Friday, January 11, 2013

Making a Compromise with the Public Taste

This week the "American Curmudgeons" exhibit has opened at Rauner Library. Running from January 7th until February 28th, the exhibit displays materials related to Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, and H. L. Mencken. We're especially excited about one of the items we discovered while preparing the exhibit, namely a letter from H. L. Mencken to Ezra Pound written in August of 1917. Sadly, we have only the first page of the letter.

Mencken, in addition to his role as relentless journalistic scourge of bumbling idiots and pretentious fools, was the co-editor of several influential literary magazines, notably The Smart Set and The American Mercury. He was as untiring in his support of writers and journalists in whom he saw merit as he was in castigating those who in his opinion were utterly without talent. In this letter, written during his tenure as co-editor of The Smart Set, Mencken puts his influence to work, recommending various writers to another influential editor, Ezra Pound of The Little Review.

In the body of the letter, Mencken plays upon the slogan of The Little Review, "Making No Compromise with the Public Taste," by stating that financial obligations require his own magazine to make aesthetic compromises constantly in order to sell copies. Mencken's literary acumen is evidenced here by his assertion that Pound has been "getting some excellent stuff" into his magazine; only seven months later, the first chapter of James Joyce's Ulysses would be published within its pages, marking the first appearance of one of the most important novels of the century.

To see the letter now, come over to Rauner and take a look at the exhibit. Starting in March, ask for MS-693 Box 1. To see copies of The Little Review, ask for Rare AP2 .L647.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Dartmouth Ski Tramway

It seems that once again ski season is upon us. Long regarded as a favorite New England skiing and snowboarding destination, New Hampshire boasts a hearty twenty-two skiing areas and resorts. Dartmouth, in extension, is consistently ranked as the preferred college for skiers and winter outdoorsman alike. Dartmouth claims 13% of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and has competed in every Winter Olympic Games since the first games in Chamonix in 1924.

Just how did Dartmouth get to be so popular amongst skiers? Well, our new exhibit, Innovation on the Slopes: The Early Years of Skiing at Dartmouth explores the beginnings of this cozy relationship, on display in Baker-Berry Library this week through March. One of our favorite items from the exhibit is Fredrick Bryon Tomlinson's design and computation sketches for the J-bar at the Oak Hill Ski Area. The Oak Hill Ski Area opened in 1935 right off Reservoir Road in Hanover. When it debuted, the "Dartmouth Ski Tramway," as it was termed, was credited as the nation's first overhead lift. The tow transported 600 skiers per hour up 350 feet. The design included an 80 horsepower engine and a 6-foot wheel weighing 1,600 lbs. As the story goes, in the early 1930s, Dan Hatch, who was the General Manager of the Dartmouth Outing Club  got the idea for the lift from a winter sports pamphlet on the J-Bar lift at Davos, Switzerland, patented by Zurich engineer Ernest Constam. He then commissioned F. Bryon Tomlinson '35 Th '36 to design the Oak Hill Ski Tow under the direction of Professor William P. Kimball, then Dean of the Thayer School of Engineering. Though the project was eventually passed on to the Split Ballbearing Corporation in Lebanon to pioneer the actual implementation of the job, the Oak Hill is considered the first U.S. lift with power from the rear instead of traction from the front. Of course, it wasn’t soon before improved ski-lifts appeared all over the Eastern ski region, but according to the DOC website, Oak Hill continued to be Dartmouth's primary alpine slope until the Dartmouth Skiway was established in the mid-’50s. The sketches are just a few of the many interesting items in the exhibit, including a trailer from the upcoming documentary on Dartmouth ski culture, Passion for Skiing.

If you want to check out Tomlinson's designs for yourself, ask for Manuscript 936940.3. For more information on Oak Hill, ask for either the Oak Hill vertical file or the Oak Hill photo file. And be sure to stop and check out the Innovation on the Slopes exhibit now on display through March in Baker-Berry Library.