Though today’s Middlebury College football team stands as a formidable member of the NESCAC, the lineup that went on to win the 1947 state championships may not have seemed quite so promising at the start. Having consisted mostly of Navy men who could only practice after supper and on Saturday at the conclusion of WWII, the 1946 team had played a hard-fought four-game season with only one win. Thankfully, Class of 1932 alumnus Walter “Duke” Nelson returned to Middlebury to coach the program the following year and had a record enrollment of over 600 men to pick from.
This recently-uncovered clip from a 16mm film reel in the College Archives shows the inexperienced yet rising stars of the team at play as Coach Duke led them in their historic comeback. With footage from several home games (including one attended by Gov. Ernest W. Gibson), the clip captures the momentous nature of the season, thanks in part to dramatic cutaways capturing sports headlines that chronicled the team’s journey.
When the capital of the Assyrian Empire was moved in the 9th century B.C.E. to what is now Nimrud, Iraq, a new palace for King Ashurnasirpal II was built and adorned with ornate alabaster reliefs. One such carving, which depicts a winged deity pollinating a date palm tree, became Middlebury’s first art acquisition when it was bequeathed to the college by alumnus Rev. Wilson A. Farnsworth in 1854.
Rev. Farnsworth had been serving as a missionary in eastern Turkey when the archaeological exhumation of the old palace was taking place and managed to secure one of several unearthed slabs. Now known as the “Winged Genie,” the carving contains a cuneiform inscription extolling the wonders of the king. Upon purchase, Rev. Farnsworth had it cut into sections that could be more easily transported on camelback to the coast. After a long sea voyage, the relief found its way onto a wall in the Library of the Department of Pedagogy in Old Chapel.
By 1936, a college newsletter lamented the lack of attention given to the artwork by students and alumni, adding that “occasionally some archaeologist who [had] never heard of Middlebury’s football team, its summer schools, its mountain campus or its academic rating [would arrive] to do obeisance” to the carving. Perhaps in a move to raise the relief’s profile, it was hung in the entryway of the newly-constructed Munroe Hall in 1941. As the following clip from the College’s 16mm film archive demonstrates, people were more than happy to become familiar with the carving.
After gaining recognition from the college community and a fair amount of wear and tear, a campaign was launched in 1988 to raise funds for the cleaning and conservation of the slab. Complete with a new steel frame, the Winged Genie is now on permanent display in the Middlebury College Museum of Art where students and archaeologists alike can offer their obeisance.
Be sure to attend the November 5th lecture, Ancient Near Eastern Art—in New England and in the News, to learn more about the legacy of Near Eastern Art in American museums from Prof. Susan Ackerman of the American Schools of Oriental Research and Prof. Shalom Goldman of the Middlebury Department of Religion.
To mark Founder’s Day, the original Middlebury College Charter signed by the Governor of Vermont on November 1st, 1800 will be on view in Special Collections on Nov. 2nd. Stop by and see it along with other documents from the College Archives that date from the time of our founding.
Can’t make out the cursive? Read the transcript here.
This document represents both the incipit of our College’s narrative as well as the laborious road to the college charter itself. After two failed petitions to the Vermont General Assembly in 1789 and 1799, Middlebury faced opposition from the institution that received the first university charter, the University of Vermont. Though UVM had been chartered in 1791, the institution’s doors had yet to open at the time Middlebury petitioned to open the College. In fact, they had yet to elect a president or establish a college edifice. Fearful of losing their state funding and lands, UVM sought to prevent a new college from forming. However, due to the state’s population increase (Vermont’s population grew from 84,000 to 154,000 between 1791 and 1800) and UVM’s slow start, there was a clear need for a place to educate Vermonters at home. Middlebury, with its newly constructed Academy Building (a $4,150 project funded by public subscriptions) founded by Gamaliel Painter, proved the perfect place to serve the College and Vermonters at large. Thus, the town’s college was founded with the signing of the charter, just 39 years after the town itself was chartered.
Source: Stameshkin, David M. 1985. The Town’s College: Middlebury College, 1800-1915. Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College Press.
Today’s dose of Special Collections spookiness comes from our series, From the College Archives, curated by Josh Kruskal, ’15. Josh drew on 200 years of Kaleidoscope yearbooks in search of quotidian and familiar moments, captured across time.
As spookiness begins to fill the cool Vermont air, ghoulish items lurking in the depths of Special Collections & Archives are coming out to join in the Halloween fun. Be sure to check back all week as we feature ghastly glimpses of the past in a series of posts leading up to the most frightening night of the year.
The first in our series features a mechanical postcard illustrated by Ellen H. Clapsaddle (1865?-1934), an American artist born in New York state. During the golden age of postcards in the early 20th century, holiday-themed greetings were all the rage and Clapsaddle became one of the genre’s most prolific artists. Close to 2,000 postcards have been attributed to Clapsaddle.
This postcard boasts a movable, hinged arm that hopefully made up for the card’s belated arrival sometime after Halloween (scroll down to see the handwritten note on the back of the postcard).