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!