This massive album, 16 ½” x 12” x 2 ½”, documents the four years in college of Virginia Lee Ames, from her matriculation in September 1918 through her graduation in 1922. You can feel the love that went into making this album as you page through it. There are 45 pages, overflowing with photographs and ephemera. There are around 280 photos which appear at the front of the album, taking up the first 15 to 20 pages (each page being two sides). After that initial burst of photographs, many of them annotated by Ms. Ames with some whole pages filled with writing and photos that by themselves are wonderful pieces of folk art, the ephemera of a very active college life takes over. One gets the sense that Ms. Ames was an outgoing, social person who made friends easily and took full advantage of the many opportunities offered at Hamline.
The album has faux-leather black covers in fair to good condition. The covers show some edge wear; there is wear at the binding but no separation. The top left corner of the front cover, and the bottom left corner of the back cover, have noticeable bends, and the back cover has separated to an extent from the binding, towards the bottom, though it is still attached. The album pages are of a heavier weight construction paper, with a light greenish cast. The pages show edgewear, but there is no significant paper loss.
Hamline University was founded in 1854, the first university in Minnesota, and one of the first co-educational schools in the country. At first it was located in Red Wing, but in 1880 it was reestablished in St. Paul.
The front cover has an embossed rectangle in tones of light and darker browns, showing Old Main; underneath, it says “Hamline University Memory Book.” The Hamline crest is embossed at lower right, in gold. A Hamline pennant graces the inside front cover, and the first page has a printed scene of marching soldiers, in a lunette, with the American eagle perched atop the lunette, and a naval vessel off to the left, and the Statue of Liberty on the right. America, of course, is at war. A name plate lower right has Ms. Ames’ name, “Hamline University” and “September, 1918.” In the upper left, on a small piece of paper pasted into the album, Ms. Ames has written her name in an ornate cursive, with so much decorative scrolling that the name is hard to read.
And so the album begins. The three double-sided pages that follow are dedicated to various sports at the school, with printed lines providing space to record the names of football, basketball, and baseball players, and records of games played. However, Ms. Ames has written across the first page:
During the war - “Flu” raging!
Very little Athletics
Some newspaper cutouts (or perhaps from an athletic program) show various members of the football and basketball teams. These are from 1919 -1922---the flu has abated, the war is over. That season, 1919, must have been a good one for Hamline athletics: two newspaper clippings show that year’s football team, one with the headline “Hamline Team That Finished Season in Blaze of Glory,” the other with the headline “Hamline’s Greatest Team.” The clippings are folded in half, so that they do not extend beyond the border of the album.
Before the album leaves the printed portion dealing with athletics, Ms. Ames seemingly has turned her attention to her career. Chronology is abandoned, and she interpolates an application for a teaching position, or rather, a form which provides her with a guide in applying for a teaching position. Two letters from the Superintendent of City Schools in Redwood Falls, Minnesota confirm that Ms. Ames did indeed find her teaching position. The acceptance letters discuss classes Ms. Ames might teach, and reference her interest in dramatic productions, and state that she will have an opportunity to direct plays. Both of these letters are dated in May, 1922. Ms. Ames has skipped over the whole of her college career to emphasize her success in finding a job. Those college years were worth it, apparently.
The pages of photos follow. Though the photos of romantic hijinks, quite often on outings with men in uniform (at least in the year following the war), are fine enough, Ms. Ames’ captions are the real treat. “Were my feet wet?” she says, sitting somewhere outside between two men. “Oh, no!” The photo below, showing a young couple in a rather awkward embrace on a snowy country road, is captioned “Cy and I sure were on the job in snapping this picture and then she tried to tell everyone it was me. Cruel!” A small triangle of a photo, clipped from a snapshot, has a caption that says “The radiator that usually pours forth its chilliness.” The bit of a photo does indeed show a radiator, or a part of a radiator.
As the photo pages progress, one gains the distinct impression that Ms. Ames was very popular, especially with the males of the species. Posing with one admirer is fine, but two always are better. We meet the young men of the Phi Delta fraternity; some of the girls ascend to the roof of Old Main for a photograph; a photo of two men and a young woman (perhaps Ms. Ames), mounted at a Dutch angle and with a prominent scratch in the negative, is captioned “Where is the cat that did this noble deed.” Perhaps Ms. Ames was not fond of the young man whose face is disfigured by the scratch.
Every other photo has a humorous caption. The photos themselves, with a few exceptions, are beautifully framed within the composition, and the exposures are sharply-focussed, in a bold range from dark to light. Though the photos in the beginning of the album are mounted with large round black photo corners, about halfway through the photo pages, the photos are glued in, and this mounting continues to the end of the photo section.
After the initial section, where many of the photos are standard snapshot sizes --- 2 ½” x 1 ¾”, 2 ½” x 4 ¼”, or even larger (4 ½” x 6 ½” for instance), photos towards the end of the section often have borders trimmed, and sometimes have eccentric cuts: irregular polygons, one with a wavy edge, another cut into an oval. Several pages have tiny cutouts of headshots, a few not much bigger than the eraser on a pencil. A lovely page in the middle of the photo section has five 5” x 3” snapshots of groups of young women, in pajamas, clowning, laughing, and smiling together in their dorm rooms. This page is full to bursting with seven other photos, eight of the tiny headshot cutouts, and densely written captions for every photo. “Joy” is the word that comes to mind. And we’re only halfway through the photos. The page that follows the one just described has 12 photos, and 15 of the small portrait cutouts. On some pages towards the end of the photo section, the captions and comments, in their small but legible cursive, completely fill the empty space surrounding the photos. The last photo in the photo section, a studio portrait of an unidentified group of men, is also the largest: 13 ½” x 7 ½”. There is no commentary on this page.
And then the ephemera starts, and rolls in like a tidal wave. Here is a partial inventory of items that appear just in the first seven pages of what are thirty odd pages dedicated to ephemera: a baseball scorecard (loose from its place in the album) for a game between the “Red Sox” and the “Cubs” (major or minor league teams unspecified); a Santa Claus Christmas gift tag; a St. Patrick’s Day party favor; luncheon and dinner place cards (on almost every page); Christmas cards; calling cards; a folding paper umbrella favor from an Oriental theme party; a dance card from “Dance at Tamarack”; a paper skirt, a remnant of some party favor; a 1919 commencement invitation; a note to Miss Ames from “Sec. of H.C.” saying “Because of two marks in one nite [sic] you will have to forfeit your privileges for one week beginning Tuesday, January 28; memorabilia from an initiation ceremony for some social group. There is on the same page as that with the memorabilia from the initiation ceremony, a rare snapshot in this section: a young woman stands outside, in a long skirt, high-top lace up shoes, a loose blouse, and a man’s hat---and wearing a belt and holster for an Army service revolver. The woman has a hand on the butt of the gun, and looks like she’s ready to blast the first varmint that comes within shooting distance.
The fun continues: Miss Ames gets a stern note from the Registrar: she will “report” to “Miss Immell” “without fail” between 10 and 12, even if she has to cut classes, though she will not be excused from those classes (presumably she will suffer any penalties resulting from missing a class); typewritten “House Rules”; a milk bottle paper top; a flyer from a chiropractic clinic; grade cards; a small mesh Christmas stocking; a button from a coat, perhaps military; a chit for some “francs” from “La Banque Du Casino de Monaco,” drawn on the “Beta Kappa ban, St. Paul”; an ace of hearts playing card, with Miss Ames’s annotation: “Petie Berg’s calling card; another note outlining forfeiture of privileges, with Miss Ames’s caption: “First time in 2 yrs. Oh Death where is thy Sting?”; a three-page handwritten speech.
Again, this is a partial listing of the ephemera that shows up just in the first seven pages of the scrapbook section. There are party place cards, invitations, and party favors pasted in on almost every page.
A few highlights from the pages that follow: a small drawing of a sad-looking young lad and his small puppy, done in pencil, with the caption “My Economics class”; a page of memorabilia from a Dutch-themed party; a metal button snap closure with a bit of cloth attached; a handwritten note on letterhead stationary “The Plymouth Clothing House/Hennepin at Sixth” addressed “To my Sweet heart: -” “A little of the useful. From Your Daddy”; “The Parkin Candy Shop Menu”; a full-size faux tortoise-shell lorgnette; a Girl’s Glee Club performance program; postcards; a menu from “The Chocolate Shop”; a strip of birch bark with “Red Wing” inscribed on it, and the caption “Various views of Red Wing”; another note: “Virginia Perhaps you can use this Dad” (more money?); more birch bark scraps, one with a list of names, apparently those who made an outing to Lake Minnetonka; a page with Halloween ephemera, Halloween drawings made directly on the album page and an invitation to a Halloween party; a Western Union telegram, glued-in and thus unreadable; clippings listing the cast-members of two separate theatrical productions; a movie ticket and Miss Ames’s notation that the movie was “Return of Peter Grim (or Green);a pressed oak leaf and pressed flowers, held into the album with slim strips of cut paper; a note from a classmate, reading in full: “Virginia Housey Ames is the biggest, pruniest, half-baked piece of know nothing --- I’ve ever seen --- Don’t worry --- Sweetheart Your hair will never turn red --- Tra-la! ‘There ain’t no squirrels on me!’ Yours till Niagara Falls Tillie”; a 1922 Senior Dinner menu and program; a typed list of the cast of characters for a school play: “Spreading the News.” Miss Ames played the part of the “Scissor’s Grinders Soul,” and her caption on the outside says “How I did flit as the fairy. But they couldn’t get me in chapel that morning.”; a newspaper clipping, with a photograph of Miss Ames above a photograph of a young gentlemen, announcing the Hamline University Dramatic Club production of “The Passing of the Third Floor
Back,” by English humorist Jerome K. Jerome; a homemade “Second Place” ribbon for “Popular Woman; another newspaper clipping announcing that Miss Ames and another student will coach three student plays; a program from the University of Missouri commencement; a telegram, handwritten notes, programs and invitations from Miss Ames’s 1922 graduation (three pages in toto). The album concludes with a number of Christmas cards and notes, and a hand drawn dog inside a Christmas wreath from another source. Just a few pages from the end of the album, there is a reunion photograph, taken from some school publication, of the Class of 1920, and below that a paper napkin, with a printed graduation theme, and the penned notation that this came from the 45th year reunion of Miss Ames’s class, held at the home of Helen Lee Dennison on June 9th, 1967.
Full-to-bursting is the album, as full-to-bursting must have been Miss Ames’s college years. One can only hope the rest of her life was as full of joy and delight, and good humor.