Behind the Scenes

SILVER SERVICE TEA SETS

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the charter of Centenary University, the library archives staff is highlighting some of the less well known items in the archives—in this case, silver service tea sets from the early days of Centenary.

The collection includes a total of thirteen pieces from three different tea sets, each with its own distinct pattern or floral design. Altogether, there are four teapots, four sugar bowls, three creamers, and one serving tray.

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Birthday

Teapots and Silver tray used during a birthday tea

Two of these sets were likely used for “family-style” meals in Centenary’s dining hall and for informal teas held by senior class advisors such as Miss Breckenridge or “Brecky” as she was affectionately referred to by the students. While these more relaxed teas were held in the parlors and “taught some of the graces young ladies should have,” formal teas were also held throughout the early 1960s by President Seay (Custard, 1945, p. 236). These monthly birthday celebrations were held in The President’s House and surviving photographs offer a glimpse into the social culture of Centenary at that time. Photographs also reveal that one of the sets included a second teapot; the location of this item is currently unknown and was possibly lost in the fire of 2015. See and learn more about The President’s House here.

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The third tea set belonged to Ruth Scarborough—the first director of the Taylor Memorial Library—and boasts an impressively etched “S” on each of its five pieces. While all pieces have a hexagonal base, the set’s two teapots of differing size are unique in their wooden handles. Ruth Scarborough worked at Centenary College from 1946 to 1982. See and learn more about her here.

 

Custard, L. R. (1947). Through golden years: 1867-1943. New York, NY: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc.

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CURRENT LIBRARY PROJECTS

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The fall color of the Japanese Zelkova.

The library staff has been working on a project to update Trees of Centenary, a 1990s dendrological* survey done by Dr. Lewis Parrish, the former department head of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Centenary.

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The tree cataloger and photographer consult the original Trees of Centenary.

Parrish’s book is a compilation of every tree on the Centenary campus, but that information is over twenty years old. The archives staff have taken on the task of updating Trees of Centenary to reflect the  foliage of the current campus. So far, the project has created an inventory of all trees on the north side of campus, including most of the trees listed in Dr. Parrish’s book. The south side of campus will be more challenging as there was no survey done of these trees, and complete identification will have to be done from scratch.

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An excerpt from the rough draft map of the Jefferson Lawn, south side.

How is this task being accomplished? First, every tree in Trees of Centenary was listed and separated by location. The campus was broken down into sections, and each section was given its own hand-drawn map. Then, staff members took the book and the maps and made, well, a mess (see the rough draft map at right). Each tree was numbered, plotted, and matched to a tree from the book. This proved to be difficult because some of the trees mentioned in the 1990s survey are now gone, claimed by disease or death, and new trees have been planted since the survey’s publication.

Realizing a more orderly system was needed, the rough draft map from each portion was input into excel spreadsheets, which became the basis of our new interactive map!

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The fall color of the Green Ash.

This map shows the location of each tree and includes a description and photos, just like the original Trees of Centenary. 

There is still much to be done, and the library hopes to have the entire campus cataloged by Spring 2017. During the winter all the evergreens will be recorded while the remaining deciduous trees will be classified in Spring 2017. Staff will also be taking pictures of the trees in each season. This year’s fall color went by too quickly, but there’s always next year!

*Dendrological: adj., Having to do with the botanical study of trees and other woody plants.

TO MRS. MONTELL

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Facsimile of Oscar Wilde Photograph

“To Mrs. Montell, my uncle’s old and loved friend from Oscar Wilde, January 26, 1882, Baltimore, Thursday.”

Many items have been donated to the Taylor Memorial Library over the years but not all of them seem directly related to telling Centenary College’s history. A number of items in the archives were donated by faculty, alumni, or other members of the Centenary community, so there are many objects that once held personal significance to the donor, or were donated by someone with personal significance to Centenary. This photograph of Oscar Wilde, presented to the college in 1958, is one such item, seemingly out of place among the yearbooks, class photos and other ‘Centenariana’ stored in the archives.

It came to Centenary College through Dr. H. Graham DuBois, a member of Centenary’s faculty for 33 years. He was a poet and playwright like Wilde, an English professor at Centenary College for Women from 1929 to 1963, and the Chairman of the C.C.W. Division of Humanities from 1947 to 1959. The Mrs. Montell of the inscription was his grandmother, Mrs. Charles Montell, who had been a friend of Wilde’s uncle, Ledoux Elgee.When Wilde visited Baltimore on a lecture tour of America, Mrs. Montell invited him to tea as a courtesy to a family friend. He accepted her invitation and later sent the photograph to thank her.

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Dr. DuBois, left, and Dr. Seay, president of the college

Dr. DuBois donated the framed photograph of the English poet and playwright to the college in 1958. It was displayed in the library for a while but was eventually placed in the archives for preservation.

“Dr. DuBois Gives Picture of Oscar Wilde to C.C.W.” Spilled Ink 25 3 1958: 1. Print.

CURRENT ARCHIVAL PROJECTS

Library staff members have been working on several archival projects over the past few months. Here’s a look at what’s been going on!

Colleen Bain, a staff member from the Archives at Centenary College, traveled to Rutherfurd Hall with Centenary English Professor Dr. Lisa Mastrangelo to take part in their Tea and Talk series. They discussed the history of scrapbooking in America, using scrapbooks from Taylor Memorial Library’s archival collection. The collection includes scrapbooks kept by the first President of the school, wives of administrators, and the students themselves.

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One of the scrapbooks from Taylor Memorial Library’s collection

The two are also working together for Dr. Mastrangelo’s Advanced Composition class. Students in this class work closely with items from  TML’s Archives for their writing assignments, and meet with Archives staff members to learn more about the history of Centenary College. The class has partnered with the Archives for the past two semesters and will run a third time during this spring semester. In late January, Bain and Mastrangelo will also talk to the faculty about the use of archival materials (specifically scrapbooks) to teach advanced college writing.

A new project this semester is an upcoming lecture on the history of Centenary College, which will be held at the Hackettstown Library. Archival members have just begun gathering information and images for this talk, which should take place in about two months.

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A sleigh ride around Hackettstown

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT VISITS CENTENARY

Recently the Director of the Taylor Memorial Library discovered a glassine envelope containing five negatives of photographs, two of a group of students, and three of a famous visitor. These pictures were taken the day Eleanor Roosevelt visited Centenary College.

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Cover of the Spring 1950 Alumni Bulletin: Roosevelt shakes hands with President Seay.

On February 9, 1950 Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States, traveled to Hackettstown and spoke at what was then Centenary Junior College. Roosevelt had been the First Lady from March 1933 to April 1945, until her husband died in office. She became more popular with time and many referred to her as First Lady of the World.

When she arrived on campus, her first stop was the president’s home, where she met President and Mrs. Seay and was welcomed to the College by a group of students. Following introductions, a short press conference was held in the President’s office.

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Negative 1: A Welcoming Committee. (Negative 2 is of the same group, sitting down)

Centenary was very lucky to have arranged a visit with Eleanor Roosevelt; she explained that she accepted the college’s invitation to speak because she just happened to be free, she had not yet been to this part of New Jersey, and because she enjoyed addressing groups of young people, particularly women.

negative 3: Roosevelt is greeted by Centenary students.

Negative 3: Roosevelt is greeted by Centenary students.

She spoke in Centenary’s Whitney Chapel to an audience of both students and members of the community; so many people attended that the overflow was seated in the Little Theater on campus (She spent a few minutes speaking to that group before giving her speech in the Chapel). Her remarks were broadcast over radio stations in Morristown, NJ and Easton, PA.

The topic of her remarks was taken from the title of a freshman orientation class at Centenary: “Living in Today’s World.” She spoke about the challenge of selling democracy in the face of the threat of communism and the H-bomb (the hydrogen bomb). Mrs. Roosevelt said scientific knowledge had outrun our development in human relations, and that “we must learn to live by reason and not by force.”

Negative 4: Eleanor Roosevelt wearing a corsage given to her by President Seay.

Negative 4: Eleanor Roosevelt wearing a corsage given to her by President Seay.

Negative 5: Roosevelt giving her speech in the Whitney Chapel.

Negative 5: Roosevelt giving her speech in the Whitney Chapel.

CURRENT PROJECTS: THE PRESIDENT’S HOUSE DISPLAY

The library archival staff has been hard at work preparing a display on the President’s House, which was lost in a fire in January 2015. The display was exhibited in the library’s circulation area, along with several items recovered from the house before it was demolished. The display has temporarily been moved to the Lackland Center for the 2015 Scholarship Gala.

Staff members researched a detailed history of the house, from its start in the 1890s to its loss earlier this year. Two staff members took a trip to Morristown to learn about the history of the Gilded Age, an era marked by stark social contrasts, when the house that would become the President’s House was built. [A history of the President’s House can be found here]

The display board has 12 panels that track the history of the house. Panels are dedicated to different periods of the house’s life.

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The first side of the display board chronicles the ‘pre-history’ of the house, starting with the Gilded Age and the wealthy residents of Morristown. Brightstowe, the house that would become the President’s House, was originally located in Normandy Heights and was disassembled in 1911 to make way for Thorne Oaks, a mansion that still stands today under the name Gateways.

The next side of the display focuses on the years between 1911 and 1945, after the Hoffman family rebuilt the house in Hackettstown, and until the college purchased the home. As Centenary’s enrollment grew, more student rooms were needed, and the president and various faculty members who had lived in the Main Building moved to Hackettstown houses and apartments.

display board side 2

The third side of the display recounts the heyday of the house – when it was used for parties and other college functions. President Seay held a monthly Birthday Tea for students, and often visiting guests would be hosted in receptions at the house. The house was also part of a historic walking tour of Hackettstown.

The final side of the display board focuses on the fire that destroyed the house and plans for the future of the property. At the moment the college is hoping to build on the same footprint and will need to submit plans for a new structure to the Zoning Board and the Historic Commission. ­

display board side 3display board side 4Although some items are quite damaged from the fire, others are in excellent condition. Facilities employees took care to clean several items before delivering things to the library. These items will be stored along with other pieces of Centenary history in the Taylor Memorial Library Archives.

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This plate came from a Regina music box rescued from the fire. Listen to it play here

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A plate and knife. Other dishes from this set have been cleaned.

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Dishes and a teacup from another set of plateware.

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This plaque used to adorn the house.

Hundreds of hours of hard work were poured into this exhibit, and the Taylor Memorial Library is very pleased to be able to make it available to the Centenary community.

THE CENTENARY SCRAPBOOKS

Scrapbooks have become a multi-billion dollar business in modern America, but long before they became a commercial enterprise they were a way for Americans in the 19th and early 20th century to “record” history in the pre-digital world.  Among the many “treasures” in Centenary’s Archive are the various scrapbooks of former Centenarians – – including a scrapbook kept by Centenary’s first President, the Reverend George Whitney.

Centenary’s scrapbooks include ticket stubs, programs for school ceremonies, invitations, dance cards and a variety of other ephemera that tell the story of life at Centenary a century ago.  The delicate bits and pieces of paper pasted on the pages are fragile and in danger of falling apart. For that reason the scrapbooks have been kept in storage in the Archive and have seldom been seen by members of the Centenary community.

The Taylor Memorial Library is planning to display a few of these scrapbooks in May 2014; hopefully we will be able to grab some images to post! Watch for further information and to see these bits of history at their first public viewing in a hundred years!