Independence Day in Bloomington: Then and Now

Independence Day is one American holiday which unites citizens from coast to coast. Communities across the country bond over barbecues, parades, and dazzling firework displays that light up the night sky each July Fourth. This year in Indiana University’s hometown of Bloomington, students and local residents alike will take to the streets for the annual Fourth of July Parade, which runs through the heart of downtown. At dusk, a fireworks display will also be featured south of campus at the Monroe County Fairgrounds.

Fireworks display captured by Indiana University alumnus Charles W. Kushman, whose photography collection is preserved at the IU Archives

Back in the early days of Indiana University, the Fourth of July was already a highly regarded holiday, yet the details of celebrations were different than those of today. With the memory of American independence relatively fresh in the minds and ancestral stories of many citizens throughout the early 1800s, the initial Independence Day over which first Indiana University President Andrew Wylie presided in Bloomington on July 4, 1830 was treated as a comparatively reverent, sincere event built upon both patriotic and religious reflection. An introductory portion of Wylie’s sermon, entitled “Religion and State: Not Church and State” reads,

Religion and State: Not Church and State, Title Page. Sermon by first Indiana University President, Andrew Wylie, presented on his first Independence Day in Bloomington, July 4, 1830

… I shall attempt to show, that the influence of the christian religion is necessary to the preservation of the liberties and the advancement of the general interests of this nation. And, in doing this we hope to be led into such a train of reflections as shall not be inappropriate to the general purposes of this sacred day. That the day has been set apart by God himself to commemorate the works of creation and redemption ought not to be considered as a prohibition, on the part of the Supreme Ruler of the universe, to celebrate his goodness in any other particular…

Though the aforementioned speech is highly religious in its admonitions due to Andrew Wylie’s position as a Presbyterian minister and strong religious upbringing, Wylie touches upon a variety of issues which remain relevant in the present day. His philosophical discussions on war, political party lines, corruption, morality, historical repetition, and American liberties lend insight into problems of the past which bind present-day readers to early Indiana University students through shared theoretical questions regardless of one’s religious affiliation. Should you have an interest in reading this sermon in its entirety, fortunately, all you have to do is click here to access a digital copy! To see more digitized documents from the Andrew Wylie papers, explore the finding aid by clicking on any “View items” link alongside the camera icons.

Religion and State: Not Church and State, First Page. Sermon by first Indiana University President, Andrew Wylie, presented on July 4, 1830

The abovementioned sermon aside, even in the 1800s, students and residents of Bloomington did indeed celebrate outside church walls. An editorial published in the July 6, 1906 edition of the Bloomington Telephone recounts Fourth of July celebrations from forty years prior, circa 1865, when the people of Bloomington gathered annually en masse in Dunn Woods, before it was home to the Indiana University campus. Town residents would dig trenches, roast beef and hogs, and feast with hundreds of people from Bloomington and the surrounding countryside. “The 4th was always the greatest day of the year,” the article concludes.

On that note, those of us at the Indiana University Archives wish you a happy Fourth of July! Whether you celebrate by attending the Bloomington parade, fireworks display, or gather for a backyard barbecue with family and friends, we hope you take a moment to remember a little bit of the history behind the holiday.

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.

Fun Frolic Over the Years

Fun Frolic, June 24, 1959
A small boy enjoys a night out at the third annual Fun Frolic on June 24, 1959

The days are long, humidity is high, swimming pools across town are bustling, and ice cream for dinner is starting to sound like a good idea. Summertime is here, and I think it’s finally here to stay! As many of you likely know, one more thing synonymous with the summer season in Bloomington is the annual Fun Frolic carnival, scheduled to start this coming Friday, June 10 and run through Saturday, June 18 at the Memorial Stadium Athletic Complex. It’s a can’t miss event for those looking to indulge in the delights of carnival rides, games, and fried delicacies!

Fun Frolic (slightly subdued by today's standards), 1960

Not only is the Fun Frolic a great escape, it’s also a fundraiser for a great cause rooted to a 54 year history. Beginning in 1957, the Fun Frolic was organized as an annual fundraiser by the Bloomington Staff Council, a representative body of University staff members created to provide staff with organized representation and a medium of exchange with University administration. The council used proceeds from the event to award scholarships on a basis of merit and need to children of University staff level employees. When the Bloomington Staff Council dissolved in 1993, the Fun Frolic was picked up by as a joint initiative between the Indiana University Day-Care Centers (more recently the IU Early Childhood Education Services) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central Indiana.

IU Physical Plant employee Robert Zink volunteers for the "Dunk-a-Man" game, 1970

The original Fun Frolic was not the elaborate carnival affair that the event grew into over the years. Instead, the first event in 1957 consisted of tents and simple games such as bean bag tosses and basketball, all set up and run entirely by staff council members. Proceeds the first year were just over $1,000. The event gradually grew to include other rides, games, and amusements, such as Add em up Darts, Dunk-An-Athlete (later Dunk-A-Man), a glass-blowing shop, and pig races in the 1960s and 1970s. In recent decades, the carnival has transformed into an elaborate celebration with the assistance of local amusement companies; Cumberland Valley Shows has been contracting with the Fun Frolic since 1975. Every year, classic rides such as the Ferris Wheel and Tilt-A-Whirl mix with new attractions that change with the times.

The Fun Frolic lights up a summer night, undated
The Fun Frolic lights up a summer night, undated

If you visit the Fun Frolic this year and want to know more about its history or see some of these great photographs in person, stop by the Indiana University Archives! Documents related to the fundraiser–including financial records, correspondence with event constituents, contracts, newspaper clippings, publicity information, and photographs–are available to indulge your curiosity.

Little 500: Entertainers of the Past

There’s a little event going on in town this week.

Victorious Little 500 riders, 1964

Yep, it’s time for Little 500 at Indiana University, for many years called the World’s Greatest College Weekend.

The race was the brainchild of Howard “Howdy” Wilcox. Wilcox, Director of the IU Foundation (IUF), established the IU Student Foundation Committee in 1950 in order to raise awareness of the Foundation and its purpose. He saw the race as an opportunity to publicize the IU Student Foundation and raise scholarship money for students working their way through school. The bike race, modeled after the Indianapolis 500, was first run in 1951. The first years featured only the race but before long a Variety Show was added and in subsequent years additional entertainment and events were developed, including the Golf Jamboree (1958), the Cream and Crimson intra-squad football game (1963), and the Style Show (1969).

This year there has been a tremendous amount of excitement over the headliner Lil Wayne and I thought there might be some interest in learning a bit about the past acts that have come for Little 500. In 1953, IUF Director Bill Armstrong decided to add a little celebrity luster and brought in the first Little 500 Sweetheart, actress and singer Lu Ann Simms. Simms was given every photo op possible throughout the weekend.

Actress and singer Lu Ann Simms served as the first Little 500 Sweetheart in 1953.
Actress and singer Lu Ann Simms served as the first Little 500 Sweetheart in 1953.

With the crowds the race began to draw, Armstrong harbored concerns about what folks could do in town post-race, so two years later he added a Variety Show. The headliner that year was Horace Heidt and his 50-person “Swift Show Wagon.” The group performed at the Auditorium and a new tradition was born. Feeling there could still be more, in 1960 Armstrong launched the Friday night concert, the Little 500 Extravaganza. The first performers were The Four Lads, who entertained crowds from the Woodlawn tennis courts.

In his book, The Little 500: The Story of the World’s Greatest College Weekend, author John Schwarb relays the story of Armstrong’s greatest celebrity coup, Bob Hope. Schwarb writes, “Making a personal crusade out of landing the big act of the day, he traveled to Hope’s North Hollywood, California, home in early 1963 to personally ask for the star’s attendance. Initially Hope rebuffed Armstrong’s request, saying that IU couldn’t be anywhere near as great as advertised, and that the school up the road in West Lafayette was better.” [this archivist’s response: *gasp*] Armstrong continued to pursue Hope and he agreed to come in 1964. That year, Little 500 set an attendance record of 23,790 and Hope delivered with four shows to accommodate the deluge of ticket sales. But when Armstrong in turn delivered his $30,000 check, Hope tore it up. Turned out he had such a great time that he asked to return the next year and did so again in 1967, 1971, and 1975, donating his fees to a scholarship fund in his name. (Interested in applying? Check out http://iufoundation.iu.edu/students/scholarships.html.)

The McGuire Sisters were 1954's Little 500 Sweethearts.
The McGuire Sisters were 1954's Little 500 Sweethearts.

So, there have been a lot of celebrities connected to Little 500. Some other names of the past:

  • 1955: Horace Heidt’s Swift Show Wagon
  • 1958: headliners Don Cherry & Tina Robin; Popoff Teddy Family, and Al Cobine
  • 1965: The Kingsmen
  • 1969: Tony Bennett, George Kirby, and the Sandpipers
  • 1970: Chicago
  • 1978: Lou Rawls
  • 1983: Barbara Mandrell & the Do-Rites
  • 1988: Innuendo, the Cones, & Voyage
  • 1992: Larry Crane, Henry Lee Summer, and John Mellencamp
  • 1993: The BoDeans (openers were Material Issue & The Why Store)
  • 2001: Nelly
  • 2005: The Roots
IU alums, what were some of your favorite Little 500 shows?

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.