Archives at Home: Transcriptions


While Special Collections and University Archives has been working from home, we have been trying to get as many images and collections online as possible.  Thanks to our Graduate Assistant, Ilya Slavutskiy, we have been able to provide some transcriptions to images.  Please understand that we do not always have the full document.  We will continue to add more transcriptions as we create them.

Van Fleet Transcription:

English Miscellany:

Committee of Secret:

Rutgers During WWI and the Flu Epidemic of 1918


by Alexandra DeAngelis

With all campuses closed, students sent home from their dorms, classes migrated online, and the cancellation of commencement activities due to the global pandemic of COVID-19, 2020 is turning out to be a memorable year in Rutgers history. But this is not the first time Rutgers has endured hardships that have altered the ways students lived and learned on campus.

A little over a hundred years ago 1918 took Rutgers by storm.

By 1917 Europe was deep in the throes of World War I. On April 6th, 1917 the United States joined its allies Britain, France, and Russia, to fight on the battlefields in France. Back home in New Jersey, Rutgers was beginning to feel the changes brought on by the unresting war.

The 1917-1918 academic year saw a substantial reduction in attendance at Rutgers, as 67 men had already left college to join troops overseas at the end of the previous year.

At the start of the 1918 fall term, the total number of undergraduates had dropped from 513 to 286 undergraduate students. Now, over 200 men were enlisted in the War effort.

Rutgers became a part of the War Department’s Students Army Training Corps (SATC), which prepared men from Rutgers and other institutions, including Princeton and Harvard, to be trained for officers’ positions with the directive that in a few month’s time they would take their places in the command of companies stationed in the fight abroad.  (William Henry Steele Demarest, A History of Rutgers College, 1766-1924 (New Brunswick:  Rutgers College, 1924, 536-38.)

The SATC instituted a new order of college life. Dormitories and fraternity houses were outfitted barrack style to house the men. Military regulations overtook daily activities, instruction in military procedure and training took the place of normal college life. Though studies were reconfigured to fit within the regime of military training, the usual curriculum was largely sustained. (ibid.)

A formal ceremony was held on October 1, 1918 instituting the SATC and swearing in about 400 college men as soldiers of the United States.

Photograph of the Raising of Service Flag. ca. 1918. Rutgers Photograph Collection, Military Functions, R.O.T.C. Folder. Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.

To maintain contact with Rutgers men fighting abroad, President William H.S. Demarest and assistant Earl Reed Silvers, “Sil”, implemented the War Service Bureau of Rutgers College in August of 1917 with the aim to keep Rutgers alumni in contact with the college and each other during the war. As acting director of the Bureau, Silvers sent letters to Rutgers men serving in the armed forces, soliciting responses about the experiences in the service. Silvers also sent out issues of Rutgers Alumni Quarterly and notified Rutgers alumni of government job openings. The Bureau resulted in a collection of over four thousand letters documenting the experience of Rutgers alumni during World War I (

This adjustment to normal college life was not long lasting. On November 11, the armistice was signed. Shortly after, the SATC was disbanded and student soldiers were discharged on December 14. (Demarest, A History, 539)

Rutgers felt the effects of the disturbances of war for a year or two after the student soldiers returned. Many men took a long time to return to attain credits for a degree. Undergraduates who were active in the service received half a year’s credit towards a degree upon their return to their studies. Some, however, never returned. (ibid.)

After this brief period of disruption in the fall of 1918, Rutgers was prepared to return to the regular curriculum, but the semester found itself marked again by the epidemic influenza, known as the “Spanish Flu,” “the grippe,” “Spanish Influe,” and “the bug.”

The influenza of 1918 ranked as one of the deadliest epidemics in history- exacting a higher toll in a year than in four years of the Black Death or the Bubonic Plague. Between spring of 1918 and winter of 1919, the influenza killed as many as one in every eighteen people.

One theory is that the influenza began in Haskell County Kansas. An outbreak in the county was recorded in January 1918. The direct cause of the influenza is still unknown, although two potential influences have been identified: Haskell County was a prevalent hog farming community. The county also sits on a major migratory flyway for 17 bird species, including sand hill cranes and mallards. “Scientists today understand that bird influenza viruses, like human influenza viruses, can also infect hogs, and when a bird virus and a human virus infect the same pig cell, their different genes can be shuffled and exchanged like playing cards, resulting in a new, perhaps especially lethal, virus.” (John M. Barry, “How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America,” National Geographic (November 2017), accessed April 2020,

The first reported cases of the influenza virus were documented in Haskell County. Haskell men who had been exposed to the virus went to Camp Funston in central Kansas to train for World War I. Within two weeks, 1,000 soldiers from the camp were admitted to the hospital, while many remained sick in the barracks. Thirty eight men from Camp Funston died. It is believed that infected soldiers from Funston transmitted the virus to other Army camps across the United States; out of the 36 US camps, 24 reported outbreaks. The soldiers continued to spread the virus across the nation and eventually overseas at their arrival in France. (Barry)

At the height of America’s involvement in World War I, between September and November 1918, nearly 40 percent of American servicemen were infected. (“Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken!”, 23)

Photograph “On the Way to War.” New Brunswick, NJ. Undated, ca. September 1917. Note the entrance to “Old Queens Campus” in the top left of the image. Pictorial Collection. Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.

The influenza was dubbed the Spanish Flu, not because it originated in Spain, but because Spain was a neutral country during the War. While the Allied and Central Powers suppressed any mention of the influenza in the news as to not weaken morale, the Spanish press freely reported on its progression. Many other countries underwent a media blackout, so their only sources of detailed information came from the Spanish media. This led to the assumption that the influenza began in Spain. In Spain, however, believed the virus had come to them from France (which may be partially true given the American Army’s stations in France), and they called it the “French Flu.” (Evan Andrews. “Why was it Called the ‘Spanish Flu’?” History, January 12, 2016,

Even those spared the influenza during the war in Europe were not free on their return to the United States. Elmer. G Bracher, stationed at a convalescent camp in France wrote to Earl Reed Silvers as part of Rutgers’ War Service Bureau. In one letter from 1918, Bracher expresses the “hard luck” about a mutual acquaintance, Jill Jackson. Despite all the chances of catching some infectious disease while serving aboard, Jackson had returned home unscathed, only to catch “the ‘flu’” upon arriving home. (

Indeed, the influenza of 1918 was the most serious and wide-spread sickness the student body of America had ever known. It affected almost all colleges and universities, some experienced large numbers of student illness and death. William H.S. Demarest, President of Rutgers College from 1906-1924, only includes a small mention of the influenza in his 1924 book, A History of Rutgers College, 1766-1924. Demarest reports that only about seventy-five students fell ill from the influenza in the fall of 1918, all at various points in time. Despite these low numbers, Rutgers responded to the epidemic by transforming the Ivy Club (“Fraternity Houses Being Used,” The Targum, October 23, 1918, into an infirmary where one student died. (Demarest, A History, 539) Three other Rutgers students died in their homes. (Demarest, A History, 539)

Various campus activities were cancelled due to the influenza. Rutgers was set for a football match against Lafayette College on October 12, 1918. Earlier that week, there was an outbreak of the influenza at Lafayette and the college went into quarantine, ceasing all athletic activities. (“Lafayette Game Cancelled,” The Targum, October 9, 1918,

The newly opened New Jersey College for Women (later Douglass College) was forced to close less than a month after welcoming students, due to an outbreak of the influenza that had made victims of “the Dean and nearly half of the student body.” (“Spanish Influenza,” The Targum, October 16, 1918, college reopened its doors on October 21st, just two weeks after shutting down. Students embraced their arrival with a welcome party. (“Women’s College Reopens With 51 Students,” The Targum, October 30, 1918,

On October 16th, 1918 Rutgers published an article in The Targum advising students on how to best weather the storm of the influenza. Their advice for preventing the spread of the 1918 influenza are similar to the practices we must follow in the wake of COVID-19, including covering mouths when you cough or sneeze (though The Targum suggests one should cover their mouth with their ubiquitous handkerchief. We’d be hard pressed to find a student who carries a handkerchief today! Maybe we should bring them back?) and to avoid contact with anyone with symptoms including, fever, sneezing, a bad cough or cold, sore throat, pain in the chest, or general weakness or chills. Most importantly, the article in The Targum reminds students to limit their time spent in crowds– social distancing 1.0! The article asserts that “if we all observe these precautions, the epidemic will soon be a thing of the past.” (“Spanish Influenza.”)  A student’s poem submitted to the “Targumdrops” section of The Targum provided a bit of levity during this hard time:


I now must write a line or two,

As all good poets sometimes do.

Of all sickness, I am glad

“Influ” I have never had.

I never mind a chimney “flue,”


Or an army cot, just broke in two;

But of all the birds that ever fly,

This “flu” bird simply takes my eye.

So take a bath, and never doubt

The “flu” will get you,

If you don’t watch out.

(Poem from “Targumdrops,” The Targum, October 30, 1918,

Rutgers University has weathered many storms over the 250+ years of its existence. The bonds of Rutgers’s students, faculty, staff, and alumni have never wavered and times of disruption have only made us stronger. Undoubtedly, the year 2020 will go down in the annals of Rutgers history. We must keep the enduring spirit of our Rutgers predecessors in mind as we continue to adjust to learning and living away from campus and remember that as Rutgers has persevered through the hardships of war and influenza, we too shall forge our way through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Works Cited:

Andrews, Evan. “Why was it Called the ‘Spanish Flu’?” History. January 12, 2016.

Barry, John M. “How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America.” National Geographic. November 2017.

Bracher, Elmer G. Letter to Earl Reed Silvers. December 1918. Box 9, Folder 5, RG 33/C0/01 Records of the Rutgers College War Service Bureau. Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers University Archives.

Demarest, William Henry Steele. A History of Rutgers College, 1766-1924. New Brunswick: Rutgers College, 1924.

“Fraternity Houses Being Used.” The Targum. October 23, 1918.

“Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken!”: New Jersey in the Great War. 2017. Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.

“Lafayette Game Cancelled.” The Targum. October 9, 1918.

Poem from “Targumdrops.” The Targum. October 30 , 1918.

Records of the Rutgers College War Service Bureau. RG 33/C0/01. University Archives, Rutgers  University Libraries.

“Spanish Influenza.” The Targum. October 16, 1918.

“Women’s College Reopens With 51 Students.” The Targum. October 30, 1918.



Rutgers Football from the Vault: Celebrating 150 Years – Post-game Analysis


By: Stephen Dalina

On November 6th, 2019, football fans celebrated the 150th anniversary of the first college football game, which was played by Rutgers and Princeton University. It was University Archivist Erika Gorder’s and my pleasure to assemble an exhibit celebrating not just college football, but also the game’s evolution alongside the growth of Rutgers University.

For myself, this exhibit was match made in heaven! My father is a longtime Rutgers employee, so going to Rutgers football games and other athletic events filled my childhood. I attended St. Joseph’s High School (Metuchen) and had the privilege to play varsity football with a plethora of talented young men, a handful of whom went on to play for the Scarlet Knights. I had the opportunity to pursue my love of history at Rutgers, obtaining my bachelors’ degree in 2018. I had the unique viewpoint of being a Rutgers football superfan while having a background in historical research. The stars were aligned.

The exhibit captures the spirit of event, the essence of the birth of a national pastime, and the meaning of college football in relation to Rutgers’ prestigious legacy. To encompass a 150 years of history, the archives were thoroughly investigated for any items that interconnected with history of Rutgers with its football program.

The 1st collegiate football game was played differently than how we witness the pastime of football today. Rutgers’ squad of 27 players – only 25 took the field at a time – defeated Princeton 6-4 in the first intercollegiate football game, more like soccer than the modern sport. The game was played on the property that the College Avenue Gym parking lot now inhabits. Princeton won a second match that year, allowing both schools to claim the sport’s first national championship. A third match between the two New Jersey rivals was canceled, because professors said studies were disrupted by the uproar.

Rutgers’s George Dixon and Stephen Gano are accredited for the game’s first score. William J. Leggett, ’72, elected by his teammates as captain of the 1869 Rutgers team. Leggett and his counterpart from Princeton, William S. Gummere ’70, met prior to the starting time of the game to discuss and agree upon the rules of the game. Both men went on to distinguished careers, Leggett as a Reformed clergyman, and Gummere as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Boyd Painting Of the 1869 Rutgers Vs Princeton Game    

Boyd’s depiction, as well as other depictions, of the game were done several years after it had taken place. Therefore, these depictions are not 100% accurate to how the game was played. The only first person account we have of the game comes from a copy of the Targum, currently on display at University Special Collections and University Archives in Alexander Library.


West George Street Station

Princeton players took a train to play against Rutgers in New Brunswick. These tracks are now inhabited by NJ Transit.


1900s Helmet


This helmet is typical of ones players wore in the 1920s. The exhibit features a whole uniform from a 1920s lineman. 


1918 Football Team Photo


The 1918 team coached by George Stanford featured Paul Robeson, Rutgers’ first All-American. Robeson would go on to be known as a true Renaissance man, renowned as a musician, actor, and political activist. He was forced to sit out one game due to a request from the University of Washington and Lee due to their apprehensiveness to play against an African American player. That was the only game Rutgers lost that season.

1950 Retiring Chanticleer Photo

Rutgers’ fullback Steve Simms officially says goodbye to the Chanticleer as the mascot of Rutgers during a ceremony to mark the end of his reign. The Scarlet Knight then took over as the mascot we now know and love.

Centennial Game Program 1969

Publication sold at Rutgers Vs Princeton Game to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of College Football.

1980 Rutgers Vs Alabama

Photograph of Rutgers playing University of Alabama, which Alabama won 28-25. Of the game, Alabama coach Bear Bryant gave the famous quote, “We won, but we didn’t beat them.”

Rutgers Vs Louisville 2006 Game Ticket

Ticket from Rutgers Football’s greatest victory under Greg Schiano’s tenure. The 15th ranked Scarlet Knights upset the 3rd Ranked Louisville Cardinals.

The project was a collaborative undertaking. Memorabilia displayed in the exhibit was provided by collection here at the University Archives and Special Collections along with some items from Steve Green, and Stephen M. Dalina (My Father).

Archives at Home: SEBS


I was recently asked what resources Special Collections and University Archives has for Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS) students. Here are some of our digital items and some lists of things that are physically in the archives that may be interesting.

Online Resources

Only in the Archive

Other sites that show some SC/UA collections

If you are looking for items within a particular subject, please be in touch with us at or on social media.

Archives at Home: Van Fleet Transcription


Today in our Archives at Home series, we bring you the Civil War letters of brothers John E. Van Fleet of Clover Hill, Hillsborough Township, Somerset County, New Jersey and James O. Van Fleet who served in the 9th New Jersey Infantry. Accompanying the letters are a photograph of Van Fleet and several documents, 1889-1891, relating to a pension, based on Van Fleet’s service, received by his mother (Ann).

This transcription was completed by Ilya Slavutskiy.

The transcription is on the page following the image. Click here to view the letters and the transcriptions:

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to us on any of our social media sites or by email at

Archives at Home: New Finding Aids


While we are not able to physically able to provide access to these collections (or any of our collections right now), we are working to get more of our finding aids online! This allows us to share with you what we have in our collections. Here are some of the new finding aids we have put online. Check them out!

Professional and Academic Training in the Fine Arts Program at NJC, 1920-1952


In 2018, the Douglass Residential College (DRC) celebrated the 100th anniversary of the college’s founding. The anniversary generated many programs and publications that extended into 2019 and 2020. For instance, in October 2019, Women Artists on the Leading Edge: Visual Arts at Douglass College by Joan Marter, Rutgers Distinguished Professor Emerita, was published by the Rutgers University Press. Aware of the college’s long history as a leader in visual arts pedagogy, Douglass Dean Jacquelyn S. Litt provided funding to support additional research by DRC students. We are delighted to share the results of Hallel Yadin’s research in this blog. Hallel is currently an Archives Associate at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York.

Professional and Academic Training in the Fine Arts Program at NJC, 1920-1952

Hallel Yadin, DRC ‘19


In its early days, New Jersey College for Women (NJC) was the only non-normal school (teacher’s college) option for New Jersey’s women. As such, it assumed some responsibility for preparing its students for the state workforce. Here lay some tension about its goals as an institution of higher education. While it fancied itself a small liberal arts college in the vein of Vassar or Sarah Lawrence, as per the sensibilities of its ever-decorous founder, Mabel Smith Douglass, the liberal arts did not always align with the needs of the state. The Fine Arts Department at New Jersey College for Women was one arena where this disconnect played out.

First, there were tensions related to art being regarded as a serious object of study in the academy. However, by the time NJC formed an art department, those had largely been alleviated. As Dean Mabel Smith Douglass wrote in 1930, “Long regarded by the colleges as merely a kind of adornment as far as solid education went, and as scarcely worthy of serious consideration, [art] has gradually, but surely, won its right to be considered, much as music, a serious study of dignity and importance and a reasonable, even an essential, part of a liberal education.” This reflects the description of the purpose of the art department in the 1930 course catalogue, which states, “The purpose of the department is (1) by the study and the appreciation of art to provide a part of a liberal education; and (2) specifically to prepare students to teach art or pursue it professionally.” This dual purpose demonstrates the department’s attempt to balance the demands of the liberal arts curriculum with the prerogative of NJC to prepare students for the workforce, especially as a public state institution.

Course Offerings

The art department began in the 1925-1926 academic year. For the first two years, its offerings were limited to art history courses:

❖ History of Ancient Art

❖ History of Early Christian and Medieval Architecture

❖ History of Italian Architecture and Sculpture

❖ History of Italian and Spanish Painting, History of Northern Painting

❖ History of Modern Art

NJC Art Class, 1920

A shift began in 1927 with the introduction of the Curriculum in Art for students preparing to teach “practical” art. This shift actually comprised two major developments: offers of pre-professional training in art-related fields, and the department distinguishing between practical, and, by default, “impractical” forms of art. In 1927, NJC began offering a “practical arts course,” specifically to train students to become art teachers.

The Practical Arts courses, divided into grade-level seminars, included the following topics:

❖ Color, Design, Freehand Drawing, and Perspective for sophomores

❖ Advanced work in color, drawing, and perspective for juniors

❖ Advanced work in color, drawing, and perspective for seniors

It makes sense that teaching would be the department’s first foray into arts-related vocational training, as teaching is the field that the plurality of NJC graduates pursued. A survey entitled “Vocational Interests of the Class of 1936” reported that 94 of the 203 respondents (which represented 90 per cent of the class) sought teaching positions. The next-highest response was work in department stores, with only 14 graduates. These figures are striking, especially since 32 respondents did not list career paths and likely were not planning to work at all.

Furthermore, the fine arts courses expanded beyond history and theory into the process of creating art. Starting in the 1930s, the art courses included:

❖ General Art

❖ Art Appreciation

❖ Drawing and Composition

❖ Design

❖ Commercial Design

❖ Drawing and Painting

❖ Theory and Practice of Teaching Fine Arts

The language that the art department used to delineate between “professional” and “fine” art evolved over time, but the division remains throughout decades of course offerings. In the 1920s, the course catalog differentiates between “fine art” and “applied art.” In the 1930s, it shifts to delimiting descriptions of art offerings as “graphic and plastic arts,” which were defined only as “painting, modelling, drawing, and design.” The 1940s brought intradepartmental discussion of the “practical branches” of the arts. In the 1950s, the Division of Fine Arts was described as providing offerings in both the “cultural and professional arts.” While the language changed, the department consistently differentiated between professional or “practical” arts, and non-professional or “fine” arts, despite robust offerings in both within the same department.

The art department also offered training in several career tracks in more traditional trades. One of these was the major in art education noted above. NJC also offered majors in interior decoration, fashion design, costume design and illustration, and commercial design at varying periods in its history. Outside of the art department, there were other majors that seemed to be confined to “impractical” women’s work, but actually had quite practical applications, like the industrial clothing application in the home economics department. (Home economics as a whole actually included “real-world,” outside-the-home tracks, like industrial nutrition, which kept the country fed during the Second World War.)

Beyond this, between 1937 and 1952, the art department offered a major in ceramic arts. The major granted a Bachelor’s of Science degree in cooperation with the ceramics department at Rutgers College and offered “an outline of training in the applications of art to the ceramic industry, including studio work in art and laboratory work in ceramics, as well as detailed study of the nature and uses of clays.” (It is worth noting that in 1945 the Department of Ceramics at Rutgers joined the School of Engineering, while at Douglass it was relegated to the art department.) Without having identified much more detail, we can speculate that the offer of this major was related to Trenton’s renowned pottery and ceramics industry.

The Role of Art Instruction in Forming a State Cultural Identity

The college was cognizant of the role of higher education in individual states’ cultural identity formations. As one dean wrote, “It is no longer a question of whether or not the arts belong in the university. They are already established on the campus. The question, therefore, is one of how Rutgers can expand its facilities and services so that it can assume a position of leadership in the cultural affairs of the state. We need our own solutions to cultural needs, not those of New York or Philadelphia…” There was a similar sense of the urgency of equipping New Jersey within the Fine Arts Department itself. As one chair of the department wrote in 1941, “New Jersey, more than any other state, with the possible exception of New York, is pioneering on some frontiers of American democracy … Our state cannot wait to see what other states have done and follow their lead.” NJC assumed the responsibility of providing New Jersey with its arts training. In this

way, the arts came into a professional role, and not just in terms of workforce training. This was workforce training that was in service of the state.

Margaret Trumbell Corwin

The institution was also cognizant of the role of art in national identity. As early as 1939, Dean Margaret Trumbull Corwin wrote, “Closely associated with English and history in the preservation of our cultural traditions are the fine arts.” For example, in the 1939-1940 school year, the art department reprised an “Americanization” exhibition that had first been held a decade prior. “Students, awakening to the realization of the historical significance of much that surrounded them and was taken for granted in their daily lives at home, responded enthusiastically,” reported the chair of the department. “More than two hundred thirty articles from over thirty countries were assembled, – a graphic picture of the international family backgrounds in this cross-section of American life.” NJC was aware of the role of arts and culture in both state and cultural identity formation, which no doubt complicated how it perceived its institutional responsibility as the only public liberal arts-style college for women in New Jersey.

This pursuit, however, complicates the clear-cut distinction between fine and practical arts. The fine arts were understood to be a requisite element of this quite pragmatic state-level cultural project. The chair of the art department once wrote, “Our department at Douglass feels that we should not let the state public school art program rest entirely in the hands of the state colleges.” (He is presumably referring to the state’s teaching colleges.) This indicates a sense that fine arts offerings — which were NJC’s purview in a way that was not the case for the normal schools — were a necessary element of arts education. This concept muddles the dichotomy between “practical” and “impractical” art discussed above. If New Jersey College for Women was to position itself as a cultural authority and cultural producer in New Jersey, its fine arts programs were of paramount importance.


Photograph Notes, in order of photograph appearance

1. Mabel Smith Douglass, ca. 1918 Rutgers University Archives

2. Art studio at NJC, 1920s, Rutgers University Archives

3. NJC students show their graphic arts skill in the yearbook, the Quair, 1921, Rutgers University Archives

4. Margaret Trumbull Corwin, ca 1950, Rutgers University Archives