For more more than 100 years, the Union Board has organized events on campus that have elevated the IU experience. The IU Archives holds a collection of Union Board scrapbooks that highlight the board’s events and programs from the 1930s through the 2000s. They are a wonderful look into IU history and at the events that shaped many IU students’ experiences across the last several decades.
As I dug into the history of the Union Board, I realized the Union Board existed before the construction of the Indiana Memorial Union (IMU). In fact, it was first founded by IU student John M. Wittenburger in 1909 with a goal to “further the interests of Indiana University and her students.”
Originally comprised of male students and two male faculty advisers, including Indiana University President William L. Bryan, the group met in the Student Building and old Assembly Hall until the construction of the Union in 1932. Their focus was on enriching the lives of IU students, faculty and staff through unique events, activity and programs. Initiatives ran the gamut, from socials and dances, fairs, movie screenings, concerts, performing arts acts, and more.
One early example of the Union Board’s impact on campus comes from the 1912 IU Arbutus. One page includes a picture of a barbershop in the Student Building attributed to the early Union board.
The Union Board went co-ed in 1952 when it merged with the Association of Women Students, and over time has grown to become an elected student governing body that leads the IMU, directs handfuls of committees – including the Campus Creative Arts committee, Concert committee, and the popular Live From Bloomington committee – and is now the largest student programming organization on campus.
One of the longest running and likely one of the best known Union Board programs, Union Board Films, was first rolled out in 1914 under the program’s early name, “Let’s go to the Union Movies.” It has brought screenings of popular films to campus for free or cheap, providing a fun and cost-effective weekend event an easy walk from the dorms. Originally held two nights a week, the recent film program offers showings of newly released movies in the Union’s Whittenberger Auditorium most weekends during the school year.
Another area of Union Board programming, music and comedy events, are well represented in the pages of the scrapbooks. The board has brought all types of musical acts and comedy events to campus, both large and more intimate. Union Board Concerts committee brought BB King to campus in 1971. In 1979, the committee featured the rock band Heart. In 2001, Union Board events featured comedian Dave Chappelle. In addition to massive musical and comedy acts, the Union Board has also hosted smaller, localized music and comedy, including their well-known local music series called Live From Bloomington and local comedy improv and sketch group events.
Ticket stubs and event programs, news clippings and photographs featured in these scrapbooks provide a glimpse of not only the workings of the Union Board over the years, but also a glimpse of the way student life has changed over the years. The scrapbooks range from the 1930s all the way up to the 2010s, and the richness of campus life from such a broad range of IU history is really interesting to behold! Check out the scrapbooks here and find out more about the Union Board’s current programming and committees!
IU students have always done their part in difficult times to stay close and foster friendships and understandings between people from all over the world. Just before and during World War I, a group of students at IU formed a chapter of the Cosmopolitan Club, receiving their charter from the national organization in 1918. The goal of the club was to bring American students and foreign students together to foster international fellowship and peace under the motto “Above all nations is humanity.”
The first attempt to create the club at IU, after a Cosmopolitan Club member at the University of Wisconsin in 1907 invited IU students to create one and attend their first convention, did not pan out. However, nine years later, 12 international students successfully began IU’s Cosmopolitan Club. The club included members from dozens of countries as well as students from the state and across the U.S. Interest and membership in the Club remained high through the early to mid 1960s, but participation in the club waned by 1969, the last year the club was pictured in the Arbutus.
The club’s most popular event, called the International Dinner, was a hit on campus. Originally started as an “International Revue” in 1922, guests paid a small fee to dine on international food and watch international students perform their nation’s folk dances, music and other entertainment. They also hosted an International Variety Show, which featured international student’s cultural dances.
The club was the foundation of many events of IU’s annual International Week organized by the International Affairs Commission that also celebrated the United Nations. The last record of an International Dinner in the collection dates to 1970, the last recorded active year of the club.
The club files span much of their active years at IU, and focus mostly on various subject files by year and items and clippings from club scrapbooks. Notable files include the club’s constitution, publications related to their events, club correspondence, copies of the club’s newsletter the Cosmo Reporter, initiation files and local news clippings related to the club and its activities that span decades at IU that included significant political and societal change. Discover more digital items in the finding aid here!
The Veteran was an independent newspaper published by Indiana University students from the Fall 1946 to Spring 1947. The intent of this paper was to provide information to incoming and current veteran students at Indiana University about current events and functions that were happening on campus.
Within The Veteran were several reoccurring columns that touched on student life, personal issues, and any questions that a veteran might have in reference to their training or education. All were very interesting and cleverly named, however, none of them seemed to catch my attention like the column By Martha.
By Martha was an reoccurring opinion column featured directed mainly towards the wives of veterans. The author of By Martha was unknown to the reader, as it functioned as an anonymous advice column. Each column outside of its first appearance, was structured around answering questions that a wife might seek advice on such as cooking, budgeting, home improvement, and childcare. The information given was very informal to the woman of that day, and frankly some of the advice is still applicable to readers today.
During the last issue of Volume 1, it was stated that originally The Veteran was supposed to be a one semester project. However, due to the support from readers and faculty, its release was extended into the following semesters. During this issue they also gave thanks to the writers and staff members who made The Veteran possible each month. Here, the identity of the By Martha columnist was revealed to be co-editor Eloise Kelly Small. A graduate of Manchester College, Eloise married William Lee Small on November 22, 1945. William graduated with his B.S. in Business in 1946. After the birth of their child, Eloise took a break from writing and subsequent columns in Vol. 3 were written by various staff members whose identities remained anonymous.
A common theme in the By Martha columns centered on food frugality–it is obvious that providing their families nutritious meals without spending too much on groceries was important to veteran families on campus. Here are some tips that Martha gave on making your shopping last:
“Help your shelf and help yourself”. “Take advantage of the variety of canned foods that line the grocers’ shelves.” “Take for example the humble can of tuna fish. You can have tuna salad, tuna sandwiches, creamed tuna on toast squares, tuna served with spaghetti or macaroni, tuna with rice and cheese sauce, or tuna chow mein …” (Vol 1. No. 1, pg. 2)
“Topmost in the minds of most housewives these days is what can be done to conserve on food, especially wheat.” “In the first place buy only bread you absolutely must use. Reduce your family’s bread diet to a minimum.” “If you must use flour, remember it will be an emergency flour. Emergency flour is a creamy white to beige colored wheat product.” “Emergency flour does not keep as well as white flour. It should be bought in small quantities and stored in a dark, cool place.” (Vol 1 No. 8, pg. 2)
“Be sure your meals provide best food value for money spent.” “Don’t wait to plan your meals at the grocer’s. Make out menus two or three days ahead, taking into account the perishable foods you have on hand.” “It’s the cost of the food you actually eat that counts.” “Avoid leftovers, but use well those you have. Work them into the day’s meals.” “Compare prices of canned, quick-frozen and market vegetables and fruits. The canned or quick-frozen foods are often cheaper than the fresh, and require less fuel, time and effort to prepare.” (Vol 2 No. 4, pg. 3)
The advice that By Martha gave seems like advice that would be useful to someone now. I know that I am someone that needs to be more frugal with food, so I am sure that her readers found the advise useful. Along with cooking tips, By Martha also offered cleaning and gardening hacks. Here are some tips to help you spend less time and yield the same results:
“A dash of salt is wonderful on grapefruit. It brings out that natural flavor and decreases the sourness, to say nothing of helping on short sugar rations.” “Lemon-soured milk can replace natural sour milk or buttermilk in any recipe.” “Small apartments and trailers are wonderful to keep clean and have a cozy atmosphere, but what to do about cigarette smoke, a stale odor or the lingering breath of cooked cabbage or onion? Worry no more – get a bottle of Air Wick. Pull out the wick of the magical little bottle and the air soon is sweet and clean.” (Vol 1 No. 5, pg. 2)
“You who make your home in temporary quarters must garden, if you garden at all, in pots and window boxes.” “Don’t make the window box too small. Make it as long as it is wide. Extend it past the window opening four to six inches on either side rather than fit it into the sill.” “Choice of soil depends on the type of roots on the plants you decide to grow.” “In this type of box, watering is required almost daily.” (Vol 1 No. 6, pg. 3)
“Are you freshening up your apartment with a coat of paint? If so, mask your windowpanes when you paint woodwork and you won’t have to spend tedious hours removing paint spatters. Just cut newspaper to fit the glass, dampen the paper and press it in place. It’s far easier to remove than hardened paint.” (Vol 1 No. 2, pg. 2)
Another important topic of advice in By Martha centered around childcare. This topic however wasn’t as frequent as other topics discussed and only appeared in two columns. The columns mainly focused on how to prepare for a new addition to the family, and the types of items one should get before the new arrival. One column in particular was all about diapers and here are a few tips:
“If you are a new mother or even not so new, you’ll agree to one thing. Diaper washing is the hardest, most time-consuming job in your daily routine.” “Of course the best solution to the problem would be a good diaper supply service, but if you can’t do that, decide on a regular time for the job and stick to it.”
“An excellent diaper to use when traveling, or for contagious diarrheal condition, is one which can be disposed of after it is soiled. Such a diaper is on the market and consists of two layers of gauze between which is a soft, highly absorbent cellulose fiber.”
“Wash the diapers thoroughly in hot suds, either by hand or in the washing machine, and put them in fresh suds for boiling. Boiling diapers is really a safety measure, and although it is sometimes inconvenient, and time-consuming, it is not wise to omit. (Vol 2 No. 5, pg. 3)
The final topic of advice shared from By Martha is centered around budgeting. Given the advice shared above, it would be fitting that they would all filter down to the unspoken idea of having a budget. Budgeting was a very important and useful skill for the veterans to have, as most of them were given monthly bonds based on their family size or marital status. To help those families and veterans from being financially burdened, here are some helpful tips:
“It must be custom-made to meet the particular needs of your family group. There is no such thing as a ready-made or standard budget, because no two families spend their money in exactly the same way. So when you start to plan your budget, sit down and decide what you want to get out of life.”
“Successful budgets are based on past experience. Before you start yours, keep a written record of all personal and household expenditures for a month. Total all of these items and multiply by 12. This give you the part of your annual income which may be used for running expenses.”
“How well the budget works is up to you. The best budget can’t help you unless are resolved to stick with it religiously. If you feel you need more help than given here you might want to consult the library shelves. Two particularly good books on the subject are: Managing Personal Finances by David F. Jordan and How to Make Your Budget Balance by E.C. Harwood and Helen Fowie. “ (Vol 1 No. 7, pg. 2)
In 1940, Barbara VanFleit’s face appeared in newspapers across the state of Indiana. Headlines read “Garrett Girl is Elected Queen of Indiana Prom,” celebrating her win as an “unorganized” co-ed over Delta Delta Delta sorority president Virginia Austin by just five votes. She was the second consecutive independent to be voted queen by the boys of the junior class in the twenty-two year history of the event at IU. A junior studying home economics at IU, Barbara was no stranger to the Garrett Clipper’s pages. The daughter of an apparently well-respected electrical engineer, Barbara’s activities along with those of her siblings and step siblings were often recorded in the publication’s social pages. Donald Painter, a member of Delta Chi and a chemistry student – the king to Barbara’s prom queen- also frequently appears in these social pages, often in connection with Barbara.
The prom that year was to be themed after the film “Gone With the Wind.” According to that year’s Arbutus:
“The theme was carried out in the decorations by a replica of a Southern mansion, which formed the background for the band. The walls were artistically draped in Spanish moss, and the entrance to the hall was decorated in keeping with the Southern theme.”
A unique opportunity came with the theme of 1940s prom – Barbara VanFleit appears in both the Arbutus and the Collegiate Digest, a national publication which featured the lives of university students in pictures, wearing a tiered, ruffled dress claimed to be an original costume from Gone with the Wind worn by Vivien Leigh during production. Although records have proved difficult to find, the dress was apparently part of an exhibition of items from the film that was held in Chicago that same year and shipped to Bloomington for the occasion. A brief article in the Chicago Tribune entitled “Gone With the Wind Elegance” written in January of 1940 does feature sketches of dresses described as “copies of ‘Gone With the Wind’ gowns now in Chicago,” but no details on the exhibition are given. The dress which most closely resembles the one which Barbara VanFleit would wear to her prom in March of that year is identified as a dress worn by Suellen O’Hara, played by Evelyn Keyes, as opposed to an outfit worn by Vivien Leigh in her role as Scarlett O’Hara. The topic of Gone With the Wind fashion was indeed popular in the spring of 1940, with advertisements for “Gone With the Wind Dresses” selling for between $1.98 and $3.98 appearing in the Chicago papers.
Later that March, Barbara’s name would again appear in the Garret Clipper, however this time next to that of Elmer Louis Houston, a convict at Indiana State Prison. Born the son of a laborer in Wisconsin, Houston is described on his World War I Draft registration card as having dark hair and dark eyes. This card from 1918 lists Houston as being 18 years of age, although information found in the Federal Census suggests that Houston may have actually been as young as 16 at the time of his enlistment. Later census information suggests that Houston only received at most an 8th Grade education. Throughout what can be found of his life, his occupations were listed as farm laborer, roofer, and “motorman”.
By March of 1940, Houston was serving his second sentence at the prison, the state’s Northern facility located in Michigan City. His first crime was one of desperation, carried out in December of 1934. According to an article in the Jeffersonville Evening News, records show that on that cold day in December, Houston’s wife, Velma had given birth to one of their five children. On that day, Houston had tried to sell a gun to buy coal to provide for his family in Indianapolis where they were living. Finding no buyer, Houston attempted to use the gun to hold up a local bus driver in a store. Unsuccessful with the unloaded gun, Houston was apprehended by onlookers until the police arrived. He was paroled in August of the following year by the State Clemency Commission, serving less than a year. Following his parole, however, Houston was again sentenced – this time for between 5 and 21 years in February of 1938, for an undetermined crime.
It was this second sentence that Elmer Houston was serving when he encountered IU Professor of Fine Arts, Harry Engel, who taught fine art to the inmates at Indiana State Prison in the late summer of 1939. Engel had initially been invited by Hans Riemer, the educational supervisor of the prison, to meet artistically inclined inmates, and, excited by the talent he saw, began conducting in person classes in the infirmary of the prison for two weeks. After he had returned to Bloomington for the fall semester, Engel continued to provide feedback and instruction via correspondence. John Grogan, then deputy instructor of the arts program at Indiana State Prison, enthusiastically hoped that the class would serve as a model for arts programs at other prisons throughout the United States as it provided immense therapeutic and rehabilitative value to the inmates, as well as practical training in anticipation of release.
The works of art created by these prisoners would come to be shown at the Mezzanine Gallery (another of Engels efforts) of the Indiana University Bookstore. The show, “Prisoner Art,” featured the work of several inmates, many of whom were considered “lifers” or experiencing psychiatric issues. “Prisoner Art” was heralded as the first of its kind, and the sale of the inmate’s work – for prices ranging between $5 and $25 – went on to fund supplies for the continuation of the educational program.
Several of the pieces sold before the opening had even begun, but one piece, “Heart of a Rose,” was not for sale. Created by Elmer Houston, “Heart of a Rose” was instead to be given to its muse – the 1940 IU junior prom queen, Barbara VanFleit. While no record of the portrait exists, on March 25th of 1940, the Garret Clipper describes it as being made with “rug dyes and paints on a man’s handkerchief”. Houston had taken inspiration for the piece from an article he had seen describing VanFleit’s coronation. One wonders if “Heart of a Rose” featured its subject wearing the enigmatic “Gone With the Wind” dress we now associate that year’s prom.
Like any good tale, the story of Barbara VanFleit, Elmer Houston, and the prom that brought them together ends with a lot of questions. What did “Heart of a Rose” look like? While VanFleit was quoted saying she would take the piece after its exhibition, did she follow through on this? Was VanFleit’s prom dress actually worn by Vivian Leigh? Was it worn by her co-star Evelyn Keyes? Was it even an original movie prop or the subject of creative embellishment?
In the case of Houston, our story also ends with tragedy. Records indicate that Houston may have been drafted while still serving time in 1944, towards the end of World War II. His name would again appear in the paper in 1957, following his death. Several newspapers reported that Houston and his wife Velma had been found by police in their bed with a gallon jug labeled “cider” next to them. Inside the jug was a “green fluid.” This fluid was sent to the IU Medical School for analysis and was later determined to be antifreeze. Houston was dead on discovery, while Velma would later die at the General Hospital.
Barbara went on to marry Donald Scott Painter, her former prom king in 1942, and their son was born 6 years later. She passed away in 1968 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
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 1895. 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:
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.