Feb 252015

You’ve probably noticed that lately we’ve been highlighting a lot of content from the manuscripts on our Digital Collections site. That’s because we’re so excited about the strides that have been made in making Alden Partridge’s correspondence available to the University community, near and far. We recently hit a milestone in that process that we are so delighted to share with you–we found the earliest reference in our founder’s letters to the institution that would become Norwich University!

Handwritten manuscript letter

The letter in question is dated September 24, 1817. In it, Cyrus Partridge writes to Alden that the gentlemen of Norwich, Vermont are excited about the prospect of a military school being established there, and have offered financial pledges toward that goal. You can read the whole letter here!

Partridge would be court martialed the following month, his affiliation with West Point finally coming to a close. The correspondence that is available online now covers this momentous event as well as the year of 1819, when Norwich marks its founding. While the first bricks were laid in 1819, no students enrolled until 1820.

We hope that you continue to enjoy the increasingly rich resources on offer through our Digital Collections! We are so proud of the hard work that’s gone into making the University’s archival collections available to her friends around the globe.

Correction: This post previously stated that no bricks were laid for the construction of Norwich University until 1820; the first bricks were laid in August 1819. We regret the error.

Feb 162015

Letters from two of our early presidents to Alden Partridge are available to view and read on our Digital Collections site. Captain Partridge corresponded with Thomas Jefferson in 1815, and with James Monroe from 1813-1817, when the future president was serving as Secretary of War and Secretary of State.

It’s fun to note the postal markings on this 1815 letter from Thomas Jefferson–where the postage should be marked, the word “free” has been written in, alluding to Jefferson’s franking privilege–the right of all former presidents to use the postal service free of charge for life! The right applies to first ladies, too–Jacqueline Kennedy famously lost her franking privileges upon remarrying.

Envelope exterior

Cover page of letter from Thomas Jefferson to Alden Partridge, showing franking marks

Feb 132015

Our event ephemera collection harbors some gems, and we’ve been waiting until the right time of year to share this one with our readers. It’s a dance card from Norwich’s 1924 “Freshman Hop,” held in Plumley Armory on Valentine’s Day. This particular card was never filled out, but it lists the order of the different dance styles that will be offered (the fox trot was popular that year!), with spaces for gentlemen to “book” a dance with the cardholder. It even has a decorative tasseled wrist strap so that it’s easy to carry around the dance floor. We hope you’ll be dancing with your valentine this weekend!

Front cover of dance card with red heart on it

Freshman Hop dance card, 1924

Front cover of a dance card with red heart illustration

Freshman Hop dance card, 1924

Order of Dances page inside dance card

Freshman Hop dance card, 1924

Hop Committee Chairmen listing from inside dance card

Freshman Hop dance card, 1924

Feb 112015

This year, in addition to the other library paper prizes, the Friends of the Kreitzberg Library are offering a $1,000 prize to the best student paper that makes substantial use of the University Archives resources. If you’re on campus, you may have noticed the flyers around the library (you can also check it out below). We hope you’ll submit your work, or encourage a student you know to do so. The deadline is coming up soon, but remember, there will be a prize next year too, so start thinking about how you can use the University Archives to enhance your research! And remember, we are always here to help you out!

Flyer advertising 2015 library student paper prizes

Feb 052015

Kelly came across this letter while digitizing manuscripts from the Alden Partridge Records. We wish we knew more about the context, but the writer, John Michael O’Connor, has some choice words for Captain Partridge. He describes Partridge as having a “bilious temperament” and accuses him of having “dipped too deep in Mathematics to enjoy the society of ladies.” (This is in 1816, many years before Partridge married Ann Swasey). We can only assume that O’Connor was a close friend to be making such claims!

Click on the preview image below to read the whole letter on our Digital Collections site. We are working hard every day to make more of Alden Partridge’s correspondence available on the web!

Manuscript letter

Letter from John O’Connor to Alden Partridge, 6 September 1816. Click on the image to view in our Digital Collections.

Jan 272015

Cover page of an 1882 newspaper entitled The Reveille

In honor of the Super Bowl being just around the corner, we thought we’d share this editorial from the 1882 Norwich student newspaper, the Reveille, extolling the virtues of the burgeoning sport known as football. Click here to read the whole editorial on our Digital Collections site (it starts in the bottom right corner of the page and continues to the next). Here’s a taste:

We believe in foot ball; we believe it ought to be encouraged; we believe the more vigorous, out door exercise a student takes the better it is for him and for the reputation of his college … and we earnestly trust that in the near future the cadets of this college many take a deeper interest in foot-ball and that ere long it may become one of the popular games of old.

It certainly has become one of the “popular games of old”! You’ll note that the sport is referred to interchangeably throughout the article as “football” and “rugby”–a vestige of the fact that American football evolved from rugby in its early years.

At the time that this article was written, football was in its extreme infancy; the first attempt to codify rules for collegiate play was in 1873, and the snap and the 11-man roster were introduced in 1880. 1882, the year of this editorial, saw the addition of the down and the use of yardage lines that made the field resemble a gridiron. It was this development that turned the corner and made football a significantly different sport from rugby.

Norwich would go on to play its first informal football game in 1890, and it formed an official team for the first time in 1893. We hope this snapshot of history has gotten you in the mood for the Super Bowl! A lot of folks here at Norwich will be rooting for our New England Patriots!

Information about the history of football from the Professional Football Researchers Association.

Jan 232015
Handwritten letter from 1776

Letter from Nathaniel Brown Dodge to his wife on July 4, 1776. We used this document to illustrate principles of preservation in our recent Personal Archiving workshop.

Earlier this month, Archives staff hosted a workshop on personal archiving as part of the University’s Staff Inservice Day. We had a really fun, curious group, and everyone learned a lot about how best to preserve their treasured family letters, photographs, scrapbooks, and other documents. We thought our blog readers might appreciate learning some of the same tips we shared in the workshop–in many cases, the solution is surprisingly simple!

  1. Store them in a stable environment. Extremes and fluctuations in temperature and humidity can damage paper and photographs. Avoid storing important documents in attics and basements and along exterior walls, which are also vulnerable to water damage. The ideal location is a closet on an interior wall in a climate-controlled area.
  2. Use opaque, acid-free containers. Clear plastic boxes leave heirlooms susceptible to permanent, irreversible light damage, and the acids found in paper, cardboard, and other materials can accelerate deterioration. An acid-free cardboard box with a secure lid is your best bet, and we also like to place documents inside acid-free folders. Some suppliers that professional archivists use for these materials include Hollinger Metal Edge, Gaylord, and University Products.
  3. Use copies and enclosures for display and handling. A high-quality digital scan of a special document or photograph can give you a beautiful reproduction to hang on your wall, while the original is safely stored away from light damage. Photographs are particularly vulnerable to skin oil damage and should be placed in archival enclosures and/or handled with gloves. Paper documents don’t require gloves for handling, but enclosures made of archivally safe plastics can help protect delicate items when they’re passed around at family reunions.
  4. Don’t do anything you can’t undo. This is the archivist’s mantra! Tape, glue, adhesive labels, pen markings, lamination, even rearranging the order of a photo album–you never know what your descendants are going to want to with your heirlooms, so make sure that they can always be returned to original condition if need be.

And those are the basics! Feel free to call, email, or stop by the University Archives if you have questions about how to handle your own personal archives!

Jan 092015

Of course we take history very seriously here in the University Archives, but every now and then, on of the perks of our jobs is having a good long chuckle at the historical facial hair we encounter. Perhaps the examples below will inspire the Norwich seniors who will soon be unfettered in their facial hair choices. Sometime soon we will do a post on the history of the “mustache privilege”!


John Quincy Adams McCallister, NU Class of 1853


Theodore Chardavoyne McIlwaine, NU Class of 1876


Theodore Chardavoyne McIlwaine, NU Class of 1876, later in life–clearly a lover of fashionable facial hair!

Dec 222014

Our University Archivist, Kelly, came across this wonderful holiday greeting in a recently donated collection that she is processing. It’s an example of V-Mail, the special postal system that ferried correspondence between World War II soldiers and their families by photographing the original letter and sending a miniaturized print back home. The sender, and we assume the illustrator, of this little note was Clifford Lippincott, a former Norwich University Registrar.

We hope you have a safe and happy season!



Dec 152014

We and our colleagues in the rest of the library building have been eagerly preparing for the upcoming renovations. In a moment of wonderful serendipity, today we came across this article from the 1908 Reveille, when the library had just moved into the brand new Carnegie Hall. We were tickled to note that the article mentions the creation of the University’s first-ever library catalog! Maybe this is a piece of history that only librarians will find exciting, but learning history is all about finding traces of yourself in the past. We hope you’ll visit us (we’re open during the renovation!) and discover how you are a part of the Norwich story!

Article from the 1908 Reville about the library's move to Carnegie Hall. Click to view in our Digital Collections.

Article from the 1908 Reville about the library’s move to Carnegie Hall. Click to view in our Digital Collections.