Welcome to Davidson…and to the Rare Book Room.

Welcome students, faculty and staff—new and returning!

I hope to see many of you in the Rare Book Room (fondly known as the RBR) this year—for tours and presentations, displays, class visits, individual research projects, or just because there’s something in the RBR you’d like to see.

What’s there to see?

Cumming Map Collection Speed map of 1676

Cumming Map Collection
Speed map of 1676

The Cumming Map Collection:  A collection of the Southeastern United States in early maps.  Collected by Dr. William Patterson Cumming, Davidson professor of English, and donated to the E.H. Little Library’s Rare Book Room.

The Robert Burns Collection:  A collection of the works of Scotland’s National Poet.

The Fugate Collection of First Editions:  100 first editions of both European and American titles primarily from the early 1800s to the mid-20th century.

Fugate First Editions The Hunting of the Snark

Fugate First Editions
The Hunting of the Snark

Golden Cockerel Press Collection:  Fine, limited editions from an early 1920s British private press.

Encyclopédie; ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers: 35 volume French encyclopedia published between 1751 and 1788 in Paris by Denis Diderot, writer and philosopher of the Enlightenment.

Diderot Encyclopedie

Diderot Encyclopedie

First edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost:   The 1668 “Ellis Price” 1st edition, published in London.  Provenance traced by Dr. Richard Cole, Davidson emeritus professor of English.

Patrick Gass Journal

Patrick Gass Journal

The Patrick Gass Journal“:  A first person account of the Lewis & Clark Expedition of 1804-1806, published in 1807.

Incunabula:  Books printed in the early years of printing…between Gutenberg and 1501.

Works of Seneca Venice, 1492

Works of Seneca
Venice, 1492

Manuscripts:  Books created by hand…before the printing press.

Manuscript Book of Hours

Manuscript Book of Hours



Cuneiforms:  Primarily temple records, bills of sale, and messenger tablets dating from around 2350 BC.

…and more.  See you soon!

Behind the Scenes: E.H. Little Library in the Summer

This week’s post is written by Meredith Pintler ’16, a student assistant at Davidson College’s E.H. Little Library.

When I spoke of my summer job at the library to my peers and friends, I often received the “Is the library really that busy during the summer?” question. What most people don’t realize is how much goes on behind the scenes, and I got the chance to experience that during the eight weeks that I worked at the library this summer. The average day involved me working for two hours at the circulation desk, two hours shifting the books in the basement of the library, two hours working in the Information Literacy Department, and two hours assisting in Archives & Special Collections. I would like to share some of the projects that I have worked on during my times in the archives.

Going into the summer, I really didn’t know what to expect from my job in the archives, as the only times that I had been up in the office were to visit the Rare Book Room, a treasure of the Davidson campus. By the end of the summer I had not only been in the Rare Book Room but had also spent a decent amount of time in the archives storage, the archives office, the Digitization Lab, and even the attic of Chambers (now I can check that off of the Davidson bucket list!). I was amazed to learn about all of the material that is kept by the archives and the work that the employees put into maintaining, storing, scanning, digitizing, filing, organizing, and sorting the items. The archives staff (Jan, Sharon, Caitlin, and Craig) know an incredible amount about the history of the college and the items stored in their department. I had many questions and learned a lot about the history of Davidson (from questions about paintings and how the college had acquired them to Davidson campus rules in the early 1900s to information about the first female and international students on campus).

Encyclopedia Articles

During my first few weeks in the archives, I spent time researching the history of different academic departments on campus. Using all of the old catalogs and a book of Davidson’s history, I was able to write a history of the Hispanic Studies, German Studies, French and Francophone Studies, Anthropology, Russian Studies, and Educational Studies departments. As a Hispanic Studies major myself, I was very interested to find out about the history of the department and to see how it has grown and developed since Spanish courses were first offered at Davidson in 1917. These articles, along with many other encyclopedia articles, are on the Davidson Encyclopedia page.  The articles are public and available to provide more information on the history of Davidson College, including articles about buildings on campus, clubs and groups, academics, sports, college presidents, and much more.

Davidson students on a study abroad trip to Spain at the Alhambra in 1989.

Davidson students on a study abroad trip to Spain at the Alhambra in 1989.

Course Syllabi

As the semester begins and professors finalize and hand out their syllabi, many also hand in a copy to the Registrar’s office to be filed permanently. Starting in 2009,  the Registrar’s office begun to collect these syllabi in digital formats. Syllabi before 2009 have only been saved in print form. This summer, several student staff members in the archives, including me, began to scan these syllabi so that they can be made available to Davidson faculty, students, and staff. After the project is complete, everyone with access to the database (all those with a Davidson login) will be able to view syllabi of courses offered over the past decade.

Student History

I, along with other students and archives staff members, searched through college records from 1920-1950 to find information about the first Jewish students at Davidson. Jan Blodgett, the College Archivist and Records Management Coordinator, was in search of the names of the first Jewish students to attend Davidson, previously unknown (although reflected in college statistics). In the end, we found records of seven Jewish students at Davidson in these years. To read more about these discoveries and Jan’s research, please see her blog.


Summer Discovery

Decades ago, Fred Hengeveld, registrar from 1921 to 1967, created a wonderful compilation of college statistics from 1837 to 1960.  Well before computer databases, his work involved pulling information from dozens of sources and creating tables on a typewriter. The result was a 115 page book that covered everything from the number of applicants, classroom use and size of classes, annual fees, and faculty statistics to details about students -including intended vocations, number attending medical and graduate schools, geographic origins and church affiliations.

Portion of the pages on student religious affiliation.

Portion of the pages on student religious affiliation.

The chart on page 40, part of the church affiliation data, has long been of interest as it marks the first known Jewish student at Davidson.  Or at least the years the first student attended Davidson. The trick was finding the name. The question has come up a few times but until this summer, the archives staff had not searched the last best place to look — transcript files.

While it no doubt made Hengeveld’s work easier, the fact that all the classes between the 1920s and 1960s were all in one big alphabetical order made our work harder – going by hand through all the files.  In the end, seven names turned up.

Transcript form showing church affiliation for Isadore Doduck - Davidson's first Jewish student

Transcript form showing church affiliation for Isadore Doduck – Davidson’s first Jewish student

The first alphabetically was Isadore Frederick Doduck. He attended Davidson for one year, 1927-1928 and was selected for both the freshman wrestling and tennis teams.

The only yearbook photograph of Doduck is in this uncaptioned team picture.

The only yearbook photograph of Doduck is in this uncaptioned team picture.

He transferred to Chapel Hill and later owned and managed his own printing company.  Oddly enough, he isn’t included in Hengeveld’s list – there is no Jewish student listed for 1927. Although his 1927 transcript lists Jewish, in 1963 he listed his church as Episcopal (non-member) on an alumni form.  It’s not clear if Hengeveld revised his statistics or missed Doduck in his initial counting, leaving the table showing “0″ in 1927.

 Doduck shared a quote in another alumni form, saying "After 67 years of a rather wild and wooly, and sometimes erratic world, I still never have lost my idealism.

Doduck shared a quote in another alumni form, saying “After 67 years of a rather wild and wooly, and sometimes erratic world, I still never have lost my idealism.

David Solomon, Jr. is the student marked by the “1″ in 1932 and 1933.

Transcript form for David Solomon, class of 1936

Transcript form for David Solomon, class of 1936

He was only 16 when he entered Davidson.  He appears in the college yearbook  as a sophomore who did not have a photograph included and does not appear to have joined any clubs or sports teams during his 2 years here.

List from 1933-34 Quips and Cranks -showing Solomon as a student but without a photo.

List from 1933-34 Quips and Cranks -showing Solomon as a student but without a photo.

Unlike Doduck who remained in contact with Davidson after transferring, Solomon faded from our records after 1934. The only further information come from requests to send his transcript to Harvard’s Law school in 1936 and the Air Corps in 1942.

The other names we found were:

Jules Kimmett, entered in the fall of 1940 as a special student, attended for 1 year

Harold Goldberg, entered in the fall of 1941 and attended only one semester

Harold Herman Frank,  entered in the fall of 1943 and joined the navy in 1944

Herbert A. Kassner, entered in the fall of 1943, appears to have joined the military in 1944

Kurt Weill, entered in the fall of 1943 at age 14, enlisted and served in WWII, transferred to Chapel Hill

The first known Jewish student to attend and graduate from Davidson is Julien Weinberg, class of 1954. He served in the army after graduation, then attended law school.  He practiced law in Manning, SC where he also served as mayor and on the city council.

Julien Weinberg's freshman photograph.

Julien Weinberg’s freshman photograph.

Sixty years after Weinberg’s graduation, the statistics have changed considerably.  It’s been good to be able to have time this summer to uncover a the beginnings of this piece of Davidson history

My Role as a Student Assistant for the Davidson Archives: A Glimpse into Past Projects

This week’s post is written by Monica Nelson ’15, a student assistant at Davidson College’s E.H. Little Library.

For the past two months, I have been employed in the library as a student assistant. Before beginning my current position, I was unaware of the breadth of possibilities encompassed in library work. In addition to the circulation side of the library, I have had experience with the Systems part, as well as working in the Davidson archives department. While working on these projects, I have learned a lot about the history of Davidson unknown to me prior and have gained a deeper appreciation for the rich and unique history of the college.  Below I will outline some of the projects that I have worked on through my past two months at the library.

While I entered the job with some base knowledge of Excel and a meticulous eye for detail, I have gained a deeper understanding of Excel, a background in the functionality of websites, a newfound knowledge and appreciation for Microsoft Access, and an introduction to the workings of Photoshop. As you can see, my job as a student assistant for the archives is something new every day.


The college timeline is in the process of an update in order to be more interactive and to highlight events that are integral to the Davidson community and identity. My work on the timeline has included researching events through the Davidson Encyclopedia to add to the events already present on the timeline. I have added links to these encyclopedia pages as well as relevant images and captions to enhance the experience of viewing the timeline. Through my work in the timeline and Davidson Encyclopedia, I gained my first experience of working with HTML and the functionality of websites.

A screenshot of an event on the college history timeline.

A screenshot of an event on the college history timeline.


College Letter Collection:

The college letter collection contains letters written by people from Davidson, many of which have been transcribed and annotated by Davidson College students. This project represented a transition from letters written only by students, to those by students and community members. My job was to incorporate the students’ work of transcription, annotation, and works cited into a post that included the Finding Aid with information regarding the letter(s), the original letters in scanned form, and an attribution statement which acknowledges the student(s) who worked on the specific letter(s). Once all the information had been integrated, I also had to make sure that the landing pages worked correctly, and this was checked through the links which are present on the posts. Each of the pages also followed a certain layout, so ensuring that all the pages followed the same standardized formatting was also one of my tasks.

First page of a letter by Robert Hall Morrison, Jr. (Class of 1868).

First page of a letter by Robert Hall Morrison, Jr. (Class of 1868).


Postcard Collection into Omeka:

The archives have hundreds of postcards that are associated with Davidson College. Another task I completed was digitizing these postcards so they could be viewed easily via the internet. Using the scans of the images, I uploaded the postcards along with relevant information including title, subject, description, and rights onto a site which holds the postcard collection. This project included working with a spreadsheet of information, as well as the networked “scans” folder (which contains the scanned postcards), and the Omeka platform (where the postcards collection will be housed and available).

One of the postcards I added to Omeka, titled "Old Well, Davidson College, Established 1837."

One of the postcards I added to Omeka, titled “Old Well, Davidson College, Established 1837.”


Summer of Monuments:

A short archival project I completed was called the Summer of Monuments. Wikimedia Commons began a contest called the Summer of Monuments, using the National Registry of Historical Places, which includes four sites related to Davidson CollegeEumenean Hall, Philanthropic Hall, the Historic District of Main Street, and the Chairman Blake House. While an image for Philanthropic Hall was already present, my job for this task was to utilize the archives photograph database in order to find relevant images to place on the website for the remaining three historic places.  Once I had located some images and received approval from the College Archivist and Records Management Coordinator, Jan Blodgett, for their use, I familiarized myself with the uploading procedures of Wikimedia Commons and placed the selected images on the website, after formatting them though Adobe Photoshop. Once approved by Wikimedia Commons, these images joined the other historic places on the Summer of Monuments page.


Alumni Citations:

My current project is making the alumni citations available through a database. These awards include the Young Alumni Service Award, the John W. Kuykendall Award for Community Service, the Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Alumni Service Award. In order to complete this project, I am learning learning how to use Microsoft Access and its  various tools (tables, queries, and reports), as well as the continued use of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. The final product will be a searchable database which will contain all those who were granted an award, as well as their citation (if present), which will accentuate the great work done by Davidson alumni.

As you can see, my work as an assistant in the archives has emphasized new skills, while building on past knowledge. The work I am doing is assisting in making the College Archives more accessible to a digitally-savvy generation, since all of what I have done can be found on the internet. I hope you will join me in experiencing Davidson’s distinctive history and check out some of the interesting work being done here!

From Student Letters to College Letters

A small group of student letters became one of the earliest digital collections on our website.  The first letters were selected because we had transcripts available (a result of Mary Beaty’s work in researching and writing her history of the college).

The latest letters were selected because they did NOT have transcripts. They became part of a class assignment to transcribe, annotate and create online access to previously “hidden” correspondence.  With 2 classes working on the project, we expanded beyond student letters to include letters written by faculty, faculty wives, and young women who were tutored by Davidson faculty and renamed the collection College Letters.

The students in Professor Shireen Campbell’s writing classes contributed 24 new letters to the site. In a tip of our archival hats to Dr. Beaty, some of the selected letters came from the research done by Cornelia Shaw for her history of Davidson College.  She contacted former students and faculty asking for their memories of college life and events.

Last page of Professor William Carson's letter written to Cornelia Shaw

Last page of Professor William Carson’s letter written to Cornelia Shaw

Her correspondents include mathematics professor William Carson, Anne Sampson, whose husband John taught French and Latin in the 1870s and 1880s; Mary Scofield Clifford, daughter of a local boarding house owner and aspiring student,  Lucy Russell, daughter of Professor Charles Phillips, and alumni Colin Munroe (1872) and  William Smith (1865).

Carson’s memories include interactions with local African-Americans in his role of supervisor of the college grounds, while Sampson provides some history for Davidson College Presbyterian Church’s change from a college church to a town church.  Clifford reports on her dismissal by Lucy Russell’s father:

I went to Dr. Phillips and asked him to take me as a private pupil in math, but he questioned me as to what work I had done in math, and after I gave him a statement he said I had done fully enough for a woman. I have always felt that it was hard for a woman to be cut out of a chance for a college course of study that stood for something. In my day the schools for girls were not at all thorough.

Portion of Clifford letter

Portion of Clifford letter

Lucy Russell, Colin Munroe and William Smith offer details of daily life but also moments of excitement including a cattle stampede, student trials and the arrival of Colt pistols on campus.

Another set of letters from two brothers, Charles and Walter Leverett, were recent additions to the archives from a Davidson professor (and their relative) Greta Munger.

The writing students did amazing work, deciphering some times difficult 19th century handwriting, learning about Davidson history and college education in general as well as Civil War generals, Yale philosophers, and train travel.

Additional letters transcribed and annotated by the class:
William Johnson (1842) – describing college curriculum
Robert Hall Morrison (1860) – family news, including a report on his father, Davidson College’s first president
Calvin McKeown (1874) – describing faculty and classes
James McLees (1876) – commencement plans
Oni Davis McNeely (1840) -homesick and asking for winter clothes
Professor E. F. Rockwell  asking advice from Benjamin Silliman
Neill A. Smith (1840) b- dispelling rumors of student dismissals
John J. Stringfellow (1860) – memories of pranks
Rev. Samuel B. Wilson – turning down presidency of Davidson College