Hamilton’s rich historic legacy provides much of the 21st-century College’s strength and vision. It also comprises a wealth of fascinating stories that illuminate the College’s changing place in the region, the nation and the world. In the Summer 2009 issue of the Alumni Review, we began to share some of those stories in a regular column.

Cleveland claimed White House but not Hamilton degree

Fall 2015 Issue of the Alumni Review

William ClevelandGrover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. That was unique, as was his marriage in the White House at age 49 to his ward, Frances Folsom, a recent Wells College graduate. But why is any of this of interest to readers of the Alumni Review? The relevance is that young Grover planned to enroll at the college on the hill in Clinton, N.Y., where his family had lived. His older brother and mentor, William, graduated from Hamilton in 1851. But family finances and the death of his father precluded the president-to-be from enrolling. More ...


Unearthing the story of a legendary Hamilton writer

Spring-Summer 2015 Issue of the Alumni Review

David GAPPThis may be as much a lesson about reach and curiosity as it is about history. A couple of years ago, when David Gapp and his huskie, Onslow, were out for their regular stroll behind their house not far from campus, Onslow stopped for a good long slurp from the creek. Bored, Gapp began to poke around in a nearby pile of glass that had been dumped over decades. He spotted a brown bottle, half buried, and pulled it out. It was in great shape, clearly old, and bore the inscription Duffy’s Pure Malt Whiskey. Gapp, the Silas D. Childs Professor of Biology, went home with his find and started searching the web. Scanning through various pages, the words Hamilton College jumped out. More ...


Hamilton’s King of the Forgers

Spring-Summer 2014 Issue of the Alumni Review

Alonzo WhitemanAlonzo Jay Whiteman, Class of 1881, will not be remembered as one of Hamilton’s most distinguished graduates. Nevertheless, published reports of his illustrious career as a con man who may have swindled as much as $5 million throughout his lifetime consistently mention his four academic years in Clinton, New York. More ...

Man on the margin: A Christian Marxist at Hamilton


Frederic Hastings Smyth, Class of 1909, may seem an unlikely revolutionary. Born in Clinton in 1888, the scion of a wealthy family of local industrialists and Hamiltonians, he dabbled in a dizzying range of personal and professional interests, from the military to mysticism. He explored Europe and embraced science only to return to the Hill as an eccentric cleric, winning adherents but making important enemies. Departing for more hospitable territory, he ultimately forged a religious order that married Catholicism and Marxism — one whose delicate balance of radical politics and theology earned the FBI’s attention but ultimately died with Smyth himself. More ...


Elihu Root’s Nobel Prize: Peace pioneer in the face of war

Fall-Winter 2012 issue of the alumni review

His likeness portrayed in life size in the foyer of Buttrick Hall, Elihu Root, Class of 1864, stands contemplative. A deep crease sits between two brown eyebrows, and his lips arc almost downward in a frown. One might wonder what he was thinking as the French artist Théobald Chartran rendered his portrait in 1903.

Root had yet to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, but was already building the extensive portfolio in international relations that would lead to the prize a few years later. As secretary of war under presidents McKinley and Roosevelt, he had created a plan to return Cuba to the Cubans, he had written a democratic charter for the governance of the Philippines, and he had directed far-reaching internal changes to the War Department and military education in the U.S. More ...


Charter class at Kirkland College faced new frontiers

Spring 2012 Issue of the Alumni Review

To help attract the Kirkland College charter class, the College’s new Admission Office, directed by Carole Walker, took the unusual step of taking out a full-page advertisement in the Dec. 29, 1967, issue of Time magazine. “When you send your daughter to college,” the advertisement asked provocatively, “will she get an education?” At Kirkland, it promised, in language designed to resonate with its target audience in that year of Sgt. Pepper, education would be “a mind-expanding experience.” More ...

Roaring Twenties: Cars, parties and wild weekends

Spring 2011 issue of the alumni review

During the 1920s, the Hamilton humor magazine the Royal Gaboon found a frequent target in Prohibition, which inspired student liquor runs across the Canadian border. No political issue in the 1920s served to define the decade so memorably, nor divided Americans so bitterly, as that of Prohibition. More ...


Root and Carnegie: Friends with a vision


As a program officer at Carnegie Corporation as well as a Hamilton alumnus, I have a special bond with our founder, Andrew Carnegie. And as both the corporation and the College approach landmarks in their history, I celebrate these extraordinary institutions with gratitude, appreciation and — most recently — a bit of research. More ...


New Sadove Student Center, Emerson Hall long a campus treasure

Fall 2010 issue of the alumni review

“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.” Ralph Waldo Emerson penned those words in his 1870 essay “Domestic Life,” and for more than 80 years they have stood as an apt and telling description of the Hamilton landmark that bears his name. Now, with the dedication of the Sadove Student Center at Emerson Hall during Fallcoming Weekend '10, the communal spirit invoked by the philosopher and poet resonates anew. More ...

African-American Students in 1920s ‘Not to be Insulted’

Sping 2010 issue of the Alumni Review

The Hamilton-Oneida Academy began as an experiment in interracial education, which proved an abject failure. Its successor institution, Hamilton College, made no claims to interracialism and indeed was a largely white institution throughout its first century of existence. The College enrolled only a single African-American student, Joseph Spurlarke, Class of 1889, in the years between its founding and the conclusion of the First World War. More ...

1918 Flu Pandemic Pushed Hill Toward Modern Health Care

Fall-Winter 2009 issue of the alumni review

The catastrophic 1918 outbreak of the “Spanish” flu altered the course of world history, changed modern medicine and left a profound footprint on the world's population. However, the virus that caused it almost certainly did not originate in Spain, or anywhere else in Europe for that matter. Epidemiological evidence suggests that the virus first appeared in Haskell County, Kan. The disease was unlike any other flu virus in recorded history. Its victims became violently ill as the disease progressed rapidly through the body, and in many cases proved to be lethal. Un­-­like any other flu outbreak, it possessed an uncommon propensity to kill the healthiest and most vibrant individuals.

Civil War Took Brutal Toll on Young College


Rush Cady of Rome, N.Y., Class of 1862, was one of about 225 Hamilton College alumni who served in the Union Army during the Civil War, most of them as officers. (At least 11 served with the Confederacy.) Cady left college before graduating from Hamilton, joining the 97th Regiment of the New York State Volunteers. His letters home to his family provide a valuable first-hand account of one soldier's view of war; together with other documents related to his wartime service, they are preserved and available online in the digital collection of the Hamilton College Library. More ...

Treaty Marker Familiar Sight, Forgotten Story

Summer 2009 issue of the alumni review

Countless Hamiltonians and area residents have driven, walked and jogged past that granite marker on the north side of College Hill Road just west of State Route 233. But what is it and why is it there? More ...

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