Tomorrow is Reading Day, which means finals are just around the corner for Davidson College students. Students do their work in a variety of locations, although the library has always been a popular study spot – there have been four libraries throughout the history of the college: Union Library (a consolidation of the literary societies library collections in Old Chambers Building, 1861 – 1910), Carnegie Library (now the Carnegie Guest House, 1910 – 1941), Hugh A. and Jane Parks Grey Library (now the Sloan Music Center, 1941 – 1974), and E.H. Little Library (1974 – present). This week, we reflect on images of students studying in the library throughout the years:
Good luck to all Wildcats on their final exams, papers, projects, and theses!
While snow is a somewhat rare occurrence in Davidson, it remains an exciting time for the entire college community. This week, let’s take a look at Davidson College dusted with snow throughout the years:
We hope Davidsonians near and far are enjoying their winter!
The second week of classes is well underway here at Davidson College, and the hubbub of Freshmen orientation and upperclassmen moving back to campus is beginning to settle down. One topic on the minds of many students both new and returning, is dorm decorating – what are the perfect wall hangings and tchotchkes?
With that in mind, this week we’ll take a look at how Davidson College students have decorated their dormitories throughout the years – click on any of the images in the following picture post to get a closer view:
While many things have changed at Davidson throughout the years, students’ desire to decorate their living space has remained constant – and the some of the modes of decorating have also remained popular, such as the gallery wall hanging style.
Earlier this month, a mysterious parcel appeared in the Archives & Special Collections mailbox.
The package turned out to be a collection of Davidson-related photographs – a treasure trove of mid-twentieth century group shots, as well as images of the old Chambers Building after the fire that gutted the structure in 1921. Here are a few favorites from our newest photo collection:
I hope you enjoyed our mysterious photograph delivery as much as we did! If you can help identify any of the people in these images, please contact the College Archives.
As early as 1911, the College’s Board of Trustees wanted to establish a College Laundry, in order to promote “the comfort, convenience, and health of the student body and Faculty and their families.” However, financial considerations made the project impossible until the 1920-1921 academic year.
The 1919-1920 College Catalogue announced the opening of the new facility: “A laundry sufficient to do all unstarched work for the students has been authorized and will be in operation at the opening of next fall. For hygienic and other reasons all students will be required to patronize this laundry. The charge will be as low as will allow for the proper conduct and care of the plant.”
By the early 1960s, the College Laundry became overwhelmed by the demands of the growing student body – as enrollment rose to 1,000 students, costs and the need for new equipment rose similarly. In a December 21, 1966 letter from President Grier Martin wrote that: “we plan to meet with a cross section of the student leaders to get their feeling on laundry operations in the future. In the past, we have felt that we had alternatives to either continue the present ‘bundle’ system or go to a per piece basis for students, removing the now compulsory feature.”
This issue came up again when the College went coeducational in 1972, when the addition of female students further stressed the Laundry’s capabilities. The Special Sub-committee on Coeducation of the Student Life Committee recommended that, since “the general consensus [is] that the laundry as it stands now is not equipped to launder women’s apparel satisfactorily… no woman student shall be required to patronize the college laundry, with the possible exception of mandatory linen service [and] coin-operated washing and drying facilities be installed…” By 1980, the self-service machine charges were incorporated into the laundry fee, rather than remaining coin-operated.
Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, Davidson student opinion was divided – while many valued the convenience and time saved in having their laundry done by the College, a vocal group resented paying the mandatory fees and preferred a self-service, pay-as-you-use system. Petitions and letters to the editor of the Davidsonian reflected these sentiments.
In defense of the Laundry, information pamphlets given to new students in the 1980s featured an explanation of why the College ran a laundry service: “Because we are a small college in a small town, we operate a laundry to provide a convenient, economical, time-saving service to students.”
In 2004, the College Laundry building was renamed the Lula Bell Houston Laundry, in honor of the retirement of laundry worker Lula Bell Houston after 57 years of service to the College. By 2011, the College Laundry saw another change – a move to recyclable canvas bags, rather than the brown paper the clean clothes had traditionally been wrapped with.
With the transition to an entirely self-service model beginning on May 15, 2015, the Lula Bell Houston Laundry building will be vacated. Current students, alumni, and community members: what do you think the Laundry building should house next?
A few weeks ago, the archives received a donation of several mysterious items from Irvin Brawley, a longtime Davidson College employee (1971 – 2010; Brawley retired as the Associate Director for Property Management and Insurance). These items had been unearthed from beneath the Carolina Inn during restoration work, but nothing else was known about them.
All told, the items included Two Lucky Strike “flat fifties” cigarette tins, a bottle of castor oil from Eckard’s, and a bottle of Sloan’s Family Liniment. Before delving into details about these items, a brief history of the building they were found underneath: many Davidsonians today are familiar with the Carolina Inn, in its role as the home for the College’s Center for Interdisciplinary Studies.
Built circa 1848, the structure first began serving as a store that same year, under the operation of Leroy Springs. In 1855, the building was sold to Hanson Pinkney Helper, giving the building its other frequently recognized name – the Helper Hotel.
The Helper Hotel was much more than just a hotel – the building also housed Helper’s store, and in the latter part of the 1800s, Dr. J.J. Dupuy operated a drug store on the premises. A peek at one of the pages of Helper’s 1896 store ledger gives a taste of what the Davidson community was able to purchase:
Fred Marvin Hobbs, a Davidson resident and member of the class of 1900, seems fond of candy, cigars, and bay rum. Sadly, Hobbs perished in a drowning incident in the Catawba River in July 1900 along with a fellow classmate, David Yonan. Both students are buried in the Davidson College cemetery.
In 1901, the Sloan family purchased the building and continued running both an inn and a store on the premises. The Sloan’s daughter, Sadie Sloan Bohannan, ran the building as a weekend rooming house for young women visiting Davidson in the 1920s and ’30s – former Library Director and first College Archivist, Dr. Chalmers G. Davidson (class of 1928), recalled that period as:
“…the day of the ‘great belle’ in the South, and ‘prom-trotters,’ as they were called, who made the rounds from Princeton to Tulane stayed at Mrs. Bohannan’s during their Davidson weekends. Mrs. Bohannan had beautiful antiques (she sometimes put as many as four girls in one four poster bed – for a dollar which was high pay) and she ran a highly reputable house. Davidson students could go only to the top of the stair to deposit suitcases and no farther.” (from Mary D. Beaty’s Davidson: A History of the Town from 1835 until 1937)
The College purchased the Carolina Inn from the Sloan family in 1946, and the building has been used as student housing, community gathering space (the town’s “Teen Canteen”), and as office and classroom space. Renovated in 1971 and designated as a Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Site in 1977, the Carolina Inn still serves as a meeting place for the College community.
Returning to the four items found beneath the Inn, not much is known about them. The Lucky Strike tins could date from anytime in between the 1930s through the 1950s – this design was used throughout those years. Both of these tins have some loose tobacco remaining inside, and are a bit dented. The back of the tins list that these cigarettes were manufactured at “Factory No. 30 District of N.C.”
The bottle of castor oil from Eckerd’s is equally difficult to date – the label lists a Tryon Street address in Charlotte, as well as a recommended dosage of one to two tablespoons for adults or one to two teaspoons for children. Eckard’s expanded into North Carolina, including Charlotte, in the 1920s, and the store operated in the area until the company went defunct in 2006-2007. The slogan “Creators of Reasonable Drug Prices” appears to have been used by the chain for several decades, however, and no other markings on the bottle give further clues.
Finally, Sloan’s Family Liniment – Earl Sloan began marketing his father’s horse liniment for use on people by the late 1800s, and Sloan’s Liniment can still be purchased today. This bottle, like the one of Eckerd’s castor oil, does not have any date information but does include instructions for use.
If you have any information on our mysterious finds (or more finds of your own) from underneath the Carolina Inn, please get in touch with the archives!
This week is North Carolina Archives Week, and since this year’s theme is “Home Grown: A Celebration of N.C. Food Culture and History,” what better time to delve into the history of farming at Davidson?
Davidson College was founded as a manual labor school, which meant that the earliest students “perfom[ed] manual Labor either agricultural or mechanical in the manner and to the extent determined by the Board of Trustees,” as mandated by March 1839 Constitution of Davidson College. Manual labor was seen as a way of reducing the cost of education and thereby making college affordable to more than the sons of the upper classes, and as a benefit to both the physical and mental heath of students. President Robert Hall Morrison spelled out the societal benefits that manual labor education could bring about in his August 2, 1838 close of term address, stating that:
The efforts of all enlightened men should be combined to improve the moral condition of society by rendering manual labor more reputable and inviting. This is not to be done solely by pronouncing eulogies, but, as time and circumstances will permit, by holding the spade, the axe, the plow, and the plane. Educated men should prove that they are not above doing as well as praising the labor by which society lives.
But while President Morrison waxed poetic on the possibilities of labor, the students had very different feelings. Alexander Bogle (class of 1843), wrote to a friend that “now comes the work which is not so pleasant… We have to work very hard three hours which is the time allotted and you know that it is pretty hard to work that long.”
Similarly, Pinckney B. Chambers (class of 1840) recalled for the Charlotte Daily Observer in 1903 that “The farm work was greatly hampered by the tendency of the mischievous and shiftless to misplace the tools and outwit the overseer.” He was more colorful in his distaste for manual labor in a letter to John M. Sample in 1837, after he had transferred to Caldwell Institute:
There is no labor attached to it. (which is one of God’s blessings) All you have to do is to pay your money and go to school… It is I think a much better school than Davidson College. For several reasons but I will give you but two at present as I am in a great hurry, they are very particular reasons with me, the first is we do not have to work, and the second is we get plenty to eat and that, that is good.
By 1841, it was clear that the manual labor system wasn’t achieving its aims – rather than lowering costs and making education more accessible, Davidson was losing money on the endeavor. The Board of Trustees voted to abolish the system, and the college farm experiment came to a close.
More than 170 years later, Davidson students are back on the farm – this time on a voluntary basis, rather than a mandatory one. The Farm at Davidson, purchased in 2008, became a working farm again last fall. The College farm provides sustainable produce for Vail Commons, Davis Cafe, and Much Ado Catering, as well as a space for students and members of the Davidson community to learn about where their food comes from.
As Farm Manager Theresa Allen explains, there’s a great deal of student interest in the farm: some students help work the farm, some conduct soil experiments, and some even take naps – a far cry from the manual labor farm days! The farm’s office hours/ work days for this semester are Fridays from 1 to 4 PM, so head over to 1603 Grey Road to check out the veggies you’ll be eating later!