Faye Calvert Abrell: Teacher in Occupied Germany

Faye Abrell sitting on the old city wall Nuremburg.

Faye Calvert Abrell attended Indiana University from the 1930s until 1941, receiving both her B.S. and M.S. in Education. Following her time as a student, Abrell landed a position teaching in the Dependents School Service in war-torn Frankfurt, Germany during the program’s earliest days, 1946-1947. The majority of the collection given to the Archives documents this year abroad and includes correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks she made and souvenirs she collected during this time.

Items allegedly taken from Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest”

As a teacher for the Dependents School Service, Abrell spent the year in the American occupied zone of Germany teaching American children who had moved overseas with their parents. (their fathers were deployed officers). During her periods of leave from teaching, Abrell traveled around Europe sightseeing and visiting places such as Hitler’s home, also known as “The Eagle’s Nest.” Abrell was also able to attend some of the Nuremburg Trials while she was in Germany.

The photographs taken by Abrell document the resiliency of the German people to continue forward and rebuild after World War II. Abrell photographed the numerous bombed-out buildings and devastated countryside she witnessed during her year abroad. In fact, she described the apartment building she lived in during her time in Frankfurt as being “half-bombed away.” Not surprising, considering the destruction the city faced during the war.

Faye Abrell standing among ruins in Nuremburg

Abrell also created several scrapbooks incorporating the photographs, tickets, and souvenirs she collected while teaching and travelling in Europe. One of the most interesting finds (I thought!) is within the largest scrapbook. In it, Abrell pressed a flower she stated was from a bouquet on Hitler’s table and a piece of broken marble from his mantle piece. (We did a little research and not only is the marble is the same red as Hitler’s mantle but she also documented the visit in her journal, so we think it’s legit!)

Contact the IU Archives if you would like to learn more about this alumna and her papers and see a piece of Germany post-World War II!

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A previously unknown IU pioneer

So this past week I had one of those moments at work where I was reminded that:

  1. My job is awesome.
  2. There are always new discoveries to be made.
  3. My job is so so so very awesome.

I was spending some time with the Library’s subscription of the NewspaperArchive (if you haven’t checked it out, you should. It’s a little clunky and seems to work best with Internet Explorer, but it’s full text searching of historical newspapers. You can hardly ask for more). In browsing through a January 1898 newspaper in search of an article about IU’s former Jordan Field, I spotted this:

"First Negro Girl in Indiana University," Logansport Pharos Tribune, January 8, 1898

“First Negro Girl in Indiana University,” Logansport Pharos Tribune, January 8, 1898

This is huge folks. Unless somebody has been keeping it a really good secret, to this point we had no idea who was the first African American woman to attend Indiana University. We know Frances Marshall was the first African American woman to graduate (1919), we knew there had been other black women before her who attended but did not complete their degrees, but we had no clue as to who was the first.

I contacted my friends at the Office of the Registrar who confirmed that Carrie did indeed matriculate January 4, 1898 and attended through Fall 1898. Wow. Okay, now to find see what else I could find out.

A bit more digging in the newspapers found a write-up about her graduation from Clinton High School, which names her as the first ever African American woman to graduate from a Vermillion county school. The article, titled “Colored Girl’s Triumph: She Overcomes Terrible Obstacles and Graduates With Distinction,” (June 4, 1897, Bedford Mail) covers nearly a full column and verily sings Parker’s praises:

She was the main object of interest in the graduating exercises. Her subject was “Home and Its Influence,” and when it came her time to speak she stepped to the front, cool and unembarrassed. She handled her subject with the skill and judgment of a professional lecturer, and it was the wonder of the audience how so young a girl could have learned so much on the practical affairs of life. She easily carried off the honors of her class, and the applause was hearty.”

The article continues, stating that after attending college (mistakenly stating she’d be going to Bloomington, Illinois), Parker intended to serve as a missionary to Africa. It closes with, “She has conquered the many and aggravating obstacles which confronted her during her unequal struggle in the Clinton schools, and her determination will make her a winner in the race for distinction which she now enters.”

Unfortunately, I was able to find very little about her year at IU and why she decided to leave. As with all students at the time, she had to find her own lodging since there was no University housing. According to the papers, she was to secure a room with Elmer E. Griffith of the English Department and his family. The wonderful librarians at the Monroe County Public Library’s Indiana Room scoured the local newspapers to see if there was anything new reported in the Bloomington papers but were unable to find anything more than an announcement that she had enrolled.

After striking out on locating additional information about her student days, I turned to the library’s subscription of Ancestry.com (that link comes with a warning: Time suck! Time suck! Time suck!) to see what I might learn about her time after Indiana University. It turns out she married John G. Taylor in 1899 in Bloomington and the 1900 census reports they were living in Fairfield, Indiana, where John was a laborer.

She remained married to John through most of her adult life and together they had six children. They moved around a bit, but stayed in the Midwest. Carrie was a homemaker and John held various jobs. The 1930 census has them living at 11261 Laflin in Chicago with their children and Carrie’s sister, who was a matron at a high school. John passed away and in 1937 Carrie married Richard Eaton (their marriage certificate reports he was a chef) in Michigan.

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Carrie died a widow on March 2, 1958 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Unfortunately, her obituary does not tell us much about her life. By this point, I’ve spent a good bit of time on the search and need to throw in the towel. I would love it if one of our readers could perhaps track down a family member and find out more about Carrie and her life (and could I possibly hope for a photo?) — and to make sure they know that Carrie was one of Indiana University’s pioneers.

I gathered together all of my research and loaded it to Box: https://iu.box.com/CarrieParker. For further information, feel free to contact me directly at dmkellam@indiana.edu.

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Indiana University’s Grunwald Gallery of Art

The Grunwald Gallery of Art, formerly the School of Fine Arts (SoFA) Gallery, presents contemporary works by both professional and student artists in a special exhibition format. The SoFA Gallery began in 1983 when the IU Art Museum moved to its new building and vacated over 5,200 square feet of exhibit space. The first few years of the Gallery featured intermittent shows curated by faculty in studio and art history until 1987, when the University established a part-time gallery director position.

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In 2011, the SoFA Gallery was renamed the Grunwald Gallery of Art in honor of John A. Grunwald, thanks to a significant endowed gift from his widow, Rita Grunwald. John A. Grunwald (1935-2006) was born in Budapest, Hungary, to Jewish parents. He survived the Holocaust in Europe, and came to New York in 1950. Grunwald graduated with a degree in Economics from Indiana University in 1956, and met his wife Rita during that time. Both Mr. and Mrs. Grunwald were deeply interested in art, and frequently attended SoFA Gallery openings, exhibitions, and discussions. Rita Grunwald worked in the Fine Arts building for about 25 years, both in the Bookshop, and also as a Friend of the Art member.

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Today, the mission of the Grunwald Gallery is to present contemporary art by significant regional and nationally known artists, as well as by faculty and students within the school. Exhibits incorporate art from a variety of contemporary genres and approaches, and can be experimental or traditional. The Gallery is conceived as a visual arts laboratory with artists participating in the installation of their works and interaction with students and the public is encouraged.

 

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As the Grunwald Gallery frequently collaborates with artists, scientists and scholars, this results in the production of exhibits that interpret visual art in a broader scientific or humanities context. The temporary exhibit format provides the Gallery with flexibility to respond to opportunities and directions in the contemporary art world, allowing programming to evolve based on current trends and directions. The Gallery hosts over thirty exhibits annually of students from Indiana University’s Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, focusing on work by advanced undergraduate, BFA and MFA students.

The Grunwald Gallery collection contains exhibition publicity materials like calendars, oversize posters, and pamphlets, slides, and audio/visual materials like audio-cassettes, video-cassettes, and DVDs of lectures, exhibitions, and interviews, all of which can be accessed in the University Archives. Contact an Archivist for more information!

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IU Professor of Chemistry Had Personal Connection to Indiana Explosives Plant

IU Professor of Chemistry, Marvin Carmack, devoted most of his career to researching organosulfur chemistry, specifically Lithospermum Ruderale, the agent of fertility control used by the American Indians. But during World War II, Dr. Carmack worked on contract with the National Defense Research Committee on high explosives and later on anti-malarial agents. Much of his attention during this period was focused on developing more efficient production methods for cyclonite (also known as RDX — Research Department explosive), an explosive more powerful than TNT. Given its power, the U.S. government approved the use of RDX in mines and torpedoes in the early 1940s. This created high demand for the explosive — a demand that couldn’t be met by existing reserves of RDX. This shortage led to the construction of the Wabash River Ordnance Works in Vermillion County, Indiana (north of Terre Haute). The E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company ran the plant; Dr. Carmack also worked for du Pont later in his career. (The ordnance plant eventually became known as the Newport Chemical Depot and was used for chemical weapons storage for the rest of the twentieth century.)

Dr. Marvin Carmack (third from left) talks with other chemists after delivering a lecture at du Pont Laboratories (1952).

Dr. Marvin Carmack (third from left) talks with other chemists after delivering a lecture at du Pont Laboratories in 1952.

After his retirement, Dr. Carmack returned to researching RDX, this time focusing on George C. Hale, an Indiana University alumnus and scientist who was one of the first people to develop RDX during World War I. The fruits of that research turned into a lecture delivered to the American Chemical Society annual meeting in 1990. (All of Carmack’s research and drafts of his talk can be found in his papers.)

But professional research were not the extent of Dr. Carmack’s connections to RDX. They extended to the personal: Dr. Carmack, himself born and raised in Vermillion County, had ancestors who traveled to the area in 1830. The land his ancestors claimed eventually became the site of the Ordnance Plant one hundred years later. As Professor Carmack wrote to a friend in 1990, “Our family seemed to have a destiny with RDX!”

To read more about RDX or to learn about Dr. Carmack’s other research interests, correspondence, and teaching notes, visit the finding aid for the Marvin Carmack papers and contact the IU Archives for questions on access to the papers!

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Contagious magic and the accomplishments of Linda Dégh

The principle of contagious magic states that personal energy can travel through objects. If a master potter creates a pitcher, part of her expertise then lives in that pitcher, and can be transferred to the next person who touches it. In this process, the potter’s life force is like a contagion. It exists independently of her and can affect others who come into contact with it.

Social scientists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries used contagious magic to explain the importance of totems among so-called primitive societies. That line of thinking has thankfully gone out of fashion, as “primitive” often served as a euphemism for “not as advanced as us,” or worse, “non-white.” Contagious magic survives today, though. In everyday life, many of us place extra value in the object that seems to transmit the energy of its previous handlers. Think of a departed ancestor’s wedding dress, or the cap and gown worn by a child who has grown up and left home. The closer we get to these artifacts, the closer we feel we are getting to the people whose hands once touched them.

Working in an archive provides a daily experience of contagious magic. The material an archivist deals with distills the energy of the inaccessible realm of history. Archival documents are letters from the past, both figuratively and literally. They provide detailed information about what people were thinking decades or even centuries ago, and often enough, they are made up of written correspondence from days gone by.

Linda Dégh

Linda Dégh

I had a rather potent encounter with contagious magic on a recent site visit with Dina Kellams, director of University Archives and Records Management. In late May, Dina and I spent time in the home of Linda Dégh, an eminent Indiana University folklorist who passed away in 2014. Our task was to collect the material that best serves to illustrate and honor Dégh’s career in folk narrative and belief studies. Her house was packed with it. Especially on the ground floor, a multi-room study where every available space was filled with books and paperwork, Dina and I had our work cut out for us.

As we sorted through the materials, we kept in mind how various types of documents would look if they were to be included in an archival collection. Of prime value were many of the thousands of photos Dégh shot over the years. The same was true of her hundreds of audio recordings, both cassette and reel-to-reel. Once processed, these will provide an intimate portrait of Dégh’s activities as a fieldworker. More specifically, they will allow users to partake in her point of view. To imagine holding the camera or pressing the record button is to effectively inhabit the perspective of this star of the field. The experience is doubly alluring for one who is familiar with Dégh’s work, as I am. The contagion of her career, which spanned most of the twentieth century, reaches me today, as if by magic.

The trouble with contagious magic in this case is that it applies to a much greater collection of materials than those that are appropriate for archiving. What of the many dissertations that Dégh supervised? Some of these sit in stacks in her basement. Several are still in their original envelopes, mailed decades ago by former students for her review. I know that these works are published elsewhere, probably in much handsomer formats. Still, I can’t help thinking of each of them as the physical incarnation of years of hard work and careful mentoring. If mental toughness looks like anything, it looks like a printed-out dissertation. Trust me. I just finished one. But to put such a document in the archive would unnecessarily expand its scope, as well as duplicate publication efforts made elsewhere. Therefore, the dissertations stay on the shelf, despite the energy and relationships they represent.

Just as Dégh’s work is far too voluminous to archive in total, it is too extensive to fully describe here. However, it is nicely summarized in her obituary from a recent issue of the Journal of American Folklore. Elizabeth Tucker writes: “Linda was such a star of folktale and legend studies, such a force of nature; how could she not be with us anymore?” The point is well taken. Dégh’s is a tremendous loss. Yet I am compelled to mention the comparably tremendous energy left behind in her papers. Through careful effort, perhaps our archiving project can capture a measure of that energy for posterity–a force of nature organized, indexed, and made available for public perusal.

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