Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Spare Room

Ever wonder what your dorm was like in the distant past? How much the rooms cost, which were the most desirable? Well you can easily find out by consulting the Dormitory Floor Plans, Descriptions and Room Rate put out by the College Bursar.

In 1931 Mass Row was touted for its vestibule enclosed stairways that shielded the rooms from the noise of people going up and down the stairs. It was also unique in that the rooms all had private toilets for every room. Even the color scheme of the rooms and corridors is described (rooms were finished in ivory and brown while the brick walls of the corridors were painted in brown and cream). Rooms were priced based on desirability and ranged from a high of $320 per occupant to a low of $165.

What the Dormitory Floor Plans fail to impart is the spartan nature of the rooms. Rooms came with a bed frame--you brought your own mattress--a set of roller curtains and a dresser. Everything else had to be supplied by the students. In fact, the rooms were so barren that the Dartmouth Handbook (for freshman) provided this piece of advice to new arrivals: "If you are rooming in a dormitory, don't let the former occupants of the room sell you the radiator or the roller curtains. They come with the room."

So if you're housed in one of the older dorms, come by and check out the Dormitory Floor Plans, Rauner Reference LD 1439.8 .D3. You might be amused to see what your room once cost and how it stacked up against other dorm rooms at the time.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Where the Wild Things Really Are

In response to Martin Luther King's assassination on April 4, 1968, riots broke out in Northwest Washington, DC's predominately black neighborhood around 14th and U streets. 2,500 law-enforcement officers were able to establish order in the early morning of Friday, April 5. By then 150 stores had been looted and 200 people had been arrested. On Friday, April 5, the riots spread to other parts of the city. They were still going strong on Saturday, April 6, despite the deployment of more than 13,600 federal troops and National Guardsman. The security forces were under strict orders from Mayor Washington not to shoot rioters. When the riots finally died down on Sunday twelve people had died and more than 1,000 had been injured.

In response to the riots and to help the children who attended the inner city schools in the riot areas cope with what was happening around them, Norman W. Nickens, the assistant superintendent, gave the following instruction to his teachers:
"Remember, classes simply cannot go on as usual. Unusual events have occurred and your children are preoccupied with these. In times of crisis, children learn rapidly. Therefore, make use of the events of the April 5 weekend to help them learn. Do not fail them by lecturing when they need to talk."
John Mathews, a reporter on education for The Evening Star in Washington, DC, who quoted the above passage in a 1968 article he wrote with Ernest Holsendolph for the New York Times Magazine had access to some of the material that had been created by the children. According to Mathews, "the discussions, compositions and pictures showed that fear and a feeling that the adult world was spinning out of control were prevalent emotions."

We recently received several drawings created by these kids who were then between the ages of 8 and 14. The feeling of devastation is prevalent in all of them, so is the fear. However, Mathews also noticed a certain "excitement and elation" related to the fact that "before the troops arrived in force, masses of black people controlled the streets and for once, it was truly safe to be black."

To view the collection, which contains 23 drawings, as well as a variety of posters, student newspapers and ephemera of that time ask for MS-1335.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Alpha Delta Phi Meeting Minutes

Dartmouth College fraternities have played a large role in college fraternity history and inspired the movie whose poster almost every Dartmouth student has in his or her dorm room: Animal House. It is no surprise that Dartmouth fraternities are still very much alive today, but walking into a basement on “Frat Row” tells only a limited story.

At Rauner library, one can look into the fraternity life at Dartmouth as far back to the 1840s when the first ones opened on campus. Almost all of the fraternities have extensive records housed there with photographs of the fraternities’ drama troops, the Delta Kappa Epsilon initiation books with mysteriously burned edges, and what I found to be most interesting, the meeting minutes.

One fraternity that should definitely be checked out is the Alpha Delta Phi—today known as Alpha Delta or AD—meeting minutes. A fraternity that just recently got derecognized, it gives people the chance to see the mischief the fraternity got into, how the brothers’ values changed with time, and how some traditions stayed the same. For instance, in the early twentieth century, the brothers discussed the house parties they would hold for Winter Carnival. Then when the U.S. entered World War I, they rapidly turned their attention to Europe even discussing if polygamy will be necessary in Germany after the war. But all the while, they continued freshman recruiting rituals or what they called “chinning.”

As a freshman girl, I may have no idea what goes on in the meetings Wednesday nights at fraternities, but now I can know what the brothers did, what they cared about, and what they thought about. It gives us an inside look not just into the minds of the people who lived through large events like World War I and World War II, but into what college boys thought at the time. In my opinion, it does not seem too different than how they think today. Don’t believe me? Have a look at the records then knock on a fraternity house door, a house that may have stood there since 1919.

To see the meeting minutes for Alpha Delta, ask at Rauner for the Alpha Delta Phi, Dartmouth College Records (DO-3).

Posted for Allison Gelman '18, HIST 62 class.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Spirit of Memorial Field

For almost a century, Dartmouth students have packed the stands of Memorial Field every Saturday in the fall to witness the Big Green play on the gridiron. Many students are unaware that they are cheering in the World War I memorial on campus.

The idea to construct a new football field to honor the fallen Dartmouth soldiers emerged immediately at the conclusion of the war. The field was part of a larger improvement of tennis courts, the hockey rink, the baseball field and secondary football fields, but Memorial Field was the focus of the campaign. Men advocated for an improvement to the athletic facilities for two reasons.

The first was practical—Dartmouth's Alumni Oval, the current football field, was outdated and inadequate for the size of the school. Second, men argued that football and war embodied the same spirit of Dartmouth men and the youthful vitality the fallen men had. War and football were both mediums for Dartmouth men to gain discipline, rigor and strong values. An article in The Dartmouthafter the announcement of the project claimed, "Not every Dartmouth man who died in France or Flanders was an athlete, to be sure, but the spirit in which they fought is exemplified nowhere in American life better than in contests on the gridiron" (The Dartmouth>, 12/15/1919). The Dartmouth spirit was highly valued in the eyes of alumni and students of the College at the time, and they looked to the football field to see tangible evidence of that spirit in action.

The football field was also where the fiber of American youth manifested through youthful actions. President Hopkins believed that, "[i]t is generally conceded that the outdoor life of the American people, and the interest of the American youth in sports, were large factors in developing the fiber of the armies which went abroad. There would seem to be a definite appropriateness in emphasizing this phase of American life in any project which should be advanced as a memorial for the Dartmouth men whose lives were lost in the Great War." (The Dartmouth, 01/17/1921). The way that Dartmouth men fought in the First World War and the way they played games on the gridiron were the same. They both required a combination of the Dartmouth spirit and the rigor and youthful strength gained on the football field and in the trenches. Only a football field would properly memorialize and perpetuate these values by both honoring the men that died and passing on the gift of youth to future generations.

Memorial Field’s forgotten origins were a key connection between football and war at Dartmouth during the early twentieth century, a link that Dartmouth men aimed to memorialize and preserve for generations to come.

To see photos of the field and memorial, ask at Rauner for the Athletic Field and War Memorials photo files. Some of the images are also available online and can be found via keyword search in the Dartmouth College Photographic Files database.

Posted for Leigh Steinberg, HIST 62 class

Friday, July 3, 2015

"Listen to the Voice of Reason"

"Happy should I be, were it possible to induce this deluded people to listen to the voice of reason; to abandon a set of me making them stilts to their own private ambition; to return to their former confidence in the King and his Parliament, and like the Romans when they threw off the yoke of the Decemvirs: -- 'Inde libertatis captare aurum, unde servitutem timendo Republicam in eum statum perduxere.'"

That's the last paragraph of Jonathan Lind's introduction to An Answer to the Declaration of the American Congress (London: Printed for T. Cadell in the Strand; J. Walter, Charing Cross; and T. Sewell, near the Royal Exchange, 1776). In this volume, Lind attacks the various assertions and statements contained in the Declaration of Independence one article at a time.

The tone of the rebuttals tends to be on the sarcastic side, if not outright inflammatory. Take Lind's opening sally in his answer to Article 4 - the one about calling legislative bodies together in unusual, uncomfortable and distant places.
There is something so truly ridiculous in this Article that it is hardly possible to answer it with any becoming gravity. At first blush it looks as if inserted by an enemy, as if intended to throw an air of ridiculousness on the declaration in general.
The whole Answer is 132 pages long. In terms of spin control and swaying the populace it certainly wasn't as effective as the much shorter Declaration of Independence. Lind's final plea to make "whatever efforts may be necessary, to bring this ungrateful and rebellious people back to the allegiance they have...now so daringly renounced" doesn't quite have the same linguistic polish as the last line of the Declaration: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

To read all of Lind's Answer, ask for McGregor 104.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mommy's Angel

Philip Booth '48 was a mid-twentieth-century poet whose work was published regularly in such prominent places as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and Poetry, among others. A native of Hanover, New Hampshire, Booth served in the USAF during World War II and then came to Dartmouth College, where he studied (albeit briefly) with Robert Frost. Upon graduation, Booth went to Columbia to earn a master's degree and then quickly returned to Dartmouth. After several years as an instructor of creative writing in the English department, he taught in turn at Bowdoin, Wellesley, and Syracuse, where he helped to found their Creative Writing program. During the course of his career, Booth won numerous prestigious fellowships, including ones from the Guggenheim and the NEA. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of American Poets in 1983 and died in 2007.

In addition to his own poetic accomplishments, Booth was also a regular correspondent with other rising poets of his time, including Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Booth was the nephew of Plath's psychiatrist at Smith College and is first mentioned by Plath in her journal from 1958. At Rauner, we have a small cache of correspondence between Booth, Plath, and Hughes from the years 1960-61. Included is a rather cheery-looking Christmas card from December of 1960, in which Plath dotes upon her daughter, Frieda, barely eight months old at the time. Plath states that Frieda is "an angel to confound us atheists," while Hughes embarks upon a self-indulgent if tongue-in-cheek analysis of the card's cover image.

In a subsequent letter, dated March 29, 1961, Plath's description of her daughter is that of a "changeling" who is filling their nights with "teething yowls." She also mentions that she would give anything for a little money to pay for a nanny so that she could have some solid blocks of time in which to write. These apparently contradictory descriptions of motherly life will ring true for anyone who has children of their own. This small glimpse into Plath's experience as a mother makes her suicide less than two years later all the more poignant. In February of 1963, Plath would carefully seal off the door to where Frieda and her little brother slept before going to the kitchen, placing wet towels across the bottom of its door, and turning on the gas in the oven. By the time a nurse arrived several hours later to help her with the children, she was dead.

To read the Booth-Plath-Hughes correspondence at Rauner, ask for MS-426, Box 1, folder 12.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Court Rulings

Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (London: Jonathan Cape, 1928) was an effort to force issues of sexual orientation into the public discourse. The novel traces the life of Stephen Gordon, a woman born into a wealthy family who self identifies as male and suffers a life of loneliness because of society’s lack of acceptance. While the book is rooted in early twentieth century notions of homosexuality, it began a push for gay rights.

Not surprisingly, the book was declared obscene for its subject matter and banned in England. In the United States, there was an attempt to ban the book, but the courts ruled that the subject matter was not inherently obscene and allowed the book to stand. The case was argued by Morris Ernst who would later defend James Joyce’s Ulysses in court in another landmark obscenity case.

The U. S. courts today have ruled again in favor of a more open and accepting society.

We have a copy of the first edition of the banned London edition signed by the author. To see it, ask for Rare PR6015.A33W43 1928.