Paper City Scribblings

Paper City Scribblings is a collection of rambling thoughts on Holyoke Massachusetts by Sarah Campbell, Curator of Historical Collections at Holyoke public Library in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Topics will include historical jaunts through Holyoke's past, History Room happenings, and Holyoke news.

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Location: Holyoke, Massachusetts, United States

My name is Sarah Campbell and I am the Curator of Historical Collections at Holyoke Public Library. I have my MA in Art History, my MS in Information Science with a concentration in Archival Management and my BA in English. While I live in South Hadley, I am a born Holyoker. I was born in Providence Hospital and have had a permanent link with Holyoke ever since. I went to Miss Jone's Story Book Nursery, the Children's House, and finally Holyoke Community College. I love Holyoke and am quite excited about the many fascinating things that are going on right now.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A delinquent archivist's appologies

Hello All,

Yes, I know its been simply AGES since I last posted. This is due to the craziness of my schedule. I do apologize and I am going to try to be semi-regular with my little musings on Holyoke and the archival profession in general. I know I promised a picture of the Frog Circus earlier but that will have to wait while I figure out how best to post the images to this page. So this will be a bit of a catch-up session for you so that we can get reacquainted.

So- what's up?


The Holyoke History Room is still the guest of the ever gracious Holyoke Community College. If you get a chance do come visit. We are located in the lobby of the library at Holyoke Community College. Give me a call at (413) 552-2842 and I'll be sure to give you directions to our lovely abode. The hours currently are:

Monday: 2-6
Thursday: 1-5
Friday: 9-1

Saturday: At least 1 week's notice for Saturday appointments as I must change around my schedule to accommodate appointments. Call (413) 552-2842 and speak to me directly as there may be Saturdays that are already booked.

Sunday: Closed

Watch this space for changes in the hours- when HCC goes on summer vacation we will lose our night.

And as I always say it is always a good idea to call ahead as I am the only person who works full time here. If I am out, with the exception of Thursdays and Fridays when I have two wonderful volunteers, I am closed. I am called to travel at times; I have meetings to go to; Sometimes I go on vacation; and at times I get sick.

I also suggest that if you need to view the records of a Holyoke company, social group or business please call at least one day ahead as it is very difficult to pull these out of storage when there are people in the room.

What else is up?

Well, as I mentioned in my last post that I wrote in December but just put up today I have been accepted into a workshop on preservation offered by the New England Document Conservation Center. This wonderful opportunity has taught me so very much about the methods of managing and preserving our collection. Armed with the knowledge I have gleaned from these classes I have begun writing the disaster plan for the Holyoke History Room. This will ensure that rescue workers know how to treat these fragile collections under the most inopportune conditions.

And of course I have been answering patrons questions and preserving the collection- all of which is great fun as this City has so many treasures!

So next week I will jump back into the groove of supplying you with anecdotes on the city of Holyoke.

But before I leave you today let me give you a shameless plug for Wistariahurst's Nifty Fifties Spring Gala. It will occur on Friday, May 4th from 6-9 at Wistariahurst, 238 Cabot Street, Holyoke Massachusetts. These are GREAT parties! And they benefit a great institution. There will be live music and dancing, a silent auction, exhibits on Holyoke in the 50s and much much more. Period dress is optional but it is so much fun to bring the 50s alive by donning your bobby socks and poodle skirts; brushing your hair into a DA and dancing the night away. I will be dressed in my little black dress ala Audrey. The tickets are $25 per person. Please contact Wistariahurst at (413) 322-5660 for more information.

See you next week!


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hello all,

Sorry about the delay. I've been accepted to a series of workshops on preservation and I have been preparing for this trip. I am very excited to go as I would love to learn more about preserving this collection as it is very much a piece of Holyoke's heritage that must be preserved for future generations. I have also been updating the history room's database. I love the interface of technology with the special collections field. It allows much more flexibility in accessing materials, it allows us to reach a larger audience, and it presents us with great oportunities for exciting displays. But, as I found out this week, it can be tetchy, and if you aren't careful, your entire project can disappear if the computer freezes- another reason this posting is so late! There was also less coverage on this topic than on the Art Collection, our next topic.

Holyoke Natural Museum: The Natural world behind glass
So, today's topic is the Natural History Museum at Holyoke Public Library, to be followed soon after by a discussion about the art museum. Like many old New England libraries, Holyoke Public Library had a fairly significant collection of art and artifacts. Located on the second floor of the library, the Holyoke Museum consisted of a natural history and art collection.

The Natural History Museumwas founded in 1927 and was an immediate success. The statistics show that over 500,000 people visited the museum in the first year.
Part of this success could be attributed to the great support the museum received throughtout Holyoke. Such important Holyokeres as William H. Hubbard, Joseph A Skinner, Aaron C. Bagg, Frank H. Metcalf, and a bevy of other luminaries donated both money and objects to this venture.

The Natural History Museum was filled with stuffed animals, live animals, plant samples, exhibits of rocks and other fascinating items drawn from the outside. But one exhibit in particular caught the fancy of children and adults alike.

In addition to the more traditional taxidermy exhibits, the Holyoke Natural History Museum also included the famous (infamous?) Frog Circus. Created in the tradition of the 18th and 19th century art of creating Wunderkammer, or Cabinets of Wonder, the Frog Circus was literally a circus made from stuffed frogs and turles. To this day people remember the thrill of kneeling on the floor of the museum to watch the little frogs perform their death-defying tricks. I am going to attempt to put the picture onto this page, but it might decide, like the other photographs for the mural, that it simply doesn't want to post the picture along with this posting. But here goes.....And it wasn't successful- bummer. Ok- I'll put it into its own post, along with some more information about taxidermy exhibits and wunderkanner.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Searching for your Family 101

Hello all,

How are you? I'm just getting used to the new fall hours. It can take a bit of readjusting at times. But the longer hours are much easier on people's schedules so it is all to the good. I do try to cover all the bases, but as I am only allotted 20 hours it can be difficult at times. But we do our best.

I just wanted to announce that if you happen to find an ad for Passport Holyoke in the local papers, bring it in to the History Room(if this promotion ends I will be sure to let you know)to get a $1 off photocopying. This means if you bring the Passport Holyoke ad into the History Room you may get a free ride for copying! Depending on how many obituaries you have to search that can be a very big help.

This point has of course swung my brain off on another tangent. The froggies in all their glory will have to wait. Instead, I give you,

Searching for your family 101

The most important thing to remember is that genealogical research takes time. Many of my patrons have been filling in the details of their family's' histories for years and have binders full of information the size of New York phone book. But the wonderful thing about research is that, like a treasure map, every step can bring you closer to another piece of information. Obituaries of one family member may have the names of others, which can lead you to still more information.

Information can be found in libraries, civic offices, on the internet and even around your own kitchen table. I cannot stress the importance of talking to your family members about their lives. You can get the dates of important life experiences; you can get certificates, and articles; documents showing when your ancestor arrived from the old country; and maybe, if you are lucky, actual pictures of their homes, but you can't get the stories. Please talk to your families. And when you do, consider donating their memoirs to your local libraries and historical societies, because even if your family members believe that they did not live important and interesting lives, this is not true at all. As I have mentioned before, it is oral histories and scrapbooks, and journals that bring history alive!

Really, the first step in any genealogists treasure hunt is talking to your family members. This is important for the aforementioned reasons, but you need to establish a few key points before attempting to find information. If you have at least one birth, death or marriage date, you can begin your journey. If you do not have any of these, I would suggest getting in touch with your city or town clerk to get copies of those all-important civic records. You can also contact churches, as they have important records as well. And, if you have access to or Heritage Quest these can be very useful. But at times these can be difficult as the programs have trouble interpreting the handwriting of census collectors.

The History Room has several sources that would help you on your quest for family information.

First off, we have the Transcript Telegram. This spans from 1850-1993. It is a great source for obituaries, birth notices, and marriage notices. However, it is really recommended that you have an exact date, down to at least the month. The History Room staff requires that you have a month and year for searches to be done for out of town patrons.

We also have City Directories from 1869-1991. These list the name, occupation and address of every working person in Holyoke. However, by the 1950s, the directories started listing unemployed spouses and dependent children. Earlier directories included lists of deaths, births and marriages, however this practice stopped fairly early on. However, later directories do list death dates. Another useful feature is the collection of business ads and lists of civic and social organizations.

For those seeking for records of people who did not work, or small children, we have the Hampden County Census from 1880-1920 on microfilm (with the exception of 1890. The entire 1890 Census was destroyed in a fire in the 1920s, a sad event that has left us devoid of a great portion of our history.) We also have access to, which has records of the census to 1930. The Census is recorded every 10 years and includes information on every person living in a household. One can find out the nationality, occupation, age and other useful facts from this record. But be warned, this group of documents is a) hard to read as they were hand-written and b)Organized by Ward so you must know where your ancestors lived or be prepared to search for hours. This is where the City Directory comes in handy. These volumes also include the boundaries for wards.

We also have local files and scrapbooks of information on prominent Holyoke citizens. There are also a selection of published genealogies and bound genealogies collected by family members.

For those interested in researching their houses, we have a group of binders including information sheets on various historical properties throughout the city of Holyoke. The City Directories are also a great way of judging when a property was built as one need only follow the owners back through the volumes until they finally reach the first occupant.

For those properties built before 1915, The Richards Fire Insurance Map is a great resource as it would allow one to find out if a) a property was already built by 1911, and b) would provide the name of the first owner. 1915 was the first date that the City Directories listed occupants by their address.

We also have a collection of photographs of residences from the 1880s and 1890s which were taken by the itinerant photographer Milan Warner. At times it is very interesting to see what your neighborhood looked like originally.

So I hope that this provides you with a starting point for your genealogists quest. I am almost certain that sources such as these can be found in your local library or historical society, so be sure to contact them.

Until later,


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Fall History Room Hours

Good afternoon all!

As promised, I am posting the new hours independantly of a historical posting. We've added the night back in and the hours go a bit later every night. These hours will remain until next summer. However, there will be a hiatus for the room in December and there are a few holidays here and there and unexpected meetings. So do call (413) 552-2842 or email for hours and to ask questions.


Now Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon are available for those who need to make an appointment. However, you must call a week in advance and if you can't make the appointment, except in the case of emergencies, I will not schedule another appointment. You might find that I am a bit steely on this point, but in the past I ended up sitting around all day without having the person come in.

There are very specific hours available for Friday and Saturday that must be adhered to given the fact that when HCC closes, the History Room closes.

Friday Appointments: 2:30-4:30.
Saturday Appointments: 12-2.

If you do not have an appointment, I will not open the room.

Thank you for your cooperation and your consideration.


Next- more images of the mural and the frog circus!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Missing Photos: Religion

Next: Missing Photos: Child Welfare

I wish I could find a way to post these photographs directly into my posts- I guess that they are too large. If someone has any ideas as to how to make this possible it would be great because it takes away from the essays. But instead I am going to post a series of mini-posts providing you with the comparisons I would have liked to make in the main body of my essay.

As you can see the artist took a bit of artistic license with the perspective of the images to allow the most important visual aspects to be seen, eventhough they would normally be hidden when viewed from the front.

Here is a detail of Graziani's mural on Religion. On the left is St. Jerome's Church and in the center is the First Baptist Church.

This is a postcard of St. Jerome's Church.
It served as Graziani's influence.

And this is the First Baptist Church,
otherwise known as the Elmwood Baptist Church.
This image was also taken from a postcard
and also served as Graziani's inspiration.

Graziani's murals: History books in paint

Good Afternoon!

Just to let you know, today and tomorrow mark the end of summer hours. I will be open from 12-4:30 today (Thursday) and 8:30 to 12 on Friday. Starting Tuesday, we will be on Winter hours. And we will be closed Labor day. The following hours will hold until next summer. But of course there are a few vacations in there so be sure to call ahead, especially if you are traveling a distance. I will repost the hours on Tuesday so that they stand out and do not get lost in this posting.

Monday: 2-6
SaturdayBy appointment only

and as always you can give me a call or email me for questions and hours. My phone number is (413) 552-2842 and my email is Do mention that you read my blog. I know I'm probably a bit invisible right now but hopefully after I get connected to a few sites there will be a bit of traffic.

I best get on with the topic of historical influences in Graziani's mural series because I keep on staring at a photograph of the famous (infamous?) Frog Circus (yes-it was a circus made from real stuffed frogs) and I find myself wandering back to the 1920s when Holyoke Public Library had a Natural History Museum and this ghoulish piece of taxidermic wonderment was a main attraction. But let us go back down the grand staircase and leave the collections on the second floor of the Library for another day. (Perhaps I should keep that topic for Halloween- although I like the idea of giving a top-to-bottom view of the building, discussing the many interesting points that can be found there before moving on to another topic.(Unless of course another topic occurs to you all.)

No, today's topic is the historic elements of Graziani's murals. As Graziani stated, his style could be described as allegorical realism. This means that while he drew upon the real world to inform his murals, these figures are also archetypical forms that could be taken as universal figures that would fit in any society. However, a good portion of his mural series depicts specific moments drawn from Holyoke's timeline.

If you don't mind, I will take more time discussing the eastern wall's murals as this series of panels is rife with familiar faces. I will also touch upon the first two smaller panels depicting religion and child welfare that can be found on the wall to the right of this treasure trove of Holyoke history. Suffice it to say that the western wall, depicting Holyoke's early history, provides the viewer with views of Native American life that were informed by careful study of Algonquin society. I believe that the same amount of care research went into Graziani's research for the end-panels depicting Captain Rowland Thomas and Captain Elizur Holyoke, founders of Mt. Tom and Mount Holyoke respectively. However, as portraits of these adventurous men no longer exist, Graziani had to create figures that were representative of the 18th century.

Moving to the next wall, found underneath the second floor mezzanine, the viewer will see a group of smaller panels depicting tiny snippits of Holyoke life described by allegorical and historical figures. These are much more allegorical, however pieces of Holyoke's history do find their way into the murals, and I intend to touch upon these elements in this essay rather than entangle the symbology as that would be another essay entirely. (If you are at all interested in this I can take you through them on a more detailed level later on.)

The first of these is one depicting the three major religions practiced in Holyoke: Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism. While these figures are allegorical archetypes of the leading figures of each religion the buildings depicted in the background are real buildings. On his trips to Holyoke, Graziani painted the portraits of St. Jerome's church, found on the left and the first Baptist Church in the center. (As the images don't seem to fit into this posting I am going to put them in another posting. I will also include pictures of their real-world cognates whenever possible. The mural photos will be only be included as snippets of the full images so that I might induce you all to go view the whole recommend.) I do plan on discussing the topic of religion in Holyoke in another posting as it has in many ways shaped this city, however as this posting is about Sante Graziani's keen eye I must move on to the next panel of this mural.)

The next mural depicting Child Welfare in Holyoke includes the figure of Sister Mary of Providence, a great advocate for the rights of Holyoke's children. Upon arriving in Holyoke from Quebec in 1875, she immediately determined that too many orphaned children were going ignored. She thus turned to Dr. John O'Connell, who would later become mayor of Holyoke. Her concerns caused the institution of Brightside and Mt. St. Vincent to be designed. The woman standing beside her holding the infant mortality chart is a employee of Brightside.

The other two murals depicting education and sports do not have historical figures or buildings depicted in them but rather are more allegorical in nature.

However, the eastern wall's mural is filled with many familiar faces.

Let's start with the central panel, which depicts Holyoke's water power and industry. The portrait of George Ewing can be found in the central position of the mural. He was given pride of place to acknowledge the fact that he convinced farmers to give up their land so that Holyoke could be built. Because of his efforts Holyoke became the city it is today. At his elbow is Joseph C. Parsons, Holyoke's first papermaker.

In addition to these historical figures, Graziani also included other important historical elements that prove that he was an eagle-eyed artist who took care to represent Holyoke's history in paint. These include the plan of Holyoke's canal system, a portrait of the Holyoke Dam and copy of the Hampden Freeman . The portrait of the Holyoke Dam is especially interesting as it captures a moment in time. For in 1952, the stone abutment depicted in Graziani's portrait was replaced by the headworks of the power plant.

The left panel, depicting Holyoke's cultural aspects, includes a portrait of Professor William Churchill Hammond, organist for the Second Congregational Church in Holyoke, at his organ. We can also see a portrait of Holyoke Public Library in the background!

So that concludes my discussion on Sante Graziani's great attention to detail. He truly took time to get to know our city. I am sorry that I have been unable to include images in this postings, but I will put them into the next posting.

Until later,

I bid you ado.

Next time: The Frog Circus and the Natural History Museum at Holyoke Public Library: Captivating captives capture Holyoke's youth.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Saving Holyoke's Heritage Part Deux

Hello all,

I'm feeling guilty about not posting for a while. I have been working on my post on the historical content of Sante Graziani's murals. If you could see my dashboard you would see that there is a posting in the editing phase but it isn't finished quite yet. Perhaps I'm too verbose for this format and should really consider finding another format to present my thoughts - like a book- and believe me there is a book in my brain somewhere- I just have to find the time to sit down and write- in between managing the history room, going to meetings and working on my needlework.

So instead I am going to post my speech given at the Rotary Club yesterday to tide you over until the next historical post.

And now---

Saving Holyoke's Heritage through Historical Documents

The Holyoke History Room documents the history of Holyoke, a city whose industrial developments during the late 1890's and early 20th centuries played an influential role in the paper and textile industries both nationally and internationally. These collections document the history of Holyoke's businesses, social and charitable organizations as well as that of Holyoke Public Library itself.

The Holyoke History Room has a great variety of items, covering an extensive span of time, but when viewed through the eyes of a researcher many sizable gaps appear. For one thing, there is a distinct dearth of populated photographs. Flipping through the photograph boxes in the History Room would lead one to believe that Holyoke was a ghost town for a good portion of its existence. I am hopeful that community-wide call for photographs will allow us to rediscover the vital Holyoke described in all of our histories. Wistariahurst has begun an initiative called Sharing Our Photographs. Please contact them for more information regarding this very important project.

Another highly noticeable gap in the History Room's collection is the lack of documentation of the immigration and daily lives of Holyoke's Hispanic population. While the stories of Holyoke's other immigrant groups are widely told through documents, photographs, books and other items in the History Room, I am sad to say that this group is not well represented in our collections. I am working hard to fill this gap so that we may tell their story as well.

While these gaps can easily be filled with hard work and help from the community, there are others that are not so easily filled. Some of these gaps were created when collections were allowed to slip away from Holyoke. An example of such a collection is that of the Hadley Falls Company and Lyman Mills. When the Lyman Mills went out of business, repositories such as the History Room did not exist. Instead, this collection, which includes the records created by the very company from which Holyoke springs, went to the Baker Library at Harvard University. Thus, while these papers are available for researchers, and while they still remain in Massachusetts, the researcher suffers from having these records ripped from their original context. I believe that they would have benefited from the ability to visit Open Square, the former Lyman mills, while studying these records. Now, they may not realize that the mill still stands on the Holyoke Canal. I hope to get copies of these records, and of other Holyoke-related record groups that have been scattered to the four winds, but they will never have the same significance outside of their original formats. For nothing is more powerful than the feeling you get from holding a ledger created by one of the founding fathers of Holyoke. I know, because I feel the same power holding the records created by Holyoke Water Power. The Hadley Falls Company and Lyman Mills gap will never be fully filled as far as I'm concerned, yet at least it could be partially filled.

The most worrisome gaps that exist in our collection are those that may never be filled, or are only filled by stopgap measures that could disappear, leaving us with gigantic holes in our history. One such collection is the Holyoke Transcript. As many of you well know, the Transcript Telegram was Holyoke's Daily paper for more than one hundred years. After it closed in 1993, the photograph collection disappeared and the volumes containing the physical papers were taken out of Massachusetts. This left Holyoke with an aging collection of microfilm copies that is beginning to show its age, a few examples of the paper that were saved because they covered important topics and a tiny selection of photographs from that vast collection which would have filled the History Room with so much life.

We are also left with many questions. To this day we are unsure of who owns the copyright for the Transcript. Our hands are tied when patrons ask about publishing photographs and articles that clearly were from the Transcript and we cannot be sure about the legality of digitizing the failing microfilm. And as in the case of the Lyman Mills collection, the copies are only a paltry replacement for the originals.

But it is not my intention to end on such a negative note. Let me instead tell you about a success story. Last summer, while watching 22 News, I learned that the Parsons Mills building, home of the first and last working paper manufacturer in Holyoke, was being viewed by potential buyers. I immediately began negotiating with the caretaker to ensure that this historic company's past would be preserved. Because I was quick, I saved many items from being either thrown out or auctioned off. We thus have a detailed map of the mill, a Nurse's ledger from the 1940's and many other important documents and Heritage State Park has many artifacts, all of which may have otherwise disappeared.

Photographs, objects and documents are important. They speak for those who no longer have voices, letting future generations know who they were and how the Holyoke of today came to be. Without them, their memories will be lost in time, and what remains will lose its meaning.

Thank you,

Sarah Campbell

Thursday, August 24, 2006


I guess that the photograph was too big for my last posting. So I guess this posting will be for showing the before and after views of the Holyoke Public Library. I cannot pretend to be an expert at the inner workings of web publishing but I muddle along as best that I can.

This is the before view. I believe that it was taken soon after the Library opened. You can see the space above the door that is now occupied by the mural depicting Holyoke's dam and paper industry.

And here is a view of the east wall mural as it looks today.

Quite a difference n'est pas?

Tune in next for a discussion on Graziani's attention to historical detail.