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A Boy’s Song

Is this, is this your joy,
O bird, then I, though a boy,
for a golden moment share
Your feathery life in air!*

Arthur Yates Statham, around 1910.

We all know how the years go — how they glide by, gathering speed in autumn such that the end of December arrives and the year is gone, and more youth too. Before 2017 departs entirely, there’s a centenary to note: the loss in World War I of a British soldier, Arthur Yates Statham, who died in France during the Arras offensive  in May, 1917.

But stop there. –Is it better to remember how he lived or how he died? His death in battle could reasonably overwhelm the rest of his story, but if we could ask Arthur, how would he want to be remembered? Would he want to be defined by the circumstances of his death or by his life?

In this post, we consider his life, brief though it was, and remember him through a two-part diary from 1913.

The diary forms a small section of the Dicken-Statham Family Papers at Amherst College. This collection – a handful of boxes –surveys the lives of several generations in a British family that lived and worked and fought wars in India, England, France, and Iraq over the course of about 150 years. Arthur’s years were in the middle: he was born at the end of the 19th century but didn’t survive into the 20th as long as he had a reason to expect he might.

The Stathams: left to right standing, Arthur, Noel (who died in WWI three months to the day before Arthur), Heathcote, and Maud. Left to right seated, Gilbert, Florence, Irene, and Heathcote. About 1910.

Arthur Yates Statham was the son of Heathcote and Florence Statham. He was the youngest of six children – he had three brothers and two sisters. The family lived in London for many years while his father was writer and the editor (for 20 years) at “The Builder” magazine.

In April, 1913, Arthur’s mother packed him up for a vacation in Hastings & St. Leonards, where he stayed with “Miss O.” – Miss Ogle – who was probably a relative on his mother’s side.  The diary from this vacation shows us something of Arthur, aged about 15.  Here is the boy, with all his vitality and humor, to suggest the man who might’ve been. In some ways he’s Everyboy, in other ways he’s just Arthur. It’s not that there’s “important content” in his diary, unless you consider a soul on the page as a thing to reckon with.

Here are a few excerpts about the things Arthur did on vacation. He loved cycling perhaps most of all, but he also loved games, visiting people and places, movies, and Sherlock Holmes.  He does everything with joy — every experience is not just new, it’s NEW!!!

 

Arthur frequently begins an entry with an excerpt from a poem or popular song:
“8th Tuesday

‘There is no place like home yet I’m

afraid to home in the dark

‘That is why I did not go overnight.  A slow cab, a fast train, a nice guard, a good dinner, a middling magazine (no names mentioned) made up together with a ticket my journey to Kings Cross.  Such trifles as myself and my luggage went also…  At Kings Cross my mother (all names, as I have already remarked, are to be suppressed unless I forget this rule), intent on losing baggage (I speak of the author of this libelous rag) came 69.357 seconds late!  (for any mistakes in figures please apply [to] the mathematician, who, for obvious reasons, is anonymous.)”

Warrior Square, St. Leonards

“This train, a half-animated serpent of metal crawled to St. Leonards Warrior Square Station. (Loud cheers)…  A cab, that, much to my astonishment, once managed to break into an ambling trot, took me to the house of a Miss O., who lives at 9 St. P. Road in St. Leonards.”  Image courtesy the East Sussex Libraries; see their Flickr page for an abundance of images of Hastings-St. Leonards.

Arthur brought his bicycle (perhaps one like this) to St. Leonards in parts and reassembled it at Miss O’s: “9th Wednesday. It never rains but it pours. St. Leonards is not hilly it is mountainous. After breaking my fast I went upstairs and for nearly one hour (how time flies) I tended my cycle, an extraordinary creature it is too! I bought oil and oiled it and parafined [sic] it and rubbed it and scrubbed it and corked it and polished it and screwed it and many other such things.”

It would be instructive (and no doubt impressive) to add up Arthur’s many miles on his bike — he almost always notes where he went and how many miles he covered. He includes an excerpt from Henry Charles Beeching’s poem “Going Downhill on a Bicycle/A Boy’s Song” and adds his own enthusiastic opinion on the sport: “This is true, there is nought like this. Going downhill on a cycle is glorious.”

However, he hit a patch of rainy days –day after day of it:
“10th Thursday. ‘Rain, Rain, go to Spain, go and don’t come back again.’ This is my song, my remark, my saddened cry, my pitiful song, my wail. Yesterday, it rained, a thing not unprecedented, you will be surprised to hear. The morning was passed in mourning (this is an accidental pun). With great energy I got out my cycle, turned round four times in the middle of the road and then started off[.]  7.145921 minutes later I returned. It was RAINING!!!!! Cousin G. told me I did a wise thing in returning, of course I like being complimented (especially as all compliments to me are well-deserved)…”

Arthur visited friends of the family a lot (probably following his mother’s instructions) and in general was very good-humored about engagements with the grownups in a situation where some of us would’ve felt really growly about all that visiting.

A cranking old invalid

“In the afternoon I went and saw a lady Mrs. Sayer Milward. Her husband is ill. I cycled to see her. The ride was 10 miles there and back… A Mrs. Grant was there. She asked me to come over to a cottage she had hired and spend an afternoon there. I mentally arranged that Friday afternoon was suitable. I returned home”;  “11th Friday. ‘The more, the merrier.’ So it is here. The more friends the merrier. 9 ladies are unhappy because they have made my acquaintance…”; “After tea I paid two calls, one to Mrs. [Samson?] who is very old, to use her own words, “A cranking old invalid.” [Excerpts from multiple entries.]

Like any good tourist, he visits all the local sights: “We strode off and climbed to Lovers Seat. There are sign-posts pointing to Lovers Seat everywhere, and I am perfectly sure that the poor lovers can get no peace, so I suppose they find some other haunt. We eat sugar candy there, a prosaic thing to do in so touching a spot.”

Image courtesy Pett Level Archive.

“17th Thursday.  ‘One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.’  That is why I and the Grants became friendly when going for a walk.  Immediately after breakfast I cycled with all speed to the Grants, where I arrived at 9:55 and found them preparing to go to Pett Level, a very good beach about 5 miles away. We started off but soon it started to rain. So we hied ourselves to the coastguard station where we could hide ourselves from the elements of nature. We looked at the lamps at the fog-horn or siren, and I interested myself about the acetylene gaslamp and the signaling code, which I know, for, when all is said and done, I know a lot!”

Glass slide of the Albert Memorial in the center of Hastings. Gift of “moonspender” on ebay.

Once or twice, we see shades of his father, editor and writer for “The Builder” magazine and, to judge from the archival record, a stickler for details and accuracy:

“…we caught a tram…and we were soon falling down the tremendous hill that leads from Bohemia to the memorial. I pause to remark that Miss O. was ignorant of what the memorial was about.  I had to find, stranger though I am, and tell her that it is an Albert Memorial.”

Image courtesy of St. Matthew’s Church.

His religious instruction was not neglected during this vacation:

20th Sunday: [An] exciting day for a Sunday. Miss O. and I went [to] church at St. Matthews where Mr. Askwith, the Vicar, preached. This sermon was about socialism and he pointed out what it really was. He said that he could and would tell us roughly what the chief points of Socialism are:

1. There is to be no King.
2. There is [not to be] Patriotism (if we are invaded, we are not to fight)
3. All property will belong to the state.
4. No one will do any work, you will be fed and clothed by the State.
5. The “shirkers,” as they call all who do not do manual labour, will be abolished, all will be equal.
6. There will be no religion of any sort, all churches will be pulled down and taken, as all other property will be, by the state.”

Image courtesy the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Games constituted the entertainment for most evenings: “We had supper and then Miss O. and I settled down to drafts.   In all we played five games and Miss O. nearly got a fit of joy because she won the first; then I leap almost out of my chair and said “Vengance!! Vengance” [sic] and ended the next game by my having 7 kings Miss O. 1!!!  The third game was mine, I always have 2 out of three games, you see I give Miss O one to make her happy.  In the last two games she won the first and I said “Vengeance” and had 6 kings to her 1.  So if I had said “Vengance! Vengance!” twice I would have had 7.  However I am best out of five and three.   The weather was fine and very hot.”

“In the evening I played four games of drafts with Miss O.  I act all the while, for I look at the clock and then Miss O. looks at the clock and then forgets her piece is in danger and I take it.  Also when she does a move good for me I make a noise of sorrow and terror, and she thinks she has “done” me and really she has done me a good turn.”

Image courtesy the Victory and Albert Museum.

“I played two games of Spilikins [with Miss Ogle] and beat her (of course)!!!!!!!

“…I beat Miss O. in six games of drafts running.  She thinks ozone has made my brain as sharp as my nose!!!! (Which is a great deal)–“

and

“After supper we played drafts, where in 3 games, I won two, Miss Ogle one.  In Spilikins my steady hand nearly lost but just won. The games were closely contested.  There is not much more to say.  I had a bath!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Finally, there is Sherlock Holmes.  Arthur mentions him many times, including this section in which he gloats at his superior reasoning over that of Miss Ogle.  The section begins with an excerpt from Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”:

“13th Sunday.

‘Full many a gem of purest ray serene,

The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:

Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.’

Gray’s Elegy

“Only too true, I might have been a Sherlock Holmes, I might have been a Dr. Statham.  My genius in detection has been wasted on the desert air.  On coming down [for] breakfast on the Sunday morning aforesaid, Miss O. remarked to me that a plan was in her head.  I remarked that I would try and guess it.  My first guess was right in every detail.  She suggested that we should go to Fairlight.  The reasoning was as follows: Miss O. had thought of something which we could both do.  Therefore cycling was not in it.  The plan was either a walk or a tram ride.  Had it been a walk surely Miss O. would not have been so excited.  Therefore it was a tram ride.  But where to?  Sunday is a day for paying calls. On whom then should we, taking a tram, call.  The Sayer Milwards at Fairlight!  The reasoning is elementary, superficial.”  Later: “I read some Sherlock Holmes to Miss O.  The reasoning did not seem as clear to her as to me.”

Arthur’s diary closes with these lines: “So our happy walk ended.  I recited poetry to Miss O. and then I read the Strand Magazine while Miss O. indulged in the newspaper.  So the evening ended.” 

Two years later he was at war.  It feels like a triumph to point out that the boy who knew all about the signalling code in the coastguard station became the “Signalling Lieutenant” in his battalion.

Arthur at 18.

The Dicken-Statham Papers also contain many of Arthur’s wartime letters to his sister Irene.  Like perhaps the majority of such letters, they contain descriptions of pastimes, duties, and boredom followed closely by battle.  One often senses the need to read between the lines to guess at what he must’ve felt behind the comforting words written to family members.

A colleague and I remarked on what may be an “archival thing” (although probably only because of the likelihood of the experience in an archives): the way you look for textual evidence of the death you know will come but the writer doesn’t.  You look for foreshadowing, and it haunts the experience of reading because you expect to see a sign around the corner of every sentence.

On this blank page that isn’t blank at all I felt Arthur’s living shadow in the impression of his pencil from the previous page.  It contrasted with the boldness of his youthful diary, as though here his life ebbed through the paper, a sign that it would soon be gone.

 Arthur was last seen during the Third Battle of the Scarpe, on May 3, 1917.  He is said to have been killed by a sniper as he turned to address his men.  The Germans took the area in which Statham died, so his body was never recovered.  His name is included at the Arras Memorial.

Arthur’s fellow soldiers remembered him in ways that echo the boy of the diary.  A superior officer said, “He was signalling officer of the battalion, work in which he showed the utmost keenness.  He was given a special job to do in the operations on the 9th April, and I found him at the objective one and a half hours after our attack, coolly working away…” and his Captain said, “We all regret his loss to us, as he was a tremendously cheery companion and a brave officer.”

–O bird, see; see, bird, he flies.

_____________________________

*Excerpt from Henry Charles Beeching, “Going Down Hill on a Bicycle: A Boy’s Song”

There is much more to discover in Arthur’s diary.  Complete PDFs of the manuscripts are available at no cost from the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.

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On Saturday, October 28, Amherst College was honored to host Massachusetts Congressman Joseph Kennedy III who delivered an address on the steps of Frost Library as part of a day-long celebration of the legacy of President John F. Kennedy. You can watch his speech and read more about the event here: JFK 100: Of Poetry & Politics.

President Kennedy’s visit to Amherst College on October 26, 1963 is well known; he gave an important, and frequently quoted, speech about the role of the artist in society before participating in the ground-breaking ceremony for the Robert Frost Library. We recently made more images of that event available through Amherst College Digital Collections:

Amherst College Photographer Records: JFK at Amherst
Kennedy Convocation Collection: Color Slides

Audio of Kennedy’s address is freely available through the Kennedy Library & Museum in Boston, and this small web exhibition includes scans of many documents held in the Archives.

What is less well known is that the Frost Library ground-breaking was not Kennedy’s first visit to Amherst College, nor was it his first contact with members of the Amherst Community. As I dug into our holdings to prepare an exhibition for the “Of Poetry & Politics” celebration, I turned up some interesting items, such as these two letters from then-Senator Kennedy to Karl Loewenstein:

JFK to Loewenstein 1954

JFK to Loewenstein 1957

German-born emigré political scientist, professor, lawyer, and government advisor, Karl Loewenstein had a long academic career, which began in Munich and continued at Yale (1933-1936) and Amherst (1936-1961) after his emigration to the United States.  He worked as an advisor for the Emergency Advisory Committee for Political Defense of the American Republics (1942-1944) and for the U.S. Office of Military Government for Germany (1945-1946). The Karl Loewenstein Papers are held by the Archives & Special Collections.

In addition to responding to Loewenstein’s letters, Senator Kennedy also reached out to Amherst College President Charles Cole:

JFK to Cole

Charles Woolsey Cole, Class of 1927, served as Professor of Economics at Amherst from 1935-1942 and as the twelfth College President from 1946-1960. In this letter, Senator Kennedy invites Cole to participate in a lunch with himself and “others in the academic, research and related fields” to give him advice on policy.

It is likely that Senator Kennedy met both Karl Loewenstein and President Cole when Kennedy spoke at Amherst College in May 1956. Senator Kennedy’s 1956 visit might have been forgotten were it not for this small piece that appeared in the Amherst Student:

JFK in Amherst Student 1956

I have not found any additional documents related to this visit anywhere in our holdings yet, but we will keep looking.

JFK Inaugural

John F. Kennedy was the first President to invite a poet to participate in his inaugural celebration; Frost supported Kennedy during his campaign and he agreed to recite “The Gift Outright” at Kennedy’s request. Kennedy was unaware that Frost also composed a new poem – “Dedication” – as a preface to his earlier piece. Unfortunately, because of the inclement weather and difficulty reading the typescript, Frost did not read “Dedication” and recited “The Gift Outright” from memory. When asked to comment after Frost’s death in January 1963, Kennedy said:

“I’ve never taken the view the world of politics and the world of poetry are so far apart. I think politicians and poets share at least one thing, and that is their greatness depends upon the courage with which they face the challenges of life.”

But Robert Frost was not the only poet involved in the 1960 inaugural celebration:

JFK to Bogan

Louise Bogan was a poet who frequently appeared in The New Republic, The Nation, Poetry, Scribner’s and The Atlantic Monthly. For thirty-eight years, she reviewed poetry for The New Yorker. Here, the President thanks her for her participation and asks her for any further suggestions she might have for “contributions the national government might make to the arts in America.” The Louise Bogan Papers are held by the Archives & Special Collections.

Kennedy’s connections to Amherst faculty continued into his Presidency, as seen in this letter to Amherst Professor Willard Thorp:

JFK to Thorp

Willard Thorp, Amherst Class of 1920, was a pioneer statistician, economist, domestic and foreign policy advisor, international development expert, and private business consultant. He served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs from 1946-1952, he played a critical role in the design and implementation of the Marshall Plan and later held a number of United Nations appointments. Thorp taught Economics at Amherst from 1927-1935 and from 1952 until his retirement in 1965. In this letter, Kennedy thanks him for his work on cultural exchange with Japan. The Willard L. and Clarice Brows Thorp Papers are held in the Archives.

The invitation to President Kennedy to speak at Amherst College for the ground-breaking of Robert Frost Library was sent by John J. McCloy. Here is the President’s letter formally accepting the invitation:

JFK to McCloy

John J. McCloy graduated from Amherst College in 1916 and served on the Board of Trustees from 1947-1989. He thought of himself as a public servant and in his speeches often emphasized the importance of public service. Among his many influential posts, he served as Assistant Secretary of War from 1941 – 1945. He was an advisor to President Kennedy, acted as Chairman of the Coordinating Committee of the US on Cuban Missile Crisis, and was a member of the Warren Commission charged with investigating President Kennedy’s assassination.

In his Convocation address, the President describes the invitation he received from McCloy thus:

“The powers of the Presidency are often described. Its limitations should occasionally be remembered, and, therefore, when the Chairman of our Disarmament Advisory Committee — who has labored so long and hard, Governor Stevenson’s assistant during the very difficult days at the United Nations, during the Cuban crisis, a public servant of so many years – asks or invites the President of the United States, there is only one response.” 

The John J. McCloy Papers are one of the most heavily used collections held in the Archives.

Unexpected Names

Amherst College’s records are filled with names that would seem unusual today, like Preserved Smith (grandfather – 1828, grandson – 1901), or Heman Humphrey (2nd college president, 1823-1845). It’s less common to come across a name that stands out because it sounds modern to our ears. I was surprised when I found letters to a Crystal Thompson, curator of the Zoological Collection—written in 1923.

At first, I thought that the name might be an example of a name’s gender association changing, as with the name Leslie1, because the first letter, from Feb. 20, 1923, was addressed, “Dear Sir.”

Milton Bradley Company, Springfield, Mass. Feb. 20, 1923 Dear Sir: We have your favor of the 15th and believe your trouble can be corrected by loosening up the screw, which goes through the adjusting button on the left hand side of the rule, and taking an ordinary carpenter screw, laying it against the straight blade, square up your rule. Be sure the rule sets in position when you tighten the screw in the cam button. We enclose herewith direction card. If this should not overcome your trouble, please advise us further. Very truly yours, G. Falek.

Instructions for fixing a troublesome paper cutter, from Milton Bradley Company

However, the second letter (sent Mar. 13, 1923) was addressed to Miss Thompson. Now I was very curious.

Springfield, Mass. Mar. 13, 1923 Miss Thompson, The Zoological Collections, Amherst College. Dear Madame: We are today returning to you the Monarch Cutter. This machine has been thoroughly overhauled, and we are sure you will find it does the work you require in a satisfactory manner. We are enclosing circular showing the other sizes we manufacture. Awaiting your further favors, we remain Very truly yours, G. Falek. Milton Bradley Company.

This following letter, to Miss Crystal Thompson, reports the successful return and repair of the troublesome paper cutter.

Here was someone even more unusual—a woman working as curator of Amherst’s natural history collections. These letters are in the Department of Biology collection, with others concerning laboratory and museum supplies and material orders.

The Amherst College Biographical Record, which lists alumnae/i, college administration, and faculty, had no listing for Crystal Thompson, but the Amherst College Catalog for 1919 shows Crystal Thompson, M.A. as Curator of the Zoological Collection (as well as one Harriet Oakes Rogers, B.S., as Curator in the Chemistry Laboratory).

With a bit more research in the Board of Trustees’ Minutes, I found that Crystal Thompson had come to Amherst from the University of Michigan.  Their online yearbooks and other digital collections revealed that she had received her B.S. in 1909, her M.A. in 1910, and worked as an assistant in the Zoology Museum from 1911-1919. She co-authored several publications on regional reptiles and snakes, and their archives (via the Bentley Historical Library Image Bank, which is a digital library like our own Amherst College Digital Collections site, ACDC), has this 1918 photograph.

A young woman wearing a camp shirt, khaki pants, and field boots, sits on a tree stump in the woods.
Crystal Thompson, in woods of North Carolina, 1918. Image HS14930. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections.

She worked here at Amherst from 1919-1927, then returned to Michigan to be the curator of visual education when they opened a new museum building. She spent the rest of her career at Michigan, retiring in 1958.

There’s a lot that remains unknown about women employed here at Amherst College, especially before the 1940s. The first woman hired to teach was Madeleine Utter, as an interim French instructor just for the 1918-1919 academic year. Crystal Thompson was hired as curator the next year, along with Harriet Rogers for the Chemistry Laboratory.

As World War 1 was underway, there may have been a relative shortage of male candidates available, creating opportunity for these women at Amherst. Thompson’s arrival could also have resulted from the hiring of Professor Otto Glaser (who had been at the University of Michigan) as Chair of the Biology Department in 1918.

From around 1914 or so, the secretary to the President and other administrative positions are listed in the college catalogs, and names like Gertrude and Esther begin to appear. A systematic listing has not been created, but the catalogs are always available for anyone who is curious.


1. In 1900, Leslie was the 91st most popular boy’s name, while in 1997 (the last year it was within the top 1000, it was 881. As a girl’s name, Leslie was 646 in 1900, jumped sharply in the 1940s to the top 200, and remained there (hitting 56 in 1981) until 2010, when it began falling in popularity. You can search for any name at “Popular Baby Names.” Social Security Administration, 2017.

1990s Throwback

This week we’re taking a quick visual trip back to Amherst in the 1990s:

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In our ongoing work to preserve the photographic materials in our collection, we’re preparing many of our slide collections for frozen storage. Freezing color slides both slows the fading of the dyes and stabilizes the underlying acetate film. The original slides will still be accessible to researchers with a few days of advanced notice, but we’re making basic scans of all of the sheets of slides to make it easier for researchers to find images without needing to remove any materials from the freezer. All of the images above come from slides of campus scenes taken by Amherst’s Office of Public Affairs in the 1990s.

Enjoy this little trip back in time and rest assured that these images will last long into the future!

Animals in the Archives

How about some cute animals to kick off the start of the school year? We in the Archives noticed the National Archives’ new social media campaign – the Archives Hashtag Party! Each month follows a differently themed hashtag (you can follow @USNatArchives to see the themes). Last month was #ArchivesSquadGoals. This month’s theme is #ArchivesCute, and in the Amherst College Archives we’ve decided to join the party.

We’ve found animals in a variety of different archival collections, from our rare books stacks to the College Archives to the manuscript collections. Hopefully these examples will give you a sense for the breadth of the Archives’ holdings. Let’s get started!

In our rare book stacks, we have a lovely 1883 folio edition of Monograph of the Felidae or Family of the Cats, by Daniel Giraud Elliot.

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Elliot, a zoologist, was a founder of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He produced a number of this type of work, commissioning artists to produce plates to accompany his text. Other works in this same vein include Monograph of the Paradisae and Review of the Primates. These large volumes were made possible by subscription; future owners would pledge money for the production of the book and in the end receive a copy. The artist for Monograph of the Felidae was Joseph Wolf, a German artist who specialized in natural history illustration. This plate depicts the Snow Leopard, native to the mountains of Central and South Asia.

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For something completely different, we turn to the College Photographer’s Records, part of Amherst College’s institutional archives. Since the 1960s the College has employed an official photographer to record important events and daily life on campus. On at least two occasions in the 1990s, the photographer captured a series of faculty dogs on campus. Here’s one example:

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Look at that old-school desktop technology in the background!

The College’s Scrapbook Collection also offers a variety of cute animals. These examples come from the scrapbook of Edson Alexander McRae, a graduate of the class of 1906. His scrapbook shows that he was a member of the baseball team – and includes many photographs of this fine pup:

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Apologies for the poor image quality! But you can see in the background the Amherst Town Hall.

Also a sketch of cats on a calling card:

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Calling cards, a precursor to the business card, were left when visiting a home while the residents were absent.

The Lincoln Barnes Negatives Collection also yielded cuteness. Lincoln Wade Barnes was a photographer in the town of Amherst for many years during the first half of the twentieth century; he was also photographer to the College for some of that time. A collection of Barnes photography is also available at the Jones Library.

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We truly hit the jackpot in Lucius Manly Boltwood’s photograph albums. These albums were compiled in the late 19th and/or early 20th century and include images of friends, family, pets, and views of Amherst. Boltwood was very involved in the College and local communities. A graduate of the class of 1843, Boltwood went on to become the librarian at Amherst College and the town’s postmaster.

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And last but not least, look who we found hanging out in the Archives’ Objects Collection:

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I hope everyone had a chance to glimpse the partial – or total – solar eclipse on Monday.  All this talk of our recent “Great American” eclipse got me thinking about previous eclipses and two early eclipse chasers in Amherst history: David Peck Todd (AC 1875) and Mabel Loomis Todd.  David Peck Todd, graduate of Amherst class of 1875, Professor of Astronomy, and Director of the Observatory, made his first solar eclipse expedition with the U.S. Navy to view the eclipse of 1878 in Texas.  This was just the first of many expeditions to view and study solar eclipses.  After their marriage in 1879, Mabel Loomis Todd (most famous for editing Emily Dickinson’s poetry) accompanied David Todd on many of his expeditions, including to Japan, Tripoli, and Russia.

Recent articles have been published about the Todds and their astronomical expeditions, including The Star-Crossed Astronomer by Julie Dobrow and Mabel Loomis Todd’s Poetic 19th-Century Guide to Totality by Maria Popova.  These articles document the Todds’ international travels in pursuit of the study of solar eclipses and other astronomical occurrences.

Mabel Loomis Todd later gave speeches about her experiences on these international expeditions and published several books and articles, including Total Eclipses of the Sun (1894), Corona and Coronet (1898), and A Cycle of Sunsets (1910).

While the papers of David Peck Todd and Mabel Loomis Todd are held at Yale, we do have many publications of the Todds’ astronomical research, professional papers, newsclippings, and speech announcements in their respective biographical files.And do keep these “Directions for Observing the Total Solar Eclipse” handy for the next solar eclipse coming our way in 2024.

Applestead

Three apples from “Apples of New York,” by Spencer Ambrose Beach.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association summer conference takes place this weekend at Hampshire College.  One of the first seminars was “The Full Skinny on Healthy Orcharding” with Michael Phillips from Lost Nation Farm in New Hampshire.  Yours truly was there, learning about fungal duff management and other good things .

As it happens, the seminar was held right down the street from the site of Professor Edward Tuckerman’s little home orchard, which he called Applestead.  Tuckerman and his wife, Eliza, built Applestead over the period of a few years in the 1850s, beginning not long after they moved to Amherst from Boston.  The house was of stone – built to last, Eliza said in a letter to her sister Mattie.   Eliza’s letter also suggested that the house was designed by Edward Clarke Cabot, a well-known architect and, again according to Eliza, an old friend of Edward’s.

It was a beautiful house, and Edward put a lot of effort into designing the grounds, for in addition to his many interests, including botany, religion, history, and genealogy, he was also a zealous gardener.  After he scoured the seed catalogs and planned the garden beds for beans and potatoes and peas, he envisioned many fruit trees.  The modest plan for his orchard — “Preserve carefully” he wrote on the front — is now in the Cushing-Tuckerman-Esty Papers at Amherst College.  There, among the pears and cherries, an observant orchardist will see that he has planned for several fine apple varieties, namely Rhode Island Greening, Baldwin, Northern Spy, Red Astrachan, Sops of Wine, Porter, and Gravenstein, shown in a detail here:

Most of these apples are still available to plant today – I have a few (okay, most) of these myself.  Part of the lure of heirloom apples is the names, and for some budding apple growers it’s hard to resist buying an example of every curiously-named apple.  It’s nice — probably very wise — to have a selection in your orchard of modern, disease-resistant apples such as Liberty, Enterprise, or Freedom (what bloody boring names, though), but it’s far more addictive to track down heirloom varieties such as (to list a very few) Razor Russet, Cornish Gilliflower, Hubbardston Nonesuch, or Westfield-Seek-No-Further.  How can you resist?  The Tuckermans didn’t resist.  They planted their orchard.

 

Detail from a larger photo, showing the Tuckerman orchard in early spring.

 

The Tuckerman’s mature orchard in 1921, when Applestead was a fraternity. Note the train running past the house — the track was added only a few decades after the Tuckermans built Applestead.

Detail from map of Amherst, 1873, by F. Beers. “G.F. Tuckerman” should read “E. Tuckerman.”

The property and the orchard only lasted about 70 years.  In the 1920s Amherst College administrators decided that the athletic facilities should be improved, and that the Tuckerman property would be the site of the “Amherst College Base Ball Cage.”  The map at left shows the three properties along “Broadway” (now South Pleasant Street) that would be torn down in order to erect the Cage.  In a few pages devoted to this project in Stanley King’s “Consecrated Eminence,” the destruction of Applestead received only one sentence: “The stone house, known as the Tuckerman house, then standing at the site, was taken down.”  The orchard is long gone, but somewhere — even as pieces or pebbles or dust — that indestructible stone is brooding over the razing of Applestead.

Detail from a photograph in the Buildings and Grounds Collection showing the Cage and its grounds. The Tuckermans’ property would have been to the right of the train tracks.