|IMLS Grant |
Message from the Dean |
Stein Collection |
Around the Library |
Edith Patch Celebration |
|VOLUME 18 NUMBER 2, FALL 2010|
All loyal Maine alumni will recognize that first line of the famous Stein
Song but it may have been awhile since they visited the university’s Nelson B.
Jones Stein Collection. Displayed in the Louis B. Oakes Room at Fogler Library,
the collection numbers some 200+ steins donated since the establishment of the
collection in 1963.
Of course it all began with a song: the Maine Stein Song, introduced by students Adelbert Wells Sprague and Lincoln Colcord. Sprague, the leader of the university band, had heard music from a march called “Opie” by A.E. Fenstad while performing at a summer orchestra and band concert in Bar Harbor. Thinking one strain of the march was particularly striking and also singable, and knowing that the university had until then been using a marching song also used by Harvard students, he adapted and arranged the Fenstad music for the Stein Song. Sprague asked his roommate, Lincoln Colcord, to come up with some lyrics, and as Sprague later recalled, “He took it down to the piano in the music room and within a half-hour was back with the Stein Song just as it is today.” Colcord, later to become a newspaper correspondent, magazine editor, literary critic and noted author of sea stories, was already engaged in literary ventures at the university, writing for The Blue Book, a campus literary magazine, and serving as campus correspondent for various newspapers.
An article in the Maine Campus of February 15, 1905 describes the introduction of the Stein Song on campus: “ ... this march was played as the closing number at the band concert last Friday evening. The glee club sat down front and led off in the singing. Judging by the round of applause it received the song certainly took.” Immediately popular on campus and sung on many occasions, it achieved nationwide fame when performed by singer Rudy Vallee in the 1930s. Vallee, writing in 1954 to the student editor of the Prism, said about the song “... it was what we call a ‘Natural’ and needed no corps of contact men or pluggers to force it on the public.”
However, the song was not universally popular; it also attracted some unfavorable comments from those who questioned its associations with drinking, especially on a dry campus in a state that had led the prohibition movement in the 1850s. In reply to a letter of April 7, 1930, from a member of the National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union complaining that the song “is a typical drinking song, quite on a par with the famous German Stein Song,” university president Harold Boardman replied: “It may be called a ‘drinking song’ but I am very sure that no Maine man who sings it ever does so with any ulterior motive ... If one desires to do so he can see the bad and emphasize it in many things in which the good predominates.” During the Great Depression, others thought the Stein Song, or at least its music, might with new lyrics become an inspiring national song similar to America, providing cheer during those dark days.
The idea for the stein collection originated in 1962 when Omer Thibodeau, Class of 1964, in a letter to the Memorial Union wondered why there were no steins to fill on campus and suggested establishing a stein room. Later that year the governing board of the Union authorized the creation of a permanent stein collection to be housed in the building, noting that the popularity of the Stein Song suggested the appropriateness of developing and identifying such a collection with the University of Maine. There were some misgivings about having a collection with an emphasis on drinking just as there had been about the Stein Song itself. Nonetheless, the collection was established with the original intent to collect steins from academic institutions around the world. The scope of the collection was almost immediately broadened however to include steins of all kinds. Technically only a vessel with an attached lid can be called a stein but that policy was also soon broadened “so that steins without covers may be included in the collection.”
The first stein, made in Germany in 1895, was donated in September 1963 by Rena Bowles, a member of the Class of 1921 who had been very active in the campaign to raise funds to build the Memorial Union. The collection expanded to over 160 steins by the 1970s and now numbers some 200+. Most steins have been given by students or alumni, many in memory of a donor’s parents or other family members. Various methods and places of manufacture, sizes and dates are represented: many of the earliest donations were steins made in Germany, others were brought back by travelers in Europe, some were made by members of a donor’s family. Sizes range from one inch to more than 18 inches in height and their capacities vary from a spoonful to five liters. A few document historic events such as the signing of the treaty at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, that formally ended the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War. Others mark travels abroad such as those donated in the 1960s by University of Maine tour groups to Germany, with steins from Munich’s Hofbrauhaus being well represented in the collection.
The collection was formally dedicated as the Nelson B. Jones Stein Collection in ceremonies held at Homecoming in October 1977. Jones, a native of Boston and a graduate of Brown University, was honored for his service as director of the Memorial Union from the time of its construction in 1953 until his retirement in 1967. His urging had led the Union’s Board of Directors to create the Stein Collection in 1962.
The collection was moved to Fogler Library in 1986 and is now housed in the Oakes Room, a popular gathering spot for students on the first floor of the library. Steins continue to be given on a regular basis with the latest being received in 2010 from the student honorary societies, the Senior Skulls Society and All Maine Women. The collection grows through the generosity of donors, and anyone who would like to add a stein is encouraged to contact the Dean of Libraries, 5729 Fogler Library, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5729 or to call 207-581-1655.
Home | Olive Tree | Fall 2010 Issue
Copyright 2000-2012, Raymond H. Fogler Library, The University of Maine,
Orono, ME 04469-5729
Fogler Library Home | Resources | Services | Search | Help | Site Map | Campus