Friday, March 3, 2017

The Night Tragedy Struck

Daily Illustrated News, Los Angeles, CA, Monday, February 26, 1934, Front Page. Headline reads "Gas Kills 9 Dartmouth Students" Other articles on page.
It was cold that night in February 1934, when eleven Dartmouth students, members of Theta Chi, settled down to play bridge on the lower floor of their house on North Main Street. Earlier that night, they had watched Dartmouth defeat its rival Princeton at hockey. At 12:30 am two students left their brothers to return to their dormitories. Sometime after 2:30 am the others retired to their rooms upstairs. At 6:30 am janitor Merton D. Little entered the house to fix the furnace fire, noticing a slight odor of coal gas. Presuming everyone still asleep he left and returned at 1:30 pm to clean up the lower rooms. At that time, according to the official report, he thought “the quietness of the house” was due to the students being at dinner. It was not until 4:30 pm when he returned, once again, to make the beds that he found all nine students and one dog dead in their beds.

The official cause of this mass tragedy, the greatest in Dartmouth’s history, was carbon-monoxide poisoning. According to medical examiner Dr. Ralph Miller:
Investigating cause of nine deaths. Chief of police Dennis J. Hullisey of Hanover, N. H., shown inspecting the boiler in the cellar of the Theta Chi fraternity house where nine students were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning the night of February 25. Investigation revealed that a slight explosion in the furnace had broken the flue pipe and allowed the gas to penetrate the basement and the upper floors of the house, killing nine Dartmouth College Students in their sleep. 2-26-34. Associated Press Photo From New York please use credit. The smoke pipe of the furnace had been blown off in an explosion, after which some one had apparently re-shut the furnace door without noticing the displaced pipe, and that the carbon monoxide gas accumulating from an improperly banked fire had escaped through the break instead of going up the chimney.
In the aftermath fingers were pointed, accusations of incompetence emerged and facts were doubted. An uncredited newspaper article entitled “The Dartmouth Mystery” proclaimed that coal gas could not have been the cause as “the annual casualties within the United States from this cause would run into the thousands.” Rumors included suicide pact or poisonous liquor as the cause.

Removing victim from scene of Dartmouth tragedy. Authorities shown removing the body of Edward Moldenke from the Theta Chi fraternoty house at Hanover, NH February 26, where he and eight of his fraternoty brothers were killed the night of February 26 by carbon monoxide poisoning. Investigation revealed that a slight explosion in the furnace had broken the flue pipe and allowed the fumes fo the gas to penetrate the basement and upper floors fo the house, killing the men in their sleep. Associated Press Photo From New York please use credit.
In the end it was confirmed that William Simpson Fullerton, Edward Morris Wentworth Jr. , Harold Barnard Watson, Americo Secondo DeMasi, John Joseph Griffin, William Mandeville Smith, Jr., Wilmot Horton Schooley and the brothers Edward Frederick and Alfred Henry Moldenke indeed died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

To read more about the tragedy, the investigation and the aftermath ask for our Vertical File on the subject. To get a closer look at the administration’s response and actions ask to see Box 6942 of DP-11, President Hopkins’ presidential papers.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Victoria's Lent

Cover of book in black morocco leather with msall gold crown stamped in center.Lent starts this week, which reminded us of an ironic little indulgence in the collections. We have a copy of John Jackson's The Sinfulness of Little Sins: A Course of Sermons Preached in Lent from 1849 that contains a sermon on "Pride and Vanity." All well and good, nothing odd there. But, our copy happened to have been owned by none other than Queen Victoria. So it is bound in full morocco leather, with the crown gold stamped on the cover. The gold continued onto the edges, expertly gilded, of course. Open it up, and the inside flyleaf and paste down are beautifully patterned silk. Little sins? It is all in the context--this was surely one of the more modest books in her library.

Flyleaf and paste down of book. hey are a pale cream colted silk with a floral pattern.
To prepare for the season of denial, ask for Bindings 113.