Honors H228: Archival Storytelling – Part 4

Fall 2018 the University Archives partnered with Media School professor emeritus Ron Osgood and his new Honors Course Archival Storytelling. His students spent several class sessions in the Archives researching a topic of their choice and crafting a blog post for inclusion here! Some students chose to provide overviews of collections while others dove into specific bits of IU Bloomington history, but all seemed to enjoy the experience. We’ll be sharing these posts in groups over the next few weeks. In order to ensure the student’s voices are heard, Archives staff did minimal editing on these pieces. Thanks to Prof. Osgood and his class for these great pieces!


The Art of Chic by Jack Salazar

Charles Bacon “Chic” Jackson (1876-1934) was born in the town of Muncie, Indiana. Unbeknownst to Jackson, he’d be the first in a long line of artists to make their start in this quiet municipality. From a young age, Jackson always gravitated towards the fine arts. It wasn’t a fleeting sensation either. Post high school, Jackson would go onto work in a printing press, a grocery store, and a slew of other unsystematic livings with art always in the back of his mind. After nearly three decades of ceaseless drudgery, Jackson was granted the position of layout artist and illustrator for the Indianapolis Star in 1907. After five years of work, the publishers offered him an opportunity to develop his own comic strip. Based off his own life experiences he created “Roger Bean”, which focused on a fictional middle-class Hoosier family that found humor in their every day lives.

Roger Bean – “Sylvia Meets Big Dick and Little Joe Incognito”, (1934). IU Archives P0047665

This approach to comedy was fairly contemporary for the time; so many comic artists would rely on visual gags or exaggerated features to communicate comedy within a single strip. Jackson stands out by having his humor be entirely dialogue driven much like a sitcom you’d find on modern day TV. His entire style was a fair middle ground between a cartoon and realism. Bean Family members all have charming dot eyes coupled with realistically proportioned bodies leaving a tinge of comedic undertones to their rambunctious interactions.

Re: The 10th Street Fieldhouse, (1928). IU Archives P0047734
Big Ten Day, (1923). IU Archives P0044854









As stories of the Bean Family grew so did the interest in Chic Jackson. His strips became so popular they began to by syndicated in such newspapers like The Chicago Daily News and even in the papers of IU. He would provide illustration commemorating various events and occasions within Indiana University. In his own funny way, he supported learning. Jackson’s comedic repertoire and open use of continuity drew in readers far and wide. As the years went by, Jackson made the choice to age the characters for every year he continued the strip. It created the sensation of reading about a real Hoosier family. The character Woodrow Wilson Bean was introduced in December of 1914 as a baby and by April 1934 he had grown into a young man heading to college. Sadly, 1934 was the last time we saw the Bean Family as Charles Jackson passed away in July of that same year. But, Jackson’s legacy wasn’t just Roger Bean; it was the birth of new creative life. Creative voices like T.K. Ryan, the artist behind “Tumbleweeds”, and Jim Davis, the creator of “Garfield”, are both Muncie born artists. Another creative mind will no doubt start in Muncie and follow the path Charles Jackson paved for creative types. Thank you, Chic.

“Roger Bean – This Looks Like a Second Warning to the Postman.” IU Archives P0047741


The Martha Vicinus Papers and 1970s IU Feminist Activism by Celia Dawson

The papers of Martha Vicinus, which span from 1971 to 1980, recount a portion of Indiana University’s feminist history including the women’s movement and the institution of the Department of Women’s Studies at IU. Vicinus, an English Department faculty member, was extremely influential in developing the IU Women’s Studies program. Although not long ago, the content of these works describes a vastly different campus, political, and social environment than exists today. An extremely insightful aspect of this collection is the public media produced by feminist faculty, students, and members of the Bloomington community. These writings, works of art, and published collections of resources outline the broader concerns and needs of women in the 70s seeking equality, opportunity and expression.

“Career Opportunities for Women,” 1975 Woman’s Handbook

A memo from March 1973, submitted to ‘All Academic Women’, from Dean of Women’s Affairs Eva Kagan-Kans, outlines a list of formally proposed maternity leave policies for IU faculty and asks for comments and information on the intersecting topics of employment and childbirth. The attached outline cites necessities for pregnant women and mothers at Indiana University who are seeking to maintain their employment and specifies many direct steps that should be taken by the university to promote heath, equity, and progress.

Her requests included treating temporary pregnancy related disabilities in the same manor in the workplace as other temporary disabilities. She also asks for opportunities for a six week long minimum maternity leave for individuals interested in taking time off. The majority of her points are centered around promoting a fair work environment for pregnant women by ensuring job security and enacting measures that ensured pregnancy didn’t hinder anyone’s upward professional mobility. The stigmatization of working mothers made it necessary for her to ask for such policy changes. Even today many employers generalize about and limit he career opportunities of pregnant women and mothers because they make assumptions about working mothers.

In a writing from Tuesday, February 25th, 1975, entitled “What Now?? The Future of the Women’s Movement in Bloomington”, Vicinus explains the local consensus on the future of feminism and the women’s movement in the community. She notes that their priorities are that they focus on social, political, and economic feminist issues, rather than organization and structure of feminist groups. Rather than create a primary feminist organization, she suggests the creation of the Bloomington Feminist Coalition, as well as other committees to foster collaboration instead of promoting a hierarchy of feminist organizations.

In addition to the many formal writings of Vicinus and her fellow feminist academic, this collection houses significant repositories of information on independent feminist print media in Bloomington and on IU’s campus in the 70s. Publications like the Women’s Liberation Newsletter, Front Page, and The Women’s Handbook sought to produce content for and by women about local and global feminist issues.

Publications like Front Page included announcements, articles, poetry, art, and even notes hand written by Vicinus in margins and in blank spaces on her personal copy. In the August/September 1974 issue, writer Emily Wade discussed the political implications of the Equal Rights Amendment, something Indiana had failed to ratify at the time. Wade advocates for two Indiana house candidates who are in support of the amendment and encourages feminists to vote in ways that will support it. This instalment of the publication also includes a section with letters from readers and community members.

For a grassroots community like the network of Bloomington Feminists in the 70s, publications like Front Page served as a bridge between formal and informal information and communication and offered students, academics, and community members to collaborate, educate, and share information in a safe and effective manner. While the goals of these feminists are far from complete today, there are undoubtably more outlets for expression and collaboration. The information condensed into this seasonal newsletter was an essential mechanism, at the time, for the Bloomington and campus feminist movement.

The Bloomington Woman’s Liberation Newsletter was a similar community institution. In an issue from July/August 1971 Brenda Laurien writes a piece on The Middle Way House, a community institution still essential to many women and families in Bloomington. At this time, the organization was intended to provide counselling be an educational resource about drugs and was founded on principles that created a four-phase program. This included a 24-hour open line of communication with counselors, a referral program which helped people with long term drug problems seek psychiatric help, a personalized drug analysis program, and a broader educational program.
The call line was intended to be used for drug related questions or as a resource for people currently on drugs at the time of the call, but it later became a catchall for issues concerning, health, relationships, and academic issues. Middle Way House Staff would then direct the caller to the appropriate channels. While the mission of Middle Way House adapted over time to be domestic violence resources and prevention, the 24-hour crisis line is still an important service offered to survivors today.

The drug analysis program, however, is something that would certainly be politically and culturally unsavory, especially because of its association with a public academic institution. At the time, people in the community could bring in samples of drugs they acquired and staff at Middle Way House would consult medical books ad would chemically analyze the substances on campus (in Myers Hall). They would then post the information gathered on a bulletin board to share it with the supplier of the substance, in order to help them make conscious and informed decisions about the drugs they are purchasing and using.

While Middle Way House today is very different from this 1971 iteration of the organization, this account demonstrates the effectiveness of the Woman’s Liberation Newsletter as an effective community education resource with a wider scope than just purely women’s issues. This kind of intersectional interest is characteristic of Bloomington’s feminist publications.

Directory from 1975 Women’s Handbook

The Women’s Handbook, a publication that resembled a formal newspaper rather than a self-printed booklet or zine, presented feminist issues in a less radical and niche context. The intent of the publication, according to the authors, was to provide a comprehensive list of organizations in the area that women have available to them. While, like the other feminist publications, it includes graphics and editorials, the pinnacle of this handbook is the expansive list of resources.

All of these publications give insight into IU’s feminist history and the community which sought to bring women’s issues to the forefront in the 70s. Whether it be through informal student poetry, faculty memos, or community engagement plans, feminists in Bloomington have been assembling, acting, and angry for decades, and their work has certainly paid off.

Honors H228: Archival Storytelling – Part 3

Fall 2018 the University Archives partnered with Media School professor emeritus Ron Osgood and his new Honors Course Archival Storytelling. His students spent several class sessions in the Archives researching a topic of their choice and crafting a blog post for inclusion here! Some students chose to provide overviews of collections while others dove into specific bits of IU Bloomington history, but all seemed to enjoy the experience. We’ll be sharing these posts in groups over the next few weeks. In order to ensure the student’s voices are heard, Archives staff did minimal editing on these pieces. Thanks to Prof. Osgood and his class for these great pieces!


University Removal Question by Sarah Richter

Indiana University is such an integral part of Bloomington. It is hard to imagine what the town would be like if the university was never here. Likewise, it is hard to imagine what Indiana University would be like without our beloved B-town. At times, it seems like the whole town revolves around the college. The town is thriving thanks to the number of people the university has brought to it. The students have made Bloomington their home and many would not know what life in college would be like in any other place.

The ongoing renovations on the campus have brought a lot of attention to the buildings of IU. Kirkwood Hall is among those buildings that have recently been renovated. Upon doing some digging on the building’s history in the Indiana University Archives, the story of the university removal question was discovered.

During the dedication of Kirkwood Hall, there was an unfortunate incident related to the university removal question. The dedication took place on the 25th of January 1895. The building was named after Daniel Kirkwood, who was once a professor at Indiana University. There were many people present, including students, alumni, professors, other citizens of Bloomington, as well as Company H of the 1st Regiment of the Indiana National Guard, there to escort the Governor Claude Mathews, who had also come for the event.

Kirkwood Hall dedication program, January 25, 1895

At the time of the dedication there had already been talk of removing the Indiana University campus and relocating it to Indianapolis. This was not a new concept and the thought had been present among Bloomington for some time. It was thought that it was just a rumor, but as time passed, the removal question became more of a serious suggestion for the university. During that time the university was rationally much smaller than it is today, but it was growing nonetheless. In 1884, there was a mere 144 students enrolled at the university and by 1894 that number had grown to 748 students. Although these numbers still feel small in comparison to the size of the university today, it was growing much faster than the university could keep up with. The campus was quickly running out of space for classes, housing, and offices. There was need for additional facilities for each of these areas. Every space imaginable was used to hold classes or offices, including basements and attics. Relocating to Indianapolis would allow the university to expand much easier than it could have in Bloomington. Indiana University would be able to take advantage of the structures already in place in Indianapolis. There would be better access to the public libraries, new laboratories, and hospitals for the medical students.

There was much to be debated in the questioning of whether Indiana University should be kept in Bloomington or moved to Indianapolis. The citizens of Bloomington were in favor of keeping the university, while many students were in support of the removal. There was debate over whether having the campus in Indianapolis would have more social distractions for the students from their schoolwork. Some thought that the parents would not like for the university to be in Indianapolis as they preferred to send their children to school somewhere quiet to focus on their studies. The centralized location of Indianapolis seemed to be more beneficial to the university, in terms of it being accessible to more people in the northern part of the state. The resources that came with the city of Indianapolis would also have been beneficial to the school. There may have been better access to lectures for the students, as well as things such a music not only for entertainment but for educational purposes. The expenses of the removal were also debated. It would have been expensive to expand with new builds in Bloomington but moving to Indianapolis would have been a great cost as well as new facilities would need to be purchases and renovated to suit the uses of the university. The overall living expenses for the students would be much higher as well, increasing the cost of attendance. There were both benefits and disadvantages to each option. In one issue of The Student (early name of the Indiana Daily Student), it is stated that “The University and Bloomington have grown up together.” There was no doubt an attachment to the town for those associated with the university, much like there is today.

In spite of this, there was a vocal group of students in favor of removing the University to Indianapolis. They made badges that they wore made from strips of ribbon that stated “1896 I.U. at Indianapolis.” On the Day of the dedication there were chants shouted before the event of “Remove IU! Remove IU! You’re the men to put her through!” meant for all of the university’s board as well as those from the state legislature that were in attendance. The badges made by the students were worn at the dedication of Kirkwood Hall as well. Members of the Company H were instructed to remove such badges and any students who resisted were faced with the violence of being knocked down or struck by bayonets. After the incident some who spoke stated that the dedication was not the proper place to discuss the removal question. Some students wanted to have the occurrence investigated but it is unclear whether it was according to the files from the archives on this event.

This is a letter D.W. Biddle wrote to his parents detailing the incident at the Kirkwood Hall Dedication. He was a student at the time and was able to write down his firsthand experience of the event, as well as give some of his views on the removal question. There are other letters he wrote both to his parents and to others as well that can be found in the IU Archives (Collection C700). Click on images to view full size. 


















The city of Bloomington is obviously still the home of the flagship campus of Indiana University today. The two simply go hand in hand today despite being questioned in the past. The experience of Indiana University would be entirely different for the students if it was located in Indianapolis today. The university has grown to support itself here and as a result Bloomington has grown as well. If the question of removing the university were brought up today, it is likely that the students would view it differently and may be standing up to keep it in Bloomington instead.





IU R.O.T.C. Evolves but still Thrives by Madi Smalstig and Kasey Cassle

As a student today, you likely know of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (R.O.T.C.), however, you think that is has always been a voluntary program. Now, imagine you are a male student coming to Indiana University in the year 1964. Along with your academic courses, you would have been automatically enrolled in R.O.T.C. courses, in which you would gain knowledge about the military and be required to go through a physical training course.

Even though this military program was compulsory and unavoidable, many people took pride in their participation. The program produced well rounded students with the knowledge and experience of a basic trained soldier which was beneficial to careers within the military as well as other careers in the workforce.

Despite these beneficial factors, many people opposed it and eventually forced Indiana University’s Board of Trustees to change the program from compulsory to voluntary.

“Summer School Battalion – R.O.T.C. – In charge of Sergeant Jones – July 23, 1918.” IU Archives P0027540

Military training was offered sporadically at Indiana University from 1841 to 1874. In 1917, the R.O.T.C. program was established. For male students, the program was compulsory and for females it was voluntary. The students involved received basic hands-on military and academic training. This included 3 hours of drill, 4 hours of military training and one meeting every week. R.O.T.C. was not only required for Indiana University male students, but it was compulsory on many public university campuses across the nation.

In 1965, the university Board of Trustees decided to make the program voluntary due to public protests and the nation’s changing political climate.

The Vietnam War and the Anti-R.O.T.C.
Indiana University’s R.O.T.C. program was greatly affected by the Vietnam War and the anti-military attitude that was expressed by many Americans. Many United States citizens believed that the country should not join the war effort in Vietnam, however the United States joined the war effort in the early 1960’s by enacting the draft and sending thousands of young, male soldiers to Vietnam.

Soldiers and war supporters were subjected to hatred and ridicule. Military training which at one point had been a well-respected skill and character trait, slowly morphed into an unpopular, undesired characteristic. This lack of respect towards soldiers and military training filtered into the Indiana University campus and eventually lead to the protest of the R.O.T.C. program by students, parents, and faculty. Several groups on campus including Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and Anti-ROTC publicly protested the mandatory enrollment of freshmen into the R.O.T.C. program. Specifically, the Anti-ROTC organization was formed with the sole intention of ending the compulsory rule at IU.

Herman B Wells speaking with member of the Students for A Democratic Society (SDS). 1969. IU Archives P0029024

The 1960s was not the first time that Indiana University’s compulsory R.O.T.C. program was protested but with the nation’s increasing questioning of war across the globe and hatred of war, the opposition became too great to ignore.

In December 1964, the Reserve Officers Training Corps Vitalization Act, or Public Law 88-647, was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This law expanded the reserve training program by adding new facets to existing R.O.T.C. programs while also adding J.R.O.T.C. in high schools. The changes within the college R.O.T.C. programs allowed for the continuation of a four-year program as well as a new program where a male could attend a summer course instead of the first two years then complete the final two years at the university.

In addition to curriculum changes, this act also allowed for the university to decide whether enrollment in the program was compulsory or voluntary. After several months of continued protests against the compulsory program, the Indiana University Board of Trustees voted to make the program a voluntary choice for all freshmen. The change went into effect for the freshmen of fall 1965. In the following year, enrollment in the R.O.T.C. program decreased by around 60 percent.

Although the program was no longer required, it continued to be an option for all Indiana University students due to the support of former IU President Herman B Wells and other IU authorities.

The Decision and Student Reactions
It was on March 15, 1965 that the Board of Trustees decided to make the R.O.T.C. program voluntary and in the days after the community erupted. A program that had been in place for decades was suddenly changed, therefore, strong reactions for both pro and anti R.O.T.C. sides were expected of the students and faculty at IU.

A few students, like John Mead and Steve Miller appreciated the change, although for different reasons. Mead, a sophomore who had willingly signed up for the R.O.T.C. advanced program said, “I think it is good in that it dissolves the ill-feeling in students who are forced to take it. It is also bad in that students won’t become acquainted with the advantages of the program as they are compelled to under the present system.” On the other hand, Miller, a freshman, just did not understand the significance of the program for certain majors. He was happy to see the requirement disbanded because it meant that he would have more time to fulfill the requirements for his major.

These students’ opinions illustrate two of the various reasons why people wished for the program to become voluntary. Many fought for freedom from the compulsory program due to anti-war and anti-military sentiment, but some also fought for more personal issues, such as Mead and Miller. All of these efforts created enough momentum for the movement against compulsory enrollment in the program that IU decided to change its policy.
In addition, this article also proves that not all students were in agreement with the new change. One freshman, Dick Simmons, said, “I really don’t know whether I’ll go on with ROTC next year or not, but I can’t help but feel that at least one year should be compulsory, just to give you a taste of what it’s like.”

These students who were completely against the requirement, like those who created clubs like the Anti-R.O.T.C, eventually had a big impact on the rest of the student body. It wasn’t that the entire campus was against the requirement, it was that the university noticed that there were students among the protestors who were being forced to act against their own beliefs and political standings. The university was able to recognize this and change the program so students were given the option to receive training or not.

After the compulsory rule was disbanded, the group Anti-R.O.T.C., which was founded with the sole purpose of ending the mandatory R.O.T.C. program, decided to terminate their group.

Indiana Daily Student, March 17, 1965.

“We do not consider the University’s decision a ‘victory’ for Anti-R.O.T.C. It is a victory for the whole Student Body, and we are proud to think that we might have played some part, however small, in helping the Trustees reach the decision they did,” said the Anti-ROTC executive committee in an article published in the IDS.

They felt that the club had fulfilled its purpose by informing other students about the R.O.T.C. program and were proud of the impact they had.

Although there may have been some students who hoped to get rid of the program entirely, the focus of many students was simply to make it a choice for students to join rather than an obligation.

R.O.T.C. Continues
Since March 15, 1965, every student enrolled at Indiana University has had the opportunity to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps, but none have been required to join. Many students have completed the course work and have gone onto military careers or other careers within the workforce.

Although, starting in the early 1970s when the U.S. was in the thick of the Vietnam war, there was a period of time where of the program experienced a decrease in membership, the program continued and eventually enrollment increased. According to an article from the IDS, the Army R.O.T.C. program reached an all-time low enrollment of 58 freshman and 121 total students and the Air Force R.O.T.C. program also had staggeringly low numbers of 94 total students in the fall of 1973. In 1974, however, the program began to rebuild and, that year, the Army R.O.T.C. program had 82 freshmen enroll, which bumped the total number of students to 156.

About three years after the change in 1968, Herman B Wells, then serving as interim President, gave a speech addressing the program and its policy changes and how they affect the university as a whole. He emphasized that, “R.O.T.C. continues to be offered at I.U. because many of our students desire officer training in conjunction with their college education,” and it, “in no way interferes with conscientious objectors any more than, for example, the existence of our School of Medicine interferes with students who are Christian Sciences.” Throughout 1968, the SDS continued to protest the R.O.T.C. program. Despite this, President Stahr and university administrators, including Wells as Chancellor, supported the R.O.T.C. program and its continued presence on Indiana University’s campus. They also allowed the SDS and other organizations to continue to assemble and bring forth their concerns in peaceful manners. (Subject File 1967-1969, Student Affairs)

The words spoken in Wells’s speech still ring true today. The R.O.T.C. program has continued through the ever-changing political climate of the nation and the world, and, although students today are not required to enroll in the R.O.T.C. program, the program still gives choice to the students and plays an important role in the culture of the university.

Honors H228: Archival Storytelling – Part 2

Fall 2018 the University Archives partnered with Media School professor emeritus Ron Osgood and his new Honors Course Archival Storytelling. His students spent several class sessions in the Archives researching a topic of their choice and crafting a blog post for inclusion here! Some students chose to provide overviews of collections while others dove into specific bits of IU Bloomington history, but all seemed to enjoy the experience. We’ll be sharing these posts in groups over the next few weeks. In order to ensure the student’s voices are heard, Archives staff did minimal editing on these pieces. Thanks to Prof. Osgood and his class for these great pieces!


The Depictions of the Tragedy of Woyzeck at Indiana University by Adam Lu

Died of typhus at the young age of 23, Georg Büchner, the young, brilliant German dramatist’s legacy was limited to a handful of stories and fragments. However, out of the manuscripts he left, one unfinished tragedy became one of the most fascinating theatrical puzzles to put together.

The play, Woyzeck, was speculated to be started by Büchner in mid-1936, about half a year before his decease. The left 29 written scenes, without a particular intended order from the author, collectively created an open-ended tale subject to independent interpretations and rearrangements from other playwrights. Dozens of playwrights have since founded their own versions of Woyzeck to put on stage and screen, and one of them, adapted by Daniel Kramer, was used for the production at Indiana University during the 1999-2000 season.

The inspiration of Woyzeck very likely came from the real-life case of Johann Christian Woyzeck, who lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Germany. Born in 1780 and raised in Leipzig to be a wig-maker, Woyzeck lost both his parents before 13 and had lived his life in or near poverty since then. He was hired by mercenary during the Napoleonic wars from 1803-1815. When he returned to Leipzig after the wars, Woyzeck maintained a living by taking odd, low-paid jobs, often falling in trouble with the law due to alcohol abuse. People believed him to be a madman, displaying irrational, schizophrenic behavior.

In 1818, Woyzeck attempted a relationship with a widow named Johanna Christiana Woost. The relationship probably didn’t progress as Woyzeck thought, as he was often frustrated because Woost went out with other people. On June 2, 1821, when Woyzeck saw her walking with another man, he chased after her to her house and stabbed her to death with a knife recently fitted with a handle. When the murder was discovered, Woyzeck was sent in prison.

T300 production of Woyzeck, 1999. IU Archives P0085087

Because of the presumably compromised mental state Woyzeck held, for the first time in German history, the concept of insanity was raised by the defense team. The court prompted a doctor, Johann Christian August Clarus, to evaluate Woyzeck’s “periodic madness” to determine whether he had the will to commit the crime. However, the examination didn’t favor Woyzeck, as Dr. Clarus noted, “His physical as well as mental state of mind do not provide any grounds for assuming state of ill health that would diminish his free will and his senses of responsibility.”

Woyzeck was sentenced to death. Although the defense team motioned to object, which led to a second trial on October 1823, the court didn’t reverse the sentence. On August 27, 1824, Woyzeck’s life came to the tragic conclusion when he was beheaded in Leipzig.

The dramatization of Woyzeck elevated this notable murder case to a stronger display of the madness. In the original script by Büchner, Woyzeck, now the more erratic main character, constantly heard voices of repeated words in his head and was easily agitated. He let a doctor experiment on him, eating nothing but peas to earn a few coins. His affairs with Marie, the fictional female character, led to an illegitimate child. He peed in the streets, had barely any people to listen to him, and was treated as if he was no more than a monkey from a circus. At the culmination of the events, Woyzeck took Marie near a pond, where he mercilessly killed her. After the murder, he returned to a gathering to dance, where the blood on his wrist was discovered. In the end, Woyzeck ran back to the pond, where he was speculated to commit suicide.

Dale McFadden’s notes; IU Archives Collection C299

Büchner carved out a philosophical discussion about science, religion, power, military, sex, and of course, human mentality, from his depictions. The play fabricated a restless, chaotic environment. Within this compound of disorganized intentions, emotions, and actions, however, Büchner drew a dreadful notion of meaninglessness, that the nature of life was but insignificance. As indicated by the editor notes from Dale McFadden, Professor of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance, Associate Chair, and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Indiana University, “…I think that Buchner is trying to present a world in which irrational forces must be seen and recognized by all of us, even when it is not in our power to know why they exist. I think his strong interest in Nature and the processes of living and dying drew him to creating a world view where seeing was more important than explaining. Explaining can ruin seeing…”

Daniel Kramer’s version of Woyzeck. IU Archives Collection C299

Daniel Kramer’s adaptation of the play condensed the 29 scenes from the original script to 20, eliminating some characters and dialogues and combining some other. He also added (or paraphrased) some counters between the characters to further develop the sense of chaos from Büchner’s manuscripts.

Indiana University’s production of Woyzeck followed this perception to the stage design. There was a strong hint of expressionism regarding the scenic respects of the production, simplifying the setting to a couple of observable benches, a giant wall, some charts to represent the monkey and the horse from the circus. Contrast was also emphasized. Although the color scheme of the design was limited to the yellow to the earth-tone ranges, there would be colder-colored lighting, such as green and blue. The intensity of illumination also employed concentration on certain playing areas, leaving everywhere else (or behind) dim or dark. Finally, contrasting the scenic display all, the actors’ costumes were more sophisticated, clearly tipping the balance of the demonstration of the content towards the characters’ vocal and physical movements.

Stage Photo, Dance Scene. IU Archives P0085090

A senseless, cold delivery to the viewers was intended. If the viewers were to place themselves in this specific scenario, they might get a creepy or even disturbing feeling. It was a world where everything was dangling on the surface, and nothing could matter, even the existence and the existence. The unfolding of Woyzeck’s pain and Büchner’s masterpiece was no short of a chilling, breathtaking experience. When Woyzeck drowned himself, and the light snapped to black, we, the witnesses, in the end, could do nothing but send out a sigh, maybe a numb exclamation:

“What a murder. A good, genuine, beautiful murder.”


The Marriage Course: IU Opens New Doors for Students by Sabrina Siew & Maddie Stacey

According to Relationships in America, Americans on average have sex 118 times per year. In the past, these sexually active Americans have had very little access to sex education. Thankfully, sex education curriculum in America has dramatically increased in recent years due to the influx of research on topics ranging from STDs, to sexuality, to sexual pleasure. One of the most important researchers who revolutionized how we regard sex and marriage today was Alfred Kinsey, founder and creator of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.

As of today, the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction is an essential component of Indiana University and a pinnacle for sexual research. Hundreds of discoveries were made in regards to sexuality, love, and the science behind sex. At the time of its founding, however, these discoveries and ideas produced by Alfred Kinsey were not popular or well-received by the public. Reflecting back on Dr. Kinsey’s work in the mid-20th-century, we can conclude that Alfred Kinsey was a catalyst at Indiana University for progressive thinking. Not only was Kinsey allowing the students here to access information that was not readily available to them, but he was creating an open conversation about sex and marriage in general.

Almost 80 years ago, Alfred Kinsey developed the concept for a Marriage Course to educate young adults on important aspects of marriage. This course covered everything from biology, economics, ethics, law, psychology, and sociology, to even venereal disease. This was revolutionary. Very few available courses or universities in the past had attempted to provide education about marriage in such a comprehensive way. Not only was Dr. Kinsey planning on teaching about the partnership aspects of marriage, but also about sex. Comprehensive sex education by itself at that time would have been unthought of, but integrating it into a course about marriage was just as rare. At the time, Herman B Wells was the president of Indiana University and was an avid proponent of the implementation of the Marriage Course. In correspondence with Dr. Kinsey, President Wells appeared to be not only supportive, but also extremely interested in the results of the course. After working through the concept, and getting IU faculty on board, Kinsey and his fellow lecturers were finally able to implement the Marriage Course into the Indiana University curriculum.

Letter from Herman B Wells to Alfred Kinsey regarding the implementation of the Marriage Course.

In the summer of 1938, Indiana University welcomed its first class of students enrolled in the Marriage Course. This course was available to only upperclassmen and married students with the goal of educating these young adults on the truth about marriage. Guest lecturers were brought into the classroom to teach students about marriage from both their own perspectives and their knowledge from their individual fields of study. Though the course was not offered for credit, it still received a large number of enrollments, totaling 98 students in its inaugural class, and flying to over 200 in the next semester. The initial course consisted of 14 lectures, from various IU faculty, covering distinct aspects of marriage. Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, an overwhelming majority of the initial participants wanted more information about the biological aspects of marriage following the conclusion of the course.

Although the Marriage Course was incredibly popular within the student population, concerned parents and members of the community were worried about the teachings of such a taboo subject. Even faculty members were in shock at some of the teachings, and they had no problem voicing their concerns. Though the idea of marriage was common, the thought of any real sex education in a university capacity was frightening and even threatening to many people’s ways of life. An influx of letters regarding the removal of this course started to flood the offices of Indiana University. Dr. Kinsey and Herman B Wells were prepared for this backlash. What was surprising was the equal amount of letters that flooded the office with voices of support for the new course.

Letter of support for the Marriage Course from a parent of an Indiana University student.

Parents were writing in support of their children, reminding Dr. Kinsey, Herman B Wells, and the Board of Trustees that this course was an important part of learning for the young adults at Indiana University. They believed that learning about all aspects of marriage was a vital part of education, and it would be an injustice to take that away. The letters of support for the Marriage Course are evidential proof that with the help from Herman B Wells, Dr. Kinsey was changing the course of history at Indiana University and welcoming our school into a more progressive age.

After this huge influx of praise and criticism, the board came to a decision on the Marriage Course. Unfortunately, Dr. Kinsey was presented with an ultimatum: either move the course to the Medical Center and completely change the curriculum or sever his connection with the course and present lectures independently if he wanted to continue teaching the biological aspects of marriage. In response, Dr. Kinsey made the decision to remove himself as the chairman of the course.

Even though President Wells offered Dr. Kinsey the opportunity of lecturing in the new Marriage Course, Kinsey denied the proposition. He wanted to continue his research in human sex behavior free of reproach while students continued to receive the education they needed regarding the road to a healthy marriage. From his correspondence with President Wells, it is clear that he felt it would be too difficult to conduct the course he created without providing the sex education he believed Indiana University students deserved.

Although Dr. Kinsey was stepping down from his chairmanship, he did not plan on leaving the Marriage Course in incapable hands. Instead, Dr. Kinsey worked diligently with President Wells before leaving to ensure the faculty overseeing the course would justly cover all aspects of marriage, just as Dr. Kinsey intended in the outset of the course.

Letter from Herman B Wells to Alfred Kinsey regarding new changes to the Marriage Course.

Kinsey created the idea to have a faculty committee investigate the course and develop the best course of action regarding the retention of the course in Indiana University’s curriculum. President Wells feared that doing so would result in the elimination of the course as a whole, and subsequently denied Kinsey’s request. However, with much hard work on both Kinsey’s and Wells’s part, they were able to find a new chairman and a few new faculty members to teach the curriculum.

Fortunately, the course survived all the upheaval and continued successfully at Indiana University for several more years, before its conclusion in 1943. Though there was restructuring and variation in the lecturers and content, the overall heart of the course remained the same, even without Kinsey’s influence. Although a time period of five years for a course may seem too short to be impactful, the fact that the Marriage Course existed in any real capacity during the mid-20th-century is unbelievable. The amount of discussion it initiated inside and outside the classroom was and still is inspiring. In our current day and age, it seems so simple to learn about sex or recognize the aspects of a successful marriage. But much of that would not be possible without the help of progressive thinkers like Alfred Kinsey who fought for our right to knowledge.Thanks to Alfred Kinsey, the Marriage Course opened doors that Indiana University students may have never had the chance to enter into before.

Honors H228: Archival Storytelling – Part 1

Fall 2018 the University Archives partnered with Media School professor emeritus Ron Osgood and his new Honors Course Archival Storytelling. His students spent several class sessions in the Archives researching a topic of their choice and crafting a blog post for inclusion here! Some students chose to provide overviews of collections while others dove into specific bits of IU Bloomington history, but all seemed to enjoy the experience. We’ll be sharing these posts in groups over the next few weeks. In order to ensure the student’s voices are heard, Archives staff did minimal editing on these pieces. Thanks to Prof. Osgood and his class for these great pieces!


1954’s Little 500: The Great Tack Race by Ellis Cain

I am not a native Hoosier; I moved to Indiana from Ohio during my last year of elementary school. When my family was preparing for the move, some of our neighbors and friends recommended that we watch the 1979 movie Breaking Away to learn more about the state and culture. Around 6 years later, my brother began studying at IU. During the school breaks, he would share stories about IU and the student culture. One of the events that he shared with me that gave me the deepest impression was the Little 500. I knew a little about it from seeing Breaking Away, but the way he told stories about the race and other festivities was always very intriguing. Now that I am an IU student, it would be expected of me to have seen the Little 500 race, however, I still have not participated in this seminal event. During the first semester of my sophomore year, some of my friends started to talk about training for the Little 500 and tried to recruit people to join their team.

I’ve always been curious about participating in the race, like whether or not I could feasibly participate, but I was more interested in the history of the race and how it all got started. I recently had the chance to research a topic of my choosing at the IU archives, so I chose to look up some of the general history about the race. The idea for the race started out in 1950 after two dormitories had an inconclusive mud fight, so they decided that a six-day bike marathon would be a better test. The Student Foundation director saw the race and decided to sponsor the project the next year as a way to generate revenue, but more importantly as a lasting way to get students interested and involved with the IU Foundation. The first race in 1951 consisted of teams riding on newspaper-boy bikes, with the South Hall Buccaneers winning the race by four minutes. During the next race in 1952, the fraternities protested and boycotted the race because they thought that the independents had too much control over the race. Nothing too noteworthy happened during the 1953 race, however, the 1954 race was quite eventful.

Tau Kapp Epsilon pit, 1954
Little 500 pit for Tau Kappa Epsilon (co-ed sponsor was Pamarada). IU Archives P0024510

The 1954 race is a landmark race in Little 500 history, as it is the first race where the pits were decorated, as seen above. While this is somewhat monumental as a marker for the evolution of the Little 500 into the race it is today, the story behind the nickname of this race is intriguing. The 1954 race is also known to alumni as the “Great Tack Race,” which comes from an incident where ½ inch carpet tacks were spilled onto the raceway during the race. Up until the 50th lap, there was not much had occurred besides the normal biking and passing. However, at the 50th lap the bikers discovered that there were carpet tacks spread on part of the track when a few teams’ tires popped in that section. This wasn’t too big of a hurdle, as the riders could just stay close to the outside of the track to avoid the tacks. From laps 70 to 71 and 95 to 110, the yellow caution flag was raised to tell the riders to slow their speed and maintain position until the hazard is cleared. While relatively few teams experience problems with the tacks, it wasn’t until the 125th lap where there were over 50 flat tires from the tacks. Below are photos of people changing tires and some of the tacks that were collected.

A punctured tire being changed at the repair center under the supervision of Ed Buchta (right), assistant superintendent of bicycle assembly at Cleveland Welding Co., photo from page 41 of the May 1954 issue of American Bicyclist and Motorcyclist. IU Archives P0085084
Ed Buchta, who was in charge of the repair shop, pictured here with some of the tacks collected from the track along with punctured tires, photo from page 41 of the May 1954 issue of American Bicyclist and Motorcyclist. IU Archives P0085083









The officials had to recruit people to help pick up tacks off of the track by hand and with the use of boards. The only problem remaining was replacement tires. A few teams had extra tires and were able to change them and return to the track, but the majority of the teams weren’t as lucky, as there was a tire shortage; there were only six left after the 115th lap. The president of the student organization had to call around to the bike shops in nearby towns and cities to have local businesses deliver tires so that they could continue the race. As you can see below, the race kept going even when they stepped on the track to pick up the tacks.

People clearing the carpet tacks from the track. IU Archives P0085082

Even though there was a small, steady stream of tires to the race track, the officials still considered calling off the race and continuing it at a later date. There were some murmurings floating among the officials that there was a group of tack spreaders that spread the carpet tacks before the race started, however, the more reasonable explanation was that the tacks used to fasten decorations on the booths alongside the track spilled when somebody accidentally hit the box. There was never an official investigation into the source of the sabotage, so it still remains a mystery whether the tacks were purposefully placed or accidentally spilled.

Once there were enough tires gathered for all of the teams, the race was back on! Even though workers had tried to clear the tacks from the track, the bikers were still cautious when going around the previously-sabotaged turn. Sigma Nu ended up winning the race, only after their chain had broke in the last turn and they coasted the final stretch.

The Great Tack Race of 1954 is an especially eventful and unforgettable race in the history of the Little 500. While not many of the students who attend the races nowadays are privy to the specific history, it still is worth remembering how the race started and how it transformed over the years into the race it is today. The various scrapbooks and picture collections stored in the IU archives provide an accurate and descriptive glimpse into the different years of IU history. The Little 500 race has continued for over 55 years, so as an integral part of the IU culture, its important to document the current and upcoming races so that the future generations of IU students are able to look back and learn more about the myths and truths that propagate the stories they hear.


The IU 10: Making the Future Brighter by Antonio Verrico

1969 was the last hoorah of the 1960s and was evident as it was decorated with events such as the highly anticipated moon landing and one of the most well-known Rock N’ Roll concerts of the century, Woodstock. This period also involved rising racial tensions between blacks and whites as white and black empowerment groups were becoming more apparent throughout the country. Blacks were still fighting for their racial equality and to be treated as equals. There is one event that took place at Indiana University which involves this fight for equality. This is the 1969 football boycott. I will explain what happened and the effect on IU. In summary, Indiana had just made a Rose Bowl appearance in 1967 with their Coach, John Pont, and finished the 1968 season with a 6-4 record. The future for the team was bright until mid-way through the 1969 season.

Indianpolis Star headline: Negro Athletes See Communications Gap“We didn’t want any coaching changes for blacks. We just wanted equal treatment as human beings. Pont harbors negative feelings towards us (negros)” (Indianapolis star,1969) – Clarence Price.

“I quit to make the future brighter for my younger brothers and my youngsters. Coach Pont can’t change overnight… he’s 42 years old and he’s set in his ways. But his kids might learn something from this whole business and maybe it’ll change their thinking towards blacks” (Sunday Courier and Press- Evansville, 1970) -Gordon May.

Gordon May and Clarence Price were black football players that were a part of the 10 football players that led the boycott. The rest of the black football players were Larry Highbaugh, Don Silas, Ben Norman, Bob Pernell, Greg Harvey, Mike Adams, Greg Thaxton, and Charlie Murphy. In my research, I found that they were called the “IU 10.” As one can see from their quotes, these players weren’t looking to cause a distraction. They were trying to make a point and create a precedent that blacks should be treated equal. An idea that should be as simple as tea, but, was one of the most complicated issues in America. These young African American men decided to put their careers on the line for something bigger than themselves.

The boycott started in October 1969 before the Indiana and Iowa game on November 9th. According to the IU 10, the poor treatment had been happening for a while before the Iowa game. According to Larry Highbaugh, Coach John Pont promised to give a starting position back after the player came back from an injury, “but when Bob Jones, Don Silas, and Charles Murphy came back from injuries, they were all third string. No one said why” (Sunday Courier and Press- Evansville, 1970). As a football player myself, if this happened to me, I would be very confused and would instantly want to meet with the coach. This is exactly what the IU 10 did as all the players who didn’t get their jobs back were black. They knew they had to stick together if they wanted any solution at all. Clarence Price said “we met with Coach Pont three times before the boycott. After each meeting we felt an accomplishment, but nothing really changed. All we did was talk” (Sunday Courier and Press- Evansville, 1970). From this statement, Coach Pont was possibly just attempting to appease the players, but not serious about helping them. After the IU 10 saw nothing was going to change with Coach Pont, they decided to take a stand and boycotted practice on November 4th. They all went to a player’s dorm room and began talking about the problems they faced while being on the football team. The black athletes eventually came up with 8 grievances that were given to the athletic department and university:

Black Athletes statement of Grievances

  1. Inadequate medical treatment
  2. Subjection to many discouraging and degrading remarks
  3. Inconsistency in administering of disciplinary action
  4. Inconsistency in administration and coaching staff to look after the physical and mental welfare of blacks to the same extent as their white counterparts
  5. Making demoralizing suggestions or implications
  6. Harassment of blacks in front of the squad
  7. Assumptions made by the coaching staff based on stereotyping of blacks
  8. Creation of an atmosphere that is mentally depressing and morally discouraging for blacks

WISH TV editorialThe day after the IU 10 boycotted practice, Coach Pont came to talk to the 10 remaining players at a player’s house and told them that they can come back individually, but nothing would change. The players were unsure whether the “nothing would change” phrase was referring to their treatment or the coaching staff. At the time, they believed it was referring to their poor treatment as they had remembered that Coach Pont did nothing the last time the IU 10 came to him. The players decided not to come back that day. After thinking about their futures and how much they missed playing the great game of football, they decided to come back the next day. However, the IU 10 could not come back that season due to Pont’s two-day rule. The rule was that a player would be dismissed for missing two straight practices without an excuse. A few players, Highbaugh, Norman and Thaxton, commented on the rule saying essentially that they were not aware of this rule before that day. According to a Wish TV8 editorial in 1969 (pictured above), Coach Pont said sophomores and juniors who quit the team could come back next spring or fall… if they want to come back.

After word got out about the IU 10 and their grievances, sides were taken by the community and the country on who to support. Coach Pont and the coaching staff or the IU 10. The black students at IU joined the support of the IU 10 in the boycott and called for an investigation of the incident. It even made an impression on the black faculty and administration at IU and other schools as they made a statement that supported the black athletes and called for an investigation of dismissal of the football coaching staff. For example, William D. Smith, Director of Afro-American Studies at University of Cincinnati, wrote in his letter to President Sutton “Now is the time for Indiana university to demonstrate to the world that it is “in tune” … therefore, be sensitive to these problems and all problems of black people” (C268.6 Football Boycott: Letters received 1969-1970). The IU 10’s boycott was reaching a national audience as people saw what these athletes were doing to change the culture and wanted to help in the movement. Furthermore, the responses of such groups did not take long as their statements were submitted on November 10 of 1969, around 4 days after the IU 10 was dismissed from the team. Thus indicating that the issue was very important, and the black community wanted their voice to be heard immediately to support equality for blacks.

Letter written by William D. Smith. “Football Boycott Letters received,” IU Archives Collection C268.6.

The university became extremely conscious of the racial tensions that were caused by the boycott and tried to appease the athletes and community by keeping the athletes on scholarship and delivering statements about the possible solutions to these types of problems. It was a “wake up call” to Indiana university to start making changes in the school’s culture around racial equality and fairness for all. IU proved itself as a school looking to change for the future and be proactive in the fight for equality in March of 1970. It was spring practice and three athletes from the IU 10, Highbuagh, Pernell, and May decided to rejoin the team. After a couple weeks, they were all suspended by Coach Pont because they showed a “negative feeling” towards the IU football program. Coach Pont’s reasoning was based on statements by them in the Indianpolis Star in which the three athletes hinted they would withdraw from the team. Due to the boycott in 1969, IU quickly decided to act and create an official senate for the university. The body passed a bill condemning Coach Pont for what the bill called “an act of overt racism” in suspension of three black athletes. There was no evidence on whether the investigation continued or if Coach Pont was fired for that reason, but he ended his career at IU two years later.

Front page of the Indiana Daily Student the day after the IU 10 were dismissed.

The IU 10 changed the culture at IU forever and led the university to become more aware of racial inequality and the treatment to certain races. The boycott of 1969 gave the black community a story to get behind, so they could voice their opinion and make progress in the fight for equality. This was not a publicity stunt for these young men, but a way for them on a larger scale to get their argument across. Although the boycott did not make a huge immediate impact, the actions that were taken impacted the university and made IU take a proactive stance on racial equality earlier than later. Without the IU 10, the university might not be as socially diverse and receptive as Indiana university is today. In final, I would like to thank the IU 10 for their courage and bravery in their demonstration in 1969. I believe they have made the future brighter for everyone.

Archives note: In 2015, the University announced reconciliation with the “IU 10”

How to Train a Dragon in Indiana

From “Nine Dragons” (jiǔlóngtú; 九龙图) by Chen Rong, 1244, located in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

Dragons are my favorite supernatural creatures. Maybe it’s not surprising, then, that I found a way to research them as part of my new job working for the University Archives. As part of IU’s 2018 Themester, which focused on the relationship between human and non-human animals, I started researching animal folklore in the IU Folklore Institute student papers, and quickly ran into Henry Gaidoz’s massive collection (GR55.G35 H46) in the related IU Libraries’ Folklore Collection. This French folklorist and mythologist collected texts about everything from Zoroastrianism to cannibalism, including an entire box of writings on dragons. At the bottom of that box, I found Marinus Willem de Visser’s 1913 missive The Dragon in China and Japan (Box 24, Item 568). This book contains hundreds of pages of descriptions of Chinese and Japanese dragon beliefs and traditions, including instructions on how to summon a dragon to make it rain.

M.W. de Visser, like Gaidoz, had a range of interests. He was a Dutch scholar who studied Chinese and Japanese folklore, but his works have become particularly well known in the field of cryptozoology, the study of supernatural creatures. In The Dragon in China and Japan, he chronicles the ways that dragon beliefs and rituals moved between India, China, and Japan, drawing along the way from Taoism, Shintoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. His book begins by describing beliefs that came from India, then moves into the way those ideas were absorbed into existing traditions in China and Japan. As I read, I realized what a vital role dragons play in eastern Asian traditions, particularly as water gods capable of starting and stopping rain.

Much of the western literature I had previously encountered depicted dragons as embodied metaphors for the human qualities of greed, violence, and wisdom. In China, however, dragons have been worshiped as deities, used as symbols of national identity and political authority, and are still seen today as figures with the potential to bless a community with rain or stop a flood. I was interested in these practices because of my love for all things dragon-related, but also because my home state of Utah was at the time suffering from drought and a series of terrible fires. I decided to combine some of the things I learned from Visser’s text with my own traditions and ask a dragon to bring rain to my home town.

Title page for M.W. De Visser’s The Dragon in China and Japan, Henry Gaidoz Collection, Box 24, Item 568

Chinese and Japanese beliefs in dragons are complicated and emergent, and they are not my area of study. However, based on Visser’s work as well as other texts, I identified what seemed to be some key aspects of these traditions. Ancient Chinese beliefs about dragons describe them as “enormous light-giving mountain gods” who helped create life and have power over the weather as well as other aspects of the environment (62). These long-standing beliefs combined with Buddhist and Hindu influences to form contemporary dragon worship practices, including the widespread belief in Dragon Kings. Dragon or Serpent Kings are local gods that live in specific lakes or rivers and can be petitioned to create or stop rain. Many are depicted as having bodies that are part serpent and part human.

“The Dragon King of the Four Seas” 1801-1850, located in the British Museum.

It is difficult to delineate how and where specific parts of dragon worship in China originated, but Visser outlines several examples of asking dragons for rain that come from Taoist and Buddhist traditions. In general, there are two types of strategies for communicating with dragons, both of which rely on knowing what the dragon either likes or dislikes. The first is performing a ritual to ask the dragon for help, which involves praying, providing offerings, and reciting sutras or sacred texts. These rituals often include images of specific dragons and items that are the color blue (the color of one of the most important dragons), and are done while facing the direction of the particular dragon you are trying to summon (often east) (30-32). The second strategy is to agitate the dragon to cause it to move, which can involve pulling small statues of the dragon in and out of the water, making loud noises near the shoreline, or throwing items the dragon dislikes (often iron and the Wang plant) into the river or lake (69).

My version of summoning the dragon was based on the two types of rituals described in Visser. First, I read about the Great Cloud Circle (or Wheel) rite. This Buddhist petition must be performed in an open space, under a blue canopy and a blue banner and on a blue seat facing east. There are additional instructions for who can perform the ritual and what they must be wearing, as well as the offerings that should accompany the performance. In this ritual a religious official or influential lay person recites the sutra or dharani of the Great Cloud Circle for one to two days while others play music and sing for the dragon. Then they burn offerings, including a paper figure with a message in his hand asking for rain. The act of burning this figure is supposed to allow him to take his message to heaven (32).

The second strategy I drew from is a practice associated with the dragon boat festival (such as this one in Washington D.C.), an annual celebration in which people race dragon boats and place dumplings wrapped in leaves and tied with five-colored thread in the water. There are many different versions of the story behind this festival –one of the most common is that it commemorates the poet K’uh Yen, a loyal man accused of treason who committed suicide, and the race of the villagers to save his body from being eaten by placing other food in the water. However, Visser and other scholars suggest that this celebration comes in part from an earlier festival which may have been intended to worship dragons. Visser suggests the act of racing symbolic representations of dragons and placing food wrapped in leaves of a plant that dragons would not like in the water were intended to make the dragons race or fight each other, causing a rainstorm (68).

After reading about these and other ways to communicate I wanted to respect these traditions but also perform my own ritual in a way that was personally meaningful, so I combined these ideas with what I had on hand. Part of the problem was that I was not asking for rain where I currently was–Indiana had plenty of water–so I spoke to Tam Iverson, a graduate student at the University of Tartu, Estonia, who is familiar with beliefs about rain summoning in many cultures. He suggested that I use a fulcrum, or something that emotionally connected me to the place where I was asking for it to rain. I knew my Dad was coming into town that weekend, so I waited for him to arrive and planned that we would figure out the materials and fulcrum together. Coincidentally, the day we planned was also the day of the fall equinox, which according to Visser begins the period in which dragons begin a period of hibernation (66).

Photo by Jessie Riddle

That weekend, we picked a stream near my house and I found a blue scarf given to me by my grandmother to act as a “blue banner.” My Dad and I wrote messages on pieces of paper and brought matches to burn them. I didn’t have dumplings or the specific leaves mentioned by Visser, so I wrapped a cookie in the leaves I found near the stream and tied it together with five colors of thread. We brought a blue umbrella as the blue canopy, and as the fulcrum and a text to read, I brought a childhood story book with a blue cover. I read the book out loud, we placed the cookie wrapped in leaves and thread in the water, and then burned our messages. It was raining while we did this in Indiana, but the forecast for Utah was no rain for the next week.

The next day my Dad flew home to Utah, and sent me this video, which includes the sounds of light rainfall in Provo, Utah:

I have no idea if we summoned a dragon, and if that was possible whether that dragon would listen to anything we had to say. But I learned about beliefs I would never have otherwise, and I felt strongly the importance of having personal rituals that allow you to communicate with the world around you. Also, I don’t know that it didn’t work. So thanks, dragon.