Sincerely Yours – Letters from the Archives: Theodore Roosevelt Draws the Line

When Carl Eigenmann (renowned ichthyologist, Indiana University Professor of Zoology and Dean of the Graduate School, and Curator of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh) set out on the 1918 Irwin research expedition to Peru, the possibility of failure was not far from his mind. He even wrote President Bryan a last will and testament of sorts, providing for the disposition of his research, specimens, and equipment “in case the submarines or other vermin should get [him].”

Yet it was not a German submarine that nearly scuttled Eigenmann’s expedition, but the U.S. State Department’s heightened scrutiny of German-Americans during World War I. After departing from Bloomington in June 1918, Eigenmann and his assistants, IU graduates Adele Eigenmann and W. R. Harris, were delayed in the port of New Orleans for five weeks. As Eigenmann, a German-born, naturalized U.S. citizen who grew up in Ohio, put it, “The Passport Division of the State Department, while conceding that my name was euphonic, considered it too Teutonic and refused me passports.”

Indignant at the delay, Eigenmann went straight to the top with his protests. Besides writing to the presidents of IU and the University of Illinois, which granted Harris a fellowship for the journey, he appealed to former president Theodore Roosevelt and asked him to intercede with President Woodrow Wilson on his behalf.

Theodore Roosevelt delivering the 1918 IU Commencement address

Theodore Roosevelt delivering the 1918 IU Commencement address

Roosevelt’s well-known fascination with natural history, in particular with gathering specimens and trophies through large-scale, international expeditions, had made him a natural ally of Eigenmann’s in years past. In 1916, Roosevelt wrote to Gilbert Grosvenor, President of the National Geographic Society, to secure $3000 for the expedition, stating that Eigenmann was “of all the men in this country the one best fit to get the best results out of just this trip.”

Roosevelt also proved himself a friend of Indiana University in general, having given a rousingly patriotic commencement speech in Bloomington in May, 1918. But when Eigenmann requested his assistance in securing passports, he had not counted on the extent of the bad blood between Roosevelt and Wilson, who were campaign rivals during the 1912 presidential election and differed widely in attitudes toward American intervention in Europe during World War I. Roosevelt responded, apologetically, to Eigenmann’s request as follows:

Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Carl H. Eigenmann, July 5, 1918.

SAGAMORE HILL.

July 5th 1918

Dear Dr. Eigenmann,

I am very sorry, but I cannot appeal to Wilson for any human being; and moreover the surest way to hurt you would be to have him think I was interested in you. I am wholly unable to understand the folly or worse of refusing to permit your Peruvian expedition.

With regret [and] indignation,

Faithfully yours,

Theodore Roosevelt

Despite Roosevelt’s unwillingness or inability to help him, Eigenmann’s other contacts were able to exert pressure on the authorities, and the expedition proceeded, albeit with a shortened itinerary. Eigenmann later reported that he suspected a rival scientist as the instigator of the passport controversy. As he wrote in his June, 1919 report to the Board of Trustees, “Someone, who I was informed was interested in having me vacate the position of Curator in the Carnegie Museum, filed charges against my loyalty.”

Who knew that the field of natural history could be so full of intrigue?

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Tales from Past and Present: IU’s Olympic Swimming History

The Indiana University Archives would like to congratulate IU swimmers Cody Miller (’14) (USA), Blake Pieroni (USA), Lilly King (USA), Kennedy Goss (Canada)Ali Khalafalla (Egypt), Anze Tavcar (Slovenia), and incoming-transfer Marwan El Kamash (Egypt) as well as divers Amy Cozad (’13) (USA), Michael Hixon (USA), Jessica Parratto (USA), and James Conner (Australia) for earning a spot on their respective country’s Olympic swimming and diving teams! In honor of the 2016 US Summer Olympic Games, the Archives would like to take our readers back in time and recount just a little of IU’s Olympic swimming history.

IU’s Most Successful Swimmer: Mark Spitz

Mark Spitz w Medals

Mark Spitz during the 1972 Olympic Games

One cannot possibly talk about IU’s Olympic swimming history without first mentioning Mark Spitz!

Mark Andrew Spitz (born on February 10, 1950 in Modesto, California) first gained fame at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, where he earned four medals: two gold, one silver, and one bronze. He swam for Indiana University from 1968 to 1972 where he trained with the legendary James “Doc” Counsilman. While at IU Spitz went on to win eight individual NCAA titles and contributed to four school NCAA Championships, completely rewriting IU, Big Ten, and NCAA record books in the process. By the spring of 1972, Spitz had set 23 world swimming records and 35 United States records.

In the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Spitz attained the world record for most gold medals received by any Olympic athlete by winning 7 gold medals, ousting the current record holder at the time (Italian fencer Nedo Nadi who received five Olympic medals during the 1920 games) and earning himself a place in Olympic history. To date, his achievement has only been surpassed by Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. However, Spitz also set new world records in all seven events in which he competed in 1972, an achievement which still stands. 

Spitz-Compilation-Web-version

Mark Spitz at IU

Those Who Didn’t Get to Compete: the 1980 Summer Olympics

Cynthia Potter

Cynthia Potter from 1976 Olympics

IU has had a long history of producing Olympic swimmers, but not all of them got to live out the dream to its fullest extent. In the summer of 1980 IU had three swimmers who were awarded the highest honor an athlete could imagine: a chance to represent the United States in the Olympic Games. Soon Amy McGrath, Cynthia Potter, and Brian Bungum would be on their way to Soviet Russia to compete in Moscow. It was the culmination of countless hours of training and years of dedication to their sport. Cynthia was the veteran of the group, having already won a bronze in the 1976 Olympics. For first-timers Amy McGrath and Brian Bungum, it was the realization of a dream. However, it was not meant to be.

On Christmas Day 1979, Soviet tanks rolled into Afghanistan under the pretext of upholding the Soviet-Afghan Friendship Treaty of 1978. Upon their arrival in Kabul, the Soviet troops staged a coup, killing the Afghan President Hafizullah Amin. By December 27th they had installed a socialist, Babrak Karmal, as the new leader of the Afghan government.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan spurred President Jimmy Carter to issue an ultimatum in January of 1980 stating that if Soviet troops did not withdraw from Afghanistan the United States would boycott the Summer Moscow Olympics. His warnings went unheeded and the US, along with 65 other countries, refused to compete that summer. Sadly, we will never know what Cynthia, Amy, and Brian could have contributed to the athletic world that year.

McGrath_Bungum-Compilation

Left: Amy McGrath with her diving coach Hobie Billingsley Right: Brian Bungum

Present Day: the Hoosiers’ 11 and Rio 2016

The 2016 Rio Summer Olympics began this past Friday and will end with the closing ceremony on Sunday August 21st. These 11 swimmers (now dubbed the Hoosiers’ 11) will be joined by IU’s head diving coach Drew Johansen and head swimming coach Ray Looze who will act as Team USA’s head diving coach and assistant women’s swimming coach respectively. We are so proud of Hoosier swimmers Lilly King, Blake Pieroni, and Cody Miller who have all already won Olympic medals in the 2016 games! King and Blake will bring home golds (King decided to break a record while she was at it) and Miller has earned a bronze! We are excited to watch the Hoosiers’ 11 as they continue this month and hope to see more podium appearances!

Go Big Red! 

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Carolyn Fink: Wife, Student, Cat Owner

Like many young couples at IU after World War II, Carolyn and John Fink took advantage of the G.I. Bill and lived at I.U. while earning their degrees. Their life is recorded through Carolyn’s memoir, “Nightingales in the Branches” from 1955 which offers the reader glimpses into the life of married veterans and their wives at Indiana University. Carolyn covers everything from illicit hot plates in the married dorms to saying hello to Nick at Nick’s Olde English Hut.

SCREEN (1)

Trailer Court – the trailer park where the Finks lived during their “Cat Era”

Although Fink’s narrative touches upon the stress and trials of married life in small quarters, it also offers delightful tidbits that make her memoir relevant even to modern readers. Like many animal-lovers, Carolyn likes to talk about the furry roommates she and her husband acquired during their time living in a trailer near campus. In fact, she dedicates all of Chapter 10 and 11 to their “Cat Era,” which included four cats named Eightball, Fluffy, Charlie, and Orange. She tells of how Eightball only went to the bathroom in ashtrays when they left him inside, and how sickly little Charlie seemed to the rest of them. She tells of how they finally discovered that the prissy, feminine Fluffy was actually a tomcat and how Orange seemed to care little about their welfare.

Photo 1 (002)While the whole memoir is interesting and made me feel like Carolyn and John’s close personal friend, the “Cat Era” chapter endeared me to them forever. I, too, like to tell everyone about my cat, Daffy, and was thinking “Daffy does that too!” all through the chapter. For instance, like Eightball, he answers all my questions directed at him with a mew and, like Orange, I am pretty sure he could not care less if I almost kill myself trying to avoid stepping on him as long as he is fed.

If you are interested in married life at IU, the G.I. bill, or just like to read stories about cats, “Nightingales in the Branches” is an excellent read.

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Murder by “Mineral Water”: the Death of Richard Owen

richard owen

Richard Owen ca. 1870

According to Indiana University legend, Richard Owen – namesake of Owen Hall, first president of Purdue University, second Indiana state geologist, IU professor of natural sciences – died from ingesting embalming fluid. The circumstances in which this curious mistake occurred, however, are rarely mentioned when the story is shared. Luckily, the Bloomington Progress (vol. 24, No. 6; 2 April 1890) published a special report on the death of Professor Owen which elucidated the strange incident:

A jug of embalming fluid was sent by mistake to A.H. Fretameot, a merchant and a neighbor of Prof. Owen labeled medical water. Thinking it mineral water from some friend, the two drank a small quantity. Its deadly quality was soon discovered. Medical aid was summoned but Prof. Owen succumbed under its effects and died. Mr. Fretameot vomited freely and it is hoped he may recover.

Whether of not the unfortunate Mr. Fretameot survived the mistake is unknown.

Bloomington Progress, Vol. 24, No. 6; 2 April 1890

Bloomington Progress, Vol. 24, No. 6; 2 April 1890

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Sincerely Yours – Letters from the Archives: A Captain in the Union Army, John D. Alexander

Born on February 6, 1839 in Bloomington, Indiana, John D. Alexander graduated from Indiana University with A. B. and A.M. degrees in 1861.  In 1860, while Alexander anticipated his graduation, Southern tensions reached their peak. On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union following the election of Abraham Lincoln.  In his “Recollections of Indiana University, 1856-1861” Alexander notes the intense atmosphere in Bloomington following South Carolina’s secession.  He recalls,

One fine morning a Red flag with One White Star was flying from the highest point of the University Building.  The whole town was thrown into a frenzy of excitement.  Students and people of the town soon filled the Campus – the flag was torn down and dragged through the street to Doctor Nutt’s residence – then to the Court House Square where speeches were made denouncing the ones who put the flag there and particularly South Carolina and the flag was burned.

Alexander taught school for a year and then enlisted as a private in Company E, 97th Regiment of Indiana Volunteers in August 1862.  On June 27, 1864, Alexander was wounded in his right hip at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia.  He quickly recovered, however, and returned to his company in October 1864.  Alexander and the rest of the 97th Regiment marched in Sherman’s army from Atlanta to Savannah, from November 15 until December 21, 1864.  The following letter is written by Alexander to his parents.  He describes his experience in the Battle of Grindswoldville in Georgia, the first battle of Sherman’s March to the Sea, as well as movements of the regiment and news of his promotion to Captain of Company D.  Just a note that within the letter, Alexander invokes some language of the time that would be offensive if employed today. See full transcription below the images.

C623_2005 C623_2004

Camp Anderson, Geo. 9 miles South West of Savannah

December 18, 1864

My Dear Parents,

I am still alive for which I thank the Good Lord. We left Atlanta, Geo. the 15th of November.  The 15th Army Corps take the extreme Right of the Army. The 17th Corps the Right Center, the 20th Corps the Left Center and the 14th Corps the extreme Left. We were all to move on roads as nearly parallel as possible. Nothing of interest occurred until we struck the Macon and Savannah Railroad where we all stayed and encamped at night. The next morning – Nov 22nd our brigade 2nd under Gen Walcott was ordered to make a reconnaissance. Once in the direction of Macon we started and got within 2 miles of the Macon and Montgomery R.R. when the Rebels Cavalry under Wheeler attacked our Cavalry and whipped them badly. Our brigade threw out Skirmishes and we drove them back to Grindswold a small Station on the Railroad and finally beyond there. Our brigade then retired to a small elevation of ground overlooking an open field where we stopped to get our drummers. We were sitting round not expecting any danger when the Georgia Militia attacked our pickets and they commenced coming in and we went to making breastworks out of rails, bags, chunks, whatever we could get together. Before we had them done however, they came upon us in three lines of battle.  They came with a vengeance and some were killed within 50 yds of our works.  The fight raged with fury for three hours and when it ceased Such a sight! The Rebels literally lay in piles, 10 men in a place all killed together. Their loss was estimated at 2,000 killed and wounded. Ours only… [section of letter missing] The Brigade Genl Walcott was wounded early on…[section of letter missing] with a piece… [section of letter missing] Shall look… [section of letter missing] Command of the Brigade and behaved with much gallantry. He still commands the Brig. Capt. Elliott of Co “H” commands the Regt. After we left there we had our ups and downs. Dec. 10Crossed Ogeechee River on the 11th we were wakened by the Reb Battery and our Shelling. On the 13 of this month Fort McAllister at the mouth of the Ogeechee River was taken by the 2nd Div of our Corps. They captured between 2 and 300 prisoners, 17 guns, 200 artillery Horses, $2,000 worth of wines and cigars. That Opens our Communication we got mail night before last and I got your letters up to Nov 30″/64. Some from Bettie also and Sam Kate and Will married Hannah. I was glad to hear you got home safely from Sister Sophia’s. Did you get my photographs I sent home? I got my Commission to Captain night before last. Will be mustered today. I will be assigned to command Co “D” for a while. Then if Captain Oliphant resigns I will be transferred to Co “E” if possible. We only have to go on the front lines every 3 or 4 days. Tell Captain O – I will write to him this evening and more if I can. Give my love to All. I am in perfect health am as fat as a pig. Have had a pack mule to carry my Blankets and Grub and a darky to lead him and cook. I have 3 blankets Always sleep comfortable. The boys have been down to where the water comes up to get oysters and can hear distinctly the roaring of old Ocean. The country here is level and swampy. Give my love to Boone, Mary, Bettie, Felix, Mat, Lee, Sam, Sallie, and families and believe me you.

Affectionate Son,

John D.  Alexander Co “D”

In April 1865, Alexander was appointed Acting Assistant Inspector General of the Second Brigade by General John A. Logan in Goldsboro, North Carolina. He was mustered out of service on June 9, 1865 following the Grand Review of the Armies, a victory procession through Washington, D.C.  Following the Civil War, Alexander served as a lawyer in Bedford and Bloomfield.  He went on to hold several elected positions in state and county government. Alexander was also regular attendant to all national and state encampments of the G.A.R. His involvement in the G.A.R. led him to write a History of the Ninety-seventh Regiment of Indiana Volunteer Infantry in 1891.  In 1929, Alexander was the oldest living graduate of Indiana University. He died on February 27, 1931.

The above letter, along with 11 others, can be found in C23 John D. Alexander Family Papers. To learn more about Indiana University and the Civil War, contact the IU Archives.

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