Guest Blogger: Alice Sloop, Sr. Staff Assistant, E.H. Little Library, “Handling a health care crisis—Now versus Then”

Over this past year, much of our collective attention has been drawn to the health care crisis brought on by the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic.  We have all struggled, personally and collectively, with decisions made to keep ourselves and our communities safe from this deadly virus.  This all-consuming struggle has gotten me to thinking about how health crises were handled in the past here in North Carolina by our ancestors.  One of my ancestors and distinguished Davidson College Alumnus, Dr. Eustace Henry Sloop, gives us a glimpse into medical issues facing our forebearers in the late 1800s to early 1900s.

Eustace Henry Sloop (1877-1961) came to Davidson in 1893; he was the youngest Freshman in his class (only 16 years old). (p.146, Alumni Catalogue of Davidson College)  Early that year, he met the woman he would later marry, Mary T. Martin. Mary’s father, William Joseph Martin, was a member of the faculty at Davidson and hosted a party for incoming Freshman.  Mary describes Sloop as “a tall, slender, shy youngster with light brown hair and the nicest smile”.  (p.17, Miracle in the Hills)  Mary writes in her book Miracle in the Hills that her father came to Davidson “after the war”  to “teach geology and chemistry and serve also as bursar” and that he was “greatly needed.” (p.12, Miracle in the Hills)  William Joseph Martin taught from 1869-1887, became Vice President in 1884, and acting President 1887-88. (p.25, Alumni Catalogue of Davidson College

Sloop graduated from Davidson College in 1897. He continued his education at Jefferson Medical College, earning his M.D., and became a physician to the mountainous community around Crossnore, NC. (p.146, Alumni Catalogue of Davidson College) He married Mary Martin in 1908. (p.21, Miracle in the Hills)  Mary Martin Sloop (1873-1962) had also earned her M.D. and together they served in what was then a very rural, underserved community.  The nearest hospital was in Asheville, NC, “a long ride on a springless wagon over a rough road.” (p.224, Miracle in the Hills)    

The Doctors Sloop traveled to homes on horseback, treating and sometimes operating on patients in their cabins. The image below is from 1917.

Their safest operating space for years was outside under an apple tree.

black and white image of operation under an apple tree

They fought to bring electricity to the community, and Dr. Eustace Sloop constructed a powerhouse (shown below) to bring electricity to Crossnore.

They also sewed cuts shut with hair from the horse’s tail, and grieved for children in pigtails as young as 13 years old starting families of their own in poor conditions.

 Some issues that the Doctors Sloop faced are still part of our COVID-19 story today.  Mary writes of food insecurity, lack of needed medicines, fear of vaccinations, workers making little wages in unsecure jobs, and lack of adequate school facilities. “Simple things… for instance, that people with contagious diseases shouldn’t have visitors…were hard to get across”, Mary writes. (p.224, Miracle in the Hills).  One of Mary’s patients states a typical fear of vaccinations as follows: “I a’int no fool and you can’t tell me that stickin’ a hole in a young’un with a needle can cure diphtheria or keep off typhoid fever”. (p.223, Miracle in the Hills).

 Despite the ongoing health issues described in the story of Doctors Eustice and Mary Martin Sloop that we still face today, their story is also one of great accomplishments. During their service to the Crossnore, NC community, they established the Crossnore School and Hospital.  Their two children also sought higher education.  Daughter Emma became a physician like her parents and ran the Crossnore Hospital for many years, serving people from miles around.  Son, Will, became a dentist.  Today, the school is a boarding school for orphans and children unable to live with their biological parents.  It also includes an active handloom weaving facility that both supports the school economically and employs locals.  Both roads and access to health care are greatly improved. Although the Crossnore Hospital is no longer in operation, the fear of a loved one dying before reaching a hospital is also gone.  This small, mountain community is no longer as isolated, fearful, and uninformed.  As we, too, look forward to healthier days ahead, may we be less fearful, less isolated, and better educated.

Footnotes

  1. Alumni Catalogue of Davidson College 1837-1924. Ed. By Thomas Wilson Lingle. The Presbyterian Standard Pub. Co. 1924.
  2. Miracle in the Hills by Mary Martin Sloop, M.D. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. 1953.

Guest Blogger: Anna Avinger, Davidson Senior Biology Major, “Growing Community”

Anna Avinger is a senior biology major on the pre-medicine track. This article stems from her independent study on community gardens. Fellow senior Ethan Landen and Anna became interested in this topic after their semester abroad in Australia, where they studied sustainable agriculture and ecology.

As the global pandemic rages on, community gardens in Charlotte continue to thrive. Here is a list of three community gardens that each have a different strategy for success. While they all have their own objectives and strategies, they share similar ideas: provide more access to food, increase sustainable efforts, and build community. 

Wilmore Garden

Wilmore Garden

The earliest community garden in Charlotte – Wilmore Garden – is one of many gardens within the organization, Charlotte Green. This organization has started several small gardens in urban neighborhoods all over Charlotte. Within each of them, community members can claim a small plot of land to plant and harvest their own crops. The gardeners learn from each other and grow in relationship with each other as they work. Board member, Cissy Shull, says that people are always at the Wilmore Garden working. When I went to Wilmore Garden, it was raining, but there were still people there, cleaning up the communal shed and organizing tools. The gardens provide people with something to do, something to be proud of, and something that brings the community together.

Davidson Community Garden

Davidson Community Garden

Davidson Community Garden was founded in 2010 by Eddie and Connie Beach as a part of the Davidson United Methodist Church. This garden is communally managed and harvested. Volunteers from all over Davidson come together on Saturday mornings to help out. Most crops are delivered to the food pantry at Ada Jenkins, a local non-profit. Eddie Beach emphasizes the impact of the garden on Davidson’s strong sense of community. “A story that I really like is that there was a grandmother who had the responsibility of getting her grandson to Davidson Elementary School, and he didn’t want to go. But he did like the scarecrows in the community garden, so she would get him out of the house by saying, ‘we’re going to the community garden to see the scarecrows.’ So, he’d get over here and look and be happy, and it was just a way to get him to go to school,” Beach said. “That is the kind of thing that really adds another dimension to the garden.”

Smithville Community Garden

Smithville Community Garden

Built on her grandparents’ land, Smithville Community Garden holds a special place in Natalie Mayhew’s heart. She explains that the garden was founded to bring people into the community. The founders wanted people to know about Smithville. Mayhew described the history of Smithville: Her great great grandmother worked for the Smith family picking cotton as a slave, and the family gave her and many other black slaves land to call their own. That’s how the community was born. Recently, as one of the remaining historically black communities, Smithville has been trying to fight gentrification efforts. In doing this, the Smithville Community Coalition, which runs the garden, works to emphasize the sense of pride and historical influence of the community. The garden has been a success. It gives people a place to come together and learn about Smithville, and it provides a wonderful place for rest and relaxation.

Through my research, I learned that the overwhelming emphasis of these gardens is to build community, which means different things for different gardens – whether its individuals working side-by-side on their own plots, families coming together for a common service project, or bringing in people from outside the community to raise awareness. There’s always more to it than planting seeds and harvesting produce.

Guest Blogger: Alice Sloop, Sr. Staff Assistant, E.H. Little Library, “Davidson From Day One – The Sloop Family”

Alice Sloop has been employed in the E.H. Little Library since 2000.

What does a gentleman born in 1771, a table circa 1834, an 1860 Davidson graduate, dozens of Alumni, a Davidson College Trustee, and a current Davidson employee have in common?  Answer:  a single family heritage.  The Sloops have been an integral part of Davidson College since the very beginning of the idea to start our beloved school.

Our family historian, Dr. Robert Felts Sloop, Jr. (b.1934-) documents the beginnings of the Sloop family interest in education in North Carolina with his 3rd great grandfather “Colonel” James Jamison (b.1771-d.1846).  Back in 1834 when the Concord Presbytery met in James Jamison’s home near Prospect Presbyterian Church (located near Mooresville, NC), resolutions were drawn up on his table to “establish a school for young men to educate them for the ministry and other occupations”.  This school would become Davidson College. This table on which these resolutions were signed now sits in the Smith Rare Book Room at E.H. Little Library.

Sloop Family Table, Alcove, Smith Rare Book Room

The story of the family’s donation of this table to Davidson College is a funny one according to Dr. Sloop. Colonel James Jamison died in 1846 and is buried in the Prospect Presbyterian Church cemetery. His son, Franklin (Frank) Jamison inherited the table and when he died, it was purchased “for a dear price” by Mrs. Agnus C. Jamison Bailey, our 2nd great aunt.  Subsequently, at another Presbytery meeting in Mrs. Bailey’s home in Back Creek, a Dr. Monroe learned about the history of the table and suggested that it be given to Davidson College.  Mrs. Bailey stated that she paid too much for it and was unwilling to give it away! Some time later John Jamison (another son of Colonel Jamison) had a daughter named Sally Kerr Jamison who banded together with sisters Minnie and Eugenia and bought the table from their sister Agnus.  So then, Sally, Minnie, and Eugenia donated the table to Davidson College.  Dr. Walter Lingle, President Emeritus, would later write a thank you letter to the family.

Letter October 8, 1947 Walter Lingle, President-Emeritus Davidson College to Mrs. J.W. Johnson

This story is only one of many fascinating Sloop family stories related to Davidson College. 

Guest Blogger: Eliz Sickles, “A. David Yonan, hero of the class of 1900”

Eliz Sickles is a 1988 alumna with a fascination for the earliest Davidson students.  If it were possible, she would live in the Archives!

Ahabeg David Yonan began his studies at a local mission school in Ooramiah, Persia.  When he became seriously ill, he began to consider becoming a medical missionary.  His uncle Isaac N. Yonan had been educated in the United States and suggested that he consider this same path.  When David Yonan approached his parents with this plan, his father did not approve in part due to not having the funds required.

Despite this, Yonan made his way to Charlottesville, Virginia and enrolled at Pantops Academy.  He did not yet speak English, but he managed to do well in his courses.   After a year at Pantops Academy, Yonan entered Davidson College as a member of the class of 1900 and was the college’s first recorded international student.

Yonan studied diligently, but he was also an athlete.  In his hometown, he was known for his wrestling skills, but wrestling wasn’t of much interest at Davidson.  Football was the favored sport. 

Yonan began honing his skills by playing on his class team and being a scrub on the college team. He was the lone freshman on that team.  Football experts in the early days of the sport believed that Yonan was one of the best tackles in the South.  W. M. Walsh – one of his teammates – wrote, “He was the terror of his opponents, always just a little better than his man, not only because he was so strong but by reason of his alertness and catlike quickness.”

1897 Davidson College Football Team, Yonan is standing on the far left, third row.

In the spring of 1900, David Yonan graduated with his A.B.  He planned to commence his studies at North Carolina Medical College which was associated with Davidson College in the fall.   On 12 July 1900, Yonan attended a picnic on the banks of the Catawba River, and many spent some time bathing in the river.  Yonan had just crossed the river when one of the bathers became too exhausted to continue and cried out for help.  Fred M.Hobbs also found himself in difficulty but encouraged the rescuer to help the other swimmer.  Hobbs called out again for help, and Yonan jumped in the Catawba to rescue him.  Hobbs and Yonan sank into the water and were lost to sight.  Dr. Henry Louis Smith, who had been called back to help as he was an expert swimmer, was unable to rescue either man.

“Thus went out suddenly a life full to the utmost of promise for future service and usefulness.  To human eyes it seems strange indeed that a career of such large possibilities for good should be ended just at the time when it was ready to bear fruit.  The example that he held however, has been an inspiration to all that knew him,” wrote Reed Smith who was a classmate and roommate of Yonan.

In October 1900, Rev. Dr. Graham suggested endowing a scholarship as a fitting memorial.  Avery Hobbs – father of Fred C. Hobbs – provided $1,000 for the scholarship.

Quips and Cranks 1901, In Memoriam of Ahabeg David Yonan

 Sources:

$1,000 for a Scholarship. (1900, October 23).  The Charlotte Observer, p. 2. Retrieved from Newspapers.com

Davidson College.  Quips and Cranks Vol. 3.  Davidson: Davidson College, 1898.

Davidson College.  Quips and Cranks Vol. V.  Davidson: Davidson College, 1901.

That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends. (20 July 1900). The Robesonian, p 1. Retrieved from Newspapers.com

Cochran, Joseph W.  Heroes of the Campus.  Philadelphia, The Westminster Press, 1917.

Ehrenhaft, Ethan. (15 July 2020). “Expanding International Student Population Fosters Community Across Diverse Cultures.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC] http://www.davidsonian.com/international-students/

Guest Blogger: Carlina Green, “Not Included in the Photograph”: Staff Underrepresentation in the Archives and How We Must Combat It (Part Two)

This is the second part of a two-part post by Carlina Green ‘20.

You see, the Archives cannot preserve sources that are never created. And when sources are not preserved in the Archives, their subjects can be underrepresented in narratives that draw on those sources or left out of such narratives entirely.

The staff of the Archives are committed to combating these historical silences, and they work to uncover and preserve the stories of populations underrepresented in the collections they administer.[1] This includes the stories of Davidson employees. Two examples of their exemplary work profiling 19th– and 20th-century staff include Niara Webb’s blog post on “Dean of Janitors” Mr. Enoch Donaldson and Hannah Foltz’s post on Davidson’s security officer “Cop” Ed Linker. Drawing on both archival materials and public records, Webb and Foltz try to piece together portraits of these historical actors about whom little has been preserved.

A photo of Enoch Donaldson standing in front of a building.
Photograph of Mr. Enoch Donaldson.

However, as Cottle mentioned, the content of posts dedicated to these past staff is limited to their work experiences, as that is the main focus of preserved, available sources. Furthermore, the Archives face a paucity of sources about the lives of current Davidson employees.[2]

One solution? Creating more of these sources by collaborating with staff who want to share their stories.[3] Students, consider interviewing interested college staff for your theses, capstone projects, or summer research. Faculty, please integrate staff history projects into your courses and into your own research. And compensate staff for their interview time; take advantage of research grants available for faculty, for students, and for faculty-student collaborations.

A portion of the College’s Statement of Purpose reads, “Davidson holds a priceless heritage bequeathed by those who have dedicated their lives and their possessions for its welfare.”[4] Part of honoring staff, who dedicate so much to this campus and its students, is valuing their life stories and memories. [5] They who offer so much to the College must be preserved in its history. So, let’s fight the silences; let’s create the sources that preserve their words and their legacies.


[1] One place this commitment is visible is in their documentary Always Part of the Fabric.

[2] Two examples of sources about current staff they receive consistently are speeches delivered on Employee Appreciation Day and winner lists for annual grants and awards like the Spirit of Davidson.

[3] For those concerned about protecting staff identities, remember that interviews donated to the archives can remain closed for a period of time (such as 50 years), or they can be anonymous.

[4] Some were forced to dedicate their lives to Davidson’s welfare, such as Susan, a young girl enslaved by former College President Rev. Drury Lacy.

[5] Today, many may choose to work at Davidson, but have little choice but to work long hours at salaries a few dollars above minimum wage to support their families.

Guest Blogger: Carlina Green, “Not Included in the Photograph”: Staff Underrepresentation in the Archives and How We Must Combat It (Part One)

This is the first part of a two-part post by Carlina Green ‘20.

On March 8th 1955, around 900 members of the Davidson College community gathered in front of Chambers for a group picture. Yet, a notable population was missing; as archivist Jan Blodgett notes, “college staff are not included in the photograph.”

Photograph of 845 students and 63 Davidson faculty in front of Chambers in March 1955.
Photograph of 845 students and 63 Davidson faculty in March 1955.

Their absence from the photo constitutes what Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot refers to as a historical silence. Trouillot theorizes:

Silences enter the process of historical production at four crucial moments: the moment of fact creation (the making of sources); the moment of fact assembly (the making of archives), the moment of fact retrieval (the making of narratives); and the moment of retrospective significance (the making of history in the final instance).[1]

Michel-Rolph Trouillot

In this instance, the historical silence occurred at the moment of fact creation, when the photo was taken. Silences involving staff frequently occur at the moment of fact creation, which means that they are underrepresented in portrayals of college life. A quick search of The Davidsonian reveals another example. While articles like this one discuss some staff members’ experiences as Davidson employees, very few document their life stories. Since 2016, only one “Staff Spotlight” has been published in the College newspaper—an interview with former Campus Police Chief Sigler. He is only one of over one hundred 21st century staff members whose stories should be recorded, from physical plant staff to dining services employees, from the counselors at Center for Student Health and Well-Being to the career advisors, from the registrars to the van drivers who take students to the airport. To what extent are their lives and experiences being documented in the sources that the College community creates?

My name is Carlina Green and I just graduated from Davidson while in quarantine, earning a B.A. in Latin American Studies with a history minor. While working at the Archives & Special Collections in my last semester, I had hoped to create sources documenting staff members’ lives and experiences by interviewing Vail Commons employees but was unable to do so because of COVID-19. A collection of their life stories would have been a valuable addition to the Archives, where, as JEC Project archivist Jessica Cottle stated, “we largely understand staff experiences through the lenses of their work life.” Because I was unable to create a collection of staff interviews myself during my time at Davidson, I am writing a call to action today.


[1] Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, 20th anniversary edition,Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 2015, 26.

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 Blogger: Tracey Hagan on “The Ladies Missionary Society of Davidson College Presbyterian Church”

In Fall 2019, Archives, Special Collections, & Community (ASCC) had the privilege of working with Dr. Rose Stremlau’s “HIS 306: Women and Gender in U.S. History to 1870” course. Over the course of a semester, students researched the history of women and gender in the greater Davidson, North Carolina area using materials in the Davidson College Archives and other local organizations. The following series of blog posts highlights aspects of their research process.

Written by Tracey Hagan, a student-athlete senior psychology major from Ridgefield, CT. Student in History 306: Women and Gender in US History from to 1870.  

Davidson College Presbyterian Church (DCPC) began as a small congregation of six women, two male elders, Robert Hall Morrison as the leader, and fifteen Davidson students in 1837.1 As the Church grew, it became more than just a place for worship. The Church developed into a social institution for its members, specifically for the women of the church.  

The Ladies Missionary Society Constitution was created in 1885. In its first year, Mrs. Dupuy was nominated president, Mrs. Knox was vice president, and Mrs. Vinson was secretary. The constitution contains a preamble and twelve articles. The articles provide the details about what was to happen at each meeting of the society. According to the constitution, they were to meet at a minimum on a monthly basis to discuss selected articles about other missionary works in America, Asia, and Europe or Africa. Generally, the meetings consisted of attendance, reading, singing, general business discussion, and the president’s appointment of the readers for the next meeting.  

First page of the constitution of the Ladies Benevolent Society of Davidson College Presbyterian Church, 1885. Establishes the name and officer positions of the society.
First page of the constitution of the Ladies Benevolent Society of Davidson College Presbyterian Church, 1885.

This three-page constitution alone shows that the white women of Davidson in 1885 had a much more hands on role in DCPC than what was expected from the Presbyterian Church norms of that era. Women’s roles in the Presbyterian Church in general were limited to leading Sunday schools, attracting new members, running women’s prayer meetings and church organizations, furnishing the church and raising her own family.2 Women were not to be active members in the church, or hold any leadership positions.3 Despite the General Assembly’s restrictions on women’s roles within the church, the Davidson women formed this society.  

They wrote the constitution and ran this entire group on their own. In this way, this society gave them a position of power outside of the traditional roles and domestic sphere to which the Church and societal traditions confined them. The society also served as a form of group education. The members were essentially given homework assignments to learn about other missionary works across the country, and across continents. In this way, this society served to empower its members. It is important to note that not all the women of the town were members. As outlined article 8 in the constitution, members were strongly encouraged to give monthly donations to the society. This monetary element of the society may have made it so only affluent white women in Davidson could be members. While this society certainly gave white women in Davidson some more power in their lives, it did not extend this opportunity to all the women of the town.  

Works Cited:

[1] Beaty, Mary D. A History of the Davidson College Presbyterian Church . Davidson College Presbyterian Church, n.d.

[2] Boyd, Lois A. “Presbyterian Ministers’ Wives—A Nineteenth-Century Portrait.” Journal of Presbyterian History (1962-1985) 59, no. 1 (1981): 3-17. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23328155.

[3] Brackenridge, R. Douglas, and Lois A. Boyd. “United Presbyterian Policy on Women and the Church—an Historical Overview.” Journal of Presbyterian History (1962-1985) 59, no. 3 (1981): 383-407. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23328186.