1850 Dartmouth Discipline Was Kept by Method of Faculty Versus Students

Former Acted as Secret Police for Results--Students Were Fined $2 for Dancing

Disciplining of Dartmouth students was a serious problem in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Training in the "Phalanx", the military unit of the college, was the only recognized physical organization and the only sport that the college sanctioned. This body was disintegrated officially in 1845, because of the convivial tendencies of its members, who seemed to regard it more as a drinking club than as a warlike organization. Kicking the football on the campus was allowed, but during most of the school year, when Hanover is covered with a blanket of snow, this sport was impossible and the isolated Hanoverians were compelled to turn their attention to less lawful means of entertainment.

Cards and bowling were the most popular of the forbidden pleasures. In 1835, 31 students were fined $2 apiece for attending a dancing school. Theatrical performances, permitted for a short time, were even banned because of the resulting disturbances of the peace in this quiet little hamlet, nesting peacefully at the foothills of the White Mountains.

Between 1825 and 1850 discipline in Hanover reduced itself to a game between the faculty and the students. The former, acting as police, were ever on the watch to catch their pupils in the midst of their misdemeanors. Each instructor was assigned to guard a certain section of the town. Many of the "cops" even went so far as to disguise themselves in an attempt to trap unwary students. This method, proving unpopular as well as ineffective, was discarded in favor of a somewhat primitive "honor system", accompanied by a process known as "reading the catalogue". This meant going through the list of students at faculty meetings to see if anybody had "something on" each student.

The three chief occasions for punishment were, in those days, absence from classes, noisy disorder (usually horn blowing), and riotous outbreaks which were often accompanied by drunkeness and the wanton destruction of property.


By 1851 horn blowing (usually on a conch shell) had almost passed into the limbo of forgotten things when an unusual event served to resurrect it temporarily. On July 4 about 100 students journeyed to St. Johnsbury to participate in a celebration there. They were so noisy on the train and in the town, where they stopped a congressman's speech with boos and ridicule, that the faculty began an investigation. The whole student body took up the protest on the night of July 12 and for four hours pandemonium reigned. Horns were blown continuously, windows were broken and furniture was smashed. Effigies of several prominent faculty members were stoned, tortured, burned, and hanged. This uprising, always referred to as "The Great Awakening" was followed by the dismissal of eleven men and virtually dealt the death blow to the ancient art of horn blowing, in Hanover at least.