Friday, September 22, 2017

Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War

Title page to Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of hte WarIn May, the Dartmouth College Library was abe to acquire the 1866 edition of Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War, the most powerful and most well-known collection of photographs from the Civil War. It contains 100 original albumen silver prints, each mounted on lithographed cards and bound into two volumes. It was published in an edition of no more than 200 sets and includes many of the most celebrated and recognizable images of the war such as: "Burial Party, Cold Harbor"; "A Harvest of Death"; "Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Battle of Gettysburg"; and "President Lincoln on Battle-Field of Antietam.” The acquisition was made possible by a generous bequest by Hans Penner formerly of the Religion department.

"Harvest of Death" from Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book showing dead soldiers on the field of Gettysburg
To celebrate this amazing acquisition we are hosting a half-day symposium on September 25th, “Civil War Object Lessons: Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War as Relic, Monument, and Narrative” to which you are most cordially invited. We will be featuring two visiting speakers, Elizabeth Athens from the Worcester Art Museum, and Elizabeth Young from Mount Holyoke College, as well as two panels of Dartmouth faculty and staff to discuss how the book will be used in their teaching and research.

"Gettysburg" showing the fields around Gettysburg, PA
The symposium runs from 12:45-5:45, and all of the presentations will be held in the Kreindler Conference Room (Room 41) in the Haldeman Center. You can find the schedule here. If you can't make it to the symposium, sometime when you are free, come to Rauner and ask for Rare E468.7 G19 1866.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Return of an Old Friend

Antiphonal in Preservation labWe have a really amazing old Antiphonal that lives in our reading room. It is a beast of a book that can take a lot of use, so it is a good thing to have out. When it arrived, it was pretty beat up--some of the metal bosses were missing, a chunk of the back board had broken off, and it needed some cleaning. Still, it was made to be used, and we were able to use it for teaching and to satisfy people's curiosity fairly well. Then our terrific colleagues in Preservation Services had a vision to not only stabilize the book, but also have the work be a learning opportunity across campus.

New metal bosses being designed
They got the campus Jewelry Studio involved in creating new bosses based on the existing ones, and the Woodworking Shop built out the missing piece of the back board. Our conservator, Deborah Howe, worked with everyone to reassemble the book, and now it is back home in our reading room ready to be used again.

Back board being reparied with new wood
Come on in whenever we are open to take a look at it. The work they did is almost as amazing as the book itself!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Rudolph as the New Red Meat

A photograph of a reindeer digging in the snow to reach food beneath its surface
In the early 20th century, there was great concern in the United States over the rise in beef consumption which was outstripping supplies. In Alaska, a couple of brothers had already come up with a possible solution. They founded an Alaskan meatpacking company in 1914 that focused on reindeer meat as an alternative to beef. The Lomen Reindeer Corporation, founded by Carl and Alfred Lomen, began with an initial purchase of 1,200 reindeer from a Laplander immigrant to Alaska. They then proceeded to dominate the export of reindeer meat from Alaska to the Lower 48, shutting down competition and selling over six million pounds of reindeer meat by the end of the 1920s.

Part of the Lomen brothers' success hinged upon their aggressive and widespread marketing partnership with Macy's. In the winter of 1926, they supplied live reindeer to pull Santa's sleigh for the various Christmas spectacles associated with the department store chain all over the country. Although reindeer had been connected to Santa for a long time before this marketing stunt, some would argue that this forever united the two in the minds of America's children.

An advertisement from Fisher's Flouring Mills Company that has the headline "Is It Hard to Imagine 160,000 Reindeer?" and has a drawing of a reindeer herd, an Inuit herder, a dog-sled team, and a bag of flour.One advertisement that we found recently in our collection is a great reflection of the impact that the Lomens had on both the reindeer industry and Santa Claus. An undated newspaper ad for Fisher's Flouring Mills Company tells the history of the Lomen brothers and their vision. The ad copy states that reindeer herding will make the "simple Eskimo" as "wealthy as his prairie cousin, the Indian oil baron of Oklahoma," and claims that native women have integrated Fisher's flour into their everyday cooking routine. Given that the "prairie cousins" didn't really fare as well as this advertisement suggests, we can't help but wonder if, much like Santa Claus, the incredible amount of money that reindeer herds were supposed to provide for the Inuit turned out to be an imaginary figure as well.

To see this advertisement, and learn more about reindeer as food, come to Rauner and explore the papers of Vilhjalmur Stefansson (MSS-98), box 15. To see more photographs of Arctic life, ask for the papers of Clarence L. Andrews (MSS-4).

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Against All Odds

“Noon in Mid-Winter” by W. H. Brown from Ten coloured views taken during the Arctic expedition of Her Majesty’s ships ‘Enterprise’ and ‘Investigator,Last Spring, we worked with Ross Virginia's Environmental Studies 15 class known as "Pole to Pole." It was a large class, 51 students, and their final project was focused on the search for the Northwest Passage. Each student mined our phenomenal Stefansson Collection on Polar Exploration and, together as a group, they built an online exhibit tracing the history of the search with an emphasis on Sir John Hope Franklin. After a little tweaking over the summer, the exhibit, Against All Odds, is now live and open for viewing.

We hope you enjoy it. And remember, everything they used, you can come in and use yourself. It is a lot safer to explore the Northwest Passage here in Rauner than up north!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"Yours Truly"

Letters quoted in text concerning Orozco painting in Baker LibraryWhen Jose Clemente Orozco created the stunning murals in Baker Library, concerned almuni and members of the public heaped criticism on President Ernest Hopkins for allowing such a thing to happen. For the most part, Hopkins courteously responded to the criticism. He supported the decision to bring Orozco to Dartmouth and defended the painting even though it expressed political views contrary to his own.

But one writer clearly got under his skin. A member of the National Arts Club wrote to Hopkins, "Does it seem fitting that in these times when American artists are starving that a College of the standing of Dartmouth College should go to Mexico for its Fresco--such monstrosities could as well be perpetrated by a disordered mind--in the United States?" The writer continued, "Are we training youth to deliberately cultivate all that is not moral or fine or beautiful? Why not run a sewer through your library--or hang mirrors to distort their reflection. The value in art is beauty--not this horrible stuff."

Hopkins, perhaps resenting that this letter came from someone not affiliated with Dartmouth, and also perhaps succumbing his gender bias, responded with curt furor:
I can reply very briefly and very definitely to the inquiries of your letter, that it is based on personal prejudice and unjustified presumptions. In view of the fact that I concede none of your premises upon which you base your argument, I naturally cannot have any interest in your conclusion.
He then jauntily signed off, "Yours truly."

To see the letters, ask for DP-11, Box 6928, Folder 14 (you'll find other critical letters there, with much friendlier replies).

Friday, September 1, 2017

Extra Illustrated Lincoln

SIgnature of Jefferson DavisIf you are a collector of stuff related to someone like Abraham Lincoln, how do you go about saving it and displaying it to its best advantage? A little scrap of paper with Jefferson Davis's signature is easy to lose, but it is likely to be one of the prizes of your collection. Framing it on the wall is a bit over the top, so why not tuck it into a book about Lincoln in an appropriate spot? Or better, bind it in, so it will never slip out and get lost.

That is exactly what one early 20th-century collector did. He took dozens of paper artifacts of Lincoln and had a copy of a finely printed Abraham Lincoln: A Biographic Essay disbound then reassembled with relics interspersed. There are images of Lincoln, scraps of manuscripts and other artifacts bound into the book.

Boradside concerning the Fugitive Slave Bill
Our favorite is a broadside issued somewhere in the northern states in response to the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act. It contains the text of the act, bordered in black to symbolize a nation in mourning.

"Black List" calling out Northern Congressmen who voted for the bill
But in the corner is a calling out of the votes cast in favor of the act by congressmen from free states, thirty in all. It is is like a precursor to social media shaming of elected officials for their votes--though here the social media was a piece of paper pinned to a board in a public place.

To see it ask for Rare E459.8 S37 copy 2. The broadside is in part 1, between pages 72 and 73.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Demolition of Dartmouth

Opening stanza to Freneau's On the Demolition of Dartmouth CollegeFor one of the most iconic views of the College, Dartmouth Hall has quite a fraught history.  Though many people know that the old College Hall, as the building used to be known, burned down twice, few are aware that its first restoration actually occurred in the late 18th century, after students tore the structure down late one night. Ephraim Smedley, class of 1793, wrote in his diary that “The demolition of the old Hall happened on Dec. ye 3 A.D. 1789 about 7 o'clock in the evening there were seventy five of students, in number who combined for that purpose.” Apparently, the buildings were in such terrible shape that they were almost a danger to the members of the College. Work to restore the old College Hall had been frustratingly slow, and the students took it upon themselves to incentivize more rapid progress.

Interestingly, most of the story can be pieced together by looking at small references to the event in a number of different sources; Smedley includes only the one sentence in his journal entry for that day, instead focusing on the readings he had completed and other details of his schoolwork. Another letter similarly includes only one brief inquiry into the events. A student’s historical exploration of the history of Dartmouth Hall briefly recounts the students’ motivations for their “nocturnal visitation,” concluding that “not even the College officers were sorry to see it go,” and that the students’ actions had the desired effect of speeding up the restoration process.

Detail of letter to John Wheelcock asking about the destruction of the College
Our favorite retelling of the event is Philip Freneau’s poem “On the Demolition of Dartmouth College.” By no means the most reliable account (Freneau wasn’t even present that evening) it is certainly the most fun! Freneau adds some (possibly imagined) elements to the story, including the ringing of the College bells to call students to action, and an impassioned speech from the reluctantly awakened “reverend man that college gentry awes” that was largely ignored by students more focused on their mission. In a testament to its playful humor and clearly fantastically imagined nature, the poem concludes “So, three huzzas they gave, and fir’d a round,/Then homeward trudg’d—half drunk—but safe and sound.”

Closing stanza to Freneu's On the Demolition of Dartmouth College
To trace the story of the Demolition of the College Hall yourself, come in and ask for MS 789558, MS 790159, D.C. Hist. LD1440 D3 L4, and Val 815 F88 L2.