Friday, October 27, 2017

The Morning of...

Diary entry for January 1, 1865When Elbridge West Merrill returned to Dartmouth College on January 1, 1865, he was looking forward to a good year. He acknowledged that “the past year was the most marked of my life, the most varying between Good and Ill –fortune, pleasure and pain.” However, things were looking up. He had “formed many pleasant acquaintances at College” and he hoped “some enduring friendships.” His motto for the upcoming year was “Look not mournfully upon the Past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the Present. It is Thine.”

Diary entry for April 13, 1865, quoted at length
And then came the morning of April 13, 1865, an entry bordered in black. “This morning the terrible news spread across the wires o’er our happy and even jubilant land that last evening the President had been shot down by the dastardly hand of an assassin in Ford’s Theater at Washington.” Merrill was stunned, like most of the country. “How can I describe the feelings, the emotions of that day…Never shall I forget that crowd of students that stood at the posts discussing the sad news.” Lincoln, he wrote, was an “honest,” “kind hearted,” “God-serving,” honorable and upright statesman.” Some had, however, been concerned for Lincoln’s safety when he traveled but everyone believed him to be safe in Washington. Merrill also worried that future “Northern statesman and generals” could be
thus pursued and struck down by Southern fanatics many of whom frenzied by their utter overthrow and excited to madness by the spirit of malignant revenge and hatred would be only too eager to gain an eternal name of infamy and gratify their hell-born desires by emulating the example of the execrable Booth.
Merrill continues for several more pages to put his thoughts, feelings and assessment of the situation down before returning to describing in detail his life at Dartmouth College. Unfortunately, Merrill’s life after Dartmouth was a series of mishaps and financial disappointment and he died at the age of fifty-three.

To read his diary ask for Codex 003345. You can learn more about his life after Dartmouth by asking for his Alumni file.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

More Birch Bark

Concert playbill printed on dark birch barkWhat is it about these birch bark items in our collections that keeps us blogging them? First, a student blogged our copy of Red Man's Rebuke, then another wrote about our copies of Charles Fletcher Lummis's Birch Bark Poems. So, it is probably a bit redundant to feature our latest acquisition, a playbill for a sacred concert at the Crawford House on September 26th, 1886, in the heart of the White Mountains printed on birch bark. But it is just too cool to resist.

The concert got off to a suitably rustic start with the William Tell Overture, but would any of the other composers dreamed their works would be listed on tree bark? Can't you just picture the concert goers idly fidgeting with the chalky bark playbill during the concert? The temptation to slowly shred it surely overcame many--birch bark just begs to be torn along its grain--but luckily someone had the self restraint to preserve their copy, and it now joins our amazing White Mountains Collection.

It is not cataloged yet, but we will put up a link to the record when it is.