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.”
And 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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
Sometimes you find Alfred memorabilia in the most unexpected places! University Archivist Laurie McFadden recently shopped in a local antique store and, while browsing, discovered this little gem. Intended as a souvenir for a charm bracelet, this 1950s silver-plated stein features the Alfred University seal.
In Alfred , the name Mike Kenyon most often conjures an image of the Mike Kenyon playground on South Main Street. Mr. Kenyon, born Myron Elwood Kenyon, was known in the community for being particularly kind and generous to Alfred children; in 1974 the park was named in his honor for his 80th birthday. Kenyon was also a talented woodworker and took great pleasure in salvaging material from fires, demolitions, and renovations on the Alfred University campus and giving these pieces new life.
Pictured here is a turned wood gavel and base made by Kenyon from wood salvaged from the November 1932 fire at the Brick dormitory. While this fire didn’t destroy the historic building completely, the iconic cupola and fourth floor were a total loss. From the fire emerged the Brick silhouette we know today, as well as this wonderful tribute to salvage, reuse, and art.
In the 1920s the University was experiencing rapid growth, both of degree programs and enrollment. The former was a result of the creation of the New York State School of Agriculture and the New York State School of Ceramics. With this rapid growth came the pressing need for more facilities, both to instruct and house the influx of students. Because it was financially flush at this time, the University was able to address the needs and demands of its growing campus community. New buildings were being constructed, old ones being renovated and retrofitted or torn down to make way for new.
A resulting concern expressed by trustees was the lack of a formal campus plan which could be used to guide this expansion. Frank L. Bartlett, a trustee at the time and the namesake for Bartlett Hall, successfully advocated for the creation of a campus plan by professional architects. The plan shown here was created by Childs & Smith of Chicago at the behest of the trustees. The plans were approved “in general,” meaning the trustees would use the layout as a rough guideline for future expansion rather than a blueprint. Some buildings, such as Alumni Hall and The Brick, are instantly recognizable. Other buildings shown here were never built, their potential unrealized. It’s exciting to imagine what purposes these buildings could’ve served, as well as how their presence could’ve impacted the overall look of the campus.
It’s a safe bet that current Alfred University students are happy this resolution addressing “evil tendencies” is no longer in place!