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Page from a 1918 catalog of the E. Ingraham Company of Bristol, Connecticut, now available online through the Internet Archive

For many years now Archives & Special Collections has been working to get more and more of our archival collections online, available to researchers off-campus and across the globe.  One of the ways we are doing this is by participating in the collaborative network of the Internet Archive, which provides access for the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.  We recently put up a set of product catalogs from the historical records of the E. Ingraham Company, which produced clocks and watches for well over a century in Bristol, Connecticut.

Researchers can access the catalogs directly from this link: and will see catalogs of the clocks and watches sold by the company from 1881 to 1940.  I want to extend my thanks to Tom Koenig, Catalog and Metadata Librarian, for cataloging the items prior to the scanning and to Michael J. Bennett, Digital Projects Librarian, and his assistants Allison Hale and Kathleen Deep, for their expert scanning and work to get the items on the Internet Archive.  This project is a great example of the ways the UConn Libraries staff collaborates on projects and I am grateful for everyone’s efforts.

More information about the E. Ingraham Company, and the historical records that are in Archives & Special Collections, can be found in the finding aid at

Laura Smith, Curator for the Business, Railroad and Labor Collections


Southern New England Telephone Company women’s basketball team, 1927

Come visit the exhibit Workers at Play: Baseball Teams, Basketball Competitions and Company Picnics, this weekend, on Sunday, July 29, between 2 and 4, and meet the exhibits curators Kyle Lynes and Laura Smith!  We’ve had a great response to the exhibit and we’re looking forward to more opportunities to show it off.

Parking on campus is easy on the weekend and all attendees should be able to park near the Dodd Research Center, on Whitney Road or close by.  We’ll have some lovely refreshments, plus the opportunity to see the other exhibits that the UConn Libraries has put up, available in Homer Babbidge Library.  For more information about the summer exhibits please visit at

Email me at if you have questions about the reception or about the exhibit.  We’re going to start the traveling schedule soon so let me know if you want your archives, library or school to host it.

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor 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 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:

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

Who wouldn’t want to spend the first day of summer at the beach?  Surely these telephone operators from Norwich were enjoying just that as this photograph, from the Southern New England Telephone Company records, from 1913, shows us.  These ladies, dressed all in white down to their stockings and shoes, seem happy to be on such a pleasant outing that briefly took them from their switchboards for sun and sand.

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

Tariffville Dam on the Farmington River, ca. 1915

The last two posts of this week showed some photographs of Walter Atkin, an employee at the Tariffville Dam, who went fishing from an open window at the hydroelectric station.  Those photographs were just three of many interesting images of the dam that we find in the Hartford Electric Light Company Records, one of which includes this beautiful wide angled shot of the dam, taken circa 1915.  

The  Tariffville Dam hydroelectric station was built in 1899 on the Farmington River in Simsbury, Connecticut, by the Hartford Electric Light Company.  It provided electricity to the Hartford area until at least August 1955, when it was destroyed by flooding caused by back to back hurricanes in August 1955. 
Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

Here’s the deal about the man with the fish. 

This gentleman is identified on the photograph as Walter Atkin who presumably worked at the Tariffville Dam hydroelectric station on the Farmington River in Simsbury, Connecticut.  The date of the photograph is 1948.  This photograph is from the Hartford Electric Light Company Records, a collection of business records of this company that we have here at the Dodd Research Center. 

The collection has these photos of Mr. Atkin fishing directly from a window in the power station, something I personally think is hilarious.  I wonder if his employers were aware that he was spending his time in this manner while on the job.  Hmmm…I wonder if my supervisors would approve my fishing in Mirror Lake during work time. 

Hey, it worked for Walter…

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

Thermos Company workers, ca. 1940s

The vacuum flask, better known by the trade name Thermos, is fairly ubiquitous in the United States.  Virtually every household has a few, to keep food at the desired temperature, be it hot or cold.  The vacuum flask was invented in 1892 by Scottish inventor Sir James DeWar and its popularily quickly spread. 

William Walker, founder of the American Thermos Bottle Company, established a Thermos plant in Brooklyn, New York, in 1907, but moved in 1913 to Norwich, Connecticut, where it became the city’s largest employer.  After World War II the company built another plant in nearby Taftville, Connecticut, and became known as Thermos Company.

In 1969 Thermos was bought by Household International and in the 1980s production moved to Illinois.  The collection held in Archives & Special Collections are not the company records but a collection of publications, photographs, company newletters, and annual reports, gathered by the company’s workers to celebrate their pride in the company that they, and many of their family members, worked for for much of the 20th century.

You can read more about the company and the collection in its finding aid, at

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

1906 work crew, Southern New England Telephone Company

The records of the Southern New England Telephone Company held in Archives & Special Collections have a historical depth that archivists and historians alike find amazing.  The collection not only can give a comprehensive overview of the company itself, but the materials can also speak to other histories — of Connecticut, of the beginnings of the telephone industry, of the introduction of women into the storied profession of telephone operator (“Number, please”), and many many others. 

Established as the District Telephone Company of New Haven, the company opened on January 28, 1878, with a mere twenty-one subscribers.  It was the world’s first commercial telephone exchange, the brainchild of Civil War veteran  George Coy along with Herrick Frost and Walter Lewis.  By the time these men distributed the world’s first telephone directory three weeks later the company had 50 subscribers.  The company took the name of the Southern New England Telephone Company in October 1882 and lasted until it was taken over by SBC Communications in 1998.  After that it merged with AT&T.

Wire Gang journal, 1906, Southern New England Telephone Company Records

There are many extraordinary documents and photographs in the collection and it was hard to choose among them to highlight for today’s blog.  On top is the photograph of a 1906 work crew in Guilford, Connecticut.  Note the goat standing between the legs of the man on the right and the dog with the man up on the pole.  Above are two pages from a 1906 Work Book of Wire Gang No. 31 out of Ridgefield, Connecticut, with details of work done on the line in August 23-29.

For more information about the SNET collection see the finding aid at  Two online exhibits that feature photographs from the collection are available from the electronic exhibits page, being from our electronic exhibits page at

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

Ah, we’ve stooped to this.  The talk always turns to potty humor, doesn’t it? 

As odd as it sounds, we here at Archives & Special Collections have toilet paper in one of our archival collections. That’s right — ARCHIVAL toilet paper.  In a business collection, if you can believe it.   Let me explain…

Cardboard cover for toilet paper manufactured by C.H. Dexter Company of Windsor Locks, Connecticut

The Dexter Corporation began in 1767 as a small, family-operated mill on land in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Originally a saw and grist mill, the business added a paper mill and began marketing specialty papers in the mid-nineteenth century.  In its third generation of family ownership, under the direction of Charles Haskell Dexter, the company established itself as the C. H. Dexter Co. and developed products for a well-defined market of papers and tissues.  Their Star Mills Medicated Manila Tissue was the first commercially-manufactured tissue. Together with his son, Edwin Dexter, and his son-in-law, H. R. Coffin, C.H. Dexter moved the company into the twentieth century as C. H. Dexter and Sons, Co. In 1914 the company was incorporated and was headed by A. D. Coffin, the son of H. R. Coffin.

The years of the depression in the 1930s saw the company’s further evolution with the development of the Long Fiber Papers, and through mergers and divestments.  In addition to its specialty tissues and paper covers, the company began producing tea bags and meat casings.

By the mid-twentieth century, having established the quality of its specialized papers, C. H. Dexter and Sons, Inc., began production of industrial finishes and laminates. The company renamed itself the Dexter Corporation in 1966 to reflect its expansion and development.

In 1999-2000, when a hostile takeover threatened to displace over 200 years of operations, the Dexter Corporation dismantled, leaving only a trail of toilet paper in its wake (not really. I was kidding about that).

Shown here is a cardboard cover for a package of toilet tissue, circa 1896.  For more information about the C.H. Dexter Company, and to see the cover and the toilet paper up close and personal, look at the finding aid at and come view it in the reading room at the Dodd Research Center.  I’ll warn you, though — toilet paper from 1896 is NOT as soft as a baby’s bottom.  Not by a long shot.

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

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