Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Anatomy of a Dance Card

Less than one hundred years ago, dances were regimented affairs with a set list of songs. But how were you supposed to remember who you'd promised the third waltz to? Luckily, hosts would print up tiny booklets known as dance cards, listing the order of the dances and providing a little line to write down your partner's name.
Commencement Ball 1902 dance cardThe first time I saw a dance card, I didn't know what it was. We were looking through the membook Howard "Rainy" Burchard Lines (Class of 1912) in preparation for our sophomore summer parents' weekend tour (we've blogged about Lines and his connection to the Titantic before). Flipping through the pages, I noticed that he pasted in a series of little books with pencils attached. Most of them carried fraternity insignia, so I assumed they were address books. But when I opened one, I realized it was actually a memento from a college dance. Lines didn't seem to like to dance the two-step, as it was always crossed out.

Dartmouth Hotel Ball 1884 dance cardMost dance cards contain the title of the event, the date, the location, a list of patronesses (or chaperones, usually married women or professors' wives!), the names of the planning committee, and of course, the list of dances with space to write down names. Some dance cards were probably planned before the evening began, as they were written in pen!

Senior Ball 1914 dance cardMy favorite dance card, from the 1914 Dartmouth Senior Ball, contains a little mirror, perfect for checking your teeth before the the last polka.While some dance cards are elaborately decorated with gilded crests and encased in leather, others consist of a single sheet of paper.

Our collection likely contains hundreds of dance cards, scattered through students' scrapbooks (known as "Mem[ory] Books"), the records of fraternities and other student organizations, and files concerning annual events, such as Winter Carnival, Junior Prom or Commencement. The cards in this post came from the "Dances, Balls and Cotillions" Vertical File and are mementos of: Commencement Ball (June 1902), the Dartmouth Hotel Ball (February 1884) and the Senior Ball (June 1914). Come to Rauner to see this file or the Mem Book for Howard Lines '12.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

John Hale Chipman '19 Papers, 1917-1919

John Chipman's field artillery group photograph Many American college students crossed the Atlantic to volunteer in the war effort before the US had boots on the ground in France. From among these men, a group of Dartmouth students joined the American Field Service (AFS). Traditionally, these soldiers drove ambulances for the AFS, but some volunteered for a different path. Due to a shortage of munitions truck drivers at the front, the French Army requested American volunteers to join the French Army and drive these trucks. John Hale Chipman '19 and other Dartmouth students rose to this challenge and served the French Army for a six-month tour from June to November of 1917.

Chipman conducting repairs on his transport vehicleChipman recorded this experience in a diary, which he sent home to his friends and family. He later compiled a scrapbook of his entire service, which included a tour in Italy driving ambulances for the American Red Cross and then his training as an artillery officer in the French Foreign Legion. His final days of service were spent in active duty as an officer of France in Belgium. Chipman represents a unique story of Dartmouth. His well-documented diary and photos give a detailed glimpse into one Dartmouth man’s war experience.

Chipman playing a musical instrumentThe diary, in which he wrote almost every day of his first six-month tour, details his complete routine. Included in his notes are morning calls that turned into 14-hour shifts of driving to combat zones, but also lazy days spent at the local YMCA performing music with French and American comrades. Chipman endeavored to provide a complete picture of his war experience, a difficult task given the circumstances, but one he completed with style. His scrapbook, which he compiled later, allows the reader to look into the places and people of war-torn France and Italy through the eye of a young American. Included are: pictures of massive German artillery pieces, photos of POW's, a dashing picture of Chipman in his French officer's uniform with fellow Dartmouth grads, and some very touristy photos of famous Italian sites taken on leave. Chipman's complete records certainly provide an experience in itself for any reader, well worth the time it takes to read every word and look at every photo.

To see John Chipman's diary and photo album, ask for MS-1229 at Rauner. To read a selection of his diary online, visit Dartmouth College Library's Library Muse blog.

Posted for Jake (Lewis) Lee '16, HIST 62 class.