Friday, June 12, 2015

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

In a belated recognition of Memorial Day (or, an early acknowledgement of the Battle of Gettysburg’s anniversary), I scrolled through the catalog in search of items related to the Gettysburg Address. After clicking on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Speech, I was surprised to see that the book only measured about 1.25" x 1.75". Curious, I decided to find out more.

This tiny text is the work of Bernhardt Wall, an American illustrator and etcher of the mid-20th century known for his quintessentially American postcards--usually lighthearted scenes of patriotism and cowboys. He was also a historian, interested in the biographies of interesting and impactful people, and he would chronicle his subjects’ lives in etchings. Wall was incredibly dedicated to his art--he handcrafted all 200 copies of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Speech himself, and he printed every page from an etched plate including the text. One can only imagine the patience it required to make so many tiny volumes, but Wall soon outdid himself--he went on to spend ten years etching an 85 volume pictorial biography of Lincoln.

With Lincoln’s Gettysburg Speech, Wall packs a lot of context into a tiny book. He prefaces the address with the invitation that Lincoln received to speak at Gettysburg, and he follows it with praise from publications like Harper’s Weekly, who called it “the most perfect piece of American eloquence.” Perhaps Wall’s most engaging additions are the illustrations--he intersperses the text with delicate etchings in black, brown and green ink. He not only includes scenes from Gettysburg, like the train station and the President speaking from the stage, but also other transcendent moments in American history, like the signing of the Declaration of Independence. On one particularly powerful page, in tiny lettering on an image of a graveyard, Wall highlights the central point of the Gettysburg Address and the holidays on which we remember it: “Remember the Hero Dead.”

With a book this small, you have to look closely and turn the pages slowly--which gives you the time to think carefully about the words and images inside. To see for yourself, ask for Miniature 121.

Posted for Emily Estelle ‘15 (Happy Graduation!)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Owners of the Green

One of the anecdotes of the fragmentary oral tradition amongst Dartmouth students holds that the Green, while used by the College, is owned by the town of Hanover. This is often couched in a warning to first-year students not to be publicly intoxicated on the Green, lest they be arrested by the Hanover Police. However, a recent discovery in the meeting minutes of the College Trustee calls this assumption into question – it is quite possible that Dartmouth does, in fact, still own the Green.

In 1770, New Hampshire governor Sir John Wentworth granted 500 acres of land to Dartmouth, of which the area now known as the Green was a part. The minutes from a meeting of the College Trustees in August of 1779 delineate the dimensions and location of this land. The record also includes a list of the lands “disposed of” by the College between 1770 and 1779 and who their specific recipients were. The first entry on the list concerns the “seven acres and a half opened for a green.” (Today, the Green measures 2.88 acres – documentation of the original boundaries of the space has yet to be uncovered.) It does not indicate a transfer of ownership from the College to any specific entity.

Later Trustee minutes seem to confirm College ownership. The August 1807 meeting of the Board appointed a committee to “inquire into the propriety and expediency of taking up at the present time any part of the College green for the accommodation in the college.” Just a year later, they announced that the Green should be “plowed, leveled, properly seeded with grass,” and also to ensure that it is “handsomely fenced and suitably ornamented with walks and trees.” The most recent policy found in the Archives regarding use of the Green is from March 1986. It stipulates that the “College Green and campus grounds are reserved primarily for informal use… by students, faculty, staff, and guests of the College. Other events and activities will be limited to those staged primarily for the Dartmouth community and sponsored by College-recognized organizations and College departments.” While not an ultimate confirmation of ownership, these regulations and changes seem to strongly imply it.

To further explore the history of the Green, ask for the Vertical file, “Green, The” and Trustee’s meeting minutes, DA-1, Box 2115.

Posted for Emily Rutherford '16