Open the worn, brown leather cover of the century-old Syracuse University Handbookand you notice the name C.A. Duvall penciled on the first page. Venture further and you begin to get an idea of what student life was like for Duvall and the rest of the freshman class in 1898-99. They enjoyed traditions like being pelted with salt, played sports on the University oval, strummed mandolins, and occasionally got rowdy at gatherings known as "lits." Rooms were rented for $3.50 to $5 a week, and advertisements touted such claims as "Our coal is just as good as E.I. Rice's." The City of Syracuse, known as the "convention city" according to the handbook, was "approached from all directions by great railways." The University had 4 colleges, 6 campus buildings, 110 faculty members, 1,200 students, and a worth of about $1.8 million. "It never has had an epidemic or fatal accident," the handbook boasts. "The location for healthfulness and beauty of scenery is unsurpassed."|
Duvall's hand-jotted notes reveal what any freshman's concerns might be: class assignments, Aristotle, prohibition, writing tips, A Tale of Two Cities,groceries, and directions to a sporting goods store. The handbook, published by the University's Christian associations, is one of two from that year now in the SU archives collection (the other was recently donated by Bernice Lazarus Ehrensall '48). "This handbook provides a historical understanding of the rules and regulations back thenwhat was expected of the students," says University Archivist Ed Galvin. "There are two values to a handbook like thisthe information it contains, and its inherent value as an artifact. You don't see leather-bound student handbooks created anymore."
Nor, for that matter, would you see new arrivals advised against such acts as carrying canes before the annual freshman-sophomore football game, starting the college song (a privilege strictly reserved for upperclassmen), or lingering in the classroom after the first bell ringseven if the professor is still talking. The handbook also warns: "Not to conclude that the University can't get along without you. It can."
Archival photos courtesy of Syracuse University Archives