Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Archon, December 1908 Issue (Part 2)

The last blog entry for The Governor’s Academy (TGA) Archives featured comments on the spirit of Christmas from The Archon editorial staff of 1908. This same century-old issue featured a story of romance and spontaneity—“The Unexpected Christmas Present”—offered by former academy student Beryl Howard Childs of Chicago, IL. I hope you enjoy reading it. On the eve of Winter Break here at the academy, I wish you a safe and happy holiday season.
—Laurie DiModica, Manager of the Archives

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Archon, December 1908 Holiday Issue

A century ago, the editorial staff of The Archon, led by Editor-in-Chief Charles L. Robson ('09), published the following words concerning the celebration of Christmas. Although times have changed considerably and the diversity of students and celebrations has expanded in the 100 years since Dummer Academy students published these words, the sentiments of kindness and forgiveness remain timeless.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The First Thirty Years of Dummer Allies Fundraising

The following document from 1945 provides a record of fruits of the Dummer Allies’ fundraising efforts for the first 30 years of the society’s existence: $3,428.76, of which more than half was used to provide scholarship aid for deserving boys chosen by a scholarship committee. Given the society’s annual dues being $0.50 per member, providing an annual $100 scholarship was no small endeavor. Indeed, a document that can be found in The Governor’s Academy Archives—Headmaster’s Notes on the 1945-1946 Budget—reveals that at the time, the average tuition per student was approximately $1,300, making a $100 scholarship quite a significant amount.

To provide context, the 1945-1946 budget includes line items for furnishings and equipment such as an electric stove ($75); total furnishings for a boy’s dorm room ($180), including a bed ($18.75), chest of drawers ($31.50), desk ($28), chair ($8.75), and lamp ($3.75); and a station wagon that the school was considering purchasing for travel ($1,800). A passage corresponding to this latter budget item indicates, “It is desired to make provision to purchase a new station wagon when and if available to replace the ’37 station wagon now in such bad condition that upkeep costs are prohibitive. If a new station wagon does become available, it will be used as a stand-by for the Packard, which is also no longer wholly reliable, and for more dignified school errands. The present ’41 station wagon will then be used for transportation of trunks, express, etc., and will be turned over to Dutchy Holland or his successor each evening for returning the help to Newburyport and for bringing them out on the following morning. Both station wagons will, of course, be used on occasion for athletic trips, etc.”

Today’s Allies have continued fundraising initiatives that started with the society’s 1910 founding. The society’s efforts support numerous enrichment activities such as the Speaker Series, the purchase of library books, and the provision of student necessities—refreshments, exam survival kids, and parties and other events.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Movies at Dummer Academy

Lantern slide projectors, first lit by oil lamp, and then by limelight, carbon arc lamp, and subsequently, by electric light, allowed for the projection of transparent slides on a wall or other surface. Some historians believe the invention of the first lantern projector occurred as early as the 1600s. The Magic Lantern or Sciopticon was a forerunner to the modern slide projector and an early form of moving picture. (It is said that the earliest shows using lanterns often featured goblins and devils, the rationale for the name “magic lantern.”) Glass plate positives were introduced in the 1850s, but they became widely available as magic lantern slides—many of which were animated—in the 1870s. By the time these “movies” made their way to Dummer Academy in 1914, they had been available for several decades.

A history of the development of lantern movies indicates that while magic lantern shows often featured a live showman and/or musician who provided a soundtrack, the audience would sometimes join in by creating sound effects, playing instruments, clapping, cheering, or booing. The scrapbook entry from a former Dummer Academy graduate, shown below in this blog, notes the accompaniment of a Professor Priest at the earliest one-cent slide shows. By 1919, these presentations had picked up steam with the inauguration of the “Dummer Movie Palace” and its first showing, Charlie Chaplin’s “Shoulder Arms,” a silent comedy released in 1918 and set in France during World War I. Several clips from the movie can be found on YouTube (e.g., at the following link:
The short but telling scrapbook entries in this blog reveal the fascination and appreciation students had for these diversions nearly a century ago.

Friday, October 24, 2008


The first volume of The Dummer News, a student-organized publication at Dummer Academy, was published in 1897. The Dummer News staff was able to secure advertising revenues from a considerable number of local advertisers to help the publication get off the ground. This paper covered noteworthy items of importance to the school, a round-up of the academy’s sporting events, and student commentaries. Often featured in the publication were colorful, tongue-in-cheek stories painting faculty, staff, and students in humorous, sometime comprising situations. One such story—a four-part tale of faculty members tangled up in on-campus whiskey distillery—appeared in the October 1902 to February 1903 issues, and featured a Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) spy, bumbling prosecution, and one decidedly sleepy juror. It makes for a great read (albeit with a rather abrupt ending embedded in the "Notes" section of February 1903). We hope you enjoy the story.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Generous Donation of Century-Old Photographs

Many of the items housed in The Governor’s Academy (TGA) Archives found their way to the school as generous donations of TGA alumni, their families, and friends of the academy. The photographs seen in this blog entry were graciously donated by William Cooney, grandson to Henry Frost Wood of Brighton, Massachusetts. Mr. Wood was a graduate and the valedictorian of the Dummer Academy Class of 1903. The first photograph shows a close-up of Mr. Wood, for easy identification in the other photographs. (He is in the back row of the first four group pictures.)

Mr. Wood came from Brighton, Massachusetts, and was involved in many activities while a student at the academy. The donated photos show Mr. Wood as part of Dummer Academy’s 1902 football team and 1903 baseball team, likely as a team manager for the latter. Additionally, he was on the staff of the monthly student-run publication, The Dummer News. The remaining photographs show Mr. Wood pictured with his dorm-mates and as part of the larger Dummer Academy student body more than a century ago.

Mr. Wood maintained ties to the school after his graduation, becoming a member of the Sons of Dummer Academy in 1905. This society was formed in 1822 to provide former Dummer Academy students with a venue for socialization and, according to archives records, a vehicle for promoting the “usefulness and reputation” of the academy. Interestingly, new members were accepted upon payment of $1.00. Mr. Wood also participated in the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of Dummer Academy in 1913.

Our sincere thanks go out to William Cooney for this generous donation to TGA’s Archives. We will take the utmost care in maintaining these photographs in our climate-controlled facility on campus so that they may be enjoyed for years to come.

For our readers, we gladly accept donations large and small to the Archives. To make a donation, please contact Laurie DiModica, Manager of the Archives, at 978-499-3347 or via e-mail:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Donkey Basketball

Of the many fundraisers conducted by The Governor’s Academy organizations, among the most original has to be donkey basketball. The first-ever donkey basketball event, which featured spirited competition between students from the Class of 1984 and faculty members, was held in the fall of 1983 as one of two fundraisers run by the Governor Dummer Academy (GDA) Ski Club. The December 15, 1983 edition of The Governor, with a short article about the fundraiser, is shown here. After a hiatus of a few years, donkey basketball events were again held in the Alumni Gymnasium. Enjoy the photos below!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hockey at The Governor's Academy

Team hockey has been a part of athletic life at The Governor’s Academy (TGA) since the first “ice polo” team was formed in 1895, but its level of sophistication has grown exponentially since the early years of pond skating at the academy. Early hockey play at the academy was predicated on favorable weather, leaving hockey squads to come up with creative dry-land practice drills when the temperature climbed. Even in freezing weather, skating facilities through the 1950s were decidedly low-tech.

With the construction of The Frank J. Frost Memorial Hockey Rink in 1960, TGA was the first in the Independent School Hockey League to have an outdoor artificial rink. Nearly 11 miles of welded and brine-infused pipe went into the construction of the Frost Rink. This technical advancement was lauded in Contact: New England Electric System magazine: “No longer will the skating and hockey enthusiasts have to depend on neighboring ponds and the fickleness of winter weather. The whole school’s athletic program may now be tightened up for the winter term without the confusion or disruption because of no ice. The once overtaxed gymnasium no more will be called upon to house frustrated hockey squads. And most important the rink will mean a significant upturn in the calibre [sic] of Academy hockey, allowing the school to become more competitive with other rivals in this sport, as it has been with much success in all others.”

In 1982, the Frost Rink was transformed into the Murphy-Frost arena with the addition of a protective enclosure. The new structure was named for A. Macdonald Murphy, longtime English instructor, hockey coach, and Athletic Director at the academy, and Morris Pratt Frost ’35, Trustee Emeritus for the academy and benefactor.

Hockey’s profile has been decidedly elevated with last year’s completion of the Whiston-Bragdon Arena, a state-of-the art skating facility. The new arena is named for former GDA headmaster Peter Bragdon and Mark Whiston, benefactor and Academy Trustee. Whiston played Byfield Youth Hockey as a child, moving on to the Kent School and Harvard University, where he was a starting goaltender for the hockey team. Mark follows in the footsteps of his father, Don, a goaltender for the Silver Medal-winning United States Olympic Hockey Team in 1952.

TGA’s boys and girls hockey teams will begin their 2008-2009 season in the Whiston-Bragdon Arena after Thanksgiving Break.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Refreshing History at The Governor’s Academy

The Archives holds one of the earliest documents produced at the academy: A Catalog of Dummer School, a handwritten roster of the academy’s students between 1763 and 1830. Currently on display in the Pescosolido Library, A Catalog of Dummer School was begun by Joseph Mottey, a teacher at the academy between 1780 and 1783, and lists the names of numerous alumni who went on to significant achievement after leaving the Little Red School House. With a nod to the past and view toward posterity, Headmaster Marty Doggett and Dean of Freshmen Michael Delay recently summonsed members of the incoming Class of 2012 to the Little Red School House to document these students’ entry into the academy. Outside the Little Red School House, Mr. Doggett shared a bit of the history of the building and the academy with students (Images 1 and 2). Then, one by one, students entered the school house, shaking hands with the Headmaster and introducing themselves before sitting in the Reverend Samuel Moody’s chair to sign their names and hometowns in a leather-bound book (Images 3 and 4). Students then departed the school house, shaking hands with Mr. Delay (Image 5). The leather-bound book will be housed in The Governor’s Academy Archives. When the Class of 2012 graduates, its members will again pass, one by one, through the Little Red School House on their way around the Milestone to jump the wall. This ritual allows students to pay homage to the school’s long history, and importantly, to recognize their own contributions to it. It is hoped that this new practice will become an enduring Governor’s Academy tradition.