Kickoff 1953: Alumnus Revisits TV Profile 64 Years Later

Imagine being the subject of a nationally broadcast television special that profiled your life as a star college athlete. Now imagine that the first time you saw that program was over 60 years after it first aired. That’s what happened to Carey Smith, ’54 when he recently viewed this clip from a newly digitized 16mm film reel in the College archives. Part of an hour-long program originally produced by NBC as an overview of the 1953 season of NCAA football (and in particular, the introduction of the newly instituted one-platoon system), the clip captures Smith’s reflections on the Middlebury experience in a dramatic fashion that only mid-century network television can deliver.

The clip opens with an easygoing overview of the program given by famed NBC personality Dave Garroway who then introduces us to Smith, the captain of the 1953 Middlebury football team, as he arrives early on campus for his senior year. After chatting with coach Duke Nelson, Smith walks across the empty football field and up windswept bleachers where he daydreams about the year ahead: football season, keeping up with classes, and skiing at the Snow Bowl. Finally, in a move that may be familiar to many seniors (this author included), Smith takes a pensive walk up the hill to Mead Chapel, all the while ruminating on his time at Middlebury and what might come next after that time runs out.

Portrait of Carey Smith, captain of the 1953-54 Middlebury football team.

In the end, Garroway asks, “Thirty years from now, what will have happened to Carey Smith?” Unlike viewers in 1953, we know the answer to that question. Smith joined the military after graduation and served in Japan and Korea, eventually finding a career as a school superintendent. College archivist Danielle Rougeau recently spoke with Smith who revealed that because the segment was filmed before the semester started, townspeople filled in to play the other college students (including his supposed love interest, Jean Walters). Although it was screened in his hometown theater, Smith hadn’t seen the film until it was posted on Vimeo and neither had his five children, all of whom were unaware that he had ever played collegiate football.

Honoring Mario Cooper, ’77, on World AIDS Day

To mark World AIDS Day we’re sharing this film clip from the 1976 promotional film Middlebury College, a Chance to Grow which profiled Political Science major and student activist Mario Cooper. After graduating in 1977, Cooper went on to earn a law degree and became a key figure in HIV/AIDS advocacy after becoming HIV positive and witnessing the disproportionate effects of the disease in the African American community.

Though it may have once seemed like an unassuming profile of a passionate student, the clip can now be appreciated as an early view into the work of a determined activist who would later become a prominent figure in civil rights and AIDS advocacy movements. The footage and narration also poignantly show Cooper enjoying college life and friendships in a time before the AIDS epidemic changed his life and that of those around him.

Mario Cooper died in 2015 while in hospice care in Washington, D.C. His New York Times obituary can be read here, and a tribute to his work as an activist can be read on POZ, the social network for people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.


Military tanks move in. At Bread Loaf, 1941

Middlebury’s Bread Loaf campus is usually seen as a peaceful academic retreat nestled in the lush landscape of the Green Mountains, but 75 years ago, it was briefly home to a serious display of military might. College President Paul Moody (who had served in World War I and was a member of the National Guard) hosted the 754th Tank Battalion at the campus in the fall of 1941.

This compilation of footage from 16mm reels in the College archives are believed to show the visit, including a shot of a helmeted President Moody in one of the battalion’s vehicles (an unused title card on another reel in the archives reads: “Prexy Gets Tanked”). Other footage includes author and professor William Hazlett Upson with an unknown child dressed as a soldier, officers visiting the Middlebury Inn, and a procession of military vehicles through campus.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Wallace thanked President Moody in a letter saying, “The quarters afforded us were excellent, and the party held for the Battalion at Bread Loaf by the girls of Middlebury College, will long be very pleasantly remembered by all the men of the Battalion.”

For more information or for permission to use this clip contact Compilation from original 16mm films in the Middlebury College Archives.

Middlebury Tintypes in the 21st Century

This guest post is by Sam Cartwright, ’18, student employee of Special Collections & Archives.


Plate No. 73: Bicentennial Hall Greenhouse

The early history of photography is filled with laborious, finicky processes as idiosyncratic as the tinkerers who blended art and science to invent them. There’s the daguerreotype, the first and most otherworldly of the bunch which requires viewing its mirrored metal surface at an angle — and developing it with poisonous mercury fumes. There’s the calotype, a painterly reflection of reality imprinted directly onto paper not unlike the cyanotype, a dreamy blue-tinted print. And then there’s wet-plate collodion.

By making a thin layer of collodion (the syrupy result of dissolving guncotton in ether and alcohol) light sensitive then exposing and developing it before it dries, an image can be made onto metal or glass. Early metal plates used in the process were made out of tin, begetting the fitting “tintype” moniker that quickly became a misnomer once iron plates were adopted as a superior substrate.

The wet-plate collodion process was introduced to the world in 1851 by Frederick Scott Archer. At the time, Middlebury had just celebrated its semicentennial but was troubled by dire finances, worrisome faculty turnover, and a burnt-out president. One hundred and sixty-five years later (a time with a notably brighter institutional outlook), I began an ongoing project to explore the technical intricacies and unique beauty of the tintype process while here at Middlebury.

Plate No. 37: Old Chapel

Photography was a major part of my creative upbringing and sense of family history; my great-grandmother’s stunning panoramas of the American West adorned the walls of my childhood home and film photography has been one of my main creative outlets since middle school. At the tail end of my first summer away from Middlebury, I took a workshop on the tintype process at the Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah — a fitting echo of my mother’s experience in that same darkroom learning how to make cyanotypes in her early twenties.

I was immediately hooked and began to plan a wet-plate developing setup here at Middlebury. Thankfully, there was already a student-run darkroom in the Forest Hall basement that was supportive of the endeavor and after a few months of gathering materials, I was able to start putting collodion to plate during my February Break.

Plate No. 65: Jenn Ortega

Over the course of that week and a few ensuing weekends, I shot a total of 73 plates with my Holga, a simple plastic-lensed camera. Each plate measures 3.5 by 2.5 inches and is made of aluminum trophy metal with a black coating, which is the more affordable modern version of Japan-lacquered iron plates used in the 1800s.

Plate No. 45: Forest Hall

After carefully flowing a mixture of collodion and bromo-iodide salts onto the plates, they were sensitized in silver nitrate. I then had about 15 minutes before the collodion dried, giving me just enough time to fast-walk across the freezing-cold campus to make a 5-15 second exposure. After developing and drying, the final step in the process was to coat each plate with a lavender oil-infused sandarac varnish; warming the plates and varnish over our electric range made my Gifford suite smell like lavender for days — to either the delight or chagrin of my suitemates.

Plate No. 51: Joseph Watson

About half the plates depict scenes across campus, my favorite of which are those taken in the Bicentennial Hall greenhouse. The other half are portraits of friends who had just the right amount of curiosity and patience to bear with me as I got used to the process. In the end, my exploration of the tintype proved to be just what I’d hoped: a humbling technical and artistic challenge and a tangible connection to the history of photography. Once armed with a better camera and larger plates, I hope to continue the project.

Plate No. 34: Bicentennial Hall Greenhouse



Robert Frost Playing Tennis at Bread Loaf

The Bread Loaf Summer School of English was founded in 1919 in an effort to provide a graduate curriculum similar to the then-fledgling Summer Language Programs which would focus on the study of English literature. Poet Robert Frost became involved with the school in 1921, and over the next 42 years, was influential in its development and the creation of the annual Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He purchased a 150-acre farm near Bread Loaf in 1939 and stayed there every summer.

Poet Robert Frost hits a groundstroke on the Bread Loaf tennis court.

The Writers’ Conference has been described as combining “a frantic amount of business with an equally frantic amount of fraternizing, revel, and emotional release.” Some of those latter elements were captured in recently rediscovered 16mm film footage from the College archives. Originally split onto two reels, the footage below shows Robert Frost socializing with colleagues on the tennis court sidelines (including his assistant Kay Morrison and writers Louis Untermeyer and Fletcher Pratt) before playing a game against conference director Ted Morrison.



Only a moment of action from the Pulitzer Prize winner is included, but we hope there may be more footage of Frost’s Bread Loaf revelry that still lies undiscovered in the archives like this one, available on our vimeo page.



Stegner, Wallace. “Bread Loaf in the ’40s.” Middlebury College Newsletter, July 1975




Graduation Traditions: Cane Ceremony

In the 1940s, a revival in interest in Gamaliel Painter, one of Middlebury’s founders and early benefactors, saw the birth of a new graduation tradition. During convocation ceremonies at Middlebury’s former Women’s College, graduates began passing down replicas of Painter’s cane to the junior class. Today, every Middlebury graduate receives such a replica to keep as a symbol of their alma mater and with which to tap along when “Gamaliel Painter’s Cane” is sung at reunion.

This compilation of 16mm film footage from the college archives shows the cane-passing ceremony as part of convocation processions in the 1940s held behind Forest Hall.


Find out more about the story of Painter’s cane and its place in Middlebury history in The Story of Middlebury’s Cane Tradition a video created by the College’s own Chris Spencer, Stephen Diehl, Benjamin Savard ’14, and Matthew Lennon ’13.


Graduation Traditions: Pipe Smoking

Just as coming across full page ads for Chesterfield cigarettes used to be part and parcel of reading the latest edition of The Campus, pipe smoking was once a traditional part of Middlebury’s graduation festivities. Dating back to at least the 1920s during the “Class Day” activities that preceded commencement, graduates would gather outside to take puffs on long white pipes (sometimes lit by proud parents) before heading off to the alumni barbecue.

Pipe-smoking graduates in 1942


This compilation of 16mm film footage from the College Archives captures the pipe smoking tradition from the late 1920s to mid-40s. Although even those graduates who coughed through the smoke appear to have had a swell time, the annual tradition eventually ended in what we can only assume was the interest of public health, since everyone was trying to maintain a good health, with a good nutrition, training with yoga balls and quitting bad habits as this one.




Mead Chapel Centenary: Then & Now Pt. II

In celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the completion of Mead Chapel and Hepburn Hall, Special Collections presents a series of posts featuring interactive before-and-after imagery of these Middlebury icons.

Below is an interactive slider with images of Mead from the archives (tap or drag the bar to the right and left to slide between images). The before image was taken in 1942 while the after image shows the chapel and the surrounding (or should we say obscuring) landscape as it looks today.


A new 48-rank chamber organ was installed in Mead Chapel in 1970 after the condition of the original had deteriorated beyond repair. Music director Emory Fanning recalled that at the start of one performance on the dilapidated instrument, 12-inch blue flames had shot out of the motor before it was turned off, a prayer for the dead was recited, and it was turned back on for the remainder of the performance — which continued without a hitch.

The interactive slider below shows the dramatic presence that the new organ holds in Mead, having covered up the window above the altar. The before image is a 1919 postcard showing the interior of the chapel while the after image shows how it looks today. Other changes include balcony seating and updated lighting fixtures.


The Organ in the Chapel.” Middlebury College News Letter, July 1, 1969.
A12 PF Mead 1942 02,  Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College
A12 PF Mead 1919 01,  Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College

Mead Chapel Centenary: Then & Now

[In the fall of 2021, Middlebury College removed the name of John A. Mead (1841-1920) Class of 1864 from the Chapel, due to his role in the eugenics movement in the state of Vermont.]

In celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the completion of Mead Chapel and Hepburn Hall, Special Collections presents a series of posts featuring interactive before-and-after imagery of these Middlebury icons.

Built with the help of a $60,000 donation from former governor Dr. John Mead to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his graduation from Middlebury in 1864, Mead Chapel was dedicated on June 18th, 1916 and marked “the completion of two years’ work and its entrance into the history of Middlebury as a meeting place for religious worship by faculty and students.”

Below is an interactive slider with images of Mead from the archives (tap or drag the bar to the right and left to slide between images). The before image comes from the scrapbook of Arthur Thomas Vaughn, Class of 1917, and shows scaffolding around the spire. The after image is a 1916 postcard marking the completion of the chapel.


Stameshkin, David M. 1985. The Town’s College: Middlebury College, 1800-1915. Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College Press.

Dedication of Mead Memorial Chapel.” The Middlebury Campus, June 21, 1916.

S6 Scrapbooks Box 92, Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College.

A12 PF Mead 1916 02,  Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College.

Solar eclipse of the Archives, 1806

With a Middlebury College Observatory Open House Night scheduled for this Friday, April 29th from 9:00 pm-10:30 pm, we’re looking to the stars and sharing more astronomical history from the archives.

On June 16, 1806 a total eclipse of the sun cast a shadow across much of the northeastern United States, including the town of Mansfield, Connecticut. Known as “Tecumseh’s Eclipse” for the role it played in the Shawnee chief’s efforts to form a tribal confederacy, this astronomical event would have been visible to sixteen-year-old Mansfield native Samuel Mosely. Mosely went on to study at Middlebury College where in 1817, he made an annotated drawing of the eclipse with detailed notes on its timing and geometry:

Illustration of the June 16, 1806 total solar eclipse by Samuel Mosely, Class of 1818. Dated May 28, 1817.
Illustration of the June 16, 1806 total solar eclipse by Samuel Mosely, Class of 1818. Dated May 28, 1817.

After graduating in 1818, Mosely, like many early Middlebury graduates, became a missionary. He died in 1834 while working among the Choctaw Indians in Mississippi.