one thing i can never resist when i am visiting someone’s home, even if it’s a stranger, is to flip through any photo albums that might be lying around. usually they’re of old photos – because, let’s face it, people don’t really put together physical photo albums anymore. everything is online, on facebook or in your instagram or flickr feed. that’s cool, i’m like that too. but i still revel in looking through photos, which i suppose is why i gravitate towards vintage photography.

this photo story taken by Yale Joel for Life Magazine in 1950 shows the ladies of Colby College on their annual Mountain Day hike – a tradition that started in the 1850s and continues to this day. the college is located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire, and the mountain they climb is Mount Kearsarge. the ladies look pretty grand in their 50s denim, flannel shirts and jaunty neck-ties.

edit: Colby College is now called Colby-Sawyer College, the name was changed in 1975. i have, however kept the name of the original Life Magazine article.


  1. I’ve heard of a few schools having traditions like these (although my college sadly didn’t!). You always find such great “vintage” images.

    This is kind of a silly note — and I know the original images list it as Colby College Mountain Day — but Colby College is a school in Maine. The school with this tradition, the one in New Hampshire, is now called Colby-Sawyer College (apparently, they had to change/distinguish their name after the Colby College in Maine brought a lawsuit against the one in New Hampshire). I can’t figure out what Colby-Sawyer College was called before the name change (and the name change happened after 1950), but I just wanted to make this note. Sorry if it is annoying or comes across as rude. I didn’t intend it to!

    • i did notice the name change, but in the Life archives it is named Colby College Mountain Day – so I didn’t want to change it.

  2. Yes! my mom actually just made me a photo scrap book of our trip to Italy last spring. It was so nice to have all the photos printed!

  3. Thanks for posting this! I just found it on Pinterest and tried to find my mother, who went to Colby (sawyer) college and would have been a freshman. in 1950. I did not find her but had fun trying!

  4. CSC still holds this tradition true. I graduated in 2006 and still love to see the pictures in alumni magazines and find my over washed Tshirt I now use to paint in from my last year. It is such an anticipated event at the start of each year. Great tradition in beautiful New London, NH!!!

  5. Hi – if Life Magazine referred to this college as Colby College, they were using the wrong name. Colby-Sawyer was never called “Colby College.” It had various previous names including Colby Academy, and Colby Junior College for Women.

    Colby College is a well-regarded and highly selective liberal arts college in Waterville, Maine. Given that there is a more prestigious and better-known Colby College which has no relation to this article (combined, of course, with the fact that Colby-Sawyer was never known as Colby College) you should change the name in your post.

  6. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, in 1973, the college VOTED to change their name to Colby College-New Hampshire. There is no evidence that this name change actually happened and soon after they were sued by Colby College, as another poster writes. In any case, had they ever been known as Colby College, it would not have been prior to 1973.

  7. Sorry to beat this thing to death! You can consolidate my posts. I used a zoom tool to zoom in on the sweatshirt in the first photo, which clearly shows “Colby” followed by another word before “College.” It says Colby Junior College, which in keeping with what Wikipedia says.

  8. Dear Liz,

    As a recent graduate from Colby-Sawyer College I don’t appreciate you diminishing the prestige of the college. The fact that Colby College is more picky in the kind of students they decide to admit is not a determinant of prestige or the quality of education given at the institution. I agree the post name should dictate Colby Junior College as that’s what the school was college name then. However, it should really be the post author’s decision to make such change.

  9. my grandmother went to Colby – I’m definitely going to have to ask her about mountain day!

  10. Liz, are having an argument with a member of the-life Magazine editorial staff from the 1950’s? Also, agreed Colby is definitely a more prestigious school, but unfortunately, it is in Brunswick. Which is far from prestigious.

  11. Terribly sorry Colby, but Colby College is objectively more prestigious and well-known than Colby-Sawyer. It’s a simple fact, not a subjective opinion. A college which accepts over 82% of applicants is not prestigious. It wasn’t meant to be an insulting statement.

    Furthermore, yes of course the post author can do what she wants, but correcting a factually inaccurate and misleading portion of the post should be important.

    • as i said – the original article is called Colby College, and i’m leaving it as that. i’m sorry if this deeply upsets you.

  12. Colby College is actually in Waterville, ME. Bowdoin College is in Brunswick…and Brunswick is a very beautiful, fairly well-off coastal town that is home to–in addition to a very prestigious college–several historic homes and museums, a few famous people, and some really great cultural landmarks. It is much nicer, in fact than the location of either of the schools talked about in this string of comments. Insulting Brunswick only indicates ignorance on your part, nothing more.

  13. You are correct Liz, Colby is a much better school. No argument. So someone at life made a typo in 1950. How ruinous to the reputation of Colby (which is located in Brunswick a less than picturesque setting with no cool mountains).

  14. Thank you for sharing the original article. I attended Colby-Sawyer back in the 80’s and loved this tradition, wish I was climbing today, as it is Mountain Day. All the ladies who were photographed for this story look so put together , we used to dress in as crazy an outfit we could manage on short notice and climb, then they had a cookout for us when we got back to the park. And please people calm down, so Colby in ME is a tougher school to get in to, who cares? Colby -Sawyer has many things that make it a wonderful place to be, the traditions it still keeps from its women’s college days are wonderful. Anyone trying to loudly insist they are better just wanted to be heard. I used to tell my kids when someone was being a pain to say “so what” ! So what that Colby is pickier!!

  15. What are the dates of these pictures? Have these women been identified? My grandmother went to Colby-Sawyer in the 1930’s. It would be wonderful to know if she is in one of these pictures!

  16. Hey All!
    Colby College is not a typo—Colby-Sawyer College has had many names over the years. While it is now referred to simply as “CSC” for short, it was often called Colby College before the “Sawyer” part of the name was added. Back in 1837 it was founded as New London Academy, transitioning to Colby Academy, then Colby Junior College (all female at this time), until the mid 1970’s when it was renamed Colby-Sawyer College as it is still called today.
    So by today maps, Colby College is in Maine. But in the 1950’s when these photos were taken, CSC was still Colby Junior College (nicknamed Colby College for short). I hope that helps clear things up. No typos, just changing times! And as a CSC alumni, the school has a beautiful history for anyone interested in looking into it. The campus is worth seeing too, and they still do Mountain Day every year!

  17. All you “which college is better” and “which town is better” need to chill out…

    The article is meant to bring a smile and revel in some history. It was not meant to create anything more.

    Regardless, in today’s society outside of New England, no one knows the difference between one liberal arts college or another that you New Englanders went to. You seem to pride your liberalism based on who went to which la-de-da school where you had classes outside and smoked too much weed because the closest town of a reasonable population was 30 minutes away in each direction.

    Move to the West Coast and chill out!

  18. Hi Miss Moss,

    I saw this post a while back and was totally captured by these vintage photos! I am an alum of Colby-Sawyer, and would love order a copy of this old edition of life magazine, but I am having a difficult time locating the exact issue online. Do you have the physical copy where you found these photos originally? If so, I would love to know the issue date so I can search for it online and order it. Thanks!


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