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Syracuse University Libraries

Selected Disability Materials

A collection of disability-related materials from the Libraries and beyond as cultivated by various SU disability groups.


SU Libraries offers more than just books. In addition to our media collection available for checkout, we provide access to many online databases and journals on disability topics. Enjoy and explore!

Media Collection

SU Libraries has a collection of DVDs, CD-ROMs, and even videocassettes available to patrons. Among the many of those that concern disability topics (search for them here), these are a few of our favorites.

Streaming Video and Audio Databases

Selected Databases

Disability Materials in Special Collections

 This page was created by Adina Mulliken and provides links to materials in the Libraries Special Collections related to disability and eugenics.

Special Collections Hours and Contact

The Libraries' Special Collections and Research Center

Libraries' Special Collections and Research Center  -- SCRC owns print and digital collections of personal papers and photographs related to disability and eugenics.

Bibliographies of resources used in instruction sessions at SCRC  --  Lists of rare books and manuscript collection materials presented to students and outside groups at SCRC.

Syracuse University Archives – Guide to Disability Records  points to archival materials that relate to disability, special education, and the University implementation of ADA requirements.


Selected Finding Aids related to Disability topics

Adult Education Association 

Adult Education Association (AEA-USA)/American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE) Records

Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Records
Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Records includes Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Records (office files, board of directors records, financial records, programs and projects, and publications); Albert Schweitzer Hospital records (communications, medical reports, publications, hospital construction including photographs, blueprints, and financial records, U.S. A.I.D. grant, subject files); Association internationale de l'Hopital Albert Schweitzer (communications, subject files, publications); Albert Schweitzer Center records (communications and publications); Schweitzer Memorabilia (Albert Schweitzer documents, Helene Schweitzer documents, Schweitzer-related materials, material by and about Schweitzer in various languages).

Eisenman photographs
More than one thousand photographs of 19th century sideshows and circuses, most by photographer Charles Eisenmann or his successor Frank Wendt, the remainder by unknown photographers. Most of the photographs depict the physical abnormalities of humans and animals featured at these shows. Subjects include P.T. Barnum, the P.T. Barnum Firm (Barnum and Bailey Circus), and Tom Thumb. Also included are Becker’s research notes, an 1865-1868 run of The New York Clipper (forerunner of Billboard Magazine), and various print (broadsides and posters) and non-print circus memorabilia.

George S Schuyler Papers
Papers of the conservative African-American journalist, author; died 1977. Collection includes correspondence (1916-1968); scrapbooks (1912-1961) which contain Schuyler's newspaper columns, photographs of Schuyler, his wife Josephine, and their daughter Philippa, and articles which he collected on civil rights, race relations and interracial marriage; and published material, including periodical issues which contain articles by Schuyler.

James Pirkl Papers
Papers of the American industrial designer, pioneer in transgenerational design and disability issues. Retired in 1992 as Chair of the Dept. of Design, Syracuse University, where he had taught since 1965. Collection includes correspondence, blueprints, drawings, and client files.

James Thorton Correspondence

Letters concerning James (Jimmy) Thornton of Cincinnatus, New York, a pupil at the New York Asylum for Idiots in Syracuse, from Dr. Hervey Wilbur and other staff at the institution to the boy's mother, Mary Thornton (later Mary Wheat).

Joe Lasker Papers

Joe Lasker (1919-2015) was an American painter, illustrator, educator, and political activist....  Correspondence consists primarily of incoming letters from the 1960s relating to Lasker's artwork as well as his activism on behalf of his learning-disabled son and a number of political causes.

Literacy Volunteers of America (LVA)

Papers of the non-profit education and literacy organization founded in 1962 by Ruth J. Colvin in Syracuse, New York. Material in the collection includes audio tapes and cassettes, correspondence, motion pictures, newsletters, primers, readers, reports, slides and video tapes. Areas of special interest are English as a second language, work within correctional facilities, the production of readers and workbooks, involvement in the National Right to Read Effort, and the development of slide/tape and later video tutor training programs.

Morrie Turner Collection

Morrie Turner (1923- ) is an African-American cartoonist and creator of the Wee Pals comic strip.

Turner had no formal art training and worked as a police clerk while he also did freelance cartoons. In 1964 he devoted himself full time to drawing comic strips. As an African-American cartoonist questioning the lack of diversity in cartoons, Turner created Wee Pals which first appeared on February 15, 1965 with the Register and Tribune Syndicate. Due to the racial tensions in the United States at the time, the strip only appeared in five major newspapers. According to the Creator’s Syndicate, “Within three months of [Martin Luther] King's death, the strip was appearing in over 100 newspapers nationwide.

Wee Pals featured a group of children of varying ethnicities and later disabilities. The strip led to an ABC Saturday morning Rankin Bass animated show, Kid Power which premiered September 16, 1972. Turner has taken his message of harmony and acceptance to larger audiences through writing and illustrating children’s books on topics including African-American history, racism, deafness and drugs. Wee Pals has also been adapted into a play. Turner regularly lectures and visits inner city school children who learn cartooning under his direction.

New York State Custodial Asylum for Feeble-Minded Women Record of Inmates

The New York State Custodial Asylum for Feeble-Minded Women in Newark, New York was opened in September, 1878 as a branch of the Syracuse State Institution for Feeble-minded Children. Its purpose was to provide a place for women who were too old for the Syracuse institution but could not be discharged. In 1885, by an act of the Legislature, it was made a separate institution. The Asylum was capable of housing more than 800 inmates and had about a hundred employees, including a superintendent, steward, storekeeper, matron and resident physician. (The Institutional Care of the Insane in the United States and Canada, Volume III, by Henry Mills Hurd et al., The John Hopkins Press, 1916, pp. 250-251.)

Collection consists of one bound volume, recording admissions beteen 1878 and 1888. Some of the pages are annotated with "Discharged" and a date, up through approximately 1915. Each patient record consists of three pages of information, including name, age, place of birth, general health, temperament, habits, and a few items of family history.

Oneida Community Collection
Selected parts of this collection is digitized and available online.

Rowley Family Papers

Correspondence, papers, research notes for book on Amy Rowley, whose parents' efforts to require the state to provide a sign language interpreter in the classroom eventually resulted in the 1982 Supreme Court case Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Amy Rowley.


William Freeman 
In March of 1846 William Freeman, a young man of African-American and Native American descent, murdered four members of the Van Nest family in the town of Fleming in Cayuga County, New York. The victims included a pregnant woman and a two-year-old child. William Seward, later Secretary of State to President Abraham Lincoln and a long-time advocate of prison reform, defended Freeman on the grounds that he had suffered abuse resulting in brain damage and therefore could not be held responsible for his actions, making this one of the earliest American trials to attempt an insanity defense. (Seward defended another murderer, Henry Wyatt, on similar grounds that same year.) Freeman was convicted but Seward successfully appealed, although Freeman died in prison before he could be retried. The prosecuting attorney was John Van Buren, son of President Martin Van Buren.


William Langner Papers

William Langner worked for the Department of Education's Division of Adult Education and Literacy for many years. He was active in raising awareness of education for the disabled (Langner himself was a paraplegic from the age of 18 due to a car accident). Collection includes correspondence (both personal and professional), writings, memorabilia, and large amounts of printed material (papers, reports, handbooks, manuals, etc).concerning adult education.

Willowbrook Papers

In 1972 television reporter and talk show host Geraldo Rivera, then a budding journalist working for ABC's Eyewitness News, conducted a series of investigations at the Willowbrook State School for the Mentally Retarded, on Staten Island. His work resulted in a televised documentary entitled "Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace" which exposed the deplorable conditions and the rampant abuse and neglect of the residents. The report won a Peabody Award and led to changes in state law and to new standards for the treatment of the mentally disabled across the country, as well as making Rivera a national star. Willowbrook closed in 1987 and the area is now part of the campus of Staten Island College.

The Willowbrook Collection consists of notes, photographs, videos, and films relating to "Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace." There are also a few unrelated items, such as a copy of Rivera's biography, Exposing Myself.


Selected SCRC Resources Relating to Eugenics

Baker, La Reine Helen McKenzie. Race improvement, or, Eugenics: A Little Book on a Great Subject (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1912).

Cogdell, Christina. Eugenic Design: Streamlining American in the 1930s. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

Eugenics Then and Now / edited by Carl Jay Bajema (Stroudsburg, Penn.: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, Inc., 1976).

Galton, Francis, Sir. Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development. (New York: Macmillan, 1883).

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Crux (New York: Charlton Co., 1911). (novel).

Grant, Madison. The Passing of the Great Race: or, The Racial Basis of European History (New York: Scribner, 1916).

Huxley, Aldous. Proper Studies (London: Chatto & Windus, 1927) "A Note on Eugenics."

Mitchell, Michael. Monsters of the Gilded Age: Photographs by Charles Eisenmann. (Toronto: Gage, 1979).

New York (State). State School, Syracuse. Account of the Ceremonies at the Laying of the Corner-stone of the New York Asylum for Idiots (Albany, J.        Munsell, 1854).

Noyes, John Humphrey. Essay on Scientific Propagation. (Oneida, N.Y., Oneida Community, 1872).

Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self (New York, International Center of Photography/Harry N. Abrams, 2003).

Popular Eugenics: National Efficiency and American Mass Culture in the 1930s / edited by Susan Currell and Christina Cogdell Robie, W. F. The Art of Love (New York: Eugenics Publishing Co., 1933).

Shaw, Bernard. Bernard Shaw on the Oneida Community (Barnsbury Printing Works from Man and Superman)

Manuscript Collections:  Egmont Arens Papers, Ronald G. Becker Collection of Charles Eisenmann Photographs, Lurelle Guild Papers, Oneida Community, Walter Dorwin Teague Papers, James Thornton Correspondence, Russel Wright Papers