Friday, October 11, 2013

I Went to Dartmouth Night, and it was Okay

A newspaper clipping with the heading "College to Celebrate 29th Dartmouth Night."The D and other voices of Dartmouth usually gush over Dartmouth Night. Now the bonfire is an iconic symbol of Dartmouth and student scrapbooks from the early twentieth century record the night so it could be remembered as the good old days. Today we stumbled on a less than enthusiastic response from Radford Tanzer, class of 1925. In the fall of 1924, his senior year, he finally decided to check out the annual festivities. His description is a classic in understatement:
Tonight is Dartmouth Night, when they have a big rally and a lot of speeches, and yells, and all that sort of thing. I wasn't so crazy for all that stuff, but went out with Dave to watch the torchlight procession.
He goes on to say he enjoyed the scene:
I'd never seen it from the outside before; it was beautiful to see that great long stream of lights winding across the campus with the band playing and the cheers echoing back and forth from one end of the line to the other.
A typed note.
Tanzer went on to become a pioneering plastic surgeon and faculty member at the Dartmouth Medical School (now named after his classmate, Ted Geisel). He certainly enjoyed college, but wasn't the most enthusiastic student on the social scene. His letter home about Winter Carnival from his senior year calmly states, "The Carnival wasn't violently exciting without a girl. It was quite a novelty to have such a flood of girls here all at once." But another letter relates, "Had quite an exciting meeting of the biology club the other night."

His letters are a delight to read.  You can see them by asking for ML-102, Box 47.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Unlimited Water

A black and white photograph of a man with a dowsing rod.In the late 1930s, author Kenneth Roberts, who had made a name for himself with historical novels including Northwest Passage, Lydia Bailey and Oliver Wiswell, had an experience that would put him at the forefront of the controversial practice of water dowsing. While building his house in Kennebunkport, Roberts solicited the help of former game warden Henry Gross, an expert dowser, to find water on his estate. Using his divining rod, a forked twig, Gross found several "veins" of water as well as a new devotee to the cause. Absolutely convinced about Gross's abilities, Roberts became his agent, establishing an organization called "Water Unlimited" to promote his friend and further the cause. He also published three books on the subject Henry Gross and His Dowsing Rod (1951), The Seventh Sense (1953) and Water Unlimited (1957) which was published posthumously.

Business was good with requests for Gross's services coming in by the dozens. However, ridicule followed as well. In particular Gross's claims that he was able to dowse long distance by using a map, or that he could locate lost objects by the same method, met with great skepticism. Roberts belief in Henry's ability never wavered though it appears that he was well aware of the limitations of dowsing for anything but water.

Yet, he did try to prove that dowsing could be useful in finding oil as well. In 1954, Roberts sent Gross to the California and Texas oil fields. In a memo to Gross, Roberts acknowledges that this trip was a "great opportunity for you to prove something about which we so far know nothing." He also chastises Gross about his loose tongue and for making claims "that haven't been proved," something Roberts attributed to Gross "using whiskey, especially early in the day." "This is serious business for all of us," he proclaims, "you have no way of knowing how much your abilities are impaired by daytime drinking."

A black and white photograph of two men holding a dowsing rod up against a map on a wall.

To find out more about the "business" of dowsing take a look at ML-25, the Papers of Kenneth Roberts.