Home > Dartmouth Digital Library Program > Collections > Photographs & Posters >


The real and legendary images and perceptions of Dartmouth’s Winter Carnival have become linked in imagination and memory during the past century. The first manifestation of an organized competition of skiing ability, ski jumping, cross-country ski races, and snowshoe races at Dartmouth began in 1910. Two years later, the name “Winter Carnival” took hold. What began as a Dartmouth intramural event shortly became a major intercollegiate competition that has since become international. Although winter sports competition always was central to Winter Carnival, the social aspect of Carnival assured its sustained place in the life and lore of Dartmouth. For what was then an all-male undergraduate institution, the introduction of women as part of Winter Carnival framed the future of the event as the Mardi Gras of the North.

A description of the process of identifying the “Queen of the Snows” in a February 1952 article in New Hampshire Profiles by Clifford Jordan gives some sense of the early role of women in Winter Carnival:

The lucky Queen is selected in this manner from the galaxy of beautiful girls who come to Carnival: Early in the day, 15 selected Dartmouth students roam the campus to select 45 of the most pulchritudinous young ladies on hand for the Carnival. Gathered in the gymnasium just before the Outdoor Ice Show, the chosen group passes before a critical panel of five judges, made up of three student leaders, a professional photographer, and a visiting dignitary. Their choice is always a difficult one, but the charm, grace, and photogenic qualities of previous queens is positive proof that the girl who receives the crown will be worthy of it.

The selection process clearly changed over the years, and crowning a queen ended when Dartmouth became co-educational in 1973. Other “traditions” associated with Winter Carnival have come and gone, only to be replaced by new ones. The Dartmouth Library has been able to document and preserve these transitions in its collections.

The role of Special Collections and the College Archives, housed in Rauner Library, is to acquire, make accessible, and preserve unique materials that serve as the basis for discovery, reflection, and new scholarship. Rauner has collected hundreds of items pertaining to Dartmouth’s Winter Carnival, including newspaper accounts, articles, programs, plays, films, songs, and even the crown that adorned the reigning Queen of the Snows. Among the most compelling artifacts associated with Winter Carnival are the posters that advertised the event on the campus. These posters became souvenirs of the weekends, and, in time, have become valuable to collectors. The images reproduced in this book illuminate the shifts in the broader cultural setting, as well as in graphic design history. Rauner Library has acquired (often through generous donations) as complete a set of Winter Carnival posters as is believed to exist. The originals are available for study, and serve as points of departure for exploring their quality as artistic objects and as cultural and historical documents.

This book includes essays by Steven Heller, editor of Voice: AIGA Journal of Design and chair of the MFA Design Department at the School of Visual Arts in New York, on the graphic design of the posters; Gina Barreca, Dartmouth alumna and faculty member at the University of Connecticut, on the students and the posters; and Jay Satterfield, Rauner’s Special Collections Librarian, and Peter Carini, the Dartmouth College Archivist, on Budd Schulberg’s papers, and in particular, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s infamous 1939 Carnival weekend with Schulberg. Each essay describes some part of the Winter Carnival experience, real or imagined. Finally, the descriptive documentation of the Winter Carnival posters in the Rauner Library collection, prepared by Kellen Haak, provides important documentation of the posters themselves.

Many individuals contributed to bringing this book to reality. Phyllis Gilbert and Joshua Shaw, both of the Rauner Library staff, provided valuable assistance in overseeing the digital photography of the posters and the scanning of other related documents. Richard Pult, acquisitions editor of the University Press of New England, was instrumental in coordinating the research and helping to shape the project. The entire staff of Rauner Library contributed in countless ways in revealing the rich collections of Winter Carnival materials. Special thanks should be given to Richard Thorner, Dartmouth Class of 1986 and chair of the Friends of the Dartmouth College Library, for his leadership and support of this publication on behalf of the Friends. And equal thanks to Barry P. Scherr and Carol L. Folt, former and current Provosts of Dartmouth College, for their ongoing support of the Dartmouth College Library and the University Press of New England in our collaborative endeavors. Finally, we are particularly grateful to the Manton Foundation for its generous support of Dartmouth and, in this instance, for producing the digital photography of the entire collection of Dartmouth Winter Carnival posters in Rauner Library.

Dartmouth is proud of its Winter Carnival tradition, one that continues to evolve and bears ongoing celebration, reflection, and documentation.