One of the most-noticed items on display in the Archives is this photo of the Rollins community in the early 1900s. It was taken at Knowles Hall, the first building on campus and a popular site for group pictures.
Using digital technology, researchers can study an old photograph like this one in a whole new way. A high-resolution scan makes it possible to adjust the color and contrast, and to zoom in on details, making faces from the past visible once more.
As the enlarged image below shows, turn-of-the-century dress at Rollins was rather formal. Ties, coats, and hats were worn by male students, even at picnics or when boating on the lake. Most of the young women are wearing shirtwaists (blouses) and the bouffant hairstyle associated with the “Gibson Girl” look of the period.
Of the 106 people in the photo, we have the names of 42. None of the young men seated in the front have been identified. Their very youthful appearance suggests that they were members of the College’s preparatory division, which offered the equivalent of a high school curriculum. (Since educational institutions were rare in Florida at that time, relatively few students were ready to study at the college level. Many of the earliest Rollins students were enrolled in what was known as the Academy.)
Just behind the boys, on the left, is E. Grace Boone ’07 (1884-1960), who went on to become a teacher. Her father, Cassius, was one of the incorporators of the city of Orlando in 1875, and had served as its mayor. A descendant of the famous frontiersman Daniel Boone, he also taught the first public school in Orange County and ran a hardware store, among other accomplishments (it seems that pioneers such as Mr. Boone often wore many hats).
In 1958 Grace Boone reminisced about Rollins and her favorite teachers, all of whom appear in this photo. She recalled President George Morgan Ward’s “wisdom, his kindness, his readiness to give help to a floundering youngster confronted for the first time with a college catalogue and the need of choosing a course of study.” She wrote of one memorable occasion when students welcomed him back to Rollins: “The college boys got a carriage from the local livery stable, harnessed themselves to the shafts and conveyed Dr. and Mrs. Ward to their home on the campus.”
She also affectionately remembered Dr. Thomas Baker, “whose wit and humor made him the idol of the campus, and who could teach Physics, Chemistry and Botany without recourse to a text-book.” Prof. Susan Longwell, who reminded Miss Boone of Dame Edith Sitwell, “made literature come alive” and “left a lasting imprint on all our lives.” And Prof. Lord’s mastery of Latin made it seem that it “must be her native tongue.” Miss Boone also emphasized the high standards her professors maintained for their students: “I may say here that all three of these teachers were what students nowadays sadly shake their heads [at] and call ‘perfectionists.'”
The College’s yearbook, the Tomokan, began publication in 1917, so most of the earliest Rollins students and faculty appear only in group photos such as this one. How wonderful to be able to see them today as individuals and a part of the Rollins community.
More information about President George Morgan Ward and Dr. Thomas Baker can be found at the Archives’ Golden Personlities site: . Photos of Knowles Hall (destroyed by a fire in 1909) can be found in the Digital Archives ( ).
~ by D. Moore, Archival Specialist