Sincerely Yours: The “removal question”

Black and white scan from the IU Arbutus yearbook. Image shows a man with dark hair and mustache wearing a suit and tie.
Daniel W. Biddle, Independent Literary Society group page, 1894 Arbutus

In this Sincerely Yours post, we will explore Indiana University and Bloomington through the eyes of Daniel W. Biddle, a student at IU between fall, 1893 and spring, 1985. Biddle was born on October 24, 1870 in Benton County, Indiana, and lived in the state his whole life. While in Bloomington, Biddle wrote frequently to his parents, as well as his friend Janie Bartee, whom he eventually married. These letters, recently donated to the University Archives by Biddle’s granddaughter, are a rich source on daily student life as well the “removal” controversy that rocked the university during his attendance.

In many of his early letters, Biddle describes his settling into campus. Biddle writes about his room on North Walnut Street that cost $1.50 per week “with everything furnished but wood and light”, and where he received his board, a half-mile away, for $2.25 per week. Two cords of beech and sugar tree wood at the time, according to Biddle, cost $4.00.

A reoccurring theme in all of Dan Biddle’s correspondence is how heavy his workload was.  Some of his courses included Latin, geometry, algebra, philosophy, physics, chemistry, poetry, and rhetoric. Due to this heavy courseload, Biddle’s daily schedule was as follows: wake-up at 5 or 5:30 AM, study until breakfast around 7:30, attend class until 1:00 PM, eat lunch, then study until retiring for bed around 9 or 10 PM, only breaking for supper. It seems as though D.W. Biddle did find time for leisure, however. In several letters, Biddle describes attending a lecture in Indianapolis by Joseph Cook and the annual contest of the Intercollegiate Oratorical Association of Indiana. Biddle also attended freshman “scraps,” which took various forms over the years – capture the flag, burning of books, or flatout brawls – all in good spirits, of course.

The 1890s saw many days off from school for birthdays and holidays, these included George Washington’s birthday and even the death of a trustee or the registrar. Additionally, sick days were a plenty. On more than one occasion, Biddle was too sick to attend classes. Between the “grippe” and general illness, good health was not a constant for Dan Biddle. Even Janie, many miles away, suffered illness- she however made a quick recovery according to letters.

One issue that caused quite a stir on campus in late January of 1895 was the “removal question.” This was the idea of moving the Indiana University campus from Bloomington to Indianapolis. According to Biddle, many of the students supported the relocation, while the citizens of Bloomington opposed it. On January 27, 1895 he wrote Janie about the controversy in detail:

This is a scan of a letter from January 27, 1895 in cursive handwriting.
Letter to Janie Bartee, January 27, 1895. C700 Daniel W. Biddle correspondence

Dear Friend:

Guess I’ll write you some more trash this morning.

Don’t you get tired of me writing so much about college? I don’t like to make you too tired but expect this letter will contain some college news you will, by such, get a better idea of college life which may be of advantage to your when you go to college.

You remember me saying that Friday was the day for dedicating the new building [Kirkwood Hall], and you have also, no doubt, heard something of the removal question. A majority of the students favor removal and the citizens, of course, are opposed to it. Thursday night the students (some of them I mean) had a number of badges gotten out on which was printed “1896 I.U. at Indianapolis.” Friday morning a number of the students appeared on the streets wearing these badges. The result was that some of the citizens got “hot.” This did not however diminish the number of badges worn, and by 10:30 when the extra brought in the Governor and 49 members of the legislature quite a profusion of such badges might be seen in the crowd at the depot. Just as the train stopped and the guests began to get off the following yell was given – “Remove I.U.! Remove I.U.! You’re the men to put her through!!” Everything went along pretty quiet until p.m. when the students, faculty, and guests marched two abreast to the old college chapel. A part of the militia that constituted the guard of honor for the Governor lined up on each side of the entrance and removed all “removal” badges on nearly all as the students passed. There was some resistance offered in some cases, but no one was seriously hurt. The students have been somewhat aroused by the conduct of the militia, and I fear the thing is not settled yet.

The speeches from the governor and the some of the legislature contained remarks disapproving the removal of I.U. and brought forth loud applause from the citizens, and in some cases hisses from the students.

Senator Gifford made a speech in which he said: “This is not a fit occasion for the discussion of the removal question. I am not here as a politician, but am here to assist in the dedication.” He was loudly applauded by the students. Rather a roast on the Governor, I thought.

The meeting at evening was conducted largely by the students and was a very nice service, being almost entirely free from allusions to the removal.

I enjoyed myself very much in the evening., five of us Sophs got back in the back part of the house and made and gave yells roasting the Freshman, i.e. before services began. There were a few removal badges worn in the evening, and some of the citizens wore a card on which was printed “1896 I.U. at Indianapolis I don’t think.”

Oh! no, I did not wear a removal badge, neither did Eli, but I succeeded in getting one for a souvenir.

My! just see how much I have written on this. Are you tired of it? Perhaps you have read about it in the papers. I will enclose a program….

Ever your friend, Dan

Obviously, in hindsight we know that Indiana University remained in Bloomington. Dan Biddle left IU in 1895 and obtained his teaching license, going on to teach in Benton County, Indiana. He soon married Janie and had two sons with her. He would go on to hold jobs in insurance and banking through the 1930s, in which he would obtain positions such as secretary, vice-president, and director, all in the state of Indiana. He died January 18, 1954 at his home in Remington, Indiana, at the age of 82.

To read the fascinating Daniel W. Biddle correspondence, contact the IU Archives to schedule an appointment.

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.

Rites of Spring – Indiana University May Festival

As springtime bloomed across Indiana University in 1908, an Indiana Daily Student reporter eagerly previewed an upcoming campus event. “Dainty maids in the picturesque garb of the English peasant or the flaxen-haired Norwegian will dance the complex, but graceful folk dances of long ago.” Who were these “dainty maids” and what was this dazzling-sounding spectacle? The new Indiana University May Festival collection (C693) at the University Archives tells us a history of a vernal campus tradition. Importantly, the Indiana University May Festival became an active space for female student participation in the early twentieth century.

A scene from the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives photograph. Eight women dance in a field.
A scene from the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives no. P0026270

The IU May Festival began in earnest in 1905, when the IU Lecture Association organized an event featuring orchestral and choral performances in the Men’s Gymnasium. A cantata rendition of “The Swan and the Skylark” and ballet music from Faust evoked a springtime feeling. Despite glowing reviews, the IULA-hosted May Festival suffered from poor student participation. An Indiana Daily Student reporter expressed disappointment in 1906: “The small attendance is inconceivable. If the singers of Bloomington and the University knew what the chorus is doing, there would be a regular attendance of 200 instead of 30 or 40.” The event satisfied a Bloomington audience, but didn’t impact enough IU students at the time.

Section of the program for the 1905 May Festival, IU Archives
Section of the program for the 1905 May Festival, IU Archives C693

Beginning in 1908, the Women’s Athletic Association and Department of Physical Education for Women hosted the event in the Women’s Gymnasium for an invitation-only audience. Female students demonstrated exercises like dumbbell handling and club-swinging “with all the vigor and skill of their brothers,” as an IDS reporter noted. In the afternoon, they transformed into “dainty maids” to dance and wind cream and crimson streamers around a tall May Pole. Interestingly, the IDS also notes that only a small number of male students received invitations to the 1908 event.

This iteration of the May Festival was a staple of campus life by the 1920s. By 1922, the Women’s Self-Government Association (WSGA) sponsored an integral feature of the event: the election and crowning of a May Queen. The 1924 May Festival program names Mildred Wight as May Queen, with her heralds Ethel Budrow and Dorothy Tousley. Following a procession with flower girls, crown bearers, maids of honor, and other attendants, “The newly crowned May Queen is entertained by the joyous peasants.” IU students in pastoral garb performed six folk dances for the May Queen, followed by the mythical dance program “Fantasy of Dusk and Dawn.” The programs in this collection show how the all-female May Festival committee staged a mythological renaissance for modern day Bloomington.

Program for the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives C693
Program for the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives C693

By the 1922 May Festival, the WAA and WSGA had moved proceedings to Dunn Meadow. Rather than an invitation-only event in the Women’s Gymnasium, the May Festival had turned into a public performance. This collection also includes a 25-cent ticket for “Sylvia” to attend the Dance Drama portion of the festival at Dunn Meadow in 1927. IDS articles from this time also list the delightful box lunches served to attendees (who could say no to shrimp and mayonnaise sandwiches?) at no cost. One reporter indicated that the WAA and WSGA prepared 800 of these lunches—enough for a huge crowd. The May Festival shows how women at IU transformed a small musical celebration into a popular event that highlighted their talents as athletes, dancers, singers, and artists.

It appears that the WAA and WSGA ceased sponsorship of the May Festival after the 1920s. The last program contained in this collection is from 1928. IU women, however, carried on celebrating the tradition into at least the 1940s, as documented in the IU women’s residence halls scrapbooks. Collection C631, which contains 82 such scrapbooks from 1925-1959, is open for research and offers images from these later unofficial celebrations.

May Day Festival participants Betty Higbee and June Hiatt, 1937. This image scanned from "The Towers" (yearbook / scrapbook / photograph album) compiled by residents of East Memorial Hall when it was a dormitory.
May Day Festival participants Betty Higbee and June Hiatt, 1937. This image scanned from “The Towers” (yearbook / scrapbook / photograph album) compiled by residents of East Memorial Hall when it was a dormitory. IU Archives image no. P0052722

To learn more about the May Festival collection or to view the collection yourself, please feel free to contact the University Archives to set up an appointment.

Places and Spaces: A History of Student Hangouts at IU Bloomington

Students attend a Military Ball at the IU Commons in the former Student Building in 1941
Students attend a Military Ball at the IU Commons in the former Student Building, 1941. IU Archives image no. P0027145

“You could not thank Nick, you could not flatter him; you could just appreciate him, and be sure of getting that big round smile when you entered.”

– Carolyn Fink, from “Nightingale in the Branches: A Memoir of Post-WWII Student Life at I.U.”, 1945

Whether it’s dinner at a lively downtown restaurant; listening to the soft sound of water lapping at the bank of a local pond; or curling up in cozy chair in the Indiana Memorial Union, students need places to kick back and relax to escape the rigors of academic life. While many aspects of the student experience have shifted and changed over Indiana University’s almost 200 years of operation, one common quest has endured: finding a great place to hang out and unwind after classes and work.

The Indiana University Archives exhibition, “Places & Spaces: A History of Student Hangouts at IU Bloomington,” is an exploration of some of the most legendary hangout spots that IU students have frequented over the years. Some long-enduring favorites, like Nick’s English Hut, are still a familiar staple in the IU student experience to this day. Other former hangout spots, like The Book Nook and Ye Olde Regulator, are now enjoyed by students in the same spaces under different names, such as BuffaLouie’s and Kilroy’s. Some of the most beloved student haunts of the past, like the Sunken Garden and The Commons in the former Student Building, are no longer in existence; but they continue to live on in memories and in historical records.

An advertisement for The Gables from an IU vs. Purdue football game program, 1955
An advertisement for The Gables from an IU vs. Purdue football game program, 1955. IU Archives image no. P0066961

In order to capture a snapshot of the IU student experience over time, this exhibition utilizes original materials from the Indiana University Archives and the Archives Photograph Collection, including:

  • Excerpts from IU alumnus Kathleen Cavanaugh’s scrapbook (1963-1965)
  • A mock diploma for a “Doctor of Nookology” issued to former University president Herman B Wells at the Book Nook commencement ceremony (1931)
  • Photographs and vintage advertisements for some of the most well-known and beloved hangout spots, including The Book Nook, The Gables, Nick’s English Hut, and Ye Ole Regulator.

This exhibition was inspired by some of the stories shared by IU alumni as part of the Bicentennial Oral History Project at Indiana University Bloomington. In the following clip, we hear an alumnus, Louis Kaplan, discussing several of the places that students used to visit for the best food in town:

Officers of The Flame Club enjoy drinks at Nick's English Hut, 1949
Officers of The Flame Club enjoy drinks at Nick’s English Hut, 1949. IU Archives image no. P0048423

This post began with an excerpt from Carolyn Fink’s memoir, in which she fondly remembers Nick Hrisomalos, founder and former operator of Nick’s English Hut. In the following clip, alumnus Gary Wiggins shares some humorous recollections of Nick’s longest-serving and most beloved waitress, Ruth Collier Stewart. These and other so-called “Ruthie stories” can still be heard from IU Bloomington alumni all across the world:

To learn more about these and other beloved student hangout spots through the years, please be sure to visit “Places & Spaces: A History of Student Hangouts at IU Bloomington” in person before it ends on Monday, April 16, 2018! The exhibition is located at:

The Office of the Bicentennial
Franklin Hall 200
Hours: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm; weekdays
601 E. Kirkwood Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47405

The curators, Julia Kilgore and Tyler Davis, would like to thank Kristin Leaman and Brad Cook for their assistance in making this exhibition possible.