Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Hand of Lincoln

Sheet of nineteen Abraham Lincoln signatures on White House stationary from 1861
We had the distinct pleasure of welcoming the administrative unit from the Thayer School of Engineering to Special Collections this week. In the process of looking for materials that might be of interest to them, we discovered a thrilling item that we hadn't previously realized was in the stacks: nineteen original signatures by Abraham Lincoln. The autographs are written consecutively on a sheet of stationery from the "Executive Mansion" in Washington, D.C., and date from December 20th, 1861. At the top of the page is written the statement, "I certify that the signatures written below are genuine. John Hay."

John Milton Hay served as one of Lincoln's private secretaries and personal assistants for the entirety of his presidency, and it is likely that this sheet of signatures was generated at Hay's request to fill a high demand for the president's signature by autograph-hunters. Autograph collecting was a hugely popular pursuit during the 19th century; famous people in particular were asked for their signature ad nauseam. John Hay not only had the distinction of serving as a private secretary to Abraham Lincoln until the bitter end. He also served under President Garfield as Assistant Secretary of State and under both President McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt as Secretary of State. This career statesman's long tenure in the corridors of power finally ended in the summer of 1904, when he died in Newbury, New Hampshire.

To see Abraham Lincoln's signature nineteen times in a row, come to Special Collections and ask for Codex 002138.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Dressed to Distress

Dartmouth student cheerleader in redface and wearing deerskin leggings at a football game."At football games, some Dartmouth students have been known to go barefoot and wear nothing but red war paint on their upper torsos, whooping it up on the sidelines with a jug marked XXX as a joke" – John McCallum, Ivy League Football Since 1872.

For much of the college's history, Dartmouth held a connection with Native Americans based more in fascination than in fact. Inspired by real historical students enrolled in Eleazar Wheelock's short-lived Indian Charity School but with very few contemporary Native American classmates, Dartmouth students began creating "Indian" traditions and symbols around the turn of the 20th century. The rise in popularity of college sports became a particular catalyst for this type of branding, as newspapers in Boston started calling Dartmouth teams "Indians" in the 1920s. From gracing official college letterheads to serving as the inspiration for the popular "Wah Hoo Wah" call, the symbol pervaded every facet of college life. Nowhere was the "Indian" more visible than when used as a costume during sporting events.

Cheerleader costume consisting of leggings and moccasins.Two of these wearable "Indian" symbols are housed in Rauner Special Collections. The first is a set of costumes worn by Dartmouth cheerleaders from the 1950s to the early 1970s. Meant to represent the popular image of an Indian, the costumes are made from deerskin leather and include leggings, loincloths, and raccoon-fur hair pieces. Cheerleaders (all male at the time) would have worn these costumes during sporting events at the college, performing halftime imitation "war dances" for the crowd.

Fans followed the example of these official cheerleaders, often creating their own costumes for the game and reenacting a popular college song about Eleazar Wheelock bringing education – and alcohol – to the local Native Americans.

The blatancy of costume caricatures was undoubtedly part of the catalyst for Native American Dartmouth students to publish a petition in 1968 calling for the removal of the Indian symbol from college life. The petition specifically mentions halftime war dance imitations as a point of grievance.

Bill Yellowtail, a Native American Dartmouth student in 1971, sums up the position of the petition, which successfully convinced the college to abolish use of the symbol: "We feel we did our part in eliminating another false illusion. Too many people in this country still think of Indians as savages doing war dances and wearing feathered headdresses and having two-word vocabularies: 'how and ugh'."

large paper mâché "indian" head.
The second related item at Rauner is another of these unofficial "Indian" costumes – a paper mache head dating to the late eighties, most likely repurposed from a Carnival devil costume; one can see where the horns have been cut off and the holes patched over. The head is a strikingly abrasive caricature that sports bright red skin and an exaggerated, contorted expression. Found discarded behind a fraternity after a football game, the head might have been worn to the sporting event or used only in the context of the fraternity. The head represents a resurgence in the unofficial use of the Indian symbol long after its abolishment. An alumnus donated the item in 2005.

Proponents of the "Dartmouth Indian" argued for decades that the mascot was, among other things, a respectful representation of Native Americans – a symbol that reflected Dartmouth's origin as a charity school for native students in the 1750s. One cannot help but be skeptical of this claim when considering these two costumes and their uses.

To see the cheerleading costumes, come to Rauner and ask for Realia 82. The Indian head is in our Uncatalogued Realia collection, and the cheerleading photographs are in the Cheerleading II Photo File.

Posted for Savannah Eller '22, recipient of a Historical Accountability Student Research Internship during the 2019-2020 academic year. The Historical Accountability Student Research Internships provide limited funding for a current Dartmouth student to conduct research with primary sources during the school year on a topic related to issues of inclusivity and diversity in the college's past.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

"Crank Letters"

A crank letter accusing the dean of having Murder in the curriculum
“Five or six undergraduates on a Saturday night got to house-hopping, as they called it. Going around to houses that were having beer parties or liquor available, and getting free beer and free liquor, moving from house to house until they were, if not drunk, at least, well, intoxicated, if there’s a distinction....Somebody in the group decided they would go and challenge some undergraduate. His name was Cirrota....Well, they got into a fistfight in the boy's room. He was knocked to the floor, and got...a brain hemorrhage, and died.”  -- Former College President John Dickey

This "incident," as it was often called by College administrators, took place on the night of March 18th, 1949. Raymond "Ray" Cirrota '49, the victim of the attack, was taken to Dick's House after complaining of a headache and then died that same night. The story quickly got picked up by the state and national newspapers, putting Dartmouth at the epicenter of a sensation: a murder on campus, alcohol abuse, debauched soirees at fraternities, stars of the football team implicated, an unclear motivation, and a College administration that kept its mouth shut. As the case went to trial, this setup was clearly hospitable for misinformation and an intense if ungrounded response by the larger public. Cirrota’s killing remains
Page one of the letter reproduced in the post
tragic and certainly called for deeper investigation at the time. However, the true details of it remained murky for a while after the fact, while speculation on the part of the media and the general public was profuse from the get-go.

A folder in Dean Lloyd Neidlinger’s records on the case testifies to the stormy backlash directed at the College. This folder, titled "Crank letters," has letters of discontent that were sent to the dean's office from all over the East Coast after new of the Cirrota incident were made public. Some letters were made with a typewriter and others were scribbled down by hand. The people who wrote them were locals, alums, teachers, the Society for the Prevention of the Cruelty to Animals, and other concerned citizenry, including the aunt of a certain delinquent in New York and a couple who preferred to remain anonymous and with good reason, considering the spite in their writings.

The earliest letter arrived on March 22nd from Oranger, New Jersey, from an outraged alumnus:

"My dear Dean Neidlinger: 

Fie! Oh Dartmouth College! Long live Dartmouth? Lo Sin! Down Dartmouth! Burn and scorch it from the face of the earth!! Even God Almighty knows that Dartmouth could hit the news headlines in many other ways than “Murder on the Campus.” Those responsible for the death of a student should be punished in like manner. But, I doubt very much if justice will triumph in this disgusting heinous affair. Especially, if those responsible have fathers who are men of wealth. If such is the case, then money is evil and so are the fathers who plan to buy their sons out of this foul situation. I say, curses of hell should follow those involved in this dead student’s murder- the guilty should be dogged until they draw their last breath, whether it be the beaters of death regarding Cirrota or those seeking light punishment or exoneration of the guilty involved. 

You, Dean Neidlinger, are in part, responsible also. Isn’t it odd that you know nothing about the drinking brawls and excessive drinking that prevails on your campus? What kind of a college Dean are you? Look into your filthy campus and weed out the foul human elements who thrive on prejudices, hatred, acts of anti-everything that’s not decent and against the whole social order of man. 

Dartmouth, a center of learning, distinguished etc. ??? No, my dear Dean, Dartmouth has become a degrading ugly, institution of baseness. The devil himself is dean of Dartmouth, not you!!! 

Erase the besmirched name of Dartmouth, if it’s at all possible. Personally, I don’t think you are capable. I prefer to remain anonymous and forget I ever went to Dartmouth. And- may God deal with the guilty and take a hand in the course of Dartmouth. 

Sincerely, a shocked individual"

page two of the letter reproduced in the post
The anger vented by this letter sets a tone which borders the absurd and invites ridicule from readers. Yet, the assumptions the writer made are by no means counter-intuitive. The dean and the administration could not escape the fact that a student had died on their watch and that some of the suspects came from affluent backgrounds that were handy when those men later applied for jobs or admission at other colleges in the aftermath of the judicial proceedings. For the man who wrote the text, Dartmouth is a symbol of depravity and the case itself justifies the violent rooting out not only of the men involved in it but of all “vile elements” from the school. Another distressed citizen wrote to the Dean condemning “alcoholism and fraternity snobbishness”, and establishing that certain characteristics of the campus culture paired well with murder. A Mr. Drew from Lowell, Massachusetts, underscored the widespread alcoholism that prevails at Dartmouth by providing a list of criminal cases involving students from the College, of which the Cirrota case was only the latest and most disturbing.

After the Grand Jury of New Hampshire returned the first verdict in the trial, a $500 loan and a
Two short responses to the Cirotta death that were sent to the dean
suspended sentence, the public was outraged once more. A Ms. Mc Dough of New York accused the school of bribing the local police and the district attorney. An anonymous postcard from D.C. described the verdict as an indication of great problems within the community where the case was prosecuted. The last letter that received a response from Neidlinger’s office alleged indifference on Dartmouth’s end with regards to the trial and an institutional failure with regard to the teaching of moral values. The dean’s response did not address these accusations directly but instead argued that the lady who sent the letter was greatly misinformed. Other responses that the Dean wrote in defense of the school claimed that these accusations concerned issues that affected American youth overall and couldn't be resolved by the administrators at any single institution. Either way, the "Crank letters" in the Cirrota case capture not only the history of that case but also a cultural moment in US history.

To explore the Raymond Cirrota Case records, come to Rauner and ask for DA-46, Box 3139.

Posted for Veselin Nanov '20, recipient of a Historical Accountability Student Research Internship during the 2019-2020 academic year. The Historical Accountability Student Research Internships provide limited funding for a current Dartmouth student to conduct research with primary sources during the school year on a topic related to issues of inclusivity and diversity in the college's past.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Sampling the She-Wolf and the Spinster

Front cover of the book "Sampler" that shows the red stitching usually associated with quilting
Today is International Women's Day, which marks a great opportunity to highlight some of the exceptional women authors and artists represented in our vast collections. One fascinating work is Sampler (2007), a compilation of 200 poems written by the nineteenth century poet Emily Dickinson, each of which is accompanied by a print by the contemporary artist Kiki Smith. Sampler, which was produced by the independent art-house publisher Arion Press, offers a uniquely valuable entry point into a discussion of the dynamic relationship between womanhood and art-making over the course of the last two hundred-plus years.

Dickinson (1830-1866) may well be one of the most well-known literary voices, male or female, in American history—but this was not case in her own day. A recluse and "spinster" by her late-twenties, Dickinson hardly published any of her poetry during her lifetime, choosing instead to circulate it privately among her friends and family. And while she may not be an overtly “feminist” writer in the way we might categorize one today, she has often been championed by feminist critics as a poet who opted out of the traditional social expectations placed on nineteenth-century women.

Several of Dickinson's poems included in Sampler allude, rather subversively, to the restrictions placed on women during her day. Take "I'm Wife—I've finished that":

I'm "wife"—I've finished that—
That other state.
I'm Czar—I'm "woman" now—
It's safer so.

How odd the girl's life looks
Behind this soft eclipse.
I think that earth feels so
To folks in heaven, now.

This being comfort—then
That other kind was pain.
But why compare?
I'm "wife"! Stop there!

Here we can see Dickinson grappling with her feminine self-identity: the difference between being a woman and a wife, as well as the difference between men and women. A man can be a Czar, but
Text of "Stop There!" from "Sampler," page 46
woman only a wife. "Stop There!"

Kiki Smith's (b. 1954) visual accompaniment to Sampler brings the themes of feminine self-identity and women’s work only further to the fore. The book's cover makes this immediately apparent, with "Sampler" and Dickinson and Smith's names cross-stitched across it in maroon embroidery thread. In fact, making "samplers"—pieces of cloth with embroidered or cross-stitched pictorial scenes or phrases—was a common pastime for American women in the 18th and 19th centuries, and was a way to showcase their aptitude for domestic skills. Throughout the book, Smith continues to play with the distinctly feminizing aesthetic of needlework. Each of her prints is composed of small red hatch lines, which are meant to mimic the effect of cross-stitching, and were directly inspired by historic textile collections held in major American art museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Drawing of Emily Dickinson from "Sample"
Smith is a multidisciplinary artist well-known for her feminist subject matter, and her art often explores the cultural and social role of women through representations of the female body. And although Smith is rarely so subtle in her work (the image of the feral she-wolf plays a reoccurring role in her art), she is in many ways a perfect companion for the reserved New England poet. Like Dickinson, Smith too is preoccupied with how women operate within and outside of social expectations and cultural boundaries and Smith’s contributions to this wonderful compilation reaffirms the continued relevancy of Dickinson's poetry especially with respect to the personal and lived experiences of women.

You can view Sampler by asking for Presses A712dick at the reference desk.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Banning Books

Title page for "The Squire's Recipes." On Monday, we welcomed Professor Peggy Baum's Writing 5 class, titled "Rights of Writers." Peggy wanted her students to engage with issues that challenge journalists, so we found some great items in the collection that engage with the issue of censorship. One of them was a book titled Mother Goose Rhymes, and across the cover was blazoned the word "CENSORED." The volume was filled with innocent rhymes made dirty by the blacking out of certain verbs, making the point that the mere act of censorship can cause innocuous words to contain dark import. We thought that this would be a great subject for a blog post but, when we did a quick search online, we found that the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine had scooped us seven years ago.

Preface to "The Squire's Recipes" that describes the circumstances surrounding its 'discovery.'However, their article set us on a new tack. We discovered that the book was one of many written by Kendall Banning, a member of the class of 1902. Apparently, in addition to numerous volumes of prose and poetry, Banning had also written a "fake 1784 cookbook"! Our curiosity piqued, we mentioned the oddity to Jaime Eeg '18, the Edward Connery Lathem '51 Special Collections Fellow. As it happened, she was in the midst of planning an exhibit on cookbooks, set to open in April 2019. Eeg plucked the very volume from her cart of treasures, handed it to us, and we began to read.

Recipe for "The Dartmouth Drachm."As a Christmas prank in 1912, or thereabouts, friends of Banning were gifted a little book, titled The Squire's Recipes, that appeared to be a collection of mixed drink recipes collated by Banning's great-grandfather Calvin Banning in 1784. Banning claimed that he had discovered the pamphlet in his grandmother's attic in Connecticut, and soon the secret was out. Libraries all over the nation asked for copies, newspapers announced the discovery of a long-lost New England early printed text, and prohibitionists foamed at the mouth. Soon, after his great-grandfather's reputation began to be besmirched, Kendall Banning came clean and confessed that the ancient tome was actually of his own making. As a loyal son of Dartmouth, he had included a recipe for a drink called 'The Dartmouth Drachm.' He warns that, "because of its potency, it should be repeated cautiously."

To see a 1912 reprint of the original book, come to Rauner and ask for Alumni B227sq. To read some innocent nursery rhymes made dirty, ask for Alumni B227mo.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Marginalized Spaces

Front cover of Dartmouth's dormitory room layouts and prices
What do the physical spaces that we occupy on campus say about our identities and our experiences? I’ve become increasingly interested in the ways that geography influences our experiences. Thinking about the physical allocation of space on campus, it is hard not to draw conclusions. The African and African American Studies Department, Native American Studies Department, the Latin American and Caribbean House, Shabazz (the Black student dorm), the Chinese Language House, and the Native American House are all located in one small segment of campus. While some may argue the close proximity of the majority of cultural and affinity hubs is indicative of nothing more than logistical convenience, their respective locations parallel the institutional commitment to these marginalized communities. Dartmouth’s sites dedicated to nonwhite and nonwestern people are stowed away in a corner of campus that one would likely only migrate to if forced to seek out nonwhite academic engagement or communities of color.

But, what happened before these centers existed? Was campus similarly geographically bound by divisions? As a Dartmouth Library Historical Accountability Student Research Fellow for the Winter 2019 term, this has been one of the questions that my research at Rauner sought to answer. I am particularly interested in examining the intersections of race and class with respect to Black and Jewish students in the early 20th century.

Given the relative dearth of information about these students, I turned to the physical locations of
Dorm layout for Streeter Hall showing relative room costs
students. Because each dorm was priced individually, class and race based segregation were a very real possibility and fairly easy to track down. My research took me to Budd Schulberg’s papers. Schulberg  ’36 was a Jewish student active in Pi Lambda Phi fraternity (one of two fraternities that accepted Jewish students) who went on to become a novelist and screenwriter. Schulberg’s papers contain significant correspondences and other communications. Related to my project, the collection also contains a pamphlet of dorm locations and prices from 1932. Inside the slightly faded sheets are floor plans for all of the dorms as well as room descriptions and prices.

To compound these dorm prices, I looked for information about where students (particularly Black students and Jewish students) lived. I found that many of the Jewish students did not live on campus which makes me think that their decisions to reside off campus may have had a lot to do with anti-Semitism present on campus. It is noted in some Dartmouth student senior theses examining the Jewish experience that overt discrimination was not very common because most students knew that it was better to keep their prejudiced views to themselves. However, there was an understanding that being Jewish inherently otherized those students so much so that in the early 20th century (and likely beyond) many Jewish students decided to not engage with or deliberately hide their religion. Embedded within this discussion of discrimination, race is mentioned as an addendum: the College had a Jewish controversy and a Jewish and Black problem.

Front page of a Washington Post article about Grayson McGuireStill, thinking about geography as one potential manifestation of inequality presents a compelling lens to think about the experiences of Jewish and Black students. Robert Grayson “Mac” McGuire Jr ’32, the only Black alumni in the class of 1932, lived in Streeter 111 during his senior year. (I lived on the second floor of Streeter my sophomore fall.) The cost of McGuire’s room was fairly cheap in comparison to other rooms on campus; it only cost him $200 for the year which, adjusted for inflation, would be about $3,700 in 2019 dollars. Interestingly, McGuire came from a relatively well-off family and was described as both attuned to the needs of the Black community and “almost white”. Perhaps the author of the article sought to emphasize McGuire’s supposed good qualities, but I read the piece as overtly racialized in a manner that continued to privilege whiteness as the standard to which one should aspire. This article as indicative of the conceptualization of one of the few Black alums from the era coupled with the ways in which dorms were priced and the overall treatment of Jewish students presents more questions than answers. Nevertheless, these documents contribute to an evolving and essential dialogue about intersectionality and the lived experience of Dartmouth’s marginalized communities.

To learn more about Robert Grayson McGuire Jr. '32, come to Rauner and ask to see his alumni file. For more about Budd Schulberg, come and ask to see his papers (MS-978).

Posted for Alexandrea Keith '20, recipient of a Historical Accountability Student Research Fellowship for the 2019 Winter term. The Historical Accountability Student Research Fellowships provide full funding for a current Dartmouth student to conduct research with primary sources during an off-term on a topic related to issues of inclusivity and diversity in the college's past. For more information, visit the fellowship's website.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Christmas Premonitions

1938 Christmas card sent out by Dilys and Alex Laing
This coming Saturday would have been the 105th birthday of Theodor Geisel '25, known the world over as children's author Dr. Seuss. While looking for some way to note this day via blog post, we stumbled upon a shocking discovery that derailed our search and instead led us to another momentous anniversary of a completely different kind. This year, 2019, marks the 80th year since the Third Reich invaded Poland and triggered the formal beginning of World War II. How did we get from Seuss to the Sudetenland, you ask? Through a Christmas card sent by one of Geisel's college buddies, Prof. Alexander Laing '25, in December of 1938.

While in school with Geisel, Laing had written a poem that humorously explained the proper pronunciation of "Seuss" (more like "zoice" than "soose"). Hoping to find an original version of this poem in Laing's alumni file, we instead stumbled upon the card. It contains numerous racist images and statements that were culturally acceptable at the time and emphasizes that the Laings are boycotting Japanese, German, and Italian wares, ostensibly because of the political stances and actions of those three countries. To put the card in context, without being an apologist for its content, it's worth noting that Laing was a major social activist for positive change on campus and beyond. In particular, we've blogged before about his strong efforts to eliminate a longstanding Dartmouth policy that limited the number of Jewish students on campus.

What's also fascinating about the card, aside from its casual racism, is the way that it accurately predicts the formation of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis more than nine months before World War II formally began with the invasion of Poland. Although the writing was likely very clearly on the wall by then, given the anti-communist agreement that the three countries (and Spain) had all recently entered, it's still fascinating to see evidence of it. It also makes one wonder about whether or not people had any inkling that this ideological alliance would eventually become a global military power.

Between dropping out of college before graduation and the mailing of that card, Laing had experienced a fascinating and winding life journey. He was a trade journal editor and a seaman for a while before returning to Dartmouth to be a tutorial advisor and then eventually finish his undergraduate degree in 1933. By 1938, Laing had become an assistant librarian at the college and he eventually went on to be a lecturer in English before being named professor of belles lettres in 1966. He died in 1976 in a bicycle accident in Norwich near the Ledyard Bridge.

To see the Christmas card, or several other ones that were drawn much later by his third wife, Veronica Ruzicka, come to Rauner and ask to see the alumni file for Alexander Laing '25.