Friday, October 21, 2011

115 Laps

A black and white photograph of a bonfire.This Fall, the freshman class will run 115 laps around Dartmouth’s 116th Homecoming bonfire (however it is also acceptable just to run 15 laps, although upperclassmen refrain from telling freshmen this fact).

Before the bonfire became an annual event, Dartmouth students were fond of celebrating great victories with large fires on the Green. In 1888, after defeating Manchester at a contended baseball game, the bonfire "disturbed the slumbers of a peaceful town, destroyed some property, made the boys feel that they were men, and, in fact, did no one any good", according to The Dartmouth.

However the bonfire did not become an official event until 1895, when President Tucker instituted "Dartmouth Night" - a celebration to promote a sense of community at Dartmouth and welcome the new freshman class.

The visit of the Sixth Earl of Dartmouth in 1904 marked the beginning of the tradition of running around the fire. Not content with only a bonfire, students wanted to impress the Earl by parading around the fire in their pajamas. The Earl soon joined the parade of men in night-clothes and proudly led them around the flames. Today, students traditionally wear green Dartmouth shirts with their class year.

A black and white photograph of a bonfire that has not been lit yet.

Part of the rite of passage that occurs every Homecoming is the yelling of two phrases: "Worst class ever!" and "Touch the fire!". Although upperclassmen will generally refer to the freshman class as the “best class ever” throughout the year, the night of the bonfire is the one night when the upperclassmen are not as cordial. The tradition of touching the fire is for only the boldest of freshmen, as law enforcement officers from Hanover surround the fire in order to prevent any one from getting too close. For Dartmouth students, that is a challenge that is too good to pass up. Every year, save the class of 2013 (worst class ever), after the fire burns down a couple brave souls will run past the police to touch the dying coals (In 2008, this practice resulted in two students being severely burned).

A blurred color photograph of a crowd celebrating.

Recent bonfires have used 6x6 timbers and other sheets of wood, but it was not always so. Railroad ties were often used and in 1918 The Dartmouth reported that "those too zealous in their efforts laid violent hands upon sundry front door steps and backdoor steps, and likewise fences, not to mention numerous hen houses carried en masse to the scene of the celebration." Although today the Thayer School of Engineering designs the bonfire so that it can only collapse inwards, the bonfire has been built by the freshman class since 1907.

Posted for Thea Stutsman, '13

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The King's English

A color photograph of an elaborately embroidered book cover featuring the figure of a man and decorated with various insects and plants. There are metal ornaments and hinges visible.Four hundred years ago, King James I of England commissioned a new translation of the Bible, hoping to create a single, authoritative text that would mediate between the divergent religious views of Puritans and Anglicans.

Each edition of the King James Bible published since its first printing in 1611 reflects something about the lives of the individuals who produced and used it.  For example, a pocket-sized copy printed in the mid-17th century was clearly treasured by its owner, who delicately embroidered the binding with portraits, probably of herself and her husband, on the front and back covers.

Come visit this and many other editions of the King James Bible at Rauner’s current exhibit, The King’s English, on display in the Class of 1965 Galleries through the end of October.

A photograph of printed text, including the beginning of a section titles "The Booke of Judges."

The exhibit is timed to coincide with a lecture by Adam Nicolson, author of God's Secretaries: The Making Of The King James Bible.  Scheduled for October 19, 2011, the lecture will be followed by a reception at Rauner. For more information, see the Department of Religion's website.