Hill, William Webb, 1903-1905

William Webb Hill graduated Phillips Academy in 1905 and kept a detailed scrapbook from 1903 to 1905. Hill’s hometown was Cincinnati, Ohio, and he probably traveled to New York City fairly often as there are many playbills from Broadway theaters. Hill’s scrapbook illustrates his interest in athletics, music, theater, and debate through newspaper clippings, playbills, tickets, and school pamphlets. The scrapbook is divided into two distinct sections, the first being 1903-1904 and second, 1904-1905. Hill displays an early interest in athletics and a later, growing fascination with musical theater and Philomathean Society.

Hill begins his scrapbook with newspaper clippings from intramural Andover sporting events. Intense about keeping track of matches and using scorecards, Hill meticulously followed football and track. Occasionally, he kept photos of sports teams and wrote in the names of friends. Articles noted not only football and track but also hockey, basketball, and baseball games against other boarding school and a few colleges. Andover games against Harvard, Yale, and Tufts are mentioned throughout the scrapbook. In addition to articles on the sporting events and tickets, Hill chose to include Phillips Academy cheer songs. Multiple pages are dedicated to Andover/Exeter football games including tickets and special scorecards made solely for the event. Interestingly, Andover lost to Exeter in both of the A/E newspaper articles he memorialized so carefully in the scrapbook. Hill took special care to pin his cross country number into his scrapbook.

Aside from athletics, the Philomathean Society (debate club) was central to Hill’s education. A certificate of his matriculation into Philo, signed by the president of Philo and dated 1904, and Phillipian articles indicate Hill’s pride at acceptance into the club. A detailed acceptance packet into the exclusive Philomathean Society includes an extravagant meal description for the newcomers’ first dinner with the club. A small pamphlet, which recorded the events of one particular Philo Forum, lists Hill as a Republican, perhaps suggesting his political views at Andover. Philo was regarded with immense respect, and membership indicated academic excellence and intelligence; thus, Hill was most likely an extremely dedicated scholar.

Playbills both from Phillips Academy performances and professional city-based theaters suggest Hill’s interest in theater and music of all kinds. At Phillips Academy, Hill attended vaudeville shows and orchestral performances and even a minstrel show in the Andover Town Hall. One newspaper clipping describes a Phillips Academy vaudeville show in detail, illustrating the racial stigma and discrimination so prevalent at the time. Playbills from the Boston area and New York City are scattered throughout the scrapbook, displaying Hill’s enjoyment of musical theater.

Hill may have received financial aid as a student at Phillips Academy though private schools were aimed for middle-class and wealthy citizens during the early twentieth century. The scrapbook contains two checks, one on the inside cover of the scrapbook and one beginning the second section. Both checks are for $60.00 and are signed by James C. Sawyer, the Phillips Academy treasurer, from the “Trustees of Phillips Academy,” suggesting annual financial support from the school.

Hill seems to have been an extroverted and socially active student based on his extensive involvement in campus life. He dedicates a few pages of his scrapbook to the Junior Promenade, a classic high school event, and includes small pamphlets mentioning various club involvements such as Chess Club. Tickets from hockey, basketball, as baseball games as well as musical performances and Andover shows also suggest Hill’s active presence on campus. Saved in his scrapbook is a small blue plaque, painted with the words, “The Phillipian, 1903-1904” and signed W.W. Hill. On the last page of his scrapbook, Hill includes a copy of “The Philopena,” a joke copy of the Phillipian aimed to poke fun at the newspaper. The fake articles promote drinking and smoking on campus, sex with Fem-Sems, and inappropriate language. One article in particular promotes racist sentiments with its story about a black man trying to escape General Lee’s clutches and getting shot. Influenced by the racial prejudices and sexist notions of the time period, this joke copy of the Phillipian was probably considered very humorous.

Through athletic involvement and spectatorship, Philomathean Society, musical theater appreciation, and general involvement on campus, Hill was most likely a very well-rounded Phillips Academy student. Later publications note that Hill went on to fight in World War I from 1918 to 1919, battling in the last battles of the war. Hill did not pass away in the war, though little else is known or documented about his life after Andover.

Condition: The scrapbook itself is in fairly good condition. Almost all of the pages are still bound to the spine of the book, and the cover retained its combed-paint design. Although the paper is faded, it has not thinned. No pages have been ripped out although several items have been taken off of a few pages and removed from the scrapbook. Additionally, many of the pages are blank and completely unused.

by Lucy Grossbard, class of 2019

Scrapbook Box 114