Septem Muscicidae: The Moss Killers of Indiana University

Over one hundred years ago a group of six students and one IU staff member made headlines– but not for sports or academic achievement. They were the late nineteenth-century version of a resistance to what they saw as outrageous misconduct and immoral behavior on the part of IU faculty members. Their actions uncovered a scandal in 1884, became campus folklore, could be said to have changed the course of Indiana University’s history, and today are largely forgotten except by those who study IU history.

So, who are they? The Moss Killers.

The Moss Killers consisted of six Indiana University students and an IU janitor:

  • James Zwingle Alexander McCaughan, A.B., I.U., 1885
  • David Kopp Goss, A.B., I.U., 1887
  • Joseph Woods Wiley, Ph.B., I.U. 1886
  • Lucian Rhorer Oakes, A.B., I.U., 1885
  • Edward A. Hall who died while a student in the university
  • Morton William Fordice, B.S., I.U., 1886
  • Thomas “Uncle Tommy” Spicer, the janitor.

Together these so-called “Moss Killers” didn’t actually kill anyone (or any fungi), but they managed to uncover and prove a scandal that lead to the resignations of the university president and of a Greek professor. As a result, the University trustees and legislators broke with the past traditions of moralism and classicism and moved toward new educational leadership and an embrace of the intellectual age and academic reform needed for sciences and modern professions that was already present in many other American universities at the time.

http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/archives/photos/P0024044
The Moss Killers, 1884. Archives image no. P0024044. (Standing in back row, L to R) James Zwingle Alexander McCaughan, David Kopp Goss, Joseph Woods Wiley, and Rhorer Oakes. (Seated in front row, L to R) Edward A. Hall, IU janitor “Uncle Tommy” Thomas Spicer, and Morton William Fordice. The inscription written in Latin with a lead pencil on the back of this photograph and the English translation of the Latin reads: Septem Muscicidae. Hic videas Septem Muscicidas. Et Aspice Tela Muscicidarum. Seven Moss-Killers. Here you see seven Moss-Killers. And look at the weapons of the Moss-Killers.

Rev. Dr. Lemuel Moss was the sixth president of Indiana University and one of the last in a line of six  “Preacher Presidents,” who served the university before Indiana University followed the lead of other American colleges and began to employ presidents more focused on educational philosophy and public responsibility rather than theology or moral instruction.  Moss was at the University of Chicago before coming to Indiana University, and he had previously served as the Pastor of a Baptist Church.

As University President at IU, Moss was known to be a popular public speaker and a strict disciplinarian. Between 1880 and 1884 he was also a member of the National Council of Education, vice president of the American Baptist Missionary Union, president of the department of higher education, and a part of the National Education Association.  However, his prolific career in higher education was to be interrupted as a result of the Moss Killers.

Miss Katherine Graydon, a young woman in her mid-twenties, began work as a professor of Greek at Indiana University in September of 1883. She was an attractive, charming, and intelligent young woman. The rumors regarding her relationship with Rev. Dr. Moss quickly began soon after the start of her appointment.

After months of suspicion and rumor, the “Moss Killers” formed from a group of undergraduates to find out the facts concerning the relationship between Dr. Moss and Miss Graydon. With the help of Uncle Tommy (the janitor), the  six young men used a hand drill to cut a hole in the ceiling above Miss Graydon’s office and the Greek classroom in the University building. They stood watch to see what happened in the room below.  And eventually they saw what had been rumored to be true.

The Moss Killers then presented sworn affidavits and charges of “improper and immoral conduct” between the University President and Greek professor to the University Board of Trustees on November 7, 1884.

The Minutes of the Board of Trustees reads:

Charges against the President of the Univ.

On motion of Mr. Robertson, the following preamble and resolution were made, the unanimous action of the Board:

Whereas, rumors of a grave character in regard to the relations of Prest. Moss with Miss Graydon, teacher of Greek have been published in newspapers of large circulation, and are common on the streets of Bloomington; and the Board was proceeding to investigate the same

The digitized and encoded Board of Trustees Minutes can be seen and searched here.

IU Board of Trustees Minutes of 1884 Nov. 6

The students told the Trustees that they saw Moss present Miss Graydon with gifts and greet each other in ways that were not at all professional.  What was once rumor was now full blown scandal, and an investigation began by the Board of Trustees. They planned to hear evidence on the matter from both Moss and Graydon on Tuesday November 11, 1884.

But, before a hearing or investigation could commence, both Dr. Moss and Miss Graydon presented their resignations abruptly on November 8, 1884.

Toronto Daily Mail. November 18, 1884.

The story grew and spread, damaging the reputations of Moss and Graydon.  Newspapers carried the affair far and wide.  The Toronto Daily Mail, Tuesday November 18, 1884 (excerpt seen to the left) ran a detailed story entitled A Grave Scandal: Involving the President of Indiana State University. Well Known to Citizens of Toronto. An Investigation to be Held Upon Charges of Unseemly Conduct.

The social repercussions of the scandal were more problematic for Moss and Graydon than they were for the university. Some say that the newspapers inflated the story before Moss resigned. In any case, the damage had been done.

After her resignation and after a later attempt to rescind her resignation, Katherine Graydon moved to Indianapolis permanently.  She was the member of two prominent families, the Merrills and Ketchams, who became extremely defensive of her even when the congregation of her church became involved in the public judgement. In the end however, her defenders won and Miss Graydon became a well respected professor at Butler University and went on to have a long career there.

Dr. Moss was not so lucky. After his resignation he quickly left Bloomington. He spent some time in Chicago at a manufacturing firm, then worked editing a religious magazine, later spent time in Philadelphia, and was also a professor of Christian sociology at Bucknell. Dr. Moss died in New York in 1904 at 75 years old.

The Moss Killers, the scandal and affair they uncovered, and Dr. Moss’s resignation created some chaos at Indiana University. The role of president was filled temporarily by Elisha Ballantine, much to everyone’s approval. The University then went on to search for the right new president. The Board of Trustees needed to keep up with the times, and they needed a university president who could lead Indiana University into the new age of American intellectualism and science. The Moss Killers may not have killed anyone really, but their actions damaged one man’s reputation permanently, and ushered in a new era of leadership at Indiana University.

 

Chill before slicing: A Recipe for “Herman B Wells Cake”

Tomorrow (June 7th) would be former IU President and Chancellor Herman B Wells’ 115th birthday! To celebrate, visit the Wells Library tomorrow between 12-2pm for a piece of cake on the big day. Also if you’d like to make Hermie’s favorite dessert in the comfort of your own home, see the recipe below!

An older Herman B Wells blows out candles on his birthday cake in front of friends and staff
76th Birthday Party for Herman B Wells, June 8, 1978.

This culinary masterpiece involves a LOT of fruit and whipped cream and makes a pretty generously-sized cake, so scaling down the recipe is definitely recommended!

“Herman B Wells Cake”

Ingredients:
3 lb. white cake mix
6 oz. oil
2 lb. water
5 lb. green tip bananas
3 pints strawberries
16 cups whipped cream


Instructions:
Mix cake mix and 2/3 lb. water on low speed. 2 mins. Scrape down and mix with 2/3 cups more water on medium speed. 2 mins. Add last 2/3 cups water, oil, mix medium speed 2 mins. Bake 375 for about 30 mins. Cool and chill. Split cake in half. Spread top of split layer with whipped cream. Cut bananas and place on top of whipped cream. Spread more whipped cream on top of bananas. Layer strawberries over that layer. Spread more whipped cream on top of berries. Place other half of cake on top and spread more whipped cream on top of that. Chill before slicing.

Frances Morgan Swain and the League of Extraordinary (IU) Women

After 110 years of existence, the IU Student Building is being renamed in honor of Frances Morgan Swain (Miller). But wait, what’s so special about this lady?

Photograph of Frances Morgan Swain, circa 1887-1889
Frances Morgan Swain, circa 1887-1889. Note her pins from Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.

Frances “Fannie” Hannah Morgan was born in Knightstown, Indiana, in 1860. Her family appears to have been reasonably well-off (her father, Charles D. Morgan was, by turns, a lawyer, banker, and state representative), and they were members of the Fall Creek Monthly Meeting of Friends in Henry County. It is unclear when Frances met Joseph Swain, who was by turns a student (B.L.1883, M.S. 1885), professor of mathematics (1887-1891), and president (1893-1902) of Indiana University. One account by the Bloomington Courier stated that they met as students at Indiana, but there is no record of Frances’s attendance before 1887. What is certain is that they were married in September 1885, presumably after connecting over their joint Quaker heritage. And love of mathematics. Keep reading–you’ll see.

Compared to the women who preceded her as “first lady” of Indiana University, Frances was hardly the conventional president’s wife. Unlike her predecessors, she actually attended Indiana University, completing junior-level mathematics coursework over two years. She began her studies in 1887, the same year that Joseph was appointed an associate professor in the department. Even more unusual was that she did so as a married woman. She began studying in 1887, the same year that Meadie Hawkins Evermann became IU’s first married female graduate. Swain’s education took a detour when her husband was invited to join the faculty of the newly formed Stanford University in 1891–she completed her A.B. in Mathematics there in 1893.

Perhaps the most significant difference between Frances and her predecessors was her public and active commitment to effecting change on campus. When the Swains returned to Bloomington, Joseph as the new university president, Frances completed some graduate-level mathematics coursework, but soon turned her interests to the welfare of students, especially women, at the university. The historian Thomas Clark describes President Swain’s era at IU as one of rapidly increasing enrollments, which proved particularly challenging in the area of housing for female students–there was no women’s dormitory at the time, and private housing options in town were limited. Women arrived on campus from “strict homes…bound down by admonitions, taboos, and inhibitions,” and there were few means of support beyond sororities to “safely” navigate their new environment. Frances’s answer to the problem was the organization of a “Women’s League” dedicated to the self-improvement of its members as well as improving conditions for women on campus and in the Bloomington community.

Group photograph of IU Women's League officers, 1896
The officers of the IU Women’s League, as pictured in the 1896 Arbutus. Frances Morgan Swain is looking straight ahead in the center of the group.

Founded in 1895, the IU Women’s League was composed of women serving in various capacities on campus, including faculty, wives of faculty, members of campus clubs and sororities, and “unrepresented” female students–students who did not belong to a sorority or other club that provided housing or a support system. It provided educational and social programming for league members and the broader campus and Bloomington communities, including lectures, receptions, and dramatic performances. One of the League’s first speakers was Dr. Rebecca Rogers George, an Indianapolis physician who became a longtime, non-resident lecturer on female physiology and hygiene for the university. Over the years a variety of other speakers, including female educators, social reformers, and suffragists discussed current events and other topics of interest. Over time the mission of the Women’s League evolved, transitioning from a social club to a form of women’s student government.

One of Frances’s (and the League’s) most significant efforts on campus was the campaign for the construction of a Women’s Building on campus. Inspired by the existence of such facilities at the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, and other regional institutions, Frances and the Women’s League began raising funds so that female students at IU could have a building of their own. In March 1901, with $6500 in pledges under her belt, Frances appealed to the Board of Trustees to support the project, which she presented as a much-needed space for socializing, exercising, and relaxation. The Board responded with the following resolution:

Be it resolved, that the Trustees of the University most heartily endorsed the movement, presented and explained by Mrs. Swain, for the erection of a Women’s Building on the campus, and inasmuch as said building is to be erected entirely by private subscription, all friends of the University and of education generally are urged to aid Mrs. Swain and her association in their good work.

The campaign for the Women’s Building, essentially the first mass fundraising appeal by the university, ultimately found success through a generous matching donation offer by John D. Rockefeller. Sacrificed in the process, however, was the building’s status as a facility exclusively for women–it instead was built as the “Student Building,” and has remained so up until this week.

The Swains left Indiana when Joseph accepted the presidency of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. While the couple were doubtless as happy as, well, a pair of Quakers at a school for Quakers, their interest in the welfare of Hoosier Nation never ceased. Besides returning to campus for personal visits and university ceremonies, Frances and Joseph were the first donors to the post-World War I Memorial Fund, giving $500 each in 1921 and lobbying alumni to donate as well. In 1932, five years after Joseph died, Frances married John A. Miller, also a former faculty member of Indiana, Stanford, and Swarthmore. And a mathematics professor–see what I mean? But in Bloomington, she’ll always be remembered the most as Mrs. Joseph Swain.

As the existence of the Women’s League demonstrates, Frances Swain was not the only woman involved in promoting change on campus. The mere existence of women faculty and staff, however few, surely made a difference to the women who followed them. It is easy to overlook the legacy of women of Frances Morgan Swain’s era, when gendered social norms and expectations limited the ways they could participate in public life. The renaming of the Student Building this week is an important step to make sure they are not forgotten.

A History of Celebrating Shakespeare at Indiana University

Tomorrow is the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and many universities, libraries, scholars, and public are joining in the celebration of his life’s work. The Indiana University Archives has an alluring assortment of material that document how Indiana University has celebrated the bard’s work over the last 100 years. From James Whitcomb Riley’s tribute to Shakespeare to a Shakespearean version of Star Wars and the building of The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Indiana University has certainly done its part over the years to honor and preserve the works of Shakespeare.

Shakespearean version of Star Wars written by the Indiana University Department of English, 1984.
Shakespearean version of Star Wars written by the Indiana University Department of English, 1984.

Arguably, the most exciting of the material is a Shakespearean version of Star Wars written in verse by someone in the Department of English at Indiana University. The play was to be performed by students on Shakespeare’s birthday in 1984. Act 1 begins in Luke Skywalker’s spaceship, Luke: “….Darth Vader – that beast – / Will cower from th’ advancing host / When he discerns your forceful visage / Rushing intrepid at the force.” The script is full of wit, and the impeccable verse is impressive. Unfortunately for Leia, she is accused of being unfaithful and is slain by Luke. Han speaks to Leia, “Thy wench, the princess false, is cover’d with / The rude mechanical storm trooper robot. / You’ll have computers for cousins. I die, but thou art a cuckold. (Han dies).” Luke exclaims, “Miserable strumpet!” and kills Leia. Alas, what fools these mortals be.

Letter to President William Lowe Bryan from the American Shakespearean Foundation, thanking Indiana University for their contribution to the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, 1932.
Letter to President Bryan thanking Indiana University for their contribution to the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, 1932.

Under the presidency of William Lowe Bryan, Indiana University contributed funds to the American Shakespeare Foundation to help build the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. The original theatre burnt down in 1926; the new theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, was built adjacent to the original site and opened in 1932. “In behalf of the American Shakespeare Foundation I have much pleasure in reporting that the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon is now complete and will be formally opened by the Prince of Wales on April 23rd – Shakespeare’s Birthday.” Not only was enough money raised to build the new theatre, there were also “substantial” funds left over from the American Shakespeare Foundation for an endowment.

Hubert Heffner, Professor of Speech, Theatre, and Dramatic Literature at Indiana University (1955-1971), also served as acting director of the University Theatre from 1959-1960 and 1970-1971. Heffner was invited to a prestigious gala weekend for a celebration honoring the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth in 1964. The weekend included a visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library and a reception at the White House, hosted by President and Mrs. Johnson. Listed to the left of the letter is, “Mrs. John F. Kennedy, Honorary Chairman.” Professor Heffner taught courses on Shakespeare at Indiana University.  His research and lecture notes are still preserved in his collection and can be accessed at the Indiana University Archives.

100 years ago, Indiana University celebrated 300 years of Shakespeare by performing “A Dramatic Tribute for the Shakespeare Tercentenary Celebration of Indiana University, at Bloomington Indiana,

Letter to Hubert Heffner from the Shakespeare Anniversary Committee, inviting Heffner to a 400th Anniversary gala weekend. April 16, 1964.
Letter to Hubert Heffner from the Shakespeare Anniversary Committee, inviting Heffner to a 400th Anniversary gala weekend. April 16, 1964.

April Twenty Sixth Nineteen Sixteen” written by William Chauncy Langdon. The tribute is a beautifully printed pamphlet, with the first two leaves printed on handmade paper; some of the leaves remain uncut. Included in the celebration are notable Indiana writers: “A Tribute from James Whitcomb Riley will be read by his nephew, Edmund H. Eitel; also Tributes from Meredith Nicholson and George Ade; and a Tribute in behalf of Indiana writers and scholars as a whole will be spoken by Will David Howe.” During the tribute, Marlowe says, “HA! Here he is at last! But hush! Be still! The Indiana poet, Riley sends his word of tribute to our Will!” Riley’s nephew Edmund Eitel rises from his seat in the audience and says, “From James Whitcomb Riley: – ‘By divine miracle most obvious, more vitally than ever in life, Shakespeare lives today!”

A Tribute at Indiana University honoring 300 Years of Shakespeare. April 26, 1916.
A Tribute at Indiana University honoring 300 Years of Shakespeare. April 26, 1916.

Indiana University’s Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance has kept Shakespeare’s works alive and well with their many performances over the years. Macbeth has been among the more popular of Shakespeare’s works, not only for the brilliant plot but also for its length; it is far shorter than his other plays. The Department of Theatre performed Macbeth both in 1965 and this year. If you missed their outstanding performance of Macbeth, fear not! The King Lear project is coming to the Wells-Metz Theatre May 5-8 in honor of the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Murray McGibbon is directing the cast who will perform King Lear in original pronunciation, as it would have been spoken during the 17th century.

Whether it is in Bloomington, Indiana, Washington, D.C., or

Indiana University Theatre's production of Macbeth. December, 1965.
Indiana University Theatre’s production of Macbeth. December, 1965.

England, Indiana University has played and still plays an important role in honoring Shakespeare and preserving his works. The University is home to some the greatest works by and about Shakespeare. The Lilly Library has the First Folio along with many other magnificent pieces. The Indiana University Art Museum has beautiful works on paper depicting scenes from Shakespeare’s plays and the famous Henry Fuseli painting of The Tempest. To learn more about how Indiana University has celebrated Shakespeare over the years, visit the Indiana University Archives.

 

“…but then there was a star danced, and under that was I born.” – Beatrice, Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare

IU President Thomas Ehrlich

The finding aid for the presidential records of former Indiana University president, Thomas Ehrlich (1987-1994), is now available!

President Ehrlich at the 1989 Commencement.
President Ehrlich at the 1989 Commencement.

Thomas Ehrlich was born on March 4, 1934 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Ehrlich graduated from Harvard College in 1956 and from Harvard Law School in 1959.  Before his appointment at IU, he worked as a lawyer before entering academia, serving as a professor and dean of the law school at Stanford University and later provost and professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He also held two presidential appointments, serving as the first president of the Legal Services Corporation and the first director of the International Development Cooperation Agency.

On August 1, 1987, Ehrlich became the fifteenth president of Indiana University.  He served in this post for seven years, departing with the title of President Emeritus in 1994.

The financial troubles of the early 1990s led to many legislative battles during Ehrlich’s tenure.  In order to demonstrate to Indiana legislators the importance of funding for public universities, Ehrlich and his wife, Ellen, held weekly dinners at Lilly House in Indianapolis when the state legislature was in session. Ehrlich also implemented Legislative Days, in which legislators were invited to tour the Indiana University campus, and attend a meal and a basketball game.  He successfully helped secure state funding for the renovation of three buildings in the Old Crescent as well as the $18 million Multi-Campus Technology Project.

Ehrlich2
Ehrlich chats with Judith Palmer and Pat Kiely on Legislator Day in November of 1987.

Ehrlich was also responsible for initiating and hosting a television series called “Pro & Con.” The half hour program featured Ehrlich and select IU faculty members discussing controversial issues of concern to the public, ranging from topics such as the death penalty and animal research to contemporary music and teaching. The show was taped at the WTIU facilities in Bloomington and broadcast during the spring and summer months by nearly all of the PBS stations in Indiana, with stations in states such as California, Florida, and Virginia electing to air the program as well. “Pro & Con” continued well after Ehrlich’s retirement, continuing through the tenure of his successor, Myles Brand (1994-2002).

 Ehrlich

In a Herald Times article written shortly before he left IU, Ehrlich commented that he felt that among his greatest achievements as president had been the academic agenda and long-term planning efforts aimed at increasing academic expectations, raising overall retention rates, especially among minority students, and improving teaching, research, and service at IU.

When Ehrlich left Indiana University in 1994, it was in order to return to teaching and to spend more time with his family.  He and his wife moved to California where he was Distinguished Scholar at California State University and taught at San Francisco State University. He then spent ten years as the Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  Ehrlich has been a visiting professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education since 2009.

If you’re interested in learning more about IU President Thomas Ehrlich, feel free to browse the finding aid for his records or speeches. Contact the Archives for access or with questions!