Rutgers in the First World War, May and June 1918—A World in Motion

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When the United States entered World War I a century ago, Rutgers transformed into a war college focused on supporting America’s war effort. Many students and alumni joined the armed forces. Earl Reed Silvers, assistant to Rutgers president William H. S. Demarest, launched the Rutgers War Service Bureau as a means to keep in touch with Rutgers men in service. The Rutgers in the First World War series features stories from the War Service Bureau correspondence, offering a window on the impact of the war on Rutgers students and alumni 100 years ago.

At Rutgers: Baseball and Bombshells

Postcard showing men in uniform playing baseball, captioned "Baseball--the Army Game." Postcard has a YMCA--Young Men's Christian Association--logo.
A postcard sent by Harold Faint (class of 1917) in late May 1918

 

The May 1918 War Service Bureau letters to men in service brought news of baseball and commencement activities at Rutgers.  On May 20, Silvers wrote about a game taking place that afternoon.

This afternoon we play Lafayette in baseball. . . . Johnny Lyons, our baseball captain, has gone to the Fourth Officers’ Camp; and so we’re not very optimistic about the result of the game this afternoon.

Silvers reported that the number of graduates for the 1918 commencement was down due to men leaving Rutgers to serve. Although he was sure the previous year had 77 graduates, he stated the class of 1918 had 42 graduates in his May 20 letter, but his June 5 letter changed the number to 47 (according to the 1918 commencement program, the number should be 46). Some Rutgers men in service had returned to visit for commencement. In the May 20 letter, Silvers describes one such man bringing a souvenir:

“Bob Searle is here in uniform from Camp Devens. He brought with him an unexploded four-inch shell and my stenographer is in deadly fear of being blown to atoms.

In his June 5 letter, Silvers followed up on this alarming gift to reassure the men

“That shell of Bob Searle’s which almost scared our stenographer to death wasn’t loaded, after all.”

From the Men: The Hazards and Pleasures of Travel

Rutgers men in service wrote to the Bureau in May and June 1918 to describe their travels overseas.

On May 1, 1918, August Grimme (class of 1918) wrote from the north of England.

“I am now located at a Gunnery School . . . The work is interesting and I enjoy it very much. The weather is rather uncomfortable up here. It seems almost like January. In fact we had a little snow flurry this morning.

Reverend Maurice Kain’s (class of 1906) May 18, 1918 letter waxed poetic in its description of France (his correspondence folder does indeed contain a poem about France).

France is remarkably colorful at this present springtime. The skylark wakes one morning. Blooming lilac hedges, surround him. Fertile fields lie beyond. But the more or less distant boom of guns, and the homing flight of flocks of airplanes tell one that farther beyond is —red war, red but glorious; or rather, glorious because red.

On June 7, 1918 William P. E. Ainsworth (class of 1916) wrote of some rockiness on an otherwise calm ocean crossing to Europe,

“The trip over was wonderful. The sea was calm and the weather beautiful all of the way, except for about two days when it blew rather rough, and, as the seas caught us sideways, the boat rocked to beat the band. It sometimes rocked so that for hours, if you were sitting on deck, you were looking alternately at the sky above and the water beneath you, and unless you braced your steamer chair you would slide, chair and all, across the deck. Many of the men were dreadfully seasick, but it did not affect me in the least; in fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

First page of handwritten letter, dated June 7, 1918, written from "Somewhere in France."
First page of Ainsworth’s June 7, 1918 letter. Transcribed version also available.

 

On June 26, 1918 Stuart M. Firth (class of 1914) described other watery travels on French soil (transcribed version also available).

“When we marched forty two days to take over our sector, we were accompanied for the forty-eight hours by the most generous supply of rain and snow and hail that this country could give. For two solid days everyone was wet to the skin. Raincoats were not more effective than blotting paper; trench boots, guaranteed to be waterproof when bought in the States, absorbed the bountiful liquid like a sponge.”

Despite these conditions, Firth maintained

“not a man grumbled, there was joking and laughing up and down the whole line and plenty of good old American cussing that did your heart good to listen to.”

[with assistance from Tara Maharjan]

To Learn More

The Rutgers College War Service Bureau collection has been digitized with assistance by a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State. A finding aid describing collection is available and provides links to the digitized materials. 

*The commencement program for 1918 lists 46 graduates.

Rutgers in the First World War, April 1918—Looking Forward to 1975

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When the United States entered World War I a century ago, Rutgers transformed into a war college focused on supporting America’s war effort. Many students and alumni joined the armed forces. Earl Reed Silvers, assistant to Rutgers president William H. S. Demarest, launched the Rutgers War Service Bureau as a means to keep in touch with Rutgers men in service. The Rutgers in the First World War series features stories from the War Service Bureau correspondence, offering a window on the impact of the war on Rutgers students and alumni 100 years ago.

At Rutgers: Rubber Cement and a College for Women

The April 10, 1918 War Service Bureau letter to men in service shared the news that director Earl Reed Silvers had recently “enjoyed the companionship of an infected boil on the back of his neck.” During Silvers’s absence from work, his assistant handled his correspondence. One tell-tale sign of this period for archivists working on the War Service Bureau Collection was that the assistant began using rubber cement to attach soldiers’ correspondence to copies of replies. The rubber cement was removed before digitization, but signs of its removal are evident.

detail of a letter with torn off corner
Top corner of letter from David Abt with rubber cement was removed before scanning (see page).
part of leter with lighter shading on top left
Lighter shading in top left corner of response letter indicates where it was adhered to original letter.

The April 24, 1918 letter to the men in service announced big changes at Rutgers.

“In the meeting of the Board of Trustees last week, it was decided to establish a Woman’s College as a department of the State University. The property of Mrs. John N. Carpender, on George Street, near College Farm, will be rented or purchased; and it is hoped that classes will be started in September.”

The New Jersey College for Women, now known as Douglass College, opened in September 1918 and is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary.

From the Men: In the Air and in the Future

August L. Grimme (Class of 1918) wrote from England to share his experiences flying a two-seater plane. He described flying to an “aerodrome” for tea and seeing “all types of aeroplanes and airships, large and small,” noting “One of the largest ones would put half the town over a shadow if it flew over Irvington.” He described his view on the flight back:

“Had quite a trip coming back home, for clouds had come up and were so low that I had to fly at about a hundred feet up. Scooted over the tops of trees and farmhouses and waved to the farmers and people along the roads.”

David (Dave) Abt (Class of 1917) got in touch in April 1918 to send along some “papers” (possibly newspapers or camp papers) for Rutgers to hold in its archives.

“Having seen some old Civil War Papers in the Library I thought that these few might be of interest to Rutgers students in 1975.”

Although it isn’t clear if the papers Abt sent are still held by the archives, his thought of future generations is appreciated.

letter with corner left torn off
Abt’s letter, which accompanied  papers he sent for future students to see. This is the same letter shown above as an example of rubber cement removal.

[with assistance from Tara Maharjan]

To Learn More

The Rutgers College War Service Bureau collection has been digitized with assistance by a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State. A finding aid describing collection is available and provides links to the digitized materials. 

Rutgers in the First World War, March 1918—“Everybody Is in the War”

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When the United States entered World War I a century ago, Rutgers transformed into a war college focused on supporting America’s war effort. Many students and alumni joined the armed forces. Earl Reed Silvers, assistant to Rutgers president William H. S. Demarest, launched the Rutgers War Service Bureau as a means to keep in touch with Rutgers men in service. This series will feature stories from the War Service Bureau correspondence, offering a window on the impact of the war on Rutgers students and alumni 100 years ago.

At Rutgers: Sports and Serious Illness

As director of the War Service Bureau, Silvers sent biweekly letters to Rutgers men in service. In his first March 1918 Rutgers bulletin Silvers boasted of Rutgers “fairly successful” basketball season, with Paul Robeson as the high scorer. The newsletter also featured updates on baseball, football, and the interclass bowling league.

Paragraph from typescript letter
Excerpt from the War Service Bureau’s 15th letter to men in service, March 13, 1918.

Silvers’s second March War Service Bureau letter carried news of serious illness at Rutgers; the college had almost closed due to a measles epidemic and a student had succumbed to meningitis.

top part of typescript letter
Excerpt from the War Service Bureau’s 14th letter to men in service, March 27, 1918.

From the Men: Hazards Encountered

In March 1918, two Rutgers men shared harrowing events they had experienced and offered reassurance that they’d come through unscathed. In a letter dated March 17, 1918, William Packard (class of  1918)* described being under a gas attack and shelled.

“I was out behind a battery position when suddenly I heard the familiar whizz which tells of the approach of a shell and, after deciding it was coming my way, I literally dove for the nearest shell hole. It burst about a 100 feet away, and being about a 155 showered everything within 200 yards with splinters . . . they passed safely over me. That evening they shelled the deserted village in which I have my room, and so we had to go under ground.”

“For the last hour or so there have been five or six French and two Germans flying above and at intervals of about two minutes they are dropping  big shells just short of this place, the splinters of which light all around.”

front page of handwritten letter with YMCA header
Page from Packard’s letter describing shell attack. Transcribed version also available.

Despite his immediate surroundings, Packard’s next sentence offered that “life is quite pleasant and nowhere as bad as it sounds.” He even promised to send shell fragments to Silvers who had asked for souvenirs from the war.

George Bechtel (class of 1914) described a rocky journey to England.

“For three days we were not allowed on deck . . . when we were finally permitted to go out, we found the after deck pretty well messed up. Several of the life boats were wrecked and some civilians in the steerage were literally washed out of their bunks.”

Like Packard, Bechtel claimed to be unaffected by his surroundings, declaring, “I slept soundly through it all….”

first part of handwritten letter
Letter from Margaret Bechtel enclosed with letters from George. Silvers transcribed Bechtel’s March 1918 letter for inclusion in the Rutgers Alumni Quarterly.

On traveling through England, Bechtel noted it was, “strange to see women in overalls working beside the men . . . but they make you realize how much everybody is in the war.”

To Learn More

The Rutgers College War Service Bureau collection has been digitized with assistance by a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State. A finding aid describing collection is available and provides links to the digitized materials. 

*At the time of writing, Packard was identified as Class of 1918, but due to his absence during the war, graduated in 1921.

#AskAnArchivist

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#AskAnArchivist day is an effort from the Society of American Archivists to bring awareness to the archival community, but also an opportunity for repositories to answer questions about their collections and their jobs. This year Rutgers Special Collections and Univeristy Archives participated for the first time on Twitter (@Rutgers_SCUA). Digital archivist Caryn Radick and processing archivist Tara Maharjan were available for an hour and a half to answer questions.

Flyer for #AskAnArchivist Day.
Throughout the day, they shared other fun facts about the collections in SC/UA. Such as, what is the most glittery item? That would be this untitled work by Miriam Schapiro.

Untitled work by Miriam Schapiro that uses glitter.

What is the oldest item? A Didrachm coin minted between 280 B.C.E.-276 B.C.E.

Didrachm coin minted between 280 B.C.E.-276 B.C.E.  An unevenly round coin with a profile of a man's face with a cap.

Newest acquisition? That would be this folding chair that President Barack Obama sat in during his Rutgers 250 anniversary commencement address.

White folding chair.

Oddest item? Probably a mummified cat. It was donated in 1954 and not much is known about it except it is from Egypt.

Mummified cat.

We were able to share some behind the scenes videos and photos of our collections to answer question like have you ever wonder about the trip our materials take from our closed stacks up to our reading room in the dumbwaiter? Well now you can wonder no more.

Ever wonder about the trip our materials take in the dumbwaiter? Wonder no more. Let's take a trip! #AskAnArchivist

Posted by Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives on Wednesday, October 4, 2017

 

We were able to share some other fun facts, including that not all of our materials are stored on-site.  We have other facilities on the Rutgers Campus which hold some of our boxes.  Here is one such building with an archivist for a size reference.

Archivist standing in front of a wall of boxes that is floor to ceiling.

 

We shared some of the toughest things about being an archivist.  First, the handwriting can sometimes be tough to read:

Small piece of a letter with cursive handwritting

Can you read it?  It says, “…is away from her and now Old Rutgers means much more to me than ever before. I am…”

Second would be how physical being an an archivist really is – it requires people to lift ~40 pounds, to be able to move pallets of boxes, and use the movable shelves.

 

But one of the best things about being an archivist (we think) is stumbling across images with cute animals.

1950s photograph of a woman holding a lamb.

 

We had so much fun with #AskAnArchivist Day.  We look forward to participating again next year.  If anyone has questions about our archives or about being an archivist you can always reach out on social media @Rutgers_SCUA or by email at scua_ref@libraries.rutgers.edu.  We will leave you with some more highlights from the day.

How Rutgers University is connected to Sojourner Truth: The Hardenbergh family in Ulster County, NY

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by Helene van Rossum

 

Composite photo showing silhouette of Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh on left and Sojourner Truth on right
Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh (posthumous silhouette) and Sojourner Truth, 1883

In February 2017 Rutgers University announced that it will name an apartment building on its historic New Brunswick campus after the abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth (c.1797-1883). The decision followed research findings, published in Scarlet and Black: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History, that Sojourner Truth had been enslaved as a child to members of the family of Rutgers’ first president Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh (1736–1790). However,  Sojourner Truth–who was born with the name Isabella–never lived in New Jersey but grew up in Ulster County, New York. She was born enslaved to Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh’s brother, Johannes Hardenbergh Jr. (1729-1799), after whose death she and her family became the property of his son Charles. Johannes Jr. has been confused with his father, Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh (1706-1786), a founding trustee of Queens (later Rutgers) College. Not only did they share a name and lived in Hurley, near Kingston. Both also had a son named “Charles” and served as “Colonel” in the Revolutionary War.

 

The narrative of Sojourner Truth: “Colonel Ardinburgh”

Illustration of Sojourner Truth with white head wrap
Frontispiece of The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, 1850

Sojourner Truth, who never learned to read or write, dictated her life’s story to fellow abolitionist Olive Gilbert (1801-1884), which was published as the Narrative of Sojourner Truth in 1850. According to Gilbert (who spelled the names that Truth provided as she heard them), Isabella was “the daughter of James and Betsey, slaves of one Colonel Ardinburgh, Hurley, Ulster County, New York.” After his death, Isabella, her parents, and “ten or twelve other fellow human chattels” became the legal property of his son Charles. Not older than two when her first owner died, Truth only remembered her second master. When he died too, she was about nine years old and was auctioned off to John Neely, a storekeeper who lived in the area. Her new master severely beat her because of her inability to understand orders. Having been raised in a Dutch Reformed household, she had only learned to speak the language of her masters: Dutch.

 

“That class of people called Low Dutch”

Reproduction of runaway ad  offering 50 dollar reward
Advertisement in the Ulster Gazette by Jacob Hardenbergh about two runaway slaves (1808)

According to the Narrative Isabella’s first two owners “belonged to that class of people called Low Dutch.” These people were descendants of Dutch Reformed families who had emigrated from the Netherlands (the “Low Countries”) in the 17th century and settled in New York and New Jersey. Uninhibited by their Dutch Reformed faith, they farmed their lands with the help of enslaved blacks, like their English-speaking neighbors. (Read about the farm ledgers of Johannes G. Hardenbergh). In 1707 the grandfather of Sojourner Truth’s owner, also named Johannes Hardenbergh  (1670–1745), had purchased a tract of two million acres of land in the Catskill Mountains from a leader of the Esopus Indians. For this land (spread across today’s Ulster, Sullivan and Delaware Counties) Hardenbergh and six others were granted a patent in 1708, which became known as the “Hardenbergh Patent.”  By the time of the first federal census of 1790, fifteen heads of Ulster households had the name “Hardenbergh,” of whom ten listed enslaved people. Advertisements for runaway slaves in the Hudson River Valley (including three from members of the Hardenbergh family) indicate that many slaves spoke Dutch as well as English. Sojourner Truth herself always kept a distinct low-Dutch accent, and never had the Southern black accent that the white abolitionist Francis Gage gave her when publishing the speech that became known as “Ain’t I a Woman?” (compare this speech, written 12 years after the original speech, with a more authentic version).

 

Col. Johannes Hardenbergh (1706-1786), Rosendale, Hurley

Black and white postcard showing home among trees with caption "House of Col. Johannes Hardenbergh."
Postcard of the home of Col. Johannes Hardenbergh  (1706-1786) in Rosendale, Ulster county

As can be seen in Myrtle Hardenbergh Miller’s The Hardenberg family; a genealogical compilation (1958) many male members in the Hardenbergh family inherited the name of the Hardenbergh patriarch in Ulster County. Miller makes a clear distinction between the older Colonel and the younger Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh (1729-1799), the owner of Sojourner Truth. But the older Colonel Hardenbergh (1706-1786) was more famous: he was a field officer under George Washington in the Continental Army, and served in New York’s Colonial Assembly. He lived with his family in “Rosendale,” a house with many rooms as well as slave quarters, formerly owned by his grandfather Colonel Jacob Rutsen. The house, in which Colonel Hardenbergh entertained Washington in 1782 and 1783, burned down in 1911. In the New York Census of Slaves of 1755 Hardenbergh is listed as living in Hurley owning six slaves, which made him one of the largest slaveholders in the county. In 1844 Hurley’s town boundaries changed, however, and the house became part of the newly formed town Rosendale. (View a map of Ulster county, 1829)

 

Col. Johannes Hardenbergh Jr. (1729-1799), Swartekill, Hurley

photo of last page of handwritten inventory
Inventory of Charles Hardenbergh’s estate, listing Isabella, her brother Peter and her mother Bett (source) (full inventory)

The younger Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh was lieutenant Colonel of the Fourth or Middle Regiment, Ulster County in August 1775, and received his appointment as Colonel in February 1779. Married to Maria LeFevre, he lived with his family in Swartekill, Esopus, which was a short distance north of Rifton and also part of the town of Hurley. Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh Jr. appears in the 1790 census for Hurley with seven slaves, who must have included Isabella’s parents James and Betsey and possibly siblings of Isabella who were sold before she was born. It was his son Charles who inherited Sojourner Truth and her family. Born in 1765, he was married to Annetje LeFevre and died in 1808. The inventory of his estate, written on May 12, 1808 and filed on January 2, 1810 lists “1 negro slave Sam, 1 negro wench Bett, 1 d(itt)o Izabella (and) 1 d(itt)o boy Peet.” Isabella, Peter, and the man named Sam were valued at 100 dollar but Isabella’s mother Bett was only valued at one dollar. Rather than being sold, she was freed so that she could take care of her old and sick husband, James Bomefree. Sadly, as recounted in The Narrative, “Mama Bett” (spelled as “Mau-mau Bett” by Olive Gilbert) preceded him in death, and he died in miserable circumstances.

 

Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh (1736–1790)

Image of stained and partly damaged letter
Jacob R. Hardenbergh to his father, December 6, 1777 (in Dutch, read up close)

Like his brothers and sisters, Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh was born in the family home “Rosendale.” He left home when he was around seventeen years old to prepare for the ministry at the home of John Frelinghuysen (1727-54), a young prominent Dutch Reformed minister, who served five congregations in central New Jersey, and lived in what is now known as the “Old Dutch Parsonage” in Somerville. When Frelinghuysen unexpectedly died in 1754 the young Hardenbergh took over the five pulpits. He married Frelinghuysen’s much older widow, the pietist Dina van Bergh (1725–1807) in 1756 and was ordained to the ministry in 1758. Whether he also retained the three slaves (including a child), whom Dina had inherited according to her first husband’s will, is not known. But they did have at least one slave at the parsonage: in a letter from Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh, written (in Dutch) to his father in 1777, he wrote that he had to hurry “because the negro is getting ready to go”  (“wijl de neger gereet maakt om af te gaan“).

In 1781 Hardenbergh was called by the congregations of Marbletown, Rochester, and Wawarsing in Ulster county, and left New Jersey to move back into his parental home “Rosendale” with his family. He returned to New Jersey in 1786 to serve as minister in New Brunswick and president of Queen’s College. Whether he maintained any enslaved people during these last four years of his life we do not know. There are no slaves mentioned in his will.

 

This blog post was extracted from the presentation “Land, Faith and Slaves: the shared heritage of the Hardenbergh family, Rutgers University, and the Dutch reformed Church on June 17, 2017 

Forgotten Heroes: New Jerseyans and Rutgers Alumni During the Great War

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By Flora Boros

 

On April 6, 1917, one hundred years ago, the United States entered The Great War (as it was known then) or the First World War (as we know it today). New Jersey contributed 72,946 draftees and 46,960 volunteers—with more than 140,000 serving by the war’s end—for the final seventeen months of the war. Although the Garden State is teeming with over 160 memorials dedicated to the brave individuals who served in the Great War, their names were largely forgotten until recently. In this blog post we will feature two of these long forgotten New Jersey heroes, using materials from the Rutgers College War Service Bureau and the Terradell Family Papers at the Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives. These materials, along with many other one-of-a-kind artifacts, are currently on display in “Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken!”: New Jersey in the Great War.

With a growing number of Rutgers men in Uncle Sam’s olive drab, Earl Reed Silvers (RC 1913) established the Rutgers College War Service Bureau (RCWSB) in August 1917 to keep the 800 men in service up to date with frequent news of the college and each other. “As far as can be ascertained, no college or university in the United States kept in such close touch with her alumni and undergraduates in the army or navy,” reflected Silvers, “nor has any college the mass of material, war letters and relics, which were sent to old Rutgers by her appreciative sons.”

Portrait of Theodore Rosen. Undated, ca. 1926.

Counted among the alumni who corresponded with Silvers and the RCWSB was Theodore “Theo” Rosen (1895-1940), Rutgers College Class of 1916, who served as First Lieutenant in the 315th Infantry, 79th Division.

Creeping and crawling toward the German line in search of a machine gun nest on the early morning of November 4, 1918, Rosen found himself in the path of fire. One bullet rendered his right arm useless; the other tore through his left cheek, filling his mouth with blood and taking out seven teeth. The 23-year-old would lose the top of his left thumb, break his left wrist, have his right arm amputated, and suffer impaired hearing and vision before the onslaught was over. He only recovered consciousness as a P.O.W. on the operating table at Longwy, where he remained prisoner for the eight days before the Armistice in November 1918. Commendation letters in Rosen’s RCWSB file stressed Rosen’s status as a medical marvel thanks to a “masterpiece of surgery.” Noting his “gallantry in action and meritorious services,” Rosen garnered high praise from a department dealing with the paperwork for nearly 4 million American troops.

Excerpt of “The Man Who Wouldn’t Be Licked!” Real Heroes (1941) (view complete comic)

Following his early death, the war hero’s perseverance and valiance was preserved in the sole issue of Real Heroes (1941) in a comic entitled “The Man Who Wouldn’t Be Licked!” In short, Rosen’s story truly gives new meaning to the phrase “mind over matter.”

Click to read the complete details of Rosen’s “Remarkable Story” from the RCWSB’s Selected Letters, which Earl Reed Silvers intended to turn into a book.

 

But for every story of Great War survival, there are hundreds of stories of heroes who never made it back home to New Jersey. Counted in the tally of the 3,836 New Jerseyans lost to combat, accident, and disease, was Trentonian Russell “Russ” J. Terradell (1897-1918), whose story is housed in the Terradell Family Papers.

First page of Russell Terradell’s letter to his mother. Undated, ca. Oct. 1918. (view complete letter)

Around a week after Rosen fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Emma L. Terradell tore open this six-page letter from her son, Private Russell Terradell, 61st Regiment, 5th Division. According to Dr. Richard Grippaldi of Rutgers University, such final “just in case” letters were written by soldiers to their families on the eve of battle since the early days of the Civil War, and remain a custom in combat units to this day.

Russell Terradell surrounded by his mother and three sisters Eleanor, Emma “Loretta,” and Streline “Mercedes.” Undated, ca. 1917.

Slain-in-action on October 17th 1918, Terradell’s begins with the introductory understatement, “To the dearest of Mothers, When this reaches you you will know that I have passed over, Mother I know how horribly upset you will be over this and that the scar will always remain.” The 21-year-old patriotically justified his death as he attempted to console his family, “But we shall live forever in the results of our efforts. I did not make much of my life before the war but I believe I have done so now. Often one hears ‘Poor fellow cut off so young without ever having a chance of knowing and enjoying life.’ But for myself thanks for all you have done for me. I have crowded into twenty-one years enough pleasures and experiences of a lifetime, and that is why it is no hardship for me to leave this world so young.” The wrinkled onionskin paper still bears the marks of his mother’s tears one hundred years later, and I dare you not to get a bit choked up over this difficult-to-read letter.

If you’re interested in learning more about New Jersey servicemen like Rosen and Terradell, please check out our latest exhibition, “Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken!”: New Jersey in the Great War. On display through September 15, 2017 in Alexander Library. Curator’s tours are available by appointment, please email inquiries to flora.boros@rutgers.edu.

 

Hidden Dutch treasures at Rutgers Special Collections

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By Helene van Rossum

Farm ledger opened for Benjamin Oosterhoudt, shoe maker, showing debited entries on left and credited entries on right
Farm ledger of John G. Hardenbergh, 1773-1794, opened for Benjamin Oosterhoudt, cobbler

For people who are familiar with the history of Rutgers University, founded as Queen’s College by the Reformed Dutch Church in 1766, it will not be surprising that there are Dutch archival materials among the university’s Special Collections. Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh (1735-1790), the college’s first president, was a member of  the powerful Dutch Hardenbergh family that had settled in the Hudson valley in the 17th century. The philanthropist Henry Rutgers (1745-1830), after whom the college was renamed in 1825, was also a descendant from New Netherlands colonists. On the occasion of this year’s annual conference of the New Netherlands Institute, dedicated to New Jersey’s Dutch past,  we have embarked upon a search for Dutch resources in our collections, some of which have only been accessible through a card catalogue so far. The provisional list that we came up with contains surprises. (Download the list.) Below are some highlights. 

 

Dinah van Bergh’s pietist diary, 1746

 

Archival box displaying folded up ivory dress with enboded flowers and berries
Dinah Van Bergh  Frelinghuysen Hardenbergh’s wedding dress in Rutgers Special Collections, 1750 or 1756

The only Dutch document that has gained some attention in the past is the devotional diary that Dinah Van Bergh (1725-1807), daughter of a wealthy Amsterdam merchant, kept in 1746 and 1747. Her pietist faith inspired her to believe that God wanted her to marry the Reformed Dutch minister Johannes Frelinghuysen in 1750 and follow him to Raritan, New Jersey, where he was to serve as minister to three congregations.  The diaries, of which the earliest part is owned by Rutgers and the second by the Sage library at the Theological Seminary in New Brunwick, is available online in an English translation, along with a few letters and a religious Dutch poem (view a publication of the diary in Dutch).

Sadly, Johannes Frelinghuysen died in 1754, leaving Dinah widowed with two young children. When one of Frelinghuysen’s pupils proposed to her, the much younger Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh (Rutgers’ future president), she again felt it was God’s will that she would serve as a minister’s wife in New Jersey and cancelled her plans to return to the Netherlands. Her wedding dress, used for either her first or second marriage (or both), is one of the Dutch treasures at Rutgers University Special Collections.

 

Johannes’s G. Hardenbergh’s farm ledgers, 1763-1794

 

Black and white photo of delapidated one story building with broken roof
Farm house built by Johannes G. Hardenbergh at Kerhonkson in 1762, 16 miles from Kingston, Ulster,  NY

Of particular interest to local historians are two farm ledgers, kept by Johannes Gerardus Hardenbergh (1731-1812), cousin of Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh. In 1762 he built a farm house at Kerhonksen, 16 miles from Kingston, Ulster County NY, later known as the “Old Fort,” where he raised his family and lived until his death. The house played an important role in the Revolutionary War: in October 1777 governor George Clinton ordered the government’s most important papers at Kingston to be sent there for safekeeping, only days before Kingston was torched by the British.

Hardenbergh’s farm ledgers, which span the years 1763-1794 (with references  to a third volume), are an interesting example of a barter economy. Purchases by customers (mainly wheat, corn, and butter) are recorded on the left; payments were usually made in services rather than in cash, expressed in pounds under the heading “contra” on the right.  Those services often included days of mowing, ploughing, spinning, or just “work” for somebody else. Particular services included the making of a coffin, or mending shoes for members of the family, as  in the case of Benjamin Oosterhoudt (shown above). There are a few more individuals listed among the members of the household whose shoes were mended, with simple English first names, rather than Dutch. Could they have been Hardenbergh’s slaves? According to the first census records eleven enslaved people lived on his farm in 1790.

Detail of a sheet of scrap paper with calculations and Hardenbergh's name in the ledger
Detail of sheet of scrap paper inside the ledger including Johannes G. Hardenbergh’s name

A most interesting aspect of the ledgers is that all entries are written in Dutch, which may well have been the language spoken at the farm. Dutch was the only language known to Sojourner Truth (c. 1797-1883) as a child. She was born enslaved in Swartekill, Ulster County on the farm of Hardenbergh’s cousin Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh (1729-1799), who was the oldest brother of Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh. According to her personal narrative, in which she refers to her first master as Colonel Ardinburgh, her lack of understanding English caused her to be severely beaten by her new master, John Nealy in Kingston, after she was auctioned off in 1806.

The ledgers raise the question who did the actual labor that was traded for the goods that Hardenbergh sold. How many people doing the “work” recorded in the ledgers were enslaved? We will need more research to find out.

 

Dutch autographs from the Netherlands, 1673-1781

 

Detail from a doccument showing signature of Michiel A. de Ruyter
Detail from John Romeyn Brodhead’s Dutch autographs collection…. Stay tuned!

A final surprise found among the Dutch materials in our holdings is a folder among the papers of  the historian John Romeyn Brodhead (1814-1873), simply labeled “early Dutch documents.” Brodhead, who spent time in Dutch archives to transcribe documents relating to New York’s colonial history, clearly had an eye for names of famous Dutch naval heroes and politicians. But that will be the subject of another post. Stay tuned!

Hungry in the Hub City

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By Catherine Babikian

When it comes to eating, Rutgers students have always had plenty of options, from pubs and taverns to diners and ice cream parlors. Today, we’ve dug into our archives to get a glimpse of what Rutgers students in the 1980s had to eat.

Shelly’s Ice Cream on Easton Avenue served sandwiches, subs, and most importantly, ice cream sundaes and milkshakes. Students really craving ice cream could order the “Heavy Chevy”: four scoops of ice cream, two sundae toppings, whipped cream, nuts, and sprinkles!

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Shelley’s Ice Cream, 1980s. Sinclair NJ Restaurant Menu Collection.

And students looking for Sunday brunch only needed to look to Stuff Yer Face for egg, bacon, or mushroom stromboli–or perhaps a frittata?

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Stuff Yer Face, 1980s. Sinclair NJ Restaurant Menu Collection.

The Rusty Screw Tavern offered standard pub fare along with live music and film screenings. In 1984, the restaurant welcomed the Rutgers class of 1988 to campus with a free concert, featuring the new wave band The Resistorz.

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The Rusty Screw Tavern, 1984. Sinclair NJ Restaurant Menu Collection.

Later in the semester, students could stop by the Rusty Screw for a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Big Chill.