Archive: Blue Ribbon Days

Pins-sizedAside from the Language Schools pins that students afix proudly to their shirts each summer, signifying their chosen language of study, the days of sporting school ribbons or buttons on one’s lapel are as long gone as the late 19th/early 20th century. Fortunately, the items on this page are “typical of the treasure trove of bits and pieces of Middlebury history” that get donated to the College, offering an intriguing glimpse into past students’ lives, explains Andrew Wentink ’70, curator of Middlebury’s Special Collections.

Charles Leffingwell Ross, Class of 1895, donated the smallest of the three, the blue-and-white enamel stickpin in the shape of a maple leaf, and he may have worn it on his jacket lapel.

“At conferences with other schools, at meetings involving other colleges, Middlebury students from that era would have been anxious to show their loyalty,” Wentink says. And with the word “MIDD” emblazoned diagonally and no class year on it, this was the type of item a Middlebury delegate would have worn to a significant off-campus event.

The Markolf-Wheatley button is a reunion keepsake. Formerly the property of Mary Emma Markolf, Class of 1908, of Rutland, who later married Ernest Wheatley, it may have been distributed to members of her class at their 25th reunion or possibly later. Originally beige in color, it reveals its age, but it also shows the clear hand that penned the names of class members returning to campus.

The 1866 pin (donor unknown) with its three silk ribbons is a fascinating bit of “realia” created for a class reunion. Long before the College had a centralized alumni office, members of each class would plan every detail pertaining to their reunions and “classmates were always looking for ways to revisit and reinforce the special identity of their class,” Wentink notes. The colored ribbons may have represented something distinctive about the class, or they could have been a flourish added to make the Class of 1866, which had only 16 members, stand out from others at a reunion.

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