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Mathematics and Mourning: Textbook Burial and Student Culture Before and After the Civil War, 1853–1880

  • Andrew Fiss
Abstract

In nineteenth-century America, students buried their mathematics books. This practice consistently celebrated the milestone of passing through collegiate mathematics, yet it changed due to national events. This article considers the case of Bowdoin College, where students buried their books differently before and after the Civil War. Antebellum, they observed a complex “Burial of Calculus” with songs, parades, and mock prayers. Postbellum, students personified their books as a woman, placing stones marked “Anna” on the textbooks’ graves. Using archival investigations of students' pamphlets and textbooks, this paper argues that these changes resulted from the war's effects on education as well as changing attitudes toward death. Both the antebellum and postbellum rituals communicated understandings of mathematics and academic achievement, as connected through a mock funeral ritual. Through investigating these connections, this paper asserts the importance of student practices for our understanding of Civil War era education.

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1 Programs for funerals of mathematics textbooks, Anna Lytica + calculus, 1851–1879, Bowdoin Memorabilia and Realia Folder 10.2, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College, hereafter Bowdoin Memorabilia.

2 John R. Cross, “Whispering Pines: Written in Stone,” Bowdoin Daily Sun, http://www.bowdoindailysun.com/2010/09/whispering-pines-written-in-stone/.

3 Evidence of such a practice may exist at seminaries, academies, institutes, and normal schools. At the time, women's mathematics curriculum was not remarkably different from men's, though professors and teachers increasingly expressed different reasons why women or men would study it. See Fiss, Andrew, “Cultivating Parabolas in the Parlor Garden: Reconciling Mathematics Education and Feminine Ideals in Nineteenth-Century America,” Science & Education 23, no.1 (Jan. 2014), 241–50.

4 Robbins, Alexandra, Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power (Boston: Little, Brown, 2002), 3133 ; Wilkie, Laurie A., The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi: A Historical Archaeology of Masculinity at a University Fraternity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 60, 84, 98, 127; Bruce, Robert V., The Launching of Modern American Science, 1846–1876 (New York: Knopf, 1987), 8586 ; Guralnick, Stanley, Science and the Ante-Bellum American College (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1975), 59 ; Anderson, Ryan K., “‘The Law of College Custom is [as] Inexorable as the Laws of Chemistry and Physics’: The Transition to a Modern Purdue University, 1900–1924,” Indiana Magazine of History 99, no. 2 (June 2003), 97128 ; and Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz, Campus Life: Undergraduate Cultures from the End of the Eighteenth Century to the Present (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 34 .

5 Cross, “Whispering Pines.”

6 Spring, Leverett Wilson, A History of Williams College (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1917), 299 ; The Algebra Cremation,” Hamilton Literary Monthly 19, no. 8 (April 1885), 298–99; “Trinity Traditions—The Burning of Conic Sections,” Watkinson Library and College Archives, Trinity College (Hartford, CT), http://www.trincoll.edu/LITC/Watkinson/archives/Pages/traditions.aspx; and programs for funerals of mathematics textbooks, Bowdoin Memorabilia.

7 Wilkie, Lost Boys of Zeta Psi, 60, 84, 98, 127; Bruce, Launching of Modern American Science, 85–86; Guralnick, Science and the Ante-Bellum American College, 59; Anderson, “‘The Law of College Custom’”; Cross, “Whispering Pines”; “Cremation of Algebra,” Cornell Daily Sun, April 19, 1882, 2; “The Algebra Cremation,” Cornell Daily Sun, May 21, 1883, 1; and Helen Lee Sherwood and Mary Mallon, “Informal Dramatics,” Vassar Miscellany, Special Number, Oct. 1915, 110–11.

8 Faust, Drew Gilpin, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), 331 . For an example of the intersection of Civil War studies and memory, see Blight, David W., Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002), 130 .

9 Cashin, Joan E., “Editor's Introduction,” in The War Was You and Me: Civilians in the American Civil War, ed. Cashin, Joan E. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002), 18 ; and Nelson, Scott Reynolds and Sheriff, Carol, A People at War: Civilians and Soldiers in America's Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), viii-xii .

10 See, for instance, Geiger, Roger L., “The ‘Superior Instruction of Women,’ 1836–1890,” in The American College in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Geiger, Roger L. (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2000), 183–95; Ogren, Christine A., “‘Precocious Knowledge of Everything’: New Interpretations of Women's Higher Schooling in the U.S. in the Late-18th and Early-19th Centuries,” Journal of Curriculum Studies 39, no. 4 (Aug. 2007), 491502 ; and Blight, Race and Reunion, 300–37.

11 Mujic, Julie, “‘Ours is the Harder Lot’: Student Patriotism at the University of Michigan during the Civil War,” in Union Heartland: The Midwestern Home Front during the Civil War, ed. Aley, Ginette and Anderson, Joseph L. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University, 2013), 3367 ; Wongsrichanalai, Kanisorn, “‘Home and All It Meant’: Bowdoin College as Nostalgia-Based Intermediate Motivator,” Maine History 43, no. 3 (Jan. 2008), 166–87; and Wongsrichanalai, Kanisorn, Northern Character: College-Educated New Englanders, Honor, Nationalism, and Leadership in the Civil War Era (New York: Fordham University Press, 2016). National scope can be built out of specific case studies too, as in Cohen, Michael David, Reconstructing the Campus: Higher Education and the American Civil War (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012), especially the Introduction.

12 Wongsrichanalai, who also analyzes Bowdoin, does so through his interest in why so many of their students volunteered to serve in the war. Wongsrichanalai, “Home and All It Meant,” 166–87.

13 Horowitz, Campus Life, 3–22.

14 Recent examples are Martin, Patricia Yancey, “The Rape Prone Culture of Academic Contexts: Fraternities and Athletics,” Gender and Society 30, no. 1 (Feb. 2016), 3043 ; Flacks, Richard and Thomas, Scott L., “‘Outsiders’, Student Subcultures, and the Massification of Higher Education,” in Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, ed. Smart, John C., vol. 22 (New York: Springer, 2007), 181218 ; and Ogren, “Precocious Knowledge.” Ogren explicitly responds to Horowitz in Ogren, Christine A., “Where Coeds Were Coeducated: Normal Schools in Wisconsin, 1870–1920,” History of Education Quarterly 35, no. 1 (April 1995), 126 .

15 Wilkie, Lost Boys of Zeta Psi, 1–44; Lewis, Kenneth E., “Introduction: The Archaeology of Academia,” in Beneath the Ivory Tower: The Archaeology of Academia, ed. Skowronek, Russell K. and Lewis, Kenneth E. (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2010), 16 .

16 Here I depart from Robert V. Bruce, Launching of Modern American Science, 85–86; and Guralnick, Science and the Ante-Bellum American College, 59.

17 Programs for funerals of mathematics textbooks, Bowdoin Memorabilia.

18 The Yale program from November 1851 is also in Bowdoin's archives. “Burial of Euclid, November 1851,” Bowdoin Memorabilia.

19 Smyth, William, Elements of the Differential and Integral Calculus (Brunswick, ME: Joseph Griffin, 1854).

20 Calhoun, Charles C., A Small College in Maine: Two Hundred Years of Bowdoin (Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College, 1993), 100–09; Anderson, Patricia McGraw, The Architecture of Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 1988), 118 ; Kahn, Richard, “An Historical Sketch of Medical Education in Maine,” Journal of the Maine Medical Association 62, no. 9 (Sept. 1971), 212–16; and Morgan, Avanelle P., “The Medical School of Maine at Bowdoin College (1820–1921),” Journal of the Maine Medical Association 68, no. 9 (Sept. 1977), 315–19.

21 College, Bowdoin, Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Bowdoin College and the Medical School of Maine (Brunswick, ME: Joseph Griffin, 1850), 68 . For this article's later considerations of gender and education, it is worth noting that the secondary scholarship is increasingly showing the popularity of chemistry, mineralogy, mathematics, and natural philosophy for female students of the era. Tolley, Kimberley, Science Education of American Girls: A Historical Perspective (New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2003), 3554 .

22 Spring, A History of Williams College, 29; “The Algebra Cremation,” 298–99; and “Trinity Traditions–The Burning of Conic Sections.”

23 Packard, Alpheus S., Address on the Life and Character of William Smyth, D. D.: Late Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in Bowdoin College; Delivered before the Alumni of the College, July 7, 1868 (Brunswick, ME: Joseph Griffin, 1868), 713 .

24 Ibid., 14.

25 Phillips, Christopher J., “An Officer and a Scholar: Nineteenth-Century West Point and the Invention of the Blackboard,” History of Education Quarterly 55, no. 1 (Feb. 2015), 82108 . See also Kidwell, Peggy Aldrich, “An Erasable Surface as Instrument and Product: The Blackboard Enters the American Classroom, 1800–1915,” Rittenhouse 17, no. 2 (Dec. 2003), 8598 ; and Kidwell, Peggy Aldrich, Ackerberg-Hastings, Amy, and Roberts, David Lindsay, “The Blackboard: An Indispensably Necessity,” in Tools of American Mathematics Teaching, 1800–2000 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 2134 .

26 Packard, Life and Character of William Smyth, 14.

27 Smyth, William, Elements of Plane Trigonometry (Brunswick, ME: Joseph Griffin, 1829); Smyth, William, Elements of Algebra (Brunswick, ME: Joseph Griffin, 1830). Both are also mentioned in Griffin, Joseph, ed., History of the Press of Maine (Brunswick, ME: Joseph Griffin, 1872), 226 .

28 Kidwell, Ackerberg-Hastings, and Roberts, “Textbooks,” in Tools of American Mathematics Teaching, 3–20.

29 William Smyth, Elements of the Differential and Integral Calculus, 13–15.

30 Packard, Life and Character of William Smyth, 16–17.

31 “Burial of Mathematics by the Junior Class of Bowdoin College, August 30, 1853,” programs for funerals of mathematics textbooks, Bowdoin Memorabilia.

32 Ibid.

33 For contemporary attitudes about mathematics and leadership, see Phillips, “An Officer and a Scholar.”

34 Burial of Euclid, November 1851, Programme of Exercises,” Memorabilia, Bowdoin; and Hall, Benjamin H., A Collection of College Words and Customs (Cambridge, MA: John Bartlett, 1851), 4546 .

35 “Burial of Mathematics by the Junior Class of Bowdoin College, August 30, 1853.”

36 McLachlan, James, “The Choice of Hercules: American Student Societies in the Early 19th Century,” in The University in Society, ed. Stone, Lawrence (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974), vol. 2, 449–73; Harding, Thomas S., College Literary Societies: Their Contribution to Higher Education in the United States, 1815–1876 (New York: Pageant Press Internal, 1971); and Roger L. Geiger, “Introduction: New Themes in the History of Nineteenth-Century Colleges,” in The American College in the Nineteenth Century, 1–36.

37 “Burial of Mathematics by the Junior Class of Bowdoin College, August 30, 1853.”

38 “Mathematicae Exsequiae, a Classe Juniore, Collegii Bowdoinensis, VIII. Kal. Augusti. A.D. 1854,” Bowdoin Memorabilia.

39 “60 Order of Exercises, at Calculus, his Burning, July 26, 1859,” Bowdoin Memorabilia.

40 Flowers, Ronald D., “Institutionalized Hypocrisy: The Myth of Intercollegiate Athletics,” American Educational History Journal 36, no. 2 (Spring 2009), 343–60; and Winstead, James Lloyd, When Colleges Sang: The Story of Singing in American College Life (Birmingham, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2013), 50115 .

41 Windham,” in The Core Repertory of Early American Psalmody, ed. Crawford, Richard A. (Madison, WI: A-R Editions, 1984), vol. 11–12, lxiii-lxiv, 158–9.

42 “Burial of Mathematics by the Junior Class of Bowdoin College, August 30, 1853.”

43 Hall, J. H., Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1914), 1721 .

44 “Carnes Hymn Tune,” Comprehensive Index of Hymns and Hymnals, http://www.hymnary.org/tune/carnes_mason.

45 “Auld Lang Syne Hymn Tune,” Comprehensive Index of Hymns and Hymnals, http://www.hymnary.org/tune/auld_lang_syne; McGuirk, Carol, “Haunted by Authority: Nineteenth-Century American Constructions of Robert Burns and Scotland,” in Robert Burns and Cultural Authority, ed. Crawford, Robert (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1997), 136–58.

46 “Mathematicae Exsequiae, a Classe Juniore, Collegii Bowdoinensis, VIII. Kal. Augusti. A.D. 1854.″ Note that “elements” was not italicized in the context of “elements of grace.”

47 Ibid.

48 “Jesus Loves Me! This I Know,” Comprehensive Index of Hymns and Hymnals, http://www.hymnary.org/tune/jesus_loves_me_bradbury.

49 “60 Order of Exercises, at Calculus, his Burning, July 26, 1859.”

50 Little, George Thomas and College, Bowdoin, General Catalogue of Bowdoin College and the Medical School of Maine, 1794–1894 (Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College Press, 1894), 6263 .

51 In fact, a Yale student mentioned this feature. Bagg, Lyman Hotchkiss, Four Years at Yale (New Haven: Charles C. Chatfield, 1871), 324–25.

52 A compilation of the mathematics classes of nineteenth-century America appears in Cajori, Florian, The Teaching and History of Mathematics in the United States (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1890). Still a valuable source, Cajori's analyses have been updated in Kidwell, Ackerberg-Hastings, and Roberts, “Textbooks,” in Tools of American Mathematics Teaching, 3–20.

53 Rudolph, Frederick and Thelin, John R., The American College and University: A History (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1990), 4467 .

54 Cohen, Reconstructing the Campus, 52–91.

55 Bruce, Launching of Modern American Science, 85–86.

56 Programs for funerals of mathematics textbooks, Bowdoin Memorabilia.

57 Cross, “Whispering Pines.”

58 Tour books are especially fond of repeating this phrase. See, for instance, Blanding, Michael and Hall, Alexandra, New England (New York: Avalon Travel, 2010), 549 ; and Tree, Christina and English, Nancy, Maine: An Explorer's Guide (Woodstock, VT: Countryman Press, 2012), 193 .

59 Calhoun, A Small College in Maine, 151–52.

60 “Burial of Mathematics, August 30, 1853.”

61 Desjardin, Thomas A., Stand Firm Ye Boys from Maine: The 20th Maine and the Gettysburg Campaign (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 7996 ; Trulock, Alice Rains, In the Hands of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain and the American Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992), 712 .

62 Packard, Address on the Life and Character of William Smyth, 30–31.

63 Cohen, Reconstructing the Campus, 52–91.

64 Wongsrichanalai, Kanisorn, “Lessons of War: Three Civil War Veterans and the Goals of Post-War Education,” in So Conceived and So Dedicated: Intellectual Life in the Civil War Era North, ed. Foote, Lorien and Wongsrichanalai, Kanisorn (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015), 138–43.

65 McWhirter, Christian, Battle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012), 139 .

66 “Bowdoin ’74 Burial of Anna Lytics” and “Crematio Annae Lyticae ’77,” Bowdoin Memorabilia.

67 McWhirter, Battle Hymns, 59–60.

68 “Crematio Annae Lyticae ’77.”

69 Nettleton, George Henry, ed., The Book of the Yale Pageant (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1916), 8081 .

70 Smyth, William, Elements of Analytical Geometry (Boston: Sanborn, Carter, and Bazin, 1855), 1318 .

71 “Humatio Annae Lyticae in Collegio Bowdoinensi, in Sexto Die ante Nonas Quintilles, MDCCCLXXVIII Celebrabitur ANNA ’80,” Bowdoin Memorabilia.

72 For more about the melody, see Stauffer, John and Soskis, Benjamin, eds., The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song that Marches On (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 42105 ; McWhirter, Battle Hymns, 48–50.

73 “Bowdoin ’74 Burial of Anna Lytics,” “Humatio Annae Lyticae ’76,” and “Crematio Annae Lyticae ’77.”

74 Ibid.

75 General Subject File on “Anna Lytica,” Bowdoin Memorabilia.

76 Faust, This Republic of Suffering, 250–65.

77 Ibid., 3–31.

78 Ibid., 266–72.

79 Anderson, Architecture of Bowdoin College, 33–38.

80 Cohen, Reconstructing the Campus, 52–91; Wongsrichanalai, “Lessons of War,” 138–43; and Anderson, Architecture of Bowdoin College, 33–38.

81 “Crematio Annae Lyticae ’77,” “Humatio Annae Lyticae in Collegio Bowdoinensi, in Sexto Die ante Nonas Quintilles, MDCCCLXXVIII Celebrabitur ANNA ’80,” Bowdoin Memorabilia.

82 Savage, Kirk, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997), 89128 .

83 Faust, This Republic of Suffering, 102–36.

84 Cohen, Reconstructing the Campus, 52–91.

85 On the University of California, see Gordon, Lynn D., Gender and Higher Education in the Progressive Era (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 5284 . On Middlebury College, see Stameshkin, David M., The Town's College: Middlebury College, 1800–1915 (Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College, 1985), 193227 .

86 Tolley, Science Education of American Girls, 75–94. For broader accounts of the role of women at competitive high schools, see Rury, John L., Education and Women's Work: Female Schooling and the Division in Urban America, 1870–1930 (Albany: State University of New York, 1991), 11–48, 131–74; Reese, William J., The Origins of the American High School (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 208–35; and Lagemann, Ellen Condliffe, An Elusive Science: The Troubling History of Education Research (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 118 .

87 Programs for funerals of mathematics textbooks, Bowdoin Memorabilia.

88 Faust, This Republic of Suffering, 3–31.

89 G. Tillson to P. S. Wilder, Oct. 12, 1931, in General Subject File on Anna Lytica, Bowdoin Memorabilia.

90 Michael S. Nassaney, Uzi Baram, James C. Garman, and Michael F. Milewski, “Guns and Roses: Ritualism, Time Capsules, and the Massachusetts Agricultural College,” in Skowronek and Lewis, Beneath the Ivory Tower, 93.

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History of Education Quarterly
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