Holiday Greetings from the Smith College Archives

December 21, 2009
1965 College Archives Christmas Card

Christmas card created by College Archivist Margaret Grierson in 1965 with an undated photo of College Hall in the snow.

In 1940 Margaret Grierson became the second archivist in Smith College history. Grierson was an all-around Smithie: receiving her A.B. from Smith in 1922; joining the Department of Philosophy from 1930 to 1936; and finally, holding down three positions simultaneously in the Library (College Archivist, Executive Director of the Friends of the Smith College Library, and Director of the Sophia Smith Collection) until her retirement in 1965.

Margaret Grierson, 1946 portrait, by Eric Stahlberg, Northampton, MA.

Margaret Grierson in 1946. Portrait by Eric Stahlberg, Northampton, MA.

Grierson, who died in 1997, is remembered for many things at the College, but especially for her wonderful gift for letter writing. Folders and folders of her correspondence can be found in her papers here in the Archives. And Christmas-time was no exception. Each December Grierson sent out a photo card or postcard from the College Archives to alumnae, friends, and donors. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bowling at Smith

December 4, 2009

A recent student Rec Council sponsored trip to the local bowling alley spawned the question:  did Smith ever have a bowling alley?  Research in the Archives can confirm that indeed, bowling has been at Smith for quite a while.

L. Clark Seelye, in his publication the Early History of Smith College, 1871-1910 notes that in 1879, “a temporary wooden gymnasium was built where Lilly Hall now stands.  The lower story had a bowling alley and music rooms for practice.”  [pg 53].  Unfortunately, the Archives does not have interior photographs that show the bowling alley of the old gym.  Perhaps L. Clark Seelye needed a little relief from his duties as president and rolled a few balls to release some stress?

Competition between classes and houses started up in the late 1920s/early 1930s.  A record book in the Athletics Records begins with the 1931-1932 tournament, but the entry gives the impression that the tournament was not the first.

Smithies Bowling in the 1930s

In a 1939 press release to a local Milwaukee paper, it was noted that several students from Milwaukee battled it out on 53 teams, including the Baldwin House Bruisers and the Morris House Miracles, to take home the championship.

Bowling in 1949

Setting up the duck pins, c1957

House competitions were based on individual scores.  A score sheet was kept near the lanes for students to record their activities.  Bowling at Smith was popular right through the 1940s when inter-class competition was the highlight.    Smith students played with duck pins and a smaller ball with no finger holes.  The duck pins had to be set up by hand.  The photograph below shows the precursor to the ‘automatic return’ (l) and ‘automatic setup’ (r) of  modern bowling lanes.

According to the bowling record book, the lanes were popular during the evenings and weekends.  Why bowling faded into obscurity at Smith is unknown.  If anyone out there has stories, please share them with us!


The Symposium and George Washington Cable

December 1, 2009

Cover, the Symposium, Vol 1., No. 1 October 1896

In October 1896, George Washington Cable published the first volume and issue of the literary magazine The Symposium from offices at 41 Center Street, Northampton.  Cable, born in New Orleans, made a career of writing about life of the Creole in Louisiana, and about regional southern life in general.  His novels were popular in the North because of his unique way of describing life there.  He was not particularly popular with the Creole, as they felt his representations were not positive ones.  He was critical of many Southern practices, including the treatment of African-Americans, in novels, articles and speeches.

A Northern book tour with Mark Twain in 1884, provided Cable with his first glimpse of Northampton, MA.  He moved with his family here in 1885.  He was part of the intellectual and social scene of the town almost immediately.  During his lifetime, (he died in 1925), he founded a local Home Culture Club, which described itself as “small, fireside clubs, meeting once a week for unlaborious systematic reading, or for any light pursuit that is at the same time entertaining and profitable.”  He was a founder and supporter of the People’s Institute, an organization that still operates in Northampton today.  He was a frequent visitor to the Smith College campus, and from the contents of this issue of The Symposium, Smith faculty and graduates were frequent contributors to his magazine.

Unfortunately, this appears to be the only issue of The Symposium located in the College Archives.   If you know of additional copies and would like to share that information with readers of the blog, please feel free to comment.