Elephant Ears Anyone? – The Monroe County Fair on Campus

The rides, the animals, the demolition derby and don’t forget all the fried food delicacies – we all have our favorite reasons for attending the Monroe County Fair every year but few of us have any idea about the interesting history behind what for many of us is now a summer tradition. While the date of the first official county fair is rather murky as the early records of the Chamber of Commerce (the original sponsors of the event) were destroyed in a fire, it is believed that the first fair probably occurred somewhere near the turn of the century. It is known, however, that after 1924, the fair fell into a 22 year hiatus until it found a temporary home in one of the city of Bloomington’s most surprising places – the Fieldhouse on the IU campus (today know as the Ora L. Wildermuth Intramural Center, aka the HPER to most of us).

 While the fair was “good University relations with the home folks” according to a 1952 memo to IU Vice-President Joseph A. Franklin, understandably there was a certain amount of apprehension among the university staff, particularly concerning the use of the campus grounds for livestock exhibits.

Zora Clevenger

Most notably, in June of 1946 long-time Director of Athletics Zora Clevenger vehemently opposed the possible use of the football practice fields as a site for the animal exhibits, stating “First, the danger to the boys playing on those fields; they might become infected with tetanus: Secondly, we do not want our fields torn up in any way immediately before the opening of fall practice.” His pleas fell to deaf ears, as two months later, the August 13, 1946 issue of the Indiana Daily Student described the Fieldhouse:

“Walls have been made festive with orange curtains, and along the north wall, there is a stage for vaudeville acts and a 4-H Club style show. East of the Fieldhouse tents have been erected for the display of livestock and poultry. Displays will include automobiles, farm machinery, plumbing, furniture, jewelry, and groceries by local retail merchants and industries. There will be open class displays of canning and needlework…There will be several refreshment concession stands. Over 800 4-H Club members from Monroe County will contribute to the exhibitions.”

Notes showing the arrangement for the 1953 Fair

Following a nearly ten year run, in 1954 the Chamber of Commerce announced that it would no longer be able to sponsor the annual event, leading to the formation of the present-day fair board and the fair’s move to its present-day location on Airport Road.

For more information about the history of the Monroe County Fair on campus or if you happen to have any photographs of the fair on campus, please contact the IU Archives.

New Exhibit – “Light is Good in Whatever Lamp it Burns:” Religious Tolerance and the Vision of Beck Chapel

Frank Beck

Born July 18, 1872 on a farm near Germantown (Wayne County, Indiana), Frank Orman Beck came to Indiana University as a student in 1890, receiving his A.B. in 1894 and A.M. in 1895, both in comparative literature. While teaching part-time his senior year at Bloomington High School, he met then-student Daisy Woodward and the two were married on July 23, 1899, shortly after she received her A.B. degree from the University. Over the next decade, the two traveled extensively to continue their studies – she at the New England Conservatory of Music and he Boston and Harvard Universities, the University of Chicago, and Edinburgh University in Scotland. Upon their return to the United States in 1912, the Becks settled in Chicago where Frank spent over 25 years serving as a teacher, minister, and social worker in places such as the Wabash Avenue Methodist Church in the infamous First Ward on the fringe of The Loop, the Chicago Welfare department the Chicago Inter-Church World Movement and with Jane Addams in Hull House and in the missions along “Skid Row.”

Retiring from his first career in 1934, Frank and Daisy returned to their alma mater to serve as unofficial counselors to the student body and the administration – building a religious program on the university campus which sought to ease prejudice with tolerance and understanding. As the programs grew, the Becks began a nearly twenty year campaign to build a place of worship on the Indiana University campus for those of all faiths, and in 1957 thanks in large part to their own vision and financial support, Beck Chapel was dedicated. Today the chapel stands as a symbol of religious unity, but not according to Beck “a chapel of a universal religion but a chapel that recognizes the claims of all religions – a chapel that avows that ‘light is good in whatever lamp it burns.’”

    The University Committee on Religion and the Student Religious Cabinet

On December 3, 1937, as one of his first official acts as University President, Herman B

Minutes of the 1st Meeting of the Committee on Religion, December 3, 1937

Wells established a University Committee on Religion. Composed of members of faculty, local clergymen, group religious sponsors, lay members, and students, the group was tasked “to correlate the independent religious activities on the campus, and to study trends and agencies here and elsewhere for the expansion and unification of religious service to faculty and students.” With Frank O. Beck serving as the Executive Secretary, with the outbreak of the Second World War the group acknowledged that:

The pressing need of national unity today makes it imperative that religion become a unifying force rather than a divisive one. The common ground of various faiths must be cultivated. All faiths must go harmoniously together as far as they can. Between all the religious units of the campus efforts must be made to create the mutual understanding and unity resulting from a common belief in democracy and in the ideals of liberty and a common God.

Within a few months, the Student Religious Cabinet – under the leadership of the Committee on Religion – was established consisting of representatives from various religious faiths on campus in an effort to ease prejudice with tolerance and understanding. As outlined in their constitution, they sought to “form a pan-faith fellowship which will correlate all religious activities of the campus, promote fellowship and understanding among all religious groups and faiths on the campus and to do collectively many things which they may not be able to accomplish as separate entities.”

Student Religious Cabinet, 1956

Soon after its organization the Cabinet set up five special interest groups, officially known as commissions on Inter-Racial Fellowship, Social Creed and Action, Peace Education and Action, Personal Religion and Worship, and Inter-faith Fellowship and Work. Through conferences and seminars, campus publications such as The Voice of Religion, morning group breakfasts, and chapel colloquies, they sought to address the larger social, political, and religious issues of the day such as racial segregation, religious intolerance, European refugee students, and building morale and involvement in wartime activities.

The Gift of a Chapel

On January 29, 1941, during a special banquet in Alumni Hall sponsored by the  University Committee on Religion and the Student Religious Cabinet, 1937 Nobel laureate Dr. Arthur Compton spoke on “A Scientist’s Conception of God.” Following the lecture, university President Herman B Wells stood before over 400 members of the faculty, student body and the public to announce a generous gift from Frank and Daisy Beck to construct a chapel for those of all faiths on the campus. The Board of Trustees accepted the gift shortly thereafter, and the university architects presented a conceptual drawing for the proposed structure.

Unfortunately, due to the war-time scarcity of building materials the construction of the Chapel was delayed by several years. Finally, as part of commencement activities on June 12, 1954, the ground was dedicated, two years later the cornerstone laid, and the official dedication ceremony followed during Commencement activities on June 9, 1957.

Frank Beck, the Curator of the Chapel concluded the ceremony in prayer:

 Almighty God from whom every good prayer cometh, and who poureth out on all who desire the spirit of grace and supplication, deliver us when we draw nigh to thee, from coldness of heart and wandering of mind.
Our Eternal God under whose guidance our fathers walked and by whom they were strengthened and sustained:
We pray that the spirit which kindled their faith may descend upon us;
That the students who are upon our campus today may aspire nobly, adventure daringly, and come to the realization of one world under God in the common meeting ground of faith which is the common essence of Brotherhood;
And when they go out keep them amidst the perils of their uncertain way.
We pray that by faith we may see the needs of those who will come after us, to bequeath to them a rich heritage, and to share with them the widening vision.

The Grove of All Faiths

On February 10, 1942, representatives from 100 student organizations, three devoted religious leaders – Rabbi Cronbach, Professor at the Hebrew Institute of Cincinnati, Dr. James Gillis, editor of The Catholic World, Dr. Charles C. Morrison, editor of the Christian Century – President Wells and Dr. Frank Beck (below shown left to right) gathered on the proposed site of the new chapel to plant three trees representative of each of their faiths. Those present for the dedication joined in unison:

Planted in a Triangle, may these trees ever symbolize to us the harmony and unity that should dwell among us, and, above all the divisions, of our imperfect society, assert the Brotherhood of man.

Tree Planting in the Grove of All Faiths, February 10, 1942

Over the course of the following years, trees symbolizing the other religions of the world joined the initial three, including Christian Science and the “Religions of the Orient.”

A Symbol of Religious Unity

Within the Chapel sacristy are housed the holy symbols and scriptures of all the world’s religions including a rare copy of the Koran hand-painted in gold; the book of Genesis written in Hebrew and printed from wood-cuts in Rome in 1578; The Dahamapada, the Canonical Scriptures of Buddhism; a Torah; and a Bible.

The Venerable U. Thittila, Professor of Buddhist Philosophy at the University of Rangoon, Burma with Dr. Beck examining holy vases from Korea and a historic copy of the Koran.
Extremely rare copy of the Koran, a gift of Izziddees Rawi, Ph.D, 1951, of Baghdad, Iraq, which was presented by Ziad Keilany of Syria and Sinan Rawi of Iraq.

In the words of Frank Beck, the chapel

…does not aim to resolve religious differences, or to seek religious compromise, or to reduce faiths to the lowest common denominator. On the other hand it holds a sensitive regard to the rights of varying religious opinions and seeks to encourage respect for the ethical and religious values of each of the historic faiths represented in the student body and faculty.
The Chapel would, however, represent a sense of unity in this rich diversity. It will not become a chapel of a universal religion but a chapel that recognizes the claims of all religions – a chapel that avows that ‘light is good in whatever lamp it burns.’
It strives to unify by contending that all differences of religion are subordinated to a higher and more comprehensive agreement: that truths high enough are sure to meet. It strives to establish that all true religions seek sufficient depth and universal outlook to rise above all differences; and that with the oneness of mankind as the central problem of the age, we come nearer to God as we come nearer together.
Thus, the Chapel will not become the chapel of a common creed, but the chapel of a common quest, granting free and full expression to each faith represented on the campus, with each faith enriching others by the differences of faith and function.

Today, the Chapel continues to serve as the home for those of all faiths, with services held representing the Christian (Catholic and Protestant), Jewish, Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, Muslim, Shinto, Sikh, Zoroastrian, Taoist, Coptic and Baha’i faiths. In addition to symbolizing a higher search for religious tolerance and unity on campus, annually the Chapel witnesses the exchange of numerous engagement and wedding vows, christenings, memorial services, devotional services, organ recitals and simply as a quiet place of self-meditation amidst the bustle of campus life.

Visit the Archives reading room through September to view the exhibit, or contact an archivist to see the Frank O. and Daisy Beck papers.

Frank Lloyd Wright and the Usonian House

For those of you on or near campus later this morning, architectural historian Kathryn Smith – one of the foremost experts on Frank Lloyd Wright and modern architecture – is giving a lecture on “Frank Lloyd Wright and the Usonian House” as part of the Horizon of Knowledge Lecture Series. For more specific information about the event see here.

In general the term Usonian – first coined in 1936 with the design of the Herbert Jacobs House in Madison, Wisconsin  – refers to Wright’s rethinking of the small affordable house in his effort to shape the period of prosperity and development that he envisioned for post-Depression America. In many ways quite similar to Wright’s earlier Prairie style homes which featured low roofs, open living areas, and an apparent relationship to nature, the Usonian style homes however were smaller, one-story structures. The traditional plan consisted of an L-shaped footprint for the house, with the back of the house facing the street and the front organized around a courtyard. On the interior, he eliminated the concept of the separate dining room, reorienting the kitchen and the dining area into one space. The traditional garage was replaced by the carport, while the need for a basement was eliminated by the use of lightweight floor slabs resting on a grad of packed sand containing a radiant heating system.

The announcement for this lecture, reminded us of related correspondence in the recently re-processed Henry Radford Hope papers. Hope – who served as the Chair of the School of Fine Arts for 27 years and as the first director of the Indiana University Art Museum – gave a talk in June of 1943 before a faculty group on Wright’s domestic architecture. In preparation for that talk, Hope surveyed several current owners of Wright designed homes, asking them to provide “information such as the cost of your house, difficulties you had with priorities, differences of opinion between architect and contractor”, and “details with which you were satisfied or dissatisfied.” While carbon copies of these inquiries are included in the collection, of particular note are the responses from the owners of two Wright designed Usonian homes – each with a rather differing opinion on the success of the final product.

Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum House (Florence, AL)

Flikr Creative Commons, by Gino

Added to the National Register of Historic Place in 1978, the Rosenbaum House was built for newlyweds Stanley and Mildred in 1939 and exists as the only Frank Lloyd Wright designed structure  in the state of Alabama.

On May 25, 1943, Hope sent Stanley Rosenbaum a letter outlining the above questions, and the following day Rosenbaum responded in a rather critical way – to put it mildly. The second page from that letter is shown here, with  “Jack” serving as a pseudonym to refer to the Wright-recommended contractor who worked on the project. You can view the letter in its entirely here.

Today the site serves as a museum open to the public, so for more information you about the history of the site visit their website.

Gregor S. and Elizabeth B. Affleck House, Bloomfield Hills, MI

A childhood friend of Wright, in 1940 Gregor Affleck and his wife Elizabeth chose to commission the design of their new home from the renowned architect – despite the fact that Elizabeth  had originally desired a “‘Colonial’  with white pillars to the roof.” Wright directed the couple to locate a site for their new home that “‘no body else can do anything with,” and the resulting product brought on a rush of local and national attention. In October 1940, Progressive Architecture published a 4 page spread on the house, while the model for the design was included in a Wright retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1940-1941. Upon inquiry, the resulting – and much more positive – correspondence between Gregor Affleck and Henry Hope elaborates upon the merits of the design (see here) as well as an stylistic comparison between Wright’s style as compared to those of his contemporaries Le Corbusier and Walter Groupius (see here).

In 1980, the home was donated to Lawrence Technological University to ensure that it would continue to be available to the public and to inspire students of architecture. More information about the history of the site can be found through their website.

Looking for an Interesting Summer Vacation Spot?

In the process of writing this entry, I happened to find that you can actually rent this little Usonian gem in northern Wisconsin – originally designed for business man Bernard Schwartz in 1938.

Travel Postcards

A few days from now I’ll be sitting on a sunny beach somewhere with my toes in the sand and it got me thinking about travel postcards. Did anyone else meticulously send everyone they knew postcards when they were a kid on family vacation?

Washington Monument, postmarked June 18, 1943
Washington Monument, postmarked June 18, 1943

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The following are a few fun postcards we happened to have on hand, drawn from our Hennel Hendricks collection. This collection, still in process, holds the personal and family papers of Cecilia Hennel Hendricks, late Associate Professor of English, and her sister Cora B. Hennel, late Professor of Mathematics.

Postmarked Hayward, Wisconsin August 24th, 1943
Postmarked Hayward, Wisconsin August 24th, 1943

Postmarked Hanover, New Hampshire, March 17, 1943
Postmarked Hanover, New Hampshire, March 17, 1943

Demolition Day

Today marks the end of an era for one representative of IU’s post-World War II building boom. University Apartments West, located near the intersection of Third Street and Jordan Avenue will be demolished today to make room for the construction of a new studio building for the Jacobs School of Music. For more information see today’s article in the Herald Times (login required or can access through the library subscription if at IUB).

Completed in February of 1949, the University Apartments, the Hoosier Courts apartments, and the Woodlawn Trailer Court were built to accommodate the massive influx of married veterans returning to school on the G.I Bill. Over the course of one year the student population of the Bloomington campus more than doubled, going from 4,498 in 1945-46 to 10,345 students the following year.

"At Home at Indiana" brochure, ca. 1949
"At Home at Indiana" brochure, ca. 1949

Between University Apartments East and West, the complex consisted on 238 living units, each building consisting of 81 efficiency and 38 one-bedroom apartments.

Carriage House, 1950
Carriage House, 1950

Advertising for the building boasted about its two laundry rooms with automatic washers and dryers and ironing boards, a carriage and bicycle room, incinerator system for garbage and trash disposal, and guest annunciator system from the building lobby to each apartment.

In the 1950s efficiency apartments ran $60-65 per month (an additional $10 for furnished) and one bedrooms went for $70-75 (an additional $15 for furnishings). Rooms included drapes, electric stove and refrigerator, kitchen cabinets, and all utilities except for phone.