The Colgate Scene
September 2000
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Hamilton 1900
by John D. Hubbard

E.H. Stone documented town and gown for nearly 50 years.
One hundred years ago the streets of the village of Hamilton were unpaved and dusty, with mud and snow removal as major concerns for the 3,714 (counting Colgate's 151 students) residents. They worried about the water, too -- there were nine deaths from diphtheria and seven more from suicide.

     There were good times, though. Electricity was in most Hamilton homes, at least in one room, by the turn of the century and telephones connected about half the houses. The first car rambled through the village's streets sometime during the summer of 1900.

     William McKinley carried the town in the presidential election, the Women's Christian Temperance Union wielded considerable power (they lobbied tirelessly for an 8 p.m. curfew for village children under 16) and baseball was the town's most popular sport, although Colgate's football team was gaining a following.

     Other entertainment could be found at the Sheldon Opera House or Root's Ice Cream Parlor. There were two hotels, four livery stables, eight clothing stores, six markets, three insurance companies, two jewelry stores and the Charles Edkins Barber Shop ("Ladies shampooing a specialty").

     There were also two photographers in Hamilton; H.H. Hill and Edward Stone, who arrived in September and would spend the next 50 years recording life in the village and on campus.

     Up on the hill, Colgate students complained about the Alumni Hall cloakroom, poorly shoveled walks, the cold and damp in chapel, insufficient library lighting and bad water. Freshmen and sophomores waged sometimes vicious competitions, and the annual chase after the statue of Mercury disrupted both campus and village life. Tuition was $60 a year, with various other fees tacked on for athletics and lab courses, and there was no furniture in the dorm rooms.

     Change came to the village and college; much of it recorded by photographer Stone, with the new century. University Archivist Carl Peterson prepared an exhibition, from which the text and these photos were drawn, that was on display in Case Library for the first six months of our new century.


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