The Stetson Historical Society returns

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Editor’s note: This is the first of a new feature on Mondays entitled, “Selections from the Collections,” highlighting Stetson’s duPont-Ball Library Archives, the Hand Art Center and the Gillespie Museum. Today: Inside the Stetson Archives with Archivist Kelly Larson.

(Left to right) President Lincoln Hulley and Professor G. Prentice Carson c. 1933; Hulley and Carson were leaders of the Stetson Historical Society, founded in 1905.

Over one hundred years ago, Stetson University President Lincoln Hulley anticipated the need to preserve his growing university’s past. To that end, he established the Stetson Historical Society, an organization comprised of just ten members who were given a rather special task: “to awaken interest in matters of local history, preserve records of important events, and act as trustees for any historical data placed within [the society’s] keeping.” G. Prentice Carson, longtime history professor and dean, served as president of the society for most of its existence, which lasted into the late 1930s. 

Though very little information about the Stetson Historical Society remains, its members undoubtedly contributed some of the oldest material found in the archives today. For that reason, I like to think of the historical society as the root of the duPont-Ball Library’s current Archives & Special Collections department. In fact, the society’s mission – to collect and preserve records, to stimulate interest in local history – neatly summarizes the work we are still doing now. That said, we have come a long way since 1905. The collections have expanded well beyond university records to include athletics memorabilia and artifacts; Florida tourism ephemera; rare books; Stetson hats and Stetson family papers; the papers of political leaders Clay Shaw and Max Cleland, both Stetson alumni; and much more. (Read the story in the Reporter on April 5, 1905, about the formation of the Stetson Historical Society.)

Elizabeth Hall is shown in 1894, prior to the addition of the North and South wings. Might this have been an early contribution to the Historical Society?
A Stetson hatbox in the archives belongs to the Stetson Hat collection and is an example of the kinds of items that Kelly Larson likes to show during meetings.

We want to let you in on what we are doing in the archives these days, so beginning this fall, we are revitalizing the Stetson Historical Society. The group will meet once per month via Microsoft Teams as one of the duPont-Ball Library’s Virtual Clubs. Meetings will feature Stetson trivia, conversations about university history, and a showcase of items from the archives. On our team page, members are encouraged to ask questions, suggest discussion topics, and share their stories. Meeting attendance is not mandatory, but Cultural Credit is offered to undergraduate participants. In addition to monthly meetings, members will receive regular updates from the archives and will be the first to know about special events and programming.

Stetson students, faculty, staff and alumni are all invited to join our next meeting, Friday, Sept. 18. Let’s make some history!

To join or learn more, email archives@stetson.edu with the subject line “Stetson Historical Society.” For more information about all of the Fall 2020 duPont-Ball Library Virtual Clubs, visit: https://www2.stetson.edu/library/dupont-fall-virtual-clubs-are-here/

Kelly Larson
Archivist 
Archives & Special Collections
duPont-Ball Library