Dartmouth College Library Bulletin
The Dartmouth College Archives
KENNETH C. CRAMER
The College Archives shares in part with Fairchild Center and the Hood Museum the role of Dartmouth College's 'attic,' similar to the sobriquet often used when referring to the Smithsonian Institution -- 'the Nation's Attic.' A number of historical artifacts relating to the College and her alumni are actually kept in the attic of Baker Library. Other objects have been removed to other parts of the campus, such as Webster Cottage where in the Daniel Webster Room are located furniture and furnishings having once belonged to perhaps, historically speaking, Dartmouth's most famous graduate, Class of 1801, candidate for the presidency, secretary of state, senator, congressman, orator, and farmer. Eleazar Wheelock's surveying equipment and Holland sundial, dated 1773 and once located in the garden of the President's mansion near the present site of Reed Hall, are now on display in Fairchild Center. Here also are displayed a number of pieces of early scientific apparatus used at the College. At the College's Lebanon storage facility is the life-sized, original papier-maché 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,' which graced the front yard of Robert May, Class of 1926, its creator, in suburban Chicago. Webster's buggy is in the Hood Museum's storage facility in West Lebanon. The early stone tablets that once covered Eleazar and Mary Wheelock's tombs in Dartmouth Cemetery are resting in a spooky recess at the old Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital. In the attic of Baker Library is a large piece of the trunk of the Old Pine-can anything be more sacred than that?- perhaps one of the few tangible pieces of Dartmouthiana extant going back to the very first day the Dartmouth contingent set foot on the Hanover Plain. There are rows of senior canes, athletic uniforms, Dartmouth china and porcelains, ancient Phi Beta Kappa keys, a piece of the original green silk ribbon determining the color of Dartmouth green (1866), hoods and gowns of former presidents, early classroom and presidential furniture, souvenirs made from boards of the Ledyard covered bridge and branches of the Old Pine, a bedspread made by the wife of President Nathan Lord, Honorary 1821, known as the Lord's bedspread. Even better, we have the Lord's Bible !
There was at one time a life-sized wooden statue, painted white, of Daniel Webster which, thank goodness, is gone. I would be running to the attic, actually properly called the tenth level, to fetch an item to show to a patron. Briskly walking down a dimly lit hall with my mission in mind I would enter a darkened room and start groping for the light switch, when all of a sudden there standing in front of me was that blasted statue of Webster staring right at me, scaring the 'bejesus' out of me. Too heavy to move, there it stood for years scaring me but standing guard over all those Dartmouth relics lovingly collected and saved by alumni and friends of Dartmouth.
One item I did not keep-but should I have?-was a chicken bone the sixth Earl of Dartmouth gnawed upon at a feast at the time he and his family were invited to Hanover to take part in the ceremony at the laying of the cornerstone for the new Dartmouth Hall in 1904. The student who waited on the earl gave me the bone along with other mementos from the banquet. One item, a work of art, which I turned down as a gift was a huge model of Baker Library made out of pastry icing by a chef at the Hanover Inn. A year or two later, on a visit to the Library of Parliament in Ottawa, there to my horror at the main entrance to the library was encased in glass a huge model of the Library of Parliament made of pastry icing!
Elsewhere are housed Dartmouth's 'crown jewels,' the stunningly handsome silver bowl or montieth designed by Daniel Henchman, presented by Royal Governor John Wentworth, Honorary 1773, to President Wheelock to commemorate the first commencement of the College in 1771, which Governor Wentworth attended; the medallion or 'President's Jewel' worn by the President of the College since John Wheelock's, Class of 1771, time, at convocations, commencements, and presidential inaugurations; the College Charter dated 13 December 1769, signed on behalf of King George III by Governor Wentworth, Dartmouth being the ninth and last of the colonial colleges; the Lord Dartmouth Cup, Georgian silver crafted by Robert Garrard and acquired by the fourth Earl of Dartmouth in 1848, given to the College by the ninth Earl and Countess of Dartmouth to commemorate the bicentennial of Dartmouth College in June 1969-the cup is carried at convocations and commencements; a gold medal designed by Rudolph Ruzicka, also commemorating the bicentennial; and a conch used as a horn to notify students in the eighteenth century of classes, prayers, and other events of the day. As one might guess, there are a number of articles and books available which will tell the reader about most of the historical items mentioned herein. A fine reproduction of the College Charter is on display in the History Room near the west entrance to Baker Library.
Mention might be made here of how President Ernest Martin Hopkins, Class of 1901, succeeded in obtaining funding for the new College library. Charles Widmayer, Class of 1930, tells in his book Hopkins of Dartmouth that President Hopkins responded 'Not much,' to George Fisher Baker's question of what could President Hopkins do with $25,000. Mr. Baker, Honorary 1927, President of the First National Bank of New York, desired to make a donation to Dartmouth towards a memorial to his uncle, Fisher Ames Baker, Class of 1859. The following month Mr. Baker sent $200,000 to President Hopkins. President Hopkins turned the money and securities over to the college treasurer, marked 'On account.' When told of this, Mr. Baker asked an alumnus and friend, 'How much is it going to cost me to buy my way out of this situation?' The 'ransom' was a million dollars, enough to build a library. In June, 1928, Baker Library was dedicated. Later Mr. Baker donated another million for endowment for the building.
Having had a little fun with the reader, I should state that the chief purpose of the College Archives is to collect, catalogue, house, and provide for patrons' use records generated by the College and the professional schools as well as materials about the College and the town of Hanover. College records were housed in various locations on campus and in private homes until the construction of Wilson Hall, built in 1885 to house the College's library collection, where in time many of the records were brought together. This collection was moved to Baker Library when the new building was opened in 1928.
The same year that Baker Library opened there arrived a newly-graduated young lady from Simmons College, Mildred L. Saunders, who became Dartmouth's first Archivist. Except for a two-year leave of absence during World War II, Miss Saunders remained in the Archives until 1947. She was succeeded by Hazel E. Joslyn, whom I did not know, followed in 1955 by Ethel G. Martin, who retired in 1961. I succeeded her, and upon my retirement in 1993 was succeeded by Anne Ostendarp.
Miss Close has always taken an interest in the Archives, and now in her retirement she has been making good use of the materials housed there. I have her to thank for allowing me to get a real taste of archives when I was a reference assistant under her. For a few hours each week, she and Mrs. Martin allowed me to work in the College Archives, then located in a section of the basement that is now a closed area, part of the present Special Collections.
The basement room vacated by the Archives became the center of operations for the Stefansson Collection on the Polar Regions. The Stefansson Collection, a premier collection of Arctic and Antarctic books, manuscripts, tapes, articles, and art work, was built up by the Canadian Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson and brought to Hanover in 1951 through the generosity of Albert Bradley, Class of 1915. The collection was originally housed in a partitioned area of the second-level stacks until additions to several courtyards of the Library could be constructed to make new space for the Archives on the main floor adjoining the Treasure Room and additional stack space for the large collection of polar research materials. Subsequent to the Archives move, it merged with Rare Books and the Stefansson Collection to become Special Collections, as it functions today. Sometime during this decade Special Collections will remove from Baker Library into a reconstructed Webster Hall as a new home for its materials and reading public with some underground stack space between the north end of Webster Hall and the southeast wing of Baker Library, where there will be a connecting passageway for staff.
There is not much extant on the beginnings of collecting historical Dartmouth materials, especially manuscripts. Papers of presidents and alumni arrived and were tucked away with little interest shown in them except at anniversary times. One gentleman who did spend time with the material was Frederick Chase, Class of 1860, instructor in law briefly and treasurer of the College from 1875 to 1890. From about 1880 to 1890, he was instrumental in gathering a number of College and personal papers and made use of papers already at the College in the writing of his History of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire . Mr. Chase died just as the first sheets of his history had been sent to press. John King Lord, Class of 1868, completed the three-volume set. During the summers of 1902 and 1903 Henry K. Pierce, Class of 1904, at the invitation of then President William Jewett Tucker, Class of 1861, undertook to begin to organize and catalogue what had become a vast body of manuscripts. In a letter to Edward Connery Lathem, Class of 1951, dated 10 May 1955, he wrote in part:
On the second floor of [Wilson] library there was a large room in which certain treasures were kept (volumes of rare prints &c,- I don't remember just what), & in an alcove off it there was a long case, with shelves with glass doors, & cupboards, in which were piled up quantities of yellowing letters & documents, some more or less sorted, some tied up in bundles. I fancy many had come from the garetts of long dead alumni, & others had just accumulated from the days of Eleazar.
Into this room I was turned loose, with a typewriter, a small card filing cabinet & a quantity of Library Bureau cards,- all of which I had requisitioned. I began by opening up & flattening out all the papers & arranging them in chronological order, & putting them, each, in a manilla folder. (I improvised these from paper got from the grocer.) Then, inspired by the Dewey decimal system, I invented (& am still quite proud of it) that system of numbering, by which each document had an individual number, which was both serial & at the same time gave its date, and was indefinitely expandible.
Then I started calendaring. I had discovered the volumes of the Historical MSS. Commission, & tried to copy them. I made a card for each document, with more or less summary of contents, & as these accumulated I began making an index by names . . . I was allowed to bring up such reference books as I needed, to identify all those Colonial personalities. I used to think I knew the hands of the most of the New England worthies of the XVIII century. I don't remember that [Librarian] Mr. Bisbee ever bothered me, or that anyone made any suggestions or showed any interest.
There was no proper filing case for the papers. I kept them, in their numbered folders, piled, in order, on the shelves behind the glass doors. Among the many letters from famous men, I found one (holograph, I believe) from George Wasington, dated I think in 1776, addressed to the Long Island Indians, which, so far as I could learn, was unpublished. Perhaps it had come through Occum.
In a letter to Mrs. Martin, Archivist, dated 19 April 1955, Father Pierce, then a priest in Rome, noted that he was paid twenty-five cents an hour and mentioned finding eighteenth-century letters that had never been opened and read, their seals unbroken. In an undated newspaper article, probably written around 1910, is, in part, a description of the historical room in Wilson Hall:
In one showcase at the rear of the stack room is displayed an attractive banner made by the ladies of the Sherman Nunnery for the Dartmouth Grays, a military company existing before the Civil War. The members, mostly of the class or 1857, rallied to the front in behalf of the Union, as well as the Dartmouth Phalanx, which was organized while the domestic strife was in progress. The banners of the latter are also exhibited with an honorary degree that the University of Edinburg presented to Eleazar Wheelock, the first president, in the year 1767. The signatures on the document are still legible, as well as the printed matter.The article continues:
It is interesting to note that even in the earliest days there was the society side to the commencement activities in June. To bear out this statement, invitations to the commencement balls for the years 1804, 1813, 1841 and even as far back as 1792. No trace has ever been found where these social functions were held, and all who see these steel-egraved cards wonder at their existence.And, it concludes with a touch of 'green':
It is these things that help form the Dartmouth traditions which go to make up the Dartmouth spirit, so dearly cherished by all Dartmouth men and so universally known throughout the land.According to Miss Saunders, in a letter to me dated 25 August 1980, Father Pierce for the most part only managed to get catalogued the Wheelock manuscripts and to calendar the McClure and Whitaker manuscripts, but she was impressed with his accomplishment up to that period. She recalled that Ellen Adams, later Associate Librarian, had told her that she recalled the historical room to be in a rather inaccessible location in Wilson Library and that it was possibly Professor Herbert Darling Foster, Class of 1885, who was always asking for something that was always difficult to locate. He died but a few years before Miss Saunders came to Hanover, and she recalled, still quoted at that time, a 'wicked verse' written by Professor Homer Eaton Keyes, Class of 1900. Prof. Foster, nicknamed 'Eric the Red,' died on the dance floor in St. Ives, Cornwall, and his wife died while a bridge party was under way:
Mrs. Foster met her God Just behind the pantry door. Eric Heaven's pathway trod From an English dancing floor. Thus two people, quite unbending, Met a most informal ending.Miss Saunders wrote:
When I arrived, in September, 1928, everything was in the basement under the Treasure Room. It was shelved but largely uncatalogued. Throughout my tenure, only major items were catalogued in the Catalogue Room and appeared in the main catalogue . . . I spent the first year or two sorting out things. It was like inheriting an enormous attic. I spent hours and hours cataloguing odd publications; binding some, boxing others; consigning even flimsier items to the vertical file. Much of the history collection arrived after the new building was opened. I think perhaps the various offices may have turned over their accumulations. The Treasurer was the last hold-out. I well remember the profound bow [Librarian] Mr. Goodrich gave me when I was finally allowed to have the Indian manuscripts which had been locked up in his vault.Other parts of Miss Saunders's letter told what collections were received and how she continued with the processing of the materials, but she closed with the following paragraph:
While I was still in the sorting stage, L. B. Richardson took up his post at an adjoining desk and spent nearly every afternoon for the next three years going over everything in the archives for his history.
The N[ational] Y[outh] A[dministration] program, begun under another name in 1933, turned the Archives into a factory. Over the nine years of the program, I think I had about seventy-five different students working there. They indexed The Dartmouth and the Alumni Magazine and copied Dr. Frost's Hanover genealogical records as their main projects. It was with their help that we began to make a serious attempt to acquire all of the publications of Dartmouth alumni, class publications, and so on. Each letter was typed separately, after a formula, of course, with the result that we used to get very good results and cordial, personal replies. After the Alumni Office took care of printing class publications, it was easy to keep up with them but, in the early days, classes made their own printing arrangements and there were many gaps.
So far as use of the collections was concerned, winters were occupied with helping students majoring in art or history find material for theses. Art students wrote up buildings and American history students took on Dartmouth customs or celebrities. Working with them could be quite funny. One student, I remember, read the material willingly enough but then asked me what he was supposed to get out of it. Another fell alseep, like the Fat Boy in Pickwick Papers, every few minutes until I was alarmed and tried to arrange for medical attention.Sad to say, Miss Saunders died just this past year.
In subsequent years Prof. Arthur H. Chivers, Class of 1902, compiled a record of all burials in Dartmouth Cemetery that includes locations of interments and inscriptions on tombstones. Mrs. Gertrude B. Wright compiled a list of early Hanover marriages. Both The Dartmouth and Dartmouth Alumni Magazine are now indexed electronically. Catalogue entries for manuscripts-once done by typewriter, or even by pen, on cards-are as of 1984 located through the Dartmouth online system. Contact prints for negatives are being scanned.
The dedication and roll-up-your-sleeves attitudes of the first archivists gave the Archives a sound base on which to grow and to become a grand storehouse of information on Dartmouth College. Recognition also should be made here of Harold Goddard Rugg, Class of 1906, Associate Librarian, a Vermonter who spent his entire career at Dartmouth College Library, who worked so well with the alumni and friends of Dartmouth to acquire so much of the unique material housed in Special Collectons-Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Archives.
Although we are familiar with the names of such Dartmouth alumni as 'Dr. Seuss'-Theodor Seuss Geisel, Class of 1925; Governor and later Vice-President Nelson A. Rockefeller, Class of 1930; Robert Frost, non-graduate of the Class of 1896; 'Dr. Bob'-Robert Holbrook Smith, Class of 1902, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous; Salmon P. Chase, Class of 1826, secretary of the treasury under President Lincoln and chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, fewer have heard of the name of John Cotton Dana, Class of 1878, from Woodstock, Vermont, an authority on American library and museum administration. The Dana homestead, built in 1807 and beautifully furnished, located on Elm Street, has been the home of the Woodstock Historical Society for the past several decades. In Woodstock he and his brother started The Elm Tree Press, which still exists today. Upon graduation Mr. Dana began the study of law in Woodstock, but ill health caused him to halt pursuit of that profession, and he moved west to Colorado where he took up work as a surveyor. He returned east to continue his study of law in New York where he was admitted to the bar in 1883. Returning west because of continued poor health, he had two or three different jobs. Then in 1889, with no particular training, he was appointed librarian at Denver Public Library, one year after his marriage to Adine Rowena Wagener. After building up the Denver library, in 1898 he accepted the position of librarian at Springfield, Massachusetts, one of the finest small city libraries in the country, where he boosted the circulation of books by nearly fifty percent. After four years he moved on to become librarian at Newark Free Public Library in New Jersey. Spending the rest of his library career at Newark, John Cotton Dana made his greatest strides in librarianship and library use here. His work as librarian was varied and constructive. He was never afraid of a new idea or a fresh experiment. He called frequently for reassessment of old traditions and standards in library work. In his obituary in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, the editor quoted from the Boston Transcript:
The distinctions of this versatile genius are many. He founded the first special library department for children; he organized the first public library picture collection; he started the first extensive pamphlet library; he founded the first library branch devoted especially to business; he was one of the prime movers behind the organization of the Special Libraries Association, and was its first president; he actively advanced public library information service and information exchanges; he raised the standard of library printing; and he set up a standard of public library co-operation with other civic societies. A writer in a printer's magazine declared that John Cotton Dana had probably done more than any other individual to promote the case of print appreciation among the general public.At Newark he made the library one of the most effective in the country. As in his other libraries, he increased the book collection and circulation tremendously. He helped to found the Newark Museum in 1909, and in 1923 Louis Bamberger-of department store fame-gave funds for the construction of a new museum building. Dana's aptitude for the library profession brought him and Newark fame throughout the country, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to note his name as part of this festschrift honoring Virginia Close.
Charles Widmayer, Hopkins of Dartmouth: the Story of Ernest Martin Hopkins and His Presidency of Dartmouth College (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1977), 112.
Frederick Chase, A History of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire, ed. by John K. Lord, 2 vols. (Cambridge, [Mass.]: John Wilson and Son, 1891-1913), and John King Lord, A History of the Town of Hanover, N.H. (Hanover: Dartmouth Press, 1928).
Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, Ms. 955310.
Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, Ms. 903508.
Leon Burr Richardson, History of Dartmouth College, 2 vols. (Hanover: Dartmouth College Publications, 1932).
Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, Ms. 980475.
'Obituary,' Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, 22:1 (1929), 50.
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