The Demise of the Crocodile Club: A Town/Gown Tragedy at Yale

The following post was authored by Camila Tessler, archivist in Manuscripts and Archives. All references to archival collection material are to items from the William Henry Anderson Correspondence Regarding the Crocodile Club (MS 2018).

Image of William Henry Anderson letter to his father, 1858 January 9. (MS 2018, Box 1, folder 5).

William Henry Anderson letter to his father, 1858 January 9. (MS 2018, Box 1, folder 5).

On January 9, 1858, William Henry Anderson (Class of 1859) wrote to his father that the Crocodile Club, a Yale undergraduate group, was flourishing. In fact, he wrote, “I think I can safely say that [the Crocodile Club] is … the most popular club of all.” (MS 2018, Box 1, folder 5). A little more than a month later, on February 21, Anderson again wrote to his father, admitting that the faculty were recommending that the club disband. In a month’s time, how did Yale College’s “most popular club” fall so low as to be forced to disband by the faculty?

The Crocodile Club was a popular eating club, which provided a way for students to socialize and dine together. These eating clubs still exist at other Ivy League institutions, such as Princeton, but at Yale the only modern equivalents are the senior societies. The Crocodile Club was apparently successful, racking up bills of “nearly a thousand dollars” (Box 1, folder 4), which is the rough equivalent of $30,000 in today’s money. The club appears to have been comprised of many students who could afford to both eat out and board with the other “crocodiles.”

On the night of Feburary 9, 1858, following several nights of tension between New Haven firefighters stationed near the campus and groups of students, members of the Crocodile Club encountered a group of New Haven firemen while on their way back from dining. As an altercation between the two groups spiraled out of control, the leader among the group of firemen, a man named William Miles, was shot by one of the Yale students. (Lyman Hotchkiss Bagg, Four Years at Yale, New Haven: C.C. Chatfield & Co., 1871, pages 510-511).

Image of Letter from William Henry Anderson to his father, 9 February 1858 (MS 2018, Box 1, folder 6).

Letter from William Henry Anderson to his father, 9 February 1858 (MS 2018, Box 1, folder 6).

William Anderson was present and wrote to his father about the incident, his arrest, and the subsequent trial. He stated in a letter dated February 19, ten days after the incident, that “suspicion of course fell upon the club and perhaps justly and we were all implicated and are as much guilty as another in the eye of the law” (Box 1, folder 6). In the same letter, Anderson went on to relate to his father that “counsel advised me not to answer anything that would show I was there … and he advised all the rest to the same”. Their refusal to testify landed the boys in jail, but only nominally. Anderson claimed that he spent most of his jail time studying and did not suffer any inconvenience, though it is not altogether clear whether this is a fact, or something added to reassure a potentially concerned parent. Anderson’s letters are rife with reassurances to his parents that everything at Yale is fine, so playing down his jail time wouldn’t be completely out of character or context.

Image of excerpt from letter from William Henry Anderson to his father following his trial, 6 March 1858 (MS 2018, Box 1, folder 9).

Excerpt from letter from William Henry Anderson to his father following his trial, 6 March 1858 (MS 2018, Box 1, folder 9).

As the trial moved forward it quickly became apparent that justice favored gown over town. Even though Anderson clearly knew who shot Miles, he asserted that “I have the consciousness of knowing that I did not injure a person that night, not so much as a scratch. That consciousness, you know, will be worth worlds to me for if I knew that I had killed the man, even in self defense as what was done by whoever did it, I could hardly bear the thought” (Box 1, folder 8). Anderson continually refused to testify, as did the rest of the rest of the Crocodile Club group. Their silence bought them their legal innocence, as no one was sentenced to jail time. Anderson believed that it was “a very fair verdict” (Box 1, folder 9), since there were no legal consequences.

That lack of legal punishment did not, however, free the Crocodile Club members from consequences at Yale. In a letter to his father dated March 24, almost a full month after the end of the trial, Anderson revealed that “[the faculty] talked it over till noon and there decided to separate from the college three members of the club, Carrington, Smith, and Lorichell. This separation is about equivalent to a dismissal” (Box 1, folder 11). This dismissal was accompanied by a reference to any other college of their choice, so the dismissal, while a bold action on the part of the faculty, was one with a golden parachute.

Events where town and gown were diametrically opposed were common in the 1850s, and they are equally common today. The details of this case were so odd though, and the first-hand testimony in letters home from one of the participants so palpable, that the incident is worth exploring. Looking over historical cases such as the rise and fall of the Crocodile Club can help us to contextualize and have a clearer understanding of the relationship between Yale and New Haven over time. In this case Yale students were absolved Yale of a terrible crime through silence, and did serious damage to the town-gown relationship. We struggle with similar incidents today and can use the rise and fall of the Crocodile Club as one lens for examining accountability and justice in the ongoing, evolving relationship between the communities of Yale and New Haven.

A Tale of Two Archives: Tracing the life of Thomas Lawrason Riggs ’10

This is a guest post by Sarah L. Woodford, director of the Vincent Library at Saint Thomas More, the Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale University.

In his July 1983 article in The Catholic Historical Review Herbert Janick observes that Father Thomas Lawrason Riggs ’10, the first Catholic chaplain at Yale, was “both an intellectual respected for his secular accomplishments and a Catholic priest.” It then seems fitting that the two archives on campus that house his papers are Saint Thomas More, the Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale University and Yale’s Manuscripts and Archives in Sterling Memorial Library. Riggs bequeathed most of his personal and professional papers to the Saint Thomas More Corporation; but those papers and personal items, particularly pertaining to his bright college years, the immediate years afterwards, and his contributions to academic scholarship were donated to Manuscripts and Archives.

Photograph of T. Lawrason Riggs from Scroll and Key senior album, 1910. Call number: Yeg2 K61x 1910.

Photograph of T. Lawrason Riggs from Scroll and Key senior album, 1910. Call number: Yeg2 K61x 1910.

Born in 1888 to the Riggs banking family of Washington, D.C., Riggs was a graduating member of Yale University’s Class of 1910. While at university, Riggs studied English literature and French, Italian, Latin, and Greek. He was both a member of Scroll and Key and the Pundit Society, as well as the president of the Yale Dramatic Society (where he met his future roommate and musical theater collaborator, Cole Porter ’13). A renowned poet on campus, first as a contributor to the Yale Literary Magazine and then as the publication’s editor during his senior year, he penned the official class song for the class of 1910.

After Yale, Riggs pursued graduate work at Harvard University under the direction of Barrett Wendell. There he roomed with Dean Acheson ’15 (a future secretary of state in the administration of President Harry S. Truman) and Cole Porter (a future popular composer and entertainer), who were both pursuing law degrees. Neither Riggs nor Porter finished their Harvard degrees, instead they focused on the writing of See America First, a Broadway show financed by Riggs and pronounced a flop by New York critics in March 1916.

World War I brought Riggs back to the Yale. In the summer of 1917, months after the United States declared war on Germany, the twenty-nine-year-old joined The Yale Mobile Hospital Unit as a translator. After leaving the Yale Unit and gaining a foreign-language specialist position assigned to military intelligence in Paris, were he also acquired the rank of first lieutenant, Riggs decided to enter into the Catholic priesthood. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1922 and after a trip to Europe to consult with the Catholic chaplains at Cambridge and Oxford, took up residency at Yale.

One of the “designs” Riggs bequeathed to Saint Thomas More, the Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale University, circa 1938. The Fr. Riggs Papers, Saint Thomas More.

One of the “designs” Riggs bequeathed to Saint Thomas More, the Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale University, circa 1938. The Fr. Riggs Papers, Saint Thomas More.

Riggs spent his tenure as Catholic chaplain entertaining young Catholic creatives at his lavish home on Whitney Avenue, building what is now Saint Thomas More Chapel, and pursuing a book project about Joan of Arc. His book Saving Angel: The Truth about Joan of Arc and the Church, was published posthumously in 1944 by The Bruce Publishing Company of Milwaukee. Riggs died unexpectedly of a heart attack on April 26, 1943. He was fifty-five. In his will, drawn up in November 1938, he bequeathed all his “papers, books, correspondence, records and designs” that concern or have to do with Saint Thomas More, to the Saint Thomas More Corporation. All other papers, books, and correspondence that did not interest the Corporation, were to go to Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University.

Among the items Riggs bequeathed to Manuscripts and Archives were two Scroll and Key senior albums, from 1909 and 1910. The former from his brother, Francis, who graduated the year before him, and the latter from Riggs’s senior year. Both albums are leather-bound and contain black and white photos of the society’s senior members with their signatures underneath. Riggs’s 1910 album also contains a snapshot of the secret society’s ivy-covered tomb in the album’s last frame.

Recipes to prepare for injured soldiers, part of Riggs’s training for the Yale Mobile Hospital Unit, 1917. Thomas Lawrason Riggs Papers (MS 704), Box 1, Folder 9. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Recipes to prepare for injured soldiers, part of Riggs’s training for the Yale Mobile Hospital Unit, 1917. Thomas Lawrason Riggs Papers (MS 704), Box 1, Folder 9. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Riggs also donated a collection of his notes and papers that now make up the Riggs Papers. Items of note include his typed manuscript of Saving Angel and a notebook from 1917 that contains notes from his training for the Yale Mobile Hospital Unit. The notebook is blank in the middle and its back portion contains notes in pencil dated July 18-21. These notes instruct on how to identify contagious diseases, bandage various sprains, set broken bones, and prepare meals for the injured (poached eggs and cocoa are two items on the menu). There is also a particularly sobering section that describes the different sorts of poisonous gas a soldier could inhale, how to identify them, and which ones would prove fatal.

As Saint Thomas More, the Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale University celebrates eighty years in October 2018, the community once more considers its beginnings and the priest at the center of those beginnings. Riggs was a chaplain and a Yale man—how appropriate that like his life, the archives that continue to keep his memory reflect this as well.

An 1802 Petition on Dining at Yale College

Petition regarding Commons, page 1, circa 1800-1801, Bates Family Papers (MS 65), Box 1, folder 5

Petition regarding Commons, page 1, circa 1800-1801, Bates Family Papers (MS 65), Box 1, folder 5

In a December 1995 “Old Yale” column from the Yale Alumni Magazine, Chief Research Archivist Judy Schiff traces the history of dissatisfaction with dining facilities, service, and fare all the way back to the opening of the first Yale College building in New Haven in 1718. Sometime in 1800-1801, more than two and a half decades before the infamous Bread and Butter Rebellion of 1828, four members of the Class of 1802 sent a petition to Yale President Timothy Dwight protesting against the immoral and wicked behavior of the kitchen staff. The petition survives in Box 1, folder 5 of the Bates Family Papers (MS 65) in Manuscripts and Archives. Herewith the text of the petition:

To the President of Yale College.


Sensible of the important purposes for which the Commons was originally designed, and convinced of the salutary consequences of which they might still be productive, we cannot but regret the unfortunate perversion of so valuable an institution.

With these impressions, and with the presumption that the President is ignorant of the conduct of those employed in the Hall, we beg leave respectfully to remonstrate, and submit to his consideration the following facts.

  • 1st. We have satisfactory proof that they have unwarrantably converted to their own use sundry articles belonging to the kitchen.
  • 2d .They have served up a part of our provision, in a more palatable manner, which, for a pecuniary reward, they have appropriated to the use of individuals.
  • 3d. They have continually harboured the low, riotous, and immoral inhabitants of this town.
  • 4th. They are destitute of cleanliness.
  • 5th. By deserting the hall, for the purpose of prosecuting their own private, they have shamefully neglected the duties of their occupation.
  • 6th. They have in the presence of the more young and inexperienced students, traduced the character of the Authority.
  • 7th. They admit into the hall, to the exclusion of others, those who will furnish them with spiritous liquors.
  • 8th. They have appropriated to their own use much more than an equitable portion of the better provisions provided by the steward.
  • 9th. They are notorious for excessive drinking.
  • 10th. They are openly profane.
  • 11th. They constantly violate the sabbath, by admitting into their company disreputable persons, and by diverting themselves with ludicrous and improper amusements.

It is therefore the unanimous request of the Junior Class that for these and many other improprieties, the President would take into consideration the conduct of the Cooks and make such regulations as he shall think proper.

Isaac C. Bates, Wm. F. Brainard, Jeremiah Evarts, Junius Smith, Committee in behalf of the Class

Petition regarding Commons, page 2, circa 1800-1801, Bates Family Papers (MS 65), Box 1, folder 5

Petition regarding Commons, page 2, circa 1800-1801, Bates Family Papers (MS 65), Box 1, folder 5

The “Commons” in question in the petition was the first separately standing Commons building on Yale’s Old Campus. It was built in 1782 as a dining hall, or Commons, and designed by Jeremiah Atwater. It’s location was behind South Middle College (today’s Connecticut Hall) and behind the Chapel Street location where Street Hall was eventually constructed in 1864, approximately in the present location of the southern end of McClellan Hall. It served as the dining commons for Yale College students until 1820, when a larger Commons building was constructed nearby. From 1820-1888 the building was used as a chemical laboratory and known as the Old Laboratory, and from 1885-1887 also served as the first home for the Yale Cooperative Society (which after 1893 became the Yale Cooperative Corporation). The building was demolished in 1888, contemporaneously with the construction of the new Kent Chemical Laboratory building across High St. from the Old Library (now Dwight Hall) at the corner of Library St. (on a site now occupied by Jonathan Edwards College).

And what of the four members of the Class of 1802 selected by their classmates to petition the Yale College president seeking some kind of redress for the perceived abuses of the Commons staff?

  • Isaac Chapman Bates (January 23, 1779-March 16, 1845) practiced law in Northampton, Massachusetts, and later served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1827-1835) and the U.S. Senate (1841-1845) representing Massachusetts.
  • William F. Brainard practiced law in his hometown of New London, Connecticut.
  • Jeremiah F. Evarts (February 3, 1781-May 10, 1831) also was a lawyer, served for many years as treasurer then secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. He was one of the leading opponents of Indian removal, and engaged in lobbying efforts attempting unsuccessfully to defeat the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
  • Junius Smith (1780-1853) also practiced law, and later in his life was a determined supporter of efforts to build a fleet of transatlantic steam ships.




Winners of the 2017 Manuscripts and Archives Diane Kaplan Memorial Senior Essay Prizes

Poster for 2017 senior essay contest

Poster for 2017 senior essay contest

Manuscripts and Archives is pleased to announce the winners of the two 2017 Manuscripts and Archives Diane Kaplan Memorial Senior Essay Prizes. The winners each will receive a certificate and a check for $500.00 at their residential college ceremonies on Commencement Day, Monday, May 22, 2017. Prize-winning essays are also published in EliScholar, the Yale University Library’s digital platform for scholarly publishing. Additional information about the prizes is available on our MSSA Prizes website.

Title page of Sarah Pajka's senior essay, "Doctors, Death, and Denial," 3 April 2017

Title page of Sarah Pajka’s senior essay, “Doctors, Death, and Denial,” 3 April 2017

The prize for an outstanding senior essay on a topic relating to Yale is presented to Sarah E. Pajka (Morse College) for her essay Doctors, Death, and Denial: The Origins of Hospice Care in 20th Century America. Her senior essay project was advised by Professor Naomi Rogers of the Program in the History of Science and Medicine. Sarah’s essay explores the emergence of the need for hospice care in the United States in the rise of institutionalized medicine and the conundrum presented by “the patient who could not be healed.” Sarah used the Florence and Henry Wald Papers (MS 1659) in Manuscripts and Archives, among other sources, to explore the pivotal role of Yale School of Nursing Dean Florence Wald in the development of Connecticut Hospice, which was the first modern hospice facility in America when it opened in 1980.

Title page of Sarah Kim's senior essay, "Of a Healthy Constitution," 3 April 2017

Title page of Sarah Kim’s senior essay, “Of a Healthy Constitution,” 3 April 2017

The prize for an outstanding senior essay based significantly on research done in Manuscripts and Archives is presented to Sarah D. Kim (Jonathan Edwards College) for her essay Of a Healthy Constitution: Socialized Medicine Between the Triumphs of Social Security and Medicare. Her senior essay adviser was Profession Jennifer Klein of the Department of History. Sarah used, among other sources, the Isidore Sydney Falk Papers (MS 1039) in Manuscripts and Archives to explore the debates in the United States over the controversial issue of national health insurance between the late 1930s and the early 1960s. She uses Falk’s activism on national health care as a lens through which to explore the impact of Cold War politics on the debate.

Congratulations to both Sarahs for their outstanding senior essay accomplishments! Thanks as well to the 15 other members of the Yale College Class of 2017 who submitted senior essays for consideration in this competition. The 2017 MSSA senior essay judging panel consisted of 11 Yale alumni and Yale University Library staff members.

Yale History Department’s Report on the Library in 1969

I’m somewhat of an interloper on this blog. I often work with special collections material from MSSA, but I am based in the Humanities Collections and Research Education (HCRE) department in Sterling Memorial Library. While going through an old filing cabinet in my office space, I came across an excellent find that will soon be available in MSSA – the “Report of the Library Committee of the Department of History” dated April 16, 1969.

1969 History ReportThe 86-page report was a massive effort by Yale’s history department to offer constructive criticism to the library and to suggest ways that collections and policies could be improved. The history department created a committee of 23 faculty members (nearly one-quarter of the department in 1968-1969) that was further divided into eight sub-committees by area of study: Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern, Modern European and Russian, British, United States, Latin America, Asian, and African history. The committee consisted of both senior scholars and young historians and included many familiar names like Michael F. Holt, Daniel Walker Howe, Edmund S. Morgan, Howard R. Lamar, and Robin Winks, among others. The lone woman on the committee was the Mary C. Wright, the celebrated historian of China who was the first woman to gain tenure in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

List of 23 members of the Yale history department's library committee of 1968-1969.

List of 23 members of the Yale history department’s library committee of 1968-1969.

The Eastern and Central European historian Piotr S. Wandycz, the chairman of the committee, wrote the introduction, where he stated the committee had surveyed the holdings of the library and that they were “[d]eeply concerned about the problems of the Library,” which appeared to be in decline because of budgetary issues (p. 1). In light of this, the committee called for closer cooperation between the library staff and the history faculty, since the library was an essential partner in helping the history department retain its top-tier status.  Wandycz noted that, “historians are the prime producers and users of the contents of libraries,” and deserved greater attention from librarians as a result. (p. 2)

The committee made ambitious demands. The United States, Modern European and Russian, and Latin American sub-committees called for a doubling of collections budgets, exclusive of labor costs. Some sub-committees had specific numbers in mind. For example, the African committee called for $50,000 to backfill gaps in collecting (the African collections budget had been $15,000/year since 1963) and a $5,000 annual increase in the African book fund (pp. 84, 86). The Asian sub-committee called for nothing less than a $100,000 acquisitions budget for their area along with a demand “to stop the purchase of trivia, memorabilia, de luxe edition, and pretty books.”  (pp. 78-79, quote on 79).

While the Asian sub-committee worried about poorly made decisions by the library’s acquisition staff, some sub-committees were more concerned with lacunae. Ramsay MacMullen, chair of the Ancient history sub-committee, noted that at least one-quarter of the books published in Roman history since 1950 could not be found in the stacks (pp. 10-11). The report also noted gaps in the microfilm holdings of American, British, and Continental newspapers that were especially galling.

Partial List of Broken Sets of Periodicals for Medieval East Central Europe, 1969.

Partial List of Broken Sets of Periodicals for Medieval East Central Europe, 1969.

But the historians thought books were the most important materials for the library.  They wanted the library to purchase all publications from American and British university presses while paying greater attention to university presses around the world. That being said, the committee decried the gaps in serials and demanded retroactive buying. The library was also called upon to collect the papers of all major national and federal governments in the world. The committee insisted upon a slow down of deaccessioning and and the need to accept all gifts – claiming that space issues and their costs should not trump the value of the collections. In addition, the historians expected cataloging and cross-referencing had to be improved, the essential core of material for every history field had to be purchased regardless of current faculty interest, and better listings of special collections had to be created.

The demands were immense, and while I can’t say what came of this report at the moment, one has to assume it was an impossible agenda to carry forward in full. Things have certainly improved since 1969 – for example, the library can gain electronic access to just about any academic journal in the world if it is willing to pay. Also, Yale has massive collections of newspapers on microfilm and in electronic form, especially improving the gaps in Midwestern newspapers the United States sub-committee mentioned. Filling in the periodical and newspaper gaps has become easier. The easily accessible online used book market makes retroactive book purchases easier, although not perfect.

Advertisement from 1970.  Microfilm sets were the databases of their day.  Translated into 2013 dollars, this set had a real price cost of $294,000 (from

Advertisement from 1970. Microfilm sets were the databases of their day. Translated into 2013 dollars, this set had a real price cost of $294,000 (

But some of the problems still remain. The cost of library materials keeps growing, as does their diversity. Today the library has to manage the cost of e-books and print books. In many cases, the print version comes out first and the electronic version appears months later. If an institution goes e-preferred, how does it manage that lag time? At Yale, and no doubt elsewhere, use of e-book packages far outstrips the circulation of print materials.  The yearly content updates for Project MUSE’s UPCC and Oxford’s UPSO add new strains to budgets that were not contemplated even five years ago, but it’s clear from usage data that we must continue to support those purchases. We’re currently between two worlds and being forced to duplicate purchasing and it will be increasingly difficult to sustain.

Collection budgets in the humanities are also feeling pressure from the increased subscription costs of science and medical material. How can the library sustain the ever-rising increases of scientific publishers and keep up with the materials in the humanities? The numbers are startling. According to Robert Darnton, the average subscription to a chemistry journal is now over $4,000. It was $33 in 1970. In 2012, the Journal of Comparative Neurology cost $30,860 (click here for citation). But even humanities journals can be crushingly expensive.  Some electronic subscriptions to history journals can reach into the four-digit realm.

Beyond those budgetary pressures, the library has to deal with the purchase of humanities databases from the big six (ProQuest, Readex/Newsbank, Gale Cengage, Alexander Street Press, Adam Matthew, EBSCO). These databases are often extraordinarily powerful, yet costly – and in most cases carry yearly maintenance fees that can be high. Licensing agreements, along with their associated costs, also have to be managed. To say nothing of the cost of the purchase and preservation of the raw data from databases required by those in the digital humanities (some publishers/companies provide their raw data for free, while others have associated fees).

And more and more databases keep being produced. Dozens of small and medium sized collections and archives are now scanned in full and offered for sale each year. For example, Gale Cengage offers digitized archival collections in their database Archives Unbound and they could conceivably keep doing this perpetually. ProQuest has History Vault. Adam Matthew has entirely digitized the Gilder Lehrman Collection, an important collection of Americana on deposit at the New-York Historical Society. When do we say enough is enough? Should we be spending less on databases and more of our funding on rare and special collections materials that differentiate our collections from other institutions?

Yale’s history department currently does not have a library committee. It’s fair to say that a new document like the 1969 “Report of the Library Committee of the Department of History” would be immensely helpful to not just history, but the humanities as a whole at Yale. I know I would read a 2015 report avidly.

David J. Gary
Kaplanoff Librarian for American History

‘Bulldog and Panther’ Exhibit Opens

Bulldog and Panther: The 1970 May Day Rally and Yale – Memorabilia Room, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University

Bulldog and Panther exhibit poster1969 and 1970 were politically tumultuous years in the United States and indeed around the world. Unrest in U.S. urban areas and on college and university campuses focused on racial and gender inequalities, the ongoing U.S. war in Vietnam, and demands by students for more responsive and inclusive campus decision making. On 19 May 1969 Black Panther Party (BPP) member Alex Rackley was kidnapped and killed in New Haven by other BPP members who believed he was an FBI informant. In a time of intense FBI counter-intelligence focus on neutralizing the BPP’s influence in U.S. cities, the broad swath of indictments for the murder seemed an overreach to many. The defendants were referred to as the New Haven Nine, an allusion to the famous Chicago Seven, and included Bobby Seale, national BPP Chairman, who had spoken at Yale the day of the murder. Seale was extradited to Connecticut on the approval of California Governor Ronald Reagan, and the trial was set to begin in May 1970. A large protest rally was organized for the New Haven Green, scheduled for 1-3 May 1970. This exhibit explores the events leading up to the New Haven May Day rally, and its impact on Yale, the New Haven community, and beyond.

The exhibit is curated by Sarah Schmidt, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and Bill Landis, Manuscripts and Archives. It is free and open to the public Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM-4:45 PM, through May 16, 2014.

For additional resources on the exhibit see the New Haven Register article on a discussion panel, part of a collaborative series of events inspired by the exhibit hosted by the Yale University Library and Pierson College. The panel, held on February 26th, was moderated by Yale history professor Beverly Gage and featured Kathleen Cleaver, Ann Froines, and John R. Williams. Yale TV also did a feature on the exhibit, with interesting interview segments with Henry “Sam” Chauncey, Jr.

John Russell Pope and the Unrealized Yale Campus Plan

John Russell Pope. Illustrations by O.R. Eggers. Yale University: A Plan for Its Future Building. New York: Cheltenham Press, 1919. “A general view of the University as proposed.”

Nearing the end of the second decade of the twentieth century, as the new Memorial Quadrangle dormitory buildings were approaching completion, the President and Corporation of Yale University hired the architect John Russell Pope to devise a plan for the expansion of the university. Pope’s plan aimed “to call attention to the immediate necessity of creating and safeguarding a good, orderly, practical arrangement of architectural harmony and beauty in the existing and future structures of Yale University and to present a plan whereby this result may be attained.” The resulting publication, Yale University: A Plan for Its Future Building, with illustrations by O.R. Eggers, was printed by the Cheltenham Press of New York City in 1919 in an edition of 250 copies. This large and beautifully illustrated book envisions a Yale campus rapidly expanding to meet the needs of a twentieth-century university.

It is fascinating to contemplate some of the changes that Pope suggested, but that were never in fact implemented. Elements of Pope’s plan can be seen in today’s Yale campus, but the plan was significantly revised during the building boom of the 1920s and 1930s, overseen primarily by architect and Yale alumnus James Gamble Rogers (B.A. 1889).

John Russell Pope. Illustrations by O.R. Eggers. Yale University: A Plan for Its Future Building. New York: Cheltenham Press, 1919. “The Square as seen from the New Campus at College Street corner, looking towards the new Wall Street gateway to Church Street.”

Pope conceptualized a focal dividing point between the city of New Haven and the university, instantiated in an arched entryway at the intersection of Wall and Temple Streets with wings of the surrounding building stretching towards Church Street. Behind the arched entryway, Pope’s plan included a group of Gothic buildings surrounding a central Square, off of which emanated the two principle spokes of Wall Street and Hillhouse Avenue, along which his New Campus buildings would be constructed in a harmonizing unification of many existing campus structures.

John Russell Pope. Illustrations by O.R. Eggers. Yale University: A Plan for Its Future Building. New York: Cheltenham Press, 1919. “A general view of the proposed treatment of Hillhouse Avenue and Hillhouse group area.”

Pope’s plan preserved the science focus of the buildings along lower Hillhouse Avenue that had accompanied the development of the Sheffield Scientific School over the latter half of the nineteenth century, and expanded them northward culminating in a new observatory tower at the end of the axis. It also envisioned extending Hillhouse Avenue so that it intersected with the new Square centered around Wall Street.

Pope called for a New Campus, stretching from York Street towards the new Square along his Wall Street axis, uniting Yale’s existing Old Campus and the newly constructed Memorial Quadrangle with his overall plan. His plan indicates a new Library building between Wall and Grove Streets and occupying most of the area between the 1901 Bicentennial Buildings (Woolsey Hall, Memorial Hall, and Commons) and York Street, covering space now occupied by the Beinecke Library and the Sterling Law Buildings. Pope’s envisioned library was a towering Perpendicular Gothic cathedral, more awe-inspiring and perhaps less functional than the Collegiate Gothic Sterling Memorial Library structure that James Gamble Rogers eventually built slightly farther south. The tower of Pope’s library, facilitated by the removal of Durfee Hall, was conceived as a focal point connecting Yale’s Old Campus to Pope’s vision for a twentieth-century Yale University.

John Russell Pope. Illustrations by O.R. Eggers. Yale University: A Plan for Its Future Building. New York: Cheltenham Press, 1919. “Looking from the main vestibule into the Reading Room of the Library.”

John Russell Pope. Illustrations by O.R. Eggers. Yale University: A Plan for Its Future Building. New York: Cheltenham Press, 1919. “A view from the Old Campus looking towards the Library–the removal of Durfee Hallopens an avenue connecting the Old Campus with the new and creates a fine vista terminating at the Library tower.”

Yale History Exhibit Opens

Celebrating Yale History in Manuscripts and Archives

Now through October 11, 2013 in the Memorabilia Room, Sterling Memorial Library.

The Manuscripts and Archives Department in the Yale University Library is a treasure trove of resources documenting the history of Yale, from the 1701 minutes of a meeting of seven of the ten founding ministers of the Collegiate School that was renamed Yale College in 1718, to images, email files, and other born-digital material created within the past year by the University’s offices and groups. This exhibit showcases items from the University Archives, Yale publications, and manuscript collections, organized around the themes of Student Life, Places and Programs, Yale and the World, Yale People, and Yale Events. This represents just a drop in the bucket of collection materials in Manuscripts and Archives and throughout the libraries that provide primary sources for exploring the people, places, and events that have contributed to over 300 years of Yale University history.

The exhibit is curated by Manuscripts and Archives staff members. For more information contact or (203) 432-1744. The exhibit is free and open to the public Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM-4:45 PM. Click here for more information about exhibits and events at the Yale University Library.


Carter Harrison and Yale’s Campus (the Old Brick Row) in 1843

The letters of Carter Henry Harrison (Class of 1845) of Lexington, Kentucky, written to his mother, Caroline E. Harrison, while he was a student at Yale College, provide a fascinating glimpse into student life at Yale in the middle of the 19th century. Carter’s letters, a small part of the Yale Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection (MS 1258, Box 9, Folder 343), comprise eight letters written between 1842 and 1845.

The letter dated 15 January 1843 is especially poignant because it reports the death in the college the previous week of an unnamed student who was Carter’s “only intimate acquaintance at this place … one of the most amiable boys [he] ever saw.” The student had “been sick eleven days (that is in bed) with the billious fever.” He discusses his own feelings about this sudden death of a fellow student, and reports that the boy’s father had not yet even arrived at Yale following notification of his son’s illness. Carter’s sentiments and his reassurances to his mother about his own well being are reminders of the profound physical and emotional distances from home experienced by many Yale College students in past centuries.

Carter also discusses at length the preaching and religious considerations that were a part of the Yale College curriculum at the time, reflecting a very different educational and social environment than that encountered by Yale students from the latter 19th century to the present. The first page of the letter contains a contemporary woodcut of the Yale campus, the Old Brick Row, to which Carter has added a legend identifying the buildings. He closes his letter with information to his mother about how some of these buildings function in his daily routine as a student. While his labels under the buildings in the woodcut are correct, he has gotten north and south reversed in his listing of the buildings in the legend. A typed transcription of the letter is available.

Earth Day and May Day Cross-fertilization at Yale, 1970

In the heady days of the spring of 1970, Senator Edward M. Kennedy came to Yale on Earth Day (April 22, 1970) to speak, on the occasion of the nation’s first Earth Day, at a Yale Political Union luncheon in Commons. In the afternoon after Kennedy’s speech, a teach-in on “The Politics of Pollution” was scheduled in the Yale Law School auditorium.

Earth Day in 1970 coincided with the pre-trial proceedings for the “New Haven Nine” trials and increasing tensions in New Haven and on the Yale campus over the heavy-handed response of the Nixon administration and the FBI’s secret Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) to the 1969 kidnapping, torture, and murder by members of the Black Panther Party of Alex Rackley, a New Haven Black Panther member who was suspected of being an FBI informant. These events ultimately led to the May Day strike/rally on May 1-3, 1970, and the temporary suspension of academic activities at Yale.

Student protests over the Black Panther trials spilled over into the Earth Day events when Ralph Dawson, Class of 1971 and moderator of the Black Students Alliance at Yale (BSAY), and Kurt Schmoke, Secretary of the Class of 1971, interrupted the Yale Political Union luncheon to appeal for support for the jailed New Haven Black Panthers. That cross-fertilization of activism was captured in this image from the May 1970 issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine, and can also found in the collections of Manuscripts and Archives.