Memories of a College Life

Each class of Wheaton College brings new traditions, experiences, and stories to the long history of the campus. One of the ways the College Archives seeks to preserve these transitory memories is by collecting student scrapbooks. With their rich ephemera of college life – jokes, notes, invitations, photographs, and other mementos – student scrapbooks offer a glimpse into a strange yet familiar past. While clothing has changed, new buildings have appeared, and student groups have come and gone, these scrapbooks document the continued vibrancy and experimentation of a liberal arts college education. Here are the snapshots of jaunts off-campus, the portraits of new friends, the paper remains of events (official and unofficial), and the scraps from the programs and clubs that come to define many students’ college experience.

Our first featured scrapbook comes from Nellie L. Straw (SC-131), who attended Wheaton Academy as a preparatory student from 1899 to 1905 before matriculating at the College. Graduating in 1909, her scrapbook illustrates the importance of musical events to her experience as a Conservatory student, as well as the creativity of the various student literary societies in their design of eye-catching invitations before the advent of accessible color printing.

Sharing one year with Nellie was new freshman Helen Louis Safford (SC-180), who came to Wheaton in the fall of 1908. Throughout her years as an undergraduate student in the general liberal arts program, she also took classes under the Conservatory and Domestic Science, two of the several specialized departments offered by Wheaton at the turn of the century.

While many scrapbooks in our collections are either neat or haphazard collections of photographs, programs, and ephemera, some offer a more artistic flair. This scrapbook from Louise M. Stratton (SC-129), enrolled in the Wheaton College preparatory program from 1901 to 1903 and in the literary and music undergraduate departments from 1907 to 1909, illustrates one student’s experiment with the interplay of memory, art, and artifact.

The next scrapbook comes from Adeline Hendricks (SC-134), a College physics and secondary education student from 1911 to 1915, and a summer school student from 1915 to 1919. Illustrating the busy life of a college student, her scrapbook contains many programs from literary societies, concerts, and banquets, as well as photographs of her adventures through the then predominately rural Wheaton countryside.

Featuring the first seal of Wheaton College, this scrapbook comes from Louise C. Johnson (SC-146), a one-year freshman student in 1915-1916, who returned to finish her degree from 1922 to 1925. Encapsulating the magpie nature of many scrapbooks, it includes (among many other items) a class schedule, homemade valentines, pieces of cloth from a dorm Christmas party, and a paper doll in a graduation gown.

Our last scrapbook comes from Ruth Mellis (SC-138), who graduated from Wheaton College in 1931 with a B.S. in Elementary Education. Along with the many photographs and programs of the literary societies and musical events, her scrapbook highlights the importance of the annual Washington Banquet to the social calendar of mid-century Wheaton.

For more Wheaton College student scrapbooks, diaries, photographs, and other memorabilia of college life, explore the College Archives’ collection database at

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