THE MAGNIFICENT HARNEY UNIVERSITY
by James Rada, Jr.
Note: This is the first in a series about the “achievements” of Harney University.
Emmitsburg is known for being the home of Mount St. Mary’s University, but for a while, another nearby university regularly made the newspaper with stories of great innovations in science and technology that its learned professors developed.
That university? The esteemed Harney University.
Never heard of it? That’s not surprising since despite all of the achievements credited to its faculty in the Emmitsburg Chronicle, the university didn’t exist…at least not as an educational institution.
A group of residents met regularly at the Hotel Slagle and came up with unusual stories that the newspaper published.
The faculty, as it were, consisted of Jacob Turner, Jerry Overholser, Daniel Shorb, and Bill Snyder, who met regularly at the Slagle Hotel in Emmitsburg. The staff would have also had to include Sterling Galt, editor of the Emmitsburg Chronicle. Whether the group came up with the goings-on at the university or it was something Galt did alone is not known.
What is known is that the stories provided readers of the Chronicle a lot of smiles and laughs in the early 1900s.
Here are some of the fantastical achievements of Harney University and its faculty.
October 7, 1910: The Harney University football team won a game against a team from Pigs Misery. The game was played on Musk Rat Field, which was a gift to the university from Dan Shorb. Shorb was listed as a former professor of “Propaeduetics and a John Glass lecturer on the Theory of Aviation.” The newspaper reported that 11,000 people attended the game and seven different bands played between quarters. One player named Murky Suds made a daring play. “This professional in a daring dash of 90 years with eighteen men on his neck, dislocated the goal post and tore away the gunwale and three hatchways on the port side of his physiognomy,” according to the Emmitsburg Chronicle.
March 15, 1912: Roald Amundsen was the first person to reach the South Pole. The Emmitsburg Chronicle disputed his claim, saying that Dr. John Glass and Dr. Bill Snyder of Harney University had found the pole two years earlier at 3 a.m., “brought it back to Harney, and preserved it in alcohol.” The paper went on to further note, “Dr. Glass is not even willing to concede that Amundsen got to the farthest point south unless he is able to produce the lawn mower which Dr. Snider left on the front lawn under the cherry tree near the house which they lived while in those southern parts.”
November 15, 1912: Dr. Dan Shorb received the election returns using an intricate machine so that “long before the telegraph instruments of the county had ticked the news, Prof. Bushman, who had his airship anchored on the prairie dog house nearby, was on his way to Emmitsburg with bushel baskets filled with the correct information,” according to the Chronicle. He also claimed not to need his wireless device to get the returns from Thurmont, Harney, and Jimtown. His eyesight was so good, “He simply looked over the shoulders of the clerks, from his private office at Pigs Misery, and wrote down the results. Some slight difficulty was experienced in reading the tally sheet at Poplar Ridge, owing, the doctor said, to a bad wick in one of the lamps at that place,” the Chronicle reported.
November 29, 1912: President Woodrow Wilson was planning on appointing Dr. John Glass and Professor Dan Shorb of Harney University to help revise the tariff code on codfish balls. “Clarence Buckingham, brother of the Duke of Buckingham, will also revise the tariff on dill pickles. In an unrelated note, Col. Stonebottle, one of the most prominent citizens of Emmitsburg, painted his overalls on Saturday,” the Chronicle reported.
December 13, 1912: The Harney University faculty held a pinochle tournament, competing for a trophy. It had been a dill pickle in 1911. “The trophy this year will be a loving cup filled with spinach, presented for this event by the Young Lady Society for the Prevention of the Use of the Denatured Alcohol and Strawberry Shortcake,” according to the Chronicle.
The Slagle Hotel where the esteemed faculty of Harney University met to discuss matters of world-changing importance.