The People and Places of Dickinson College

Dominoes - Old West Dormitory Room, 1891

Photograph courtesy of the Dickinson College Archives

This photograph was taken in Room 41 in Old West during 1891. The four students in the room are the two residents of the room, Harry Stock and Cornelius Prettyman, along with Cornelius' younger brother Virgil and Robert MacAlarney.  They are posed playing a game of dominoes.

The student on the right is Harry Bixler Stock, class of 1891. Stock was a brother in the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, and was also the treasurer for the prestigious Belles Lettres Society.  Stock was also very interested in sports and was president of both the baseball and the tennis clubs as well as the athletics writer for the Dickinsonian. He was also a fine student, as his election to the honorary society Phi Beta Kappa indicates.  After graduating, he went on to become a pastor at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Carlisle where he was known for his almost single handed enlargement of the congregation of St. Paul's.  St. Paul's went from a congregation of forty-five in 1896 to more than nine hundred by 1946.(1) He was the longtime resident of the house which became Montgomery Hall, a building on the Dickinson campus. He died on October 1, 1950.

Harry Bixler Stock - 1891 photograph

His roommate was a man named Cornelius "Dutch" Prettyman, class of 1891. Prettyman was the vice-president of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, and a member of the tennis club, and also a  good enough scholar to be included in Phi Beta Kappa. An interesting little fact about the Prettyman boys is that their father was one of the founding fathers of the Dickinson chapter of Beta Theta Pi.(2) Cornelius was the director of alumni personals for the Dickinsonian and a member of the Union Philosophical Society.  Little did his domino playing friends know of his eventual influence on their College. After graduating from Dickinson, Cornelius earned a master's and doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania, and returned to Carlisle in 1900 to institute to the first separate department of Germanic Languages and Literature.  He was professor of German from 1900 to 1944 when he was named as the twenty-second President of Dickinson College.  His tenure was not a long one and  he died at the age of 74 on August 9, 1946. Cornelius did leave his mark though in his two years as president, as one student said about him, "He greets the students with a friendliness and frankness that has already won their confidence and respect."(3)

Not much is really known of Cornelius' brother, Virgil. He graduated in 1892, and like his father and older brother he was a Beta, and a member of the Union Philosophical Society. He the assistant editor of the Microcosm, and he was the first banjo in the Banjo Club. After graduation, he became an instructor of Greek and Latin at the Dickinson Preparatory School. In 1895, he moved on to New York City and became the Principal of the Horace Mann School. While principal of Horace Mann, he was elected President of the New York School-Masters Association. (4)

The youngest and most prosperous of the group was a man named Robert MacAlarney, class of 1893. While at Dickinson he was a brother of Beta Theta Pi and a member of Belles Lettres. After graduating, he went to Harvard for post-graduate studies in journalism and became a member of the first faculty of the Pulitzer School of Journalism at Columbia University. Robert was a Democrat and a Methodist. In his years of journalism he worked at the Harrisburg Telegraph, the Daily Adviser (Newark), the New York Evening Journal, New York Evening Post, Evening Mail, New York Tribune, and was the managing editor for the Ladies Home Journal.

 Robert MacAlarney and Virgil Prettyman

Old West, where the subject photograph was taken, is the oldest of the buildings at Dickinson. Construction began in August, 1803 and the building was then first used in November, 1805. The cost of building Old West was approximately $20,000, though that, of course, does not include the cost of additional construction over the years. Old West was designed by Benjamin Latrobe, who is best known for his design of the National Capitol Building in Washington D.C. The college received financial help for building Old West from influential men at the time, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Marshall. Architectural historian Talbot Hamlin once said of Old West, it is "One of the most distinguished, and certainly the most subtly designed, of all early American college structures, for its distinction is found not on ornament, but on solid qualities of functional planning, good proportion, and excellent materials beautifully used."(5) On April 25th, 1963, Old West was recognized as a National Historical Landmark.

At one point Old West housed eighty students, the College library, chapel, classrooms, Kitchen, and dining facilities. Now it strictly accommodates administrative offices but "although its function has changed over time, since 1805 it has served as the aesthetic and symbolic center of Dickinson College."(6)

John Hartley

1) Dickinson College Archives, Drop file for Harry Bixler Stock, class of 1891.
2) Dickinson Alumni Directory, under Cornelius Prettyman, class of 1891
3) Dickinson College Archives, Drop file for Cornelius Prettyman.
4) Dickinson Alumni Directory, Virgil Prettyman, class of 1892
5) Dickinson College Archives, Drop file for Old West Building.
6) Ibid.