July 6 issue!  See the article here: http://today.uconn.edu/blog/2012/07/photo-exhibit-documents-history-of-%E2%80%98workers-at-play%E2%80%99/.

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

E. Ingraham Company and war work, part 2 — a source for classroom instruction

The blog post on November 14 showed a photograph and document from the E. Ingraham Company Records.  Here are two more documents and some more questions.

Telegram from the War Department, Hartford Ordinance District, to E. Ingraham Company of Bristol, Connecticut, December 13, 1944

Letter from E. Ingraham Company president to employees, December 15, 1944

What work is the company doing that is so important to the war effort? How has the E. Ingraham Company responded to the command from the government to step up production?  Do you think Edward and Dudley Ingraham were fair to not allow Christmas parties at the company during work time?

These primary sources conform to the Connecticut Social Studies Curriculum Framework for High School students, particularly Strand 1.2 — significant events in local and Connecticut history and their connections to United States history, grade level expectation 15 – describe how major events in U.S. history affected Connecticut citizens.

More information about the E. Ingraham Company can be found with the finding aid to the records at http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/findaids/Ingraham/MSS19800034.html

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

Child labor laws and war work — a source for classroom instruction

Army/Navy E award presented to the E. Ingraham Company, June 16, 1944

The E. Ingraham Company of Bristol, Connecticut, was a maker of clocks and watches from its founding in 1831 by Elias Ingraham, to its demise in 1967.  It was run by descendents of Elias Ingraham for all but the last 15 years of its existence.

Letter to E. Ingraham Company from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1944

Use this photograph and the letter to create a narrative of what was happening at the E. Ingraham Company, and in the United States, at the time.  Some questions to ask include:

What was happening in the country in 1944?  What conditions would have necessitated the need for hiring girls at the company?  What kind of work were the workers doing that was so important to the government? 

More information and some more documents will come in a couple of days.  For now, use the documents, and your own knowledge of the circumstances of the time, to describe what is happening.  Let us know what you think by leaving us a comment!

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections