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.

Sincerely Yours: a day in the life of a new student

Harry V. Craig with his Phi Kappa Psi brothers from the 1896 Arbutus yearbook. Archives image no. P0028059

In this Sincerely Yours post, we will explore IU through the eyes of Harry V. Craig, an Indiana native of Noblesville who came to IU in 1890 to study history. The IU Archives first acquired a portion of the Harry V. Craig papers back in 2000, but later received additional materials in 2003 from a man named Mark Brattain.  Mr. Brattain had seen the Harry V. Craig papers finding aid on the Archive’s website and provided letters he found with his father, Hal Brattain, in a wooden box in the hayloft of a neighbor’s barn back in the 1970s. The barn belonged to the late Ray Forrer, who was probably some relation to Harry’s mother Elizabeth (whose maiden name was Forrer).

Most of the letters contained in the Harry V. Craig Papers are correspondence he received from friends, family members (his father, brother, cousin, and mother), and fraternity brothers from Phi Kappa Psi. There are, however, a handful of letters by Craig himself detailing his experience at IU.  In letters to his mother, Mr. Craig’s most frequent correspondent, Craig details his daily life and expenses as well as happenings around town and the campus.

In this first letter, we get a glimpse of Mr. Craig as a freshly minted college student finding his way across campus, making new friends, learning more about the world outside of Noblesville, and settling into his new boarding house likely located on East 6th Street (according to the August 30, 1895 Bloomington Courier).  IU-affiliated readers will most likely recognize the names of some of Mr. Craig’s professors, Professor Atwater and Professor Swain:

September 21, 1890

Dear Mother:

I arrived at Bloomington between 4 and 5 o’clock Thursday evening and was met there by Mr. Chas Shoemaker, who took me around to his room where I staid [sic] for supper slept all night and ate breakfast. It was a surprise to all the boys from Noblesville, for they did not know I was coming.  I was introduced to a large number of college boys and find them as a general rule fine fellows. I have been treated very nicely by all the boys since I came. I have seen many strange things since I came. There is nothing but rock everywhere about Bloom. you can not [sic] dig down anywhere without striking solid rock which extends for many feet downward. (we get no more water to drink, we have to drink rainwater altogether) On my way down here on the train I passed through deep cuts of solid rock, which had been cut out just enough to let a train pass through. It was very strange to me indeed.

Bloom. is a town of about 41,000 inhabitants and is considerably larger than Noblesville but is not so nicely arranged, it is the most hilly town I have ever seen, you can get up on a hill in one part of town and look down on the houses in another part, the streets are mostly rock which have been broken up very fine so as to make  road-bed while the side walks [sic] are of blocks of stone which have been hewn out and placed down, they are very rough and irregular and very hard to walk on, they have no gravel within miles of Bloom.

The College and its surroundings have considerably exceeded my expectations, the buildings and campus are located east of the city on a high elevation and in a beautiful grove of trees, there are 3 very fine brick buildings in use, costing perhaps $60,000 apiece and a large building almost completed, which is composed entirely of stone and will be used for a library building and will be occupied by Christmas.

I presented my Scholarship and have rec’d my card admitting me as a student of the Univ. I was introduced to a number of the professors and was rec’d very cordially, they are a fine class of men.

My classes are all arranged, I will take Latin under Prof. Atwater, Geometry under Prof. Swain and Eng. Lit. under Prof. Griggs who by the way is one of the finest men I have ever seen for his age. He graduated in the University in 2 yrs and is now [a] professor in Eng., he is not more than 21 or 22 yrs of age, he is almost a genius.

I am board[ing] at Mrs. Lawrence’s at $2.50 per week. She is a nice lady and everything is nice and clean, I get the very best of board plenty of everything and cooked nicely. There are some of the things we have on our table – coffee or tea, plenty of cream and sugar, biscuits or light-bread, chicken and beef, sweet and Irish potatoes, nice butter and molasses, corn, sliced tomatoes, celery, pie, cookies, and iced cake and a great many other things, but this is enough to let you know that it is good. I could have boarded at $2.35 in a regular club but you do not get as good a grub, and if you are not there on time you miss your meal, so I concluded to take the $2.50 board, for a person can not [sic] live well unless he has something to live on. I am staying with a Mr. Davis at present, but got a room this morning where I shall stay for good. I will room with a Mr. Robinson from Illinois who is a sophomore or 2nd yr student. I will have to pay $1 per week for my room but it is well worth it. I could have got a room for 75₵ but it was not near so nice or convenient and I think it would be unhealthy. My room is up stairs [sic] in a large brick building and faces the street, it has a brussels carpet, a nice dresser, wardrobe, wash stand and utensils, stove, table, bed, chairs, and lamp and everything convenient and is a large room. I joined a fraternity last night called the “Phi Kappa Psi” named from the greek letter of the alphabet. It is a secret organization, but unlike a lodge, I was initiated last night, it is the 1st organization I even joined and was something new. Our chapter now is on the south-side of the square and is very nice it is [served] by a Mr. Buskirk who is a banker and is also a member of our fraternity, hence we do not pay much rent. I have spent about $10 in paying my Ry. [Railway] fare, and buying my books and paying my library fee and getting other things required, I deposited $25 in the bank. I expect I can get my washing done for 25₵ per week, she is a fine washer for a fellar told me so that has his washing done there. So you can see about what my expenses will be about $4 per week besides books and clothes. Well I must close. I have many more thigs I would like to say but space will not permit. I am well as usual except my throat which is bothering me this morning.

                                I remain as ever your son,

                                                Harry

 

Harry’s mother replies soon after, giving him updates about friends and family and imparting motherly advice about the company he should keep, especially the ladies…:

 

 

October 1st, 1890

Dear Harry: I received your letter yesterday evening[.] [W]as glad to hear you was [sic] geting [sic] along all right. [W]e are all well at this time[.] Pa and Fred went over to the tent to meeting[.] [I]t will be two weeks to morrow [sic] since they commenced their meeting. It is real nice to be there at night[.] [W]e were there monday night and Lida and Maggie Fred and Abner went last night. I thought I would stay at home and write you a fiew [sic] lines as I did not like to take Little Court out at night. Saturday 27th he was 4 month [sic] old and weight [sic] 15 lbs. [H]e is growing so nicely. Mother was hear [sic] yesterday they are all well. Nan and Clara was hear [sic] Sunday evening. Nan says he has such a nice school it just suits him. [H]as no little ones to contend with. When you rite [sic] again tell us something about your school and how you are geting [sic] Along. [O]f cours [sic] you have not gone long enough yet to tell much about it but do as well as you can. Don[‘]t think to [sic] much of other things such as going with the girls. Be very care full [sic] who you go with as you don[‘]t know them yet so you go with nice respectful Ladies. [I]t is going to cost A great deal more than you thought it would. You said you thought $30 would take you through the first term. It will take more than twice 30[.] [T]here is going to be A liturary [sic] societ [sic] at fairview friday night. Maggie Trit as Mollie calls her is hear [sic][.] [Y]ou bet she is A fast worker[.] I like her very much. [S]o far well [sic] as all are in bed that is hear I will close for this time[.] Lida joins in Love write soon from your Ma[.]

                Lizzie

Craig graduated from Bloomington in 1896 with an AB in history.  After graduating, he returned to Noblesville for a while to teach history and then went on to work a wide array of jobs including a salesman, hotel clerk, and a position with the National Engraving Company in New York.  He was also the coordinator for the Denver Training Center of the Veteran’s Bureau at one point in his career. In 1962 the Alumni Association reached out to update their information on him, but found at that time that he was already deceased.  He apparently passed away on November 2, 1955 in California.

Behind the Curtain: Julia Kilgore, Bicentennial Oral History Intern

Behind the Curtain is a series highlighting IU Archives staff, partners from various departments of the IU Libraries, and students who make all of our work possible. Continue to follow over the coming months to read how and who make the magic happen!

Role: Bicentennial Oral History Intern

Educational Background: BA in History, BA in Art from Hillsdale College; Current MLS student with a specialization in archives and records management.

How she got here: Julia started working in archives as an undergraduate at Hillsdale College. At the College, she mainly worked in special collections as the caretaker of the campus Library’s coin collection, but she occasionally helped the college Archivist with various projects. One particular project she enjoyed was helping to rearrange documents from the Winston Churchill Project.  She also had the pleasure of working with and organizing an entire archives collection at a local historic house, the Grosvenor House Museum.

When Julia volunteered for the Grosvenor House Museum, she never knew what to expect.  It was like Christmas every day! One afternoon she would be flipping through a pile of graduation announcements from the local schools and the next she would be trying to identify individuals in a stack of nameless photos. There were old maps, rail road tickets, letters, articles on local war heroes…one time she and a friend found a military commission from King George III for a local townsman with its wax seal still intact! Meanwhile at the College, Julia would sift through and rehouse tons of letters between Winston Churchill and his wife, secretary notes from meetings, letters to dignitaries from around the world, and other great documents. After working with these collections, Julia knew that she wanted to work in an environment where she could interact with archives and special collections in some way, whether it be in a library, museum, or a similar institution.

Julia began her dual MLS/Art History degree in the fall of 2015 and found work as a Public Services Assistant in Wells Library. In the spring of 2016, she began processing collections for the IU Archives and transitioned into her current position as Bicentennial Oral History Intern the following semester.

Favorite item in the collection: One of Julia’s favorite items in the archives is Volume 5 of the Sycamore Logbook from 1944-1945 from the IU Women’s Residence Halls scrapbooks (see more info about the scrapbooks in her posts titled “Snippets from Dorm Life” and “Mail Call“). She was reordering all of IU’s women’s dorm scrapbooks when she decided to flip through a few to get an idea of what these ladies were like. As she turned page after page of unidentified photographs, she wondered if she would find anything that would tell her their names or what their lives were like at IU. She turned a page and saw the headline “Mail Call.” She was immediately drawn to it because she knew the book was from around the end of World War II, meaning it had to be something about soldiers during the war.

It turned out to be a really great piece describing a typical morning in Sycamore Hall where the ladies would dash downstairs immediately after waking up to see if there was news from the front lines. It really struck a chord with Julia and reminded her yet again the amazing things you get to discover while working in archives (and purely by accident too!).

Current project: Julia interviews staff and alumni for the Oral History Project about their time here at IU.

Favorite experience in the IU Archives: Julia loves when she is interviewing someone for the Oral History project and they talk about old student hangouts or past events.  It’s really great because she can research these places and events after the interview and she always finds great things in our collections on them.  Sitting there listening to them talk about these things really helps her to connect with our collections on a different level.  It makes it all the more real to her.

What she’s learned from working here: Restaurants, bookstores, and other places downtown have such a rich and wonderful history that are so interconnected to IU and its students. The best thing about it? Many of them still exist.  It is wonderful to go into places Nick’s or the Gables after hearing about all of these different experiences and think about what it was like then versus now.

Snippets from Dorm Life: The Indiana University women’s residence hall scrapbooks

Memorial Hall, Sinclair Studio, 1931

In 1925 Memorial Hall Indiana University’s first owned and operated women’s dormitory opened, followed shortly thereafter by Forest Hall in 1937 (later renamed Goodbody Hall), Beech Hall in 1940 (renamed Morrison Hall in 1942 in honor of IU’s first female graduate Sarah Parke Morrison) and Sycamore Hall in 1940.

May Day Festival participants, “The Towers”, 1937

Each of these residence halls making up what we now know as the Agnes E. Wells Quadrangle had a long-standing tradition of making a scrapbook to document prominent activities and events that occurred either in the dorm or with its residents during that year.

The Indiana University women’s residence hall scrapbooks collection consists of 81 scrapbooks produced by the residents with volumes dating from 1925 to 1959. These scrapbooks typically contain individual and group photographs of dormitory residents and residential counselors, usually with accompanying textual information. They also often contain interior or exterior photographs of the buildings of Wells Quadrangle, as well as other sites on campus, such as the Indiana Memorial Union

Two residents of Memorial Hall East, “The Towers,” 1936 or 1937

and the Student Building. Besides formal photographs, there are images of everyday dormitory life, such as students studying, dining, or participating in athletics and other activities.

Many scrapbooks also contain memorabilia and ephemera such as dance cards, invitations, correspondence, event programs, sports schedules, newspaper clippings and similar items related to campus events and activities that were either sponsored or hosted by the dormitories or attended by their residents. Events frequently represented in these volumes include Homecoming, the Little 500, seasonal formals, and celebrations of holidays such as May Day and Christmas.

Most of the scrapbooks followed some sort of visual theme which allowed the dorm’s more artistic members to have a little fun:

Selected illustrations from the Sycamore 1951-1952 Log

Here’s one with involving a theme based on Dante’s Inferno:

Inferno-Theme
Selected illustrations from the 1928-1929 Castle Chronicle

These scrapbooks often also include little tidbits that give modern readers insight into the relationships that these women had with each other and how the outside world impacted their daily life. For example in a previous post from last year Mail Call: Correspondence at IU during WWII, our readers learned about how ladies at IU were affected by WWII.

Seniors Crop
Illustration from the 1930 Castle Chronicle

Many a scrapbook regale the reader with descriptions of pajama parties, teas, dances, and social coffee hours. Others may include more personal notes such as a congratulatory message from the dorm to one of the ladies on her engagement, a retelling of a special moment during the year, or perhaps an inside joke known only to that particular community. Each scrapbook will also often include sections on the academic triumphs of the residents and a section dedicated to seniors which recount many fond memories of their lives at IU as well as advice for underclassmen moving forward.

If you’re interested in these or other scrapbooks contact the IU Archives to schedule an appointment.