Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Vespers & Winter Ball

From the late 1930s into the 1960s every December there was a Christmas Vespers program and a Winter Ball. These were highly popular events with both the campus community and area residents. Shown here is a photo of the 1953 program.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ernest Hartwell

Nowadays Ernest Hartwell is not the most familiar name, but Harwell Hall certainly is, at least on the Brockport campus. This flagship building was named after Ernest Hartwell in the 1960s, in commemoration of his service to the college.

A native of Albion  Michigan, an area settled in the years after the Civil War by emigrants from our area of western New York, Hartwell became a teacher, and then a school district superintendent. He was quite prominent in public school administrative circles in the early 1900s, heading the superintendent's section of the National Education Association, and serving for a number of years as head of the Buffalo New York schools.Then in 1936 he left Buffalo, and came to be "principal," or president, of the Brockport Normal School, our predecessor. He only was at Brockport for eight years, retiring in 1944, but he presided over a remarkable transformation.

The old Normal school building complex, that stood about where Hartwell Hall is today, had been poorly maintained for some years due to lack of funds. The Great Depression was having a negative impact on schools, reducing the number of students. A state panel even recommended closing one or two of the state Normal schools, and Brockport was named as a possible candidate!

Under Hartwell's energetic leadership a committee was organized which successfully lobbied against closing the school, and to in fact revitalize it by tearing down the old building and putting up a new structure. He was also a leader in the successful campaign in New York to see the Normal schools, which had a three year program and gave a license to teach, but no bachelor's degree, upgraded to Teachers Colleges, which had a four year program and did give the bachelor's degree.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A rare archives in question

The archives of the Hulton family of Lancashire are a tremendous historical treasure, a trove of materials ranging from 1199 to 1947, covering much of England's history. Lord Fellowes, a descendant of the family, found much of his inspiration for the popular series Downton Abbey in the primary sources of this aristocratic archive. The last direct head of the family has died however, and the archives are up for sale, hopefully to end up in the Lancashire county collections.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The original bridge

Years ago, before the roofed pedestrian bridge that runs over the railroad tracks between Brown and Allen was constructed, there was another bridge. This original bridge was a more bare bones affair, and did not offer those walking over the protection of a roof. On a pleasant day it was rather nice, with the breeze and view, but in the winter, with the ice and snow, or on a rainy day, well, you can imagine how it might have been! This is a photo of the bridge from 1977.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Carte de Visite photos of Brockport Faculty

Sometime in the 1870s a number of "carte de visite" photos were made of Brockport faculty. These sorts of photographs were very popular in that era, you have likely seen some, even if the name isn't familiar. They were simply small size photos, usually 2.5" x 4", mounted on card stock. Something similar in size to baseball cards for example. They were easy to send through the mail, they complemented the calling card expected in that era, and were widely used.

Some of those done of Brockport faculty over 125 years ago still survive, and are part of our archival collections. Pictured here is one of them, a portrait of Jane Lowery, who was a teacher of Mathematics and Latin here for many years, and was also an 1870 graduate of the school. Miss Lowery was much respected by her students and colleagues. An interesting personal note is that she was the sister in law of Charles MacLean, the principal of the school, and lived in what is now Alumni House with her sister and brother in law!

She was one of three teachers memorialized in a commemorative plaque dedicated in 1906. The plaque was in the old Normal school building, then Hartwell Hall, and was recently restored by Duncan Chase of the Art Department. An article in the Brockport Republic from 1906 on the plaque follows:

“The program at Normal Hall, Monday evening, marking the exercises of unveiling the portraits of Prof. McLean and Dr. Smith and the tablet in honor of Prof. Burlingame, Miss Chriswell and Miss Lowery were carried out in a most successful manner. Besides the speakers, the stage was occupied by the full Board of Trustees of the Normal school, the designer of the tablet and Principal McFarlane.

   The evening’s program was as follows: ‘Pilgrim’s Chorus,’ Dossenbach’s orchestra, Prof. McFarlane, after a few pertinent remarks explanatory of the occasion, introduced Rev. William D. Holt, of Cincinnati, O. Nr. Holt, who is a very is a very pleasant speaker, held the attention of the audience for about twenty minutes while he paid a glowing tribute to Prof. McLean who for thirty years was principal of the school. He gave many instances of the unbounded generosity of Prof. McLean, the assistance he rendered to many of the students, and the untiring work for the improvement of the school buildings, which now stand as an undying monument to his memory.

   Mr. Holt was followed by Miss Wadsworth, who rendered a piano solo, "Gondoliera,"in a faultless manner.

   The next address was by Hon. John D. Burns, who in his usual pleasant but forceful manner, spoke of Dr. Smith, who for three years was principal of the school. He recalled the great executive ability Dr. Smith brought to the school. He spoke of the strenuous efforts put forth by the gentleman for the betterment of the school and how they were crowned with success; of his genial nature, the making of his home a general reception room for the students where they might enjoy free converse. To such men, said the speaker, may be attributed the great success and popularity of the Brockport Normal School.

   An address by Mr. Thomas H. Armstrong, of Rochester, was replete with memories of the three teachers — Prof. Burlingame, Miss Chriswell, and Miss Lowery — who "died in the harness" after devoting many years to the service. "As we have watched the nation grow to be rich and powerful so have we watched this school grow to be one of the largest and most complete in existence," said the speaker. "And for this evident success we are indebted to the careful training and watchful care, the indefatigable patience and energy of such teachers as we have spoken of. We do not rank them as we would a soldier or hero, but as patriots in the great cause of education.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"You are here..." 1949

This is a campus map from 1949. The bulk of the college was made up of Hartwell Hall and some temporary buildings on the side of Hartwell, by the railroad tracks. Otherwise there was a "girl's dorm," the infamous West Hall, to the west where Seymour is today. West Hall was a frame building that was notorious for being drafty and cold. The college athletic field to the west was just that, fields, no Tuttle, no SERC. Notice that off Kenyon, behind Hartwell, are a West College St. and a Millard St. This was a residential neighborhood, with a number of homes, and a small store. When the post WWII expansion really got going in the '50s and '60s all of this would change dramatically.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Freshman Hazing

To the college students of today it is quite startling to hear that at one time hazing of freshman was a common practice at colleges, including here at Brockport. The photo on display shows some members of the Class of 1967 being hazed on the sidewalk outside the dorms on Kenyon Street in the fall of 1963. This hazing took part in one way or another from as early as the 1920s up into the late 1960s. The "beanies" were a post WWII addition to things!

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Vertical Librarian

Once upon a time, before the WWW transformed the Internet, libraries typically maintianed a "vertical file." This was a usually a set of file cabinets, with folders organized by subject, containing all sorts of materials; maps, flyers, government brochures etc. In a way it was the same sort of free ranging information source as the Internet, only physical, not virtual.

This blogger once took care of our vertical file as part of his duties. Part of the job involved going through a monthly publication called the Vertical File Index and writing off for various free materials. On one occasion we received in reply an envelope addressed to the "Vertical Librarian." Would be in contrast to a reclining librarian? ;-)

Pictured here is librarian Carol Timby at the vertical file in the old Drake Library, now Rakov. The older library had been in Hartwell Hall on the second floor, and then a new building just for the library was built in 1961. With the expansion of the college in the '60s we quickly outgrew that and the current Drake building was finished in 1974.

Monday, August 18, 2014

She was Brockport Music

Pauline Haynes was Brockport music for many years, in part because she was the only music faculty member in 1925 when she started here, and for a number of years after. By the time she retired in 1966 Brockport had gone from being a small Normal school with a single music teacher to a much larger comprehensive liberal arts college, complete with a music faculty of eight members who she had recruited and mentored.

She was from Plattsburg, and attended the campus school at Plattsburg Normal as a child. After college at Skidmore she studied at the Thomas Whitney Surette school in Concord Massachusetts, then taught in the Princeton, New Jersey public schools for two years, and from there came to Brockport.

A popular faculty member, her encouraging and sensitive manner made her sought after by students and faculty alike. She directed the music for special events and campus productions for many years, including the Christmas Vespers programs which were extremely popular among both the campus and village communities. An excellent pianist, she was also long remembered for her fashionable and elegant sense of style. A room in Alumni House is dedicated to her memory.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


"On the walls of the old Normal School
The Wisteria hangs in clusters of
fragrant blooms,
White and wan in the silver moonlight,
Deepings to shades of lavender
When the morning sun strikes through the trees,
Climbing on and on until it flings its
joyous arms
About the highest stone of all that
lofty hall,
And runs down in rippling cascades
of delight,
Calling to the passer-by to behold and

Anonymous, Stylus, 1930.

(The poem refers to the old Normal school building, an set of stone buildings that stood about where Hartwell Hall is today. The image here is one that appears in several years of the early 1930s yearbooks.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Our Orchestra

Nowadays we have our fine Brockport Symphony Orchestra, but many years ago there was another orchestra here, that of the Brockport Normal School. In the June commencement issue of the Stylus in 1925 there was the accompanying photo and text as follows:

"Has B.N.S. an orchestra? You just bet it has and it's a real one, too. Not a musical club, but a real, live, wide-awake orchestra of twenty members as follows: violins, Louise Kuppinger, Field Akeley, Philip D'Agostino, Marion Boyle, Francis Vanda, Marguerite Beadle, Marcus Carls; mandolins, Iona Axtell, Gertrude Simmonds, Winifred Smith, Eugene Stull, Almeda Rudman; cornets, Harold Davis, Elsie Northway; saxophones, Stanley Smith, George Smith, Faylista Holland; cello, Helene Gillette; drum, Elmer O'Dell, and piano, Ethel Jones.

   The orchestra began its work by playing in assembly every Friday morning. This had its advantages. That is it treated the assembly to some very good (or should I say rare) music and it  managed to cut short the third period by about five or ten minutes. Music was also given by request at the time of the visit of a committee from the New York State Educational Association.

   The orchestra has added much to the enjoyment of many occasions during this school year. At the Christmas Entertainment and Training School Play marches were played while the children came in and took their places. The orchestra played between acts of the Senior Play, thus preventing any dull moments. The greatest success however was on Color day. 'Did you miss that?' 'What a shame!' 'Did they do well?' Nothing else but!'

   The orchestra has had a most successful year and the members are sorry it is nearly at a close. However, they will play once more..., namely for graduation. At this time they are planning to win even a better reputation for themselves.

-- Iona Axtell"

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Class of '64 in the archives

The Class of 1964 had a successful 50th reunion recently, with the class being inducted into the Hartwell Society, many memories shared and just generally a good time. They aren't done though, members of the class were in the archives today searching out images to use in the memory book they are preparing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Back to 1842

Just a random post here, to share an image of the school from a very long time ago. This illustration is of the school as it looked in 1842, from a catalog of that year. This Medina stone building stood approximately where the Normal school would be, and then later Hartwell Hall. In 1842 the school was just a few years old. It had started in 1835 as a private academy, but that early start faltered and then failed in the financial crises of the late 1830s. In 1841 a group of concerned citizens in Brockport organized and restarted the school, calling it the Brockport Collegiate Institute.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Horseman on Hartwell Lawn!

This image was run across recently by the archivist while looking for images. It is part of a large collection of campus photographer images from the 1950s and early 1960s. It was included in a homecoming section, and would appear to be a campus school student waiting on horseback to ride in the homecoming parade. The date is labeled as 1957, but identity of the young horseman is unknown.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Most aren't aware of this nowadays, but for many years the college owned a camp. In the 1950s and early '60s that was Camp Totem, up in the Adirondacks. In 1962 it was decided to sell Totem and to purchase a property closer to home and so the college bought the Fancher campus. This was a largely undeveloped, 500 acre property just 15 minutes west in Orleans County. There were woods, fields, and a small body of water, McCargo Lake. One of the first things the college did was to build a lodge there that could be used for various purposes; meetings, retreats, conferences, and other purposes. In the photo here we see the handsome stone fireplace, and on the left is Gordon Allen, and on the right is Harold Rakov; the administration and student services buildings on campus today are named for them.

Fancher was used for the long running Brockport Summer Arts Festival, for water studies on the lake, for recreation, and many other purposes. Dr. Hellman of the Biology Department spent  years developing an arboretum at Fancher for example. This photo shows him on site, inspecting a seedling. The camp was very popular for some time, but as the 1970s went on there seemed to be somewhat less use, and the costs of maintaining the property became increasingly difficult to justify as state aid to colleges began to be reduced. In the mid 1980s the college sold it and today it is Hickory Ridge, a public golf course and RV park.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Tony Mascioli '54 & Gay History

Tony Mascioli, shown here on the left in the second row of this Vistas photo from the 1954 year book (the title of the English Club publication then) was a Brockport alum and a pioneering gay businessman. The Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley has a feature on him in their Shoulders to Stand On gay history site.

A Brockport student did quite a bit of research for the Gay Alliance this spring using materials from the college archives to document Tony's time here at Brockport. Tony was not only supportive of gay rights, but he was a supporter of the College at Brockport and had many positive memories of his time here in the early 1950s.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Women students ca 1900: anyone you recognize?

Here we have a random item from the photo collections of the archives. It is a group of women students sitting on the steps of the old Normal school building ca 1900. (That building complex, built of Medina sandstone, stood approximately where Hartwell Hall is today, and was replaced by Hartwell in the late 1930s.) We know it's about 1900, because there is a list of names on the back, indicating class years ranging from 1900 to 1903. The only problem is that the names are penciled in, very faint now to read, with no indication of which row is which etc. So we have:

Winifred Riley, Ina Shephard, Grace Davy, Rose Hincher, Lovina Maud Ackerson 1903, Elsie Jesson 1902, Mary _____, Grace Hardenbrook, Florence Bidwell 1900, Gertrude Whipple, Lena Pease 1900, Minnie Jordan, Sarah Pledger 1901, Blanche Hill 1900, Bertha Ames 1900, Bertha Brown 1900, Blanche Lee 1900.

There is no yearbook for those years to look them up in either. There was a one time yearbook for 1899, then it wasn't until the June 1914 Stylus that class photos and a yearbook of sorts was done again. The establishment of a yearbook as a separate, distinct publication did not take place until the Saga was launched in 1929. (The Saga is online now, 1899/1914-1951. More will be added as time permits.) Anyone able to identify any of these women and connect them with a name in the list is invited to comment here or contact the college archivist, ccowling@brockport.edu.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Was it Camp New Moon?

Just yesterday the archivist did a presentation on Camp Totem, the camp the college bought in 1952 up in the Adirondacks, and it was great to show slides of the camp and hear stories about it. Of particular interest to the archivist was that after mentioning that before Totem the records do mention that the college rented a camp a few summers in Canada, Dorset Ontario to be specific, that was all that was stated, and that the archivist wished he knew more about it.

Then a woman in the audience volunteered that when her sister in law, Peg Hare Brown, went to the camp in Canada ca1950, she went up to visit her there, and believed that the camp was called "Camp New Moon." Googling that name turned up a website for a camp of that name, in Dorset Ontario, that says it has been there for many years. The archivist has contacted them, hoping to find out more certainly if this is the camp that the college used to rent, but if any readers of this blog know anything more about it please comment here, or email Charlie Cowling at ccowling@brockport.edu.

   (Update: the current camp owners responded to an email and said that while their records only went back to the '60s they thought it very possible that New Moon was the camp in question.)

Pictured here are campers at Totem in the 1950s. Totem was located eight miles east of Harrisville NY.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Moving Houses

When the college was expanding out from the original six acre campus, the lot where Hartwell Hall is, they acquired many local properties in the process. Many of the properties had houses on them, and while some were demolished, some were moved; several at least were moved west out on Holley Street. Shown here is one of the houses being moved in the 1950s it looks like.A search of the archival records might give the house location. but it was not identified in the original photograph shown here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fannie Barrier's Childhood Home

Fannie Barrier Williams was probably the first African-American graduate of our school, graduating as she did in 1870. She went to an active and distinguished career as an activist, speaker and writer for civil and gender rights. She grew up here in Brockport, where her father Anthony had a barbershop and a coal business. Her mother Harriet was a homemaker, and Fannie had a sister, Ella, and a brother, George. The home they lived in still stands today at 57 Erie Street, as shown in a recent photo here. Much later in life Fannie and Ella returned to Brockport in their old age and lived in a different house at the end of Erie Street. Fannie, Ella, and their parents are buried in the High Street cemetery. (The graves are over in the south west corner section of the cemetery.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Archives Collections

The college archives is housed on the ground floor of Drake Library, and is accessible to interested researchers. The hours are generally M-F, 9-5, but as the archivist is also a librarian and has other duties, it is best to email or phone (585-395-5667) first to make an appointment.

We have many sorts of materials in the archives, a section of which is shown in the photo. The holdings run from handwritten 19th century correspondance books to catalogs, newsletters, photographs, yearbooks and much more. The archives finding aid is available online and gives a more detailed idea of what we have. It is a guide only, so do ask us if you are interested in something but do not see it specifically listed in the guide.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Missionary gifts

In the Normal school era, especially around the turn of the last century, there were some Brockport graduates who went overseas as missionaries. Some went to Japan, some to Burma, or India, many parts of the world. The model of a temple shown here is a gift from one of them. Although the identity of the donor is unknown at present, we do know that is was such a gift, and that it was in the small museum that formerly was maintained in the old Normal school building.

In the late 1930s that building was torn down and a new building was erected, what was latter named Hartwell Hall. Not everything made the move from the old building to the new, there seems to have been a sense that it was a new era, and the museum was apparently not seen as something they wanted to continue. The details of the disposition of the museum items aren't clear, but there are a number of items in the Emily Knapp Museum in the village that came from the Normal museum, and it seems that some items were taken by faculty to their offices or homes. This temple was one such item, it was in the office of a long time faculty member who, when retiring in the early 1960s, passed it on to John Killigrew, History, who in his turn placed it in the college archives in the early 1990s.

   What a long history and set of travels this model has come on, from being made in Burma or India, bought by a Brockport grad there on missionary work, shipped back to the old Normal school, housed in the museum, moved from there to an office to another office, to come to the archives, another sort of museum!

Friday, February 28, 2014

In the archives: scanning

A lot of work goes on in the archives, and a big part of that activity involves scanning old photographs, slides, books and other materials. The images are used to answer questions individuals have asked, to document the history of a club or a professor, for all sorts of purposes. In addition to two high end flat bed scanners of the sort most people are familiar with, the archives also has a large "book scanner," seen in the foreground of this photo. This scanner has an articulated platform on which one can safely lay out a large book, in this case a bound volume of the Stylus from the early 1960s. The scanning is done by a camera in the overhead mount.We're not sure why SpongeBob SquarePants is sitting on our scanner however ;-)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The "AV" gang in the 1950s

There is a long tradition of innovation at Brockport in the realm of instructional technologies. Dr. Sherwin Swartout was a leader in this field, joining the faculty at Brockport in 1950. The audio-visual department he headed supported both still photography, slide show and other standard AV offerings, and was also a pioneer in the use of closed circuit TV in the classroom. Much of this work was done in conjunction with the teachers in the Campus School, like Peg Browne. Shown here are a group of students in the '50s, members of the audio-visual club perhaps.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The "Normalia"

This year, 2014, is the centennial year of the Stylus, which was first published in May 1914. Everyone is familiar with the Stylus of course, but it isn't the first student news publication in our history. In 1900 the first ever student news piece was launched, named the Normalia. Presumably the name reflected the fact that our school was "Normal" school then, that is a teacher training institution. The Normalia ran from 1900 - 1908, and then ceased publication. Financial issues appear to have caused its demise. A few years later the Stylus was launched, and in many ways followed the model of the Normalia. Like the Normalia, the early Stylus was a magazine in format, published four times during the school year, and featured not only news about students and the school, but regularly ran short fiction pieces, poems and other literary efforts. Pictured here is the cover of the first issue of the Normalia from 1900.

Friday, January 31, 2014

They called it a "typewriter"

Before PCs, laptops, tablets and all that, before Word or Google Docs, there was another way of creating documents, the typewriter! Typewritten documents first appear in the archival record of the college in the 1890s, but many records were still handwritten up to the WWI era. The typewriter shown here was discovered in the library store room, and is now in the archives. It is a manual typewriter, a Royal office model of mid 1960s vintage. In the 1970s manual typewriters became displaced by electrics, and they in their turn were replaced by PCs beginning in the early 1990s.

For decades though, when you needed to type up a paper, a memo, a letter or other document, this was what you used!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Our School Dog!

To start off the centennial year from the Stylus here is something from a 1914 piece by a campus school student:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dorm Room, December 1967

A large collection of negatives was recently discovered on campus, work of the campus photographer in the late '60s. One fascinating set of negatives were from a photo shoot of dorm life in December 1967. It's probably been a long time for most readers since they played a record like the girl is doing on the left!