Words from Rollins Veterans, 1945

RollofHonorwithHolt    Pres. Hamilton Holt (center) at the Rollins College Roll of Honor, erected in 1943, listing the names of all Rollins men and women serving in the Armed Forces                                           (please click on the images to enlarge them).

In October 1945, The Sandspur announced a writing contest: “Ever since veterans first began to come back to Rollins last year we have wondered time and time again, just how college life seemed after months or years of day-to-day living, living under combat conditions, where the most vital concern of each individual was to obey orders and somehow stay alive. Those of us who have not experienced this, no matter how much we read or hear on the subject, will never be able to fully grasp what this means, what it does to a man’s thinking, how it affects his views and his philosophy of life. Neither can we see college life and class room discussions from the same perspective. For this reason, we of the Sandspur believe that it would be of interest to everyone at Rollins to know how a veteran sees Rollins. . .”  Two or three of the best entries would be published in The Sandspur, and the one judged best would win a prize of five dollars.

Veterans were very much a part of campus life at this time.  One hundred twenty-two of the 534 students enrolled in 1945-1946 were ex-servicemen, making them almost 25 percent of the student population.

AlumniRecordMarch1946Cropped               Some of the 122 ex-servicemen studying at Rollins in 1945-1946,                                       as they appeared on the cover of the March 1946 issue of The Rollins Alumni Record.

The three selected entries, presented here as they originally appeared in The Sandspur, discuss many aspects of veterans’ College experiences.  The first addresses some of the differences between ex-servicemen and other students.

VeteransEssay1945-11-07                                                                   November 7, 1945

The second essay is a very personal story of a veteran’s experience of war and its aftermath.

VeteransEssay1945-11-14_01                                                       VeteransEssay1945-11-14_002                                                                 November 14, 1945

The third editorial offers a perspective on what veterans need from others as they resume their postwar lives and pursue their goals.

VeteransEssay1945-11-21                                                          November 21, 1945

The Rollins Roll of Honor is no longer on our campus, but we do have a Veterans Memorial (pictured below).  It was given to the College by Rollins veteran William F. Koch, Jr. ’49 and his wife, Mary Lou Sommer Koch ’48, in honor of all those at Rollins who have served.


~ by D. M. Moore, Archival Specialist






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Enough Hair to Carpet Versailles?

Napoleons HairArtifact labeled “One Lock of Hair From The Emperor Napoleon” in the Rollins Archives

For many years, the Archives has preserved a relic labeled “One Lock of Hair From The Emperor Napoleon,” accompanied by a testimonial vouching for its authenticity. This document, written by Capt. Frederick Lahrbush in 1861, is also signed by Rev. John Cotton Smith, rector of the Church of the Ascension in New York, who vouched for “the venerable Capt. Lahrbush,” someone “I believe to be worthy of entire confidence.” But was he?

Who was Capt. Lahrbush, and what was his connection to Napoleon? According to his testimonial, he had been a member of the H.B.M. 60th Rifles Regiment and served for three months in St. Helena, “together with other corps as a guard over the Exiled Emperor and his faithful followers.” During that time, he “became acquainted with a Mr. Geo. Balcombe,” a government employee who “had in charge the supplying of provisions, etc. to the French Exiles.” Several years later, the two men met again in Sydney, Australia, where their “former acquaintance soon ripened into an intimacy.” As Lahrbush tells the story, Mr. Balcombe became ill, and on his deathbed, “lifted himself up a little and after searching for a little while under his pillow, he brought out from there a parcel and handed it to [the] Deponent saying; here my Friend, I leave them to you a few hair [sic] from the Emperor Napoleon given to my daughter by Monsieur Marchant [sic] first valet des Chambres to the Emperor at St. Helena who himself did cut them from of [sic] said Emperors [sic] Head, Keep them in remembrance of me.” This is the story Lahrbush wrote down for Rev. Smith, his “Real Friend and Pastor.”

LahrbushLetterExcerpt200dpiReduced2                                         An excerpt from Mr. Lahrbush’s letter

Can this account be verified?  It turns out that our relics are not unique:  in 1980, Kathleen Roussac purchased a lock of hair and a testimonial letter–also written by Frederick Lahrbush–at an auction in Vermont. In 2002 she co-authored an article with Dr. David Andrew Roberts for The Gazette, the journal of the Napoleonic Alliance. The article notes that “there are very few authentic samples of Napoleon’s hair in existence,” “many more samples in circulation whose authenticity is suspect,” and “many that are clearly fake.” The authors also cite Napoleon’s former aide, Comte Flahaut, who, noting the proliferation of these mementos, “once famously remarked” that “he’d seen enough hair since Napoleon’s death to carpet the floors of Versailles.”


Left:  Charles de Flahaut, perhaps best known “for his exploits in gallantry” and his “elegant manners,” according to the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. (Image:  Wikimedia Commons)


The complete Gazette article, “Authenticating a Lock of Napoleon’s Hair:  The Bizarre and Dubious Career of Frederick Lahrbush,” is available online at http://bit.ly/1uDkT1J . As the subtitle suggests, Capt. Lahrbush’s true claim to fame may have been as “one of the greatest story tellers” in nineteenth-century New York. Military records show that his regiment was never stationed on St. Helena, and furthermore, that he was “court-martialled on two charges of fraud” in 1818. He did actually go to Australia, but made the trip on board a convict transport. While serving his sentence there, “he succumbed inevitably to what was either an habitual proclivity to dishonesty or an unfortunate susceptibility to misfortune when he was convicted in the local petty sessions in 1834 for stealing government property” (though the authors point out that, in this case, someone else may have been the actual culprit).

He came to New York circa 1848, where he lived until his death in 1877, “making his mark as an unusually old and eccentric war hero,” who claimed to have been born in 1766. Some had their doubts, however:  a few years before Lahrbush’s death, a librarian in the House of Lords, suspicious of the Captain’s alleged age and “the even more extraordinary aspects of his life,” looked into his background. He later announced “that he had exposed the most barefaced case of pretended centenarianism which has ever come under my notice.” Luckily for Lahrbush, his fraud convictions had not been discovered; unluckily, the revelation that he was not even an Englishman meant that an offer from the Prince of Wales “to have Lahrbush returned to England with a pension” was most likely revoked.


Left: Librarian  and author William J. Thoms. “His iconoclastic treatise on ‘Human Longevity, its Facts and its Fictions’ . . . raised a storm of dismayed protest by its forcible contention that the authentic cases in which human life had been prolonged to a hundred years and upwards were extremely rare.” (From The Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900. Image from Wikimedia Commons)


Despite the evidence, Mr. Thoms found himself “rebuked by anonymous correspondents assuring him that in New York Captain Lahrbush’s wonderful adventures, and yet more wonderful longevity, are universally accepted for truth by the very best people,” according to Roussac and Roberts. Contemporary accounts in The New York Times and other publications reveal that Lahrbush’s amazing stories still found an audience. In 1877, for example, a Brooklyn doctor wrote to a medical journal, recapping Lahrbush’s career (elevating him to “Governor of a convict station in Australia” when he was actually an inmate) and claiming that Lahrbush’s age was “well authenticated.” The doctor’s “professional interest” stemmed from the story that “Capt. L. has been an opium habituate for seventy years!  A statement so extraordinary may seem incredible, but it is well attested.” (His letter may be read at http://bit.ly/1s4WE9Z .)

Napoleon’s hair remains newsworthy, making headlines even today. In 2008, The New York Times reported that a team of scientists analyzed several samples and concluded that the high levels of arsenic they contained were not unusual for his time. This would seem to rule out arsenic poisoning as the cause of the Emperor’s death, though the circumstances are still in dispute (http://nyti.ms/1wkVHOG ).

As for Lahrbush, Roussac and Roberts write that “we are left with the unavoidable conclusion that the sample of Napoleon’s hair bequeathed by Frederick Lahrbush is a fake. That he was an exceptional character who saw and lived more than most is beyond dispute.”

A photo of Frederick Lahrbush may be seen at http://bit.ly/1m6kfKB .

~ by D. Moore, Archival Specialist

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A Gift to the Archives: A Special Note from “Pansy”

DOC060414-06042014131447_Page_1                                        “Pansy’s” envelope advertising Rollins, 1888

We are happy to share this latest addition to the Archives:  an envelope featuring a Rollins advertisement, along with a note card from children’s author Isabella “Pansy” Alden, and a badge given to members of the Pansy Society. These items, donated by Gary R. Planck, J.D., and his wife, Prof. Carolyn R. Planck, provide a glimpse of both Rollins and its ties to the Alden family, who were part of the College’s earliest history. Mr. Planck has kindly provided the following look at this history (below, with photos from the Archives).


DOC060414-06042014131447_Page_2This is an original advertising envelope with a crossed out printed return address of “Rollins College,/Winter Park, Florida.”; a postmark reading “Jamestown, N.Y./Oct 22 2 PM/88”; and a cancelled two cent United States postage stamp with on the reverse of the envelope an advertisement for the recently founded Rollins College in 1885.  The envelope and enclosed note, the latter dated October 20, 1888, is handwritten by Mrs. Gustav Rosenberg (Isabella MacDonald) “Pansy” Alden (1841-1930) of 416 West 3rd Street, Jamestown, New York, to Lottie L. Snow (1877-1941) of West Chelmsford, Massachusetts, apparently received on October 28, 1888, according to a postmark on the reverse of the envelope stamped over a small portion of the Rollins College advertisement.

AldenIsabella                Author Isabella MacDonald Alden, known as “Pansy” to her readers

Mrs. Alden wrote children’s literature-authoring some two hundred books, as well as doing article writing, magazine editing, and Chautauqua speaking.  It appears Miss Snow became an educator, living at 215 School Street (1940 Census) and serving as superintendent of a Chelmsford Methodist Church School as late as 1940. (Lowell Sun, 06/21). Mrs. Alden’s note to Miss Snow reads: “Dear Lottie: I warmly welcome/you to the P.S. that you may be one/of the brightest and best among the/5000 members and all for/Jesus’ sake, dear one. Keep/Jesus in mind daily, hourly./Will you, will you, dear, dear/Lottie, come what may? Aff/-Pansy-.” “P.S.” stands for “Pansy Society” with its whisper motto “For Jesus Sake” associated with Mrs. Alden’s magazine, The Pansy (1874-1896).

Notecard                                                             Pansy’s card to Lottie

Ribbon Badge                                          The Pansy Society’s satin membership badge

So how did this note happen to come to Miss Snow in a Rollins College envelope?  About 1887-1888 Rev. and Mrs. Alden built a house at the northeast corner of Lyman and Interlachen Avenues in Winter Park, wishing to live there at least part of the year for son Raymond MacDonald Alden’s health.  Rev. Alden (1832-1924) served as a Rollins trustee under its first president and son Raymond (1873-1924) attended Rollins Preparatory School from 1886 to 1890 and then Rollins College for two years before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania in 1894; therefore, the potential sources for the envelope. Because of the advertisement, the item has two significant aspects—its relationship to a very famous writer of the era and to the very early years of Rollins College.

pansycottage2                                           Pansy Cottage, the Aldens’ Winter Park home

As for the latter, one learns tuition was $33.00 Preparatory and $50.00 Collegiate, and room and board were $165.00 with “Cottages for Ladies and Gentlemen new and neatly furnished.”  Music tuition was $33.00, and instrument was $9.00, but calisthenics were free! Rollins College was said to be a Christian institution with fourteen instructors at that time.   Five references are provided—two from Florida, two from New York, and one from Massachusetts–and Dr. Henry B. Foster, M.D., proclaimed, “No place in Florida is more healthful or beautiful.”  Those interested in possibly attending the new school in the South could write Reverend Edward P. Hooker, D.D., (1834-1904), Rollins College’s first president serving until 1892.

SKMBT_22312100915130_0003 Some testimonials from the College’s first catalogue, 1885 (click on the image to enlarge)

This Rollins College Advertisement with enclosures (note card and membership badge) purchased from Michael J. McMorrow in North Clarendon, Vermont, was acquired in May, 2014, by Gary R. and Carolyn R. Planck of Winter Park, Florida. For more information about Mrs. Alden and family visit www.isabellamacdonaldalden.com.


As Mr. Planck has noted, Pansy Alden was a very popular author.  A number of her books and several issues of Pansy magazine are available in the Department of Archives and Special Collections at the Olin Library.

SpecialCollectionsBooks                         A small selection of the “Pansy” titles in our Special Collections

We’re very happy and grateful to received these rare items for the Archives.  Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Planck!

~ by D. Moore, Archival Specialist











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Notes to Thomas Edison

                    Thomas Edison on campus with President Hamilton Holt, 1930

While researching a reference question recently, we came across an envelope marked “Notes written to Thomas A. Edison on Founders Day, February 24, 1930, during the program.”  These appear to have been written by Pres. Hamilton Holt, who presented Edison with an honorary degree of science that day.

At the time of the ceremony, Edison had just turned 83.  One newspaper reported that while he could not hear the “words of tribute paid to him, Mr. Edison took an active interest in the two-hour exercise that ended at high noon,” though he was escorted off the platform during the first part of the ceremony to rest in the shade for a time.

Edison on the outdoor platform during the ceremony

Since Edison had difficulty hearing, Pres. Holt wrote notes to him throughout the day.  Here are some of them:

NotestoEdison_Page_05George Cartwright served as the College’s  Superintendent of Grounds and Buildings from 1927 to 1961, and received the Rollins Decoration of Honor 1941.  A native of Sheffield, England, he lived in Canada before coming to the United States in 1919.


NotestoEdison_Page_11ReducedDuring the ceremony, a $5,000 donation to the College’s Endowment Fund from Mrs. A. M. Young of Mountain Lake was announced, as well as the gift of a new women’s dormitory  from former New York congressman and philanthropist Cornelius A. Pugsley ’29H, a Rollins trustee.

NotestoEdison_Page_12According to The Sandspur, Pres. Holt “announced that a pet raccoon had been donated to any group on the campus that would guarantee to give it a comfortable home and proper attention.  Mr. Edison, who had displayed keen interest in the other gifts, chuckled heartily at this last announcement.”

NotestoEdison_Page_06                                  We have no record of what prompted this note. . .

NotestoEdison_Page_08                                                                  or this one.

The story of Edison’s visit to Rollins was covered by several newspapers. The New York Times reported that 3,500 people attended the ceremony and that Edison “was acclaimed by several hundred schoolchildren along the street as he marched in the academic procession to the campus.”  The Times also reported that President Holt read aloud a telegram sent by a friend of Rollins alumnus Rex Beach. The friend asked, “What’s Rex Beach doing there?  Are you giving golf degrees?”  It was signed, “Yours intellectually, Will Rogers.” (Humorist Will Rogers was a friend of both Rex Beach and his brother-in-law, actor Fred Stone.)

Following the ceremony, the Edisons were guests at a luncheon hosted by Pres. and Mrs. Holt. Edison’s brother-in-law, Halbert Hitchcock, later wrote about this event to his nephew, Theodore:  “At the luncheon which was held directly after he got his degree from Rollins College, President Holt sat at his right hand and wrote out for him the salient points of what was being said and the questions they were all anxious to have him answer, and he entered into the matter with a marvellous [sic] amount of zest, and one could hardly appreciate that he could not hear anything that was going on.  President Holt was so skillful in writing out the things that were important for him to know and the questions that were being asked” (letter dated March 21, 1930, from The Thomas Edison Papers, Rutgers University).

Thomas Edison died the following year, in October 1931.  In April 1940, Mrs. Edison returned to Rollins to plant a tree on campus.  According to a clipping from an unnamed newspaper, she explained that “the ebon tree from India had weathered Florida tornadoes, cold and other vicissitudes characteristic of the career for her husband,” which was why she had chosen it for Rollins. She said, “May this tree be destined to grow and flourish and give joy to all as it gives me joy in presenting it to you.”

From The Sandspur, April 24, 1940

Thomas and Mina Edison’s home, Seminole Lodge in Fort Myers, features a Friendship Walk that is modeled on the College’s Walk of Fame.  Its first stone came from their friend, Hamilton Holt.

~by D. Moore, Archival Specialist

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The First College Color: Oleander Pink


This keepsake in the Archives, decorated with faded pink ribbon, tells the story of Rollins’ first College color, oleander pink, and how it came to be replaced with the blue and gold that we know today.  The text on the right reads:

                     College Colors

Oleander pink was chosen by Mrs. Edward P. Hooker.

The Horseshoe was bordered

with oleanders which bloomed

profusely at Commencement time.

The Big Freeze killed these bushes

and they were not replaced.

Gold and royal blue were chosen

by the students in  the

spring of 1895

This is a short and simple account, but is there more to the story?

As is sometimes the case in such matters, there are different versions of events on record.  One source says that the colors were changed in 1905; another states that the new colors appeared in 1908, inspired by the opening lines of the “Rollins Song” of 1907:  “Fiat Lux!  Let Rollins shine clear in the golden light of day.”

A more detailed account comes from Henry “Hank” Mowbray, class of 1897, the first editor of The Sandspur (and the future donor of Rollins’ Mowbray House).  In an essay written in 1949, “Youthful Days in Florida,” he recalled the first part of the story told above:  that Mrs. Hooker, the wife of Rollins’ president, had chosen oleander pink for the blossoms that appeared on campus at Commencement time.  Then he added:

“But there arose complications for there was a fellow student of mine, Miss Marie McIntosh, who had a sallow and pimply complexion and who volubly contended that oleander pink was most trying for her to wear.    Another complication was that I hoped. . . to secure the affections of Miss Marie.  So to ingratiate myself with her, as editor of The Sand Spur, I waged a campaign against oleander pink and presented in print the advantages of Blue and Gold.”

SKMBT_22313102114170_0001Henry Mowbray (seated, third from left) and fellow students at Pinehurst, 1894-95                                                             (click on the photo to enlarge it)

Just as Mr. Mowbray stated, the first issue of The Sandspur, published in December 1894, featured an article arguing for new school colors.  The author, identified only by the initial “D.” (possibly art instructor Amy F. Dalrymple)  first cited “the complaining whispers which the writer has heard for the past five years in regard to the college color,” and noted that “the rosewater pink which was selected and which Wanamaker promised to keep in stock for us, is not the color which we now use” and “the original color cannot be procured–a good reason for changing it.”  After stating “the one strong objection to rose-pink is that it is felt to be inadequate to express dignity, strength, and stability,” The Sandspur went on to make this recommendation:  “A charming combination of colors are royal blue and gold, each color giving force to the other by contrast. .  . Let the royal blue suggest kingship, power, and the highest and deepest in character and aims, and let the gold mean to us, unchanging value, and real, substantial worth.”

Sandspur                       The cover of The Sandspur, 1894.  Inside was the motto, “Stick to it.”

The Sandspur kept up the pressure in its next issue, which appeared in March 1895 and included a brief article arguing that “the new Rollins stick-pins which are seen displayed on lapels and other conspicuous places, surely show the weakness of the College color. Imagine pins of like pattern with gold mountings instead of silver; royal blue enamel instead of pink, and on the blue ‘Rollins’ or ‘RC’ in gold.   It would be a pin to be proud    of. . .”  The same issue quoted a letter from alumnus Fred Lewton, who said in part, “though I should be sorry for the sake of old associations to have the color changed, I will say that I am in favor of something else,” as well as an update on the activities of The Demosthenic Society (publishers of the paper), who had unanimously voted for the new colors and appointed a committee to draw up a petition to submit to the faculty.

The minutes show that the faculty approved the change on April 16, 1895:

Faculty Minutes April 1895


According to Henry, the campus had been “a tempest in teapot, made wild and stormy by Mrs. Hooker,” so the victory had been hard-won.  Then came an unexpected blow:  “It still brings tears to my eyes, and today I hope to your eyes, that after all this labor of mine, for her, the ungrateful Miss Marie transferred her affections from me to my rival, Ernest Missildine.  How bitter life is!”

More than fifty years had passed, but even so, Henry claimed that “when these days I see Rollins students marching under blue and gold standards, I would that it were oleander pink.”

SKMBT_22313102114170_0003            Henry Mowbray (front row, left) and fellow members of the Delphic Society,                 from a photo taken in 1894-95.  Ernest Missildine is seated behind him.                                                    Author Rex Beach can be seen on the top right.

This would appear to be the definitive story of how the College colors came to be blue and gold, but one question remains:  the Archives has no record of a student named Marie McIntosh.  However, in yet another version of the story, published in 1952, The Sandspur reported that the change was first proposed by a student named Annie Fuller, who “hated pink.  Rebelling against the insipidity of the color, Annie went to Henry Mowbray, who was then editor of the newly-founded Sandspur, and delivered a sales talk that apparently sold.”  We do have a record of Miss Fuller, who attended the Rollins Academy in the 1890s.

AnnieFullerCroppedAnnie Fuller, a music student at Rollins, pictured with classmates and faculty in 1893.   She is wearing a striped dress and is seated behind the young woman holding a guitar.

Whether or not unrequited love played a role in the change, the College colors have been blue and gold since the student days of Sandspur editor Henry Mowbray–who also gave our student newspaper its name.  But that’s another story.

~ by D. Moore,  Archival Specialist






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