Andy Lapidus – Andrew Stone Lapidus – wasn’t at Williston Academy for very long. Having spent three years at Avon Old Farms, he was tempted north to Williston’s greener French Department and pastures in 1964. Away from the classroom and the soccer field, he was rarely without a camera, and at a time when Williston didn’t offer a photography class, organized a camera club.
He left Williston in 1966 for the Cate School in Carpinteria, California, met his future bride Roxanne, and eventually shifted his professional attentions from French to counseling and advocacy for youth. They raised three sons, Peter, Alex, and Paul. Sadly, he left us, aged 72, in 2010. A few months ago Roxanne sent the Archives a cache of photographs he’d taken at Williston. We exchanged a couple of letters – she was initially surprised that anyone remembered him. Roxie visited the campus at Reunion last May and met others who had fond recollections as well.
But of course I remembered him. Andy was unforgettable. Perhaps I should qualify that memory. In 1964 I was 12, a somewhat nerdish, classically-trained Williston faculty brat. Brats of my ilk found Andy fascinating. Here was an adult who didn’t take adult-ness too seriously, who would break off a grownup conversation to deliver a wicked aside meant only for juvenile ears, or deliver a straight-faced pun so horrible that even Horace Thorner would shudder. He was subversively funny. I think we understood that deep down, he was one of us.
And his camera was an essential accessory. Some of Andy’s native whimsy comes through in his photographs, especially in certain portraits, which often capture something unspoken about their subjects.
Here is a sampling. Where images are uncaptioned, it is because we don’t know who the people are. Readers are invited to help us with that; please email firstname.lastname@example.org; if you can fill in a blank, or if anyone is mis-identified, we’d like to know!
We lost James Hamilton, class of 1961, last year. He was many things — printer, conservationist, history buff, devoted Williston and Dartmouth alumnus — you can read more about him here. His Cohasset, Mass. neighbors and, especially, his Williston classmates will remember him as a perceptive and occasionally wicked cartoonist and caricaturist.
Most of Jim’s work graced the pages of The Log and The Willistonian from 1959 through 1961. For those who remember his favorite subjects or victims, the drawings are remarkably on target. They tend to feature several prominent faculty members, and a crewcutted, slightly beefy meathead named Willy, who bore an odd resemblance to Jim himself.
So discovery of new drawings by Jim Hamilton is cause for celebration. Several weeks ago Laurie Hamilton generously sent a stack of Willistonia to the Archives, and there, tucked into a copy of the yearbook, were several sketches. Thanks, Laurie!
The Archives Acquire a Fascinating Record of Science Teaching
It was one of those phone calls that vastly improves one’s week. “My name is Will Wyatt – I’m a dentist in Texas. I have what appear to be a notebook from a Williston biology class, dated 1890. Would you like it for the Archives? If so, I’d be happy to donate it.”
Would I like it? That would have been an understatement. Among the more important things we collect are examples of academic work: what was studied, and how it was taught, going back to our beginnings 175 years ago. We actively seek current student work, as well as that from the past. Consider: all the other things we save and cherish – theater photos, box scores, school newspapers, and dozens of other categories, most of them well-represented in this blog, wouldn’t even exist without the academic program. It provides a context for everything else in our daily lives at a busy school. Academics are the most important thing we do at Williston.
So yes, we were thrilled to accept Dr. Wyatt’s generosity – the more so given the age of the item. It is relatively easy to lay hands on student papers from 2015. Anything from the 19th century is another story entirely. And as shall be seen, this particular item is very special.
The document is a set of teaching notes for an 1890 Williston Seminary biology course taught by William Tyler Mather (1864-1937). Mather, Williston class of 1882, went on to Amherst College, graduating in 1886. He taught at Leicester Academy, 1886-1887 then, like many Williston and Amherst alumni, returned to Williston to teach (1887-1893). During this time he also completed a master’s degree at Amherst (1891). In 1894 he entered Johns Hopkins University, earning a Ph.D. in physics in 1897. In 1898 he became Professor of Physics at the University of Texas, Austin, where he remained the rest of his life. (This would tend to partially explain how a set of teaching notes found their way from Easthampton to “a very eclectic used book store” in San Antonio, where Will Wyatt purchased them in the 1980s.)
With the rise of relatively inexpensive albumen printing in the 1860s, photographic visiting cards—universally known by the more tony-sounding cartes de visite, reflecting their French origins—became wildly popular.
Of a standard size of 2½ by 4 inches, they could be inserted in commercially available albums. School and college students, no doubt encouraged by photography studios, soon took advantage. In the decades before the rise of the photographic yearbook (Williston’s Log first appeared in 1902), seniors typically purchased photo albums and filled them with the cartes de visite of their classmates.
Recently a set of cartes de visite stamped “Graduating Class, Williston Seminary, 1862” came into the hands of Rex Solomon ‘84, who has generously donated them to the Williston Northampton Archives. It is a significant gift. Though incomplete, it is the earliest set of class photographs in the Archives’ collection.
The images are in especially good condition for their age and chemistry. Typically, chemicals, impurities, and moisture in the original paper, glue, and cardboard backing react with the environment and one another, causing fading, yellowing, mildew, and the deterioration of the paper itself. But after 150 years, these photographs remain remarkably sharp and clean.