Exploring the Library of Theophilus Adam Wylie

Written by Abe Nemon, Wylie House Intern and IU Graduate Student

May 6, 2020

historic books and furniture
Theophilus Adam Wylie’s library in the Morton C. Bradley, Jr. Education Center

In the top of a bookcase at the Wylie House Museum, in a room which houses the working library of former Indiana University interim president and university librarian Theophilus Adam Wylie (1810 – 1895), there is a plaque on display that communicates the intentions of Theophilus Wylie’s grandchildren, Anton T. Boisen and Marie Louisa Boisen, in donating their grandfather’s library to Indiana University: “It is placed here by [Theophilus Wylie’s] grandchildren in the belief that it has a story to tell of the type of culture and scholarship for which the university stood in the days when it was young.” But what is that story? I began my internship with Wylie House Museum this Spring with the vague understanding that T.A. Wylie was a professor of natural sciences at Indiana University and was also a Presbyterian minister; but as my research into the provenance of Theophilus Wylie’s books has deepened, I’ve come to see that Theophilus Wylie’s grandchildren were right: his library tells a fascinating story not only about the history of Indiana University, but also about historical developments – in science, religion, industry, immigration, and slavery – that reshaped America in the decades leading up to the Civil War.

plaque stating "library of Theophilus Adam Wylie Professor of Natural Philosophy Indiana University from 1837 to 1886
Plaque donated by Anton and Marie Louisa Boisen

A principal concept in the field of archives is respect des fonds, which means keeping a collection of materials together instead of scattering them to different parts of a library, with the idea that the provenance – or source of origin – can tell us a great deal about how the materials were used, when and why they were obtained, and how the books traveled over the course of their lives. The major task of my internship with the Wylie House Museum and the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab has been to examine each book one-by-one in order to correct and build upon inventories of these books made by previous students and staff at the Wylie House. These enhancements included ensuring that each item was findable through accurate location data, that multivolume sets were reunited and consolidated into single records, that main titles and additional title information were recorded separately from spine labels, and that authors were identified not just by their names as written in the book, but also by an authorized name from the Library of Congress Name Authority File (LCNAF) which would allow each book to be linked to a specific person in history. Standardizing this data is important because it allows the library to be analyzed in its totality – for example, by charting historical trends in what subject areas, places of publication, and publishers are most represented over the course of Theophilus Wylie’s career as a collector, which can inform both an analysis of his activities and interests as well as providing a snapshot of sorts of the history of the book in America during the nineteenth century.

Theophilus Wylie: Minister and Professor of Natural Philosophy

Theophilus A. Wylie

Theophilus Wylie was initially hired by Indiana University as the college’s professor of natural philosophy and chemistry, in 1837 when his cousin Dr. Andrew Wylie was the institution’s president. He had been born in Philadelphia, attended the University of Pennsylvania from 1828 until 1833, and had been licensed as a Reformed Presbyterian minister in 1836, but when he arrived in Bloomington his focus quickly turned to the sciences, and in his early career he is credited with building the university’s first chemistry lab in 1840, with introducing geology instruction to the university, and appears to have become the university librarian after 1841, serving “until 1879, a period of thirty-eight years, the longest tenure” of any university librarian at the institution.[i] He later was appointed to serve as Professor of Ancient Languages from 1863 to1867 and as chair of Natural Philosophy from 1867 to 1886, and was called on to serve as the interim president of the university on three occasions, in 1859, 1860, and 1875.[ii] Though he was never chosen as the institution’s permanent president, the Indiana University catalogue from the years 1854 to 1856 places Wylie third on its list of faculty, and from the 1857-1858 to the 1892-1893 catalogues, he was never placed lower than second.[iii] Despite his longevity and apparent influence, T.A. Wylie seems to have had a retiring demeanor, as attested by his former student and colleague Amzi Atwater:

A student who should have met Doctor Wylie on the street in those days-a man of small stature and weak voice and half diffident, unworldly manner certainly far from self-confidence-would hardly have been able rightly to estimate him. In order to do so, he would need to visit him in his rare old home and see him in the midst of his most interesting family and accept their generous hospitality. He would thus see him surrounded by every indication of old time learning and refinement such as few have enjoyed. He would see him in the midst of his books, his pictures, his ancestral portraits and paintings and mementos of other times and scenes. Only thus would he realize his hereditary touch with scholars, divines and great missionaries and the noble forces leading to the world’s advancement.

I would agree that spending time with Theophilus Wylie’s books is one of the best ways to get to know him. His library attests to the breadth of his interests, which encompassed classical Greek and Latin literature, theology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology and what was then known as “practical science” or mechanics. His books were evidently read, as many contain annotations, mathematical formulas, and numerous drawings of faces and other odd scenes that could serve as material for a study in themselves. Though more of Theophilus Wylie’s time was taken up with scientific topics than literary ones, he was a long time reader of literary periodicals like the Edinburgh Review (TAW 0375) and the Quarterly Review (0461), and his library contains the occasional literary surprise, like an 1836 copy of Robert Southey’s anonymously published Robert Burton-style miscellany, The Doctor (TAW 0173).

Two Kinds of Books in Theophilus Wylie’s Library

Samuel B. Wylie

Soon after I began examining the books in Theophilus Wylie’s library, however, I began to notice an overall pattern in terms of their subject matter and apparent provenance. While many of the books were about scientific subjects and were signed by Theophilus Wylie, a large portion of the books – no fewer than 80 separate titles – are also signed “S.B. Wylie,” “Samuel B. Wylie,” “SBW,” “Sam. B. Wylie,” which I subsequently learned were abbreviations of the name of Theophilus Wylie’s father, Samuel Brown Wylie (1773 – 1852), a Reformed Presbyterian minister and classical scholar who has turned out to be a more and more significant figure the more I have learned about him. Samuel Brown Wylie was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1803 until his death. He was made a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1806, was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Dickinson College in 1816, and was made Professor of Ancient Languages at the University of Pennsylvania in 1828, and then served as the Vice-Provost of the university from 1834 to 1835. In an entry in the Rev. John L. Blake’s Biographical Dictionary published in Philadelphia in 1857, Blake writes that “Few men have ranked higher than Dr. Wylie in classical literature and theological attainments—as a successful teacher, a good pastor, or a practical Christian.”[i]

The books bearing Samuel B. Wylie’s signature cluster into a handful of categories, which (before I performed any research) told me quite a bit about his interests. They include reference works reflecting Samuel B. Wylie’s status as a scholar of classical philology, such as a 1823 copy of Alexander Murray’s A History of the European Languages (TAW 0219), an 1831 New Greek and English Lexicon by James Donnegan (TAW 0577), Josiah W. Gibbs’s Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (TAW 0441), etc. A great number of these books are editions of Greek and Latin writers, Lucian, Juvenal, Sophocles, Pliny, Lucretius, Herodotus, Horace etc., as well as 40 volumes of the Classical Journal. But while most of the books attributable to Samuel B. Wylie relate to classical philology, there are also a surprisingly large number of books on scientific and technical subjects, such as Gregory Olinthus’s Treatise on Astronomy and James Ferguson’s Astronomy Explained Upon Sir Isaac Newton’s Principles  (TAW 0263 & TAW 0266), John Winthrop’s Two Lectures on Comets (TAW 0065), George Adams’s Astronomical and Geographical Essays (TAW 0265), and Jacob Bigelow’s Elements of Technology (TAW 0237). The presence of scientific tracts in Samuel B. Wylie’s collection is less surprising however when we consider his membership and active service in panels of the American Philosophical Society, a position that brought him into contact at the society’s meetings with prominent figures like founding father Thomas Jefferson, the chemist Robert M. Patterson, and the geologist William H. Keating. There are also among the books Theophilus Wylie inherited from Samuel B. Wylie a number of older books from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including a monumental six-volume set of Brian Walton’s polyglot Bible of 1657 (TAW 0471) and a 1672 copy of the works of Descartes printed by Daniel Elzevir (TAW 0112.)

Why Science?

Beyond the books that may be classed as Samuel B. Wylie-related books, there are a larger number of books related to the sciences, and these are signed by Theophilus Wylie and not his father. As Shawn Martin found in his examination of Theophilus Wylie’s library, the authors of these books seem generally to be his contemporaries in the larger world of early nineteenth century British and American science.[1] And yet, the science books in the library seemed to form such a distinct group that I felt there had to be some more meaningful story behind this polarity I had come across – between science and invention on one-side, and the religion and classics-oriented world of Samuel B. Wylie on the other. There had to be a reason why Theophilus Wylie would move away from his father’s calling as a minister and into this new world of science and technology. Unlike J. Lawrence Smith (whose vision of scientific engagement Shawn Martin contrasts with Wylie’s), there was little in Theophilus Wylie’s background prior to 1837 which connected him in any official capacity with the world of science. What formal ties can be discerned from T.A. Wylie’s journal consist in his education at the University of Pennsylvania and his father’s membership in the American Philosophical Society. In order to answer the question, “Why did Theophilus Wylie choose science?” I had to go beyond the library and consult other sources, such as the journal Wylie wrote from 1835 till the end of his life.

The journals show that Theophilus Wylie did have informal connections to the world of early American science even when he was still in Philadelphia. He was a close friend of John Fries Frazer (1812 – 1872), the future editor of The Journal of the Franklin Institute and a successor in the position of Vice Provost of the University of Pennsylvania to Samuel B. Wylie, who after Frazer lost both of his parents when he was eight years old, “who took the youth into his family, and brought him up as one of his own children, while preparing him to enter the University of Pennsylvania, where he was graduated in 1828, at the head of his class.”[2] In 1835, Frazer was an assistant geologist working for the University of Pennsylvania under Henry Darwin Rogers and helping him produce his geological surveys of the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, both of which are represented in T.A. Wylie’s library (TAW 0402 & TAW 0402), although the former is actually inscribed by Rogers to Samuel B. Wylie. (Also bearing Samuel B. Wylie’s name is T.A. Wylie’s copy of the Geological Manual written by Henry Thomas De La Beche [TAW 0267], who Rogers had studied under in Europe before returning to Philadelphia in the early 1830s.[3]) During the years 1835 – 1837, Rogers was off visiting Europe to raise money for Girard College, at that time a brand new boarding school for orphan boys in Philadelphia, and in Theophilus Wylie’s journal he reports visiting Girard College on a number of occasions with Frazier.

But a keystone event in the history of T.A. Wylie’s development into a professor of natural philosophy would seem to be the trip he reports taking with Frazer on August 25, 1835 up to geological sites around the Manayunk banks on the Schuykill River. In this lengthy entry to his journal, Wylie waxed poetically about the scenery and the minerals that Frazer shows him – “the place was delightful, and we spent an agreeable half hour in it, just such a place, would the ancients have dedicated to Diana, or some of the Potamides.” After returning home, he goes the next day to talk to Frazer again, and “while in his room looked at some admirable etchings by Retsch, for the song of the bell, nothing for a long time has pleased me so much, there cannot be more poetry in this poem itself than there is in the sketches.” Though it is hard to say whether Wylie’s relationship with Frazer was the definitive factor in leading him to pursue a career in the sciences, Wylie’s palpable enthusiasm for geology contrasts with the anxiety he feels over his competency to be a minister, which he evinces in a number of journal entries preceding his move to Bloomington, afterward reflecting, “Do we serve God more by trying to attend to subjects which do not interest us, or by meditating on things which do, even though they be not of the kind commonly considered religious?” Nonetheless, Wylie did continue to preach and served as the pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Bloomington from 1838 until 1869.[4]

Where Did the Books Come From?

A distinct shift happens in T.A. Wylie’s journal after he is hired as professor of natural philosophy and chemistry at Indiana University as Wylie reports purchasing and using a large volume of books on the sciences. And when we examine the distribution of publication dates across all of Theophilus Wylie’s books, it does appear that the greatest portion of them were acquired in the two decades after he took on the role of Professor of Chemistry and Natural Philosophy in 1837, with his purchasing activity cooling off after 1860.

graph of publication date distribution of T.A. Wylie Library

The question of how the books were acquired is a thorny one, because they can be traced to a wide variety of sources. As James R. Green describes the situation in the early years of the American publishing industry in his chapter of A History of the Book in America, Volume II, the work of publishers was not wholly distinct in this period from that of booksellers.[5] On several occasions we find Theophilus Wylie report that he went to “Mr. Dobson’s” to buy books and maps, and this favored bookseller is apparently Judah Dobson, who also served as the main publisher of the Journal of the Franklin Institute and was the son of Thomas Dobson, a Philadelphia publisher most famous for adapting the Encylopaedia Britannica to the American market as Dobson’s Encylopaedia.[6] But the books Wylie purchases from Judah Dobson are not, for the most part, published by Dobson, because the primary source of Dobson’s revenue is not his original publications, but rather his bookstore and distribution of imported book from other publishers. By Theophilus Wylie’s time, the publishing and bookselling industry had become highly cooperative.

Early on, American publishers primary focused on reprinting British books and distributing them within geographically limited distribution areas. The publishing houses that ultimately became the most successful in the mid-nineteenth century both produced original books and developed extensive distribution partnerships with local booksellers in far flung places like Cincinnati, Louisville, Indianapolis, and eventually Bloomington. We can see evidence of both sides of these publisher-bookseller partnerships in Theophilus Wylie’s library. First, we can see that among the cities listed for Place of Publication, a handful of cities dominate:

Date Distribution – Places of Publication

City Frequency Percentage Average Yr Median Yr Mode St.Dev.
New York 270 27% 1851 1850 1853 19
Philadelphia 211 21% 1845 1843 1845 18.6
London 111 11% 1802 1821 1831 57.7
Boston 90 9% 1854 1851 1882 22.6
Cincinnati 63 6% 1851 1852 1850 9.9
Indianapolis 23 2% 1864 1859 1859 17.7
Other 235 23% 1817 1836 1834 65.3
Total 1014 100% 1836 1844 1845 46.0

We can see likewise the dominance of publishers with large distribution networks, like the firm of Matthew Carey in Philadelphia, later to become Carey, Lea, and Blanchard, and Harper & Brothers of New York, who became more market-dominant as the century wore on:

Number of Books By Publisher

Publisher Number of Books City Located In
Harper & Brothers 55 New York
Carey, Lea, & Blanchard 28 Philadelphia
D. Appleton & Company 12 New York
James Munroe and Company 7 Boston

There were some nascent publishing industries in both Cincinnati and Indianapolis from the 1830s onward, but they both late and faded early due to the development of train networks that made regional hubs for book distribution lose importance. Once Theophilus Wylie moved to Bloomington, however, the existence of local booksellers continued to be important because these booksellers were able to order books from the large publishers of the major cities. We can see evidence of this in Theophilus Wylie’s library in the form of bookseller stickers inside the books. Hence William Enfield’s Institutes of Natural Philosophy, Theoretical and Practical (1832), a book published by the Boston firm Hilliard, Gray, Little, Wilkins, has a sticker stating that it was “Sold by Morton & Smith, Booksellers & Stationers, Louisville” (TAW 0272), and there are similar bookseller stickers for other merchants in Philadelphia, Lexington, KY, Bloomington, and Mitchell, IN. We can see multiple references in Theophilus Wylie’s journals to one of these distributors, Joseph Whetham (“Mr. Whitham”) in scattered journal entries from the Fall of 1838, when Wylie is traveling back from Bloomington to Philadelphia to get married, and upon his return he has ordered “the box of books from Whitham wt. 25 cost to P. 1.56.” He notes in another entry that he has “Ordered from Mr. Whitham,” what appears to be classroom sets of textbooks:

  • 20 copies Farnais Mec at 2.75
  • 25 copies Turners – at 2.00
  • 25 copies Baehis Brewster  .20
  • 1 Olmstead 5.00
  • vide [see] bill

He later writes that “5 dos or a dollar’s worth of Catechisms were not sent by Whitham,” and later notes paying some $145 dollars to Whihtam, and makes reference to Whitham transporting the materials “to Pittsburgh.” Whitham may perhaps be identified (by a bookseller’s sticker) as Joseph Whetham – a copy of R.A. Davenport’s Manual of Analytical Chemistry published in London by Thomas Tegg is labeled as, “Imported by J. Whetham, Theological & Classical Bookseller, No. 144 Chesnut street, Philadelphia” – by it is difficult to ascertain if Whetham would have been responsible for the entire transportation of these books from Philadelphia to Bloomington or if his job was merely to get them on a boat in Pittsburgh, whereby they might be sent on to Cincinnati or Louisville to be picked up and taken the rest of the way. Here, as is often the case when dealing with original documents, the picture we get is only partial.

One lingering question that I had while examining Theophilus Wylie’s library was how he knew which books to order from New York and Philadelphia, or which to acquire on his occasional trips back. The Indiana University Catalogues from 1854 onward list books that were used as classroom texts for various courses that were taught in the sciences, and it is frequently found that these books are not only present in Theophilus’s library, but they are often heavily annotated, indicating that were used directly in the course of Theophilus’s lectures. But as to how T.A. Wylie kept abreast of the latest textbooks and development in the sciences, the answer would seem to lie in his sets of periodicals like the Edinburgh Review (TAW 0375), the Quarterly Review (TAW 0461) and the Journal of the Franklin Institute (TAW 0625), where he not only would be able to read scientific papers but also reviews and advertisements of the latest publications.

[1] “Biographical Notes,” Theophilus A. Wylie papers, 1814-1992, bulk 1830-1895, Indiana University Archives. Accessed here. Lane, N. Gary, Geology at Indiana University, 1840-2000, Bloomington, Ind. : Dept. of Geological Sciences, Indiana University, 2000, pp. 1-8. This estimate of T.A. Wylie’s tenure as university librarian by Mildred H. Lowell in her 1957 dissertation, Indiana University Libraries, 1829-1942, pp. 41-43, needs to be adjusted downward to account for his two years at Miami University from 1852 to 1854.

[2] Atwater, Amzi. “Indiana University Forty Years Ago.” The Indiana Magazine of History, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 146–148.

[3] The Indiana University Catalogue … Register … Announcements. Bloomington, IN, 1854-1895.

[4]Blake, Rev. John L., “Wylie, Samuel Brown, D.D.,” A biographical dictionary : comprising a summary account of the lives of the most distinguished persons of all ages, nations, and professions; including more than two thousand articles of American biography, 13th ed., Philadelphia : H. Cowperthwait & co., 1859., p. 1355.

[5] Martin, Shawn, “A Tale of Two Models: Theophilus A. Wylie and Higher Education in Nineteenth-Century Indiana,” Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 115, No. 1 (March 2019), pp. 20-41.

[6] “Frazer, John Fries,” The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, New York : James T. White & Company, 1898, p. 348.

[7] “Sketch of Henry Darwin Rogers.” Popular Science Monthly, Vol. 50, December 1896.

[8] Hammel, Bob and Don Root. “Church History.” United Presbyterian Church, Bloomington. URL: https://upcbloomington.org/church-history/

[9] Cf. James N. Green’s essay, “Part 1: The Rise of Book Publishing,” in A History of the Book in America, Volume 2, An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 1790-1840, Gross, Robert. A and Mary Kelly, eds., Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

[10] Cf. Arner, Robert D. (1991). Dobson’s Encyclopaedia: The Publisher, Text, and Publication of America’s First Britannica, 1789-1803. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Wylie Remixed: Call and Response Exhibit Introduction

8 framed silhouette portraits sitting on green fireplace mantleIn the last three years, Indiana University has been home to the Global Remixed Festivals. Starting in 2017, the IU Arts & Humanities Council has brought artists and scholars from across the world to come share their craft with the students and residences of Bloomington, Indiana. Each spring semester the A&H Council presents a diverse series of performances, exhibits, films, public lectures, and conferences dedicated to the global and contemporary impact of one world culture. This year as a part of the Bloomington Bicentennial, we are celebrating Indiana Remixed and exploring what it means to live in the Hoosier state. Indiana Remixed will ask vital questions about the ways we create art, community, and meaning in our state. As a center for IU history, the Wylie House will be participating for the first time during this year’s Remixed Festival.

Call and Response: Creative Interpretations of the Wylie House is an eight-artist exhibit that discusses the lesser-known histories of people associated with the 1835 home. Each artist will create installation pieces that consider the women and children who lived in the home, the African Americans who worked in the home, the displaced Native Americans who once lived on the land the Wylies farmed, the immigrants in town, and the lives of the men and women whose sexual identity fell outside the heteronormative culture. 

broken pieces of teaset china

The process of this exhibit started back at the end of the fall semester with a call out to artists and an open house tour. Each artist submitted a detailed plan for their artworks and gave information about where it could be in the home and how it interacts with the other objects. We then went through and picked out eight of the submissions to be a part of the exhibit. From there, the artists have been given a few months to work on their pieces. During this time, we have been visiting their studios and seeing the process of their pieces. The work will be installed later this month.

Projects like this have been explored throughout history museums and historical house museums across America. One that comes to mind is the Mining the Museum exhibit from 1992-93 by artist Fred Wilson. This exhibit, in the Maryland Historical Society, took a deep dive into the museum’s collections and brought up many hidden objects. Wilson took pieces that were tucked away for decades and showed them in a new light by displaying items with controversial histories together. Another example of this kind of exhibit was at the Woodlawn & Pope-Leighey House historic site in 2018. The Makers In The Mansion: A Transformed African American Community at Woodlawn through the Artisan Eye exhibit had six African American artists create installation pieces to place in the home, similar to what we are doing here at the Wylie House. With this exhibit, we would like to be a part of this new tradition of showing the forgotten or ignored histories of America.

historic black and white pictures sitting on a china cabinet depicting African American woman

Join us on March 5th for the opening reception from 5-7pm at the Wylie House. The exhibit will be up from March 5th-September 12th.

For more information about the exhibit and more stories from the Wylie House, feel free to explore the links below!

Call and Response: Creative Interpretations of the Wylie House Exhibit Website

African American History Month Article 

First Nations History Article Part 1

First Nations History Article Part 2

Lousie Bradley and Elizabeth Bishop Article

Written by Bethany Habegger

The Wylies, the Temperance Movement, and Children’s Transferware

By: Abbey Walker, Wylie House Museum Assistant

Figure 1. The Wylie House Collection of china on display in the dining room press.

In the dining room press of the Wylie house is a collection of china. Among the most discussed are Margaret Wylie’s hand-painted tea cup, which illustrates one of the first depictions of the IU insignia, and the Theophilus Wylie plate, which denotes the years he acted as president of Indiana University. Less visible and rarely acknowledged is a small, octagonal plate with an illustration of Father Matthew administering the total abstinence pledge, an oath to remain sober for life (figure 2). Manufactured sometime within the years 1838 and 1845, the Father Matthew plate was gifted to the museum by Wylie descendant Morton C. Bradley, and it may have belonged to the Theophilus Wylie family. Although Theophilus Wylie did not entirely abstain from alcohol as Father Matthew preached, he did practice and advocate for temperance. Temperance was the idea that the consumption of alcohol should be limited as overindulgence was believed to cause immorality, poverty, and poor health.

Figure 2. The illustration itself is believed to have been “prepared at the time of Father Matthew’s visit to London in 1843” where “he preached to congregations of many thousands at a specially prepared site in the Commercial Road” (TCC, 2020).

Support for the Temperance Movement was fervent during the 1860s-1900s, the same time that Theophilus and his family lived at the Wylie House. Although anti-alcohol beliefs have existed since antiquity, it was not until the mid-19th century that an organized effort gained momentum in the United States, largely due to the astounding rates of alcohol consumption at the time. In 1830, Americans drank an average of 7.1 gallons of pure alcohol a year compared to the 2.3 gallons consumed today (Benckhuysen, 2019). Theophilus Wylie himself explores the roots and perils of the 19th century alcohol epidemic in a diary entry in which he writes about his experience with an intoxicated youth:

“On coming home from Chapel, found a poor drunken boy — perhaps 13 or 14 yrs old lying or sitting on Campbell’s wall near the bridge. He told me his name was Farsan, a lie by the way, [I] found out that the name was Alonzo Taylor. He had a small bottle of Whiskey in his hand. I spoke to him & told him he had better break it. He immediately dashed it against the stones & lost its contents. On moving a little distance to speak to some young men, I noticed that he had another bottle. On approaching him, he threw himself or bent himself and covered the bottle with his side & arm — & told me to break it — this I could not do — he soon on my withdrawing broke it to pieces — I picked up a portion of the bottle, the lower part. Could see that from the label that it was perfectly pure whiskey made in Kentucky. The bottle was not large — would hold about a half pint. He staggered across the bridge & sat down on the wall & drew out of another pocke’t another bottle — this he also broke. He said he got them from Jim Kelly — & I think he had five. Could not find exactly where he lived, but some little boys went to the house of his mother & sisters, who came & with the assistance of the two young men led the poor boy home — A number of people had collected, I told them that we had in this boy an excellent temperance lecture — What ought to be done to the miscreants who give or sell strong drink to minors or anybody.”

  The young boy’s dependence on alcohol may have been encouraged by the customary recommendation of using “small amounts of alcohol as a form of medical treatment” (McAlister, 2012). During the 19th century, alcohol was commonly utilized as an anaesthetic and antiseptic; certain sects of the Temperance movement permitted its use in medicinal contexts. The use of alcohol within religious communities was no less complicated. Wine was often used in important spiritual rites, such as Catholic communion, in which the drink symbolized a reconnection with Christ and a spiritual rebirth. At the same time, the Temperance movement was largely founded upon Presbyterianism theology (the same denomination of Christianity practiced by both Wylie families), which used religious motifs to illustrate the moral dangers of alcohol not only to adults but also to children. 

One may ask: why preach Temperance to children? Joseph Livesey, an English Temperance advocate, stated that by “addressing children, we are, through them, addressing many others, older people, whom we cannot see” (McAlister, 2012). In other words, alcoholism affected not only those who consumed the alcohol but also their friends, family, and acquaintances Among these invisible people were women. Women during the 19th century were relegated to domestic duties and therefore had a much weaker social presence than their male counterparts, yet they were no less affected by the overconsumption of alcohol. One Temperance organization, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, “advocated for women to take a leading role in opposing alcohol consumption, [by] claiming that women and children were most often the victims of its abuse” (Hedeen, 2011). As a result, it became customary to market the Temperance movement to impressionable children who had not yet been exposed to alcohol. By instilling anti-alcohol beliefs first through children, who would then model these beliefs to their parents, the movement began to enact change from the bottom to the top. It is likely that through educational mediums like the Father Matthew children’s plate, Theophilus and his wife, Rebecca, disseminated similar ideals to their six children. 

Little is known about the Father Matthew plate itself. The plate is a product of transfer printing, a process in which an engraved, flat copper plate is used to transfer a design onto a sheet of paper which is then permanently impressed onto a ceramic body. Transferware is notable for being easy, fast, and cheap to produce, making its manufacture one of the first methods of production that made decorated ceramics accessible to the 19th century’s working class. The illustrative quality of transferware was also a popular means to educate children since their interpretation of written messages was limited by their level of literacy. Illustrations made it easier to comprehend and remember the accompanying text on Temperance transferware. Since Temperance-movement children’s wares were extremely popular and accessible, it is believed that thousands of identical Father Matthew plates were manufactured (Siddall, 2020), making the Wylie’s unassuming plate on of many throughout the United States. The image itself has been reproduced onto other ceramics as well with slight variations to the illustration. The Father Matthew plate is a very small portion of the larger Temperance argument that was disseminated through tangible media. 

Figure 3. This piece of transferware exemplifies the conflation between encouraging literacy and Temperance in children. The text reads “Keep Holy the Sabbath Day” as well as “D Was a Drunkard and Had a Red Face”. The purpose of this plate was to help children learn the alphabet as well as about the physical effects of alcohol. (Siddall, 2014)

The visual arguments employed by 19th century Temperance transferware are often categorized by appeals to morality, wealth, and health. The morality category greatly coincides with social and spiritual constructs engendered by religious practices, particularly Presbyterianism. The Father Matthew plate fits most easily into this category as it illustrates the administering of a Temperance oath by a man of God. This argument is significant in comparison to other Temperance transferware in that it does not employ fatalistic narratives, such as the “road to ruin”, which depicts, step-by-step, the “downward spiral from respectability and sobriety to dunkness and moral degradation” (Murray, 2012). Much of the Temperance transferware produced during the 19th century utilizes such arguments that today would be considered scare tactics similar to the ones proliferated by D.A.R.E and the War on Drugs agenda. One infamous example is The Bottle by George Cruikshank (figure 4), which is largely considered the first visual depiction of alcoholism which “at last matched and even overtook the force of the written word” (Murray, 2012). 

Figure 4: “The Bottle” is a series of 8 images depicting the downfall of a man and his family due to alcoholism. This is the final image from The Bottle series by George Cruikshank. The text reads: “The Bottle has done its work – it has destroyed the infant and the mother, it has brought the son and the daughter to vice and to the streets, and has left the father a hopeless maniac. For all 8 illustrations, follow this link: The Bottle (Murray, 2012).

Threats to wealth, the second rhetorical strategy employed by the Temperance movement, “presented images that depict alcohol as a waste of resources, which could be better used as food and for energy in production” (McAliser, 2012). This argument likely resonated most with adults who were fiscally responsible, but the rhetorical strategy was still present in children’s Temperance imagery and practices. An example is “How Jack’s Father Spent the Beer Money” (figure 5). Tying alcoholism to poverty was an effective method of instilling Temperance beliefs as it appealed to the notion that economic stability is necessary for survival while also acknowledging that the issue is most prevalent amongst the impoverished. Other Temperance arguments further related alcoholism and poverty to children themselves, with statements such as “Drink steals the children’s food” (McAlister, 2012) effectively communicating how alcoholism disproportionately affects our posterity.

Figure 5: “How Jack’s Father Spent the Beer Money” is a graphic published in R.W. Sindall, The Band of Hope Blackboard: A Treatise on the Art and Principles of Blackboard Teaching as Applied to the Weekly Meetings of the Band of Hope” (Murray, 2012). This image was not transferred onto ceramics, but exemplifies the economic argument against intemperance.

Even today, anti-alcohol campaigns appeal to our survival instincts by demonstrating the detrimental effect alcohol has on our bodies. In the 19th century, “children were shocked with graphic images which established the physical danger that alcohol consumption posed to health” (McAllister, 2012). One example is The Stomach (figure 6), which illustrates the physical toll excessive alcohol consumption they believed to have on our bodies. Again, this argument largely employs scare tactics, which “emphasize the worst dangers of drug use in order to create fear and anxiety, in hopes that the fear alone will prevent or stop risky behaviors” (Malich and Stone, September), to persuade audiences that alcohol has a detrimental effect on health. The effectiveness of such scare tactics has been contested by modern day psychology and studies examining the efficacy of anti-drug and alcohol campaigns, such as D.A.R.E. 

Figure 6: “The cankerous stomach of a spirit drinker”, ca. 1880-1920? Hand-colored lantern slide, no.5 from the series “The Stomach” (Murray, 2012).

Through examination of Wylie artifacts and ephemera, it is unclear if Theophilus Wylie and his family advocated for Temperance arguments beyond appeals to moral and religious integrity, as is evident in the religious administration of the abstinence pledge of the Father Matthew plate. The plate itself is a novelty of the museum, not because the item itself is particularly rare or unique, but because no similar artifacts have yet been uncovered in the rich history of the Wylie family. 

Works Cited:

Benckhuysen, Amanda Joyce. The Gospel According to Eve: A History of Women’s Interpretation. IVP Academic, an Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2019.

Hedeen, Jane. “The Road to Prohibition in Indiana.” IndianaHistory.org, Indiana Historical Society, 2011, 

Malich, Sarah and Stone, Molly. Why Scare Tactics Don’t Work. September. http://dhhr.wv.gov/bhhf/ibhc/Documents/Presentations1115/Scare%20Tactics%20BH%20conference%20%2082115.pdf. PowerPoint Presentation

Mcallister, Annemarie. “Picturing the Demon Drink: How Children Were Shown Temperance Principles in the Band of Hope.” Visual Resources, vol. 28, no. 4, 2012, pp. 309–323., doi:10.1080/01973762.2012.732029.

Murray, Frank. “Picturing the ‘Road to Ruin’: Visual Representations of a Standard Temperance Narrative, 1830–1855.” Visual Resources, vol. 28, no. 4, 2012, pp. 290–308., doi:10.1080/01973762.2012.732028.


Siddall, Judie. “THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT ON TRANSFERWARE.” Dishy News – A Transferware Blog, 19 June 2014, dishynews.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-temperance-movement-on-transferware.html.

Siddall, Judie. “Father Mathew”. 20 Jan. 2020. E-mail. 

TCC. “Father Matthew Administering The Total Abstinence Pledge”. Transferware Collectors Club Database of Patterns and Sources. 18 January 2020. Database. 

An Introduction to the IU Bicentennial Campus Archaeology Project

As part of the Indiana University Bicentennial Project, the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology has collaborated with the Wylie House Museum to host an Archaeological Fieldwork course for the month of June. Led by Archaeologist Liz Watts Malochous, IU students are learning archaeological field methods while searching for two buried garden beds from the second half of the 19th century. The investigation on the Wylie House Museum property utilizes correspondence, writings, photographs, and a memory map, paired with modern GIS and remote sensing technologies to identify the excavation area. The project hopes to deepen our understanding of the daily lives of the Wylie House residents, especially how their gardening practices exemplify a shift from earth 19th century subsistence farming in Bloomington to the development of agriculture and floriculture in the later 19th and early 20th century. For more details about that shift, visit IU student Maclaren Guthrie’s blog post .

Field School students pose on the porch of the Wylie House with their professor, Liz Watts Malochous.

This project contributes to the larger IU Bicentennial Project aimed at ensuring the protection of Indiana University’s cultural heritage. The front lawn of the 1835 Wylie House provides students an ideal historic archaeological site and an opportunity for community engagement with the class, so everyone can learn more about local Bloomington and IU history.

The site is open for public visitation, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am – 3:30 pm. To learn more about what the fieldwork students have uncovered, read their blogs at https://www.indiana.edu/~gbl/thedirt/wordpress/?p=448.

If you would like to see pictures of the unearthed treasures or stay updated on the progress of the dig, visit the Wylie House Facebook page, the Glenn A. Black Lab Facebook page, the Wylie House Instagram, or the Glenn A. Black Lab Instagram.

HAH! The History of American Humor: Part 2

Featuring IU Student Humor Magazines from the Indiana University Archives

By: Rebecca Karstensen, Wylie House Museum Library Assistant

***DISCLAIMER*** Contains some crude and offensive humor. Discretion advised.

If you haven’t already, take a peek at part 1 of this blog where I provide a lighthearted background on the history of humor in the United States.

As part of the Indiana University Libraries, the Wylie House Museum can utilize the Indiana University Archives to conduct research. So, I thought it might be a fun adventure to look at some of IU’s old student humor magazines. I have selected three publications from three different magazine/newspaper series to share. I hope that these magazines will provide some unexpected insight into the style, quality, and historical significance of the jokes contained within.

For more info, visit the Indiana University Archives website. I’ve provided a link with each publication that leads directly to its archival webpage.

Here’s the lineup: I’ll give you a picture of each publication, some contextual stuff, then the funnies. Savvy?

PUBLICATION #1 The Vagabond, 1923-1931

Selection: May-June 1926

C461 The Vagabond, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

Context: The Vagabond began in October of 1923, with a twofold objective: “the magazine offers a medium of expression for the literary life of campus; and it hopes to hasten a rebirth of science, art, and life at Indiana” (quoted from the first edition copy of Vagabond). The articles published in The Vagabond were satirical, risqué, and critical of the university, which often caused a stir in the campus community.

1926 was a peaceful year in the United States, other than the Great Miami Hurricane, the death of Harry Houdini, and the introduction of the first SAT college admissions test. The First World War was long over, the union was in a state of rest, and the Great Depression wouldn’t start until 1929. In his State of the Union Address on December 7, 1926, President Calvin Coolidge states:

“In reporting to the Congress the state of the Union, I find it impossible to characterize it other than one of general peace and prosperity. In some quarters our diplomacy is vexed with difficult and as yet unsolved problems, but nowhere are we met with armed conflict. If some occupations and areas are not flourishing, in none does there remain any acute chronic depression. What the country requires is not so much new policies as a steady continuation of those which are already being crowned with such abundant success. It can not be too often repeated that in common with all the world we are engaged in liquidating the war.”

Matters at Indiana University were no more exciting. At that time 8,800 students were enrolled at IU, and based on the Indiana University faculty minutes from 1926, nothing noteworthy happened, despite the addition of the Eastern wing of the Second Library Building (now known as Franklin Hall). In fact, 1926 seemed to be an incredibly average year. Nonetheless, the Vagabond staff found plenty of things to criticize anyways.

Funny Highlights: This particular issue covers all the basics of our human existence: marriage, sex, women, war, education, family, friendship, and so on. The front and back of the book feature a few advertisements, including one for the “New Home Laundry Co.” whose catch phrase is “Not As Large As the Largest But As Good As the Best – Our Work is Proof of That”.

C461 The Vagabond, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

Many of The Vagabond’s pieces critique Indiana University–such as “Inbred Indiana” which discusses Indiana University’s habit of hiring alumni; however, there are plenty of other styles of humor represented here. For example, here’s a poem found in the back of the magazine:

C461 The Vagabond, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

I saw her in the hall through murky dust,
And stood transfixed by beauty undefiled.
No glaring ray of light was there to mar
That vision of an angel come to earth.
Her skin of whiteness that outshone the ray
Of wintry moon, betokened purity,
While filmy garments, clinging, half-disclosed
Her perfect breasts, her curves of innocence.
I loved her at one glance, but ‘twas in vain’
Cold marble statues have no love for man.

Here’s an example of a pun:

C461 The Vagabond, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

Applicant: How much do I get for doing the weeping act in this show?
Manager: Thirty-five cents an hour.
Applicant: What? For crying out loud!

And another poem:

C461 The Vagabond, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

There was a good man from Calcutta,
He talked with a terrible stutta;
He screwed up his face
When he tried to say grace
And blew his false teeth in the butta.
-Wisconsin Octopus

These more lighthearted pieces make up a small minority of this magazine’s content. So, to give a better idea of what style of humor The Vagabond focused on, here’s a small excerpt regarding yearbooks:

C461 The Vagabond, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

The Arbutus
This is the annual record of faces mounted daintily on enamel paper and published to the great and vainglorious delight of one-half of the school and the disgust of the other half. The ten dollars each Junior is forced by the University to pay for a copy would approximately buy one book by Conrad, one by Cabell, one by France, one by Dreiser, and still leave fifty cents for a couple Whiz Bangs.

10 dollars in 1926 is worth about $137 in today’s money. That kind of money would cover the costs of all my textbooks, too, so I feel their pain. At least now we aren’t forced to buy a yearbook.


PUBLICATION #2 The Crimson Bull, 1947-1956

Selection: Greek Issue and Professor Issue, November 1948

C641 The Crimson Bull Collection, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

Context: The Crimson Bull was launched in 1947 by the Indiana University chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, a men’s professional journalistic fraternity. This magazine was meant to replace the former Crimson Bull first published in 1920 at IU, which failed. It also provided humor after the Date humor magazine ended in 1947. The last known issue of this magazine was released in March 1956. Compared with The Vagabond, the satirical style of The Crimson Bull is much more lighthearted and goofy.

1948 saw some dramatic events, including the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, the declaration of Israel’s independence from British administration, and the creation of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. People born in this year include Prince Charles, Al Gore, Ozzy Osbourne, James Taylor, and Andrew Lloyd Weber. However, it was a relatively peaceful year for the United States. The Second World War had been over for almost 3 years and the Great Depression had been over for nearly 10 years.

At Indiana University, nothing extraordinary happened either. In the State of the University address on December 9, 1948, IU President Herman B. Wells stated, “The past year was one of constructive activity. The detailed reports of the schools and divisions of the University record the year’s achievements . . . I cannot even summarize them in the space of this statement . . .” There were 14,414 full-time and 8,717 part-time students for the 1948-49 school year, some of which were World War II Veterans. Overall, despite a $1,412,989 deficit of funds, IU was in a state of productivity and achievement.

Funny highlights: The Crimson Bull’s humor is definitely more crude and silly. I’ve chosen two 1948 magazines which were published as companions. I have one excerpt that I’d like to share from each of them.

Greek Issue

C641 The Crimson Bull Collection, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

The Crimson Bull writers had some strong feelings towards the Greek community at IU, which I find ironic considering the writers were members of a journalistic fraternity. There’s one excerpt from this issue that I think is captures the silly tone of the publication:

C641 The Crimson Bull Collection, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

All Is Revealed . . . Beyond The Stone Façade
     “Ever since I saw ‘Cloak and Dagger,” I have wanted to do some undercover work. Be a real-life spy. Last week I finally got my chance.
     I was designated Special Operator 49, an espionage agent for the Crimson Bull. My assignment was to crack the Third Street Iron Curtain and find out what really goes on behind the stone façade of a sorority house.
     (Editor’s note: Just how Operator 49 arranged to get inside the house can’t be revealed now; it would cause too much unpleasantness for ourselves and a number of other persons who kidnapped the young lady whose place he took that afternoon.)
     Shortly after 3 p.m., I walked up the steps of the Sigma Epsilon Xi house on East Third. I adjusted my false front and rang the bell.
     Five beautiful girls greeted me as the door opened. They seemed a little surprised when they saw me, but managed to squeeze out an unhappy hello when I introduced myself.
     I quickly grasped the hand of the president of the house. It was so lovely I hated to let go. But she broke my grip and showed my inside. The girls didn’t waste any time trying to impress me. I found out later that my mother was supposed to have a vault that would make Uncle Sam’s Fort Knox look like a miniature wall safe.
     I gladly followed them to the upstairs lounge to play a few rubbers of bridge. I tried to talk them into another card game. They didn’t seem to care for the idea. I gave up the game for good when one of the girls started talking about clothes.
‘Oh this,’ she said, ‘I wear it to teas.’ I stumbled while moving in closer to ask whom and fell onto the lap of some pretty coed. I was just beginning to snuggle up comfortably when the rush chairman came in looking for me.
     After losing the argument, I got up and followed her on a tour of the house. Brother, the things I didn’t see! Did you know they make ladies unmentionables in six delicious colors?
     They took me into a small dressing room and offered to fix my hair. I didn’t dare remove my scarf, so I had to do some fast talking to get the girls to curl just the ends of my golden locks.
     The secretary told me that after I became an active I would have a private dressing room, but that during the short and pleasant pledge period, I would have to share my bedroom with several other girls-43, in fact. The idea appealed to me, but how could I live there sixteen weeks without having my identity discovered?
     They took me into the living room where they fed me a cup of bitter tea and some stale cookies. Guess they were trying to save on the house bill or something.
The girls apparently had rehearsed for this visit, for one of them dashed over and began playing the piano. Six others crowded around and began singing “Oh Indiana.” But this broke up fast when I crawled atop the piano and sang a little number I know about rolling in the hay fields.
     Every time I looked around, a different shape went undulating by. This had a profound effect on me. I nervously looked around for the nearest rest room. I needed a nice quiet place to map out my plans for the rest of the evening.
Once inside, I was resting comfortably, jotting down a note telling the editor I thought I’d remain for good, I had removed the scarf, hiked my dress above my knees, and was resting my aching feet, thinking just what I would do if they invited me to stay for the night.
     The door suddenly opened and the house mother was staring me in the face. I was trapped. What could I do? She just stood there, screaming at the top of her voice. I tried shoving a towel in her mouth. The towel wasn’t big enough.
Within ten seconds every girl in the house was standing there, looking in at me. I felt like a caged animal. Several of the girls shrieked. Most giggled. A few looked at me longingly.
     Four big beefers pushed their way through the crowd, grabbed me by the arms and dragged me from the house. I waited in the shrubs until dark and slipped home quietly.
I wanna go back . . .

Please understand that the Wylie House Museum does not condone the disrespect of women. I chose this piece only to reflect the style of humor contained within the magazine and it does not, in any way, reflect the opinions of our museum.

Professor Issue

C641 The Crimson Bull Collection, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

I love the introduction in this issue, which is essentially a disclaimer that they are about to absolutely roast a bunch of professors. It ends thus:

C641 The Crimson Bull Collection, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

“So here is your Professor Issue. It has been created in the spirit of malice towards none (to coin a phrase), and the hope of fun and laughs for all. Characters portrayed herein are real live persons, but don’t tell them about it. After all, we’d like to stick around and graduate.”

One might note that The Crimson Bull has more illustrations and cartoons that the Vagabond. Here’s a great one, entitled “An Illustrated Dissertation on I.U. Perfessors”

C641 The Crimson Bull Collection, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington

“Fraught with the wisdom of the ages, I.U.’s mighty line-up of perfessors cuts a striking picture as they mull and meditate over their morning coffee ~ here we have an excellent view of some of the sharper ones. . .

Touchingly human, our perfessors are actually frenzied in their attempts to always give the students a break on exam grades ~ the gentleman above is typical of those who work ’till the wee, late hours in their efforts to be ever sympathetic. . . But there must be a few spare moments, of course ~ and our perfessors always spend those moments pursuing intellectual relaxation.

Or a bit of brilliant, personal research, as this earnest chap in the Department of Chemistry is doing ~ who knows, he may come up with something astounding. . .

Justice ~ respect for the law ~ such qualities are virtually exuded by the stern, staid gentlemen of the Law School ~ this perfessor dotes on returning snitched articles. . .

Profound admiration for the masterpieces of the ages is constantly expressed by the Fine Arts perfessors. . .

And our perfessors of anatomy never fail to amaze classes with their perfectly prepared cadavers. . .”

These lighthearted jests towards the professors at IU must’ve been a great way for The Crimson Bull writers to relieve their frustrations as college students in a fun, non-threatening way.

PUBLICATION #3 Fun City, 1952-1979
Selection: April 30, 1976, No. 25

C664 Leon Varjian papers, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.

Context: Here’s a quote from the IU archives discussing the creator of Fun City, Leon Varjian:

“Leon Varjian (1951-2015) was a graduate student at Indiana University from 1972-1975, known primarily for his comedic news publications such as Fun City and his organized antics on the IU campus. He ran for mayor of Bloomington in 1973 and IU Trustee in 1976, though his campaign platforms were nonsensical and humorous.”

He reminds me of Vermin Supreme.

1976 wasn’t a huge year, though several significant things happened. For example, Microsoft and Apple opened one year prior in 1975, and the South African apartheid began on June 16th. NASA unveiled their first space shuttle, Fidel Castro became president of Cuba, and the United States celebrated its Bicentennial. Jimmy Carter won the presidential election and the Winter Olympics took place in Austria.

At IU, once again, 1976 wasn’t a major year, though the men’s basketball team won the NCAA championship and the first discotheque opened in Bloomington. By then, there were 4 IU campuses: Bloomington, Fort Wayne, Northwest, and Southeast. Combined, these 4 campuses had 76,771 students enrolled.

Funny highlights: This magazine-style publication has some cheeky, definitely inappropriate humor in it. You’ve already seen this little piece on the cover of the newspaper, but my favorite excerpt is on the front page, titled the “Do-it-yourself divorce hush-up”.

C664 Leon Varjian papers, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.

Here’s the thing I want to share most, though, and I almost missed it when I read through this publication the first time. I’ll let it speak for itself:

C664 Leon Varjian papers, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.

I think the acronym that he made out of his name really makes this piece.

That’s all I have to share for now! Thank you so much for spending time reading this blog, and if you’d like to learn more about the relation between the Wylie House Museum and humor, please join us for a tour! The museum is open 10am-2pm Tuesday through Saturday.

Wylie Makes IU Home

By: Brett Roberts, Wylie House Museum Bicentennial Project Assistant

“IU is home” says the t-shirt adorned by thousands of freshmen Hoosiers this past fall. That phrase is relatable to many Indiana University students as we reflect on our time as undergraduates in Bloomington. Whether we lived in Briscoe or Wright, study business or music, we have all made Indiana University our home in some way. Within this community we call home, there is quite a bit to be proud of. The top ranked public school for music in the nation, the #4 undergraduate business school, the #1 school for public and environmental affairs. Not to mention the top ranked programs in psychology, folklore, opera, and much more. IU is home to 24 NCAA National Championship teams and 145 NCAA National Individual Champions, not to mention our nearly unrivaled success in the Big Ten. All of these things fill each Hoosier with pride to be a part of a storied institution of success.

However, none of this would have been possible without one man’s risk (and I’m not talking about Herman B Wells). His name was Andrew Wylie, the first President of Indiana University. In 1828, the Board of Trustees wrote Andrew, saying “under the guidance of so experienced and able an instructor, our institution will flourish and become a praise, and a glory, to our young and rising state.” This proposition was a daunting one for Andrew. Bloomington in 1828 was on the frontier of the young state of Indiana, which was very different from Andrew’s native Pennsylvania. It was an offer to build something out of nothing in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately for 200 years of proud Hoosiers, Andrew Wylie took the job.

Portrait of Theophilus A. Wylie from the IU archives.

From 1828 until 1895, Andrew Wylie and his cousin, Theophilus Wylie, played some of the most formative roles in the founding and sustaining of Indiana University. Their history and ideas of the university have been relatively unexplored for many years. Herman B Wells bought the Wylie House in 1947 and restored the house from 1960-1964 to rediscover this critical part of our past. The museum now includes the original library of Theophilus Wylie, countless letters from the Wylie family discussing the events in the university and of the day, as well as diaries and heirlooms from the family. Why does all of this matter today though?

As I began going through 200 year old books and letters, I often asked myself that very question: why does this matter? However, as I was going through the letters and diary entries that I read and reread multiple times, I found the untold story of the people that helped build the foundation of Indiana University. In one entry was Theophilus’ reaction to the second time the university burned down in 1883. Or Andrew’s thoughts on the state sending agents to ensure the university was doing its job. A personal favorite was Theophilus’ reactions to the state government chartering that school in West Lafayette. I found that these letters, books, and diaries all had a story that enrich the story and legacy of Indiana University.

If you’ve spent any time around Bloomington in the recent years, you’ll notice that the university is preparing for its Bicentennial. This presents an opportunity for every Hoosier to look back at those stories of our University to reflect on how far we’ve come and where we still have to go. Leadership at Indiana University: Andrew and Theophilus Wylie, 1820-1890 provides students, faculty, and all Hoosiers the chance to do just that. The collections involved in this project show how they dealt with calamities such as the Civil War and how students at IU would have been impacted by the work of the Wylie’s. Looking back to the foundations of our university laid by Andrew and Theophilus Wylie allow us to move forward inspired by the past.

The little university established on the frontier of a new nation in 1820 has grown into a world renowned center for research, performance, and teaching. Indiana University has been a catalyst of change for the betterment of Indiana, and the world. IU is home to some of the world’s brightest thinkers, leaders, and to all Hoosiers, past, present, and future. We owe all of this to the life and work of Andrew and Theophilus Wylie. When you think, “IU is home” or see the 5 NCAA Basketball Championship banners in Assembly Hall, or just simply stand in awe of one of America’s most beautiful college campuses, we hope you look back at these men and their formative role in the university you know and love today. As our Alma Mater today proclaims, “She’s the Pride of Indiana,” fulfilling the Board of Trustees’ vision in inviting Andrew Wylie to become president so many years ago.

HAH! The History of American Humor: Part 1

By: Rebecca Karstensen, Wylie House Museum Library Assistant

I want to make you laugh today.

It’s April, which means we students are in the thick of our semester work, probably balancing a job, extra-curricular activities, friends, family, a grouchy landlord, or maybe even some mental health struggles. I get it, and I’m there in the struggle with you. If you aren’t a student, maybe you’re overwhelmed with work or family, or some other unexpected, joy-draining crisis. When did life become a great big toil fest?

I wrote this blog with the hope that it would bring some cheer and laughter to you, while still providing enough educational information that you don’t have to feel too guilty for taking a break to read it. After all, you’re learning something…right?

I think we can agree that there’s something about watching or experiencing something funny that makes us feel good.

Science backs up this feeling. According to this article from Huffington Post, laughter helps relieve stress and pain, boost your immune system, reduce blood pressure, stimulate your mind, and provide a good workout (around 50 calories burned for 10-15 minutes of laughter).

Want to improve your health and well-being? Just watch some vines or your favorite stand-up comedian and you’ll be on your way to bliss.

But, at least in the United States, humor had very little influence on our culture until about 100 years ago. Before that, laughing or even smiling too much was considered foolish and unintelligent. Even prominent humorists of the time, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson (pictured below), agreed with this sentiment.

From RWE’s Wikipedia page.

While traveling through England in May of 1848, Emerson wrote to a friend regarding one of his newfound English acquaintances. He writes,

“The one thing odious to me now is joking . . . The day’s Englishman must have his joke, as duly as his bread. God grant me the noble companions whom I have left at home, who value merriment less, and virtues and powers more (emphasis added).”

Yikes. That scathing review could help to explain why people didn’t smile in photos during the 19th century. Check out this video for more on that:

Fortunately for us stressed-out, exhausted ‘mericans in need of a good laugh, that attitude began to change in the late 1800s, marked by the 1871 debut of the first successful humor magazine in the United States, Puck. Inspired by the British humor magazine—Punch–Puck was a fully colorized, cartoon-filled, German-language humor magazine that ran from 1871 to 1936.

An example of a 1904 Puck cartoon. Puck is considered as the beginning of American political satire. From explorepahistory.com.

After the apparent success of Puck, humor magazines began popping up everywhere, especially among universities. Yale was the first to release a student humor publication—the Yale Record. Harvard followed with their Harvard Lampoon in 1876, and Stanford joined the club later with their Stanford Chaparral in 1899. These student humor magazines became the foundation for American comedy to flourish. Harvard Lampoon, especially, published many of the jokes that we still chuckle about today. Here’s a classic example:

“Barber – ‘Have a hair cut, sir?’

Gentleman – ‘Thank you, thought of having several of them cut.’”

Here’s a Harvard Lampoon cover from 1981. That guy’s haircut looks a lot like mine. Yikes. From mycomicship.com

To me, it comes as no surprise that one of the first true American experiences with comedy came from university student-ran magazines. We college students understand the need to let off steam, and what better way to express our frustrations than to channel them into jokes? Nowadays, one of the most popular humor websites on the interwebs is none other than CollegeHumor, a comedy website that began as a student humor magazine.

Once people began to respect humor more, comedy took off in the United States, and it’s now integral to our culture. From satirists such as Stephen Colbert, to stand-up comedians like Kevin Hart, we Americans love comedy, and our tradition of student humor magazines marks a unique form of humor.

Click here to read the second part of this blog!

Indiana University: A Nineteenth-Century Center for Science

Written by Shawn Martin and Jordi Cat

The recent development of a digital exhibit project called Andrew and Theophilus Wylie:  Leadership at Indiana University, 1820 – 1890, funded by the Indiana University Office of the Bicentennial, led to new insights about one of the campus’ earliest science scholars.

Theophilus A. Wylie was a faculty member at Indiana University between 1840 and 1885; he served as a professor of classical languages, chemistry, natural philosophy, and physics.  He was also the first librarian, vice president, and interim president of Indiana University.  Wylie’s publication record, however, does not suggest a scholar connected with the important scientific ideas of his day.  Aside from a few isolated scientific articles in the American Journal of Science and the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Wylie was more interested in writing about local history and other topics meant for a popular audience (see a fuller discussion of Wylie’s publications in the Scholarly Communications section of the Wylie House Museum’s digital exhibits site).

Yet, a closer examination of Wylie’s personal library, preserved at the Wylie House Museum suggests the exact opposite.  Wylie had a collection of about 700 books in his home (a full spreadsheet is available). Wylie also annotated his books, and the books he annotated the most, tell an interesting story.

  1. Elements of Physics – Neil Arnott
  2. Elemens de Calcul Differentiel et de Calcul Integral – J. L. Boucharlat
  3. Elementary Treatise on Mechanics – John Farrar
  4. Elements of Chemistry – Thomas Graham
  5. Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy – John Frederick William Herschel
  6. Treatise on Astronomy – John F. W. Herschel
  7. Course of Mathematics – Charles Hutton
  8. Elements of Chemistry – Robert Kane
  9. Hand-Books of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy – Dionysius Lardner
  10. Handbooks of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy – Dionysius Lardner
  11. Lectures on the Wave-Theory of Light – Humphrey Lloyd
  12. Treatise on Astronomy – Elias Loomis
  13. Introduction to Astronomy and Introduction to Practical Astronomy designed as a Supplement to Olmsted’s Astronomy – Denison Olmsted and Ebenezer Porter Mason
  14. Elementary Treatise on Curves, Functions, and Forces – Benjamin Peirce
  15. First Principles of Chemistry for the Use of Colleges and Schools – Benjamin Silliman, Jr.
  16. Treatise on Astronomy – H. N. Robinson

From this brief list, one can detect a pattern.  Many of these were well-known and highly regarded British scientists and science writers (Humphrey Lloyd, John Herschel, Charles Hutton, Dionysius Lardner); some of them were well-known figures at the forefront of thinking in physics and astronomy (besides Herschel, the Americans Benjamin Pierce and Denison Olmsted). All of these scientists were involved not only in scientific research during the nineteenth-century, but also in scientific education and public organization.  For instance, John Herschel was a leading light of British science through both his experimental researches, his methodological writings, his early leadership as a Cambridge undergraduate in the reform of British mathematics, and the foundation of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.  Also, Humphrey Lloyd was one of the founders of the British Association, later the British Association for the Advancement of Science.  And Neil Arnott went on to be one of the founders of the University of London.  Thus, Wylie’s engagement with his library shows that he was connected to some of the centers of scientific thinking, particularly in Britain, and that Wylie was interested in helping to create a system for the organization and teaching of science.  This interest is not surprising since American professional scientific societies such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and many universities were also undergoing significant changes during Wylie’s lifetime.

One can only speculate as to how Wylie became so acquainted with these figures.  Wylie was good friends with Daniel Kirkwood, a famous astronomer, IU faculty member, long-term correspondent, and mentee of the astronomer and mathematician Benjamin Pierce at Harvard. Kirkwood and Pierce also participated together in events within the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Additionally, Wylie was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where the American Association for the Advancement of Science was founded, and Wylie was a correspondent with his fellow graduate John Fries Frazer, Provost at Penn.  It is therefore possible that Wylie became acquainted with these figures through people like Kirkwood and Frazer who would have been at the center of scientific activity in the nineteenth century.  Regardless, this small list of books alone, and the fact that Wylie was actively annotating and engaging with their ideas, demonstrate how Indiana University, through faculty members like Wylie, were quite active in the scientific debates happening at an important time during United States history.  More research could help to discover how Indiana University’s leadership helped to shape science and education.

The larger digital exhibit project from which this research stems,  Andrew and Theophilus Wylie:  Leadership at Indiana University, 1820 – 1890, includes a fuller discussion of Wylie’s library as well as many other Wylie-related topics. We would like to acknowledge the help of Carey Beam, the director of the Wylie House Museum, who made Wylie’s library available and managed this project, and to Brett Roberts, project assistant, for his work in organizing Wylie’s annotations.

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.

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.

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.