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In the years that I have been a curator here in Archives & Special Collections I have been fortunate to work with a wide array of researchers, from academic scholars, graduate and undergraduate students, and genealogists to railroad fans, lawyers and preservationists, but I admit to you all right here and right now that I get the most satisfaction when I work with middle school and high school students, those who are at the early point of discovering the wonder and power of primary sources.   And one of the ways we get to work with young students is to help them find the resources they need for National History Day projects.

Never heard of National History Day?  Here is the description of the contest from the website at

“Each year, more than half a million students, encouraged by thousands of teachers nationwide participate in the NHD contest. Students choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research through libraries, archives, museums, oral history interviews and historic sites. After analyzing and interpreting their sources and drawing conclusions about their topics’ significance in history, students present their work in original papers, websites, exhibits, performances and documentaries. These products are entered into competitions in the spring at local, state and national levels where they are evaluated by professional historians and educators. The program culminates in the Kenneth E. Behring National Contest each June held at the University of Maryland at College Park.”

The theme for the 2013 contest is “Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events,” and, a project of Connecticut Humanities, is helping provide primary sources to NHD students by creating a new series of essays called “Turning Points.”

Thomas J. Dodd at the Nuremberg Trials, 1945-1946, from the Thomas J. Dodd Papers

We here in Archives & Special Collections are collaborating with by choosing materials from our collections and providing these sources and essays for students to use for their NHD projects.  Two of the essays are currently online (with more to come), which include:

Connecticut Lawyer Prosecutes Nazi War Criminals at Nuremberg, which describes the work of Thomas J. Dodd, who served on the Executive Trial Council at the Nuremberg Trials following World War II, and the tragedy of Kristallnacht, a turning point that unleashed the persecution of European Jews by the Nazi regime.

Reporting News of Pearl Harbor, which tells of how Andre Schenker, a professor of history at the University of Connecticut and a commentator for Hartford radio station WTIC in the 1940s, reported this shattering world event — a turning point in history if there ever was one — to his Connecticut listeners.

There are more “Turning Points” to come, so stay tuned.  Also, if you haven’t tooled around then spend a few minutes with this extraordinary resource, reading the essays and looking at the unique photographs and documents.  There is a lot to learn there about the history of Connecticut!

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections


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Dr. Philip Nel’s newest work, Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss:  How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature, has been published by the University Press of Mississippi.  This book is the culmination of years of work to bring to light the lives and times of the man who created Harold and the purple crayon and the woman who, with Maurice Sendak, created A Hole is to dig.  Over the course of their marriage and collaborations, they created over 75 books and influenced some of the best in the business, including Chris van Allsburg who thanked Harold and his purple crayon in his Caldecott acceptance speech in 1981.  Nel points out that while Krauss and Johnson were “never quite household names…Their circle of friends and acquaintances included some of the  important cultural figures of the twentieth century” (pg.7).  This impeccably researched work which literally took Nel a decade to write, is arranged in 28 chapters, with extensive notes, bibliography, index and illustrations, some reprinted from published works and some from the three dozen archives he visited including the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection.  In his epilogue, Nel writes, “Crockett Johnson shows us that a crayon can create a world, while Ruth Krauss demonstrates that dreams can be as large as a giant orange carrot.  Whenever children and grown-ups seek books that invite them to think and to imagine, they need look no further than Johnson and Krauss.  There, they will find a very special house, where holes are to dig, walls are a canvas, and people are artists, drawing paths that take them anywhere they want to go” (pg. 275).

Congratulations, Dr. Nel, on an exceptional work of scholarship.

Philip Nel, Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss (Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, 2012).  ISBN 978-1-61703-624-8.  EBook 978-1-61703-625-5.

–Terri J. Goldich, Curator, Northeast Children’s Literature Collection

Established in 2004, the Terrence Webster-Doyle Papers contain materials having to do with bullying prevention, conflict management, peace studies, emotional response, and how psychological conditioning prevents peace and creates conflict, individually and globally.  Influenced by Jiddu Krishnamurti in 1968, Webster-Doyle began to teach classes at Sonoma State University in the search for understanding the cause, nature, and structure of conditioning.  Webster-Doyle also studied the work of Dr. David Bohm, a physicist who studies the relationship between thought and reality; A. S. Neil, the founder of the Summerhill School, an intentional community in England; and Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World which explored the nature and effect of negative conditioning.

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Webster-Doyle is a sixth Dan in Take-Nami-do karate, and utilizes his extensive martial arts experience as a focus for the exploration of the nature of conflict and its ramifications for the individual, schools, society and the world.  With his wife Jean, they founded the Atrium Society and its subgroups, Martial Arts for Peace, Youth Peace Literacy Project, and Education for Peace (  His published works usually contain not only a main work but also guides for students, teachers, martial arts instructors, and parents, with worksheets, group and individual activities, with tools to chart progress in conflict resolution.

Webster-Doyle’s books, archives, and audiovisual materials are held by the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection.  His books are also on permanent display at the International Museum of Peace and Solidarity in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, the Commonwealth of Independent States and at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Japan.

–Terri J. Goldich, Curator, Northeast Children’s Literature Collection

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

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

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

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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 Lyman Viaduct under construction, July 4, 1871

It’s hard to gauge just how high the Lyman Viaduct is until you click on the photograph to get a larger view and look closely at the bottom.  See the man and the horse (or maybe it’s a mule, it’s hard to tell)?  Then compare them to the enormity of the trestle, then under construction.  Amazing, isn’t it?
At 1100 feet long and 137 feet high, the Lyman Viaduct iron railroad trestle was built 1872-1873 to span the valley of Dickinson Creek near Colchester, Connecticut. Named after David Lyman, the man who built the New Haven, Middletown & Willimantic section of the Air Line Railroad, the trestle was a major link in a railroad line that was billed as the fastest route between Boston and New York City. 
In 1912, as trains became heavier and the railroad became concerned about the stability of the trestle, the Lyman Viaduct was filled in with sand and gravel. It is now part of the Air Line State Park Trail, on the Rails-to-Trails network.  It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in August 1986.
The Lyman Viaduct is a technological marvel, showing the great lengths Americans went to to take advantage of the most powerful mode of transportation of the time.  By the early 1900s almost every town in Connecticut had a railroad line easily accessible, enabling travel among the towns and cities as well as across the nation. 

This primary source conforms to the Connecticut Social Studies Curriculum Framework for Grade 8 students, particularly Strand 1.5 — weigh the impact of America’s Industrial Revolution, industrialization and urbanization on the environment.

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

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

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

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

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