Guest Blogger: Meggie Lasher, Research and Academic Engagement Librarian, “Do I Need to Wear White Gloves?: A story of a new ASCC enthusiast”

I was once entirely intimidated by working in archives and with special collections

Yes, it’s true! A lot of this anxiety came from my preconceived notions about what goes on in these spaces and collections. For example, the whole concept of special and rare. Just hearing those words made me feel I would be a burden and make a mess. When I thought of working with special collections and archival material, I dreamed up visions of pencils and white gloves, no beverages, sub zero temperatures, and perpetual shushing. Special and rare meant exclusionary and breakable. Fortunately, this apprehension has not only subsided, but has since been entirely replaced by an overwhelming enthusiasm for archives and special collections. I owe this metamorphosis entirely to Sharon Byrd and DebbieLee Landi of the Archives, Special Collections, and Community department at the Library. I’d like to share this experience to help others shed their apprehension and expand their intellectual (and often entertaining) experiences.

Mount Holyoke College Archives

My past experiences with archives began as an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College, a women’s college in Western Massachusetts. Also founded in 1837, the college has an extensively documented and rich history. Underneath one of the oldest buildings on campus was this hobbit house of a space. Round windows with light, long wooden tables, and smiling people! Who knew?! I had a special introduction to working with archival materials that may be familiar to a few readers: crafternoon! The head archivist led afternoon activities with themed crafts throughout the semester. My favorite was by far creating postcards from copies of old photographs, course catalogs, and other campus publications. Participating in these crafternoons helped me feel part of the community and the history of the college.  While in graduate school at UNC’s School of Information and Library Science, I met many future archivists. Often in awe of their dedication, I found their program of study to be demanding. The Archives and Records Management track was rigorous and precise. They had to follow a specific course sequence to prepare them for their field. I got to dabble in all the arts of library science. (Yes, there was a class in the art of a good book recommendation!)

During a summer seminar in London, I met future archivists from other institutions. They could barely contain their excitement during one afternoon excursion to the Metropolitan Archives of London. Yes, they hold records for the entire city and its history. Some of the special collections librarians there set up a special room of materials for us to peruse. Sitting on a folding table was the census for the city of London in 1092.  Yep, just sitting there! We could touch it! It was probably a foot high and I remember an interesting odor… This experience on a spring afternoon in London fueled those feelings of wonder and awe that can only come from those special things that once intimidated me.

Meggie Lasher with London’s Big Ben as the background

Sharon and DebbieLee have since secured my now positive associations with Archives and Special Collections. We worked as a team to seize a unique opportunity. We opened the Rare Book Room to an ANT 101 course last spring. Some students had visited before, but for many others it was their first time in the RBR as we fondly call it. We created a session that introduced anthropological research methods through the resources at the library. Then, we gave students a hands-on experience unpacking a mystery from campus history. Just like archaeologists (a branch of anthropology), they handled objects found under an old building on campus. They got to share what they examined: a toothbrush, a piece of porcelain from a doll’s face, even bones! What could have been a point and click database demonstration became an interactive, exploratory session. 

Librarians and archivists love to share what we do in the classroom. I wrote a lesson plan that outlined what we did as a submission to one of my favorite series instruction “cookbooks” from the American College and Research Libraries branch of the American Libraries Association. There was a call for “recipes” for the Teaching in Archives and Special Collections Cookbook edition. While our submission was not accepted, I still view our collaboration as successful. I’m grateful that I get to work with such inspiring and open minded colleagues. Sharon and DebbieLee demonstrate how archives and special collections are for everyone, white gloves optional.

Hensley, Merinda, et al. “Analyzing Archival Intelligence: A Collaboration Between Library Instruction and Archives.” Communications in Information Literacy, vol. 8, no. 1, July 2014, 

doi:10.15760/comminfolit.2014.8.1.155.

Mhcarchives. “‘Day in the Library Life’ Challenge image from the Archives Desk,” Instagram, 3 Nov. 2015.
                 

www.instagram.com/p/9pPYj7sxhj/

Other images is author’s own.

Guest Blogger: Dr. Annie Merrill, Thomson Professor of Environmental Studies and Professor of English, “Dr. H. W. Marbourg, Botanizer”

Dr. Annie Merrill is currently writing a book on popular botany in the 19th-century United States.

In my research, I’ve studied hundreds of nineteenth-century American flower books, from tiny flower language dictionaries to lavishly illustrated folios of US flora.  Their contents have much to tell us about scientific education, natural history, and botanical popular culture at that time.  An individual book’s unique features such as inscriptions and marginalia also convey fascinating stories.

Title page, 1855 edition of Wood’s Class Book of Botany

Hezekiah Wilson Marbourg was born in 1833 in Indiana county, Pennsylvania.  He attended Pennsylvania College (now Gettysburg) and received an M.D. from Jefferson Medical College in 1858 (Pennsylvania College 361).  During the Civil War, he was stationed on Roanoke Island as a surgeon for the U.S. Army (Portrait and Biographical Record 150).  As the copious marginalia and pressed specimens in his copy of Wood’s Class-Book indicate, he was also one of the many amateur botanists in the 19thcentury US.

Example of Marbourg’s marginalia: “Rhoanoke Island N.C. May 5 1865. Beautiful.”

His marginalia all appear in the Flora section – a precursor to today’s field guides – and note a date and location, occasionally with a brief comment like “beautiful” or “pretty.”  The earliest one is dated April 25, 1857: as a medical student, he likely “botanized” for recreation, recording the plants he encountered.  He didn’t go far afield to find them; locations from 1857-58 include Logan Square and Franklin Square in Philadelphia and the Cement Quarry in Johnstown, PA.

Marbourg returned to Johnstown after the war and remarried in 1872, to Esther Nippes, also an M.D.  They established a joint medical practice, and in the 1870s and 1880s Marbourg still noted a few plants in his Class-Book.  The last marginalium appears next to the entry on the Smiling Wake-Robin (Trillium erythrocarpum), which he found on May 2, 1888 at the Cambria Furnaces, part of Johnstown’s largest steel and iron works.  Marbourg died a year later in the Great Johnstown Flood of May, 1889 (Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia 142).

A wide range of people were amateur botanists in the nineteenth century, and most of them “never wrote anything, or made a cent from botany, or joined an institution, or subscribed to a botanically inclined periodical” (Keeney 11).  But at least one of them took the time to record his findings in his book, and that book still speaks to us today.

A close up of a newspaper

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One of the plants that Marbourg pressed in his copy of Wood’s Class-Book.

References:

Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Cambria County, Pennsylvania.  Philadelphia: Union Publishing, 1896.

Keeney, Elizabeth.  The Botanizers: Amateur Scientists in Nineteenth-Century America.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

Pennsylvania College Alumni Association.  General Report Made to the Alumni Association of Pennsylvania College.  Gettysburg: H. C. Neinstedt, 1860.

Portrait and Biographical Record of the State of Colorado.  Chicago: Chapman, 1899.

Wood, Alphonso.  Class-Book of Botany.  Boston: Crocker & Brewster, 1855.

Guest blogger: Alexa Torchynowycz, Systems and Cataloging Librarian, “Measured in millimeters: Miniature books at Davidson”

The other day I read an article about “micro” apartments being built in Charlotte’s South End. The square footage of these space conscious dwellings start at under 400 square feet. For some perspective, that’s only slightly larger than a double occupancy dorm room on campus. As a fan of shows like “Tiny House Hunters” and “Container Homes” I am very familiar and fascinated by this mini mode of living. However, when imagining my life in downsized digs I always have one concern: where would I put all my books? Right now bookshelves cover at least half of my walls and those shelves are at (and over) capacity. I have books stashed in cabinets, closets, and boxes. Needless to say I have a storage problem already. So what is a bibliophile with a penchant for tiny homes to do? Enter the miniature book!

Miniature books are typically defined as books that are smaller than 4 inches tall. They can have all the same elements as non-mini books such as hardback covers, illustrations, chapters, etc., just on a smaller scale. Davidson’s Library has several examples of miniature books in its collection and many more were recently added thanks to a donation from the estate of Wilbur L. Fugate (class of 1934). Titles from the donation include a mini “Merchant of Venice”, a diminutive dictionary, and a bitty biography of the composer Handel just to name a few.

From left to right: Miniature “The merchant of Venice” with a full sized copy of “The tempest” for size comparison ; “The little Webster” dictionary is less than 2 inches tall ; a biography of Handel from the Petite Library series.

There is some debate as to when the miniature book originated and for what purpose. Some say the first miniature books appeared during the Middle Ages. These were predominately Bibles, hymnals, and devotional literature used for daily religious practice. Some of these books were so small they became known as “thumb Bibles.” The smallest miniature book in the library’s collection is a Bible which barely measures 1.5 inches tall. That Bible is not from the Middle Ages, but the library’s earliest miniature book was printed in 1808. “Wisdom in miniature” describes itself as a “collection of sentences divine and moral” for young gentlemen and ladies on piety, obedience, calm behavior, and other basic tenets of early 19th century society.

Because small books could be produced en masse and easily distributed, many were used for sales and advertising purposes. “The pocket carpet bag,” much like its namesake, was inexpensive and easy to travel with. Although there are some stories, most of the pages are filled with advertisements for goods and services. And since their small size made them more travelable, mini books became popular souvenirs. Want to remember your trip to D.C.? Then grab “Washington in Miniature” and marvel at the petite pictures of the capital’s major sites.

On the left: “Washington in miniature” with drawings by artists from the Rochon Hoover Studio. On the right: “The pocket carpet bag” with full color illustration on the front cover.


So will miniature books solve all our storage problems? Probably not. But they are just so much fun to look at! To view the books mentioned in this post, or any of the other miniature books in the library’s collection, email archives@davidson.edu to make an appointment.  Let’s hope that this COVID-19 quarantine ends soon!

Guest bloggers: Elise Edman and Dan Murphy, “How Mapping Davidson’s Campus Altered Students’ Perceptions of Campus”

Elise Edman is a senior Computer Science major, Data Science minor, and has just finished her last volleyball season at Davidson. Next year, she will be working in St. Louis, MO as a Systems Engineer for the Cardinals.

Dan Murphy is a junior Economics major, Data Science minor, and Data CATs consultant in the Hurt Hub. This summer, he will be working in Denver, Colorado designing, developing, and testing algorithms for darknet data at DarkOwl Cybersecurity.

In October of 2019, the students of Dr. Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire’s course, Imaging the Earth (ANT 377), collectively mapped Davidson College’s campus. Using the “Collector for ArcGIS” app (available for download in Apple’s App Store), students walked around campus to collect the coordinates and other attributes of features like trash, garbage bins, trees, benches, art, honored objects (objects left alone and not stolen), and events. With this collaborative dataset, students were then tasked with using ArcGIS Pro software to create maps of Davidson’s campus with these features. This project ultimately changed the way that some students view the campus’ features and layout.

            One map that students created displays garbage bins with rings located 10, 20, and 40 meters away from the garbage bins’ coordinates (Map 1). The rings function to demonstrate the garbage bins’ proximity to each other and to trash found throughout campus. The map also features a representation of trash density on campus, where the darkest color is the area where trash is the densest. Most of the garbage bins and trash are found in the most student-frequented areas of campus, which is logical. It is interesting that the area with the densest trash is an area with plenty of garbage bins available to use. It appears that the distribution of garbage bins throughout campus is designed appropriately, but that students are not using them responsibly.

color map of the Davidson campus showing the location of garbage bins and loose trash

Map 1. Displays the distribution of garbage bins (with multiple ring buffers) and trash (with kernel density) throughout Davidson College’s campus.

            Another map that students created displays the benches around Davidson’s campus with rings located 15, 30, and 45 meters away from the benches’ coordinates (Map 2). In this context, the rings demonstrate the proximity of benches to other benches and artwork around campus. Students also used kernel density to analyze the density of benches and artwork throughout campus. As seen in Map 2’s legend, the red coloring represents the densest area of benches and artwork. The blue shading represents less densely-populated areas. The densest areas for benches and artwork on campus are near Chambers, Union, and the library. This is logical, as prospective students spend most of their time touring campus around these three spots. To make the campus visually attractive to visitors, it is logical that artwork and benches would be clustered in areas where they will be seen the most. Furthermore, there are additional dense areas behind the football field and near Baker Sports Complex. It appears that Davidson would do this to draw visitors to well-known on-campus locations.

color topographic map of the art and benches on the Davidson campus
Map 2. Displays the kernel density of art and benches and the distribution of benches (with multiple ring buffers).

            Overall, this project was a valuable experience for many students in Dr. Lamoureux-St-Hilaire’s “Imaging the Earth” course. It challenged our previous perceptions of Davidson’s campus, forcing us to be more analytical about our surroundings and to think deeper about the decisions that Davidson administrators and students make. Additionally, this project helped students gain a better understanding of ArcGIS Pro geoprocessing tools (like multiple ring buffer and kernel density tools), formatting maps, and creating map PDFs that are ready to be shared with others. Through this valuable learning experience, students gained important skills necessary for performing accurate, comprehensible, geographical research and presenting it to others.

Guest Blogger: Dr. Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire Visiting Assistant Professor, Anthropology, “Collaborative Mapping at Davidson through GIS”

Dr. Lamoureux-St-Hilaire is an archaeologist specializing in ancient political systems and geoarchaeology. His research is centered on the Classic Maya world, where he’s worked in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. For over a decade, his work has involved map-making and Geographic Information System (GIS). This summer, he’ll be taking Davidson students to Mexico and Belize to do some fieldwork. Dr. Max also co-organizes the Maya at the Lago Conference, and the 10th installment will take place at Davidson in late April.

Teaching an introductory course for Geographic Information System (GIS) comes with its set of challenges. You must teach how to operate one of the most complex software programs – ESRI’s ArcGIS Pro – while also teaching about a thoroughly interdisciplinary discipline to students majoring in diverse fields. This past semester, for the ANT-377 Imaging the Earth course, I decided to emphasize a few key topics including (1) how to ask questions about landscapes; (2) how to tie complex datasets to diverse landscapes; (3) how to create clear maps to answer these questions; and (4) how to adequately report this scientific inquisitive process.

                The best way to learn a scientific process is to learn it from beginning to end. In the case of GIS, this begins with collecting data – something that used to require a fairly complex technological setup – e.g., high resolution GPS, total station, etc. Thankfully, the new ArcGIS Pro software comes with a sister app, Collector, which uses your phone’s GPS to take datapoints. After designing a database, I asked the students to roam the Davidson campus to collect basic information about trees, benches, garbage bins, trash, art, and “honored object” (i.e., objects left lying around by students because of the honor code). Over the course of three weeks, the 16 students and myself recorded the GPS location and basic information (characteristics, height, etc.) of 447 features on campus.

Screen shot of cell phone rendering  Davidson campus with colored icons representing activities in specific places
Figure 1. The Collector App uses your phone’s GPS to identify the location of features. The highlighted “Honored Object” feature was a backpack left in a hallway of the north basement of Chambers during a class on Oct 7, 2019.

This process gave the entire group the opportunity to create an original dataset from scratch, which was then available for analysis and reporting (later this week, look for the companion blog entry by Edman and Stearns). Using opensource Lidar data for Mecklenburg County, I asked students to project these features onto a detailed Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the Davidson Campus. These combined tasks led students to autonomously combine vector (the geodatabase) and raster (the DEM) GIS data – the two types of datasets handled by GIS specialists.

                Using Collector to create a basic geodatabase effectively led students to appreciate their campus from a GIS angle. In addition, the following steps of this exercise allowed them to apply analytical and technical display techniques learned in class to their collaborative dataset. This project was their great first foray into the GIS process, which paved the way to their own personal projects; all of which involved far larger datasets generally obtained online.

A colored map of Davidson campus using the online platform of ESRI to visualize queries

Figure 2. In addition to Collector and ArcGIS Pro, ESRI has an online platform – arcgis.com – which allows you to visualize, query, and modify some of your maps and to produce simple displays such as this one.

                 GIS technology is challenging because of the thousands of disciplines it is used for, from archaeology and engineering to agriculture and military science. Yet, this exercise proved to be an excellent pedagogical tool to allow students to familiarize themselves with each step involved in the creation of a geodatabase, its analysis, rendering, and presentation. Developing this exercise (especially adequately setting up the database) was also a learning process for me, and I’m excited to continue developing this exercise in the future. Instead of 447 features, I hope to reach 1,000 in next fall’s iteration of this exercise for Imaging the Earth. In particular, I hope to study in more details the distribution of “honored objects”, which reflect a rich idiosyncratic dimension of Davidson’s academic life.

Guest blogger: Alexa Torchynowycz, Systems and Cataloging Librarian, “The Historic Textbook Collection: A New Addition to the Special Collections”

We’re baaack! After a hiatus to change service providers, the Archives blog, Around the D, has returned!

Ever wonder what it was like to be a Davidson College student 100 years ago? Well, unless you have access to Mr. Peabody’s Wayback machine you’ll need to make a visit to the Davidson College Archives and Special Collections and view one of our newer additions, the Historic Textbook Collection.

Among the photographs, ephemera, and other materials from the college that are housed in the Archives and Special Collections, we now have several textbooks that were originally used in Davidson classrooms which make up the Historic Textbook Collection. The textbooks were donated by alumni families and cover topics such as English, geography, religion, and ‘modern’ bookkeeping.

Black and white title page for Modern Illustrative Bookkeeping
page 54 and 55 of Modern Illustrative Bookkeeping
Modern Illustrative Bookkeeping

One of the items in the Historic Textbook Collection is a student’s notebook for English I, which belonged to Mitchell Corriher, class of 1920. The binder contains all of the assignments, notes, and even graded papers for the 1916-1917 school year English course. In some of the assignments, the student proudly writes about Davidson’s impressive football record for 1916. In others, he strikes a somber tone writing about the “greatest war known in history,” World War I.

Cover page of English I, 2 ring binder notebook
Mitchell Corriher’s (Class of 1920) English I student notebook

As a group, these textbooks and notebooks not only give a peek into Davidson’s classrooms and college life from years ago but also inform a broader understanding of the social and political events of the time.

The early Davidson textbooks in the Historic Textbook Collection aren’t the only interesting things from the Archives, Special Collections and Community department. From millimeter tall artist books to maps of the world, check out the library’s other rare and special materials in these collections:

Artists’ Books Collection

Bruce Rogers Collection

Cumming Collection

Fugate Collection

Golden Cockerel Press Collection

Have a historic textbook you’d like to donate? Contact the Davidson College Archives – archives@davidson.edu

Guest blogger: Alexa Torchynowycz, Systems and Cataloging Librarian in the E.H. Little Library, “Did you know we had this?!?! A serendipitous encounter with Solzhenitsyn”

An independent press, a censored author, and two donations: No, this is not the beginning of a “… walked into a bar” joke. It is, however, the beginning elements of a chance meeting of materials in the Rare Book Room.

I recently cataloged the first broadside printed by the Iron Mountain Press, which was donated by Dr. Robert Denham, class of 1961. A broadside in the printing industry is a single sheet of paper with printing on only one side of it and this particular broadside contains the poem “Release of Solshenitsyn” (1969) by J.M. Martin. I was excited to work with this item because it was the first issued in a series of broadsides from Iron Mountain Press and, just like with comic books, the first issue is very rare (we are the only library in WorldCat with this item). The Rare Book Room has several other broadsides from this series. To find them, search for Iron Mountain Press broadside in the Rare Book Room catalog https://davidson.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/discovery/search?&tab=RBR&search_scope=RBR&vid=01DCOLL_INST:01DCOLL&lang=en

Examples of three Iron Press broadsides: "Persephone's Dilemma", "Release of Solshenitsyn", and "In the dark all cats fly"
Iron Mountain Press Broadsides

An added bonus to working with this broadside was that the poem was about the Russian author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I had read several of his books and was familiar with his background. I enjoyed reading the poem and picking up on elements that pointed to Solzhenitsyn’s history. As much as I try to, I can’t keep the things I catalog in my office forever, so I finished up my work and put the broadside with a few other items I was planning to take back to the Rare Book Room.

Little did I know that Solzhenitsyn would be making a repeat appearance in a very big way.

A few days later, I grabbed an innocuous-looking archival rare book box out of a stack of things I needed to catalog. I couldn’t tell what was in it so naturally, my curiosity was piqued. Upon opening the box, I found several handwritten notes and a plain paperback written in Russian. The first note I read said that the book was an issue of the literary journal, Novyi Mir, and this precise issue (1962, no. 11) contained the first-ever publication of … wait for it … “One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” by none other than Alexander Solzhenitsyn. What a fantastic coincidence and an even more fantastic find!

Copy of bookplate of donor, Dr. Jack Perry and front cover of 1962 publication in Cyrillic.
First page of the volume in Cyrillic.

The story focuses on a prisoner of a Soviet labor camp and the extreme conditions prisoners faced there. Solzhenitsyn had to severely edit his own novel in order to see it published, but when it finally came out in Novyi Mir it was the first time that the labor camp system, or Gulag, was depicted in a Soviet published work. It was an immediate sensation both inside and outside of the Soviet Union, but soon afterward, Solzhenitsyn and his work were labeled as anti-Soviet by literary critics within the USSR. Solzhenitsyn published several more novels, none of which saw an initial publication in the Soviet Union again and all of which were critical of the Soviet government. This led to the author’s deportation in 1974.

Though the issue of Novyi Mir with “One day” had a large publication run (over 95,000 copies sold) they began to disappear in the Soviet Union because of a government initiative to censor the novel. Few physical copies of the November 1962 issue of Novyi Mir exist in libraries today and here was one in my hands! I also still had the “Release of Solshenitsyn” broadside sitting on a cart next to me. Two Solzhenitysns from two completely different sources. I was so excited about this unbelievable coincidence that I took (ran is the more correct verb) “One day” and the broadside up to the Rare Book Room. As soon as I got up there I asked, “Did you know we had this?!?!” They were as astonished as I was. Sharon Byrd, the Special Collections Librarian, also helped me to put the pieces together of how we acquired this item. The Novyi Mir was donated by Dr. Jack Perry, a Davidson professor of political science. In 1962, when “One day” appeared in Novy Mir, Dr. Perry was living in Russia and most likely picked up the issue during his time there. He then taught at Davidson from 1985 to 1995 and over 20 years later, presented this copy of “One day” to the library.

And now you can answer my question from the title of this blog post with, “Yes! I know we have the first broadside from Iron Mountain Press AND the first publication of “One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn!”

Guest Blogger: from the Class of ’64, “A Bit of the History of ROTC at Davidson”

 A small group of ’64 graduates gathered over the few years to rethink the future for the sake of our progeny, to consider how we might transition into a future that is yet to happen.   One of the subjects proposed was Reinstituting the Draft.  Since most of us graduated after four years of ROTC with a military commission, many serving in Vietnam, there was the lingering question: why did the school require two years of Military Science instruction of all its students whether or not they opted for a second voluntary two years. In order to receive a diploma, unless there was a physical or other exemption we must have spent two years marching and cleaning our M1’s. Even students transferring in as juniors had to participate.

black and white photograph of 1922 James Sprunt scrapbook page for ROTC
Scrapbook interpretation of ROTC from James Sprunt, Jr. Class of 1922

The reason given for the requirement, as we were told, was that Davidson was a “Land-Grant” college. Indeed, the Morrill Act of 1862 provided funds from the sale of Federal land to encourage and assist states to establish schools to teach agricultural and industrial classes and also military tactics. The problem then arises: Davidson was and is a decidedly Liberal Arts college founded in 1837. So, how could she be a school that benefited from the Act, or even its expansion in 1890? Additionally, a search of the listings of Land-Grant colleges and universities finds Davidson nowhere mentioned.  The resulting evidence is that Davidson was never a Land-Grant college.

Here is a link where the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s ROTC program traces its history to the Davidson program.

https://arotc.uncc.edu/49er-battalion-info/history

Davidson’s ROTC, then the SATC (Students Army Training Corps) was begun 1917. In the beginning participation appeared to be optional, then later was mandatory.

1918 cartoon drawings of military exercises
1918 Quips and Cranks interpretation of military training
black and white announcement for military training with photo of the cadets
Announcement at the end of the 1918 Quips and Cranks

A half century later in 1968 ROTC became a voluntary elective with enrollment plummeting to where it is today. It was World War One which birthed Military Training at Davidson and it was Vietnam which nearly ended it.

All that being said, our take, until we are presented evidence otherwise, is that the Board of Trustees saw how Military Science benefited the students and the college, and made it obligatory. Somehow along the way, to give justification for mandatory ROTC, the idea that Davidson was a Land-Grant college was mentioned. Not being challenged, it stuck. That is, until 1968 – Tet, My Lai, and all, when no amount of justification would suffice.

We are open to any enhancement or rebuttal on the above comments.

Chapters in the Lives of the Chambermaids

Hello, once again this is Hannah Foltz, class of 2013 and current PhD student in rhetoric at the University of Texas at Austin and this is my last post for this summer.

Since 1929, the “top” position at Davidson has belonged to two women: the Chambermaids. This honorific belongs to the stony and silent figures perched above Chambers, the cloaked statues who flank the Davidson seal on the building’s capstone. For 90 years, the perpetually young ladies have surveilled campus, serving as muses, mascots, namesakes, and even as a destination. Here are some of our favorite stories about the Davidson Chambermaids:

B/W image of two statues on the top of Chambersg
Alma and Mater “Chambermaids”

1. They have names. 

While we don’t know who christened them, a 1937 article reveals that the Chambermaids are named Alma and Mater (“Davidson Data,” Scripts n’ Pranks, Mar 1937, p. 14) . From the viewers’ perspective, Alma is to the right and Mater to the left (“Candid Campus,” Scripts n’ Pranks, Dec 1937, p. 13). 

A student dances under the eyes of the Chambermaids at Davidson’s first International/Intercultural Festival in 1986. 

2. They have different but complementary strengths. 

True to their institution, the Chambermaids represent the best of the liberal arts. Alma is more literary; she carries a book and a quill. Mater is the scientific sister; she pairs her book with a magnifying glass. (An alternate theory could be that Mater is simply farsighted.) 

3. One maid may only have four fingers. 

Davidson Data,” published in 1937, claims that one of the ladies only has four fingers—but doesn’t specify which maid is missing a digit (Scripts n’ Pranks, Mar 1937, p. 14). Enlarged photographs suggest it may be Mater, but reports have not been confirmed by this author. 

4. They’ve been known to tipple.  

In 1942, when still-dry Davidson was in the middle of one of many (many, many) arguments about drinking regulations, the campus awoke to a tin sign suspended between the two statues. It read, “Hornung’s Beer and Ale.” Enoch Donaldson, a longtime janitor at the school, had to climb to the roof and cut down the sign.

The incident prompted Al Winn, student body president and valedictorian, to compose a series of verse parodies chronicling the sign’s hanging. 

5. They’re two of Davidson’s most inspiring muses. 

The maids have inspired many creative endeavors, both visual and verbal. They are no stranger to the male gaze; many young men have admired—and exaggerated—their sensual appeal. In 1947, Sam Robinson ‘49, went so far as to imagine entertaining the ladies in his Watts dorm room. Safe to say, Alma and Mater may not put much stock in the notion of the “Davidson gentleman.” 

Robinson, Sam. “The Maidens,” Scripts n’ Pranks, Spring 1947, p. 7. 


Elliot, Jim. Scripts n’ Pranks, Summer 1947, Cover. 


Hamilton, Bill. “Okay, so what if they never look up here?” Scripts n’ Pranks, Summer 1948, p. 9. 

Alma and Mater updated for 1952. 

6. They have cousins in Columbia. 

As much as Davidsonians revere Chambers, our signature building—and its female guardians—may not be as unique as we’d like to imagine. Henry C. Hibbs, Chambers’ architect, designed many academic buildings, including the University of South Carolina’s McKissick Library (now McKissick Museum), whose dome and capstone bear an uncanny resemblance to Chambers and its maids. Davidson can take solace in the fact that Chambers was completed some ten years before the McKissick. 

Color photo of statues on top of McKissick Museum

Source: The Living New Deal 

7. They were mascots for female College employees. 

Although in the 1950s, the College was not yet coeducational, more and more women joined the ranks of its administrative staff. They formed a social group, which a professor nicknamed the Chambermaids after the statues atop the building where most of the women worked. The women embraced the name, and it’s how the group was officially known until 1982, when they changed their name to Office Support Staff. Although the group did its fair share of socializing, it also lobbied successfully for many improvements for female employees, including tuition benefits for their children, campus representation, flexible summer work hours, and personal leave. The group was active until 2009. 

The caption on this 1955 photo reads: “The original Chambermaids.” 

8. They got company from time to time. 

It can get lonely at the top. Fortunately for Alma and Mater, getting on the Chambers roof was something of a tradition for Davidson students of a certain era. Those who accomplished the task were often immortalized in the college yearbook—along with the Chambermaids. 

Quips and Cranks. In clockwise order: 1939, 1967, 1952 

“The Phantom of the Night”: Cop Ed Linker

Hello! I’m Hannah Foltz, class of 2013 and current PhD student in rhetoric at the University of Texas at Austin. This summer, I’m working with the Humanities program and the Archives and Special Collections team.

Between 1939 and 1972, a lot changed at Davidson College—significantly increased enrollment; integration; the relaxation of rules related to dancing, drinking, curfews, and church attendance; the end of compulsory ROTC; even the first waves of coeducation. But despite it all, one thing didn’t change: the presence of “Cop” Edgar N. Linker, Davidson’s Security Officer. Hired as the (one and only) nightwatchman (Davidsonian, 12 Oct 1939, p. 6), Linker became an iconic symbol of probity whose flashlight and pipe struck fear into the hearts of many. In today’s post, we’ll dig a little deeper to uncover the man behind the myth. 

Cop Linker on patrol. 

Davidson’s mid-century campus security concerns seem quaint today. Although Linker did occasionally investigate external threats—notably tracking down a notorious burglar of East Coast college dormitories in 1954 (Warlick, Tom. “Linker’s Hunch Pays Off; Fields Awaits Jury Action,” Davidsonian, 12 Feb 1954, p. 1)—most of his duties appear to have been policing student behavior. Parking tickets, alcohol consumption, and amorous indiscretions were his bread and butter. In fact, he reported that on average he broke up three romantic encounters each night of a dance weekend (Duggin, Ervin. “Sixty-Three Weekends: That’s Cop’s New Record,” Davidsonian, 21 Oct 1960, p.1). He recounted his approach: 

I’m not trying to make romance unpopular….It’s the natural thing to do. But we’ve got to obey the rule. You won’t find that rule in the handbook. It’s just understood…Most boys think I get a kick out of seeing how many I can catch, but I’m always hesitant. Usually I tap my truck horn and flick the lights, then drive on slowly. If they don’t move I come back, and then maybe there’s some talking done (Duggan).

Cop Linker’s parking tickets were lamented in the 1966 Quips and Cranks. 

Generations of Davidson “gentlemen” and their dates came to know, fear, and love Cop Linker. In fact, the 1950 edition of Quips and Cranks was dedicated to this “phantom of the night” (14-15), an honor typically reserved for college presidents, deans, or long-time faculty members. One can find numerous photographs, anecdotes, and depictions of Linker in Davidsonians and  Quips and Cranks alone. 

Quips and Cranks 1950

As cultural mores and college rules relaxed, Linker’s job grew more challenging. In Duggin’s profile, Cop complains, “One thing about this modern generation. They don’t need a dark place to do their kissing. They’ll do it most anywhere.” In fact, Cop Linker’s retirement in 1972 seems to represent an official acquiescence to canoodling and a turn towards a more crime-oriented campus security force. After Linker’s departure, the College negotiated a contract with the town’s police force that eventually led to the establishment of Precinct #2, an expanded, college-focused force (McLawhorn, Dennis. “Davidson Precinct Institutionalizes Security Force,” Davidsonian, 21 Jan 1977, p. 6). In 1978, Precinct #2 was spun off into the autonomous campus police force that still exists today (Summie, Salley. “Davidson Police Department Divides,” Davidsonian, 27 Jan 1978, p.1). 

Price, Ed. “Alright, son, let’s call it a night!” Davidsonian, 19 Feb 1954, p. 2. 

But who was Ed Linker? Research in the archives of institutions beyond his beat reveals a life more nuanced than what figures in the Davidson imaginary. We were surprised to learn that the State Archives of North Carolina holds the Edgar N. Linker Papers! A subset of their Military Collection, Linker’s papers are primarily letters written to his family in Mooresville while he was serving in the Navy during World War I. Linker served on the cruiser the U.S.S. Des Moines, and the majority of his letters were posted while the ship was in port along the United States’ Atlantic Coast. Linker writes about his time in the Navy, as well as about his family’s experience with the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic. Linker’s papers from the U.S.S. Des Moines are the only known complete set of World War I correspondence from the ship, and include an original menu from its 1918 Thanksgiving meal

One of Linker’s letters home mentions his vaccination against the 1918 flu pandemic.  

The archives of Linker’s church, Davidson College Presbyerian, are housed at Davidson College and also provide some information about the Cop’s life. After returning from the service, he married and ran a dry cleaning business in the Main Street space now occupied by the Soda Shop. In an article written upon his retirement, the author explains, “Mature citizens don’t have to be told why his business stopped [in 1932]; the ‘Hoover Years’ had descended on the land” (Gee, “It’s ‘Cop’ Linker….No More!,” Scrapbook, Davidson College Presbyterian Church Women of the Church Collection). It appears Linker then served as a police officer for the Town of Davidson; a 1939 Davidsonian article about his hiring mentions that he had previously been the department’s head (“Watchman Named,” Davidsonian, 12 Oct 1939). Linker was also a 50-year Mason, and enjoyed beekeeping and gardening at his home on Davidson’s South Street . 

Clipping from the DCPC Women of the Church Scrapbook 

Gee’s article mentions Cop Linker’s fine sense of humor, which no doubt went a long way during more than 40 years of policing undergraduate hijinks. In 1960, he admitted: 

Freshmen of course are the ones you get the most kick out of. You have to tell them we don’t allow mixed car parties on dance weekends. I say, “About bedtime, sonny,” and sometimes they ask, “Well where can we park?” Doggone! That’s already supposed to be settled.” 

Doggone, indeed! Cheers to a Davidson legend—and a veteran, civil servant, businessman, and beekepeer.