“A little nonsense now and then is relished”: The Moonlight Pleasure Club of 1892

Many students are members of a club or two during college. It’s not uncommon. But, how many students can say they created an original club for themselves? What would this kind of informal club look like? Would you have rules?

The Moonlight Pleasure Club constitution is a document which shows us exactly what kind of club a group of Indiana University students decided to create for themselves in 1892.

The members of The Moonlight Pleasure Club were likely graduate students when they formed their club in 1892. They didn’t create a formal student organization or aim to recruit more members. No. These four students just sat down and wrote their own constitution. It appears that one male and one female student were the charter members who then initiated another male and female student into the club. This initiation appears to have been the reason for the document’s creation since the constitution itself calls for the club to have four members only. The document includes twelve articles or rules, and has signatures from all four students including two labeled as protesting and two labeled as affirming. But, who were these students? What was this club for exactly, and why did they name it Moonlight Pleasure?

Unfortunately, a thorough search of the archives has not yet yielded much more information about the club. The Arbutus IU yearbooks document each of the four student authors of the constitution and their time at IU, but there is no mention of the actual Moonlight Pleasure Club in any of the yearbooks. We don’t know much about this mysterious club, but the students who wrote and signed the club’s 1892 constitution were a bit easier to track down.

The four members of The Moonlight Pleasure Club were of similar ages, but each studied different academic subjects at IU.

http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/archives/photos/P0073125
Frederic Truscott, 1891, Archives image no. P0073125

Frederick Wilson Truscott (b. 1870 – d. 1937) graduated from Indiana University with his A.B. in German in 1891. He earned his A.M. in 1892, and later obtained his Ph.D. Truscott eventually became a professor of German at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He also served in World War I in the U.S. Army.

http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/archives/photos/P0073126
D. T. Weir, 1891, Archives image no. P0073126

Daniel T. Weir (b. 1864 – d. 1949) graduated from IU with his A.B. in physics in 1891 and he obtained his A.M. in mathematics in 1893. He went on to teach in Indianapolis.  Both Weir and Truscott contributed to war service efforts in various capacities.

http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/archives/photos/P0073127
Maud F. Van Zandt, 1888, Archives image no. P0073127

Maud Freeman Van Zandt (b. 1868 – d. 1917) graduated from IU with her A.B. in English in 1888. Maud married and had children. She died at the age 48 after a severe case of pneumonia.

http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/archives/photos/P0073128
Grace Woodburn, 1885, Archives image no. P0073128

Grace Helen Woodburn (b. 1865 – d. 1922) graduated from IU with her A.B. in 1885 and with her A.M. in Latin in 1894. Grace also married and worked in the home.

Unfortunately, this is all that’s currently known about the students. The two men are known to have worked as a teacher and a college professor after their time at Indiana University. A line in the constitution’s Article I implies that all four were studying to either become teachers or to simply obtain a liberal arts education. The line reads: “The motto of this club shall be, ‘A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men and some high school teachers.'”  However, this interpretation of the line does not necessarily mean all members were educators.

In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, it was common for women to gain a college education but then go on to primarily be homemakers and mothers. This seems to have been the case for Maud Van Zandt and Grace Helen Woodburn who both appear to have become a “house wife” after marriage according to U.S. Census records.

While to this point we don’t know much more about these club members,  the constitution itself can offer a few more clues into what the students were like and what they did as a club.  Articles I., II., and III. explain that the club basically aimed to have fun together as a group of friends. The club was likely a chance for each student to get  away from school work and stress.

The next few articles in the constitution seem to contain stereotypical details and rules that a club might want to establish. The difference however, between this constitution and the usual sort of document used by a formal club is its tone.

The student members of the Moonlight Pleasure Club made jokes and appeared to mock formal club rules while writing their constitution. But even some of their jokes are representative of the social milieu of the time.  There are two instances when the document makes it clear that the male members have more power and status in the club than the women. Articles V. and VIII. seem to make jokes at the expense of the women club members. While there are no leaders or positions of power in the club, Article V. also says “of course in cases demanding a high grade of intelligence the women shall give place.”  And though the club appears to be democratic, it also gives the “gentlemen” the ability to have the final say in any tied votes.

But, were these rules all serious? Were students mocking social aspects of their time or did they seriously imagine men had a ‘higher grade of intelligence’ than women? Their constitution also says that the club “initiation fee the price of one pair of shoes for each of the charter members.” Is this a social idiom of the day, or were they mocking the often required fees for student organizations? Did they write this document as a joke with the aim to mock other university student clubs?

Unless we find more about the Moonlight Pleasure Club, we might not find out if these students were joking or mocking other student clubs, or if this was a serious matter to these students. In any case, this document provides a unique glimpse of what a group of friends did for fun together.

Below, you can look at the constitution for yourself! Can you find any more clues? A transcript of the constitution follows.

Constitution page 1, Moonlight Pleasure Club constitution, Collection C629, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.
Constitution page 2, Moonlight Pleasure Club constitution, Collection C629, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.
Constitution page 3, Moonlight Pleasure Club constitution, Collection C629, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.
Constitution page 4, Moonlight Pleasure Club constitution, Collection C629, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.

Below is a transcript of all four pages of the constitution:

[Page 1]

Constitution of The Moonlight Pleasure Club 1892.

Members
I. Charter.
Grace N. Woodburn.
Fred W. Truscott.
II. Initiated
Daniel T. Weir.
Maud Van Zandt.

Article I.
The motto of this club shall be, “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men and some high school teachers.”
Article II.
The purpose of this club shall be to have an awfully nice time, and anything which tends toward education or intellectual improvement shall be looked upon with disfavor and suspicion.

[Page 2]

Article III.
The ruling spirit in this club shall be, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow begins my early week at school.”
Article IV.
This club shall consist of four members; of these two shall be gentlemen and two shall be women.
Article V.
This club shall have no officers; all members shall be on an equal footing but of course in cases demanding a high grade of intelligence the women shall give place.
Article VI.
This club will meet whenever it has a chance or whenever any body invites it out. In urgent cases any member may call a meeting and one person shall constitute a quorum for transaction of business.

[Page 3]

Article VII.
The Action of the club shall not be binding on the members, nor shall the action of any members be binding on the club.
Article VIII.
All questions shall be decided by a majority vote but in cases of a tie, the gentlemen shall have the say.
Article IX.
The color of this club shall be crimson, symbolical of the warm friendship among its members and the ruddy time which tinges all its proceedings.
Article X.
Freedom of speech is guaranteed to every member and also the right to yawn as violently and as often as he pleases without fear of molestation.

[Page 4]

Article XI.
The initiation fee shall be paid right away by each initiate and shall be the price of one pair of shoes for each of the charter members. During the cold spells the senior members reserve the right to impose a repayment of this fee as often as they choose. The right is reserved to each initiate to do as he pleases about paying this.
Article XII.
This club will encourage as far as possible the use of the truly Hoosier expression “didn’t get to.” Everything that is Hoosier shall be welcomed and anything that savors of the worn out east shall be discountenanced.

Signature of Members

Protesting
Daniel T. Weir
Maud F. Van Zandt

Affirming
Grace H. Woodburn
Fred W. Trescott

Contact the IU Archives to see the Moonlight Pleasure Club constitution in person.

Here! or Absent? Student Chapel Attendance in the 19th Century Chapel Roll

When most of us began college, we never expected to have to attend any kind of prayer service or religious exercise.  Such activities have always been a choice for our generation. Millennials may have gotten off easy though. We’ve grown up in a time when religion has had little influence on our public education. But this wasn’t the case for the IU students of the early 19th century!

Until after the 1887-1888 school year, students were required to attend religious services at the chapel at IU. Throughout its existence in different locations as a State Seminary, as the Indiana College, and finally as Indiana University, the campus has had a long relationship with chapel services. Student attendance and excused or unexcused absences were meticulously documented in the Chapel Roll.

Chapel inside the First University Building. ca. 1876

A large brown leather bound book, the Chapel Roll is a record of student names, their rank as seniors, juniors, sophomores, or freshman, and their attendance at the mandatory chapel services from 1883 until 1891. It is interesting to look through the pages and see the numbers of students in each year and to try to decipher the chapel’s attendance system. Though the ornate writing in the book is attractive at times, it was likely a record that many students would have disliked. Most of us now probably can’t imagine having to sit in a religious service every day as a part of the college experience. And as student attendance was mandatory, any unexcused absences may have had consequences for early Hoosiers!

First University Building
The First University Building ca. 1856, also known as the Old College Building was used to house the Chapel, several academic departments, and other activities. A room in this building served as space for the Chapel from 1856 to 1896.

Though the location of the chapel and the content of the services eventually changed, and even though attendance was no longer required after the school year of 1887-1888, the Chapel Roll still kept a record of attendance for the difference activities held at the chapel. It can be found at the IU Archives.

For more information about the history of student attendance at chapel services here at IU, see Camille B. Kandiko’s 2005 article “Pray! Or Not to Pray: The History of Chapel at Indiana University an Illumination of Institution Practice and Policy.”

Contact the IU Archives to schedule a visit to view the Chapel Roll in our reading room.

Sincerely Yours: The End of the Civil War

Andrea has since graduated and moved on, but she left us with some of her amazing blog posts ready to go! Congratulations to Andrea and we think we convinced her that archives is where she wants to be!  

You may recall this post by Katie Martin from summer of last year about John D. Alexander, an 1861 alumnus of IU and later Union Captain during the Civil War. Over the past week or so, I’ve been transcribing all of the Civil War letters in Alexander’s collection, including the one that Katie included in her post. It’s been a real treat to read these as the letters definitely provide some unique insight into war strategies, the day-to-day life and sentiments of soldiers, and the means of communication during the mid-19th century. As an American History major, the Civil War has been a topic of particular interest to me for some time. So getting to read a primary source not already heavily picked over by historians is exciting, to say the least.

You can read some of Alexander’s biographical information in Katie’s post. By the end of the war, he was serving as an Acting Assistant Inspector General of the Second Brigade under William Tecumseh Sherman’s army. His brigade marched into Raleigh, North Carolina in April of 1865. On April 9th, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia, a significant marker that indicated the war was almost over. By the time John Alexander was writing a letter to his parents on April 18th, Sherman had been in Raleigh having an ongoing negotiation with General Joseph Johnston about the terms of another Confederate surrender. Johnston’s surrender turned out to be the largest surrender of men during the entire war with 89,270 soldiers in all.

Here’s John Alexander’s account of how it all unfolded:

And here’s a partial transcript, since that’s pretty difficult to read:

Once again I am permitted to write to you. God in his all-wise providence has so far spared my life for some purpose. I am well and am enjoying good health. My health was never better than at the present time. You see by this letter that we are near Raleigh N.C. We entered the city without any opposition. Our Division passed review as we entered the city. General Sherman was sitting on a noble black horse in the gateway leading into the Capitol Square. We came out 3 miles north of the City where we are now encamped. General Sherman and Genl. Joe Johnston have been in consultations several days in regard to [Johnston’s] surrendering his Army. How it will terminate I don’t know. He wants to surrender on the same terms that Lee did. But I don’t believe Sherman will let him off so easily. If [Johnston] surrenders the probability is we will not go any further out but will go into Camp some place near here. Every day there are droves of men coming by here going home that belonged to lee’s Army and deserters from [Johnston] heartily tired and sick of the war. Some of Lee’s men stopped at our Camp last night and the boys shared their rations with them and their tents and appeared as cheerful as larks in each others company. Was man ever so [illegible] before. They curse their leaders and long for the old flag and Union. God grant that I may see peace in our land again. But when I think of my comrades that have fallen by my side in the dark hour of battle, something says “how can you forgive these men that have made so many homes desolate in the land”. I hope I may be charitable enough to forgive them…

Wednesday April 19th 1865

Last night it rained so I had to go to bed. My tent mate, Lieut. Hopkins of the 46th Ohio and A.A.G.M. wished me to retire as he had been out foraging and was tired. When we were opening the mail the Colonel found one for me and said “this is from your father I know his handwriting.” It is rumored here this morning that Johnston has surrendered. Also that President was shot dead by an assassin in his private box at the Theatre in Washington. Also that they visited the residence of Seward, shot his son and stabbed him in his bed. I hope it is not true…

I have reliable information just received that Sherman returned from Hillsboro last night and Johnston has surrendered his whole Army. Hallelujah. The time is not far distant when we can all enjoy peace again.

I personally learned a lot from this letter alone about the ambiguity in those few days when no one was quite sure of whether or not the war was really over. The Union soldiers weren’t entirely sure how they should treat the members of the opposing army. For the most part, it seemed like they were just happy that the fighting was over and had no desire to perpetuate any more violence. Union soldiers even offered the Confederate deserters and discharged members of Lee’s army their food and shelter (which they may have had very little of in the first place). Alexander doesn’t mention any instances of contempt or violence on either of their parts, other than his own hesitation to offer forgiveness after all the damage that had been done by the Confederates.

When Lee surrendered his army, the terms of surrender were considered, by some, to be overly lenient. Soldiers and officers only had to turn over their weapons, but were given leave to return home immediately– thus the surplus of discharged Confederate soldiers that Alexander saw passing by or through their camp. Alexander was clearly among those who thought that Lee’s army should have been more severely punished for their rebellion. Johnston’s surrender was supposed to be even more merciful than Lee’s. By the time the second half of Alexander’s letter was written (April 19th) Sherman and Johnston had agreed upon the terms that would reinstate Confederate state governments. However, officials in Washington D.C. wholly rejected these terms, outraged by Lincoln’s assassination, and a few days later, the original terms were dissolved and changed to terms identical to that of Lee’s.

There’s a lot to be learned from primary sources such as this one. The delays in communication during the Civil War, for one– Lincoln’s assassination and Johnston’s surrender were mere rumors at the time. You can also get a feel for Alexander’s unabashed optimism and patriotism in most of his letters, which– from the sound of it– wasn’t a uniform state of mind among soldiers. Alexander prided himself on being relentless in his duty as a soldier to his country, and a few times chastised others in his letters for being lazy. In another (undated) letter, Alexander wrote:

“…no man shall ever say… that I shirked my duty. It is really diverting to see how some men do. They will lay in Camp and eat and drink and smoke merry and when the marching orders come– it’s ‘Oh my back or my leg’, ‘I know I can’t go and carry my knapsack, I could not go a mile. Orderly, will the doctor have a sick call this morning[?] Ah me, I know I’ll have to be left.’ Then they will let in to consoling themselves. ‘Well, I’ll just lie down and let the [Confederates] take me prisoner and parole me and I’ll go home and they will not get me in the army again.’ This is what they want.”

Check out the John D. Alexander collection in the Archives Online to see digitized versions of all of the letters.

Daniel Read: The Professor Who Saved the Universities

Do you often wonder about the name behind a building? Most buildings on campus are named for someone, but most people probably do not know who those mysterious persons are. Some of them may have been more recent donors or some, such as Daniel Read, may be figures from the early years of the University.

daniel_read002
Photograph of Daniel Read

Daniel Read, for whom Read Hall is named, was born in Ohio in 1805. He attended Ohio University, from which he graduated in 1824. He went on to receive a Master of Arts degree in 1827 and then an honorary LL.D. in the 1850s from Indiana Asbury University (which is now DePauw University). He was technically a lawyer, but he never practiced. During the 1830s, he returned to his alma mater to be a professor of classics (or ancient languages, depending on the source) and eventually vice-president. He was also a visitor at the military academy at West Point.

Eventually, however, Read made his way to Indiana University. There he taught ancient languages from 1843 to 1856, a faculty member during the same time as Robert Milligan. While there, Read made an important contribution to the University, in effect, saving it. In 1850, Read attended a state constitutional convention. The University was in danger of losing its land—granted by the government. Read ensured that the funds designated for the University (the land) would stay with the University. Read had, in fact, saved the University. A few years later, in 1854, he and another professor would travel to Washington, D.C., to successfully petition for land from the federal government. Although not at Indiana University very long—only thirteen years—Read made an impact on the University.

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A speech Read gave at IU

After leaving Indiana University, Read went on to teach at the University of Wisconsin, where he was a professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy, and then to become the president of the University of Missouri, from 1866 to 1876. Read had an impact at the University of Missouri as well. He worked to widen the educational opportunities at that university in the form of a normal school and an agricultural and mechanics school. Another important contribution was once again in the form of greatly helping the university as a whole. Read worked to push the General Assembly of the state to recognize the university. Read also felt strongly about women attending universities, working towards admitting women to the University of Missouri. When he had been at Indiana and had attended the state constitutional convention, he had also been a supporter of women’s rights.

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Another letter concerning Theodore’s death

While Read had a great impact on the universities where he worked, his family also had an impact on the world. His sister, Mrs. McPherson, was the head of the Female Seminary. Another famous relation was his great-great-nephew, John Foster Dulles. Sadly, his own immediate family was marked with tragedy. Read, with his wife Alice, had two children, Theodore and Agnes, whose lives ended when they were young adults. Theodore fought in the Civil War, rising to the rank of Brigadier General and surviving most of the war. However, in a tragic stroke of fate, he was killed at Appomattox. Read wrote a moving letter in which he describes how Theodore’s death affected the family:

“[He] proposed in his very last letter to have one of his sisters, after things became regulated, visit him. But it is all over. My family is bereft of him to whom we all looked as our ornament, comfort and support. I can only cry out, O Theodore, my son Theodore. How terrible that this calamity should have come after he seemed to be safe. In my own thoughts and my congratulations with friends I had just said – Well, thank God, it is over and Theodore is living. Just then a dispatch from Major Seward was put in my hands in these words – ‘Brig. Gen. Read was killed on Tuesday 9th heading the most gallant fight of the war’ He was mistaken, I think, as to day, but oh, such glory – Moving glory that takes away all the hopes and comfort of parents, wife, sisters.”

Only the next year, in 1866, Agnes died, having been in poor health for a while. Read himself died in 1878.

Daniel Read, perhaps now lost in obscurity simply as the namesake of a hall, should be remembered as the professor who fought for the rights of women and fought to save universities, one of them being our own Indiana University.

No Men Allowed: A Look Inside the Mysterious Panthygatric Dances of the Early 1900s

Panthygatric Dance, 1896 Arbutus
1896 Arbutus

The word Panthygatric looks and sounds unappealing. However, the women it involved would tell you otherwise. In the late 1890s through the early 1920s, sorority women from the then-four houses on the Bloomington campus would come together to plan an exciting banquet. The idea actually stemmed from the fraternities, who were forming an extremely elaborate and expensive party. They called it the “Pan-Hellenic” dance. Originally, women were invited, but the more elaborate the planning got, the more they wanted it to be without females.

Rule 1: Never mess with a woman and her party plans.

Costumed attendees of the Panthygatric dance, unknown year.
Costumed attendees of the Panthygatric dance, unknown year.

To spite the fraternities, the women decided to throw an even better party. They chose not to invite the men, and in a fun twist of fate, the fraternities Panhellenic dance was cancelled, whereas the women’s dance became an annual tradition.

What happened at these mysterious Panthygatrics? Sorority sisters would wear their house colors but they each had unique costumes. These included everything from a sailor, to a boy, to a ballerina, to a football player. They wore masks to keep their identity concealed and were very secretive as to how they would arrive at the venue to avoid their identity being given away. There was dancing, toasts, and lots of food. Women were able to talk and meet new people without any of the typical social pressures. Ironically enough, the mysteriousness of the dance and its activities is what gave it all of its publicity and attention.

In 1906, three men were caught looking into the window, trying to get a glimpse of this unique event. While they were caught before getting a decent look and escorted out, one of them decided to turn that quick peek into a scandal. Writing a letter to the The Daily Student (the present day Indiana Daily Student), he wrote (under the initials G.A.R.) of the Panthygatric scene he saw, saying how unladylike and wrong it was for young, respectable women to dress and act in such a disturbing manner. This letter sparked a response from Mary Breed, the Dean of Women, who had been in attendance that night. She argued there had not been any shenanigans; her accounts insist everything was innocent and fun. The editor of the The Daily Student, Robert Thompson, was told to write a retraction since the article from G.A.R. made the women who attended look bad to the public. Robert refused, saying the note was a joke and should have been taken as such. He also noted that he was not there to clear the article before it was published, so he should not be punished for it.

IDS headline: Dean Breed Defends Last Panthygatric. April 19, 1906
Daily Student, 19 April 1906

The Trustees declared him in the wrong and suspended both him and William Mattox (another member of The Daily Student) until they resigned from the student newspaper. When they finally left the newspaper staff, they were reinstated to Indiana University at students. Before you start feeling bad for William and Robert, A Bedford Weekly newspaper article states that this was not the first incident with the boys putting “alternative facts” in The Daily Student. They had been warned to stop numerous times.

Advertisement seen in the IDS shortly before the Panthygatric event (The Daily Student, March 1, 1907)

The Panthygatric continued for years to come, with different incidents involving men arising over the years — from the guys sneaking in to steal desserts or dressing as women in an attempt to slip in unnoticed. Bouncers were placed at the doors, but if anyone got around them, they were met with women holding buckets of cold water. Even local businesses got into the spirit, selling products geared toward the dance!

During World War I, the Panthygatric was cancelled and resumed for only a few years following. In its heyday however, hundreds of female students and faculty attended and enjoyed the event.