1883 Fire!

Today is the anniversary of the most destructive and institution-altering fire in Indiana University’s history. Read below for details and for more info other Bloomington campus fires, see Ava’s post from June 22

July 12, 1883 = FIRE!

July 12, 1883 = FIRE!

On July 24th, 1883, the IU Board of Trustees met for the first time since the fiery destruction of their campus to discuss the future of the university. After reading a number of letters of sympathy from alumni and presidents of nearby colleges, the Board determined their immediate courses of action: clear the debris of the burned building, salvage any potential building or educational materials from the wreckage, begin planning construction for a new science building and library.

The IU faculty minutes from just after the incident capture the chaos of the fire, the cause of which was later found to be a lightning strike to the telephone wire that led to Theophilus Wylie’s room:

On the night of Thursday July 12th 1883 a little after 10 o’clock, the new college building was found to be on fire and the alarm was given. As the crowds gathered, the flames were seen bursting out from the second story, from the room used for storing apparatus and as a work room on the East side. The Fire Dept. of the town with its new steam fire engine, and its smaller engine, did its best to extinguish the flames. In this attempt it failed but succeeded by energetic work in saving the old building by keeping the roof and end adjacent to the burning structure soaked with water. Within two hours from the discovery of the fire, the entire roof had fallen in and only the walls with a few clinging timbers remained. The building thus destroyed was three stories in height and was built in 1873 at a cost of $33,000. It contained the Library of 14000 volumes the Museum in which was the Owen Cabinet of 85000 specimens carefully labeled and displayed in suitable cases. The Ward caste of Extinct Animals and many other valuable collections. In the third story was Prof. Jordan’s collection of fishes.

While not the only fire in IU history, as illustrated in part one of this post, the 1883 fire was by far the most significant, both financially and culturally. Though different sources list varying estimates of the fire’s damage, the Indiana Student of January 1885 states a total loss of $104,200. This number, of course, does not account for the irreplaceable artifacts and books lost, including a number of unique volumes and manuscripts related to Indiana history. The Board explored a number of tactics to raise the $77,000 that they determined was necessary to rebuild the campus and repopulate its laboratories and library. Proposals included doubling Monroe County citizens’ taxes for a year to soliciting donations from alumni. The first donation, a gift of $5 from Sarah Morrison, IU’s first female student and graduate of IU, was used to purchase a new minute book for the Board of Trustees’ meetings, as the previous book had been lost in the fire. Through this variety of means, the university obtained an astonishing $50,000 from the county’s citizens, illustrating Bloomington’s overwhelming support of the institution and allowing the university to boast that it had rebuilt without “taking a penny” from government funds. The insurance received after the disaster accounted for the remaining $77,000 and allowed IU to begin construction on its two initial buildings on the now relocated campus: Wylie Hall, devoted to chemistry and physics, and the smaller Owen Hall, dedicated to the natural sciences.

Owen & Wylie Halls, circa 1885

Owen & Wylie Halls, circa 1885

Though many irreplaceable specimens and volumes were lost to the flames, the incident provided the university with an opportunity to expand and develop its campus and to re-evaluate its role in Indiana’s higher education. Established as the Indiana Seminary by an act of legislation in 1820, the institution that opened its doors in 1825 became Indiana College in 1828 and Indiana University in 1838. As the student population and their interest in the sciences grew, IU began to want for more classroom and laboratory space as well as housing for their increasing library collections. The 1883 fire provided the opportunity to move the campus away from the noisy rail-way bordering the west side of the Seminary Square campus and into the scenic and spacious Dunn’s Woods, where the university had purchased a 20-acre plot for $300 per acre. The destruction of the campus prompted a minor (and unsuccessful!) movement to consolidate IU, the State Normal School and Purdue University. Luckily, the resulting outcry, which argued that IU needed to remain a “strictly literary institution” to complement the focus on “agricultural and mechanical industries” of Purdue and on teacher training at the Normal School, convinced community and Board members alike to continue to support Indiana University as an independent institution.

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Mail Call: Correspondence at IU during WWII

“Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on that strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter.” — Sir Winston Churchill in My Early Life: A Roving Commission

War is never easy, especially for those serving in the armed forces and those they leave behind. Throughout the various wars in our short history, our military members and their loved ones have made countless sacrifices in order to defend our country and protect the freedoms which we all enjoy so dearly. Separation from our loved ones can be a particularly difficult thing to bear during these times of conflict.

But whereas we now have email, skype, and various other methods of communication to keep in touch with those on the battlefield, there were no such luxuries in the Second World War.  People relied on snail

“Mail Call” from the 1944-1945 Sycamore Logbook

-mail to receive news from the frontlines which, in some areas, could be less than frequent. Letters could easily be lost in the mail as well.

Letters to and from the front lines were a lifeline for service men and women fighting in WWII. One can imagine these soldiers clinging desperately to photos of their loved ones and sitting in their shelters or in the trenches reading and rereading those letters from home dozens of times over. All the while sitting. Waiting. Hoping for the end of hostilities so that they can once again return to their former lives.

It was no different for those at home. One can be sure that many individuals sat by the mail box waiting with bated breath as the postman came up to deliver the mail, hoping to hear some news from the front. Students at Indiana University seem to have been no exception to this rule. While I was processing a set of scrapbooks from Sycamore Hall (when it acted as a women’s residence hall), I stumbled upon this little gem embedded in Volume 5 of the Sycamore Logbook from the 1944-1945 academic year whose faded pages revealed what was going through many a young woman’s mind here at IU when it came time to receive the mail during WWII.

The following is a transcription of an account written by one of the copy editors of the Sycamore Hall dorm logbook:

Residents of Sycamore Hall, 1945 Archives image no: P0044228

Residents of Sycamore Hall, 1945
Archives image no: P0044228

Mail Call

Mail Call is the most important event in the day for almost all of us girls at the University. Even on days when we could sleep late, our alarm clocks will usually be set for ten a.m.

We jump out of bed, dress in a flash, and dash downstairs. In each of our hearts there is a solemn prayer that, maybe, today is the day a letter will come from the most important man in the Army, Navy or Marines.

Each of us goes downstairs with a happy look of expectancy written on her face. Some of us come away smiling and happy; others leave the mail boxes depressed and sad.

The conversation each morning rambles on something like this:

 “Hi, Kelly, is that a letter from Bob?”

“Yes, he got his wings yesterday, and he’ll be home next week. Barbs, you had better dust off the Wedding March because we are going to be needing that song.”

“That is grand, Kelly,” comes in a chorus from the girls.

There is a scream of delight as Kay rushes for her mail box, which is packed full of letters. She stands there laughing and crying at the same time, as she counts twelve letters from her Bill. Bill is a Navy flier, and he is in the South Pacific; mail from him comes only every six or eight weeks.

Cluching [sic] the letters as though her life depended on them, Kay dashes for the big chair in the living room. Incoherent phrases tumble from her lips.

“Jeepers, and gee, he is still my man! Oh, his is wonderful – – twelve letters!  Happy day, oh happy day!”

 “Darn! Just a letter from Carol,” comes the disgusted words from Ruthann.

“That’s my luck, too,” replies Donna.

“I know Dick is busy, but – -“

“Cut it, Ruthann; there is Janie, and she did not get a letter again today.”

No, I must not forget to tell about Janie. She is a little thing and pretty as a doll. She is the pet of every girl in the house. Her Marine is in the Philippines, and she has not heard from him since Manila was taken. Janie does not say anything about not hearing from him, but we know how worried she is; we sense the heartbreak she feels when she looks at her empty mail box. I guess she realizes we would all “crack up” if we put our feelings into words.

She saw us looking at her and smiled.

 “Everything is all right, chums; Jack is all right, and there is always tomorrow.”

Julia Ann Bookout

Little did these ladies know that they did not have long to wait for their loved ones to return. The war would soon come to an end with the Japanese surrender on August 15, 1945 (which is known today as V-J Day) with the formal surrender to follow on September 2nd. We can only hope that Jack returned with the rest of his brothers in arms to US shores to celebrate the Allied victory with Janie and the rest of his family and friends.

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A history of IU fires

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Leading up to the anniversary of the disastrous 1883 fire that changed Indiana University Bloomington’s future, intern Ava D. provides a short history of some of the most significant fires IU has faced in its nearly 200 years. Stay tuned for the story of the 1883 … Continue reading

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“Aviation Adventures”: Amelia Earhart’s Lecture at IU

Eighty-eight years ago today, Amelia Earhart departed from Trepassy, Newfoundland in a Fokker F7b-3M named Friendship to begin her successful flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Co-pilots Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon were also on the flight that took over 20 hours before landing safely in Wales, making Earhart the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.

Amelia Earhart at the cabin door of the Friendship, 1928. Photo from the Purdue University Archives.

Amelia Earhart at the cabin door of the Friendship, 1928. Photo courtesy of the Purdue University Archives.

In the fall of 1936, Agnes E. Wells, Dean of Women at Indiana University, was corresponding with O. B. Stephenson from The Emerson Bureau in hopes to have Earhart speak at IU. In the letter below, Wells received the good news that Earhart would, indeed, be coming to the university on October 22, 1936 for a fee of $350. “Dear Miss Wells, A letter this morning from Miss Earhart accepts your lecture engagement the evening of October 22.”

Earhart2                   Earhart001

Earhart002

Several newspapers, including the Indiana Daily Student and the Bloomington Evening World, excitedly reported that Amelia Earhart would be giving her lecture “Aviation Adventures” at Indiana UnivEarhart004ersity in Alumni Hall at 8 pm on October 22, with an informal reception to follow. The reception was an opportunity for the public to meet and question Earhart and was sponsored by A.W.S. and St. Margaret’s Guild, Bloomington Charity Organization.

During her visit, Earhart gifted this photograph to Indiana University, with an inscription written by her on the back: “To the Indiana Union. Amelia Earhart, October 22, 1936.”

EArhart

Autographed photograph of Amelia Earhart, IU Archives image no. P0046625

 

 

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The Education Vacation: Mini University

Each year, hundreds of individuals flock to Bloomington to attend what Fromer’s Travel Magazine has consistently referred to as one of the best learning vacations in the United States. With record setting attendance over the last few years, Indiana University’s widely popular Mini University now consistently sells out. However, the program came from much more modest beginnings.
Founded in 1972 as a result of a partnership between the Indiana University Alumni Association and the Bloomington Office of Continuing Studies, the first program hosted approximately 75 participants and functioned more as a family summer camp for both children and adults. Spanning the course of a week, participants brought their families to campus, lived in the dormitories and attended a variety of lectures and courses while their children attended their own programs. Adults chose from an option of 25 course listings taught by some of the most distinguished members of the university faculty. Courses were divided into six different categories: compelling issues of the ’70s on topics such as “China in the ’70s”, international issues, the family in contemporary society such as “After Spock, What?”, women’s changing role in society, creative participation in arts and the humanities, and preparing for retirement.

Mini University, ca. 1978-1981

Picnic, ca. 1978-1981

Children (over the age of five), on the other hand, were loaded each day onto a London double-decker bus for transport to the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Building (HPER) for recreation, games, and swimming. Children under the age of five could attend a day nursery. Evening entertainment options for the whole family included rap sessions, visits to the Brown County Playhouse, the IU Fun Frolic as well as a picnic and beach party with campfire along the shores of Lake Lemon. By 1978, the program had expanded to include nearly 60 course options covering topics on the humanities, domestic issues, human growth and development, business, international affairs, science and the arts.
Today, the program is significantly different – there is no longer a children’s program and attendees now stay primarily in the Indiana Memorial Union where the majority of courses are taught. Open to all adults, not just Indiana University alumni, including qualified teachers seeking continuing renewal credits, the program has now expanded to include more than 100 course selections ranging in topics from business and technology, domestic issues, fine arts, health and fitness, international issues, humanities, music, theater and science. Mini alums receive a newsletter called Mini Happy Returns to keep them abreast of upcoming events. Each year the professors are chosen based upon recommendations from the chairs of their department or other faculty for being outstanding teachers. The 2016 Mini University program reads much like a who’s who of the university faculty and administration such as Lee Hamilton (Center on Congress), and James Madison (History) whose personal papers are all included in the University Library collections, as well as several of our esteemed library colleagues such as Dina Kellams (IU Archives), Carey Beam (Wylie House Museum), and Lori Dekydtspotter, Cherry Williams, Craig Simpson, Rebecca Bauman, and Andrew Rhoda (all Lilly Library).
The University Archives also holds the Mini University records as well as those of the School of Continuing Studies.
For those interested in registering for next year’s program, you can request a brochure here – just remember Mini U sells out QUICKLY!
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