Category Archives: new attention on old item

CC students rallying for peace in 1962

by Clare Trissel Davis, Colorado College Project Archivist

As Archivist for the three-year grant-funded History of CC Project, I have had the opportunity to unearth important protest stories from our institutional memory. The Office of the Dean of Faculty records that I’ve acquired from the basement of Armstrong include information about a student group called Commitment, assembled on campus in the early 60s, that opposed nuclear armament. Pictured below are students from Commitment attending a peace rally in Washington D.C. on February 16, 1962.

Commitment (student group), 1962-1963, Office of the Dean of Faculty records, RG-001. Colorado College Records.

In its statement of purpose, Commitment claimed that “as young people living under the threat of nuclear war, we are deeply concerned for the survival of civilization. We are not protesting our armed forces, but we seriously question the moral and practical value of nuclear arms as a means of deterring war and securing peace. We are campaigning for Life, not only for ourselves, but for all Beings which possess this gift.” The group sought to challenge the Springs community to accept responsibility for “supporting alternatives to the arms race” and hosted three follow-up meetings to the College’s 1962 Symposium: “War or Peace in the Sixties: The Issue of Survival in the Nuclear Age” including a talk by Dr. Glenn Snyder on “Deterrence and Defense in Nato Strategy.”

Both Dean Lloyd E. Worner and President Louis T. Benezet supported the group. Benezet acknowledged that some of the 15 “idealistic” students on campus were the brightest and most talented in the student body. Though the group was heckled and challenged by other students on campus, the administration defended the legitimacy of their perspective.

Chinese students at CC

Guest post by Hongli Zeng, CC class of 2024.

Today, with approximately 20 students per class, Chinese students make up the largest international student community at Colorado College. Their story dates back to as early as the late 1910s.

In the summer of 2022, CC History Major Hongli Zeng conducted primary-source research with the abundant archives provided by the Special Collection. By looking at documents ranging from the Colorado College Yearbook (Pikes Peak Nugget), the college newspaper (The Tiger, now named The Catalyst), Registrar records, local gazetteers, and personal memoirs, the research attempts to reconstruct details of the lived experience of this special community on campus a hundred years ago.

A total of ten students were enrolled at Colorado College in the academic year 1923-1924, making the “largest Oriental Club the city ever had”.

The Colorado College Tiger, Tuesday, October 2, 1923.

Recipients of the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship facilitated by both the American and Chinese governments, those students were welcomed by both the college and community in Colorado Springs with hospitality and curiosity. Chinese students were often invited to give speeches addressing the cultural mutual understanding of both countries. Occasional events such as “The Celebration of the founding of the Chinese Republic” and the Exhibition of Ancient Chinese Arts were also held on campus, attracting attentions from the President and students.

Some, however, also experienced unpleasant encounters of orientalism and racism, only a few decades after the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 and the atrocity of Denver’s Anti-Chinese Riots in 1880. A centerpiece of this episode that highlighted tensions of Chinese students’ identity as racial minority on campus was probably the “poem debate” between an American student and their two Chinese classmates. With a “provocative” poem posted on The Tiger in March 1924 calling the Chinese “Chinee” and expressing despise for Chinese cultures, two Chinese students majoring in English literature and Arts respectively soon replied with poems that demonstrated not only their cultural pride but also extraordinary literary cultivation as non-native speakers.

The Colorado College Tiger, Tuesday, March 25, 1924.
The Colorado College Tiger, Friday, March 28, 1924.

This dramatic anecdote was only tip of the iceberg of a more comprehensive image of the lived experience of the very first group of Chinese students in the history of CC. Their foreign-study journey started at Colorado College, but didn’t end here. Pursuing graduate degrees at the most prestigious institutions on the east coast including Harvard and Columbia University, many of them became well accomplished in their respective fields in later lives. That American student who wrote a rather childish poem probably didn’t expect replies from two Chinese peers who would later stand on the list of the most influential Chinese literates and intellectuals of the 20th century, one who single-handedly translated the complete works of Shakespeare into Chinese and another remembered today for his unbounded patriotism and leftist romanticism in both poem and politics.

A more detailed research paper on this subject is now available in Special Collection for public view (in Colorado College Information Files, Students – Chinese). If you are interested in discussing this topic further with the researcher, feel free to reach out to

a thief, not a donor

[This post is reprinted from a now-defunct blog in May of 2013.]

It’s not often that library work involves crime of any kind, but this week we had a research question with a crime-related answer. I’ve changed the name of the perpetrator to protect his privacy.

First, the back story: from approximately 1903-1977, Colorado College had a small museum in Palmer Hall (now our social sciences building). Its collections included fossils, pottery, stuffed animals, and more. When the museum closed, the materials were dispersed to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and elsewhere. (The blue whale skeleton from the CC Museum, pictured below ca. 1920, now hangs in the Denver Museum.)

Recently, a Denver Museum staff member contacted me with some questions about a name she’d found associated with a box of items from the CC Museum. There were a number of named collections in the CC Museum, including the Lang-Bixby Collection, the Corwin Collection, and others. But this name — let’s say it was Dontrustim — was one I hadn’t heard before.

We checked through our files on the history of the museum and discovered that Dontrustim was indeed associated with certain materials from the CC Museum. Why? Because he stole them, creating the short-lived “Dontrustim Collection.” 

James M. Dontrustim majored in art history and graduated from Colorado College in 1970. He was an honors student and won a prestigious fellowship as a senior. He worked with rare books and manuscripts at the CC library and also as a part-time guard at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, the local art museum.

In 1972, he was charged with stealing more than $10,000 worth of art objects from the Fine Arts Center and the CC library. Most of the Fine Arts Center items were there on long-term loan from CC. Dontrustim pleaded guilty, saying he had no intention of selling the objects: according to an article in the Colorado Springs Sun on May 16, 1972, he intended to study the objects, catalog them, and use them “to beautify his apartment.”

It took us a while to figure out this mystery, because our file on the CC Museum is thick and the top sheet of stapled pages on Dontrustim misspelled his name slightly as — let’s say — Dontressim. But our excellent student assistant spotted the similarity and found a list of about 100 items Dontrustim stole. Some were small, easy to hide under a sweater: a Babylonian clay tablet, a carved stone scarab. Others would have been more difficult to smuggle out of the museum: a prehistoric Anasazi ladle, a pair of Plains Indians leggings, a double-headed steel spear.

How did he do it? How did he get caught? Did he feel bad about it later? These are mysteries we’ll never solve. But we can tell our Denver Museum researcher not to call Dontrustim a “donor.” The items in the Dontrustim Collection may have been in James M. Dontrustim’s possession for a brief while, but he didn’t donate them; rather, the police recovered them from Dontrustim’s apartment after his arrest and returned them to the museum.

Happy Purim!

Colorado College Special Collections has a Megillah, a Book of Esther, a sheepskin scroll handwritten in Hebrew, traditionally read aloud at Purim celebrations. (Purim falls on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar; this year, 2022, that’s March 16.)

Haman, the villain of the story, has ten sons. Megillahs traditionally show the names of the sons in larger script. In English, the text is:

And Parshandatha,
and Dalphon,
and Aspatha,
and Poratha,
and Adalia,
and Aridatha,
and Parmashta,
and Arisai,
and Aridai,
and Vajezatha,
the ten sons of Haman.

Even if you don’t read Hebrew, you can see that one word (“and”) repeats. (Hebrew goes right-to-left.) In many families and congregations, the reader must get through this section all in one breath, or start the book over from the beginning.

Provenance: according to a handwritten note with our copy, it was purchased in Italy by Dr. Louis Barth of Grand Rapids, Michigan, probably around 1900, and acquired by Colorado College probably after 1932 (the year Dr. Barth died) and before 1940. Although the scroll looks and feels medieval, it probably dates to the 19th century.

Campus myth debunked: Mathias not based on prison

(This piece originally appeared in the Spring 2004 issue of the Tutt Library Chronicle newsletter.)

As Colorado College Archivist, I am supposed to know something about the history of CC. In the past couple of years several students have asked for the details on the architects who designed Mathias Hall – architects who, according to everybody, were known for designing prison buildings. I’ve also heard from more than one student that Mathias was designed to prevent riots – that the purpose of its maze-like hallways was to stop students from gathering together in political protest.

Both rumors are patently false. The Texas architecture firm which designed Mathias Hall (and Olin Hall, in 1961) – Caudill Rowlett Scott – was never responsible for any prison building. It does, however, have a historical reputation for originating design principles that led to some really ugly school structures.

Mathias, at 123 East Uintah, was built in 1966 for a total cost of $1,700,000. It was named for Henry Edwin Mathias, a CC Geology professor and administrator. In its early years, this huge residence hall for over 300 young men was known as “Superdorm” – or, sometimes, “Superwomb,” since many of the residents had been living off campus but were required to come back to mother CC.

In 1969, by student vote, the building went co-ed – the first dorm on campus to do so. At first, the floors were sexually segregated, but by 1977 even this rule was thrown out – and in 1988, all caution was thrown to the wind – or rather, a new kind of caution came into play – and condom dispensers were installed in the hall’s bathrooms.

And now back to the building’s architects. William Wayne Caudill of CRS was a Texas architect and teacher who made educational buildings his specialty. In the 1940s he coordinated a project to optimize natural airflow and daylight in schools, and by the 1960s his firm had an international reputation for good school design. CRS branched out to hospital design, but schools remained their specialty.

An early memo from Vice President W.R. Brossman, who was in charge of the project to design the new dorm, states that the rooms should be “attractive and non-institutional.” Another report gives insight into some of the money-saving possibilities available to the architects: “The Committee is opposed to ‘gang showers’ and would like to investigate further ideas on attractive single units.” This same report also suggests “a sundeck or sunning area must be provided or else the residents will climb to the roof.”

If Brossman, or anyone on the committee, was worried about riot prevention, this was never stated in any written documentation that has survived in the Archives – and it seems unlikely that it was a major concern, since CC students were not known to riot, even in the 1960s.

In a recent article in Harvard Design Magazine (“Environmental Stoicism and Place Machismo,” Winter/Spring 2002), author and Urbanism professor Michael Benedikt credits CRS for both improving and screwing up school buildings all over the United States. According Benedikt, it was Caudill’s 1954 book Toward Better School Design that “began the school design revolution.” The book recommended natural lighting and “visual openness to the outdoors” – i.e., lots of windows. (Side note: CRS also designed CC’s Olin Hall, also known as the “Fishbowl” for its many windows.)

At the same time, however, Caudill’s core design principal were efficiency and fast construction, and over time, according to Benedikt, these principals “devolved” into those that drive the soulless school building designs – environments “barely better than a minimum security prison” – still popular today. Benedikt goes on to say that “primary and secondary education may rightly be compulsory, but this should not mean that the sites of education should be like penitentiaries.” I’m sure he would agree that college dorms have the same prerequisites.

The Nob Hill Observatory

Harvard astronomer Edward Pickering had ties with CC’s Nob Hill Observatory!

This is the only known photograph of the Nob Hill Observatory, taken about 1905. We believe it was located around 2112 East Uintah, currently “Lunar Park.” (Both “Nob Hill” and “Knob Hill” spellings were in use; CC seems to have used “Nob.”)

Pickering visited Colorado Springs in 1887, accompanied by his wife Lizzie, his brother William, and Anna Palmer Draper. They were here to consider Pikes Peak as a site for an observatory. (See Dava Sobel’s 2016 book The Glass Universe for details.) Frank Loud, CC professor of physics, soon got involved. Here are two newspaper articles about that visit:

In 1903, CC began planning for its own observatory, and in 1904, Loud, Pickering, and three others (Herbert Howe, Edward Giddings, and Otis Johnson) formed The Western Association for Stellar Photography. It’s likely Pickering participated from afar, as his signature does not appear on the early documents. We can see from the By-Laws and Minutes that the instruments at Nob Hill belonged to the Harvard College Observatory.

I wish we knew more about the conversations Loud had with Pickering. I wonder if they talked about having CC women catalog the stars. (Pickering hired many women for this purpose at Harvard, among them Annie Jump Cannon and Henrietta Swan Leavitt.)

Black newspapers digitized!

In honor of the Black Lives Matter movement, Special Collections digitized several Black newspapers in Colorado Springs, including The Colorado Springs Eagle (1912, ed. Julia Embry), The Voice of Colorado (1936-1937, ed. Tandy Stroud), and Colorado Springs Crusader (1982, ed. Dorothy Middleton). We also digitized two CC student publications, Black Literary Magazine 1978-1981, and Fight the Power 1991-1994. Searchable PDF files, and more, are linked from this page. Below are some excerpts.

Pandemic Projects

You may be wondering what CC Special Collections is doing while it’s closed for in-person research. The answer is: a lot! But different things than usual.

We are helping researchers remotely, mostly by email. We are using the focused attention that comes with uninterrupted time to process manuscript collections such as the Van Briggle Pottery and Tile Company Records, which started out like this:

and are now fully cataloged, with a finding aid available upon request. We can’t usually use our reading room tables for this kind of thing, so there are some benefits to being closed! We are also doing little projects that we always meant to do but somehow never quite had time for, like home-making a foam holder for our cuneiforms:

We’ve also been digitizing up a storm. More about that in the next post!

Stokely Carmichael / Kwame Ture at Colorado College

In Spike Lee’s 2018 film BlacKkKlansman, based on Ron Stallworth’s memoir Black Klansman (Flatiron Books, 2018), the Colorado College Black Student Union invites Stokely Carmichael (also known as Kwame Ture) to speak on campus in the early 1970s.

Did that really happen?

YES! But not exactly in the way the film suggests.

In real life, Carmichael / Ture visited Colorado Springs in 1977 and spoke at Bell’s Nightingale Club. According to the memoir, Stallworth attended that event, but it was not connected to CC in any official or documented way.

Two years later, the Black Student Union at CC sponsored a visit. Carmichael / Ture spoke on campus in the lounge of Bemis Hall on April 12, 1979.  One local newspaper (the Colorado Springs Sun) described his subject as “The Plight of African People in America and What Must Be Done”; the CC student newspaper (the Catalyst) gave the title as “College Students and the American Socio-Economic Order.”

Seven years after that, the Black Student Union invited Carmichael / Ture to campus again. He spoke at on April 22, 1986 in Packard Hall.