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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Today we’re taking a quick peek at the Amherst of 120 years ago. William J. Newlin was a student at Amherst College from 1895 to 1899, he later returned as a Mathematics and Philosophy professor and taught here for nearly fifty years. We have a handful of glass plate negatives that Newlin took as a student and that now reside in our photograph collection. Followed by the photographs of Allan W. Forbes a mere ten years later, these images tell an interesting story about life at Amherst College a little more than 100 years ago.

click on an image to see it larger

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Daguerreotype of Charles Thompson by Chandler Seaver, Jr., of Boston, ca 1855

Daguerreotype of Charles Thompson by Chandler Seaver, Jr., of Boston, ca 1855

Charles Thompson, custodian at Amherst College for more than 40 years in the second half of the 19th century – do you know him?  Have you seen photographs of him before, perhaps in an old Olio yearbook?  For over 40 years Amherst students graduated and left town with a photograph of Charles Thompson in their copies of the yearbook.  Thompson was deeply connected with the College, and with the students’ experience of it, and there is no doubt that those who knew him remembered him fondly.

Most of what we know about Thompson’s life comes from a volume written to raise money for Thompson’s old age by President William Augustus Stearns’ daughter Abigail Eloise LeeI’ve looked at the book many times over the years, both for the purpose of learning about Thompson’s life and to find details about the College and town during those days.  Recently I looked at it again and this time I happened to focus on a passage in which Lee mentions Thompson’s experiences as a sailor.  I’d never noticed this information enough to wonder about it, but this time I did.

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college_seal_1825aWhen Amherst College was founded in the early 19th century, part of its raison d’être (aside from being a protest against Harvard’s Unitarianism) was to educate young men to go out into the world and preach the gospel.  The College seal illustrates this philosophy: “Terras Irradient” – “let them enlighten the lands.” However, by the end of the century graduates’ interests had evolved to something in addition to religious instruction, or something entirely different.  Graduates of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were still going into the world as missionaries, but by then the work often meant starting schools or becoming medical missionaries.  Other alumni were writers, doctors, teachers, publishers, ambassadors, “industrial barons,” and in many other professions far removed from those of the first Amherst graduates.

From left, Laurens, Dorothea, Kate, and Mary Averett Seelye, ca. December, 1919.

From left, Laurens, Dorothea, Kate, and Mary Averett Seelye, ca. December, 1919.

For Laurens Hickok Seelye, Class of 1911, “Terras Irradient” meant that he would teach philosophy at the American University of Beirut (AUB, known at the time as the Syrian Protestant College), where he moved in 1919 with his indefatigable wife Kate Chambers Seelye, daughter of missionaries William and Cornelia Chambers.  For Kate the move was a return home after her college years in the U.S. (Kate was born and raised in Turkey but left to attend Bryn Mawr and Columbia).  For Laurens the Middle East was something entirely new, and he threw himself into its culture unreservedly.  Professor Seelye probably stood out everywhere he went for his height, his humor, and his intense intellect.  And he loved AUB.  He loved it for its diversity, tolerance, and collegiality.  In a memorable letter to an old friend, he described both himself and the college:

WCSB-LHS-to-Dorry[Robbins]-1928-Aug-excerptIn addition to testing boundaries and teaching philosophy, Laurens acted as the director of West Hall, which was and still is the student campus center.  In that position, he came to know more students than he would otherwise have known.  After he had settled in at AUB, Laurens noticed a need for something else – financial assistance for ambitious young Armenian refugees to continue their education beyond what the Near East Relief provided.  This organization had established orphanages to help with Armenian refugees who had flooded into the area during and after World War I.  They provided a basic education to about age 16, at which time the boys left the orphanages to fend for themselves.  Because of Kate’s personal connection with the Armenian community and Laurens’ work at the college, several of these boys came to the Seelyes to ask for help.  Laurens decided to do what he could as a personal project, outside of his work at AUB.

In a letter to Clarence Young, an uncle, Laurens described the situation and his plan to help.  He said that there was no provision to train the Armenian refugees beyond a trade-school education, no resources to train teachers, doctors, dentists, pastors, and other professionals.  “I am right up against young life determined to win out and get an education if given half a chance,” Laurens wrote to Clarence.  The world “can do nothing in the future without an educated and large-minded minority scattered through the races and nations who are willing to stake their lives and reputations on the practice of Good Will.”  Would his uncle share his plea with churches and schools and clubs at home and ask if they might raise funds to support some of these boys?

WCSB-LHS-to-Clarence-Young-1923-Aug-6-p1WCSB-LHS-to-Clarence-Young-1923-Aug-6-p2

 

 

 

 

The plan worked.  Laurens and his donors were able to provide funds for a long list of boys to continue their educations.  The boys were mostly Armenians, but there were also boys of other backgrounds.

In 1923 a few of these boys met with Laurens and came away with the idea  of forming an Armenian Students Cooperative Association.  The club started with the goal of finding an affordable living space that a handful of students could share, splitting the cost of food, rent, and a cook (the latter after one of the boys inadvertently fried up his tie with some eggplants).  The club was sufficiently popular that it had to expand to two clubs and two houses.  A few of its members weren’t even Armenians, which pleased Laurens because it realized his goal of having the students regard themselves as “humans first, Armenians second,” by which he meant that he wanted his students to recognize their common humanity, and to work to improve conditions for all.

Club members lived, worked, and played together. Click below to enlarge the photographs and view them as a gallery.

 

The club also issued annual reports, three of which (1923-24; 1924-25; and 1926-27) are in the collection.  The reports demonstrate the democratic philosophy they practiced:

First page of 1924-25 report. Click on pdf below for full report.

First page of 1924-25 report. Click on pdf below for full report.

Armenian-Stu-Coop-Club-report-1924-25

The Seelyes were friends with several of these students for decades; in fact, there are letters in the collection from the club’s founder, Dicran Berberian, that date from the 1960s.  The existence of the club is a testament to the industry of the students, but also to Laurens’ teaching.  In his own way, he had realized Amherst’s motto, “Terras Irradiant.”

 

The material illustrated here is from the Williams-Chambers-Seelye-Blaisdell Family Papers in the Archives and Special Collections.  Contact the department for more details.

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Need an idea for Halloween? See the photograph below from a costume party in Turkey, ca. 1920-21, except for the French soldiers, who are real and probably on duty (which doesn’t rule out their garb for your party purposes). The other men are in “Pierrot” costume, perhaps inspired on this occasion by the popularity of “Yama Yama Man,” a strange song and dance routine not to be missed for your daily dose of weirdness from another place and time.

The photograph is from an album formerly belonging to Dorothea Nesbitt Chambers (Blaisdell), daughter of missionaries William N. and Cornelia P.W. Chambers.  Dorothea, a Bryn Mawr graduate, was a hardworking but fun-loving woman who grew up in Turkey and worked there for the YWCA before her marriage in 1926.  She is probably the photographer here.

Friends of Dot Chambers in Turkey (probably Adana).  Photograph from the Williams-Chambers-Seelye-Blaisdell Papers.

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This picture was take looking south at Walker Hall (left) and Williston Hall and college row (right). Forbes was standing on what would now be the street in front of the Armes Music Center.

This picture was taken on May 10th, 1906, looking south at Walker Hall (left) and Williston Hall and college row (right). Forbes was standing on what would now be the street in front of the Arms Music Center.

One of the projects that I’m working on right now is a complete survey of all the photographic and audio/visual materials in our collections. The ultimate goal of the survey is to make sure that all of these vulnerable materials are being housed in appropriate conditions and to flag items that need conservation work or conversion off of unplayable media.

An impromptu gravestone for one, A. Pair Pants, from October 25, 1906. The text at the bottom reads, "died of skunk juice."

An impromptu grave for one A. Pair Pants, from October 25, 1906. The text at the bottom reads, “died of skunk juice.”

In the course of this project, it has been my deep pleasure to explore the many small collections of photography by students, professors and others associated with the college. One of my personal favorites is the collection of Allan W. Forbes, class of 1908. Forbes, who went on to become an engineer after Amherst, was clearly a passionate amateur photographer. His collection contains more than 100 glass plate negatives, nearly 40 nitrate negatives and prints of around half of the images. (more…)

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..And young Sam Bowles’s son–

And young Sam Bowles is old Sam Bowles

When old Sam Bowles is done.”

This jingle, which appeared in “Time Magazine” on Oct 15, 1934 but which was said by the reporter to have been sung for decades by “the beery compositors of the venerable Springfield (Mass.) Republican,” refers to the three generations of “Sam Bowleses” who ran the Springfield Republican newspaper between 1824 and 1915, when the last editor named Sam Bowles died.  The fifth Sam Bowles broke the pattern: he didn’t run the paper. Instead, his cousin Richard Hooker took over the paper as editor and publisher. Subsequently, Sam’s younger brother Sherman worked for the paper as business manager, and then in other capacities for what had become the Republican Company, comprised of several papers.*

The

The “Springfield Republican” building, ca. 1900

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"2000 times square ball at waterford" by Hunter Kahn (talk) 02:57, 8 October 2008 (UTC) - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2000_times_square_ball_at_waterford.

Make room in Times Square: the Class of 1852 is ready to party with you and ring in 2015 dressed in spanking new glass.

This group of 42 men has been the subject of two posts, the first about their wild and crazy Philopogonian ways, and the second about a project to reseal the individual daguerreotypes from the class. I recently resealed the last daguerreotype in the group, so we begin 2015 with a sparkling set of nice, clear photographs.

D. J. Sprague: plate showing photographer J.D. Wells stamp at bottom right.

D. J. Sprague: plate showing photographer J.D. Wells’ stamp at bottom right.

First, a few details about the daguerreotypes themselves: All 42 daguerreotypes are sixth plate size (approx 2.75″ x 3.25″). The plates have a variety of damage but most looked pretty good after merely replacing the old cover glass (with its fascinating variety of gunk) with new Electro-verre low iron glass that I cut to size. I do not rinse or otherwise treat the plate except to gently blow off dust. Class member Daniel J. Sprague’s plate had the photographer’s name (J.D. Wells) stamped on the plate itself — an unusual practice — and another plate had Wells’ name on the mat. All others were unmarked but most were also probably by Wells. (more…)

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