Sleep Tight, Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite – A Myth Debunked

Written by Rebecca Karstensen, Wylie House Museum Assistant and Docent

Edited by Jean Graves, Associate Instructor and PhD candidate, Indiana University and Carey Beam, Director, Wylie House Museum

Feature photo from nameberry.com

 

Here at the Wylie House Museum and at other house museum across the country, we docents love to share old stories and sayings that we’ve learned and acquired over the years. One of my personal favorite stories is the history of the saying “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite”. The typical presentation of the story follows along these lines:

In the 1800s and early 1900s, mattresses were held on bed frames using a woven rope design. These ropes needed frequent tightening to ensure a taut, firm mattress for a good night’s sleep. Hence, the phrase “sleep tight” was born. The mattresses were often stuffed using straw, shredded corn husks, or down feathers. These materials attracted bed begs, and so over time it became a common phrase to say “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

A typical rope bed frame. From pinterest.com

Stories and myths like this one are very common among house museums. We love to leave visitors with new, exciting information that they can share with the rest of the world, and so it’s quite easy for false information to spread rapidly across the house museum community.

Such is the case with the story of sleeping tight.

To begin, I would like to confirm that rope beds did, in fact, need tightening, so my intention here is not to disprove this part of our story. If you’d like to learn more about the roping process, I would suggest this video or this article.

Rope beds were invented in the 16th century and fell out of fashion quickly after the invention of the coil spring mattress in 1865. Gary Martin’s research for The Phrase Finder has revealed that the first recorded use of the phrase “sleep tight” wasn’t until 1866 in Susan Bradford Eppes’s journal entitled Through Some Eventful Years. She writes on May 2, “Goodbye little Diary. ‘Sleep tight and wake bright,’ for I will need you when I return.” Therefore, the late use of this phrase in comparison to the invention of rope beds signals that it must have some other origin.

But, what could that origin be? Let’s take a look into the etymology (i.e. the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history) of the word ‘tight’. According to the Oxford dictionary, the closely related adverb ‘tightly’ can also mean ‘safely’ or ‘soundly’. Since it sounds a bit catchier and poetic to say two one-syllable words as “sleep tight” instead of the awkward 3-syllable “sleep tightly,” that might explain why the suffix –ly was dropped from the word.

In today’s culture, we have several other uses of the word ‘tight’ that support this new hypothesis of the history of ‘sleep tight’. For example, in American slang we say that we are ‘tight’ with someone to indicate that we are familiar with them or close with them. ‘Tight’ can also be synonymous with ‘snug’, such as when your pants are too tight after eating one too many gooey fudge brownies. When we settle in to bed each night, many people enjoy wrapping themselves up in the covers to experience this snuggly feeling that seems oppressive when referring to our jeans but cozy when it’s bedtime.

Me, at bedtime every night. From attackofthecute.com

We like to feel safe and cozy during sleep (after all, we can’t control what happens in the world around us as we dream), so sleeping ‘tight’ probably relates more to those connotations of snugness and safety, especially in reference to security from bedbugs or other nighttime creatures. This idea seems more reasonable than the fact that the ropes on early beds needed to be tight to ensure a good fit. This argument also helps to explain why people used the phrase long after rope beds fell out of use.

The best part about historic house museums is that we get to continually learn and explore these new topics and share them with our guests! Do you have any other theories? Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or email us at libwylie@indiana.edu. We would love to hear what you have to say.

Transition from Agriculture to Leisure Gardening in Bloomington, Indiana circa 1860s

Agriculture. When hearing that word most people think of a farmer sitting on a tractor in a big field, or something along those lines. This is a reasonable image, but when thinking back to 19th century agriculture the scene was pretty different. Agriculture is defined as “the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products” according to Merriam-Webster. It has been extremely important to the development and subsistence of the United States of America, and still is today. In contrast, the definition of floriculture, or leisure gardening, as written in Loudon’s Encyclopedia of Gardening by John Claudius Louden in 1835 is, “… comprehending whatever relates to the culture and arrangement of plants, whether ligneous or herbaceous, grown chiefly on account of their flowers, or as objects of taste or curiosity.”. What this definition means in more simple terms is floriculture includes plants that are grown for their beauty, their usefulness, or just the way in which the flowers are planted in a way to landscape or beautify a location.

Professor Theophilus Wylie, cousin to Indiana University’s first president Andrew Wylie, and his family were involved in both agriculture and floriculture. They grew a fair amount of crops including corn, grapes, a vegetable garden (beans, turnips, cabbage, asparagus, etc.), various fruit trees (peach, apple, pear), strawberries, and pumpkins to name some mentioned in their family letters. There is no current definite information about what livestock the Wylie’s owned themselves, but it was common for people to have hogs, cattle, and chickens. Additionally, in a letter it is written that Redick Wylie, a member of the Andrew Wylie family, did own cattle and hogs in the Bloomington area in 1860.

Many Americans farmed in some way or another, whether to sustain themselves or to supplement their food supplies. The wealthier were usually able to farm more effectively because they could own more land and buy increasingly advanced and newly invented inventions that allowed farming to be more efficient. New inventions of the 19th century included mechanical reapers (1834) by Cyrus McCormick, as well as a new type of plow with a steel blade by John Deere. These inventions allowed farmers to move more quickly and use less human labor since these tools only required a horse or two and one person. Another technological advance that affected agriculture was the use of trains (first used in Bloomington in 1853); the increased use of trains allowed goods to be transported further and faster than ever before, so less people were required to farm. Since less people were required to farm, especially those who had money that could be spent on unessential goods, they needed another way to spend their time and money.

Interest in flowers and planned gardening on properties actually began as early as the late 1700s on the east coast of the country among wealthier classes. This was mainly due to the influence of England and royal gardens from European countries. Americans really began learning floriculture from horticultural magazines that were imported from England and reprinted and distributed throughout America by printers. The first horticultural magazine, The Seed Drill, was written by Jethro Tull in 1701 (Garofalo 2002). These magazines were quickly absorbed into the American scene in some form or another in all social classes (Leighton 1987). For example, the less wealthy would try to recreate the gardens of royalty using native plants from their area. This was the beginning of floriculture in the United States. Another way floriculture began was that cemeteries were considered public parks up until around the 1850s and flowers were used to beautify these spaces, which is still true even though they are no longer considered public parks.

The plants used in people’s gardens were not usually limited to the native plants in the area. Plants were brought back from trips to other places in the U.S. to even places outside of the country. An example of this, is in an 1812 publication Thomas Nutall wrote about a trip to the Arkansas Territory and how he brought back around 300 plants (Leighton 1987). Trading seeds with others is another way people got nonnative (and native) seeds. The Wylie Family did both things as mentioned in their family letters. It is noted that they traded seeds with many people and that Louisa Wylie would presumably bring back seeds from where she was travelling at the time. There are letters written to Louisa, such as a letter from October 1, 1874 from an Emma mentioning that she would be sending seeds to her and Louisa could have sent her some in return. Additionally, the field of botany was also advancing around this time, so it was possible to get plants that had be genetically modified to be prettier in gardens around the country (Leighton 1987). It is unknown whether or not the Wylie’s had these types of flowers though.

The transition to floriculture, or leisure gardening, was a shift that was seen all over the United States. Wealthier families, such as the Wylie’s, were able to gain access to more resources and variety than others but it was a transition felt by much of the social classes. A person’s circumstances, such as their location, budget, and personal preference, affected how they participated in the sensation of floriculture. Even those who were worse off were able to participate in some way if they had the inclination to whether that be by only have a few ornamental flowers or by mixing their agricultural crops with a complimenting plant. Agriculture was a way of life for many people in the past and still is today, but leisure gardening is a popular pastime for people of all social and economic classes.

Blog post written by: Maclaren Guthrie, Bicentennial intern

Sources

Garofalo, Michael P. “The History of Gardening”, The Spirit of Gardening, 1 Mar. 2002, www.gardendigest.com/timel18.htm#Start.a

Herald, Elaine, and Jo Burgess. “Affectionately Yours, Volume I.” IUScholarWorks, Indiana University, 2011, scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/20222/20330.

Herald, Elaine, and Jo Burgess. “Affectionately Yours, Volume II.” IUScholarWorks, Indiana University, 2011, scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/20331.

Leighton, Ann. American Gardens of the Nineteenth Century. University of Massachusetts Press, 1987.

The Theophilus Adam Wylie Family Correspondence, Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington.

 

Barns & Outbuildings of Wylie House

The Wylie family homestead can be interpreted by examining the various barns and outbuildings situated on the property between 1835 and 1895, the time between the home’s construction and the death of Theophilus A. Wylie.

Sketch by Theophilus A Wylie of his barn, ca. 1883

Much of what is known about these outbuildings comes from a memory map drawn by Theophilus A. Wylie’s grandson, Theo Wylie (Theophilus A. Wylie III). Theo’s memory map depicts his grandfather’s property circa 1875, although many of these structures likely date back to Andrew and Margaret Wylie, who first inhabited Wylie House and worked the 25 acre farm 40 years earlier. These barns and outbuildings help one understand the scope of daily life at Wylie House in Bloomington, Indiana in the mid-19th century.

Family correspondence and journals kept by the Wylies relate details of construction, use, and occasionally, the tragic loss of their buildings to fire.

 

The Wylie Homestead

Indiana University’s first president, Andrew Wylie, owned approximately 25 acres of land on which his home, Wylie House, was built in 1835. The homestead’s western and eastern boundaries correspond to what are now Walnut and Henderson streets and the homestead’s northern and southern boundaries correspond to what are now Smith and Second streets.

Wylie homestead property boundaries in 1835

The Wylie family homestead was a working farm. Hired help was particularly difficult to find for the first Wylie family, so much of this work was done by the Wylies themselves and their occasional student boarders. After Andrew’s death in 1851, Margaret Wylie lived at Wylie House until her death in 1859.

 

TAW III’s Memory Map

Andrew Wylie’s second cousin, Theophilus A. Wylie, lived at Wylie house with his family from 1859 until his death in 1895. Theophilus’ family remained at Wylie House until 1913. Theophilus’ grandson, Theo, drew a memory map in 1954 of his grandfather’s property circa 1875.

memory map of Wylie homestead ca. 1875, TAW III, 1954

From TAW III’s sketch we know that Wylie House outbuildings included:

• an ice house
• a smoke house
• a double-pen barn
• a log chicken house
• a carriage house
• two walk-in cold frames
• a large two-story utility building located east of the kitchen door

We know from family correspondence that the chicken house was converted from an old corn crib on the property around 1862.

DOUBLE-PEN BARN
The original Wylie barn was a double-pen barn. A double-pen barn is one in which two single units are joined together at the top with room for passage underneath. This allowed a farmer to pull his wagon under the barn for easy loading of hay into the hay loft.

CORN CRIB
A corn crib was a log granary used to dry and store corn. Their slatted design allowed air to flow through the crib to dry the corn inside. Corn cribs were built to be raised off the ground so that rodents and other pests couldn’t get inside through the slats. They were often located near livestock, as corn was a popular feed.

It is likely that most of the outbuildings dated back to Andrew and Margaret Wylie’s occupancy between 1836 and 1859.

The 1859 inventory lists eight horses, one mule, five hogs, and more than a dozen cattle. Since we know there was a chicken house, they must have also kept chickens.

The numerous outbuildings underscore the vast amount of work that was required to maintain a working farm—butchering, smoking and salting meats, gathering wood for the winter months, preserving foods, and laundering clothes.

 

The Wylie Utility Building

It is believed that Theophilus A. Wylie took this photograph in approximately 1890 of the east side of the house. Shown here are the well and the utility building.

The utility building just off of the kitchen was constructed during Theophilus A. Wylie’s time at Wylie House. He used the second floor of the building as his personal workspace. The sketch below shows his carpenter bench, weather observation window, lathe, and resting quarters. The first floor of the building was used by the family and hired help for storing wood for their stoves and fireplaces and for laundering clothes and cooking.

This sketch of the utility building, shown in the photograph, was drawn by Theophilus’ grandson, Theo Wylie, in 1954.

 

The Loss of Theophilus’ Barn

This sketch, drawn by Theophilus A. Wylie in 1883, shows his barn as it stood on Saturday March 17th at 6pm and the same time the next day after the barn burned to the ground.

Before and after sketch of TAW’s barn after it burned down in March of 1883.

Below is the transcription from his diary where he tells the story.

transcription made from 3 April 1881-6 September 1885, Theophilus A. Wylie papers, Collection C202, Office of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

There are also two newspaper articles from the Bloomington Progress Vol. 16 (49) in March of 1883 that recount the arson, as many buildings were set on fire by arsonists that spring. The larger article, “Bloomington’s Bad Blaze” on page 3 chronicles a fire that was the most destructive in Bloomington’s history at that time. Andrew Wylie’s son, Reddick Wylie, lost property in the fire. The second article, “Another Fire Last Saturday Night” provides details about the burning of Theophilus A. Wylie’s barn.

Sources:

Before and After drawings of Wylie House Out Building Fire, undated, Theophilus A. Wylie papers, Collection C202, Office of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Before and After drawings of Wylie House Out Building Fire, March 1883, The Wylie, Boisen and Bradley Families Papers & Ephemera, Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington

Wylie House, Yard with Out Buildings, undated, Theophilus A. Wylie papers, Collection C202, Office of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

3 April 1881-6 September 1885, Theophilus A. Wylie papers, Collection C202, Office of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Wylie House Docent Manual, 2011 ed., Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington.

Utility building photograph, 2005.003.1155, 1890-1898, Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington.

TAW III’s memory map, 1954, Wylie House Museum, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington.

Bloomington Progress, Vol. 16 (49), 21 March 1883.

 

Blog post written by: Sarah Rogers, graduate student

The History of Seed Saving

Here is a photo of a collection of seeds from www.financialtribune.com

According to the Center for Food Safety, throughout the past 40 years, the U.S. has led a radical shift toward commercialization, consolidation, and control of seed. Prior to the start of industrial agriculture, there were thousands of seed companies and public breeding institutions. At present, the top 10 seed and chemical companies, with the majority stake owned by U.S. corporations, control 73 percent of the global market. Today less than 2 percent of Americans are farmers compared to 90 percent in 1810 (2012). Seed saving is crucial and the reason for crops every year. With the rise of modern agricultural practices, genetic crop diversity has declined. While seed saving may be a hobby to some, the saving and sharing of rare, heirloom, and native seeds has always been, and still is, an important part of our worldwide food security.  In agriculture and gardening, seed saving is the practice of saving seeds or other reproductive material from vegetablesgrainherbs, and flowers for use from year to year for annuals and nutstree fruits, and berries for perennials and trees. This is the traditional way farms and gardens were maintained for the last 12,000 years (Wikipedia, 2017).  Benefits of seed saving include: engaging in the cycle of life, preserving heirloom varieties, encouraging genetic diversity, and saving money. A few tips for storing seeds are: gather seeds and let them dry on newspaper for a few days. Mark seeds with a post-it-note so you remember what type of seed they are. Remember, if you want to save your own seeds, you’ll need to plant open-pollinated varieties. They’ll come back while hybrids won’t. Keep seed packets in plastic food storage bags, plastic film canisters, Mason jars with tight-fitting lids, or glass canisters. Once you’ve gotten your storing container, store in a cool and dry environment.  Store each year’s seeds together and date them because most seeds last up to about three years.

 

This post was written by Sarah Kihn on October 25, 2017.

An Introduction to Floriculture at the Wylie House

Starting this fall, Indiana University’s Wylie House Museum and Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology began a joint bicentennial project that will be ongoing until 2020. The purpose is to discover more about IU Bloomington’s cultural heritage, protect local archaeological resources, contribute information to enrich the university’s mission, and to supplement the documentation and interpretation of campus history. The first stage of this joint project focuses on the Wylie House, which was built in 1835 and was the home of IU’s first president, Andrew Wylie, and his family. Research efforts are being made to expand more on what is currently known about the house gardens and 19th century floriculture as a whole and specifically relating to the Bloomington area.

“Wylie House”, around 1900, P0071638 – Image courtesy of Indiana University Archives

The resources currently being used to better understand Wylie House floriculture are the “Affectionately Yours”, a two volume compendium of Wylie Family letters, historic photographs from the Indiana University Archives Photo Collection, a sketch map drawn by Theophilus Wylie, Louisa Wylie’s essay on gardening, and various text sources outside of the Wylie House and IU Archives. These sources provide first-person documentation of the types of flowers and other plants that the Wylie family grew during their time living in the Wylie House. Smilax, fuchsias, geraniums, begonias, and roses are the flowers that are most often mentioned in the Wylie family letters. The letters also mention that the family often bought plants from a “Heinl” who gets imports from France, as well as trading for seeds with others from all over Indiana and from other states.

Another important aspect of this bicentennial project is uncovering more information about the garden “pits” that the Wylies had in their front yard. These “pits” were small shelter-like containers built into the ground to house plants during cold or bad weather so they didn’t wilt or die. There are a few photos of these Wylie House pits, as well as a drawing and mentions of them in the Wylie family letters.

Garden pit visible in right foreground in between house and stone wall. Cyanotype real picture postcard of Wylie House”, 1907 May, P0071637 – Image courtesy of Indiana University Archives

Today, the Wylie House Museum shares the life of the Wylies who lived there, mainly focusing on the second  Wylie family, Theophilius Wylie and his family. The Wylie House also has an heirloom seed-saving garden in which flowers, herbs, and vegetables that were grown in the Bloomington area prior 1875. In this way, the museum attempts to both accurately reflect the historic property as well as share these varieties and growing practices with the community. The exact varieties of all of the plants is a mystery we  hope to solve through this bicentennial project.

 

Sources

Herald, Elaine, and Jo Burgess. “Affectionately Yours, Volume I.” IUScholarWorks,

Indiana University, 2011, scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/20330.

Herald, Elaine, and Jo Burgess. “Affectionately Yours, Volume II.” IUScholarWorks,

Indiana University, 2011, scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/20331.

The Theophilus Adam Wylie Family Correspondence, Wylie House Museum, Indiana

University Libraries, Bloomington

 

This blog post by Bicentennial intern Maclaren Guthrie is featured on Indiana University’s Bicentennial website:

http://blogs.iu.edu/bicentennialblogs/2017/10/17/an-introduction-to-wylie-house-floriculture/

Continuation of Wylie First Nation’s History

Continuing our look into the First Nations that resided within the Indiana area, we will be exploring the background and culture of the Delaware Tribe, or Lenape. The Delaware tribe, much like the Miami that we explored in our previously blog post, were not originally from the Indiana area, but instead were forced out as a result of external stimuli and armed confrontation. Just as the Miami had fought with the Iroquois tribe in conflicts over possession of fur for trading with Dutch and French settlers and traders, the Delaware were pushed out through a series of conflicts with both European colonists and other tribes.

Specifically, a refusal by Europeans to trade firearms to the Delaware insured that they were not as well armed as other Native tribes.[1] This refusal came from the close proximity of the Delaware to the coastal regions first settled by Europeans and fears that arming the Lenape with modern weapons would pose a serious threat to the colonies, the end result though was to weaken the Delaware in regards to other tribes.

As these other, well-armed tribes sought to expand, they gradually forced out the Delaware people from their original home along the Eastern seaboard[2] and this gradually forced them westward, first to the Ohio region in the 1700’s and eventually arriving in what would become Indiana in approximately 1800 C.E.[3]

Prior to the move to Indiana, the Delaware tribes engaged in treaties with the United State continental army during the American Revolutionary War, making them “the first Indian tribe to enter into a treaty with the new United States government”[4] through the signing of the Treaty of Fort Pitt (1778). In this treaty, and subsequent ones, the Lenape tribe was deeply divided. Members of the tribe were unable to agree on whom, if anyone, they should help during the war and to what extent. While a portion of the Lenape people signed the Treaty of Fort Pitt, others fought against the Americans; leading to the destruction of the village of Coshocton in 1781.[5]

Physically trapped between the British and American forces during the war, and ideologically divided amongst themselves on who, if anyone, to ally with, the Lenape were unable to bring the whole of their people together to deal with one external threat at a time, and were gradually weakened through continual fighting and internal division. This weakening lead to a “crowding out”[6] and eventual displacement of the Delaware people, resulting in relocation to Missouri and Canada.

Culturally, the Lenape people were a matriarchal and matrilineal tribe, a quality that Europeans interacting with and writing about the Delaware, found perplexing and unfamiliar.[7] Additionally, the Delaware tribe were an agrarian-based society the focused on a sedentary lifestyle of large-scale agriculture in the form of farming corn, beans, and squash supplemented through fishing as a resulted of their costal location at the time of first European contact.[8]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenape

[2] ibid

[3] https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/Delaware_Indians

[4] http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/del1778.asp

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenape

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

First Nation’s History at the Wylie

At the Wylie House our mission is to preserve the material and social culture and to interpret the history of the Wylie family and the early history of Indiana. Our goal in doing so is to create an educational space that is accessible for all ages and groups, and to ensure that all stories are given voice, respect, and consideration. In our ongoing effort to ensure that all groups are represented in our commitment to ethical and accurate historic interpretation, we have begun efforts to more greatly highlight the First Nations cultures of Indiana.

While there is little information regarding direct interactions or comments between members of the Wylie family and indigenous peoples, we believe strongly that the historical story we tell should not begin in the 1800s, and that in order to fully appreciate the depth and breadth of Indiana history, we should begin with the earliest cultures that resided throughout what would become Indiana. In this blog post, and those following it, we will be examining some of these cultures in-depth and discussing their historic and geographical roots, elements of their culture and social structure, and their interactions with settlers in the Indiana territory.

While numerous tribes had varying degrees of presence within the territory that would become Indiana, there were several major tribes that resided across the land in greater numbers. The original tribes to inhabit this area were the Illini, Miami, and Shawnee tribes, while the Delaware, Iroquois, Potawatomi, and others, migrated after the arrival of Europeans along the Eastern Seaboard.[1] As one of the largest of these tribes, we will begin by looking at the Miami tribe in this post.

Originally migrating south from Wisconsin as a result of pressure from the Iroquois tribe seeking territory rich in fur during the initial contact with European fur traders, the Miami tribe moved further down along the great lakes region until eventually arriving in Indiana. From this point, they spread across the whole of the future state; the Miami tribe itself largely residing along the upper Wabash, but the smaller bands which comprised the Miami and would eventually become independent tribes[2] (such as the Wea) established their presence throughout.

Miami communities were based in settlements ranging from several hundred to several thousand individuals and were highly-dependent on a maize-centered agricultural backbone.[3] This was supplemented through hunting and gathering and was dependent on a sex-based division of labor, with women working the fields and preparing the meat brought back from hunting done by men.[4]

The Miami largely supported the British throughout the American War of Independence, and continued to fight against American settlers afterwards, including the battle of St. Clair’s Defeat approximately at present-day Fort Recovery, Ohio; considered to be “the worst defeat of an American army by Native Americans.”[5] The end of the “Indian Wars” saw numerous treaties such as the Treaty of Greenville and the Ten O’clock Line Treaty which ceded large tracts of Native Territory to white settlers who began to gradually push westwards. We will be exploring these treaties and their repercussions in more detail in the future.

[1] http://www.native-languages.org/indiana.htm

[2] http://www.in.gov/dnr/files/hind.pdf

[3] http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/united-states-and-canada/north-american-indigenous-peoples/miami-indians

[4] ibid

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami_people

A Little Known Collection and a Famous Poet!

Elizabeth Bishop at Camp Chequesset, Cape Cod

(Written by Richard Larimer, student intern)

In our archives we have several personal, archival collections related to the Wylie Family. One particularly unique collection is a box of letters from Elizabeth Bishop, the famous poet and writer, to Louise Bradley. Louise Bradley (1908-1979) was the great-granddaughter of Theophilus and Rebecca Wylie. Louise grew up and lived a majority of her life in Arlington, Massachusetts. As she got older she briefly attended Indiana University before transferring to Radcliffe College. Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) was a prominent poet and author of short stories. Her career is marked with many prestigious awards such as the Pulitzer Prize of Poetry and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. She even served as the Poet Laureate, was a professor at Harvard, and was close friends with famous writers like Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell. For an individual who seems to have had so much success, Elizabeth’s life was plagued with tragedy. At a young age her father died and her mother, suffering from mental illness, was committed to an asylum. With no parents, she was raised by a succession of family members and at one point was molested by her uncle. Throughout the rest of her life she experienced loss, alcoholism, and depression.

Elizabeth and Louise first met in the mid 1920’s at a summer camp in Massachusetts. Their friendship would last for many years; the collection’s letters date from 1925, right after the two girls first met, to 1950. This collection shows fascinating insight into the mind of a young Elizabeth Bishop and spans the course of many events including Louise’s time at IU to which Bishop writes, “I know you can’t ever enjoy yourself there, but I hope you don’t mind it so much. (Dec. 5, 1926)” and, “Someday the whole of Indiana U. may blow up. If so you will know that it is only me taking my revenge on it for hurting you (Nov 26, 1926)”.

It is clear from Elizabeth’s writing that the two girls grew very close. Often Elizabeth wrote Louise to share poetry and fantasize of a future where they ran away together. “Louise—is it right for a young woman to trail off to the ends of the earth—Norway—India—alone? And live in strange places and do strange things—or two young women. You come with me. When my — — — education is finished. Lets. And then retire to Ireland and raise bees and live by the ocean in a stone cottage and write poetry for a living. Oh!! Will you! I have given up caring what people think about me…(August 29, 1926)”.  It is well known that Elizabeth was a lesbian and throughout her young life crushed on the girls close to her. It is not entirely unlikely that Elizabeth viewed Louise in a romantic way. Because there are no letters from Louise, and Elizabeth never explicitly admits any romantic feelings for her, we cannot be certain. This does however raise a question: how can the Wylie House, or museums in general, do a better job of interpreting the histories of LGBTQ figures? It can be difficult as their stories are sometimes not told, but it is a topic we hope to explore more in the near future.

In honor of National Poetry Month here is one of Elizabeth’s early poems that she sent to Louise. It was written in March of 1926. To our knowledge this poem, and many of the other poems within this collection, were never published.
(Untitled)
The night’s fingers tapped on the window
And beckoned me out to the darkness,
To sing in the splotches of star-dust,
To dance in the intricate shadows
But ah! She has darkly betrayed me,
I am caught in a spell of her brewing.
I can never return for she bound me
By a witchery the moon leaned to tell her.
The cold moon has turned to my mother
And the wind is a brother beside me.
I am part of the earth and the blackness
Until the gray dawn of the morning.

Louise Bradley at Camp Chequesset, Cape Cod

Louise Bradley and Elizabeth Bishop Correspondence, 1925-1950

 

A photograph from the Wylie House collection is identified!

The Wylie House image collection contains numerous photographs of unidentified people, or people whose identifies are unconfirmed.

Recently, this image of a beautiful woman adorned in white was identified by her great-grandson, who was conducting genealogy research.

Pictured here is Madame Layyah Barakat of Syria.

According to Gary Wirstad, Madame Barakat’s great-grandson, she was born in Abieh, Lebanon (then Syria) in 1857 and died in 1940. He writes:

“As a young girl, she became acquainted with Christian missionaries from America.  After she married Elias Barakat (from Damascus) they, and their first child, my great aunt Emily, fled the violence in their land, coming to America to seek those sponsors who had provided for her education through the missionaries.

She settled in Philadelphia and became a lecturer on the Christian missionary movement; she was quite well known in those circles and published two or three books on her experiences. She eventually founded a Christian school for orphan girls in Lebanon.”

In conjunction with Women’s History Month, we celebrate Madame Barakat’s remarkable strength and resilience in overcoming adversity, living a meaningful and inspirational life, and making the place of her birth a better version of itself before her death.

Evidence of her legacy can be found in the books she wrote, newspaper articles written about her and of course, her family. Below is a resource of links that will take you to various newspaper articles that mention Madame Barakat. Also of interest is her Smithsonian Institution record, where her photograph is part of the Faris and Yamna Naff Arab American Collection, ca. 1880-1950.

Mr. Wirstad writes:

“In one of her books, ‘Lebanon: A Harvest of Love’, she goes into great detail on the hardship of securing passage to America, and their almost hopeless quest to find her sponsor, once in Philadelphia.

She would be considered remarkable by today’s standards, but to sail here unexpected, without funds, possessions, or English language skills, find her sponsor (Dr. Jessup of the Walnut St. Presbyterian church) knowing only his name, and to overcome these adversities to eventually see her sons graduate from Penn [University of Pennsylvania], seems incredible for anyone in the 1880s.”

We at Wylie House whole-heartedly agree.

Wylie House is unable to pinpoint the exact connection between Madame Barakat and the Wylie family, but we think it is likely through their shared connections to Philadelphia (where Theophilus Wylie was born) and their work within Christian communities, particularly the W.C.T.U. [Woman’s Christian Temperance Union]. We thank Gary Wirstad for confirming her identity and sharing the beautiful and inspiring story of Madame Layyah Barakat with us.

 

Newspaper Articles Mentioning Madame Barakat and her husband, Elias:

Friends of Temperance. The times. (Washington [D.C.]), 03 Dec. 1900. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85054468/1900-12-03/ed-1/seq-5/>

W.C.T.U. Holds Its 32D Annual Session. Evening public ledger. (Philadelphia [Pa.]), 06 June 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045211/1916-06-06/ed-1/seq-8/>

Madame Layyah Barakat Is Interesting Speaker. The Bristol Daily Courier. (Bristol [Pa.]), 11 May 1925. Newspapers.com. <https://www.newspapers.com/clip/3010291/layyah_expects_to_return_to_syria_1925/>

Elias Barakat Speaks. Reading Times. (Reading [Pa.]), 14 February 1884. Newspapers.com <https://www.newspapers.com/clip/2997003/elias_barakat_speaks/>

 

Other Resources:

Indiana University’s Image Collections Online is the digital repository for numerous image collections. Explore here!

 

This post written by graduate student Sarah Rogers.

African-American History Month at Wylie House

In honor of African-American History Month, Wylie House is pleased to feature two notable African-Americans who made history in Bloomington, Indiana and lived with the Theophilus A. Wylie family in the last half of the 19th century.

Lizzie Breckenridge

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Breckenridge was an African-American woman born in Bedford, Indiana on July 5, 1843. In 1856, the Theophilus A. Wylie family employed Lizzie at the age of 13 as their domestic servant, where she stayed for nearly 45 years.

While living with the TA Wylie family, Lizzie learned to read and write. She developed a rich taste in literature and took special interest in astronomy. Lizzie never married, but she eventually saved enough money to purchase her own home, an important accomplishment for an African-American woman in her day. Lizzie’s home was located on S. Washington Street.

We know from an article published in the Indianapolis News in 1903 that Lizzie attended the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Bloomington, the same church attended by the Wylie family. This article, found on Page 7 of the newspaper, provides background information about Lizzie’s family.

Covenanter Presbyterians who left southern states in favor of Indiana’s position against the practice of slavery formed the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Bloomington. The church was originally located on land adjacent to the Covenanter Cemetery, where Lizzie is buried. She passed away on September 25, 1910 at the age of 67.

Harvey Young

Harvey Young came to Bloomington from Indianapolis in 1882 to enroll at Indiana University and was the first African-American to do so. Theophilus A Wylie, in a journal entry dated August 20, 1882 wrote, “Harvey Young, graduate of Indiana High School came last Thursday intending to enter the Freshman class. He is well recommended has a good appearance – Intelligent & neat – will be a pioneer colored student in the College – Hope he will do well –”. Harvey Young boarded with the Wylie family for at least his first semester in 1883.

We know from a journal entry that on at least one occasion Harvey attended church with the Wylie family. In another entry dated November 11, 1883 Theophilus writes, ““Friday night Athenian Society had the opening of its new Hall. Harvey Young (Aithiops) one of the speakers. – Such a thing would not have been tolerated 25 yrs ago. – The world moves. –”  Note: Aethiops – antiquated term used to denote the dark complexion of an individual from Ethiopia.

Harvey did not graduate from Indiana University, but rather returned to Indianapolis after three semesters to become a public school teacher in the Indianapolis Public School system. We know from articles published in the Indianapolis News that Harvey taught at IPS schools #19, #23, and #24 from 1885 to 1895. Census records were unable to determine his whereabouts following 1895.

The Underground Railroad and Wylie House

Visitors to Wylie House sometimes ask if the home was part of the Underground Railroad. We cannot verify that it was, but accounts from older local area residents lend support to the idea that it could have been.

According to VisitBloomington.com, “The Covenanters, a group of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians from South Carolina, had settled just outside Bloomington by 1821.  Believing that slavery was a moral evil, the Covenanters acted on their principles and during the Civil War provided a way station for escaped slaves traveling north on the Underground Railroad.” Both Andrew and Theophilus A. Wylie were active members of the Bloomington Reformed Presbyterian Church, so it is reasonable to believe they also held these views.

An article published in the September 1917 issue of Indiana Magazine of History entitled, “The Underground Railroad in Monroe County” identifies local individuals, church members, and contemporaries of the Wylies who are believed to have been active participants in the Underground Railroad.

Additional Resources:

Wylie House is happy to assist with reference requests. Please contact us at libwylie.indiana.edu.

Quick Links:

IU Archives Online

Monroe County Historical Society

Monroe County Public Library

National Archives Census Records

Indiana Newspaper Online Archive

Indianapolis News Online Archive