Author Archives: Samuel Cartwright

Honoring Mario Cooper, ’77, on World AIDS Day

To mark World AIDS Day we’re sharing this film clip from the 1976 promotional film Middlebury College, a Chance to Grow which profiled Political Science major and student activist Mario Cooper. After graduating in 1977, Cooper went on to earn a law degree and became a key figure in HIV/AIDS advocacy after becoming HIV positive and witnessing the disproportionate effects of the disease in the African American community.

Though it may have once seemed like an unassuming profile of a passionate student, the clip can now be appreciated as an early view into the work of a determined activist who would later become a prominent figure in civil rights and AIDS advocacy movements. The footage and narration also poignantly show Cooper enjoying college life and friendships in a time before the AIDS epidemic changed his life and that of those around him.

Mario Cooper died in 2015 while in hospice care in Washington, D.C. His New York Times obituary can be read here, and a tribute to his work as an activist can be read on POZ, the social network for people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

 

Graduation Traditions: Cane Ceremony

In the 1940s, a revival in interest in Gamaliel Painter, one of Middlebury’s founders and early benefactors, saw the birth of a new graduation tradition. During convocation ceremonies at Middlebury’s former Women’s College, graduates began passing down replicas of Painter’s cane to the junior class. Today, every Middlebury graduate receives such a replica to keep as a symbol of their alma mater and with which to tap along when “Gamaliel Painter’s Cane” is sung at reunion.

This compilation of 16mm film footage from the college archives shows the cane-passing ceremony as part of convocation processions in the 1940s held behind Forest Hall.

 

Find out more about the story of Painter’s cane and its place in Middlebury history in The Story of Middlebury’s Cane Tradition a video created by the College’s own Chris Spencer, Stephen Diehl, Benjamin Savard ’14, and Matthew Lennon ’13.

 

Graduation Traditions: Pipe Smoking

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Two graduates eagerly take part in Middlebury’s bygone pipe smoking tradition

Just as coming across full page ads for Chesterfield cigarettes used to be part and parcel of reading the latest edition of The Campus, pipe smoking was once a traditional part of Middlebury’s graduation festivities. Dating back to at least the 1920s during the “Class Day” activities that preceded commencement, graduates would gather outside to take puffs on long white pipes (sometimes lit by proud parents) before heading off to the alumni barbecue.

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Pipe-smoking graduates in 1942

This compilation of 16mm film footage from the College Archives captures the pipe smoking tradition from the late 1920s to mid-40s. Although even those graduates who coughed through the smoke appear to have had a swell time, the annual tradition eventually ended in what we can only assume was the interest of public health.

 

 

Mead Chapel Centenary: Then & Now Pt. II

In celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the completion of Mead Chapel and Hepburn Hall, Special Collections presents a series of posts featuring interactive before-and-after imagery of these Middlebury icons.

Below is an interactive slider with images of Mead from the archives (tap or drag the bar to the right and left to slide between images). The before image was taken in 1942 while the after image shows the chapel and the surrounding (or should we say obscuring) landscape as it looks today.

 

A new 48-rank chamber organ was installed in Mead Chapel in 1970 after the condition of the original had deteriorated beyond repair. Music director Emory Fanning recalled that at the start of one performance on the dilapidated instrument, 12-inch blue flames had shot out of the motor before it was turned off, a prayer for the dead was recited, and it was turned back on for the remainder of the performance — which continued without a hitch.

The interactive slider below shows the dramatic presence that the new organ holds in Mead, having covered up the window above the altar. The before image is a 1919 postcard showing the interior of the chapel while the after image shows how it looks today. Other changes include balcony seating and updated lighting fixtures.

 

Sources
The Organ in the Chapel.” Middlebury College News Letter, July 1, 1969.
A12 PF Mead 1942 02,  Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College
A12 PF Mead 1919 01,  Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College

Mead Chapel Centenary: Then & Now

In celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the completion of Mead Chapel and Hepburn Hall, Special Collections presents a series of posts featuring interactive before-and-after imagery of these Middlebury icons.

Built with the help of a $60,000 donation from former governor Dr. John Mead to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his graduation from Middlebury in 1864, Mead Chapel was dedicated on June 18th, 1916 and marked “the completion of two years’ work and its entrance into the history of Middlebury as a meeting place for religious worship by faculty and students.”

Below is an interactive slider with images of Mead from the archives (tap or click on the bar to slide between images). The before image comes from the scrapbook of Arthur Thomas Vaughn, Class of 1917, and shows scaffolding around the spire. The after image is a 1916 postcard marking the completion of the chapel.

 

Sources:

Stameshkin, David M. 1985. The Town’s College: Middlebury College, 1800-1915. Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College Press.

Dedication of Mead Memorial Chapel.” The Middlebury Campus, June 21, 1916.

S6 Scrapbooks Box 92, Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College.

A12 PF Mead 1916 02,  Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College.

 

Solar eclipse of the Archives, 1808

With a Middlebury College Observatory Open House Night scheduled for this Friday, May 29th from 9:00PM-10:30PM, we’re looking to the stars and sharing more astronomical history from the archives.

 

On June 16, 1808 a total eclipse of the sun cast a shadow across much of the northeastern United States, including the town of Mansfield, Connecticut. Known as “Tecumseh’s Eclipse” for the role it played in the Shawnee chief’s efforts to form a tribal confederacy, this astronomical event would have been visible to sixteen-year-old Mansfield native Samuel Mosely. Mosely went on to study at Middlebury College where in 1817, he made an annotated drawing of the eclipse with detailed notes on its timing and geometry:

Illustration of the June 16, 1806 total solar eclipse by Samuel Mosely, Class of 1818. Dated May 28, 1817.
Illustration of the June 16, 1806 total solar eclipse by Samuel Mosely, Class of 1818. Dated May 28, 1817.

After graduating in 1818, Mosely, like many early Middlebury graduates, became a missionary. He died in 1834 while working among the Choctaw Indians in Mississippi.

 

Romance of the Skies: Middlebury College Observatory

In 1936, Middlebury chemistry professor John Haller spent three months grinding a 12.5 inch parabolic mirror which he donated to the College under the condition that an observatory be built on the knoll north of Pearsons Hall.  A simple frame was soon constructed and the mirror was installed in a 10-foot-long Newtonian telescope under a dome built by Guatemalan amateur astronomer A. R. Ibarguen.

Astronomy had been studied at Middlebury since the early 1800s when the Old Chapel cupola served as an observatory. Upon its completion in 1937, the new observatory hosted weekly meetings of an extra-curricular course called Romance of the Skies which combined celestial observation with lectures on the history of astronomy and mythology of the constellations.

This recently rediscovered 16mm film reel in the College archives shows unique interior and exterior shots of the observatory as well as students using sextants near Wilson Hall.

Despite these promising beginnings, by 1970 the observatory was little-used and had fallen into disrepair. Settling of the foundation made rotating the leaky dome difficult and wasps had built nests in the barrel of the telescope. But interest in astronomy was growing at Middlebury after the recent successes of NASA’s Apollo program and the building was refurbished. Professor Heller’s original mirror and other optical instruments had thankfully been safely stored away from colonizing wasps and were reinstalled.

Although Middlebury’s octagonal dome on the hill was torn down to make way for the construction of McCardell Bicentennial Hall, a new observatory was built atop that same science center and has been serving stargazing students, faculty, and the public since 2001.

Be sure to visit the Middlebury College Observatory during one of their Open House Nights this spring to get your own glimpse into the Romance of the Skies.

 

Sources

Prof. John Haller Builds Telescope and Observatory.” The Middlebury Campus, January 27, 1937.

Star Gazing.” Middlebury College News Letter, March 1, 1937.

Would You Try to Reach Jupiter with a Rig Like This?Middlebury College Newsletter, Jul 1, 1971.

 

The Ski-Minded College: Winter Carnival 1950

This clip from a recently rediscovered College promotional film produced in 1950 shows how students at “one of the most ski-minded of American colleges” took advantage of all that a Vermont winter has to offer. The dulcet narration guides us through a tour of the Snow Bowl and introduces us to the Winter Carnival, “the highlight of the year, [in which] fine competitive skiing is combined with the tops in social events.” The clip also captures student broadcasters just a few months after the founding of WMCRS, the college radio station that has gone by the call letters WRMC since 1952.

Be sure to join Special Collections on February 26 during the Winter Carnival in Crossroads Cafe as we present a special screening of newly-discovered films from the college archives (follow us on Facebook or check the Carnival schedule for an exact time). Spanning the 1920s to 1950s, this assortment of sound and silent footage captures the full range of Middlebury’s historic wintertime fun— from synchronized skiing to cigarette pack snow sculptures!

 

Sources

College Stations Changes Name.” The Middlebury Campus, October 9, 1952.

Lemcke, Ted, “WRMC Elects New Board; Plans to Enlarge ScheduleThe Middlebury Campus, May 16, 1957.