Certainly there have been changes in our postal system over the decades but mail does still arrive in a paper envelope at times. It was not unusual many years ago, as evidenced by the 1870 sample on the left, for the address to be quite brief (just a name, town, state — no street address or zip code). But, the envelope on the right also arrived perfectly fine in the the new era of 2014; it was addressed to Alfred University, East Slope, Alfred, NY 14802. Given that the University is situated on the eastern side of Alfred’s valley, the post office knew exactly where to send it!
One other aspect that’s missing from today’s mail is the decorative engravings that used to grace envelopes and stationery. The detailed campus scene on the 1870 envelope is quite graceful and pleasing; much more pleasant to receive than the plain, white envelopes of today.
Posted in Artifacts
Painting a scene in reverse is not something everyone can do! This image depicts the Alfred University campus (Rogers Observatory, Alumni Hall, The Gothic, and The Brick) in the late 1860s and is done in the eglomise-painting style, a centuries-old French technique also called reverse glass painting. This particular piece, measuring about 14″ x 9″, was created by Eglomise Designs of Boston, Inc. in 1976 as a sale item to University alumni at a cost of $35 (including shipping). Doubtless a hand-crafted, gilded framed artwork like this would certainly cost much more today!
This beautiful oil painting depicts the University campus, looking east, circa 1865. It’s attributed to Hannah P. Brown, an Alfred University student at that time. The image includes, from the left, the Alfred Seventh Day Baptist Church, North Hall (men’s boarding hall), Middle Hall (president’s house & student dining hall), the newly built Rogers Observatory, Alumni Hall, the Gothic, the Brick, and an early village house (built in 1849 and still standing today). And be sure to notice the cows resting in front! The image was used as the cover for a book of essays published in 1986 on various aspects of the University’s history during its sesquicentennial year (150th). Today the oil painting graces a wall in the University’s ornately restored Fasano Welcome Center.
On April 11, 1945, the U.S.S. Alfred Victory joined the Merchant Marine as part of the U.S. Navy’s fleet. University president J. Nelson Norwood spoke at the launch and said in part: “Alfred University feels highly honored in having a Victory ship named for it. It is proud to have its name connected with the war effort in this direct way… The University appreciates the thought, whoever conceived it, of naming a series of Victory craft for our institutions of higher learning. The services rendered by our colleges and universities in this tragic global conflict have been vast. Possibly this honor has come to them in part in recognition of this patriotic contribution. Also like many other institutions of various kinds many of our colleges have suffered heavily from the war’s effort.” In 1984, the ship was retired from service and was scrapped four years later.
Interestingly, this was the second ship to be named the U.S.S. Alfred – the first was during the American Revolution. Originally owned by the British Royal Navy and named the “Black Prince,” it was seized and then used by the Continental Navy which re-named it the U.S.S. Alfred in 1775.
Posted in Memorabilia
Tagged Navy, Ships
During the 1880’s, it was discovered that the clay in the vicinity of Alfred, NY could be used to make quality terra cotta products. In 1889 the Celadon Terra Cotta Company was organized by a small group of Alfred entrepreneurs to manufacture bricks and roofing tile (see examples in the photo to right, uncovered during the recent construction of the McLane Annex).
The company prospered and was partially responsible for locating the New York School of Clayworking (now the New York State College of Ceramics) in Alfred. In 1906, the company was sold to the Ludowici Company of Ohio, which became the Ludowici-Celadon Company. By that time the original tile works had expanded until it covered more than an acre of ground, occupying the space where presently are located Alfred University’s McLane Center and its parking lot.
The plant was completely destroyed by fire on the morning of August 26, 1909, except for the small office building which stood separately along North Main Street (and now sits at the intersection by the traffic light). While the tile factory was not rebuilt after the fire, many of its products can still be seen in town on various roof tops and on the exterior of the “Terra Cotta” building.
Yes, Alfred celebrates Hot Dog Day! It all began in 1972 as the idea of Alfred University students Mark O’Meara and Eric “Rick” Vaughn. They wanted to create a community event; little did they know it would still be going strong 42 years later. Held in late April, it is focused on that ever-popular (and inexpensive) student staple, the hot dog, and is planned by students from both Alfred University and Alfred State College. It’s the one time each year that both schools and the town come together for a shared experience. Local charities benefit as the recipients of proceeds raised during the day which features a parade, carnival, games, food booths, art and craft vendors, mud Olympics, a 5k race, and music. Alfred’s Main Street is closed off during the afternoon to host the festivities and becomes packed wall-to-wall with students, faculty, staff, community members, visiting families, and alumni. Hot Dog Day is a bit quirky and always fun!
Sojourner Truth is an important and interesting historic figure in the history of New York State and the United States. Born Isabella Baumfree, she spent the first 29 years of her life as a slave in the Hudson Valley area, then escaped with one of her children in 1826. She later became a women’s right activist and outspoken abolitionist. On Saturday, April 22, 1871 she spoke in Alfred at the Seventh Day Baptist church. The University Archives has primary sources documenting her visit, including the entry shown above in student Jose Copp’s autograph album. Although illiterate her entire life, Sojourner Truth was able to memorize pen strokes to leave her “signature” and mark.
Asa Burdick, a local farmer, recorded her visit in his diary: “Attended church as usual — some 8 persons were baptized today — Instead of the Sab[bath] school, the time was given to a colored lady called ‘Sojourner Truth’ in the interest of the colored people of our country.”
Asa was a member of the Seventh Day Baptist denomination which worships on Saturdays. Its members founded the town of Alfred in 1808 and started the Alfred Select School in 1836. They were also strong abolitionists, often speaking out against slavery as well as the treatment of the Native Americans.
University student, Vernon Babbitt, also attended the lecture. His diary entry says “I go at 8 1/2 o’clock to hear a sermon from Sojourner Truth who is an old negrow woman between 80 and 90 years old and has no learning, cannot read. She gave us a good sermon, her voice is strong and she talks well. She is working for the good of her race, wants them to have a tract of land and settle down and learn how to work.”
[Image of Sojourner Truth from the Library of Congress]
A wealthy English family, centuries ago, dined in a carved and paneled oak room, warmed by a chimney decorated with carved vine leaves and grapes. Today much of the room remains — not in Essex County, England, but in Alfred, NY. The dining room’s paneling now lines the walls of the Herrick Memorial Library conference room.
Mr. and Mrs. Philip d’Huc Dressler purchased the paneling at an auction house selling the William Randolph Hearst collection in 1926 for a home they intended to build. The house was never built and when they learned the University was planning an addition to Herrick Library in the late 1970s, they donated the 16th-century paneling.
The paneling was referred to in 17th-century publications of the English Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments. Each of the oak panels is carved with decorative molding around its perimeter. Even more ornamental is the chimney-piece, divided into sections by four columns – reminiscent of Greek architecture – and decorated with cherubs’ heads, vine leaves and grapes.
Thousands of alumni have fond memories of St. Patrick’s Day at Alfred University. What began in 1933 as a way to promote the ceramic engineering program quickly grew into a university-wide festival and celebration: parades with elaborate floats, unique ceramic mementos, beard growing contests, dances in Davis Gym, and the crowning of queens. Cancelled classes, weeks of planning, cold and snowy weather, evenings spent making tissue paper flowers, and plenty of laughter all contributed to the event enjoyed by students for over fifty years. The University Archives has a collection of memorabilia, photos and film footage to document this time-honored tradition.