Dishcover Minstrel Troupe

Most people forget, or never knew, just how prevalent minstrel shows were in the not-too-distant past.  We have a strong 19th-century theater collection with playbills for black face comic performances as opening acts to “serious” theater. We also have dozens of examples of scripts and sheet music for minstrel shows. More disturbing are programs for local amateur performances.

But even we were surprised to find this one: evidence of a minstrel show performance in the Antarctic on August 6, 1902. This program, printed on Ross Island during Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition, describes an evening of entertainment put on by members of the crew. The “Dishcover Minstrel Troupe” performed seventeen songs and, according to the South Polar Times (the monthly newspaper produced during the expedition to ward off boredom), was interspersed throughout with minstrel dialect jokes.

These programs always shake you a little, but for some reason it is even more unnerving to see a black face show being performed in the Antarctic. The only representation of humanity on the continent at the time, and they are doing what?

We are still cataloging the program, but you can ask for it at the desk. You can see the report in the South Polar Times, by asking for Stef G850 1901 .D7 Vol 1 (page 23 of the August 1902 issue).

More Than a Century of Sediment Data


USGS Sediment Data Portal

The USGS has just announced a new online, interactive sediment data portal that provides access to more than a century’s worth of data, representing the best available compendium of suspended sediment data for streams and rivers across the nation.

From the announcement:

Ever since sediment samples were first collected in 1889 by pioneering engineer Frederick Newell and 14 of his colleagues on the Rio Grande River at Embudo, N.M., the U.S. Geological Survey has continued to collect and record information on sediment transport in streams and rivers across the Nation.


Sediment Data Filters

Too much sediment can harm aquatic life and reduce the storage capacity of reservoirs affecting water supply and flood storage. In some instances, too little sediment can also be an issue.  For example, decreased amounts of sediment in the lower Mississippi Basin have been identified as the primary reason for the loss of thousands of square miles of wetlands off the Louisiana coast.

The portal provides easy access to valuable long-term data sets that can be useful in assessing how landscape modifications are affecting sediment transport in streams and rivers. Information on sediment concentrations and grain size can help identify appropriate and cost-effective sediment monitoring methods. Sediment data and ancillary data on streamflow condition, sediment grain size, sampling method, and landscape condition are also available for download within the portal.

(Read more … )

* Special thanks to Emily Wild, US Geological Survey Librarian, for sharing this announcement.

Also of Interest:

Filed under: Earth Sciences

Obey the Summons of the Conch

Several years ago we published a blog entry on the tradition of horning at Dartmouth. In response, one of our readers remarked that students at Dartmouth back in the late eighteenth century were paid to “blow a conch shell to mark the beginning and ending of classes in place of a bell,” and suggested that the charges to students’ accounts for horning instead might be payments given for their service. That idea piqued our curiosity enough to inspire a deeper exploration of the archives. Here’s what we found.

The first discovery was that we still have the original conch shell from those days and it’s fully functional! The second was that, according to Dartmouth Traditions by William Carroll Hill, 1902, Native American students were assigned the task of sounding the horn three times a day for approximately five minutes to call everyone for twice-daily prayers and 11 am recitations. Anecdotally, every college student at the time was charged thirty-three cents for the service.

With this admittedly shaky evidence in hand, we reviewed the student accounts ledger from the 1770s and found that there were no universal charges of thirty-three cents per student. Instead, there are several charges of varying amounts to select individuals for their “part in blowing the horn.” This leads us to believe the original hypothesis about penalties for horning, but it does raise fresh questions about the details of the arrangement with the Native American student population, among others.

Regardless, by William Carroll Hill’s time, the sounding of the conch shell had achieved such a reputation among Dartmouth students that a song about it, “The Old Conch Shell,” was included in Dartmouth Songs, a collection of college tunes compiled by Edwin Osgood Grover, ’94, and musically edited by Addison Fletcher Andrews, ’78. All of these materials are available for viewing at Rauner, using the following call numbers:

Conch shell: Uncat Realia 117
Student Accounts Ledger B: DA-2, Box 1746
Dartmouth Traditions: Reference LD1438 .H6
Dartmouth Songs: Alumni G918d

Pleasure Reading and Book Exchange

pleasureLooking for something fun to read?  Want to take a break from your studying or grant writing? Look for the “Book Exchange” shelves at both Dana Library and the Matthews-Fuller Library. We offer a variety of donated books, including popular fiction titles, non-fiction, occasional movies, and children’s books.

You can also enjoy, “A Blind Date with a Book”!  We have chosen a few of our pleasure reading titles and wrapped them in brown paper.  A brief, hand-written description of the covered book gives a fun clue about what is hidden inside!

We invite you to take a book with you — no need to check the book out at the Circulation Desk. You can return it whenever you’d like, or keep it! We also welcome your donations to the collection. Simply drop off a book or two with the Circulation Desk, and we will make sure it gets on the shelf.

"Stinking" Haggis

Burns night is upon us–when all good Scots toast the great Bard and recite “To a Haggis” before plunging a knife into the “Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-race!” Among the most recited of Burns’s poems, “To a Haggis” did not appear in the the famous Kilmarnock edition of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (Kilmarnock: John Wilson, 1786). It first appeared in the Caledonian Mercury, but then was collected into the second and third editions of Poems in 1787.

The type for the third edition was completely reset. In the process, a curious typo appeared. In “To a Haggis,” the word skinking (meaning watery) was changed to “stinking.” Surely not what Burns had in mind, but fitting to those of us less accustomed to the pudding. To quote the glossary to the third edition: Haggis, a kind of pudding boiled in the stomach of a cow or sheep.”

To see the famous Kilmarnock edition, ask for Burns PR4300 1786 .K4 Copy 2. For the “stinking” Haggis, ask for Burns PR4300 1787 .E42.

Supernova in M82!

I bumped into Prof. Ryan Hickox this afternoon as I was wrapping up my LaTeX crash course for MATH 17, and he shared this piece of exciting news with me: a supernova went off in one of the nearby galaxies!

Here are some headlines I dug up:

Animation of Supernova in M82 – January 22, 2014
by E. Guido, N. Howes, M. Nicolini

There may be an organized viewing some time in the next two weeks so keep an eye out! In the mean time, come on over to Kresge and check out a book on supernovas! Suggested titles:

Filed under: Astronomy, For Fun

Not the Pumpkin

The Jack-O’-Lantern is Dartmouth’s long running humor magazine. First issued in March 1909, the magazine’s alumni include notables such as Ted Geisel (before he was Dr. Seuss), Buck Henry, Budd Schulberg and Chris Miller (of Animal House fame).

According to a letter from founding member William Atwood (class of 1909), at the time that the Jack-O was established, “Dartmouth was a small but rapidly growing institution, perhaps feeling in its adolescence a bit of unadmitted awe – ‘inferiority complex’ had complexes then been invented.” Atwood goes on to write that “no doubt it was a spirit of emulation that prompted us to establish Jack-O’Lantern, as well as the fact that since Hanover was devoid of movies, television, radio, autos and other forms of vicarious self-improvement, the students were of necessity forced to create their own entertainment.”

Rauner holds a complete run of the Jack-O, including the famous first issue of Stockman’s Dogs from 1934 – the image of two dogs talking to one another has become a staple of the magazine and appears frequently, though the caption changes with the times. In addition to the print version, Rauner has a selection of original artwork by Jack Rose (class of 1928) from the mid 1920s including covers, inserts, and other images that have graced the pages of the Jack-O. We also have Dudley Redfield’s artwork for the masthead from 1910.

“Campus Smoothie and Loaded for Bear”
March, 1926
“After Class”
Bim – What Day is Today?
Bo – Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
November, 1924

 Ask for the Vertical File “Jack-O’-Lantern” and Iconography 302, 1407 and 1589. The print editions are available in the Rauner Reading Room (Ref LH1.D3 J3).

Going Local: Desegregating Dartmouth’s Fraternities

In March 1954 something rather extraordinary happened at Dartmouth. The undergraduate council, led by future Dartmouth President David McLaughlin, put before the entire student body a referendum to end discrimination in the fraternities. 86.5% of the student body voted, and the measure passed by a thin majority of just four votes. The referendum required that by April 1, 1960, “any fraternity with a written or unwritten nationally imposed discriminatory clause that restricts, or can be interpreted to restrict, membership because of race, religion or national origin shall cease to be eligible to participate in fraternity activities on this campus.” In other words, fraternities could no longer blackball prospective pledges based on race, religion or nation origin.

A 1956 document shows what the fraternities were up against. The national chapters of many of the organizations restricted membership to “white Christians” and even some without formal policies had unwritten understandings that had to be adhered to by the local chapters. The result of the referendum was that many fraternities broke their national affiliations and “went local.” It is interesting to think that one of the driving forces that created Dartmouth’s distinctive Greek system was a majority vote by students in the 1950s who were committed to equal rights for a minority population on campus.

A different kind of “pledge”

In addition to documents related to the decision to end the discriminatory clauses, we have a fraternity ballot box which once could have been used to blackball a non-white or non-Christian pledge.

To learn more, ask for the vertical file “Fraternities, 1950-1979.”

Web of Science – New Interface

Web of Science, the multi-disciplinary index of journal literature, debuted a new interface on January 12, 2014.  All the familiar functions are still there, but many have moved and/or are hidden in drop-down menus.  For instance, find “Cited Reference Search” on the drop-down menu next to “Basic Search” at the left of the main screen.

For a brief video tutorial about the new interface, see

Additional tutorials on using the new Web of Science may be found at