This is a family passport photo of Stella (Scharff) Petersen, with husband and children. Scharff attended Defiance College’s Academy (a preparatory course for students not ready for college level work) between 1909 and 1912. The Archives recently was given a file of papers associated with Scharff, including the above family passport, some of Scharff’s grade cards, a list of wedding presents, and other documents that give insight to 1910s social history, not to mention Defiance College history.
For example, among Scharff’s papers was this program below from the 1912 Academy commencement, a document which the Archives lacked:
Scharff’s name is listed inside as a graduate, along with “Wm A. Van Blarcon” (Blarcom), whose descendant gave the Archives some interesting photos a few years ago from the same era.
Another cool document among Scharff’s papers gives some insight on the behavior expected of DC students in the 1910s:
This is a grade card from the 1911-12 academic year. DC apparently gave grades of “G” and “E”–“good” and “excellent,” perhaps? But look at the remarks section: Scharff was given 4 demerits for “loud talking in dining room.” Can you imagine that kind of restriction being put on students in the dining hall today? On another card, she was given 2 demerits for running up the stairs.
There’s interesting social history in the list of wedding presents: 1 dozen silver tea spoons, sterling gravy ladle, fern dish, cut glass celery dish, etc. It’s interesting to compare the gift list to what might be given as wedding gifts today. Also among the papers is a record from a furniture store in Connecticut that listed the household goods the couple purchased a few months after their wedding.
An unknown family member provided biographical information in the collection of papers about Scharff. She was born in Copenhagen, and the family emigrated to the U.S. in the 1890s. Her mother died when she was 12, and her father apparently left the picture, forcing her to go to work at age 14. By 1909 she had accumulated enough savings to think about acquiring some higher education. She saw an ad in the Saturday Evening Post about DC and enrolled in 1909. She was taken on as an office assistant to President P.W. McReynolds, and took classes in shorthand and other business-related courses. After she graduated, she investigated becoming a missionary–we have correspondence between Scharff and the Board of Foreign Missions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. But fate intervened, and before she could go down that path, she met and married Carl Petersen in 1916. The above passport is marked with stamps from a visit the family made in Denmark in 1921.
The Scharff papers have not been digitized, but the originals can be viewed during weekday office hours, 8-4:30, or an appointment can be made for evening or weekend access. Visit the Archives page of the Library’s website for contact information here
Lead Librarian and Coordinator of Metadata and Archives