“I am going to have a birthday party from two to four o’clock and I want you to come” – One of My Favorite Photographs

From Brad Cook, IU Archives Photographs Curator

While browsing an antique shop near Hanover, New Hampshire, a 1956 graduate of Indiana University came upon the photograph seen here. Recognizing the address found on the back of the image she purchased the image and donated it to the Indiana University Archives.

(Back Row, L to R) Mary Woodburn, Doris Hoffman, Martha Woodburn, Marjorie Davis, Dorothy Cunningham, Mary Louden, and Agnes Joyner. (Middle Row, L to R) Elizabeth Miller, Martha Buskirk, Ruth Dill, Carol Hoffman, Frieda Hershey, and Ruth Cravens. (Front Row, L to R) Margaret Faris, Pauline Reed, Dorothy Clough and Catherine Fletcher.

For a curator of photographs there is no image more appealing than one with a great deal of contextual information (e.g. names and date) and this image certainly fits into that category as the back side of the photograph gives us not only the names of those shown and the date taken, but also the event, the exact location of the event and even the name of the photographer. On top of that, a transcription of the original invitation is also present.

On February 12, 1902 Ruth Ralston Cravens held a birthday party in her home located at 222 East Fourth Street in Bloomington. Her stepmother sent out the following invitation to Ruth’s friends: “I will be four years old Wednesday, February 12, 1902. I am going to have a birthday party from two to four o’clock and I want you to come. I do not want you to bring or send me any presents. I just want you to come and play with me. Ruth Ralston Cravens.”

In response to the invitation, and according to a note written on the back of the image, sixteen girls attended the party and “…had a delightful time. Prof. John A. Stoneking, on Indiana University, took a photograph and each one of the guests received one as a souvenir of the occasion.”

The birthday girl was born on February 12, 1898 (her mother died eight days later). Ruth was graduated from IU in 1920 with a degree in English. From 1942-1956 she worked as an administrative assistant to IU President Herman B Wells. Ruth never married. She died January 20, 1982.

Ruth’s stepmother, Emma Lucille Krueger Cravens, worked in the IU Library and then as a secretary for IU President William Lowe Bryan.

Ruth’s father, John W. Cravens, graduated from IU in 1897. For many years he served as IU Registrar and Secretary to the IU Board of Trustees.

The photographer, John A. Stoneking, was graduated from Indiana University in 1898 with a degree in physics, he subsequently received his master’s degree from Indiana University in 1901 and from 1901-1905 he was an instructor in physics here before moving to Illinois where he died in 1923.

Others in the photograph known to have graduated from Indiana University are Mary Louden (AB 1919) and Frieda Hershey (AB 1921).

Author- iubarchives

The IU Bloomington Archives is the largest and most comprehensive source of information on the history and culture of Indiana University. Questions? Like to see something specific on the blog? Contact us! archives@indiana.edu For more great IU history, follow us on Twitter! @iubarchives

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