Category Archives: Just for Fun

The First Homecoming

On November 11, 1924—exactly one month before James B. Duke would make the gift that would transform Trinity College into Duke University—Trinity held its first official homecoming. It was also Armistice Day, which commemorated the end of World War I, and was a holiday for most folks. Football was the centerpiece of the day and the largest crowd to ever see a Trinity athletics event gathered at Hanes field (site of today’s Williams Field on East Campus) as the Blue Devils lost to Wake Forest. Nearly 1,000 alumni attended the events that day, which included a gathering of alumni clubs as well as the screening of the film, “A Year at Trinity.”

Homecoming Parade, 1941.

Over the years parades, skits, and musical performances have been added to the homecoming festivities. One thing has not changed—the chance for alumni to return home to their alma mater and relive those glory days of college.

To see photographs of homecomings past, visit the University Archives’ “Homecoming Celebrations” set at Duke Yearlook, our Flickr photostream.

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, Duke University Archivist.

Alabama v. Duke

This Saturday’s football game with Alabama recalls the historic ties between our two programs. In 1930, shortly before the opening of the new Gothic West Campus, President William Few sought the advice of the celebrated Alabama coach Wallace Wade on potential names for a football coach and director of athletics. Wade, who had led Alabama to two Rose Bowls and a record of 51-13-3, surprised Few by replying that he would be interested in the vacancy. Wade brought his Alabama success to Duke, leading the Blue Devils to two Rose Bowls as well. He would post a record of 110-36-7 in his sixteen years as coach at Duke.

Sugar Bowl Coin Toss
The Coin Toss. From the Edmund M. Cameron Records.

While Wade served in the U.S. Army as major during World War II, his assistant Eddie Cameron took over as head coach and continued the Blue Devils’ gridiron success. He led the 1944 team to a Sugar Bowl showdown with Alabama on January 1, 1945. In what sportswriter Grantland Rice called “one of the greatest thrillers of all time” Duke edged the Tide 29 to 26. Cameron kept a scrapbook filled with images from the game, which now forms a part of the Edmund M. Cameron Records.

Duke’s connections to Alabama continue with current Coach David Cutcliffe, an Alabama native and graduate of the University of Alabama who also served as an intern to legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant. Duke fans will be hoping that Coach Cutcliffe will rekindle some of that “Sugar Bowl magic” and will lead us to another thrilling victory over Alabama this Saturday!

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, Duke University Archivist.

Photo Op with the AOTUS

During the recent Society of American Archivists (SAA) meeting in Washington, D.C., several RBMSCL staff members received a very special tour of the National Archives. Former Duke University Librarian and current Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, gave the group a personal tour of his office.The group (click photo to enlarge) is gathered here under the portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which hangs in Ferriero’s office. (The National Archives began during Roosevelt’s administration.)

Ferriero, who has been AOTUS since last November, regaled the group with stories of great documents housed in the Archives. He recently examined Walt Whitman’s federal employee file (he was briefly employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs). In the file was a five page letter of reference—written by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, Duke University Archivist.

Books, Boys, and Beastly Bats

We were charmed by this advice from educator Marcius Willson’s The School and Family Primer, published in 1860 as an introductory text to his series of four readers for children. It sounds very much like the advice we give to our researchers on a daily basis. (Click on the image to view a larger version.)

(We’re also agog at the two pictures chosen to illustrate the letter “B.” Confronted by such a gigantic bat, the boy’s nonchalance is decidedly impressive.)

The Star-Spangled Cucumber

As archivists, we know that we’re supposed to mark the Fourth of July with a remembrance of that most celebrated of documents, our Declaration of Independence. We think, though, that we’ll leave the remembering and celebrating to our fine colleagues at the National Archives, and give some attention to a document of a completely different sort—a pamphlet bearing one of the most wonderful titles we’ve ever come across:

Lest you think we’re joking, here’s a link to the catalog record. The pamphlet reprints an oration delivered by David Daggett to the citizens of New Haven, Connecticut on the Fourth of July, 1799.

Of course, at the risk of spoiling the fun, we have to note that the title is actually a reference to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Since Swift was a pretty funny guy himself, we’re hoping you’ll forgive us.

Happy Fourth of July from the RBMSCL!

Thanks to Beth Ann Koelsch, who brought this treasure to our attention many years ago.

Gee, Paperclips are Expensive…

Archival supplies are often the overlooked backbone of special collections. Imagine if we didn’t have boxes to hold all those priceless papers, or rubber stamps to warn everyone that the enclosed tintypes were “FRAGILE”?

Stainless Steel Paperclips

Boxes, folders, envelopes, interleaving paper: all of these things have been specially made treated to be acid-free, lignin-free, and archivally safe for the materials we store in them. They are designed to extend the life of our collections by preventing items from shifting during transport, or letting users grab a sturdy folder instead of a delicate manuscript. Some boxes and folders are chemically engineered to absorb oxidative gases from items like old newspapers, preventing them from yellowing or damaging other papers that might be stored in the same box.

Specially designed supplies usually result in extremely expensive supply costs for a special collections library. Regular cardboard boxes can cost as little as a dollar, while our archival boxes for letter-sized paper cost as much as $10. Oversized material requires extra-large folders and boxes, which can run as much as $40 per box! Even tiny supplies pack a punch: stainless steel paper clips, for example, cost a whopping 8 cents per paper clip. Regular paper clips are much cheaper (less than 1 cent), but they also rust and damage paper.

As archivists, we want to protect our collections so they will last as long as possible. Special supplies, while expensive, are critical to our success.

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Assistant.

Your Bloomers Are Showing

Cover of "The Bloomer's Complaint," 1851.

According to an informal and completely unscientific survey, five out of the eight women who work in the RBMSCL’s reading room are wearing pants today. This might not be the case were it not for the efforts of Amelia Bloomer, early feminist and fashion pioneer, who celebrates her 192nd birthday today.

To honor Amelia, we quote from a 6 August 1851 letter from University of North Carolina chemistry professor Benjamin Sherwood Hedrick to his future wife, Mary Ellen Thompson (from our Benjamin Sherwood Hedrick Papers).

Remarking on current cultural matters from his position at the Nautical Almanac in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he writes:

There is something said every day or two about ‘Bloomers.’ I have seen several of them and like them. The young ladies have changed the fashion of putting up their hair, combing it up and back, something like what is vulgarly called a ‘cow-lick.’ I do not like it.

Professor Hedrick’s progressive opinion on the bloomer suit was not widely shared. Witness the chorus of “The Bloomer’s Complaint,” a charming song also from 1851:

I’ll come out next week, with a wide Bloomer flat
Of a shape that I fancy will fright them,
I had not intended to go quite to that,
But I’ll do it now, only to spite them—
With my pants “a la Turque,”
And my skirts two feet long
All fitting of course, most completely
These grumblers shall own after all, they are wrong,
And that I, in a Bloomer, look sweetly,
And that I, in a Bloomer, look sweetly.

Thanks to Mitch Fraas, RBMSCL Research Services intern, for suggesting this post.

Class of 2010, Where Will You Be in 100 Years?

The Class of 1910 files into Craven Memorial Hall.

This weekend, over 3,500 accomplished students will receive degrees from Duke University. So much has changed in the 100 years since the Class of 1910 received their degrees (32 Bachelors of Arts and 3 Masters of Arts) on Wednesday, June 8th. Then, Duke was still known as Trinity College and John C. Kilgo was finishing his sixteen-year term as college president (William P. Few would assume the presidency in November). The Trinity Chronicle (now the Duke Chronicle) was only five years old.

We thought we’d revisit those school days of long ago by reprinting a few headlines from that fledgling paper for the 1909-1910 school year.

  • “Fortnightly Club Meets: Good Attendance at Postponed Meeting Last Friday Evening: Prof. Webb Selected Dante Theme,” October 27, 1909
  • “Doctor Kilgo’s Sermon: President Gives Masterly Defense of Faith Faculty of Our Mind,” November 17, 1909
  • Watts Hospital Opening: Thousands View the Various Rooms and Listen to Addresses,” December 8, 1909
  • Ninety Nineteen Initiate: Six New Men Taken through the Mysteries of the Order: Candidates Undergo Mystic Stunts,” February 23, 1910
  • “Mr. Nash on Fertilizers: Good Attendance at Regular Meeting of Science Club: Growing Interest in Club Work,” March 9, 1910
  • “Chronicle vs. Archive: Yearly Exhibition of Strictly Amateur Players, a Few Ringers Excepted: Most Exciting Game, Chronicle Wins,” April 20, 1910. (Yes, as the headline says, the Trinity Chronicle staff won that baseball game 8-5.)
  • “Commencement Program: All Arrangements for the Last Week Have Been Completed: Secretary Nagel to Make Address,” April 27, 1910
  • Mr. Brogden Speaks: Popular Durham Attorney Makes Forcible Talk to a Large Assemblage—His Subject: ‘Habit and Thought,'” May 4, 1910

The RBMSCL warmly congratulates the Class of 2010!

Additional Resources:

For Mom

On this special day, we’re sharing this cover from the sheet music from 1915 song (words by Edward Morton and James S. Donahue and music by Newton B. Heims). We love the sweet chorus:

Just write her a nice little letter,
Tell her you hope she is well,
Send her some little remembrance,
Something to make her heart swell,
Pet her and call her your sweetheart,
Cheer her and make her feel gay,
Don’t say a word that will grieve her,
Let this be your Mother’s Day.

Of course, we can’t write about mothers without mentioning one of the beloved treasures of the RBMSCL: enslaved woman Vilet Lester’s 1857 letter to her former mistress (from the Joseph Allred Papers). Vilet asks about her precious daughter, whom she had to leave behind when she was sold (ultimately) to a Georgian family. Each time we read it, our eyes get teary and our hearts break all over again.

Happy Mother’s Day, Vilet. Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere!