From Special Collections and Archives: Hymnals in the Methodist Collection

One of the many notable collections in the Flavia Reed Owen Special Collections and Archives is the Methodist Collection, the historic archive of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church. Music has always been important part of Methodist church services, and the collection includes numerous hymnals.

Title page of Wesleyans Selections, a rare hymnal dated 1829.
Wesleyan Selections, 1820

This rare 1820 hymnal (only 4 known copies in libraries) was owned by Gabriel Poillon Disosway, a native New Yorker who became perhaps the strongest proponent for a college to be established by the Virginia Conference, ultimately leading to Randolph-Macon College in 1830. Disosway graduated from Columbia University in 1819 and came to Petersburg, where he was a great friend of Rev. Hezekiah Leigh and it has been hypothesized that Disosway is the one who most strongly influenced Leigh into pushing for a Methodist college in Virginia. Disosway was appointed to the committee formed in 1825 that looked at founding a college, although he left Virginia to return to New York in 1828 before the college became a reality. His original signature can be seen in the upper right hand corner of this title page, while the penciled name to the left of it was added later by someone else. It is unknown whether he left the hymnal behind when he went back to New York, gave it to a friend, or passed it on later to someone in Virginia.

Another rare hymnal in the collection, also with only 4 known copies in libraries, is this 1825 volume collected by Rev. Lewis Skidmore, of “…the latest social and camp-meeting hymns….” Camp meetings were evangelical religious gatherings held outdoors that were of particular importance in the spread of Methodism in the nineteenth century, and music played a big role at these revival meetings.

Tile page of "A choice selection of the latest social and camp-meeting hymns and spriitual songs..." compiled by Rev. Lewis Skidmore, 1825,
Rare hymnal compiled by Rev. Lewis Skidmore

To learn more about the Virginia Methodism Collection, please visit https://library.rmc.edu/library/specialcollections or email archives [at] rmc.edu.

 

From Special Collections and Archives: College Catalogs

page image of 1839 R-MC Catalog indicating the Course of Study for the Preparatory Department and the Freshman Class
1839 R-MC Catalog indicating the Course of Study for the Preparatory Department and the Freshman Class

Since its earliest days in Boydton, the College has published a catalog outlining the course of study, listing the faculty, and including a wide range of information that has changed over the years.  The oldest original in the College Archives is from October 1839, although we have a photocopy of the 1836 catalog held at an archive elsewhere. The catalogs provide us an excellent overview of the changes in the curriculum over time, as well as a glimpse into student life.

The 1839 catalog is only 14 pages, compared to contemporary R-MC catalogs of over 200 pages. Included is a full list of the College’s trustees, faculty, alumni, and enrolled students. The student listing even indicates the dormitory room in which they lived! There is also a listing of the students in the College’s Preparatory Department, the course of study for the Preparatory Department and for each term of college level study, information on the school calendar, expenses, and other general information, such as a statement on the final page that the “College discipline is mild and parental, but it will not tolerate indolence or vice” and that “no idle, disorderly, or immoral student can be permitted to remain….”

The catalog page displayed above shows the rigor of the curriculum and the emphasis on a classical education. Freshman read Virgil, Cicero, and Livy, and studied mathematics and geography. The right hand column indicates the author or editor of the text used, so in addition to knowing the content of the course, we know the textbooks students used and we even have several student textbooks from this era in our collection!  Upperclassmen studied subjects including   astronomy, chemistry, calculus, logic, political economy, mineralogy, and more classical studies.

In addition to the President, Landon C. Garland who taught Pure and Mixed Mathematics, there were seven other faculty members, although the position of Professor of Moral and Mental Philosophy, which translates today into Religious Studies, was vacant. There were professors for Ancient Languages, English Literature, and Experimental Sciences as well as “tutors” in Mathematics and languages. The tutors were instructors rather than the modern definition of tutors. The final faculty member was the principal of the preparatory school.

Tuition was $35 for the entire year, and board was set at $8 per month. Other student expenses included firewood, lights, bedding and laundry, and a category labeled “incidental expenses” at $15 which included textbooks and purchasing furniture for their dorm rooms, as the College did not provide furniture. The catalog also cautions parents against providing too much pocket money, deeming it potentially hurtful!

Learn more about the history of Randolph-Macon College.

From Special Collections and Archives: Fire Insurance Surveys

Three important items that give a snapshot of the physical layout of the College during the Depression are the 1932, 1938, and 1941 fire insurance surveys. As many local historians know, fire and property insurance records often provide details and information about communities and structures that are not easily located in other resources, and this is true of the R-MC insurance documents.

1938 Insurance Values for Several R-MC Buildings.
1938 Insurance Values for Several R-MC Buildings.

In addition to the value of each structure, the descriptions and details on the buildings include information that varies with each structure: the type of construction and materials used; the function of the building and in some cases, changes since the last insurance assessment; building layout and room use; the physical condition of the building; the building’s location; and who occupied the structure.

While the 1932 insurance inventory is brief and primarily lists buildings, values, and points out safety problems that should be resolved (don’t store cleaning supplies under wooden staircases!), the 1938 and 1941 inventories include much more information as well as photographs, which in some cases are the only visual representations we have of some structures such as storage buildings, garages, and yes, the corn crib, stables, and chicken houses!

Stable and Corn Crib on R-MC Campus, 1938
Stable and Corn Crib on R-MC Campus, 1938

The 1938 inventory indicates that the building designated as Cottage #7 “…was formerly a dormitory and lunch room but is now not used except one room on first floor which is occupied by one of the students who sells ice cream to other students on the campus.”   Also, one of the garages since the 1932 inventory “…has been enlarged to accommodate a school bus….”  The Gymnasium Building (Crenshaw) was used “solely as a Gymnasium, except for occasional school dances.”  Washington-Franklin Hall, now home to the History Department, was the Administrative Building. The Washington Room and the Franklin Room on the first floor were used by the College’s two literary societies while the second floor housed all of the administrative offices, the college book store, and the Y.M.C.A. rooms. The Y.M.C.A., the Young Men’s Christian Association, was one of the largest student organizations.

Washington Franklin Hall, 1938
Washington Franklin Hall, 1938

One of the fun things to notice in the insurance photos is the cars parked right by the buildings. During that time period, students and faculty just drove up to the buildings and parked,  whether there were drives and parking areas or not. There were so few cars on campus that parking was very convenient!

These inventories provide a great overview of the campus and add to our understanding of how it has evolved over time.

From Special Collections and Archives: The Herald-Progress Collection

image of hanover herlad masthead, 1898
Hanover Herald masthead, 1898

2018 marks the 150th anniversary of Randolph-Macon College’s presence in Ashland, a happy occasion. On a sad note, 2018 also marks the end of the publication of the local newspaper, the Herald-Progress, which documented important community and college news. Throughout its history, R-MC students and alumni have edited or worked on the newspaper and this archive continues that close link between Town and Gown. Throughout its history, the paper has covered R-MC events, activities, and people, and is a valuable source for researchers on the College’s role in the community.

In the spring of 2008, the McGraw-Page Library acquired the historic photograph collection of the Herald-Progress, a newspaper that had been locally owned and published until 2004, when the paper was purchased by an out-of-state publishing conglomerate. The newspaper’s local offices were moved to smaller quarters, and with space pressures in the office, the historic photograph collection was in danger of being thrown away. The newspaper’s editor provided an estimate of about 10,000 items, a number that would prove later to be underestimated by over 30,000. After the collection had been processed, the final tally was over 40,000 items including 23,000 photographs, 2000 negatives, and 8000 pieces of text, as well as other materials.  

Although the majority of the collection is photographs and negatives, there are also copies of the Herald-Progress and other newspapers, periodicals and magazines, several unpublished manuscripts by local historians, maps, blueprints, cartoons, letters, political campaign artifacts, and one glass plate negative, nicknamed “Miss Klunk” based on the noise made when she dropped out of an envelope during processing. The earliest identified date for an item is 1810, and the latest photographic prints date to 1999.

Materials in the Herald-Progress Collection can be viewed by making an appointment with library staff. Learn more about our Special Collections and Archives on the new library website.

From Special Collections and Archives: 1859 Graduation Program

Among the memorabilia in the College Archives are numerous graduation programs, films, speeches and other items showcasing this very special day of celebration.

One of the most interesting of these is a graduation program belonging to Leroy Summerfield Edwards, Class of 1859. Graduation at that time was a multi-day event, and each student was required to make a lengthy speech; Leroy’s speech, Literary Dietetics, is also available in the College Archives. The jubilation of their college graduation ceremony and the hopeful futures the students in the Class of 1859 expected during those June days of 1859 would later be squelched by the Civil War. Leroy annotated his program indicating the tragic wartime fates of several of his classmates. Of the 19 graduates listed, 4 are labeled “killed” and 2 labeled “dead” and “died.” Those listed as killed died from battle wounds, while the two listed as dead and died were Leroy’s closest friends, who died a year apart of disease. An additional graduate has “lost right arm at Strasburg” next to his name. Leroy himself would be wounded, recover and go back to the war, be captured and spend nearly a year in two prison camps, including the famous Elmira, NY camp know as “Helmira.” He was paroled and returned to Virginia in time to flee Richmond with the Confederate army and surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

The survivors of the Class of 1859 would become educators, ministers, lawyers, judges, legislators, and even college presidents, including Dr. William G. Starr, the 9th president of R-MC (1899-1902).

1859 graduation program page 1

1859 graduation prgram page 2

1859 graduation program page 3

 

 

 

From Special Collections and Archives: The Evolution of the Library

As we prepare for a future expansion and renovation of the McGraw-Page Library, it’s fun to look back on how the College’s library has evolved, all of which is well-documented in the College Archives.

Although the College had a library housed in the Main Building in Boydton, library use for students was heavily restricted. The Board of Trustees set the rule as “the Library shall be opened at such times as the Faculty may appoint, and shall be kept open for one hour.” Since the College made library use difficult, the student members of the two literary societies, the Washington Society and the Franklin Society,  purchased and maintained extensive book collections for their members. Some of the oldest books in our collection still have bookplates from the societies. Upon the move to Ashland in 1868, the literary society libraries served as the primary libraries until 1886, when these books were formally given to the College for its library. Originally, this library was opened only one day a week from 11 A.M. until 6:30 P.M. By 1908, the Randolph-Macon College View Book indicates that the library was open daily for student use.

image of college lbrary in Wshington-Franklin Hall from 1908 View Book
Scene from College Library in Washington-Franklin Hall, 1908 View Book.

It wasn’t until 1923 when the first Walter Hines Page Library, now Peele Hall, opened for use that students had access to a proper library with study areas and full services overseen by a professional librarian. This library also served the Ashland community.

image of first Walter Hines Page Library, now Peele Hall
First Walter Hines Page Library, now Peele Hall

In 1961, the second Walter Hines Page Library was built, and with a 1984 addition that doubled its size,  a complete interior renovation, and a name change to McGraw-Page Library, this is the building we have today. On December 12, 1961, faculty and students formed a human chain and moved the entire library across Henry Street to the new building in one day, finishing before 6:00 p.m.

image of students moving books 1961
Students moving books, 1961

iamge of faculty moving books 1961
Faculty moving books, 1961

We have come a long way from the one hour rule in Boydton to the present, when we have hundreds of thousands of books, journals, and other databases available anytime, anywhere, as well as a 24/7 study area!

From Special Collections and Archives: Fishtales

 

Cover of 1957-1958 Fish-Tales, the R-MC Student handbook, with cartoon Pogo drawing
Fish Tales, 1957-58

The 1957-1958 edition of Fish-Tales, the R-MC student handbook, is notable for the drawing of Pogo, a popular cartoon character of the era drawn by Walt Kelly, in a Randolph-Macon freshman beanie. Assistant Editor Tom Inge, who later returned to R-MC as Dr. Thomas Inge, Blackwell Professor of Humanities, solicited this and drawings from several other prominent cartoonists for inclusion.

In 1933, the first student handbook was produced by the Y.M.C.A., which had a large membership among the students. Originally entitled Handbook of Randolph-Macon College, this was meant as a guide to college life for incoming students and included a college map, descriptions of student clubs and fraternities, sports schedules, important phone numbers, listings of faculty, and other essential information that now we find online. Advertisements from local businesses funded its printing for many years. Starting in 1946, the student government took over the production of the handbook until 1969, when it transitioned to the Dean of Students’ office.

The title Fish-Tales first appears on the 1948-1949 edition. As this handbook was still geared towards freshman, the title was derived from R-MC’s local term for its newest class members, “fish,” so-named because when they arrived on campus, so did large rains that flooded the campus. In 1967, the hyphen was dropped making it Fish Tales, and in 2001 the words were merged into Fishtales. Over the years the content shifted from practical tips and general information about the College for freshman to a focus on College policies and procedures for all students. The College Archives has copies of most of the years of Fishtales, including the contemporary ones that are produced online only.

Learn about other specialized and unique collections in the Flavia Reed Owen Special Collections and Archives.

From Special Collections and Archives: The Casanova Collection

The J. Rives Childs Collection of Casanoviana at Randolph-Macon College was a bequest from J. Rives Childs, a 1915 R-MC alumnus and retired diplomat, who collected these materials during his more than 30 years in the Foreign Service in Europe and the Middle East. It is one of the world’s most extensive collections of early and rare editions of Casanova’s Memoires, consisting of over 2000 items including numerous rare volumes in many languages ranging from Norwegian to Bengali to Arabic and includes the first edition, published in German.  In addition to the Memoires and writings of Casanova, the collection contains bibliographies, biographies, sales catalogs, correspondence, playbills, illustrations, operettas, films, and of course, the Casanova action figure. Casanova’s lurid tales of romantic escapades during his life as an adventurer across Europe made his name synonymous with seduction and  womanizing.

Childs, a self-proclaimed “defender of Casanova as something other than the caricatures drawn of him by the mythmakers,” published biographical and bibliographical works on Casanova, the great lover, spy, adventurer, author, and librarian.

Learn more about the Casanova collection and other specialized and unique collections in the Flavia Reed Owen Special Collections and Archives.

Treasure in the Stacks

While browsing in the history section recently, we found an interesting book about Poznań, Poland. A photograph of the Methodist church in Poznań is mounted on the inside fly-leaf, with a detailed inscription containing several signatures on the facing page:

The book was given to The Reverend Paul Neff Garber in 1961 when Garber served as the United Methodist Church’s Bishop in Europe.

The book, entitled simply Poznań, is part of the Paul Neff Garber Papers located in the Methodist History Collection of the library’s Special Collections. Check out the Methodist History Collection as well as other specialized and unique collections in the Flavia Reed Owen Special Collections and Archives.

From Special Collections and Archives: Before YouTube, There Were Magic Lanterns

Generations of Sunday school classes and churchgoers were educated by Magic Lantern slide shows. These shows, popular in the 19th century and into the mid 20th century, were replaced with newer technology such as slide projectors, film strips, powerpoint presentations and online videos. The two projectors shown here are part of the Methodist Collection housed in Special Collections and Archives. For more information on Magic Lanterns, see: http://library.sdsu.edu/pdf/scua/ML_Gazette/MLGvol27no04.pdf

image of Magic Lanterns sitting on a shelf
Magic Lantern