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In 1942 the United States government, then in the midst of fighting World War II, and Mexico entered into an agreement for Mexican citizens, predominantly men, to provide labor in the U.S. in industries that were most severely affected when many American men went to fight in the war.  This program and the men, who became known as braceros, provided desperately needed labor for many industries that were pivotal to U.S. war efforts.  While many of the Mexican men worked in agriculture, almost 100,000 braceros worked for the nation’s railroads, mostly providing track labor.

The New Haven Railroad participated in the program, hiring several hundreds of workers in 1944 and 1945.  The railroad company built housing for the workers in the Montowese section of North Haven, Connecticut.  This document from January 26, 1945, submitted to the company trustees, tells the company president that it is necessary to hire more than the original 650 men that were originally alloted to them, and that another 550 men are needed.

Here are some questions to think about when you study this document:

What were the conditions that led to the hiring of Mexican men during World War II?

What were the benefits of hiring the braceros to the railroads?  What were the benefits to the men themselves?  What might have been negatives in the hiring of the men?

What do you think happened to the men after the war, when the American soldiers came home and wanted their jobs back?

Do you think this is a good example of how countries can cooperate?

This resource conforms to the Connecticut Social Studies Curriculum Framework standards for high school students, 1.3 — significant events and themes in world history/internatonal studies, number 21 (analyze conflict and cooperation in world affairs).

This letter is from the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Records.

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections


Archives & Special Collections acquires new collections and additions to existing collections throughout the year.  Periodically, I will be posting information about collections that have been acquired or are newly available for your researching enjoyment.  First up are those documenting Connecticut businesses:

John Francis O’Brien Papers

Potographs, correspondence and certificates, most involving Mr. O’Brien’s service as an employee of the Southern New England Telephone Company.

Southern New England Telephone (SNET) Collection

Memorabilia and realia from the collections of people who were employed by the company.  The collection includes antique telephones and telephone equipment, include a climbing belt and lanyard of a lineman, an employee service pin and memorabilia of the Telephone Pioneers, a volunteer organization and service club made up of U.S. and Canadian telecommunications industry employees and retirees, a commemorative telephone directory, the cellphone used to make the first cellphone call in Connecticut, and a dress and a shirt made of pages from the SNET Yellow Pages.

Thomas Dublin Collection of the Jewett City Cotton Manufacturing Company

Research notes and datasets compiled by Thomas Dublin while he conducted research in the 1980s about workers at the Jewett City Cotton Manufacturing Company in Jewett City, Connecticut.  (Finding aid not yet available)

–Betsy Pittman, University Archivist

The election of 1936, when Franklin D. Roosevelt ran against Alf Landon, may not have been as contentious as some — Roosevelt swept the election by winning 46 of the then 48 states and 98.48% of the electoral votes — but like all elections had its share of accusations and claims hurled against the incumbent.  By 1936 Roosevelt had served for almost one full term and his political opponents now had ammunition to use to discredit him and his record. Among other things, he was accused of not being a good steward of the people’s money, of disregarding the Constitution, of being a dictator, and of breaking his promises.

Shown here is a page from a pamphlet titled “The Case Against Franklin D. Roosevelt.”  You may first think that this writing would try to prove Roosevelt’s incompetence, but look again.  The case the pamphlet makes is that FDR “Wastes the Public Money,” but upon closer reading we see that the pamphlet is really comparing similar claims made to other presidents of the past, such beloved ones as Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, with the inference that if such claims were made against presidents who we now revere then surely Roosevelt’s policies will also stand the test of time.  Also, in the back of the pamphlet we see that it was published by the National Democratic Committee, and such rhetorical language now makes sense.

Here are some questions to ask as you study this page:

How does comparing the record of previous presidents disprove Roosevelt’s opponents’ claims that he wastes public money?

Does this kind of rhetoric work well in making an argument?  Do you think the writer’s argument is stronger, in showcasing words used against other presidents, then if he or she just answered the claims in a plainer way?

Also in the pamphlet was a political cartoon from 1861 lampooning Abraham Lincoln for printing “greenbacks”, with a worker saying “These are the greediest fellows I ever saw. With all my exertions I cant satisfy their pocket, though I keep the Mill going day and night.”

Here are some questions:

How does this political cartoon strengthen the National Democratic Committee’s contention that Roosevelt is a good steward of the public’s money, and makes good fiscal policies?

What was the situation that caused Lincoln to print greenbacks?  Are the circumstances of Lincoln the same, or worse, for Roosevelt?

This pamphlet comes from the personal papers of Herman Wolf, a Connecticut political consultant who in his youth worked for the Roosevelt campaign.

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

From its beginnings as the Storrs Agricultural School in 1881, Connecticut Agricultural College operated on a trimester system, with fall, winter, and spring terms.  That came to an end in 1914, when a meeting of the faculty (this was well before creation of the University Senate), voted to change to a two semester academic calendar.  The three semester system had terms of uneven duration – a 15 week fall term, 11 week winter term, and 13 week spring term.  After the change to two semesters, the calendar was virtually unchanged for decades. Until 1972, the fall semester began in late September and ended by mid-January. Students went home for the Christmas/New Year break, came back for final exams, then went home again for semester break.

–Mark J. Roy, University Communications (retired)

Michael Rumaker was born in South Philadelphia in 1932. The fourth of nine children, he grew up in National Park, New Jersey, a small town on the Delaware River, and later attended the school of journalism at Rider College in Trenton on a half-scholarship. After hearing artist Ben Shahn speak enthusiastically of Black Mountain College during a lecture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, he applied to the college and was granted a work scholarship. In September 1952 he transferred to Black Mountain–washing dishes seven days a week, managing dishwashing crews–and studied in the writing classes of Charles Olson and Robert Creeley.

His breakthrough was “The Truck,” written for Olson’s writing class in October 1954: “after two years of confused false starts and superficial scratchings, I wrote my first real short story, although, in what was to become usual for me, I didn’t know it till after the fact.” He had “reached back,” by his own account, into his adolescence in the mid-1940s and a street gang he knew in the northern section of Camden, New Jersey, “to get it.” Olson’s response was enthusiastic, and he suggested that Rumaker send the story to Robert Creeley for the Black Mountain Review.

Since 1955, Rumaker has published works of fiction, poetry and non-fiction in literary periodicals, novels including A Day and a Night at the Baths (1979), My First Satyrnalia (1981), and To Kill a Cardinal (1992), a collection of short stories, and the memoirs Robert Duncan in San Francisco (1996) and Black Mountain Days  (2003).

According to George Butterick, who began collecting Michael Rumaker’s literary papers at the University of Connecticut in 1975, where they reside today, “Rumaker has proceeded from writing about disengaged youth in a generation willing to declare its difference, to being a celebrant of total life and human joy. Actively participating in his own destiny, he has left a glowing trail of work to document the struggle toward identity. He represents, in his later writings, one extension of the Beat revolution: the embracing of sexual diversity. Governing all his work is an indefatigable spirit that gives the creative life reward.”

Join Archives and Special Collections and special guest — novelist, poet, short-story writer, and Black Mountain College alumnus Michael Rumaker — as we celebrate the much-anticipated opening of the Michael Rumaker Papers. The event will feature an interview with and readings by Michael Rumaker, an exhibition of the author’s manuscripts, letters and photographs, ribbon-cutting ceremony, and reception with students and special guests.  All are welcome.  This event is free and open to the public

April 10, 2012
4:00 to 6:00pm
McDonald Reading Room
Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut

– Melissa Watterworth Batt, Curator of Literary Collections

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