LOTW 66: Berry Then and Now – Handicrafts

By Allison Moore

One of the essential goals of the early Berry Schools was to prepare its students to succeed in the rural life they had grown up in, and it is for this reason that practical skills were an essential part of a Berry education. Young men at the boy’s school were taught proper and more efficient agricultural and construction techniques. Many of the most famous buildings on campus, including the House O’ Dreams and Frost Chapel, were constructed by students. When the Martha Berry School for Girls opened in 1909, one of the main educational focuses was to teach the girls handicrafts that could eventually assist them in running a household. The Berry Girls began producing a variety of products for the school to sell and, when the Ford buildings were completed in 1931, a weaving center was established in what is now the Admissions Office.

An order form from a “Sunshine” handicrafts sale in 1930 shows some of the items the girls were taught to make, including baby blankets, towels, baskets, fans, scarves, bags, and rugs. In addition to holding sales on campus, the school found several stores across the east coast that would stock the Berry Schools’ merchandise. Emily Vanderbilt Hammond, a close friend of Martha Berry, sent a letter to Miss Berry in 1930 giving her names of some individuals who inquired about selling Berry handicrafts, including a few stores in New York City. Many admirers of Berry handicrafts sent in very specific requests of what they were looking for. A 1928 letter from Rachel Hammond contains an order for twin bed covers and pillow shams, along with a fabric sample to show the color scheme she wants for the room. She also specifies what that the pillow shams should be lined in “old rose” fabric, rather than “dead white.” Letters with instructions similar to these are strewn throughout the archive, in addition to many praises of the Berry girls’ work, so it’s clear that they were very skilled. Martha Berry wanted the girls to be the best at their craft, so in 1928 she invited Mrs. Erik Green to come teach weaving at the school. She asks that Mrs. Green show the girls how to “make what will sell.” By establishing a renowned handicraft center at the school, Miss Berry ensured that the Berry Girls would have the ability to successfully run a rural household, as well as raising much needed funds for her growing school.

Although young women today are no longer expected to be skilled in household handicrafts, Berry College has upheld this tradition through student work groups such as Viking Creations and Viking Furniture. Vikings Creations, located in the Hoge Building, includes a group of students working to continue the dying art of weaving in the manner originally taught by Martha Berry. They hand-make a range of woven products, including coasters, table runners, place mats, and book marks. Viking Creation products are available for purchase online and in the Oak Hill Gift Shop. Viking Furniture, another student enterprise, is also working to preserve the tradition of quality handmade goods on campus. All of the Adirondack chairs scattered across campus were handcrafted in their workshop, located in the barns behind Morgan and Deerfield. The chairs are also available for purchase online through Berry College Student Enterprises. While the classes taught at Berry College have now far surpassed how to run an early 20th century household, the school’s focus on tradition allows Berry students to continue practicing these unique arts.

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LOTW 64: Berry Then and Now – Famous Visitors

by Jordan Brannen

For being such a small private liberal arts college in the foothills of north Georgia, Berry has had some pretty important guests come visit. This is largely due to the school’s founder, Martha Berry, and her never ending work ethic, which turned the school into what it is today. Even in the earliest years of the school, Martha Berry had some of the most influential people in America on our beautiful campus. For starters, the twenty-sixth president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt was one of the first of many politicians to see what lies beyond the Gate of Opportunity. Roosevelt was a huge supporter of Martha Berry and the schools and he did everything he could to help Miss Berry accomplish her dream of educating all of the mountain children possible. Henry Ford, another visitor and personal friend of Martha Berry’s, was a huge donor to the schools. Mr. Ford, the man who invented the Model T and literally wrote the book on assembly line factories, built the picturesque castle that we all know and love today as the Ford Buildings. Finally, one of Martha Berry’s closest friends happened to be a Vanderbilt. Emily Vanderbilt Hammond was instrumental in drumming up support for the Berry Schools, monetary and otherwise. She often visited campus and was very good at giving tours to potential donors.

Now let’s turn to a more recent history. Just two years ago, Temple Grandin, who is the revolutionary leader in animal health and safety in the livestock business, came to Berry College for a talk. Not only is Grandin the best in her field, she also has been battling autism her whole life.  She claims that her disease has given her insight into her field that nobody else has, and is an inspiration to those affected by autism everywhere. In 2010, surgeon Ben Carson came to Berry to speak. Carson is famous for a risky surgery that he successfully completed on conjoined twins and is currently doing very well in the polls for the 2016 Republican Presidential Nominee. From the days of Martha Berry, all the way up until today, Berry College has had some pretty amazing people visit its twenty-seven thousand acres, this is largely due to the precedent set by Martha Berry, and continued by those who follow in her footsteps.

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LOTW 63: Silver Rolling for the Berry Schools

by Dr. Ouida Dickey

The arrival of the Pilgrimage entourage, led by Mrs. Emily Vanderbilt Hammond, impressed me tremendously during my years as a student at Berry  I have thought often of this stately, sophisticated, and wealthy woman who, with her friends, sought to help the boys and girls at the school of her friend Martha Berry—and did so in unique ways.  The pilgrims were known for their ritual of the silver roll, which was made of silver paper with dollar bills attached as a gift to the school.  On the last day of the group’s visit, Mrs. Hammond took great delight in unrolling the object from the chancel to the steps of the Berry College Chapel–and often beyond.  Campus anticipation grew daily toward this event.

Joy overcame me when, while helping with the Martha Berry Digital Archive during Work Week 2015, I came upon a 1926 draft of an article by Mrs. Hammond entitled “Silver Rolling for the Berry Schools.”  Her notes were meant to help with a later article for Southern Highlander.  In her article, Mrs. Hammond recalls her and her husband’s silver wedding anniversary in 1924 and the silver roll presented to her by a friend for the Berry Schools.  The roll, made “of silver paper procured from the Dennison Manufacturing Company and cut the width of a dollar bill,” carried 166 one-dollar bills from as many friends, fastened to the paper with clips, and “extended from the chancel nearly to the door.”

Mrs. Hammond envisioned much greater things to be accomplished with her friends through the silver roll.  Following Martha Berry’s expressed hope that the silver anniversary roll for Berry might reach from Mount Berry to New York, Mrs. Hammond set about asking each of the forty-five pilgrims to build a roll for the 1927 visit to Berry.  As a result, the pilgrims’ roll that year reached from the chancel to the end of the lawn in front of the chapel.  One can imagine how overcome with joy Martha Berry might have been at that sight.

This article bears historical significance as it fills an important gap in the story of the silver roll and the tradition of a group of generous benefactors who came with Mrs. Hammond over several decades.  It was enlightening and rewarding to have learned the rest of the story behind an important event that I watched unfold over many years as both a student and an employee of Berry College. It has also set more firmly my recollections of Mrs. Hammond and other benevolent friends of my Alma Mater.

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LOTW 43: Howard Ball and Auntie Martha

In reading Martha Berry’s letters I’ve noticed Martha Berry’s particular interest in her nephew, Howard Ball. She takes great interest in him from the time of his birth throughout his education. Although I think we’ve all already realized how important education was to Miss Berry through her work at the Berry Schools and with the mountain children, but it’s somehow different to see her values at work within her own family.

She was very concerned that Howard go to school and, once there, stay until he graduated. She wrote to him on his twelfth birthday expressing her joy that he was learning to dance, ride and make things with his hands. She compares him with the Berry boys and girls who love learning to use their hands and asks him to let her know what he’s making. She says that she would rather have a letter from him than from anyone in the whole world, and she finally gets one in the fall of that year.

She was in the hospital when she wrote him back, expressing several times that she was encouraged and could get better faster because he wrote to her about how much he was enjoying school. She tells him that when he gets discouraged, “just think of the postage stamp and keep on sticking and you will get there.”

Martha Berry was so invested in her nephew’s education that she went to great lengths to make sure he stayed in school, including writing to his teachers to ask about him, paying his tuition, and recruiting friends to check on him, like Mrs. Raymond Hanson.

In a letter dated October 14, 1941, she asks Mrs. Hanson to invite Howard to visit her for Thanksgiving because she’s afraid that if he comes home he’ll not want to return to school. She also asks several times that Mrs. Hanson not mention Miss Berry’s request to Frances, Howard’s mother, presumably because Frances would be distressed that Miss Berry didn’t encourage him to come home to visit.

It’s fascinating to me that Martha Berry went to such great lengths to make sure her nephew, as well as all the children with whom she came in contact, had access to good education. Learning about her relationship with Howard solidifies in my mind her commitment to education and her values in general. She was certainly a determined woman who enriched the lives of those around her.

She told Howard that “It has always been a great dream and hope that you would get all the education possible and that some day you would have a big place in the Berry Schools. I need you to help me so study hard and learn all you can.” I think this dream also applies to her students at The Berry Schools throughout history.

Letter to Howard Ball from Martha Berry

LOTW 23: My Opportunity to Fly

by Adriana Spencer

As many of you can imagine, being a college student can get pretty overwhelming sometimes. A person has to make sure their studies, room, and board are paid for, prepare for classes, study for exams, write extensively detailed papers…the list just goes on and on. But even with this heavy workload, I believe there is one thing that college students focus on the most: their purpose. We all decided to get a higher education for some reason, and that is to figure out where we belong. What is our goal? What is our purpose? What can we do to change the world? Some people are lucky enough to know what their passion is and to go for it, while others still have to figure out their own path.

In a sense, I’m one of those people who are still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.  I don’t want to sound like a narcissist and say that I was destined for great things, but I feel like I have some type of purpose for being here today. As of right now, I don’t really have a set plan. I go to school, work, do my usual routines, sleep, and wake up to do everything all over again. People say that I need to push myself into figuring out what I want to do for the rest of my life. My parents still make decisions about my future like I’m three years old. My friends try to push me into majors that I’m not really that fond of. And all these career fairs and graduate school visits can take a toll on a girl’s mind and body. Isn’t it enough to just live in the moment? Can’t I just try to figure out my life by myself without any interruptions? I feel as if setting up your entire career path at such a young age is too permanent and stressful. There is nothing wrong with being prepared, but I feel that pushing the matter on someone so indecisive could honestly break a person’s spirit.

My point is that sometimes being in college and trying to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life seems like a pretty daunting task, and sometimes, I’m not up for the ride.

This letter might seem a bit depressing and pointless, but don’t worry, there is a point to this madness.

One day, as I was getting ready for another day scanning documents in the Archives, I opened up the folder to see the smiling face of a young woman staring back at me. At first, I was a little baffled because I rarely get to scan any photographs or posters, but I couldn’t help but feel a little giddy that I got to do something different from the norm. As I was about to scan the photo, I took a really good look at this woman. She looked surprisingly familiar and that’s when I noticed that this picture wasn’t a picture at all, but a poster advertising Amelia Earhart’s visit to Rome. I was very surprised to learn that she actually took the time to come and visit a small town like Rome. I was curious as to why her poster would be in the Martha Berry documents, but as I read through the folder I learned that Martha Berry wanted Amelia Earhart to come visit the school and talk to the children about her career.

It was interesting to learn that someone so famous could actually visit the town, much less consider visiting the school. Sure, there was Mr. Ford and the odd president here and there, but for as long as I’ve worked in the archives, I had never really read about many female powerhouses (other than Miss Berry of course).

After this interesting little trip down history lane, I decided to brush up on some knowledge and learn a little more about Earhart’s life. I mean, there had to be more to the girl than an airplane and a nice looking aviator outfit, am I right? And boy was I right.

I was surprised to find that I shared some similar interests with this high flying heroine. I learned that she was a pretty adventurous kid who wasn’t afraid to explore the unknown and do her own thing. Once she was in school she took home some of the best grades, went on to college, became a nurses’ aid during the Spanish flu pandemic, and even became a social worker for a little while. Yet the one thing that I think struck a chord in me the most was that she was indecisive about her future as well. She kept newspapers and magazines of successful women at the time, and vowed that she would be like them someday. She knew she had a purpose driving her forward in life, she just didn’t know what that purpose was yet. But one day, her purpose came flying at her in the shape of a World War I ace, and that’s when her fog began to clear.

Earhart developed a love of airplanes and flying. When she was older she purchased her first plane, a yellow Kinner Airster biplane she named Canary, and began what would eventually be a career as a seasoned pilot. She became the first woman to ever to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and she also broke many other aviation records. She became a role model for children, teens, and even adults. She proved to people that with a little strength and determination, one can do whatever they want to do.

Amelia Earhart’s story really impacted me that week. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because her story was so inspiring. Maybe it was because she left a path for many other women to follow, one of individuality and strength. Or maybe it was because of the irony behind me picking up that specific poster and thinking to myself that I can fly off to wherever the wind takes me. One thing’s for sure though, her life story made me start to reevaluate mine. I know my story isn’t over yet, I don’t even think my story has started yet. But what I think I should do is stop listening to everyone and everything that is going on around me and try to actually listen to myself for once. Maybe then I’ll be able to find my opportunity to fly. After all, anything is possible if you set your mind to it.


LOTW 22: A Science major in the archives?

This is my first year at Berry College and coming in I knew I wanted to be a part of the work study program.  I would sit and wonder sometimes what job someone who planned on majoring in Physics and Chemistry might get.  You can imagine my reaction when I found out I would be working in a library.  As one who has a high appreciation for math and science, I was not expecting to be surrounded by literature at my job.  Then came the next interesting news – finding out I was going to be working as an archivist.

When I first heard of the Martha Berry Digital Archive, I had the same reaction as most of my friends: What is that?  Soon enough I had some questions answered.  I found out that I would be handling documents that are decades old, placing them on a scanner, and storing them in an archive where they can be saved forever.  I also discovered that I would be reading many of these documents and creating descriptions about them.  Now I will admit, as a science major this did not seem to be the most glorious task, but I have recently come to appreciate it and am very interested in the development of the archive.

Recently I got to meet Dr. Schlitz and learn more about what the archive was all about. The information she gave me helped me become motivated about working for the archive. I now know that the archive is a big deal and that many people around the world have viewed our website.  Dr. Schlitz also advised me to try and find material about the development of science throughout the history of Berry College.  This idea has really helped me connect more with the Martha Berry Digital Archive.

So there I sat, ready to begin my search of the history of science at Berry College, interested to see what various materials I could find.  Unfortunately I was disappointed. When searching the word “science” I found only one document that had been tagged with anything related to science.  When searching for chemistry and physics and even biology I found no documents.  And even though I found one document that was related to science in some manner, it did not reveal much about the Science program that I was looking for. It does leave an interesting question for me though.

When does the history of the Science Department at Berry College begin?  Is the document on the website but has not been edited yet?  Has the document been scanned but is not yet on the website?  Or is the document hidden away in one of the thousands of documents we have in the archive room?  I may not find out by the time I graduate, but I definitely plan on continuing onward with the Archive to try and find evidence of the beginnings of the Science Department at Berry College.

LOTW 21: Personalizing History

My name is Haley Fortune and this is my first year working with the Martha Berry Digital Archive. I am a senior at Berry College this year and I am also a History major. Working at the Martha Berry Digital Archive has been a different experience for me this year. Previously, I worked at the museum that we have on campus, so coming into a new job my senior year of college was kind of scary for me. I already knew a lot about Martha Berry and the history of her wonderful schools but I have also learned a lot working for the digital archive. It is a new perspective for me, coming into this job with a pretty thorough knowledge of the history, but never being able to tangibly see it in front of me in the form of letters and other documents. Working here has put the history of this person that I already knew much about into a reality for me. Being able to read her letters and correspondence with these important and famous historical figures (such as Henry Ford and Emily Vanderbilt Hammond) that I have learned about since I was a kid makes the history that I already knew that much more personal. Personalizing history and learning about the character and personality of Martha Berry makes this job so enjoyable and interesting for me in my final year of college.

LOTW 20: An Appreciation for Ford

Henry Ford’s impact on Berry College and its success during the early 20th century is obvious. It is hard for a Berry student not to notice the Ford complex or the Clara Bowl as they drive around or walk to classes. While the Ford auditorium and the women’s dorms are beautiful to look at, no one really understands just how much work and money went into their construction. I have a special appreciation for the Ford complex since I lived in the West Mary dorm for two years and I continue to take classes in the Music Department and auditorium. Now that my younger sister is living in West Mary, I still visit frequently.

I visited my sister the other day, and as I walked through the parking lot and around the Ford dining hall, I wondered just how much these buildings cost Mr. Ford. It is something I never really thought about considering. I was always distracted by the beauty of the buildings or by the amount of homework waiting for me in my room. Since I work on the MBDA project I know there is an entire tag filled with documents associated with Henry Ford, so I decided to search through the documents to see if they could provide me with the answer.

First off, I knew that the tag did not contain all information regarding Henry Ford’s payments for the construction of the Ford complex since the archive is still in process of editing and finalizing documents. I did remember from previous explorations into the Ford tag, however, that some monetary values were mentioned, so I returned to these documents. I found one letter written in 1929 from L. J. Thompson, a clerk in the office of Henry Ford, enclosing $20,648.35 to Mr. Hoge of the Berry Schools and another letter written in 1928 from E. G. Liebold, general secretary for Henry Ford, sending a check in the amount of $13,170.13 for Coolidge and Carson, the architects of the Ford buildings. Although $33,818.48 does not seem like much considering our yearly college tuitions bills, I decided to put this amount in an inflation rate calculator to determine just how much this converts to in today’s money.

The calculator showed that $33,818.46 in 1928-1929 comes out to $462,535.95 today. This is an incredibly large sum of money, but it is important to remember that this is only a fraction of what Mr. Ford donated towards the construction of the Ford buildings. It is bewildering to consider this amount of funds going towards the Ford Buildings that students use for academics and housing.

The Ford complex is such an important piece of Berry’s history, and thanks to the Martha Berry Digital Archive and the information contained there, it can be appreciated on a deeper level than just for beauty or utility. Now when I visit my sister at her dorm or when I go to a flute lesson or Wind Ensemble rehearsal, I will find myself admiring the work of Henry Ford and Martha Berry in a more profound and significant way.

LOTW 19: Then and Now

by Lindsey Irvin and Chelsea Risley

I am always amazed by the amount of money people have sent to the Berry Schools. I recently read many documents from 1928 recording $150 donations. Considering that these were made over 80 years ago and that it then cost nearly that much to go to Berry for a year, $150 is an impressive contribution.

I’ve read letters from individuals who gave as much as $250, which is a generous sum in the year before the Great Depression. But, for the most part, the donations I’ve seen were in the $100 -$150 range, and Berry was always very grateful for that support.

Recently I ran across a December 1928 donation of $1,000 from Albert Shaw and his family. This generous contribution paid for almost 7 students to go to school for a year. Out of curiosity, I decided to determine what the Shaw family’s donation would be worth today. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $1 in 1928 had about the same buying power as $13.68 today. That means the Shaw family’s donation would be worth about $13,677.02 in 2013. Even more curious, I looked at Berry’s tuition for a student in 2013. One year’s tuition is $29,090, and that is just tuition. It does not include board and food plans, which, depending on what year you are, can be close to $13,000. So that generous donation that the Shaw Family gave in 1928 is worth less than a semester here at Berry College now.

Then I began thinking about other differences between The Berry Schools during Martha Berry’s time and Berry College today. One huge difference is the work program. During the early twentieth century, students at The Berry Schools worked because they had to – now the work program is optional (but highly encouraged). Back then, students worked on the farm in the fields or with the animals, at the dairy, in the kitchens, making handicrafts and weaving in Sunshine Cottage, and doing construction on campus. Students could also be employed by faculty as domestic help for the same rate that they would be paid if they were employed by the school. Today, Berry has tons of work options. Some students still work at the dairy, but there are jobs like teacher assistants, working at the Berry College Elementary & Middle School, working and doing research in all the departments on campus, plumbing, masonry, library, computer labs, Berry Information Technology Students – the list goes on and on and on.

Students at Berry College in 2013 wake up (or don’t) whenever they choose, they go to classes that they choose and can even select the time of their classes and for the most part are able to choose their work times. They also choose what to do in their free time and when their free time is, as well as when they go to bed at night. Under Martha Berry’s time as founder of The Berry Schools, the students had a rigid schedule. Their wake-up bells were at 5:45 am, and the whole campus had scheduled meal times. The student body was divided into three parts that rotated duties. Each day two-thirds of the students would go to classes while the other third worked. They also had a specified block of “free time,” a bed time and “Silent Time” at 9:10 pm.

It’s fascinating to see how much Berry has changed over the years, and how much has stayed the same. There’s still a fantastic and very unique work program. The faculty and staff are still interested in giving the students the best educational and living experience they can offer. They are also still interested in the student as an individual human being. The school’s motto of an education of the “head heard and hands” as phrased by Martha Berry herself is still very much in place, and her desire to grow children into well-rounded, experienced, hard-working and intelligent human beings is still being accomplished.

On Safari

In my first few weeks as an editor working with MBDA, I have found that many of the letters are similar: Martha Berry thanking someone for a donation, one of her friends thanking her for a gift, or an invitation from Martha Berry to a friend to come visit the Berry Schools. Although many of these letters are interesting, they are not my favorites to read because the subject matter can be a little repetitive. My favorite letters are those written by Martha Berry’s friends when they are thinking of her. I like the value Miss Berry places on friendship, and reading letters which illustrate her close bonds with others is refreshing.

In my recent work with the many documents there are to edit, I discovered a letter from L.L.C. (possibly this is Leila Laughlin Carlisle) to Martha Berry. L.L.C. wrote while on safari in Tanganyika, South Africa. The letter details the amazing events of the trip, some of which include: the “rough camp,” rhinoceros encounters, seeing antelope and zebras, and the nightly visits by “four full grown lion.” I just loved that the time was made to send a lengthy and detailed letter from so far away, and I loved the descriptions given. To me, this shows how much of an impact Martha Berry made on the people she encountered.

Many individuals wrote letters to Martha Berry just to detail events of their trips, but this letter was the most extraordinary I have encountered, and it was surely among those which traveled farthest to reach her!

I really feel passionately about how many great bonds Miss Berry formed through her work. I’m learning that it was through these bonds that she was able to continue to do the work that she did, despite the most difficult challenges. It is always nice to see how appreciated and loved she was, and it is amazing in reading letters like this one to have an opportunity to travel across time and across the globe to South Africa.LOTW16March2013