Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Dorm Beautiful

Photograph of the expensively decorated dorm room of Gail Borden '26
Long before the Dartmouth Plan created a sense of general chaos for student housing, dorm rooms could be a multi-year commitment. If you really wanted to, you could move into a room and stay for several years. Since rooms were only marginally furnished, students could adorn them with any furniture they could afford. For some students with the ways and means, customizing their rooms became an obsession that denoted their class status. These were gentlemen in the making!

A photo of an article in House Beautiful showing the decor of a Dartmouth student dorm room.Case in point, young Gail Borden ‘26, moved into a new room his sophomore year and didn’t leave until he graduated. Heir to the fortune of Borden Dairy, he opted for one of the most expensive spaces on campus. 20 Massachusetts Hall was a corner room with a separate bedroom and its own sink and toilet. But it was a mere shell before Borden started decorating: leather-bound furniture, book shelves with rare and finely printed books, an overhead lantern, what looks like a kind of wet bar (it was the ‘20s though…), and a Navaho rug on the wall. It was such a stunner of a room that the popular House Beautiful featured it in an article about the fine decorating tastes of several Dartmouth students. Under Borden’s care, 20 Mass became “the fitting room of a connoisseur of fine books and a very well-read student of literature.” The maple desk is 100 years old and the mahogany drop leaf table was picked up at a local antique shop. The hanging lantern is a Paul Revere. For you book lovers who read our blog (we know who you are), he has a 17th-century Holinshed on his shelves as well as his personal copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer! Don’t we all?

To see pictures of Borden’s room as well as hundreds of others, ask for Iconography 851. To see the issue of House Beautiful, ask for DC History NK2117.B4 W348.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Activist Librarian

Laing's resolution as it appears in the Faculty Meeting Minutes, 1945We started this blog way back in September 2009. Our first blog post was on Naked Lunch, and we were excited to see it get a few dozen hits over the course of a month. Since then, we have blogged 872 times, and last week our total page views shot over 500,000. We saw it coming, and about six weeks ago, we started a betting pool among library staff: the closest guess to the date we hit half a million would win a blog post in their honor. We had a tie, both Julie McIntyre in Library Acquisitions and Joe Montibello in the Digital Library Technology Group guessed August 2nd. Today's post is in their honor.

For Julie and Joe, we look back at a time when Assistant Librarian Alexander Laing took steps to make Dartmouth a more inclusive, open environment. For many years, Dartmouth had a quota on how many Jewish students it would admit. It was a policy that many people on campus found abhorrent but one that was supported by President Ernest Hopkins. When Hopkins announced his retirement, Alexander Laing tried to take advantage of the moment to nullify the policy as John Dickey assumed the presidency. In a resolution brought before the faculty on November 26, 1945, he asked the faculty for something that sounds so simple:
To reaffirm its respect for that portion of the Charter of Dartmouth College which forbids the exclusion, by the Trustees of the College, of 'any Person of any religious denomination whatsoever from free and equal liberty and advantage of Education or from any of the liberties and privileges or immunities of the said College on account of his or their speculative sentiments in Religion and of his or their being of religious profession different from the said Trustees of the said Dartmouth College.'
The resolution went on to affirm the right of the College to assign quotas for geographical distribution or legacy students, but reject any that were based on religion or race. But it was not so simple to the faculty. They were unwilling to impinge on the new President's authority, and punted on the resolution. In a classic bureaucratic move, they referred it to the Committee on Admissions and the Freshman Year.

The full story is a complicated one. You can read more about the resolution and its reception in Laura Barrett's 2017 MALS thesis, "Defining Dartmouth: Exclusion and Inclusion at Dartmouth College 1917-2017." To see the resolution, ask for the Minutes of the Faculty Meeting, Dean of Faculty Records, Box 4227. You'll find it on page 112.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Medical Journey

George Rice was a member of Dartmouth's class of 1869 and one of the first African-American students to enroll in Dartmouth in the 1800s. Rice came to Dartmouth from a preparatory school in Massachusetts. The son of a steamship steward, Rice knew before he arrived in Hanover that he wanted to become a physician someday. Given that minorities were few and far between on Dartmouth's campus even in 1869, it's hard to imagine the hurdles and challenges that Rice faced over a hundred years earlier.

Eventually, he would graduate and move to Paris to begin his medical education after being rejected by Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons because of his race. In 1874, he graduated from the University of Edinburgh with the degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Master in Surgery. Rice went on to practice medicine for over fifty years in Great Britain, primarily in Sutton, Surrey. He served as the public vaccinator for Sutton, Cheam, and Carshalton until the year before his death in 1935.

To learn more about George Rice, or to explore other stories of minority students from Dartmouth's past, come to Rauner and ask to see the alumni files of any of the college's past graduates.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Great Day

Women students disembarking from bus on the GreenIn 1967, the student-run Committee on Freshman Reading organized a day-long event to bring women from nearby colleges to Dartmouth for a series of book discussions. Based on a small exchange of students from Colby the past December, the event was far grander, bringing nearly 400 women to campus for the day. 72 books were chosen ahead of time, and small groups coalesced over each title in "an informal and relaxed atmosphere." All were invited to dinner, then an evening of events that included a free movie, a hockey game, and a variety show in the Studio Theater. The point was to socialize with members of the opposite sex, but in an environment where intellectual engagement superseded the usual partying of the big date weekends like Winter Carnival or Green Key.

Discussion group in Dartmouth classroom
Despite the alarming headline in The D, "Four Hundred Girls Invade College," the students seemed to approach the day with maturity--reading their Ibsen and Agee and participating in the discussions. The Alumni Magazine was a little less respectful, focusing on the novelty of women on campus and describing the visitors as being "as attractive as they were intelligent." The photographs from the day are a treat, showing an early co-education moment in Dartmouth's history.

Dartmouth student giving directions to a visiting student
The images are all digitized and you can find them in the Photo Files.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Legendary Hero of the Battle of Yashima

A painting of Japanese samura on foot and horseback from within the Nara Ehon
Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan and an important site of cultural development for the Japanese people. The Nara Period, lasting from 710 to 794 CE, saw numerous advancements: the first minting of coins, the establishment of Buddhism as a permanent and state-encouraged religion, and the creation of the first written Japanese literary and historical texts. Subsequent generations of Japanese people looked back on the Nara period as a cultural touchstone and a defining moment in the history of their country. As a result, numerous legends and heroes from that period became enshrined in Japanese literature, and one popular genre was the Nara Ehon, or the Nara picture books. These hand-painted manuscript codices traditionally told the tale of a hero or event from the Nara period or some other legendary moment from Japan's past. Their creators used gold and silver lavishly, as well as a stunning palette of beautiful and bright colors that make the scenes and characters come alive on the page.

Here at Rauner, we have a sumptuous example of a Nara Ehon that is titled Yashima. Our manuscript
A painting of Japanese samura on foot and horseback from within the Nara Ehon, including a decapitated warrior.
was made in the 17th century and tells the story of Sato Tsuginobu. Tsuginobu was a soldier who served in the army of Minamoto no Yoshitsune, himself one of the most famous samurai warriors in the history of Japan. During the naval Battle of Yashima on March 22, 1185, Tusginobu leapt in front of his master, Yoshitsune, and was killed by an arrow meant for the samurai leader. The two-volume story is a masterpiece of Japanese artwork and calligraphic skill that manages to impress even if the language is foreign to its reader.

To see this lovely book, come to Rauner and ask for Codex 002093.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Number by Colors

page showing relationship of anglesYou all know about coloring by numbers. The numbers in the various spaces of a picture cue you into what colors to use, and in the end you get a beautiful image. What we have here is not quite the reverse of that, but still a case of using color coding to execute complicated math to arrive at a number!

Two-page spread showing rows of colored symbolsThis is Oliver Byrne's The First Six books of the Elements of Euclid expertly printed (and it was a tough job!) by William Pickering in 1847. Instead of letters and symbols for shapes, lines and angles, Byrne broke down Euclidean geometry into a color coded schema. Imagine the printer's patience and skill to get the registration right--probably only surpassed by the patience and skill of the reader who tried to learn geometry this way.

Simple proof illustrated with colored shapes
To learn your Euclid by colors, ask for Rare QA451.B99 1847 (while you're at it, take a look at the 1482 edition, Incunabula 52).

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A Life Made Tangible

Botany class picture from Marine Biological Lab, 1929As a female student who has just finished my first year at the College, the evolution of the role of women in academia—especially at Dartmouth—is particularly fascinating to me. During my time as this summer’s Historical Accountability Student Research Fellow here at Rauner, I’m examining the stories of the very first faculty members here at Dartmouth and hope to tell their stories the way they deserve.

Hannah Croasdale was Dartmouth’s first tenured female professor, a member of the Department of Biological Sciences specializing in algae and desmids, a type of algae found in circumpolar regions. While an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, she spent her summers at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The experience shaped her life in uncountable ways, and she returned to Woods Hole summer after summer to teach courses there, long before she was permitted to do so at the College. Special Collections has a photo album filled with images from her time there. This album paints a rich and exciting image of the summers that fueled a passion that easily could’ve lost its spark, given the trying nature of the career that ensued. Its pages are filled with pictures of Hannah and her friends and instructors sailing boats, collecting samples, and breaking for lunch on the beach. Underneath each photo, Hannah’s tiny script leaves a caption—sometimes the stuff of an inside joke lost to memory—and details the figures in each photo. The care that went into producing it, with each photo glued individually, shows how important it was to her that these memories be properly archived.

Candid shots of Hannah and classmates collecting algae, Wood Hole, 1930The book shows her attachment to it in tangible ways, too. The binding is markedly lighter than the cover, so it was likely kept on a shelf in prominent view. The edges of the pages appear burned, which could be from the fire she suffered at her Norwich home in 1989. It can be assumed, then, that the book was rescued from the fire. This photo album doesn’t just chronicle the summers she spent at Woods Hole but appears to have been a part of her entire life—some other important events it witnessed just didn’t leave a physical mark on the pages or spine.

It is sometimes easy to let timelines get blurred in history, especially when looking at black-and-white images that have flattened reality into two tones. If we look at this book and then look at samples of algae collected on those trips out to sea, the hours spent laboring over this passion begin to be more fathomable. Holding samples of algae Hannah collected at Woods Hole almost 90 years ago, still impeccably preserved on the page and labeled with her familiar handwriting, makes her joy for biology as contagious now as it must have been when she taught her Phycology course at Dartmouth.

Algae sample from Woods Hole, 1929
Both of these artifacts are a part of the Hannah Croasdale Papers manuscript collection, and there are hundreds of other documents, letters, Christmas cards, algae samples, slides, and photos that only begin to round out the life of an incredible educator and scientist. In the same way, combing through the entire life of this important figure, boiled down into four boxes and roughly two hundred files, feels surreal. It is noteworthy not only what she chose to keep, but also what is missing.

You can look at algae specimens Hannah collected and the rest of her manuscript collection by coming into Rauner and requesting MS-882.

Posted for Caroline Cook '21, recipient of an Institutional History Student Research Fellowship for the 2018 Summer term. The Historical Accountability Student Research Fellowships provides full funding for a Dartmouth student to conduct research with primary sources during an off-term on a topic elucidating issues of inclusion and diversity on campus. For more information, visit the fellowship's website.