A lock of hair? Silk socks? There are certainly some unusual and surprising items and artifacts filed away in Dartmouth’s Rauner Special Collections.
Rauner Special Collections Library, located in Dartmouth College’s Webster Hall, looks like it could be just any old library – a quiet building with study tables and levels upon levels of books. But its “special collection” is rife with truly unique and even borderline bizarre artifacts that the public can request an archivist to call up. That’s right, Rauner gives unparalleled access to its collections, allowing you to touch, flip through, and feel items. Here are a few you must see.
1. A Lock of George Washington’s Hair
While George Washington never visited Hanover, the collection does have a unique relic associated with him: A lock of his hair framed in the cover of John Marshall’s The Life of George Washington. This particular copy was “extra illustrated” by a collector, meaning that the original book was interleaved with additional material such as illustrations from other sources or manuscript materials associated with events described in the book, including his prized possession of the hair.
2. Daniel Webster’s Top Hat, Silk Socks & More
It’s not named Webster Hall – where Rauner Library is located – for nothing. The American politician is one of Dartmouth’s most esteemed luminaries (graduating in 1801). So it’s no surprise that the library has a vast array of Webster paraphernalia, including a pair of his silk stockings, a top hat, his pocket watch, and a set of his wine glasses and decanter. There are also handwritten notes by him during the famous Dartmouth College Court Case in which he defended the college, a number of original letters sent to and from him, and his personal but incomplete copy of John James Audubon’s Birds of America.
3. Animal House Screenplay
HomeThe 1978 comedy film classic was actually inspired by co-screenwriter Chris Miller’s experiences as a member of in the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity at Dartmouth (he graduated class of ‘63). Formerly owned by the police sergeant who was, allegedly, tasked with keeping John Belushi out of trouble during the shoot, the original script is signed by the entire cast, including the large looping signature of “Head Animal, John Belushi.”
4. Original Works by Ted Geisel
Better known by his pen name of Dr. Seuss, Ted Geisel was actually part of Dartmouth’s class of 1925, where he honed his knack for gag-writing as a contributor, and eventually editor-in-chief, of Dartmouth College’s humor magazine, The Jack-O-Lantern. Nevertheless, the library is home to scores of samples of his work, including the original publisher’s layout mock-up (with actual notes and critiques from Geisel’s own pencil) of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins from 1938, an early version of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, misprints, and two shelves of manuscript materials chronicling his work as an advertising artist before he became the beloved children’s book author.
5. A First Edition, First Printing of The Book of Mormon
Oddly enough, this is the most requested item in the library. Why? Because the founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, was actually from Sharon, Vermont, about a 20-minute drive west of Hanover. As a result, thousands visit his birthplace every year, with many stopping by the library to peruse the book’s pages.