"The Greate Falls Dams of the Connecticut River near Holyoke"
Saturday, February 13, 11:00 AM
Where were the first dams at the great falls at South Hadley? What happened to the Holyoke Wooden Dam of 1848? What is a millpower? In this slide lecture, local historian Leo Labonte answers these questions and more as he describes the dams and waterwheels constructed in the early industrial era at the Great Falls near South Hadley. He also tells the story of the two wooden dams at Holyoke and the building of the stone dam that still holds today.
The lecture will take place in the Library's Community Room and is free and open to the public.
For more information, call the Holyoke History Room at (413) 420-8107
Mondays in March: Genealogy with Dave Robison
Genealogy Presentations and Research Clinics
- Using Ancestry Library Edition and FamilySearch.org to search for ancestors
- Using other online sources, such as Mocavo/FindMyPast
- Finding out (and finding) what's not online!
- Using Facebook genealogy pages
- Brick walls and strategies for getting around them (no guarantees!)
- Common research pitfalls
- Local archives and historical collections and what to look for in these
- Gleaning information from census and immigration records
Dave Robison continues the series above with two-hour open sessions in the Computer Classroom. Get guided experience if you are just getting started or use the time to explore new resources and share your own strategies. Bring your library card. Free, but seats (12) and workstations (11) are limited. Please call to pre-register: 413-420-8107.
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Love Letters to a Paper City: Poems of History, Myth, and Un-forgetting
Monday, February 1st, 6:00 PM: Reading and book-signing with Melinda Thomas
Regular Hours resume
Due to limited staffing, we cannot always open in inclement weather. In case of bad weather, please call 413-420-8107 before you make the trip.
Latino Americans: The landmark 6-hour PBS documentary
Tuesday and Thursday Evenings, November 3 - 19, 6:00 PM
At each episode, a special guest or guest will introduce the film. Post-film discussions will follow. On November 12 and November 19, scholars Ginetta Candelario (Smith College) and Joel Blanco-Rivera (University of Puerto Rico), respectively, will be facilitating the discussion. Other special guests include Holyoke City Councilor Jossie Valentin, Holyoke Deputy Director of Veterans' Services Wilfredo Melendez, and Dr. Carlos Turriago. See the full press release for details. Light refreshments will be offered.
When: November 3, 5, 10, 12, 17, and 19, 6:00 PM
Where: Holyoke Public Library Community Room, 250 Chestnut Street, Holyoke.
Other: Free and open to the public. Free parking adjacent to the Library.
These screenings and discussions are part of Herencia Latina 2015-16, an expansive project spearheaded by the Pioneer Valley History Network and the Springfield City Library. It includes fourteen film-and-discussion events, four exhibits, and six cultural programs and festivals, as well as related events, in Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, and Turners Falls. A full list of programs and partners can be found on the website
http://herencialatina2015-16.org/ . The project is funded by grants from the American Library Association, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Mass Humanities, and supported by El Sol Latino, Nuestras Raices, and WGBY Public Television. The Pioneer Valley History Network is a non-profit consortium of historical institutions throughout Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties of western Massachusetts.
Maureen Taylor comes to Holyoke!
10:30-11:30 Identifying and Dating Family Photographs
11:45-12:45 Reading Immigrant Clues in Photographs
After the presentations, she will be available to sign and sell her books.
Upcoming Fall 2015 Events Sponsored by the History Room
Saturday, October 17: Our second annual Home Movie Day!
Jonathan Gosnell: "In Search of French Holyoke"
Wednesday, September 23, 2015, 6:00 PM
Free and open to the public
Claudia and Amedee Gingras, among the earliest French immigrants to Holyoke.
James H. "Pat" Woods (September 12, 1935 - July 20, 2015).
I knew Pat only from his volunteer work at the History Room from 2012-2014, but appreciating his extraordinary gifts came easy. His incomparable knowledge of the history of the city alone would have made him an asset, but he brought with that a deep well of patience with those less knowledgeable, a quiet but acute sense of humor, and the wisdom never to let a kind word go unspoken. His work as a teacher clearly did not end with his official retirement. It was a great honor to have worked with him. -Eileen Crosby, Archivist
Getting Started with International Genealogy Research
Monday, June 29, 3:30-4:15
Followed by Open Genealogy Research Lab from 4:30-5:30
Genealogy open lab follows the workshop (until 5:30).
Legendary Locals of Holyoke
Book signing and interactive reading with JacquelineSears
Saturday June 20, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Library Community Room
Sears is an artist, selectwoman, and former Springfield Republican columnist.
Free and open to the public; copies of the book will be available for purchase.
Miguel Arce and Jeremy Smith
Wednesday, May 27, 6:00 PM
Introduction to Genealogy Workshop: It's not online! What now?
May 18, 4:00-5:00 PM
Using internet sources for genealogical research can be rewarding, but not everything you are looking for is online! This intro workshop led by experienced researcher Janet Curley will help you get started with finding materials in city and town halls, courthouses, libraries, and more. Aimed at those just getting started with genealogy. Computer Classroom, Third Floor. Limited to 12.
Preregister by calling 413.420.8107.
Followed by an Open Genealogy Lab from 5:00 - 6:00 PM.
History Room Events: May 16, May 18, and May 27
Holyoke Remembered Oral History Showcase
Saturday, May 16, 2015: 10:30 AM - 1:00 PM
In the Library Community Room. Free and open to the public.
"Escaping Slavery: African Americans in Western Massachusetts before the Civil War"
Wednesday, April 29, 6:00 PM
Join us as historian Joseph Carvalho III, former president and
executive director of the Springfield Museums, shares stories of his research
into the history of black families in Hampden County. Noticing how little of this history appeared
in published works, Carvalho began 25
years of research into family papers, legal documents, news sources, and census
records, recovering histories once thought permanently lost. His talk will provide an overview of the early
history of African-Americans in New England as well as stories of local
families and anecdotes from his research.
Joseph Carvalho III holds degrees from Westfield State University, The College of William and Mary, and the University of Rhode Island and was the director the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum from 1986-1994. He is an archivist and genealogist as well as a musician and sculptor.
Library Community Room - Free and Open to the Public
Introduction to Using Census Records for Genealogy
April 27, 2015
5:00- 6:00 PM An open-level genealogy research lab follows the workshop. Come for one-on-one assistance or to connect with other researchers. No pre-registration required for the drop-in lab. First come, first seated. You may bring your own laptop or tablet.
Two February Events
Wednesday, February 25, 2015: 6:00 PM
Our second speaker this evening will be Marcos Marrero, Holyoke's Director of Planning and Economic Development. Mr. Marrero will have the latest news on the much-anticipated return of passenger rail to Holyoke. He will describe how city planners envisioned and designed the Depot Square train platform and the future of Holyoke as a stop on the Knowledge Corridor. This event is co-sponsored by the Friends of the Holyoke Public Library, who will showcase their new ornament depicting the H.H. Richardson train station.
Irish Genealogy with Lisa Dougherty
Saturday, February 21, 2015: 11:00 AM - 1:15 PM
Special guest and veteran genealogist Lisa Dougherty will lead a two-hour lecture/workshop on tracking down Irish ancestors. With almost 20 years of experience in the field, Ms. Dougherty specializes in locating places of origin for Irish immigrants to New York and the New England states. She is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and provides volunteer assistance at the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany, New York. This presentation is appropriate for those just getting started as well as more experienced family history researchers.
Pre-registration recommended: 413-420-8107.
Author Talk: Robert T. McMaster and The Dyeing Room
Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - 6:00 PM
Join us as author Robert T. McMaster introduces his new novel, The Dyeing Room. The backdrop to McMaster's dramatic story is the city of Holyoke itself in the spring of 1917, just after the U.S. has entered World War I. McMaster's work, although fiction, includes myriad references to Holyoke's neighborhoods, institutions, and culture. Woven into McMaster's story are the local and national issues of the day: labor unrest, new roles for women, alcoholism and the Temperance movement, anti-communism, and much more. The author will be available to sign copies of his books.
Where: Library Community Room, First Floor
December 12, 2014 - For immediate release
For anyone under the impression that female race car drivers are a recent phenomenon, they haven’t heard about Joan Newton Cuneo of Holyoke. That misunderstanding is easily corrected by the recently-published biography Mad for Speed – The Racing Life of Joan Newton Cuneo by Elsa A. Nystrom, emeritus professor of history at Kennesaw State University. Richard (Dick) Newton, who wrote the Forward to this fascinating biography of his cousin, visited the Holyoke History Room to donate a signed copy of the book to the Holyoke Public Library.
Dick Newton and Joan Newton Cuneo both descended from James Hale Newton, one of the original benefactors of the Holyoke Public Library. Newton supported the Library and served on its Board for more than fifty years. But Dick Newton's connection to "cousin Joan" is not only familial: during his high school and college years (the latter at AIC) he designed, built, and drove racing cars himself. After service in the Air Force in Southeast Asia, he pursued a career in the high-tech industry that left little time for his racing interests.
Joan Newton was born in Holyoke in 1876. Her father was one the Newton brothers, who made their fortunes as builders and paper manufacturers during Holyoke's late nineteenth-century industrial boom. As a young girl, Joan was considered to be something of a "tomboy, [and] enjoyed outdoor activities such as horseback riding, driving a team, and riding a bicycle. She was treated like a boy by her doting father; he even allowed her to drive a steam engine on his short-line railroad." Although her upbringing was outside the norm in some respects, Joan adhered to the conventions of the time when it came to education and dress for young women. Nystrom relates that the adult Joan Newton Cuneo was regarded as "soft-spoken, cultured and refined young lady."
In 1898 she married Andrew Cuneo, the heir to successful Italian immigrant businessman Antonio Cuneo. Aspects of their marriage remain shrouded in mystery, but we do know that Cuneo's wealth allowed Newton Cuneo to buy her first car. Although driving was considered dangerous for women, many New York socialites of the time were acquiring chauffeur-driven automobiles.
Newton Cuneo gained celebrity in 1905, when she was the only woman to compete in that year's 1000-mile Glidden Tour. She drove a 1905 White Steam Tourer. She went on to participate in numerous other races and won several prestigious awards. After her attention-getting participation in the New Orleans Mardi Gras Races in 1909 (driving a Knox Giant), the American Automobile Association announced that it would no longer sanction racing events that permitted female entrants. This action effectively ended Newton Cuneo's competitive racing career, as well as those of other women drivers. Nystrom's chapter "Rivals and Competitors" provides brief biographies of several women who defied social norms with their racing.
Dick and Marge Newton (left and center) donating Mad for Speed to History Room Archivist Eileen Crosby.
October 18: Holyoke Home Movie Day!
This year, the Holyoke History Room invites you to submit your films for viewing in our state-of-the-art community screening room. Participants will also learn about how best to care for and preserve film and tape.
How to participate:
- Movies you submit must be in one of the following formats: VHS, 16mm, 8mm, or Super 8mm.
- Drop off the movies you wish to share and show between 11:00 AM to 12:45PM on October 18th.
- A screening of portions of all the films will follow at 1:00 PM .
- Home Movie Day is open to everyone. There are no entry fees or other charges.
Holyoke History Room Guest Speaker
The Wall Family of Holyoke: Using Genealogical Research to Tell the Story of Civil War-Era Irish Immigrants
Wednesday, September 17, 6:30 p.m. Library Community Room (First Floor)
Every document used in genealogical research leads to new questions. Join us as guest speaker Sara Campbell follows a typical family through a series of local records and serendipitous finds to add detail to a story that has gone undiscovered. Dates are only the beginning of the process. Techniques will be explored that can help in many aspects of historical research.
Sara has been researching her own family since 1990 and has presented a variety of topics in family history at HCC, GCC, Polish Genealogical Society of Mass, Western Mass Genealogical Society and Mass. Society of Genealogists. She is a genealogy blogger and loves a good historic puzzle. As Town Engineer in Greenfield, she has explored the Dept. of Public Works' vault and found new sources for genealogists. She has 'adopted' the Wall family and hopes you will join her in sharing our sometimes forgotten past.
Free and open to the public.
Spring 2014 Lecture Series Videos and clips
Jim Sheehan on Holyoke's Family Farms.
Jim has amassed a wealth of information on Holyoke's agricultural past.
Charlie Lotspeich on advances in water power in Holyoke.
A short peek at
Tom Kass's talk on "The Whistler," Tom Browne.
Scroll down for full descriptions of each of our past talks.
Genealogy Drop-in Sessions
Mondays in July, 3:00-5:00
Genealogy Research Drop-in Sessions
3rd Floor Computer Classroom (across the gallery from the History Room)
Open to all experience levels. If you are new to genealogy, get started using Ancestry and other resources with the help of a History Room volunteer. If you are experienced, come to meet others interested genealogy and share your research tips.
Participants must have a valid Massachusetts library card.
Seating for up to 12 participants at a time.
Pre-register at 413-420-8107 or take a chance and just drop in.
Remembering Ed Kennedy
Here at the History Room we learned with sadness of the recent passing of Ed Kennedy. Although he had not visited us in some time, he was in years past a devoted History Room volunteer known for his energy, knowledge of Holyoke history, and ability to connect with patrons. Hardly a week goes by without someone asking after him. Here he is shown as a young man in a photograph he shared with the History Room.
Holyoke History Room Guest Speaker
May 7, 6:00 p.m."Tom Browne - King of the Whistlers” – Tom Kass
Guests are invited (but not required) to come in period costume or formal dress to this event.
Raised in Holyoke, Tom Browne was employed first as a messenger and then a bookkeeper at the Holyoke Furniture Company. Born into a musical family, he had discovered his gift for whistling by his teens. In the 1880s he began performing for clubs and civic organizations. Tom Browne's career led him to Broadway, Europe, and to perform for King Edward VII. Based on extensive research into Brown’s career by his great-grandnephews, the evening's talk will offer a glimpse into late-nineteenth century musical culture and popular entertainment.
The lecture takes place in the Community Room and is free and open to the public. No pre-registration required.
Please note that our second May lecture, originally scheduled for May 21, has been postponed.
“The Olmsted Brothers’ Landscape Legacy in Holyoke”
Holyoke History Room Guest Speaker Series
Amanda Rookey "The Olmsted Brothers' Landscape Legacy in Holyoke"
Wednesday, April 2, at 6:00 p.m.
The lecture takes place in the Library Community Room and is free and open to the public. See below for details.
Amanda Rookey, master’s degree candidate in Landscape Architecture at the University of Massachusetts, will share her research into the work of the Olmsted Brothers in Holyoke. In 1907, John Charles and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., son and stepson of the renowned landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted, came to Holyoke at the request of Mayor Nathan Avery. Avery, who helped establish the state's first municipal playground commission in Holyoke, had a keen interest in improving outdoor life in a city whose population had soared to 50,000. At his request, the Olmsted Brothers investigated the history and condition of four Holyoke parks (Springdale, Elmwood, Pulaski, and Jones Point) and provided detailed recommendations for how to protect and develop Holyoke’s substantial natural bounty for the benefit of all its residents.
Ms. Rookey's research compares the historical parks to the existing park system and to heritage parks in other industrial cities in New England. On April 2, she will lecture and lead a discussion on the interconnection of landscape, community, history and aesthetics in Holyoke.
Elmwood Park, undated photograph.
No pre-registration required.
Upcoming guest speakers:
May 7, 6 p.m.: Tom Kass - "Tom Browne - King of the Whistlers"
May 21, 6 p.m.: David Brule - "Looking for Judah - a journey into a secret family history"
The Library Community Room is on the entry level to the Library, on the right off the foyer.
Upcoming Guest Lecture
"John B. McCormick and the Hercules Turbine Water Wheel"
March 5, 2014 6:00 p.m.
Lotspeich, historian and educator at Holyoke Heritage State Park, has made the
evolution and application of water power in Holyoke a special focus of his
work. John McCormick’s two
late nineteenth-century inventions, the Hercules Turbine and the Holyoke
Turbine, were developed at the Holyoke Machine Company and at J. & W.
Jolly. Lotspeich’s talk
will place McCormick’s work in the larger context of the development of water
power in Holyoke and explain how his inventions ushered in a "new era in
The lecture and discussion take place in the Library Community Room.
Free and open to the public.
History Room Guest Speaker Series
The first event in our new Guest Speakers series
now scheduled for February 19, 2:30 p.m.
Lifelong Holyoke resident Jim Sheehan will draw on 5 years of research and a wealth of childhood memories for his talk on "Holyoke’s Family Farms.”
(Originally scheduled for 2/5/2014).
Talks take place in the Library Community Room.
Save the dates:
- March 5: Charlie Lotspeich on the McCormick Turbine
- April 2: Amanda Rookey on the Olmsted Brothers' vision for Holyoke's parks
- May 7: Tom Kass on Holyoke's famous whistler, Tom Browne
New Genealogy Research Databases
Holyoke Public Library patrons can now search family history in two new genealogical databases, Ancestry Library Edition and Heritage Quest Online.
Ancestry can be accessed only in the Library.
Access to these databases is made possible by a generous donation from the Friends of the Holyoke Public Library.
Ancestry Library Edition provides access to millions of unique, full-text primary sources and enhanced images, including: U.S., U.K. and Canadian Census records; Canadian genealogical records; U.S. military records; and immigration, passport, and naturalization records.
HeritageQuest Online is a broad database of genealogical information that includes tens of thousands of family and local history books, as well as federal census data. It’s a great resource for tracing North American lines of descent. HeritageQuest can be accessed remotely as well as in the Library. When prompted, type in your Holyoke Public Library card number.
Scenes from the Grand Opening