April 28, 2016
by library
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From May Day to University Day: Exploring Connections Between Chatham Traditions

As part of this year’s University Day celebration, JKM Library and the Chatham University Archives are pleased to present an exhibit titled From May Day to University Day: Exploring Connections between Chatham Traditions.

This exhibition focuses on the history of Chatham’s May Day pageants and other end-of-the-semester festivities, such as Toe Dabbling Day, Buckets and Blossoms, and University Day. Photographs, programs, and ephemera documenting Chatham’s many springtime celebrations, some dating all the way back to the early twentieth century, will be exhibited at the JKM Library and in the lobby of the Women’s Institute. We even have a special presentation of some recently preserved film footage of the 1935 May Day pageant on the main floor of JKM Library!

These materials document both the May Day pageants held on the Chatham campus many times throughout the years as well as other fun campus traditions. Even though May Day is no longer celebrated at Chatham to the extent it was in the past, the tradition continues to this day when the maypole dance occurs on University Day. It’s fun to be part of this long line of maypole dancers, isn’t it?

Students, faculty, and other Chatham community members are welcome to explore “From May Day to University Day,” located at the JKM Library lobby and the Women’s Institute lounge. If you would like to learn more about Chatham’s history, click here for additional information about the Chatham Archives and Special Collections.

Check out some of our favorite May Day photographs from the collections of the Chatham University Archives and the video of the 1935 May Day celebration below!

May Day 1904

One of the earliest photos of the May Day pageant, taken in May, 1904. Here, costumed students perform the Maypole dance on Chatham’s lawn. These dances were viewed as a feminine form of exercise and a way to unify women through the shared experiences of womanhood and higher education.

May Day 1905

A hand-colored glass lantern slide depicts the 1905 Maypole dance. Audience members appear on the balcony of the original Berry Hall.

May Day 1907

Cornelia Bullock, the 1907 May Queen, poses with attendants.

May Day 1909

Student performers dance around the maypole during the 1909 May Day celebration. Onlookers watch from the balcony extending from Berry Hall.

May Day 1912

Those attending the 1912 May Day pageant watch as the students perform P.C.W.’s rendition of Vârful Cu Dor by Carmen Sylva.

May Day 1915

Spectators look down on students as they perform Paskkennodan: The City of Smoke Vapor written by P.C.W.’s speech instructor, Vanda E. Kurst. The celebration occurred on May 15, 1915 at the conclusion of President John Carey Acheson’s inauguration.

May Day 1916

The 1916 May Day pageant occurred near Lindsay House and the Andrew Mellon greenhouse. Students performed Vanda E. Kurst’s rendition of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Over 5,000 people attended the celebration!

Victory Through Conflict, 1920

Rather than putting on a May Day pageant in 1920, the P.C.W. community staged an elaborate production titled Victory through Conflict. Above, students Marion Gifford, Mary Jane Paul, and Frances Frederick pose together as Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.

May Day 1923

Estelle Maxwell, who attended P.C.W. between 1922 and 1923, appears as an Egyptian princess alongside her attendants during the 1923 May Day pageant.

May Day 1929

Students dress as ghosts and perform a haunting dance during the 1929 May Day celebration titled Persephone: A Greek Festival.

May Day 1935

A distant photo of the 1935 May Day celebration captures Queen Elizabeth and the May Queen sitting side-by-side on their dais. Be sure to view archival film footage from the celebration below and in the lobby of the JKM Library!

May Day 1947

Several maypole dances conclude the May Day pageant of 1947.

 

What a production! We like to think about the history of the maypole dance every year when we see it performed as part of University Day.  It’s a pretty fun connection to our past, don’t you think?

Be sure to stop by the JKM Library, the lounge of the Women’s Institute, and this blog for more information about the May Day celebrations and how they’ve played into Chatham’s springtime celebrations, like Buckets and Blossoms.

October 19, 2015
by library
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A Very Chatham Halloween

The Ghosts of Chatham

As Halloween approaches, again comes the time of year for trick-or-treating, gorging on candy, and costume parties. It’s also the time of year that we are especially conscious of spooky things. Among various ghoulies like black cats, vampires, and witches, the most popular creatures of the night that dominate our imagination around Halloween are ghosts. It’s a great time for telling ghost stories, everyone knows at least one, and even Chatham has several that have been passed around over the years. Here is some history on “our” Chatham ghosts.

PCW students gathered on the lawn of Berry Hall I in 1914. Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

PCW students gathered on the lawn of Berry Hall I in 1914.
Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

The Ghost of Berry Hall

There are two versions of the Berry Hall Ghost (also known as the PCW Ghost) story, but they both are equally disturbing. The first version was published in the Chatham newspaper, The Arrow in 1926.

Back before the existence of Woodland, Laughlin, and even Dilworth Hall, the Berry family lived in the Berry mansion. George Berry was a member of the first Board of Trustees, and at the time his home was said to be the largest private residence in Allegheny County.

One night the nanny was sitting in the house’s tower with the family baby. There was a storm, and lightning struck the tower. The nanny screamed with fright, and jumped, dropping the baby. As the story goes, the baby rolled down the stairs and died. The departed baby was said to return occasionally, floating around and crying. Supposedly it used to visit the girls in what was then Room O, directly beneath the tower.

A view of the Berry Hall I tower.  Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

A view of the Berry Hall I tower.
Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

The second version of this story was actually part of the first year handbook in 1948. In this sanitized version, the nursery was in the tower, and the nanny heard a scream, only to find the infant missing from his crib. The infant was never found, and the tower was locked and boarded up. In this version, the ghost is a prankster, putting splinters in chairs to rip nylons, draining the soda machine, and clanging the radiators. There is even a joke about him playing a dirge on the organ. While creepy, this later tale is almost funny, and it’s interesting to see how the tale evolved from chilling to entertaining over the 20 year period.

Other Chatham Ghosts

Some of the other Chatham ghosts seem to have their grounding in location rather than fright. It is still a popular tale today that Andrew Mellon roams the Mellon building. The previous Laughlin House also was known for its resident ghost. As another story goes, one night a man had a flat tire in front of the Spencer House, and as he stopped heard the voice of an old woman screaming his name.

Portrait of Michael Late Benedum overlooking Benedum Hall.  Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

Portrait of Michael Late Benedum overlooking Benedum Hall.
Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

One of the more popular stories took place at Benedum Hall. The Benedum’s oldest son, Claude, was killed in World War I. Claude was thought to haunt the home, and then when it became a dormitory, pestered the girls living in the dorm. Some of his hijinks include turning the water off and on in what used to be his bathroom, curtains moving with no wind, and doors slamming open and closed. Typical ghost fare. One story even goes that a group of students were working on tutorials on the history of Benedum Hall when the marble table they sat at collapsed beneath them.

Students conversing in one of the Benedum Hall dorm rooms.  Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

Students conversing in one of the Benedum Hall dorm rooms.
Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

It’s unclear which of these stories have basis in truth, and which were made up to scare incoming first years. Nonetheless, the stories of ghosts on campus continue, so if you experience something a little spooky over the next few weeks, don’t worry. It’s just our longstanding residents, coming out for a visit.

Benedum Hall Gardens and Fountain.  Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

Benedum Hall Gardens and Fountain.
Source: Chatham University Archives & Special Collections

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