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Librarians at the Louis Jefferson Long Library have developed an online encyclopedia of Wells College history, titled “Wellsipedia.” This exciting resource includes entries highlighting historical events, student life, administration, faculty, and traditions, as well as, information relating to the special collections housed in the Archives.

It is our hope that in providing online access of these important and fascinating collections to students, faculty, alums, and researchers, interest in the history of Wells College will be revived. We welcome your comments and questions. Our aim is to make Wellsipedia a place to learn and share while creating a lasting record of Wells College History.

Click here for more information about the Wells College Archives.

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Minerva

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The Statue of Minerva outside Main Building

Minerva is another beloved symbol at Wells College. She is the Roman Goddess of wisdom. The statue of Minerva was a gift to the College from Charles Wells in 1868 and has resided in a little nook by the front door to the Main building for many years. She was similarly placed in the old Main building before the devastating fire destroyed it in 1888. The statue of Minerva is the only thing left from the old Main building that survived the fire.

She has also been part of many practical jokes, as students from neighboring colleges have tried to kidnap her from time to time. In 1975, six boys from the neighboring Hobart and Williams Smith College were caught after they stole the adored statue. During this adventure Minerva did suffer a few damages that were repaired before she was returned to her rightful spot at her small lakefront home.

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Kissing Minerva’s feet

She is also part of some of the traditions at Wells, including Moving Up Day, which takes place on the last day of classes in the spring semester. During this ceremony graduating Seniors place a rose, given to them by their sister class, at her feet and kiss her big toe for good luck. Minerva is an influential part of the Wells Community and is considered by many to be a Wells Woman.

Information taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York and Dieckmann, J. M. (1995). Wells College: a history. Aurora, NY: Wells College Press.

Shelby Talbot ’19

Tiffany Raymond ’10, Reference and Instruction Librarian

The Wells Bells

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Wells College Bell Ringer

A quintessential part of Wells College history is Main Building’s prominent bell tower and the bells hosted there. Although the tower was built during the reconstruction of the Main in 1888, the tower wouldn’t house bells for several more decades. It wasn’t until 1922 that nine bells were gifted to the college by Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Messner. The Messners donated the bells in the memory of their daughter Lillian “Lillie” Messner Chapman, Wells College Class of 1912. The nine bells were cast in Troy, NY, by Meneely Bell, one of the last American bell companies. The company has since gone out of business. Sometime later in the 1940’s, a tenth bell, the E Flat, was also added to the Wells collection.

Once the bells were installed, Lillian’s father was the first to play them. He later organized that the bells be rung daily at 5:30 in the evening to announce dinner, as well as at convocation and commencement. Over time, the bells were also rung at 12:30 in the afternoon on weekends and on special occasions, such as weddings, Wells athletics victories, and in the rare occurrence of Cayuga Lake freezing over. This daily tradition continued at Wells for nearly a century, passed on from generation to generation of senior Wells students. Today, the tradition lives on through the Bell Ringers, a student club open to all class years. While student bell ringers have the freedom to choose the songs played, there are four songs that are required in the daily repertoire. They are the Jubilation, translated from the Wells College hymn book, the Vesper Peal, the Westminster chimes, announcing the hour, and the Alma Mater as the closing song.

After operating for 70 years, the bells were briefly removed from Wells during the summer of 1995 for cleaning and tuning. The bells were taken to the Verdin company in Cincinnati, Ohio for these services. Prior to this, it is believed that the bells were never properly adjusted and as such, were always out of tune. After a summer of maintenance, the bells were returned to the tower where they remain today. Sometime in the last few decades, the bells were also given names. The names in order are Fiddle, Goply, Artemis, Bartamus Flat, Cadaver, Dexter, Eeyore, Ejenstein, Faddle, and Goop.  

Information taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archives, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Angela Paul ’18 and Tiffany Raymond ’10, Reference and Instruction Librarian

Wells College Alma Mater

Alma Mater

While no one knows for sure who wrote the Alma Mater, “Fair Wells with Loyal Hearts”, it is still a staple in the Wells College community and is adored by past, and present students. This song ties together the community and has continuously been sung at all official college gatherings, including many of the unique Wells traditions. The lyrics to the Alma Mater were first published in the very first publication of the college yearbook, The Cardinal, in 1896. Even in the Alma Mater’s first release, there was no author or source listed. It wasn’t until years later, in 1917, that sheet music was included with the first verse of the song.

There was some confusion as to the college’s alma mater when a newspaper published an article about the dedication of the new Main Building, and reported the alma mater as being “All hail, by the blue waters.” However, it is now clear that “Fair Wells with Loyal Hearts” is what continues to be recognized as the Alma Mater. In fact, in 1908, the college songbook even titled it as such, while the song the newspaper had previously reported as the alma mater in the was titled The College Song.

Dr. Alice Hanson, class of 1971, wrote the archivist of the College at the time, describing her musical findings of the beloved song while working on her dissertation. She confirmed that is similar to the popular German folk song, “Den Lieben, Langen Tag.”

The lyrics to the Alma Mater were altered when the school became a co-ed institution in 2005. The line “Thy daughters ever sing” was changed to “We will Forever sing” to be more inclusive to the new array of students who were now able to attend Wells. Regardless, the alma mater represents Wells sisterhood and unites the community whenever it is sung.

Information taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Shelby Talbot ’19 and Tiffany Raymond ’10 Reference and Instruction Librarian

Margaret Floy Washburn

Margret Floy Washburn was the only child of Francis Washburn and Elizbeth Floy Davis. She grew up in Harlem She studied at various public and private schools as her family moved around to accommodate her father’s work as a pastor throughout the Hudson Valley. She graduated from Ulter Academy in Kingston NY in 1886.  Then, Washburn entered Vassar college and spent the next five years earning her undergraduate degree. She then pursued further education at Columbia University in New York. However, they denied her doctorate degree; therefore, she transferred to Cornell University, where she was eligible for a degree and a fellowship and was able to study under E.B. Titchener. In 1894, Margaret Floy Washburn became the first woman to earn a doctorate in psychology.

Shortly after earning her degree, Washburn was offered a position to teach psychology and philosophy at Wells College where she remained for the next six years. At Wells, she also served as the secretary of administration starting in 1896 until she left. She began her career as a professor teaching courses such as experimental psychology, Ethics, Logic as well as courses on the history of both psychology and philosophy and many more.

In 1900, she accepted an offer to become the warden of Sage College. However, her time here was short as she accepted an offer for assistant professorship at the University of Cincinnati. This transition was hard for her because in 1902-1903, not only was she only woman faculty at the university, but she was also the furthest she had been from her parents. In 1903 however, she was delighted to receive an offer of associate professor of psychology from her alma mater, Vassar College. She also served as a review editor for animal behavior until she reigned in 1913 to have more time pursuing her work. She published what she considered to be her most significant work Movement and Mental Imagery in 1916.

She remained unwed as many early professional women chose to do and very close to her parents. She was elected membership of American Psychological Association, only one of three women of the time from 1912-1914. She served as a chair for many years and eventually was elected the President of American Psychological Association in 1921. Her final and highest honor was in 1931 when she had the honor of being elected to the National Academy of Sciences. She was only the second woman to do so. She sadly passed away eight years later due to a hemorrhage leaving a legacy for many other young women to follow.

Information taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Scarborough, E., & Furumoto, L. (1989). Untold lives: the first generation of american women psychologists. New York: Columbia Univ Press.

Furumoto, L., & Scarborough, E. (1986). Placing women in the history of psychology: The first American women psychologists. American Psychologists,41(1), 35-42, 527-543.

Compiled by Shelby Talbot ’19

Ivy Day (Class Day)

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Ivy Day 1916. Photo taken from Wells College Archives, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, NY

Traditions are an important part of the Wells Community, and one tradition that evolved many times before falling out of practice was Ivy Day, also known as Class Day. The first version of Class Day was in 1871. On the Monday after commencement, the graduating class planted elm trees on campus. The practice became known as Class Day, a day for speeches and banquets taking place within a couple of days after commencement. Eventually the tradition changed to planting ivy and in 1901 the name was changed to Ivy Day.

The seniors would wear their caps and gowns, and the rest of the students would wear white dresses. After the fire that destroyed the original Main Building, the seniors planted their ivy around the new Main Building. The year of Frances Folsmon Cleveland’s graduation the ivy was provided by President Grover Cleveland.  After the planting was completed, a member of the graduating class would present a trowel to the president of the junior class, to pass along the responsibility of the senior class. The ceremony would include speeches, and concluded with the singing of the Alma Mater. In 1903, the seniors sang an original Ivy Day song, that was performed until 1932. In 1932 “Ivy Walled College” became the new Ivy Day song.

Another aspect of the ceremony was a procession by the students, some years carrying a maple chain, other years carrying daisies (the school flower). The classes would form a W, through which the seniors would walk. The ceremony became less solemn as time went by, and the serious speeches were replaced with humor.

Main Building eventually became too engulfed in ivy, and in 1915 the senior classes began planting ivy at other buildings around campus. In 1918 the seniors planted their ivy around Zabriskie. Eventually there was so much ivy around Main Building that it had to be removed for the safety of the building. When it was removed, you could see the class names where they had planted their ivy. The tradition of Ivy Day itself began to disappear in the 1950’s.

Information taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Tiffany Raymond ’10 Reference and Instruction Librarian Wells College Long Library

Origins of the Honor Code

In the early years of Wells College, student life was governed by a set of rules. These rules included required periods of exercise, noise levels, and times for lights out in the evenings. Eventually, many students became concerned by the amount of rule-breaking going on at the school. In 1897 they decided to adopt a system of self-governance, with rules drawn up and agreed upon by the students. They hoped that by having the students agree on the rules they would feel a greater responsibility to keep them.

The first code was signed by a group of students on a trial basis. Following the successful trial, the system was presented before Collegiate, which had only recently been founded. The code was unanimously adopted and implemented for every student belonging to Collegiate. Students were elected to a committee to enforce the new honor system.

Many of the rules in the code were considered common sense by the students, such as the amount of exercise required by each student daily or the times students should go to bed at night. For example, the rules stated each student should do45 minutes of open-air exercise a day, go to bed at 10:00pm (with the exception of seniors, who were allowed an extra half hour), and refrain from playing an instrument from 3:00pm-5:30pm on Sundays. The students noticed that the new honor system improved daily chapel attendance, but the hoped-for reduction of noise in the library was not realized.

The Honor Code has undergone changes since 1897, but remains an integral part of the Wells Community.

Information taken from the print collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Tiffany Raymond ’10 Reference and Instruction Librarian Wells College Long Library

Old Main Building

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Old Main Building

Completed in 1868, Old Main Building served as the heart of Wells College until 1888. Situated across the bridge from Henry Wells’s house at Glen Park, Old Main served as the only building of the college for a period of time. The building was built with brick and stone, and, as she does today, a statue of Minerva stood at the entrance. The first floor had 14 rooms, including a parlor, library, office for the president, music room, and school room. The second and third floor had 160 sleeping-rooms.

At about 1:30 in the morning on August 9th, 1888, Old Main was destroyed by fire. The fire started in the basement kitchen. The students were on summer vacation, and some of the valuable art works had also been removed from the building due to the vacation. However, everything left in the building was destroyed, including things left by the students during the vacation, a portrait of Governor Seward. Everything in the library was destroyed.

The destruction of the building did not deter the college, however. Although the start of fall classes was delayed two weeks, the college was able to house students in the village of Aurora and classes were held in Morgan Hall. An appeal was sent out for books to furnish the library, and plans were made to rebuild at the same site. The new building would have the same name- Main Building, still in use at the heart of Wells College.

Information and picture taken from the print and photo collection of the Wells College Archive, Louis Jefferson Long Library, Aurora, New York.

Tiffany Raymond ’10 Reference and Instruction Librarian Wells College Long Library

Wells in World War II

The Wells College community had been participating in the war effort before the United States entered World War II. The American Red Cross had begun training students, women in the faculty, and women from the village. The College and village had also raised money for Bundles for Britain and the United China Relief Fund, including an old-fashioned fair in Smith Hall during January 1941.

When the United States entered the war in December 1941, the Wells community changed. Faculty members went on leave to perform war work.  Students were also involved in the war effort. The basement of Smith Hall was set up as a hospital ward for students taking first aid and nursing courses. Twenty nine students volunteered to help farmers with early planting, and students learned to care for cows and run tractors. Courses on nutrition, typing, shorthand, Morse code, carpentry, glasswork, electrical wiring, and car repair were also offered.

Air raid shelters were set up in each of the building, and the community performed two trial blackouts. An aircraft spotting post was set up on the hill manned around the clock by students, faculty members, and villagers. On Tuesday nights, the school had defense dinners and economy meals to save money to be used for war causes. Many Alumnae joined the armed forces through organizations such as WAVES – United States Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve) or Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service – or WAC – Women’s Army Corps. When the war ended, the Wells College coach, filled with students, participated in the VJ Day Parade in Auburn on September 4th, 1945.

After the war, many of the extracurricular courses were ended. While enrollment ticked down during the war years, the 1945-1946 academic year saw a boom in enrollment. One lasting change to the College during the war was the new academic calendar. On 1943 the school calendar changed to open on September 1, with exams before Christmas and a second term ending on May 22. Slight modifications were made to the calendar again on 1993, but the 1943 changes have lasted.

From Jane Marsh Dieckmann’s “Wells College: A History” pages 157-161 and the print collection of the Wells College Archives.

Tiffany Raymond ’10 Reference and Instruction Librarian Wells College Long Library

Epidemics at Wells College

Students at Wells College have several popular stories about epidemics at the school. During the course of the school’s history, since its founding in 1868, life at Wells has been disrupted due to several epidemics, leading to such popular stories as “The Red Door” and “The Nurses of Main”.

The first medical crisis documented in the Wells College Archives is the small pox scare of 1907. Students were quarantined when one student began to show the symptoms of smallpox. At the time, the Wells College infirmary was located on the 4th floor of Main Building.

In 1918 Wells College was struck by the influenza, then sweeping the world. Wells had 34 cases of influenza. Students were placed in the infirmary on the 4th floor of Main Building, with overflow in Pettibone House when the infirmary was filled. Faculty and students volunteered to nurse the sick, and classes were cancelled from October 14th to November 2nd.

The year 1931 saw one case of poliomyelitis at the school. Although the student was quarantined, classes continued as usual. Students were limited to campus and Aurora, and some chose to return home until the threat had passed.

Another flu outbreak, this time the Asian flu, came to Wells in October of 1957. Once again the infirmary was filled. Pettibone House was evacuated and used as a second infirmary. Out of a total of 379 students, 151 were confined. Tests and activities were postponed for six weeks.

From Jane Marsh Dieckmann’s “Wells College: A History” pages 112, 114, and 188 and the print collection of the Wells College Archives.

Tiffany Raymond ’10 Reference and Instruction Librarian Wells College Long Library

“Look How Far We Have Come”: A Selective Timeline of Wells College History, 1868-2013

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Wells College Archives Intern, Tori Burrell ’14, has created an interesting, and ambitious, exhibit featuring a selective timeline of Wells College history. From its founding by Henry Wells, to our new Interim President Dr. Thomas deWitt, the timeline highlights some of Wells most fascinating facts!

Here’s what Tori had to say about the project:

“When first year students arrive on campus for orientation, they are placed in SC 111 classes and guided by “peer-leaders” to help them adjust to college life. Some peer leaders may indulge first year curiosities and share a ghost story, but Wells history is rarely discussed. I think this is unfortunate, and in my opinion, this results in another class of students lacking the full experience of being at Wells. I’ve noticed the changes that Wells has undergone since my first year. I don’t think that we care about the roots of the traditions, or even know why they are traditions in the first place.

As an intern working with the collection of Wells images housed in the Archives, I found it difficult to select only a few images for display. Handling the photographs and documents made Wells all the more real to me and it was exciting to learn so many new things about the place I have lived for the past four years. Rather than focusing on a specific time period or topic, I thought it would be interesting to show a more comprehensive history of Wells. It is my hope that in sharing this timeline with the campus community we will all experience a greater appreciation for Wells traditions, a better understanding of Wells place in history, and an increased sense of pride in ourselves and our school.”

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The timeline is installed in the 2nd floor walk-through gallery space in Long Library (just outside the Learning Commons). The exhibit will run from October 7th-November 4th. Please stop and have a look!

Click for more information from the Wells College Archives.

Lisa Hoff ’09 Reference, Instruction, & Outreach Librarian, Long Library
& Tori Burrell ’14