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Archive for the ‘Amherst College Digital Collections (ACDC)’ Category

The past few months have been a challenging time for archivists everywhere as we adjust to doing our work remotely. Fortunately, the materials available in Amherst College Digital Collections enable us to continue doing much of our work.

Back in February, I posted about five Black students from the 1870s and 1880s — Black Men of Amherst, 1877-1883 — and now we’re moving into the early 20th century. A small clue in The Olio has revealed another Black student that was not included in Harold Wade’s Black Men of Amherst. Robert Sinclair Hartgrove (AC 1905) was known to Wade, as was Robert Mattingly (AC 1906), but we did not know about Robert Henry Meriwether. These three appear to be the first Black students to attend Amherst in the twentieth century.

The text next to Hartgrove’s picture in the 1905 yearbook gives us a tiny glimpse into his time at Amherst. The same yearbook shows Hartgrove not just jollying the players, but playing second base for the Freshman baseball team during the 1902 season.

Freshman Baseball Team, 1902

Freshman Baseball Team, 1902

The reference to Meriwether sent me to the Amherst College Biographical Record, where I found Robert Henry Meriwether listed as a member of the Class of 1904. A little digging into the College Catalogs revealed that he belongs with the Class of 1905.

Hartgrove and Meriwether are both listed as members of the Freshman class in the 1901-02 catalog. The catalog also notes that they were both from Washington, DC and the Biographical Record indicates that they both prepped at Howard University before coming to Amherst. We find Meriwether’s name in the catalog for 1902-03, but he did not “pull through” as The Olio hopes Hartgrove will; Meriwether returned to Howard University where he earned his LLB in 1907. Hartgrove also became a lawyer, earning his JB from Boston University in 1908 and spending most of his career in Jersey City, NJ.

Mattingly was born in Louisville, KY in 1884 and prepped for Amherst at The M Street School in Washington, DC, which changed its name in 1916 to The Dunbar School. Matt Randolph (AC 2016) wrote “Remembering Dunbar: Amherst College and African-American Education in Washington, DC” for the book Amherst in the World, which includes more details of Mattingly’s life.


The Amherst College Archives and Special Collections reading room is closed to on-site researchers. However, many of our regular services are available remotely, with some modifications. Please read our Services during COVID-19 page for more information. Contact us at archives@amherst.edu.

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In celebration of the College’s bicentennial in 1821, we’re reprocessing several large collections in the archives. One of these is the Dramatic Activities Collection – material assembled by Tuffy McGoun, a professor of dramatics at the College. The collection documents the history of dramatic productions and activities on campus. It’s a long history – our first production ephemera dates from 1826!

In addition to giving a great overview of the dramatic life of the college, the collection is an excellent resource for showing trends in design over the decades. Nowhere is this more evident than in comparing several different productions of the same play. I’ve chosen two popular plays to show examples of how different productions handled costumes, set design, and publicity in different decades.

Our first play – The Rivals, a comedy of manners by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, was first performed in 1775. The plot follows the romantic intrigue between several visitors of the town of Bath, England, a popular holiday spot at the time. The play is somewhat forgotten today – though it did give us the term malaprop, derived from the character of Mrs. Malaprop (who unintentionally substitutes the wrong term for similar-sounding words throughout).

The first Amherst College production took place June of 1843. It was performed three other times: March 1896, February 1906, and May 1963.

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Program from the June 1843 production of scenes from The Rivals. Part of the Amherst College Summer Exhibition

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Program from the March 1896 production of The Rivals.

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Playbill for the 1896 production, performed at the Academy of Music at Northampton. Touts “college men. Costly scenery. Elaborate costumes.”

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Cast photograph of the 1896 “Rivals.” Annotations on the back state that this was the first College production to go on tour.

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The 1906 “Rivals” program, by the Amherst College Dramatics Association.

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Program from a Ware, Massachusetts performance. The penciled annotation says: “The night the curtain came down on Deroin’s head.” Frank Deroin (AC 1908) played the character of Bob Acres.

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The 1963 production program. Kirby Memorial Theater was built in 1938.

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A production photograph from 1963 depicting the characters Julia and Faulkland.

The second play I chose comes from Shakespeare – the Scottish play! Macbeth was performed at Amherst College in January 1910, November 1941, November 1965, and November 1995. The documentation for the 1941 production is particularly rich, showing the effort that went into the set design and costumes.

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A program for the 1910 performance. Note: this wasn’t quite a dramatic production, rather a “reading by members of the Junior Class in public speaking.”

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Costumes and set in 1941.

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Behind the scenes in 1941.

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A set design sketch for the 1941 production.

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Program for the 1965 production. This aesthetic look persisted into the 1970s.

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Program for the 1995 production.

 

These images represent only a small slice of the collection which stands at about 72 linear feet of material. As part of the Bicentennial project in the library, we’ll be digitizing a lot of this material in the coming years.

 

 

 

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