Friday, May 27, 2011

Of the Newest and Best Fashion

A page of handwritten text.Sometime in the 16th-century, young Elizabeth Carew wrote to her father in London. The formality of the letter would surprise most modern readers, but the subject matter might not. She asked him for a new satin gown "of the newest and best fashion."

We have this cataloged as a letter from 1590, which would mean Elizabeth Carew was the daughter of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton and Anne Carew. If so, then the dress was most certainly a success. The next year, Elizabeth was secretly married to Sir Walter Raleigh, leading to his arrest and imprisonment.

But, more likely, this Elizabeth Carew was one generation earlier, the daughter of Elizabeth Bryan and Nicolas Carew. That would make the more famous Elizabeth her niece and date the letter from the middle part of the century.

The letter is on display through June 30th in our current student-curated exhibition, "Bringing out the Leaves: Manuscripts and Their Meaning."  After June 30, just ask for Lansburgh 29 to see it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Senior Canes

A photograph of two seated men bending over canes and whittling at them.The idea of Senior Canes derived from a rule, dating back to the early years of the College, that only upper classmen should be allowed to carry canes. This was because a cane was an accoutrement of a gentleman and freshmen were too young and immature to have attained such distinction. This led to such traditions as Cane Rush.

The practice of carving senior canes began in 1885, when A. Herbert Armes, then a senior, asked his friends to autograph his walking stick before graduation. In the 1890s, Charles Dudley, Class of 1902, designed the now infamous Indian Head Canes, which became the ubiquitous canes carried by seniors. Over time the carvings on the canes become more and more intricate and included images of the College Seal, the Casque and Gauntlet symbol, Dartmouth Hall and similar icons of the institution.

A close-up photograph of a cane with carvings on it.
Indian head canes went the way of the Indian symbol in the 1970s, but in more recent years it has become a tradition for the graduating members of secret societies to carry canes during Commencement. Following in the footsteps of early cane carvers, the Presidents carve their names in the Class Marshal's staff that they carry during Commencement ceremonies.

Ask for:

Vertical File: Senior Canes
Photo File: Senior Canes
Realia  137, Wood gouge
Uncat Realia: Senior Canes

A photograph of a cane with significant carvings on it.