Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Johnny Johnson's Rum and Molasses Fund

Johnny Johnson turkey eats studentRum and Molasses -- what better way to spend a Thanksgiving holiday at Dartmouth? The Rum and Molasses Fund provided turkeys and other delicious foods for Dartmouth Outing Club members staying in Hanover over the break.

We have a few documents from the 1930s and 1940s outlining the festivities. One year, there was the "Thanksgiving feed at Moose" cooked by a member of the class of 1934 at Moosilauk, then the "Annual Thanksgiving Mt. Washington Trip," a trip with members of the Yale Outing Club ("For a real bunch of fellows, a Dartmouth-Yale combination is hard to beat!"), as well as hikes in the Adirondacks, hiking to various DOC cabins, and some cabin work at Jobildunc.

In a letter from 1940 (above), "Sir Robert Montcalm," "Loafing Trips Big-Blowout" and the "Agent Extraordinary of Yhoodi," announces that you can reserve a free turkey and go off and have your own wilderness adventure -- unless, of course, your Johnny Johnson Turkey eats you first!

The Fund was established by "Johnny Johnson '66," also known as John Edgar Johnson, Class of 1866 (picture below).  In 1913, an article by Fred Harris, the founder of the DOC, inspired Johnson to donate a 100-acre farm called Skyline to the DOC. This was only the beginning of his generosity. Johnson was not a wealthy man, but he was a passionate gifter, constantly surprising DOC members with random presents -- from a case of Worcester sauce for one Thanksgiving feast, to 24 scarlet jackets for DOC members during Carnival to a black bear cub. Some of the funds that Johnson established still exist, but the Rum and Molasses fund is sadly defunct.
John Johnson Class of 1866
Johnson described himself as a "wall-flower" at Dartmouth, but he was certainly a passionate and outspoken man later in life. He was a member of Kappa Kappa Kappa, served in the Civil War, and later became a minister. Reverend Johnson also claimed that the Class of 1866 had chosen green as Dartmouth's color. His alumni files is bulging -- come in and check it out!

In all our research, it remains unclear whether the funds were ever used to purchase rum and molasses ...or just turkey.

For more trending Thanksgiving topics, we've blogged about what Dartmouth students in 1946 were thankful for ("I'm thankful that after eating in Thayer Hall for two months I can go home for a decent meal"), early recipes, and the tragic death of Molly Goosey, back before turkey was the Thanksgiving bird of choice. To see the original Rum and Molasses documents, ask for DO-1, Box 6138, Folder 22.