Established in 2014, HOTCUS Travel Awards support research in any area of twentieth century United States history by postgraduate and early career researchers. A full list of winners can be found here.

In 2015, Oenone Kubie (University of Oxford) was awarded a postgraduate award and spent two months in the US researching her project “Boys’ Street Culture in Chicago, 1900-1929”. She reflected:

The majority of my stay was spent, as one might expect in the various archives in Chicago. There I found really promising material: from the papers of the Chicago School sociologists at the University of Chicago to photographs of boys playing around various settlement houses. I am particularly grateful to HOTCUS, however, as their generous support enabled me to extend my trip to include the Illinois State Archives at Springfield, Illinois.

This trip has undoubtedly aided my research and I would once again like to thank HOTCUS for helping make it possible. I’m excited to be back in the UK to see what I can make of the materials I have gathered and I hope to present some of these findings at a future HOTCUS conference.

Photograph credit: photograph from ‘Boy Power: Official Bulletin of the United States Boys’ Working Reserve’ no. 6 (June 15th, 1918), State Council of Defense (WW I), “Boys’ Working Reserve Correspondence, Pamphlets, Reports and Bulletins,” Record Series 517.015, Illinois State Archives.

In 2017, Jak Allen (University of Kent) won a postgraduate prize for his project “Cousins at Law: Civil Liberties under Learned and Augustus Hand, 1909-1961”:

Without the generous support of HOTCUS, this research would not have been possible. In the age of digitisation, the history of law still lags behind other historical fields when it comes to the online accessibility of primary sources and archival documents. The story of the Hands is an example in which its most important sources are confined to those lucky enough to reside in or visit the states of New York and Massachusetts. HOTCUS’ award thus enabled me to be one of those fortunate individuals.

I will now use the information and pictures I have obtained by transferring my knowledge to my research and many future conference papers. However, no words can justifiably describe my gratitude to HOTCUS for helping me undertake the most important research trip within my short academic career.

Photograph credit: bust of Learned Hand, Langdell Hall, Harvard Law School Library, taken by Jak Allen.

In 2018 Katherine Reed (University of Manchester) was awarded a grant for her project on on graffiti by detainees at Ellis Island

Many thanks to HOTCUS for the Travel Award which enabled fieldwork to gain primary source material for my doctoral thesis on graffiti by detainees at Ellis Island immigration station in New York c.1900-1954. With the generous support of the HOTCUS Travel Award, together with a University of Manchester fieldwork bursary and Jones Travelling Grant, I was able to carry out six weeks of archival research in the United States in summer 2018, visiting relevant archives in New York, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis.

At the end of June, I revisited the National Museum of Immigration at Ellis Island in New York. The museum is based in the former immigration station building, and the historic graffiti are either in situ or preserved on fragments within the collections. With the kind assistance of Volunteer-in-Park photographer Steven Sinski, I recorded pencil graffiti on metal doors which were originally located in detention rooms.

Graffiti fragment from Ellis Island immigration station c.1901 (Courtesy of the Statue of Liberty NM / National Park Service).

The central part of the research trip was a month in Washington, D.C., staying at the Catholic University of America’s campus. The focus was working with Record Group 85 at the National Archives (records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and its predecessors). In addition to historic investigations and reports on conditions at Ellis Island, the archive holds extensive correspondence sent to the Commissioner-General of Immigration. Within these records were numerous case files with appeal paperwork for detainees at Ellis Island which have rich potential as context for the graffiti.

While in Washington, D.C., I was fortunate to have a meeting with Marian Smith, the senior historian at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, whose expertise in these records is unparalleled. I also had a telephone meeting with Christiana Cunningham Adams, the art conservator of the Ellis Island graffiti in the 1980s, who very kindly arranged for me to visit the United States Capitol where she worked for over 20 years. Finally, in Washington D.C., I consulted the Terence V. Powderly papers at the Catholic University of America archives, and Historic American Building Survey (HABS) paperwork for Ellis Island at the Library of Congress.

The final part of the trip was a week at the Immigration History Research Centre Archives at the University of Minnesota. Among extensive relevant holdings, I was particularly interested in the papers of the eminent immigration historian Rudolf Vecoli who was an advisor on the development of the Ellis Island museum in the 1980s. These papers, which included a draft of the original museum exhibition text, were fascinating, especially from the perspective of analysing the graffiti as heritage. Within the Elizabeth Gurley Flynn papers, the archive also held copies of letters by anarchists detained at Ellis Island during the post-World War I red scare.

The opportunity to spend sustained time in archives in the United States was vital for the progression of my PhD research, and has given me a wealth of source material to work with during the final year. I am very grateful for the HOTCUS Travel Award: both for the practical financial aid, and the intangible support for the project that it represents. An initial article on my research on the Ellis Island graffiti is forthcoming in the Journal of American Ethnic History in spring 2019. I also look forward to presenting my research at one of the HOTCUS events next year.