Racing to Ratify

In July 1920, Vermont had the chance to be the final state to ratify the 19th Amendment and guarantee women the right to vote. Congress passed the amendment in June 1919 and sent it to the states for ratification. By 1920, thirty-five state legislatures had voted to ratify, and only one more vote was needed. Many hoped Vermont would be the thirty-sixth state to ratify the amendment; others thought the Tennessee legislature might act first. Special Collections has two pen and ink drawings by the well-known editorial cartoonist W. Norman Ritchie that capture the tension.

Ritchie imagined “The Ratification Sweepstakes” in an energetic cartoon that ran in the Boston Post on July 9, 1920. A woman sporting a national suffragist badge fires a starter pistol to start the Great Suffrage Ratification Race between Tennessee and Vermont, brandishing a prize cup for the woman vote. Trainer James Cox, the Democratic presidential nominee, urges a runner labeled Tennessee Legislature (Democrats), “Speed up, Colonel, and show your Southern chivalry,” while Warren G. Harding, the Republican presidential nominee, tells a runner labeled  Vermont Legislature (GOP), “Go to it Vermont, you must not fail!”

Vermont did fail, despite the best efforts of the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association, due to the continued opposition of Governor Percival Clement. Clement refused to call a special session of the Vermont legislature for a vote on the 19th Amendment. An extreme strategy involved getting Clement to leave the state so that Lt. Governor Mason Stone, who favored suffrage, could arrange a special session. On July 21, 1920, the Post published Ritiche’s cartoon, “No Vacation for Clement.”

Ritchie’s drawing bears the handwritten title “A steady job for Clement.” The caption for the top panel reads, “If Gov. Clement leaves the state, the suffs may vamp Acting Gov. Stone and win the vote.” Clement heads to the railroad station with a suitcase, while a representative of the “suffs” grabs Lt. Gov. Stone and urges him to call the special session. Ritchie pokes fun at Clement’s dilemma, suggesting that the governor might need to vacation at home “on guard against the wily suffs,” and stay on the job to keep Lt. Gov. Mason from bringing the suffs and ratification to the legislative altar. On the bottom left, Ritchie illustrates a dramatic strategy: the desperate “women scorned” might kidnap Clement!

When it became clear that the final ratification vote was not coming from Vermont, suffragists turned to Tennessee. Thanks to a tie-breaking vote cast by a young legislator following his mother’s advice, Tennessee won the sweepstakes and became the thirty-sixth state to ratify the 19th amendment on August 18, 1920.

W. Norman Ritchie (1867-1947) was a news cartoonist for the Boston Post for over 50 years. Reviewing a 1932 exhibit of newspaper artists, the Boston Globe noted “the skill and imagination, together with a keen sense of humor” that characterized Ritchie’s work. Ritchie drew thousands of news cartoons during his tenure. Silver Special Collections acquired these two drawings, along with others featuring Vermont native Calvin Coolidge, in 1973.

Find more primary sources about Vermonters’ efforts to obtain voting rights for women in our latest digital collection, Women’s Suffrage in Vermont. With contributions from the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration, the Leahy Library at the Vermont Historical Society, and Silver Special Collections, the collection focuses on the period from 1870 to 1920.

Contributed by Prudence Doherty, Public Services Librarian


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Traveling with Caroline Crane Marsh

Although our transcription team has been working from home, they simultaneously have been traveling in Italy with Caroline Crane Marsh. Team members Ingrid Bower, Chris Burns, Erin Doyle, Hannah Johnson and Sharon Thayer are transcribing the diaries Caroline kept from 1861 to 1865 that reveal her enthusiasm for travel and adventure and her talent for vivid description. Following Caroline, the team has made virtual visits to the Piazza di Castello and the Casa d’Angennes in Turin, numerous Alpine peaks, a coastal village near Genoa, and an eleventh-century tower in Piobesi. This post pairs diary entries with images of just some of the places where the Marshes lived or visited during this period.

The Piazza di Castello, with pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages, surrounded by buildings, including the Baroque Palazzo Reale and the Palazzo Madama.

The Piazza di Castello, circa 1842. The Palazzo Reale is in the center, and the Palazzo Madama is on the right. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Marshes arrived in Turin in 1861, when George Perkins Marsh assumed his position as the first American minister to the newly united kingdom of Italy. Shortly after they arrived in early June, Mrs. Marsh wrote, “Our rooms are large and finely situated, being three front rooms in the Hotel de l’Europe, overlooking the principal square of the town and directly opposite the Royal Palace.” From their balcony, she noted, “We watch every movement in the fine piazza before us with all the interest that novelty and the prospect of a prolonged stay here would naturally excite.” In July, Caroline described a concert honoring a Swedish diplomat, when a vast crowd gathered in the Piazza di Castello.  Mr M.,” she wrote, “thought that ten thousand did the numbers half justice.”

Street view of the Casa d'Angennes.

Casa d’Angennes. Source: Museo Torino.

The Marshes left the hotel for an apartment in the seventeenth-century Casa d’ Angennes. They stayed until the end of 1861, when a large rent increase drove them to find lodging elsewhere. By November 1863, they had found a way to return to the Casa D’Angennes and Mrs. Marsh noted with satisfaction, “And here we are again after fifteen months once more in our fine Italian home.”

Monte Rosa and neighboring Alpine mountains.

Monte Rosa. Source: Library of Congress.

On Oct. 7, 1862, the Marshes climbed in the nearby Alps. Caroline’s diary entry for the day is typically evocative.  She wrote, “Well were we repaid for the labour it had cost us. There stood Monte Rosa with all her eight spitzen, a most magnificent mountain-mass.” She continued, “Glorious as the mountains were, however, beautiful as the lakes at our feet … we could not help turning from these to gaze on the wonderful cloud-phenomena which presented themselves around and below us …. For two or three hours we watched, now the mighty chain of the Alps based on their everlasting foundations, and now the ever-shifting clouds that sometimes seemed a phantom-ocean heaving and surging below us, sometimes pillars of fire rising to a height that dwarfed the loftiest summit of the true mountains.”

The village of Pegli on the Mediterranean.

The village of Pegli on the Mediterranean coast, between 1890-1900. Source: Library of Congress.

The Marshes spent the winter of 1862-63 in the quiet coastal village of Pegli, near Genoa, where they took up residence in a hotel. Mr. Marsh worked in Turin during the week and on weekends returned to Pegli, where he forged ahead on “his most momentous work,” Man and Nature.

Chinese pagoda , pond and bridge in the Pallavicini gardens.

The Chinese pagoda in the Pallavincini Gardens.

In a diary entry for November 7, 1862, Mrs. Marsh described a visit to Pegli’s beautiful Pallavicini Gardens, which she called “the chief wonder of the neighborhood.” The gardens, she wrote, were “… luxuriantly planted, and provided with walks, seats, rustic cabins, thatched sheds, marble temples, arches, imitations of old castles, Turkish kiosks, specimens of Greek, Egyptian, Chinese and Persian architecture, water falls, precipices, bridges—in short everything wealth and fancy can contrive.”

The four-story Castello di Piobesi next to a tower dating to the 11th century

Castello di Piobesi.

The Marshes spent the summer of 1863 in Piobesi at the Castello di Piobesi, located about twelve miles southwest of Turin,  providing Mr. Marsh with a much shorter commute and a quiet setting to finish Man and Nature. Most of the castello dates to about 1830, but one tower remains to mark the site of a structure built in the eleventh century.

On April 5, Caroline wrote a diary entry after they ascended the old tower. She made it about halfway up, where from a seat in a window she could rest and look at a landscape “so sweet and quiet, the Alps so majestically grand, the sky so clear and blue, that I gave myself up at once to the mighty influence that nature is sometimes able to exert upon us…”



Note: The Caroline Crane Marsh diaries are part of the George Perkins Marsh Collection. They will be available online in the near future.

Submitted by Prudence Doherty, Public Services Librarian


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Billings Library: A Most Delightful Place for Dancing

Front cover of the 1907 UVM Senior Prom dance card showing exterior view of Billings Library.For over forty years, Commencement Week activities at the University of Vermont included what a 1912 headline called a “brilliant commencement function.” From 1894 to 1936, the evening of Class Day ended with a senior reception followed by a senior promenade. The reception and prom were held in Billings Library, “a most delightful place for dancing.”

A student committee organized the annual event. Guests included students, faculty, alumni returning for reunion, and for some years, “the young society people of the city.” Newspapers routinely reported that 200-400 people came to the reception and the dance. In 1936, nearly 1,000 people came through the doors.

Vermont orchestras and dance bands provided the music, although a Boston band provided the entertainment on at least one occasion. One year, a musician from Montreal performed a notable xylophone solo during a dance number. While waltzes remained a staple, some dances changed with the times. For example, old fashioned quadrilles lost favor to new dances like the foxtrot.

For one night during Commencement Week, Billings Library was transformed for the Senior Prom. One writer noted, “In its vacation garb, the library did not much resemble its appearance during the college year.” Tables on the main floor and in the apse were moved out to make room for the reception, the band and the crowds. A large platform was set up inside the entrance for the band, and the floors were waxed “to perfection.” The rooms were decorated in the college colors, and potted palms and cut flowers added to the atmosphere. In short, as the Burlington Free Press reported in 1936, “endless rows of books, dusty rafters, and furrowed brows were replaced in a flurry of gay-colored dresses and happy faces.”

1936 reception in Billings Library with receiving line in front of the fireplace and an orchestra

In 1935, the receiving line in front of the fireplace included President Guy Bailey, Dean and Mrs. Hills, Dean and Mrs. Eckhard, and student representatives. Sid Carsley and his 12-piece orchestra provided the music. Photo from the 1936 Ariel.

Senior prom dancers fill the north hall of Billings Library

Only alumni, faculty and members of the senior class were admitted to the prom in 1935 due to the limited dancing space. Photo from the 1936 Ariel.

Dance cards with decorative covers served as souvenirs of what was for seniors one of the final social events of their college years. On the pages inside, dance partners signed up for one of the evening’s twenty dances, sometimes using a small pencil attached to the card with a cord. The dance order below on the right is from 1894, and includes several deux temps and waltzes, a polka, two types of square dances (quadrille and lanciers). Two names on the line next to the polka suggest that a second partner cut in before the dance ended.

Blue front cover of dance card from the 1899 UVM Senior Prom, with a small white pencil attached by a white cord.Dance orders for 1897 UVM Senior Prom.

The well-attended 1936 gala was the last prom held in Billings Library. In 1937, the tradition ended when the senior reception and prom moved to the newly completed Southwick Memorial Hall on the Redstone Campus.

Submitted by Prudence Doherty, Public Services Librarian

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Twisting the Night Away

Beginning in the summer of 2019, Special Collections worked with the Department of Theatre and Dance to plan an outreach program for this semester that included an exhibit, a lecture, a panel discussion, and a student performance. This is the blog post we planned in conjunction with the April events, now canceled.

In 1962, the dance craze the twist was sweeping the nation. Chubby Checker’s song “The Twist” is credited with starting the trend. It enjoyed two waves of popularity, reaching number one on the Billboard weekly chart in September 1960 and January 1962, when it was re-released. On the annual chart, it peaked at number nine. Other twist classics that enjoyed popular and commercial success that year included Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away” at number 23, “The Peppermint Twist” by Joey Dee and the Starlighters at number 25, and The Isley Brothers classic “Twist and Shout” at number 38.

At UVM, students were twisting at the height of the craze. The Student Association’s Pep Committee sponsored a dance on Saturday, February 17, 1962. Scheduled for 9:30 to midnight, after a men’s basketball game against the University of Massachusetts, it’s not surprising that a handful of star athletes attended. With live music provided by the Craters, a twist-a-thon took place, documented in a set of photographs taken by Andrew Bush. The dance was one of the last events held in the gymnasium (now Royall Tyler Theatre) before Patrick Gym opened in 1963. It must have taken a lot of quick work to transform the gym after the game with crepe paper streamers and dance wax on the floor.

Photograph of a male and female student dancing a crowd of other students.

Benny Becton ’63 (center), star basketball player and future UVM Athletic Hall of Fame member, and his dance partner twist in the men’s gym.

Photograph of a male and female student walking in the gym while smiling and snapping their fingers. Other students dance in the background.

Football star Frank Bolden ‘63 (left) at the 1962 dance. Bolden was inducted into the UVM Athletic Hall of Fame, chaired UVM’s Board of Trustees and received an honorary degree from the university in 2018.

In some ways, the loosened up movements and close contact that characterize the twist mirrored changes in society. Not everyone was a fan.

Famed dancer Ginger Rogers objected to the twist, calling it “ungraceful,” “vulgar,” and “obscene” in this AP story printed in the Burlington Free Press on January 3, 1962.

Newspaper article detailing Rogers's objections to the twist. There was a clear generational divide, with youngsters in favor of this newest fad and their parents full of concern (Rutland Daily Herald, January 25, 1962).

A letter to the editor by "High School Student" that concludes "I will stand my ground in regard to this question that all parents ask today [should the twist be censored?]. 'The Twist' is 'OUR DANCE'. We want it, and we don't want everyone condemning it! Let us enjoy 'The Twist' as our parents enjoyed the Charleston."Still, a few schools in Vermont banned the dance for moral or religious reasons and in quite strong terms. The first was imposed by Marian High School (Brattleboro Reformer, January 23, 1962). St. Anne’s Academy of Swanton took action soon after (Brattleboro Reformer, January 30, 1962).

Newspaper article titled "Barre School Bars Twist" explains that St. Monica's Church "said in its weekly bulletin that the Twist will not be tolerated because it is 'synthetic sex' turned into a sick spectator sport."

Newspaper article announcing that St. Anne's Academy banned the dance, describing it as "a most repulsive and horrible sight to behold" and "very improper for any Christian."



Twisting brought out warnings for potential back and foot injuries among adults (Brattleboro Reformer, January 24, 1962). But other sources promoted twisting for exercise (Bennington Banner, January 13, 1962).

Newspaper article that contains advice from the Massachusetts Podiatry Society warning that the Twist can "result in bursitis problems and heel inflammations."

Newspaper article that details a meeting of a women's club in Stowe in which a ski instructor demonstrated and recommended twisting for agility training. Attendees were over age 40, including one octogenarian.



With these widely varying viewpoints, it’s no wonder the subject of twisting popped up in advice columns (Burlington Free Press, May 19, 1962).

Newspaper column in which 15-year-old Patty asks for advice about holding a twist party for her friends while her mother thinks it a "vulgar dance" and "doesn't want to have people believe that she approves of it." The reply lists other past dance fads that were more suggestive including dancing cheek-to-cheek, The Charleston, jitterbug, and Big Apple, which the author describes as "fun."The twist was such a cultural phenomenon that it didn’t take long for twisting to be referenced in the funny papers, like this “Archie” comic that also seems to predict iPods (Burlington Free Press, August 27, 1962).

Comic strip in which a mother and father discuss a group of teenagers having a twist party in their driveway. The father says they look like they are killing ants. The mother replies that he said he didn't want the rugs worn out. The father then says that he doesn't want the neighbors to complain and the mother replies that the neighbors can't hear anything because the kids all have transistors and are listening with earphones.

Contributed by Erin Doyle, Manuscripts and University Archives Assistant

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Work of Art: Dancing Together in Vermont

In February, we mounted a new exhibit in our small gallery, “Work of Art: Dancing Together in Vermont.” The exhibit examines the process involved in creating diverse dance communities, from groups of girls and boys in clever costumes tap dancing across school stages to performers exploring familiar landscapes in new ways. Using photographs, documents and artifacts, the exhibit looks at two long-running Burlington dance studios led by Polly Nulty and Lorette Sousie, the stage performances and “eco-choreography” of l. tarin chaplin, and two site-specific projects from Cradle to Grave Arts under the artistic direction of Hannah Dennison. Each provided opportunities for community members of all ages and skill levels to work together to learn and to stage performances that delighted and challenged participants and audiences.

“Work of Art” was created as one component of a semester-long focus on dance. Working with Paul Besaw and Julian Barnett in the Department of Theatre and Dance, we scheduled three programs. Although we had to cancel the April events, Barnett’s presentation in early March, “Personal Poetics, From Rupture to Transformation,” drew a wonderful crowd of students and community members to the Marsh Room in Billings.

While our doors are closed, we are joining many museums and libraries who are bringing exhibits and collections online. We fortunately had digital copies of the images used in the Burlington dance studio section of the exhibit, so here we present “Polly Nulty: A Strong and Impressive Style” and “Lorette Sousie: Developing the Love of Dance.”

Polly Nulty: “A Strong and Impressive Style”

Newspaper advertisement for the Polly Nulty Dance Studio.Polly Nulty (1923-1992) owned and directed her dance studio for 30 years, providing inspiration and guidance to a generation of Burlington children. Nulty started teaching neighborhood kids for free in her home in 1947, when she could spare the time from her responsibilities as a homemaker, wife, and mother. Enrollment soon increased to about 60 students and she launched a business, with classes at Burlington’s Heineberg Club. Outreach to surrounding towns included Stowe, Morrisville, Waterbury, Richmond, Essex Junction, and more.

Over the course of her dance career, Nulty studied with the Jack Stanley School of Dancing in New York and, to keep her skills sharp, attended dance classes at the University of Vermont and at conventions in Boston and New York. By 1957, she had become a member of Dance Educators of America, after a difficult four-hour examination that included assessment of her choreography, teaching, and knowledge of music.

Polly Nulty and her daughter Mary in matching dance costumes and tap shoes pose on stools.Polly Nulty, wearing a leotard with tutu and ballet shoes, demonstrates a dance position.

Left: Nulty with daughter and student Mary in matching costumes. Right: Nulty shows the proper technique in her studio on St. Paul Street.

Enrollments rose to 250 to 300 students. By the mid-1950s, Nulty had established a custom studio space at 86 St. Paul Street, complete with a waiting area, barre, and mirrored wall. Eventually, the business came full circle with a studio in her new home on Pearl Street.

Dance teacher Nulty and young students practice in the studio.Nulty (left) guides students into the proper posture and formation during class.

Ticket for Nulty's May Dance Recital, 1952.Months of dedication and training culminated each year in a grand recital, bringing the whole studio together to entertain and impress an audience full of family and friends. The combination of bold costumes, bright lights, music, and excitement all around made for strong memories. The picture of the 1952 recital below includes a glimpse of the larger studio community making up the capacity audience at the Nazareth School, later St. Joseph’s. Note the standing ovation in progress from the balcony – a fun night and a happy memory for the admission price of just 60¢.

Students performing at 1952 recital.Students perform the Narcissus dance in the 1952 recital.

Audience in school auditorium applauds at the May 1952 recital.Family and friends stand to applaud the dancers at the conclusion of the 1952 recital.

Modeled after the famous Radio City Rockettes, Nulty founded The Pollyettes dance chorus and precision drill team about 1954. Comprised entirely of high school students, the Pollyettes maintained an impressive schedule of public performances for a variety of fraternal, religious, and benevolent organizations, even traveling to appear on local television in Schenectady and Plattsburg, New York in 1955.

A dance instructor and a woman drill seargeant in uniform look at four you women dancers practicing in the Nulty studio.While the team’s namesake and dance instructor was Polly Nulty, their drill instructor was Sergeant Mina Yeager (second from left in photo above), a recruiting officer in the Women’s Army Corps (WACs). Yeager provided drill instruction without charge in a style similar to the basic training required of WAC recruits.

A group of young women with suitcases get ready to get on a bus.Pollyettes on the move. The troupe heads to Schenectady, where they will appear on the “Home Fare” television show. The Burlington-Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce supported their round-trip transportation in a chartered bus. A sign on the bus read “From the shores of Lake Champlain, Vermont’s Own Pollyettes.”

Nulty retired in 1977. Former pupil, teacher, Pollyette, and daughter-in-law Angie Olio Nulty (1952-2018) continued the legacy by running her own studio for 25 years. There, the third generation of Nultys became dance students alongside many other Burlington children.

Lorette Sousie: Developing the Love of Dance

Lorette Sousie, born in Winooski, Vermont in 1924, began teaching dance at 18.  She operated the Sousie School of Dance in Burlington for 35 years. From 1949 to 1984, Sousie offered instruction at venues around the city. Over the years, she taught tap, ballet, jazz and baton with the help of daughters Donna and Karen. In a 2008 Burlington Free Press article that featured Sousie, the writer observed,“The principles of respect and consideration were incorporated in the way she handled her students. No matter their level of talent, she helped them discover a way to shine.”

Newspaper advertisement for Sousie School of Dance and BatonWhen Sousie died in 2018, her obituary noted that she “helped develop the love of dance in many children. She was very proud of her students and took pleasure in presenting them in recitals, at nursing homes, minstrel and talent shows, and many other venues.”

Young dancers in costume on school stageTap dancers on stage at the Lyman C. Hunt School in Burlington, Vermont.

L. L. McAllister photographed Lorette Sousie’s students from 1955-1961, when she held classes at 138 North Winooski and then in a home studio at 115 North Avenue. The posed photographs capture the creativity of Sousie’s themes and costumes as well as the students’ enthusiasm. McAllister took photos in the studio and at performance sites like the Lyman C. Hunt Middle School, where Sousie presented annual recitals. As part of the L. L. McAllister Collection, the photos were originally labeled “Dance Recitals — Unidentified.” In 2014, when the library digitized the massive collection of prints, a member of the project team met with Lorette Sousie to identify dancers, studio locations and dates.

Dance students pose in front of a mirror in the Sousie studioDaughter Donna Sousie smiles at the front of the group next to the mirror.

Five young tap dancers in cowboy hats, flannel shirts, and jeansSon Allen Sousie stands in the middle of the back row of young cowboys.


  • The Polly Nulty Papers are the source for much of the information and the images used here. Sousie School of Dance images are from the L. L. McAllister photograph collection, which contains many photos of Sousie and Nulty dancers.
  • To learn more about resources available in the Silver Special Collections Library, please consult the Vermont Performing Arts research guide.
  • The team of Hannah Johnson, Erin Doyle and Prudence Doherty curated the Work of Art exhibit.
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George Washington’s Bold, Clear Signature

In his 1902 book on the art of bookbinding, William Loring Andrews describes George Washington’s beautifully bound copy of The Contrast as “a book made doubly valuable by having the great chieftain’s bold, clear signature upon the title page.” That valuable book is now part of our Vermont Research Collection.

Front cover of The Contrast

The Contrast is recognized as the first American comedy performed by a professional theater company. Royall Tyler wrote the play in 1787, four years before he moved to Vermont, where he was a lawyer, Supreme Court Justice and a University of Vermont trustee and instructor. The play was performed with some success in New York, Baltimore and Washington.

Royall Tyler assigned the copyright to actor Thomas Wignell, who portrayed the Yankee character Brother Jonathan in the original 1787 production. After gathering enough financial backing, Wignell arranged to have the script printed in 1790. He placed George Washington’s name  first in the list of 375 subscribers in the published edition. Wignell sent two copies to Washington, who signed the title page of one copy in the upper right corner.

Title page of the contrast signed by G. Washington

Three noted collectors of Vermontiana owned Washington’s copy of The Contrast before it came to Special Collections. After a long quest, Lucius E. Chittenden purchased it when remnants of Washington’s Mount Vernon library sold at auction in 1876. In his 1893 memoir, Chittenden declared the volume “perfect in every particular.”  He wrote, “It would be difficult to imagine a volume possessing more elements of attraction to a collector than the first play written by an American, …once owned by the Father of his Country, who had written his own name upon the title, and which was withal of such excessive rarity.”

In 1920, James B. Wilbur purchased Washington’s copy of The Contrast at auction for $2,800. The auction catalogue provided a lengthy description, highlighting the book’s association with the first president of the United States and its fine binding “in American red morocco, border and center-piece inlaid in green morocco, with conventional floriated tooling in gilt.” Wilbur sponsored a limited edition of The Contrast, published in 1920, that included a history of George Washington’s copy.

Alexander catalogue 1919

1919 auction catalogue entry, reproduced in Wilbur’s 1920 edition of The Contrast.

After Wilbur died in 1933, the signed copy of The Contrast was included in an auction of his books and autographs. Vermontiana collector Hall Park McCullough of North Bennington purchased it for $3,100. Although the University of Vermont received significant portions of the Chittenden, Wilbur and McCullough libraries, Washington’s copy of The Contrast was not included. After McCullough’s heirs donated it to the University of Vermont in 1970, Special Collections director John Buechler praised it as one of the library’s major holdings. The donation rejoined George Washington’s signed copy of The Contrast with three of the libraries that had once held it.

Submitted by Prudence Doherty, Public Services Librarian

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Medieval Manuscripts in the Green Mountains

This article was adapted from the presentation that Silver Special Collections Director Jeffrey Marshall delivered to open our November 2019 colloquium, “Interpreting the Handwritten Book: Medieval Manuscripts at UVM.”

In Commemoratione defunctorum manuscript page

In Commemoratione defunctorum (Office for the Dead)

Our Rare Book Collection includes sixteen medieval manuscript books. We can divide them conveniently into three categories: manuscripts given to the University of Vermont before the formation of Special Collections in 1962; those donated between 1962 and 2010; and those that we have purchased since 2010.

The first group includes eight books, all described in Seymour de Ricci’s 1935 Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada. Three are part of the George Perkins Marsh collection.

The first Marsh manuscript is Ascanio Savorgnano’s Copiosa Discrittione delle cose di Cipro (UVM MS 4).  Savorgnano was sent to Cyprus by the gentlemen of Venice, apparently around 1572, to describe its “military capabilities.”  A very similar copy is housed at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn Ms. Codex 327).

The second Marsh manuscript is attributed to King Frederik II of Denmark and Norway, and titled Van der Lehre des Reinen Godtlichen Wordes (UVM MS 5).  To quote from a description of the manuscript written several years ago, “it appears to be a copy of the Danish Church Ordinance of 1537, here applied to Frederik’s new royal patrimony of Ditmarschen. The original ordinance, by Frederik’s father Christian III, established Danish ecclesiastical organization (Lutheran) and was based on the Augsburg Confession of 1530.”

The last of the Marsh manuscripts is a hastily copied seventeenth-century text of Eberhart Hicfelt’s Aucupatorium herodiorum (UVM MS 7), a treatise on hawks and hawking. It’s interesting to note that de Ricci identified the author as Richardus Hitfelt. I assume that de Ricci was relying on information supplied to him by our librarians in the 1930s, and that he was unaware of Eberhart Hicfelt’s work on the subject.

Considering the richness of Marsh’s library, now the core of our rare book collection, it is a little surprising that his three manuscripts are not more visually compelling. I don’t think he had a particular interest in manuscripts, and these may have been acquired quite casually.

Italian herbal

Italian herbal, ca. 1500.

Three manuscripts among the first group were donated by Lucius Chittenden, a prominent Vermont lawyer and book collector who served in the Lincoln administration. The visual appeal of Chittenden’s manuscripts more than makes up for the modest appearance of those from Marsh’s library. They include a volume containing several works of Cicero (UVM MS 3), copied around 1400; an early sixteenth-century Italian herbal (UVM MS 2); and a Flemish prayer book from 1561 (UVM MS 8). Benjamin Franklin Stevens, the Vermont-born London bookseller, gave us In Commemoratione defunctorum, or the Office for the Dead (UVM MS 1). The last of the early manuscript donations is the statutes and ordinances of Carpeneto, Italy, written in 1458 (UVM MS 6). This was given to us by Prof. Giuseppe Ferraro, who published the text of the manuscript in 1874.

Over the more than one hundred years that followed these early donations, we acquired only one additional medieval manuscript. In 1964 a St. Albans resident left with us a choir psalter (UVM MS 12), likely made in the sixteenth century, and never returned to reclaim it. This large-format book contains three brightly colored illustrations (most like colored in the nineteenth century) and a number of hymns that feature new wording in place of partially erased letters.

Despite the fact that we have had an active collecting program since Special Collections opened its doors in 1962, our first director, John Buechler, did not focus on medieval manuscripts. And for good reasons. They were expensive, and there was little apparent demand among our faculty. Even if the resources and the demand had existed, developing a strategic approach to acquiring medieval manuscripts, nearly from scratch, would have been an enormous challenge for a librarian at a small state university.

It wasn’t until 2007 that Special Collections received its next manuscript gift.  That year, Robert and Sally Fenix donated two copies of the Summa de Casibus Conscientiae of Bartholomew of San Concordia (UVM MS 9 and 10), both copied in the early 1400s.  This work, a guide to confessors evaluating sins large and small, was very popular in its time

The manuscript collection came full circle, in a sense, in 2010, when David Richardson donated a very large Spanish gradual (UVM MS 11), a book containing chants for the Roman Catholic liturgy.  David was the grandson of Henry Hobson Richardson, the architect who designed UVM’s Billings Library—now the home of Silver Special Collections and its medieval manuscripts.


Spanish gradual.

The final category of our manuscript books includes the four that we have purchased since 2010.  Manuscripts are still expensive, and their market value has soared over the last several decades as rare books have increasingly come to be seen as investment opportunities.  Nevertheless, with careful management of funds from a variety of sources, we were able to acquire two important manuscripts in 2013 and 2016, Letters Patent to the Order of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem (UVM MS 13), a document that outlines the privileges of the Knights Hospitaller as confirmed by the French crown, ca. 1465; and a book of sermons by Johannes Nider (ca. 1380-1438; UVM MS 14), copied in Germany ca. 1445-1450. In 2018 and again in 2019, former UVM President Tom Sullivan allocated funds for the Libraries to purchase books to support teaching and research in the humanities.  We were able to make two significant purchases, Les roys de la très crestienne maison de France (The Kings of the Very Christian House of France) (UVM MS 15) and the Book of the Confraternity of the Holy Name of Jesus (UVM MS 16).

The decision to purchase manuscripts marks a distinct shift in our acquisitions policy. While it didn’t make sense to buy medieval manuscripts in the past, we now have several reasons to do so. Our distinguished faculty of medievalists in multiple disciplines is making a concerted effort to promote medieval studies at UVM. At the same time, we have been developing an instructional focus on book studies in Special Collections, so these manuscript books fit into the spectrum of materials we are trying to provide for our students and faculty.  On a more abstract level, we regard it as part of our mission to support research and teaching in the Humanities.  Although our resources are limited and must serve a number of collecting areas, we hope that we can continue to meet the interests of faculty and students in this area.

You can see many of these items in our Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts digital collection.

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Summer Session at UVM, 100 Years Ago

Note: This post was inspired by archival material that we shared with UVM Continuing and Distance Education staff during a great tour of Special Collections earlier this summer.

In 1919, the UVM summer session, which ran from July 7 to August 15, was primarily a school for teachers. On July 25, the Burlington Free Press reported that 259 students were enrolled. Most of the students were from Vermont (221) and most were women (239). Just 27 were college graduates. The newspaper noted that 202 were teachers and 53 were Sisters of Mercy. The 1919 summer session catalogue and articles in local newspapers provide a good look at the academic programs and extracurricular activities that kept students and faculty busy.

UVM offered room and board at various locations. Summer students could eat at Commons Hall, located where the Fleming Museum stands now, for $6.00 per week.


Summer courses cost $10, and many were free for Vermont teachers and those preparing to teach in Vermont. Classes met five times per week, and one day each week was reserved for excursions and recreation. The busy daily schedules included time for a general assembly and for “Play and Games,” when all students and faculty were expected to spend a half hour in “wholesome, spontaneous and refreshing outdoor play” led by students in the physical training course.

The Education department offered ten classes, while departments such as Economics, Home Economics, English, French and Spanish offered two to four classes. There were opportunities to learn about teaching art and music, as well as fine art, piano and voice classes.

A number of classes were designed to help teachers address social and cultural problems. For the first time, Sara Holbrook, described as “not a mere theorist, but a woman who has been very successful in everyday work among the children in the public schools of Hartford, Connecticut,” offered a course on the education of “backward children,” to help teachers better understand their pupils and more intelligently work for their highest possible development. The Economics department offered “Reconstruction Problems,” dedicated to meeting needs related to the Great War, and “Rural Problems,” which explored ways teachers could help enrich rural life.

In the Billings Library, students could find 95,000 volumes on the shelves and “all the leading magazines published in this country and many of the best European periodicals” on the reading tables. Photo by William Sawyer, courtesy Vermont Historical Society

Extracurricular Activities: All Kinds of Good Times

The summer school catalogue promoted Burlington, on Lake Champlain between the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains, as a delightful place to spend the summer. One section described inexpensive excursions that could be taken in a day, such as trips to Ticonderoga and Ausable Chasm. Another section highlighted recreational opportunities accessible by trolley, including Burlington’s new 30-acre park off North Avenue, with “the best beach on the shore.” For exercise, students were directed to the UVM tennis courts and the Waubanakee Golf Club, which opened its “beautiful golf links” to students at a moderate price.

Burlington’s municipal beach.

During the session, public lectures, entertainments and concerts and recitals by pupils in the music department were attended by students and the general public. The Burlington Free Press announced and reviewed these events throughout the weeks of the summer session. For the first public entertainment, Theron S. Dean gave an illustrated lecture on “The Green Mountains and the Long Trail,” scheduled for the late hour of 8:30 pm so that Mr. Dean’s glass slides would be more visible. The entertainments culminated with an ambitious musical and dramatic program at the Howard Relief Hall on Pearl Street.

Burlington Free Press July 10, 1919

Burlington Free Press July 25, 1919

Personal Improvement

The summer school bulletin included advice about the importance of personal growth from J. Franklin Messenger, director and professor of education. Messenger cautioned summer school students, “Do not carry too many courses. You will improve more from a few courses thoroughly mastered and well assimilated than from a large number attended.” He suggested, “Take at least one course for personal improvement. A teacher who can go to her work with more intellectual resources and a broader outlook on the world, with a richer experience to share in part with her pupils, will be able to stimulate those pupils and give an atmosphere to the school which is worth more than many a class exercise.”

Prudence Doherty, Public Services Librarian

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President Eisenhower at the Vermont Dairy Festival

The summer of 1955 was an especially busy time for Vermonters engaged in dairy farming. June was declared Dairy Month and a series of public events, including a parade, square dance displays, and dairy exhibits, culminated in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s visit to the first statewide Dairy Festival in Rutland. His time at the festival was enthusiastically documented, as these photos from the Elmer Towne Papers demonstrate. Towne was Vermont’s Commissioner of Agriculture from 1954 to 1963.

President Eisenhower enjoyed milk, right from the tiny carton. A decorative cow figurine graced the table. Photo credit: Vermont Development Commission, Montpelier, Vermont

President Eisenhower smiled at Ayrshire cow UVM Hans Jean after she was declared “Queen of the Vermont Green Pastures” in a public vote. Her prize was being presented with a garland of carnations by the president. The nine year-old cow weighed 1500 pounds and delivered over 40 quarts of milk daily in 1955. Photo Credit: Vermont Development Commission, Montpelier, Vermont

This photo was used on the cover of the October 1955 issue of the UVM Bulletin, with the following description.

President Eisenhower took time from his busy schedule when he was in Vermont recently to place a wreath of flowers across the shoulders of UVM Hans Jean, the University’s Ayrshire champion, which had just been crowned “Queen of the Vermont Green Pastures.”

The President, an honorary Laird of the County of Ayr in Scotland, home of the Ayrshire breed, showed keen interest in Jean. Talking with Robert Fitzsimmons, class of ’47, in the foreground, the President noted that he was amazed at both the animal’s size and productiveness. Bob, who is Assistant Professor of Dairy Husbandry at UVM’s College of Agriculture, told President Eisenhower that Jean weighs in at 1500 pounds and this year has delivered over 40 quarts of milk daily. The nine-year old grand champion of the Rutland and Champlain Valley Fairs has two daughters – both promising.

President Eisenhower became the official owner of a registered Brown Swiss Heifer, a gift of Allen Alfred, dairy farmer from South Burlington. Alfred’s daughter Betsy, wearing a Swiss-style costume, leads the cow. Derrick Webb of Shelburne also helps with the presentation. According to the Rutland Daily Herald (June 23, 1955) the cow was sent to Eisenhower’s working farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Eisenhower was also presented with Vermont delicacies and a new fishing rod. Photo credit: Alice Hobart, Rutland, Vt.

Elmer Towne (wearing VT sign) challenged fellow commissioners from neighboring states to a milking contest. When reporters asked him how long it had been since he last milked a cow by hand, he answered “twenty-four hours.” In contrast, Maine’s commissioner, Fred Notter answered ten years! Judged on a combination of the weight of milk collected in 2 minutes and 30 seconds, technique, and costume, Towne was declared the winner. Rhode Island’s commissioner, John Rego, beat Towne by one ounce, giving all the credit for this success to the cow, but he was marked down by the judges for wearing “Sunday clothes” (Rutland Daily Herald, June 23, 1955, page 13). Photo credit: Department of Agriculture, Montpelier, Vermont

This float from the New England Milk Producers Association (NEMPA) proudly declares Vermont milk to be “the true fountain of youth.” Ponce de Leon even made an appearance to prove it.President Eisenhower addressed the crowd from a very patriotic grandstand at the Rutland Fairgrounds. Commissioner Towne can be seen just to the left of the podium.

President Eisenhower greeted photographers before stepping down from his convertible, while a huge crowd angles for a glimpse.

Vermont kids demonstrated their square dancing skills. Note the news cameras poised above, documenting the action.

For more information about Vermont agriculture and to see Elmer Towne’s papers, contact Special Collections.

Contributed by Erin Doyle, Manuscripts and University Archives Assistant


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J. Lamb’s Little Books for Children

Between 1820 and 1830, Burlington, Vermont experienced significant growth. The population increased dramatically, from 2111 in 1820 to 3526 in 1830, a 67% increase. Among the new residents who relocated from other Vermont communities were Jonathan Lamb (1795-1851), an educator and University of Vermont student, and  Chauncey Goodrich (1798-1858), a bookseller and publisher.

Lamb taught at Burlington Academy, located at the corner of Willard and College Streets, from 1824-1829. He also attended UVM during those years, graduating in 1829. In July 1831, he opened a new school for “the purpose of instructing Young Gentlemen in the various branches of science and literature” and offered lectures on teaching for men who would be working in schools in the winter.

Lamb used his teaching experience to write several schoolbooks. Shortly after Goodrich set up shop in Burlington, an advertisement in the Nov. 7, 1828 Burlington Weekly Free Press announced that Lamb’s book, The Child’s Primer, or First Book for Use in Primary Schools, was in press and soon to be published. Lamb’s second volume, The Child’s Instructer, was published by A. & D. Day in 1829, but Goodrich published Lamb’s Gospel Sonnets, “designed principally for youth” in 1830. At the same time, Lamb wrote twelve small chapbooks that Goodrich offered as a series of Little Books for Children.

Silver Special Collections holds four of Lamb’s little books: The Shipwreck, The Lion and the Snake, A Present for a Good Boy, and A Present for a Little Cousin. The 2.5 x 4-inch books contain 16 pages and are illustrated with woodcuts. Only one retains its original paper wrapper. The printer used different tactics to fill all 16 pages, including double spacing lines and filling the last few pages with unrelated poems and stories. 










Lamb’s little books were designed to be entertaining and educational. Lamb frequently addresses his “little readers” directly, offering advice and guidance about reading and behavior in a conversational tone. He describes the characteristics of animals and common objects, and uses the descriptions to teach moral lessons. When describing a chair, the author cautions, “You should not sprawl out your legs and lean your chair back in the company of ladies and gentlemen.”  At the end of a story about lions, he warns children not to be unkind or impudent, or people will say “They are worse than beasts, for even lions love those who are kind to them, and feed them.”

Pages from A Present for a little Cousin

Lamb’s little books are similar to small children’s books published elsewhere, and sometimes include borrowed content. The Shipwreck is a poem published in numerous editions by the Religious Tract Society in London beginning in 1795 and by the American Tract Society in 1829. Lamb’s version is missing a number of verses, perhaps to allow it to fit into sixteen pages. In The Lion and the Snake, Lamb included stories about lions borrowed from Peter Parley’s popular Tales of Animals, which he highly recommends to his readers.

Goodrich sold the books at his shop in Burlington, but they were probably available at stores in other Vermont communities. In 1830, Goodrich advertised his new publications, including “12 different kinds of small books for children” by J. Lamb, in the Vermont Chronicle, a statewide newspaper. In a study of reading habits in southwestern Vermont during this period, William Gilmore found that children’s books were one of the most frequently purchased book types. Only three months after publishing the Little Books, Goodrich claimed he had already sold 20,000 copies. Our copy of A Present for a Little Cousin is dated 1841, just over a decade after it was first listed in the series, suggesting that sales continued to be strong enough to warrant reprinting.

Lamb left Burlington in 1833 to serve as the first principal of an academy for young ladies and gentlemen in Keeseville, New York. By the early 1840s, Lamb was settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he operated a bookstore and was a strong advocate for public education. Versions of his spelling book and primers were published  by a Boston publisher in 1842 and 1843.

Contributed by Prudence Doherty, Public Services Librarian



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