Tag Archives: Special Collections

Catherine Emma Robbins, A Long Trail-blazer

In honor of the inauguration of Laurie L. Patton as the seventeenth president on Sunday, October 11, 2015, Special Collections & Archives will feature remarkable women from the College’s history in eight temporary exhibits spread across campus, now through October 5th. Catherine Emma Robbins can be found in the Virtue Field House and in Atwater Dining Hall.

Catherine Robbins Long Trail 2
The Three Musketeers on the Long Trail at Hazens Notch (left to right Catherine Robbins, Hilda Kurth, and Kathleen Norris)

Four years after graduating from Middlebury College in 1923, Cornwall, Vermont, native Catherine Emma Robbins became the first woman to hike the Long Trail in its entirety—without a male guide. She, along with her two companions—Hilda Kurth, who fled to the mountains to avoid a man who wanted to marry her, and Kathleen Norris, who, despite her father’s death, resolved to make the trip on her own—made headlines across the country as “The Three Musketeers.” Robbins’ motto for the trip, “The Musketeers must get there!,” embodies the camaraderie and drive that inspired her both as a hiker on the Long Trail and as a three-sport athlete and Theta Chi Epsilon sorority member at Middlebury.

After the hike, she continued teaching in Vermont high schools. She died at age 97 but not before her two granddaughters, Cara Clifford Nelson and Amity Clifford [Robichaud] reprised the hike in 1997, seventy years after Robbins blazed the trail, raising funds for the Green Mountain Club’s Long Trail Protection Campaign.


Catherine Robbins yearbook
Catherine Robbins’ Yearbook Photo 1923
The 1924 Long Trail Guidebook used by Robbins on her hike with her notes, provided by granddaughter Cara Nelson 
Catherine Robbins Clifford with granddaughters Amity Robichaud and Cara Nelson, (and a Middlebury poster in the background). Photo provided by Cara Nelson
Final page in Catherine Robbins’ Long Trail scrapbook; provided by Cara Nelson

Davis Library Fall atrium exhibit: Old Friends and New: Writers in Nature, 1847-2000

Two new exhibits have cropped up in the library this week – “Old Friends and New: Writers in Nature, 1847-2000” in the atrium and “Reading Nature” in the lower level Harman Reading Room. Both feature books that explore literary and scientific human interaction with the environment to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Environmental Studies at Middlebury College.


The main floor exhibit “Old Friends and New” contains books and archives produced by authors deeply rooted in the natural world.

From Henry David Thoreau to John Freidin, this collection showcases the importance of nature as it exists outdoors as well as within the minds and pages of these authors.

John Muir and John Burroughs, 1909
RERobinson in woods
Artist, naturalist, and writer Rowland Evans Robinson (1833-1900)

















Title page, Julia Butterfly Hill's The Legacy of Luna, 2000
Title page, Julia Butterfly Hill’s The Legacy of Luna, 2000

Davis Library Fall lower level exhibit: Reading Nature

Two new exhibits have cropped up in the library this week – “Old Friends and New: Writers in Nature, 1847-2000” in the atrium and “Reading Nature” in the lower level Harman Reading Room. Both feature books that explore literary and scientific human interaction with the environment to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Environmental Studies at Middlebury College.

brown pear signs less text“Reading Nature” on the lower level of the library features books by scientists, botanists, naturalists, artists, and poets from the beginning of the 18th century to the 20th century. Each captures nature in a new way, redrawing the frames through which we understand the natural world.


Pages from Annie M Ward's "Notes on Botany," 1850-1860
Pages from Annie M Ward’s “Notes on Botany,” 1850-1860


"Cloud Crystals: A Snowflake Album Collected and Edited by a Lady" by Frances Chickering, 1864
“Cloud Crystals: A Snowflake Album Collected and Edited by a Lady” by Frances Chickering, 1864
Butterfly diagram from "The Aurelian" by Moses Harris, 1840
Butterfly diagram from “The Aurelian” by Moses Harris, 1840; Recent Gift of Julia Emerson, Class of 1965





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 DeGray, 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 DeGray’s Bread Loaf recipe box: A “Thirst Inviting” dip; Wagon Wheel Cheese; and a Fruited Cheese Salad with lemon and strawberry gelatin. Enjoy!




From the College Archives: Middlebury Commencement Through History

We are thrilled to introduce a new series, From the College Archives, curated by Josh Kruskal, ’15. In the weeks of his last semester, Josh, a prized Special Collections staff member, scoured 200 years of Middlebury Kaleidoscopes in search of historic and day-to-day moments. In Josh’s inaugural post: Commencement. In his photo essays to come, look for themes such as Students and Their Dogs, Downtown Middlebury, Halloween Costumes, and many more.  Congratulations Josh, and enjoy…



















“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)