College Memory Books, for Keepers of Keepsakes

On October 22, 1921, UVM student Dorothy Mayo Harvey typed a long letter to “family adorable, and adored.” She reported on her campus activities and included a paragraph about her search for a college memory book.

I have a new desire—for a college memory book. They are very attractive, and the kind such as Hazel has have good stout covers, and will stand a good deal of wear. I saw some beauties at McCauliffe’s (never can spell that name, ‘scuse please?) this morning, but the one which I liked the best was bound in tan ooze leather, was much smaller than Hazel’s, and Mabel told me this noon that Linda Clark had one of that kind and it didn’t wear very well, not hold enough. Beside—it cost almost twice as much as Hazel’s, seven-fifty as compared to four dollars. Florence Farr, a nice Pi Phi Senior, is agent for “Hazel’s kind” here, and I should like to get one of her anyway, so that is one extravagance which you may be prepared to hear that I have committed.

Like many of her classmates, Dorothy purchased a memory book similar to those advertised in the Burlington Free Press and the Vermont Cynic. The UVM Archives holds a good collection of the dark green alumni memory books. This fall, students and staff worked with four memory books from the 1920s, including Mayo’s “extravagance.” The covers sport the UVM seal in gold and are customized with the student’s name and year and in some cases, their fraternity or sorority.

Dark green cover of Mollie Newton's memory book bearing a gold UVM seal and laced with a yellow cord.Title page of a memory book. "The National Memory and Fellowship Book" printed against a background of stars with images of an eagle, a ship and the Statue of Liberty in the corners, and a name plate for Dorothy May Harvey at bottom right.The books were published by the College Memory Book Co. As advertised, they included features to help the “keepers of keepsakes” organize their memory books. Students could fill pages with preprinted headings and spaces for notes and memorabilia, including lists of friends, songs and yells, notable students, campus athletic records, clubs and societies, professors, school and social functions, trips and more. Lois Burbank (class of 1927) filled the “Student Hall of Fame” page in her book with photos of men’s athletic teams, while Fannie Peirce (class of 1924) selected photos of women students.

Memory book page titled "Student Hall of Fame" with photographs of University of Vermont athletes.

Page from Lois Burbank’s memory book.

Students attached a wide variety of memorabilia to blank pages as they created records of their time at UVM, capturing both personal experiences and experiences they shared with the members of the campus community. Recording friends to remember was important. In addition to gathering information on one of the preprinted pages, students attached photos of friends to blank pages, like the page below from Fannie Peirce’s book. Fannie labeled the photos with names, dates and captions. “On a picnic-1921” is straightforward, but we can only wonder at the circumstances that prompted “Oh my curlers.”

Top section of a handwritten list of friends, with dates, addresses, personal information and some handdrawn portraits.

Friends list from Dorothy Mayo Harvey’s memory book.

Photographs of friends, mostly young women, pasted on a memory book page with descriptive notes about events, names and dates.

Page from Fannie Peirce’s scrapbook. To read the captions, click on the photo to see a larger version.

Students saved all sorts of ephemeral items and arranged them on the blank pages. Molly Newton (class of 1924) pasted items she collected during her first year on a page near the front of her book, including a football schedule, the constitution and bylaws of the Women’s Student Union, a season ticket for athletic events, and her certificate of membership in the Young Women’s Christian Association.

Printed ephemera pasted on a memory book page.

Page from Mollie Newton’s memory book.

Students seemed to have filled the pages as they accumulated memorabilia. The page below, from Lois Burbank’s book, includes a wide variety of items, including a dance ticket, a Valentine card, a list of prayer meeting topics, and the results of a room inspection (“your room is neat but the floor needs a bit of sweeping”). Some items would benefit from explanation, especially the poison label and the bull’s-eye dated Nov. 5, 1923.

Memorabilia and ephemera pasted to a page from a memory book, including a dance tocket, a valentine, a candy label, a bull's eye, and a list of prayer topics.

Page from Lois Burbank’s memory book.

Although memory books and scrapbooks are challenging to preserve and challenging to read–the brittle loose leaf pages are difficult to turn, mementos often are no longer stuck to the pages, and letters and cards carefully attached in envelopes are hard to extract–they provide a unique and personal record of a student’s UVM experience. Student memory books and other scrapbooks are part of the Alumni Papers (Record Group 81). Dorothy Mayo Harvey’s letter is included in the Alumni Relations Files (Record Group 75). Email Special Collections at if you would like a closer look.

Submitted by Prudence Doherty, Public Services Librarian

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