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.
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/
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.
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