Friday, May 10, 2019

APB: Who Needs a Photograph?

Full Procalmation from State of New HampshireWe just picked up a new bit of ephemera from the 1891 Christie Warden murder case. Since we have blogged the case before, we won't recount it again. The item we just bought is a proclamation from the state declaring a $4,000 reward for the convict's capture. It is one of the most bizarrely thorough descriptions of a convict we have ever seen. It starts out normal enough, listing the suspect's age, weight, and height, complexion and eye color, but then it gets a bit weird:
...brown hair, but not shading on the red, thin on top, high forehead, hair growing down to point in centre, usually wore coarse stubby mustache; sometimes uses black cosmetic to make mustache and eye-brows match hair; often speaks of his classical nose.
Cosmetics? Speaks of his classical nose?  It goes on...
Fine set teeth, even and white; slight crow-foot marks about eyes. Large hands and wrists thickly covered with hair from which extends over his arms and body. Hands stubby in shape and course, though he takes excellent care of them. Has scar on left fore-arm made with corn cutter, which runs diagonally across. Small scar on right fore-arm made, he says, by bullet passing through.
 The little "he says" set off in commas is telling. In the next paragraph they doubt his bravado again: "Had, when he left Hanover, a russet leather valise of good size, nickeled trimmings with top end fastenings for which he claimed to have given fifteen dollars."

Detail of "Description of the Murder"
Then they give a description of his clothes down to the underwear, the serial number of his watch, and warn that he also carries a "44 revolver, perhaps two." It would have been good to know that at the start.

Then there is his past:
Said he was born in Maine and had attended school near Portland; claimed to have lived in the South and frequently spoke of himself as a Southerner; said he worked on a milk route in and about Lynn, at time of big fire there; but was very reticent concerning earlier years. Has spoken, in confidential way, admitting that his past life had been very wicked and dissipated, though not known to have drank liquor while in this state. Well educated and writes readily and well.
Okay, if I get in a conversation with this guy, I'll know who he is--if his classical nose, cosmetics, hairy arms, valise and watch, and tales of the South don't give him away, the two revolvers might.

We will get this cataloged soon and give you call number to request it.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

"Recreation (Compulsory)"

Photograph of the entire Dartmouth newspaper card catalog in Rauner Library's reading room.
Every year, Rauner Special Collections Library's reference staff receive over a thousand research questions via e-mail or phone from scholars, amateur genealogists, and curious individuals. We love helping people find answers to their inquiries, and we always learn a little bit more about our own collections in the process. Although the core staff consists of one full-time employee, one part-time employee, and a student worker, the entire library participates in the fun by fielding questions related to their own areas of expertise or interest. For example, one of our processing specialists has become our de facto expert on the Dartmouth Cemetery and even leads annual walking tours there. One librarian is known for his interest in answering questions related to our 20th-century printing and typography collections. Everyone here at Special Collections understands the value and thrill that can come from helping people, which is why the library is such a great place to work.

First index card of the "Recreation (Compulsory)" topic from the D Card Catalog.Believe it or not, one of our best tools for answering the many questions we receive every week about Dartmouth life is a card catalog. We have an index of the Dartmouth student newspaper that goes all the way back to the early 1800s and was initially begun as a Works Progress Administration project during the Great Depression. Dartmouth students workers are continually updating an electronic index of the newspaper that begins in the 1980s and continues to the current day, but there is no other way to access pre-1980s D articles except the old fashioned way. Recently, we were trying to figure out the origins of the notorious Dartmouth swim test, which has been a tribulation for the student body for at least almost a century. In hunting through the card catalog, we stumbled upon our new favorite subject heading: "Recreation (Compulsory)." Beginning in the 1919-1920 academic year, freshmen at Dartmouth were required to participate in at least one form of athletic activity for no credit. As per a D article from September 29, 1919, "the system will eventually put the entire college undergraduate body on a schedule of three hours per week compulsory recreation."

To read more about this topic or other Dartmouth-related compulsions, come to Special Collections and thumb through an index that has itself become a living artifact of sorts. Anyone at the desk can help you get started.