Archive for September, 2015

In college student life, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between raucous traditions and random acts of stupidity. Traditions often degrade over time, ultimately ending with some egregious incident — or series of them, each progressively worse — that causes their dissolution09-2. At Amherst College, the statue of the mythical nymph Sabrina is perhaps the best known but not the only example. Fraternity hazing rituals, silly pranks, drunken stunts, rivalry-fueled acts of humiliation, stolen vehicles, property damage — these, unfortunately, are constants at colleges and universities. But the nature of such incidents, and the nature of college traditions in general, have a somewhat different flavor in earlier eras as compared to today; it may be the long winters, the lack of entertainment options, the stifling isolation of campus life, and the inherently strict moral codes of its community that have made colleges a breeding ground for antics of every sort.  Many of them are documented in the College Archives, though probably the great majority of them are not.

Last year I wrote about the “Squirt-Gun Riot of 1858,” which seems to have put me on the lookout for more “Acts of Stupidity” (yes, that’s an actual subject heading in our General Files, where we compile odds and ends related to the history of the college). Today let me share a few more of these with you. (Maybe this will be an occasional series?) (more…)

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Although Lord Jeffrey Amherst married twice, he left no direct heir when he died in 1797. When his brother, Lieutenant-General William Amherst (1732–1781), died in 1781, Lord Amherst took his orphaned nephew and two nieces into his household and raised them as his own. Through a special remainder, the title of Baron Amherst of Montreal passed to his nephew, who became William Pitt Amherst, Second Baron Amherst of Montreal.

John Hoppner. William Pitt Amherst (1773-1857), 2nd Baron Amherst of Montreal and 1st Earl Amherst of Arakan (Mead Art Museum, Amherst College)

The Archives & Special Collections at Amherst College holds a small collection of papers by and about William Pitt Amherst. As with our holdings of material related to Lord Jeffrey Amherst, much of this material was donated to the college by alumni, largely by Jack W. C. Hagstrom, MD (Class of 1955) who served as executor of the estate of the final Earl Amherst who died in 1993. (more…)

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A recent researcher’s request led me to a small collection of rare 19th Century American Spiritualist publications in our holdings.

PositiveThinker_1878Nov.compressed_Page_1Spiritualism, simply defined as talking with the dead or communicating with spirits, grew in popularity in the second half of the 19th Century.  In contrast to popular congregational American religions of the day, Spiritualism emphasized the individual’s unique relationship to the divine, decentralizing spiritual communication and challenging religious authority.  This rejection of the spiritual hierarchy so common in mainstream religions, naturally fostered and appealed to an anti-authoritarian spirit in its practitioners.  With the emphasis on the individual spirit and the divinity of every human soul, the Spiritualist movement drew progressive political and social activists advocating for the rights of all humans, including the abolition of slavery and women’s rights. (more…)

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