We all enjoy our podcasts, niche radio shows, and morning news during the drive to work or school, but the history of radio has a far reaching past beyond our modern version of it. For much of the twentieth century, radio was the entertainment and news medium of choice — not television, and radio has a particularly interesting history here at IU!
The Indiana School of the Sky radio program of the Indiana University Department of Radio and Television began broadcasting educational radio programs in 1947 and continued through the early 1960s. The program reached schools throughout Indiana and nearby states and led to new course offerings at IU. IU students performed in the radio programs originally intended for children ages 4-8 which aired for 15 minutes during each school day.
Eventually the program’s popularity called for further programming for high-school students, and later adults tuned in as well. Topics in every subject from history and music to current events and news were covered during the various episodes of the program.
The School of the Sky series discussed possible careers for students, music and literature, how to find a job, dating and growing up, and current events. In many ways the program’s subjects seemed to help students learn both educational topics and how to be a part of society. Other episodes focused on the news and events of the time that were likely difficult for students to understand.
To explain the Cold War and Communism to audiences in 1962, as part of the “How It Happened” series the School of the sky performed a skit about West Germany. From the view of an airplane and from the ground, the actors describe West Berlin as an “island surrounded by Communism.” The narrator and the characters in the show provide listeners with the history and problematic results of World War II. Students learned, through the vivid description of the show’s script, the differences between East and West Berlin, Check Point Charlie, and the Berlin Wall. The picture the program paints shows the effects of Communism and the grim reality in Berlin on the other side of the Wall. On the ground in West Berlin, the narrator explains that East Berliners have a very different life than West Berliners and the listeners in the United States:
“The Communists, in fear of having everybody run away to freedom, have built a wall to stop them. This wall is the ugliest thing I have ever seen. It is also a very sad thing to see, because behind it are people who want freedom, want to live like you and me, but the wall holds them in. If they try to get over the wall, the Communists shoot them. Many young students have died trying to get over into West Berlin.”
The Indiana School of the Sky, 1961-1962, How It Happened Series, Volume 3 of 3. Program #10, Aprill 11, 1962, George Strimel, Jr. Page 96.
The program effectively brought a faraway place and the conflict of the Berlin Wall and Cold War home to the listeners in Indiana.
The students here at IU were the radio show’s writers, performers, and producers. The Indiana School of the Sky eventually reached thousands of classrooms and children while also providing college students with invaluable radio experience.
The bound volumes containing the scripts of the program and the teaching manuals found in the IU Archives’ Indiana School of the Sky records offer enlightening insight into the stage management, acting, and preparation that was necessary for each episode.
In 2009, the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI) at IU found numerous lacquer discs containing recordings of The School of the Sky. These are now digitized and available online through Media Collections Online.
For a vast majority of the world, 1942 was a year to remember. However, history wasn’t just being made overseas fighting in World War II; it was also being made right here at Indiana University Bloomington. During the summer of 1942, Indiana University was host to what would be the first of many Folklore Institutes. The Institute was created by Professor Stith Thompson, who had long-held the dream of bringing together like-minds from all over, both faculty and student, to meet and discuss the field of folklore; both folklore itself and the future of the field. This eight-week gathering was so successful that they continued to meet every summer.
This edition of ‘Sincerely Yours’ showcases correspondence with Herman B Wells following the conclusion of the first Institute in 1942. The first piece of correspondence comes from Jacob A. Evanson, Special Supervisor of Vocal Music for Pittsburgh Public Schools. His letter describes the success of the first Institute as “historic” and notes it as a cultural progression. This letter provides a perspective of the importance and impact of the Folklore Institute outside of Indiana University.
The main correspondence is from Stith Thompson to Herman B Wells. The correspondence opens with a list of resolutions from the members of the first Institute. These resolutions include the declaration of a “permanent” Folklore Institute of America, and that the Journal of American Folklore be declared the official channel of news distribution. Also included is the Institute’s purpose statement: to bring together faculty, students, and fellow workers to create a “professionally-minded group” for study and consult not included in ordinary curricula.
This letter also contains an impassioned speech by Thompson in which he reflects on the experience of the Institute. Additionally, Thompson briefly discusses the issues at present within the field of folklore, and plans for the future of folklore in terms of professional organization, public relations, and academic development . He talks about the need for researchers to cease their reclusive ways and come together in circles like the Institute to help the field prosper through internal collaborative efforts and understanding, and by forming relations with the public. Also discussed is the implementation of proper techniques surrounding the collection and classification of folklore, from the individual collector to the establishment of a fully functional national archive.
Thompson’s description of the impact of folklore from a local to a national stage, and even a global one is captivating. He states that the support of local folklore organizations can help to further the development of larger, national folklore directives by organizations.Also addressed is the presence of folklore in the academic field. Thompson states that the presentation of folklore by universities should be done in such a way that will “infect” students and whether they be teacher, doctor, lawyer, etc., they should show interest in the traditions of their community.
Thompson closes his letter by reaffirming the purpose of the Institute by saying that research rather than teaching is the main goal, and that its value lies in its existence as the only place (at the time) to foster collaborative and individual research,and the overall growth of the folklore field.
The best part of this correspondence lies in its last few pages in the form of a poem. Nearing the closure of their time together, this group of scholars pooled their creativity to construct a retelling of events of events that they could carry with them in memory. The result of their collaborative efforts was a poem reminiscent of famous epics of the past such as the Odyssey and Aeneid. This goes to show that even heavy scholars have a humorous side, even if it may be a little high-brow.
The Folklore Institute would go on to meet yearly until the early 1960’s. It was at this time, and through the endeavors of professors Richard Dorson and Stith Thompson, that the Folklore Institute became an established department at Indiana University under the same name of the Folklore Institute. Though not in the same manner as its origin, the Folklore Institute is still present at IU Bloomington and is known by scholars throughout the world. To learn more about the Folklore Institute from its beginnings to today, visit the IU Archives in Wells Library to see the current exhibit, ‘Collecting Folklore: The History of the Folklore Institute at Indiana University.‘ This exhibit will be up until January 26th, 2018.
The Frank de Caro and Rosan Jordan Papers contain the personal papers and research of Frank de Caro and his wife Rosan Augusta Jordan. De Caro, an IU alum and professor emeritus of English at Louisiana State University, has authored several books on Louisiana folklore. He has also served as editor for several folklore journals such as Louisiana Sojourns: Travelers’ Tales and Literary Journeys. The collection includes research, correspondence, and manuscripts for his publications, as well the teaching materials and Day of the Dead research of his wife Rosan Jordan. Jordan studied folklore at Indiana University and taught at Louisiana State University until the early 2000s.
What really caught my interest, however, is the plethora of postcards the pair compiled over the years.
Folklore is more than legends and myths from the distant past, but something that is constantly expanding and surrounds us all the time; popping up in odd places and through unexpected forms. One form that many may not consider a purveyor of folklore would be that of a postcard. Postcards can be a way to capture bits of information to tell stories. Whether it’s a text description of the lore surrounding the dogwood tree, or a photograph depicting the day-to-day life of pottery making, the ability to appreciate lore and practices from multiple cultures can be found in postcards.
Since the mid-1800s, postcards have been a way for people to send written messages along with a unique image to give it a little something extra. Postcards come in many shapes, sizes and materials; some can be very detailed, with elaborate images incorporating cloth, metals, and other things attached, others can be as simple as a reproduction of a famous piece of art. Postcards can contain images of faraway places we want to visit, inspire us with art or motivational slogans, educate us with historical facts, or provide comedic relief.
The postcards in this collection provide excellent examples of the seamless ways in which folklore finds its way into everyday life through a variety of subject matter. While there are the typical postcards with depictions of beautiful landscapes and historic buildings, there are many peculiar postcards. Several cards take the classic American expression “Everything’s Bigger In Texas!” and pair it with humorous illustrations such as those below.
You’ve probably never heard of the Jackalope, or knew the significance of the armadillo to the state of Texas; but if you’d like to know, this is where you’ll find the answer! Continue to scroll through for few more examples and contact the IU Archives to see more from the Frank de Caro and Rosan Jordan papers.
In this Sincerely Yours post, we will explore IU through the eyes of Harry V. Craig, an Indiana native of Noblesville who came to IU in 1890 to study history. The IU Archives first acquired a portion of the Harry V. Craig papers back in 2000, but later received additional materials in 2003 from a man named Mark Brattain. Mr. Brattain had seen the Harry V. Craig papers finding aid on the Archive’s website and provided letters he found with his father, Hal Brattain, in a wooden box in the hayloft of a neighbor’s barn back in the 1970s. The barn belonged to the late Ray Forrer, who was probably some relation to Harry’s mother Elizabeth (whose maiden name was Forrer).
Most of the letters contained in the Harry V. Craig Papers are correspondence he received from friends, family members (his father, brother, cousin, and mother), and fraternity brothers from Phi Kappa Psi. There are, however, a handful of letters by Craig himself detailing his experience at IU. In letters to his mother, Mr. Craig’s most frequent correspondent, Craig details his daily life and expenses as well as happenings around town and the campus.
In this first letter, we get a glimpse of Mr. Craig as a freshly minted college student finding his way across campus, making new friends, learning more about the world outside of Noblesville, and settling into his new boarding house likely located on East 6th Street (according to the August 30, 1895 Bloomington Courier). IU-affiliated readers will most likely recognize the names of some of Mr. Craig’s professors, Professor Atwater and Professor Swain:
September 21, 1890
I arrived at Bloomington between 4 and 5 o’clock Thursday evening and was met there by Mr. Chas Shoemaker, who took me around to his room where I staid [sic] for supper slept all night and ate breakfast. It was a surprise to all the boys from Noblesville, for they did not know I was coming. I was introduced to a large number of college boys and find them as a general rule fine fellows. I have been treated very nicely by all the boys since I came. I have seen many strange things since I came. There is nothing but rock everywhere about Bloom. you can not [sic] dig down anywhere without striking solid rock which extends for many feet downward. (we get no more water to drink, we have to drink rainwater altogether) On my way down here on the train I passed through deep cuts of solid rock, which had been cut out just enough to let a train pass through. It was very strange to me indeed.
Bloom. is a town of about 41,000 inhabitants and is considerably larger than Noblesville but is not so nicely arranged, it is the most hilly town I have ever seen, you can get up on a hill in one part of town and look down on the houses in another part, the streets are mostly rock which have been broken up very fine so as to make road-bed while the side walks [sic] are of blocks of stone which have been hewn out and placed down, they are very rough and irregular and very hard to walk on, they have no gravel within miles of Bloom.
The College and its surroundings have considerably exceeded my expectations, the buildings and campus are located east of the city on a high elevation and in a beautiful grove of trees, there are 3 very fine brick buildings in use, costing perhaps $60,000 apiece and a large building almost completed, which is composed entirely of stone and will be used for a library building and will be occupied by Christmas.
I presented my Scholarship and have rec’d my card admitting me as a student of the Univ. I was introduced to a number of the professors and was rec’d very cordially, they are a fine class of men.
My classes are all arranged, I will take Latin under Prof. Atwater, Geometry under Prof. Swain and Eng. Lit. under Prof. Griggs who by the way is one of the finest men I have ever seen for his age. He graduated in the University in 2 yrs and is now [a] professor in Eng., he is not more than 21 or 22 yrs of age, he is almost a genius.
I am board[ing] at Mrs. Lawrence’s at $2.50 per week. She is a nice lady and everything is nice and clean, I get the very best of board plenty of everything and cooked nicely. There are some of the things we have on our table – coffee or tea, plenty of cream and sugar, biscuits or light-bread, chicken and beef, sweet and Irish potatoes, nice butter and molasses, corn, sliced tomatoes, celery, pie, cookies, and iced cake and a great many other things, but this is enough to let you know that it is good. I could have boarded at $2.35 in a regular club but you do not get as good a grub, and if you are not there on time you miss your meal, so I concluded to take the $2.50 board, for a person can not [sic] live well unless he has something to live on. I am staying with a Mr. Davis at present, but got a room this morning where I shall stay for good. I will room with a Mr. Robinson from Illinois who is a sophomore or 2nd yr student. I will have to pay $1 per week for my room but it is well worth it. I could have got a room for 75₵ but it was not near so nice or convenient and I think it would be unhealthy. My room is up stairs [sic] in a large brick building and faces the street, it has a brussels carpet, a nice dresser, wardrobe, wash stand and utensils, stove, table, bed, chairs, and lamp and everything convenient and is a large room. I joined a fraternity last night called the “Phi Kappa Psi” named from the greek letter of the alphabet. It is a secret organization, but unlike a lodge, I was initiated last night, it is the 1st organization I even joined and was something new. Our chapter now is on the south-side of the square and is very nice it is [served] by a Mr. Buskirk who is a banker and is also a member of our fraternity, hence we do not pay much rent. I have spent about $10 in paying my Ry. [Railway] fare, and buying my books and paying my library fee and getting other things required, I deposited $25 in the bank. I expect I can get my washing done for 25₵ per week, she is a fine washer for a fellar told me so that has his washing done there. So you can see about what my expenses will be about $4 per week besides books and clothes. Well I must close. I have many more thigs I would like to say but space will not permit. I am well as usual except my throat which is bothering me this morning.
I remain as ever your son,
Harry’s mother replies soon after, giving him updates about friends and family and imparting motherly advice about the company he should keep, especially the ladies…:
October 1st, 1890
Dear Harry: I received your letter yesterday evening[.] [W]as glad to hear you was [sic] geting [sic] along all right. [W]e are all well at this time[.] Pa and Fred went over to the tent to meeting[.] [I]t will be two weeks to morrow [sic] since they commenced their meeting. It is real nice to be there at night[.] [W]e were there monday night and Lida and Maggie Fred and Abner went last night. I thought I would stay at home and write you a fiew [sic] lines as I did not like to take Little Court out at night. Saturday 27th he was 4 month [sic] old and weight [sic] 15 lbs. [H]e is growing so nicely. Mother was hear [sic] yesterday they are all well. Nan and Clara was hear [sic] Sunday evening. Nan says he has such a nice school it just suits him. [H]as no little ones to contend with. When you rite [sic] again tell us something about your school and how you are geting [sic] Along. [O]f cours [sic] you have not gone long enough yet to tell much about it but do as well as you can. Don[‘]t think to [sic] much of other things such as going with the girls. Be very care full [sic] who you go with as you don[‘]t know them yet so you go with nice respectful Ladies. [I]t is going to cost A great deal more than you thought it would. You said you thought $30 would take you through the first term. It will take more than twice 30[.] [T]here is going to be A liturary [sic] societ [sic] at fairview friday night. Maggie Trit as Mollie calls her is hear [sic][.] [Y]ou bet she is A fast worker[.] I like her very much. [S]o far well [sic] as all are in bed that is hear I will close for this time[.] Lida joins in Love write soon from your Ma[.]
Craig graduated from Bloomington in 1896 with an AB in history. After graduating, he returned to Noblesville for a while to teach history and then went on to work a wide array of jobs including a salesman, hotel clerk, and a position with the National Engraving Company in New York. He was also the coordinator for the Denver Training Center of the Veteran’s Bureau at one point in his career. In 1962 the Alumni Association reached out to update their information on him, but found at that time that he was already deceased. He apparently passed away on November 2, 1955 in California.
Role: Molly is the Records Manager, a new role within the Archives and the University as a whole. Her primary role is to work with units across campus to help schedule the records they create, and help facilitate the disposition of records when they’re no longer active – whether that’s transferring them to the University Archives, or destroying them.
Educational Background: She earned her MLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015. She also has a B.S. in Therapeutic Recreation from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
How she got here: Prior to joining IU, Molly was working for the City of Berkeley in Berkeley, CA. They did not have an archives, but much of her work still focused on the identification and transfer of records and maintaining preservation and access.
Prior to starting graduate school, Molly was working for a small business where she worked with government offices to digitize their historical records. That position initiated her curiosity, and a course in records management in grad school solidified her interest in the field. She also grew up in southern Indiana, and IU was always an exciting place to visit. It’s a great place to come to work every day.
Favorite Collection in the IU Archives: Molly loves finding correspondence between individuals and offices on campus and the unique insight these records provide. They’re also a great reminder of the importance and value of capturing correspondence in the digital age.
Current Project: Molly is currently updating our website with available information related to records management services and resources for IU.
Favorite experience in the IU Archives: One of her first – working with offices across campus to remove older, inactive physical records from the IU Warehouse. It was a hands-on introduction to a variety of the content created by IU. The experience provided an opportunity to discuss the importance of records management and transferring records to the Archives.
What she’s learned from working here: Quite a bit about alumni – most recently Ernest P. Bicknell and his role with the Red Cross during WWI. Contact the IU Archives to see the Ernest P. Bicknell papers.