The TCL Time Machine: Smells like Teen Spirits

As we’ve seen in previous posts, Touro’s first library at 30 West 44th street in Manhattan’s Clubhouse District mirrored the growth of the school itself, starting out small but quickly picking up steam and showing signs of bigger and better things to come.

The_Gold_Rush             MPW-3125

Two classic films that made up part of Touro College’s film collection in the 1970s (images retrieved from Wikipedia, and, February 2014).

By spring of 1975, as the college prepared to confer degrees upon its first graduates, a memo to all faculty announced that the school now boasted ‘a very modest film library’ of eight holdings, including cinematic classics like Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush and Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Yes, that’s film, folks – as in, an open reel of 16mm film. Not VHS tapes, or – shudder – Beta.


Once upon a time, school teachers would roll out one of these, turn off the lights and for a short time, transform the classroom into a small theater. If you were really lucky, the teacher might even run the film backwards, for a laugh. (Image of vintage Bell & Howell projector found on pinterest March 2014, via

The memo included a portion at the bottom, to be filled out by Touro College instructors to request films and a ‘reliable’ 16mm sound projector for classroom use.  Anyone old enough to remember the ‘whirring’ sound of a film projector in the classroom will probably also be able to smell the faded purple “Ditto” ink, just by looking at the form.

AB Dick Ditto

Don’t worry if you’re too young to remember these; they’ve been preserved forever in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” perhaps slightly less of a cinematic classic.


image retrieved from, June 2014

That unmistakable aroma, so familiar to generations of students, stemmed from the alcohol content of the inks used in the spirit duplication process.  Invented in 1923, dittos were widely used for small print runs throughout the twentieth century. As the image above shows, the ink typically fades drastically, usually in reaction to exposure to ultraviolet light.  This issue is compounded by decomposition of the inexpensive paper stock typically used for making dittos. This particular memo is still in relatively good condition and mostly legible, thanks to Touro’s careful preservation for nearly four decades.

And while the 16mm films and projector are probably no longer available from Touro’s library in 2014, fear not – our current electronic video resources have got you covered.

Top image of vintage mimeograph machine and spirit duplication ink retrieved from, March 2014. All other images provided by and property of the Touro College and University System Archives, unless otherwise noted.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s