R.S. Phifer: Tenure at R.F.C. Patrick Wasley October 30, 2012
R.S. Phifer: Tenure at R.F.C.• When did Robert Phifer teach at Roanoke Female College (R.F.C.)? – The Problem: multiple dates are listed. – The Process: How to find information about faculty members in the Archives. – The Results, with Supporting Evidence.
Why are Accurate Dates Important?• Archives: “Collective Memory” of an Institution. Accuracy is important to create a factual historical record.• The Social Nature of Information (incorrect information may impact further research).• Phifer: was head of music dept. at R.F.C. when Frederick Delius was in Danville (1885-86).• R.S. Phifer Collection: July 2012.
The Discrepancy in Dates• Three conflicting dates from three different sources. – The Averett Faculty list (Archives) – (1879-90). – The Brydon Portrait of R.S. Phifer (Archives) – (1878-90). – The obituary for R.S. Phifer from the Danville Register (pub. In Mary Cahill’s book, Delius in Danville, c. 1986) – (1878-95).
Phifer Obituary: c. 1910• “… Mr. Phifer came to Danville in 1878 and assumed direction of the school of music of the Roanoke Female College. Here he taught with eminent success for seventeen years ….” – Danville Register (Sept. 13, 1910)• Dates of Service: 1878 – 1895.
Sources of Information in Archives• Public Records: city directories.• Online: census reports.• University records and publications. – Catalogs – Annuals (Yearbooks) – Programs (concert, commencement, other events).
First Question: Start Date• Two Sources. – Newspaper clippings from the R.S. Phifer Collection (UNC Chapel Hill). – Catalogue for Roanoke Female College
R.S. Phifer: End Date at R.F.C. 1890, 1894 or 1895?• Last catalogue listing Phifer as a faculty member: 1893-94.• Averett Alumni List: Mimi and Robert attend R.F.C. during 1893-94 session.
R.F.C. after Phifer1895 – 96 CatalogueMiss Jennie Marvin(Piano, Organ, Theory)Miss Susie M. Miller(Voice Culture and Piano)
Was Phifer at R.F.C. During the 1894 - 95 Session?• Missing Pages from 1894-95 Catalogue.Existing Evidence• Letter to F. Delius (July 1894). Does not mention change of schools (R.F.C. to D.C.Y.L.).• June 1895 Concert Program in R.S. Phifer Collection.
Phifer: Teaching after R.F.C.• Obituary states that after teaching at Roanoke Female College, he accepted a position with the Danville College for Young Ladies (later Stratford College) and “remained there for two years.”• Dates at D.C.Y.L.: Fall 1895 – Spring 1897.
Concert ProgramTwo copies of the programfor the May 1897 Concertat the Danville College forYoung Ladies are includedin the R.S. PhiferCollection.“Mr. Phifer” is listed in theprogram.
Conclusion• Danville Register obituary (c. 1910) appears to be correct. Phifer taught at R.F.C. from fall 1878 to spring 1895. He went on to teach at the Danville College for Young Ladies from fall 1895 until spring 1897. He then offered private instruction in his home and also participated in community organizations (e.g., church musical director).
Further Research• The June 1895 Concert: R.S. Phifer?• Compare and contrast the 1895 concert program with those that came before and those that came after (musical archaeology).• Hypothesis: 1895 concert will contain similarities (musical pieces) with those that came before.• Identify musical scores in Phifer collection that were performed during 1895 concert.
June 1895 Concert“2ndHungarian Rhapsodie”performed by Miss EmpsieLipscomb.Musical Score from R.S.Phifer Collection.Was this the score thatwas used for the 1895concert?
Final Question: Why Did Phifer Leave R.F.C.?• No information available describing why Phifer left R.F.C. in 1895.• Departure probably related to economic issues.
C.F. James: 1892-1902• State of R.F.C. in 1892 – Declining enrollment – Deteriorating buildings Accomplishments: – Built a new wing on the old main hall with indoor plumbing (Patton St.) – More privileges for students; uniforms became more attractive.
Panic of 1893• 1893: The nation suffers its worse economic depression in its history.• Causes: diminished foreign markets for Am. goods; declining foreign investments; reduction in spending power for Am. Consumers; overexpansion of transportation and manufacturing industries, etc.• Depression ends in 1897.• Source: Panic of 1893. (2011). In The American Economy: A Historical Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/abcamerecon/panic_of_1893
Impact of 1893 Panic at R.C.F.• June 1896: President James issues a statement regarding the economic situation.• James: “we have been giving our boarding patronage a reduction from the regular catalogue rates.”• Reduction for 1896-97 session: $25 off “those who take either music or art, or elocution and physical culture ….”
R.F.C. Music Dept. after Phifer• Miss Jennie Marvin (1895 – 1898?)• Miss Susie Miller (1895 – 1896).• Sidenote: When Delius returned to Danville in January 1897, he performed in a concert at the Danville College for Young Ladies (where Phifer was a teacher).
R.S. Phifer: 1897 - 1910• Pursued various interests:• Genealogical research• Botany (esp., mycology) – Phifer collection contains a series of volumes from the State Museum of New York (Report of the State Biologist) relating to mycology (vols. 1897 – 1909) as well as a handwritten letter from Charles H. Peck, Botanist for the State of New York.
R.S. Phifer: Botany (mycology)• Letter from Charles Peck to R.S. Phifer dated Oct. 1903 relating to the identification of several species of mushrooms.
Conclusion• R.S. Phifer: Taught at R.F.C. from fall 1878 until 1895.• Phifer then taught at the Danville College for Young Ladies from 1895 to 1897.• From 1897 until his death in 1910, Prof. Phifer offered private music lessons, participated in musical events in the community, and pursued other interests such as botany and genealogy.