PSU Archives

January, 2007

Inspiration from the Past

By Alice Staples

2007 ArchivesWhen President Sara Jayne Steen was moving into her office in July 2006, she wasn’t expecting to find an institutional treasure. But she did.

In the back of a cabinet, Steen came across a well-worn notebook with the name Carrie E. Abbott on the cover. The notebook contains many pages of careful, delicate script, a student’s notes from her classes at Plymouth Normal School, 1885–1888.

Despite her busy schedule, Steen—a scholar of women’s writing from the Renaissance—couldn’t resist spending a few hours perusing Carrie’s notes, on subjects such as reading, writing, history, math and science.

In the president’s first address to the PSU faculty in August, she was inspired to quote from Carrie’s notes from her own first year: “Lay aside slates by count. It is well to give pupils their names written on small pieces of ruled cardboard as soon as they enter school. Some pupils will be able to copy them on their slates in a few days, others in a few weeks.” The slates may be gone, but the principle remains in today’s first grade classrooms.

More was learned about this long-ago student from Rumney, Then and Now, a book by Jesse A. Barney that was published by the town of Rumney, N.H., in 1967.

Carrie E. Abbott was born in Rumney in 1868, the daughter of Daniel Abbott and Carrie M. Phillips Abbott. Some time after her graduation from Plymouth Normal School, she married George C. Craig, a “ distinctively self-made man,” according to Barney. There is more information about Carrie from the archive of Plymouth Normal School. Carrie is listed as a graduate on the commencement program for 1888. There are also invitations to school and alumni functions addressed to Mr. and Mrs. George C. Craig, Rumney Depot, New Hampshire. In 1893 Carrie’s sister, Lizzie, also graduated from Plymouth Normal School.

The story of Carrie E. Abbott is a wonderful example of the treasures of the past that may be found in the Michael J. Spinelli Center for University Archives and Special Collections at Lamson Library. The Spinelli Center was established in 2006, through the generosity of Michael J. Spinelli Jr. ’68. In addition to the records of the institution, the Spinelli Center houses collections such as the George H. Browne Robert Frost Collection, Brown Paper Company Photograph Collection, Ernest L. Silver Pedagogy Collection and more.

To learn more about the Spinelli Center and PSU’s long history, visit Lamson Library during regular daytime hours on weekdays or by appointment.

Alice Staples is the archives and special collections librarian for PSU’s Michael J. Spinelli Jr. Center at Lamson Library. She holds a B.A. from SUNY Oswego and an MLS from the University of Arizona. Before coming to Plymouth State in 1995 as coordinator of access services and later outreach librarian, she worked in Special Collections for the University of Arizona library, for the National Park Service handling archival processing and museum cataloging, and as a chef for restaurants in Portland, Ore.

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