Albion College Currency

May 20th, 2013

Albion College Currency One Dollar Bill

From 1889-1890, Albion College printed their own currency.  The bills were printed in denominations of $1, $2, $5, and $10 notes.  Thanks to a donation from Alby Zatkoff, ’76, the Archives now houses one of these $1 bills.

The bills were printed and used by the Commercial Department on campus.  This program operated from 1886-1916, and was separate from the four year, liberal arts college.  Students in the Commercial Department took courses that would prepare them for the business world of the day, such as bookkeeping, penmanship, shorthand, and typewriting.

For the bookkeeping course, students were given the  the Baltimore, Maryland based “Sadler’s Bookkeeping Office Practice” kit for course materials.  These kits included generic currency notes and, for the 1889 year, the Department decided to print their own currency for the students’ use.  Frank Passic’s research strongly shows that this currency was mostly likely printed by the Albion Recorder (see footnotes).  The man pictured on the currency is presumed to be Charles Head, director of the Commercial Department, as his name appears on the notes.

The Commercial Department’s program lasted nine months and was divided into three three-month terms.  Passic describes the coursework for students in the Commercial Department:

For the first term, a student would take his/her kit, which included one thousand dollars in fake currency,  and lease a place of business and begin work. The student would then buy and sell from other student merchants using the various forms and college currency. The merchandise cards were given various values and were bought and sold according to the law of supply and demand.

After becoming familiar with the process, the student would be promoted to the “Boot and Shoe” business which formed the second term of the course. He/she would then purchase items from the “Merchants’ Emporium” at wholesale prices, and then sell to jobbers. The student would then go through several trades such as Dry Goods, Groceries, Flour and Feed, Produce and Provisions, Commissions, Clothing, and General, becoming familiar with the basic operations of each and the forms used.

Commercial School Banquet 1901

Upon completing this portion of the course, students would advance to the third term which focused on office work. Each student was supplied with large office ledgers for the Transportation Office, Merchants’ Emporium, and the Bank. When the student completed this portion, he/she was given an examination covering the entire course work. A passing grade was 80%, and diplomas were subsequently awarded to those successfully completing the class.
Specific courses were also offered to students of other departments of Albion College such as bookkeeping, penmanship, shorthand writing, and typewriting. These classes met a few hours a week .

After operating for 30 years, the Commercial Department of Albion College was discontinued.  The unique college currency is one of the lasting reminders of this chapter in Albion College history.


Fennimore, Keith.  (1985). “The Albion College Sesquicentennial History, 1835-1985.” Albion College (Albion, Mich.)

Passic, Frank (2013).  “The 1889-1890 Albion College Currency.”




From Bun to Fun, From Past to Present

September 18th, 2012

For the first Odd Topic’s Luncheon of the year, the librarians are giving a history of the library.  To go along with theme, I thought it would be fun to pull out some old photos of the library for the first blog post of the year.  If you’re on campus September 26 at noon, come to the Mary Sykes Room to hear and share stories.  Either way, enjoy!

Pajama Parade

February 3rd, 2012

Photograph of the 1915 students who marched in the Pajama Parade. This photograph belonged to Irene McCall Baldwin, '18.

In the spring of 1914, members of the Inter-fraternity council donned in their pajamas, paraded through town around midnight.  The reason?  A free movie at the Bohm Theater, then located at 106 W. Porter Ave.  This event began a tradition that lasted a over a decade.  We know of no photo of the first event, but thanks to a recent donation of Irene McCall Baldwin’s photographs, we now have a copy of the 1915 group of students.  Prior to this donation, it was assumed the tradition began shortly after WWI, but now we have evidence that it began when George Bohm opened his first theater in Albion.

The students began on the athletic field, and paraded down East Erie Street to the local theater, owned by George Bohm.  Bohm’s first theater was located at 106 West Porter until 1917, when he acquired the Censor Theater at 223 E. Superior Street.  The Bohm Theater most of us know today was not purchased by Bohm until 1929.  Although the event began as an inter-fraternity event, it quickly grew to encompass all male students.

Photograph of Pajama Parade participants, 1923. The band in front accompanied the movie.

An article of the May 10, 1922 edition of the Pleiad, disucced that year’s event (See Pleiad Pajama Parade 5-10-1922 to read the full article):

After a meeting at Robinson hall about 11 p.m., the “night hawks” first paraded to the home of Dean Robert Williams where the Dean, aroused from his slumbers, managed to say a few works of greeting.  Thence, off to howl around the domicile of their “Prexy” John W. Laird, who also sent them on their way with a short “pajama” address.  From President Emeritus Samuel Dickie, who usually “hits the hay” around 8 p.m., the men got but a few sleepy words of salutation from his chamber window.

After the movie, the students held a huge bonfire near the river, where the students joined in college song and yells.  The night ended around 2:30 a.m.

The last photograph we have of the event is from 1925.  It’s not known how long the event continued, but it certainly provides a fun look at student life in the 1910s-1920s.

Do you know more about the Pajama Parades?  Please leave your comments below!

“The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” at Albion College

January 23rd, 2012

Sheet music cover from the 1923 edition

One of the most popular fraternity songs of all time, “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi”, was written in 1911 by two Albion College freshmen.  While in class, Byron D. Stokes penned the words for “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi”.  After class, he walked to the Chapel (now the Kellogg Center) and interrupted his friend F. Dudleigh Vernor, who was practicing the organ at the time.  Stokes showed Vernor the lyrics and Vernor, a music conservatory student, immediately wrote the melody.  The song was written as a pledge chore for the 25th Anniversary of their Alpha Pi Chapter.  It began to gain popularity locally and so Vernor’s brother, Richard Vernor, began publishing the sheet music.  One year later, it was topping charts across the county.

Contrary to popular belief, the song was actually written for the fraternity, not a particular “sweetheart.”  In a 1966 interview, Stokes said “the old tear-starting, love inducing, nostalgia-making song was not written about a girl at all, but as a love song to his fraternity”.  The “blue of her eyes and the gold of her hair” referred to the fraternity’s colors.

Since 1911, the song’s popularity has spread across the world.  It has been performed by such well-known artists as Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and was also the title of two movies in 1933 and 1946.  This year, Sigma Chi is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the song at its birthplace, Albion College.

This past fall, the college celebrated the 100th anniversary of “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi”.  In honor of the anniversary, archives student, Chelsea Denault, ’12, put together a photo montage.  View it here:

Sweetheart of Sigma Chi Photo Montage

Parchment, Pedagogy, and Periwig-Makers: Discovering the Longstreet Manuscript Collection

November 4th, 2011

What can we learn from documents?  Obviously, they show us the words written on a sheet, but we can learn so much more — from the parchment to the ink.  For the 13th Annual Marilyn Crandell Schleg Lecture, Dr. Marie M. Baxter, ’87, presented “Parchment, Pedagogy, and Periwig-Makers: Discovering the Longstreet Manuscript Collection.”

What is the Longstreet Manuscript Collection?

The Longstreet Manuscript Collection consists of about 40 legal documents dating from 1591-1803.  It was donated by William Longstreet, class of 1894.  The documents consist of indentures (i.e., contracts), wills, and schedules for property transfer from throughout England.  With such a large time span, we can learn not only  about changes in legal processes, but also, class, gender, and societal norms.

Below are photos from the lecture.  It was a great success!  Thanks to everyone who came!