Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Early Recycling?

John H. Gerould, a member of the class of 1890 and later professor in Biology and Genetics at Dartmouth, seemed to have a habit of writing on whatever piece of paper was nearest to him. While looking through his files for a lecture on eugenics, we realized how much information is hidden on the backs of his manuscripts.

Gerould wrote on departmental memos, personal letters, and book reviews. One of the most historically interesting  is a letter requesting donations to the American Red Cross during World War I. For a given lecture, Gerould might write on twenty different sheets, the same pen scrawling across four or five sizes, textures and colors of paper. One has to be especially carefully when looking through folders, because tiny pieces of paper could suddenly whoosh out!

One of my favorites is a page from a lecture on butterflies given in Manchester, New Hampshire. On the back is a letter from the biology faculty to President Hopkins (the one who said no to Dartmouth's shot at the Rose Bowl) requesting new facilities. In addition to the demands for more classroom and laboratory space, they specifically ask for a "Private toilet for instructors" (image above). Curious indeed!

John H Gerould as a youthSo why did Gerould do this -- was it an early eco-friendly measure or a spendthrift habit, or was he really so distracted he just wrote on whatever was nearby?

The full finding aid for MS-1040 is online. The papers pictured this post come from Box 5, Folder 15 (Lecture at Manchester NH). Gerould's alumni file provides more context about his life and publications. In the employment section of his alumni form, he writes that he works for Dartmouth College, the purpose of which is "educating boys." Quite apt, even today.

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