In this month’s column, John Cross ’76 examines the extraordinary papers of the late Stanley F. Dole of the Class of 1913, a gift from his son, Stanley F. Dole Jr. of the Class of 1947, to George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives in the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library.
Much has been written in recent years about the intergenerational transfer of wealth in America, but considerably less attention has been paid to the intergenerational transfer of “stuff” – the scrapbooks, photos, bundles of letters, journals, and objects ranging from small keepsakes to houses that together constitute the historical legacies of individuals and families. These tangible expressions of the past that occupy places in our lives have survived decades – centuries in some cases – by avoiding damp basements, paper-shredding mice in attics, and overly zealous spring cleaning projects. As anyone faced with relocating or downsizing their residence can attest, such things are “more easily acquired than got rid of,” to borrow a phrase from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.
Well-documented family heirlooms and records may have historical value that greatly exceeds the auction prices that could be realized for items lacking attached stories and family connections. Recently the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives in the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library received the papers of the late Stanley F. Dole of the Class of 1913, a gift from his son, Stanley F. Dole Jr. of the Class of 1947. The catalog listing contains some of the documentation for an extraordinary life of service – U.S. Navy veteran of World War I; treasurer of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company in Detroit during the Great Depression; and Alumni Fund Director, Alumni Council president, and Overseer of Bowdoin College. A scrapbook stuffed with menus, ticket stubs, a Phi Chi poster addressed to “Ye Puling Babes and Sucklings of the Bonehead Class of 1913,” and other memorabilia provides glimpses of student social life both on- and off-campus. Other files contain correspondence about the organization of alumni fundraising a half century ago, as well as a 40-year longitudinal perspective of the Bowdoin Class of 1913.
What remains for me the most remarkable component of the collection, however, is the extraordinary paper record of Dole’s service as a young Navy ensign assigned to the small American Peace Mission in South Russia during the civil war between the Bolsheviks and the White Russians from 1918-1920. Under the command of Rear Admiral Newton McCully, the mission consisted of ten officers and ten enlisted men, divided into three groups, each of which was assigned to a different portion of southern Russia. In March of 1919 Dole’s team arrived in the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk and established ties with the White Russian forces who sought to reclaim the country from the Bolsheviks. The Dole papers contain detailed reports on the military, political, and economic situation in the Crimea and Cossack regions; a series of large hand-drawn and annotated maps track the course of military engagements and troop movements on both sides. Stan Dole’s archive preserves dozens of messages that were encrypted and sent from McCully’s command to the U.S. State Department advising of the rapidly changing military, political, and humanitarian conditions on the ground there.
It must have been an extraordinary experience. On August 12, 1920, Dole and an American sailor were assaulted in Sevastopol in full view of a high-ranking Bolshevik officer by Red army soldiers. Copies of the report of the assault and the high-level diplomatic exchanges between U.S. and Russian officials reveal the hair-trigger environment within which the American Peace Mission operated. Two groups from the American mission left Russia when the territories in which they were stationed were overtaken by the Red army. Admiral McCully returned to Paris to plead for additional international aid, leaving Stanley Dole as the sole American representative in European Russia for some time. Dole’s reports are remarkable for their detail and their comprehensiveness. Carefully drawn sketch maps of the Novorossiysk waterfront identify the berths of individual British and American ships and the passport and medical examination stations that were key elements of the evacuation plan for civilians, foreign nationals, and White Russian forces.
There are dangerous fires abroad in the world and too often men of education who should know better attempt to play with these fires, to throw fuel on them for their own personal aggrandizement.
For his 25th Reunion in 1938, Dole reflected on the experience: “Our little group of three officers and two enlisted men found themselves at the headquarters and base of the so-called Volunteer Army…For nearly two years I lived with them. I shared their hopes and their disappointment and final failure. I went through terrible epidemics of typhus and cholera with them. I helped celebrate their Easter and Christmas and I helped bury their dead. I visited the battle lines and faced the Bolshevists’ gun fire on many fronts. I was honored by General Denikin when he was their leader and later by General Wrangel when he was in command, with high military decorations of old Russia. My heart and soul were in the cause…It is now like a dream – vivid and unforgettable but not real. The last weeks of it were spent in helping thousands of the defeated Whites to flee their country forever.” Mindful of the forces already set in motion in Europe by 1938, Dole wrote, “There are dangerous fires abroad in the world and too often men of education who should know better attempt to play with these fires, to throw fuel on them for their own personal aggrandizement…Will those of us who have gone forth from Bowdoin and from Harvard and from Michigan and from all the other colleges and universities throw our influence to the side of reason and will we be strong enough?”
The Stanley Fuller Dole papers are available to scholars who seek to understand a tumultuous period in world history, as well as to those who want to learn more about the College’s past. Not all documents and memorabilia associated with Bowdoin and its alumni will meet the criteria of uniqueness, historical significance, and relevance necessary to become part the College’s archives and special collections. For some items, other repositories – historical societies, local libraries, museums, state archives – may be more appropriate destinations for the materials at hand. In any case, it is critical to work out in advance details about what is being offered to (and what will be accepted by) a given repository; at Bowdoin the Department of Special Collections & Archives always welcomes that dialog with prospective donors. A willingness to make available to future generations the objects, images, and primary documents of the recent or the distant past is a precious gift to bestow.
With Best Wishes,
John R. Cross ’76
Secretary of Development and College Relations