An Economics professor throws a curveball at Special Collections

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.

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!

Baseball Hal of Fame "record" post card

Baseball Hall of Fame “record” post card

“We were greatly shocked with the news…” May 21, 1865

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.)

Mary Martin


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, 1865:

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.

Martin.1965

Students learn the craft of medieval papermaking

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.

 

Don’t forget to write your mother, circa 1932

Our own Professor of Psychology at Middlebury College Barbara Hofer writes about the modern day iConnected Parent, constantly in touch with their College-bound kids through cell phones and Skype…well, the archives recently turned up a connected parent, but from 82 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):


Stevenson 1936

Stevenson 1936b

Dear Sir

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 right 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):

ResponseStevenson

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.

Very truly yours,

E.J. Wiley

A recipe to keep mites off your cheese, circa 1778

In the same year that Captain Cook sailed to Hawaii and Great Britain declared war on France, Helen Weldon started her recipe book in Bath, England on January 29, 1778. In addition to keeping mites off your cheese, she includes recipes for Mock Turtle (Calves head) soup, Onion Soop [sic] and raspberry vinegar “for those who want a pleasant cooler” in the summer. Remedies like Teeth Water, Poison for Rats & Mice, and Diuretic Balls for Horses are included too. Her handwritten notebook was acquired by Special Collections this summer. Learn more in our online catalog or by visiting Special Collections.

WeldonCover

Receipts Cookery, 1778

 

WeldonPage

Baked Calfs head

Summer Language Schools, looking back

Explore our newest online archive: Middlebury Language Schools. This collection includes archives from Middlebury’s Summer Language Schools, which began in 1915. When completed, the collection will include all the annual bulletins from 1915 through 2007, a history of the Language Schools up to 1975, annual reports, photographs, and scrapbooks.

Language School bulletin, 1949

Language School bulletin, 1949

Good Things to Eat! A new exhibition at the Davis Family Library

Good Things to Eat: Recipes and Communities from 1827 to the Present

Guest curated by Emily Bogin ’16, FoodWorks Fellow

This new exhibit focuses on the ways in which food has, and continues to facilitate community, both at Middlebury and beyond. Items on display are drawn from Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives, the Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Sheldon Museum, and Middlebury College Dining Services.

Join Emily Bogin for an exhibition talk Friday August 1, 2014, in the Library atrium. The talk will begin shortly after 11:00am.

 

Middlebury College home economics class, 1913

Middlebury College home economics class, 1913

Vintage Robert Frost on film

Luckily, 16 mm film, common from the 1920s through the 1960s, is relatively durable stuff. This particular reel of film, which sat in the Middlebury College archives for over forty years, depicts Robert Frost for two glorious, full color minutes. For the first time in nearly half a century (thanks to a film preservation lab in Philadelphia), watch as Frost harvests vegetables from his garden at his Ripton, Vermont cabin (down the road from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference), frolics with his dog Gillie, and walks his mare Steeplebush and her colt Shadbush. Frost and Kay Morrison pop fresh berries into their mouths. Summer time on the mountain!

Read the Middlebury NewsRoom story about this film.

Henry David Thoreau died today, May 6 (1862)

How will you observe the life and death of Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862), the American writer and naturalist?

Henry_David_Thoreau_-_Dunshee_ambrotpe_1861

Thoreau, August 1861 © Wikimedia Commons

By taking a quiet walk?

By turning off your cell phone? Your computer?

By having a deep conversation with a friend, colleague, or family member?

By getting out a sheet of paper and writing a letter? (Yes! By hand.)

By randomly squeezing a Thoreau quote into a conversation today?

Or, by visiting Special Collections in the Davis Library 101 to visit our display of Thoreau artifacts: his inkwell, bricks and timbers from his cabin at Walden Pond, books from his cabin library, and more.