Dickinson College, Spring 2023

Author: herzfels

JOURNAL 2: Laurent LaVallee Secondary Source Post

Beginning secondary source research, in my opinion, can be even tougher. But I have found two key takeaways, so far when it comes to secondary sources. One is that the difficulty in finding secondary sources comes in choosing the correct key terms- not too specific or too broad- and applying them to the correct databases. So, finding these terms and choosing the right databases is essential. Moreover, after class discussions and readings this semester, I have found it helpful to imagine the perfect source and then design key terms around what that source might include. For me, this came from developing good research questions, and then imagining the source that might perfectly answer that question.

War and Labor Board

For this project, I began by attempting to discover the role of Regional War and Labor Boards in the early 1940s. LaVallee served on one in Denver, and this is where he was accused of communist activities. As such, I figured it would be important to discover the roles he held and duties for which he was responsible. Honestly, in my original search, I could not find many sources that specifically dealt with regional labor boards and communism. So, I widened my search and tried to do some research on roles of the Regional War Labor Boards in general. This too was frustrating and produced few results.

Political Cartoon promoting Labor from the National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons

It was then that I decided it was time to close my laptop and send an email to Professor Pinsker, asking for advice on where I might find more sources on this topic. The email was sent via scheduled send, of course, because at this point it was about 1:30am. When you find yourself in the dark, over an hour deep in failed searches about World War II labor administration, I’ve found it’s a good time to temporarily call it quits.

When I resumed the search at a more respectable hour, I realized that I might have to not only expand my topic, but also expand my database list. I had mostly limited my search to JSTOR and America: History & Life. When I expanded my search to Google Books (at Professor Pinsker’s suggestion), I was still not able to find much on regional labor boards. But, I did find a book which included a chapter on the National War Labor Board. Though it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, it still gives me some information generally about War Labor Boards, and I know that I will keep trying, more creatively, as I continue researching.

Red Scare

Another main question I wanted to answer surrounded the role that communism played in universities during the Second Red Scare. For LaVallee, an academic accused of once being a communist sympathizer, the answer to this question would have been extremely influential. I was able to identify the correct combination of keywords and databases more quickly for this question and immediately got more hits than previous searches about the War Labor Boards.

Senator Joseph McCarthy, Wikimedia Commons

Terms that worked for this second topic included: AAUP (including spelling out the acronym), Cold War, House Un-American Activities Committee, and the best term: academic freedom. Terms like WWII (spelled out) and communism seemed to confuse the search engine – I believe they were too broad either geographically or chronologically. Curiously, McCarthyism did not turn up many usable results. The combination of Cold War and academic freedom was particularly useful. Using JSTOR and America: History & Life I quickly found a few journal articles that loo

Representative, Martin Dies, Head of the House Un-American Activities Committee, Wikimedia Commons

-ked worth my while. I expanded my search to Jumpstart, which produced a journal article, Google Books, which did not have much, and EbscoHost which generated a book that had a section dedicated to the topic.

Though this process was certainly frustrating, I think it taught and continued to remind me that it is important to keep topic in mind when you are deciding where you look for sources. Because of the nature of academic freedom as a topic, it makes sense that academics at universities would write about it. This explains the abundance of journal articles: the topic is directly pertinent to a large demographic that writes and researches in peer-reviewed sources. The first topic, though, is uber specific and seemingly lacks as natural an interested audience of historians and researchers. This means that I will have to be more creative in locating sources related to it.

A final quick takeaway: book reviews are your friend, especially in the initial stages of research! From the book review that I found, I know that I probably won’t read the whole book, but I did get some others in the historiography section that seem helpful and about half of the book sections look like they could be useful.

Once I had my sources organized, I went through them more carefully than a quick skim, and these were my findings:

One of the main contributions these sources made to my project was giving me more ideas for how to research the Times section of Life and Times. I would like to look into further O. John Rogge, a lawyer who fought against the House Unamerican Activity Committee and several other professors that were removed during the McCarthy era under the guise of being communists. I will be interested to see if these professors were granted a hearing by their universities because while LaVallee was, other professors were not even given that opportunity to defend themselves.

I want to learn more about the Hiss and Smith Acts and the following trials, as well as the other active institutions which fought for academic freedom such as the ACLU and Progressive Education Association. I would also like to find out if LaVallee was tenured as one of the articles discussed in detail the factors of public vs private institutions and tenured vs untenured status as protections for academic freedom.

Closing Thoughts and Discoveries:

First, the California Plan held that communists could not be employed at academic institutions, not because of their political beliefs, but because they had abandoned objectivity which, its creators hold as vital for employment in an academic institution. This plan guided institutions in their “trial” process and determined what due process meant in these situations.

Secondly, the sources also suggested that LaVallee’s case was not particularly out of character in students’ reactions to the situation. In other, similar, cases of the suspension/firing of professors, it seems as if students protest the removal intensely. However, the extreme faculty upset at Dickinson seems unusual for the time. In most cases, the administration is painted as paranoid villains, out to get pillars of academic freedom. Recognizing this narrative will help me in attempting to prevent bias when I write more about this story, myself.


“Academic Freedom – Censure List.” American Association of University Professors. Accessed March 27 2023. [URL]

Brown, Ralph S., Kurland, Jordan E. “Academic Tenure and Academic Freedom.” Law and Contemporary Problems 53, no. 3 (1990): 325-55.[JSTOR]

Cain, Timothy Reese. “’Friendly Public Sentiment’ and the Threats to Academic Freedom.” History of Education Quarterly 58, no. 3 (2018): 428-35.

Deery, Phillip. “Political Activism, Academic Freedom and the Cold War: An American Experience.” Labor History 98, (2010): 183-205. [JSTOR]

Franklin, RW. “Lessons from the Past Illuminate the Curran Affair: ‘No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities.’” Review of No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities, by Ellen Schrecker. College Teaching, 35, no.2 (1987): 50-52. [JSTOR]

Kersten, Andrew E. Labor’s Home Front: The American Federation of Labor During World War II. NYU Press, 2006. [Google Books]

McCumber, John. “Rationalizing Academic Repression: The Allen Formula.” In The Philosophy Scare, 135-153. Chicago University Press, 2016. [EbscoHost]


JOURNAL 1: Laurent LaVallee Primary Source Post

Beginning primary source research can be tough. But it is also rewarding, and I found that each time I went into the archives I was appreciative to be able to do historical research. I found some interesting things and I still have a lot more work to do.

Laurent LaVallee was a professor at Dickinson College, accused communist, and employee of the United States government as both a soldier and economist. When I decided upon LaVallee as my topic, he seemed like a shadowy figure shrouded in the smoky circumstances of the Red Scare and the twists and turns of academia’s politics. As I have begun the process of researching his Life, Times, and Memory, my goal was to clear a bit of the smoke and create a map for the twists and turns. In order to do this, I took a few trips to the Dickinson Archives and used online databases.

To The Archives!

My first step, before I went into the physical archives, was to look at the Dickinson Archives online collection, where I fou

Student Statement of Belief, Dickinson College Archives, March 2023

-nd some articles in the Dickinsonian from the year that LaVallee was fired, and perhaps more importantly, the finding aid for LaValles’ file. With this I was able to plan trips to the archives and study similar material at the same time. This helped to keep my research (and notes) more organized, though I quickly learned the importance of this when a third trip to the Archives was necessary at the last minute, in order to cite my sources.

The articles in the Dickinsonian (as student written sources) focused heavily on student reaction to the proceedings of the case. So, for my first trip, I was interested in looking further at the students’ reactions. One of the articles from the Dickinsonian referenced a petition by students that protested the firing of LaVallee. I found the petition. In fact, I found at least 15 copies of this petition. At first, I could not understand why there were so many copies, but I realized that it was because each copy had different signatures, a testament to the at least dozens of students that disagreed with LaVallee’s suspension.

One of my other favorite finds was also a source in duplicates. I came across a several copies of the report by administration announcing the removal of LaVallee from the College. Upon closer look, I realized that the writings were edits made by William Edel (president of the College at the time) because he signed them at the end (thanks, Edel!). Sure enough, when I compared them to the final copy, the handwritten changes had been made.

President William Edel, Edited and Final Copies of Dismissal Report to the Board

I’m glad that I found these sources, for what they helped me to learn about the LaVallee situation, but also because I think it reminded me the of the value of archival research. Though it can be tough to handle documents by hand, without the benefit of technology that identifies keywords, comparing the signed petitions and the copies of Edel’s report in-person gave me insight into the sheer number of students that supported LaVallee and into Edel’s thought process.

Online Research Between In-Person Visits

After this, I did another round of at-home, digital, research where I looked at secondary sources (see second journal entry), into the AAUP (American Association of University Professors, who censured the college after LaVallee’s firing), and Ancestry Library. I knew going into this project that the biggest challenge would be looking at LaVallee’s life after Dickinson, because in talking to both Malinda Triller-Doran and Professor Pinsker, I was warned that there was not much research done on the topic previously.

I started out on ancestry with a basic search of his name and birthplace, Worchester, MA and immediately found a birth record and death record (from Plainsfield, VT in 1998). With a little bit more digging, I found records of his entry/discharge into the army in 1944/1945 and his marriage to Louis Merrix in 1948. I was able to find these documents once I realized that on his birth record his name was listed as Lawrence, not Laurent, LaValle (though with the same birth date and place as was listed in other sourcs).

Massachusetts Birth Record, 1913, Laurent R. LaValleeves, Melinda helped me to use Newspapers.com to find a report of his hiring at Goddard College in 1961, after he was fired from Dickinson.

Additionally, I saw some sources that referred to him as Raymond, his middle name. These were mostly repeated documents, but having a potential pseudonym was helpful. I confirmed Raymond as an alternate name when a source in the Dickinson Archives had him listed as Raymond (a colleague referred to him as Raymond in a letter of recommendation to the College). This will be helpful for further research, and perhaps explains why he seemed to disappear after he left Dickinson.

Back to the Archives!

This brings me to my next trip to the archives, where I wanted to establish a timeline of his accusal, trial, suspension, and removal at Dickinson. I was also on the lookout for a source that referred to Herbert Fuchus, the person who originally named LaValle as a communist in his trial with the Committee on Un-American Activities. One of the first things I looked at was the correspondences between William Edel, other administrators, faculty, and lawyers (mostly David Kohn, who seemed to be Edel’s personal lawyer, though I’m not yet sure why Kohn is not listed as the College’s lawyer, instead).  These letters mostly went over possible evidence for the trial against LaVallee and had a distinctly accusatory tone. This was consistent with McCarthy era (and according to Malinda, with Edel’s reported personality).

I also was able to locate the court record of the trial Herbert Fuchus, where he named LaVallee as a communist (a common practice for these trials). The timing of these sources allowed me to construct a timeline from start (when LaVallee was accused) to finish (when he was fired) for the affair, overall about a year.

What’s Next?

Going forward, I would like to do some more research into the timeline of events and dedicate a few days into fully reading the hundreds of pages of LaVallee’s trial documents, including a transcription and exhibits, which I skimmed, but did not have the time to read in detail. Additionally, I will investigate the AAUP documents that I discovered in my last trip to the archives in speaking to Malinda, including Dickinson’s report of the AAUP censure. I also have plans to contact the other colleges where LaVallee worked and request through Inter Library Loan a copy of his obituary that Malinda helped me to locate with the Dickinson Archives account through Newspapers.com.


“Board Holds Hearing For Dr. LaVallee.” Dickinsonian, April 27 1956.

“Dr. L. LaVallee Hearing held Friday, April 26.” Dickinsonian, April 13 1956.

“Economics Teacher Named at Goddard.” The Burlington Free Press (Burlingtonette, VT), Jul. 14, 1961.

Students of Dickinson college, “Statement of Student Belief” 1956, Carlisle, PA, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

Edel, William E., Carlisle, to David Kohn, April 16 1956, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

Edel, William E., Carlisle, to David Kohn, May 31 1956, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

Edel, William E., “RE: Professor Laurent R. LaVallee.” June 1, 1956, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

Hearing Before the Committee of House, Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-Fourth Congress, First Session, Investigation of Communist Infiltration of Government, December 13, 1955, pg. 2999-3000.Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

Kohn, David, Harrisburg, to William E. Edel, March 30 1956, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

“LaVallee questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee.” Dickinsonian, March 9 1956.

“LaVallee Action Protestsed by Students and Faculty.” Dickinsonian, March 23 1956.

“Massachusetts, U.S., Birth Index, 1860-1970.” AncestryLibrary.com. 2023

“N.S.A. Sends a Statement on Recent Issue.” Dickinsonian, May 4 1956.

“Oregon, U.S., Country Marriage Index, 1851-1975.” AncestryLIbrary.com. 2023.

“U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014.” AncestryLibrary.com. 2023.

“Vermont, U.S., Death Index, 1981-2002.” AncestryLibrary.com. 2023.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén