Sincerely Yours: Linen dresses and infernal machines

Helen Hopkins, Class of 1918. Archives image no. P0066988

Last spring, the IU Archives was contacted by a kind couple in Lafayette, Indiana who just by happenstance discovered a small but wonderful collection of WWI-era correspondence and other ephemera in a dumpster. At some point lovingly bound into 2 volumes, the nearly 300 letters between Helen Dale Hopkins and her family dating from 1915-1918 were thus thankfully saved from a fate in a landfill.

Born in 1897, Helen Dale Hopkins entered Indiana University as a freshman in the fall of 1915. She was an active member of the Classical Club, Browning Society, Pi Beta Phi, and was elected to the student honorary Phi Beta Kappa. She graduated with an A.B. in Latin with Distinction in 1918. During this period, Helen wrote home multiple times a week, predominately to her mother Clara, but occasionally also her brother Bob (Robert O. Hopkins).

Early letters report on joining Pi Beta Phi (the Pi Phi’s as she calls the sorority) and being in the library during freshman-sophomore scraps when the men were called outside and their hair forcibly cut. What we would describe as a modern-day foodie, in nearly every letter Helen reports on her meals (she seemed to have a particular fondness for potatoes and desserts), and vehemently thanks her mother for her weekly care packages of candies, cookies, bread, and wieners from home. In others she describes the contents of her friend’s packages from home, including one which included “a whole fried chicken and a fruit cake.” Other letters mention campus serenades, attending athletics events and dances, joining the Women’s League and YWCA, late night visits to the Book Nook for wieners and burgers to hear Hoagy Carmichael play, hiking to Arbutus hill, going to the Gentry Brothers Circus, student pranks such as the night she came home to a bed filled with salt, as well as campus issues such as coal shortages and the bad taste of the drinking water.

On a national level she discusses the 1916 presidential election and in the lead up to World War I she discusses military training on campus. On March 7, 1917, she describes a campus-wide meeting of all the students and faculty where “it was voted to send a telegram to [President] Wilson expressing the faith of the Indiana students in him and the promise of loyalty to the country…. President Bryan gave most wonderful talk, and several others of the faculty spoke.” Following the official declaration of war, she reports on her volunteer work with the Red Cross knitting sweaters for soldiers overseas, female students hastily marrying before their boyfriends enlisted, the dwindling numbers of male students on campus, and the back to the farm movement, which allowed students from farming families to return home to help with the crops while still earning course credit. She also alludes to the fact that Theodore Roosevelt would be their wartime commencement speaker.

One letter from April 1917 stands out in particular. While Helen mostly details daily thoughts and updates on life for her mother, she also shares the details of an incident involving a student of Russian descent (Mr. Edler). A transcript of the letter in its entirely follows.  

Saturday April 22, 1917

My darling sweetheart,

Thanks ever so much for the dresses, the skirt is just the thing. Could you cut a pattern from the straight dress pattern and send it to me for Velura? She wants to make her one like it. And she wondered how much goods it takes. I guess the straight dresses are as much in style as ever. One of the girls has a green linen with pockets and belt embroidered. Anna and Doris got three straight ones in town – $6.75 apiece. Mildred paid $15 for a linen one. They’re all made exactly like mine. My blue one is just in style, – my, I just love it better all the time. I hope it never wears out.

Louise says that if the weather is nice you and her folks are sure going to come down some Sunday. I wish you all could come some day. The campus is getting green and is full of violets and spring beauties. We were walking through it the other day and a red bird was on a limb above us and a blue bird on another branch. They were both singing and it seemed like a dream. I think the campus is the most beautiful spot there ever was.

Dr. Stout says Latin is growing more popular all the time. You know they are talking of taking German out of the schools. There are twelve in the senior class and there have been sixteen calls already for teachers. Velura is so discouraged that she broke down and cried the other day – she wants to come back so badly and everyone she talks to says that they can’t consider undergraduates for positions until all the seniors have places. Dr. Stout says that only one senior that he has known of has gotten less than $80; but he says they usually have to be satisfied with this the first year. I got all this information from being in the senior class. He put in a recommendation for each one of them.

He even wanted to know in what part of the state they wanted to teach and what sort of a school they would prefer to teach in. He said he would be glad to read the letter of application they wrote before they sent it. He seemed so interested in every one of them.

I spent the morning embroidering “Charlie” in mahogany silk on a pair of pajamas. One of the Phi Psi boy’s washing was left here and of course we thought we ought to embroider it. We embroidered hearts on all his handkerchiefs and his name on his pajamas and then cross-stitched the bottom in green and purple. Oh they were some class. I know he’ll like them. I hope so at any rate after all the work we put on them.

I’m going down a little in math. I only got 90 on the test I had Thursday. I hope we don’t have many more or he’ll find me out sure.

We decided to wait two weeks for our play, and so I don’t know what we’ll have Monday night – a good time anyway. Leah Stock, our province president, is coming Tuesday night. We’re going to move all the best furniture in our room. We’re going to have a dinner Tuesday night, a reception Wednesday afternoon, and a cooky-shine Wednesday night.

Did you see the story about Mr. Edler, a Russian in school here? He lived in a barn on two cents a day. When he was four years old, the Russian government killed his father and mother, and ever since then he has been against the government. The authorities here found his room which he had always kept locked, and found there all sorts of different mechanisms that they think he was trying to make infernal machines of. He says he was only experimenting on watches. He went around all winter without a hat and coat. He was in my Latin class, but it never occurred to me to be afraid of him. I don’t know where they’ve sent him but he’s left here.

Well sweet, I’m writing this in the midst of a stirring argument on woman suffrage; and I’m trying to argue and write at the same time.

Marie’s going to stay all night with me. Her roommate has a terrible cough, and she keeps Marie awake all night. I thought that since Louise was gone, she might sleep with me.

I went downtown with Mrs. Roberts this evening and she bought me a sack of candy. Some sport, eh?

Well sweet, I owe so many letters I guess I’d better start writing some.

With heaps and heaps of kisses,

Helen

Mr. John Edler was a Russian student at IU who earned the nickname “Hatless John” because he spent the cold Indiana winter walking around without the typical hat or coat worn by most people to protect him from the cold. According to the news coverage from April 1917, he was not a harmful individual but fellow students often heard him voicing anti-government and anarchist opinions, which raised some concerns. Finally, Registrar John Cravens and local authorities found cause and searched his room, where they discovered all kinds of mechanical parts that they assumed were being used to create “infernal machines” and bombs. Being that this was wartime, their discovery raised concerns and Edler was brought before a local Sanity Commission to judge whether or not he was a threat to the IU community and American citizens. The commission however deemed Edler completely sane and the mechanical parts harmless – in reality Edler was not in fact building bombs. He was a watch maker and his mechanisms could do no more than tell time.

After the ordeal, Edler returned to his former home in South Bend, Indiana. Tobias Dantzig, a mathematics professor at IU took responsibility for the young man, promising to assist him in finding work, which further appeased the sanity council and the whole situation was resolved.

To schedule an appointment to view the rest of the Helen Hopkins Wampler papers, contact the IU Archives.

Sincerely Yours – Letters from the Archives: Theodore Roosevelt Draws the Line

When Carl Eigenmann (renowned ichthyologist, Indiana University Professor of Zoology and Dean of the Graduate School, and Curator of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh) set out on the 1918 Irwin research expedition to Peru, the possibility of failure was not far from his mind. He even wrote President Bryan a last will and testament of sorts, providing for the disposition of his research, specimens, and equipment “in case the submarines or other vermin should get [him].”

Yet it was not a German submarine that nearly scuttled Eigenmann’s expedition, but the U.S. State Department’s heightened scrutiny of German-Americans during World War I. After departing from Bloomington in June 1918, Eigenmann and his assistants, IU graduates Adele Eigenmann and W. R. Harris, were delayed in the port of New Orleans for five weeks. As Eigenmann, a German-born, naturalized U.S. citizen, put it, “The Passport Division of the State Department, while conceding that my name was euphonic, considered it too Teutonic and refused me passports.”

Indignant at the delay, Eigenmann went straight to the top with his protests. Besides writing to the presidents of IU and the University of Illinois, which granted Harris a fellowship for the journey, he appealed to former president Theodore Roosevelt and asked him to intercede with President Woodrow Wilson on his behalf.

Theodore Roosevelt delivering the 1918 IU Commencement address
Theodore Roosevelt delivering the 1918 IU Commencement address

Roosevelt’s well-known fascination with natural history, in particular with gathering specimens and trophies through large-scale, international expeditions, had made him a natural ally of Eigenmann’s in years past. In 1916, Roosevelt wrote to Gilbert Grosvenor, President of the National Geographic Society, to secure $3000 for the expedition, stating that Eigenmann was “of all the men in this country the one best fit to get the best results out of just this trip.”

Roosevelt also proved himself a friend of Indiana University in general, having given a rousingly patriotic commencement speech in Bloomington in May, 1918. But when Eigenmann requested his assistance in securing passports, he had not counted on the extent of the bad blood between Roosevelt and Wilson, who were campaign rivals during the 1912 presidential election and differed widely in attitudes toward American intervention in Europe during World War I. Roosevelt responded, apologetically, to Eigenmann’s request as follows:

Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Carl H. Eigenmann, July 5, 1918.

SAGAMORE HILL.

July 5th 1918

Dear Dr. Eigenmann,

I am very sorry, but I cannot appeal to Wilson for any human being; and moreover the surest way to hurt you would be to have him think I was interested in you. I am wholly unable to understand the folly or worse of refusing to permit your Peruvian expedition.

With regret [and] indignation,

Faithfully yours,

Theodore Roosevelt

Despite Roosevelt’s unwillingness or inability to help him, Eigenmann’s other contacts were able to exert pressure on the authorities, and the expedition proceeded, albeit with a shortened itinerary. Eigenmann later reported that he suspected a rival scientist as the instigator of the passport controversy. As he wrote in his June, 1919 report to the Board of Trustees, “Someone, who I was informed was interested in having me vacate the position of Curator in the Carnegie Museum, filed charges against my loyalty.”

Who knew that the field of natural history could be so full of intrigue?

Indiana University and World War I: Armistice Day and the War Memorial Fund (Part 5 of 5)

The last in a five-part series highlighting Indiana University’s role in the first World War.

The armistice ending the war went into effect at 11:00 A.M., November 11, 1918 – just one week after campus reopened from the influenza outbreak. On the home front, Indiana University students and faculty and Bloomington townsfolk welcomed the end of the Great War, many with celebrations and parades around downtown Bloomington, as seen in the following photos.

Armistice celebrations in downtown Bloomington.
LARGE[1] Armistice celebrations in downtown Bloomington.
Forty-two days after many IU men were formally inducted into the S.A.T.C., the war ended. A few days after that, the War Department announced that the S.A.T.C. would be demobilized by December 21st. Although specific numbers do not exist, the 1919 yearbook reported that the majority of male students who had been members of the S.A.T.C. returned to school in the spring semester as civilian students. With the disbandment of the S.A.T.C., R.O.T.C. training resumed and four hours of training were mandatory for every male student in the spring semester.

To understand the emotion of that November day, consider these two accounts of the celebrations by members of the IU community, one from Europe and one from Bloomington.

Georgia Finley was was a professor in the Home Economics Department at Indiana University from 1914-1939. Beginning in September of 1917, she took a leave of absence in order serve as the Chief Dietician at Base Hospital No. 32 in France. During her time overseas, she regularly wrote letters home which were then published in the Indiana Daily Student. She also regularly kept a diary. The following is an excerpt from that diary, courtesy of IU’s Lilly Library:

Georgia Finley
Georgia Finley

November 11, 1918. Well, it’s all over! What joy! The news was officially given out during the morning. Troops stationed near here and ready for the front were ordered not to go because no more were needed. Then the French Comminque announced “Armistice signal.” This afternoon seventy-one shots were fired. The church bells rang. Then the overland trains chime in from the front – joyous and gaily decorated. We all felt like crying and many French women did. . . . This is the first night we have not had to black out since coming to France. The street lights are glowing.

Back in Indiana, IU student and S.A.T.C. member William Ringer (who suffered from the Spanish Flu) wrote in his diary:

One of the greatest days in the history of the world! Almost 3:30 we were awakened by a terrible ringing of bells, shouting, explosions, etc. And central called in that Germany had signed the armistice. We were ordered to ‘fall in’ and at once we marched down to Kirkwood and Indiana where all the S.A.T.C. and the Rookies and hundreds of town people. It was dark and cold, but there was excitement and noise enough. All the civilians cheering and autos honking, make a wild world. We marched three turn around the square etc. until almost 5 o’clock. Of course did not return to sleep. We had drill – and a hard one, but they announced that there would be no classes, but a parade at 2, and at 7.

War Memorial Fund

With the war ended, life slowly returned to normal in Bloomington. On campus, the most prominent legacy of the war at IU is the War Memorial Fund. The fundraising drive originated with the Indiana University Alumni Council, and was created to fill the need of the university for new buildings. IU President Bryan saw a fund drive as a way to commemorate the 1920 IU Centennial and as a way to remember those who served in the war. In June 1921, the Alumni Council gave approval and authorized a campaign to raise $1,000,000 for the construction of three buildings. The Council selected the University Librarian at the time, W.A. Alexander, to serve as the executive secretary. A large bonfire attended by 2,000 students in March, 1922, helped to encourage fundraising. The IDS wrote that “the glowing embers reflected to students visions of new structures soon to be born to grace our campus, and from the flying sparks they caught the spirit of a greater Indiana.”

1922 Memorial Fund bonfire.
1922 Memorial Fund bonfire.

The three buildings constructed as a result of the Memorial Fund were:

  • Memorial Hall, completed in 1925 as a women’s dormitory, the first one owned by the University.

Memorial Hall (1925)

  • Memorial Stadium, also completed in 1925 but demolished in 1982.

Memorial Stadium (1925)

  • Indiana Memorial Union, completed in 1932.

Indiana Memorial Union (1932)

The architectural firm Lowe & Bollenbacher designed both Memorial Hall and Memorial Stadium, while the IMU was designed by Granger and Bollenbacher.

This campus map from 1930 shows the results of the War Memorial Fund.
This campus map from 1930 shows some of the results of the War Memorial Fund.

Indiana University and World War I: The Spanish Influenza on Campus (Part 4 of 5)

The fourth in a five-part series highlighting Indiana University’s role in the first World War.

Notice printed in the Indiana Daily Student.
Notice printed in the Indiana Daily Student.

In the fall of 1918 Indiana University had 1,935 students, which was the largest enrollment to date. This record number, however, corresponded with the outbreak of the Spanish Flu epidemic, and, that fall, numerous students fell ill. President Bryan and the administration were forced to make the decision on October 10, 1918, to close the University for ten days — until October 20th. All students not in the Student Army Training Corps were asked to go home until the university reopened.

Hospital beds were set up in the old Assembly Hall to combat the influenza epidemic.
Hospital beds were set up in the old Assembly Hall to combat the influenza epidemic.

Sixty percent of the school’s population however were members of the S.A.T.C. and were required by army regulations to remain on campus. Thus, to fight the outbreak effectively, hospital beds were set up in Assembly Hall (the old Assembly Hall) and the auditorium of the Student Building. The peak of the epidemic at IU hit on October 16th, with 174 cases of influenza. In light of the continued prevalence of influenza on campus, the administration extended the closure of the university until November 4th.

S.A.T.C. member and IU student, William Ringer, contracted the flu and wrote about his experience illness in his diary on October 18, 1918:

William Ringer, Class of 1920 and member of the SATC.
William Ringer, Class of 1920 and member of the S.A.T.C.

I felt rotten, and could scarcely hold up my head while Rawles rambled away. . . . I felt worse all day, ate only a little dinner. The next morning I felt rotten, and did not get up until 7:30. There were four of us stumbled down to the infirmary where there was the sickest looking bunch of fellows I ever saw. He ordered us to the hospital, so we walked back to the barracks and lay there all day until a taxi came for us. I was put on a cot on the lower floor after some delay, and there I settled down for 6 days’ sickness. And I was pretty sick for three or four days. My temperature got only as high as 102.6 but it stayed up north stubbornly. They took good care of us, gave us plenty of very good food. . . . Horace [his brother] was brought in Saturday, and put on the stage. He was more sick than I, had a slight congestion in one lung, and had to wear a pneumonia jacket.

[You can read the original diary at the University Archives.]

Even after classes resumed, people were still being cared for at the University Hospital. In total, 350 people were hospitalized at IU during the fall influenza outbreak. Thanks to the nursing staff and warm hospital quarters only three people died, a mortality rate of less than one percent. That is much less than the estimated global mortality rate of 10%.

Flu cases continued to crop up into the spring 1919 semester. As a result, a late winter basketball game against the University of Iowa was supposed to be closed to the public to prevent the flu’s spread. Despite the risk, five hundred students made it past security in order to watch the game. According to IU basketball player Ardith Phillips, they were “500 of the most enthusiastic spectators you ever saw.”

Indiana University and World War I: Student Involvement (Part 3 of 5)

The third in a five-part series highlighting Indiana University’s role in the first World War. Part I ; Part II

IU students and alumni served in both military and non-military ways during the war; the following details just a few of their stories.

Elder Watson Diggs

Elder Watson Diggs
Elder Watson Diggs.

Lieutenant Elder Watson Diggs attended Indiana University from 1911-1916. As an IU student, he was one of the principal founders of Kappa Alpha Psi, a historically African American fraternity. Following his graduation in 1916, he served as the principal of public schools in Bloomington, Vincennes, and Indianapolis.

During the First World War, he served with the Expeditionary Forces in France. Nicknamed the Buffalo Soldiers, Diggs’ division, the 92nd, saw active service in the front line trenches on the western front in France in the Vosges Mountains, the Argonne Forest Offensive, and at Metz, according to a letter he wrote to the IU’s Committee on War Work. He returned to the United States after six months overseas and was formally discharged on April 1, 1919.

Horace Goff

Horace Goff in 1918.
Horace Goff, 1918.

Born in Middletown, Indiana, Horace Porter Goff attended Indiana University between 1912 and 1918, earning a degree in Chemistry. In December 1917, during the semester break of his senior year, he voluntarily enlisted in the United States Military at the age of twenty-eight.

Goff left for Columbus, Ohio, on December 13 to commence military training. “I now feel like a full-fledged soldier,” he wrote to his parents and brother. “My squad received their uniforms, fingerprints, and inoculations.”

Honorable Discharge Papers, February 15, 1919.
Honorable Discharge papers, February 15, 1919.

From Columbus, he was moved to Washington D.C. and Maryland before being sent overseas to France. Goff was assigned to the 30th Gas and Flame Engineer Regiment of the Regular Army. He had hoped that he would be employed as a chemical engineer to produce and analyze gases, but instead served as part of the gas unit on the Western Front.

Goff served in France for just over a year, until he was discharged in February, 1919. He died in 1936, possibly as a result of his prolonged exposure to mustard gas.

Letter to his parents, December 19, 1917.
Letter to his parents, December 19, 1917.

[View all of Horace Goff’s paper online, digitized by the University Archives.]

Louise Stubbins

Red Cross workshop.
Red Cross workshop.

Besides training as soldiers, IU students helped out with humanitarian efforts. In May 1917, IU student Louise Stubbins (’19) and Assistant Professor of Home Economics Elizabeth Sage traveled to Chicago in order to take a course in the making of surgical dressings. Upon their return to Bloomington at the beginning of the summer session, they taught a Red Cross course to university students and local women on how to prepare gauze dressing and bandages for overseas hospitals. In November of 1917, a Red Cross Workshop opened in room four of Kirkwood Hall and was eventually expanded to accommodate up to one hundred fifty women at one time to produce thousands of bandages. White aprons and white caps were the required uniforms.

Ernest Bicknell

Ernest Bicknell
Ernest Bicknell

IU connections to the Red Cross extended the national level. Ernest P. Bicknell, a 1887 graduate of Indiana University, was named National Director of the Red Cross in 1908. During the war, Bicknell served as Deputy Commissioner to France, Commissioner to Belgium, and Special Commission to the Balkan States, as well as serving as a member of several international relief organizations. His scrapbooks provide an in-depth view of his time in the Red Cross.

The end of the war meant even more work for Bicknell as the Red Cross sought to provide aid to those who had been displaced and impoverished by four years of conflict. He was named Red Cross Deputy Commissioner to Europe in 1919 and then promoted two years later to Commissioner to Europe. He went on to serve as the Director of the Rockefeller Foundation War Relief Committee as well as the Office for Insular and Foreign Operations.

[Visit the University Archives to see all of Ernest Bicknell’s scrapbooks and papers.]