Friday, September 23, 2022

Exhibit: A Fighting Tradition

Exhibit posterThe Dartmouth College community has been involved in every one of the country's major military engagements, from as far back as the Revolutionary War all the way up to the recent conflicts in the Middle East. For centuries, Dartmouth men and women have carried on a storied tradition of valiant wartime service to the United States of America, serving all around the globe and in all branches of the military.

During the 2022 fall term, an exhibit curated by Ryan Irving '24, current president of the Student Veterans Association, explores this tradition. "A Fighting Tradition: Dartmouth in American Wars" will be on display in Rauner Special Collections Library's Class of 1965 Galleries until December 3rd.

As Irving's exhibit illustrates, this tradition has evolved over the years, as has the college's identity and the nature of its student body. In the first decade of Dartmouth's existence, its connection to war was primarily through alumni involvement. Over the course of the next two centuries, the college's participation in war efforts grew in scope and variety: it saw the creation of student military societies, facilitated the training of soldiers on campus, sponsored military support services, and allowed students to put their college years on pause to enlist.

National unrest over the country's involvement in the Vietnam War was reflected on campus by the formal elimination of ROTC sponsorship due in part to student protest. However, in the early years of James Wright's presidency, and because his influence at a national level, Dartmouth was afforded the opportunity to support the war effort in a new way: by welcoming veterans to campus as students, along with the wealth of experience and diversity that they brought with them.

To see the exhibit while it's on display, come by Webster Hall and visit the exhibit space on our mezzanine. To read more about the exhibit online, visit its website.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Representing Lust (and Chastity!)

Woodcut image of ChastityThe use of emblems was popular during the Baroque time period in Italy and Europe in general, serving as a guide and source of inspiration for artists, poets, and sculptors when they were looking to creatively represent virtues, ideas, or even animals.

Cesare Ripa’s Noua Iconologia, printed in 1618, takes an encyclopedia-like format, alphabetically categorizing his emblems in multiple sections: Main Images (in 3 parts), More Notable Things, Animals, Colors and Metals, Gestures and the Human Body, Artificial Objects, Fish, and Plants. With each emblem description, Ripa also includes allegorical interpretations and references famous philosophers and writers of the time, whose interpretations of a particular object or virtue influenced his depiction of it.

Take the examples of Lust (Libidine) and Chastity (Castità). Ripa writes that the woman that symbolizes Woodcut image of Libidine Chastity in his emblem dresses in white to represent “the purity of the spirit, which maintains this virtue” (“Vestesi questa donna di bianco per rappresentare la purità dell'animo, che mantiene questa virtù.” (77).) and we see an association of colors with the value of chastity, but even more importantly, there is a suggestion that chastity leads to strength and truthfulness of character, as though someone who isn’t chaste is deceitful. Similarly, the emblem of Lust uses a particularly large amount of animal imagery, from beaks to panthers, all of which Ripa says symbolize lust, whose beauty “devours time, money, fame, body, and soul and spits it out becoming a slave to sin and the devil” (“Il che molto è simile alla Libidine, la quale con la bellezza ci lusinga, e tira, poi ci divora, perché ci consuma il tempo, il dannaro, la fama, il corpo, e l'anima istessa ci macchia, e ci avvilisce, facendola serva del peccato, e del demonio.” (312)). This, therefore, adds an element not just of deception, but of monstrosity and of sin, bringing in a religious element as well. Lust, according to Ripa, derives in women not even solely on a sexual level but also on the pursuit of fame and money.

All of this is to say that the use of emblems both had an impact on the time period’s interpretations of virtues, people, and things in the moment, as well as a longer lasting impact when the allegorical interpretation of these virtues are still seen in the present day depictions of values and morality.

To explore the woodcuts of Lust, Chastity, and many more, come to Special Collections and ask to see Rare N7740.R52 1618.

This post was originally written by Diana Alvarado '22 for Nancy Canepa's Italian 23 class, "17th and 18th Century Italian Literature".

Friday, September 9, 2022

New Mini-Exhibit: The Early African American Novel

Frontispiece and title page of ClotelleWe have a new exhibit on display in our foyer: The Early African American Novel. Literature written by African American authors expanded enormously during the 19th century. Autobiographical narratives of enslavement, such as Frederick Douglass's 1845 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave and Harriet Jacobs's 1861 Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl were particularly prominent and influential to the rhetoric of abolition.

At the same time, the African American Novel was developing. This nascent genre dealt with many of the same topics as the autobiographical narrative - such as enslavement, escape, and identity - but in a different literary medium and through a different lens. We've put together a selection of five early works by African American novelists, dating from the mid-1800s to the turn of the century, each important to the growth of that literary tradition. 

Come by the Rauner this September to see the following works on display: William Wells Brown's Clotelle; or, The Colored Heroine: A Tale of the Southern States, Frank J. Webb's The Garies and Their Friends, Harriet E. Wilson's Our Nig: Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, Pauline Hopkins's Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South, and Charles W. Chestnutt's The House Behind the Cedars.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Freud and Closing Frontiers

Letter from Stekel to LondonEighty-three years ago this month Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist known globally for the foundation of psychoanalysis, died in London of oral cancer that had first appeared as a benign tumor on his jaw. Freud had been initially diagnosed with the disease in 1923, which was likely a result of his incessant cigar smoking. His earnest desire was to die in Vienna, where he had lived for most of his life after relocating there with his family at the age of four. Because of this, Freud narrowly escaped capture and confinement by the Nazis in 1938. His sons, who had previously lived in Berlin, fled to England and France in 1933, while his daughter Anna stayed in Vienna with him and his wife Martha.

In March 1938, Hitler arrived in Vienna. Soon after, Freud's house and office were ransacked, his passport was confiscated and Anna was taken in for interrogation by the Gestapo. After a significant amount of international pressure, the Freuds were allowed to leave Austria for London in June of 1938. Four of Freud's sisters were not so lucky; unable to secure exit visas, one sister died in the Theresienstadt ghetto and the remaining three were put to death at the Treblinka extermination camp in Poland.

Rumors about the fate of the Freuds spread quickly during the initial days of the Nazi's Austrian occupation, to such an extent that Wilhelm Stekel, one of his former pupils, wrote to a Dr. L. J. London in New Hampshire to ask if he had heard the news about Freud's imprisonment. The real purpose of the letter, however, was to beg London to send him an invitation to come to New Hampshire under the pretenses of participating a medical conference. As Stekel says in his letter, "Please act as quickly as possible because frontiers could be closed at any time."

To see this letter, and correspondence from other noteworthy psychoanalysts like Carl Jung or Fritz Wittels, come to Special Collections and ask to see the L. J. London Papers (MS-1062).

Friday, August 26, 2022

Stokely Carmichael at Dartmouth

Poster for Stokely Carmichael's 1966 talk at Dartmouth College
One of the meta things about working in Rauner Library is that we are situated in the building that used to be the biggest speaker's venue on campus. So, while we hold Dartmouth's history with the College Archives, we are inhabiting a space where history happened. Take this example: in 1966, the recently formed Dartmouth Afro-American Society teamed up with several other organizations on campus and invited Stokely Carmichael to speak. 1,400 students packed the building that is now Rauner Library to hear his speech on Black Power. The D, which misspelled his name repeatedly in its next-day reporting, quoted him as saying, "We are faced now with a situation where powerless conscience is confronted with conscienceless power." Oof, that's a statement that can still be made in a variety of contexts.

An editorial that followed sounded a bit square--concerned over Carmichael's "unfortunate tirade concerning racism," but appreciative of a new, deeper understanding of "Black Power." The bit about the "tirade" leaves us wanting to go back in time and sit with the 1,400 students. We might be more inclined to call it righteous indignation.

To read The D's reports, take a look at the November 13-15, 1966, editions. To see the amazing poster, recently donated by a member of the Class of 1969, ask for the "Lectures, 1960s" folder from the poster collection.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Ancient and Modern Apparel

De gli habiti antichi et moderni di diverse parti del mondo (Ancient and Modern Apparel of Different Parts of the World) is a seminal work in the field of fashion history, though it perhaps reveals more about the biases of its author than it does about its purported subject. Written in the 1590s by Venetian author and woodcut printer Cesare Vecellio, the treatise contains hundreds of beautifully detailed images of clothing from throughout Afro-Eurasia. During the Baroque era, one's social class, gender, and place of origin could be easily divined based on appearance and clothing. Though this was beginning to change by Vecellio's time, it was still largely true that certain people predictably dressed in a certain way. Vecellio's book was an attempt at documenting these archetypal looks from throughout the world. The treatise is also considered to be an early example of anthropology or ethnography, as Vecellio often discusses the daily habits, routines, traditions, and customs of the people whose clothes he is describing. However, Vecellio is far from a reliable source. His descriptions of foreign cultures are often filled with speculation and stereotypes. He also spends the vast majority of his book describing European dress culture, with only a very small minority of the test devoted to Africa and Asia. (A later edition of the book would also include the Americas). So while Vecellio provides the modern reader with marvelous images and interesting tidbits about dress culture, his work is perhaps best read as a glimpse into the kaleidoscope of stereotypes and tropes through which a late sixteenth century Venetian saw the world. 

This post was originally written by Stephen Iovino '21 for Nancy Canepa's Italian 23 class, 17th and 18th Century Italian Literature. 

Friday, August 12, 2022

A Poet of the Cherokee Nation

Cabinet photograph of Dewitte DuncanWhen Dewitte Duncan was nine years old, the United States government forcibly removed him, his family, and the Cherokee Nation from their ancestral lands in Georgia. The discovery of gold near Duncan's hometown of Dahlonega, Georgia, in 1828 led to the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830. Over the next decade, numerous Native communities were subjected by the US authorities to what is known as the Trail of Tears, a brutal march west from the Deep South to what is now Oklahoma.

Duncan survived the ordeal and, after gaining an initial education at the Cherokee Male Seminary in Tahlequah, the Cherokee Nation's new capital, he was admitted to the class of 1861 at Dartmouth College. Duncan was the oldest member of the class at the time, graduating at the age of 39, and possessed great intellectual strength and physical presence. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and went on to be an educator in Lisbon and Littleton, New Hampshire, before returning to Oklahoma and serving as a lawyer for the Cherokee Nation. In addition to his legal acumen, he was also a prolific poet who published under his Cherokee name, Too-qua-stee.

Unfortunately, we don't have any of his works of poetry here at Rauner, but we do have an alumni file that contains more information about his life. To examine it, come visit us.

Friday, August 5, 2022

"I Don't Think Sequels Are Really Worth That Much"

A typewritten note with letterhead identifying the writer as Mario Puzo.
Superhero films and television shows have been around a long time - almost as long as the comic book characters inspiring them. That said, the current standard of balancing multiple blockbusters that take place in the same universe is a more recent one. The success of 20th Century Fox's X-Men movies and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy in the early 2000s helped the process along, but the current behemoth known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe didn't launch until 2008 with Iron Man.   

Why are we talking about this? Well, it's because of a little note we have in the papers of Mario Puzo. Puzo is best known for writing the novel The Godfather and co-writing the film trilogy that it kicked off. He also co-wrote the screenplay for DC's first major film, Superman (1978). We've touched on the writing process for the Superman screenplay before, but today let's hear what Puzo has to say on the subject of sequels and splitting up your moneymaker:

1. I still think it a better idea to make one big block busting picture rather than split the script and shot film into two separate movies. REASONS: No major star will want to take the risk of committing to what may be two films. What if the first film is bad? Then he has to sweat out the second film being bad. (We know it will be good, of course, but he can't be sure). Under the two film concept I am fairly certain you will not get one of the super stars. Make it one big film and you get the major star.

REASON # 2: At the risk of being immodest, I think the script as written can be a really blockbuster of a movies [sic] with grosses comparable to THE GODFATHER, THE STING, JAWS, THE EXORCIST. Not only because of the script but because of the built in audience which the comic book SUPERMAN has given the project. However I think being split up two movies will weaken everything, all elements of the project. You will have a lesser star, the script, any script, becomes less effective in such a situation, the shooting of the picture to be made into two becomes more complex, I would think. You save money, sure, but everything becomes more risky. Why not have an almost sure shot big hit ONE Movie rather than two risky movies?

... I think audiences are waiting for the one great big blockbuster movie. I don't think sequels are really worth that much. The sequel to the GODFATHER II is not yet out of the red. French Connection II is not really a success. And both had big big successes preceding them. If the first big Superman picture is only a mediocre success the sequel won't be worth much... Enough advice, Hope you like the script.

Superman was ultimately split into two films and cast a relative unknown, Christopher Reeve, as its star. Both Superman and Superman II were critical and commercial successes, despite Puzo's protestations. Then again, so were the Godfather movies.

To read this note and other production materials from Superman, check out MS-1371.


Friday, July 29, 2022

Revenge in the Chamber of Horrors

Sheet of rules for freshmen in Wheeler HallAlthough we now think of hazing as a secretive practice, confined mostly to Greek life, there was a time when hazing was done in the open, and every freshman was subject to it. One Dartmouth student in the class of 1911, Frank Whitcomb, wrote several letters to his sister about his experiences with hazing, which we now have at Rauner.

Whitcomb explained to his sister that Delta Alpha was “the name under which almost all the real hazing in college is done,” with each dormitory claiming its own chapter, and that this type of hazing was allowed at Dartmouth. He felt that he’d had an easy time with the hazing, describing one group of sophomores as “very nice” because they “did not make us do anything that would soil our clothes.” But the price for disobeying the upperclassmen was steep: each violation of the rules meant extra time in the Chamber of Horrors. Whitcomb didn’t say whether he knew what the Horrors in the Chamber were, but he didn’t seem too worried about it.
First page of letter from Whitcomb
Whitcomb made it through his own freshman hazing, and by his senior year, he’d had plenty of opportunity to do the hazing himself. But some threats to this tradition had appeared. First, the Chamber of Horrors that year was “a pretty poor imitation of what it used to be” thanks to the faculty and Palaeopitus, who Whitcomb felt had “butted in altogether too much.” And on top of that, some freshmen were fighting back. Outnumbering the sophomores, the freshmen of Thornton Hall managed to escape their fate in the Chamber of Horrors and forced the sophomores to go through it instead. After the ensuing fight was shut down, the sophomores threatened revenge, which Whitcomb eagerly told his sister “promises to be some fun later.”

From the tone of his letters, it seems like Whitcomb was amused by the hazing and saw it as just another part of his experience at Dartmouth, but clearly, not everyone felt that way. Today, first-years live in separate housing, and Delta Alpha is a thing of the past.

To read Whitcomb’s letters, ask for MS-1438. To see more about Delta Alpha hazing, ask for the Delta Alpha vertical file.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Queerness in Hidden Spaces: Clifford Orr’s Influences on the Literary Sphere of Dartmouth

One hundred years ago, queer folk like Clifford “Kip” Orr, member of the class of 1922, didn’t have spaces to safely and openly write about their identities or tell stories with openly queer characters. Today, we know Orr’s sexuality because of Brendan Gill, one of Orr’s colleagues from later in his life. In his memoir Here at the New Yorker, Gill writes “Alcoholic and homosexual, Kip took terrible chances with his life, and it became a wonder that he wasn’t murdered; more than once, he was rolled, beaten up, and left for dead in some dirty doorway in the Village, and yet he survived to die sadly in the small college town where for a little while, he had known good fortune.”

While we don’t see explicit mentions of Orr’s sexuality in his papers found at Rauner, we can see two things: his manuscript for his mystery novel “The Dartmouth Murders” and the letters he wrote to his parents while a student at Dartmouth. His letters in particular tell a story about the good fortune Gill mentioned.

His senior year, Orr was president of the Dartmouth Players, a theater group made of all male students. While primarily a director, Orr himself did occasionally step in as one of the “chorus girls” when another actor couldn’t be in a specific performance. In one such incident, which he describes in a letter to his mother in May 1921, he went on in another man’s place in a show at Northampton. On the note of his female garb, he says “According to George I looked loke the herione of any movie western comedy — the girl the cowboy loves.”

He also made a mark on two of the campus’s literary magazines, namely The Bema and The Dartmouth Literary Magazine, which he and two others founded together towards the end of his senior year. Orr was an official member of the literary staff of The Bema for a majority of its ninth and tenth volumes, from October 1920 to May 1922. In the Carnival number from Volume X, Bema staff showed their appreciation for Orr by nominating him to the Hall of Fame because “he is not a typical Dartmouth man,” and because “for four years he has worked quietly for the good of the college without desiring glory.” He would have served as Editor-in-Chief if not for already being president of the Dartmouth Players.

In another letter, from April 1922, Orr writes about his hopes for the new publication: “It is something I have wanted to do for the last year or too, as I feel the BEMA is inadequate and too much of a compromise to mediocre taste,” he says. “The REVIEW will make no compromise and will take a definitive stab at increasing undergraduate literary appreciation and creation.” In the next letter, Orr writes to his mother about the publication of the first number of the literary magazine as “a hard thing to do […] particularly when its policy allows no compromise with public taste.”

After reading these letters, it is not surprising to find that The Bema only began to publish fiction that seemed to suggest the possibility of non-normative expressions of gender and sexuality while Orr was on the magazine’s official literary staff. Volume IX of The Bema, for example, features work such as the anonymously published story “The Alley of Twilight,” which tells the story of a woman queered by her lack of interest in men. Sexuality also comes into play in one of Orr’s own pieces, “Relatives,” which tells the story of Kenneth, a student who must watch as his roommate and other fellow students rejoice during his own mother’s vaudeville performance. While this story explains Kenneth’s discomfort by the fact that the men around him are celebrating his mother, it could act as a metaphor for the experience of being uncomfortable in a room where you seem to be the only man not attracted to a woman.

Once the literary magazine began in 1922, these sorts of stories seemed to move there. Such stories include another one of Orr’s, “The Damn Fool,” where Orr embodies a non-gendered narrator writing about the death of their husband.

Unfortunately, the literary magazine only lasted for just over a year. It merged with The Bema in 1923, and even the consolidated publication left print in 1925. However, the last volume seems to be the queerest of them all. Under the supervision of Editor-in-Chief Herbert S. Talbot, who was a very frequent contributor to Orr’s literary magazine, The Bema’s last run published several stories that seem to hint at the psychological turmoil that comes with hiding one’s queerness. Talbot’s own story “The Brown-Haired Girl” is one of these stories.

So what happened? Circulation began to dwindle; they ran out of money. Did they become too controversial? Too close to queer? Also in 1925, the Dartmouth Players began casting women as the female leads, likely because of the campus conversation about whether the act of playing a female character was having an effeminizing effect on the male actors. Was that merely a coincidence? Even the archives likely won’t answer this question.

To read Orr’s letters with his parents, come in to Rauner and ask for collection MS-532, box 1.

If you’re interested in reading the fiction stories mentioned here or even in finding some more, ask for The Bema, Volumes 9 – 13, D.C. History LH1.D3 B4, and The Dartmouth Literary Magazine, D.C. History LH1.D3 D264.

Posted for Sabrina Eager '23, recipient of the Dartmouth Library's Historical Accountability Student Research Fellowship for the 2022 Summer term. The Historical Accountability Student Research Program provides funding for Dartmouth students to conduct research with primary sources on a topic related to issues of inclusivity and diversity in the college's past. For more information, visit the program's website

Friday, July 22, 2022

Native American Studies as Reviewed by the 1975 Evaluation Committee

Cover of "Report of the Evaluation Committee on the Native American Studies Program at Dartmouth College."This year, the Native American Studies Program, or NAS, is celebrating 50 years of operation. To honor the Program, I am exploring its history as a Historical Accountability Student Research Fellow. I should preface this blog post by stating that the NAS is different from the Native American program, or NAP. The former is an academic discipline that would become an interdisciplinary “special program” at the College, whereas the latter is a non-academic support system for Native American students.

One of the most important parts of the NAS Program was its approval process. First, the Ad hoc Committee on American Indian Studies released a report on NAS; this was the first recommendation for such a program. After the Ad hoc Committee on American Indian Studies. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences and President Kemeny, using the recommendations from the aforementioned committee, the Committee on Instruction and Executive Committee of the Faculty, formally approved NAS on May 8, 1972.

Along with the establishment of Native American Studies, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences also approved the following: “a written evaluation be made of the academic and budgetary status of the Program, by the Committee on Instruction and by an outside team (which includes Native American scholars) appointed by the COI, during the 1975-1976 academic year, [and] such evaluation to be shared with the Executive Committee of the Faculty.”

Page 14 of the report, entitled "Why Dartmouth?"In this blog post, I will be focusing on the written evaluation by the “outside team”, which came to be known as the Report of the Evaluation, released on March 12, 1975. In January 1975, the Evaluation Committee initially met with the goal of evaluating NAS to make a recommendation for the program. The Committee was united on all its conclusions except for the scope – regional or national – of the academic discipline. The Committee’s members included Dartmouth English Professor Peter A. Bien, Head of University of Manitoba’s Native Studies Dr. William Koolage, Dr. David Warren of the Institute of American Indian Arts, and Director of Native American Studies at the University of Montana Henrietta Whiteman.

After the meetings in January, the group composed a thorough report with the following recommendations for NAS: 1) the Native American Studies continue for five more years 2) additional faculty should be hired, and the Chairman of NAS should oversee this process 3) core courses should be strengthened as additional faculty are hired 4) a language course must offered every school term. The Committee also requested that Chairman Michael Dorris be given released time for departmental consultations and meetings with the Native American community.

At this point, the interdisciplinary program is at its interim stage. When crafting the review, the Committee consulted President John G. Kemeny and the Dean of the Faculty.

Page 15 of the report, continuing the "Why Dartmouth?" section.The report also included a passage on why NAS was adopted at Dartmouth. Eleazar Wheelock’s original promise and the faculty’s mandate are not enough justification for the continuation of NAS. One justification for the program is the development of young adults. According to the Committee, undergraduate students are extremely curious and “their educational and vocational goals [are] not yet settled [at their age].” A second justification is because of Dartmouth’s small class size, which achieves what cannot be done at a large size university. It fosters a mutual, intimate connection between Native American and non-Native students.

I find this passage notable because the narrative surrounding the Native American Studies among the student body seems to focus on Kemeny’s re-commitment to the original charter and the recruitment of Native American students. While both elements impacted NAS, Dartmouth’s uniqueness – such as its relatively small size for a private research university – allows for this academic discipline to flourish.

Posted for Farah Lindsey-Almadani '25, recipient of the Dartmouth Library's Historical Accountability Student Research Fellowship for the 2022 Summer term. The Historical Accountability Student Research Program provides funding for Dartmouth students to conduct research with primary sources on a topic related to issues of inclusivity and diversity in the college's past. For more information, visit the program's website.

Friday, July 15, 2022

A Game of Planchette

paper with ouija board notesRauner Special Collections Library is home to a wide assortment of papers related to the Cornish Colony, a New Hampshire artists' collective active through the end of World War I. Typically, we focus on the big names associated with the colony, like Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Maxfield Parrish. Today however, we're looking at an instance in the lives of the children in residence.

In some papers belonging to Lucia Fairchild Fuller (1870-1924), a painter and member of the colony, there is a set of notes from a ouija board session she conducted with her daughter Clara and other children. Most of the answers provided by the game are next to nonsense, but one particular piece sticks out. When asked to name a set of kittens, the planchette spells out "Drown it, darn it, drat it, and damn it." It's a perfect little piece of creepiness, and apparently it stuck around. According to a note from Clara's own daughter:

'Planchette' - (or the 'Oija [sic] Board' as we call it now-) was a game loved by the children of Cornish... Lucia Fuller joined the game and the saucer rapidly named the kittens 'DROWN IT; DRAT IT; DARN IT; DAMN IT' - an event my mother (CBT) spoke of until the end of her life.

The Fairchild-Fuller family papers are full of artwork, diaries, gossipy letters, and other interesting odds and ends. To read the full notes from this game of Planchette, ask for MS-152, Box 10, Folder 41.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Exhibit: Sharing the Computer

Looking around campus today, it is hard to believe, but there was once a time when Dartmouth didn’t have any computers. And when Dartmouth did first acquire a computer, like many institutions at the time, they faced obstacles sharing access with the Dartmouth community. It was the 1960s; computers were big and expensive, and hardly anyone knew how to use them. But when John McCarthy, a computer scientist at MIT, told Dartmouth math professor Thomas Kurtz, “you guys ought to do time-sharing,” Kurtz realized this could be the answer to Dartmouth’s problems.

Time-sharing worked by allowing multiple users to connect to a single, powerful computer via teletype terminals. The computer couldn’t actually run more than one program simultaneously but instead cycled through them very quickly. And while one person was typing, or thinking, or getting distracted at their own terminal, the computer wasn’t sitting there waiting for them: it was keeping busy running other people’s programs. This efficient arrangement allowed many, many more people to learn to use a computer for the first time, and eventually, the effects of the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System (DTSS) reached even beyond Dartmouth.

To learn more about Dartmouth's innovative impact on computer science, visit the current exhibition in the Class of 1965 Galleries at Rauner Library in Webster Hall. It was curated by Val Werner '21 and is open to the public from June 28th through September 2nd during our regular hours of operation.

Friday, July 1, 2022

All Wrong, but So Right

Engraving of fireworks at Versailles
This is silly. This book is 100 years too old, it was created to honor a monarch, it is from France, and it was owned by a member of the British court, "Henry Duke of Kent." So why pull it out on Independence Day? Well, fireworks!

Les plaisirs de l’Isle enchantée: Course de bague; collation ornée de machines; comedie, meslée de danse et de musique; ballet du palais d’Alcine, feu d’artifice: et autres festes galantes et magnifiques (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1673) is a pretty amazing book. Commissioned in 1673 to document a lavish celebration of Louis XIV at Versailles, it depicts food, parties, elaborate spectacles like papier-mache sea monsters in the pools, and even the staging of one of Moliere's plays. It has all the trappings of royal extravagance and excess, and has nothing to do with a colonial rebellion. We could say featuring it this week on the blog is some kind of subtle indictment of American complacency and decadence (a party is a party), or perhaps just another example of our willingness to appropriate anything, but really, we are just into the imagery and it put us in the mood for a Fourth of July barbecue and day in the park.

Engraving of fireworks at VersaillesEngraving of sea monsters at Versaille

Engraving of fireworks at VersaillesEngraving of banquet table at Versailles

To see the book (it is so worth your time), ask for PQ1840.P2 1673.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

I Musk Ox You A Question

On March 17, 1917, Canadian-Icelandic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson wrote hurriedly to Sir Robert Borden, the Prime Minister of Canada. In his letter, Stefansson enclosed a small sample of wool from a musk ox, which he believed that, "if cultivated, can make Canada, continental and insular, as productive of meat, tallow and wool as the grazing regions of Australia or the Argentine."

Stefansson is clearly excited about the potential that musk ox presents to his nation: he asks Borden to set aside a half-hour for him to regale the PM with the wonders of this creature. He lists the many ways in which the reindeer in particular is an inferior creature and then boldly asserts that musk ox "will replace sheep and cattle on some ranges where these are now profitable."

To touch some musk ox wool, or to compare its texture with samples of camel hair and cashmere, come to Special Collections and ask to see the Papers of Werner Von Bergen (MSS-94).

Friday, June 17, 2022

Elementary BASIC

Photo of the cover of Elementary Basic.

Have you always wanted to learn BASIC? No? Well, would you want to learn BASIC if it were taught by Sherlock Holmes? If so, we have just the book for you!

BASIC, the programming language invented at Dartmouth in the 1960s, revolutionized computing by making it easy for beginners to pick up programming for school, work, or fun. Over the following decades, methods of learning BASIC were in high demand, including at least one creative textbook. Elementary BASIC, by Henry Ledgard and Andrew Singer, resembles a typical Sherlock Holmes book, with a key difference: Sherlock is using BASIC to solve the crime. He explains it to Watson as he goes, giving examples in both BASIC and pseudo-code, such as this one for a conditional loop:

Photo of a sample page of Elementary BASIC.
Do the following:
    get another clue
    examine the clue

While it may seem silly, the book covers a lot of important programming concepts. It could even be useful today if BASIC were replaced with a more modern programming language, though Elementary Python doesn't have the same ring to it.

Now that you’ve been convinced to learn BASIC, come to Rauner and ask for MS-1144 Box 10, Thomas Kurtz’s collection of BASIC texts from around the world. On June 28th, we'll also be opening our summer exhibit on the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System, which BASIC was created for.

Friday, June 10, 2022

"Feeling Great Enjoying Everything"

Today we're taking a quick peek at the letters of Willard S. Smith, a New Hampshire man who served as an army chaplain during World War II. Written between August 1944 and February 1945 from positions in England and France, he describes life in the army, his thoughts on the war's progress, and the news he receives from home. His writing style is verbose and playful, and as such his letters are an absolute delight to read. In one, Willard outlines his seasonal calendar at home with "Nor will it be too long now before sap time, then mud time, then arbutus time, then graduation time, then haying time, then Murphy Cottage time, then (and always) lovin' time!"

There isn't a lot of biographical information out there on Willard, but we do know that he was in his forties  during World War II, with a wife and children back at home. He worked as a minister and was a practicing magician - some of his letters refer to putting on shows for local French children and to his correspondence with all his "magic friends." If his correspondence is anything to go by, he was an enormous personality and we recommend getting to know him better. Until then, we'll leave you with one of the first pieces of correspondence in the collection - a telegram that reads, in full: "Feeling great enjoying everything always remember dear keep smiling."

To read Willard's letters yourself, ask for MS-757.   

Friday, June 3, 2022

Dear (blank),

Photo of the first page of fill-in-the-blank letter stationery

For a student in the 1890s, keeping in touch with friends and family back home could be a chore. But the busy Dartmouth student could dash off his letters a bit quicker with some fill-in-the-blank stationery. We have a sample of such stationery here, in the second of our four Stationery vertical files.

The form covers all of the basic letter-home content:

Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., 189 (blank)

Dear (blank),—

I have been very busy for the past (blank) with my studies and haven’t found time to answer your last letter before.

I am much interested in (blank)

The weather has been (blank)

I see by the paper (blank)

I shall be home in (blank) weeks and

You said in your last letter that (blank)

There has nothing new happened here and it’s getting late so I shall close.

Your (blank)

The form makes some fair assumptions: this letter will be arriving later than expected, the writer is either busy with studies or willing to lie about being busy with studies, and if anything more interesting than the weather has happened in Hanover, the writer doesn’t care to share.

To see this and more stationery used by the Dartmouth community over the years, visit Rauner and ask for the Stationery vertical files.

Friday, May 27, 2022

An Ice-Free Arctic

Map from the front of Moxon's pamphletThe possibility of an efficient trade route from Europe to East Asia was an idea that gripped the imaginations of European explorers for centuries after Columbus's discovery of the American continent. In 1697, a member of the Royal Society and hydrographer to Charles II, published the second edition of a popular self-authored pamphlet that recommended a new approach to this puzzle.

In the aptly named "A Brief Discourse of a Passage by the North-Pole to Japan, China, Etc.," Moxon spends six pages to explain why he believes that pursuing a course through the Arctic is the most likely strategy to succeed. Moxon says that he has been "credibly informed by a steersman of a Dutch Greenland ship" that the North Pole is actually a warm and open sea. Based on this expert advice, Moxon goes on to say that he is convinced that the ice encountered by ships only appeared near land masses; if that narrow band of Arctic ice could be traversed, then it would be free and warm sailing across the top of the world and down to Japan.

Moxon's hypothesis was eagerly embraced by other reputable Northwest Passage enthusiasts, who further developed his idea to the point that in 1776, Captain Cook embarked on his third voyage to the Pacific with the goal of finding a way through the Arctic to the Atlantic. As you might already know, one of Cook's crewman on that trip was John Ledyard, a non-graduate of the class of 1776.

To skim Moxon's pamphlet and look at his map which shows what was known of the Arctic Circle at the time, come to Rauner and ask for Stefansson G640 .M69 1697.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Bringing Martin Luther King, Jr. to Dartmouth

A letter from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Gene Lyons about his recent visit to Dartmouth.
Martin Luther King III will be speaking on campus on May 23rd, so it’s a good time to reflect back to when his father spoke here, on the same date 60 years ago. Martin Luther King, Jr. lectured in Dartmouth Hall as part of the Great Issues Course, which brought in a variety of guest lecturers to speak on current world issues and was required for all seniors. On that day, King declared to his Dartmouth audience that segregation was “on its deathbed” and spoke on his methods for advancing racial justice. An overflow crowd gave King a standing ovation, and in a letter he wrote after the fact, he said he would “always remember the warm reception” he received.

A letter from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Fred Berthold canceling his speaking engagement at Dartmouth.
Before 1962, Dartmouth had been trying for five years to get King to come to campus. The first time he was invited to speak in the Great Issues course, in 1957, he declined because his schedule was full. He was invited again and agreed to speak at Dartmouth in May of 1960; however, in April, he sent a profusely apologetic letter explaining that on the day of his speaking engagement, he would have to be in an Alabama court fighting a “trumped up perjury charge concerning income tax.” The next attempt was scheduled for May of 1961, but the day before King was first scheduled to speak, the Freedom Riders were brutally attacked in Montgomery, Alabama, and he left Hanover the next morning to address the emergency. After this last disappointment, Professor Gene Lyons wrote to King again and extended an open invitation, allowing him to visit any date in the next academic year when “the situation in the South might permit,” with as few as ten days’ notice. This time, King was able to make his lecture as planned, and the seniors of the class of 1962 had a chance to hear from one of the most celebrated civil rights leaders in history.

To read the correspondence about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to campus, come to Rauner and ask for DA-12, box 1387. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Hampered Housing

Front page of 7 Jan 1986 Dartmouth newspaper with article "Forty students in need of housing"
When the pandemic hit campus in early 2021, there was a lot of hysteria and confusion. For Dartmouth students, trying to figure out how the rest of the 2020-2021 school year would look like was difficult, especially regarding housing. Trying to secure safe on-campus housing was a nightmare for everyone, but especially for low-income, international, and homeless students: Dartmouth simply did not have enough physical housing for all its enrolled students.

As the Spring 2022 Historical Accountability Fellow, my research aims to find an explanation for why Dartmouth does not have enough physical housing for its students even though the administration knows that it has more total students than rooms available.

Dartmouth is unique among colleges and universities, in that it implements not only a quarter system, but also something called the “D-Plan”. The D-Plan allows for students to be unenrolled for a term and do anything that they want, whether that be an internship, fellowship, traveling, working, or simply taking a break from their studies. Based on my research, the D-Plan is an integral reason as to why Dartmouth does not have sufficient housing for all students.

Before the Fall of 1971, Dartmouth was a male-only school. Only three Ivy League colleges had gone co-ed as Dartmouth was transitioning from single-sex to co-education. After going co-ed, mainly due to alumni complaints, Dartmouth decided to admit the same number of male students as it would have admitted before co-education, so that no potential male students would lose a spot in favor of a female student. However, the college also enrolled an additional 150 students, all of them female. The first year of co-education, the Fall of 1971, was a difficult time for Dartmouth housing and residential staff, to say the least.

Not only did they have to change and modify requirements for the incoming freshman to adjust for the D-Plan, but they also had to modify room capacity to accommodate the extra students. Making singles into double and doubles into triples, Dartmouth housing had to scramble to make sure that all students enrolled in the 1971 fall term had a bed to sleep on, not to mention making renovations to older dorms, displacing male students to create single-sex female dorms, and accommodating students living in common rooms while waiting on a vacancy.

Dartmouth College would not reach a steady state, meaning that all classes enrolled were subjected to the D-Plan and no major housing crisis would ensue, until the 1975-1976 school year. From the Fall of 1975 until about the early 90s, Dartmouth had no major housing crisis. The D-Plan allowed for the administration to take in more students but not have to physically create more housing.

And although no major housing crisis (or construction) occurred from the late 70s to the early 90s, Dartmouth did not build any new dormitories despite knowing how fragile the balance was between enrolled students and available on-campus housing. The Lodge, originally a small motel called the Motor Lodge, was transformed to Dartmouth Housing in the early 70s. However, while the conversion of the Lodge and renovations to the Choate and River Clusters and other dorm clusters did indeed increase the number of total dorms, it did not amount to a significant increase in space. 

Only after a severe housing shortage in the Fall of 1994, where as many as 180 students were left without housing (after a record number of 3,845 students were enrolled for the term), did Dartmouth seem to believe that new construction was in order. Still, no new housing was available until 1996, with the completion of the Morton, Andres, McCulloch, and Zimmerman Halls, today known as the East Wheelock cluster.

Yet again in 2001, with the class of 2005, did Dartmouth have another housing crisis. New housing would not come until 2006, with the opening of opened the Fahey McLane and the McLaughlin Cluster. Another housing crisis occurred in the Fall of 2014, with the arrival of the abnormally large incoming class of 2018.

Evidently, there is a historical and cyclical discrepancy between how many Dartmouth students can be on-campus and enrolled per on a termly basis and how many beds Dartmouth has available for these students. My research aims to contextualize the housing crisis at Dartmouth to understand why and how Dartmouth has attempted to alleviate the strains on its housing system.

Posted for Rachel Perez '23, recipient of the Dartmouth Library's Historical Accountability Student Research Fellowship for the 2022 Spring term. The Historical Accountability Student Research Program provides funding for Dartmouth students to conduct research with primary sources on a topic related to issues of inclusivity and diversity in the college's past. For more information, visit the program's website.

Friday, May 13, 2022

A Curious Choice

Faded image of first page of Booker T. Washington letter to Dartmouth PresidentTucker.
On September 24th and 25th, 1901, Dartmouth threw a big gala event to celebrate the Webster Centennial. It was a big deal with dignitaries from all over the country descending on Dartmouth, speeches, parades, a recap of the last century of Dartmouth's history, a football game pitting alumni against students, a bonfire, and lots of cooing over how great Daniel Webster was. There was a also a special commencement to confer honorary degrees on a select group of people, among them Booker T. Washington.

Washington was a curious choice, perhaps inspired by then President Tucker's modern liberalism. You see, Daniel Webster is most famous as a great orator, fierce lawyer, and as a U.S. Senator who could get bill passed. Less talked about is his infamy for rousing the votes needed to pass the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. That law forced federal officers to capture and return runaway enslaved people in Northern States and made it a crime to assist those enslaved persons whom had fled to the North. As you can imagine, the law was hated in the North, but Webster, seeking to preserve the Union, saw fit to give the speech that persuaded enough Senators to pass the bill. So here is Tucker, celebrating Webster's legacy by conferring an honorary doctorate on the most well-known civil rights leader in the United States who had been born into slavery. He must have known exactly what he was doing--a moment of symbolic resistance among the celebrations.

Second page of Washington letter featuring his signature

To see the letter Washington wrote to Tucker to accept the invitation to the Centennial, ask for MS 901557.1. The D has a great account of the festivities in the September 27th, 1901 issue on our reference shelves.

Friday, May 6, 2022

"Editorial Rutland"

Cover image from Frost's "New Hampshire"
Here at Rauner, we're fortunate to have one of the best, if not the best, collections of Robert Frost books and manuscripts anywhere in the world. In addition to his notebooks, correspondence, and calendars (among other things), we have first editions of all of his books of poetry, many of them duplicated many times over. Most of those editions are presentation copies, and Frost was fond of scribbling a message or a poem of his in the flyleaf along with his signature.

First page of Frost's letter to DuntonIn one of our copies of New Hampshire, instead of a poem or lengthy address, there is a letter from Frost to the book's owner, Edith Dunton, who lived in Rutland, Vermont. In his letter, Frost says that he hopes that the recipient will find this book of poems preferable to his previous works, which he notes "seem to have made no great hit in Rutland." He goes on to say that he had been told that "Editorial Rutland saw nothing in [his] work to compare with the work of some judge or other."

Despite Editorial Rutland's misgivings about Frost's work, New Hampshire would go on to win the 1924 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and included such well-known favorites as "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" and "Fire and Ice."

To read Frost's letter for yourself, come to Rauner and ask to see Frost PS3511.R94 N4 1923.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Peddling Plaster of Paris

Bernardi smiling and holding his hat to the cameraWithin Dartmouth College's Photo Files Collection, we have several folders titled "Hanover People". Browsing through those folders, one discovers the faces of many of Hanover’s residents all the way back to the 19th century. There are images of men, young and old, babies, and women of all ages in crinolines, bustles and corsets. Many are identified by names written on the back of the photographs in pencil.

In addition to their name, a few have been annotated with the word "Characters". One such character was Americo Bernardi, a peddler who visited primarily college towns all over the nation to sell statuettes and other objects made of plaster of Paris. Bernardi applied for a license to sell his wares in Hanover on May 25, 1908, and for the next 25 years, Dartmouth College was one of his regular spots. The pictures in the Photo Files Collection show him peddling his masks and statues on the steps of Webster Hall around 1927 during one of Bernardi’s last visits to Dartmouth.

Bernardi selling figurines on the steps of Webster HallAccording to an entry in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine of January 1933, Bernardi left the United States to return to his "Sunny Italy" because he was "feeling kind of homesick." Bernardi is also quoted as saying: “Now when I get home I will start drinking some of my ginger ale I told you about. I will try to save some for you when you come to visit me…Remember me to the President and also the Dean and Miss Bianchi; also, all my friends."

Bernardi, to whom students gave an insensitive sobriquet that was related to his heritage, also pops up in a 1926 notice in Banta’s Greek Exchange, an American magazine about college fraternities and sororities. There the writer comments on Bernadi’s remarkable memory: “If the name of a friend of college is mentioned, [Bernardi] will name his fraternity and hometown.” The notice also mentions his return to Borgo a Mozzano, Tuscany, in his native Italy because he “made his pile” and at the age of fifty wanted to enjoy life with his wife and six children.

To browse through photographs of Bernardi and other Hanover characters, visit Digital by Dartmouth Library's Dartmouth Photo Files Collection online and search for "Hanover people." You're also welcome to come to Special Collections and explore the original photographs in person.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Finding Community: The Life of Edward Mitchell 1828

View of Georgeville, Canada
We have blogged about Edward Mitchell before, and we even did a podcast episode on him. Now we are excited to announce a new exhibition here in Rauner Special Collections Library that traces his life from Saint-Pierre, Martinique, to Hanover, and on to Georgeville, Canada.

He is a favorite topic because his life was so extraordinary. Mitchell was the first student of African descent to attend Dartmouth College--or any of the schools that would later become the Ivy League. In 1824, students protested the Board of Trustees decision not to admit Mitchell because of his race. The students’ activism was supported by the faculty, the Board relented, and Mitchell took his rightful place in the student body. Born in 1792, he had been a sailor and a porter before coming to Hanover. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1828, was ordained, and moved to Georgeville, Canada, where he became the first ordained minister in Canada of African descent. Throughout, Mitchell had an knack for finding community. 

Come in and take a look at his amazing life. The exhibit will be on display though June 16, 2022, in the Class of 1965 Galleries. If you want to see any of the documents after the exhibit comes down, we have a checklist with the exhibit text for you. The cool image of Georgeville above actually shows Mitchell's church. It is from Nathaniel Parker Willis and W. H. Bartlett's Canadian Scenery Illustrated (London: G. Virtue, 1842). You can see that by asking for Illus B258c.

Friday, April 15, 2022

A Woven Prayer Book

An open book with grey and black pages. The lefthand page illustrates a nativity scene.
We recently added a book to our collections created using an unconventional piece of technology: the loom. Livre de Prières tissé debuted at the 1889 Paris World's Fair as a stunning example of the artistry and technological merit of Lyon's silk-weaving industry. Ours is one of only fifty or sixty copies, all woven on a Jacquard loom.

The Jacquard loom, invented earlier in the 19th century, was a partially automated weaving machine that simplified the production of intricately patterned textiles. The weaving of individual designs would depend on a sequence of punch cards, each of which would direct mechanized hooks to lift threads as a worker sent their own thread back and forth. This mechanism is considered by some to be a precursor to early programming hardware and it's useful to imagine the loom as a computer printer, building an image one row of pixels at a time. The creators of this woven prayer book - produced in Europe's silk capital of Lyon - capitalized on the Jacquard technology to effectively "print out" 58 individual pages of text and illustrations. 

Modeled on the medieval book of hours, each page of Livre de Prières tissé is a marvel of precisely woven silk thread. While finely detailed, the Jacquard technology creates an effect that strikes the modern eye as almost pixelated, imparting a visual dissonance that only grows when examined. In The Woven Prayer Book: Cocoon to Codex, Matthew J. Westerby describes this uncanny quality as occupying a place "of both familiarity and discomfort, rooted in the way it blends the look and feel of the illuminated manuscript with the tactility and luster  of woven silk, all made possible by a complicated technology." It's an odd and lovely little book, and we recommend that you come see it for yourself! 

To see Livre de Prières tissé in person, ask for Rare Book BX2113 .A1 1886. To read more about its production and sister copies in The Woven Prayer Book, ask for Rare Book BX2113 .W47 2019.



Monday, April 4, 2022

Collective Genius

The myth of the self-made man is strong here in the United States, where it is inextricable from the American Dream. We often are tempted to idolize and then mythologize individuals who appear to have improved their own situation in life through hard work and true grit. The truth is, most of our iconoclastic heroes have relied upon a long line of minor innovations and discoveries by other people who came before them. Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Edison, and a host of other figures have become integral threads in the fabric of our national identity based upon self-reliance.

But rarely do these myths hold up when one starts to pick at them. A great example is that of Albert Einstein. Although a brilliant theoretical physicist, Einstein relied upon other brilliant minds to support him and collaborate with him in his research. One such mind was a research assistant named John Kemeny. Kemeny, a grad student in mathematics at Princeton in the 1940s, had emigrated from Hungary because of the war. He later went on to become a professor of mathematics at Dartmouth College, where he would invent the BASIC computer programming language with colleague Thomas Kurtz. In 1970, John Kemeny became president of Dartmouth College and ushered in co-education as well as other initiatives meant to diversify the student body.

Here in Special Collections, we have evidence of the fact that it often takes teamwork, and not individual genius, to accomplish great things: an incorrect mathematical proof written out by Albert Einstein that has been dutifully corrected by Kemeny. To see it, come to Rauner and ask for MS-988, Box 22, Folder 1.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

A Subway for Hanover?

Photo of the broadside, "A Subway for Hanover?"Recently, I found this gem in our “Transportation II” vertical file, entitled “A Subway for Hanover?” Dated 1976, it lays out plans for a rural subway system that would transport Hanover denizens on such lines as the “WART,” the “CHORT,” and the “BOPFAFA-LOOP.” Between these silly names and suggestions like holding discos in the subway stations for revenue, it seemed too good to be true. But it also seemed too detailed to be fake: it includes a New York Times article, a proposed map, and even the name of the planning group. I had to know how much, if any of it, was real.

The supposed New York Times article lists various obstacles to the subway project, including that New Hampshire governor Meldrim Thomson wanted to block funding for it, and speculated to the Union Leader newspaper that “ex-convicts” could be involved. This article appears nowhere in the real New York Times archive, but I suspected that these details were satirizing something else. It turns out that in 1975, just a year before the “Subway for Hanover,” the liberal Franconia College requested a federal grant for an experimental education plan, and Thomson and the conservative Union Leader attacked the college for this plan as well as for its alleged support of “ex-convicts.”

Also according to the “NYT” article, the subway project originated at Brown University, and the broadside credits the plans to the “Carberry Research and Planning Group.” A Brown tradition, beginning with a fake lecture announcement in 1929, claimed that “Josiah Carberry” was a professor who never appeared for his speaking engagements. For decades after, Carberry’s name frequently appeared attached to joke news items. If there was still any doubt that this was intentional, the date on the bottom of the broadside fell on Friday the 13th, which would have been observed at Brown as “Carberry Day.”

But this still doesn’t answer the question: who would put so much effort into these fake Hanover subway plans? Clues are scarce, but there is one interesting coincidence. When the (legitimate) New York Times reported on the Franconia College situation, it mentioned that Arthur E. Jensen, a former professor and dean at Dartmouth College, had criticized Governor Thomson’s actions and endorsed Franconia’s plan. Even though it wasn’t much of a lead, I decided to check Jensen’s affiliate file. Imagine my shock when I opened the file to find it full of articles about the mythical Professor Carberry—because Jensen himself had made the fake posting that started it all in 1929.

Does this prove Jensen is behind the “Subway for Hanover”? Not really. And there’s a long list of other questions that remain tragically unanswered. To those who were here in 1976, we implore you to contact us with any tips you have about this mysterious broadside. In the meantime, we can rest easy knowing no one seriously planned a subway line called the CHORT.

If you want to see everything for yourself, come to Rauner and ask for the “Transportation II” vertical file or Arthur E. Jensen’s affiliate file. Or if you just want to spend a few hours solving a mystery like this one, there are plenty to be found here.

Friday, March 25, 2022

It's Not Personal, It's Business!

This year, The Godfather turns 50. Mario Puzo's Oscar-winning film adaptation of his best-selling novel, directed and co-written by Francis Ford Coppola, has mesmerized film-goers for half a century with its epic portrayal of the Corleone crime family. Some have argued that the film should have by all rights been a bomb, in part because of the questionable reputations of its director and lead actor, as well as a cast list of virtual unknowns. Instead, The Godfather exploded onto the cultural scene. It was the top-grossing film of 1972 and went on to win three Oscars that year: Best Picture; Best Adapted Screenplay, which went to Puzo and Coppola; and Best Actor, which went to Marlon Brando.

Ironically, Brando nearly lost the opportunity to play the part of Don Vito Corleone because the producers considered him a has-been whose justifiable reputation for on-set antics was too high a price to pay for his talent. In a now often-told story, Coppola was eventually able to win the studio executives over by recording an impromptu video at Brando's house of him in character as Vito Corleone. Mario Puzo also had hoped to cast Brando in the lead role but wasn't able to leverage the studio in the same way as Coppola. In a letter from the Mario Puzo Papers, held here at Rauner Library, the author and screenwriter tells Brando that the producer, Al Ruddy, was "very cool" about the idea of Brando as Corleone. He also says that he still thinks that the attempt was a "good idea" and that he's sorry to have wasted his time.

The American Film Institute has ranked The Godfather as the second-greatest film in the history of American cinema and its cinematic and well as cultural legacy still persists, even fifty years later. Now, we're going to make you an offer you can't refuse: come in to Special Collections and take a look at the Papers of Mario Puzo (MS-1371) whenever we're open. One thing, though: be sure to leave the cannoli at home.

Read the 2018 Dartmouth News story about how Rauner acquired the Mario Puzo papers here.