Tag Archives: Student Life

An 1880s Williston Scrapbook

by Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist
George B. Wardman portrait
George Wardman in his student days. (As always, please click images to enlarge.)

Consider why people keep scrapbooks.  Are a they a repository for the ephemera of one’s life, souvenirs of things that seemed important at the time?  If so, then they can be unique windows into individuals’ lives, in a particular place, at a particular time.

Among the many student scrapbooks and albums held by the Williston Northampton Archives, that of George Wardman, class of 1889, is among the older and more comprehensive.

George Benjamin Wardman entered Williston in the fall of 1885, as a member of the class of 1888.  Born in Cheyenne, WY, April 20, 1869, he was a resident of New Orleans, LA, according to the 1886 Annual Catalogue.  How he found his way from the deep South to Easthampton is not known.  To further confuse matters, his academic transcript, in contradiction to the Catalogue, claims he resided in Pittsburgh.  In any event, he arrived in the fall of 1885, bringing with him a leather scrapbook.

George B. Wardman scrapbook.The book, now in fragile condition, measures 12 x 9 inches, bound in buckram-covered boards with a leather spine.  Inside the front flyleaf is a penciled inscription: “George Wardman.  Christmas 1884.  Mama.”  George appears to have saved the book for something special; he did not begin adding to it until the winter of 1886.  The first pages contain a pasted collage of items from the 1886 Annual Catalogue, including a rosters of the faculty and George’s classmates, his first year curriculum in the Scientific Department, and what must have been the major news of the time, the appointment of a new Principal.

George B. Wardman scrapbook. Catalogue pages.
(Click on any image to enlarge.)

Here are the results of George’s entrance exams, assigning him to the Junior Middle class (“J.M.,” equivalent to the 10th grade) and initialed by Acting Principal Joseph Henry Sawyer.  Note how items have been sewn into the scrapbook with gold ribbon.  George eventually became less fastidious about this; later items were often simply tucked between pages, without sewing or the use of oxidation-prone glue.  Ironically, this has aided in their long-term preservation. George B. Wardman scrapbook. Results of placement exams.As was customary in most schools and colleges at the time, students’ physical measurements were recorded.  Here are George’s vital statistics.  He was smaller than average, standing 5’3″ and weighing 102 pounds.George B. Wardman scrapbook. Vital statistics.George B. Wardman scrapbook. Vital statistics rotated. Continue reading

William Brooks Cabot Writes Home

By Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist

Recently, through the generosity of Mr. Eric Brothers, the Archives acquired two letters written by William Brooks Cabot, class of 1876, to his mother in Brattleboro, Vermont.  In August, 1874, Cabot had just arrived at Williston Seminary, and was enrolled in the Middle Class — the equivalent of the modern 11th grade — in Williston’s Scientific curriculum.   The following transcriptions retain William’s occasionally idiosynchratic punctuation and free-form sentence and paragraph structure.  He was, after all, just 16 years old and, in fairness, somewhat ahead of his peers (then and now) in matters of spelling.

Detail of Cabot’s first letter, Sunday, August 30, 1874, on school stationery (Click all images to enlarge)

It was a Sunday.  William had just moved out of a dormitory and into a boarding house where he had already arranged for his meals — the school had no dining hall of its own at this time.

Easthampton, Aug. 30th [1874]

Dear Mother

I am sorry father was not at home to decide what course I should take with regard to my studies.  I shall take Geometry, Drawing, Zoology, & German, though if possible I shall take Latin instead of Zoology.

We have changed our rooms & are now boarding where we take our meals.  I only pay $5 $6.00 per week in all, which is about twenty five cents more than I paid – or rather, was to pay at the Sem.  It’s much more convenient for meals & we have carpets & towels, & do not have to do our own chamber work, as we did at the Sem.  We paid our tuition yesterday.  My bill was $26.00.

We have to attend chapel at a little before nine in the morning.   We do all our studying in our rooms, which I like very much.  At 7:30 P.M. the chapel bell rings, and we must go to our rooms immediately.  Once in a while a Prof. will happen around after dark, to see if we are all in our rooms, but we have not been honored by a visit as yet.

We are living at a Mrs. Embury’s, where there are five of us.  One is from Moline, Ill. & another from Scranton, Pa.

William’s housemates can be identified as Frederick William Keator, class of 1876 Classical, from Moline, and Edwin Hunter Lynde ’76 Scientific, from Scranton.  For a newly-enrolled kid who had, to this point, grown up in southern Vermont, these may well have seemed like exotic places.  As he would no doubt later discover, while the majority of students hailed from the Northeast, in 1874 Williston enrolled students from as far away as Louisiana, Alabama, and the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). Continue reading

Home, Sweet Home

Among the great themes in private school life, dorm room decoration is, perhaps, insufficiently recognized as one of the Great Traditions.

But consider the first image below, taken in North Hall in 1903.  All the elements of modern-day student interior decoration are present.  The overall theme might be described as “Eclecticism, and Too Much Of It.”  There is an emphasis on advertising and clipped photographs, especially portraits of unattainable celebrities of opposite gender.

Perhaps the impression of young gentlemen sitting up straight and reading in their jackets and ties doesn’t seem quite real, but it is somewhat mitigated by paper that didn’t quite hit the wastebasket.

Herbert B. Howe’s room in North Hall, 1903. (Howe Scrapbook) (Click all images to enlarge)

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