This collection includes more than 3,500 glass plate negatives created by photographer Edmund Wolven. Most of the images are of Vassar College people, events, buildings and grounds, but there is a subset that relates to other local educational institutions and Poughkeepsie. Wolven, born in Poughkeepsie in 1876, worked for many schools and colleges in the area. He began taking photos for Vassar College in the late 1890s, and became the official college photographer between approximately 1900 and 1910. The latest photographs in this collection are from the 1940s.
The Vassar College Archives within the Digital Library include some images, texts, and material items that are racist, xenophobic, or otherwise harmful. The Vassar Libraries have provided descriptive text and additional notes whenever possible to alert Digital Library users to these items. The Engaged Pluralism Initiative Race and Racism in Historical Collections Project Group is working with the library on contextualizing and facilitating community conversations about these materials. For more information see: https://library.vassar.edu/rrhc
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Series in this collection
Includes almost yearly images of Field Day from 1916-1936; team portraits as well action photos from field hockey, basketball, baseball, tennis, fencing, lacrosse, and archery. There are also images from horse shows, golfing, swimming, and winter sports.Topics documented in this series include the evolution of uniforms from bloomers to shorts as well as developments in athletic fields and equipment.
Buildings and Grounds, 1897-1939
Images of the Vassar buildings (interior and exterior) and the landscapes of campus and the surrounding area. Highlights include views of Vassar Lake before the Raymond Avenue elevation change in 1966, the southeast portion of campus before Sunset Lake was created, Raymond Avenue before the Faculty Row houses were built, the living and research spaces in the Maria Mitchell Observatory, and maintenance staff harvesting ice with saws and horse-drawn ice plows.
Class Portraits, 1901-1943
A nearly complete set of freshman and senior class portraits from the first forty years of the 20th century. The images were taken using extra large plates (14 x 17 inches) which provides access to fine details and allows for easier identification of individuals.
Commencement and Reunion, 1900-1942
In the first half of the 20th century, Vassar's commencement and reunion were part of a 4-5 day long celebration that included a variety of events and traditions. Steady events included Baccalaureate Sunday, the alumnae parade, Class Day exercises, and commencement. Other activities changed over the decades, and included concerts and lectures, luncheons and suppers, tree ceremonies, May Pole dances, and for many years the III Hall Play was repeated for families and alumnae.
Images in this series are are primarily from commencement, Class Day exercises, and the alumnae parade. Photos of Sophomores picking daisies for the Daisy Chain are also included. Early graduates and significant alumnae such as Harriette Warner Bishop and Helen D. Woodward (both VC 1867), Mary Augusta Jordan (VC 1876), Harriot Stanton Blatch (VC 1878), Julia Lathrop (VC 1880), and Blanche Ferry Hooker (VC 1894) are pictured; as are faculty, administrators and trustees such as C. Mildred Thompson, Ella McCaleb, Herbert E. Mills, and the astronomers Caroline Furness and Mary Whitney.
Drama, Music and Dance, 1900-1935
Images of plays, skit shows, dance performances, and musical events comprise the largest series in the Wolven collection. Junior and sophomore parties were generally skit shows written by students. These events included racist and stereotypical costumes and performances, including use of blackface. The major dramatic productions ("Hall" plays) include previously produced pieces as well as material written by students, faculty, and alumnae, including Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Events and Festivals, 1915-1944
This series includes images of events that were not as large or well-photographed as Field Day, Founder's Day and commencement and reunion activities. The annual class tree ceremonies, proms, 50th college anniversary, maypole dances, conferences, protests, community work and other activities are included. Highlights include 50th college anniversary pageants and performances, the 1924 Institute for a Christian Basis of World Relations, and 1920's Township Day, which welcomed Arlington children to campus participate in athletics and dramatic performances.
Founder's Day, 1900-1935
Founder's Day has included a variety of activities since the first celebration on April 29th,1866, Matthew Vassar's birthday. The images in this series document visits to the founder's grave, step-singing and the Song Contest, the faculty-student baseball game, parades, and various performances. Attendees of the baseball game, the parades, and the performances were encouraged to dress in costume, according to either a predetermined theme or individual whim. With some frequency, these costumes and performances were based on racist or stereotypical representations of marginalized groups, including blackface, redface, and yellowface. Similarly, the faculty play or skit show which was given on the evening of Founder's Day, included racist and stereotypical costumes and performances.
Student Organizations, 1915-1934
This series consists of group portraits of student organizations taken for the yearbook and to be sold as souvenirs. Portraits of the athletic teams are included in the Athletics series. The groups in this series include the Vassar College Choir, the Glee Club, the Mandolin Club, class officers, and the staffs of various student publications.
Miscellaneous Vassar, 1900-1935
Selected highlights from this set include group portraits of the Good Fellowship Club men's and women's basketball teams, a classroom scene of a "preparedness course" on shorthand taught shortly after the U.S. entered World War I, and students working at Lincoln Center, the Poughkeepsie organization that assisted the poor.
Includes Wolven's portraits of classes at St. Stephen's College (now Bard College), the Putnam School, and Riverview Military Academy, as well as views of Poughkeepsie streets and landscapes, including the Mid-Hudson Bridge under construction.