Friday, January 14, 2022

Dartmouth's First Gun Club

Photograph of the 1910-1911 Dartmouth Gun ClubNext week, Special Collections will facilitate a Writing 3 class session that explores archival materials related to Dartmouth's historic relationship with the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. In preparation for the visit, we had the opportunity to explore letters and photographs documenting the founding of the Dartmouth Gun Club. Most of us are familiar with The Dartmouth Outing Club and may have even heard of its founder, Fred Harris, who was a member of the class of 1911. In addition to bringing alpine skiing to campus as a sport, Harris also introduced trap shooting. In a letter to the editors of the student newspaper, Harris stated that "Trap shooting has found favor among the students of this College. Its spectacular characteristics appeal to the undergraduate mind. There is a snap, a life, and vigor to it that can not help but make it flourish here in the future."

Handwritten rules for the Dartmouth Gun ClubAlongside a photograph of Harris and the inaugural shooting team, a Dartmouth Gun Club scrapbook from 1910-11 also contains a handwritten set of three rules to govern the use of firearms in the club: first, no rifle or shotgun shall be fired when anyone is in front of the firing line; second, that no gun shall be loaded until the shooter steps to the firing line; and third, that "no gun shall be pointed toward any human being. Whether the gun is loaded or not does not affect this rule in the least." These rules seem sensible enough to us, and we trust that some version of them is still in effect today at the Dartmouth Outing Club's shooting range, located near the Dartmouth Organic Farm.

To look through the earliest scrapbook of the Dartmouth Gun Club, come to Special Collections and ask to see Box 6245 from the Dartmouth Outing Club's records (DO-1).

Friday, January 7, 2022

A "Robbery" at the Hanover Post Office

Page of one of Whitcomb's letters home“We have had some great excitement in Hanover,” Frank Whitcomb, class of 1911, wrote to his sister during his first winter at Dartmouth, “which is a very rare thing I assure you.” Whitcomb goes on to relate that the Hanover postmaster had claimed just days ago that, while he was counting out money, a man broke the window beside him, pointed a gun through it, and forced him to hand over hundreds of dollars. The Boston Globe commented that the robber was “surprisingly daring” to have committed the robbery “in easy view of the back part of a drug store and a hardware store,” and that the terror of being robbed at gunpoint left the victim in a “fainting condition.” If this sounds too dramatic to be true—it was. The broken glass from the window was found on the outside of the building, suggesting it had been broken from the inside. Unable to explain this, the postmaster eventually confessed that he had recently taken some money himself and faked the robbery to cover up the shortage.

Page of one of Whitcomb's letters homeAside from the crime taking place in Hanover, there was a commotion happening on campus. Whitcomb told his sister that Dartmouth student vigilantes heard about the “robbery” and took matters into their own hands, taking their “revolvers and shot guns” and running “about on [campus] shouting, here he is and there he goes, following their shouts with shots and yells” until it sounded like “the fourth of July.” Of course, they were chasing nobody, because the robber didn’t exist. But when the D gave its update on the “robbery” situation a few days later, it didn’t even mention the students’ response. It’s possible that in 1908, guns were so normalized on Dartmouth’s campus that students running around shooting them wasn’t considered newsworthy. It’s also possible that Whitcomb exaggerated this part of the story. It would not have been the wildest embellishment in Hanover that winter.

To read Whitcomb’s letters, come to Rauner and ask for MS-1438. (Or, ask about our other collections of student letters!)

Friday, October 29, 2021

Delightfully Dreadful

To start our Halloween weekend off right, we're taking a look at Varney the Vampyre; or, The Feast of Blood, an early example of European vampire literature in a deliciously pulpy format. Variously attributed to James Malcolm Rymer or Thomas Peckett Prest, Varney was published as a series of cheaply printed pamphlets from 1845 to 1847. This "penny dreadful" style of printing was inexpensive, popular, and typically followed sensational stories of mystery, romance, and horror.

Sir Francis Varney, our titular vampire, comes about 40 years after Polidori's Lord Ruthven and about 50 years before Bram Stoker's Count Dracula. The tropes of vampire stories were far from established as this point, and so Varney starts quite a few of his own. Fangs, superhuman strength, and hypnotism are all introduced to the literature here. Beyond his supernatural skillset, he's also considered the first "sympathetic" vampire, a trait that more modern authors like Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris, and Stephanie Meyer would later take and run with. He finds himself morally tortured to the point that by the story's end (spoiler alert), he throws himself into Mount Vesuvius. That said, Varney's conflicted nature doesn't stop him from murdering his way through nearly 900 pages of lurid prose.

To see this landmark work of horror fiction, skulk over to Special Collections and ask for Rainone Penny Dreadfuls PR3991.A1 V27 1845.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Gandhi's Wheel of Fortune

cover of Gandhi's 1921 publication "The Wheel of Fortune."Tomorrow marks what would have been Mohandas Karamchad Gandhi's 152nd birthday. In India, October 2nd is called "Gandhi Jayanti" and is one of the country's three national holidays. In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly established the date as the International Day of Non-Violence. For most of the world, Gandhi's name has become synonymous with a philosophy of non-violent resistance and, in most popular images of him, he is inevitably clad in nothing but a humble loincloth, shawl, and eyeglasses.

However, for those of us who were born decades after his assassination in 1948, it may come as a surprise to know that Gandhi did not openly adopt this iconic wardrobe until he was 52 years of age. He also had lived half of his life abroad in both England and South Africa before returning to his homeland at the age of 45. He had gained a reputation among his countryman as a nationalist and community organizer because of his advocacy for South Africa's Indian population. Soon after his return, Gandhi assumed leadership of the Indian National Congress and immediately began to challenge British rule.

Gandhi adopted the loincloth and shawl as a means of connecting with Indians living in poverty; the clothing was woven from yarn made on a traditional Indian spinning wheel, called a charkha. The spinning wheel became central to Gandhi's struggle for national emancipation as a symbol of self-sufficiency as well as a practical method by which to boycott British goods and create a sense of national identity. He published a book titled "The Wheel of Fortune" in 1922 that outlined this philosophy by encouraging Indian people to spin their own clothing as a means of protest. Fittingly, the book is bound in Khadi, the cloth produced by traditional Indian spinning and weaving.

To see a rare first edition of this book, come to Rauner and ask to see Rare Book HC435 .G3.

Friday, September 17, 2021

New Exhibit at Rauner: "Illustrating 'Once Upon A Time'"

We are delighted to announce the first installation of an exhibit in the Class of 1965 Galleries at Rauner Special Collections Library in Webster Hall in over a year. As of this past Monday, “Illustrating ‘Once Upon A Time’," an exhibit curated by Scout Noffke, will be on display through December 3rd. Unfortunately, because of current college COVID policy regarding building access, the on-site exhibit is accessible only to current Dartmouth students, faculty, and staff. However, the exhibit also has an engaging digital version that anyone can access online via this link

Dartmouth Library’s Special Collections hold many illustrated books that highlight the artistic lineage of fairy tales. Three hundred years of illustration demonstrate not just the way artists represented the printed word, but the development of certain thematic trends within the stories. Like folk and fairy tales themselves, published works of art are pieces in conversation with each other. Artists know and draw inspiration from one another, and by looking at multiple iterations of the same or similar stories, one begins to see what scholar Elizabeth Newton describes as “networks of thought.”

This exhibit traces those networks in five well-known European fairy tales from Rauner Library’s collections. Over time, the illustrations for each story reveal through-lines of thought that either transform as they move from one artist to the next or repeat a visual theme again and again, adding to an artistic legacy by way of repetition and response.Both the on-site and online versions of this exhibit were curated by Scout Noffke, Rauner Special Collections Library’s Reference and Administrative Specialist. The on-site exhibit was installed by Deborah Howe and Lizzie Curran.

*Please note that the on-site exhibit is accessible only to current Dartmouth students, faculty, and staff.*

Friday, September 10, 2021

A Decade Undercover as a Communist

Carol Foster's subpoena to the Committee on Un-American Activities
At a Cub Scout meeting in 1945, suburban New Hampshire housewife Carol Foster asked another parent, an FBI agent, “Don’t you have a job in the FBI for someone like me?” So began her thirteen-year career as a counterspy for the FBI, undercover in the Communist Party in New Hampshire, which only ended in 1958 when the House Un-American Activities Committee called her to testify about what she had learned. Foster kept a large scrapbook with mostly clippings of newspapers mentioning her, which include transcripts of the hearing where she appeared.

Front page story about Foster in the Nashua TelegraphReading through these news articles, it’s easy to understand how normalized the “Red Scare” mindset was at the time. Even Foster was asked whether she had any “sympathy with the Communist ideology,” and when she had finished testifying, Congressman Bernard Kearney advised her to ignore the insults of people he dismissed as “Fifth Amendment Americans”—referring to the fifth amendment protection against self-incrimination, which suspected communists relied on in these hearings. This attitude did not bother Foster, though; she believed the FBI had been “sticking to constitutional methods,” and she had no problem with encouraging civilians to call the FBI to report “anything which might seem subversive.” While she felt guilty about revealing people’s personal information herself, she also felt that it was “bigger than [her].”

Part of a newspaper clipping with a transcript of Foster's hearing
It is also apparent in Foster’s scrapbook how much her gender influenced news coverage of the events. Although Foster was celebrated as a hero, headlines pigeonholed her as a “mother,” a “housewife,” and even “pretty” before anything else. When the papers did mention her life outside her FBI career and family, they revealed that she had a home photography studio, and that she enjoyed skiing, hunting, fishing, and flying. Somehow, Foster still found the time to carry out what she felt was her patriotic duty, as a secret from everyone but her husband, for over a decade.

To see Foster’s scrapbook (or her impressive collection of communist publications), come to Rauner and ask for MS-1441.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Cloudy Understanding

Full text of "Cloud Shimmerings"One of the most exciting aspects of our collections is the way that Dartmouth students interpret primary sources to create new ideas within the context of the classroom. On Tuesdays this summer, we will publish posts that were originally written by students in Michael Chaney's Literary History survey course during the Winter 2021 term. Each student essay comparatively examines two poems, one from the Dartmouth student newspaper and the other by a canonical American or British author.

Today's post examines the poems “Cloud Shimmerings,” from Volume One of The Dartmouth, and Percy Shelley’s “The Cloud” and argues that these poems qualify the impact that nature can have upon humanity since the truth of humanity is its mortality, which is a state to which nature can never relate.

The second stanza of “Cloud Shimmerings” identifies within nature “A truthful beauty” which is encapsulated so fully within each natural entity that “e’en the mists earth’s bosom gives to air,/… May give to stooping thoughts a loftier flight/... To glean the choicest gems that truth’s high throne bedight.” (J. 10, 12, 16, 18). The human speaker thus claims that the natural beauty embedded within a cloud, when witnessed by a human, allows the cloud to elevate the otherwise subservient human introspections to the extent that the human might be allowed to witness real truth (“stooping, v.1”). The idealistic pastoral tone of the poem insinuates that such an evolution in knowledge “Tis joy” to experience, as it is a separation from “the din of human toil and strife” to the extent that understanding natural truth serves to sever the speaker from the limitations of human existence (J. 1, 2).

The truth that the human is granted understanding of can be contemplated through the application of “The Cloud.” The semi-omniscient speaker of the cloud grants readers first-hand access to the truths inherent in nature which appear to be two-fold. Until the closing stanza, the poem emphasizes the myriad symbiotic relationships connecting the cloud to all other elements of nature. It is not until the last stanza that the speaker seems to allude to any interaction it might have with humanity. The cloud defines itself in the last stanza, emphasizing its state of immortality through lines 74 and 80 : “I change, but I cannot die/… I silently laugh at my own cenotaph”(Shelley). The cloud’s laughter at the cenotaph, intended to serve as a physical memorial to the dead, emphasizes the futility of human monuments attempting to be compared to the truth of natural immortality (“cenotaph, n.”).

This truth may be viewed as a characteristic transitively shared by all the elements in nature but noticeably absent in humanity, as is insinuated through the lack of connection to humanity within the poem itself. As such, “The Cloud” posits that the truths of natural beauty are natural immorality, and in turn, human mortality. The divine sensation of illumination that the speaker in “Cloud Shimmerings” claims to experience is thus qualified by the essence of the truths they come to bear witness to; as while the human is enabled to comprehend that they are mortal and nature is not, this cognizance does not truly separate them from the rest of humanity, as both they and their attempted literary memorializations are laughable in the eyes of nature.

Written by Zoe Marzi '22