Popcorn and Walnut Burn

Charles Francis Rice, Class of 1872, kept a diary as an undergraduate at Wesleyan.  We can gain a good understanding of Rice’s actions and values by reading his entries.  He faithfully records the high points of his day to give us a picture of his life on campus and at home in the early 1870s. But details are infrequent. When Charles offers some details, they are enticing, “Mase and I hunted for bed bugs.  We found 26 in my bed and 6 in his.”

Rice entry

His lack of detail sometimes raises questions.  Rice writes “Received two demerits from Dr. Johnny this afternoon unjustly I think.”  Dr. Johnny seems to be John Johnston, Fisk Professor of Natural Science. But why did Professor Johnston issue any demerits?  Why did Rice find the action unjust?

His intellectual life is well represented. He outlines his studies and readings in most entries, “Studied Greek with chum in the morning and read some in the reading room.”  He notes the literary society meetings he attends with their debate and oration topics, sometimes assessing his peers’ performances in his diary.

His spiritual life is in evidence with his attendance at church and prayer gatherings.  “Went to class prayer meeting.” “It was a very good sermon I guess but I was sleepy.” It is worth noting that his father was a minister and Rice followed his father’s footsteps.

Nineteenth century campus social life is neatly documented in his diaries. Rice mentions some of the evening recreation with his friends: Authors, Patriot Heros, What Is It?, Charades, and Japanese Backgammon.  Evening munchies were satisfied with popcorn and roasted walnuts “popcorn and walnut burn”.  He mentions some of the campus mainstays: “The Olla Podrida arrived today.” “Argus came today containing Ed’s poem on Darwinism.” (Want to locate Ed’s poem? Access the Argus Archives online.)

Rice entry

Four Rice siblings attended Wesleyan: William North (Class of 1865), Charles Francis (Class of 1872), Edward Hyde (Class of 1870), and Caroline Laura (Class of 1879).  His older brother, William, also kept a diary for his four years at Wesleyan.  William’s diaries, and his other papers, give a rich view of Wesleyan and Middletown from Rice’s perspective as a student and as a faculty member. (See the finding aid at: Rice, William North Papers, 1861-1955 (bulk 1861-1928).)

SC&A acquired Charles Francis Rice’s diaries in early May.  You can read them yourself. Ask to see Collection number 2012-14. SC&A is open Monday-Friday, 1:00-5:00.

Rice entry

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