1883: Crew, Cricket and Cross-Country

By - Systems Librarian April 6th, 2017


This carving by John Gregory Wiggins commemorates the St. Paul’s School Form of 1883. The top of the plaque shows one of the six-oared shells that were raced on Long Pond that year. The “Veritas” shield celebrates a cricket victory over Harvard. The hound and hare represent a vigorous twelve mile cross-country race around the school grounds run by most of the students – the winner receiving bragging rights for a whole year!

Read more about this image by clicking HERE.


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December 16, 1930

By - Systems Librarian December 5th, 2011

A visit from a mysterious beast:

On the sixth of December, the peculiar animal first seen at St. Paul’s in 1888, forty-two years ago, appeared again on the ice in Library Pond. . . Mr. Wiggins, it will be remembered, has already immortalized the animal by carving it on his 1888 shield in the Upper School.

From the Archives: Club Banners

By - Systems Librarian May 10th, 2011

Most people who look up and notice the club banners on display in the lobby of the Blass Club House probably associate them with the club sports competition begun at St. Paul’s School in 1888. In actuality the Isthmian, Delphian and Old Hundred banners have nothing to do with sports. Their origins have more in common with this year’s revived Club Cup competition than with the sports-only club rivalries that are a better-known part of school history.

The club banners were the inspiration of Samuel Smith Drury, Rector of St. Paul’s School from  1911 to 1938. In the Spring 1921 Alumni Horae he described his new plan to use the existing rivalries from the club sports competitions to inspire academic excellence among the students:

It occurred to some of us that we might utilize commendable athletic club rivalry in the realm of studies. So we took all the examination marks and by reckoning to what club each boy belonged, we found that a certain club led the School in studies. At the reading of the ranking I had the banner of that club on the desk, and then handed it to Davis I, the captain of the Hockey Team, asking him to place that banner in the Big Study until another club by its average won the privilege.

In a letter dated December 21, 1922, Drury asks John Gregory Wiggins, family friend and original carver of the Form Plaques located in the Upper Dinning Hall of Coit, if he would send along “any designs you may have of your rendering of the Old Hundred, Isthmian and Delphian emblems to be used on scholastic banners.” A few months later, in the Spring 1923 Alumni Horae, the School in Action entry announces:

At the recent half-term ranking the silk banners presented by Mr. F. Kingsbury Curtis (79) were used for the first time. The body of the banner is of the club color, the name in white letters above and the club emblem below. The Delphian Club led in scholarship for this period, an honor held by the Isthmians at both rankings in the Fall.

This documents the first time the club banners that we now have on display in the Blass Club House were used to reward academic excellence among the club teams. Later, in the Winter 1930 edition of the Alumni Horae, Drury reminds readers of the purpose of the stars on the banners:

You will remember that at each ranking one of the three Clubs wins a star for its banner by out-ranking the other two in studies.

It isn’t clear how long this tradition was carried out at St. Paul’s School, or how frequent the rankings took place, but by counting the stars it is clear who dominated the competition: Isthmian had 54 stars,  Old Hundred had 36 stars, and Delphian had 24 stars.

Elements of the tradition started by Samuel Smith Drury have been revived by the new Club Cup competition this year, which awards points for scholastic as well as athletic achievements.  Drury’s enthusiasm for the academic banners comes through in his writing in the Alumni Horae, and it is easy to imagine that he would be just as excited by the new Club Cup competition.

Read more about the Club Banners HERE.

Read more about the history of the club system HERE.

New Archives Exhibit: The Form Plaques of SPS

By - Systems Librarian March 31st, 2011

As promised on Ohrstrom Blog just prior to March break, a new Archives online exhibit is now available on the Ohrstrom Library Digital Archives: The Form Plaques of St. Paul’s School: John Gregory Wiggins.

Eighteen images have been selected as the focus of the exhibit. Each image includes a description of the symbols employed in the plaque design and is written by the carver of the plaques, John Gregory Wiggins.  In addition to the individual entries in the exhibit you can take a quick overview of the plaques by viewing a slideshow of the images. The exhibit offers a great introduction to this School tradition, and helps to decipher some of the interesting imagery used to depict aspects of St. Paul’s School history.

A more detailed description of the Form plaque tradition begun by Fourth Rector Samuel Smith Drury and Wiggins can be read HERE.

You can also view a complete list of Form plaque images available on OLDA by clicking HERE.

Take a few minutes to browse through this latest addition to the OLDA collection and learn more about the history of the plaques that adorn the dining halls in the Upper.

New on OLDA: Form Plaque Photos

By - Systems Librarian March 3rd, 2011

The Ohrstrom Library Digital Archive – OLDA for short – has some new images available from the SPS Archives for online viewing. A series of photographs have been digitized featuring forty-two of the Form plaques on display in the Coit Upper Dining Hall. The first nine plaques from the Forms of 1859 through 1867 have been added to the website this week and include descriptions of the symbols present in the designs as described by the carver, John Gregory Wiggins.

Click HERE to see the images.

Wiggins was a teacher at St. Paul’s School from 1912 -1916, until he left to pursue a full-time carving career. Counted among his many ecclesiastical commissions are the carvings he created for the New Chapel – including the allegorical animals that adorn the pews in the choir room. Wiggins began carving Form plaques in 1921 and over the years he designed and carved the plaques for the Forms of 1858 through 1953.  These include all the plaques on display in the Coit Upper Dining Hall and the colorful heraldic shield plaques in the Upper Cloister.

More images will become available on OLDA over the next few weeks, and a selection of the images will be collected into an online exhibit with more detail on the history and tradition of the plaques.  Over time, images will be added of plaques carved by other artists that continued the tradition after Wiggins.

In addition, you can follow the process of the creation of the Form plaque for the Form of 2011, as documented in the SPS Form Plaque Project blog and SPS Form Plaque Project Facebook page. This project is the result of the Form of 1973 Mentor Fellowship awarded to me last spring, and I will be carving the plaque over the summer that will be displayed in the Coit Middle Dining Hall when completed.  Over the next few years I will be carving additional Form plaques for the missing years going back to 1991 so that a cherished school tradition begun ninety years ago by John Gregory Wiggins can continue into the future.