As I reprocess our Buildings and Grounds Collection, I occasionally find mislabeled images, like a photo of Williston Hall labeled Appleton Hall. Sometimes there are items with an incorrect description, like a set of postcards in a folder titled “Photographs”.
But sometimes I find things that are just unidentifiable. This item was in a folder of photographs!
I’m not sure exactly what this object is. My first guess was a tobacco cloth of some sort, designed to be rolled up. It might have been made from poorly-tanned leather that stiffened over time.
The back side has a cord to tie it closed, but it’s not strong. The cord is thin, with a gold-colored metallic finish, similar to the elastic cord found around a gift box. This suggests that the cord was decorative.
My current guess is that this was a cover for a small booklet, like a banquet menu or an event program. The three fragments fit together somewhat like a dust jacket for a standard book. In addition, there are discoloration marks that match across all three pieces, which helped to align them.
This looks familiar…
I recognized the image as one I’d seen before, and checked the usual suspects for published building pictures: Stanley King’s Consecrated Eminence (1951), Claude M. Fuess’s Amherst: The Story of A New England College (1935), and William S. Tyler’s two editions of A History of Amherst College (1873, 1895).
I found the image in Tyler’s second edition, A history of Amherst College during the administrations of its first five presidents : from 1821 to 1891.
Looking more closely at the copied image, I noticed something (else) odd. In the published image, the panels above the three doorways are blank. But in the purple printed copy, something was written on those panels!
I read these as the numbers 10, 32, and 3. If you see something different, leave a comment! As to what they mean? Your guess is literally as good as mine. A team season record? A date with unusual formatting?
What else do we know?
- This object probably dates between 1895 and 1905.
- We know the earliest possible date because of its publication in Tyler’s history (1895).
- We know the latest likely date because in 1905, College Hall was renovated and a new front portico with columns was added. Though it’s possible that the older image was reused after 1905, I don’t think it’s very likely. The added portico, as seen in the photograph below, dramatically changed the look of the building.
Do you know what this mystery object is?
Or maybe what those numbers refer to?
Post a comment or send us a note if you know anything about this object or something like it. We’d love to know more.