In addition to the general library collection, which provides ample opportunity to research Carson and her work, Shain Library also houses The Linda Lear Collection of Rachel Carson Books and Papers on the 2nd floor of Shain Library, as well as various related works in our government documents collection. This guide aims to shed light on the latter.
After all, "Carson did her major work while she was an employee of the Federal government."
-Wayne Rasmussen. Agricultural History Society. July 1, 1993. The Linda Lear Collection of Rachel Carson Books and Papers, Box 29, File 9. Connecticut College. Correspondence.
Rachel Carson died two years after the publication of Silent Spring, a book that unexpectedly changed the course of history. It attracted the attention of President John F. Kennedy with its serialization in The New Yorker magazine (June 1962), several months before it was even published in book form (September 1962). Within a decade, sweeping environmental laws were enacted, and Carson has been called the fountainhead of the modern environmental movement.*
We know from the scholarship of Linda Lear that Carson was fortunate to have worked with the wildlife scientists at the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), because it was "the one agency in the government [that] had a long standing record of concern about the widespread use of synthetic pesticides" (Lear, "Rachel Carson's Silent Spring," Environmental History Review 17.2 (Summer, 1993): 29). Located near the FWS research facility in suburban Washington, DC, where Carson worked, there were two other facilities operated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, where DDT and other synthetic pesticides were tested.
Carson's behind-the-scenes familiarity with the USDA's pesticide research was the starting place for what would become Silent Spring.
Rachel Carson testified as a witness in person before a congressional hearing only twice. But the impact of her work on policy discussions is made clear by the many, varied ways in which she is invoked in hundreds of congressional hearings over the decades.
Congressional Hearings in Shain Library:
Witness testimony by Carson:
On April 4, 1963, six months after the publication of Silent Spring, and the day after CBS aired the prime-time television special "The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson," Connecticut Senator Abraham Ribicoff announced a congressional review of environmental pollution and pesticide use. These hearings began on May 16th. Carson testified as a witness on June 4th (p. 206).
Two days after the "Ribicoff Hearing," on June 6, 1963, Carson testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce (p. 16). Senator Maurine Neuberger had introduced two bills to control the spraying of pesticides.
There are many congressional hearings in Shain Library on related topics. The names of the witnesses at these hearings read like a who's who of people working on the issues, including Connecticut College professor of botany, Dr. William A. Niering. Try the search tips listed above.
On assignment at the Fish & Wildlife Service in the late 1940s, Carson contributed to the highly regarded Conservation Bulletins.
Carson, Rachel. "Food from the Sea; Fish and Shellfish of New England." Conservation Bulletin 33. US Fish & Wildlife Service. 1943.
Carson, Rachel. "Help Your Child to Wonder." Women's Home Companion. July 1956.
Farinholt, Mary K. The New Masked Man in Agriculture: Pesticides and the Health of the Agricultural Users. Cleveland: National Consumers Committee for Research and Education, 1962.
"Use of Pesticides." A Report of the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC). The White House. Washington, DC: 15 May 1963.
What can you do in honor of Rachel Carson?
Go outside and explore the wonders of our natural world!*
President John F. Kennedy took pride in being well read. One of his favorite magazines was The New Yorker, in which Silent Spring was serialized in 1962. He is pictured above with his cabinet in the White House, 1961.*
At a press conference on August 29, 1962, in response to a question about the potential dangers of widespread pesticide use, President Kennedy made reference to Carson's book.
Search the Public Papers of the Presidents:
Other presidential publications:
Given the history of Shain Library and its collections, government publications can actually be found in every section of the library. Newer government documents (post-1950) are located in the compact shelving area on the lower-level as pictured above (SuDoc classification). Older documents (pre-1950) are located in the Dewey compact shelving area (Dewey Decimal classification), right across from gov docs. Other works could be classified in the general collection (Library of Congress classification):
SuDoc Classification (lower-level)
A: Department of Agriculture (USDA)
A1.76:103 Insecticide Recommendations of the Entomology Research Branch for the Control of Insects Attacking Crops and Livestock (1956)
A77.245 Family Economics Review (1961-1992)
A93.26 Agricultural Economics Research (1949-1987)
A94.11 Agricultural Science Review (1963-1974)
C: Department of Commerce (DoC)
Environmental Management Publications
EP: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
HE: Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
I: Department of Interior
I49: United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
I49.2:M31/3 Man and Nature in the City: A Symposium (1968)
I49.4:36 Fishery Publication Index (1920-1964)
I49.4:107 Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (1961)
I49.4:138 Indian Backgrounds of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (1962)
I49.4:140 Your Stake in Wetlands (1962)
I49.4:167 Pesticide-Wildlife Studies (1961-1964)
I49.4:214 Guide for Buying Fresh and Frozen Fish and Shellfish (1965)
I49.4:220 Wildlife Research: Problems, Programs, Progress (1962, 1964)
I49.4:226 Effects of Pesticides on Fish and Wildlife (1965)
Y4: Congressional publications (e.g. Hearings)
Y4.Ag8/1 Committee on Agriculture (House)
Y4.C73/2 Committee on Commerce (Senate)
Y4.M53 Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries
Y4.P96 Committee on Public Works
Dewey Decimal Classification (lower-level)
597.Un3 - Fishery Bulletin of the FWS (1888-1972)
597.Un3i - Investigational Report FWS (1931-1972)
597.Un3r - Annual report Fisheries Commissioner (1924-1939)
630.6 Un3 - Yearbook of Agriculture (1926-1972)
630.6 Un3f - Farmers' Bulletin (1895-1975)
630.6 Un3t - Technical Bulletin USDA (1928-1968)
Library of Congress Classification (2nd & 3rd floors)
S930.U3 - The Quiet Crisis by Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, with an introduction by President John F. Kennedy
SB951.C64 - Conference on Insecticide Resistance and Insect Physiology (1952)
SK351 - Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference (1947-2004)
Source: timeline adapted from