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The SAR Administration Building, ca. 1948. SAR Archives AC20_34d.

What is now the Eric S. Dobkin Boardroom in the heart of SAR’s Administration Building was once the living room and entertaining space for Elizabeth and Martha White. The estate, known as El Delirio, was bequeathed to SAR by the sisters in 1972 in order to become a permanent home for the school’s activities. Although SAR now uses the main room for lectures, meetings, and social gatherings, it still includes the original “choir loft” at one end, and this loft hides a curiosity.

The choir loft in the SAR Administration Building, ca. 1940s, which is now the Dobkin Boardroom. SAR Archives AC20_40a.

W. F. Holloway’s mark on the Century Dictionary Case in SAR’s Dobkin Boardroom.

“The Century Dictionary Case is the most convenient thing in the house,” offers W. E. Snyder of Findlay, Ohio, in the tenth edition of W. F. Holloway’s company catalog. The case was crafted in Cuyahoga Falls in the late 1890s and “made expressly for holding the six volumes of the New Century Dictionary.” The catalog claimed that the spring-loaded iron mechanisms within the case would help the dictionary’s owner avoid “the lifting of the heavy books and the wearing of the bindings.” It was made of “selected grain quartered oak, backs of same wood, hard oil polished finish” and included a “polished brass top railing” and “brass curtain rod and brackets.” This finely made two-hundred-pound case cost all of thirty-five dollars.

An ad for the Century Dictionary Case from the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, vol. XLV, November 1892–April 1893, The Century Co., New York.

 

“The final test of the usefulness of all things is time and use,” the catalog tells us. “Time” and “use” have certainly been of interest to the great variety of staff and scholars who have worked at SAR and broadened the school’s intellectual and artistic horizons. Because what are “exploring humanity” and “understanding our world,” really, if not a deep interest in time and use that many people over many years have winnowed into specific research questions, works of art, and published books?

Peter Balleau looking at one of the volumes of the Century Dictionary.

At a recent SAR gathering, neighbor Peter Balleau opened one of the dictionaries. He turned the page and exclaimed out loud because it said “philosophical” on the top left corner, and he had just graduated with a degree in philosophy. Thanks to SAR’s early supporters, as well as all of the artists and scholars who have contributed to SAR’s growth and vision, these dictionaries still speak to us—fulfilling, I think, the claims to usefulness made by their creator over one hundred years ago.

 

You can see the treasures of the SAR campus by taking one of our historic estate tours.

Learn more and sign up for a tour today.

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