“Thereby Hangs a Tale”: The Winding Path to Integration at Davidson

In honor of Black History Month, this week’s blog focuses on the history of integration at Davidson College, from the mid-1950s up until the admission of the first black student in 1962. Next week’s blog will focus on the experiences of those early black students at Davidson, particularly through their own words and reflections. For a broader view of black history in Davidson, check out the short documentary Always Part of the Fabric and its accompanying text supplement.

The Brown vs. Board of Education rulings in 1954 paved the way towards desegregation in public schools, and while Davidson is a private institution, the dialogue created by Brown vs. Board of Education began local conversations on integration. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg County school system began the process of desegregation in 1957; as the school system’s history page notes, “At the time, Charlotte was very much a segregated city, with black schools and white schools within the district. The schools reflected the larger social context in a city with no integrated hotels, restaurants, restrooms, churches, cemeteries or theaters.”

As articles and editorials in The Davidsonian demonstrate, campus opinions on integration varied widely from the mid-1950s until 1962 and beyond. In March 1956, Professor Cecil Kenneth Brown (Class of 1921; math and economics faculty, 1923-1957) gave a pro-segregation talk on campus entitled “The Southern Position with Respect to the Bi-Racial System” (later printed in the July 28, 1956 issue of The State, now Our State magazine, as “The White South: A Minority Group”).

Joe Bell's letter to the editor, January 17, 1958.

Joe Bell’s letter to the editor, January 17, 1958.

Two years later, student Joseph Bell (Class of 1960) wrote a letter to the editor in support of admitting black students, printed in the January 17, 1958 issue of The DavidsonianBell noted that “Davidson’s present segregated status has no support in the position of the Church, and it is inconsistent with the purposes of the school itself.”

In April 1958, the first known admissions inquiry was made on behalf of a potential black student. Frank E. Parker wrote a letter to Frederick W. Hengeveld (Class of 1918, Registrar and Director of Admissions, 1946-1967), requesting information on the college for his son. Parker wrote:

“We are Negroes – and ‘thereby hangs a tale.’ Our motives for seeking admission to your institution are not predicated upon any intent to establish a precedent, nor agitate the prevailing race patterns. We seek the quality training available from your school.”

Frank Parker, Sr.'s letter

Frank Parker, Sr.’s letter to Director of Admissions Frederick Hengeveld, from which the title of this post is taken.

Admissions Director Hengeveld directed the Parkers’ request and following application (in November 1958) to the Board of Trustees for a decision. The Board formed a special committee to “study the question of admitting black applicants” (Davidsonian article, February 17, 1998) but did not release a decision. Hengeveld responded to Frank Parker, Jr. on November 26, 1958:

“Since the Trustees have not taken any action which would authorize the admission of Negro students, and since we do not know when they will or whether they will take such action, we feel it is wise to advise you to make application to other institutions so that you may be sure of acceptance elsewhere.”

At their meeting on February 18, 1959 the Board of Trustees passed “The Majority Report of the Admission of Negroes to Davidson College,” based on the findings of the special committee. However, this statement was not released to the public until October 1959. An attachment to the report notes that the recommendation was modified to read:

“In the view of the request of the Education Committee with reference to the matter of the admission of Negroes, the college authorities responsible for admitting students be advised that it is the judgment of a majority of the Trustees that at this time the admission of Negroes is not in the best interest of the College, of the Church, of the Students, or of any Negroes who at this juncture would be admitted as students.”

The first page of the Trustees' 1959 "The Majority Report on the Admission of Negroes to Davidson College."

The first page of the Trustees’ 1959 “The Majority Report on the Admission of Negroes to Davidson College.”

In the meantime, The Davidsonian ran another editorial calling for a decision on the matter of integration. The March 6, 1959 article stated: “We think the time has come to end such ostrich-headed attitudes. Why not consider the possibility? Why not honestly try to find out what effects there might be if a qualified Negro student enrolled at the college?”

On October 6, 1959, then College President David Grier Martin (Class of 1932, College President 1958-1968) addressed the faculty and student body and announced the Board of Trustees decision:

“The Trustees decided that it was not in the best interest of the college to admit a Negro student at this time. Since this was not a change in the ‘unwritten’ policy which Davidson has been following, the majority of the Trustees felt it would not be necessary to make a public announcement.”

Two months later, segregationist and newspaper editor Thomas R. Waring gave an address to the student body of Davidson while at chapel. That week’s Davidsonian ran an interview with Waring in which he was asked: “What is your opinion concerning the integration of an institution such as Davidson College?” Waring responded: “I’d say this: you have a pretty good college now, why change it? You’d run the risk of losing North and South Carolina boys whose families oppose this thing, and contributors from Southern states would surely fall away.”

Waring also served on a panel at Davidson with Charles Jones of Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black university in Charlotte. The Davidsonian reported that Jones countered Waring’s comments by “point[ing] out that many things are denied the Negro which are a vital part of the Southern way of life – education, social rights, and other opportunities.”

That same week, faculty member William Gatewood Workman (psychology professor, 1951-1977)  moved for the faculty to conduct a vote on a statement of whether they supported integration, and whether to integrate now or in the future. The results of the faculty vote would be submitted to the Board of Trustees.

This memo records the number of faculty voting for each portion of the statement, and the number of those who abstained.

This memo records the number of faculty voting for each portion of the statement, and the number of those who abstained.

For the Board of Trustees meeting in February 1960, The Davidsonian created a special issue focused on the meeting and the issue of admitting black students. This issue included the results of poll conducted by Davidsonian staff, several letters to the editor, and a cartoon lampooning the values of the Presbyterian Church as practiced in a policy of segregation.

The February 16, 1960 "Trustee Special" issue of The Davidson ran the results of the student poll, with an editor's note stating that there were "numerous reports of ballot stuffing."

The February 16, 1960 “Trustee Special” issue of The Davidsonian ran the results of the student poll, with an editor’s note stating that there were “numerous reports of ballot stuffing” and that the staff had hesitated to print the results.

At the Feburary 1960 Trustees meeting, Henry Shue (Class of 1961) presented a petition signed by over 250 Davidson students, requesting that the Trustees reopen discussion on integration and further study the matter. Shue had also set up meetings with willing Trustees to discuss the students’ opinions on integration.

A year later, nine Davidson alumni serving as missionaries at the American Presbyterian Congo Mission sent a letter to President Martin, urging that the college consider admitting African students in order to train these students to become Presbyterian leaders in their own countries. This request aligned with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.’s 1954 and 1960 proceedings, urging Presbyterian affiliated institutions to look into desegregation.

The Trustees discussed this request from the alumni missionaries in their February 1961 meeting, and made the decision to admit up to three Congolese students for the following year. The February 17, 1961 Davidsonian reported that when then Board of Trustees President J. McDowell Richards (Class of 1922) was asked whether “this action was ‘not inconsistent with the policy laid two two years ago’ when the board voted that ‘it is not in the best interests of Davidson College to integrate at this time,'” Richards responded, ‘”Perhaps it is an inconsistency…But the board felt it necessary to to back the Board of World Missions on this matter.”

Front page of the February 17, 1961 Davidsonian.

Front page of the February 17, 1961 Davidsonian: “Trustees Open College to Congolese Students.”

That same  issue also featured an article by student Tom Parker (Class of 1961), criticizing The Davidsonian‘s coverage of integration at the college:

“Two years ago the Davidson student body, assembled in chapel, applauded the statement ‘It is not in the interest of Davidson College to admit Negroes at this time.’ Last year, through a clearly worded petition, they expressed their desire that Davidson remain a segregated institution at least for the present time. Despite these setbacks, those on this campus who favor integration have renewed their efforts… it is interesting to consider the devices which they employ to gain their objectives, especially those which are used in an openly sympathetic newspaper (which nonetheless declares itself in its letterhead to be “The News and Editorial Voice of Davidson College.”)

Local criticism of the decision to integrate, an indication of the difficulties the potential international students from Africa would face once enrolled at Davidson, appeared in the March 3, 1961 Davidsonian:

An article in the March 3, 1961 Davidsonian, reporting on local businesses' reactions to the possibility of African students attending Davidson and frequenting their establishments: "Five Local Businesses 'Won't Serve Them'."

An article in the March 3, 1961 Davidsonian, reporting on local businesses’ reactions to the possibility of African students attending Davidson and frequenting their establishments: “Five Local Businesses ‘Won’t Serve Them’.”

After the Trustees decision, President Martin established a committee “dealing with Congolese students” and appointed faculty member Dan Rhodes (Class of 1938, religion professor 1960-1984) to chair it. The committee, comprised of faculty, students, and community members, was tasked with investigating potential issues Congolese students would face.

Letter from committee chair Dan Rhodes to the members of the committee detailing each sub-committee's assignments.

Letter from committee chair Dan Rhodes to the members of the committee detailing each sub-committee’s assignments.

Though the Trustees had voted to admit a limited number of Congolese students, no black students enrolled at Davidson for the 1961-1962 academic year. From the May 5, 1961 Davidsonian story, “Martin: ‘We Will Have No Congolese Next Fall'”:

‘”The Board of World Missions in Nashville tells me that our missionary group has assigned ten students – none to Davidson – for good reasons… The Board of World Missions will plan to send one to us when they have one they consider qualified.’ Davidson’s Congolese Committee will continue meeting in preparation for the future, Martin said.”

Students and faculty continued to probe the issue throughout the next academic year, with the faculty voting in January 1962 to urge “the Trustees of the College authorize the admission of qualified students of any race and nationality.”  The final tally of the faculty vote was 53 in favor and 14 against (1 abstention). Though the Trustees had voted to allow a limited number of students from the Congo, this decision still barred American black students from enrolling at Davidson.

The Davidsonian conducted another student opinion poll on integration, with then student body president, George Trask (Class of 1962), sending the results of the student poll to College President Martin for distribution to the Board of Trustees.

Trask's letter to President Martin, showing that 59% of the student body had responded to the poll, with 53% in favor of "the admission of qualified students of any race of nationality to Davidson College."

Trask’s letter to President Martin, showing that 59% of the student body had responded to the poll, with 53% in favor of “the admission of qualified students of any race of nationality to Davidson College.”

Armed with the faculty vote and a student opinion poll, both showing a campus majority favored integration, President Martin took the question of officially integrating the college, rather than allowing a small, capped number of students specifically from one African country to the Board of Trustees. On May 17, 1962, at their meeting the Trustees of Davidson College approved a resolution to open “the college to students regardless of race or nationality.” (The Davidsonian, May 18, 1962)

May 17, 1962 Trustees statement

A copy of the May 17, 1962 Trustees Resolution.

Front page of the May 18, 1962 Davidsonian, announcing that "Congolese students may enter in Sept."

Front page of the May 18, 1962 Davidsonian, announcing that “Congolese students may enter in Sept.” The top headline for that issue read, “Trustees Abolish Segregation Policy; Martin Reveals $835,000 Bequest.”

On the decision to integrate with international black students, rather than American students, professor Dan Rhodes recalled in an April 20, 1991 Charlotte Observer article by Pam Kelley, “Challenge of integration remains: Davidson’s first black student attends 25th class reunion”: “Africans were seen as less threatening. They were foreigners, so they were more acceptable, in a sense.”

In fall 1962, the first black student enrolled at Davidson College – Benoit Nzengu, from the Congo. Next week’s blog will cover Ben Nzengu’s and the other early black students’ experiences at Davidson from 1962-1977 – watch this space!

Senior-Faculty Day

This week students in a Writing 101 class are getting introduced to researching in the archives.  They will be creating new entries in the Davidson Encyclopedia on topics related to student leisure.  While the in-class exercise centered around ways students celebrated holidays, some other traditions popped up as ones we might want to revive.

One of these is Senior-Faculty Day.  Granted there were only 153 members of the senior class and 47 faculty when the first day was held in April 20, 1939, which might have made it a little easier to organize. According the Davidsonian story of April 19th, the impetus for such day came from a desire on both sides “to come to a more complete understanding of the other’s problems whereby more whole-hearted co-operation may be given between the two groups.”

Headline from 19 April 1939 article announcing first Senior-Faculty Day.

Headline from 19 April 1939 article announcing first Senior-Faculty Day.

Apparently this meeting of the minds was to happen primarily through athletic contests and barbecue. Students on the planning committee included Shaw Smith (future director of the college union), Ovid Bell, and Oscar Armstrong.  Although, the faculty opted to include coaches on their team, the class of 1939 won three out of four contests.  The faculty managed to win at golf, while the seniors swept tennis, bowling and softball.

Despite the 1940’s contest headline “Seniors Meet Faculty Foes in Athletics,” goodwill prevailed and a tradition was launched.  An editorial in the April 1,  1942 (not a humor issue) encouraging students to get to know faculty noted:

If after careful examination of the individual college records of each of the faculty members, the students are not convinced that they are ‘regular fellows,’ their showing at the Varsity-Faculty basketball game, on Senior-Faculty Day, and in the Stunt Night program should at least arouse curiosity to determine by personal contact outside the classroom the true character of the instructing staff.

Faculty and seniors on the ball field

Faculty and seniors on the ball field

The games continued until 1963 with a break during the World War II years. The return of the Senior-Faculty Day in 1946 included not only the athletic contests (now tennis, volleyball, softball, golf and horseshoes), but the picnic, a faculty skit, and a Senior-Faculty smoker (not a traditional we are likely to revive -even if they were according the Davidsonian “very, very interesting.”)

By the early 1950s, student prowess had given way to the faculty’s honed skills. In 1954, Coach Pete Whittle, speaking for the faculty, expressed the wish that “the seniors try make it interesting for us this time.”  The Davidsonian suggested that “Somehow –perhaps mindful of the approach of diploma time– the senior classes of the past two years have allowed the old-timers to claim the win.

The 1954 games were spread out over more days included golf on Monday, tennis on Wednesday, followed by volleyball and softball (also on Wednesday). The post-game meal was held at Erwin Lodge.   Other years, the teams gathered at Hobart Park for hot dogs and one at least one occasion when the food preparation short, everyone convened at a local restaurant.

Roasting hot dogs after a day of play

Roasting hot dogs after a day of play

Last report on a Senior-Faculty Day - May 1963

Last report on a Senior-Faculty Day – May 1963

The games did not survive the changes of the 1960s and perhaps the senior-faculty ratio no longer works –but take a moment and just imagine today’s seniors pitching a softball today’s faculty

Better Than the M & M’s Pimento Cheese

Time for another edition of our Recipes from the Archives blog series – week’s dish is Gail Gibson’s “Better than the M&M’s Pimento Cheese” from Great Expectations: The Davidson College 1990-1991 Office Support Staff Cookbook.

The cover of

The cover of Great Expectations: The Davidson College 1990-1991 Office Support Staff Cookbook.

The Office Support Staff organization was born out of a long tradition of social groups founded by women staff members at Davidson College – in the 1950s, Professor Ernest Beaty (Class of 1920; English and Latin professor at Davidson College from 1925 to 1966) nicknamed the group of office workers “The Chambermaids,” a reference to the statues on Chambers Building, where most of the women worked. The group first drafted a Statement of Purpose in 1975, illustrating their goals: “The purpose of THE CHAMBERMAIDS shall be to support the students, faculty and administration of Davidson College; to encourage in a considerate and professional manner the full potential development of its members; to foster fellowship; and to establish an official line of communication between its members and the College in order to promote greater understanding and cooperation.”

The caption on this photo reads: "The original Chambermaids." Taken in 1955, this picture includes: Kathryn Halliburton, Kathy Wilson, Dela Shore, Mildred Little, Sally Wilson, Nan Lingle, Betty Wally, Peggy Cashion, Page Huckabee, Blanche Parker, A. Wilson, C. Bordeaux, B. Brooks, Joyce Fleagle, H. Allen, Loyce Chaney, Florede Meetze.

The caption on this photo reads: “The original Chambermaids.” Taken in 1955, this picture includes: Kathryn Halliburton, Kathy (Kitty) Wilson, Della Shore, Mildred Little, Sally Wilson, Nan Lingle, Betty Wally, Peggy Cashion, Page Huckabee, Blanche Parker, A. Wilson, C. Bordeaux, B. Brooks, Joyce Fleagle, H. Allen, Loyce Chaney, and Florede Meetze.

In 1982, The Chambermaids changed their organization name to Office Support Staff. At the time that the Great Expectations cookbook was produced as a fund-raiser, the organization officers were: Kristi Newton (President), Pat Gardner (Vice-President), Ethel Black (Secretary), and Jo Archie (Treasurer).  The front page of the cookbook provides a history of the Office Support Staff, including the major achievements of the group: “Ever since that time the ‘Chambermaids’, now known as the ‘Office Support Staff’, has accomplished a variety of goals such as tuition benefits for our children, flexible summer work hours, using a percentage of our sick days for personal leave time, cumulative years of service to count towards vacation leave, the posting of all jobs so that we are aware of the availabilities and representation on various campus committees, just to name a few.” The Office Support Staff ceased meeting as an organization in 2009.

Founding documents of the 1970s iteration of The Chambermaids

The front page of Great Expectations: The Davidson College 1990-1991 Office Support Staff Cookbook.

Though Great Expectations was compiled by the Office Support Staff, recipes were solicited from across all areas of campus. The recipe I chose was submitted by Gail Gibson, who taught in the English department from 1983 until her retirement in 2014. Gibson served as the College Marshall for many years, and is particularly well-known for staging a Chaucer banquet in her home as part of her curriculum. As the College news story on her retirement states, Gibson was very interested in food studies: “‘The best way to know a culture is to know how it eats!’ she explained. The Chaucer banquets ultimately led her to develop popular writing classes focused on food that she taught for years – food as symbol, food as a reflection of culture, food memoir and the anthropology of food.”

A photo of all new faculty for the 1983-84 academic year - Gail Gibson is on the far left of the front row.

A photo of all new faculty for the 1983-84 academic year – Gail Gibson is on the far left of the front row.

Gibson’s statement on the cultural import of food is particularly apropos as we look at her recipe for pimento cheese, a beloved Southern classic. Pimento cheese, as Scott Huler puts it in his story on the history of the food in Our State magazine, is a “Southern, rural, working-class icon — Carolina caviar, some call it” with a fascinating backstory. As a North Carolina transplant, I was particularly interested in having a go at making this cultural staple for the first time.

Gail Gibson's "Better than

Gail Gibson’s “Better Than the M&M’d Pimento Cheese” recipe, from the Office Support Staff Great Expectations cookbook.

Gibson’s take on pimento cheese is notable for the absence of mayonnaise, usually considered a key ingredient. The title, “Better than M&M’s Pimento Cheese” refers to what today’s Davidsonians just know as the Soda Shop. Opened in 1951 by Mary Potts and Murray Fleming (the two “M’s” in the name of the business), M&M Soda Shop has been a town staple ever since. Potts sold the business in 1985, but many of her original recipes remain popular menu items, including their pimento cheese.

a picture of M&M Soda Shop on Main Street, date unknown.

A picture of M&M Soda Shop on Main Street, date unknown.

Gibson’s recipe title is a playful homage to the popularity of M&M’s pimento cheese, suggesting this recipe is even better. I had a little bit of trouble making the recipe – the cream cheese did not easily combine with the other ingredients, and required a bit of milk to thin it out. I also ended up adding more grated cheese than the recipe called for, since once I had completed mixing the ingredients, the orange mixture seemed too smooth. Having never tasted the original M&M’s pimento cheese, I can’t say for sure that this recipe is better… but it is delicious!

The finished product, on toast!

The finished product, on toast!

Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters

Roycrofters Printers Mark

Roycrofters Printers Mark

A part of the Arts and Crafts movement, the Roycrofters made some of the finest hand-made furniture, books, lamps, and metal work of the period. Elbert Hubbard, a wealthy New York businessman who was intrigued by the Arts and Crafts philosophy, visited William Morris and the Kelmscott Press in England and when he returned to New York in 1894, set up a print shop, The Roycroft Shop. Next came a bindery for fine books, then a leather shop, a metal working shop and eventually a furniture shop. The Roycroft community lasted until 1938, and due to Hubbard’s vision and business expertise, it was one of the most successful of the artistic groups.

Because of the skilled craftsmanship and beauty of the items produced by the Roycrofters, they are highly sought after by collectors. We are fortunate to have four books published by the Roycroft Press in our Rare Book Collection.

In the Track of the Bookworm

In the Track of the Bookworm

In the Track of the Bookworm Printers Mark

In the Track of the Bookworm
Printers Mark

In the Track of the Bookworm Ltd edition & signature

In the Track of the Bookworm
Ltd edition & signature

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Track of the Bookworm, by Irving Browne: thoughts, fancies and gentle gibes on collecting and collectors, by one of them. East Aurora, NY: The Roycroft Printing Shop, 1897. Limited edition of 590 copies, each signed and numbered. Our copy is number 573. Bound in quarter tan cloth with brown paper boards. Gilt lettering. Printed in black and red with decorative capital letters printed in red.

Will o’the Mill / Robert Louis Stevenson. East Aurora, NY: Roycroft Shop, 1901. Three hundred fifty copies hand-illuminated by Loretta Hubbs, signed by Elbert Hubbard. Our copy is number 156. Bound in full brown suede with gilt lettering. Gold moire silk endpapers. Hand–sewn.

Will o' the Mill Title Page

Will o’ the Mill
Title Page

Will o' the Mill

Will o’ the Mill

Will o' the Mill Ltd edition & signatures

Will o’ the Mill
Ltd edition & signatures

Will o' the Mill Cover

Will o’ the Mill
Cover

Little Journeys Title Page

Little Journeys
Title Page

Little Journeys

Little Journeys

Little Journeys to the Homes of English Authors: Robert Burns. Written by Elbert Hubbard. East Aurora, NY: The Roycrofters, 1901. Title in ornamental border. Ornamental initial letters. Hand-made water-marked paper. Title page, initials, and ornaments designed by Samuel Warner. Roycroft logo.

White Hyacinths Title Page

White Hyacinths
Title Page

White Hyacinths

White Hyacinths

White Hyacinths Printers Mark

White Hyacinths
Printers Mark

So Here Cometh White Hyacinths: being a book of the Heart / Elbert Hubbard. East Aurora, NY: The Roycrofters, 1907. Hand colored illustrations and printers mark.

College statistics – 1916 -2016

The spring semester is officially underway.  Students poured back onto campus over the weekend. Following the pattern of the last few years, there are more students on campus in January than in August.  This happens because more students opt to study abroad in the fall.

Coming across the short article below prompted some thoughts about changes in college statistics.

The college no longer uses the category “Electics.”  This term referred to students who came to take classes but never intended to graduate. The contemporary version of this might be auditors –although most people auditing classes now are already college graduates rather than college age students looking to pick up a few credits.  The college does not count auditors in our student totals.

Davidson statistics as published in January 1916.

Davidson statistics as published in January 1916.

In January 1916,  the college still offered a graduate degree. Three students “Post Graduates” counted in the Davidsonian’s summary.  Below are the requirements for earning a M.A. – basically a five course addition to a bachelor’s degree. The college expanded the program requiring a thesis in 1919-1920 and 36 hours of classes.  The option for earning a graduate degree ended in 1930.

Davidson's requirements to earn a Master's Degree.

Davidson’s requirements to earn a Master’s Degree.

Geography is another significant change. In 1916 the college boasted students from 12 states and 3 foreign countries.  The 2015-2016 college Factfile compiled in December 2015, reports students from 48 states and territories and 43 countries. One aspect has not changed– students are considered to be from a foreign country based on their (or their parents’) home address and not by citizenship. The 1916 students listed as being from China include Philip B. Price, George Alexander Hudson, and future college physician James Baker Woods. They all grew up in China as missionary kids.  At least two of the international students were citizens – Francisco Del Rio of Cuba and William Yohannon Sayad of Persia. Interestingly, in 1916 and 2016, the foreign country with the largest representation is China.

The map below dates from 1964 and shows locations of Davidson alumni working outside of the USA.  It was accompanied by a 2-page listing of all the names, job titles and cities. The map included two members of the class of 1962 living in Alaska and one living in Washington, DC. There were no doubt more alumni in DC but only one was Secretary of State at the time.

http://www.davidson.edu/offices/institutional-research/fact-file

Davidson alumni abroad in 1964.

How many more flags would there be today?

Spare the Rod and Spoil the Freshman: Highlighting Student Publication Sanity Rare

Student publications are invaluable to the Archives & Special Collections here at Davidson College – we use the annual Quips and Cranks and weekly newspaper The Davidsonian countless times per semester in instruction and to answer reference questions. In addition to verifying facts, these student-produced publications provide insight into student culture at the time they were written. Recently, while answering a reference question, I stumbled across a reference to a short-lived student humor magazine called Sanity Rare.

Covers of the 1925 and 1926 issues of Sanity Rare.

Covers of the 1925 and 1926 issues of Sanity Rare.

Sanity Rare was published by the Junior Class as part of the Junior Speaking program in 1925, 1926, and 1927. By the 1920s Junior Speaking, which had grown out of commencement exercises for the Junior and Senior classes, separated from the Senior exercises and turned unto a social weekend featuring variety shows. Later, Junior Speaking would morph into a dance weekend and then Spring Frolics, still celebrated today. Sanity Rare, published in conjunction with Junior Speaking, was filled with jokes, cartoons, short poems, and advertisements for local businesses. The 1927 Quips and Cranks featured a page on Sanity Rare, describing the magazine as “a safety valve for the humorists and cartoonists on the campus.”

Cover of the 1927 issue of Sanity Rare, and the student activity page describing the magazine and listing its staff in the 1927 Quips and Cranks.

Cover of the 1927 issue of Sanity Rare, and the student activity page describing the magazine and listing its staff in the 1927 Quips and Cranks.

Like the longer-running humor magazines The Yowl (1930 – 1936, revived as a column in The Davidsonian in 2004) and Scripts ‘N Pranks (1936 – 1965), Sanity Rare poked fun at Davidson students (particularly freshmen), faculty, and traditions and as well as social issues of the time.

This cartoon from the 1925 Sanity Rare pokes fun at a practical life application of chemistry studies - making moonshine.

This cartoon from the 1925 Sanity Rare pokes fun at a practical life application of chemistry studies – making moonshine during prohibition.

From the 1926 Sanity Rare, the joke this blog takes its title from.

From the 1926 Sanity Rare, the joke this blog takes its title from.

"Junior Class Questionnaire" from the 1926 Sanity Rare.

“Junior Class Questionnaire” from the 1926 Sanity Rare.

Dances were not permitted on campus until the 1940s, as this is page in the 1927 Sanity Rare lampoons.

Dances were not permitted on campus until the 1940s, as this is page in the 1927 Sanity Rare lampoons.

This joke from the 1927 Sanity Rare ribs both fraternities and Davidson's boarding house tradition.

This joke from the 1927 Sanity Rare ribs both fraternities and Davidson’s boarding house tradition.

Many of the jokes in the magazine surrounded dating and Sanity Rare‘s editorial page always listed several women under the category “Inspirational and Otherwise,” perhaps commenting on the fact that many students invited dates to Junior Speaking weekend. The 1926 editorial page, for instance, opens with this address to its readers: “SANITY RARE extends to the many young ladies, who have honored us with their presence on this joyous occasion, a most sincere welcome. During the long winter months as we sat in our rooms, thinking fondly of the days of Junior Speaking, the thought of your presence among us was an inspiration.”

Editorial page of the 1926 issue of Sanity Rare.

Editorial page of the 1926 issue of Sanity Rare, which also calls for the establishment of a regular humor magazine on campus – a void that The Yowl and then Scripts ‘N Pranks would later fill.

While Sanity Rare and other college humor magazines provide a valuable glimpse into student life from an earlier period, they also often illustrate intolerance – much of the material in Sanity Rare struck me as racist, sexist, and in poor taste. When our run of Scripts ‘N Pranks was digitized by a student during summer 2014 (Ellyson Glance ’16; see her post on her archives summer work here), she also commented on how many of the jokes in the pages of that mid-century humor magazine offended her.

This section from the 1925 issues of Sanity Rare is an example of the racist and antisemtic jokes that frequenrly appear in the pages of Sanity Rare.

This section from the 1925 issue is an example of the racist and antisemitic jokes that frequently appear in the pages of Sanity Rare.

While jokes mocking the African-American population or giving dating “advice” that suggests date rape certainly does not make for enjoyable reading, these humor magazines are still providing a portrait of student life – in Sanity Rare‘s case, what some Davidson students found funny in the mid-1920s. Preserving material that provides negative views or makes researchers (and archivists!) uncomfortable is important – knowing what past generations of students considered acceptable within the bounds of humor lets today’s researchers gain insight into the specific culture of Davidson College, but also wider student culture and American culture.

As College President Carol Quillen commented in the recent Huffington Post article, “What Three College Presidents Learned from Campus Racism Protests,” “When students are looking to the institution… some of what they’re doing is saying, ‘Do your job’… your job is to give [them] what [they] need to go from this experience of marginalization and pain to a political position. That’s what education does, and insofar as we’re not doing that for them, we need to do better.” In this archivist’s opinion, part of doing my job better is aiding students and other researchers in understanding the history of Davidson College – even when that history reflects badly on our community.

Ringing in the New Year — Davidson style

Need help planning a special New Year’s Eve party to bring in 2016?  Davidson students a century or so ago had plenty of ideas.

In 1891 some students and townspeople celebrated by attending a wedding. The Davidson Monthly reported that “Mr. Chas. F. Dickenson of Bainbridge, Georgia, was married to Miss Lena Query in the Presbyterian Church on New Year’s day. The church was handsomely decorated for the occasion. Many of the bride’s friends and relatives of Charlotte and elsewhere came up at the event. The marriage rite was administered by Dr. Shearer. Mr. Dickerson left with his bride immediately after the ceremony for their distant home. The MONTHLY wishes them a long life of prosperity.”

Miss Query grew up in Davidson. Her father served on the town commission and the family home was on the south side of the college cemetery.

Original Davidson College Presbyterian Church building -- site of the 1891 New Year's wedding.

Original Davidson College Presbyterian Church building — site of the 1891 New Year’s wedding.

More examples of New Year’s fun from the Monthly:

January 1893 -Saturday. -Went calling. Skated. Played authors. Night. Went to Col. Martin’s. Made an extempore speech. Oh, my! Never felt so much like going through the floor. Can’t the girls chat! Lingle got the prize for the best speech. Miss Lucy Martin for the best conversation. Superb!

Miss Lucy Martin of the best conversation.

Miss Lucy Martin of the best conversation.

1896 – Monday night, December 30, a domino party was given by Dr. Harding, and on New Year’s Eve Mrs. Vinson threw wide open her hospitable doors to a Symposium. Lists of questions, whose answers depended upon one’s knowledge of flowers and “common cents,” were handed from table to table.

Vinson lived here at time of the 1896 New Year's party.  The family would build a new home and boarding house on N. Main street within a few years.

Vinson lived here at time of the 1896 New Year’s party. The family would build a new home and boarding house on N. Main street within a few years.

January 1898 –  On the evening of the 31st the students felt that it was their turn to entertain, and accordingly organized themselves into a club known as the “Feiertag Club,” and decided to give a “New Year’s Party” in the YMCA Hall. Cards were immediately issued, and at 9 o’clock every member of the club was present, bringing with him his lady friend. For some time, games were participated in, and as the bell was bidding farewell to the Old Year and welcoming the New, the party was partaking of a dainty luncheon. The chaperones for the evening were Mr. And Mrs. Graham, Dr. and Mrs. Harding, and Mrs. Paisley.

Mrs. Sallie Stirewalt Paisley

Mrs. Sallie Stirewalt Paisley

January 1916 – On New Year’s Eve the usual “celebration” was held on the cupola by the students, using a diminutive cannon and a Chinese cymbal as the noise-making implements. The college bell rang the Old Year out and the New Year in. The dormitories were closed, with the exception of Georgia, and most of the boys moved there for the holiday period. A chess tournament lasted throughout the time.

Cupola on old Chambers - site of the revels welcoming 1916.

Cupola on old Chambers – site of the revels welcoming 1916.

Georgia Dormitory (built 1909, demolished 1956)

Georgia Dormitory (built 1909, demolished 1956)

January 1917 – On New Year’s night the boys gave a masquerade party to the young ladies at the Social Center. About sixty attended the party was chaperoned by Dr. and Mrs. Fulton.

Morrison Hall aka YMCA building aka Social Center.

Morrison Hall aka YMCA building aka Social Center.

Early Holiday Presents for the Archives & Special Collections

The Davidson College Archives & Special Collections has received news that definitely added to our holiday cheer – we’ve had three grant applications successfully funded!

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Credit: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

We’ve received two National Endowment for the Humanities grants for this funding cycle – one under the newly launched Common Heritage program, and one under the Preservation Assistance Grant program. The first grant project, “History Homecoming Day: Digitizing the Gaps in the Diverse History of a Small College Town,” aims to address the gaps in our archival record on the local African American and other underrepresented groups. In collaboration with the Davidson town government and Davidson Historical Society, the Archives & Special Collections will plan and implement “History Homecoming Day,” a public history event designed to capture data about underrepresented groups through digitization of cultural artifacts, capturing oral histories, and educational programming (such as walking tours of community neighborhoods, an interactive online map, and presentations exploring local history). As Jan Blodgett, College Archivist & Records Management Coordinator and the project director for the “History Homecoming Day” grant, said: “One of the things I learned in writing a town history is how much more history is out there. This grant will help us fill in some important gaps and raise the level of awareness of the contributions of African-Americans in Davidson and North Mecklenburg. We’re looking forward to working with the community and finding new ways to share and celebrate history.”

The second NEH grant project is entitled “Davidson College Archives and Special Collections Comprehensive Preservation Plans.” This project will allow the Archives & Special Collections to engage a preservation consultant from the Northeast Document Conservation Center to conduct assessments of our physical and digital holdings, assisting us in creating our first formal preservation plans. Our holdings include 58 born-digital films, 3,500 digitized photographs, 20 born-digital audio files, dozens of digitized manuscript letters, diaries, and college-related documents, 8 digitized special collections, 30,000 cataloged print photographs, 950 manuscript and archival collections, 700 artifacts, a 1,000-item audiovisual media collection, and 2,000 rare book collection items. Our collections are heavily used in course-related pedagogy, special projects, by various departments across the college (in particular Sports Information, College Relations, Alumni Relations, and College Communications), and to answer reference questions from across the college and beyond. I will be serving as the project director for this grant, and as we increasingly collaborate on digital projects and collect more student works and complex digital objects, I think it’s incredibly important to have formal plans to preserve all of our diverse collections so that we can continue to share college and local history for years to come.

Two collections we know will benefit from a preservation analysis - our film collection (left) and scrapbook collections (right).

Two collections we know will benefit from a preservation analysis – our film collection (left) and scrapbook collections (right, on the shelves on the left side).

In addition to the two projects made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Archives & Special Collections also received word that another grant project we’re involved in has been funded by the Associated Colleges of the South Faculty Advancement Grant program. The “True Stories” project is a collaborative cross-institutional partnership between teams of archivists and teaching faculty at three ACS institutions: Rollins College, Southwestern University, and Davidson College. Each campus team plans to engage students in multidisciplinary, digitally-enhanced oral history methods that would results in a collection of student-conducted oral histories covering a variety of topics (including student life, town/gown relations in small college towns, student activism, and the experiences of students of color) that can be added to each institution’s archival holdings. Findings and reflections on the experiences will be shared across all three institutions, and provide a model for future cross-institutional collaborations. I am serving as principal investigator for the Davidson team, which includes faculty members Hilton Kelly (Associate Professor and Chair of Educational Studies) and Kristi Multhaup (Professor of Psychology). The “True Stories” project dovetails nicely with our two NEH grant projects, particular “History Homecoming Day.”

As you can see, 2016 and 2017 will be very busy years for the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections! We’re looking forward to the new year and all of the new initiatives that come with it – watch this space for updates on these three grant-funded projects!

The Song of Roland

Song of RolandOne of the most beautiful volumes in our Rare Book Room is The Song of Roland, printed at the Riverside Press for Houghton Mifflin & Company in 1906. It was designed by the noted typographer, Bruce Rogers, and our copy is number 34 of the limited run of 220 copies. Accompanying our copy is the prospectus, sent out by the publisher in Sept. 1906, advertising the publication.

Riverside Press logo

Riverside Press logo

The Song of Roland’ will be the third book in the Riverside Press Editions to be printed on hand presses from type. It is a folio 11 1/2 x 17 1/2 inches in size, and will contain about forty pages. The type is the beautiful French Gothic used in the ‘Parlement of Foules,’ and the present volume is set in double columns with marginal notes in brown and rubricated folios as page headings. The title page is printed in red and black in the early French manner, and bears a new printers’ mark in color. The paper is an American hand-made of pleasant antique tone. The illustrations are an unique feature of the book. They are seven in numbers, and are derived from the window of Charlemagne in the Cathedral at Chartres, noted for the beauty of its 13th century glass. Mr. Rogers visited Chartres especially to study this window, and the treatment of the illustrations is the result of his notes. The compartments of the window picturing events in the Legend of Roland have been carefully drawn and reproduced. The lead lines are printed with the type, and the colors are afterwards filled in by hand in conformity to the color scheme of the window itself. The effect is surprisingly rich and decorative. The arrangement of the illustrations in the page is also worthy of note as they are so disposed as to make them integral parts of the typography. The binding is of antique vellum with paper sides bearing a pattern taken from paintings in the crypt at Chartres. 200 copies will be printed, of which 200 are offered for sale at $25.00, net, each. Sept. 1, 1906.”

Window image

Window image

Window image

Window image

Window image

Window image

Limited edition note

Limited edition note

Cover and spine detail

Cover and spine detail

 

 

 

 

The French epic poem tells the story of Roland and Oliver, Charlemagne and his war with the Saracens, and the Battle of Roncesvalles in 778. Dated between 1040 and 1115, the text has about 4,000 lines of poetry, and is the first example of the chanson de geste, a genre celebrating ledgendary deeds.
Our thanks go to Dr. H.M. Marvin, Davidson class of 1914, for giving us the beautiful work.

They’re back!

1918 finals humor

1918 finals humor

Yes, it is finals time again – symbolized by the class of 1918 as a fearsome dragon that is “specially dangerous near Christmas and before the end of school.  It has never been tamed, and every year makes its ravages among the untutored.”

Joining the dragon are another set of fearsome beasts — the campus skunk population. It’s not clear how long skunks have found the campus congenial for homemaking.  Certainly by the 1940s, campus fraternities were aware of their visits.

Notice in the Davidsonian's Operating Table column in 1942.

Notice in the Davidsonian’s Operating Table column in 1942.

This is from the Among the Greeks column in April 1946.

This is from the Among the Greeks column in April 1946.

References to skunks abated for a few decades but by the 1990s, skunk reports were almost annual events.

In the summer of 1990 skunks began to congregate at Johnston Gym (now Knobloch Campus Center)

In the summer of 1990 skunks began to congregate at Johnston Gym (now Knobloch Campus Center)

In the spring of 1994, skunks made off-campus visits but made their way back to campus.

In the spring of 1994, skunks made off-campus visits but made their way back to campus.

At some point as well, Davidson’s skunks began to take on a peculiar appearance. Instead of black with a white stripe, our skunks were mostly white.

Spring 1995 and more skunks.

Spring 1995 and more skunks.

In 2000, not even the college president was safe from skunky visits.

in 2000, not even the college president was safe from skunky visits.

Part 2 of article

Part 2 of article

We have no photographic evidence yet — but rumor has it that our warm fall has brought our skunks out and about again.  Do you have a skunk story to share?