Author Archives: Samuel Cartwright

The Ski-Minded College: Winter Carnival 1950

This clip from a recently rediscovered College promotional film produced in 1950 shows how students at “one of the most ski-minded of American colleges” took advantage of all that a Vermont winter has to offer. The dulcet narration guides us through a tour of the Snow Bowl and introduces us to the Winter Carnival, “the highlight of the year, [in which] fine competitive skiing is combined with the tops in social events.” The clip also captures student broadcasters just a few months after the founding of WMCRS, the college radio station that has gone by the call letters WRMC since 1952.

Be sure to join Special Collections on February 26 during the Winter Carnival in Crossroads Cafe as we present a special screening of newly-discovered films from the college archives (follow us on Facebook or check the Carnival schedule for an exact time). Spanning the 1920s to 1950s, this assortment of sound and silent footage captures the full range of Middlebury’s historic wintertime fun— from synchronized skiing to cigarette pack snow sculptures!

 

Sources

College Stations Changes Name.” The Middlebury Campus, October 9, 1952.

Lemcke, Ted, “WRMC Elects New Board; Plans to Enlarge ScheduleThe Middlebury Campus, May 16, 1957.

 

Students are “Southbound for Christmas” ca. 1930, captured on film

This recently rediscovered clip from the 1930s in the College’s 16mm film archives shows the once-bustling Middlebury train station with students eagerly boarding a southbound train home for the holiday break. The footage also captures views of notable town architecture including the conical spire that once capped the Battell Block before it’s removal after a 1950 hurricane and  the residence of George Harvey years before it became the Fire and Ice restaurant in 1974.

As fall semester comes to a close, be sure to affix a Middlebury pennant onto your luggage, don your fur coat, and board the southbound train home for holidays!

Sources

Langrock, Joann. Middebury Stores and Busineses. Middlebury: Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, 2002.

Turkey on Film: Delicious Dinners in the 16mm Archives

Thanksgiving Day meals are not complete without a perfectly cooked turkey. In these two clips from 16mm reels the Middlebury College Archives, we see both students and the administration sharing in the enjoyment of Thanksgiving’s most iconic fowl.

First, we join the College’s 10th President, Paul Dwight Moody, as he carves a turkey in the late 1930s or early 1940s. This event may have been part of any number of alumni turkey dinners that Moody attended over his presidential tenure.

Next, we find a student in a 1950 promotional film for the College savoring a chef-prepared turkey meal. The clip goes on to highlight the focused work ethic and “enduring zest” for scientific experimentation exemplified by mid-century Middlebury’s  “ambitious youth”.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Middlebury College Football, 1947

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The 1947 Panthers were led by coach Walter “Duke” Nelson (far top left) through a comeback season to the state championship.

 

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.

 

Two players from the 1947 lineup practice the skills that won them the state championship.
Two players from the 1947 lineup practice the skills that carried them through their historic season.

 

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.

 

 

Raising the Relief: The Journey of the Winged Genie

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.

 

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Winged Genie Pollinating the Date Palm. Alabaster, 90 by 94 inches. 883-859 B.C.E. Photo: Middlebury College Museum of Art

 

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.

 

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The “Winged Genie” slab was gifted to Middlebury College by Reverend Wilson A. Farnsworth, Class of 1848, seen here at age 87 in 1910.

 

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.

 

Removal of Winged Genie from Munroe Hall
Twenty one segments of the slab are carefully removed from Munroe Hall by Museum staff Ken Pohlman and Harvard conservator Henry Lie for transport to the conservation lab at Harvard University. Photo by Eric Borg, February 1990.

 

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.

Happy Hallowe’en from Special Collections and Archives

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).

The front of this postcard from the early 1900s presents an embossed illustration by iconic card artist Ellen H. Clapsaddle, complete with an articulated arm. From C-132 Historic Postcards & Ephemera.

 

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The back of the card reads, “How is Aunt M L. S.? Did you have a Merry Halloween? From Your Nephew.”

 

Sugarin’ Off in the 1940s

It’s early April and the maple sap is starting to flow, which means it’s time for one of Vermont’s most beloved traditions: The Sugaring-Off Party. This recently rediscovered clip from a 16mm film reel in the Middlebury College Archives records one such party held by students in the early 1940s.

Sponsored by the Mountain Club, the annual outing brought sugar-craving undergrads to the college’s own maple grove near the Bread Loaf Inn. Complete with an evaporation hut for processing freshly-tapped sap into syrup, the “sugar camp” boasted 1,100 trees on land bequeathed to the college by Joseph Battell in 1915. Photographs from the 1939 party even made it onto the pages of LIFE Magazine.

Mountain Club Members 1932

Mountain Club Members 1932

After hiking up to the orchard, “Sugarman” Boudreau helped the eager students collected sap and boil it to produce thick maple syrup. Like any good Vermont sugar-makers, the students diligently (and by no means begrudgingly) inspected the results with generous helpings on snow with pickles and doughnuts. Others chose the more exhaustive measure of quality control by vigorously whipping the syrup until it hardened into maple candy.

Anne Saurman of Clearwater, Florida uses an oldtime yoke to carry sugar pails

Anne Saurman of Clearwater, Florida 1948