Dartmouth and Casque and Gauntlet Society
After completing Dover High School in 1883, Wentworth entered the Chandler Scientific Department of Dartmouth College. Wentworth enrolled in the Chandler Scientific Department in 1893 during an era when Dartmouth was in the early stages of a transition from a regional school of around a thousand students, training “preachers and teachers” to a “University fitted into a College” that would emerge as one of the nation’s best known and most highly regarded institutions. During Wentworth’s era, the college consisted of a dozen or so buildings surrounded Hanover’s Green in a classic New Hampshire setting.
When Wentworth arrived in the mid 1880s, Dartmouth was changed by the economic prosperity that took changed the nation in the years after the Civil War. The Chandler school itself and its approach to education was at the forefront of that change. The transformation from a small church oriented college was underway. Dartmouth in the 1880s was no longer the isolated, local communal institution that was a reflection of the needs and interests of northern New England. Dartmouth was attracting a new type of student body – “younger, more cosmopolitan, and from a higher socioeconomic background. And it had a different relation to the local community and region, now perceived as a special place apart.” The school was becoming professionally oriented and was organized along disciplinary and communities of interest.
The Casque and Gauntlet Society
The emphasis on collegiality and group identity was so important that for students at colleges. Being in a fraternity alone was not enough. As fraternities became widespread, they did not alone provide enough exclusivity or specialized group identity. At several schools, “Senior Societies”, invitation only organizations based on themes and interests, were coming into being.
Dartmouth differed from Harvard and Yale because there was less emphasis on strict class divisions. However, the demand for associational involvement and being somehow “distinct and separate” from the rest of the crowd was in vogue. At Dartmouth, an unusual senior society developed and Fred Wesley Wentworth was among its founding members.
The Casque and Gauntlet Society is a senior society that remains a fixture at Dartmouth to this day. C&G bears the stamp of the times in general and seems to the Wentworth personality in particular. The organization is based on King Arthur and the Round Table – the ultimate legend in fraternal camaraderie.
In the C &G tradition, each of the members assumed a name and identity based on the Arthurian lore and traditions of chivalry in medieval England. The defining virtues were sociability, accomplishment and character. If you had those characteristics, you could be considered for inclusion. Without them, no matter your station, you were not C&G material.
Nothing would find greater meaning in Wentworth’s lifetime than his involvement in the Casque and Gauntlet. Wentworth, known as “Bill” to his Dartmouth classmates, would maintain friendships that spanned his entire lifetime from this era.
The Casque and Gauntlet society began in rented rooms near camps, eventually purchasing the building adapting it to its needs. Wentworth was deeply involved in setting up the organization and designed the “pin” that is the symbol of fraternal life and later in his career supervised an expansion of the Casque and Gauntlet building in 1905. He lent financial support to Casque and Gauntlet Society and his will forgave an outstanding mortgage loan. This is the only organization or charity that was mentioned in the Wentworth will, clearly reflecting his affection and affinity to the club.
Wentworth maintained C & G friendships at reunions throughout the rest of his life and more importantly, the ethos of the organization, that there were “men of character” who were worthy of a seat at the Round Table as equals to others of character and virtue.
For more information about the history of C&G, see: “Edward III’s Round Table and Dartmouth College’s Casque and Gauntlet: Two Returns of King Arthur”, Jonathan Good, University of Minnesota, and http://www.r3.org/wood/papers/good.html