Student Life at Harvard 1870-1914
The following article is adapted from Samuel Eliot Morrison’s 1936 work: Three Centuries of Harvard: 1636-1936. Although the period Morrison discusses here, 1870-1914, overlaps FDR’s time at the College by a considerable degree, the social and societal trends he describes very much shaped the world FDR knew at the College, and is an invaluable guide to understanding Harvard as the 32nd President knew it.
[Editor’s note: Morrison’s frank discussions of race, ethnicity and religion may strike many of today’s readers as insensitive or impolitic. However, it should be kept in mind that Morrison was attempting to address a much noted imbalance in the Harvard educational experience of the time: the extreme division between students of different races, creeds and backgrounds. Earlier in the early 19th century, the structure of Harvard undergraduate life had been such that almost the entire student body had, by necessity, lived together in the Yard and learned from one another. In contrast, by FDR’s time, lessened undergraduate requirements – as well as the University’s failure to build housing adequate to shelter more than a fraction of the student body – had resulted in the creation rich enclaves, like the final clubs and FDR’s Westmorly Hall, where wealthy students passed their years in splendid isolation from their poorer classmates. Typical of his time, Morrison ascribed part of this disunity to the increased diversity of the student body, and notes (in 1936) that the "noble experiment" of the Harvard Houses had yet to entirely erase the problem of self-segregation. Of course, today’s Harvard, and to a large part society as a whole, realizes that true unity arises not from mere proximity, but from cross-cultural understanding and acceptance. This wasn’t the case in FDR’s time, however, and to say otherwise would be both to gloss history, and to diminish the tremendous personal achievement that allowed Roosevelt to transcend his sheltered, privileged upbringing to become a president for all people. MDW]
[Then] came a strong disintegrating force [to the traditional student experience at Harvard] — the increase in numbers and in social diversity. The class of 1877 was the first to enter over two hundred strong. Fifteen years later entered a class with over three hundred students, that of ’92 (including William T. Brewster, Governor Forbes, Senator Hollis, Thomas W. Lamont, Robert Morss Lovett, William MacDonald, Bishop Perry, and Jeremiah Smith, Jr.). Four years more and we had a freshman class of over four hundred — that of ’96, with Governor Bass, Walter B. Cannon, Sidney B. Fay, Jerome D. Greene, Gilbert N. Lewis, Roger B. Merriman, John Lord O’Brian, J. S. P. Tatlock, and Bruce Wyman. Another four years, and the five-hundred mark was passed by President Roosevelt’s Class of 1904, and the Class of 1906 was over six hundred strong. From that point until a few years before the World War numbers remained stable.
This almost astronomical progression would not have been so damaging to class unity but for two disruptive factors — the elective system and Boston society. So long as Harvard classes studied mainly the same subjects, and recited to the same professors, they were forced to be together several hours in the day, and learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses very quickly. But with everyone pursuing an individual tailor-made curriculum, and being passively lectured to rather than actively reciting, studies ceased to be a social bond.
Social Divisions and The Rise of the Gold Coast
The other disintegrating force was social. Harvard has never been socially homogeneous since President Dunster’s day, nor sectionally so since President Willard’s; but the constant of middle-class New England students has always been able to assimilate most of the others, leaving a little aristocracy apart. The new ‘variables’ were both sectional and social. Southerners avoided Harvard after the Civil War because it admitted negroes on the same terms as whites, allowing them to eat at Memorial Hall, room in college dormitories, and participate in debating and athletic contests. The principal accessions of students from outside New England were from the Middle States, the Pacific Coast, and (a poor third) the Middle West, which much preferred Yale. As early as 1864 and 1865 there were enough Harvard graduates in Philadelphia and New York to form Harvard Clubs in those cities. By 1870 there was a similar nucleus in Chicago, by 1880 in Minneapolis; and in 1892 there were counted over 650 Harvard graduates in the West. These loyal Harvardians in partibus naturally made it a point to recruit promising lads for Alma Mater. If such boys were sent to a school that especially prepared for Harvard, they entered College with friends and immediately "belonged"; but the sole graduate of a mid-western high school was apt to pass a lonely freshman year in the Eliot era, unless he became prominent in athletics, or promptly "made" a college journal. In an even less favorable situation were representatives of the new racial stocks in New England. It was long before the Irish Catholics came to Harvard in considerable numbers, as their hierarchy directed them to the excellent Jesuit colleges; but by 1893 there were enough of them to form the St. Paul’s Catholic Club, which in 1912 acquired Newman House for a gathering place. Students of Scandinavian descent formed an Edda Club around 1910. The first German Jews who came were easily absorbed into the social pattern; but at the turn of the century the bright Russian and Polish Jewish lads from the Boston public schools began to arrive. There were enough of them in 1906 to form the Menorah Society, and in another fifteen years Harvard had her "Jewish problem."
Each class held an annual dinner in the spring, usually in a posh Boston hotel like the Somerset or the Vendome, and announced by elaborate, custom-drawn invitations like the one above. The faces on this invitation, you may notice, are all male, and all white, representative of Harvard at the time; several of the invitations from FDR’s years feature racial caricatures long since considered inappropriate.
In the face of this infiltration, the old spirit of class solidarity stood up remarkably well — far better, for instance, than in most of the great state universities. Most classes of the nineteenth century, at least after they graduated, became mutual benevolent societies, of which no member need suffer as long as any were well off, and knew of his need. But the possibility of being one’s brother’s keeper declined when the family numbered over nine hundred. Class spirit took care of itself until around 1890; after that there began a conscious cultivation of it by athletic contests, beer nights, smokers, and other get-togethers, in order that pure and perfect democracy might be promoted’ as ‘At Good Old Siwash’; but these efforts bore little fruit until the class graduated, when classmates at last met one another on common ground, and vied with other classes in generosity to the University. Major Higginson in 1901 founded the Harvard Union, which he hoped would prove a house of fellowship and bring democracy to Harvard. The Union is a noble building. It provided club facilities (excepting a bar) for the un-clubbed, a place for hearing visiting speakers and for holding football rallies and junior class dances (started in 1904, and studiously not called ‘proms’); but it did not notably make for democracy, and after 1908 the membership declined to less than two thousand.
It is easy to be wise after the event. Before the total enrolment in the College had reached a thousand, new residential colleges, co-ordinate with Harvard College, should have been established; and doubtless in fifty years they would have been as desirable as the old. Certain farsighted persons recommended this as early as 1871, and in 1894-95 plans for an ‘Oxford system’ were publicly discussed. But President Eliot did not listen. He was too busy increasing the intellectual opportunities at Harvard to care much for the social life. He shared the expansionist philosophy of the era. Why should not Harvard College expand indefinitely like the United States?And as the faculties and Governing Boards shared his point of view, their attitude toward the increasing social problem within the College was one of unsalutary neglect. The ‘collegiate way of living,’ for which our forefathers made such sacrifices, vanished.
The Corporation even left the housing of the new increment to private capital. Beck Hall, built in 1876, was first in a long series of ‘private dormitories’ with single and double suites of bedroom, study, and bath. King’s ‘Guide to Cambridge’ grows lyrical over the high ceilings, ash trim, handsome chandeliers, steam-heating apparatus, and marble mantels of Beck, whose janitor, the admirable Eckert (with whom, as perfect of their kind, only ‘Jimmy Claverly’ and John Donovan may be compared), catered to the sons of millionaires. Beck was so promptly filled with gilded youth that another building of the same sort, Felton Hall, was cannily placed in 1877 just outside the quarter-mile ‘prayer-limit,’ so that its deni/cns need not attend chapel; but Claverly Hall, built in 1893, began the trend to Mt. Auburn Street. Dunster (now Dudley Hall), Russell, Fairfax, Apley, Dana Chambers, Randolph, and Westmorlv were built along or near that ‘Gold Coast’ by 1900. Sundry run-down dwellings . and three-deckers in the neighborhood were remodeled and let out at land-office prices; Soldiers Field naturally helped this Drangnach Suden, and when the Institute of 1770 transferred the opening stages of its initiation to Claverly, Mt. Auburn Street very definitely became the centre of college life. Claverly in fact was so popular that freshmen had to be elected as candidates for rooms. The Corporation did nothing to meet this competition in the way of providing modern conveniences in the Yard (as late as 1908 some of the halls there had no central heating, and no plumbing above the basement), and the only residential halls that the College erected — the highly unattractive Conant, Perkins, and Walter Hastings were so far from the new centre that only freshmen law, and graduate students would live in them.
This cleavage between ‘Yard’ and ‘Gold Coast’ was the more unfortunate because it was financial as well as social: the rooms in the private dormitories were more comfortable and expensive than those provided by the College, and some of the buildings had swimming pools and squash courts. At the same time three other axes were hewing on the same line —Boston society, the private schools, and the club system.
Harvard may well say of Boston, non possum vivere sine te nec cum te. Boston gave the first funds for expansion from College to University; Boston has always provided students and faculty with society, music, drama, drink, and excitement. But Boston has been a social leech of Harvard College. Formerly, the College was permitted to live her own life; but in the eighties, when the supply of eligible young men in Boston was decreased by the westward movement, the Boston mammas suddenly became aware that Harvard contained many appetizing young gentlemen from New York, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. One met them in the summer at Newport or Beverly or Bar Harbor; naturally one invited them to Mr. Papanti’s or Mr. Foster’s ‘Friday evenings’ when they entered College, to the ‘Saturday evening sociables’ sophomore year, and to coming-out balls thereafter. What was more natural than to ask your brother’s college friends to your coming-out dance?
A bit of polo, perhaps? A small Saturday afternoon get together, for those in the know. The Country Club, incidentally, is THE country club, the nation’s very first, located in Brookline, Massachusetts. Harvard University Archives Collection
This was very nice for the right young men, and pleasant for the girls; but it cut a deep chasm in the College. Santayana, who saw everything, signaled it in 1892:
‘Divisions of wealth and breeding are not made conspicuous at Yale as at Harvard by the neighborhood of a city with well-marked social sets, the most fashionable of which sends all its boys to the College. These boys … form the most conspicuous masculine contingent of Boston Society, and the necessity falls upon them of determining which of their college friends are socially presentable.’
Obviously, you could not room with a man in College, or be very intimate with him, unless you could invite him home; consequently you were careful not to be too intimate with those you could not well ask to meet your sister, and naturally you got your friends into your club in preference to others. Presently the hostesses of Winchester, the Newtons, and the South Shore were reaching out to Harvard for dancing partners of their own kind; and as modern transportation lessened the time between Cambridge and the surrounding towns (Harvard Bridge built, 1893; subway opened, 1912)… the social sets of metropolitan Boston became increasingly the dictators of social sets in Cambridge…This has baulked all attempts to make Harvard a social democracy… in vain are freshmen tossed onto the same heap; freshman fellowship, brisk enough in the opening days of College and the first elections of committees, blows away in a whiff of invitations to dances and week-end house parties.’
The social cleaver widened the chasm that a mistaken laissez-faire created between Yard and Gold Coast; and not even the Houses or the depression have bridged that gap.
The Prep Schools
Closely integrated with the Harvard clubs and Boston society were the preparatory schools. It has always been an advantage in every college to enter with a crowd of schoolmates. From Ezekiel Cheever’s day to about 1870 the Boston Latin School graduates had a privileged position in the freshman classes at Harvard, shared by Phillips Exeter and the Boston private schools. During the period 1870-90 the proportion of freshmen entering from public high schools fell off from 38 to 23 per cent, and the graduates of Exeter and Adams Academy, Quincy, became dominant socially. About 1890 the Episcopal Church schools, together with Milton Academy and one or two Boston private schools, secured the social leadership. With the addition of graduates of the various country day schools from Newton to Winnetka, of the newer boarding schools such as Brooks and Middlesex, and an improved social rating of Exeter, Andover, and the Roxbury Latin, this situation has continued to the present day. Since 1890 it has been almost necessary for a Harvard student with social ambition to enter from the ‘right’ sort of school and be popular there, to room on the ‘Gold Coast’ and be accepted by Boston society his freshman year, in order to be on the right side of the social chasm. Family and race did not matter: an Irish-American, Jew, Italian, or Cuban was not regarded as such if he went to the right school and adopted the mores of his fellows; conversely, a lad of Mayflower and Porcellian ancestry who entered from a high school was as much ‘out of it‘ as a ghetto Jew. Nor did wealth matter: men who worked their way through College were respected, and eligible; but too much spending damned a freshman—a now prominent multimillionaire who came to Cambridge with a retinue of cars and servants, and hired a whole apartment, had no notice taken of him, and soon departed.
These factors of school, site, and the Boston hallmark determined the socially eligible class, which was always from 25 to 50 per cent greater than the number of places in the clubs. Consequently ambitious freshmen had to watch their steps very carefully. No ‘Harvard individualism’ for them! You must say, do, wear, the ‘right thing,’ avoid the company of all ineligibles, and, above all, eschew originality. Athletic success, except possibly a place on the freshman crew, was not much help. Intellect was no handicap, provided it was tactfully concealed, and all the social taboos observed. Once having ‘made’ a club, you could reassert your individuality; often by that time you had none.
The Final Clubs
Except for two rowdy societies, the Polo and Fencing, which flourished for about thirty years, there have been no social clubs for freshmen at Harvard. The basic society from which the smaller clubs have chosen their members during the last seventy years has been the Institute of 1770. In 1875 the Institute ceased to make any pretense of cultivating literature, and became merely the first social sifting of the sophomores. From the Class of 1877 it elected sixty-three members, or about 30 per cent; for the Class of 1888 the number elected was raised to one hundred, which was 40 per cent of that class; but as enrolment grew in the College the hundred-member limit declined to less than 20 per cent of the total class by 1906. When the Institute and Pudding combined in 1926, the joint membership was increased to 150 from each class, which maintains a ratio of 15 to 18 per cent of the whole; but this complement of 150 is not reached until the middle of senior year. In May, 1936, the Institute-Pudding included 418 members, about 16 per cent of the three upper classes.
Elections were then organized in ‘fifteens,’ but from around 1880 to World War I, in ‘tens.’ The whole membership from each class, either at the end of its sophomore or the beginning of its junior year, chose the first ‘ten’ from the next class; this ‘first ten’ chose the second, these two the third, and so on until the limit had been reached. Until 1904 the names were printed in the college and Boston papers in the exact order of their election, and the whole list served as an index of social rating, somewhat like the colonial order of seniority in the era 1730-7; On the night when the initiation began, the Institute used to march around singing its lilting song — said to have been of Hawaiian origin, imported by one of our Island Withingtons around 1871 —pulling the neophytes out of their rooms with savage roars, and dragging them about in the procession.
The first seven or eight tens of the Institute belonged automatically to the D.K.E., ‘Dickey’ or ‘Decks’ (the ‘secret society’ of Santayana’s novel ‘to which everybody of consequence belonged’). ‘Running for the Dickey,’ the public part of the initiations, was taken over from the Pudding around 1880. For six days the neophyte had to attend all his classes, yet keep on the run and be absolute slave to his tormentors, who invented all sorts of public stunts humiliating to his self-esteem latterly these have been commuted by burlesque performances in the Yard, or divertissements between the halves at football games. The private part, which has always been kept secret, included sundry terrifying ordeals. Dickey initiations were often denounced as barbarous, ungentlemanly, and indecent; actually they were an excellent character test both of initiated and initiators. Of those socially eligible it was a major catastrophe not to make the Dickey, or at least the Institute; whilst to be chosen in the top tens meant assured social success in College, a lion’s role in Boston debutante society, prompt election to the best clubs of New York and Boston after graduation, and a job at Lee Higginson’s or a New York brokerage house.
Dance cards like this one, were a mandatory part of a Harvard man’s formal attire. Attached to a tiny pencil and tied to the wrist by a small cord, they reminded forgetful partners who was promised to which dance. Friday and Saturday evening dance societies were popular forms for entertainment in FDR’s day. Franklin belonged to possibly the most famous one, at the Hotel Somerset. Smaller, intimate dance occasions were common too; final clubs like the Porcellian reportedly maintained a "scout," sent out early in the evening to report back to members whether or not a particular party was worth attending, no doubt foiling the aspirations of many a hostess.
Courtesy: Harvard University Archives
Having ‘made the Dickey,’ the climber on the social ladder next thought of a ‘waiting club.’ Between 1875 and 1900 these were mainly chapters of national fraternities; but the Harvard chapters found their obligations to brethren from other colleges onerous, surrendered their charters, and became local clubs. Each maintained rooms or a house, the essential features of which were a bar, a billiard table, a card-room, and a dining room. At the top of the club pyramid are the ‘ final’ clubs. (‘Final,’ in Harvard club lingo, means mutually exclusive; you can belong to but one final club, but are not restricted from joining clubs of other groups.) In 1875 there were but two of these: the Porcellian, which almost from its origin had been the goal of social ambition, and whose practices and postures were imitated by all the rest; and the A.D., a survival of the old Harvard chapter of Alpha Delta Phi. Around 1898, the ‘waiting clubs’ began to vote themselves ‘final’; and at present there are only two of the waiting, as against nine final clubs. ‘These begin taking in members from each class sophomore year, and complete the number senior year; few receive more than ten from any one class, and the present total membership of the nine final clubs is 278, about 12 per cent of the three upper classes. From 1878, when the A.D. purchased a house of its own, every final club has shaken down its graduates for a house, each new one surpassing the last in size and luxurious appointments.
The evolution of a fraternity chapter to ‘waiting’ and ‘final’ club is well illustrated by the story of the Delta Phi. There had been a chapter of that national fraternity at Harvard in 1846, but all memory of it was lost when in 1885 the Grand Council sent a committee to Cambridge to start a new one. Living in Beck Hall they found five wealthy New Yorkers who had not ‘made’ a club, and wanted one badly. Chapter Zeta of the Delta Phi was promptly organized, and rooms on Brattle Street hired. It was difficult to induce the ‘right people’ to join something new; but success was assured when James Gore King ’89 and his classmate ‘Jack’ Morgan became members. By virtue of a remarkable financial operation they procured land and built a clubhouse, of which the new steward was so proud that he kept every room brilliantly illuminated, giving rise to the club’s nickname, ‘ the Gas House.’ The election of Guy Lowell ’92, Gordon Bell ’93, Winthrop Ames ’95, and two faculty members, Santayana and William (‘Kid’) Woodworth, brought in a Bohemian breeze that dissipated the fog of heavy swell-dom and made the ‘Gas House’ the jolliest waiting club in College. It surrendered the Delta Phi charter, and officially adopted the humorous nickname. Around 1898 began a new era. Athletes like Ben Dibblee ’99 and all the Milton clans began to predominate; the club went final, built itself a handsome new clubhouse, and was renamed the Delphic.
In junior and senior years all members of the Institute still in College (and some who were not), together with those whose talents were needed for the annual show, were elected to the Hasty Pudding Club. The Pudding theatricals were private and of varied nature until 1882, when Owen Wister’s brilliant opera bouffe ‘Dido and Aeneas,’ the music a potpourri of Offenbach, Suppe, Sullivan, Bizet, Meyerbeer, and Wagner, went ‘on the road,’ and took Philadelphia, New York, and Houston by storm. That established a precedent that has since been followed; but as the eligible group seldom produces anything approaching Wisterian wit, the Pudding shows of the last forty years have mostly been poor imitations of Broadway musical comedies. There have been several exceptions, such as Lewis S. Thompson’s Sphinx in 1892; Edward Burlingame Hill and Daniel Gregory Mason’s Granada in 1894; D. W. Streeter and Edward Ballantine’s Lotus-Eaters in 1907; and Diana’s Debut in 1910, memorable for Jack Reed’s lyric:
At the Somerset things were rather wet, Big exclusive affair! From the lack of heat all of Beacon Street Surely must have been there. Berkeley Copley's son had a lovely bun, So did all of the rest; For of many ways you can enjoy your days A gentle Boston dance is best.
Outside the Institute-pudding-waiting club-final club crowd, recruited from the graduates of fashionable schools and the socially eligible, there are very few social clubs at Harvard of any permanence. ‘The Signet, organized by Charles J. Bonaparte ’71 as a protest against the class politics in the Pudding, and to maintain the literary traditions that the Pudding had abandoned, occasionally elects the unclubbed intelligentsia. It acquired an attractive clubhouse in 1900, and is still one of the pleasantest societies in College. The Pi Eta, and chapters of the Acacia, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and Delta Upsilon fraternities, elect about seventy-five members of each class, from outside the Institute circle. Except for these and other unpretentious clubs and fraternity chapters that died in the War or the depression, there have been no clubs at Harvard since 1870 to which graduates of high schools and the sons of country lawyers and ministers, who used to fill the Institute and the Pudding before the Civil War, could hope to be chosen. And, strange as it may seem, nobody seems to care. The proportion of each class in the clubs has been so small that they do not dominate the social life of the College; and there is so much going on outside them. Some form of social exclusiveness exists in every American college of any size, and there is something to be said for a system that is geared to American society itself, and which inflicts no ‘inferiority complex’ on outsiders, as against societies based on success in puerile activities, or fraternities which take in so many that it is a badge of shame not to belong. If colleges must have clubs, why not have clubs that are ‘clubby,’ and not fortuitous assemblages of fundamentally uncongenial adolescents?
The Harvard clubs have been very important to those who belonged (Theodore Roosevelt, announcing the engagement of his daughter to Nicholas Longworth, informed Kaiser Wilhelm that ‘ Nick’ and he belonged to the Porcellian), but supremely unimportant to those on the other side of the social chasm. They have always included a considerable number of the men in each class who subsequently became famous; even some of the ‘Harvard Heretics and Rebels’ recently enumerated by Roger Baldwin ’05 and Corliss Lament ’24 — both clubmen themselves. The clubs are not the best preparation for living in a democratic society; yet many of their graduates have been faithful servants to the University, to the Republic, and to learning. The split between Yard and Gold Coast that the clubs helped to create had often resulted in bitterly contested class elections; but this hard feeling vanished at graduation, and anything like fraternity or senior society politics in after life is unknown among Harvard men.
Other Clubs & Activities
Outside clubdom, though participated in by many club members on a level with others, was the real college life of the period, where originality and individualism were formed, small congenial groups were easily formed and dissolved, and all manner of societies nourished for every possible taste, from trap-shooting to art-collecting. For this larger college world there was no pressure to conform, no standard mould; the genius of the place, as it had been since President Leverett’s day, was to encourage each individual to develop his peculiar tastes and talents. A lad who came to Harvard with the makings of genius did not have his little spark quenched or his ambition trampled upon; conversely, the boy who entered a fool was very apt to graduate a damned fool. You might not belong to a single social club, yet cover half a wall with framed ‘shingles’ of membership in this or that society, with Harvard and school banners; with photographs of athletic teams, foreign travel,
and actresses: with world’s fair souvenirs, posters, and stolen signboards: with steins, pewter mugs, empty bottles, and nude statuettes adorning the mantelpiece and bookshelves, from which dangled dance programmes, knick-nacks, and beer advertisements; a winning oar fastened to the cornice, and charts of summer cruises to the ceiling; and to this agglomeration there might be added the black strip with your name in white letters which delicately proclaimed your membership in D.K.E., or the rope. bar, and bandanna used in the Pi Eta initiation. The decorations and furnishings of students’ rooms from 1880 until after the War were pretty dreadful, especially after the ‘ mission style’ furniture came into fashion.
The societies, shop clubs, political clubs, and other student associations such as the religious and philanthropic groups that had headquarters in Phillips Brooks House, were generally open to anyone, undergraduate, graduate, law, or divinity student, who was interested; yet we were not much infested by the ‘activity man,’ that pest of American colleges. Special places were provided for practical young men by the managerships of the various teams, and the ‘ business editorships’ of the college papers, which relieved the ‘literary editors’ from sordid care. Santayana was right in saying that the undergraduate ‘ does, except when the pressure or fear of the outer world constrains him, only what he finds worth doing for its own sake.’ Moreover, none of these activities was a micro-cosmos. An editor-in-chief of the Monthly might, and often did, stroke a class crew, belong to a final club, teach his sub-editors boxing when proofreading palled, and act in a play. This state of things used to puzzle our visitors from other colleges. With them an ‘aesthoot’ stuck to his book, brush, or pen, and drank tea; an ‘athloot’ took exercise instead of culture, and drank high-balls when not in training. But that the same ‘stude’ should row, attend ‘pink teas,’ box, discuss philosophy, and graduate magna cum laude seemed to our neighbors something outside the order of nature.
College journalism after 1870 largely took the place of the literary societies of earlier eras. The Advocate continued without a break, though its function of humorous commentator on college affairs was usurped in 1876 by the Lampoon, founded by Edward S. (‘Dan’) Martin ’77, Ralph W. Curtis, Samuel Sherwood, John T. Wheelwright, and other wits of ’76. The Lampoon bred some of the cleverest cartoonists and columnists of the present day, such as Gluya Williams ‘11 and Bob Benchley ’12; but after acquiring a needlessly luxurious clubhouse in 1910, it has tended to become a mere social club, with the paper a side issue. The Advocate went in heavily for short stories in the nineties — and no wonder, with lads such as Arthur S. Pier ’95, Arthur C. Train ’96 and Arthur B. Ruhl ’99 on the board; criticism revived with Van Wyck Brooks ’08; but the Advocates poetry was "pretty feeble" compared with that of the Harvard Monthly. Founded by Santayana and his friends in 1885, the Monthly has been edited by such men as Mark Howe and Bernhard Berenson ’87, Norman Hapgood ’90, William Vaughan Moody ’93, Robert Morss Lovett ’92, Lucien Price ’07, and John Hall Wheelock ’08. In it was printed some of the early poetry of Moody, Bliss Carman (Graduate School ’88), Edwin Arlington Robinson ’95, and Swinburne Hale ’05. The Illustrated Magazine, founded in 1899, was innocuous until Gerard C. Henderson ’12 became managing editor; but, like the Monthly, it died in World War 1. The weekly Magenta, founded in 1873, when the athletic teams had adopted that unpleasantly aniline color, changed to the Crimson when the proper color was restored in 1875, and united with the daily Herald in 1883. Among its editors were Lloyd McKim Garrison ’88, Henry James ’99, Dan Sargent ’13, and Edward A. Whitney ’17. Until it acquired a building in 1915 the ‘Crime’ was a paying proposition, cutting handsome dividends for the editors.
Societies like the History Club and the Boylston Chemical Club (founded by Theodore W. Richards in 1885), fostered by members of the Faculty, continued to flourish; the old Natural History Society was still going strong, with such men as Thomas Barbour ’06, future Director of the Museum, and John H. Baker ’15, future head of the Audubon Society, as presidents. Jerome D. Greene, Arthur C. Train, and others founded the Harvard Memorial Society in 1895 to preserve the records of the past; thev celebrated John Harvard’s birthday, put up bronze tablets on historic spots, and compiled the records of occupants of rooms in the older halls.
Theatricals, Music & Student Life Before the War
From the Civil War to World War I Harvard undergraduates had an insatiable thirst for theatricals. The Pudding and Pi Eta, in addition to their public musical show, gave three or four private plays a year, besides impromptus (known in Pudding mythology as ‘spoops’) put on by the neophytes. The Dickey, the Signet Society, and most of the college journals produced plays (mostly very scurrilous and indecent) in their rooms or houses. Even the University Boat Club and Baseball Club gave public performances for their own benefit at Horticultural Hall in the seventies. And the social workers coached theatricals given by the settlement houses in Boston.
Of a different order were the plays produced by the four associations formed for the cultivation of foreign languages—the Cercle Francais, DeutscherVcrein, Sociedad Espanola, and CircoloItaliano, each of which had from forty-five to eighty members by 1908. The French club began its theatrical annals in 1888 with Le Misanthrope, and followed it the next year with a modern play by Labiche; these (says M. Gaflot in Le Theatreau College) were the first performances of French drama in any college or university since the expulsion of the Jesuits from France in 1762.) In 1899 the Cercle Francais gave the first production in history of Le Pedant Joue by Cyrano de Bergerac, for which Professor Ferdinand Bocher provided a revised text, with a biographical introduction by Horace B. Stanton ’00. James Hazen Hyde (A.B. 1898), president of the Cercle in his undergraduate days, became the Cercle’s Maecenas upon graduation, paid the deficits, and provided the professional coach. This gave the Frenchmen a considerable edge on their rivals, although all four produced plays, and the DeutscherVerein was stimulated into great activity by the imperial visit of 1902 —the famous Ernst F. Hanfstaengi ’09 was president of it his senior year.
Besides an occasional Greek play or Terentian comedy, produced by students of the classics, there were classic English dramas sponsored by the English Department. The Delta Upsilon fraternity, with the aid of Professor George P. Baker, began in 1898 to produce annually a play by Beaumont and Fletcher, Dekker, or some other Elizabethan dramatist long since forgotten by the commercial theatre; and the Harvard Dramatic Club wasfounded in 1908. Mr. Baker’s 47 ‘Workshop,’ a graduate school course that became a training school for players, producers, and managers, began its notable career in the same decade. The students in this course wrote, acted, and produced their own plays; a picked academic audience had the privilege of witnessing them, and the duty of submitting critiques. English 47 was one of those rare opportunities afforded by a university for a coordination of thought, art, and action; and Yale’s greatest victory over Harvard in the present century came in 1925, when Professor Baker, after long discouragement by the Harvard Corporation and failure to obtain the long-desired theatre, translated English 47 to New Haven. Until that date, Harvard was the premier theatrical college in the country; and it was most fitting that the largest and most important theatrical collection in the world should have been presented to the University by Robert Gould Shaw (A.B. 1869) in 1915.
Music was in the air for those attuned to receive it: serious study with the Department; the Pierian Sodality orchestra, which had Philip G. Clapp ’09 and Chalmres D. Clifton ’12 for conductors toward the end of our period; and the Instrumental Clubs (banjo, mandolin, and guitar). The Glee Club, which in the seventies and eighties had a series of inspiring leaders, such as Arthur Foote ’74 and Thomas Mott Osborne ’84, fell off in the nineties, but more than recovered under Professor Archibald T. (‘Doc.’) Davison (A.B. 1906), who enlarged the repertoire of traditional light opera and ‘college songs’ with sacred music by the early Italian composers, and profane music of the English madrigalists. The Boston Symphony Orchestra began its series of Cambridge concerts in the early eighties, and the five annual Arthur Whiting Chamber Concerts began in 1905.
Daniel Gregory Mason (A.B. 1895) has lately given us a charming picture of one of these literary-musical groups in the nineties — Pierre la Rose, William Vaughan Moody, Edward Burlingame Hill:
"constant piano-playing and trying out scores borrowed from the College Library; the thrilling discovery of Brahms and Dvorak; hot rum toddy over an open coal fire in Matthews; walks in bleak sunset across Harvard Bridge, to dine at Billy Parks’, or Marliave’s famous fifty-cent table d’hotel, rien compris…. As spring came on there were mint juleps in Boston, or boating at Riverside, or long afternoon trudges; and in the evenings there were magical walks up Brattle Street, fragrant with lilacs, or to Fresh Pond, ghostly in mist and moonlight. And always there was the fascination of Moody’s imagination-releasing figures of speech, his fertile silences, his irresponsible humor, comical slang, and shouting gusto of laughter, his deep, contagious sense of the infinite mystery and richness of life."
And after describing the influence of Norton and the great philosophers, he concludes that Harvard was more than stimulating,
"it was mellowing, ripening. This was because we students had not only the provocation of these contacts with truly great men, of a surprising diversity of interests, characters, and personalities, but, what is even more precious, we had liberty in the choosing of these influences, time to digest and assimilate them, leisure to grow from our centres as well as absorb at our points of contact. We were not regimented, standardized, herded, and labeled. We were not intimidated into imitativeness, browbeaten into conformity, or nagged into efficiency. Our healthy nutrition was as little in danger from forced feeding as from starvation; for while we had set before us the feast of the whole of human civilization, what we should take was determined only by our own tastes, appetites, and powers of digestion. No doubt we became less specialized than we might have become under less generous systems. Hill and I have often compared notes’ on how much more rapidly we might have progressed in our purely technical musical skill had we gone to a good conservatory instead of to Harvard. Technical skill, however, is not all there is in art; nor is even intellectual power of a purely impersonal kind. Musicians are especially likely to be narrow, unimaginative, devoid of mental nuances. Ripeness, fullness, richness of nature come only from many interests, freely followed, and allowed to cross-fertilize."
For one more example of the multifarious patterns that individuals wove out of these rich materials, read what Jack Reed ’10 wrote of his experiences when seven years out of College:
All sorts of strange characters, of every race and mind, poets, philosophers, cranks of every twist, were in our Class. The very hugeness of it prevented any one man from knowing more than a few of his classmates, though I managed to make the acquaintance of about five hundred of them. … What is known as ‘college spirit’ was not very powerful; no odium attached to those who didn’t go to football games and cheer. There was talk of the world, and daring thought, and intellectual insurgency; heresy has always been a Harvard and a New England tradition. Students themselves criticized the faculty for not educating them, attacked the sacred institution of intercollegiate athletics, sneered at undergraduate clubs so holy that no one dared mention their names. No matter what you were or what you did — at Harvard you could find your kind.. It wasn’t a breeder for masses of mediocrely educated young men equipped with ‘business’ psychology; out of each class came a few creative minds, a few scholars, a few ‘gentlemen’ with insolent manners, and a ruck of nobodies. … Things have changed now. I liked Harvard better then.
These activities attracted the earnest, the artistic, the seekers after truth; but there were other things in the air, in this pre-war generation, than reform and literary expression. The dance mania — turkey-trotting and the like — hit the College hard, and more students acquired cars, since Henry Ford had invented Model T for the impecunious; whilst Nationals, Renaults, and Mercedes began to be seen parked along the Gold Coast. Boys who a few years before would have been content to lounge about their clubs now began to tear about the country with ‘hot mammas,’ dancing and drinking in roadside ‘clubs’; you had to drink deeply in order to keep awake dancing, and the more you danced the thirstier you became.
Never was College so exciting, or drunks so drunken, or the generous feelings of ardent youth so exalted, as in those last golden years before World War I. Here, as in the European universities, Sarajevo and what followed shattered illusions, postponed indefinitely high hopes, and obscured the democratic vision. Undergraduate opinion on the war passed through the same phases as American opinion: incredulity, discussion, and a gradual hardening of pro-Ally feeling. By the time war came to America there were very few Harvard men who did not believe it to be a holy and righteous war, the successful conclusion of which would permit democracy to advance to new triumphs.
Dis aliter visum.