Erie Railroad

RailroadBill0001 Alfred Station depot

The Erie Railroad, opened in 1851, played an important part in the life of mid-19th through mid-20th century people in Western New York. For Alfred farmers, it meant that agricultural goods could be shipped and sold more broadly. For the discerning lady, it meant that fine household goods could be ordered from places like Chicago or New York City. For University students, it meant that they could more easily travel between school and home. It also meant that invited speakers like Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass (to name a few) could manage speaking tours throughout the country and stop at places like Alfred.

The local depot was located in the appropriately named hamlet of Alfred Station. Local resident Asa Burdick was able to transport his box organ from Alfred to Andover via train in 1866. It would have provided a much smoother and more dependable mode of transportation than having it drawn in a horse and wagon on the muddy roads of March.

Asa notes the event in his diary, which also contained the receipt pictured above:
* Tuesday, March 20, 1866: Got a horse of E.B.G. and a buggy of D.M.C. and went to Alfred after Ellen and her things, boxed up the organ and took it to the depot. It stormed sleet and rain nearly all day
* Wednesday, March 21, 1866: We had a thunder shower last night the first this year. Loaded up and came home, brought up the organ from Andover. Weather warm and cloudy, wheeling good ground frozen

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Women’s Athletics

Women's Athletic Assoc charms

Women’s athletics at Alfred University has a long and interesting history. Long before Title IX mandated athletic opportunities for females, Alfred University encouraged, and sometimes mandated, participation by its women students in some sort of physical activity. The early college catalogs say that women were required to exercise daily! Before varsity sports for women were added in 1974, the Women’s Athletic Association oversaw the athletic program for women. A point system was developed and women worked toward earning various bracelet/necklace charms or earning one of the coveted white blazers (only 5 were given out in any one year). While certainly not as much attention was paid to women’s sports as to the men’s, at least Alfred University women had opportunities for athletic competition in a variety of ways.

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Samuel Ray Scholes, Sr.

Scholes Steuben Glass piece

Scholes, Samuel Sr 1936

Samuel R. Scholes, Jr. (1884-1974) was a world authority in the field of glass science and established the department of glass technology at Alfred University in 1932, where he remained a professor (and later Dean of the College of Ceramics) until his retirement in 1952.

In 1961 the Alfred chapter of the Society of SigmaXi established a lectureship honoring Dr. Scholes, acknowledging his outstanding contributions to science, particularly in the field of glass technology. A gift to him on the inaugural lecture was a piece of Steuben glass.

A fitting gift, Steuben glass, an American art glass manufacturer, was known for its exceptional quality.Virtually flawless, it has been given as gifts to many high-ranking individuals around the world and is now a collector’s item (the company operated from 1903 – 2011).

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Daily Schedule

Daily Student Schedule In 1926, Alfred University student Carl Schwenk filled out this form detailing his daily routine. How different from a student today! No time spent online, playing video games, or watching television. No driving to town for movies, eating out, or shopping. A recent survey of students just entering college showed they expected to study 2-4 hours per week — certainly not what Carl experienced! And most likely, once they get to campus, today’s students will find themselves (hopefully) filling more of their hours in study than expected.

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Envelope, 1870 Envelope, 2014

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.

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Reverse Glass Painting

Reverse painting on glass

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!

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Braille Map

Braille map page  Braille map side view Braille map title page Typically when we think of items being created in Braille, our thoughts go first to textual books. This is an example of a Braille map made of the Alfred university campus. There are no printed letters other than a label on the front cover: “A Raised Map of Alfred University Campus, 1972. Prepared by Recording for the Blind, Inc., Princeton Unit, Princeton, N.J.” There’s no indication or background available as to why the map was created, but it certainly is an interesting artifact and was hopefully of use to someone with visual difficulties.

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Early University Campus

Sesquicentennial Book Oil Painting Sesquicentennial Book

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.

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U.S.S. Alfred


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.

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Celadon Terra Cotta Company

Terra Cotta factory0001 During the 1880’s, it was discovered that the clay in the vicinity of Alfred, NY could be used to make quality terra cotta producTiles dug up, McLane Annex construction 2013ts. 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.

TerraCottaFactory 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.

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