Davidson College has often appeared on the cover of publications, particularly local or state magazines. This week, let’s take a look at the covers that made it into our collections:
The Margaret in question is Margaret Truman, daughter of Harry S. Truman. She came to campus 67 years ago as part of the college’s Artist Series. Davidson was a brief part of her singing career.
Her appearance rated a bold headline in The Davidsonian:
The paper reported that while she was on campus, she attended a small reception at the Guest House and a dinner with the president. She was joined by members of the fund-raising Development Drive and “close friends of Dr. Cunningham.”
She may have been a popular dinner guest but her performance met with some criticism, including a comparison with a “certain Madame Jenkins who used to convulse her Carnegie Hall audiences with her erratic cacophonies.” The review continued, “To descend to the serious, Miss Truman seemed to have a technical understanding of what she ought to do, but let’s face it, Miss Truman has simply not got a voice. . . . To me, her German Lieder were most satisfactory. Her feeling for these songs seemed to be free of spurious responses and the comparatively restricted range of these songs seemed to suit a voice which leapt nimbly but unconvincingly over the thin and crackling ice of both low and high registers.”
Not reported in any of the papers were the behind the scenes concerns of suitable accommodations for this celebrity. A townswoman in the know, wrote to her daughter, “I’ve found out the campus as all agog last week when it was discovered that there was no toilet for Margaret Truman. Such hurrying and scurrying. Mrs. Erwin fold me that they said it had to be one nobody had used. So at the cost of $200.00 the college transformed a dressing room near the stage into a “Johnny.” At every party somebody reported on the progress of “Margaret’s Johnny”– well, finally Thursday night, Mr. Hobart sent out a bulletin–all the fixtures had been installed, everything was in readiness– but the thing wouldn’t work!! Great was the concern- Margaret must have a johnny! Well, at the time of the concert, everything was lovely. Shortly afterwards this inscription was found on the newly painted commode– ‘Margaret Truman sat here!’ written with nail polish for all to see! Who would suspect staid, dignified Davidson to be seething with such carryings on! Margaret caused talk, but not like she imagined.”
The Centennial International Exhibition, the 1st official World’s Fair in the United States, was held from May 10 – November 10, 1876 in Philadelphia. Its full title was The International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine, and it was the brainchild of Professor John L. Campbell, Wabash College (Indiana). In 1866, Campbell, professor of mathematics, natural philosophy, and astronomy, suggested to the mayor of Philadelphia that the 100th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence be celebrated there with an exhibition. Although there were several nay-sayers lamenting lack of funding, disinterest from other countries, and an un-favorable reaction to the exhibition being held in the United States, the U.S. Centennial Commission was created by a bill passed on March 3, 1871, and the commission was organized on March 3, 1872.
450 acres of West Fairmont Park in Philadelphia were set aside for the exposition, and other nations were invited to attend. Temporary hotels were built to accommodate visitors, streetcars and railroads increased their service, and a small hospital was built in the park.
The fair opened on May 10, 1876 and drew thousands of visitors and VIPs to the exhibits from 37 nations in over 250 pavillions. As the title indicated, the exhibition focused on arts, manufacturing, agriculture and mining, and introduced to the world the strength of the United States as an industrial power.
Although many of the exhibition buildings were constructed as temporary structures, some were designed to be permanent and used after the closing of the exhibition.
Horticultural Hall continued to be used to display plants until it was demolished in 1954 after being badly damaged by Hurricane Hugo. Memorial Hall (the art gallery) was later used as the Pennsylvania Museum of Art.
By the last day, November 10, 1876, a total of 10,164,489 visitors had attended the exhibition. Some of the innovations displayed were the Corliss Steam Engine, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, the Remington typographic machine, the electric dynamo, and Heinz Ketchup.
We have in the Rare Book Room a copy of the “official catalogue,” a gift from the estate of Zach Long, Class of 1965. The catalogue included lists of the entrants by country, lists of the exhibits, and numerous period ads, and is considered to be the best source of information on the Centennial Exhibition and its exhibitors.
For this installment of Recipes from the Archives, I chose to make “Sassy Spice Cake,” contributed by “Mrs. J.P. Stowe” to the 1965 The Village Cook Book: Recipes from the P.T.A. Pantry, Davidson, North Carolina. The members of Davidson’s Parent-Teacher Association gathered recipes from townswomen compiled the cookbook as a fundraiser for Davidson Elementary School.
I selected this recipe because of it’s fun title, and because it had some similarities with election cake recipes. Election cakes, as laid out in a Bon Appétit story on their history, were an American tradition at the polls in the days of the Early Republic. While our archival collections do not contain any election cake recipes, Sassy Spice Cake contains some of the same ingredients and flavors, so it seemed an apropos choice.
Finding out more about Mrs. J.P. Stowe proved to be difficult – she didn’t appear in any of our human resources records, and I couldn’t find any relatives who had graduated from or worked at Davidson College. However, some creative Internet searching led me to an obituary on obitcentral.com that seems to match:
“Agnes F. Honeycutt Stowe of Davidson died Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2001 at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center.
Born Jan. 9, 1923 in Stony Point, to the late James Ray and Minnie Triplett Foy, she was a member of Davidson United Methodist Church. For many years she worked at Laney’s Fish Camp. She founded Aggie ‘J’ Originals and was one of the first three cross-stitch designers.
Survivors include her sons, Tommy Honeycutt of Davidson and Tim Honeycutt of Charlotte; a daughter, Sandra H. Boyd of Davidson; a brother, Frank L. Foy of Virginia; sisters, Peggy F. Pender of Huntersville and Minnie Rae Barker of Denver; eight grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.
Husbands, James Monroe Honeycutt and J.P. Stowe; son, James H. Honeycutt, Jr.; b[r]others, James and Joseph Foy, and sister, Sue F. Howard preceded her in death.
Funeral services were Saturday, Nov. 17 at Davidson United Methodist Church. Interment followed at the Mimosa Cemetery.
Memorials may be made to the American Heart Association, 1229 Greenwood Cliff, Suite 109, Charlotte, N.C. 28204.”
Anges Foy Honeycutt Stowe is most likely the same “Mrs. J.P. Stowe” – U.S. Census Bureau data shows that in 1940, then 17 year old Agnes lived in Davidson with her first husband, James Monroe Honeycutt, in the same house as her mother Minnie and younger siblings. Laney’s Fish Camp, mentioned in the obituary as Agnes’ longtime employer, was a fried fish restaurant in Mooresville that closed in 2013.
Library Serials Assistant and longtime Davidson resident Mittie Wally mentioned that she’d met Agnes Stowe and that she was a great cook. She also confirmed that Agnes husband was “in a roundabout way related to Stowe’s Corner” – the triangular shaped building on Main Street that currently houses Flatiron Kitchen + Taphouse, and used to contain a gas station owned by the Stowe family.
The Sassy Spice Cake recipe is fairly simple, and I followed it to the letter with the exception of the pan shape – I chose to make the cake in a bundt pan instead of an “oblong cake pan,” since it was more reminiscent of the election cake recipe put out by OWL Bakery. The icing is definitely “not a stiff frosting”; it’s more like a glaze.
I shared the Sassy Spice Cake with the rest of the library staff, to rave reviews – several staff members have said they saved the recipe to make at home for the holidays.
Last week’s Around the D looked at student responses to conflict in Nicaragua in 1985. In 1956, Davidson students reacted to another conflict and refugee crisis by sponsoring an Hungarian family. It began with the college bringing in speakers to share their experiences of the Russian invasion and subsequent strikes within Hungary. Students followed through on their concerns by working with Church World Service to find a refugee family to sponsor. This effort was funded through the annual YMCA gift fund.
Even as the students acted, conditions in Hungary shifted making it harder for families to leave. Church World Service recommended trying to assist young men rather than families but finally was able to connect Davidson and the Hocsak family.
The Hocsaks came to Davidson on January 18, 1957 and were provided housing in a former faculty home on Main Street. The family included a young couple, their 3 year-old-son, and Mr. Hocsak’s mother. Mr, Hocsak had been an engineer in Hungary and also involved in actions against the secret police. Their escape from Budapest began on December 4, 1956. Using a truck from his company, they drove first to Vienna, crossing the border without trouble and then to Munich. They were flown to New Jersey and then sent to Davidson.
As the family settled in, students took time to visit the family. They appeared to be particularly fond of the youngest Hocsak, jokingly comparing him to a popular cartoon character of the time, Dennis the Menace. He earned the comparison in part by his antics on his tricycle.
Over the next few weeks, the Davidsonian published a 3 part series narrated by Istvan Hocsak about their experiences and political conditions in Hungary. In the first article, he described how he became involved in the freedom movement,
“In early October the first step toward revolution was taken. The students at the University in Szeged broke away from the old Communist youth organization, ‘Disz,’ and formed a new group. This group drew up a proclamation demanding a free press, a release from compulsory study of Russian, and a promise that Hungarian uranium be left in Hungary and not shipped to Russia.
I heard about this movement on October 20, and spent the next couple of days trying to find out more about the proposals. After the twentieth everybody was talking about revolution. In my office we were all exhilarated by the thought that perhaps the oppression was nearly over.
On the 22nd a great mass meeting was held at my university, the Polytechnical University of Budapest. Nearly all of the 11,000 students in the school were there. . . . I was at work and could not be at the meeting, but a colleague of mine brought me a mimeographed copy of the Proclamation. We typed as many as we could and distributed them in the building. Everybody was excited. Enthusiasm was sweeping through the people like a fever.”
He went on to recount that at 6pm that same day, a crowd gathered in front of the Parliament building. They waited until 8:30pm when Insre Nagy came out. His speech disappointed the crowd. “I decided to go home and see if my family was safe. During the time that I was home, between 9 and 10 o’clock, a group of students decided to broadcast the proclamation. When the crown reached the broadcasting station, they were met by the Secret Police. They told the crowd to go away, but the crowd moved on toward the building. The police fired, and the Revolution had begun.”
By the following fall, the Davidsonian was reporting that the Hocsaks were well settled – now on North Thompson Street. Istvan, now being known as Steve, was employed by a Charlotte firm as a draftmen and Rosie Hocsak was working for the Ivey’s department store company. Their language skills had improved through tutoring by local teaching legend Maude Vinson.
In 1962, the Charlotte News did another follow-up article on the family. By then they were living in Charlotte with Steve having recently changed jobs. According to the News, “Today the Hocsaks are Charlotteans with Hungarian accents just five years out of Budapest. They live in a $14,000 home on Birchcrest Drive, they own a second-hand Buick, they watch television, they have an air conditioner, they belong to the Third Presbyterian Church and the PTA at Windsor Park School, they pay taxes, they have a mortgage, they both work– and they have a swimming pool.”
A swimming pool might seem an oddity in this story but the Hocsaks met at a pool. Steve was a competitive swimmer in college. The article doesn’t mention if they ever go back to visit Davidson but does provide evidence that the YMCA gift fund and student support made a significant difference in their lives.
Many current Davidsonians are aware of the December 2014 die-in on Main Street, in which “a group of about 200 students and several faculty and staff members staged a die-in protest on Main Street Saturday night to protest police violence against people of color.” (The Davidsonian, December 10, 2014) However, this was not the first die-in at Davidson – the Davidson Peace Coalition organized a die-in on April 22, 1985. While our records on the Davidson Peace Coalition are not robust, we do have documentation of the die-in and reactions to the protest from the student newspaper, The Davidsonian.
As their Letter to the Editor states, the Peace Coalition organized the die-in as “a symbolic action to show our concern about the increased militarization, by U.S. aid, of Central America in particular and our earth in general.”
In the issues following the die-in, The Davidsonian published a series of Letters to the Editor responding to both whether Davidson students should protest U.S. aid to the Contras in Nicaragua, and whether U.S. policies in Central America were justified.
James Lewis’ Letter to the Editor inspired several responses from fellow students who disagreed with his read of the die-in:
Lewis then responded to his critics, also in the May 10 issue:
The May 10 issue was the last of the 1984-1985 academic year, and when publication of the newspaper began again for the fall semester, the die-in stopped appearing in the editorials page. The Davidsonian is one of the College Archives’ most heavily-used resources, and these opinion letters make clear why: the student newspaper provides valuable insight into what students thought and cared about while they were attending Davidson College. Furthermore, sometimes mentions in The Davidsonian are the only documentation we have of campus events or student groups. The Davidsonian continues to publish today, and we continue to meticulously gather and preserve the newspaper!
Next Tuesday, October 25th at 8:00 we are celebrating Halloween with our 8th Annual “Ghosts in the Library” event in the Rare Book Room of the E.H. Little Library. We’ll have Davidsonians telling their favorite ghost stories. You may not have seen the Rare Book Room in quite this way…with “ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night.”
No tricks. Just scary stories, and treat bags for all who come.
For some earlier fun, come to the Library Lobby at 6:30 for a printing press demonstration by Prof. Gabe Ford, and the opportunity to print your own chapbook. Then on to the Rare Book Room for “Ghosts” at 8:00!
Hope to see you there!
Compared to some larger college and universities, Davidson has fewer incidences of conflicts around controversial speakers. Still, Davidson presidents and public relations staff have had to respond to angry letters over guest lectures and even chapel talks. The campus community also got involved in protesting North Carolina’s 1963 Speaker Ban Law. The law, which prohibited public schools from hosting speakers with Communist ties, did not apply to Davidson as a private college.
Education professor Jay Ostwalt wrote a position paper on the Speaker Ban Law noting that “The law is a threat to the vigorous intellectual climate of North Carolina– the state that has become the symbol in the South of intellectual dignity, high purpose and vigorous thought. The nation is watching us and is disappointed in what they see happening. . . . Instead of an image of a vigorous and open society, we are creating the image that we are petty, vindictive, narrow and afraid the future cannot be grasped and guided.
During the same semester in 1965, college president D. Grier Martin defended the student YMCA chapter’s choice of Paul Goodman as a speaker for a program on sex and ethics. Martin replied to one critic writing that while he shared the concern and “would not have invited” Goodman himself,
“we have followed a policy of giving reasonable latitude to our student groups in the speakers whom they invited to the campus and in most instances this has worked our extremely well. We find that our faculty as well as many members of our student body take the opposite viewpoint from speakers coming to Davidson and this creates intense discussion and usually ends up with the students receiving not only knowledge but wisdom and understanding in some of the complicated matters which are facing all of us in these difficult times.”
Martin was fairly experienced with speaker critics by 1965. His office file on Speakers – Criticism is a full one. The YMCA created another storm of letters with an invitation to Dr. Michael Scriven to speak on “The Non-Existence of God.”
Concerns expressed by critics include:
“If an atheist came to my home, I think I would try to treat him civilly. But I am sure not going to invite a proponent of atheism to come into my home and unload his wares into the minds of pliable youth.”
“My heart has truly been broken, as I have realized that our Southern Presbyterian Church is in the hands of the liberals.”
“I do not see how any good could come out of having an atheist come to a Christian college, expressing his views to a body of young men. I have taught a Sunday School class for over thirty-nine years at the First Presbyterian Church here and have been teaching teen-agers for many years. I have tried over the years to instill Christian faith into the young people and have been very careful not to bring up anything that would express doubt.”
“I seriously question the wisdom of having on the campus such a speaker as Dr. Scriven. In nation so socially confused and science oriented as America is today, it seems to me that the damage such an individual can do far outweighs any intellectual value he might bring to the students of the school.”
“Most of the atheists and infidels with whom I have talked are narrow minded and will not give God a chance. Neither will they be polite to other persons. Davidson College should invite some Bible Christians to speak publicly. Such as: Senator Strom Thurman of South Carolina, a great statesman.”
Not all the writers opposed the speaker:
“We are both amazed at the apparent fear expressed by some supporting friends of Davidson to allow an open expression of conflicting thoughts within the policy and practice of a church-related institution. . . [We} want you to know of our wholehearted support of the highest level of academic freedom and of religious conviction. Only in this manner can the youth of today be adequately prepared to meet the tremendous influences of this present world as well as the surprising and revolutionary world of tomorrow.”
Only the alumni of the 1960s can say now whether the talks on sex, atheism and communism had any influence or if they even remember the controversies. We can only wonder what 21st century topics could generate the same intense responses as those of the 60s.
For this installment of Recipes from the Archives, I made Mary Black’s “Gingerale Fruit Salad” from the Davidson Civic Club’s Davidson Cook Book (circa 1928). The Davidson Cook Book has been the source of the some of our favorite archival recipes, including the Misses Scofield’s Ice Box Pudding #1. The Davidson Civic Club (1911 – 1959; Davidson Civic League from 1952) was founded to promote “a well-kept household and a place for good and pleasant living” in Davidson.
Mary Caldwell Black (1899 – 1989) moved to Davidson with her parents Dr. James C. and Emma Black, sister Emma, and five brothers in 1918, so that her brothers could attend Davidson College – John McKinley Black graduated from Davidson in 1918, Robert Lawson Black in 1922, William Morton Black in 1926, and Samuel Lacy Black graduated in 1929. All four were football stars while in college, and William was a member of the 1926 State Championship team. Their brother James C. Black, Jr. graduated from North Carolina State University.
Mary and Ellen both attended Flora MacDonald College in Red Springs, North Carolina, as part of the 1922 and 1923 classes respectively. Coverage of town news in The Davidsonian makes it clear that both sisters were active in the social scene of Davidson, with Ellen performing a high jump at field games during “Senior Christian Endeavor Expert Class” on campus in March 1924, and Mary playing “the Spirit of Mexico” during a pageant in February 1923. Both women were active in bible study groups in college at Red Springs and in Davidson, and Mary was a longtime member of town book club The Tuesday Club. She gave a lecture on the history of religion in Davidson at The Tuesday Club’s November 1959 meeting; a copy of this speech is in the club’s archival records. Ellen lived in New York City for many years and took a nursing training course at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, but moved back to Davidson and into the family home with her sister by the 1980s. Both sisters then moved to The Pines.
Mary Black was interviewed by Nelle McCorkle ’87 for The Davidsonian, which included some lively reflections on Davidson College and town in the 1910s and ’20s:
“While her brothers attended Davidson, Black and her family frequently entertained their student friends. ‘I’ve always lived with a whole lot of men here,’ she said. ‘Some called this the Kappa Sigma Hotel… One Sunday my brother said, ‘Who slept in the front room last night?’ I said, ‘I don’t know; I thought it was a friend of yours.’ He said, ‘I thought you knew him.’ Before dark, here came a friend of ours who said he wanted to thank his hosts. He said he just looked around ’til he found an empty bed and got in it.'”
Mary also gave some insight on what it was it was like for women to take classes at Davidson College while it was still a men’s college:
“Although her brothers all enrolled at Davidson (four graduated from Davidson; one graduated from North Carolina State University), Black never attended Davidson classes. She said of the college attitude toward women who asked to attend classes at that time, ‘It wasn’t very pleasant really. They didn’t give them any recognition – no diplomas, no certificates, some of the people in town went for two years and then went somewhere else. They couldn’t take all the courses – some of the professors just wouldn’t have girls in class.”
Perhaps the most interesting archival trace of the Black family are the records we have of Mary Black’s travels – Mary and fellow Davidsonian Mary Richards spent 1923-24 studying at Oxford and traipsing around Europe. Mary Richards attended Converse College, was an English teacher in Mocksville, Mebane, and Davidson. The two Marys sailed for England on October 6, 1923.
Mary Black later took trips to Canada and the western United States, and we have some ephemera from those travels as well. The Canadian trip included a visit to Boswell’s, “Canada’s First Brewery,” Quebec City, and Montreal. Her western trip spanned several states and included stops at the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and Yellowstone.
I chose Mary Black’s “Gingerale Fruit Salad” for two reasons – I felt it was time that I tackled a gelatin salad recipe since we have so many in our archival collections, and I was intrigued by the travel ephemera of Mary Black, so choosing her recipe allowed me to look further into her collection and her background.
The recipe was simple to follow – essentially, boil the juice and melt sugar and gelatin into it, then mix everything else together, place in a mold, and pop it in the fridge to set. I chose to use Whole Foods 365 ginger ale and Granny Smith apples, as those are my favorite types of soda and apples respectively and the recipe did not specify. I also used crystallized ginger in place of preserved ginger, since my coworker Sharon Byrd (Special Collections Outreach Librarian) had some crystallized ginger at home that she contributed to the cooking effort.
I am pleased with how the fruit salad turned out, although the next time I attempt a molded gelatin recipe, I will look into decorating it in a more traditional fashion. A bed of lettuce and some parsley in the center may have spruced up this effort, but Mary Black’s recipe did not give decoration instructions as some of the other recipes do. Overall, an easy gelatin recipe from a fascinating woman of Davidson’s past!
Each new academic year brings new faces to campus. This fall brought a new classroom building, the E. Craig Wall Academic Center. Faculty, staff and students are getting used to new classrooms, labs and offices. What once was plans on paper and computer screens is now a 3-dimensional space reshaping the look of the campus.
Not all building proposals have come into being as originally designed. Beginning with the original Chambers building, initial ideas shifted -altered by budgets and continued conversations about the best use of spaces.
In the case of Chambers, the building constructed was about 1/8 of the planned structure. The vision included a grand quad with spaces for Laundry Court and a Steward’s Court linked by a garden.
With the completion of the Wall Academic Center, work has begun on Martin Chemical building. Like Chambers, the current Martin is the second iteration of the building. Plans for the first Martin Chemical Laboratory were published in the class of 1899’s yearbook Narrative of the Nines (note: This only yearbook not to use the title Quips and Cranks. It only contains information about the senior class. )
The building constructed in 1901 looked a little different.
The plans for Johnston Gymnasium underwent similar smaller changes. The college produced a 16-page fund-raising booklet for the “New Gymnasium” focusing on the inadequacies of the existing gym facilities and the failure of 19 recent graduates to pass the the Marine Corps physical test. The building design was featured on a page that quoted an 28 March 1942 Atlanta Journal editorial under a headline “Davidson Will Be Next:”
Vanderbilt is following the lead of Harvard, Yale and other great Eastern universities in prescribing a mandatory course of physical training for the student body. Beginning Monday every matriculate, unless crippled or the victim of an organic weakness, must participate in calisthenics or competitive action. The program is similar to that which Harvard has worked out and will start on April 6.
Very different designs were on the table as the college looked to build a new library in the 1970s. The general footprint remained the same as architects played with arches and columns.
In the 1990s, the fund-raising prospectus for a new visual arts building imagined as a more of a complex.
The final version incorporated elements into one space.
Some plans, such as a garden near the Carolina Inn have never made it from sketches to revisions to construction so we can only imagine how they might look.