The Alma Eikerman papers

The Alma Eikerman papers are now organized and available for research! If you don’t remember, the collection came to us in pretty rough shape; you can read about in my blog post from a few months ago.

Born in 1908, Eikerman was a well-respected artist and professor who taught in the School of Fine Arts (now the School of Art + Design) at Indiana University from 1947 to 1978. Known for her innovative metalsmithing, she was a vital force behind the development of the program at IU. Her work appeared in numerous exhibitions during her lifetime and now resides in private collections and museums across the country, including the Smithsonian and our own IU Eskenazi Museum of Art.

Passports of Alma Eikerman
Passports of Alma Eikerman

The Eikerman papers includes a wealth of material documenting Eikerman and her life. Included are papers from her extensive travels such as tickets, maps, itineraries, brochures, notes she took while on trips, and her passports with stamps of the countries she visited.

Her correspondence includes not only professional missivesSome letter sent to Alma but also many personal letters, such as post cards Eikerman sent to her parents while she was working for the American Red Cross and a letter from her grandfather from around 1916. Eikerman also sent annual newsletters to her former students to keep everyone updated on each other, demonstrating her dedication to and interest in her students.

The photographs in this collection are my personal favorites and include slides, negatives and prints spanning her entire life, personal and professional. Also, can we all just agree that Alma Eikerman was incredibly Pictures of Alma photogenic?

Lastly, and perhaps most important to those familiar with her work as an artist, is the part of the collection that relates to metalsmithing. Here researchers can find notes, receipts for materials, price estimates, sale tickets, as well as preparatory sketches of her work in various Sketches from Alma's papersstates of development – some hardly more than doodles while others are detailed sketches of a piece complete with notes.

Contact the IU Archives to schedule an appointment to view the Eikerman collection!

Cecilia Hennel Hendricks and the First Woman Governor

With the 2016 elections close—and the possibility of the election of the first woman U.S. president in history—it’s important to remember how far women have come across the frontier of American politics. As you undoubtedly know, women did not obtain the right to vote in this country until 1920 when the states ratified the 19th amendment to the Constitution. It took almost 100 years after that for a woman to be seriously considered for the highest level of office. But years earlier, in the very wake of women’s suffrage, Nellie Tayloe Ross would become the first woman governor of any state.

Nellie Tayloe Ross: "The Woman Who Made Good"

Ross became the governor of Wyoming in 1925, easily earning the office after the death of her husband a year earlier. According to many prominent politicians of the time, she was the “woman who made good;” Republicans and Democrats alike agreed, for the most part, that she had done her duty well during her two years in office. With how little effort it took her to get the vote and earn office in the first place, many believed it should have been smooth sailing when the time came for reelection in 1926. A number of women stood behind her and worked the campaign in order to keep her on the Democratic ticket. But the effort proved more difficult than anticipated; enter Cecilia Hennel Hendricks, former IU teacher and alumna, who would see firsthand the obstacles in fundraising for a female candidate.

Cecilia Hennel Hendricks

Hendricks, formerly Hennel, was born in Evansville, Indiana in 1883. She attended IU, performing as an exceptional student and leader both in and out of the classroom, and was even elected as the editor-in-chief of the campus yearbook, The Arbutus, in 1907. By 1908, she had earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. For the years to follow, she held positions on the Indiana University faculty as an instructor in the English department and an assistant editor of publications. So how did an accomplished woman living in Indiana with a career underway end up working the campaign for the governor of Wyoming? The same way anyone would: by marrying a bee farmer.

A marriage to John Hendricks of Honeyhill Farm took her all the way to Wyoming for an interlude in her IU career, and after a few years she would find herself swept up in the efforts for women in politics.

The Election of 1926

The Cecilia Hennel Hendricks family papers contains a file with a good chunk of the correspondence between Hendricks and others about Wyoming’s 1926 gubernatorial race. Through these papers, it’s fairly easy to discern her role in the campaign and how she managed to become a part of this political movement. It should be mentioned that Hendricks was not only working for Ross’s reelection at the time, but was CHH brochure for Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1926also herself running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction under the same ticket– although, it almost seems as though she became more concerned with Ross’s election than her own. She wrote letters to major political and activist figures (mostly women) to either solicit money, ask for lists of other people whom she could solicit for money, or to ask for advice on Ross’s campaign, all the while using the discourse of women’s rights to make her plea. To Mrs. Ruth McCormick, a U.S. representative from Illinois and activist for women’s suffrage, she wrote:

“…For the first time, a woman is a candidate for governor on a purely business proposition, simply on the record of her efficiency. Heretofore the element of sympathy has entered into every campaign where a woman has asked for high office. If Governor Ross were a man, there would be no question in the world of her re-election. She has demonstrated that a capable woman is just as successful as any man. She has shown that there is no sex in brains and ability. It is unnecessary to say that the whole future of women in politics hinges on their being accepted when, and only when, they prove efficient and capable for the job in question.

From this, Hendricks went on to ask for a donation to the campaign funds.

Not all of her attempts were fruitful. In fact, a majority of the responses Hendricks saved were polite, yet firm rejections to contribute to the campaign. Mary Roberts Rinehart, an American mystery novelist, wrote that she was “not a citizen of the state” and that she “really think[s] it would be an impertinence on [her] part to suggest anyone to them as the party of their choice, or to contribute to the campaign, or to align [her]self on either side of the politics of [Wyoming].” Still, Hendricks remained adamant, writing to a number of other possible donors, including the editor of Good Housekeeping in New York (hoping they would publish an article she wrote about Ross) and Emily Newell Blair, a writer and one of the founders of the League of Women Voters. Blair stated that, although she could not donate, she had convinced others to donate to the cause. Aside from solicitation, Hendricks remained alongside Ross for the majority of the campaign, attending many of her rallies and reporting on the success of her speeches. Her file includes a hefty stack of newspaper clippings that mention Ross’s highs and lows during election and as governor of Wyoming.

The Aftermath of Loss

Nellie Tayloe Ross lost the election to Frank Emerson by a narrow margin. Naturally, her supporters were disappointed by the surprising loss. It might have meant a severe backtracking in the way of women’s rights. Hendricks, however, took it upon herself to write a heartfelt and compelling letter to Ross after the election had fizzled.

CCH to NTR, 5 November 1926

“I feel personally,” she wrote, “in spite of defeat, that there is a good deal of comfort to be derived from participating in a campaign, for when one counts the increased information about her state, the contact with fine people everywhere, the friendships made, and above all, the knowledge gained that will be the basis for better work in the future, one must feel it is all far more than worth while.” Hendricks reminded Ross, and us all, of the true spirit of election season and all of the benefits of participating in American politics.

Sorry to report that Hendricks also lost her race as State Superintendent of Education. Hendricks remained in Wyoming until 1931, when she returned to Indiana University. Back in Bloomington, she continued with her impressive drive. As a member of the Dept. of English faculty, she went on to found the IU Writers Conference, held office as president of the Women’s Faculty Club in 1941, and made an overall remarkable impression upon our school.

The Frank C. Mathers papers

Frank Curry Mathers was born February 11, 1881 in Monroe County, Indiana to parents John Thomas and Elizabeth (Bonsall) Mathers. He graduated from Bloomington High School in 1899 and went on to attend Indiana University, graduating with an AB in Chemistry in 1903 and an AM in 1905. Mathers then attended Cornell University and graduated with his PhD in 1907.

Professor Frank C. Mathers (left) watches an experiment with I.U. alumnus Dr. Paul F. Isobe and I.U. professors H.G. Day and Oliver W. Brown.

Dr. Mathers began as an Instructor in Chemistry at Indiana University in 1903. After receiving his PhD, Mathers returned to Indiana University as an Assistant Professor in 1907, becoming an Associate Professor in 1913, and receiving a full professorship in 1923. He served as Interim Chairman of the Department of Chemistry from July 1, 1946 to June 30, 1947. Mathers’ primary research interest was in electrochemistry, especially electroplating, and he published prolifically, with over 100 research papers of his own authorship or co-authored with graduate students. He was an active member of the Electrochemical Society, including serving as President of the Society in 1940-1941. His most important discovery was a process for the preparation of fluorine gas by electrolysis using carbon anodes, discovered while working with the Chemical Warfare Service during the First World War.

Dr. Mathers combined his dedication to scientific research with an equal dedication to teaching. He held his students to high yet fair standards, and also supported them wholeheartedly in obtaining opportunities to research and gain employment. Of his over 100 research publications, many were co-authored with graduate students. Dr. Mathers was also an advocate for students outside the chemistry classroom, writing impassioned letters about curriculum change at IU, particularly with regards to the physical education and foreign language requirements.

Letter March 29, 1944, to Mr. P.S. Sikes, Chairman, Foreign Language Committee:

“The best interests for the greatest number of students should be the aim of all University requirements, and this should apply to language requirements…As many languages as possible should be offered, but all languages should be made optional…I think that foreign languages are the least valuable courses in the whole University for the great percentage of students. Language requirements are just holdovers from the earlier requirements when Greek and Latin were almost the only courses offered in the colleges.”

Letter November 26, 1945, to Dean H.T. Briscoe, Dean of Faculties and Vice President: “The most common cause of scholastic failure is too little time devoted to actual studying. Some people have the time but do not use it; others lack the necessary time due to other requirements…This school is supposed to be primarily for actual scholastic education. Everyone knows that these active physical exercises, besides the actual time consumed, incapacitate the individual for a considerable time for efficient mental effort…It is the business of the administration to see to it that the University is run for the best interests of the students and not as some group, i.e., Physical Education Faculty, wants it done.”

In addition to his work in chemistry, Dr. Mathers was a shrewd businessman and investor. He was involved in cattle and lumber, and owned several rental properties in Bloomington. He worked closely with companies to ensure the highest mutual benefit from the manufacture of his patented products.

The Mathers family is closely tied to IU. Dr. Mathers met his wife, Maude, in class at IU. The two married in 1911 and together raised two sons, both of whom attended IU: Thomas Nesbit Mathers (A.B. 1936, J.D. 1939) and William Hammond Mathers (AB 1938). Tragically, William became ill with skin cancer in his final year at IU, passing away in September 1938. It is after William that the Mathers Museum of World Cultures is named.

The Mathers Museum of World Cultures

The Frank Curry Mathers papers at the University Archives contain materials as diverse as Dr. Mathers’ interests. His research correspondence is extensively represented, as are his original lab notebooks. The series of teaching materials represents Mathers’ interactions with his students both in and outside of the classroom, giving insight into pedagogy as well as personal relationships. One can trace major changes at IU and in Bloomington through Mathers’ opinionated letters on subjects ranging from the installation of Bloomington’s third traffic light to the athletic program at IU. Mathers’ meticulous investment records and extensive business correspondence could be of particular use to those interested in economic history or business and investment practice.

The IU Archives also holds the papers of his two sons, Thomas Nesbit and Williams Hammond.

 

“From War to Peace in 1945 Germany: A GI’s Experience”

From War to PeaceIn 1953, Malcolm “Mac” Fleming joined the Indiana University School of Education and the Audio-Visual Center of Adult Education, where he began as an instructor and acting supervisor of motion pictures. What students may not have known is that their young instructor had been taught the trade by Uncle Sam.

Originally from Oregon, once the Army heard Fleming knew his way around a camera, they transferred him to the Signal Corps Photo Center in New York to be trained as a combat photographer. Billeted near Times Square, Mac practiced his craft on the streets of Manhattan, capturing shots of the busy metropolis, the results later reviewed and critiqued by his trainers. At his next stop in England, Fleming was told the Army needed motion picture photographers, so “[the sergeant] quickly taught me how to load a one-hundred-foot roll of 35 mm motion picture film into a handheld Eymo camera and I became a cinematographer overnight.”

In the belt pouch meant for a first aid kit, Mac instead carried his own small camera so that in addition to the official Army photos, he could capture shots of scenes that were of personal interest. In a field notebook, he documented these images just as he did the Army photos and films, and what resulted was a rich record of one young soldier’s experience in the European Theater. The destruction, the refugees carrying what possessions they could, and village life that went on as it could were all captured by Fleming’s little camera.

Fleming's caption typed on reverse side of image reads, in full:
Fleming’s caption typed on reverse side of image reads, in full: “Ruins now lie at the feet of the iron figure of Kaiser Wilhelm. A German living in a nearby room amid the rubble showed me this viewpoint. Looking at it while I took the pic he said that Hitler had gotten what he’d been pleading for–total war.” July 9, 1945, Nuremberg, Germany.

Now in his 90s, Prof. Fleming has donated his extensive collection to the University Archives, but not before collaborating with the IU Press in a gorgeous book, “From War to Peace in 1945 Germany: A GI’s Experience.” The book which includes his original notes, partnered with updated captions and a foreword by James H. Madison, IU’s Thomas and Kathryn Miller Professor Emeritus of History, and an afterword by Brad Cook, Curator of Photographs here in the Archives, is a must have for anybody with an interest in World War II.

The Saga of the Alma Eikerman papers

Photo of Alma EikermanAlma Eikerman was a successful metalsmith, an innovative jewelry designer, world traveler, and beloved professor at Indiana University from 1947 to 1978. She was in countless exhibitions, won many awards, and her work today is in numerous museums across the country including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art and the Indiana University Art Museum (IUAM) on campus. As in intern at the IU Archives this semester, this was all pretty intimidating but I was thrilled to be given the opportunity arrange and describe Eikerman’s papers as part of my internship. I was already familiar with her work through the IUAM, where I also currently work as an hourly in the Registrar department. 

I was eager to dive in. I knew people loved her and respected her, but most of the items in the file were from other people’s point of view. I wanted to learn more about her.  Of course the best way to do this would be to actually meet her, but unfortunately Eikerman passed away in 1995. The next best thing, would be to go through the documents she collected during her lifetime.

Some collections come to the IU Archives neatly organized and labeled in alphabetized folders – the Eikerman papers were the opposite.  Sadly, it was as if whoever boxed them up, merely pulled out the drawers of her desk, turned them upside down, and dumped the contents into 12 Rubbermaid bins. It is my job to create some sort of order out of this chaos so that a researcher can come and use the papers in a timely fashion. I learned a lot about Eikerman as I went through the first few tubs. For instance, she traveled around the world (shown by her multiple tickets, receipts, guidebooks, maps and passports). She kept in touch with her former students and tried to follow their careers (shown through the newsletters she sent them and copies of publicity from their exhibitions), and designed her own home (seen by the designs she drew and the magazine clippings she marked).

A glimpse of the unprocessed Alma Eikerman Collection
A glimpse of the unprocessed Alma Eikerman Collection

I am now more than 3 weeks deep into this collection, and I feel that I have only scratched the surface. I find a messy collection like this exciting, with a new surprise in every box. I may sound like a commercial for those children’s cereals with a toy inside, but it is so true. I will be sifting through what seems like a thousand years worth of holiday cards and then SURPRISE there is letter she wrote to her grandfather when she was about nine or one of her passports with stamps from all over Asia.      

The whole process is fun, but it is also exhausting. I was starting to get a little overwhelmed and blurry eyed. I have all these piles of items that are similar, and I have taken over the back room storage room of the IU Archives. Then I came across an incredible find, a travel permission form from when she served with the Red Cross in the 1940s. Where does this go?!?! I sat there looking at my piles with this fragile, old paper resting in my hand for probably five minutes.  

My domination of the back room
My domination of the back room

After this blog break, I’m headed back to the collection to hopefully uncover more treasures. I hope to have the collection fairly well organized by the end of this semester; watch for more information here or contact the IU Archives. In the meantime if you’re interested in other artist’s papers, you might like those of printmaker Rudy Pozzatti, textile artist Joan Sterrenburg, or sculptors Karl Martz and Jean-Paul Darriau.