Homecoming: Edmund B. Dearborn

We recently acquired a small collection of letters addressed to Edmund B. Dearborn. Dearborn was a New England schoolteacher, who, although he prepared for college at Hampton Academy in New Hampshire, never matriculated at an institution. At Hampton Academy, Dearborn was a member of the Olive Branch Society. Incorporated in 1832, the society was founded to promote and improve writing and public speaking skills. However, when a fire at the Academy destroyed their collection of about six hundred valuable books, the society ceased to exist.

The letters in the collection are primarily from Dearborn’s former schoolmates. Most had also been members of the Olive Branch Society and many of them went into teaching as well. The letters detail the routine, responsibilities and personal narratives of small town schoolteachers.

Several of them attended Dartmouth College and it is through these letters that we get a first-hand account of student life at Dartmouth in the first half of the 19th century. In a letter from September 1829, Joseph Dow ’33 describes his life at Dartmouth, commenting that the “situation [here] is indeed very fine,” and that the “situation of Dart. Coll. has been grossly misrepresented.” He also implies that he expected Dearborn to join him at Dartmouth the following year and that in preparation for that he would “endeavor to give [him] some ideas of the place by the following uncouth figure.” Dow follows this statement with a small drawing in which he describes the buildings in “their situation relative to each other.” He also describes the Tontine building, which was destroyed in a fire in 1887, as a

huge building of brick, four stories high and part of a day’s journey in length. The lower part contains the Jackson Post Office-lawyer offices- tin plate worker’s shop-saddlers etc. The upper part contains rooms for students – principally quacks

Another former member of the Olive Branch Society, John Calvin Webster ’32 describes a more notorious incident when he writes that even though he had no particular news:

last week a negro woman died and was buried and on the night ensuing some of the medical students attempted to dig up the body. There were watchers expecting the attempt would be made, who let them dig down within a few inches of the coffin when they seized them.

Other correspondents in this collection include Amos Tuck, Jesse Eaton Pillsbury, S. P. Dole and David P. Page. To look at these letters please ask for MS-1290.

Strange Bedfellows: Ezra Pound and Robert Frost

Frost-Pound posterWe don’t usually associate presenting rare and unique materials in a barn surrounded by the scent of freshly baled hay, but that’s what two Dartmouth librarians did on August 11th at the Frost Farm in Derry, New Hampshire. Laura Braunstein, Librarian for English and Writing, and Jay Satterfield, Special Collections Librarian, presented “Strange Bedfellows: Ezra Pound and Robert Frost” as part of the Frost Farm’s Summer Literary series.

The program focused on the relationship between literary contemporaries Robert Frost and Ezra Pound. When Ezra Pound was committed to Saint Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital to avoid treason charges following World War II, Robert Frost drew on their shared literary network to secure his release in 1958.

We will retell the story of Frost’s stormy relationship with Pound through letters and other documents from the Robert Frost Collection at Dartmouth College’s Rauner Special Collections Library this Thursday, October 16th, at 4:00 in the Current Periodicals Room of Baker Library, followed by a tour of the Rauner Library exhibit “Corresponding Friendships: Robert Frost’s Letters” and a reception. The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Dartmouth College Library and is free and open to the public.

Building Bridges

As Independence Day fast approaches, it is hard not to feel a sense of anticipation in the air. Perhaps it emerges from imminent firework displays, the onset of long summer days, remembrance of our Founding Fathers, or familial traditions of hot dogs, hamburgers, and all things red, white, and blue.
Thomas Paine and his work of propaganda, Common Sense, is often overshadowed by these familiar representations of Independence Day. Nonetheless, he is an important figure in America’s early history. Paine was an Englishman who immigrated to the United States in 1774. A publicist, writer and orator, Paine soon became very active in the fight for independence upon his arrival in Philadelphia.  In 1776, Paine published his pamphlet criticizing the British government and calling on the colonists to declare their independence and fight for freedom. 

Common Sense became a sensation throughout the colonies and among the higher ranks of political greats such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. The relatively short work is remembered for its influential ideas and its impact on the American Revolution. For Paine and Americans in agreement with his arguments, independence was a want, a necessity, and, above all, their right. Rauner Special Collections Library has a copy of the tenth edition of Common Sense from 1776, the same year that the pamphlet was originally printed. The fact that a tenth edition was printed during its first year of publication demonstrates its true popularity. This particular copy was also quite popular with its previous owners: the wear and tear on the pages resembles a beloved novel that has been read and re-read.
In addition to his interest in politics, Paine was also very focused on the sciences and is credited for experimenting with marsh gas, a smokeless candle and the construction of bridges. It is his passion for bridge-building that is fascinating to us here at Rauner. In our manuscript collections, we have a handwritten letter from Paine to Benjamin Franklin, dated June 14, 1786,  that references Paine’s homegrown bridge models. Franklin at the time had retired from his role as Ambassador to France and had assumed his new role as Governor of Pennsylvania. It can be concluded from the letter and some additional research that Paine and Franklin had a relationship akin to mentor and protege, which can be traced back to Paine’s first arrival in America: Franklin had met Paine abroad and had written a letter of introduction for him in the early 1770s. The relationship formed during those early days of revolution lasted into Franklin’s later years and was close enough to warrant Paine seeking Franklin’s observations on his bridge models; the two men evidently shared a passion for more than politics.
To see our copy of Paine’s Common Sense, ask for Rare E211 .P126 1776.

To read Paine’s letter to Benjamin Franklin, ask for Ticknor MS 786364.1.

Posted for Julia Logan, a library school student at Simmons College who is Rauner’s Public Services summer intern.

How Far the Mighty

Joseph McCarthy preached the perils of Communism’s insidious reach into American’s institutions to garner immense political power and control during the 1950s. His name has since become a synonym for fear mongering and the worst kind of political abuse. After riding high for several years, McCarthy finally stumbled.

In 1954 McCarthy and his attorney Roy Cohn were accused of bringing undue influence to bear on the Army in regard to its treatment of one of McCarthy’s former aides. While McCarthy was found to be innocent of the charges, his reputation was badly damaged by the media coverage and never recovered. He became a liability to his party, and on December 2, 1954, he was officially censured by the Senate. He died three years later.

One of the Senators who helped precipitate McCarthy’s downfall was Senator Ralph Flanders from Vermont. In a note to Harold Rugg dated December 31, 1954, he makes a somewhat casual, almost offhand, remark about the censure proceedings which he had instigated.

We didn’t get to Scotland. I concluded that I had to come home to play my part in the censure proceedings.

Flanders then wraps up the letter with another reference to McCarthy.

I am having sent from the Washington office the speeches on the subject of the junior Senator from Wisconsin, which I assume are the speeches to which you refer.

Its ironic that one of the most feared and notorious men in American politics would be so quickly demoted in stature such that he isn’t even mentioned by name.

Ask for Mss 954681 to see the letter from Flanders to Rugg.

Your Most Unworthy Servant

In 1768 Samson Occom, a Mohegan Indian, minister and scholar returned from a trip to England. Occom’s trip was not one of pleasure, but of business. Eleazar Wheelock, founder and first president of Dartmouth College, had sent him over the ocean to travel the country preaching the word of God and collecting money. The object of these collections was Wheelock’s Moor’s Indian Charity School in the colony of Lebanon Connecticut. This school had been founded to educate Indian youth, both male and female, in the hope of converting them to Christianity. Occom had gone to England a willing participant because he believed in the Christian God and because he believed that his people, and Native Americans more generally, needed to be educated if they were to fare well in a world dominated by Anglo-American society.

On his return, Occom was dismayed to find that Wheelock was determined to use the funds raised in England (£12,000—approximately 2.4 million in today’s dollars) to found a College for Anglo-Americans. Though he’d been warned about Wheelock’s intentions by others, specifically the English minister George Whitefield (who was a virtual celebrity of the time) it came as a bitter surprise.

In July of 1771, one year after Dartmouth College opened its doors to its first class, he wrote to Wheelock to express his concern and disappointment. The letter opens fairly typically for an 18th century missive “Revd Sir, Yours of Janr 22: I receivd but a few Days ago.” The letter starts out with some general news, but there is a definite edge to the tone. In the second page Occom makes his true reason for writing clear,

“I am very Jealous that inſtead of Your Semenary Becoming alma Mater, She will be too alba mater to Suckle the Tawnees, for She is already a Dorn’d up too much like the Popiſh Virgin Mary She’ll be Naturally aſham’d to Suckle the Tawnees for She is already equal in Power Honor and Authority to and any College in Europe.”

While this may seem fairly straightforward from our perspective today, a bald statement of displeasure like this was tantamount to shouting in the 18th century. Occom is clearly angry and feels that Wheelock has abandoned the intention of educating the Indians (the tawnees as he refers to them). He continues,

“I Chearfully Ventur’d my Body & Soul, left my Country my poor Young Family all my Friends and Relations, to Sail over the Boiſterous Seas to England, to help forward your School, Hoping, that it may be a laſting Benefet to my poor Tawnee Brethren.”

But he is only just getting going. He notes that he was willing to be “Gazing stock, Yea Even a Laughing Stock, in Strange Countries to Promote your Cauſe” and he berates Wheelock that they “Shall be Deem’d as Liars and Deceivers in Europe, unless you gather Indians quickly to your College, in great Numbers”

These are strong words, made all the stronger since Occom was writing to his mentor and sometimes benefactor. It must have surprised, and perhaps even shocked, Wheelock to receive such a frank and stinging rebuke from his former student, and an Indian at that. While this was not the end of their communications, Occom never did set foot on Dartmouth’s campus and he and Wheelock never met face-to-face again. True to 18th century mores, and despite his anger, Occom closes his letter in a typical fashion for the time, signing off “Your moſt unworthy Servt Samſon Occom”

This letter and many more are now available online as part of the Occom Circle Project, a National Endowment for the Humanities funded project to digitize, transcribe and markup over 500 letters, documents, diaries and sermons written by or about Samson Occom. The site, the brain child of Ivy Schweitzer, Professor of English and Women and Gender Studies, makes the transcriptions available side-by-side with digital images of the original documents with options to view both a diplomatic version (as intended by the author) and a more modern, readable version. The Text Encoding Initiative markup allows scholars and student to search and sort the documents in new ways as well as providing clarifying information about places, people and events mentioned in the letters.

To learn more about this project, still underway, come to the Friends of the Library presentation on the Occom Circle Project on May 15, 2014 at 4:00 in the Class of 1902 Room in Baker Library.

To see Occom’s scathing letter to Wheelock, go to: http://collections.dartmouth.edu/occom/html/diplomatic/771424-diplomatic.html Or, come in and ask for DC Hist Mss 771424.

"A Man of Character"

In November 1959, Sinclair Weeks, former Secretary of Commerce under Eisenhower formalized a letter that he hoped would help his former colleague, Vice President Richard Nixon get elected in the 1960 presidential election. Weeks considered Nixon a friend and even though he had retired in 1958, Weeks remained influential in the Republican Party. The letter outlines Weeks’ commitment to the cause of helping “to see to it that Dick Nixon is the next President of the United States.” Tweaked by Nixon, the letter was sent to “people around the country who are or have been active in the political arena.” Weeks had been active in Republican politics since the 1930s, first as the chairman of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee and its Finance Committee and later as the treasurer of the Republican National and Finance Committees. Nixon deeply appreciated Weeks’ support and “loyal friendship.” After Nixon’s disastrous performance in the first ever televised presidential debates, Weeks sent a memo to Nixon outlining all the things he thought did not work in Nixon’s favor:

First, and most importantly, whoever made you up did not, in my judgment, do a very good job. Personally, I would try someone else next time. Jack did better than I thought he would. He is very glib but, to one who thinks about it, he has not your depth nor poise.

He also counseled Nixon on not “agreeing” with Kennedy “too many times.”

In the end, however, Nixon was not able beat the youthful and charismatic Kennedy who was elected with a lead of 112,827 votes, or 0.17% of the popular vote, giving him a victory of 303 to 219 in Electoral College, the closest since 1916. In a 1961 letter to Weeks, Nixon admits that:

Losing the closest election in history was not a pleasant experience from a personal standpoint. But My greatest disappointment was that my efforts could not have been just that extra bit more effective which would have brought victory for those who worked so hard for our cause.

The papers of Sinclair Weeks have recently been reprocessed and the access to all of his correspondence has been improved. The papers chronicle Weeks’ life as Mayor of Newton, Mass, Secretary of Commerce and businessman. You can access the collection via our electronic finding aid.

Proper Motivation

On May 15th, 1872, Charles Edwin Hall, Class of 1870, petitioned President Asa Dodge Smith for mercy. At the end of the winter term in 1870, Hall had been expelled after standing before the faculty to answer for his participation in what he calls “the mock programme affair.” Hall had apparently written a scurrilous essay about a fellow Dartmouth student that had then been published and distributed widely among the student body without Hall’s knowledge. In his letter to President Smith, Hall acknowledges that he was at fault for writing the essay but states that he was unable to defend himself fully before the faculty. He now writes to clear up his involvement in the matter, with the hopes of finally receiving his degree.

As he describes the limits of his participation in the affair, Hall repeatedly underscores the fact that he is suffering from “mental discomfort” as a result of his lack of Dartmouth credentials and that the punishment has been “very hard” to him. He asserts that he would do almost anything to be a graduate of the class of 1870. Finally, after much handwringing, Hall divulges his true motivation for seeking a presidential pardon: he is engaged to a woman whose father belongs to the class of 1843 and won’t let him marry her until he has been enrolled as an “honorable graduate” of Dartmouth College.

Faced with such a powerful plea, President Smith relented and Charles E. Hall was granted his diploma from Dartmouth College within the month. He went on to marry Nellie A. Barnard, daughter of Rev. Pliny F. Barnard, ’43, three years later and moved to Greenville, NH, where he worked as a physician and pharmacist. Hall took to heart the hard lesson he had initially received at the hands of Dartmouth: he became a public servant, acting as the superintendent of schools for more than a decade before joining the New Hampshire state senate, where he served as chairman of the Committee on Education.

To learn more about Charles Edwin Hall, class of 1899, ask to see his alumni file at Rauner Library.


In 1959, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, the German-born historian and social philosopher, stated in an addition to his bibliography that “the printed word was not radically different to me from the words spoken or written between friends. Fittingly, letters have played an immense role in my life. …Many books got started as letters.”

Looking at his body of work, which we recently completed processing, one can find many examples that support his statement. Foremost among them is Judaism Despite Christianity: The Wartime Correspondence Between Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy and Franz Rosenzweig, a seminal work, which delivers an insight into the intellectual minds of both men. Rosenstock-Huessy, like many of his generation, was an avid letter writer who often used this format to express his thoughts and ideas to friends and colleagues. Among his correspondents are Martin Buber, Helmuth and Konrad von Moltke, Julian Morgenstern, May Sarton and many others. Rosenstock-Huessy’s long correspondence with former student and psychologist Cynthia O. Harris between 1943 and 1963 formed the basis for another book – the unpublished manuscript Letters to Cynthia.

The collection also includes correspondence known as the “Gritli” letters, though these involve Rosenstock-Huessy only tangentially. The primary correspondence is between Margrit “Gritli” Rosenstock-Huessy, Eugen’s wife, and Franz Rosenzweig, the Jewish theologian and philosopher who was a close friend. Scholars consider the letters, that begin in 1917 and last until 1922, a vital resource into the thoughts and emotions of Rosenzweig during the time he wrote his major work The Star of Redemption. Rosenzweig had a passionate love for “Gritli” whom he considered to be his muse. The relationship appears to have been condoned by Rosenstock-Huessy but less so by Rosenzweig’s wife Edith.

To learn more about Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy and his writings, ask for MS-522. A guide to the collection is available.

Contending Forces: A Novel for Social Change

We just acquired a copy of Pauline Hopkins’s Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South (Boston: Colored Co-operative Publishing Co., 1900). As the title suggests, this is a novel bent on effecting social change. Hopkins was a prolific and popular writer of the turn of the century. Much of her work appeared in Colored American Magazine, where she worked as an editor, and she published several full-length novels. Her writings positioned her as a major public intellectual of the time.

What makes our copy particularly interesting is two letters laid in, one, a fair copy written by Emma S. Burnett of Kalispell, Montana, praising Hopkins for the book.

I have just finished reading your most interesting book “Contending Forces.” It is grand. I wish every man and woman in the universe might read it. Especially of the more favored race for surely then they could not help but look upon us with more favor. We are living almost at the two extremes of this country yet your forceful words have come to us on the western side of the Rockies. I shall do all I can to have my friends in this section secure a copy as I feel that it will be food & strength for them. One of your own townsmen whom I met while visiting Boston last Sept sent me the book. I will once more pass my tribute of thanks to you for the good work you have done for the race.

Hopkins’ answer lies alongside. In a neat script (she earned her living for a time later as a stenographer at M.I.T.), she thanks Burnett for her words of encouragement and answers in the rhetoric of struggle and purpose:

Sometimes one becomes discouraged and is unable to see any good accomplished by the most faithful work. Your letter found me at such a time, and it has strengthened me to press forward in the good fight that we are all waging against wrong and oppression.

The voices of the two women united in cause, one in Boston, the other in Montana, help to carry today’s reader into the social world that the text was responding to and trying to change.

We just got the book, so it is not cataloged yet, but you can ask for it at the Rauner desk.

A Personal Letter from Beethoven

When the name Beethoven is mentioned, you probably think of one of his many compositions and start humming. You think about him being deaf when he composed the Symphony No. 9 in D minor. You might even think about the mystery woman – his “Immortal Beloved.” And that’s usually where it stops. Right?

Rauner has one letter from Beethoven to Christoph August Tiedge from September, 1811. It’s a small window into Beethoven’s personal life and his interactions with friends and acquaintances. In it he discusses his meeting with Tiedge and bemoans the fact that they did not become friends sooner. He  writes “Every day I blow myself up for not having to got to know you sooner at Teplitz” and goes on to mention that he would like to “hop over to the capital of Saxony” to see Tiedge again and that he has decided not to visit his patron the Archduke.

…I received a letter from my gracious and musical Archduke saying that…he was letting me decide whether I should go to him or not. Well, I put the best construction on this in accordance with my intentions and desires; and that is why you see I am still here…

Beethoven then rambles on a bit about his room-mate having “got lost today…and so I could not claim his company.” He closes with “I am expecting at least one word without any reserve, chiefly because I can take it.”

The letter is in German, but a transcription is housed with the manuscript.  Ask for Mss 811506.