What You Didn’t Know About Hamilton

By Abby Googel ’12

Hamilton may not have hidden chambers to find or invisible cloaks to hide in like at Hogwarts, but it does have quite a few secrets. Hamilton’s bicentennial is a good time to reveal the little- known facts that lie behind Hamilton’s 200-year-old walls.

Time for church!

Hamilton’s religious standings were quite different back in the day. Students were required to go to chapel services twice a day and once on Sundays. Surprisingly, chapel service often became a time for class rivalry. The students were made to enter the chapel by class year, starting with the seniors, and when it came time for the freshmen to enter, the sophomores would frequently close the doors on them. This was simply one example of how the freshmen were often hazed. Photos from early years have been found of full-out brawls, encircled by onlookers.
Both compulsory chapel and these class rivalries eventually dwindled. Compulsory chapel was abolished in 1964, when students refused to go inside the chapel and sat out on the steps instead. Starting at this time, students were only required to attend chapel once per week. However, it wasn’t the end of frequent chapel services that put an end to class rivalry, but the popularity of fraternities that relocated this contention to the Greek life scene.

Buff and...pink?

It’s hard to imagine what Hamilton must have been like before indoor plumbing, but it is even harder to imagine that the school’s color used to be pink. Thanks to the College’s president in 1892, who decided that a college of our stature should have more manly colors, the school colors were changed to the “buff and blue” that we know today. You can imagine that this must have been a welcomed change by the all-male student body.

Haunted Hamilton

The Emerson Literary Society building was professedly haunted back in the 1900s and the ghosts may still remain today!
According to a 1990 Spectator article, there were two ghosts who took residence in ELS. Old Edward Fitch, class of 1896, was a professor of Greek until 1934. After his death in 1946 he was buried in Hamilton’s cemetery and began haunting ELS. Often a knock was heard on the side door, and once during a heated “political debate among house members, the sunroom doors flew open,” according to the article. There had been no breeze, so this was taken as a sign of Fitch’s disapproval of the tension in the house.

The story of “The Woman in White” is quite a bit creepier. During the 1940s, a woman visited Hamilton to see her boyfriend who lived in ELS. When she got here he was nowhere to be found and she discovered that he had gone to visit a girlfriend at Smith College. She was overwhelmed with grief and hung herself in his room that night.

It is reported that some nights if you stand in front of the mirror in the room where she died you can see her ghost. Students living in the room in both 1988 and 1991 were tormented by the ghost and one even moved out to escape her eerie presence.

A strong and changing political climate

Students were limited in political activism until 1971, when the voting age was lowered from twenty-one to eighteen. As most students were too young to vote in presidential elections, The Spectator would hold a straw poll instead. Up until 1960, when Nixon was favored by 54% of students, the student body had always voted extremely Republican. In the next election, Lyndon B. Johnson was favored by 72% and the Republican candidate never polled a majority again on campus.

Bringing the family to school

Remarkably, many of the students who attended Hamilton in the years just after World War II were studying under the GI
bill. According to Publius Virgilius Rogers Professor of American History Maurice Isserman, “in 1947, 102 out of the 108 students in the graduating class had served in World War II.” Many of the veterans were married during their time here at Hamilton and brought their wives and children along. During this time, Carnegie was remodeled to have kitchenettes. Additionally, seven barrack-like structures were built along Campus Road for GI families to live in, called “North Village.” The last one standing was demolished in 1962.

Doing your “business” outdoors

The Hamilton campus is wildly different than it was back in 1812. Although some of the old buildings remain today, others have been removed. According to Hamilton College archivist Kathy Collett, “in some early engravings of the College there are small unidentified wooden buildings” interspersed between the main buildings. It is speculated that these buildings all over campus could have served as woodsheds for heating or stabling for horses. Collett added, “they may have even been used as outhouses since Hamilton didn’t have indoor plumbing until 1890!”