Author Archives: Rebekah Irwin

Director of Collections & Archives at the Middlebury College Libraries.

A “first-rate beer” voucher, 2,000 years overdue

In special collections, visitors often ask us, “What’s your most expensive item?” Or sometimes: “What’s the oldest thing you have?”

In late November, we acquired our newest, oldest thing: a baked clay tablet that originated in ancient Mesopotamia (current-day Iraq), from roughly 2,000 BCE. This small tablet (measuring just about 1 inch x 1 inch and pictured here) is incised with cuneiform script, considered to be one of the earliest forms of writing.


With the help of Middlebury alum Seth Richardson, Class of 1990, a historian of the ancient Near East at the University of Chicago, we’re learning more about our new acquisition. Likely in British and American hands since the early 20th century, our tablet is essentially a beer coupon. That’s right. Based only on preliminary examination, Dr. Richardson translated the first line: “3 liters of first-rate beer.”

And as it turns out, the Western tradition of beer brewing began in Mesopotamia between 3500 – 3100 BCE. How do we know? Largely from cuneiform tablets like ours, which contain detailed records around beer production, the delivery of raw materials (barley, yeast, bread, flour), and the trading of beer products. Like apple cider production in colonial New England, ancient Mesopotamians lacked clean water, but had an abundance of grains and the know-how needed to ferment them. And they had the earliest known written alphabet to boot.

Funds for the purchase of this item were gifted by Jeri Bapasola, French School, 1978.

References

Beer in the Ancient World.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Accessed December 3, 2015.

Damerow, Peter. “Sumerian Beer: The Origins of Brewing Technology in Ancient Mesopotamia.” Cuneiform Digital Library Journal, no. 2 (2012).

Prof. Shalom Goldman, guest DJ on WRMC’s Stacks & Tracks

Join us and our first guest DJ, Professor Shalom Goldman (Religion)

 

Episode #4, Stacks & Tracks, the Special Collections & Archives radio show, Monday, November 2, 9am-10am

 

Tune-in to hear a half-century of popular music, inspired by biblical stories.
With commentary, of course.

 

albumsbible

91.9FM | iTunes radio | listen online | on your phone

 

Bread Loaf menu options, from the Archives

In honor of the return of the 2015 faculty plenary meeting and lunch to the Bread Loaf campus, we have some recipes to share. Late this summer, Patti McCaffrey from Dining Services delivered a mildly corroded metal recipe box to the Archives. Uncovered during the Bread Loaf renovations, the box was likely the property of Alfleda De Gray, a longtime cook at the College and Bread Loaf. (Alfleda’s start day was July 1, 1945 and her last day was February 9, 1987. We’ll do the math: that’s forty-two years of feeding mouths at Middlebury and at Bread Loaf.) At the time, female cooks were responsible for cold salads, punches, and appetizers rather than main dishes, which were the territory of male cooks. We’re not sure what’s on the menu for this year’s lunch, but we offer a few options from Alfleda De Gray’s Bread Loaf recipe box: A “Thirst Inviting” dip; Wagon Wheel Cheese; and a Fruited Cheese Salad with lemon and strawberry gelatin. Enjoy!

Breadloaf-Recipe-Box-Dip-Thirst

Breadloaf-Recipe-Box-Wagon-Wheel

Breadloaf-Recipe-Box-Cheese-Salad

Clothing Guide 1944-45, from the Archives

For the 1944-45 school year, the Student Union published these handy HELPS AND HINTS as part of a clothing guide (for women). For example, “No Rubber Boots are to be worn to the dining-rooms, or to lectures and concerts unless the weather is very severe and there is no opportunity to change.” And don’t get us started on shorts. “Shorts are never to be worn in the dining rooms…they are never to be worn downtown unless one is going through town on a bicycle. Then don’t stop to shop or have a coke. Plan those shopping or coking expeditions for sometime when you don’t have shorts on.” Unless, of course, you remembered your leg make-up.


A13.studentunion.mcprimer1944-45.05
A13.studentunion.mcprimer1944-45.04

“Joseph Battell: A Centennial Appreciation,” a talk by David Haward Bain, Monday, February 23rd

Joe Battell, ca. 1860 -HSM, Stewart Papers, vol. 9

February 23, 2015 is the centennial of Joseph Battell’s death. Bread Loaf land baron (in his day the largest private landowner in Vermont), environmentalist, crusading newspaperman, Middlebury College alum (Class of 1860), trustee, philanthropist, novelist.

David Haward Bain presents an illustrated “magic lantern” talk on Joseph Battell’s life and works.

When: February 23, 2015, 4:30pm

Where: Abernethy Reading Room, The Axinn Center at Starr Library, Middlebury College

Refreshments will be served.

Sponsored by Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives, the Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest, the Environmental Studies Program, Middlebury History Department, and the Stewart-Swift Research Center, Henry Sheldon Museum.

David Haward Bain has taught creative writing and literature at Middlebury College for 28 years, and has been affiliated with the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference for 35 years since his first-book fellowship in 1980. His books include Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad, Bitter Waters: America’s Forgotten Naval Mission to the Dead SeaThe Old Iron Road: An Epic of Rails, Roads, and the Urge to Go West, and Sitting in Darkness: Americans in the Philippines, as well as The College on the Hill: A Browser’s History for the Bicentennial of Middlebury College and Whose Woods These Are: A History of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, 1926-1992.

Photo credit: Joseph Battell circa 1860. Courtesy of the Henry Sheldon Museum, Stewart-Swift Research Center

Winter Carnival Vintage Films Premiere and Hot Chocolate Bar, February 13

Recently rediscovered films in the College Archives from the 1940s will be shown for the first time in more than sixty years.

See Winter Carnival the way it was, before Gore-Tex and fiberglass: ski jumps on Chipman Hill, races at the Snow Bowl, aero-skijoring, and more.

When: Friday, February 13, 2015, 4:30 – 6pm

Where: McCullough Crossroads Cafe (The Juice Bar)

WintCarnCapture05

 

WintCarnCapture01

Sporty sweethearts, wishbones, and sausages: Vintage Valentines from the Archives

From Special Collection and Archives, drawn from our collection of American postcards and ephemera:

Valentine Golf
Valentine Thoughts
My heart’s a golf ball
for your “game”
You always with
me “score”
If I could only
win this “match,”
You’d “tease” my
heart no more.
© 1914

Valentine tennis

A Greeting to my Valentine
My heart goes
bounding o’er
the net,
A “lose game” we being,
Before another sun has set
I hope the game to win
© 1911


Valentine wishbone

I wish you knew 
a certain girl.
Her style is
indescribable.
Her manners really
are quite nice.
Her fortune quite
desirable.
Her portrait this: they
call it fine.
And she’s your own true Valentine.
Date unknown.

Valentine Baloney 2
Valentine Baloney 1

It’s NO BALONEY when I say I LOVE YOU!
(Postscript: Yes, that dog/butcher’s arm swings back and forth. Technically, it’s called a “mechanical card” and the hinge is original.)
Date unknown

Davis Library spring exhibit, “Before the Selfie: A Century of Student Portraits”

Our spring exhibit features photographic portraits of Middlebury students striking serious poses for the camera and at times, goofing off.

In other words, one hundred years of awe-inspiring facial hair, evolving fashion trends, and outdoor leisure pursuits.

a9pf.1864.hemenwayl.a

a9pf.1886.chellismb

How will you be remembered? Email a selfie to the Archives at specialcollections@middlebury.edu

…or Instagram #middleburyselfie

Instagram


 

Photo credit: Lewis Hemenway, Class of 1864, Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives and May Belle Chellis, Class of 1886.

“Joseph Battell: A Centennial Appreciation,” a talk by David Haward Bain, Monday, February 23rd

Joe Battell, ca. 1860 -HSM, Stewart Papers, vol. 9

February 23, 2015 is the centennial of Joseph Battell’s (Class of 1860) death. Bread Loaf land baron (in his day the largest private landowner in Vermont), environmentalist, crusading newspaperman, Middlebury College trustee, philanthropist, unreadable novelist, eccentric Joseph Battell left his stamp on his homeland.

David Haward Bain presents an illustrated “magic lantern” talk on Joseph Battell’s life and works.

When: February 23, 2015, 4:30pm

Where: Abernethy Reading Room, The Axinn Center at Starr Library, Middlebury College

Refreshments will be served.

Sponsored by Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives, the Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest, the Environmental Studies Program, Middlebury History Department, and the Stewart-Swift Research Center, Henry Sheldon Museum.

David Haward Bain has taught creative writing and literature at Middlebury College for 28 years, and has been affiliated with the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference for 35 years since his first-book fellowship in 1980. His books include Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad, Bitter Waters: America’s Forgotten Naval Mission to the Dead SeaThe Old Iron Road: An Epic of Rails, Roads, and the Urge to Go West, and Sitting in Darkness: Americans in the Philippines, as well as The College on the Hill: A Browser’s History for the Bicentennial of Middlebury College and Whose Woods These Are: A History of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, 1926-1992.

Photo credit: Joseph Battell circa 1860. Courtesy of the Henry Sheldon Museum, Stewart-Swift Research Center

Middlebury women take a snowy ride up to Ripton, ca. 1940s

In this clip, members of the Women’s Forum of Middlebury College load up holiday gifts into a truck parked behind Forrest Hall, en route to the Meeting House in Ripton, VT. Upon their arrival in Ripton, local children run (and slide, trudge, and sled) to meet them. The Middlebury women, joined by a costumed Santa, distribute their holiday gifts.

Established in 1937, the Women’s Forum was itially organized to further interest in economic, political, and social issues of the day. In 1944 the group merged with the Student Action Assembly to focus on social and service work. This clip dates likely dates from the early to mid 1940’s.

Happy holidays from Special Collections & Archives.