Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



Dartmouth College, located in Hanover, New Hampshire, is one of the nine Colonial Colleges and a member of the exclusive Ivy League. Congregationalist minister Eleazar Wheelock founded Dartmouth in 1769 on the premise of training missionaries to Christianize the Indians of the region and, over the years, Dartmouth developed into a premier college. Dartmouth is famous for its traditions, its ardently loyal alumni, and as a classic New England liberal arts college. But this image does not correspond with a closer, more critical look at the College. Through both archival and ethnographic research, this dissertation examines the cultural landscape, folklore, place-making, and student culture of Dartmouth College. Recurring themes include the persistence and preservation of Dartmouth’s many “old traditions” and a vague but frequently used term, “the Dartmouth Experience.” Primary research questions ask: What are the “old traditions” and why is Dartmouth adamant about not letting them fail? Why are these traditions important to understanding Dartmouth as a culture and place? And what is “the Dartmouth Experience?” Chapter 1 provides an introduction and outlines the dissertation’s content. Chapter 2 discusses the methodology, the main concepts employed, and a literature review. Chapter 3 provides some general historical background on the College and a description of contemporary Dartmouth. Chapter 4 is a landscape history of Dartmouth Hall and its role as an iconic building of the College. Chapter 5 explores the folklore surrounding the Old Pine, a site for the controversial and now-defunct Class Day ritual. Chapter 6 examines the Dartmouth Outing Club and Dartmouth Night, two key traditions that define Dartmouth as a place. Chapter 7 takes the reader inside the “Dartmouth Bubble” to gain a sense of daily life at the Ivy League school. Chapter 8 recounts my experiences as an outsider at Dartmouth and integrates the preceding chapters’ findings to understanding its place identity. Chapter 9 examines the role of the Ivy League in the American mind, the persistence of tradition at Dartmouth, and “the Dartmouth Experience.” Chapter 10 concludes with an argument on why the old traditions will not fail.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Kent Mathewson