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Archive for April, 2020

As the crew in the Archives and all of Frost Library has shifted gears to work remotely, we want to offer more information about how to use the resources we have put online over the past 5+ years. One of the most frequently used resources in the Archives is the collection of past college catalogs, all of which can be found in Amherst College Digital Collections. Here are some examples of how we use these in our daily work. (more…)

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We can all use a good laugh these days, so here is a post from April 1, 2019 that should do the trick.

Every so often there seems to be a rush of interest in bringing back old Amherst traditions. Perhaps alumni wish that students of today could experience gathering as a class to sing at the senior fence. Or students wonder if they are missing out on quirky old traditions that could build school spirit.

Well, today I’d like to share with you some of the lesser known student traditions and activities from the past, all candidates for reintroduction into the Amherst traditions of today!

A photograph of four students in white full-body pajamas or body suits, posed in a photography studio.

Amherst College Competitive Napping Team, 1882

Let’s start with athletics – while competitive napping was only a recognized intercollegiate sport for 7 years, Amherst had 5 champion teams during that time. This is the team from 1882; Alfred Humbrey, at left, won the final tournament round with a record breaking nap of 6 hours and 43 minutes.

A photograph of eight students in formal wear in front of a painted backdrop of Johnson Chapel. The students appear to be holding invisible flutes.

Amherst Air Flute Octet, 1886

In the musical realm, Amherst’s well known Air Flute Octet charmed campus and area concert goers for decades before dissolving during the economic depression of 1893 when air flute prices became exorbitant.

Photograph of a group of students with canes and top hats sitting on a large rock, probably from the 1880s.

Amherst On-Campus Rock Climbing Society, date unknown

The short-lived On-Campus Rock Climbing Society was dedicated to finding and climbing every rock on the Amherst campus.

The Puritan Cosplay Club, 1952

The Puritan Cosplay Club was a wildly popular student activity in the early 1950s. The group attended both Puritan Con and Colonizers Con annually along with groups from Williams, Wesleyan, Yale and many other New England colleges.

Photograph of a groups of students formally dressed holding very, very long pipes, posed around a table in a photography studio

Amherst Extreme Pipe Club, 1883

Amherst’s Extreme Pipe Club was a selective group that existed from 1882-1885. Members of the club competed fiercely to have the longest pipe, by 1885 the pipes were observed to be nearing 8 feet long. The club was disbanded by the faculty after numerous custodian complaints of puncture marks in the hallways caused by students struggling to navigate their pipes around corners and through doorways.

Photograph of a large group of young men in a variety of fashions. Most of the men are looking off the side of the picture with sultry expressions.

Summer School for Fashion Modeling, 1888

Amherst also hosted a number of summer schools in the late 1800s. In a addition to the better know Summer School for Library Economy and Sauveur Language School, there was also the Amherst Summer School for Fashion Modeling which graduated dozens of young men who went on to renown in the Paris fashion plate scene. Appearing in this image (second from left in the back row) is Ellery Huntington, Class of 1888, who was later pictured in hundreds of fashion plates out of New York.

Photograph of a large group of students fighting, surrounded at a distance by a crown of observers

Annual Student Brawl, 1925

Photograph of clusters of students rolling on the ground in fisticuffs, behind them is a crown of onlookers behind a rope.

Annual Student Brawl, 1928

The Annual Student Brawl was a beloved tradition that began in 1899 and extended into the early 1930s. On a fine spring Saturday, the president would declare it “Brawl Day” and the student body would gather on the quad or the playing fields. The president would shoot a ceremonial pistol to start the brawl; after 30 minutes, any student left standing would be declared a superior specimen of Amherst manhood and given a purple striped ribbon to be worn on his hat for the remainder of the year. The faculty and citizens of the town of Amherst would bring their families and picnic on the lawn after the brawl.

Photograph of a group of students holding a variety of implements including, an ax, paddles, boards, rope, brooms, and sticks. Students are posed in front of a house.

The Ax, Rope, Club, Paddle, and Broom Society, 1893

The Ax, Rope, Club, Paddle and Broom Society was a secret society that rivaled the many fraternities at Amherst in the 1890s. Each of the implements in the society name was central to one of the society’s rituals. Unfortunately, the details of their rituals have been lost to time so modern researchers are left guessing. We do know that the club was kicked out of seven rooming housing in the span of three years between 1892 and 1894.

Photograph of three men in top hats with guinea pig images on them, presenting a guinea pig on a tray to a fourth man in front of Johnson Chapel.

Amherst Varsity Guinea Pig Breeding Team presenting their winning guinea pig, 1951.

Last, but not least, is the Amherst Varsity Guinea Pig Breeding Team. The team competed in division 3 guinea pig breeding from 1949 to 1957. Pictured here is the guinea pig that took the team to the national championship in 1951. Numerous alumni guinea pig breeders hoped that the school’s mascot would be officially changed to the guinea pig in 2016, but were, alas, disappointed.

Happy April Fools Day!

(All of the photographs in this post are, in fact, real photographs of Amherst College students, the interpretations however… are not. For more information about Brawl Day, please see the Chapel Rush and the Flag Rush. All the other photographs are unidentified.)

 

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