Throwback Thursday: A voice from 1939

In 2006, the Indiana Memorial Union gallery underwent major renovations, moving the IMU Outfitters and adding the Starbucks. In the midst of construction, workers came across a very interesting find inside one of the walls:

imu letter013
The mice enjoyed snacking on this letter found in the IMU walls during a 2006 renovation and addressed to the Director of the Union Building.

Student Emerson K. Elkins worked as a page at the IMU Hotel as a student in the 1930s. On the morning of January 15, 1939, he apparently had a bit of downtime and decided to make his mark by shooting off a quick a letter and depositing it, along with a Coke bottle, hotel keys, and a few other various items into an open wall where renovations were taking place.

His letter, written in a chatty tone “for no particular reason,” gives some indication of what was on the mind of college student in 1939, which included Hitler, the World’s Fair, and Hollywood’s big news that finally! Scarlett O’Hara has been found in a Miss Vivien Leigh!

imu letter012

imu letter011

When discovered, this local story generated interest throughout the country. Not much was known about Mr. Elkins until his niece stumbled across the story in the newspaper. She immediately contacted the University and filled in some gaps for her uncle’s alma mater (IDS story and here).

Before the walls closed, then-Public Relations Director for the Union Board, Emma Cullen, who had also served a page for the hotel, was asked to place her own time capsule for the next generation to uncover.

Guest blogger! IU’s “Marriage Course”

L. Guest



Lacey Guest, senior at Christopher Newport University in Virginia, recently visited IU Bloomington for research on IU’s well-known Alfred Kinsey and his Marriage Course. Lacey had a phenomenal time and agreed to share some of her discoveries as our first ever guest blogger! 


If you are like me, the first time you ever experienced a school sanctioned sex education course was in late elementary or early middle school.  To us this seems completely normal… well somewhat normal.  Regardless about how we felt at the time, being forced to watch a video about where babies come from as an adolescent is a fairly traditional rite of passage for my generation.  Learning about the mechanics of reproduction was an integral part of public school education in the 1990s.  Sure, my parents had to sign a permission slip and the class wasn’t mandatory, but while almost all the kids in my class had to sit through the awkward lesson plan, I distinctly remember that some kids were not allowed to go to the class and others were clearly hearing about the facts of life for the first time.  Later, when high school biology and physical education classes both referenced this material, instead of red faces, our teachers got giggles and inappropriate comments from the peanut gallery.  As familiar as this story probably is to most of us, it is a fairly new phenomenon that this institutionalized version of sex education was delivered to public school classrooms filled with adolescents.  So how did we get here?

On my recent research trip to Bloomington I began to discover how some of the first American sex education classes began.  I dug through collections at both the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction and the Indiana University Archives searching for anything I could find on the second “Kinsey report.”  I stumbled across a few interesting tidbits of information about early 20th century sex education.

Undated IDS announcement regarding Marriage Course from Herman T. Briscoe's files -- presumably, with his edits.
Undated IDS announcement regarding Marriage Course from Herman T. Briscoe’s files — presumably, with his edits.

I was shocked to discover that in the summer of 1938, IU joined a few other pioneering universities in providing what they called a “Marriage Course” to their upperclassmen and married students. This course was proposed by various organizations on campus to President Wells on May 14, 1938 and on June 9th, he brought it to the Board of Trustees who passed the motion for the organization of such a course under the chairmanship of Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey.  Still shocked?  I was.  Not because of the chairman, and not because IU offered a Marriage Course.  My surprise was founded on the information I gleaned from several of the student evaluations I came across.

The Marriage Course included lectures on several aspects of marriage given by a board of faculty members of various departments including psychology, biology, economics, and government.  It came as no surprise to me that the student evaluations of the course praised the biology lectures with the most frequency or that when asked about the distribution of material for future semesters fifty-two of the ninety-eight students voted in favor of expanding the biology portion.  I thought, “What college student isn’t a little preoccupied with what the Marriage Course had termed ‘The Anatomy and Physiology of Marriage?’”  However, I was caught off guard when I noticed that ninety-seven of the ninety-eight students enrolled in the course listed the biology lectures as the “most significant in answering their personal needs.”  With so much information at our fingertips today, our generation can just open a book or key an internet search for questions we have concerning the biology and physiology of sex.  In 1938, Hoosiers had all their questions about sex, love, and marriage answered in a college classroom (if they met the qualifications to take the class).  Since all of these students were seniors, graduates, married, or over the age of twenty one, it can be assumed that a vast majority of these young women and men sitting in on the Marriage Course lectures were already engaging in sexual behavior.  The information provided in the course was interesting, but ultimately useless to many of the students according to their evaluations.  One woman stated that it would have been very helpful information to have when she and her husband were undergoing their “sexual adjustment period.”  The course seems to have filled a very noticeable gap in the American education system, but at a point in many students’ lives where the information was redundant.  Kinsey wrote in his notes on the course that almost all the students in the course expressed “unreserved approval” regardless of their previous knowledge of the material.

kinsey006Fortunately, these glowing reviews of the course were taken into consideration when determining if it would become a more permanent fixture in IU’s course catalog.  In the fall of 1938, with the full support of President Wells and the Board of Trustees, the Marriage Course was offered for the first time during the regular academic year as a sixteen week non-credit course.  Its continued success can be fully discerned by looking through several of the letters and memos between the course staff, IU administration, and letters from students.  The taboo of sex was slowly being eliminated through the process of education at the collegiate level and Indiana University faculty along with several other universities’ faculty across the country successfully pioneered this form of education in a quest to supply necessary information to their students.  Today, there are over thirty undergraduate courses offered at Indiana University on the subjects of gender, sex, and sexuality.  While these courses would no longer be considered as innovative or controversial as the 1938 Marriage Course once was, they still play a vital role in the discipline of sex education.  While many people at the time found it disconcerting that IU would offer such a course to college students, today we can attribute the development of the Marriage Course to the insatiable Hoosier thirst for knowledge and commitment to education of all varieties.

A Pioneer of Science Fiction – C.L. Moore

It is always an interesting day interning in the University Archives – more and more I find pleasant surprises in the collections.  For science fiction fans like myself there is (until recently) an unknown treasure in the digital collection, three short fiction stories written by the American science fiction and fantasy writer C. L. Moore.  Written under her legal name Catherine Moore for the IU student publication The Vagabond (a collection of poetry, essays and fiction), these stories give a wonderful view of her emerging writing style. 

"Two Fantasies"
“Two Fantasies”
"Happily Ever After"
“Happily Ever After”






Thanks to a recent reference request, I began trying to find more information about Moore’s time while attending IU when she attended IU Bloomington because as is the case with many other successful authors, there is plenty of detail about her later achievements and writings, but not so much about the early days.  How did she get started? What did she write about?  What was her life like at that time?


Born in Indianapolis on January 24, 1911, as a child Moore did a lot of reading due to being frequently ill.  At the age of 18, she enrolled at Indiana University, attending three semesters from the fall of 1929 through the fall of 1930. Pictures of Memorial Hall where Moore resided give you a sense of what life was like for her here at that time.  No School of Music, no Jordan Hall or greenhouse crowding up alongside.  Part of that great stone wall still exists but the archway is gone.

Other images show the dining, living and dorm rooms where she lived, studied and wrote. Perhaps this is where some of her inspiration for the “Happily Ever After” story came from?

Memorial Hall003Memorial Hall001

However, before officially declaring a major,  she withdrew from the university due to the financial hardships of the Great Depression and returned to Indianapolis to work as a secretary.

In the 1930s and 40s,  she began publishing stories in pulp magazines like Weird Tales and Astounding Science-Fiction.  At the time the genre was dominated by male writers and if a woman wanted to be published she was forced to publish under a pseudonym that was either male or ambiguously gender neutral.

As an example of that mindset, Moore met her husband, Henry Kuttner – also a science fiction writer – in 1936 when he wrote her a fan letter thinking she was a man.  The couple were married in 1940.  Their writing collaboration under the pseudonym Lewis Padgett resulted in “Mimsy Were the Borogoves“, considered a must-read classic.  You may remember recently a movie that was released called the The Last Mimzy which was based upon this story. Later in their careers, the pair moved to California to study at the University of Southern California, where Moore graduated in 1956.  Sadly, following the death of her husband in 1958, Moore stopped writing fiction though she sometimes wrote scripts for television shows such as Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip and taught writing courses at USC.  When she remarried Thomas Reggie she stopped writing completely though she continued to be very much involved with the Tom and Terri Pinckard Science Fiction literary salon, contributing to literary discussions with other members such as Larry Niven (Ringworld) and George Clayton Johnson (Twilight Zone and Star Trek).  Moore died on April 4, 1987 in Hollywood, California, in her home.

If you’d like to read the article which resulted from this reference inquiry and learn more about C.L. Moore check out this recent article in Kirkus!

The People Behind The Vagabond

This week, we offer a guest post from SLIS student & Digital Library Program intern Nancy!

This semester, I am interning with the Digital Library Program.  The project that I am working on is for the Archives and consists of creating a digital version of The Vagabond, which is a satirical student literary magazine from the 1920s and 1930s.  This magazine has essays, poetry, visual art, short stories, criticism, and humor, which often target Indiana University undergraduates, alumni, and faculty.  Reading this magazine has been an interesting look into the past.  I would highly recommend reading this magazine when we finish the project, but before you do that, it might interesting to look at the people behind the publication.

Getting to know the people behind The Vagabond and connecting those people to the articles that they wrote is a slight challenge due to the fact that many of the writers used pseudonyms.  Yet, not all the writers used pseudonyms and some that did, made the pseudonym very obvious.  For this post, I thought that it would be nice to have pictures to go with the writers, so I went to the Arbutus.  There, I found pictures of some of the members of The Vagabond.  The pictures list some of the members, but not what pseudonym they used, making it difficult to tie the person to his or her work.  For this post, I am only going to focus on people whose articles can be identified, though this will not be a comprehensive listing.

 Let’s start with Philip Blair Rice. He was part of the original team (some even called it his “brain-child”) that started The Vagabond. He wrote off and on during its span, writing a variety of works including poems, plays, and stories. While at Indiana University he studied philosophy.  In 1925, he became IU’s 4th Rhodes Scholar and went on to study at Balliol College, Oxford.  He taught at different colleges until he accepted a position at Kenyon College in their English department.  Some of his achievements include becoming president of the American Philosophical Association, being awarded the Guggeheim Fellowship and the Bollingen Fellowship.  He also wrote a book titled On the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is available from the IU Libraries, and many articles.  To read some of these articles, do an Author Search in JSTOR for “Philip Blair Rice.” He died in February 1956.

Next to P.B. Rice, William Ernest Moenkhaus was probably one of the most well-known Vagabond writers, even though he always wrote under a pseudonym.  The name he used most often was Wolfgang Beethoven Bunkhaus, but he also wrote under the names Lena Gedunkhaus, Oscar Humidor Martin, and Roland McFeeters.  To his friends he was Monk.  He led a rather interesting, though short life.  He was born in Bloomington, Indiana on June 30, 1902.  He spent some years in Switzerland and it was only due to World War I that he returned to the United States.  He was known for playing the piano and cello and could write music as well as he could write literature.  This ability with music led to a close friendship with Hoagy Carmichael.  In The Vagabond, he wrote plays, poems, and other works that inspired others to look at the everyday in a different light.  He graduated in 1929, with a Bachelor of Music, but he would have little chance to use this degree as he died on January 17, 1931.  To read more about his life, check out Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael, which has a chapter titled “Monk”.

 Another friend of Hoagy Carmichael’s that wrote for The Vagabond was Howard Warren “Wad” Allen.  Wad Allen was musically inclined, but also wrote poems, essays, and stories often under pseudonyms such as Sir Polonius Panurge and Tod Owlin.  He graduated in 1926 with a Bachelor of English.  After graduating, he became a reporter for the Anderson Herald, before moving on to work at the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company doing advertising.  He would later become the Vice President and Chief of Public Relations for Johns-Manville Corporation.  To hear about his retirement from the company check out “Wad Allen [sound recording] : retirement tape” available from IU’s Archives of Traditional Music. He also was interviewed on January 18, 1973.   In this interview, he discusses many topics relating to Indiana University, including The Vagabond.

Another writer for The Vagabond was Robert Fink. He was editor of The Vagabond for the school year of 1929-1930, which was after The Vagabond had a two year period of only being published once each year.  His leadership brought the publication back to its previous level of publishing, with 4 editions that year.  He wrote poems and also did translations for The Vagabond.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1930.  He continued his education going on to receive a Master of Arts from Cornell and a Ph.D. in Classics from Yale University in 1934.  He taught at a variety of colleges and universities including Kenyon College and State University of New York.  He wrote three books, which are all available through IUCAT, though his first, The Feriale Duranum, is not available for checkout but may be read in the library. He died in December 1988. Check out “In Memoriam Robert O. Fink” by William E. McCulloch, available through JSTOR, for his obituary.

These are just a few of the writers from The Vagabond, but as you can see these writers were outgoing, intelligent people, who felt the need to inspire change in others.  For more information about the people who wrote, check out resources such as the Arbutus and The Vagabond itself, which are both available in the University Archives.