Cornelius Prettyman, and Virgil Prettyman 1891

Dominoes - Old West Dormitory Room, Dickinson College, 1891

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).

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.

Photograph courtesy of the Dickinson College Archives

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 scholar included 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)

John Hartley

Robert MacAlarney and Virgil Prettyman

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 Prettyman Gymnasium at Horace Mann was named after Virgil.

This photograph was taken in 1890 of the five men who participated on the men's gymnastics squad.

Westwood, the man at the top of the pyramid, hailed from Camden, New Jersey and was a freshman at the time the photograph was taken. He was a member of the Belles Lettres Society, one of the first social organizations at the College. It has since been disbanded.

Henry Budd hailed from the great state of Delaware, and was in his third year at the college. He was the President of the College YMCA, to which all members of the gymnastics team belonged.

Cornelius Prettyman, standing bottom left, was a junior who came from Upper Fairmount, Maryland. He and his younger brother Virgil attended the college at the same time for two years. He was the Vice President of his class, as well as a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. His athleticism went beyond the gymnasium, for he was a member of Dickinson's varsity tennis team, which at the time was only one of three varsity sports, alongside baseball and football which the school supported.

The fourth member of the group was sophomore Van Pierce Northrup from Hurlock, Maryland. He was a member of the varsity football team who must have made an immediate impact for he was listed as a starter. He, as well as Westwood, was a member of Belles Lettres.

Extensive research failed, sadly, to identify the fifth man.
Dickinson College Men's Gymnastics Team 1890
*Photograph courtesy of the Dickinson College Archives
Herbert Westwood
Henry Budd  (Unknown)
Cornelius J. Prettyman Van Pierce Northrup

See more Virgil Prettyman at the Horace Mann School Gym

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.

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