“Borkenstein and His Monster: The Man Behind the Breathalyzer” — A New Exhibit at the IU Archives

OFFICIAL Press Release: New exhibit at the Indiana University Archives on display now through May!

Borkenstein and His Monster: The Man Behind the Breathalyzer

Robert F. Borkenstein working on his Breathalyzer Prototype, invented in 1954.
Robert F. Borkenstein working on his Breathalyzer Prototype, invented in 1954.

Over the course of his life, Professor Robert F. Borkenstein (1912-2002) rose from a full career in the police ranks to become an Indiana University professor, administrator, and highly respected leader in forensic science and traffic safety. Borkenstein’s most celebrated single achievement was his groundbreaking invention of the Breathalyzer in 1954. This instrument, which uses breath samples to measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC), was the first practical device for roadside BAC testing for use by police officers investigating traffic violations and accidents. In the years since its initial invention, the Breathalyzer went on to revolutionize law enforcement practices and legislation concerning traffic safety and the combat against drunk driving.

A portion of the mechanical plans submitted along with Borkenstein's original Breathalyzer patent application, 1954.
A portion of the mechanical plans submitted along with Borkenstein’s original Breathalyzer patent application, 1954.

The Robert F. Borkenstein Papers at the Indiana University Archives contain a rich record of Borkenstein’s many professional and personal endeavors as well as his enduring influence, beginning in the 1930s and extending to the present. Highlights from this collection—including the original Breathalyzer prototype, several successive models, photographs, mechanical designs, and evidence of Borkenstein’s extensive influence—are featured on display through May.

All are encourage to visit the exhibit in the Indiana University Archives reception area (room E460) on the fourth floor of Wells Library at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Curated by Amy Jankowski, graduate student studying under the Archives Specialization in School of Library and Information Science.

Borkenstein (third from left) stands with colleagues displaying his Breathalyzer Prototype, circa 1954.
Borkenstein (third from left) stands with colleagues displaying his Breathalyzer Prototype, circa 1954.

Notes from the Curator: Earlier this semester, I had the pleasure of processing the Robert F. Borkenstein papers. The collection contains many document types that I am accustomed to working with in the archives, including correspondence, photographs, awards, news clippings, writings, and the like. However, the paper-based materials in this particular collection are complemented by more than a dozen three-dimensional artifacts, which are products of Borkenstein’s research into breath test technology with the goal of measuring blood alcohol content of motorists. In fact, Borkenstein was the inventor of the Breathalyzer–the portable, easily operated device used for decades by United States police forces in the combat against drunk driving.

Borkenstein examining a Breathalyzer Model 900B, manufactured by the Drager Corporation, circa 1985-1995.
Borkenstein examining a Breathalyzer Model 900B, manufactured by the Drager Corporation, circa 1985-1995.

Through his inventions, research, and heavy involvement in national discussions on traffic safety, Borkenstein became a renowned professional icon and a noteworthy figure in Indiana University’s history. Because of his significant influence and the visually engaging nature of his materials, the IU Archives decided to install an exhibit showcasing a number of Borkenstein’s Breathalyzer instruments and complimentary documents.  It provides an excellent opportunity for students, staff, researchers, and the otherwise curious to explore the diversity of the Archives’ holdings and learn a bit more about one of IU’s celebrated personalities from years past.

I hope you have the opportunity to swing by and take a look at the exhibit!

The Tradition of the Spring Break at IU

With the approach of another spring break, I thought I might address the question: when did the tradition of a spring break or vacation begin at IU?

The best and most convenient sources of information on this topic are the official calendars which until recently were printed in the IU Bulletins, the first of which was published in 1829.

No Spring Break As We Know It Today
From 1829-1850, IU divided the school year into two terms or sessions each five months long. The first session typically began in November and ended in March, and the second session began in May and ended in September. There were two, month long vacations each year in April and October. No other vacations or breaks are listed in the Bulletins for this time period, so presumably there was not a spring break as we know it today.

In 1850, IU went to a three term or session schedule of the type that we have at the present time, but for the period from 1850-58 the pattern differed somewhat from what we have today. The first or fall session began sometime in September and ended a few days before Christmas. The second or spring session began the first week of January and ended in the first week of April. The third or summer session began in the first week of May and ended the first week of August. The vacations were during the seven week period between summer and fall sessions, and the four week period between spring and summer. Although the four week recess between the spring and summer sessions could be called a spring break (although officially it was not), its length in no way resembles our modern day spring break. One can say, I believe, that this month long vacation belongs to the older nineteenth century tradition of long breaks between sessions with little or no time off during the term or session.

Spring Break Tradition Established
In 1858 the pattern changed. The fall term stayed the same but the other two sessions were altered: the second or spring term ended late in March rather than early April, and the summer session began a week later in April and ended at the end of June or early in July. There is no formal mention of a spring break in the Calendars, but the one week period in early April between sessions has the “look and feel” of a spring vacation that resembles the modern day version. In fact, in the 1872-73 calendar we find the first mention of a “Spring Vacation” occurring in the first week of April 1874.

So, one can safely say that the tradition of an IU spring break that resembles what we have today began in 1858, though if one wants to establish an official date, the year 1874 when the term appeared in the Calendar might be the better choice. However, over the years the exact dates of the spring break or vacation moved between mid to late March and early April. In addition, the length of the break varied. For example, in 1887, the spring break which had been a week or ten days including the weekend was reduced to four days including the weekend. However, in 1891 the break was again extended to ten days including the weekend, which was the pattern until 1913 when the spring vacation was again reduced to four days. The four day pattern persisted until 1942, when the War Service Plan formulated by a University Administrative War Council changed the school year to three semesters, discontinued the summer session, and lengthened the spring break to ten days. After the war, in 1945, the school year reverted back to the two semesters and a summer session pattern, and the spring break was again reduced to four days including the weekend. However, in 1949, the spring break was lengthened to seven days plus the weekend, and that pattern has persisted until the present day.

Women’s History Month: IU’s First Coed, Sarah Parke Morrison

In 1867, Sarah Parke Morrison became the first woman admitted to Indiana University.

Morrison’s parents, John and Catherine, were themselves well-educated. John graduated from Miami University in Ohio in 1828, at which time he returned to his hometown Salem, Indiana and opened the Washington County Seminary. At the Seminary John was in charge of Catherine Morris’ education for six years. In 1830, Catherine’s parents sent her to the Quaker-run Westtown Boarding School near Philadelphia, where she studied for two years. Upon her return to Salem, John proposed to Catherine and they were married September 11, 1832. Their first child, Sarah, was born in 1833.

In addition to the Washington County Seminary, John and Catherine worked together to open the Salem Female Seminary in 1835. Instead of hiring the customary male teaching assistants, they employed young female teachers from the East, a rarity in this time.

After a considerable amount of home schooling, Catherine decided it was time for her daughter Sarah to receive more formal training. Sarah attended Mount Holyoke Seminary, graduating from that institution in 1857. She went on to Vassar College, where she was a pupil-teacher and later to Williams College to do post-graduate work.

After studying at Williams, Sarah returned home to Salem. While preparing to attend the 1867 Indiana University commencement, Sarah’s father, formerly president of the IU Board of Trustees and now Treasurer of the State, remarked to Sarah that it was time for the University to open its doors to women and offered Sarah $5 to prepare an appeal to the Board of Trustees.

This Sarah did, and the Trustees found nothing in the University’s charter that barred women from entering the University. They declared women could enter under the same terms as men. Sarah, at 34 years of age and years of education behind her, had no desire to attend Indiana University and hoped some other woman would step forward. To her disappointment, no young woman did, so Sarah entered as a freshman in the fall of 1867.

It was the fashion then to wear large sun hats, with a rather broad ribbon going over the crown and tied under the chin. The young men were not dangerous to me nor I to them, but I was thankful for the protection that hat afforded me from six hundred eyes presumably furtively ‘casting a sly glance at me’.

Sarah completed the four year program in two years, graduating in 1869. Four years after her graduation, Sarah was appointed tutor and in 1874 she became IU’s first female faculty member when she was named adjunct professor of English literature. Despite Sarah’s success as a student, the male students did not readily accept her as their superior. She only stayed at IU for one more year, at which time she left for other pursuits.

Sarah remained an active alumna of the University, however, frequently writing the Board of Trustees inquiring why women have not been placed as members of the various University boards. To voice her protest, she began returning her alumni ballots for the Board of Trustees marked “for some woman.”

Sarah Parke Morrison died in 1919 and is buried in Indianapolis.

The Archives holds a small collection of Sarah’s papers, which includes, among other things, a handwritten account of her entrance to IU as well as the frequent letters written to university administrators admonishing the lack of female representation among its ranks.

"Pardon me, but why have ladies not been placed upon the Board of Visitors? What is the use of so many men?"
“What is the use of so many men?”

Knightstown, Ind. Jan 19, 06

To Isaac Jenkinson, President and the Board of Trustees:

Honored Friends,

Pardon me, but why have ladies not been placed upon the Board of Visitors? To think that ever since 68 you have declared the half of the kingdom theirs, and yet they have not even a name among you as co-workers. You do not wish to increase the number upon the Boards? Certainly not. What is the use of so many men?

Click here to read her letter in its entirety: Morrison

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.

Happy Birthday, Indiana University!

“It shall be the duty of the General Assembly, as soon as circumstances will permit, to provide by law for a general system of education ascending in a regular gradation from township schools to a State University, wherein tuition shall be gratis, and equally open to all.”

Dear Indiana University,

Baynard Rush Hall, Indiana University's first professor
Baynard Rush Hall, Indiana University's first professor

It’s your birthday today! Wow, 191 years. Do you think the framers of the state constitution could have ever imagined what you would become when they wrote the lines above? From humble beginnings of two buildings – one, housing for the lone professor, Baynard Rush Hall, the other, classroom and chapel space – you now have “Eight Front Doors through which children from all corners of the world have passed. You have touched them all in your own way and given them the tools to succeed in life, as any good mother would.

And on this day, your 191st, the Indiana University Archives presents you with a gift we hope will please you: this blog, through which we will reach out to those you have touched and will continue to teach them about your traditions and family. We will show them the letters, reports, photographs and records (and heck, probably a juicy diary or two) that sustain you and change you. We’ll ask for their help from time to time and we know they’ll respond, because you are Indiana University and those you touch bleed cream and crimson.

This is Blogging Hoosier History.

Happy Birthday, Indiana University!!!