The Social Life of Geraldine White: the “Kirkwood”, BΣO, and the Westminster Inn

Geraldine with her fellow Beta Sigma Omicron members

In a previous post, the Archives announced the papers of Geraldine K. White were open for research.  In this post, we hope to give our readers a closer look at Geraldine’s life on campus. Geraldine, or “Jerry” as she was fondly referred by friends, kept detailed records of her time at IU through notes from her classes and the creation of scrapbooks.

Researchers can glean a lot of information about her social life at IU from looking at the latter of these items. Many of the scrapbook pages are plastered with sports schedules, dance cards, programs from music and theater events, invitations to parties hosted by the Dean of Women, by-laws and pamphlets from various organizations and sororities, and much more. Geraldine was clearly very heavily involved in campus life as a whole.

Another thing that stands out in Geraldine’s scrapbooks, however, are references to three houses: the Kirkwood, the Beta Sigma Omicron chapter house, and the Westminster Inn. She seems to have spent much of her time in these locations.  The scrapbook is filled with notes from friends, most of which seem to have some connection to these places as well.

The Kirkwood

The Kirkwood House, ca. 1920s, from Geraldine’s scrapbook

This mansion, which was located at 301 East Kirkwood, was designed by architect Milton Pritchett in 1897 and stood on the north east corner of Lincoln and Kirkwood.  The property was demolished in 1967 in order to make room for the site that would eventually become the current-day Monroe County Public Library. In its early years it served as the home of Calvin R. Worrall, a local lawyer. The house was then taken over by several fraternities Delta Tau Delta (around 1898), Lambda Chapter of Sigma Chi (around 1903-1904), and Delta Upsilon (around 1920). Later on in the 1930s it operated as a jazz bar and then as a doctor’s office during the 1940s-1960s (the practice of a certain Dr. T. L. Wilson).

During Geraldine’s time around the mid-1920s, it served as a women’s residence. Geraldine seems to have lived there from 1922 to sometime in 1924.  Afterwards, she moved into the newly built Memorial Hall, IU’s first women’s dormitory (which was dedicated in October of 1924).  The scrapbooks contain numerous letters from Geraldine’s friends regaling us with stories about the Kirkwood House whether it be sneaking around the house late at night while the chaperone slept, reading Sherlock Holmes with her roommate, or recounting the shocking moment when the bed next to her fell through the floor into cellar…

The Beta Sigma Omicron House 

Geraldine also spent a great deal of time at the Alpha Beta chapter house of the now defunct Beta Sigma Omicron sorority, which was established during her senior year. She joined as part of the inaugural pledge class in Spring of 1926.  The sorority was founded on December 12, 1888 at the University of Missouri by three women: Eulalie Hockaday, Martha Watson, and Maude Haines; the sorority was absorbed by Zeta Tau Alpha on October 3, 1964. Multiple members of Beta Sigma Omicron left notes for Geraldine in her scrapbooks. Geraldine herself included a picture of the BΣO house that seems to have been cut out of some sort of reference book or magazine:

Beta Sigma Omicron house, 530 Smith Avenue, from Geraldine’s Scrapbook

The house moved from 503 Smith Avenue to 420 So. Fess the summer after Geraldine graduated. The new property was sold to BΣO by the Theta Chi fraternity on June 28, 1926. Geraldine also includes a picture of the new location for the house on the same page:

Beta Sigma Omicron, 420 So. Fess, from Geraldine’s scrapbook

The Westminster Inn

Westminster Inn, from Geraldine’s scrapbook

In addition to hanging out with her housemates and her sorority, Geraldine was heavily involved in the Westminster Inn, a house under the purview of the Presbyterian Church dedicated to campus student ministry.  According to the Annual Report of the Board of Education of the Presbyterian Church, Westminster Inn was “located opposite of the main entrance to campus.”

Invitations to events at the Westminster Inn, from Geraldine’s scrapbook

During Geraldine’s time at IU, the house was under the management of Rev. C. W. Harris, who served in France as a chaplain for the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.  From looking at the scrapbooks, Rev. Harris’ wife seems to have enjoyed hosting students quite often whether it be for tea, dinner, farewell parties for seniors, or special events.  One particular page displays an invitation to meet Dr. Samuel Martin Jordan, an influential Presbyterian missionary in Persia.

Twelfth Night memorabilia from Geraldine’s scrapbook

The group that frequented the house even organized a play.  There are references in the scrapbook to Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Geraldine’s roommate from sophomore year at the Kirkwood house, Mabel, seems to have been involved with the play and mentions it in one of her notes in the scrapbook. The Westminster Dial of March 1928 confirms that the Westminster House put on a play of the Twelfth Night.

If you would like to see the scrapbooks or other items from Geraldine’s time here at IU contact the IU Archives to set up an appointment!  The archives also has several other student scrapbooks in its collection including those created by Kathleen Cavanaugh, Emma K. Schmidt, John Lincoln Nichols, Margaret Werling, and many others. Each documents a unique perspective of student experiences at IU.

Fraternity Exchange Students in the 1930s

We recently received a reference request concerning an exchange student from England during the 1930s. This spurred research into an interesting exchange student program that Indiana University had just begun at the time. Although we don’t have much information on the student the original reference request was about, we do have a letter from the IU student who went to England.

Fraternity exchange plans began in 1935-1936 with the Phi Delta Theta fraternity chapter at IU. They provided a German student with free room and board, and the university gave the student free tuition. The next academic year, a student from IU went to Germany and received free room, board, and tuition. In the 1937-1938 academic year, the Board of Trustees (see the May 18, 1937 Trustees minutes) in conjunction with three fraternities offered free tuition, room, and board to a Swiss student, a German student, and an English student.

Terence Lane
Gilbert Bailey

Gilbert Bailey was the IU exchange student to University of London Southampton in 1937-1938. Originally, an English student was to come to IU the same year, but delays from the University of London Southampton kept him from coming until the following academic year. That student was Terence Lane. He attended IU and received room and board at Phi Delta Theta for the 1938-1939 year. In the letter below to Paul Feltus, the editor of the Bloomington Star, in 1937, Bailey writes,

The officials of the university here have received the plan enthusiastically and are already making plans to submit the idea to the English National Students’ Union in the hope that the plan will be extended to include exchanges between many English and American universities. It is only because the idea is new here that more time is needed to complete the first American-English exchange.

Letter to Paul Feltus from Gilbert Bailey, August 24, 1937, C213

Bailey received good reviews as a student from the University of London Southampton. Bailey went on to encourage more university exchanges. While he was a student at IU, he was a member of the IDS staff. He was from Delphi, Indiana.

When Bailey had gone to study in England, the university there was supposed to send one of their students to IU. However, they were unable to do so until the following academic year. That student was Terence Lane. He attended IU and received room and board at Phi Delta Theta for the 1938-1939 year.

If you would like to know more about exchange programs at IU, please contact the Archives.

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.

Sincerely Yours: The Pinkerton Detective Agency

pinkerton-header

Scandal.

Intrigue.

THE Pinkerton Detective Agency.

 

Lest you think differently, Bloomington has been a hopping town for some years now. And university students today are different in many ways from the students of yore – but similar in so many more.

In the 19th century and into the early 20th, college students across the country would anonymously publish satirical and sometimes scandalous underground newsletters called boguses. They used these outlets to comment on rival organizations, students, and oftentimes, university faculty. We have some terrific examples of these publications in the Indiana University Archives, but none created a stir as much as what we call the “Turd” bogus. (Yes, really.)

On a spring morning in 1890, Bloomington residents woke to find that a particularly vulgar bogus had been delivered to their doorsteps during the night. The authors accomplished much in its single page, attacking Indiana University students and faculty by calling into question their intellect, morality, and sobriety.

Bloomington citizens were outraged, as at many households children found and read the bogus before parents got to it. And the University administration? Well, you can imagine their response. While unhappy about the situation himself, in public President Jordan tried to play the “boys will be boys” card. The IU Board of Trustees, however, was having none of it. They wanted the responsible students punished, so they called in the big guns to find the dastardly authors – none other than Chicago’s Pinkerton National Detective Agency.

The Pinkerton operative, known to us only as J.H.S., arrived in Bloomington in the wee hours of April 26th, 1890. In the Archives, we have a terrific series of letters the investigator sent to back to headquarters in Chicago. His reports read like something out of a detective novel: private conversations with students in his hotel room where he would try to trick them into confessing, lurking around town to hear what talk he could of the publication, etc.

The Pinkerton agent remained in Bloomington for nearly two weeks, dutifully reporting back each day, but it was the work of wagging tongues that revealed the authors and not so much J.H.S.’ fine detective work. As President Jordan suspected from the beginning due to the content and tone of the bogus, it was seven members of Beta Theta Pi fraternity who authored it. At the last moment, some of the writers lost their nerve and hid the newsletter in a trunk. The others, however, retrieved the bogus and distributed copies throughout the town.

Many in the guilty party were from prominent families, including Nicholas Robertson, son of IU Trustee Robert Stoddart Robertson. Nonetheless, all seven were expelled from the University. Connections, however, had its benefits, of course. In June 1892, the faculty relented and degrees were granted to five of the men, and all seven were reinstated into the University with good standing.

Below you can read the first letter of the Pinkerton operative — click the image for the full PDF of the letter, and if you’d like to read more, contact the Archives!

What? You want to read the bogus that created such a stir? Well, be warned that it really is quite vile. But here you go – click on the bogus image to open a larger version, which you can then blow up for full reading pleasure.

Letter to L.V. Buskirk from William A. Pinkerton, April 28, 1890
Yes, THE Pinkerton Detective Agency

 

The Date, 1946-1947, A Student Publication

The Date001
The cover of the April 1947 Moonlight Issue

A male student clutching a jug of alcohol, the bare backsides of young men spreading a page, and the long, lovely legs attached to five beautiful “coeds” competing for the “Miss Legs” title all make up the 1946-1947 publications of what was a new magazine on campus, The Date. First starting out, and without a designated space to write and publish, Don Goins and the rest of The Date staff completed their work on the basement floor hallway of the Science Hall. Knowing what they published, it seems like an appropriate space to gather and gossip about the goings-on around campus. A typical monthly publication would be filled with all things related to student life: pictures of those recently “pinned,” stories of popular (or not-so-popular) professors, tongue-in-cheek cartoons, funny short stories, and advertisements for shops and restaurants around Bloomington.

For those interested in studying campus culture after World War II, this publication would be the perfect starting point. Picking up the magazine today feels like picking up a modern publication (apart from the fashion, of course).  The publication provides an intimate glimpse into the personal lives of students: their love interests, after-hour excursions, and attentiveness to campus events all add to the richness of I.U. history. From a current student’s point of view, the time period becomes more familiar with each magazine I read. I can see myself kissing my date in the Well House at midnight, having a drink at a local bar, and studying in the library with my peers.  There’s a sense of eagerness and excitement that is often associated with the young reflected in the eyes of the young men and women pictured. I wonder what became of these students, if they ever came back to Indiana University after graduation, and what they would think of this generation of college students if they could see them today.  Who knows? But what we do know is that their memories are forever preserved in the pages of The Date and students of today and the future can share their experiences and reflect upon the differences – or similarities – of their own IU experience.

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