Friday, June 13, 2014

That Sinking Feeling

Two years ago, a writer for Dartbeat, the Dartmouth student newspaper's blog, posted a fascinating entry about the sinking of the Titanic. The author, Kristin Yu, mentioned that two of the passengers on board the ship were related to a member of the class of 1912, Howard "Rainy" Burchard Lines, and were on their way across the Atlantic to attend his graduation. Mary Lines, Rainy's sister, and Elizabeth Lines, his mother, were among the lucky few to survive the horrendous tragedy that became a cultural phenomenon which persists even to this day. A few years later, sadly, Lines himself would die while serving in France as an ambulance driver in World War I.

Recently, while exploring our archives, a visitor to Rauner made a thrilling discovery related to this already gripping tale. Rauner Library holds various WWI materials connected to Howard Burchard Lines, about which we've already blogged. In addition to his papers, we also have Lines' membook, a scrapbook with a personalized cover that was distributed to Dartmouth freshmen upon their arrival on campus from the mid-1800s into the 1930s. As one of our previous blog entries makes clear, membooks were full of empty pages that Dartmouth students would fill with various mementoes from their time at college. By the time a Dartmouth man graduated, he would have accumulated a souvenir compiled of newspaper clippings, dance cards, programs and tickets to cultural events, personal photographs, pressed flowers, and any other little oddities that caught the owner's fancy.

Lines' membook is filled with these typical scraps and bits of his college years. Because of the 100th anniversary of World War I, he was fresh on our minds when a visitor came in and asked to see a sample membook, and so we paged his membook for her. What she found next gave us goosebumps: among the pages of Lines' scrapbook, between dance cards and other superficial vestiges of boyish fun, lie two small but weighty slips of paper. One is a boarding pass of sorts that allowed Mary Lines and one passenger admittance to U.S. Customs from RMS Titanic; the other is a telegram to Howard Lines that tersely states: "Safe on board carpathia. Lines." RMS Carpathia was the ship made famous by rescuing the survivors of the Titanic on that cold night in April, who doubtless all attempted to contact their loved ones immediately from the ship to let them know that they were okay.

Who knows what other fateful documents lie hidden within the pages of these old membooks, awaiting discovery after more than a hundred years? Come in and help us with the hunt by asking to see a random membook, or see the telegram and ticket for yourself by asking for Lines' membook (DC History Membook Lines 1912). Also, for more on Howard "Rainy" Lines 1912, ask to see his Alumni File or any number of items related to his experiences during the war, including MS-452.

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