Who would guess that an artist born and bred on a Vermont farm would create some of the most iconic postcards of New York City? Rachael Robinson Elmer’s ground-breaking “Art-Lovers New York” postcard series is currently on exhibit at the Middlebury College Davis Family Library, on the upper level, through April 17th, 2015. The exhibition, on loan from Rokeby Museum and sponsored by Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives, presents all twelve cards, as well as biographical information, historical context, and the three postcards of London that originally inspired Rachael.
Rachael Robinson Elmer changed the aesthetic of American postcards. She pioneered the fine art city view card when her Impressionist paintings of popular scenes in her beloved New York City were produced as postcards by P. F. Volland in 1914. Her “Art Lover’s New York” cards were immediately copied by dozens of artists in New York and elsewhere.
Rachael Robinson Elmer was born at Rokeby to artist parents Rowland Evans and Anna Stevens Robinson in 1878. Her art education began before she had even started school and continued with a young people’s summer art program in New York City and later, at the Art Students League. She moved to New York as a young woman and commenced a successful career as a graphic artist. Rachael married businessman Robert Elmer in 1911 and died prematurely in February 1919 in the Spanish flu epidemic.
The Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives holds the extensive historical correspondence collection of the Robinson Family on long-term loan from Rokeby Museum. The books of Rachael’s father, Rowland E. Robinson, are part of the Abernethy Collection of American Literature and the Flander’s Ballad Collection. See our previous blog post, Reading Rowland Out Loud, for more on that.
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.
In our ongoing effort to digitize historical, fragile films, we discovered this unlabeled and undated film clip depicting a flood in East Middlebury:
Though we were confident that we got the location right because some of the buildings are still standing in East Middlebury, we weren’t sure about the date. Based in part on the vintage of the cars, we assumed the flood of 1927. To test out our theory, Joseph Watson shared the link on the Growing up in Addison County Facebook group and its 2,000+ members. As a result, we revised our initial date. Based on what evidence? First, about 52 seconds into the film clip, the camera captures a Green Mountain National Forest tool box. The Forest wasn’t established until 1932. And second, the trees in the film clip are full of leaves. The ’27 flood was in November (no leaves!) while the ’38 flood was in September. Eureka! The Facebook thread (as of December 1) is below:
Recently Paul Sommers, Paige-Wright Professor of Economics, stopped by the archives with an unusual item: he had purchased a “melody card” online, a paper phonograph record first manufactured in the 1930s, most notably on cereal boxes or as inserts in magazines.
Baseball Hall of Fame “record” post card.
His postcard reads: Play this record on the PHONOGRAPH, 78rpm speed manual. Prof. Sommers doesn’t have a record player that plays 78s, so he got in touch with the Giamatti Research Center of the Baseball Hall of Fame to see what was recorded on the card. That’s when the story gets interesting. They couldn’t tell him because they don’t hold a copy of the card in their vast collection of baseball memorabilia.
So, Prof. Sommers turned to Special Collections. Armed with a 78 rpm turntable and some audio software, we were able to play his postcard (click on the audio strip below to hear for yourself) :
Every now and then somebody throws us a curveball and we’re thrilled when we hit it out of the park. (Aren’t you glad we resisted the temptation to pepper this post with baseball lingo until the very end?) Play ball!
During a recent visit to the archives by Professor Ellie Gebarowski-Shafer’s Religion 130 class, The Christian Tradition, students plowed through 214 years of Middlebury College missionary history with College Archivist Danielle Rougeau. Amid the pages of 19th century cursive was this diary entry by Mary Martin, wife of a missionary to China and grandmother of Mabel Martin (later Mary Buttolph), Class of 1911. (Mary Martin is pictured below, circa 1865.)
After the death of her husband and a young son in China, Mary returned to Vermont by way of San Francisco. After 69 days at sea, she writes her last diary entry on May 21, 1965:
We were greatly shocked with the news we heard on our arrival this morning of the assassination of president Lincoln but very glad to learn that the war is over and that slavery is abolished.
Postscript: Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865. News traveled slowly in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Her mention of this news falls smack in the middle of the page below. To learn more about Middlebury missionaries, Mary Martin, or to cut your teeth on some 19th century cursive, visit Special Collections.
Well, to be specific, medieval paper was actually parchment, made from animal hides, rather than trees and literally all of our knowledge of the Middle Ages was preserved on skins made from calves, sheep, or goats. To better understand the chemistry, art, and labor of parchment, Middlebury College’s Special Collections & Archives, together with Professor Eliza Garrison’s Medieval Manuscripts seminar, hosted Jesse Meyer from Pergamena. Watch us scud a goatskin (remove stubborn hair from the skin) and wield a lunarium (a crescent-shaped blade) to remove the fat and flesh. Follow this link to read a longer article about our adventure in medieval life.
Our own Professor of Psychology at Middlebury College Barbara Hofer writes about the modern day iConnected Parent, constantly in contact with their College-bound kids through cell phones and Skype…well, the archives recently exposed something of a connected parent, but from over 80 years ago.
Here’s a letter from October 18, 1932. The mother of Charles Edward Stevenson, Jr., Class of 1936, writes to the Director of Admissions (scroll down for the full transcription):
I am writing you to find out if Charlie Stevenson is alright and if he is I want to know why he does not write his mother it will be to [sic] weeks Friday since I had any word from him I sent him his laundry and a little pocket money post office money order I am trailing that now to see if he cashed it. I know that boys are dilatory about writing sometimes but I never knew Charley Stevenson to do that before that is why I am worried about him if I do not get a letter from you I am going up there to find out what is going on.
Please answer write away
Very truly yours
Mrs C.E. Stevenson
One day later, Mrs. Stevenson received a typescript reply (again, transcribed below to help with the faded ink):
Dear Mrs. Stevenson,
Your letter of October 18th is at hand and I have seen your son this morning and sent you the following telegram: “Your son is well and says has written you today”. I trust that you received the wire promptly so that you have not had to worry longer as to your son’s welfare. He seemed to be in perfect health when I saw him this morning but said that he had been very busy for the last few days. As you know, the fraternity rushing has been going on for the last two weeks and the boys have little spare time, as a rule, during that period. I presume that your son had not realized how long a time has elapsed since he wrote you, but you will doubtless receive his letter right away, if it has not already reached you.