Friday, January 21, 2011

In Helen Keller's Hand

We recently acquired a first printing of Helen Keller's autobiography, The Story of My Life (New York: Doubleday, Page and Co., 1903).  The first printing is a rarity, but what makes this copy so special is its lengthy inscription in Helen Keller's hand.  She learned to write using a grooved board to hold her lines straight and space the block letters that she had memorized. You can see the board slip on the right hand side as she moved down the page. The block letters are expressive in a very powerful way. They give you a glimpse into the struggle and triumph of her life. Her concentration and determination are physically manifest on the next three leaves of the book by the deep impressions left from the pressure of her pencil.

A close up of the verso of the inscribed page
We just got this book, so it is not cataloged quite yet, but it should be ready in a week or so!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dartmouth Traditions: Horning

Some of the students expelled
in 1896, who called themselves
the "Backbone of '98"
Horning was a method used by students for expressing their grievance or discontent with a professor or even the College President. It was generally aimed at faculty who had handed down what the students felt were excessive assignments or unfair grades.

Though this tradition changed over time, at its height 100 to 200 masked students would surround the house of the unlucky professor in the middle of the night. They would then blow a variety of extremely noisy tin horns. Not content with simply disturbing the peace, they would sometimes tear down fences and throw rocks or other objects through the windows.

It is not known when the practice of horning began, though an entry in an early account book notes that Absolum Peters was charged 3 Shillings and 6 pence “To his part blowing the horn,” in 1776. The first mention of horning by name appears in the October, 1868 edition of The Dartmouth.  It is clear from this article that the practice had been going on for some time.

Ledger entry for Absolom Peters
Horning lasted until 1896 when President William Jewett Tucker expelled ten students for horning a professor in his office. The ten were reinstated when outraged alumni pointed it out that they were apprehended because they were honest enough to step forward and admit their involvement. As a condition of reinstatement, President Tucker also demanded that the student body agree to sign a statement ending the practice, which read in part: “Horning is a clumsy, ungentlemanly and unbecoming method of expressing grievance.”
The resolution against horning written by President Tucker and signed by representatives of the student body

Since then, students have found more appropriate and restrained means of dealing with complaints related to difficult assignments, capricious deadlines and complaints about grades.

To learn more, ask for:

Ledger B (DA-2 box 1746, p. 56 Absolom Peters)
Ruben Dearborn to Asa Dodge Smith, (Ms 868557.2)
The Dartmouth vol. 15 December 1, 1893, p 114
Resolution against Horning (Mss 896151)
Belknap, James, Class of 1898 Alumni File
Horn (Realia 10)
The “Horning” Episode,” The Dartmouth vol. 17 p. 303-5