In November 2016, as part of an effort to digitize photographs in Wheaton’s Gebbie Archives & Special Collection, Zephorene Stickney Helmreich, College Historian & Special Collections Curator, found a 1953 photograph of students examining baskets during a Sociology lecture by Professor Paul F. Cressey. Produced for publicity purposes, the B&W photograph was shot in spring 1953 by Philadelphia-based photographer William M Rittase.

Professer Cressey used the Kilham Basket Collection while lecturing on the topic “Primitive Man” in the course Selected Topics in American Civilizations 402b. Intended “to help students bring together materials from related fields in American life”, this course was required of students majoring in American Civilizations, an option no longer offered at Wheaton.

In Rittase’s photograph, students in a Mary Lyon Hall classroom attentively listen to Professor Cressey, who rests on top of a desk at the front of the room. He holds a basket in one hand while another basket, a bark canoe, and several unidentified wooden objects rest on the desktop to his left. Several students in the front row also examine baskets with their bare hands.

An unsigned letter mailed to Dr. Kilham noted that Professor Cressy was using the baskets as early as the 1932-1933 academic year. He clearly found them to be useful pedagogical tools for engaging students, given that they were still part of his courses 20 years later. Today objects donated by Dr. Kilham are still regularly used by Wheaton students.

Professor Paul F. Cressey (American, 1899-1969)

Paul Fredrick Cressey studied at Harvard and Yale before receiving his Ph. B. from Denison University and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. After teaching in China and Canada, he taught Sociology at Wheaton from 1932 until his retirement as Professor Emeritus in 1964.

Cressey’s research focused on family change and the effect of the Great Depression and the New Deal, and on social change in Appalachia and Asia. In 1956, the US Department of State invited him to teach Asian History as a Fulbright professor at Silliman University in the Philippines. He also taught Far Eastern History at the University of Rangoon, Burma while on another Fulbright. He returned to the Philippines on a third Fulbright award after he retired from Wheaton, before settling in Seattle, WA where he died in 1969.

-Alivia Cross, Class of 2019