Sincerely Yours: Howard Ashman, Making IU Part of His World

Many students today do not immediately recognize Howard Ashman’s name when mentioned as a notable Indiana University alumnus; however, they do recognize Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Little Shop of Horrors. Ashman wrote the lyrics and Alan Menken wrote the music for all four of those titles, winning several Academy Awards and Grammy Awards. They took home an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1986 for Little Shop of Horrors, in 1989 for The Little Mermaid, and in 1991 for Beauty and the Beast. They won the Grammy Award in 1990 for The Little Mermaid, in 1993 for Beauty and the Beast, and in 1994 for Aladdin.

SnowQueen
Snow Queen, lyrics and screenplay written by Howard Ashman. April 29, 1973. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, Indiana.

Howard Ashman graduated from Indiana University in 1974 with his M.A. from the Department of Theatre and Drama. He accomplished many creative achievements during his time at IU, including writing the screenplay and music for Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen in 1973. A letter to Ashman from R. Keith Michael, Chair of the Department of Theatre and Drama, highlights some of his accomplishments as well as his stellar reputation in the department.

Letter from R. Keith Michael to Howard Ashman. April 30, 1974. Collection 299, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, Indiana.

After his graduation in 1974, Ashman would not return to Indiana University until April 1987. He was invited to give a lecture and see a performance of Little Shop of Horrors produced by the IU Department of Theatre and Drama.

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Letter from R. Keith Michael to Howard Ashman. December 9, 1986. Collection 299, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, Indiana.
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Letter from Howard Ashman to R. Keith Michael. December 18, 1986. Collection 299, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, Indiana.

In April 1987, Ashman returned to the same stage he had been on in
1973 at Indiana University, saying it had been “Fourteen years and a lifetime.” He told the Herald-Times on April 19, 1987, “The distance between Bloomington and New York is a life-time. It’s been a very emotional thing for me to come back. I was an actor at IU, and I haven’t acted since I left here. But I have very intense memories of this place, and of the people who changed my life here. This building vibrates for me. There are ghosts here for me.”

Photograph of Howard Ashman on the set of Little Shop of Horrors in the IU Department of Theatre and Drama. April 19, 1987. Herald-Times, Bloomington, Indiana.

As seen in his agenda below, Ashman spent much of his visit in-and-out of interviews and had lunch and an informal chat with IU theatre students before seeing IU Theatre’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. Sources say that Indiana University was the first university granted permission to stage a performance of Little Shop of Horrors thanks to Ashman.

Howard Ashman Visit agenda. April 16-17, 1987. Collection 299, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, Indiana.
Little Shop of Horrors, IU Theatre. April 23, 1987. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, Indiana.

Howard Ashman passed away on March 14, 1991, shortly after completing his work on Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. While he passed well before his time, Ashman’s lyrics live on in some of America’s most beloved animated and theatrical characters. And for one brief moment in April 1987, he made IU part of his world.

 

Dancing the Night Away: Student Life in the 1950s

Margaret Albersmeyer Werling graduated with a bachelor’s in Education in 1953, and, according to her personal scrapbook, attended every sporting event, theater show, and dance that she possibly could between 1951 and 1953. While perusing her scrapbook, I discovered many interesting IU student traditions including: the decorating of fraternities for football games, the Law-Med School Boress, the Arbutus Queen Contest, and the Fall Carnival Parade.

Fraternity decorated for Homecoming, 1949

Margaret was an avid attendee of athletic events and saved programs from basketball games, track and field events, and football games. She must have truly enjoyed attending the Old Oaken Bucket games between IU and Purdue because she saved tickets and programs from 1951 and 1952. Although she did get to see IU triumph in football, she watched the Hoosiers clinch the 1953 NCAA Basketball Championship over Kansas and attended campus celebrations.

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Margaret Werling’s ticket for the 1951 Old Oaken Bucket game

I was most intrigued by Margaret’s impressive dance card collection. Dance cards initially became popular in Vienna, Austria in the 19th century and their usage peaked in the early 20th century.  Dance cards were typically small, decorated booklets worn on a woman’s wrist or attached to her dress with a cord. Men carried pencils and wrote their names on lines next to the name of dances in the booklet.

1942 Junior Prom dance card
1942 Junior Prom dance card

Dance cards remained in fashion until the 1960s when dances became less formal affairs.  Common phrases such as “pencil me in,” “my dance card is full,” and “save the last dance for me” are all tied to the dance card culture. Many of Margaret’s dance cards have a decorated cover that reflects the theme of the dance, lists of committee members who sponsored the dance, and details about the entertainment.

Dances were all the rage at IU in the 1950s.  There were plenty of formal and informal dances to keep students busy.  Students could attend the Freshman Frolic, the Freshman Tyronian, the Sophomore Cotillion, the Junior Prom, the annual Blanket Hop hosted by Sigma Delta Chi (the honorary journalistic fraternity), the Senior Siwash, and many more!

Dance at the Union, 1951
Dance at the IU Memorial Union, 1951

A dance that became an annual tradition on campus was the Wellhouse Waltz. The first iteration of this dance was held in 1944 at the Alumni Hall of the Union. Each year, male attendees selected a freshman woman to become “Miss Campus Coed.” It was said that in order for any IU woman to become a “true coed,” her date must take her to the Well House after the Wellhouse Waltz and then kiss her for the full twelve strokes at midnight.

The Junior Prom was the most formal dance of the season and was held in the Men’s Gymnasium with a dedicated theme.  The festivities could last until two o’clock in the morning. Students must have truly enjoyed these dances because they would “end only by force of the 12:30 curfew when dates unwillingly part” (1953 Indiana Arbutus, p. 138). The theme of Margaret’s 1953 prom was “A Star Danced.”

Duke Ellington at the 1952 Dames' Ball
Duke Ellington at the 1952 Dames’ Ball

Well-known artists played at many IU dances.  In 1952, Duke Ellington played at the Dames’ Ball, a dance where women escorted the men.  According to the 1952 Arbutus, “The men reaped the benefits of inverted chivalry that evening as they were called for, paid for, and encumbered with original – and uninhibited – corsages.”  At the end of the night, one man was chosen to be “King of the Dames.”

Students voted on a Queen at both formal and informal dances. At the 1952 Sweater Hop, the Sweater Queen was selected out of twenty-nine candidates. According to the 1953 Arbutus, “each housing unit had the privilege of selecting their candidate for the competition. The list was narrowed down to five girls before the dance by several judges picked from campus dignitaries. The sponsoring housing unit then put on an all-out campus campaign.” Couples attending the dance cast their vote and the winner was presented with a cashmere sweater and roses.

Margaret must have loved her time dancing the night away as an undergraduate at Indiana University because she came back to earn a master’s degree in education eight years later. If you would like to learn more about dances at IU, look at Margaret Werling’s scrapbook, or learn about other IU student traditions, contact the IU Archives.

The Folklore Paper Collection: A Cabinet of Curiosities

Musei_Wormiani_Historia
“Musei Wormiani Historia”, the frontispiece from the Museum Wormianum depicting Ole Worm’s cabinet of curiosities. From: commons.wikipedia.org

You never know what you will find when you dive into a box of Folklore papers. Much like a Cabinet of Curiosities from the Renaissance and Victorian periods (see left) these boxes are stuffed full of papers and items that will spark one’s curiosity, wet one’s intellectual appetite, and engage the mind in cultural history.

The University Archives recently processed a collection of papers written by students taking material culture courses in the Folklore Institute between 1960 and the early 1980s. These papers are written on a wide variety of subjects within material culture including architecture, crafts, tombstones & epitaphs, quilting, furniture, instrument making, family traditions and recipes, fashion, and food ways.

Many of these papers consist of interviews with artisans and craftsmen, family members, or owners of the locations being researched. One such paper includes an account by the owner of a house near Elizabethtown, Indiana which was part of the Underground Railroad used by runaway slaves fleeing north to Canada during the Civil War. A number of the locations and craftsmen discussed in these papers are local or in close proximity to Bloomington, including a paper on the Rose Well House which is a popular fixture of legend in IU campus lore.

Postcard Set Postcard Duo

For those more interested in religious studies there are also papers centered around religion. One such paper describes the folkways surrounding food, feasting, and religious practices of the Russian Orthodox Church during the week of Easter and recounts how the low number of parishioners at Bloomington’s Russian Orthodox Church affected the Bloomington orthodox community in the 60s and 70s. The paper even includes a set of colorful feast-themed Eastern Orthodox postcards for the reader to examine (see here). I would be curious to see if the church survived or not but I couldn’t find it through any direct means…perhaps that is an answer in it of itself.

Sometimes going through papers from various years allows the researcher to see trends.  Apple doll making and water witching seem to have been popular subjects in the 60s and 70s. There are also a fair number of papers written on local tombstones and instrument makers in this collection.

Most of these papers will include samples, HeroI012photographs, or other items related to the paper’s subject. One such paper written on the Kennedy family, who built covered bridges in Indiana, has a beautiful set of covered bridge illustrations and diagrams as well as old advertisements for tools used to construct these bridges.

Other papers involving quilt making either have quilting pattern diagrams,
Quilt Samples
magazine pictures, samples, or hand drawn patterns to help explain the types of patterns being  discussed (see here).

Slightly more odd items are included with these papers too. One paper on soap-making had a bag of lye stapled to one of the pages (you definitely don’t want to touch that with your bare hands. It’s highly caustic and can burn your skin!).  Another had a seemingly random top of a wood spool of sowing thread with no explanation as to its significance within the greater context of the paper other than the fact that the paper was on quilt-making.  As I continued to go through the collection I briefly wondered if I would encounter a paper on Thanksgiving that included a wishbone taped to the backside of one of the papers…but alas the wishbone did not reveal itself…

For more on these papers and other Folklore-related items contact the IU Archives.

 

The Alma Eikerman papers

The Alma Eikerman papers are now organized and available for research! If you don’t remember, the collection came to us in pretty rough shape; you can read about in my blog post from a few months ago.

Born in 1908, Eikerman was a well-respected artist and professor who taught in the School of Fine Arts (now the School of Art + Design) at Indiana University from 1947 to 1978. Known for her innovative metalsmithing, she was a vital force behind the development of the program at IU. Her work appeared in numerous exhibitions during her lifetime and now resides in private collections and museums across the country, including the Smithsonian and our own IU Eskenazi Museum of Art.

Passports of Alma Eikerman
Passports of Alma Eikerman

The Eikerman papers includes a wealth of material documenting Eikerman and her life. Included are papers from her extensive travels such as tickets, maps, itineraries, brochures, notes she took while on trips, and her passports with stamps of the countries she visited.

Her correspondence includes not only professional missivesSome letter sent to Alma but also many personal letters, such as post cards Eikerman sent to her parents while she was working for the American Red Cross and a letter from her grandfather from around 1916. Eikerman also sent annual newsletters to her former students to keep everyone updated on each other, demonstrating her dedication to and interest in her students.

The photographs in this collection are my personal favorites and include slides, negatives and prints spanning her entire life, personal and professional. Also, can we all just agree that Alma Eikerman was incredibly Pictures of Alma photogenic?

Lastly, and perhaps most important to those familiar with her work as an artist, is the part of the collection that relates to metalsmithing. Here researchers can find notes, receipts for materials, price estimates, sale tickets, as well as preparatory sketches of her work in various Sketches from Alma's papersstates of development – some hardly more than doodles while others are detailed sketches of a piece complete with notes.

Contact the IU Archives to schedule an appointment to view the Eikerman collection!

The Crimson Bull and the Purdue Special

Humor has always been a popular approach when discussing collegiate life.  It has a way of fearlessly tackling the array of social and academic topics that confront college students like dating, partying, professors, Greek life, and sports.  Indiana University has a long history of student-published satire/humor magazines such as the Vagabond of the 1920s, The Bored Walk of the 1930s, and The Date from 1946-1947. Another was the Crimson Bull. 

In 1947, the IU chapter of the professional journalism society Sigma Delta Chi launched the Crimson Bull, adopting the name of a former IU student humor publication that was issued in the early 1920s. In post-WWII America, the editors of The Crimson Bull found it necessary to stir backlash against the mainstream propaganda distributed by University officials; they courted censorship, played with taboos, and encouraged criticism along with, of course, laughter, providing a unique yet undeniably relatable glance at IU student life.

c-bull-feb-1949003The IU Archives holds over 30 issues from the racy humor magazine dating from 1947-1956.  During its publication The Crimson Bull released 6 or 8 issues a year, many of which were special issues ranging from the eminent doom of graduation to “the birds and the bees.”  While many of these special issues targeted the typical collegiate themes, the November issues however were often reserved for a distinctly IU problem – Purdue.

Out of all of IU’s Big Ten competitors, our greatest rivalry is with our in-state neighbor, Purdue.  IU and Purdue have been in-state rivals for over a century, and although bitter opponents, the universities have tried to keep it in good spirits. The two universities have constantly fought over who holds the title of the state school, and the editors of The Crimson Bull were quick to inform readers on IU’s clear superiority. The publication dedicated at least three known issues to berating their northern neighbor university, be it through mock exposés, comic illustrations, or simply flaunting snapshots ofc-bull-1952002 IU’s impressively beautiful freshman women.

The magazine often refers to Purdue as COW College, stereotyped as the agriculture school that uses its engineering program as a front to disguised its crude, crumbling infrastructure.  Purdue is often framed as a true architectural horror with a dismal 6:1 male to female student ratio and embarrassingly subpar literacy standards. These magazine issues include articles set from the perspective of an “undercover” student journalist who bravely ventured to probe the Purdue campus along with interviews from phony “former” Purdue students who had supposedly escaped and transferred to IU, recounting many horrors.  The flagrantly false allegations made towards Purdue would have surely gotten a laugh out of any IU student – a scoff and maybe even a chuckle from a Purdue student.

c-bull-1949001“The Purdue Special” of November 1949 contains a particularly interesting article titled “Our Bucket” that investigates the origin and other historical moments from past Oaken Bucket Games (You can read more about the origins and history of the Old Oaken Bucket in this post from last week.)  The competition began in 1925 after the first Oaken Bucket Game ended in a deadlock tie, forcing the trophy to be shared between the two campuses – Purdue having the trophy for the first six months, IU for the latter.

As an IU alumnus myself, I especially enjoyed reading about the particularly rattling upset of 1930, where the IU underdogs defeated the Boilermakers at home.  It is rumored that the upset was so unexpected that the officials had only bothered to print a “P” link that year. After returning to Bloomington, accompanied by a band of celebration, the IU football team and fans were stunned to realize that the Old Oaken Bucket trophy had been stolen en route by a band of disgruntled Purdue students disguised in the IU cream and crimson.  An investigation pursued for the missing trophy and ten days later the Old Oaken Bucket was discovered unharmed on a loading platform in the middle of Lafayette.  The theft caused quite a scandal and further solidified a rivalry that to this day continues to divide Indiana homes.

What I enjoy most about The Crimson Bull is that although these magazines were written over sixty-five years ago, as an IU alum, one cannot help but appreciate the long standing tradition of the two universities’ love-hate relationship.

Contact the IU Archives to see the full collection.