Tuesday, March 25, 2014

From the Dartmouth Cannon

With April Fools' around the corner, let us not forget that Dartmouth students of years past did not wait for one day of the year for their pranks.  Often much more dangerous than modern pranks, one prank in 1836 involved large weapons, broken glass, some wet boots, and ended in an expulsion from the school!

In a letter dated July 14, 1836, Solomon Laws (class of 1836) of Peterborough, NH wrote home to his brother, Nathaniel Laws. He tells him of the most recent prank by the sophomore class – firing a cannon into a tutor's window – all because some members of the sophomore class were suspended for refusing to be quiet and insulting a tutor! Solomon writes:
"At this some of the class were much offended, and on the night following some individuals took a large cannon from the gunhouse in this village, drew it up near the college building, about under the offending tutors window, and fired it with such a tremendous charge so to break about three hundred and twenty squares of glass from the college buildings. It jarred the houses in most distant parts of the village, was heard several miles distant and supposed to be an earthquake."
By the time faculty arrived, the perpetrators had vanished. Since it had been a wet night, the faculty tried to find those students with wet shoes and compared the tracks with those left in the mud by the cannon. One student was found guilty and expelled. This caused further outrage among the sophomore class. One student who spoke out in defense of the expelled student must have said something truly "outrageous," and was similarly dismissed for a year. It was only after he apologized that he was allowed back.

Interested in reading the whole letter? Ask for Manuscript 836414 at the reference desk.

Do you remember any pranks from your time at Dartmouth? Let us know about them in the comments below.

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