Sincerely Yours: How Cecil Got His Gun

Cecil K. Byrd (1913-1997) was a longtime librarian and faculty member at Indiana University. He served as Curator of Special Collections (1942-1946), Assistant Director of Libraries (1946-1949), Associate Director of Libraries (1949-1964), University Librarian (1964-1972), and finally professor and librarian emeritus at the Lilly Library (1980-1997).

Air mail envelope addressed to Dr. Robert A. Miller from C. K. Byrd
Air mail envelope from Cecil K. Byrd’s wartime correspondence with Robert Miller, June 1944.

Cecil K. Byrd (M.A. 1938, Ph.D. 1942, History, Indiana University) landed a plum job at IU as Curator of Special Collections upon his graduation, but his career was soon interrupted by the entrance of the United States into World War II. Byrd left the university for service in the U.S. Navy in April 1943, not long after an important IU special collections milestone– the donation of the Oakleaf collection on Abraham Lincoln, which Byrd cataloged, and the opening of the library’s Lincoln room (then located in Franklin Hall).

Photograph of Cecil K. Byrd and three scholars in the Lincoln Room at its dedication on February 13, 1943.
Lincoln Scholars at Lincoln Room Dedication, February 13, 1943. Cecil K. Byrd is the second from the right.

During his wartime service as a ship’s navigator, Byrd corresponded with IU Libraries Director Robert Miller, who kept him up to date with campus affairs. In return, Byrd shared some of his experiences as well as his eagerness to get back to his beloved job (“I would give my share of paradise to be sitting on my thin bottom in that red chair in Rare books and attending an auction now and again!”). One of Byrd’s more entertaining anecdotes appears in a June 23, 1944 letter, written while Byrd’s ship was stationed in France on transport duty. It concerns the requisitioning of a machine gun that he just had to have, not for himself, of course, but for Lincoln:

“Visited a German ammunition dump that had been evacuated a few hours before. Mindful of the Rare Book section, I selected a machine gun that in some mystical way had been connected with Lincoln for a souvenir. Pulled and groaned with the thing many miles and had nearly reached the ship when I was hailed by a British M.P. who wanted to know what I was doing with one of his Majesty’s guns. I gave him my little song and dance and “for Lincoln” he let me take it aboard. But I was so disappointed that it wasn’t German that I gave it to the mess boy with the story that I captured it alone and unarmed.”

Byrd’s mock-curatorial escapade was not the end of his exploits abroad in the name of the IU Libraries. During a stopover in England, he used coupons to procure “enough Harris tweed…to make myself a suit and topcoat” (stereotypical mid-century librarian wear?) and offered to buy additional cloth for Miller:

“Don’t know whether you like tweed or not. I’ve bought enough Harris tweed in Eng. to make myself a suit and topcoat. It takes coupons but I have a contact out to get more. If you are interested I think I could get you enough for a suit or topcoat. The last I got cost me $27 for 7 yards. You’ll have to trust me for the general color, etc. I’ll not make you look either like a librarian or race track tout — something in between. Let me know about this.”

After the war, Byrd returned to his beloved library, complete with a brand-new title: Assistant Director of the Libraries. And the rest is history- the expansion of library collections and branch libraries, the establishment of the Lilly Library as IU’s rare books and special collections repository, etc. etc. Except for Abraham Lincoln’s machine gun. Byrd totally made that up.

Read the entirety of Byrd’s June 23, 1944 letter to Miller here, including original handwriting and transcript.

Byrd’s wartime correspondence with Robert Miller is located in the Indiana University Libraries Director’s records, 1932-1977, Collection C540, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.

Sincerely Yours: “Dear Mr. Lilly, I am happy to present the library…”

While the Lilly Library will celebrate its 57th birthday this October, planning for the exceptional library began over 60 years ago. Herman B Wells was dedicated to developing a great library that would house rare books and manuscripts at Indiana University and provide access to these materials. Wells states in his speech at the library’s dedication, “We rejoice in this day for many reasons. Not the least of these is the fact that many of the rare books and manuscripts housed in this new building have for years been stored in the University’s central Archives, unavailable for use. At long last they may now be used!” Access and use of special collections was important to Wells, and the Lilly Library is still known today for its open access policy.

Josiah Kirby Lilly was also very excited about the prospect of his own impressive collection being housed in a library with his namesake on the Indiana University campus.

David Randall was appointed as the first librarian for the Lilly Library well before its opening in 1960. Prior to his appointment, Randall worked in the antiquarian book trade, where he met Mr. Lilly. Randall was an important figure not only in the planning of the library, but in the custodianship of collections. He knew the materials well, and he knew what to collect; moreover, he had established connections to book dealers. Below is a letter discussing the acquisition of the Mendel Collection, one of the Lilly’s many notable collections.

Mr. Lilly even notes in a letter to Randall “you are as good a purchasing agent as you formerly were a salesmen – far excellence!” in regards to a new acquisition (possibly the Mendel Collection) he secured.

Herman B Wells delivering a speech at the Lilly Library dedication, October 3, 1960. P0027349.

The dedication of the Lilly Library was October 3, 1960. Many people were in attendance, and speeches were delivered by Herman B Wells and Frederick B. Adams, Jr., Director of the Morgan Library. Wells stated, “It is, therefore, a source of satisfaction for this entire Midwestern region, as it is for the nation, that here in the heartland of America has been established another one of our great national depositories of the written treasures of our culture -which we trust will take its place in due course alongside the most famed such centers of our Atlantic and Pacific coasts.” Wells’ foresight was right, as the Lilly Library has undoubtedly taken its place alongside the renowned special collections libraries.

Herman B Wells and J. K. Lilly opening the doors to the newly dedicated Lilly Library. October 3, 1960. P0056007.

“Mr. Lilly, I am happy to present to you this key to the Library so that you may now unlock its doors–and so that you may be able at any time to enter the Lilly Library and be with its books!” – Herman B Wells

 

The Women’s Liberation Movement at IU

In the early 1960s, women across the nation started to rise up to further combat the social and cultural inequalities they were experiencing. They yearned for equality in the workplace. They wished to see changes in custody and divorce laws, so that they could go to court confident in their ability to actually win their cases. Many wanted to draw attention to domestic violence issues. Overall, women wanted to break down the barriers being placed in front of them and have their voices be heard. Their efforts eventually culminated into what is known today as the Women’s Liberation Movement, which continues to do its part in changing our world today.

These very same sentiments took hold of the women at IU and within the Bloomington community in the late 1960s. Alumni Ruth Mahaney (’70) and Nancy Brand(’73) discuss this in detail in their interview with the IU Bicentennial Oral History Project.

According to Ruth, she and other women became more interested in the issues surrounding women’s rights following their involvement in the Vietnam War Protests because they felt that they were not seen as equals in the movement. At one point in the interview, Nancy describes her feelings of inferiority after talking to her husband about a rally she attended in DC saying:

After learning more about what other campuses were doing across the country, Ruth and many other women dived headlong into the Women’s Liberation Movement and started up support groups for women on campus. Nancy states in the interview that by the time she came to campus in 1969, IU already had multiple support groups fully established.

front-page-1974
Front Page Aug-Sept 1974

IU’s Women’s Liberation Movement soon grew out of support groups and went on to achieve a number of notable accomplishments. In the early 1970s, members created a newsletter entitled the Front Page to bring attention to important topics related to the feminist movement and discuss local issues regarding women’s rights. It also acted as an outlet for women to publish their more creative endeavors.

At first the Front Page seemed to publish anything that came across their doorstep. They mainly printed critiques, essays, articles, poems, and illustrations. Some issues, however, contained interviews with various women trying to make their way through various working conditions or perhaps describing prejudices they’ve encountered in the world.

womens-center-pic
IU’s Women’s Center

Ads for self-defense classes, daycares, civil rights conventions, women’s groups, and even piano lessons plastered its pages. The wide-ranging focus of the newsletter was perhaps an attempt to include all women who wished to get their thoughts and stories out into the world. After the January-February 1975 newsletter, the editors introduced more topical themed issues to better focus the content.

It was also around this time that the group procured a house and established a Women’s Center which, according to Mel Dennison, “…was formed to be a meeting place, crash pad, information service, clearing house of feminist ideas and repository of feminist literature” (from the Nov-Dec 1974 issue of the Front Page).  IU’s Women’s Handbook Spring ’75 contains a write-up on the house advertising its services and describing some of its accomplishments.

womens-center
Women’s Handbook Spring ’75 article on the Women’s Center

One of the things listed was that the house acted as a meeting place for the Front Page newsletter. In the lower right hand corner of the article (see below), you can see a woman holding the August-September 1974 issue of the Front Page.

According to Nancy, some of the other achievements included the establishment of the first international conference for groups trying to set up cooperative daycare centers. Their efforts also eventually produced a rape crisis center which developed into Bloomington’s Middle Way House.

To find out more about more about these issues, contact the IU Archives.

Sincerely Yours: The IU Coed Band

In 1938, the status of an all-female Coed Band on IU’s campus was in trouble. The band was organized in 1936 by Vivien Green, a flute instructor and the wife of IU’s band director, Frederick Green. The band provided an opportunity for women on campus to hone the musical abilities they cultivated in high school band programs. At this time, IU was one of only two schools in the entire world to offer such a program and the only state university to do so.

Enthusiastic women participated in the band for two years despite receiving no university credit for their efforts.  In 1938, fifty-one women attended the first meeting of the semester, but within a month, the women learned that the band could not continue without university support. Parents, high school band directors, and women involved in the band sent angry letters addressed to President Herman B Wells and the Board of Trustees.

girlsband001

One woman wrote, “Don’t you think it is no more than fair that the Board of Trustees give credit to the Girls’ Co-Ed Band as it does to the glee clubs and Boys’ Band?” The Musical Supervisor of Bedford City Schools wrote that he was saddened that IU would no longer offer the Coed Band because 20-25% of students involved in high school band were women. A letter from another woman stated, “Where time is valuable, students cannot spare it for a half-hearted institution…I honestly feel that a feminine organization supplementing the splendid Marching Hundred would add greatly to the showmanship and interest of this university.” One irate woman wrote, “I came to IU because it had a band for girls. That is saying a lot, since my major subject is Home Economics; and you know and I know that Purdue offers a much more complete course in that subject area than does Indiana.”

coedband
IU Archives, Image no. P0055903

With the deluge of complaints, Frank R. Elliott, the Director of Admissions, implored President Herman B Wells to address the problem. President Wells presented the petition to the Board of Trustees on October 10, 1938, but the issue remained unresolved. The Board insisted that the issue of credit was for the faculty to decide.  Mrs. Green took the issue to Kate Mueller, the Dean of Women, in December 1938 who advised the group operate as an extracurricular organization. In a small concession, a Girls’ Drum Corps was organized by the Military Science and Tactics staff as a separate unit from the Marching Hundred.  Still, the women did not receive credit for their work, as explicitly noted in the IU Course Bulletin for 1940. The Girls’ Drum Corps had uniforms, traveled with the Marching Hundred, and even sponsored a winter dance.

girlsband

The battle may have begun 1938, but it took more than 30 years for women to achieve equality in terms of college credit for band membership. It was not until 1973 that the Marching Hundred accepted female members.

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.