Indiana University Bicentennial Oral History Project

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Plans for celebrating the Indiana University Bicentennial are well underway, especially with the incoming Class of 2020 arriving this fall. Many Signature Projects have been designed for IU’s Bicentennial, one of which is the Bicentennial Oral History Project. This project aims to collect histories from IU faculty, staff, and alumni university-wide. These oral histories provide a first-person perspective on the history of Indiana University available through no other source. The information collected from the participants can be used for research, teaching, and personal interest. Over 400 oral histories from IU alumni have already been collected as a part of this project. The Office of the Bicentennial and the Oral History Project Team are currently working to collect more oral histories and provide public access to them on the upcoming Indiana University Bicentennial website. The website will launch this week on September 9th.

Katie manning the Oral History booth at Cream & Crimson Weekend.
Katie at the Oral History booth during Cream & Crimson Weekend.

The oral histories are collected through individual interviews either in-person or over the phone. The Oral History Project Team also attends events, where large amounts of alumni, staff, faculty, or retirees are available to share their stories. Recently, the team attended Cream and Crimson weekend to talk about the project with curious alumni, as well as listen to and record their personal histories from their days at IU.

Some of the most frequently asked questions we receive when conducting an oral history are, “Where will this recording go? Can anyone listen to it?” The oral histories collected for the Bicentennial will be uploaded, cataloged, and available on the upcoming Indiana University Bicentennial website, so that they are searchable and accessible to the public. The Oral History Project Team are working to implement software that will enable easy access to the oral histories collected for the Bicentennial.

IU Alumnus, Brian Brase, getting ready to share his story.
IU Alumnus, Brian Brase, getting ready to share his story.

Many people often say, “I don’t really have anything interesting to share. You wouldn’t want my story.” We absolutely do want your story, and the interviewer will kindly walk the interviewee through the process before they begin recording. The interviewer will also ask a set of questions, so that the interviewee is not simply expected to talk on their own. Each individual story plays a significant role in filling an important historical aspect of Indiana University. The oral histories provide a wonderful opportunity to illuminate the peoples’ history of Indiana University from all campuses and from all angles. Listen to and enjoy some Bicentennial Oral History snippets from Indiana University Alumni:

 

Harry Sax, graduating class of 1961. Indiana University – Bloomington.

Gloria Randle Scott, graduating class of 1959. Indiana University – Bloomington.

Michelle Sarin, graduating class 2009. Indiana University – Bloomington.

Sue Sanders, graduating class of 1981. Carlton Sanders, graduating class of 1972. Indiana University – Southeast.

If you would like to learn more about the project or share your story with us, you may contact Kristin Leaman, Bicentennial Archivist, at kbleaman@indiana.edu. You can also receive updates about the Indiana University Bicentennial by following their Twitter and Facebook pages.

 

Sincerely Yours – Letters from the Archives: Theodore Roosevelt Draws the Line

When Carl Eigenmann (renowned ichthyologist, Indiana University Professor of Zoology and Dean of the Graduate School, and Curator of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh) set out on the 1918 Irwin research expedition to Peru, the possibility of failure was not far from his mind. He even wrote President Bryan a last will and testament of sorts, providing for the disposition of his research, specimens, and equipment “in case the submarines or other vermin should get [him].”

Yet it was not a German submarine that nearly scuttled Eigenmann’s expedition, but the U.S. State Department’s heightened scrutiny of German-Americans during World War I. After departing from Bloomington in June 1918, Eigenmann and his assistants, IU graduates Adele Eigenmann and W. R. Harris, were delayed in the port of New Orleans for five weeks. As Eigenmann, a German-born, naturalized U.S. citizen, put it, “The Passport Division of the State Department, while conceding that my name was euphonic, considered it too Teutonic and refused me passports.”

Indignant at the delay, Eigenmann went straight to the top with his protests. Besides writing to the presidents of IU and the University of Illinois, which granted Harris a fellowship for the journey, he appealed to former president Theodore Roosevelt and asked him to intercede with President Woodrow Wilson on his behalf.

Theodore Roosevelt delivering the 1918 IU Commencement address
Theodore Roosevelt delivering the 1918 IU Commencement address

Roosevelt’s well-known fascination with natural history, in particular with gathering specimens and trophies through large-scale, international expeditions, had made him a natural ally of Eigenmann’s in years past. In 1916, Roosevelt wrote to Gilbert Grosvenor, President of the National Geographic Society, to secure $3000 for the expedition, stating that Eigenmann was “of all the men in this country the one best fit to get the best results out of just this trip.”

Roosevelt also proved himself a friend of Indiana University in general, having given a rousingly patriotic commencement speech in Bloomington in May, 1918. But when Eigenmann requested his assistance in securing passports, he had not counted on the extent of the bad blood between Roosevelt and Wilson, who were campaign rivals during the 1912 presidential election and differed widely in attitudes toward American intervention in Europe during World War I. Roosevelt responded, apologetically, to Eigenmann’s request as follows:

Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Carl H. Eigenmann, July 5, 1918.

SAGAMORE HILL.

July 5th 1918

Dear Dr. Eigenmann,

I am very sorry, but I cannot appeal to Wilson for any human being; and moreover the surest way to hurt you would be to have him think I was interested in you. I am wholly unable to understand the folly or worse of refusing to permit your Peruvian expedition.

With regret [and] indignation,

Faithfully yours,

Theodore Roosevelt

Despite Roosevelt’s unwillingness or inability to help him, Eigenmann’s other contacts were able to exert pressure on the authorities, and the expedition proceeded, albeit with a shortened itinerary. Eigenmann later reported that he suspected a rival scientist as the instigator of the passport controversy. As he wrote in his June, 1919 report to the Board of Trustees, “Someone, who I was informed was interested in having me vacate the position of Curator in the Carnegie Museum, filed charges against my loyalty.”

Who knew that the field of natural history could be so full of intrigue?

Murder by “Mineral Water”: the Death of Richard Owen

richard owen
Richard Owen ca. 1870

According to Indiana University legend, Richard Owen – namesake of Owen Hall, first president of Purdue University, second Indiana state geologist, IU professor of natural sciences – died from ingesting embalming fluid. The circumstances in which this curious mistake occurred, however, are rarely mentioned when the story is shared. Luckily, the Bloomington Progress (vol. 24, No. 6; 2 April 1890) published a special report on the death of Professor Owen which elucidated the strange incident:

A jug of embalming fluid was sent by mistake to A.H. Fretameot, a merchant and a neighbor of Prof. Owen labeled medical water. Thinking it mineral water from some friend, the two drank a small quantity. Its deadly quality was soon discovered. Medical aid was summoned but Prof. Owen succumbed under its effects and died. Mr. Fretameot vomited freely and it is hoped he may recover.

Whether of not the unfortunate Mr. Fretameot survived the mistake is unknown.

Bloomington Progress, Vol. 24, No. 6; 2 April 1890
Bloomington Progress, Vol. 24, No. 6; 2 April 1890

A Question of Loyalty: Controversies Surrounding All Things German at Indiana University during World War I

“President Bryan made a statement to the Board concerning the German situation at the university”—Board of Trustee Minutes, April 17, 1918.

For the past several months, I’ve been working to slowly transcribe the WWI-era hand-written minutes of the Board of Trustees for inclusion in this searchable online portal and one question has continued to weigh on me. What exactly was “the German situation”?

While the Great War raged in Europe, anti-German feelings ran high state-side and Indiana University was not exempt from coming under fire for associations with the enemy. After some investigation, the exact “German situation” is still a little vague; however, there are still some fascinating stories from the era.

C286 War Mothers letter, June 1, 1918

One of these controversies involved  the teaching of the German language. By mid-1918 enrollment in German language courses at Indiana University had declined and only two professors, Bert J. Vos and Carl Osthaus, remained on the faculty. Across the country, teaching German in the schools (including universities) became a contentious issue. In June 1918, IU President William Lowe Bryan received a letter from the War Mothers of Monroe County which argued that “one of the most fruitful sources for dissemination of insidious enemy propaganda has been through the contact of things German with our schools.” They further stated that “it is therefore RESOLVED: — That no good purpose can be served by the continuation of the teaching of German in Indiana University, that much harm may come therefrom.” President Bryan coolly responded that the teaching of German would remain  “as a means of fighting Germany.” When further questions poured in from individuals such as  Dr. Perry Dickie of the American Defense Society, President Bryan responded that “German is not required for entrance” but that “we provide a few classes in German for students who desire it.” Additionally, by the fall of 1918 students enlisted in the Student Army Training Corps were learning German for military purposes.

James McDonald portrait painting P0056332
James McDonald portrait painting

While controversy surrounded the teaching of German, two professors also found themselves at the center of the debate. History professor James McDonald found himself the subject of a Senate investigation when a German by the name of Dr. Karl A. Fuehr included him in his “important list of names” which the the Department of Justice stated were all pro-Germans.  McDonald, however, demonstrated to the Senate Investigation Committee that the accusation was erroneous and that he was a loyal American citizen, stating that “Ever since the sinking of the Lusitania I have not merely privately but also publicly both in class and in the press strongly advocated the entrance of the United States into the war against Germany, as my students and associates can readily testify” (from a letter to the Chairman of Senate Investigating Committee, December 11, 1918). McDonald would go on to work first for the League of Nations and then for President Roosevelt’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees in Europe. He recognized early on the danger the Jewish people faced from Hitler. McDonald would also become the first US Ambassador to Israel.

Zeuch002
Hopkinton Iowa Leader, November 8, 1917

The second and most controversial case was that of Professor William Zeuch. A young Iowan, Zeuch was hired in 1917 to teach economics at Indiana University. In November of 1917, Zeuch had replied to an Iowan newspaper’s anti-German statements, stating that the newspaper was printing propaganda and because the recent German atrocities were not unique to Germans as a race, the newspaper was thus offending German-Americans.

Newspaper's reply
Newspaper’s reply

The newspaper replied by thoroughly denouncing Zeuch. News spread to Bloomington, where Zeuch found himself under investigation by the Monroe County Council of Defense and a committee of professors at the University. The Bloomington Indiana Daily Student on November 14 reported: “Mr. Zeuch affirms that he had no intention of being disloyal or unpatriotic when he wrote the letter to the Hopkinson Leader. He said to a representative of The Student that he had been incensed at the attempts which have been made to arouse hatred against the German race, but that he wished to condemn its autocracy.” Newspapers across the state reported on the scandal and Zeuch was asked to resign from his position. He did and joined the Army, from which he was honorably discharged in 1918. After the war, Zeuch co-founded a short-lived college in Arkansas, Commonwealth College, with a program that reflected his sentiments for socio-economic reform.  He was also a Guggenheim fellow in the 1930s and worked for the Department of the Interior.

Zeuch co-founded a short-lived college in Arkansas, the Commonwealth College, with a program that reflected his sentiments for socio-economic reform.

To learn more about either of these incidents or more about Indiana University during WWI, contact the IU Archives.

Charles Rush Forker Papers

Forker Blog008Charles Rush Forker, late Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University, was born on March 11, 1927 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The eldest son of Edson W. and Mary Rush Forker, Charles received his early education at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio.  After his graduation in 1945, Forker was quickly drafted into the U.S. Army, near the close of the Second World War.  He served two years in the army as a medical corpsman.  Upon leaving the military in 1947, Forker enrolled in Bowdoin College where he studied Shakespeare and acted in plays as a member of the college-affiliated dramatic society.  Upon his graduation in 1951 (and induction into Phi Beta Kappa), Forker was selected as a recipient of a Fulbright grant to study at Oxford University in Great Britain.  He received a second B.A. there in 1953, remaining at Oxford under a graduate fellowship from Harvard University.  He received an M.A. from Oxford in 1955.  He soon returned to the United States to continue his doctoral studies at Harvard University and received his doctorate there in 1957.

Imitating a typical letter home to the families of ill soldiers, young Forker comically writes to his parents of the unfortunate news of his cancelled trip home for Christmas and his seemingly unstable state of mind brought on by such news.
Imitating a typical letter home to the families of ill soldiers, young Forker comically writes to his parents of the unfortunate news of his cancelled trip home for Christmas and his seemingly unstable state of mind brought on by such news.

As a scholar, Forker would undoubtedly be most proud of the contributions he made to his field.  However, some of his most significant and touching writings are unpublished.  Like many soldiers, while he was stationed in Germany Forker wrote regular letters to his family.  These letters reveal the trials of a young man turned soldier.  He was eighteen when he was drafted into the United States military and was disheartened by the monotony of soldier life.  Reading his letters it is clear that he liked to keep busy.  He enjoyed a challenge, and it did not seem the military could stimulate his mind to the extent that he needed.  His letters home offered him a space to escape with the people who knew him best.  Young Forker provided his family with detailed accounts of the atmosphere in Germany and the futility of war.  He could see the beauty beneath the rubble and wrote about it.  And, just as any young person would do, he asked his family to send candies and cookies, wrote about his time at the hospital, and sent postcards from his trips around Europe.  It is easy to say that he fell in love with all things England while he was abroad and carried that love with him back to the States.  He was a perpetual student and shared his passion for culture with those around him during his lifetime.  In a profile about him in the English Department’s newsletter Footnotes in 1980, the author seemed to perfectly capture Forker’s character: “Writing essays, reading plays, whipping up a bearnaise sauce, listening to Mozart, teaching classes, swimming…Charles Forker is a Renaissance man, indeed.”

Charles Forker’s papers consisting of correspondence, research, teaching files, and publications spanning 1937-2013 are housed at the IU Archives. A finding aid is now available at http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/findingaids/archives/InU-Ar-VAD4226. Contact the Archives for further information!

Other Images:

Forker Blog006 Forker Blog007 Forker Blog003 Forker Blog004 Forker Blog001 Charles R. Forker Army Headshot