Literary societies flex their muscle

Hot on the heels of Alison’s recent blog post about the 19th century Indiana University literary societies and student Homer Wheeler, I bring you another small collection – of just a single letter, in fact – which provides us with a peek into a major incident in the history of the organizations and student freedom.

Of unknown provenance, we hold a letter student Bartholomew H. Burrell wrote to Mortimore Crabb, of his hometown of Brownstown, Indiana, on February 5, 1864. In it, Burrell letter to Crabb, 1864Burrell relays to Crabb the troubles the campus literary societies, the Athenians and Philomatheans, were having with university administration over the level of control administration wanted to wield over the groups. Historically, the literary society halls were places where students could, within bounds, feel free to express themselves. However, due to a series of incidents the Board of Trustees became involved and adopted resolutions that placed restrictions on the group, including the requirement that the faculty were to approve any outside speakers the students wished to bring in.

This happened at a time in higher education when the idea of in loco parentis – “in place of a parent” – was firmly in place. That is, in the absence of parents, university faculty and administrators were expected to make decisions that were considered to be in the best interest of the the students. That being the case, it was not unheard of that university administrators sought to place restrictions on the students. What was unusual in this case was the response of the students.

Members of the literary societies objected vehemently to the Trustees resolutions – of which the exact wording is unknown, as Trustees minutes spanning 1859-1883 were lost in the 1883 fire. They argued their charters came directly from the Legislature and as such, their activities were outside the realm of the administrators. December 18, 1863, the Philomatheans sent a list of resolutions to the faculty, which included this strong statement, “We deem it our duty to treat with respect any recommendations or requests made by those who have control over us as student of the University, and whose duty it is to labor for our interests, but that we respectfully ask them to respect our rights….” The record indicates the faculty discussed the Philo’s resolutions before firing back with their own resolutions which stated, in a nutshell, that they did not believe the Legislature ever intended the charters to supersede the authority of the faculty and administration.

With seemingly indefatigable determination, the students continued the fight and talked about moving off campus, dissolving and forming new groups, etc. The nearly year long fight came to a head on February 5, 1864 – the same date of Burrell’s letter – when a small group of Athenians “broke” into Athenian Hall to hold its regularly scheduled meeting. Charges of trespassing, forcible and unlawful entry, and riot (and stealing oil to heat the room during the meeting!) were brought against those involved.

As with the other Society members, Burrell is called in front of the faculty to state whether or not he would accept the terms of the Trustees.

This first important fight of student rights is painstakingly documented in the faculty minute books. While the students finally acquiesced, they had the last word. Following the rules set in place, they did put forth the name of their invited Commencement speaker – one William Mitchell Daily, former IU President. Would seem a good choice, yes? It probably would be, if not for the fact that Daily had resigned from the presidency in 1859 amidst a scandal and upon his departure, called the faculty “a set of pusillanimous, narrow-minded bigots.” The faculty discussed this choice and upon learning the Societies had already informed Dr. Daily of their decision, they approved his visit. “But,” they wrote,

they think it their duty to call your attention to the fact that in future a compliance with the Ordinances of the Board of Trustees will require that you should send in the name or names for approval before sending out the notice and they consider that it would be yet better, and would save all parties trouble, if you would hand in a list of names for approval before proceeding elections.

For more information on the 19th century literary societies, please see our online exhibition “IU Student Life and Culture in the 19th Century.” To read more about this particular incident, see Thomas Clark’s Indiana University: Midwestern Pioneer, Volume 1. And finally, keep an eye out, the Digital Library Program is currently scanning the entirety of the Faculty minutes, which spans 1835-1964 and includes details of this moment on IU history!

New! William W. Spencer papers, 1872-1911

A finding aid is now available for the William W. Spencer papers, which offer a glimpse into the work of a nineteenth century student and his impressive career following graduation.

University Superior Moot Court summons from the 1870s

Spencer was born October 7, 1851, in Indiana, and he attended the University in the early 1870s, receiving his B.S. in 1875. He went on to study in the Department of Law where he participated in the University Circuit Moot Court, a required activity for students in the department at the time.

Among the moot court papers in the collection are several trial records. A couple of records dated April Term 1876 pertain to a widow’s suit for damages from a railroad company after her husband died in a train accident while traveling through Buffalo, New York. Another record dated February Term 1877 simply states that the case lacks sufficient facts and is followed by pencil-written notes.

Trial record from the University Superior Moot Court, February Term 1877

Following his graduation in 1877, Spencer moved to Marion County, Indiana, where he began his political career.

According to Rebecca A. Shepherd’s A Biographical Directory of the Indiana General Assembly, he was active in the Marion County Democratic Central Committee from 1881-1892, serving as both the secretary and later as the chairman. In both 1904 and 1908, he was chosen as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

He was then elected member of the Indiana House of Representatives from Marion County in 1911 and served until 1914, participating as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

An undated essay titled "Temperance Bill" begins, "Gentleman; in appearing in this position before you tonight, I trust I shall command your attention."

Some of his writings appear to date from his time in the legislature, such as an address on the Temperance Bill, while others are short essays on various topics, including the teaching profession and the electoral college.

After his time in the General Assembly, he served as a commissioner on the state Board of Elections from 1918-1938. He died December 9, 1938 in Indianapolis.

To learn more about William W. Spencer and his time as a law student, please contact the Archives!



The People Behind The Vagabond

This week, we offer a guest post from SLIS student & Digital Library Program intern Nancy!

This semester, I am interning with the Digital Library Program.  The project that I am working on is for the Archives and consists of creating a digital version of The Vagabond, which is a satirical student literary magazine from the 1920s and 1930s.  This magazine has essays, poetry, visual art, short stories, criticism, and humor, which often target Indiana University undergraduates, alumni, and faculty.  Reading this magazine has been an interesting look into the past.  I would highly recommend reading this magazine when we finish the project, but before you do that, it might interesting to look at the people behind the publication.

Getting to know the people behind The Vagabond and connecting those people to the articles that they wrote is a slight challenge due to the fact that many of the writers used pseudonyms.  Yet, not all the writers used pseudonyms and some that did, made the pseudonym very obvious.  For this post, I thought that it would be nice to have pictures to go with the writers, so I went to the Arbutus.  There, I found pictures of some of the members of The Vagabond.  The pictures list some of the members, but not what pseudonym they used, making it difficult to tie the person to his or her work.  For this post, I am only going to focus on people whose articles can be identified, though this will not be a comprehensive listing.

 Let’s start with Philip Blair Rice. He was part of the original team (some even called it his “brain-child”) that started The Vagabond. He wrote off and on during its span, writing a variety of works including poems, plays, and stories. While at Indiana University he studied philosophy.  In 1925, he became IU’s 4th Rhodes Scholar and went on to study at Balliol College, Oxford.  He taught at different colleges until he accepted a position at Kenyon College in their English department.  Some of his achievements include becoming president of the American Philosophical Association, being awarded the Guggeheim Fellowship and the Bollingen Fellowship.  He also wrote a book titled On the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is available from the IU Libraries, and many articles.  To read some of these articles, do an Author Search in JSTOR for “Philip Blair Rice.” He died in February 1956.

Next to P.B. Rice, William Ernest Moenkhaus was probably one of the most well-known Vagabond writers, even though he always wrote under a pseudonym.  The name he used most often was Wolfgang Beethoven Bunkhaus, but he also wrote under the names Lena Gedunkhaus, Oscar Humidor Martin, and Roland McFeeters.  To his friends he was Monk.  He led a rather interesting, though short life.  He was born in Bloomington, Indiana on June 30, 1902.  He spent some years in Switzerland and it was only due to World War I that he returned to the United States.  He was known for playing the piano and cello and could write music as well as he could write literature.  This ability with music led to a close friendship with Hoagy Carmichael.  In The Vagabond, he wrote plays, poems, and other works that inspired others to look at the everyday in a different light.  He graduated in 1929, with a Bachelor of Music, but he would have little chance to use this degree as he died on January 17, 1931.  To read more about his life, check out Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael, which has a chapter titled “Monk”.

 Another friend of Hoagy Carmichael’s that wrote for The Vagabond was Howard Warren “Wad” Allen.  Wad Allen was musically inclined, but also wrote poems, essays, and stories often under pseudonyms such as Sir Polonius Panurge and Tod Owlin.  He graduated in 1926 with a Bachelor of English.  After graduating, he became a reporter for the Anderson Herald, before moving on to work at the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company doing advertising.  He would later become the Vice President and Chief of Public Relations for Johns-Manville Corporation.  To hear about his retirement from the company check out “Wad Allen [sound recording] : retirement tape” available from IU’s Archives of Traditional Music. He also was interviewed on January 18, 1973.   In this interview, he discusses many topics relating to Indiana University, including The Vagabond.

Another writer for The Vagabond was Robert Fink. He was editor of The Vagabond for the school year of 1929-1930, which was after The Vagabond had a two year period of only being published once each year.  His leadership brought the publication back to its previous level of publishing, with 4 editions that year.  He wrote poems and also did translations for The Vagabond.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1930.  He continued his education going on to receive a Master of Arts from Cornell and a Ph.D. in Classics from Yale University in 1934.  He taught at a variety of colleges and universities including Kenyon College and State University of New York.  He wrote three books, which are all available through IUCAT, though his first, The Feriale Duranum, is not available for checkout but may be read in the library. He died in December 1988. Check out “In Memoriam Robert O. Fink” by William E. McCulloch, available through JSTOR, for his obituary.

These are just a few of the writers from The Vagabond, but as you can see these writers were outgoing, intelligent people, who felt the need to inspire change in others.  For more information about the people who wrote, check out resources such as the Arbutus and The Vagabond itself, which are both available in the University Archives.

New Resource! Student Life at IU web site

Any decent university archives will have tons of records documenting the activities of its students. However, when one looks more closely at the records, it quickly becomes apparent that most of this documentation represents an official student record, such as a transcript, an enrollment record or basic vital statistics about the student. Another characteristic of student records within most archives is that the records reflect the perspective of the IU administrators and faculty. In other words, many of the records in university archives related to student activities and culture were created by presidents, deans and directors. Consequently, these records provide a view of student life which is largely one dimensional or one sided, in that the documentation on student life is defined largely through the eyes of non-students.

In an effort to address the lack of documentation on student life as documented by students, a number of university archives have initiated programs or special projects to collect the records generated by student organizations, including student government groups at all levels and fraternities and sororities. In the last five years, the IUB Archives has identified the collection of the records of student organizations as a high priority. A big part of this initiative was to actively contact student organizations about their records and to offer our services in preserving and making the records accessible. Overall the initiative has been relatively successful; we have accessioned hundreds of linear feet of records from a wide variety of student organizations.

Newsletter produced by the Progressive Reform Party, a student political organization at Indiana University Bloomington.

The Student Life at IU web site is a critical piece of the larger strategy to highlight student life and culture. The primary goal of the site is to depict and describe the cultural, social, and political activities of students during their time at Indiana University. In this portrayal we attempt to provide a more multi-dimensional picture of events by presenting both the “official” administrative view and response and the student perspective on the issues and events.

As our first exhibit, we chose to depict the 1960s, and specifically the major demonstrations, strikes and protests at Indiana University during that tumultuous decade. To describe these events we have pulled together from the Archives a wide variety of documents representing various perspectives on the issues and events. Among these records are photos; newspaper articles; resolutions, bills and official statements created by student organizations; statements on events generated by the IUB administration; and newsletters and flyers distributed by student groups.

In future exhibits on the IU Student Life site we are planning to explore the following topics: Student Life in the second half of the 19th Century; student life at IU during WWII; student life as depicted by diaries and journals created by IU students.

We would love to hear from you with any suggestions for future exhibits on the IU Student Life site. In the meantime, please explore Student Demonstrations at IU!