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Atwell's 1928 Cazenovia, Past & Present
A Descriptive and Historical Record of the Village
Chapter VI      Education
pages 49 to 59
Daniel H. Weiskotten
Last Modified 10/28/2000

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Atwell, Christine O., 1928, Cazenovia, Past & Present, A Descriptive and Historical Record of the Village. Florida Press, Inc., Orlando, FL

Some spelling corrections have been made and a few notes to update or clarify the text are added in square [  ] parentheses.  Atwell's Footnotes and my Comments and Notes follow at the end of the text.

            I Founding & Settlement
           II Roadways
           III Waterways
           IV Industries and Institutions
           V Religion
           VI Education
           VII Culture

 Chapter VI      Education

pages 49 to 59

        <:49> Historically, the church has always been the sworn and unfaltering ally of education.  After the third century, wherever the church was planted, the elementary instruction of the poor began.  By the side of the church rose the school house (Comment).  The church school was the forerunner of the public free schools.  The early school buildings, like the homes of the children, were generally log structures.  The windows were small and few in number, the otherwise deficient light being supplied by the capacious chimneys, and by crevices in the walls and roof.  On dark days the pupils were arranged about the base of the large chimney, to utilize the light which poured down its throat, and without which, study would have been impossible.  The floor and ceiling, when such were provided, consisted of loose, rough boards, through the joints of which the wind had a free circulation, affording oft-times a superabundance of fresh air.  The seats were without backs, and were often formed of rived portions of forest trees, or, where saw- mills existed, of planks or slabs, supported at either end by roughly formed and acute-angled legs, which would often seek in vain for a secure rest upon the uneven floor.  From such seats, sufficiently high for adults, dangled for six tedious hours daily, the uneasy limbs of children from four to six years of age, with no support for either legs, arms or backs; and there they must cling, and keep quiet, under penalty of a blow from the whip or ferrule of the teacher.  When weary, and they often became so, sleep overtook not only their limbs, in which the circulation was impeded by the sharp-angled seats, but also their entire bodies, and a careless tilt of the unsteady seat precipitated the sleepers to the floor.
        But the broad open fire-places of those primitive schoolrooms were objects of the highest interest.  It was not alone the light which they supplied; they were miniature bonfires, on which the otherwise undelighted eyes of the pupils rested with pleasure.  They gorged, at once, and without crowding, a full quarter of a cord of wood, and, when in full blast, glowed like the log heaps of the settlers' fallow ground.  Around the blazing pile the pupils on entering arranged themselves, and by repeated turnings, at length so saturated with warmth their thick, home-made clothing, as, for a short time, to be comfortable upon their seats.  Then and for some years later, books of any kind, except the Bible, hymn hook and almanac, were a luxury rarely seen in the homes of the people.  School books were very few, and confined to the three subjects of reading, spelling and arithmetic; the latter for the boys in all cases, but not always for the girls, who, it was thought, <:50> were sufficiently educated if they could read and write.  The first school books were of English production and had been generally used in New England.  Many of them found their way into the early schools of these counties, having descended to the children from the parents who had used them.
        The early school discipline was but a counterpart of the prevailing errors of the time.  It was mainly physical.  The whip and the ferrule were as constant companions of the teacher as the book or the pen, and were equally intended for use.  A goodly store of well-seasoned switches was always ready for extra occasions.  The whip fell frequently upon the mischievous and idle without warning & explanation, but with young pupils, the whip was supplemented by many ingenious yet cruel devices, such as a gag in the mouth; standing on one foot holding an object in the extended or uplifted hand; resting one hand and one foot upon the floor, or holding a heavy weight in both hands, the body inclined forward.  These and many other cruel tortures were regularly practiced for more than a generation to incite in children the love of order, of books and of schools.
        One of the fundamentals of the early Cazenovia settlers' creed was education.  Their ideals of life were high and education was the foundation on which to build and sustain their ideals.  Early in 1796 a school had been established in the settlement.  Finally as the village grew, new schools were established until there were three located in different sections of the village.  One was on the site of the present Presbyterian parsonage.
        The first school in Cazenovia was kept in a building which stood south of the west bridge, near the corner of Ledyard Avenue and Rippleton Road (Comment).  When the law of 1805 was passed, organizing the common school system, the inhabitants united in an agreement to erect a commodious school house.  Three hundred and forty-five dollars were to be raised in shares of $15 each, one-third in wheat, one-third in corn, and one-third in cash.  During the year 1813 school districts were organized and in 1814 the school houses were erected.
        The first appropriation of public school money was made to Cazenovia in 1816, $193.56 being granted.  A law was passed in 1853 providing for union free schools.  In 1875, the three school districts were united to form the Cazenovia Union School.  The site of the schoolhouse in one district was selected as the site of the new schoolhouse for the Union School.  While the schoolhouses and lots in the other two districts were directed to be sold.  In 1878 one of the unsold school buildings was moved to the lot on Sullivan street, placed in the rear of the schoolhouse already there, and fitted for use, to give needed increased accommodation.  These buildings were replaced by a much larger building in 1901.  In the summer of 1924, the state board recommended a new, larger building and in the summer of <:51> 1925, the same site was selected.  In 1926 more ground was bought and in 1927 preparations were begun for a larger building.
        Several select schools have been factors in the educational affairs of the village.  A high school was once started in opposition to the Seminary.  There have also been splendid kindergartens at various times.
        An elementary education was a privilege which, if enjoyed, must be paid for by the individual.  Now, it is a duty, imposed, provided for and enforced by the state.  The object of education is the gaining of intellectual and moral power.


        The credit, with good reason, has generally been awarded to George Gary as the most prominent instrument in getting the Seminary in operation as an accomplished fact; but it is not so generally known that the first steps which led to this result were taken under the advice and direction of Mr. Charles Giles, while presiding elder of the district which embraced the village of Cazenovia.  It is true the enterprise thus inaugurated, by reason of various delays and embarrassments, was by no means fully effected when he left the district; still, great credit is due Mr. Giles for the deep interest he took in the matter, and the progress made when Mr. Gary became a resident of Cazenovia.
        Mr. (Charles) Giles stated in his autobiography (this is slightly corrected to copy the original text, 1844, Pioneer ..., pages 280-282 (Comment)): "At this time our Conference was in a prosperous condition, exerting a happy influence on the community by its efficient ministry.  The sphere for usefulness was widening around us, and hence our obligations were pressing us forward.  The public mind began to be excited by a laudable spirit of enterprise; improvements in many things were being (originated); and literature was on the advance, and receiving encouragement everywhere.  At this favorable juncture I was fully convinced that the time had come for our Conference to engage in a public literary enterprise.  Learning being an auxiliary to religion in every department of the church, we, therefore, greatly needed a literary institution under the supervision and patronage of the conference ...  I, therefore, engaged in the undertaking, with high expectations that in a few passing years a flourishing seminary of learning would be seen as an ornamental appendage to the village.
        "As a proper preliminary measure a village meeting was called to give character and publicity to our object, and to elicit the views and opinions of the citizens, respecting the contemplated design.  According to our expectations, a respectable number of influential gentlemen attended the meeting.  In the address an attempt was made to show the profitable advantages that the village would derive from a literary establishment there.  ...  Many of the attendants were delighted with the scheme ...  Such an institution as was in contemplation would more than compensate for the loss they had sustained <:52> by the removal of the county seat.  Besides, they confessed they needed some public enterprise to give a spur to business, and to resuscitate the village which was then in a languishing condition.
        "After doing all that could be done to give form and tangibility to the design, I carried it up to the next annual conference ... and then a resolution was passed which gave sanction to the design."
        As early as 1819 the anxious eyes of many friends of education and religion had been fixed upon Cazenovia as the appropriate location for a Conference Seminary, although some Central New York Methodists preferred Ithaca for the site, so it was not an accident that George Gary was appointed presiding elder for Chenango District in 1823 and that Cazenovia was selected as his place of residence.  The first "Conference Seminary in the Methodist Episcopal Church" was established at Newmarket, NH, in 1817.  It continued in existence only to 1825.  Cazenovia was the second seminary in the United States under the control of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
        (Comment) When the county seat was moved from Cazenovia to Morrisville, the court house was sold to a group of Methodists who later found themselves unable to pay for it and petitioned the Conference for relief, so it was decided by the conference to take the building and fit it up for occupancy by the school.  It was "Resolved, That any person contributing one hundred dollars to the funds of the institution should be entitled to send one scholar for four years free of charge, provided that he reside within five miles of the Seminary."  The terms were specified; the year was divided into quarters and each quarter was to continue eleven weeks.  A vacation of two weeks was to follow each quarter.  The tuition for the first two classes was to cost $4 per quarter; for the third class, $3 and for the fourth class $2.50.  Rev. Nathaniel Porter was secured as principal and the Seminary was opened, a beginning marked by rivalry, embarrassments, sacrifice and success.
        The institution opened on December 1, 1824, under the name "The Seminary of the Genesee Conference."  When the bell rang its first call, eight pupils responded.  Rev. Porter was greatly astonished to find that it was proposed to establish a Conference seminary in a place where there was next to no Methodist Society, there being at that time only one family in the village which represented this denomination besides that of Presiding Elder Gary.  Aware of the absurdity of expecting to build up a vigorous, influential, and enduring Methodist academy in a village where there was no Methodist church, he clearly saw he had a double enterprise before him.  Hence he at once established preaching every Sunday morning in the chapel; the service to be conducted by himself, assisted by circuit preachers; <:53> at the same time encouraging all his pupils at other hours to attend the Presbyterian church, the only place where public preaching had been statedly sustained.
        The school term had not continued more than five weeks before the number of students had increased to more than fifty.  At the end of the year, one hundred and twenty-one had registered.  At the beginning, the school was designed for males only, but at some time during the first term girls were admitted.  Co-education was then in full operation and excited neither opposition nor comment.  The young ladies lived in a separate building but both sexes took their meals at the same tables, pursued substantially the same studies and recited in the same classes.
        In 1826 the numbers had so increased, the building was too small, so the first building next west of the court house (now Eddy Hall) was erected and occupied as a boarding hall.  The dining hall was opened in the basement of this building in 1828.  There were outside entrances, either side of the front steps.  About one-half of the students boarded and lodged in the Hall, but most of the old students roomed elsewhere.  It was surprising how many occupied cells (for they could hardly be called rooms) in the then contracted dimensions of the two buildings.  Indeed, so small were the gentlemen's rooms in the new building that ordinary bedsteads were out of the question.  Instead, there were turn-up bedsteads which when folded served as a wardrobe as well as a sleeping apparatus; but so limited was the space that the couches were both too narrow and too thin for the accommodation of two students comfortably.  In June, 1829, it was "Resolved, That the price of board in the hall be raised to one dollar per week after the close of the present term."  That same year at a meeting of the trustees, it was "Resolved, That any person subscribing and securing to the funds of the institution the sum of $1,000 shall have the privilege of educating one scholar free from the expense of tuition so long as the institution shall exist."
        The trustees appointed a committee in 1831 to establish a library, and to examine a certain circulating library.  These steps must have been to some extent successful, since very soon thereafter it was resolved to charge students twelve and a half cents per quarter for the use of the library.  A reading room was fitted up and the publishing of a paper considered.  Here also, began a policy of granting free tuition, under limitations, to ministers.
        The demand for additional room for the wants of the school began to be felt in 1832, so measures were taken to erect a building to the west of Eddy Hall.  Subscriptions were solicited in the village.  A sum of $3,000 was borrowed.  The result of these steps was a resolution to erect two additional buildings, one of brick, three stories high for a Gentlemen's hall, and one of wood, two stories high.  The wooden building was built at the <:54> rear of the brick building and was used for a new dining hall on the first floor, and a women's dormitory on the second floor.  The ladies who roomed on the west side of the building, had a commanding view of the sheds in the rear of the Baptist Church, but this was not unfavorable to study, for some of the best students of those times roomed and studied there.
        In the earlier stage of the Seminary's history, the primary department was reckoned as part of the institution.  There was a "Preceptor of the juvenile male" and a "Preceptress of the juvenile female department," but as the school rose in rank, and the standard was elevated, this department was discontinued.  The music department was inaugurated at the Winter term of 1835.
        The rules of the Seminary were rigid and some of them were considered tyrannical.  Prayers at five o'clock in the morning and evening; recess and breakfast from seven to eight; noon recess and dinner from twelve to one; afternoon recess from five to seven, and the rest of the time, study and sleep.  But, although idleness was a great sin, and strenuously to be guarded against, the mortal sin, toward which the ladies and gentlemen were continually suspected of a leaning, was a hankering after each other's society.  True, they worshiped together, recited together, and ate at the same tables, but they were not to talk together.  Occasional social gatherings of the students and teachers, called "Parties" had been allowed but were frowned upon by some of the trustees as exerting a bad influence on the piety and religious convictions of the students, engendering too much trifling, hindering revivals and the expense of a shilling apiece for those who attended was too much.  Although the above are by no means all the rules which some thought were severe, let us look a little more closely into the import of some of them.  To begin: Prayers at five in the morning, as well as evening, summer and winter.  Only think of it!  All the students, male and female, in order to keep a good standing, were required to he in their seats for morning worship at five o'clock, which in the winter means two hours before daylight.  There was no internal access to the chapel in those days for the ladies from their hall.  They came in shivering, wrapped in cloaks that extended from the crowns of their heads almost to their feet.  The interval between prayers and the breakfast bell was spent chiefly in bed-making, room- sweeping, (mopping was done on Saturday after public declamations in the chapel - carpets being as rare as angels' visits) and putting the outer man to rights for a decent appearance at the long, narrow dining table, which was covered with oilcloth - the gentlemen seated on small backless stools on one side and the ladies on the other.  The table furniture was correspondingly plain.  The knives were not silver plated, and the forks had only two tines, but they answered the purpose tolerably well.  The fare, though not luxurious, was wholesome, abundant and gave general satisfaction.  There were many flirtations, and not a few attachments and <:55> engagements, some of which terminated in marriage.  There were disappointments, jealousies, and heart-burning; but, on the whole, what with walking, driving and sailing on the lake, there was no lack of recreation, and life at Cazenovia was pleasant.
        After the terms of the school had been arranged for two sessions of twenty-two weeks each, it was found there was a tendency to a decreased attendance near the close of the sessions.  This led to a change to three terms of fifteen weeks each.  A three years' course of study was adopted in 1839 on the completion of which diplomas were conferred.  It is believed this was the first graduating course adopted by any Seminary in the State.  The Seminary then ranked as tenth in the state, as measured by numbers of students and public moneys, but it stood first between the years 1872 and 1875.  The first class graduating in the three years' course was in 1841.
        The need of better accommodations for the school had long been seen and painfully felt.  At a meeting of the board in 1851 it was "Resolved, That a subscription be drawn to raise $6,000 for that purpose."  Six thousand one hundred dollars of the money secured by subscription was raised in Cazenovia, and Williams Hill was completed in 1853. General Jonathan D. Ledyard, together with his sons, gave one-third of what was required to build Williams Hall, and to put the chapel building in condition.  He also gave $600 for an organ.
        In 1853, Mr. B.R. Wendell established a gold medal prize to be awarded to the best scholar during the entire year, taking into account general character, punctuality, deportment and scholarly attainments.  This was the initiation of the policy of awarding prizes, which has grown to be general in the school.
In the early fifties (1850s) the Seminary had as a student a young Indian, said to be the son of a once famous Onondaga chief whose name was A-ta-her-ho.  It is said also that this A-ta-her-ho was a mighty power in the Iroquois League in their days of life and activity.  The Indian student became a physician of considerable note in New York City.
        During the period between 1857 and 1862 the wants of the Seminary were of a most pressing character, especially as to improvements in the buildings and increased facilities.  The finances of the board were not inspiring, the changes in the faculty were quite numerous and attended with not a little perplexity.  Changes also in the board of trustees were not unimportant.  During this period, also, the war broke out and the school was heavily drawn upon by the necessities of the nation to subdue armed rebellion.  Prices were greatly augmented.  It was necessary to raise the price of board; the wisdom and enterprise of the friends of the Seminary were taxed to the uttermost.  Some students found fault at being obliged to pay the enormous sum of one dollar sixty-two and one-half cents per week! while <:56> all they legitimately received for the same in return was board, lodging, washing, fuel, lights, and, if sick, the best of care!  Can it be wondered the school suffered financial embarrassment when it is remembered that previous to 1829 the price of board in the hall was less than one dollar per week?
        The closing weeks of the 1862 academic year and the vacation which immediately followed were days of darkness, of excitement, and of loyal patriotism in all the land.  It is claimed, on behalf of the Seminary, that she furnished the nucleus and gave the momentum which sent to the field one of the best companies of the noble One Hundred and Fourteenth Regiment, which made such an honorable record during the war.  The "Girl I Left Behind Me Society" came into being at this time and was active in sending remembrances to the student soldiers.
        In 1863 a public meeting was called in relation to the contemplated improvements of the Seminary buildings and grounds.  It was deemed im possible to suitably repair the west building, so plans were made for a new building on the ground of the old one, with an extension to the north.  It was proposed to raise $20,000 for buildings, Cazenovia to raise $5,000 of the amount.  When little more than half the fund had been raised, work was commenced and proceeded until the front building was erected, when it was discovered the funds were not sufficient to complete the rear building.  Great difficulty was experienced during the winter term of 1864 in finding boarding places for the students.  An extensive boarding house for them in the village would have been a paying institution.  It was especially desired that the ladies board out.
        The building work was postponed until the demands of the Seminary were such that in 1870 the trustees were compelled to devise means with which to complete the enterprise.  Bonds for $30,000 were issued and after many difficulties and struggles, the Steward's Hall was completed in December, 1870.  The front building was named Callanan Hall in 1880 in honor of James Callanan, an alumnus, who at that time freed the Seminary from debt.
        The name of the school was changed in 1829 from the "Seminary of the Genesee Conference" to the "Seminary of Genesee and Oneida Conference" and in 1830 it was changed from that to the "Oneida Conference Seminary."  In 1868 the name was changed to "Central New York Conference Seminary" and in 1873 became "Cazenovia Seminary."
        The first society organized in the Seminary was called the Oneida Conference Seminary Temperance Society, bearing date of 1830.  The Lyceum, which was the first strictly literary society, was organized in 1833.  The second literary society was the Delta Pi, organized in 1836, dissolved in 1843.  The Phrenological Society, The Theological and Missionary Society, the Society of Inquiry and the "les Soeurs" Society were of short duration.  <:57> Philomathesian organized in 1843, Eromathean in 1856 and Adelphian in 1866.
        The Seminary had a Navy in 1875 which held regattas on the lake.  Lyceum and Philo each formed a boat club and built a boat house at the outlet of the lake.  A six-oared gig, or practice boat, was bought of the Cornell Navy, and two six-oared shells were added.  The crews held morning and evening practice.  The Commodore's full dress uniform of pale blue color, with a bib in front, counterbalanced by a bib behind, was not liked by some of the ladies as difficulty was experienced in deciding which was the front side.
        The old court house is the nucleus of the group of buildings which has since sprung up around it.  It is the chief cornerstone of the group, uniting Williams Hall on the east with the dormitories on the west.  At the time of the purchase of the court house and of the opening of the school, there were two rooms on the lower floor and Principal Porter, with the entire school, occupied the west room. The next term, the assistant principal occupied the east room.  This was provided with unpainted seats and desks.  The east room soon became so crowded that several of the older students were allowed to occupy the second story.  The surroundings of the school grounds were not the most enchanting.  The ground where the Methodist Church now stands, down to the corner of Lincklaen and Albany streets and for several yards westward, was covered with scrub oak.
        There are now thirteen buildings housing the different sections of the school.  The first building or court house, ultimately, became the chapel of the larger school.  On the ground floor are the laboratories and the science recitation room.  Above is the chapel with its stained glass windows, given by recent graduating classes and the literary societies, and its array of portraits, many of them in oil, of illustrious alumni.  In 1882, the Ledyard family, who donated the chapel organ, had it thoroughly repaired.  The chapel was renovated at that same time and again in 1910.
        Eddy Hall, which was repaired and refurnished in 1881, is the home of the president and the main dormitory for girls.  Williams Hall contains the administrative offices, the boys' society halls, and most of the recitation rooms.  In 1918 Williams Hall was made in every way modern and yet the historic features were preserved.  Callanan Hall contains the parlors, the literary society rooms for the young women, the dining room and dormitories.
        In 1883 General H.W. Slocum, an alumnus, gave rifles and other military equipment and for some years compulsory drill was given to the boys, under the instruction of an older student.  The company was called Slocum Guards.
        Water was brought from the Jackson Spring on the Nelson road in the <:58> summer of 1884.  When the village system (Footnote VI-1) was installed in 1890 the Seminary was also connected with it.  The athletic field was first rented in 1886.  An Alumni society was approved by the trustees in 1886.
        The bell in the tower, which called the students to prayers and recitations for many years, was purchased from public subscriptions.  This has been superseded by an electric system which is general throughout all the buildings.
        The cottage, built in 1886, houses the Infirmary, with separate rooms for boys and girls and a trained nurse on one side.  On the other a professor and the senior boys.
        Previous to 1874 an imposing Alumni building was proposed, but it has never been built.  Between the years 1887-1891, three houses on Nickerson street, adjacent to the campus, were bought and removed after 1900 and the ground was made part of the campus (Comment).  The gymnasium, built in 1898, is fitted with modern apparatus.  It is much used, not only for gymnastic exercises, but for social gatherings, receptions and banquets.  The heating plant was installed in the gymnasium in 1912.  The Bible Study department organized in 1900.  The Studio building, purchased in 1910, contains the studios of the teachers of violin, art, home economics and also music practice rooms.  The Domestic Science department was organized in 1914.  The Keppel House (location unknown), bought in 1919, is used as a dormitory for several boys and one professor on the upper floor, with library and reading rooms on lower floor.  The Vollmer House (Sullivan Street), purchased in 1920, was fitted up as a dormitory to accommodate twenty girls and a house mother (lady teacher).  The Morse House (location unknown) was opened in 1921 as a home for senior girls.  A house (on Seminary Street?) directly opposite the main buildings was purchased in 1924 for future development as the lot is a very large one.  For the present it houses the Commercial or Business School, and contains an apartment occupied by the superintendent of buildings and grounds.  The first floor of the Jackson House (30 Lincklaen Street), purchased in 1925, is given over to a reception room, the studios of the piano and vocal teachers and a practice room.  The upper floor is used as a dormitory for six girls and a teacher.  The last building erected is the Centennial building, built in 1925.  It contains a modernly equipped kitchen, small dining rooms, matron's rooms, laundry and store rooms.  The second and third floors are dormitory rooms for two teachers and thirty-five boys.  It is the finest building on the campus.
        The Seminary is probably the oldest existing conference seminary in Methodism, founded as such, and for a century has done a work the importance of which only eternity will reveal.  It has been distinguished for its strong and healthful religious influence.  It has ever maintained a high <:59> standing, numbering among its pupils many who have from time to time gone forth to fill the most honored stations in society.  No similar school can boast of a more illustrious alumni.  Eminent statesmen, theologians, educators, financiers, and many leaders in yet other fields of endeavor had their preparatory training here.  It has given to the Methodist Episcopal church five Bishops.
        The Centennial anniversary of the founding of Cazenovia Seminary brought to the venerable old school the largest number of alumni and visitors that have returned since the semi- centennial fifty years ago.  They came in such numbers that it was difficult to find accommodations for them in the village.  On the big day of Commencement week, over six hundred persons were served at the alumni luncheon.  Automobiles lined the streets about the Seminary and flags were flying all around the village. The uniform display of flags through the business section also added to the gala appearance.  The crowning feature of the week's festivities was the historical pageant given in the Methodist church.
        The pageant unveiled a series of pictures covering the period of the first fifty years of Cazenovia Seminary, 1824 to 1874.  Efforts were made to make the scenes as historically true as possible.  The prologue showed the dawn of the spirit of Cazenovia and was followed by six scenes, the first being "The Purchase of the Property"; the second, "Chapel Service Latter Part of April, 1825"; the third, "Cazenovia's Gift to Humanity," showing the various countries influenced by the missionaries; the fourth, "Civil War Chapel Scene"; fifth, "the Girl I Left Behind Me Society"; sixth, a Grand Finale, showing principals for the first fifty years and a tableaux comprised of the entire cast of seventy-two characters, while the chapel bell pealed nearby.


Footnote VI-1
The village voted in March, 1927, to purchase 30 acres of land east of the reservoir to prevent pollution of the water supply.

Comments and Notes by Daniel H. Weiskotten
November 1999

 VI Education, pages 49 to 50

VI Education, page 50 VI Education, page 51 VI Education, pages 52 to 57 VI Education, page 58

Proceed on to Chapter VII      Culture