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Stewart col­lects vintage adver­tize­ments, among other his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­icant pieces, in his basement Delp office. Courtesy | Amelia Teska

Nestled deep in the basement of Delp, around a great many corners, far from the prying eyes of overly inquis­itive freshman, lies what might be mis­taken for a museum of recent American history and culture. 

“When you walk in to Dr. Stewart’s office, it’s down­stairs in the building, so it’s kind of like entering into a dungeon a little bit. It’s down some steps, around the corner, then when you walk in, you see these big maps, lego sets, and retro signs,” senior Calvin McNellie, who took Stewart for American Her­itage, said.

Pro­fessor of History Dave Stewart is known for his unique office col­lectibles. His flock of rubber ducks on the window sill, a vibrant wall of adver­tising signs hung above his desk, and a growing treasury of medieval weapons make a visit to his office quite mem­o­rable. Nev­er­theless, his office main­tains a clean and orga­nized feel with books arranged by height and chrono­log­i­cally by English history, French history, and Spanish history. 

“Stu­dents notice dif­ferent things,” Stewart said. “Very few just talk about it in general. Some talk about the signs, others will say some­thing about the sword.”

“Every single time I go, I see some­thing new,” junior Juan Vargas-Her­nandez said. “When you walk in, the first thing you see are his rubber ducks right next to his desk. Then, right next to it is this shelf thing that has legos and stuff like that —  very inter­esting.”

Stewart dec­o­rated his office with the intention of filling up the walls.

 “I wanted one wall to have maps and pic­tures and stuff,” Stewart said. He placed 10-year col­lected vintage adver­tising signs on the opposite wall to add a pop of color and make up for his lack of windows.

“I have always been really fas­ci­nated with how ideas play out in real life—  at Hillsdale we always talk about the ideas we ought to have — in real life, it’s why and how things are being sold to people.” 

Stewart is par­tic­u­larly inter­ested in the story these signs tell about real life. For example, his Hershey Syrup sign conveys a better sense of ideas about health in the 1980s than a formal aca­demic journal. 

A student favorite is his growing col­lection of rubber ducks that sit on the window sill facing the door. Stewart has been hunting  ducks for over fifteen years and stu­dents con­tinue to give them to him to this day.

“I have a duck col­lection,” Stewart said. “I guess I have close to 1,000 rubber ducks at home with some weirder ones or ones that sort of connect to some of the classes I teach, like the Queen Eliz­abeth Duck and the Shake­speare Duck.”

His much-admired col­lection of medieval weapons was started when the boys of Koon dorm gave him a ball and chain, and has grown since. 

“Over the summer I took a bunch of stu­dents and we started in Spain — they were all doing Oxford—  we did a week in Spain, did a week in the South of France, three or four days in Paris, up the Rhine to Ams­terdam, then to Oxford,” Stewart said. “At the end of that trip, all the stu­dents knew I had the ball and chain so they got me that sword on the wall as a thank you for leading the trip. Then a few years of later, I took a bunch of stu­dents over Christmas to Spain and they decided that the sword looked stupid without a shield, so at the end of the trip they got me shield.” 

Stewart’s mother-in-law con­tributed to the col­lection with a helmet she found in a gas station in Florida. Now he is proud to say he has pro­tection to go with his weapons. 

“My favorite part of his office is his massive helmet,” McNellie said. “It’s got to be at least thirty pounds full size and it looks real. One time I got to try it on. When I had it on, he let me hold the “morning star” which is a ball and chain weapon thing. I felt very cool, but I don’t know how anyone fought in it.”

Vargas-Her­nandez found other inter­esting objects besides the armory. 

“The best one is this book he got in Spain that was used to teach children in ele­mentary school. It’s a book from the ’50s when Spain was under dic­ta­torship and it shows how edu­cation was, and it’s just very inter­esting since its a super old book.”

Hillsdale graduate Mariel Stauff ’05, a history and music double major, spent much time in Stewart’s office as a student and has fond mem­ories. His office was on the main floor, enroute from the library to the old cafe­teria, so stu­dents fre­quently hung out on his yellow couch or popped their heads in between classes. 

“He didn’t have quite the col­lection of action figures and toys, but he had some of them back in the day. That has been kind of a thing that has grown since I was a student. People see them and now they buy things for him,” Stauff said. 

Stauff helped to con­tribute to his current office by orga­nizing a birthday present. She found an ancient map of Cardona and a battle in the War of Spanish Suc­cession in an antique store in Savannah, Georgia while on family vacation after grad­u­ation. 

“No one had done any­thing for his birthday since it was on com­mencement day. When I saw it, I knew he had been doing some research on that war, and I just emailed a bunch of my friends who had also grad­uated and said that if we all pitch in a couple of bucks we could buy it for Dr. Stewart.”