employee Vicky Ambro discovered a Wesleyan University Bulletin from
1893 at a flea market in Middletown. The issue announces the opening of the
new gymnasium, later named the Fayerweather Gymnasium.
Flea Market Find: Wesleyan Circa 1893
browsing through a flea market recently, Vicki Ambro came across a tanned
paper publication with the words “Wesleyan University” across the top in an
archaic gothic font.
It turned out to be a Nov. 1893 issue of The Wesleyan University Bulletin,
issue no. 13.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was one of Wesleyan’s old newsletters and it was
in such good condition,” says Ambro, who has worked for Wesleyan’s Dining
Services for six years. “It really fascinated me.”
Ambro gently paged through the 16-page publication, browsing Wesleyan news
updates on a North College interior renovation; recent faculty appointments;
an obituary and biography of Professor George Prentice, who chaired the then
Department of Modern Languages; a calendar noting the June 27 commencement;
and a department note, stating that seniors will study the “literature of
the Age of Queen Anne” in the upcoming academic year.
The Bulletin also featured a section titled “Recent Gifts” made to
“This one really made me realize how different things were back then,” Ambro
says, pointing out an announcement from Ebenezer Hill, Wesleyan Class of
1870. “This guy was president of the Norwalk Iron Works and his gift was for
$750. Back in 1893, that must have been a year’s salary.”
Actually, using a U.S. Federal research
it would be equivalent to approximately $17,927.77 in 2008 dollars.
But it was an article on Wesleyan’s new gymnasium – now the Fayerweather
building – that Ambro found most amazing.
The Bulletin featured a full-page sketch of the new gymnasium, with
its entrance flanked by the iconic massive round towers that stand today.
The report mentions that the gymnasium, which cost a total of $60,000 to
construct (approximately $1,434,600 in 2008 dollars), would include three
bowling alleys, a baseball court, baths, lockers and toilet rooms and a
“large plunge tank” in the basement. The first floor occupied the gymnasium.
When completed, “it will undoubtedly be one of the handsomest buildings on
“When I saw that picture, I told my friend who was with me that, ‘If I’m not
mistaken, this is the building that is renovated that is right next to the
building I work in,’” Ambro recalls. “I decided to buy The Bulletin and
bring it into Wesleyan, because it is a piece of history, and this is where
Ambro paid the market clerk $5 for the Bulletin and shared it with
Rick Culliton, university center director and dean of campus programs. Since
Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives Department already has a
complete Bulletin set, Culliton may add the historic document to the Usdan
University Center’s Daniel Family Commons display case.
According to Valerie Gilipsie, assistant university archivist, The
Wesleyan University Bulletin originated in 1888 to “secure from alumni
and friends a more constant, intelligent, and hearty cooperation in all that
pertains to the interests of the college.” The Bulletin existed until
“I'm not too sure how many Bulletins are still around, but they seem
to appear here and there, especially locally,” Gillispie says. “They may not
have much monetary value, but they do, of course, have value for our alumni
and others who have a Wesleyan relationship who enjoy seeing historical
documents like that.”
By Olivia Bartlett, Wesleyan Connection editor