“A little nonsense now and then is relished”: The Moonlight Pleasure Club of 1892

Many students are members of a club or two during college. It’s not uncommon. But, how many students can say they created an original club for themselves? What would this kind of informal club look like? Would you have rules?

The Moonlight Pleasure Club constitution is a document which shows us exactly what kind of club a group of Indiana University students decided to create for themselves in 1892.

The members of The Moonlight Pleasure Club were likely graduate students when they formed their club in 1892. They didn’t create a formal student organization or aim to recruit more members. No. These four students just sat down and wrote their own constitution. It appears that one male and one female student were the charter members who then initiated another male and female student into the club. This initiation appears to have been the reason for the document’s creation since the constitution itself calls for the club to have four members only. The document includes twelve articles or rules, and has signatures from all four students including two labeled as protesting and two labeled as affirming. But, who were these students? What was this club for exactly, and why did they name it Moonlight Pleasure?

Unfortunately, a thorough search of the archives has not yet yielded much more information about the club. The Arbutus IU yearbooks document each of the four student authors of the constitution and their time at IU, but there is no mention of the actual Moonlight Pleasure Club in any of the yearbooks. We don’t know much about this mysterious club, but the students who wrote and signed the club’s 1892 constitution were a bit easier to track down.

The four members of The Moonlight Pleasure Club were of similar ages, but each studied different academic subjects at IU.

http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/archives/photos/P0073125
Frederic Truscott, 1891, Archives image no. P0073125

Frederick Wilson Truscott (b. 1870 – d. 1937) graduated from Indiana University with his A.B. in German in 1891. He earned his A.M. in 1892, and later obtained his Ph.D. Truscott eventually became a professor of German at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He also served in World War I in the U.S. Army.

http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/archives/photos/P0073126
D. T. Weir, 1891, Archives image no. P0073126

Daniel T. Weir (b. 1864 – d. 1949) graduated from IU with his A.B. in physics in 1891 and he obtained his A.M. in mathematics in 1893. He went on to teach in Indianapolis.  Both Weir and Truscott contributed to war service efforts in various capacities.

http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/archives/photos/P0073127
Maud F. Van Zandt, 1888, Archives image no. P0073127

Maud Freeman Van Zandt (b. 1868 – d. 1917) graduated from IU with her A.B. in English in 1888. Maud married and had children. She died at the age 48 after a severe case of pneumonia.

http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/archives/photos/P0073128
Grace Woodburn, 1885, Archives image no. P0073128

Grace Helen Woodburn (b. 1865 – d. 1922) graduated from IU with her A.B. in 1885 and with her A.M. in Latin in 1894. Grace also married and worked in the home.

Unfortunately, this is all that’s currently known about the students. The two men are known to have worked as a teacher and a college professor after their time at Indiana University. A line in the constitution’s Article I implies that all four were studying to either become teachers or to simply obtain a liberal arts education. The line reads: “The motto of this club shall be, ‘A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men and some high school teachers.'”  However, this interpretation of the line does not necessarily mean all members were educators.

In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, it was common for women to gain a college education but then go on to primarily be homemakers and mothers. This seems to have been the case for Maud Van Zandt and Grace Helen Woodburn who both appear to have become a “house wife” after marriage according to U.S. Census records.

While to this point we don’t know much more about these club members,  the constitution itself can offer a few more clues into what the students were like and what they did as a club.  Articles I., II., and III. explain that the club basically aimed to have fun together as a group of friends. The club was likely a chance for each student to get  away from school work and stress.

The next few articles in the constitution seem to contain stereotypical details and rules that a club might want to establish. The difference however, between this constitution and the usual sort of document used by a formal club is its tone.

The student members of the Moonlight Pleasure Club made jokes and appeared to mock formal club rules while writing their constitution. But even some of their jokes are representative of the social milieu of the time.  There are two instances when the document makes it clear that the male members have more power and status in the club than the women. Articles V. and VIII. seem to make jokes at the expense of the women club members. While there are no leaders or positions of power in the club, Article V. also says “of course in cases demanding a high grade of intelligence the women shall give place.”  And though the club appears to be democratic, it also gives the “gentlemen” the ability to have the final say in any tied votes.

But, were these rules all serious? Were students mocking social aspects of their time or did they seriously imagine men had a ‘higher grade of intelligence’ than women? Their constitution also says that the club “initiation fee the price of one pair of shoes for each of the charter members.” Is this a social idiom of the day, or were they mocking the often required fees for student organizations? Did they write this document as a joke with the aim to mock other university student clubs?

Unless we find more about the Moonlight Pleasure Club, we might not find out if these students were joking or mocking other student clubs, or if this was a serious matter to these students. In any case, this document provides a unique glimpse of what a group of friends did for fun together.

Below, you can look at the constitution for yourself! Can you find any more clues? A transcript of the constitution follows.

Constitution page 1, Moonlight Pleasure Club constitution, Collection C629, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.
Constitution page 2, Moonlight Pleasure Club constitution, Collection C629, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.
Constitution page 3, Moonlight Pleasure Club constitution, Collection C629, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.
Constitution page 4, Moonlight Pleasure Club constitution, Collection C629, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.

Below is a transcript of all four pages of the constitution:

[Page 1]

Constitution of The Moonlight Pleasure Club 1892.

Members
I. Charter.
Grace N. Woodburn.
Fred W. Truscott.
II. Initiated
Daniel T. Weir.
Maud Van Zandt.

Article I.
The motto of this club shall be, “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men and some high school teachers.”
Article II.
The purpose of this club shall be to have an awfully nice time, and anything which tends toward education or intellectual improvement shall be looked upon with disfavor and suspicion.

[Page 2]

Article III.
The ruling spirit in this club shall be, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow begins my early week at school.”
Article IV.
This club shall consist of four members; of these two shall be gentlemen and two shall be women.
Article V.
This club shall have no officers; all members shall be on an equal footing but of course in cases demanding a high grade of intelligence the women shall give place.
Article VI.
This club will meet whenever it has a chance or whenever any body invites it out. In urgent cases any member may call a meeting and one person shall constitute a quorum for transaction of business.

[Page 3]

Article VII.
The Action of the club shall not be binding on the members, nor shall the action of any members be binding on the club.
Article VIII.
All questions shall be decided by a majority vote but in cases of a tie, the gentlemen shall have the say.
Article IX.
The color of this club shall be crimson, symbolical of the warm friendship among its members and the ruddy time which tinges all its proceedings.
Article X.
Freedom of speech is guaranteed to every member and also the right to yawn as violently and as often as he pleases without fear of molestation.

[Page 4]

Article XI.
The initiation fee shall be paid right away by each initiate and shall be the price of one pair of shoes for each of the charter members. During the cold spells the senior members reserve the right to impose a repayment of this fee as often as they choose. The right is reserved to each initiate to do as he pleases about paying this.
Article XII.
This club will encourage as far as possible the use of the truly Hoosier expression “didn’t get to.” Everything that is Hoosier shall be welcomed and anything that savors of the worn out east shall be discountenanced.

Signature of Members

Protesting
Daniel T. Weir
Maud F. Van Zandt

Affirming
Grace H. Woodburn
Fred W. Trescott

Contact the IU Archives to see the Moonlight Pleasure Club constitution in person.

New at the Archives: Kathleen Cavanaugh scrapbooks 1960-1965

Kathleen Cavanaugh as an undergraduate student at Indiana University, circa 1964. C617 Box 3.

Over the years, the Indiana University Archives has steadily been acquiring an impressive assortment of photo albums and scrapbooks (see Catherine Ruby Force’s scrapbook, 1915-1920; the Margaret Werling scrapbook 1951-1953; and the Delmus E. Aldridge wrestling scrapbook 1929-1979, just to name a few!)

Scrapbooks and other handmade memory books are a valuable part of our collections, especially when they are created by students to document their experiences at Indiana University at various points in the University’s history. We are happy to share one of our most recent acquisitions, the Kathleen Cavanaugh scrapbooks 1960-1965 (C617), as a testament to the scrapbook as a fun, creative, and uniquely personal document of the student experience at IU!

Kathleen Cavanaugh (1942-2016) was born on November 9, 1942 in Indianapolis, Indiana to Martha and Harry Cavanaugh of Salem, Indiana. After graduating from Salem High School, Cavanaugh attended Indiana University Bloomington as an undergraduate student from 1960-1964, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Zoology. During her time as an undergraduate, she was a very active member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority, continuing to hold several leadership roles in the sorority even after she graduated. An enthusiastic participant in campus life, she was also a member of the Association for Women Students and the Young Women’s Christian Association. Cavanaugh later re-enrolled at Indiana University as a graduate student, earning her M.A. in Biology in 1970.

Freshman Camp 1960: the “neatest way to start college!” C617 Box 1.

This collection contains three scrapbooks compiled by Cavanaugh during her time as an undergraduate student in the early 1960s. Each is filled with photographs, newspaper clippings, greeting cards, and other mementos that Cavanaugh saved to document the various social activities that she participated in, starting with Freshman Camp in the fall of 1960, which she described as “the neatest way to start college.” She saved many items related to her Gamma Phi Beta sorority, including rush schedules, group photos, and clippings from times when her sorority sisters made the newspaper. Cavanaugh loved attending sporting events on campus, and she dedicated spreads in two of her scrapbooks to the Little 500 bicycle race events in 1962 and 1963.

Pages containing mementos from one of the numerous dances that Cavanaugh attended as an undergraduate student. C617 Box 1.

Cavanaugh enjoyed collecting various knick knacks, saving things like coasters and matchbooks from her favorite restaurants on campus, and funny cards that she received from friends and family for her birthday and Valentine’s Day. One page contains a sparkly blue lei and a colorful corsage from one of the many dances that she attended over the years. In addition, Cavanaugh used these scrapbooks to document some of the big changes and exciting events that were going on around campus at the time, including the 1962 retirement of Herman B Wells as president of the university and famous comedian Bob Hope opening the Little 500 Variety Show in 1964.

Flipping through the scrapbooks that Cavanaugh compiled is a special opportunity to get an idea of what it was like to be a student at Indiana University in the early 1960s, from the perspective of someone who embraced the student life and participated in as many events and activities as she could, documenting her adventures along the way.

Cavanaugh’s scrapbooks contain memories from many sporting events, including the Little 500 bicycle races in 1962 and 1963. C617 Boxes 1 and 2.

If you would like to see the Kathleen Cavanaugh scrapbooks for yourself, please feel free to contact the IU Archives to set up an appointment.

Snippets from Dorm Life: The Indiana University women’s residence hall scrapbooks

Memorial Hall, Sinclair Studio, 1931

In 1925 Memorial Hall Indiana University’s first owned and operated women’s dormitory opened, followed shortly thereafter by Forest Hall in 1937 (later renamed Goodbody Hall), Beech Hall in 1940 (renamed Morrison Hall in 1942 in honor of IU’s first female graduate Sarah Parke Morrison) and Sycamore Hall in 1940.

May Day Festival participants, “The Towers”, 1937

Each of these residence halls making up what we now know as the Agnes E. Wells Quadrangle had a long-standing tradition of making a scrapbook to document prominent activities and events that occurred either in the dorm or with its residents during that year.

The Indiana University women’s residence hall scrapbooks collection consists of 81 scrapbooks produced by the residents with volumes dating from 1925 to 1959. These scrapbooks typically contain individual and group photographs of dormitory residents and residential counselors, usually with accompanying textual information. They also often contain interior or exterior photographs of the buildings of Wells Quadrangle, as well as other sites on campus, such as the Indiana Memorial Union

Two residents of Memorial Hall East, “The Towers,” 1936 or 1937

and the Student Building. Besides formal photographs, there are images of everyday dormitory life, such as students studying, dining, or participating in athletics and other activities.

Many scrapbooks also contain memorabilia and ephemera such as dance cards, invitations, correspondence, event programs, sports schedules, newspaper clippings and similar items related to campus events and activities that were either sponsored or hosted by the dormitories or attended by their residents. Events frequently represented in these volumes include Homecoming, the Little 500, seasonal formals, and celebrations of holidays such as May Day and Christmas.

Most of the scrapbooks followed some sort of visual theme which allowed the dorm’s more artistic members to have a little fun:

Selected illustrations from the Sycamore 1951-1952 Log

Here’s one with involving a theme based on Dante’s Inferno:

Inferno-Theme
Selected illustrations from the 1928-1929 Castle Chronicle

These scrapbooks often also include little tidbits that give modern readers insight into the relationships that these women had with each other and how the outside world impacted their daily life. For example in a previous post from last year Mail Call: Correspondence at IU during WWII, our readers learned about how ladies at IU were affected by WWII.

Seniors Crop
Illustration from the 1930 Castle Chronicle

Many a scrapbook regale the reader with descriptions of pajama parties, teas, dances, and social coffee hours. Others may include more personal notes such as a congratulatory message from the dorm to one of the ladies on her engagement, a retelling of a special moment during the year, or perhaps an inside joke known only to that particular community. Each scrapbook will also often include sections on the academic triumphs of the residents and a section dedicated to seniors which recount many fond memories of their lives at IU as well as advice for underclassmen moving forward.

If you’re interested in these or other scrapbooks contact the IU Archives to schedule an appointment.

Lawrence M. Langer: IU Physicist and Manhattan Project Scientist

While Lawrence M. Langer made an impact at Indiana University’s physics department, his contributions to society go beyond his work as a physics professor at IU. Dr. Langer’s role with the Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb that hit the town of Hiroshima during World War II, played a pivotal point for the Allied powers.

Langer with three other physic professors in 1940 (from left to right, Langer is the third person) helped create the first cyclotron at Indiana University. P0032291

Lawrence M. Langer was born in New York in 1913. He received his B.S.(1934) and PhD (1938), both from NYU in physics. In 1938, Langer joined the Indiana University faculty in the physics department where he helped create IU’s first cyclotron. As WWII progressed, Langer was excused from his duties at IU to join the Massachusetts Institute of Technology radar project in 1941, then moving on to to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico in 1943 to participate in the atomic bomb project. He served as the group leader and was the first of IU’s faculty to be recruited for the project.

1945 may have marked one of the most important years of Langer’s life. Langer supervised the trial drops of dummy bombs by Enola Grey (the plane used to drop the atomic bomb at Hiroshima) at Saipan. He also trained an Army officer for the mission, because the military would not permit a civilian to carry out the mission.

On the night before the Enola Grey mission, Langer wanted to make sure that everything stayed in place. He had feared that the military police and possibly others would become curious and cause problems for the bomb. For this reason, he stayed on the plane, and guarded the bomb on the evening before the mission was to take place. Eventually as Langer became tired, he slept on top of the bomb. In the morning everything was properly intact.

Following the Hiroshima misson, Langer returned to Bloomington and served as faculty member in the physics department until 1979. During his time there, he published many works and inspired his students in the field of science. Langer resided in Bloomington until his death in 2000.

Langer was a beloved faculty member at Indiana University, but many outside of the school community, remember him for his contributions to the Allies during WWII.

If you would like to learn more about Langer, contact the IU Archives to make an appointment to view the Lawrence Langer papers. There is a plethora of materials including WWII military documents, newspaper clippings, and Langer’s academic work.

Here! or Absent? Student Chapel Attendance in the 19th Century Chapel Roll

When most of us began college, we never expected to have to attend any kind of prayer service or religious exercise.  Such activities have always been a choice for our generation. Millennials may have gotten off easy though. We’ve grown up in a time when religion has had little influence on our public education. But this wasn’t the case for the IU students of the early 19th century!

Until after the 1887-1888 school year, students were required to attend religious services at the chapel at IU. Throughout its existence in different locations as a State Seminary, as the Indiana College, and finally as Indiana University, the campus has had a long relationship with chapel services. Student attendance and excused or unexcused absences were meticulously documented in the Chapel Roll.

Chapel inside the First University Building. ca. 1876

A large brown leather bound book, the Chapel Roll is a record of student names, their rank as seniors, juniors, sophomores, or freshman, and their attendance at the mandatory chapel services from 1883 until 1891. It is interesting to look through the pages and see the numbers of students in each year and to try to decipher the chapel’s attendance system. Though the ornate writing in the book is attractive at times, it was likely a record that many students would have disliked. Most of us now probably can’t imagine having to sit in a religious service every day as a part of the college experience. And as student attendance was mandatory, any unexcused absences may have had consequences for early Hoosiers!

First University Building
The First University Building ca. 1856, also known as the Old College Building was used to house the Chapel, several academic departments, and other activities. A room in this building served as space for the Chapel from 1856 to 1896.

Though the location of the chapel and the content of the services eventually changed, and even though attendance was no longer required after the school year of 1887-1888, the Chapel Roll still kept a record of attendance for the difference activities held at the chapel. It can be found at the IU Archives.

For more information about the history of student attendance at chapel services here at IU, see Camille B. Kandiko’s 2005 article “Pray! Or Not to Pray: The History of Chapel at Indiana University an Illumination of Institution Practice and Policy.”

Contact the IU Archives to schedule a visit to view the Chapel Roll in our reading room.