“A is for Archival Artifacts” on Display in Archives/Chapin Galleries!


The new Sawyer Library complex is open. And, this means Archives and Special Collections and The Chapin Library’s shared reading room and gallery spaces are available for research by appointment and perusing.  On display in Archives/Chapin Schow connector gallery is the Archives’ exhibit  “A is for Archival Artifacts.” Showcasing everything from 19th century barbells, black and white photographic prints from the 1969 Hopkins Hall occupation for the creation of an Afro-American Studies department, and Ephraim Williams’ leather wallet circa 1750, the exhibit features material culture and unique ephemera from Williams’ diverse histories.

Archives/Chapin Summer 2014 hours: 10-12, 1-4:30


The Gettysburg Address

On the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s address at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the Chapin Library is proud to have in its collections, and in current use by students in both Professor Spero’s History 252 and Professor Dew’s History 456, the printing of the Gettysburg Address as it appeared in the New York Semi-Weekly Tribune of November 20, 1863.

Gettysburg Address

Lincoln’s text, shown here (click image to enlarge), is all but lost in a densely printed, six-columns-wide newspaper (of a size larger than those printed today), following on the featured oration by Edward Everett of Massachusetts, former congressman, senator, governor, and U.S. Secretary of State. Everett was a renowned American orator; he was expected to deliver a glorious address at Gettysburg, and by all accounts he did not disappoint. The length of his speech, more than 13,000 words, was of little or no consequence to an audience of his day, while its content – not only describing the recent battle which had helped to turn the tide of the Civil War, but expressing hope for reconciliation between the divided states – was of great moment to an audience emotionally invested in the event, with its significant losses, and still only midway through the larger conflict.

In contrast to Everett’s much longer and more complex speech, and despite the president’s assertion that the world would “little note, nor long remember, what we say here”, Lincoln’s remarks have been well remembered, even memorized by generations of students. Their brevity has proved an advantage – but a brevity made possible at the time only because Everett had already done the heavy oratorical lifting, and a quality which has come to be preferred in an age unused to public addresses in too long a form. Writing to a gentleman in South Carolina in 1879, in a letter also in the Chapin Library, Oliver Wendell Holmes noted that Edward Everett had, on November 19, 1863, “delivered a patriotic and eloquent oration. But the few simple words of Abraham Lincoln went to the heart of the Northern people as no elaborate rhetoric ever could.” Even Everett himself gave due credit to the president; after the ceremony, he wrote: “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

The Tribune printing of Lincoln’s address shows that, although today it is read straight through with great solemnity, on November 19, 1863 it was interrupted six times by applause. – WGH

The newspaper was purchased by the Chapin Library on the Class of 1940 Americana Fund. The autograph letter by Oliver Wendell Holmes to F. Peyre Porcher, M.D. of Charleston, in which Holmes wrote out the text of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, was given by J. Brooks Hoffman, M.D., Williams Class of 1940.


Lonnie Youngblood and the Redcoats in Baxter Hall, November 17 1961.


Lonnie Youngblood in the Redcoats played Baxter Hall Nov 17 1961. Sponsored by Williams Class of 1965,  the event highlighted  Youngblood on the saxophone, who played “twistable” music. Although somewhat unknown at the time of the Williams performance, Youngblood famously went on to record and perform with Jimi Hendrix.

Lonnie Youngblood and the Redcoats, 1961

Listen to Ronnie Youngblood! (Listen close– Jimi Hendrix is on the electric guitar!)


Let Freedom Ring

March on Washington buttonOn the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963, and as many in our nation pause today at 3:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) to commemorate this seminal event, it’s good to be reminded also of the many resources available at Williams College related to Dr. King, to the history of the Civil Rights movement in America, and to African-American history and culture in general.

Stride toward Freedom djThe Chapin Library contains several books by Dr. King, including Stride toward Freedom and Why We Can’t Wait, both signed by the author, the latter also with an inscription by Coretta Scott King, and a special printing of Dr. King’s speech on accepting the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. Also here is a dramatic 1965 telegram from Dr. King to Congressman Seymour Halpern (one of the co-sponsors of the Voting Rights Act of 1964), in connection with a dispute over Negro disenfranchisement in Mississippi.

Extensive holdings from earlier periods trace the arrival of African captives in the New World, the development of slavery in America, and the struggles of African-Americans to claim their civil rights following the Civil War. Among these are works by civil rights activist (and Great Barrington native) W.E.B. Du Bois, who died fifty years ago yesterday, on August 27, 1963. Such resources are available in both the Chapin Library and the Williams College Archives and Special Collections, located in the Southworth Schoolhouse.

In addition, as noted in an earlier post, a recent acquisition by the Chapin Library, the Heritage Collection of Black literature and music formed by Paul Breman, comprises some 4,000 books and recordings and an equal number of pieces of manuscript and ephemera. – WGH

Shown are a button from August 28, 1963, from the Williams College Archives’ image collection related to the march on Washington, and from the Chapin Library’s holdings, the dust-jacket of Stride toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story by Martin Luther King, Jr. (1958).

19th-century Biology notes just received in the College Archives

Maxcy's description of a starfish (accession 2013.023)

Maxcy’s description of a starfish (accession 2013.023)

Curious about what your biology class would have been studying in 1884?  Come take a look at the Archives’ newest gift, Carroll Lewis Maxcy’s laboratory notebook.  In addition to his beautifully penned notes, the volume is filled with brilliantly-colored illustrations of starfish, frogs, molds, and ferns.

Maxcy did not specialize in science after his graduation in 1887.  Rather, he returned to Williams to teach English and Rhetoric for many years, also serving as dean and acting president.

The notebook is the gift of Jean Matthews Halverson, daughter of the late Prof. Samuel Matthews who taught biology at Williams from 1937 to 1970.

Independence Day Readings

The annual public reading by actors from the Williamstown Theatre Festival of the Declaration of Independence of July 1776, the British reply to the Declaration of September 1776, King George III’s speech to Parliament of October 1776, and the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution will take place – rain or shine – on Thursday, July 4th, at 2:00 p.m. at the Williams College Museum of Art. Admission is free, and families are encouraged to attend. The documents will be read this year by Robert Sean Leonard (House) and Paxton Whitehead (The Importance of Being Earnest). Both actors will be featured in the upcoming WTF production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, July 17–27.

The Chapin Library’s collection of original Founding Documents of the United States is on display at the Williams College Museum of Art until the completion of the Stetson-Sawyer project in 2014. On July 4th, the Museum galleries will be open from 1:00 to 4:00, with Library staff available to answer questions about the Founding Documents. – WGH

Shaker Collection Highlights Digitized

Please browse our recently digitized Shaker Collection Highlights. The collection includes resolutions adopted at the Shakers 1905 Peace Convention, a pamphlet on vegetarianism, songbooks, advertisements, and the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearance’s first theological treatise (1790).

Browse the digital collection here.


Vegetarianism Among Shakers

Vegetarianism Among Shakers

Shaker Cloak

The Shaker Cloak

Shakers at Orchard Beach

A group of Shakers at Old Orchard Beach





Williams College Kappa Alpha Dormitory, circa 1885

Kappa Alpha interior, 1885 (1 of 2)

Archives and Special Collections were recently gifted two photographs (gift of Gordon and Karen Clark, class of 1951), circa 1885, detailing the interior of a Kappa Alpha fraternity house. Showing Herbert J. Brown’s (class of 1885) dormitory room, the decor includes a stand complete with sheet music, a desk overflowing with textbooks, handheld fans, an oil lamp, and several portrait photographs adorning the walls. – JGD

Kappa Alpha interior, 1885 (2 of 2)

Anthropology of Currency

Last week, the Chapin Library and Williams College Archives & Special Collections welcomed Visiting Assistant Professor Llerena Searle’s Anthropology class, “Financial Lives”, concerned with aspects of finance and investment.

The collections of the Chapin Library and College Archives hold many examples of ancient and modern coinage, bills, ledgers, and other financial accounts, as well as books and broadsides dealing with currency and financial issues. Students carefully examined materials ranging from a coin from the reign of Roman Emperor Tiberius to the 1747/8 account book of Fort Massachusetts, a United States 1785 ten-dollar gold coin, George Washington’s manuscript account of his (losing) investments in Revolutionary War loan certificates, American money of the colonial period, and currency issued by the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. – JGD/SKB/WGH

Caricatures Donated to College Archives

“I just recall a man making the rounds of the fraternities and quickly drawing many of the members,” recollects Dick Debevoise, Class of 1946.  We know no more than this about how and why George Pal came to Williams to draw student caricatures in 1946.

Happily two of Pal’s drawings survived and were gifted last year to the Williams College Archives.   Mr. Debevoise’s portrait was received as one item within the larger donation of the Debevoise Family Papers.  Several months later, the drawing of Stanton Tefft (left), Class of 1947, came as a single piece, the generous gift of his widow, Marie Elaine Tefft.

Pal’s caricatures are fascinating in the manner in which they capture aspects of the sitter.  Mr. Tefft, for instance, was known as the drummer for the college’s V-12 (Navy College Training Program) Swing Band.  The exuberance with which he is portrayed reflects the enthusiasm he brought later to his law career and his many varied life interests.

Pal, as it turns out, was not known for his caricatures (as artistic and entertaining as ours may be).  He is, however, legendary for the science fiction films he directed and produced at Paramount.  He won Academy Awards for special effects work on “The War of the Worlds” (1953) and “The Time Machine” (1960), among others.  Before these live-action films—and at the time he was drawing the caricatures—he was a pioneer of stop-action animation.  His Puppetoons—a term he coined from a combination of “puppet” and “cartoon”—used wooden puppets and stop-action photography to create a style of animation that Americans had never before seen.

The caricatures are only a small part of the visual holdings in the College Archives.  Our collections include photographic prints, early photographic processes (daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes), lithographic and woodcut prints, drawings and paintings depicting college life and our region.  You can find a small sampling of the Archives’ image collections by visiting the Williams Memory Project. – SKB

Shown is George Pal’s 1946 pastel and chalk caricature of Stanton Tefft, Class of 1947 (accession # 2012.112)