Then and Now

An offer to provide a brief history of a newly renovated building on campus provided the perfect invitation to do a little visual comparisons.  The newly renovated building started life as a post office and now houses IT staff.

Mail time in the 1960s

Mail time in the 1960s.

Students traditionally filed over at 11am to pick up their mail.  The 1958 post office boasted air conditioning – with a unit visible in the upper left.   To get in all the boxes for students and towns people, narrow halls were necessary.

Newly renovated space for IT

Newly renovated space for IT

No narrow halls now. Instead the floor plan offers flexible spaces, brighter colors and we hope better air conditioning.  Coming back, it made sense to check out changes in the library.

Little Library main floor

Little Library main floor

Opened in 1974, the library featured display cases and shelves of books and magazines as well as study tables.

Little Library main floor in 2017

Little Library main floor in 2017

In 2017, the library still has magazines but they share space with dvds. There are fewer book shelves and more computers.

Library's social study space in 1977

Library’s social study space in 1977

Students could chose between a balcony overlook or getting closer to the windows.  President’s portraits overlooked the students.

Same space in 2017

Same space in 2017

Newer furniture — some of it on wheels. White boards and new art on the walls compete with the views and computer cords drape across it all.

The view out this window has changed with the new Wall Academic Center.

Dave Grant teaches in the dogwood dell outdoor classroom

Dave Grant teaches in the dogwood dell outdoor classroom

Instead of a spread of dogwood trees and a circle of benches, students now have an urban-vibe terrace between the wings of the Wall Center.

Davidson goes urban

Davidson goes urban

The view from the front of the library changed as well. Richardson plaza has art while the landscaping by large planters has given way to open spaces.

Low-key version of the plaza

Low-key version of the plaza

A more formal plaza

A more formal plaza

Dogwoods tried to thrive in these planters but mostly didn't

Dogwoods tried to thrive in these planters but mostly didn’t.

Fewer bricks, more grass

Fewer bricks, more grass

The new building has special features including a “green” wall with living plants but in some ways, even with new technology, science labs look like science labs.

Science in the mid-20th century

Science in the mid-20th century

21st century lab - just beginning to be used.

21st century lab – just beginning to be used.

The new building did have a major change reflecting student choices. Students aren’t drinking well water these days but they are carrying a variety of water bottles everywhere.

Drinking fountain circa 1924

Drinking fountain circa 1924

Fountain with water bottle filling option

Fountain with water bottle filling option

Finally, what about leisure time? — Couches are still popular and TV’s got bigger

Ovens Union lounge

Ovens Union lounge

Alvarez Union lounge area

Alvarez Union lounge area

–But table tennis and foosball are still nearby.

Max Beerbohm

The Happy Hypocrite

The Happy Hypocrite

MaxBeerbohm was born on August 24, 1872 in London, and is noted for both his wit and his talent as a caricaturist.
His only art classes were those he took under “Mr. Wilkinson” in the day school he attended between 1881 and 1885. He attended Merton College, Oxford, and there met Oscar Wilde who introduced him to other literary and artistic figures of the time. He was not a great student, and left Oxford in 1894 without getting a degree, but he had by then already made a name for himself as a humorist. One of his pieces of fiction, The Happy Hypocrite is represented in the holdings of the Rare Book Room.

The Happy Hypocrite, by Max Beerbohm. New York: The John Lane Company [1915]. Gift of Dr. H.M. Marvin.

The Happy Hypocrite

The Happy Hypocrite

While at Oxford, “Max” as he signed his drawings, began being known for his caricatures, done in pen or pencil with watercolor tinting. Thirty-six of his drawings were published by the Strand Magazine in 1892. In 1913 The Times called him “the greatest of English comic artists,” and his caricatures were widely published in magazines and exhibited in galleries. Collections of his caricatures are located in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; the Tate Collection; The Victoria and Albert Museum; and the University of California. The Rare Book room is fortunate to have some of his volumes of caricatures including:

A Peep into the Past Title Page

A Peep into the Past
Title Page

A Peep into the Past facsimile

A Peep into the Past
facsimile

A Peep into the Past, by Max Beerbohm. [New York: M. Harzof], 1923. Facsimile of the manuscript followed by the printed text. Limited edition of 300 copies printed on Japanese vellum. Gift of Dr. H.M. Marvin.

A Survey, by Max. London: W. Heinemann [1921]. First edition, limited to 275 numbered and signed copies. 51 tipped-in mounted plates of caricatures in half-tone. Our copy is number 4. Gift of Dr. & Mrs. Richard Huddleston.

from A Survey "I do wonder what the young gentleman saw in me!"

from A Survey
“I do wonder what the young gentleman saw in me!”

A Survey

A Survey

Limited edition info and signature

Limited edition info and signature

From Things New and Old

From Things New and Old

Things New and Old Additional print

Things New and Old
Additional print

Things New and Old/ by Max Beerbohm. London: W. Heinemann, 1923. First edition, limited to 380 numbered and signed copies. Our copy is number 226. Gift of Dr. & Mrs. Richard Huddleston.

The Chameleon’s Color: The Story of a Short-Lived Student Literary Magazine

This week’s blog highlights a short-lived student-run literary magazine: The Chameleon. The Chameleon, which ran from 1926 through 1930, was born out of the Davidson Monthly, first published in 1870. In the 1880s the Monthly became Davidson College Magazine, and then morphed into The Chameleon in 1926.

The first issue of The Chameleon, May 1926.

The first issue of The Chameleon, May 1926.

The first issue, put out in May 1926, showed a magazine in transition – no single editor was named, but editorial duties were credited to the Blue Pencil Chapter of Sigma Upsilon, which was the local chapter of a southern literary society. By the November 1926 issue, Holcombe M. Austin (Class of 1927), who had had a short story published in that first Chameleon issue a few months prior, was installed as editor. Austin penned the first “Cham’s Colors” editorial, which explained the impetus behind the shift in the publication and its goals:

Last spring an alumnus, three years graduate, when he had finished reading the red-covered pamphlet, the ‘official, licensed magazine’, sent to him from his alma mater, commented, “Why the boys don’t believe in the kind of stuff that’s in here. This wild thing is just a half-baked imitation of the green-backed radical type of magazine. I know that the thinking men in The College aren’t in sympathy with this kind of thing.”

In attempting escape from the brand “collegiate” the college magazine has wandered afield, lost its way, and with that scarified its value as a student publication.

THE CHAMELEON would be otherwise, would be distinctly Davidson, distinctly student… CHAM wants on his pages the color of student opinion and thought.

Holcombe M. Austin's full editorial in the first issue of the new Chameleon, November 1926.

Holcombe M. Austin’s full editorial in the first issue of the new Chameleon, November 1926.

The Davidsonian covered the release of the December 1926 Cham in their December 16 issue, explaining that “various types of criticism received concerning the first number of this magazine have aided materially in molding the form of this edition.” The story went on to explain the recurring design scheme of The Chameleon:

The Chameleon will begin its policy of changing colors every issue with this edition. The cover of this number being a light blue, the name of the magazine and the usual cut being printed with dark blue ink and shaded with silver. This combination will make as striking an appearance as the jacket in which the first edition was enclosed.

The first three covers of the new run of The Chameleon, showing the repeated design.

The first three covers of the new run of The Chameleon, showing the repeated design.

The cover design of The Chameleon followed this pattern from November 1926 until February 1930. In the December 1936 issue, editor Holcombe M. Austin expanded upon the purpose of the magazine:

The cry of every college editor, the cry, for that matter, of every editor who pilots a magazine of literary pretensions, is for the distinctive, “the original.” Not that the bizarre or extreme is demanded, but when there comes to the editor’s desk a short story or essay through strangely characteristic style or curiousness of subject matter achieves the unusual, his heart is filled with gladness. He clasps the manuscript to his bosom and gives praise… CHAM is looking forward to spring raiment. Then, as now, color without, and so help him students, within!

After this editorial no others were published in the magazine until what would be its last issue in February 1930. In that issue, which also featured a new cover design, editor-in-chief Robert F. Jarratt (Class of 1930), explained the changes to the magazine and hinted at its uncertain future:

Ever faithful to the connotation of its name, the CHAMELEON again changes… During it’s life the CHAMELEON has the Quips and Cranks, and the Davidsonian, both grow to maturity. While the CHAMELEON instead of growing stronger with the passing years, has deteriorated with age…

For the past few years there have been constant changes in the CHAMELEON, all due to the efforts of the editor to strike upon a combination that will be pleasing to the members of the student body, and also reflect the best of student body literary efforts. What few changes that will be made this year, are only tentative efforts to hit upon this combination. Whether they are effective will be demonstrated by their performance.

The cover and editorial of the February 1930 issue.

The cover and editorial of the February 1930 issue.

Unfortunately, The Chameleon‘s redesign did not save it, and the February 1930 issue was its last. College humor magazines The Yowl and Scripts ‘N’ Pranks sprung up in 1935 and 1936 to fill the gap, and Davidson College was without a strictly literary student-run magazine until Hobart Park began in 1978.

Extracurricular

There’s an irony in the heading Extracurricular.  The Davidson Encyclopedia has 4 new entries on student extracurricular activities –in that they were written as curricular requirement. Students in a first year writing class on Leisure and Play spent weeks last fall learning about Davidson history through the lens of out of class experiences.

They worked in teams around 4 topics: honorary fraternities, independent student organizations,  oversight or coordinating boards, and political engagement.  Each group focused on a subset of organizations developing brief histories and sharpened their archival skills finding photographs and scanning Davidsonians.

The activity planning boards group wrote about the Interfraternity Council (once known as the Pan-Hellenic Council and now part of Patterson Court Council), the Publications (now Media Board) and the Union Board (still functioning as the Union Board).  They discovered stories of streaking and frolics, self-selection controversies and literary magazines.

Frolicing with flowcharts in 1992

Frolicing with flowcharts in 1992

Research around honorary fraternities focused on the sciences, economics and music with Sigma Pi Sigma, Gamma Sigma Epsilon and Omicron Delta Epsilon and Phi Mu Alpha. Unexpected stories uncovered for this group included Davidson’s role in publishing a chemistry journal (serious work but with a few chemical jokes added in),  our first female professor in economics,  outdoors experiments on Chambers lawn, and the tradition of interfraternity sings.

ODE in 1966

ODE in 1966

Changes in student social life and service activities in the 21st century made some of the experiences of around independent student groups intriguing for our student researchers. Anyone remember Lingle Manor, Alpha Phi Omega or any of the co-ed eating houses:

Lingle Manor the building, home once to Lingle Manor, the student organization.

Lingle Manor the building, home once to Lingle Manor, the student organization.

Today’s students found more in common with the political and social groups. Although only one group, the College Republicans, still exists, the concerns of the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and Just Peace continue in new expressions.

20021204_001

You are invited to explore these new encyclopedia entries and the intersection of the history of extracurricular life and current writing curriculum.

Revolution, 1967 and 2017

Revolution 2017, a multidisciplinary campus-wide initiative that focuses on revolution, broadly conceived, marks the 100th anniversary year of the Bolshevik Revolution. As we begin a year of courses and events related to revolution, let’s look back at a campus visit from a Russian embassy staff member 50 years ago.

In February 1967, Davidson invited Dr. Alexi Stepunin, then first secretary of the cultural division of the Soviet Embassy in D.C. to campus. In many ways, Dr. Stepunin’s visit was revolutionary – he was an campus to discuss the Russian Revolution, and his presence at Davidson was in opposition to the North Carolina Speaker Ban.

An article in the February 3, 1967 Davidsonian announces Stepunin's visit.

An article in the February 3, 1967 Davidsonian announces Stepunin’s visit.

The ban, in effect from 1963 to 1968, prevented state supported colleges and universities from inviting speakers who were “known member[s] of the Communist Party;” “known to advocate the overthrow of the constitution of the United States or the state of North Carolina;” had plead “the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States in refusing to answer any question, with respect to communist or subversive connections, or activities, before an duly constituted legislative committee, any judicial tribunal, or any executive of administrative board of the United States or any state.” While Davidson College, as a private college, was not subject to this law, Davidson faculty members strongly opposed the law and made their opinions publicly known by authoring a position paper.

Draft of the Speaker Ban as H.B. 1395, 1963.

Draft of the Speaker Ban as H.B. 1395, 1963.

This paper, put out by the Davidson College AAUP (American Association of University Professors) stated why the faculty felt the ban would have a negative impact even on schools not bound to follow it:

“Our opposition to this law is permanent, and it is strictly a grass-roots operation… it needs to be stressed in this connection that a great part of our concern lies in the fact that this law endangers the quality of private institutions as well as public ones. To take Davidson College as a case in point, her vitality depends in a number of ways upon the quality of the state University, as is evidenced by the fact that nearly a fourth of our faculty has advanced degrees from this University.”

Statement before the Governor's Commission on the Speaker Ban Law, Davidson College AAUP, September 9, 1965.

Statement before the Governor’s Commission on the Speaker Ban Law, Davidson College AAUP, September 9, 1965.

The Davidson faculty had other concerns besides the special relationship between UNC and Davidson – as the statement goes on to explain:

“The law is harmful to the University in another way as well. The free flow of ideas is inherently bound up in the very functioning of the University. The law does inhibit the free flow of ideas, else there would have been no reason for its passage in the first place. Thus the second hard fact of the matter is that the law not only demoralizes the faculty; it directly impedes the efficiency of their educational effort.”

Jesse Helm's reaction to the Davidson AAUP statement,

Jesse Helm’s reaction the conversations going on at Davidson, January 26, 1965.

Jesse Helms, then Executive Vice President at WRAL-TV and later a long-serving U.S. Senator, did not much like the rumblings emanating from Davidson College. He focused one of his WRAL-TV editorials on the faculty:

“Something over a week ago, there came from the campus of Davidson College the beginning gurgles of what no doubt will shortly be a river of pious nonsense swirling around the ankles of North Carolina legislature. The one-track minds of another group pf college professors had produced another resolution condemning the state law which bans communist speakers from state-owned college campuses… Davidson College was a poor place for this season’s flood of screwball resolutions to begin.”

It was into this environment that Alexi Stepunin stepped when he visited Davidson early in 1967. His main address while on campus discussed the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution and provided a “historical outline” of the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1967.

The February 10, 1967 issue of The Davidsonian covered Stepunin's visit in three short stories on the front page.

The February 10, 1967 issue of The Davidsonian covered Stepunin’s visit in three short stories on the front page.

We too will be looking back at 1917 this year, as well as many other revolutions before and since as the Revolution 2017 initiative spans across multiple courses and public events. May the courage of the 1960s Davidson faculty in defending the “free flow of ideas” within education guide our actions this year!

The Golden Cockerel Press – First Books

Golden Cockerel logoThe Golden Cockerel Press was established in London in 1920. It had three owners during its history, but the most notable was Robert Gibbings, under whose leadership it became known as one of the fine private presses. Beautiful typefaces, handmade paper, woodcuts and engraved illustrations…all are represented in our Golden Cockerel Press editions, and Davidson can thank Dr. Harold Marvin, class of 1914, for donating to us many of the beautiful limited edition volumes he collected. Here are images of the first 9 volumes from the press, printed from 1921-1922, all from our collection.
The Golden Cockerel Press’s first printed volume was A. E. Coppard’s Adam & Eve & Pinch Me.

Adam & Eve. The first book of the GCP

Adam & Eve.
The first book of the GCP

Terpsicore & Other Poems

Terpsicore & Other Poems

Book number two was Terpischore & other poems by H.T. Wade-Gery.

Signs & Wonders

Signs & Wonders

Signs & Wonders, by John Davys Beresford, was book number three.

Number four, another work by A.E. Coppard, was Clorinda Walks in Heaven.

Clorinda Walks in Heaven.

Clorinda Walks in Heaven. Dust Jacket.

Clorinda Walks in Heaven.
Dust Jacket.

Book number five was Kanga Creek, written by Havelock Ellis. Our copy is signed by the author.

Kanga Creek, with author's signature.

Kanga Creek, with author’s signature.

The Puppet Show, title page.

The Puppet Show, title page.

Puppet Show, Golden Cockerel’s book number six, was written by Martin Armstrong. Another A. E. Coppard book was publication number seven, Hips & Haws: Poems.

Hips & Haws, cover.

Hips & Haws, cover.

Hips & Haws, title page.

Hips & Haws, title page.

Another book of poetry, number eight, was Gipsy-night, and other poems, by Richard Arthur Warren.

Gipsy night.

Gipsy night.

Masques & Poems.

Masques & Poems.

And, book number nine, was Masques and Poems by Peter Quennell.

Shared Stories

Shared Stories is the final name of a special project funded through an NEH Common Heritage grant.  Over the course of 2016, it has had several titles but now as the project is wrapping up, we’ve settled on this name.  On Saturday, January 14, 2017, we’ll be holding a special event to celebrate those who have shared their family stories, photographs, scrapbooks and more.  To date, we’ve gathering over 8 hours of oral histories and have several more scheduled in the coming weeks and scanned over 1,700 pages of documents.  We’ll have speakers sharing their stories (journalist Bea Thompson and Rev. Chris Springs), gospel music, and exhibits.  This Around the D will share some of the memories from the oral histories and some of the documents.

Davidson resident Marjean Torrence wrote a weekly column for the Mecklenburg Gazette detailing activities within the African-American communities in Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson. Many of her columns also were included in scrapbooks.

Gloria Kerns at opening of her shop on South Main Street in Davidson.

Gloria Kerns at opening of her shop on South Main Street in Davidson.

This ad came from the Davidson Monthly almost a century before Torrence's column.

This ad came from the Davidson Monthly almost a century before Torrence’s column.

 

I graduated from nursing school in 1956. Then after that, I worked at Good Samaritan school for 2 years, on the medical unit. After that, I changed jobs and went to the Physical Rehabilitation Institute in Charlotte and worked there. . . I worked rehab for 36 years. I changed different positions there and my last 15 years at rehab I was in nursing administration. And I did some family education during that time at rehab with families and physically handicapped patients. That was really rewarding. The whole time I was there I enjoyed it, you were always learning something different, some new from working with those people. Erving McClain

A day in Ralph Johnson's barbershop.

A day in Ralph Johnson’s barbershop.

I heard that Mr. Johnson had a opening, so I came here in ’57 and started working for him. . .And then in ’70, I got a job in Charlotte as a salesman, selling cars. Worked there for six and a half years. Ray Skidmore American Motors. Five and have years and then a year in Gastonia, that was in the middle seventies and the economy got bad, the gas prices. And I said, “well, I’m going back to the barber shop.” .. I didn’t keep my license renewed, so I went back to renew the license and I started at Potts Barber Shop in Cornelius and worked there for a number of years; 22 years. And it was good for me, good to me there, too. I enjoyed working with Mr. Potts over there. Seven years ago, in ’93, I decided to come over here and get my own shop. That’s when Norton went out of business. The way it got started was, Mr. Knox came over and said, “Raeford, I’ve got a place available, you would be interested?” I said “Nah,” I wasn’t even going to think about it. And then he said, “Norton’s going out of business,” and I said, “It might be good for me.” And I went by a few days later and we made a deal that same day to get this place.”  James Raeford

I even worked for Davidson College. In the library in the serials and documents. That’s in the early 70s. I had worked at the bank, Piedmont Bank and Trust in Davidson. I was one of the first blacks, really I was the first black they hired at Piedmont Bank and Trust. Peggy Rivens

Yearbook staff in 1966 for Torrrence-Lytle School - copies of the yearbooks were loaned for scanning.

Yearbook staff in 1966 for Torrence-Lytle School – copies of the yearbooks were loaned for scanning.

When I was in school this was grades one through four. The fifth and sixth grades were somewhere, and seventh and eighth, I don’t really know where. In ’53, they added another wing to Huntersville Colored School, and in ’53-54 it became Torrance-Lytle in honor of the men who had lobbied so hard to the county commissioners of Mecklenburg County to obtain a school, because before, if you wanted to further your education from the sixth grade, you had to attend a boarding school in another city, like Salisbury or Kannapolis or Concord.  Bee Jay Caldwell

 

Notice published in the Mecklenburg Gazette in 1965

Notice published in the Mecklenburg Gazette in 1965

The courses were reading, writing, arithmetic. Oh, one thing the teachers did try to do was to provide some activities for us. You know how your parents want to come see you perform, so we had plays  We had a choir, we had a dance group, we had May Day outside. The higher students, they had oratorical contests. Frances Beale

But one thing, that in the winter time children had to walk so far, when they got to the room their fingers would be almost frozen. The bus, the white bus would pass them, they would be walking. I resent, at an early age I resented getting second-hand books. They would take the books from the white school and send them here. Fortunately, I was helping all the teachers because I was just in the community and I was the first to see the books so I got a good book. But I didn’t like that, I just resented getting those second-hand books. It was very hard for me to deal with. Frances Beale

Sports at Torrence-Lytle – We had some of our equipment from the College, they gave us their used equipment. We had to buy shoes. They gave us their pants. We had a baseball team, we had a basketball team and we had a pretty fair team [given] the conditions. We didn’t have a gym. We didn’t have one in Davidson and we didn’t have one in Huntersville. So if it rained, the game was cancelled. The ground was so wet you couldn’t practice. We had a track team, and my first year at Huntersville, he guy came there from the agricultural department. We hauled grass and dirt to make the fields. Theodore Wilson

Early African-American baseball team from North Mecklenburg

Early African-American baseball team from North Mecklenburg

There was a movie [theater] in Cornelius we’d go to. There wasn’t much fun, you made  your fun yourself.  [Churches] used to have fried fish picnics and picnics on May Day, ball games, and that was fun. Susie Lowery

Hood Norton and family

Hood Norton and family

I remember asking my mother why did she cooked so much on Sundays. And she said, well if anyone comes by we’ll have enough to share with them. She was from a family of, I think, 7 sisters and one sister had 9 or 10 children. That’s where we could end up on Sundays a lot of the time, out in the country. No matter who came there was always enough food for everybody. She go in and pull out another jar and open it up. I remember them canning. I remember my dad having a small garden and my granddad. My granddad, I remember them killing pigs, killing hogs. Verdie Torrence

We had picnics. We had to be industrious because there was no outlet for us. We were relegated to the east side of the railroad track, so we had picnics and camp meetings. The reason we did this was because we had to have some source of joy and fun to release the anxiety and tensions that we had, and so we had that. And people became entrepreneurs. You soon learned that if you were going to have a picnic, you had to have somebody to sell the fish, hot dogs and drinks, for popcorn and for somebody to take the twenty-five cent photographs. Bee Jay Caldwell

If you want to know more, in the coming weeks, transcripts and copies of the scanned images will be online on the Shared Stories website. We are grateful to all who have been interviewed and who shared their photographs and documents to ensure that these stories are preserved and shared.

 

Snow! Or a Seasonal Picture Post

While snow is a somewhat rare occurrence in Davidson, it remains an exciting time for the entire college community. This week, let’s take a look at Davidson College dusted with snow throughout the years:

Snowy Main Street in Davidson, March 1915.

Snowy Main Street in Davidson, March 1915.

Three students clear walkways on rails pulled by horses, circa 1915.

Three students clear walkways on rails pulled by horses, circa 1915.

A lone figure walks past Dana Science Building, 1969.

A lone figure walks past Dana Science Building, 1969.

An unknown man leads a burro through the snow near Cunningham, December 1971.

A student leads a burro through the snow near Cunningham, December 1971.

A student walks near Elm Row, December 1971.

A student walks near Elm Row, December 1971.

Two students play in the snow in front of Cunningham, circa 1975.

Two students play in the snow in front of Cunningham, circa 1975.

A snowman in front of Chambers, 1977.

A snowman in front of Chambers, 1977.

The Presidents House looks picturesque in the snow, date unknown.

The Presidents House looks picturesque in the snow, date unknown.

Two students walk near Chambers, 1987.

Two students walk near Chambers, 1987.

A Davidson Wildcat made out of snow! Martin Science Building, circa 1980s.

A Davidson Wildcat made out of snow! Martin Science Building, circa 1980s.

Two students engage in a rowdy snow fight, 1987.

Two students engage in a rowdy snow fight, 1987.

A student works on a snow-cat - possibly the same large one in front of Martin, 1987.

A student works on a snow-cat – possibly the same large one in front of Martin, 1987.

We hope Davidsonians near and far are enjoying their winter!

Open Houses

Late December and early January are popular times for open house events. Time was at Davidson when open house meant not a holiday party but student-faculty gatherings.

Anne Sampson recalled inviting students to “dinner or to supper and play “Authors” afterwards–We got a little organ and they came Sunday evenings to sing from supper time till Church– In this way we wanted every boy in College at least once or twice a year.” From these informal evenings in the 1880s, a pattern later emerged of students calling on faculty on Sunday evenings after the college’s weekly vesper service.  Faculty wives would prepare light snacks and students would wind their way to professors’ home for a time of light conversation.

By 1946, the practice had been formalized and written on the weekly vespers pew sheet:

Vespers program 17 March 1946

Vespers program 17 March 1946

The last item on the program reads: The following will be “At Home” to the students after the service: Professors Reid, Shewmake, Thies, Vowles, Watts, Wood, Shepard, Davidson.  Weekly at homes eventually shifted to faculty being divided into groups with each group assigned a specific Sunday of the month to play host in their homes. One group would always host on the first Sunday, another on the second, etc.

In the spring of 1966, the college’s social fraternities took tried an experiment with open houses.  They offered to host faculty once a month on a Sunday evening. Three fraternities opened each month and sent invited specific faculty. The Inter-Fraternity Council sent out a detailed memo:

IFC plan for fraternity open houses

IFC plan for fraternity open houses

The memo explained: During the second semester the social fraternities would like to reciprocate your hospitality by hold open houses once a month on the fraternity court in addition the regularly scheduled open houses after vespers on Sunday night. Three of the fraternity houses will be open at the same time, and you and your wives will be invited to attend at least once during the semester. All interested students will be invited as well.

IFC plan for fraternity open houses

IFC plan for fraternity open houses

 

Faculty were also informed that they could visit all three of the open houses on their Sunday evening but were asked “that you start at the house which sent you an invitation.”

First Open House notice printed in Davidson on 18 February 1966

First Open House notice printed in Davidson on 18 February 1966

The project worked for that semester but the following fall, vesper attendance became optional and open house attendance dropped considerably as well. A Special Committee on Religion addressed the issue by recommending that “for November, December, and January faculty members wishing to entertain students should personally extend the invitation to classes or other interest groups.” And further, Sundays were optional, “Rather than on any designated day the visits will be at times mutually convenient to the professor and the students he has invited.”  The committee offered yet another innovation–modest financial support of up to $25 funded through the Dean of Students.

A vestige of this tradition remains during commencements with academic departments hosting students and their families and, of course, the practice of faculty and staff hosting students in their homes throughout each semester.

Wilde, Ricketts, and The Sphinx

The Sphinx cover

The Sphinx cover

A collaboration between the writer, Oscar Wilde, and the artist, Charles Ricketts, produced one of the most beautiful volumes in our Rare Book Room collection, The Sphinx, published in 1894.

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, the son of a surgeon and a poet. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin and Magdalen College, Oxford, his literary career began with poetry he published as an undergraduate. During that time he also developed the dress and mannerisms which were to be associated with him for his entire life…that of a highly affected dandy…which were to be often caricatured. Originally a poet, he became more famous for his fairy tales (The Happy Prince and other Tales), his dramatic works (A Woman of Substance, Lady Windemere’s Fan, and The Importance of Being Ernest), and his only novel, (The Picture of Dorian Gray). His poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol was published in 1898, written after his incarceration in Reading Gaol on criminal offenses. Wilde’s works are known for their literary merit, but much of Wilde’s reputation also relates to his colorful life.

One of Wilde’s friends and collaborators was Charles Ricketts, a British painter, designer, sculptor, writer on art, and an important figure in the Vale Press, one of the finest private presses of the late 19th century. In 1894, their collaboration resulted in the publication of The Sphinx, a remarkable combination of text and design. The poem was written by Wilde, and designed and illustrated by Ricketts. It was published in a limited edition of 200 copies for England, on expensive hand-made paper, and bound in white vellum stamped in gold leaf. The text was printed entirely in capitals in red, brown, and green.

The Sphinx

The Sphinx

The Sphinx

The Sphinx

The Sphinx

The Sphinx

Illustrations used elements from the Celtic (in the first initials), from the Japanese (in the use of undecorated spaces), and of ancient Greek (in the figure drawing). Wilde intended for the book to be a special possession for a few, not for the general public, and was reported to have said “My first idea was to print only three copies; one for myself, one for the British Museum, and one for Heaven. I had some doubt about the British Museum.”

Thanks to Dr. H.M. Marvin, Davidson class of 1914, our Rare Book Room has one of those 200 special and beautiful copies.

The Sphinx

The Sphinx

The Sphinx

The Sphinx

The Sphinx / Oscar Wilde. With decorations by Charles Ricketts. London: E. Matthews and J. Lane, 1894. First Edition. One of 200 copies for Great Britain, printed on hand-made paper. Bound in white, gilt-stamped vellum with Ricketts’ monogram in the lower left-hand corners.