The Terrible Fate of the Frelinghuysen Brothers, Part 2: Ulster County, NY


By Helene van Rossum

Helene van Rossum is a Dutch-born researcher and writer, who worked at SCUA as public services and outreach archivist from 2016-2018

In our previous blog post we talked about the death of Johannes Frelinghuysen, Dutch minister in the Raritan Valley, and about his widow Dina van Bergh, who married Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh from Ulster County, NY. In this post we will follow up with Johannes’ three younger brothers, two of them called by Ulster parishes to be their minister. Their fate played a role in a schism in the Dutch Reformed Church in the American colonies between the “Coetus” and the “Conferentie” factions, and therefore ultimately in the establishment of Queen’s (later Rutgers) College.

Perished at sea: Jacobus and Ferdinandus

Hand colored engraving of the New York harbor, 1739 (source)

When Johannes Frelinghuysen died of a sudden illness in September 1754 on his way to an annual meeting of the Coetus, the ecclesiastical body was no more than an assembly of ministers and elders representing their congregations. But its position and function would soon be subject of a sixteen-year-long battle. As explained by former Rutgers University Archivist Tom Frusciano, the lack of authority within the churches to educate, examine, and ordain had become a pressing concern among ministers and congregations. While the numbers of churches had grown rapidly by the mid 18th century, there was a severe shortage of ministers to preach.

It was difficult to find Dutch ministers willing to move to the New World, like Johannes Frelinghuysen Sr. had done in 1720. For congregations it was a costly business to send a candidate to the Netherlands to be educated, licensed, and ordained. In addition, the journey was not only dangerous because of weather conditions, but also because of continuous warfare at sea. In 1745, on his way back after his ordination in Utrecht, Theodorus Frelinghuysen Jr. himself spent six additional months at sea because his ship had been captured by the French.

Detail from a 1779 map between Kingston and New Paltz in Ulster County, NY, with the location of the churches of Marbletown, Rochester, and Wawarsing added in red (source)

Despite these experiences, the Frelinghuysen brothers still favored the traditional way to get ministers licensed and ordained in the Netherlands.

According to historian Dirk Mouw, “As late as 1751, when he assisted the congregations of Marbletown, Rochester, and Wawarsing, New York, in making out a call to his brother Jacobus, it was Theodorus Jr. who urged, and finally convinced those consistories, not to ask for examination and ordination in the colonies, but rather to permit Jacobus to go to Amsterdam for promotion.”1

After Theodorus had convinced the three Ulster consistories to send Jacobus the young man and his brother Ferdinandus–who had been called to Kinderhook, 22 miles south of Albany, NY–left for the Netherlands. Sadly, when they sailed back two years later they both contracted smallpox and died in June, 1753, eight days apart. Though Theodorus notified the Classis in September 1753, it took him another month to be able to write the three Ulster consistories. The letter is kept at Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives along with other documents about the three Ulster congregations  (view document list).

“It is not without emotion that I take up my pen to write to you presently, after the Lord prescribed us bitter things, cutting off our hopes, hurting our expectations, turning our happiness into coldness and our imagined joy into sadness, as he took away our dearly beloved brothers Jacobus and Ferdinandus, lovable and beloved in life, and unseparated even in death. 

But he is the Lord: he has given, he has taken, praised be his name. They were his, he has taken them to himself, a glorious change for them, but a heavy blow for us.”

Letter from Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen Jr. informing the congregants of Marbletown, Rochester, and Wawarsing about the death of his brothers Jacobus and Ferdinand, October 22, 1753

Battle for the Benjamin, Henricus

Illustration from The History of Ulster County, New York (1917)

The death of the two Frelinghuysen brothers put new fuel on the smoldering fire. Soon after the news that their new minister had died, the congregations of Rochester, Marbletown, and Wawarsing decided to call the youngest brother, Henricus. Johannes Frelinghuysen in Raritan wrote to the Classis in August to ask for Henricus to be licensed and ordained by the Coetus.

“Not only has the loss of those two fine young men inflicted upon us a wound so severe, that we have the less courage now to let Henricus run the risk of the sea as well as other dangers; but he is the Benjamin in our family, and he has never had the smallpox. Churches have also already expressed their desire to have him as their minister. My humble request, therefore, of your Revs. is, that our Coetus may be authorized, upon evidence of his ability, to ordain him in the name of the Classis. Our case is an extraordinary one, and so there are extraordinary arguments for this request.”

On November 3, 1753, the three Ulster consistories wrote the Classis of Amsterdam themselves. One month later, they sent Henricus a call, listing responsibilities and obligations on both sides. The Dutch letter with sixteen wax seals, which is translated in English, is also kept at Rutger Special Collections and University Archives.

Last page of the call by the churches of Marbletown, Rochester, and Wawarsing to Henricus Frelinghuysen, December 3, 1753 

The Coetus – Conferentie schism

In reply to his letter of August 1753 the Classis of Amsterdam wrote Johannes on May 6, 1754 that he should send Henricus over anyway. No doubt Johannes wanted to discuss the matter during the following Coetus meeting in September, but he died of a sudden illness on his way to Long Island. Nevertheless, during the three-day-long meeting it was decided to change the Coetus into a Classis, which, according to the minutes, would free congregations from the heavy expenses of sending their candidates overseas as well as the young men’s exposure to danger and the loss of time. An important additional reason was also provided: “Thus too we can prevent persons from seeking ordination from other communions differing from ourselves.”

Members of the Coetus soon found out that their president had organized an alternative, conservative, assembly, called the “Conferentie.” In addition, he negotiated behind their backs that the newly founded King’s College in New York (the future Columbia University) would have a professor in theology to teach prospective Dutch ministers. Though educated here, they would still have to be ordained by the Classis of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

In response Theodorus Jr. in Albany wrote the congregations a circular letter, calling for a meeting on May 23, 1755 to establish an American Classis and found their own American College. Thus started the schism in the church between the Coetus and the Conferentie Party, which would tear communities and families apart for the next sixteen years.

Henry dies too

Marbletown Reformed Dutch Church burial ground, the possible grave site of Henricus Frelinghuysen (Photo: Wendy Harris)

Henricus was licensed by the Coetus in 1754, but he would not hold his position at Rochester, Marbletown, and Wawarsing for long. Only two weeks after his ordination by the Coetus in 1757, after the Amsterdam Classis had finally relented, he died of smallpox, like his brothers Jacobus and Ferdinandus before him. According to the Conferentie party in a letter to the Classis of Amsterdam Theodore Jr. defended his brother’s ordination during his funeral sermon and “sought to open the eyes of the people, saying that it was time to look away from the Classis.” One year later Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh from nearby “Rosendale” in Hurley would similarly be ordained by the Coetus to succeed their brother Johannes Frelinghuysen in the Raritan Valley in New Jersey.

You will find out about the sad fate of Theodore, the last remaining Frelinghuysen brother, in a following post by University Archivist Erika Gorder.

1 Mouw, Dirk Edward. “Moederkerk and Vaderland: Religion and Ethnic Identity in the Middle Colonies, 1690–1772.” Ph.D., The University of Iowa, 2009.


Part of the contents of this blog post were shared in the presentation “’That class of people called Low Dutch,’ African Enslavement Among the Dutch Reformed Churches of Ulster County and New Jersey’s Raritan Valley,” by Helene van Rossum and Wendy Harris at Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz, NY (April 7, 2018).

With thanks to Wendy Harris.

Douglass in Fluxus


By Rachel Ferrante

In these uncertain times, can I offer you Douglass College Arts History from 1945-1975?  

I want to start with a story called “Cumberland Street,” which was published in the Anthologist literary magazine in 1950. I believe that the controversy surrounding this short fiction underscores how different Rutgers culture was at the beginning of this period. Reflective of American culture of the time, Rutgers in 1950 had strict standards for the behavior of its students. For many years, the Douglass College student handbook (the Red Book), listed “willfully breaking social code” as grounds for suspension or expulsion. “Cumberland Street” follows three students who are not just breaking rules but laws, and doing so to commit what some New Jerseyans felt was an obscene attack on morality: abortion. The correspondence between angry New Jerseyans, religious leaders, and reporters spanned three university presidencies, and resulted in a few pauses in publication. Rutgers President Mason Gross was the one to put a stop to it by issuing an official endorsement of the magazine on September 11, 1960. In his letters to business leaders and reporters, Gross was respectful but emphasized his duty to defend students’ freedom of expression. Although the focus of my research has been to illustrate the impact of women artists on the university’s arts programming, I felt like this story was worth retelling because it portrays Mason Gross as a supporter of the arts and free speech. Supporting one without the other, I think he would agree, is insufficient.  

Portrait Mason Gross, 1962

Therefore, his name is rightfully attached to Rutgers’ school of the arts. However, the foundation that Mason Gross School of the Arts (MGSA) was built upon is quite literally dependent on female artists, and one microbiologist, Mary Ingraham Bunting. During Bunting’s tenure as dean of Douglass College from 1955 to1960, she made several important changes to the curriculum. Prior to Bunting, Margaret Trumbull Corwin had been the dean of what was then known as New Jersey College for Women (NJC) for 21 years, from 1934 to 1955. Some accounts of her tenure portray her negatively; however, her focus on internal improvements to the college through the World War II era laid the foundation for the vibrant Bunting years. Here are some of Corwin’s contributions:  

  • Developing an annual lecture series that would lead to renowned figures in all fields visiting Douglass, including artists.  
  • Expanding experiential learning so that by 1937 one third of all courses had field trips.  
  • Dissolving the clothing major and replacing it with Costume Design housed in the Fine Arts Department.  
  • Expanding interdisciplinary study opportunities by allowing students to create their own majors.  
  • Developing a recruitment program to draw students during and after the war.  
  • Using connections between NJC and Rutgers to have a university-funded student center built.  
  • Holding showcases of faculty work, specifically within the Fine Arts Department.  

 These showcases continued after her tenure. In 1956, Douglass art professor Robert Watts, then in his third year at the college, displayed his work to a crowd that included a chemist from Johnson & Johnson named George Brecht. Brecht, who had been exploring “the art of chance,” approached Watts, and soon was introduced to Allan Kaprow, a Rutgers College art professor who also began teaching in 1953. A key influence on Brecht and Kaprow was John Dewey. Dewey’s theories of education were also part of the ideology of Black Mountain College (BMC), a short lived but progressive institution that emphasized the importance of art-making in a liberal arts education. Following the 1950s, Dewey’s ideas of a democratic, individually-driven education were growing in popularity as social codes were also changing. At Douglass, Kaprow, Watts, Brecht, and their cohorts continued the legacy of BMC by using the college’s space for inter-media art installations, one of the first of which took place taking place in College Hall, the administration building.  

The genre largely associated with these artists is Fluxus, an interdisciplinary movement including composers and performers, which focused on the artistic process rather than the supposed quality of the final product. Fluxus played a large part in changing how art was being taught and practiced at Douglass. The events that resulted from this movement, Happenings, expanded the importance of art in campus cultureattracting students who were not just interested in art, but radical art. Taking over for Corwin in 1955, Mary Bunting’s time at Douglass, as one author put it “saw the glitter and flamboyance of the [Dean] Douglass years return.” In 1960, her successor Ruth Adams worked closely with President Gross to develop the precursor to the school of fine arts. With these women at the helm, Douglass was able to provide an equitable arts education to women who would go on to become innovative artists themselves.  

Portrait Ruth Adams, 1962

 Well into the sixties, art courses took place on the top floors of Recitation Hall, now the Ruth Adams Building. These courses became increasingly popular as the college grew. In 1961, the Mabel Smith Douglass Library was built, freeing up space in Recitation Hall for more courses. In 1964, liberal arts courses moved to the newly built Hickman Hall, and in 1965 Recitation Hall was renamed the Arts Building. Among the Douglass women studying there were Rutgers MFA students. This period was one of exciting growth at Douglass. One of Bunting’s early goals had been for the student body to reach 3,000 by 1968, which it did, expanding from only 600 students in 1942. With these new students came more diversity and therefore a need for more collaborative and progressive approaches.  

Recitation Hall aka Ruth Adams, undated

These developments occurred both from the ground up and from the top down. While coeducation was never the priority of Douglass College, it started to become a university necessity to accommodate the growing student body. By the late sixties, although men’s degrees were from Rutgers and women’s degrees from Douglass, men and women could attend classes at either campus and in 1969, at the new “urban” Livingston College. One of the ways the University began to integrate was through the “Arts Section” created by Ruth Adams and Mason Gross in 1960. The section consisted of members of Douglass, Rutgers, and Newark visual arts programs and was the official precursor of the School of Fine Arts, as stated in Section II of the document. Section I outlines the primary intent: to paraphrase, the Arts Section was created to strengthen and unify the visual arts curriculum at the university and guide the development of arts programming at other Rutgers’ colleges, including Livingston and Camden. In a letter to the members of the Art Section dated March 10, 1960, Gross writes that “unnecessary duplication must be eliminated,” and that “Douglass and Rutgers can no longer operate separately.”  

Douglass Art Department, ca. 1960s

Touching on a common cultural connection, Gross acknowledged the proximity of New Brunswick to the art scene in New York and cited it as advantageous to Rutgers arts programming. He did make it clear, however, that he wanted Rutgers to have an arts program of its own significance. Gross also expressed a desire for the arts to be integrated into academics and the New Brunswick community at large, seeing the university as a cultural center, and Rutgers having an obligation to the state of New Jersey to develop its own cultural output. With growing interest in Fluxus/Happenings and the “New Jersey School” of art, Brecht and Kaprow began taking classes at the New School for Social Research in 1959. This marked a turning point for the artists. By the mid-sixties, they were well known outside of Rutgers for the movements they pioneered, and therefore became “New York Artists,” no longer associated with New Brunswick. As it turned out, New Jersey influenced New York arts rather than the other way around. In 1965 Brecht stopped working as a chemist, using his education at the New School to inform his art career. Kaprow worked at Rutgers until 1961. Watts would continue at Douglass until 1984, alongside artists Geoffrey Hendricks (1956-2003) and Roy Lichtenstein (1960-1964). The first female faculty member, artist Carolee Schneemann, wasn’t hired until 1976, as an adjunct. 

The arts section had a number of policies. I will focus on two. The first is policy number four–that art museums, exhibition programs, and galleries will be integrated into buildings, no longer as separate spaces. The second, policy number seven, called for an expansion of facilities for the arts. These policies are still being enacted universitywide, especially on the Douglass Campus. An example of how these policies manifested on campus is the Mary H. Dana Women Artist Series housed in the Douglass library. The series, which is the oldest continuous exhibition series showcasing women artists in the United States, remains a fixture of the Mabel Smith Douglass Library. 

Prior to the founding of the Women Artist Series, Douglass students participated in events and installations on the campus. By the 1950s, there was no shortage of women artists at Douglass, just a shortage of female role models. According to Women Artist Series founder Joan Snyder in a 1992 article, “the faculty consisted of some old blood, some new blood–all male blood. The irony of this was inescapable for the MFA program which was on the Douglass Campus, a women’s college never having had a woman teaching a studio course. These were the years right before the dawning of the women’s/feminist art movement.” Snyder is one of the many Douglass graduates who eventually got MFAs from the co-ed master’s program. Another is Letty Lou Eisenhauer, who graduated from Douglass in 1957 and Rutgers in 1962. Eisenhauer is one of the earliest students who gained prominence in the art world particularly in performance art. She first appeared in Kaprow’s Spring Happening, which subverted an old Douglass tradition of the Maypole dance. Eisenhauer continued performing in Happenings through the sixties while building her own Pop Art career. While attending the MFA program from 1961 to 1962, she also acted as the department secretary.  

Loretta Dunkleman (DC ‘58) would go on to get her MFA from Hunter College in New York City and, like Eisenhauer, became a prominent figure in the New York art scene. Dunkleman was also important in the feminist art movement of the seventies. In 1972, Dunkleman co-founded A.I.R. Gallery, the first allfemale artist-run gallery in the United States. At this time, the need for female-exclusive spaces, especially in the arts, began being filled. Especially in New York, many of the women who initiated these changes were Douglass women, once again illustrating the symbiotic relationship between the New York and New Jersey art scenes. Dunkleman sat on the board of the Ad Hoc Committee of Women Artists with fellow alumna Joan Snyder in 1972. The Ad Hoc Committee was founded two years prior as a coalition of feminist artist groups such as Women Students and Artists for Black Liberation, Women Artists in Revolution, and Art Worker’s Coalition. The group’s primary purpose was to protest under-representation at the Whitney Museum’s Annual Exhibition. While Snyder and Dunkleman both sat on the Ad Hoc Committee, a prompt was sent to 800 artists asking about their experiences with gender-based discrimination. The result was a series of letters called “the Rip Off File,” which was displayed at the Douglass Library the following year. The exhibit was in good company, as the space showed the work of 31 artists during the 1973-1974 school year.  

“The Rip Off File,” was displayed at the library as part of the newly established Women Artists Series. This ongoing series began as a result of Snyder’s frustration with the marginalization of women in the gallery system. The series was founded in 1971 through Snyder’s collaboration with Douglass librarians, and was a solution to a variety of issues that Snyder, her classmates, and colleagues identified. First, the series provided gallery space to women artists, and secondly the gallery space provided female role models to students. She recounts the story of the series founding in her article “It Wasn’t Neo to Us,” for the Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries. Sandwiched between Ad Hoc and AIR, the founding of the Mary H. Dana Women’s Artist Series is an important part of feminist art history. The series continues to represent the values Mason Gross advocated as the president of Rutgers. It integrates art into academic space, uplifts the community beyond New Brunswick, and showcases diversity in artistic voice. Thanks to Snyder and ongoing support of the Center for Women in the Arts and Humanities, Rutgers University Libraries, and Douglass College, the Mary H. Dana Women Artist Series maintains these values at Douglass today and reminds us of its history as the place for women in radical art.  


 More information can be accessed at The Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA). Online at: 

The Miriam Schapiro Archives, houses materials about female artists, educators, and much more.  

About the Author: 

Rachel Ferrante, DRC ‘19, has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers and currently serves as the Historic and Architectural Preservation intern for Histoury, a subsidiary of On Location Tours a nonprofit heritage tourism company.  

 Works Consulted: 

Beryl K. Smith, “The Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series: From Idea to Institution,” The Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries, 54.1 (1992), p. 4-5. 

Hendricks, Geoffrey. Critical Mass: Happenings, Fluxus, Performance, Intermedia, and Rutgers University, 1958-1972 (New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 2003). 

“History.” Mason Gross School of the Arts,

 Joan Snyder, “It Wasn’t Neo to Us,” The Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries, 54.1 (1992), p. 34-35. 

“Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series.” Rutgers University Libraries, Exhibits. Online 

Marter, Joan M., and Simon Anderson. Off Limits Rutgers University and the Avant-Garde, 1957-1963. Newark Museum, 1999. 

Marter, Joan M. Women Artists on the Leading Edge : Visual Arts of Douglass College New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2019. 

Olin, Ferris., and Joan M. MarterArtists on the Edge : Douglass College and the Rutgers MFA New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, 2005. 

Schmidt, George P. Douglass College; a History. Rutgers University Press, 1968. 


Archival Sources:  

Inventory to the Records of the Rutgers University Office of the President (Mason Welch Gross), 1936, 1945-1971 (RG 04/A16), Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.

Inventory to the Records of the Dean of Douglass College (Group I), 1887-1973 (RG 19/A0/01), Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries. 

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).

Virtual Rutgers Day!


While we are sad we are not able to enjoy Rutgers Day together, we are happy we get to celebrate virtually. To help you celebrate Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives has a few things to help your virtual Rutgers Day.

Rutgers Puzzles:

Special Collections and University Archives Coloring Pages:

A few photos of the inside of the Schank Observatory:

Images of past Rutgers Day/Ag Field Day/ NJ Folk Festivals:

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

Rutgers in the First World War: Voices of the Armistice—”Such Letters Will Be Invaluable in Later Years”


November 11, 2018 is Veterans Day and marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. To commemorate this centennial, What Exit?  will be featuring letters from Special Collections and University Archives’ Records of the Rutgers College War Service Bureau. This collection features letters from Rutgers students and alumni who served in the First World War, describing their experiences serving in the United States and overseas. Each day between November 1 and 11, Voices of the Armistice posts will share what these Rutgers students from 100 years ago had to say about the moment when peace was declared.

Photo of Earl Reed Silvers

Earl Reed Silvers (class of 1913) was the director of the Rutgers College War Service Bureau. During the First World War, the bureau worked to keep Rutgers men in service in touch with the college and with each other. To achieve this, the bureau sent biweekly letters to the men in service, telling them about what was happening at Rutgers and asking the men to share their experiences of the war. The letters featured in the Voices of the Armistice series are the result of Silvers’s and the Bureau’s efforts.

Silvers’s first letter to the men after the Armistice opened with an expression of gratitude that the war was over:

“Since our last letter, on November 6, the blessing of peace has come to a war-weary world. And in a short time, thank God, there will be no more casualty lists, no more Rutgers boys among those who have made the last supreme sacrifice.”

Silvers went on to describe what changes had happened since the Armistice at Rutgers, which had been transformed into a war college, along with news about Rutgers’ wins and losses at football. Before closing the letter, he made several requests of the men receiving the letter.

. . . Why not all of you in the United States write to the Bureau on December 1st and all of you in Europe on December 30. We’ll make them College Letter Days. Let’s mark them on the calendar now. Write us about the peace celebrations in the places you found yourself when the armistice was signed, about what happened in the trenches on that memorable day; and if any of you are in occupied German territory, write a long letter about it. Such letters will be invaluable in later years.”

paragraph from typed letter on letterhead
Opening paragraph of the War Service Bureau’s first letter after peace was declared.

After the war, Silvers remained at Rutgers and authored a series of novels about Dick Arnold of Raritan College. He died in 1948.

The Rutgers War Service Bureau was formed in 1917 as a way to keep Rutgers men serving in the war in touch with Rutgers and each other. It was headed by Earl Reed Silvers (class of 1913), who was assistant to Rutgers president William Henry Steele Demarest. Thanks to a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, the letters are now available online.

Be sure to visit What Exit? between November 1 and 11 for new stories and follow highlights on Special Collections and University Archives’ Facebook and Twitter.

(With assistance from Tara Maharjan. Silvers letter photo from the Earl Reed Silvers Collection (R-MC 044).)

Rutgers in the First World War: Voices of the Armistice—”The Town Had Been Dark at Nights . . . [Now] Every House Was Lighted””


November 11, 2018 is Veterans Day and marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. To commemorate this centennial, What Exit?  will be featuring letters from Special Collections and University Archives’ Records of the Rutgers College War Service Bureau. This collection features letters from Rutgers students and alumni who served in the First World War, describing their experiences serving in the United States and overseas. Each day between November 1 and 11, Voices of the Armistice posts will share what these Rutgers students from 100 years ago had to say about the moment when peace was declared.

photograph of man in uniform
Photo of Ross H. Flanagin

Ross H. Flanagin (later Flanagan) (class of 1916) was serving with Medical Services in the American Expeditionary Forces in France when the Armistice was declared.

“Well after a while, Fritz thought he had enough of it. He was tired of the rough handling of the Doughboy and decide to ask for an armistice. You remember the day—the 11th of November. It was some day at quiet old Neufchateau. Up until that day the town had been dark at nights. There were no lights in the streets. No lights in the windows of the houses. No lighted store windows to entice within the unwary rank in order to releive [sic] him of his superfluous francs. But on the night of the 11th—Oh Boy!

Four of us walked down to the town that night to help celebrate. We did not know what would happen but were going to be there anyway. As we approached the town we saw for the first time lights in the streets. From some point in the town rockets were shooting up into the sky and bursting with brilliant light. Shop windows were lighted and strange looking sights they were. As we got further into town the crowd became denser. The streets were full of soldiers—French American, Italian, a few Russians and two German prisoners who were cleaning up the last corner to make possible clean streets for the celebrants. At the crossing of the main streets the crowd was so dense that it was necessary to use some of Sanford’s famous tactics to get through. We did after a while and went on our way—at a pace slower than that of the proverbial snail. Rue St. Jean was certainly a pleasant sight. Every house was lighted. Many had lights in the windows. One house in particular attracted our attention. The second story windows of this house were lined with candles—the window sills, y’know. I have never seen anything like that before. It surely made a pretty picture.  

About half way up the Rue St. Jean the Italian band was gathered. Before them were stationed poilus as lantern bearers. Soon the signal was given to start. The band struck up some joyful air and off they moved. All the people in the street followed them. It was not long before nearly all the people in town were marching in the procession. Up and down the streets of the town we marched. After much marching and counter-marching we brought up in front of one of the chateaux in town. Here some French officials had there [sic] quarters. An American officer—it was said that he was some General—made a short speech in English. He said that it was the first time in four years that lights had been permitted in the town at night, that the armistice had been signed, that we would soon be on our way back to America and that he expressed the hope of the French people of the town that we would always remember kindly the people we had come over to help. Then a French official made a short speech in his own tongue. At the end the band played The Star Spangled Banner—and, Silvers you do not know how it made our hearts swell to hear our National Anthem! This was followed by the Marsellaise, and much cheering for both nations.

The band then led the way for another promenade about town playing that most catching air of the French “Madalon”. We marched and counter marched some more and arrived at Jeanne d’Arc Square. Here a French girl sang the Marsellaise and the Star Spangled Banner. She followed this by singing “God Save the King”—but we poor simple Americans who appropriate everything all joined in the singing by lustily proclaiming “My Country T’is of thee.” The we marched some more, singing and shouting, pushing and shoving everyone else around and having a general good rough time.

We had not been paid when all this took place. We were paid the next day and then Base Hospital 66 went downtown and properly celebrated the signing of the armistice. That was the occasion of the battle of Neufchateau when 66 conquered the town and took the heights of Cognac Hill. Nuf Sed!

excerpt from typewritten letter
Excerpt from Ross Flanagin’s letter describing the Armistice in France. He closes with “Yours for the Prosperity of Rutgers.”

After the war, Flanagin became a clergyman with the Episcopal Church and changed the spelling of his last name to Flanagan. He died in 1982

The Rutgers War Service Bureau was formed in 1917 as a way to keep Rutgers men serving in the war in touch with Rutgers and each other. It was headed by Earl Reed Silvers (class of 1913), who was assistant to Rutgers president William Henry Steele Demarest. Thanks to a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, the letters are now available online.

Be sure to visit What Exit? between November 1 and 11 for new stories and follow highlights on Special Collections and University Archives’ Facebook and Twitter.

(With assistance from Tara Maharjan.  Flanagin photo from the Rutgers University Biographical Files: Alumni Collection.)