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.
Perhaps in keeping with the spirit of wartime austerity, the same effect is attempted here with fewer tzotchkes.1 (Older alumni will recall the knotted ropes provided as fire escapes in every room. Reliable tradition suggests that they were also useful non-emergency alternatives to the stairs.)
Northampton School had a rule severely limiting what could be attached to the walls. But the great themes are here, notwithstanding a better sense of order.
True, not every student enters the spirit of excess. Do exceptions prove the rule? In any event, this lovely photograph deserves to be shared.
109 years after our first photo was taken, it is clear that the Great Traditions are still alive. We should mention that the occupants accomplished this masterpiece on a single Sunday afternoon.
1Yiddish for “clutter and stuff.” It’s a useful word.
Do you have photographs of your dorm room that you’d like to share with the Archives? And as always, your comments and questions are encouraged! Please use the form below.