Sentimental Hairwork

Hairwork album page Hairwork album, close up

In Nov. 1929, Mary Sherman Greene donated this “hair album” to the Steinheim Museum at Alfred University. As described on her website, Joyce Tice says “During the 1850s to 1870s a custom developed to make a small decorative wreath from the hair of a friend or relative. It was considered a good keepsake of love and friendship and was similar in nature to the much older custom of putting a lock of hair in a locket.”

The Victorian Gothic site notes: “As Helen Sheumaker describes in Love Entwined: The Curious History of Hairwork in America, hairwork in its myriad forms had not only established itself as longstanding tradition by the latter half of the 19th century, but had become an active fashion. Husbands went to work wearing watch fobs fashioned of their wives hair. Locks from the dearly departed were mounted into rings and brooches. Ladies filled their autograph books with snippets from their friends. At a time of rising commercialism, sentimental hairwork became a way both to signal one’s sincerity and, paradoxically, to stay in style.”

This booklet seems to have belonged to a young woman (probably Irena) from the Ennis family in Richmond, RI. It dates from the late 1840s – early 1950s. One page has numerous hair clippings from her siblings. Black ribbons signify the person had died, as was the case with two of her younger brothers: John Ennis, less than a year old, and Appleton Ennis, age 4. The hair and ribbon for their sister Sarah, age 7, is missing. The following poem is an ode to her…
On the death of my Sister
Our circle is broken we miss from our number,
That youth we were wont in our converts to meet,
Now low in the grave does she silently slumber,
And the heart once so cheerful now ceases to beat,
Our Sister has parted from earthly enjoyment,
She has fled from a world full of sorrow and care,
She is gone and forever = no more will she cheer us,
Her smiles and rejoicings are now at an end,
And yet methinks I see her now
With death cold sweat upon her brow
The fever flush the palid hue
That speaks the depth of nature due
She fell asleep in the arms of death
On the 28 of July, aged 7 years and 14 days. [1849]

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Veterans Day

ASTP, 1944 Kanakadea On November 11th we take a moment to thank our veterans for their dedicated service to our country. This photo shows members of the Army Specialized Training Program chatting with some of the women students in the fall, 1943. The military program used The Brick for its barracks in both World War I and World War II. In the second war, there were 711 enlisted men on campus from July 1943 – April 1944.

Found in the archives is a copy of a V-Mail letter sent to the University president on June 5, 1944 by Chester Flaum, Class of 1933. It’s an interesting reflection on his AU education and helps put learning in a useful perspective:

“My dear Dr. Norwood,It is thousands of miles and a long cry from Alfred to New Guinea, but as I read your recent letter, and your less recent Alumni News, my mind wandered back thirteen years, and I found myself under the pines by the banks of the Kanakadea, instead of under the palms by the shores of the Pacific.
Little did I think, as I sat in Kenyon Hall [site of Powell Campus Center], boning away at seemingly unsolvable mathematics problems, or mixing unmeaning fluids in a test tube at the Chem lab, that what I was studying then would some day be applied, to good advantage, to the conduct of jungle warfare. However the learning that I received at Alfred, and in later life has been most helpful in aiding me to perform a job for our country in an efficient way which might help, to a small extent, to get this war over with, with a quick victory, so much sooner.
My best wishes to yourself and old A.U.,
Lt. Chester J. Flaum”

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Class of 1876

1876 Stone Building Front, Sept2015

Over the entrance to the Steinheim building is a stone that many never notice, even though it’s in plain sight. Engraved with an enigmatic “76” it sits above the window just over the door. The July 1876 “Alfred Student” provides the answer to the stone’s history: “The Class of ’76 have left a monument on the campus which is likely to be lasting. It consists of a huge irregular block of stone mounted on an ancient millstone for a pedestal. With its rude figures, ’76’ chiseled on its face, it is liable to be regarded by future generations as proof of the existence of Druids in America.” When Jonathan Allen, the University’s second president, constructed the Steinheim, he incorporated the engraved stone into the structure, certainly making it “lasting” and unique. If you look even closer, you can see a smaller ’23’ on the slim round stone over the ’76’ — signifying 1823, the year Allen was born.

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Sentinel Pines

Pine Trees Sept2015These pine trees stand watch over the campus, providing summer shade and respite from the snow and wind in the winter. According to the June 1879 “Alfred Student” publication, in the spring of that year “seventy-five evergreens were planted on the Campus, most of them in the vicinity of the Chapel [Alumni Hall].” These iconic trees are even part of our alma mater: “Nestled away ‘mid the Empire State hills, ‘Neath the watch-care of sentinel pines…”

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John Wilkes Booth

Booth theater eyeglass

One of the curious artifacts in the University Archives & Special Collections is this theater eyeglass, part of the Howells-Frechette Collection. William D. Howells, a major figure in the late 19th-century literary circles, was a known associate of Edwin Booth, brother to the infamous John Wilkes Booth; it’s likely that’s how the Howells family came to own this eyeglass. The accompanying note says “A  stage eyeglass belonging to John Wilkes Booth, the murderer of President Lincoln.”

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Wizard of Oz

Oz BooksAnd you thought there were only lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) in the land of Oz! In all there are actually 43 books in the series outlining adventures in the Emerald City; 14 written by L. Frank Baum, the original author. The others are approved versions and considered canonical. The Alfred University Archives and Special Collections is the proud owner of the entire set of books, all with beautifully illustrated covers. Our collection (except for the 4 newest ones published 1963-2013) was once owned by W. Varick Nevins III, a member of the Class of 1932 and later a beloved mathematics professor. His love for movies endures through the naming of the campus theater; the collection of books reflects his well-known humor.

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Kanakadea Hall Key

???????????????????????????????Of all the buildings on Alfred University’s campus, Kanakadea Hall is one of the most recognized and beloved. It is the oldest building on campus to have been continuously used for education. It was built in 1884 as the Alfred Grammar School for local children to begin their education and served in this capacity until a fire in 1907 greatly damaged the building. At this point the University acquired it through a trade: the lot on Park St. on which South Hall now sits, and on which a school could be built, for the half-burned out Grammar School. It was rebuilt and used for classrooms and offices in 1908 and has been serving the University ever since. It underwent a massive restoration in 2001, which resulted in the beautiful building with which we are familiar today.

This key is in the University Archive memorabilia collection and was at one time used to open the front doors of Kanakadea Hall. The picture on which it sits shows the building while it was in use as a school, complete with students milling around the entrance. It isn’t known whether or not this key opened the doors to the Alfred Grammar School or to Kanakadea Hall, pre-renovation. The building on the left is Burdick Hall, a former men’s boarding house.

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Boarding Hall Checks

???????????????????????????????Like today, Alfred University students 100 years ago had to pay for room and board in addition to their tuition. Because of strict societal norms the men’s residence halls were on one side of campus (north) and the women’s on the other (south side). Men boarded in Bartlett Hall and Burdick Hall, the latter of which was demolished in the 1950s. Women boarded mainly in The Brick, which was then known as Ladies Hall. Here we see two checks written by Evelyn Tennyson Openhym, Class of 1924, for whom the current Openhym residence hall and the Openhym collection of books at Herrick Library are named. These checks are from January 13, 1921 and April 13, 1922, indicating that Evelyn’s rent was due on the same day each month during the school year. It’s certainly curious how her rent went from $6.51 in 1921 to $4.20 in 1922.

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Centennial Envelope

???????????????????????????????Alfred University’s centennial in 1936 was a major campus and community event. Special events, gatherings, and performances marked the very important milestone in Alfred’s existence. It marked an occasion for reflection on Alfred’s history and founding principles, as well as an opportunity to dream of and plan the possible new directions the University could take. Needless to say, this was a big deal in the community. This envelope is printed with the centennial logo, designed specifically for the occasion, with the spire of Alumni Hall prominently featured. The pen quill weather vane (symbolizing “the pen is mightier than the sword”) is even made clearly visible. It is most likely that this envelope contained an invitation to the week-long centennial celebration .

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Who’s Hungry?

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This breakfast menu, dated at 1925, shows the meal offerings available to passengers as they traveled to Alfred University by train on the Erie Railroad. It contains familiar items such as Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, and coffee (check out those prices!). Some things, such as salt mackerel, malted milk, and stewed prunes, are hard for us to picture as breakfast foods. Like today, passengers can order their food A La Carte or in combination with other items. The menu also notes that extra items such as cigars, playing cards, and mineral waters are available for purchase on a separate menu.

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