Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Burning Textbooks (1907)

In June 1907, on the so-called 'South Field' between W 115th and 116th, Amsterdam and Broadway (New York), the class of 1909 at Columbia held a graduation party. “At 8:30 o’clock the class marched into the field, and the piles of textbooks were brought out in due state. Hal Taylor made the speech, and the books were piled on a kerosene-soaked heap. Then the class of 1909 danced about uttering aboriginal cries that go with such celebrations.” A passing man, the story continues, alerted the fire department. They duly doused the fire, although hampered by some of the students, who tried to make off with the hose.
‘Firemen Douse Students. Columbia Sophomores’ Book-Burning Ceremonies Have Wet Ending,’ New York Times, 1 June 1907, p. 1
Interestingly enough, the South Field is now the square in front of the "Butler Library", which opened in 1934. The Library was named in honour of Nicholas Murray Butler, educator and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who was a vocal and influential supporter of both attempts to rebuild Louvain University Library after it was burned in 1914 and 1940.

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