The fall of 1918 was a doozy for Indiana University, and it had nothing to do with the weather.
The 1918 flu pandemic – the “Spanish flu” – had arrived on campus. University officials scrambled to keep it in check, which would have been a challenge under the best of circumstances. IU, however, was not under the best circumstances that semester. It faced its highest enrollment to date of nearly 2,000 students, with half of them men serving in the Student Army Training Corps (S.A.T.C.) and living in barrack-style housing in government-appropriated fraternity houses.
Initially administrators encouraged students to get vaccinated and to take other precautions to prevent the spread of the flu but before long students were being quarantined both within the S.A.T.C. barracks or to campus. By October 10, as pictured above, the State Board of Health ordered IU closed. S.A.T.C students, however, had to answer to the Army, who had them remain in the barracks. As more and more students fell victim to the flu, it became necessary to set up temporary hospitals on the main floor and balcony of Assembly Hall (not the present day building!) and the Student Building.
Parents of S.A.T.C. students and others who had fallen ill were understandably concerned about their loved ones. The Archives holds a logbook from the University Hospital in which nurses logged communications with parents and the President’s files holds numerous letters and telegrams from concerned family members.
In his diary, S.A.T.C. corporal William R. Ringer, wrote about his own brush with the illness:
Friday, October 18, 1918
It was on Wednesday, October 8 that I began to feel badly. Nevertheless I went to drill and marched my squad good and hard for the two hours, and while I was doing it, I felt very well, but when I went to Business Organization, I felt rotten, and could scarcely hold up my head while Rawles rambled away. I went right out to the house and went to bed. The next morning I felt rotten, and did not get up until 7:30. There were four of us [who] stumbled down to the infirmary where there was the sickest looking bunch of fellows I ever saw. He ordered us to the hospital, so we walked back to the barracks and lay there all day until a taxi came for us. I was put on a cot on the lower floor after some delay, and there I settled down for 6 days sickness….They took good care of us, gave us plenty of very good food. One of the nurses, a peach, who teaches in B.H.S, she was mighty nice to me….
While initial plans were to reopen on October 20, IU was not able to resume classes until November 4. The worst of the outbreak was over for the campus but students were still instructed to exercise caution – on November 7, the IDS ran a notice from the Dean of Women that there were to be no dates that weekend and that “compliance with this request indicates loyalty to humanity and to the community.” All in all, the university fared well through this outbreak. In his History of Indiana University, the late IU professor James Woodburn reported that nationally, there was a 4% death rate; at IU, 350 patients were hospitalized with 3 deaths, or a death rate of less than 1%.
There was another round of outbreaks early in the spring semester and students were again placed on restrictions, but the number of students afflicted was nowhere near the October and November numbers.
Want to know more about this or view Mr. Ringer’s collection in the Archives? Contact us! The IDS provided extensive coverage of the campus response to the flu and is a terrific resource. The newspaper has been microfilmed and is available on the 2nd floor of the Wells Library in the Government Information & Kent Cooper Services department. Ask at the desk and they will help!
I recently had the opportunity to delve a little deeper and learn about a famous sculptor who taught at Indiana University for the academic year of 1954-1955. David Roland Smith came to I.U. to temporarily replace full-time Professor of Sculpture Robert Laurent who was on sabbatical serving as an artist-in-residence at the American Academy in Room and at the same time conceptualizing the early designs for IU’s Showalter Fountain. In May 1954, Henry Hope, Director of the School of Fine Arts, confirmed the arrival of Smith and welcomed him to I.U. During spring 1954 and fall of 1955 Smith taught multiple classes including First Year Sculpture I & II, Second Year Sculpture I & II, and a Graduate Sculpture course. Shortly after arriving in Bloomington, Smith rushed off to Venice, Italy as the United States delegate to the International Conference on Plastic Arts. His sculptures were also included in the International Biennial Exhibition of Art which preceded the conference in Venice.
Now you may be wondering who is this Smith guy and how did he achieve this level of success? Smith began his training at the Cleveland Art School while still in high school. After graduation he studied at Ohio University for a year and quickly moved to Notre Dame University, where he would only stay for a short time. During summer breaks he spent his time working at the Studebaker automobile factory in South Bend, Indiana where he began honing his skills as a riveter as well as soldering and spot-welding.
By 1927 Smith ventured off to Washington, D.C. and then New York City where he met Dorothy Dehner, a young painter studying at the Art Students League (ASL). By December of that year they were married. From 1927-1932 Smith studied at the ASL under many artists including the American realist painter John Sloan, drawing instructor Kimon Nicolaides and Czech modernist painter Jan Matulka.
After more traveling and a variety of jobs, Smith and Dehner finally bought a fixer-upper in upstate NY where they would spend the next decade. Along the way Smith continued to travel, meet more artists, and became very interested in combining constructed forms and paintings. Smith continued to blossom as an artist by expanding and using a wide array of mediums including: wood, wire, stone, aluminum rods, soldered materials and – my favorite – “found” materials, all the while slowly building his art studio which became known as Terminal Iron Works. By the time Smith arrived at I.U. in 1954 he had already produced a multitude of pieces and participated in a wide array of exhibits.
Although Smith was only at I.U. for a brief time he continued to create art work and even participated in the Midwestern College Art Conference held at I.U. in October 1954. Smith exhibited 13 sculptures and his 15 “medals for dishonor” at the conference. His medals were cast before World War II and depict the horrors of war. He said he got the idea for the “medals” from German war medallions that were used for propaganda during the war. Check the medals out for yourself here.
After his time was up at I.U. he continued to travel the world and create, up until his tragic death in 1965. To learn more about David Smith and his art work check out the David Smith Estate.
To see more of David Smith’s work in person you can visit the exhibition David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy, currently on view at the Whitney Musuem of American Art through January 8, 2012.