Letters to Coca-Cola: Mary Tompkins Correspondence, 1918-1937

Lehigh’s University Libraries Special Collections contains a collection of diverse information.  One recent example is the Mary Tompkins Correspondence, which reflects a variety of research topics including: social commentary, business, genealogy, and transportation. This collection features letters written to Mary Frances Reid Tompkins (1908-2004) in the years between the World Wars by three generations of family members (1918-1937).  The letters from the Great Depression era are especially poignant in the family’s repeated requests to Mary Tompkins for financial aid. These letters also provide a rich source of information about how a formerly aristocratic Southern family coped with the devastation of their wealth and societal standing resulting from the Civil War.  Apparently, Mary Tompkins was one of the few people in her family with a secure and steady job, which was at the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, Georgia.  Coca-Cola was one of the very few American businesses that thrived during the Great Depression.  In an era when most companies cut back on advertising, Coca-Cola ramped theirs up.  In the early 1920s, Prohibition shut down bars that served beer and liquor.  In response, Coca-Cola came up with the slogan “The Pause That Refreshes” as a popular marketing campaign which associated drinking Coke as a part of the American way of life, promoting its consumption as a popular way for people to be sociable.  To further promote its product, Coca-Cola maintained the 5 cent price per bottle for 50 years, from 1909 to 1959, and developed the innovative six-pack cardboard carrier, which promoted buying multiple 5 cent bottles.  (http://www.coca-colacompany.com/history)

Mary Tompkins letter sent to Atlanta, Georgia.
Letter sent to Mary Tompkins in Atlanta, Georgia.

Many of the letters also had their envelopes included, which offered clues to Mary’s consistent address at Coco-Cola in Atlanta rather than a frequently changing residence.  Mary was very popular, having many friends and interests.  The letters requesting aid were sure to reach her at her business address.

 

A large portion of the letters requested financial aid, some letters from her grandmother, Mary Frances Reid Reese of Carrollton, Georgia, outlined the family’s former wealth and prominent Southern roots. This included the family’s relation to the Sallie Fannie Reid Guards Confederacy army unit, Governor of Georgia John M. Slaton (1866-1955), and Atlanta architect J. Neel Reid, who owned the well-known Antebellum house Mimosa Hall.

Among the envelopes is an unusual one: a commemorative issue from the Canal Zone noting the First Air Mail Express Flight.

Cristobal, Canal Zone to United States, May 1, 1930, Col. Charles A. Lindbergh, Pilot.
Cristobal, Canal Zone to United States, May 1, 1930, Col. Charles A. Lindbergh, Pilot.

The envelope is postmarked May 1, 1930 7 A.M. Cristobal, C.Z.  F.A.M. 5, and was sent from Peter W. Reese, an electrician for the Panama Railroad, who was a relative inviting Mary to visit him in Panama.  The F.A.M.-5 was a U.S. Post Office (Foreign Air Mail) designated contract airmail route flown by Pan American Airways that inaugurated the route from Miami, Florida to Central America. When combined with F.A.M.-6, this route would become known as the :Lindbergh Circle,” with flights circumnavigating the Caribbean. (see The Cornell Daily Sun, v. XLIX, n. 92, 7 Feb. 1929)

Letter sent to Wilmington, DE
Letter sent to Mary Tompkins in Wilmington, DE

In July 1934, Mary moved from Coca-Cola’s Atlanta headquarters to the bottling plant office in Wilmington, Delaware.  In the move, Mary met Lowry S. Danser (1912-2007) who worked for E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co. as a chemical engineer.  Lowry S. Danser earned a degree in chemical engineering from Lehigh in 1933, where he was involved with the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity and the swim team.  Mary and Lowry would eventually marry in 1939. Lowry Danser went on to have a successful career with DuPont, holding a U.S. patent for copper removal from chloroprene.  He and Mary lived abroad during numerous assignments for the company, including three years in Japan where they began collecting oriental art.  Lowry and Mary, were generous benefactors of Lehigh, gifting artwork and pottery to the University’s Art Gallery.  They were members of the Asa Packer Society and the Tower Society.  In 2004, Mr. Danser established the Mary T. and Lowry S. Danser ’33 Gift Annuity.  On his death in 2007, the Danser estate gift to the University established the Mary T. and Lowry S. Danser Distinguished Faculty Chair in Chemistry. They are buried in the Carrollton (Georgia) City Cemetery, the city postmark featured on many of the envelopes.  In death Mary Frances Tompkins Danser returned to her Southern roots.

Recent Transfer from the History Department

Special Collections has recently processed a new transfer from the History Department. The material in this collection is now open to researchers. More detailed information about this collection and its contents can be found in the ArchivesSpace finding aid. Special Collections also houses and has made public the personal papers of Professor Lawrence Henry Gipson.

The Department of History and Government was created in 1924 under the Presidency of Dr. Charles Russ Richards. There is no single document within the collection that explicitly describes the need for a Department of History and Government. Following Lehigh University’s creation by Asa Packer, it became primarily a scientific and engineering college. Nevertheless, the humanities and social sciences consistently grew in size. To accommodate this increased interest in the humanities, the History and Government department was formally established.

In 1924, President Richards brought Professor Lawrence Henry Gipson to Lehigh University to head the newly-created department. Gipson had previously been the head of the History Department at Wabash College in Indiana. Under Professor Gipson’s able leadership the department steadily grew in strength and prestige. In his time, Gipson became one of the world’s great historians. He became a renowned professor after arriving to Lehigh, where his name became intertwined with that of the University. As his prestige as a historian increased, so did Lehigh’s good name. Several other professors in the History and Government Department also helped Dr. Gipson establish and raise the young academic department.

Gipson
Professor Lawrence Henry Gipson

Dr. George Harmon was perhaps the second leading professor in establishing the History Department next to Dr. Gipson. Another key contributor to the early growth of the History Department was Mr. Sydney Brown. Years later, while recommending Mr. Brown to be named the Head of the History Department at Louisiana State University, Dr. Harmon called him the most brilliant man he had ever known. There were other men who contributed to the growth of the Department but these were the early key players. Articles by both Gipson and Harmon can be found together in the March 1937 issue of the Lehigh Review, a magazine published by students between 1927 and 1940.

Harmon
Dr. George Harmon

These professors also faced challenges while trying to grow the History Department. Dr. Harmon produced annual reports for each year, detailing the happenings, successes, and struggles of the Department. As far as happenings are concerned, the professors had quite eventful schedules. All of the professors worked on books, articles, and review that were typically published. Additionally, the professors vacationed and made scholarly trips to other countries when they weren’t teaching. The Department was rather successful. Many of its students went on to graduate school and law school at institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Penn. Dr. Harmon also vividly detailed the struggles of the Department. In building the History Department, there were struggles with who would teach which classes, limited office space, Department Budget, and how to recruit the best students. Despite these struggles, the actions of these professors played a pivotal role in starting the History Department and its subsequent success.

Lehigh’s Paisley Magazine, 1966-1970

As you may already know, Lehigh University’s student newspaper, The Brown and White, is one of the most long-running student publications in the country. This is truly an accomplishment, as most student publications ultimately evaporate away as quickly as they come.

Other than The Brown and White, Lehigh has been no exception to this phenomenon. Among the valiant, innovative, and short lived are publications such as The Lehigh Burr (1881-1934), The Lehigh Bachelor (1940-43), The Lehigh Goblet (1946-48), and Paisley (1966-70). All of these publications have been digitized and are now available in their entirety for viewing or download through the Internet Archive

cover
Pictured: Cover page for the first volume of Paisley

The first installment of Paisley establishes its mission. First, to provide a medium for student expression. Second, to promote a collective class conscience, making students cognizant of “their present and future potential in an impersonal world”. And third, to entertain. (Volume 1. Pg. 4)

Paisley is filled with student editorials, poems, and short stories, amassing an intellectual bank of creativity, comedy, and literary art. Upon its debut, it seemed Paisley could offer only positives to our campus community, so how could a publication with so much going for it crumble to its demise in only 4 short years? The answer, Paisley was no anomaly in student publication. Many have come and gone with the same good intentions, and this example shows just how hard it really is to ignite an idea and even more so to keep that flame burning.

As we’ve learned from The Brown and White, survival requires consistency, more specifically consistent contributors and readers. Engineering themed journals, student magazines, artistic pamphlets you name it, Lehigh has seen them all. Though in the end, no one is left to fill the void created by those students graduating. Simple as that. Then years, perhaps decades later, the same thing will happen again.

However, the point here is not that student publications serve no purpose if they don’t last, but that it takes a certain group of students to bring these ideas to life in the first place. Regardless of how long a publications last, they all become a part of our shared history. What they create contributes to the readers of the time but also to future beholders.

puzzle
Pictured: puzzle from volume 1. See if you can solve it!

poemStudent publications also provide insight into the character of the student body at the time of their publication. If the editors of Paisley believed they were writing to invigorate an “impersonal world,” what does that make us now? You guessed it, no different. In fact, we are probably more detached than ever. Sending a snapchat or posting a tweet will undoubtedly be the mode of expression among today’s students; certainly not a deeply thought provoking piece of poetry. Indeed times have changed, however, human nature has not. We continue to ask the same questions as those before us. What is the purpose? Why are we here? What is love? Happiness? And considering college is supposed to be the place where students decide their future and who they want to become, I figure Lehigh is probably swimming with inquiries such as these.

Whether the pen is put to paper this year or not, student publications to come will continue to be a manifestation of beliefs, values as a student body, and a contribution to purposeful existence. The catch is that they won’t write themselves. For there to be things to read, there must be those who write. All it takes is one student with an idea and the diligence to make it happen.

Brown and White, First Week of Class 1966

Following the 100 year old Freshman Handbook, here is the front page of the Brown and White from the first week of class in 1966. This 50 year old newspaper provides a glimpse at what freshman orientation and the beginning of the semester were like. The newspaper is searchable and available in its entirety through The Brown and White Archive as part of Lehigh’s Digital Library. This archive contains every issue of the Brown and White from its founding in 1894 to 2015.

Front page of Brown and White, 9/14/1966
Front page of Brown and White, 9/14/1966

The top image is of a freshman cap or “dink,” which was a prominent part of the regulations highlighted in the recently digitized 1916 Freshman Handbook. According to the article, upperclassmen regularly attempted to steal freshmen’s dinks, which would greatly inconvenience the freshmen victims.

Also of note are the plans for the opening of Mart Library, which is now part of Fairchild Martindale Library. The Mart Library was dedicated to engineering and the sciences, was estimated to cost $1.5 million, and eventually opened in 1968. 50 years later, plans for a major transformation of Fairchild Martindale Library are in the works.

A War Club for President Richards

At the twentieth reunion of the class of 1902, an unusual gift was given to Lehigh’s President Richards.

IMG_0003.JPG

Before the reunion banquet, the class presented him with a large war club with a brass plate inscribed with who it was from and how to use it. The part on how to use it is missing from the artifact today.

IMG_0004.JPG

It is thought that this artifact is a copy or mock of a ceremonial mace, which would be used in important ceremonies to represent a persons, particularly the president’s in this case, authority.

The class seemed to have an infamous reputation at Lehigh for stuff like this. In the alumni bulletins leading up to the presentation of this mace, there were many comments on the class. Class of 1902 member, “Bob” Bird said that the reunion would be a quiet one and, in response, the author of the Bulletin responded saying “If so, it will be the first time this class has ever been quiet. I think they are trying to spring a surprise on the other reunion classes.” The Reunion Committee was described as “live-wires” and the class itself was said to be “one of those dangerous small classes.”

The war club was brought to Special Collections after being discovered in Packard Laboratory storage. It is cataloged and shelved with the other curious and divergent items in the Lehigh Memorabilia Collection.

Here are the links to the Alumni Bulletin online articles about the Class of 1902:

https://archive.org/stream/lehighalumnibull0908#page/20/mode/2up

https://archive.org/stream/lehighalumnibull0907#page/18/mode/2up

https://archive.org/stream/lehighalumnibull0909#page/10/mode/2up/

https://archive.org/stream/lehighalumnibull0903#page/18/mode/2up

Lehigh in “The Blue and White”

A passage from an article in the June 1914 issue of The Blue and White, “published bi-monthly by the pupils of the South Bethlehem High School, South Bethlehem, Pa.”:

“Down on the Canal job at Panama, in the mines of and forests of Canada and Mexico, in the Orient, in South Africa, and in many other remote place of the earth, says an article in a recent number of The College Magazine, “groups of young engineers are looking ahead, planning and dreaming of a great trip home in 1916. Then they hope to join the ranks of certain captains and lieutenants and corporals of industry who will come out from the big plants and offices of the United States to invade Lehigh Valley. Besides these technical graduates there will be a smaller but important representation of arts and Science men -men who have been successful in the professions in business and teaching. The great time toward which all of them are looking is the jubilee anniversary of their Alma Mater –Lehigh University.”

by Homer Bachert, Class of 1914, South Bethlehem High School (Lehigh Class of 1920, Electrical Engineering)

blue-and-white-1914-001
Cover of The Blue and White, June 1914

Victory Peace Reunion 1919: World War I Peace Celebrated at Lehigh

A Day that Will be Remembered in History

On June 28, 1919, Lehigh University held its Victory Peace Reunion in celebration of the end of World War I and in mourning of the alumni who gave their lives in service to the country. According to the Lehigh Alumni Bulletin article*, Lehigh was the only University to hold a peace celebration on this day, the same day as the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Every class from 1870 to 1919 was represented in the attendance for this event. There was an event known as the P-rade that is one of the most remembered events during this celebration. Each class marched with its class flag while returning veterans held American flags and their squad numbers. The air was filled with cheers of “Lehigh! Victory!! Peace!!!” That night, the entire student populace and the returning alumni witnessed Lehigh defeat Lafayette four to one in a baseball game. The next day, memorial services were held at the chapel. Many who attended these two days said that this event would be remembered forever.

service-parade

Lehigh Alumni Bulletin, volume 7, issue 1, August 1919

*LTS and Special Collections are proud to bring you digital archives of Lehigh’s historical publications such as Lehigh Alumni Bulletin (1913-1951), The Brown and White (1896-2012), The Epitome (1875-2008), Course Catalogs (1866-1994). Contact Special Collections to access to these and many other significant collections.

Go Lehigh!

To celebrate the Men’s basketball team’s appearance tonight in the NCAA tournament against Duke, I asked some of my LTS colleagues to share their favorite Lehigh basketball memories. To start: I was lucky enough to attend Lehigh during the Queenan/Polaha years, so I saw plenty of P’s and Q’s being hung on the railings in Stabler. My favorite memory was from my sophomore year when my friends and I took the bus down to Towson to watch Lehigh win the East Coast Conference. It was so exciting to watch Lehigh get into the NCAA tournament for only the second time ever. I still remember my (now) husband and his friends shouting at the ref and casting aspersions on how the poor man treated his wife. All of which I am sure were untrue. A less pleasant memory from that year was when Dick Vitale said that he’d drive the bus back to Bethlehem if Lehigh upset Temple. To this day, I don’t like that guy. At any rate, good luck to the basketball team. Go Lehigh!

Tim McGeary ’99:
My favorite memory is becoming good friends with Jared Hess (1978-2008), team captain, 1130-point scorer, and ultimate example of what’s great about Lehigh scholar-athletes.  Jared was featured in John Feinstein’s book “The Last Amateurs”, and accomplishment as much off the court as he did on the court.  Jared volunteered to be on the search committee that brought in Billy Taylor and Brett Reed to the Lehigh coaching staff.

Jared conducted himself above reproach and with optimism, even in the face of adversity, injury, and ultimately leukemia.  Jared’s crowning moment on the court came in the 1999 Patriot League Tournament when he led Lehigh, who had gone winless in the league that season, to an upset victory against the #2-seeded Navy.  But his attitude and spirit is what made him a true winner.

Mark Canney:
I became acquainted with the Lehigh Men’s and Women’s Basketball programs when my kids attended the basketball camps a couple of years ago.  To me, the basketball programs at Lehigh represent the very best of what Lehigh University is all about – excellence, quality instruction, mentoring, and a family atmosphere.  My children were coached by many of their favorite players, they were welcomed into the rotation of ball boy/ball girl at home games, and some of the coaches and players still greet my kids when they see them at Stabler.

Our favorite memories include when the Men, led by Seniors Zahir Carrington, Prentice Small and Michael Ojo  won the Patriot League Championship on our home court in 2010 and the Women, led by Erika Prosser and Alex Ross, won the Women’s Patriot League Championship the same year.  Also, this year, we were in attendance when Junior CJ McCullum – a projected NBA prospect – collected his 2000th point.  We’ve been privileged to witness him score many of these in person.