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.