Skip to main content
clickable transparency Dartmouth College Library
Home >  About the Libraries >   Friends of the Library >   Dartmouth College Library Bulletin > November 1998 >

Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

Charles N. Haskins and the Woodward Room at Baker Library


In 1927, during the planning of the Fisher Ames Baker Library at Dartmouth College, a then-anonymous donor made a gift of two thousand dollars '"to furnish and equip a room in the Library to contain the surviving books of the first library of the College and to serve as a memorial to Bezaleel Woodward, its first Librarian and its first Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy."'[1] The proposal was warmly supported by Ernest Martin Hopkins, President of the College, and by its architect Jens Fredrick Larson.

The man who initiated the project with his donation was Charles Nelson Haskins, professor of mathematics.[2] Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts (1874), and a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1897), Haskins received a doctorate in mathematics from Harvard in 1901. He joined the Dartmouth College faculty in 1909 as assistant professor of mathematics, and was appointed professor of mathematics in 1916, a position he held until his death in 1942. A multifaceted man, Haskins was an excellent linguist, proficient in a dozen languages, with a strong preference for German. He also was an expert carpenter, following in the steps of his father Herbert Haskins, grandfather Orville Haskins, great-grandfather Joshua Haskins Jr., and great-great-grandfather Joshua Sr., all professional cabinetmakers.[3]

Annette Woodward, Mourning picture for Bezaleel Woodward, about 1810. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; gift of Mrs. John Howes Waters in memory of her husband.

Haskins's chief interest, however, was the Dartmouth College Library. For almost a decade (1920-1929) as chairman of the Faculty Committee on the Library, he stimulated improvement of the collections 'from a second-rate hodge-podge to a first-rate working library for scholars.' He greatly improved the quality of the library of the mathematics department.[4]

But the culmination of his efforts in behalf of the Library came during his tenure (1925-1929) as chairman of the Special Committee on the Planning of the New Building. Freed of all teaching duties for two years, Haskins could devote full time (in concert with the trustee committee, the librarian, and the architect)

to the building, equipping, and organizing of Baker Library. . . . these were the happiest and the most rewarding years of his life.

All his M.I.T. training now came into its own. . . . He personally carried out the most exhaustive tests in lighting; . . . He fought for, and got, faculty studies. He bothered himself about heating, ventilating, and even plumbing. [5]

It was Haskins's idea that the room would represent a semblance of the College's earliest library, which came into existence when the trustees, at their meeting of 25 August 1773

Voted, That Bezaleel Woodward Esqr be, and hereby is appointed Librarian for this College.
Voted. That the Library be kept in the Southwest Chamber of Mr Woodward's house till ordered otherwise.[6]

The small (10'x 18') room came to be located on the west mezzanine of the new building. Haskins named the room 'the Woodward Library,' but over time the more accurate appellation 'Woodward Room' became established. From available letters and documents, the following brief conspectus has been gathered of the main objects in the room, including their provenance.

Haskins kept a detailed record of the larger pieces of furniture donated, at his suggestion and urging, by a maternal uncle, Elmore Payton Haskins (1849-1930), and a sister, Susan Frances Haskins (1876-1947), both of New Bedford, Massachusetts. For each item, Haskins had written a dedicatory note, probably intended as the text for a plaque to be affixed to the pertinent piece; this evidently did not happen, but the notes have been preserved. The slanted desk, for instance, would have carried the notation

This Desk
Built by Joshua Haskins (1784-1861)
of Middleborough (now Lakeville), Massachusetts,
is presented to the
Woodward Library of Dartmouth College
by his grandson
Elmore P. Haskins of New Bedford, Massachusetts.
June 16, 1928.[7]

Elmore also gave the round chair and the clock, the case of which had been made by his grandfather. Susan Haskins contributed the table, light stand, andirons, other fire tools, and the mirror, all originally having belonged to her great-grandmother Susanna Alden Kinsley (1794-1875).

The history of the Eleazar Wheelock chair, presented to the College at Commencement, June 1936, by William Chauncy Langdon, is well documented. A detailed account of its provenance, prepared by the donor, has served in preparing the following summary.[8] Ruth Wheelock Patten, a daughter of Eleazar from his first marriage, probably inherited the chair, which after her death in 1831 passed to daughter Sarah Patten and in 1843 to another daughter, Ruth Patten. In 1848 the donor's grandmother Harriet Curtis Woodward Langdon was given the chair by Ruth Patten with the understanding that, in time, it would go to Harriet Langdon's son, William Chauncy Langdon. Harriet Curtis Woodward Langdon was a granddaughter of Bezaleel Woodward and Mary Wheelock Woodward, and thus Wheelock's great-granddaughter. The chair was in poor condition when the donor received it upon the death of his father in 1895. After seeking expert advice, Langdon entrusted restoration of the chair to the firm of Ginsburg & Levy, Inc., of New York City. Experts of the firm and Homer Eaton Keyes 1900, art historian and editor of Antiques, 'expressed the opinion that the Chair was considerably older than the founding of Dartmouth College, that it was made in New England sometime between 1720 and 1735.'[9]

Charles Nelson Haskins.

Following the death of George Washington in 1780, there was a brief flourish of a genre of mourning art, the so-called mourning picture, presenting a visual elegy in symbolic neoclassical language. Curiously, embroidery was much in this context; 'Neoclassical silk embroidery was the last important type of needlework to develop during the schoolgirl needlework era.'[10]

A magnificent, well-preserved example, embroidered with silk thread and watercolor on silk, was made by Annette Woodward (1787-1824) to mourn the death of her father. The dedication inscribed on the plinth reads 'Bezaleel/Woodward/Esqr Obit/Augst 25th 1804/AE 59.' Speculation outruns facts concerning where Annette had learned this delicate form of embroidery; the watercolor painting was usually done by a professional artist. Annette was at the proper age (fifteen years) for attendance at a girls' school at the time of her father's death. There were a number of such schools in New England renowned not only for their general excellence, but also for being centers of girlhood embroidery; one of two in particular may have had Annette as a pupil. In Hartford, Connecticut, there was an acclaimed girls' school founded by none other than Ruth Wheelock Patten, later joined by her three daughters, Sarah, Ruth, and Mary, all three possessing an 'extraordinary skill in needlework.'[11] The school lasted from the late 1760s until 1825. The family ties (Annette Woodward and the Misses Patten having Eleazar Wheelock as their grandfather, but two different grandmothers) may have led Annette to enroll in the school at Hartford. However, the style of the embroidery differs in some respects from that of the Patten school. The former is more in line with that of the 'Academy' founded by Susanna Haswell Rowson in Boston. A mourning picture very similar to Annette's was 'Wrought by Miss. Eliza Adams at Mrs. Rowson's Academy,' circa 1810.[12]

In 1817 Annette married Thomas Colman Searle, an 1812 graduate of the College, who was to live as Presbyterian minister in Madison, Indiana, until his death at age 34, in 1821. Annette moved back to the east, where she died, aged 35, at Rowley, Massachusetts. She bequeathed the embroidery to a distant relative on her husband's side, Annette Howes Waters, and it came to the College in November 1933 through the latter's son, John H. Waters.[13]

The oil on canvas portraits of Bezaleel and his wife Mary Wheelock Woodward, usually called 'Polly,' have been attributed to the American portrait painter William Jennys.[14] A number of portraits were painted by him from the 1790s through the first decade of the 1800s in various locations in New England, including Enfield and Lebanon, New Hampshire, and Norwich, Vermont.

One month after the dedication of Baker Library (16 June 1928), Haskins wrote,

In looking over the content of the Woodward library I found a copy of the 'Gradus Ad Parnassum' and numerous Bibles, but there appears to be no drum. I have put the two books on the table and desk [they have been so displayed to this day], and should be very glad if I could get hold of a drum of the Revolutionary period to keep them company.[15]

Haskins was inspired by the first stanza of the famous drinking song by Richard Hovey 1885:

Oh, E-le-a-zar Wheelock was a very pious man;
He went into the wilderness to teach the In-di-an
with a Gradus ad Parnassum, a Bible and a drum
And five hundred gallons of New England rum.[16]

The drum was acquired by Richard Parkhurst 1916 and his brother-in-law Daniel F. Ryder 1921 when they were told of such an instrument in the possession of a farmer near Waterbury, Vermont. One evening in the summer of 1929 they went to the farm and obtained it for the College.[17]

As to rum, Hovey's poetic license is contradicted by the ledgers of the Charity School where, under the heading of 'Goods &c bought to send to Hanover' and dated 'Sepr 3d 1770,' we note:

To 1 Barrell of Rum 31 Gall: at 2/8 ye Gall: [£] 4.2.8
To 1 Barrell for do of G[ershom] Breed [merchant, Norwich, Ct.] 0.3.6.

In making his donation, Professor Haskins had stipulated that the room should 'contain the surviving books of the first library of the College.' He was more specific in a letter written a few weeks before the dedication of the new building on 16 June 1928: '. . . there is to be in the new library building a room to be called the Woodward Library in which will be shelved such books as remain of the library of the College as it existed in 1775.' [18] To clarify the background of these somewhat confusing quotations, a brief digression into the earliest history of the Dartmouth College Library is unavoidable.

In June of 1762, Wheelock made a journey to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, by way of Boston, to raise funds for his Indian School in Lebanon, Connecticut. He heard some interesting news, recently brought from London by his friend, the Boston merchant John Smith. Wheelock referred to it in a letter to George Whitefield, who was then in London. 'Mr. Smith informed me that there was Some talk in England of Collecting a Library for the use of this School. May God incline the Hearts of his people to promote that design.'[19] Since the establishment of the Indian School (1754), there had been frequent mention of books in letters, account books, and ledgers, but always related to school books for use by the students-the word 'library' did not appear. Wheelock repeated his request (with an addition) in February 1763, in a letter to the Reverend Dr. Andrew Gifford of London, a Baptist minister, book collector, and renowned numismatist: 'by Mr. Smith . . . I had also a Hint of Some charitable Designs, that were forming in Favour of this School, and particularly of Some Thots of collecting a Library for it, which is indeed much wanted. If God Should put it into the Hearts of any to accomplish it; I hope they will also think of the Usefulness, and Necessity of a pair of Globes, and a good Set of Mapps.'[20]

A little over a year later, Wheelock could report:

Received also in June 1764, a neat Pair of Globes, and a valuable Collection of Books, from the Rev Dr Andrew Gifford of London. And, at the same Time, a valuable Collection of Books from the Rev. John Erskine and Mr William Dickinson, of Edinburgh, and an honorable Society in Edinburgh for promoting religious Knowledge among the Poor.[21]

John Erskine (1721-1803), a close friend of George Whitefield, was a supporter of missionary work, as was one his parishioners, William Dickson, a dyer of textiles.

The total number of books that had arrived by June 1764 is unknown-at least thirty-two have been preserved, of which twenty-two had come from Edinburgh, and eleven from London. Each contains a pertinent inscription written by Wheelock himself, for example:

The Gift of Mr. William Dickson to the Indian Charity School in Lebanon--received June 1764.
June 1764. Received from the Reverend Doctor Gifford of London, sundry
second hand Books given by poor Persons to the Indian Charity School in Lebanon--of which this is one.
The gift of Reverend Mr. John Erskine of Edinburgh, received June 1764.
Given by the Society at Edinburgh for Promoting Religious Knowledge, to the Indian Charity School in Lebanon-received June 1764.

On 29 June 1764 Wheelock wrote to Whitefield, 'I have received the globes and books from England and Scotland, which furnish a pretty library for this infant institution [The Indian Charity School].'[22]

The donated books and globes had been shipped to Boston in wooden chests marked E. W., and then by sea to Norwich, Connecticut, where Wheelock's colleague and close friend, Nathaniel Whitaker, would find transport by horsecart to Lebanon, Connecticut. It is therefore plausible to consider this 'pretty library' as the origin of the Dartmouth College Library. In August 1770, while the College was being established, some or all of the books were transported to Hanover in a wagon pulled by a team of oxen, led by Wheelock's nephew Jabez Bingham III, who wrote after his first trip to Hanover, 'the knifes and forks Were put into the box of books. . . .'[23]

The College, after removal to New Hampshire, did receive some funds for books, but it was not unil 1773 that a true collection of books, by bequest of Diodate Johnson, could be called the College Library's beginning.[24] Bezaleel Woodward, as the College's librarian, included the books, donated to the Indian Charity School, in the first catalogue of the Dartmouth College Library, which he prepared in 1775 for John Wentworth, governor of New Hampshire and trustee of the College. An occasional book donated specifically to the Indian School after 1770 would be inscribed, 'This book belongs to the Indian Charity School incorporated with Dartmouth College in Hanover.' Gifts of books to the College, from 1773 on, were inscribed 'Dartmouth College Library.'

The books now on the shelves of the Woodward Room have, over the years, been brought together from various sources. For the purpose of this article, all the books have been examined. There are 323 titles, including duplicates, particularly Bibles. Several are incomplete. At least nine books originally had been in Eleazar Wheelock's personal library. Most of the books deal with theological and devotional topics, and it is difficult to understand how they could have been of benefit to the education of students either at the Indian Charity School or the College. Continued frustration in this regard led the trustees at their meeting of 19 February 1818 to vote in favor of selling the entire library for not less than 2100 dollars.

Voted That it is highly important that the Officers & Students of this College be furnished with Books suitable for the purposes of instruction & study, and whereas the books composing the Library belonging to the College are many of them ancient injured and defaced & are not so well suited to answer the said purposes as others which might be selected; it is therefore deemed expedient to make sale of the said Books to raise money to purchase a more complete assortment of useful Books for sd Officers & students. . . .[25]

There were no takers.

The room has, at its entrance, a tablet bearing the text:

This room, containing the surviving books
of the earliest Library of Dartmouth
College, is equipped in memory of
a Tutor, Treasurer, Trustee and
Vice-President of the College; its first
Librarian and its first professor of
Mathematics and Natural Philosophy

Professor Haskins consulted his colleague Bancroft Brown on the inscription, who agreed with what had been written. We owe to him the story behind the last two lines:[26]

Professor Haskins was a great admirer of the German mathematician, Riemann. Partly for his own pleasure, partly for the profit which others might receive, he translated from the original Latin the great paper of Riemann on the flow of heat, for which he received the prize of the Academy of Paris. The translation is preserved in the Dartmouth Library. Fortunately, it is in English, for Haskins' German was almost as formidable as Riemann's Latin. Riemann in submitting his paper--anonymously, but with a motto, as was the custom of the time--chose as his motto
'Et his principiis via sternitur ad majora.'
This Haskins translated with discrimination: 'And by these principles the way is prepared for greater things.'

The room is, indirectly, also a tribute to Charles Nelson Haskins, of whom President Ernest Martin Hopkins wrote, 'There is no associate of mine in the College whose friendship I prize more highly than that of Professor Haskins.'[27] In 1928 the College awarded Haskins an honorary degree of Doctor of Science; he had received an honorary A.M. degree in 1916. The town of Hanover named a road after him, Haskins Road, off East Wheelock Street. A tribute from the Dartmouth College Library staff appeared in its Library Bulletin after his death in 1942:[28]

Charles Nelson Haskins






A plaque in the office of the Librarian also commemorates Professor Haskins's many services to Baker Library.

Back to the Table of Contents

[1] Robert Daniel Funkhouser, Dartmouth College Endowment and Plant Fund Register . . . ([Concord, N.H.: Printed by the Village Press, c1970]), 232. The career of Woodward as Dartmouth College's first librarian has been described by the authors in 'Notes from the Special Collections: The First Librarian for Dartmouth College,' Dartmouth College Library Bulletin, n.s., 37:1 (November 1996): 38-48.

[2] Bancroft Huntington Brown, 'Charles Nelson Haskins, Professor of Mathematics, Dartmouth College 1909-1942,' (1958). Professor Brown, a colleague and close friend, wrote this personal recollection, the typescript of which is in Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections. It has been helpful in the preparation of this article. Haskins's identity was either not known, or not made public, at the time the library was built. His generosity, and his not revealing the connection, was characteristic of the man.

[3] A large collection of carpentry tools, assembled by generations of the Haskins family and meticulously kept by Professor Haskins, was given to the Student Workshop at the College by Mrs. Haskins following her husband's death. See Virgil Poling, the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine 36:6 (March 1944): 6.

[4] Brown, 'Charles Nelson Haskins,' 8.

[5] Brown, 'Charles Nelson Haskins,' 8.

[6] Dartmouth College, Trustees' Records 1:26. Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, DA-1.

[7] .Dartmouth College, Committee on the Library, Records, box 5, folder 96. Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, DA-271.

[8] William Chauncy Langdon (1871-1947) prepared a bound typescript (pages unnumbered) titled 'The Eleazar Wheelock Chair,' which tells the story of the chair from its early history to the presentation to the College in 1936. A copy of the book is kept in the Woodward Room. Langdon was an historical writer who specialized in the dramatization of history. He presented pageants in this country and abroad, including his first one in Thetford, Vermont, in 1911. Through his father, of the same name (1831-1895), his lineage traces back to Eleazar Wheelock.

[9] William Chauncy Langdon, 'The Eleazar Wheelock Chair.' The quotation about the age of the chair is on the fifth unnumbered page of text.

[10] Betty Ring, Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework, 1650-1850, 2 vols. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), 1:21-22.

[11] Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, 1:202-203, [206]-[208].

[12] Ring, Girlhood Embroidery, 1:92, Fig. 97.

[13] Asa Waters 1871 suggested to his brother John (not a Dartmouth graduate) that he donate the embroidery to the College. This was done by John Waters's widow after his death on 18 August 1933. The information is from a letter to President Hopkins from Ida Dean Waters, dated 23 November 1933. Ernest Martin Hopkins Papers, 1933-1934, Gifts & Bequests. Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, DP-11.

[14] Both portraits were purchased in 1960 through the Julia C. Whittier Fund (Hood Museum) and funds from Baker Library. William Jennys is identified as active from the 1790s to the early 1800s. See New-York Historical Society, Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860, by George C. Groce and David H. Wallace (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957), which includes a concise biography of William Jennys on page 349. Two articles by William Lamson Warren in the Bulletin of the Connecticut Historical Society discuss Richard and William Jennys. 'The Jennys Portraits' appears in vol. 20, no. 4 (October 1955): 97-128, while in vol. 21, no.2 (April 1956): 33-64 there is 'A Checklist of Jennys Portraits.'

[15] Letter of 16 July 1928 of Haskins to Lewis Parkhurst. Dartmouth College, Committee on the Library, Records, box 5, folder 77. The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., defines the Gradus Ad Parnassum as 'the Latin title of a dictionary of prosody until recently used in English public schools, intended as an aid in Latin versification. . . . '

[16] 'E-le-a-zar,' by Richard Hovey. Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, Ms. 894225.

[17] Richard Parkhurst was the son of trustee Lewis Parkhurst, with whom Haskins consulted about acquiring a suitable drum.

[18] Letter of 28 May 1928 of Haskins to the Reverend Mr. Henry W. Hulbert. Dartmouth College, Committee on the Library, Records, box 5, folder 95.

[19] Eleazar Wheelock to George Whitefield, 16 September 1762. Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, Ms. 762516. George Whitefield (1714-1770), the renowned English evangelist, became Eleazar Wheelock's close friend, the principal supporter of the Indian Charity School, and the main influence in events leading to the founding of Dartmouth College.

[20] Eleazar Wheelock to the Reverend Dr. Andrew Gifford, 24 February 1763. Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, Ms. 763174.

[21] Eleazar Wheelock, A Continuation of the Narrative of the State, &c. of the Indian Charity-School, at Lebanon in Connecticut; from Nov. 27th, 1762, to Sept. 3d, 1765 (Boston: Printed by Richard and Samuel Draper, 1765). Rochester Reprints, No. 2 [Rochester, 1909?], 7. The name Dickinson is an error; it should be Dickson.

[22] Eleazar Wheelock to George Whitefield, 29 June 1764, in David M'Clure, Memoirs of the Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, D.D. Founder and President of Dartmouth College and Moor's Charity School . . . To Which Are Added, Copious Extracts from Dr. Wheelock's Correspondence (Newburyport: Published by Edward Little & Co., C. Norris & Co. Printers, 1811), 246. The Memoirs contain Wheelock correspondence not found elsewhere.

[23] Jabez Bingham to Eleazar Wheelock, 5 September 1770. Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, Ms. 770505.

[24] The Diodate Johnson bequest is referred to in Hoefnagel and Close, 'The First Librarian,' 41.

[25] Dartmouth College, Trustees' Records 2:108.

[26] Brown, 'Charles Nelson Haskins,' 9-10. Georg Friedrich Bernard Riemann (1826-1866) was an eminent German mathematician of the nineteenth century. See the article by Hans Freudenthal in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography, s.v. Riemann.

[27] Letter of President Ernest Martin Hopkins to Susan Haskins, 30 March 1928, in Hopkins, Papers, 1927-1928, Gifts.

[28]. 4:1 (December 1942): [15].

Back to the Table of Contents

DCLB--N98--Hoefnagel 1.3 9

Last Updated: 5/3/12