Stacks & Tracks the WRMC Radio Hour celebrates National Poetry Month with guest DJ, Karin Gottshall

Join us this Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at 12p-1p when Stacks & Tracks, the Special Collections & Archives radio show, celebrates National Poetry Month with Karin Gottshall, poet, Visiting Assitant Professor in English and American Literatures, and director of the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Bread Loaf. It will be music to your ears.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.29.32 PM

Wednesdays 12p-1p, live at 91.1FM or live-streaming through iTunes or online.

WRMC’s Stacks & Tracks is back! With guest DJ, Prof. Christopher Star

We’re back. On the air, and live streaming, at a new time.

Wednesdays, 12p-1p

Tune-in during your lunch hour to the radio show that reveals the secrets of special collections.

This week we’ll be joined by guest DJ, Classics Professor Christopher Star for Episode #12, featuring music and talk inspired by the thought, art, and life of ancient Greece and Rome.

Mozart to Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash to The Doors. Be there. And be enlightened. With a soundtrack.

91.1FM | iTunes radio | listen online | on your phone


WRMC Studio, 1970. From the Middlebury College Archives.


A “first-rate beer” voucher, 2,000 years overdue (a new, very old acquisition for Special Collections)

In special collections, visitors often ask us, “What’s your most expensive item?” Or sometimes, “What’s the oldest thing you have?”

In late November, we acquired our newest, oldest thing: a baked clay tablet that originated in ancient Mesopotamia (current-day Iraq), from about 2,000 BCE. This small tablet (measuring just about 1 inch x 1 inch and pictured here) is incised with cuneiform script on both sides, considered to be one of the earliest forms of writing.

With the help of Middlebury alum Seth Richardson, Class of 1990, a historian of the ancient Near East at the University of Chicago, we’re hoping to learn more about our new acquisition. What we do know, is that our tablet is essentially a beer coupon. That’s right. Based only on preliminary examination, Dr. Richardson translated the first line: “3 liters of first-rate beer.”

And as it turns out, the Western tradition of beer brewing began in Mesopotamia between 3500 – 3100 BCE. How do we know? Largely from cuneiform tablets like ours, which contain detailed records around beer production, the delivery of raw materials (barley, yeast, bread, flour), and the trading of beer products. Not unlike apple cider production in colonial New England, ancient Mesopotamians lacked clean water, but had an abundance of fruit (or in Mesopotamia, lots of grains) and the know-how needed to ferment them. And, they had the earliest known written alphabet to boot.


Beer in the Ancient World.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Accessed December 3, 2015.

Damerow, Peter. “Sumerian Beer: The Origins of Brewing Technology in Ancient Mesopotamia.” Cuneiform Digital Library Journal, no. 2 (2012).

“Glad Thanks-Giving Wishes” from Special Collections

thanksgiving 001
Undated postcard, ca 1910 to 1915

These three-dimensional “pop-up” postcards were printed in Germany by the Winsch Publishing Company of Stapleton, New York. The Winsch Publishing Company produced thousands of postcards from 1910 to 1915, designed primarily by artist Samuel Schmucker. This one from 1911 reads, “Glad Thanks-Giving Wishes. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving” and features a Native American woman bearing a basket of apples and a (deceased) turkey.

Winsch Publishing utilized such stereotypes in their imagery to evoke patriotic sentiments, touting the Native American female as the symbol of the bountiful nation. With her beaded dress, wild turkey, and raw fruits and vegetables, she called forth nostalgic visions of rural America in the minds of white viewers likely to purchase holiday postcards.

Another pop-up postcard features a white homemaker in an apron and bonnet. Her milkmaid attire, idealized log cabin, and sidekick turkey suggest a domesticated, tamed American landscape. On the backside, an undated, handwritten note from an American woman urges her sister to “come down” on Thursday for “gobbler.”


Undated postcard, ca 1910 to 1915

thanksgiving 002 reverse


Glad Thanks-Giving wishes and bounty be thine from all of us in Special Collections.



Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives, C-132 Historic Postcards.

Gifford, Daniel. American Holiday Postcards, 1905-1915: Imagery and Context. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2013.


Guest DJ, Prof. Shalom Goldman, on WRMC’s Stacks & Tracks

Join us and our guest DJ, Professor Shalom Goldman (Religion)


Episode #5, Stacks & Tracks, the Special Collections & Archives radio show, Monday, November 2, 9am-10am


Tune-in for more than a half-century of rock, reggae, folk, and punk music, all inspired by biblical stories. (With commentary, of course.)



91.1FM | iTunes radio | listen online | on your phone


Stacks and Tracks, the Special Collections & Archives radio show

From the restricted-access bowels of the library basement.
Come wonders like you’ve never seen (and still can’t, because it’s radio.)


Stacks and Tracks
WRMC Radio Studio, 1970. From the College Archives Photographic File.

91.1FM | iTunes radio | listen online | on your phone

Visit us in the stacks too. M-F, 1p-5p in the basement of Davis Library.


Harboring Runaway Slaves in Vermont

This article was originally published in the Middlebury College News Room. Read the complete article here.


15,000 Letters from an Abolitionist Family Offer Vast Opportunities for Research

<p>Rowland T. and Rachel G. Robinson operated Rokeby Farm and harbored runaway slaves.</p>
Rowland T. and Rachel G. Robinson operated Rokeby Farm and harbored runaway slaves.

The Davis Library at Middlebury College is now steward of a remarkable collection of letters from four generations of a Vermont family that harbored runaway slaves and were outspoken supporters of the Abolitionist Movement.

The Robinson Family Letters, an accumulation of 15,000 letters dating from 1757 to 1962, will offer students and scholars a wealth of research opportunities for many years to come. The letters are on extended loan to Middlebury Special Collections from the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, Vermont.

Rowland Thomas Robinson (1796-1879) and Rachel Gilpin Robinson (1799-1862) were devout Quakers and radical abolitionists, and were among Vermont’s earliest and most vocal opponents of slavery. Married in 1820, they tended Merino sheep at the family’s Rokeby Farm. At the same time they boycotted slave-made goods and – as the letters attest – sheltered Negro men, women, and children who escaped from slavery in the South.

Will Nash, professor of American studies, is using the letters in his Reading Slavery and Abolition course. “The Robinson letters bring students closer to the anti-slavery struggle than most published texts do, because of their personal nature and their close geographic link to Middlebury,” he said.

In one string of correspondence, Rowland T. Robinson writes to a North Carolina slave owner on behalf of “Jesse,” a fugitive then living at the Rokeby Farm. Jesse wished to purchase his freedom from his former owner, and Robinson contacted the owner to negotiate the transaction.

Continue reading this article in the News Room




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!




Clothing Guide 1944-45, from the Archives

For the 1944-45 school year, the Student Union published these handy HELPS AND HINTS as part of a clothing guide (for women). For example, “No Rubber Boots are to be worn to the dining-rooms, or to lectures and concerts unless the weather is very severe and there is no opportunity to change.” And don’t get us started on shorts. “Shorts are never to be worn in the dining rooms…they are never to be worn downtown unless one is going through town on a bicycle. Then don’t stop to shop or have a coke. Plan those shopping or coking expeditions for sometime when you don’t have shorts on.” Unless, of course, you remembered your leg make-up (For details on that one, see the heading Housecoats.)

Student Union Primer


“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: Monday, 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