Friday, November 21, 2008

The First Thirty Years of Dummer Allies Fundraising

The following document from 1945 provides a record of fruits of the Dummer Allies’ fundraising efforts for the first 30 years of the society’s existence: $3,428.76, of which more than half was used to provide scholarship aid for deserving boys chosen by a scholarship committee. Given the society’s annual dues being $0.50 per member, providing an annual $100 scholarship was no small endeavor. Indeed, a document that can be found in The Governor’s Academy Archives—Headmaster’s Notes on the 1945-1946 Budget—reveals that at the time, the average tuition per student was approximately $1,300, making a $100 scholarship quite a significant amount.

To provide context, the 1945-1946 budget includes line items for furnishings and equipment such as an electric stove ($75); total furnishings for a boy’s dorm room ($180), including a bed ($18.75), chest of drawers ($31.50), desk ($28), chair ($8.75), and lamp ($3.75); and a station wagon that the school was considering purchasing for travel ($1,800). A passage corresponding to this latter budget item indicates, “It is desired to make provision to purchase a new station wagon when and if available to replace the ’37 station wagon now in such bad condition that upkeep costs are prohibitive. If a new station wagon does become available, it will be used as a stand-by for the Packard, which is also no longer wholly reliable, and for more dignified school errands. The present ’41 station wagon will then be used for transportation of trunks, express, etc., and will be turned over to Dutchy Holland or his successor each evening for returning the help to Newburyport and for bringing them out on the following morning. Both station wagons will, of course, be used on occasion for athletic trips, etc.”

Today’s Allies have continued fundraising initiatives that started with the society’s 1910 founding. The society’s efforts support numerous enrichment activities such as the Speaker Series, the purchase of library books, and the provision of student necessities—refreshments, exam survival kids, and parties and other events.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Movies at Dummer Academy

Lantern slide projectors, first lit by oil lamp, and then by limelight, carbon arc lamp, and subsequently, by electric light, allowed for the projection of transparent slides on a wall or other surface. Some historians believe the invention of the first lantern projector occurred as early as the 1600s. The Magic Lantern or Sciopticon was a forerunner to the modern slide projector and an early form of moving picture. (It is said that the earliest shows using lanterns often featured goblins and devils, the rationale for the name “magic lantern.”) Glass plate positives were introduced in the 1850s, but they became widely available as magic lantern slides—many of which were animated—in the 1870s. By the time these “movies” made their way to Dummer Academy in 1914, they had been available for several decades.

A history of the development of lantern movies indicates that while magic lantern shows often featured a live showman and/or musician who provided a soundtrack, the audience would sometimes join in by creating sound effects, playing instruments, clapping, cheering, or booing. The scrapbook entry from a former Dummer Academy graduate, shown below in this blog, notes the accompaniment of a Professor Priest at the earliest one-cent slide shows. By 1919, these presentations had picked up steam with the inauguration of the “Dummer Movie Palace” and its first showing, Charlie Chaplin’s “Shoulder Arms,” a silent comedy released in 1918 and set in France during World War I. Several clips from the movie can be found on YouTube (e.g., at the following link:
The short but telling scrapbook entries in this blog reveal the fascination and appreciation students had for these diversions nearly a century ago.