New! Indiana University President Cyrus Nutt’s Records

Cyrus Nutt served as Indiana University’s fifth president, and despite what his title may suggest, not much of a record exists for the former president. It’s likely that records related to his presidency were lost to a fire, so this small collection comprises most of what we have from his time in office.

Nutt was born in Trumball County, Ohio in 1814, and he held a number of educational positions and served as a Methodist minister before becoming the university’s president. He graduated from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, in 1831, and upon completing his studies served as the principal of the College’s Preparatory Department. He later moved to a similar position at Indiana Asbury University (now DePauw), which he held until 1843 when he began pastoral work in the Indiana Conference at the Bloomington station. He then returned to Asbury before serving as president of the Fort Wayne Female College and Whitewater College. Between 1855 and 1860, he resumed his work in the ministry and served as both a mathematics professor and president at Asbury.

A report on the Mathematics Department to the Indiana Board of Trustees, 28 June 1864, signed Daniel Kirkwood

In 1860, Nutt was elected president of Indiana University, and his records reflect his day-to-day duties – reports to the Board of Trustees, correspondence, and addresses to graduating seniors. We know that his presidency also saw a few ambitious changes in the University. In 1867, the Board of Trustees voted to admit women to classes, and around the same time the university experienced the beginning of organized athletics as students began to embrace the game of baseball. The junior and senior-class-controlled newspaper The Student also was founded that year. Throughout his presidency, the University attempted to create an agricultural and mechanical school under the terms of the Morrill Act, though by 1869 Purdue was established as the land grant college of Indiana.

Baccalaureate Sermon to the Graduating Class, 28 June 1863

Nutt also presided over the university during the unstable and uncertain years of the Civil War. In his 1863 “Baccalaureate Sermon,” delivered just days before the Battle of Gettysburg, Nutt railed against the South, writing that they have “placed in the scales our once glorious Union and Constitution – the flag of our common country – the Government established by our fathers, so NOBLE and FREE; and, in their estimate, the whole is greatly overbalanced by the advantages of a separate Southern empire! The bones, the blood, the lives of their patriotic sires, their pledges and oaths, their loyalty, their consciences, their manhood, they have deliberately bargained and sold for the fancied benefits of disunion.”

Near the end of his sermon, Nutt hints at the incertitude of the time, asking: “Shall this Republic be preserved, and the great destiny which God has designed for it be fulfilled? Or shall the hopes of humanity be disappointed? Shall the glorious sun of freedom, now shining in these western heavens, go out in the darkness? Shall the lamp of Liberty be extinguished here in her last and chosen habitation, and despotism hang its midnight pall over the world forever?”

Of course, the United States remained intact, but in the early 1870s, Nutt was finding it increasingly difficult to keep the students on his side. Although the reasons are not known entirely, during the final years of his presidency tensions rose between President Nutt and the students. Some of our best evidence comes from a copy of The Dagger, a bogus student newspaper published in March 1873. Students lamented the number of “soreheads” on the faculty and attacked Nutt in a poem called “Our President’s Origin,” in which they imagined the devil’s imps creating Nutt as a “senseless beast in the image of a man.”

In 1875 the Board of Trustees dismissed Nutt, likely over internal problems with the board and the students. Nutt died on August 24, 1875, approximately one month after his dismissal.

To learn more about Cyrus Nutt or any of IU’s presidents, please contact the Archives!

New! William W. Spencer papers, 1872-1911

A finding aid is now available for the William W. Spencer papers, which offer a glimpse into the work of a nineteenth century student and his impressive career following graduation.

University Superior Moot Court summons from the 1870s

Spencer was born October 7, 1851, in Indiana, and he attended the University in the early 1870s, receiving his B.S. in 1875. He went on to study in the Department of Law where he participated in the University Circuit Moot Court, a required activity for students in the department at the time.

Among the moot court papers in the collection are several trial records. A couple of records dated April Term 1876 pertain to a widow’s suit for damages from a railroad company after her husband died in a train accident while traveling through Buffalo, New York. Another record dated February Term 1877 simply states that the case lacks sufficient facts and is followed by pencil-written notes.

Trial record from the University Superior Moot Court, February Term 1877

Following his graduation in 1877, Spencer moved to Marion County, Indiana, where he began his political career.

According to Rebecca A. Shepherd’s A Biographical Directory of the Indiana General Assembly, he was active in the Marion County Democratic Central Committee from 1881-1892, serving as both the secretary and later as the chairman. In both 1904 and 1908, he was chosen as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

He was then elected member of the Indiana House of Representatives from Marion County in 1911 and served until 1914, participating as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

An undated essay titled "Temperance Bill" begins, "Gentleman; in appearing in this position before you tonight, I trust I shall command your attention."

Some of his writings appear to date from his time in the legislature, such as an address on the Temperance Bill, while others are short essays on various topics, including the teaching profession and the electoral college.

After his time in the General Assembly, he served as a commissioner on the state Board of Elections from 1918-1938. He died December 9, 1938 in Indianapolis.

To learn more about William W. Spencer and his time as a law student, please contact the Archives!



The IU Ethnomusicology Students Association – Films, Concerts, and the Original “Folklore Shuffle”

 The Ethnomusicology Students Association collection finding aid is now available, and the materials depict a very active student organization throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. The ESA was established in 1978 to provide IU students interested in ethnomusicology with a place to share their common interests, and they quickly set to work planning the usual kinds of social events, lectures and workshops often offered by student groups.

But they didn’t stop there. They became involved in the The Archives of Traditional Music Noon Concert Series, and they began hosting an ethnomusicology film festival in 1983 that ran until at least 1991. The first “Filmfest” schedule featured films like Roberta Flack (1971) and Chulas Fronteras (1976).

 They also supported “The World Music Radio Program” on WIUS, which later moved to Bloomington’s community radio station, WFHB.  The earliest mention of the radio program is on a 1991 advertisement to “tune in” with host Ross Veatch.

However, the ESA wasn’t all work and no play. In the back of the Minutes/correspondence folder from 1985-1986, I found a copy of “The Folklore Shuffle,” a light-hearted take on the 1985 Chicago Bears football team’s “The Super Bowl Shuffle.”

Dated April 1986, the folklore version of the rap appears to have been written on the occasion of W. Edson Richmond’s retirement from his position as professor of English and folklore. A number of folklore faculty members had a verse, including now Associate Vice Provost for the Arts Ruth Stone and Associate Professor Emeritus of Folklore John Johnson. The chorus follows, but if you’re prepared to let the entire folklore shuffle blow your mind, please click the image.

We are the folklore shuffling crew.
Shuffling on down, doing it for you,
We’re so bad, we know we’re good,
Blowin’ your minds, like we knew we would.
We’re just here, annotating for fun,
The masters and the prelims, will keep you on the run.
We’re not here, to feather your ruffle.
We’re just here, to do the folklore shuffle.

As always, if you have any questions or would like to see the collection, contact the Archives!