The Wylie family members, living at a time before refrigeration or the ability to transport foods over long distances, were required to preserve much of their harvest. People used a variety of techniques that required intricate knowledge of the products and methods involved. Without these practices, surviving through the cold winter months would have been nearly impossible. Meat was dried and made into jerky, fruits were cooked with sugar and made into jams, vegetables were submerged in brine and pickled; all of these methods prolonged the lifespans of these essential products far beyond their normal capacity.
The Importance of Women
Historically, almost all food preparation was left to the women of the family, who had to stay at home and do all of the necessary but difficult work of maintaining the house. These jobs were no simple task, with the wide variety of food preparation methods requiring significant amounts of knowledge and technical prowess, and often taking many hours of hard work preparing the ingredients and cooking the food using the rather simple tools at hand. This knowledge was incredibly valuable, as without it the families wouldn’t have had enough food to last through the winter. The mothers of the house, as well as their daughters, worked extensively on cooking projects, but Lizzie Breckenridge truly took the kitchen as her domain. As the only long-term domestic helper to the Wylie family, she worked extensively to prepare food for them, and her talents were mentioned in letters between family members. If you would like to learn more about the roles that women and mothers played both in the kitchen and out, visit our digital exhibit on motherhood. The importance of the work put into food preparation is often undercut in favor of more masculine roles, especially regarding the Wylie’s connection with academia, but consider the difficulty and value of this work as you learn about the various processes that the women of the house had to do.
Food Preservation Techniques
The basic theory behind food preservation is to prevent harmful bacterial growth in a food product, but there are many different routes that this can take. Maintaining a wide variety of methods allowed for the preservation of a diverse set of foods, and kept dinner interesting! A few of the most popular techniques are described below, but this is only a glimpse into the complex practices that home cooks utilized.
– Drying: The primary concern with food spoilage is the water content, without any water there’s nowhere for any bacteria to grow. Simple drying can preserve a variety of foods from meats to fruits, creating jerky and raisins in the process.
– Salt curing: Salt is one of the primary ingredients utilized in food preservation because it effectively extracts the moisture content during the process. Straight forward salt curing techniques are most often used for curing meats.
– Smoking: While smoking doesn’t preserve meat completely on its own, it helps to protect the outer layers of fat from going rancid. It is often used together with salt-curing or drying to fully preserve meat products.
– Pickling: In pickling, food is typically submerged in either a vinegar-based liquid or a brine, heavily salted water, which prevents any bacteria from growing. This technique is often used on vegetables today, but historically it was also commonly used for certain fruits and cuts of meat.
– Sugaring: Sugaring is like the sweet alternative to pickling, where fruits are kept in sugar syrup or dried and coated in crystallized sugar. Preservation processes like this one that utilize sugar work because sugar has similar moisture drawing properties to salt.
– Jellies: Making jelly or jam requires combining fruit, or sometimes vegetables, with large quantities of sugar and boiling them. All the extra sugar that makes jellies and jams so delicious is also what makes it last so long. The sugar helps to reduce the water content where bacteria grows.
The Wylie House complex was far more expansive during the 19th century than it is today, spanning nearly 25 acres and including many more buildings than what stand today. Some of these outbuildings were constructed entirely with food preservation in mind.
3. Ice House – Before the invention of refrigeration, ice houses were used as a way to store ice throughout the year. During the coldest winter months, when lakes would freeze over, large blocks of ice would be carved out. They were kept in ice houses, surrounded by insulation such as straw or sawdust. These blocks of ice could last for many months under the insulation, sometimes even lasting until the next winter. These ice blocks were essential for storing perishable foods like milk or meat.
4 and 5. Cold Frames – Cold frames were underground storage facilities with glass roofs used primarily to protect plants during the cold winter months. Plants that were especially susceptible to the cold, such as citrus trees that supplied a vital source of Vitamin C, needed to winter in the warmer cold frames. They worked like underground greenhouses, using the consistent temperatures underground as well as heat from the sun.
9. Smokehouse – Without the ability to freeze meat, much of the family’s meat would need to be preserved. The techniques for preserving meat included salting, drying, and of course smoking. The smokehouse made smoking large quantities of meat much easier, which was imperative when whole animals from the Wylie’s farm would be butchered.
16. Corn Crib – When Theophilus III lived on the property this building was a chicken house, but prior to that it was used as a corn crib. Corn cribs were used to dry corn, which was primarily used to feed livestock throughout the year.
Beyond the buildings pictured on the map, the Wylie’s also had a pantry and a cellar in the house that were used to keep food cool throughout the year.
Here at the Wylie House we use primary sources from the family in our research to get first-hand accounts of what the Wylie’s life was like. These are some of the most essential documents in our research and can be applied to many of the projects we work on, but different types of sources are utilized depending on what we are investigating. For this project two different sources were used, recipes and receipts.
This document is a receipt kept by Andrew Wylie, who maintained substantial financial records during his time at the house. While Andrew’s family grew much of their own food, the preservatives they were buying can be found on some of these documents. One of the most notable purchases here was a barrel of sugar, weighing in at a total of 279 pounds! Much of this sugar was likely used in making jams, which, alongside drying and the occasional pickling, was crucial in preserving fruit that would rot quickly otherwise.
We believe that this sweet pickled cucumbers recipe was written by Rebecca Wylie, one of the mothers that lived in the house. It is a rather straightforward pickling recipe, describing the general techniques used for pickling that prevail today. The recipe calls for 6 lbs. fruit, 3 lbs. brown sugar, 3 pts. vinegar, 1 pt. water, and 1 cup mixed spices. The instructions read
“Scald the fruit in salt and water until a little tender then drain. Boil the spices in the water a few minutes then add vinegar and sugar and fruit and just scald.”
Other recipes from the Wylie’s can be found written in their cookbooks as well as in letters sent between family members. These recipes give us clues as to what the diet of the Wylie’s was like throughout their time at the house.
This study only offers a brief introduction into the complex world of food preparation during the Wylie’s time here. If you would like to learn about these processes further, be sure to visit the Wylie House Museum in person, we’re open from 10:00-2:00 Tuesday through Saturday!
The first thing that many visitors spot when they enter the Wylie House is the large mural painted in the front entryway. It’s impossible to ignore the colorful rolling hills and old style buildings that cover every wall of the entryway. Although wall paintings were common in the homes of wealthy merchants and landowners of the 1800s, the one here isn’t quite so old. The Wylie House mural was painted in 2009 by John Thom, owner of Florentine Finishes in Bloomington, and his assistant Isiah Killion.
The mural was painted in the style of Rufus Porter, a 19th century American painter known for his murals of New England landscapes. Porter, who also invented the revolving rifle and founded Scientific American magazine, painted simple country scenes on the walls of farmhouses across the northeastern United States. He usually painted on dry plaster walls with a mixture of pigment, water, and glue, which is part of the reason that his work has been so well preserved for almost 200 years.
The Wylie House mural, like the ones painted by Rufus Porter, depicts a landscape; instead of New England, however, the painting portrays scenes of 19th century Bloomington and the early IU campus. It includes the first Bloomington courthouse and the well and outbuildings from the Wylie property when it was a twenty acre farm. The structures in the mural are based on historical documents and photographs, giving visitors a glimpse into what they might have looked like in the 1800s. Among the historic buildings, the mural also depicts common activities like horseback riding, bleaching laundry, and apple gathering.
This mural may not be original to the Wylie House, but it depicts an important time in Bloomington’s history and offers a glimpse into the possible surroundings of the house when it was constructed in 1835. Next time you stop by the Wylie House Museum for a tour, be sure to take a closer look at the mural and take a step back in time.
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 .
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.
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?
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”.
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:
Despair 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. -Pourquoinot
Here’s an example of a pun:
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:
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:
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.
Selection: Greek Issue and Professor Issue, November 1948
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.
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:
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 . . . -RED LETTER
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.
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:
“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”
“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 #3Fun City, 1952-1979
Selection: April 30, 1976, No. 25
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”.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’”
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.
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.
Elements of Physics – Neil Arnott
Elemens de Calcul Differentiel et de Calcul Integral – J. L. Boucharlat
Elementary Treatise on Mechanics – John Farrar
Elements of Chemistry – Thomas Graham
Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy – John Frederick William Herschel
Treatise on Astronomy – John F. W. Herschel
Course of Mathematics – Charles Hutton
Elements of Chemistry – Robert Kane
Hand-Books of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy – Dionysius Lardner
Handbooks of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy – Dionysius Lardner
Lectures on the Wave-Theory of Light – Humphrey Lloyd
Treatise on Astronomy – Elias Loomis
Introduction to Astronomy and Introduction to Practical Astronomy designed as a Supplement to Olmsted’s Astronomy – Denison Olmsted and Ebenezer Porter Mason
Elementary Treatise on Curves, Functions, and Forces – Benjamin Peirce
First Principles of Chemistry for the Use of Colleges and Schools – Benjamin Silliman, Jr.
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.
A recent gift to the Wylie House Museum, the 1881 collected edition of Peterson’s Magazine allows us to peer into the writing desks and wardrobes of 19th century women. The beautifully bound book features each issue of the magazine throughout the year of 1881. Originally published as Ladies’ National Magazine in 1842 by Saturday Evening Post partners, Charles Jacobs Peterson and George Rex Graham, the periodical emerged as a cheaper alternative within the hugely popular market of women’s magazines. The publication continued as Peterson’s Ladies’ National Magazine, and then simply Peterson’s Magazine, until 1892. With a focus on the domestic and consumer lives of middle-class white women, the pages of Peterson’s featured fashion, embroidery patterns, sheet music, engravings, poetry, short stories, serialized fiction, recipes, remedies, housekeeping advice, puzzles, and more. While the content of the women’s magazine emphasized the woman’s role as centered on her family, as a wife, mother, and keeper of the household, the publication of Peterson’s, and other women’s magazines, created professional opportunities outside the home for women writers and editors. In this sense, the Wylie House’s newly acquired artifact not only provides insight on historic fashions and fictions, but also mirrors the complex experiences and expectations of 19th century women.
The increasing popularity of women’s magazines throughout the 1800s, as well as periodical publishing, in general, developed simultaneously with an emerging mass consumer culture, as well as rapidly advancing printing technologies and expanding services of the federal post office. Especially within the latter half of the 1880s and 1890s, magazine publication and circulation became less expensive and more accessible. The Wylie House’s Peterson’s predates many of these advancements, including lowered postage for second class mailing (1885), the invention of the linotype machine (1884), photoengraving (1886), monotype (1886), photographic film (1888), large-scale color printing (1893), and free postal delivery in rural areas (1897).
Because of these breakthroughs, thousands of magazines publications were in circulation by the turn of the 20th century. As women’s magazine publication circuits expanded, so did advertising revenues and marketing strategies. These strategies, geared toward the middle class, domestic woman, recognized her as the primary purchaser of household goods. Within the museum’s Peterson’s, examples of publication efforts to emphasize clothing, cosmetic, and household products reveal this emerging shift in content. At the conclusion of each monthly issue, a section was devoted to the contact information of the magazine’s purchasing agent, so that women readers could send for patterns featured in the fashion sections, or a variety of other goods featured in the housekeeping sections. Each month new fashion advice and illustrations of dresses, coats, and accessories decorated the pages of Peterson’s. As the popularity of fashion periodicals, paper patterns, and home dress-making grew, the constant flow of new styles and fashionable silhouettes quickened. Much like today, the constant stream of new, in-trend fashions prompted women to regularly reimagine their wardrobes and reopen their pocketbooks. In this way, the goods marketed toward women in the magazines of the 19th century reveal the tastes, values, and desires of the readership, while also revealing the ways in which an emerging mass consumer culture was constructing and reconstructing these tastes, values, and desires on a monthly basis.
French fashion trends especially influenced the garments of American women. Like many other popular American woman’s fashion magazines, Peterson’s featured bound-in, colored French fashion plates. These beautiful works of art are noteworthy inclusions of the magazine, displaying the 19th century feminine ideal. Despite the impracticality of many of these designs for the varying lifestyles of women, Peterson’s French fashion plates, as well as the other garment illustrations in the magazine, are reflective of the styles worn by the women of the 1880s. During this time, the popular silhouette was one that emphasized the “natural” figure. The more tightly fitted skirts of the “princess line” dress required longer corsets that extended to the stomach. Just as women’s and men’s sphere became further defined a separate, the popular woman’s fashions of the era became increasingly restrictive.
While the content of most, primarily, sought to define women as the consumer and keeper of the household, the women’s magazine also opened opportunities for women, outside of the home. Furthermore, the popularity of these publications reflected the increased literacy and educational opportunities for women in the United States during the 19th century, largely due to the expansion of public support of education. By the end of the 19th century, many women were even seeking higher education. Not surprisingly, this came with substantial pushback that attempted to redefine women’s education as distinctively domestic. Still, many women did pursue professional work. Women’s magazines provided socially acceptable professional opportunities as writers and publishers, allowing women to actively influence and even control the content in publications like Peterson’s. Though these women often reinforced stereotypical gender roles and expectations in their writing, their careers exemplified the increasing autonomy of women within their changing worlds.
While the moralistic messages of the fiction and non-fiction of women’s magazines supported an ideology of separate spheres, the female staff members of these publications were far from constricted to the home. Highly successful female editors like Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Ladies’ Magazine and Godey’s Lady’s Book, and Louisa Knapp Curtis, editor of The Ladies Home Journal, contributed significantly to the development of popular literature, literary change, and the presence of the female perspective within writing. Peterson’s employed many women writers, including Ann S. Stephens, who also served as an editor for the magazine. Stephen is best known for popularizing the dime novel and wrote over twenty-five novels, first printed in serial form and then in full-length volume.
Historic women’s magazines, like Peterson’s, embody an array of domestic and professional female experiences of the 19th century. Some women’s magazines even eventually provided a platform for writings on temperance and woman’s suffrage. Through the popularization of publications for women and, sometimes, by women, the desires and aspirations of women became increasingly culturally influential. An exciting addition to the Wylie House Museum, the 1881 Peterson’s Magazine book allow insights into the experiences of 19th century women and the dynamic medium of the women’s magazine.
This post was written by Mary Figueroa, January 30th, 2018
Hartman, D. W. (n.d.). Lives of Women. Retrieved from Conner Prairie: http://www.connerprairie.org/education-research/indiana-history-1860-1900/lives-of-women
Jolliffe, L. (1994). Women's Magazine's in the 19th Century. The Journal of Popular Culture, 125-140.
MacLean, M. (2012, May 31). Ann Stephens. Retrieved from Civil War Women: https://www.civilwarwomenblog.com/ann-stephens/
Straus, D. (2014, September 25). Fashion, The High Life, and "The Duties of Married Females": 19th Century Fashion-Plate Magazines. Retrieved from New York Public Library: Fashion, The High Life, and "The Duties of Married Females": 19th Century Fashion-Plate Magazines
Women's History Blog. (2014). First Women Magazine Editors. Retrieved from History of American Women: http://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2014/08/first-women-magazine-editors.html
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear what you have to say.
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