New finding aids completed in SC&A

As part of my internship at SC&A I created finding aids for three collections. The most notable among these is the finding aid for a collection that I processed during my internship dealing with Wesleyan President James L. McConaughy, his wife Elizabeth, and son James Jr. The collection entitled, McConaughy Family Papers, details important aspects of former President McConaughy’s life. James L. McConaughy was just 37 years old when he was elected President of Wesleyan in 1925, making him the youngest ever president of Wesleyan. Despite his youth McConaughy’s career at Wesleyan was very accomplished. McConaughy oversaw the construction of many prominent buildings on campus including the Alumni Athletic Building, the Harriman Dormitory, the Olin Library, the Hall Laboratory, and the Shanklin Memorial Laboratory. New art classes were introduced during his tenure; intercollegiate athletics became popular as did singing, debating, and university forums. McConaughy took a year leave to become President of the United China Relief Fund in 1942. He subsequently resigned from Wesleyan in 1943 after 18 years of service to the university. McConaughy moved on to his other career interest, Republican politics. After serving as lieutenant governor from 1939 until 1941, McConaughy successfully ran for governor of Connecticut in November of 1946. As governor McConaughy promoted issues that were of importance to him including employment reform, benefits for the elderly, supporting servicemen, and housing improvements. He introduced a sales tax to pay for improvements in these areas. His promising political career came to an abrupt end when he died suddenly on March 7, 1948.

Correspondence in this collection details McConaughy’s resignation and departure from Wesleyan, his travels as President of the United China Relief Fund, and his Connecticut gubernatorial victory. Copies of his speeches and addresses ranging from his time as President of Wesleyan to his addresses as governor of Connecticut are also included. Furthermore, various items document his time at Wesleyan including documents from his inauguration to a tribute by the board of trustees upon his resignation. Newspaper clippings further detail his life as an education professional to his political career to his untimely death.

Documents within the collection pertain to his wife Elizabeth as well. Newspaper clippings detail her life as Connecticut’s First Lady. Many of her notable short stories (a few of which appeared in The New Yorker) are also included within the collection. Their son James L. McConaughy Jr.’s career as a journalist (including stints at the Washington Post, Time, Life, and Esquire), his tragic death in a plane crash in 1958, and the Wesleyan award created in his honor through  correspondence, newspaper clippings rand various articles in this collection. Other items include wills, genealogical records, and estate papers pertaining to McConaughy relatives, many of whom lived in the 19th Century.

Another collection documents the life of Eldon Benjamin Birdsey, entitled, Eldon Benjamin Birdsey Notebook, 1917. Birdsey was born in Lyme, CT on July 26, 1848. A graduate of Wesleyan (1871), Birdsey became the first prosecuting attorney of the Middletown city court in 1879 until 1883 when he was elected to serve as the probate judge for the Probate District of Middletown. After leaving public office, Birdsey continued to practice law serving the citizens of Middletown County. In 1885 he was elected as a trustee of Middletown Savings Bank of which he served as the attorney for the bank and later a director of the bank. Birdsey was married to Caroline E. Chase with whom he had one daughter, Laura Chase, born March 23, 1878. Birdsey died on December 6, 1917.

This collection consists of a single notebook created by Eldon Benjamin Birdsey. The notebook was made for J.W. Hewitt, a classics professor at Wesleyan and friend of Birdsey. The notebook includes various entries dealing with Birdsey’s philosophy on life, observances of nature, his own poetry, quoted poetry, and Middletown. The notebook also includes rewritten correspondence from Birdsey to friends of Birdsey. The correspondence ranges in date from 1898 to 1913. The notebook also includes materials added after the death of Birdsey including his obituary and a chronology of important events in his life.

A final collection details the academic career and life of Stephen Beekman Bangs, entitled, Stephen Beekman Bangs Letters, 1840-1841. Stephen Beekman Bangs was born on March 15, 1823. He was a Wesleyan student before leaving the University during his senior year due to poor health. He later graduated with a B.A. from New York University in 1843. Bangs became a minister and was part of the New York Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1844). He died on March 21, 1846 in Milford Connecticut.

This collection consists of letters dating from 1840 to 1841. This correspondence is from Stephen Beekman Bangs to his friend and Yale student Sylvester Smith. Topics of conversation include Bangs planning visits to see Smith in New Haven, Bangs’ preference of the city of New Haven over Middletown, discussion of activities and classes at Wesleyan, Bangs’ poor health and temporary leave of absences from the University, and discussion of mutual friends and acquaintances.

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