Friday, December 18, 2015

Bored at Home?

cover of Charades bookTry Acting Charades! This 19th century pastime is way more complicated than what we call charades today. There's a whole book dedicated to the proper art of Acting Charades, or, Deeds not Words: A Christmas Game.

The book begins with an introduction to the history of charades (French), so started because of the national "inability to sit still for more than half and hour." As to the actual game, the two "most celebrated performers" choose their teams, then decide upon a two syllable word or phrase. One team then performs a charade -- silently, as "nothing more than an exclamation is allowed" -- "as puzzlingly as possible" in the order of "my first, my second, and my whole." It's somewhat similar to how nowadays, we do "1st syllable" and so on. But these pantomimes are not simple.

Let's follow "Mistletoe."

Kiss the pope's toe!Act I. Mistle -- (Mizzle). A Poor Tenant cannot pay his rent; he and his family remove all of their belongings from the home. The Angry Landlord arrives and is angry.

Act II. Toe. An English gentleman refuses to kiss the Pope's toe. An Irish gentleman attempts to help, but when the English gentleman is escorted away at broom-point, he joins the Catholic cheers.

Act III. Mistletoe. A grandfather sets up some mistletoe over the Christmas dinner table. Everyone is delighted at this"wickedness," and many couples embrace theatrically ("by crossing their heads over their shoulders") under the mistletoe. Then they have to get married.

Not sure I'd be able to guess "mistletoe" from that, but that's just my 21st century attention-span speaking. Maybe if I were a Victorian scholar ...

My favorite part is the incredible set-up to the actual action itself. It's not like our version of charades -- this requires costumes. And though they understand their are constraints, they expect "high-pressure ingenuity" to save the day. They have seen a Louis XVI with an "ermine victorine wig for a well powdered peruke, and the dressing-gown for embroidered coat." Let me just go get my ermine victorine wig.

To try a charade of your own, ask for Sine Illus H56act. The British Museum also has provided a scanned version via Google Books if you want to try during the winter holiday.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

How Monahan Saved Christmas (Trees)

Photo of Robert MonahanHow the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel ’25) and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Robert May ’26 are two of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time. Here at Rauner Library, the holidays are an opportune time of year to celebrate our alumni connection to these holiday classics and to share with you a lesser-known, true story about the pilferage of Christmas trees in New Hampshire.

Letter from MonahanI for one was unfamiliar with this story until I came across a letter in the papers of Robert S. Monahan, Dartmouth College Class of 1929, college forester and member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. In the letter, dated December 16, 1966, Monahan writes to a Mr. and Mrs. Annis of Millsfield, New Hampshire regarding an ongoing issue of theft:
When we last met you mentioned the problem of Christmas tree pilferage, which you have observed on your own property, and wondered why somebody didn’t try to do something about it. Well, I did, back in 1957!
 It seems that throughout the state of New Hampshire Christmas tree theft was so prevalent that legal support became paramount.

In March of 1957, The Manchester Union reported, “the protection of natural resources has to have legal support. That is because human ‘wild life’ is predatory, because it cares nothing about the rights and property of others, and because it is unconcerned when it leaves havoc in its wake.” Illegally cutting a tree was not only considered an act of thievery but broke trespassing laws and posed an imminent threat to the protection of natural resources.

Newspaper clipping, 'Destruction of Trees'Newspaper clipping, 'Tree Stealers'

Later that year Robert Monahan introduced House Bill No. 254 addressing said havoc and calling for closer regulation of the transportation of Christmas trees.
Anyone apprehended transporting more than three coniferous trees on public highways outside of the compact parts of cities or towns from October 1 to December 23 is liable to a $50 penalty unless he can produce proof of ownership and name and address of seller.
House Bill No. 254In 1959 the bill was amended to decrease the number of trees from three down to “one or more” and increased the fine to $300.00.

Outside of the Dartmouth community the story of Robert Monahan may not be as well known as The Grinch or Rudolph, but at Rauner he will forever be remembered as a son of Dartmouth, college forester and savior of Christmas trees.

If you would like to learn more about legislation related to Christmas trees or Monahan’s forestry career ask for MS-1088 and his Alumni File.