Friday, July 29, 2016

Dartmouth, the Emerald City

front of green goggles
Green goggles and their box
When Dorothy and her friends reach the Emerald City of Oz, they're each given a set of green spectacles. From behind these lenses, the entire metropolis shines with a verdant glow. We recently found some Oz-like glasses at Rauner!

These green spectacles belonged to Reverend Bennet Tyler (1783-1858), who served as the President of Dartmouth College between 1822 and 1828. Under his tenure as president, an official scholarship for indigent youth was established and Edward Mitchell, Dartmouth's first black student, was admitted. Tyler left after six years to return to the ministry.

So why did President Tyler need green glasses? Contemporary sources indicate that green glasses were often used for preserving sight or shading eyes from light (1, 2). Perhaps he was reading too much by candlelight? Perhaps he had suffered from snow blindness in a harsh Hanover winter?

back of green goggles
Goggles from behind
The green goggles come in a box from Pinkham & Smith Company (Prescription Opticians) from Boston, Massachusetts, perhaps indicating that these were a medical precaution. Like many contemporary spectacles, they don't have metal temples. Instead, President Tyler tied them around his head with a ribbon.

By the 1830s and 1840s, green glass had fallen out of favor, with author Francis West declaring that "while [green] is an agreeable color to look at, is it a bad one to look through," (3) and John Thomas Hudson writing that "through a green glass the countenance has a cadaverous hue" (4).

We'd prefer to think that President Tyler just wanted to view Dartmouth through green glasses (we do, of course, realize that these glasses pre-date Dartmouth's official adoption of the color green in the 1860s.) You can too, with Realia 277.

1. Thomas Green Fessenden wrote that opticians recommended green glasses to "preserve sight in the case of very weak eyes," but that they were really better for providing shade to the eyes or used when the eye feels "uneasy." Thomas Green Fessenden, The Husbandman and Housewife: A Collection of Valuable Recipes and Directions, Relating to Agriculture and Domestic Economy,  Bill Blake & Company, 1820, p. 182.
2. We also found an advertisement for green spectacles not only "for very weak and inflamed eyes," but also for "green light shades for the eyes," in the back of John Lorimer, A Concise Essay on Magnetism, with an account of the Declination and Inclination of the Magnetic Needle, and an attempt to ascertain the cause of the variation thereof, 1800 [no page number].
3. Francis West, A Familiar Treatise on the Human Eye, 1841, p. 33
4. John Thomas Hudson, Spectacl├Žnia; or the sight restored ... and preserved by the use of spectacles, etc. Simpkin and Marshall, 1834, p. 13.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In the Eye of the Beholder

Land of Desolation - coverYou see what you are looking for. Last week we wrote about William Bradford's Arctic Regions. On the same trip Bradford enjoyed on board the Panther was the experienced arctic explorer Isaac Hayes (no, not South Park's "Chef," an earlier Isaac Hayes) who also wrote a book about the trip. Bradford saw beauty and his text oozes with awe and wonder, but Hayes appears to have seen something very different in his popular account of the north aptly titled, Land of Desolation.

Having been north several times, Hayes found the journey "devoted to the study of the picturesque" a novelty, and he particularly enjoyed the lack of responsibility:
There can be no more comfortable situation on board a ship than that of a passenger. You are not expected to know any thing. You are content to trust to the captain, who is presumed to be quite competent to look to the safety of his ship, and therefore to your own.
Hayes had led his own expedition, and he was certainly content to let someone else run this one and spend his time in observation.

Land of Desolation - Glacier of Sermitsialik
The contrast suggested by the title is pretty stark until you dive into the text. Then you realize that Hayes had a deep appreciation for Northern waters and peoples:
The morning came fresh and sparkling as the eyes of our fair oarswomen, who, singing to the music of their splashing oars, came stealing over the still waters, bearing the good pastor in his arctic gondola, while we were yet at breakfast.
 To read more about what he saw, ask for Stef G742.H41.