Comps are here!

Comps essay

The campus is quiet as most of the students are still at home enjoying that last bit of winter break, but for the seniors it is a different story. The Lilly Library is fairly buzzing with activity as seniors gather in groups or study earnestly alone. In a long and fiercely held tradition these young men must pass one final hurdle on their way to the sheepskin diploma and the end of their undergraduate days. Comps are here!

First held in 1932, the comprehensive examination is 84 years old and came out of the new curriculum adopted in 1928. The class who entered in the fall of that year was the first to study four years under the new system and the first to take a senior comprehensive examination which they did in the spring of 1932.  Among other reforms, the “new curriculum” created our divisional system – originally four, now three, divisions. The reform also instituted Contemporary Civilization, a course to be taken by every student. CC, as it was known, morphed into Cultures and Traditions which then became our current Enduring Questions and is still taken by every student. Other changes were instituted as well and, as is common with such a big change, it was not popular with everyone. Entrance requirements were increased and the days of athletes dropping in for the season and playing games while little bothering to attend classes were over. As you might guess the faculty approved, but a very vocal group of alumni did not. President Hopkins came under fire but he was determined that Wabash was first and foremost an educational institution and  our athletes were to be students first, athletes second. It was tough on the president, but he persisted.

So from that time to this our seniors have studied like mad, crossed their fingers, held their breath and stepped up to “demonstrate a mastery of their subject of study” as comps were originally described. It is a bond that all Wabash graduates have shared for 84 years now. It is a rite of passage that all Wabash men contemplate and celebrate once it is over. Good luck guys!

All best, 
Beth Swift
Wabash College


The Circle Connection

The Circle Connection


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Center Hall at Wabash College. Photo from the Ramsay Archives at Wabash College.



Each year at Thanksgiving the Circle in Indianapolis is jammed full of folks there to see the monument and its thousands of Christmas lights come to life for the holiday season. This event draws thousands to the center of Indy, but this post is about a different site on the Circle, Christ Church and the Wabash connection via Irish architect William Tinsley who designed our Center Hall.

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Much of the material that the Archives holds on William Tinsley came to the College via John D. Forbes, history and fine arts faculty at Wabash from 1946-1954. Forbes wrote a book documenting this talented architect, Victorian Architect: The Life and Work of William Tinsley (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1953).

William Tinsley (1804–85) was born in Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland.  He worked as an architect in Ireland for some years in the Gothic style. William Tinsley’s large family left Ireland due to the increasingly worrisome rebellion and also due to the worsening financial times associated with the potato famine. These two problems made it increasingly difficult for him to find work as an architect in Ireland. Arriving in America in 1851, Tinsley settled in Cincinnati.

North Western Christian University [later known as Butler] held a design contest to arrive at a plan for their new building. Tinsley won the contest and his first big institutional project in the States built at the corner of College and 13th Street in Indianapolis. Following this success, in 1853 the family moved to Indiana and it was shortly after this time that Mr. Tinsley was hired to present a design for Center Hall at Wabash.

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Center Hall at Wabash College from the 1850’s lithograph.


Here is a drawing of Center shortly after it was built. Note the lack of north and south wings, they followed some time later.  Tinsley designed this new building on the campus of Wabash College to face east [into the Arboretum] which was the front yard of campus at that time. This accounts for the very ornate porch on the east façade of Center, while the Mall side is exceedingly plain.

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Eli Lilly photo from the Ramsay Archives at Wabash College.


Back to the church on the Circle in Indianapolis. To learn more about this Tinsley project we turn to Eli Lilly, a prominent member of Christ Church. Lilly was so passionate about his church that he wrote a history of it, The Little Church on the Circle which was published by the church in 1957. We are lucky to have a copy here in the Ramsay Archives and it tells the reader that the church construction process began in March of 1856 with the formation of a building committee. Later that spring the committee recommended that another committee be created “to confer with Mr. Tinsley, Architect, as to a plan for a Church,” and to begin the fund-raising. That meeting was in May and by August Tinsley had drawings and plans to present. The estimated cost was between thirteen and fifteen thousand dollars.  This little jewel has stood the test of time. Here is a link to a great website out of Indianapolis which shows some excellent pictures of Christ Church over the years.

In addition to Center Hall, Christ Church and the long ago demolished building for NWCU, Tinsley also did a building for the campus at Kenyon College. Ascension Hall still stands along the Middle Path there and I was delighted a few years ago to have the chance to wander inside it.

Tinsley by Forbes Kenyon Interior

Interior photograph of Ascension Hall at Kenyon from the book by John D. Forbes, Victorian Architect: The Life and Work of William Tinsley (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1953).

Tinsley by Forbes Kenyon Exterior

Exterior photograph of Ascension Hall at Kenyon from the book by John D. Forbes, Victorian Architect: The Life and Work of William Tinsley (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1953).

Tinsley designed buildings for a number of other colleges in the Midwest including buildings for Indiana University, Ohio Wesleyan and Oskaloosa College in Iowa. He also designed a number of homes for the wealthy, the first Boone County Courthouse and several other churches including St. John’s Episcopal in Lafayette which is still standing. Tinsley had a very successful career in America and lived in the Midwest the remainder of his life.

Each time I drive on to the Circle in Indianapolis, I smile at the beautiful church and think of the connection through the Irish architect that gave us these two buildings.

All best,


Beth Swift


Wabash College




October on Campus

Sign 2nd CD2004-03-03


There are few things as pretty as the leaves on campus in October. Everywhere we look the colors of fall are especially brilliant this year. If you were on campus this week you would see that in addition to the usual gold there are spectacular reds and every shade of orange and yellow you might imagine.  As I understand it, the tremendous rains that we had in Central Indiana this summer have really created the most beautiful fall display in memory.

In thinking about the leaves on campus, I was reminded of this iconic picture by one of our best photographers, Paul T. Mielke [W1942]. Paul was not only a loyal son, but a long serving member of our mathematics faculty. Lucky for us too since he most usually had a camera around his neck. Paul’s picture of the second sign at the corner of Wabash and Grant is full of autumnal gold. It really gives the viewer such a warm feeling for Wabash. Copies of this photo hang around campus and it never ceases to delight me to see it.

While looking for Paul’s picture, I also found this lovely picture of the first sign.

Sign 1st CD-2004-03-01

Taken in the morning by W. Norwood Brigance, a member of the faculty in the Speech Department, it is also a great fall picture and was used on the cover of the 1948 yearbook. The various colors and the shadows really make this a delightful photo, and I love the movement of the student, head down and off to his class. This sign, the first to occupy that space, was created by Byron Trippet to “dress up” the entry to Campus. The Indianapolis alumni thought that the corner was a disreputable first look at Wabash. And looking at old photos, they weren’t wrong. The grass was overgrown and, unlike today, no flowers. So Dean Trippet was charged with the task. I love his choice of a sign and the simple statement it carries, “Wabash College, Founded in 1832, A Liberal Arts College for Men.” Then and now, the same is still true. Most Wabash men are more familiar with the wooden signs like the one in Paul’s picture and there was some consternation when the last wooden sign was removed in the early 2000’s. Yet it is true to say that the current sign on the corner more closely resembles the original.

In each season the corner is planted with a succession of magnificent flowers, they do really dress up that space. As a welcome to Wabash the corner does just what it was intended to do and that welcome is caught by these beautiful old pictures.

All best,

Beth Swift


Wabash College


The tradition continues…

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It’s homecoming!

The story of 103 years of homecoming at Wabash is full of rituals, traditions and passion…passion for sport, passion for victory, but most of all a passion for this special place.

Football came to Wabash in the late 1880’s, the fans wanted a special cheer and a team color. One student suggested heliotrope and another replied, “Heliotrope, hell! We want blood!”

This Indiana championship team was the first to wear the scarlet.



And this is a scrap of the first scarlet ever worn!


At the start of the 20th century football fever gripped the nation and colleges began hosting homecoming weekends.

Driven by the Chicago Alumni Association, Wabash’s first homecoming football weekend was in 1912.

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The Roaring twenties saw Homecoming firmly established. House decorations, stunt night, bonfires, dances and chapel sing all came into being at that time.  Homecoming as we know it was here to stay. The Sphinx Club came in the 20’s too. In December of 1921 a group from Wabash travelled to IU and brought back the Sphinx. The club quickly assumed many duties at Homecoming, as they still do today.

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Chapel Sing, known in the past as Freshman Sing, was more of an individual ordeal as it was every man for himself. Note too in this picture of the 1930s that the freshmen are all wearing their “pots” or beanies. All the freshmen are being closely watched by the members of the Senior Council who served as judges for the sing.

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The homecoming bonfire was a big deal and the gathering of the materials for the fire sometimes led to trouble with our neighbors. It seems that any old fencing, odd bits of lumber and the neighbor’s old outhouse were all fair game for the scavengers!

Homecoming 1952 SLD-2004_1048

Over the years the traditions have changed, freshmen no longer wear their pajamas and gone are the pep rallies at the Courthouse.

But the floats, that don’t, the queen contest, the banners and chapel sing all continue.


Each year a new class of freshmen learn Old Wabash and learn also to love this special place. The tradition continues…

 All best, 
Beth Swift, Archivist
Wabash College

Sir Conner of Wabash – a REAL knight!

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Letter head of the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation from the files of the Ramsay Archives at Wabash College.


While researching in the Wabash Magazine, a short note about an alumnus knighted by the King of Belgium caught my eye. Intrigued, a little digging turned up a Wabash man with a passion for horses who lived his entire life in Wabash. Of course that is a bit of a trick, since he was born and raised in Wabash, Indiana. This town, and its county as well, are named for the river which runs through them.

Short side note here, you may ask why Wabash College is not in Wabash, Indiana? The answer is simple, when our college was founded this entire area was known as the “Wabash Country” as all the streams in this part of Indiana drain to the Wabash River. We are in Crawfordsville as that was where Williamson Dunn had land to donate to this audacious startup.

Back to our Wabash man. James D. Conner, Jr. was the son of a prominent lawyer and the first boy to graduate from Wabash High School.  He came to Wabash College as a member of the 1876 “Centennial Class.” While here Conner lived and boarded on Wabash Avenue. That he was ALL Wabash did not go unnoticed as the college gossip column in the student magazine of the time noted the oddity too.

Conner intended to follow his father into the law and at commencement his speech was on a legal theme, “The Genesis of our Republic.” Following graduation Conner returned to Wabash, Indiana and in that same year, 1876, he passed the bar and went to work with his father. Conner junior was a highly successful attorney and it was through his work as a lawyer that he became familiar with the Belgian draft horse as a special breed. An entry on the Find a Grave website [] gives much more detail taken from A History of Wabash County, Indiana [Clarkson Weesner, pub. 1914, pp 495-496]. According to the short biography it was through his work for a client that he first became aware of the Belgian draft horse. He was so taken with these horses that he established the first registry of the breed. In 1887 he created the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation for the purpose of registering these magnificent horses. As Mr. Conner said himself in a letter from December 8, 1937, he served as the Secretary Treasurer of the, “Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America, the only place in the United States where a pure bred Belgian draft horse can be registered.” That association continues today, it is still the only place to register such a horse and it is still headquartered in Wabash, Indiana. Here is a link to their website:

These horses are evidently quite impressive and it was as a reward for Conner’s protection of the breed that King Albert of Belgium honored Jim Conner as, “a Sir Knight of the Order of the Crown of Belgium” in 1928.

Horses weren’t his only love, he also organized the Wabash County Historical Society. It seems Sir Conner kept busy his whole life. In the same letter from  1937 Conner notes, “I am 84 and working harder than I ever did.” When he died at the age of 87, Conner left behind a legacy that has survived for over 125 years.

An amazing legacy, what a life for Sir Conner of Wabash.


All best,
Beth Swift
Wabash College
Crawfordsville, Indiana

Wally in the Army

Don Cole (W1952)

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  Last month’s post about the creator of Wally Wabash promised a look at Don Cole’s good work after leaving Wabash. Cole has a talent for finding the heart of the matter and bringing that out in his cartoons. Cole and his creation which he called the “Caveman”  went off to the army together. What resulted is a witty look at army life through the eyes of a private.

Drafted just following Commencement, Cole was inducted into the Army in September of 1952. In no time at all Cole made his mark on the army, as an illustrator in the visual aids section of the MP Board. He created a new character, MP Dooty, which was featured in many training pamphlets and in a regular monthly cartoon panel in the Military Police Journal, circulation 20,000. This is a photo of Cole at his desk in the army.

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From the Wabash Bulletin of June, 1953 we have the following interaction between Dick Banta, the Editor and Don Cole. The exchange starts with Banta’s description of Cole’s work at Wabash:

 For his contributions to college publications he created a “Caveman” figure which was accepted by his contemporaries as the true rendering of the typical Wabash Man – a character in no way reminiscent of the Man of Distinction – who is now, as Cole will tell us, in the army too.

Cole’s Uncle Sam gave him the nod soon after Commencement. Wondering what might have resulted from the impact of a union between the Armed Services and a Phi Beta Kappa cartoonist, we wrote to ask him for a BULLETIN contribution which would report on Cole in the Army. This is his reply:

 Dear Editor:

So they finally found something for you to do around Wabash – besides drinking coffee in the Scarlet Inn. I’m sending you some drawings I whipped up in my spare time. And I hope they are what you wanted. You might be interested to know that I am now an illustrator in the Visual Aids Section of the MP Board. The Board handles the doctrine and training of the Military Police Corps.

As you can see by one of the drawings I sent – I am doing a monthly comic panel featuring one MP Dooty who is none other than the old CAVEMAN with an MP uniform. Happily enough this character caught the eye of some top brass in the MP corps and they are planning to feature him in film strips and pamphlets for training Military Policemen. I am working on one of these pamphlets at the present – it’s called ON PATROL WITH MP DOOTY. The comic panel appears, as I said, monthly in the Military Police Journal (circulation 20,000), and the guy seems to be getting popular.

I was inducted Sept. 2, 1952 and took my basic training with an MP company. And just after Christmas and after some fancy talking I got a permanent assignment with the Board. I consider myself quite lucky and I’m well satisfied with my present lot. I’ll be even more satisfied after May 23rd for on that date I am to be wed to Miss Sonja Hartzell, (my last year’s Pan date).

Best regards,

Pvt. Don Cole.

These images are Cole’s report as printed in the Wabash Bulletin of June, 1953.

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 And look at that last cartoon. There is Wally Wabash in his MP uniform keeping company with his creator Don Cole. I hope you have enjoyed this look at Wally’s further adventures. Truly, Don Cole is an artist with a talent for cartooning!


All best,
Beth Swift
Wabash College
Crawfordsville, Indiana  

A cheery gift

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Look at this beauty which just arrived this morning! This bumper sticker is a gift of Charles O. Hardy [W1955] and it was delivered by Jane Hardy, his daughter. You may recognize Jane’s name as the newly tenured Assistant Professor of Spanish in the Modern Languages department. Jane and her husband Peter Mikek, [Associate Professor of Economics] are both on the faculty. It was awfully nice of Jane to bring this to the Archives. I love the pure red cheeriness of this sticker and, of course, that cheerful fellow Wally Wabash as created by Don Cole [W1952].

Here is a little more about this great cartoonist which was pulled together for a display a few years ago.

Cole 1950YBDon Cole (W1952)

Wabash has a long tradition of famous cartoonists. Perhaps most dear to students of a certain age is Don Cole. Graduated magna cum laude, a Phi Beta Kappa and with a first in comprehensives, Cole was a scholar with a wicked pencil. His Caveman covers of the early 50’s are a real peek into college humor of that time. He gave us that irrepressible WALLY WABASH. Created in 1948 for the Caveman, Wally was a hearty fellow, surviving even the deep sixing of that publication. Since that time, Wally has been a busy fellow. Money from the sale of Wally notebooks sent the Glee Club on their European tour of 1967. At one point he was on each piece of letterhead at the college and traveled the world on official Wabash flight bags.

Here are a series of Wallys that Don created for the 1956 yearbook. They really show student life in all its richness.

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The terror of all new freshmen, back in the day when blowing the words to “Dear Old Wabash” might earn you a stylish new “W” haircut.



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Wally in a class out in front of Center Hall. Is that legendary Professor of Classics Jack Charles behind the pipe?


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Wally at the round table of the Scarlet Inn is making his point!


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Wally in Chapel listening intently to the words of wisdom, mandatory attendance meant that not all students were as engaged as this good man.



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Club Man Wally was a real joiner. We have a couple of these charms in the Archives. Worn on the belt, each club had a different charm or key.


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There are several more Wallys, but Commencement Wally represented the highest achievement and the goal of all students past and present. With his lambskin in hand Wally is ready to face the outside world just as his creator did.

Next time I will share more of Cole’s brilliant cartooning after Wabash. In the meantime, you might be interested in this former post with a witty take on student life:


All best, 
Beth Swift, Archivist, Wabash College
Crawfordsville, Indiana




The circus is in town

Lichtenstein circus picture not datedSometimes in the spring things get a little silly on campus. It seems like the warm sun just brings out the kid in all of us. But there was a time when there was a real circus on campus. The Royal Lichtenstein Quarter Ring Circus visited Wabash several times in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Here is the best photo of all that I have seen. It really shows the delight of the audience members, young and old.

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This Bachelor article from April 14, 1978 gives us a little background on this interesting touring group. And clearly they were a hit at Wabash based on the frequency of their return performances.

And, whether or not it is officially a circus, on some warm sunny days here on campus, the mall is hopping with life – students and faculty who stop to chat with one another, Sphinx Club members doing air raids and Career Services taking their show to where the students are found. Yes, on a warm spring day it feels a little like the circus has come to town, which means not long now until commencement!


All best, 
Beth Swift
Wabash College


April 22 at Wabash

Hello Wallies and Wabash enthusiasts,

For future reference, I will be posting informative bits every week or so (and not every single day) due to the difficulties of identifying interesting facts/situations through Wabash historical documents for each day.  That being said, it has been a great experience being able to look through these documents and expose myself to things I did not know previous to this endeavor.  Let’s get started:

In light of it being Earth Day today, I would like to celebrate this holiday by shedding some knowledge about how some students reacted to something called “Low Carbon Day” seven years ago.

April 19, 2008: On this day, Wabash students protest against Bon Appetit’s “Low Carbon Day,” an event to recognize the significance of Earth Day which resulted in the removal of products that produce emissions.  The average weekday at Sparks Center fed 200 students; that day, they only fed 50.

Now, here is today’s interesting fact:

April 22, 1999: Delta Phi, a fraternity that only consisted of 5 members and was unrecognized by the college, voted itself dormant and suspended its operations.


Hopefully you all have found these informative bits of Wabash history interesting and informative.  Be sure to look at next week’s post to learn something about what is now the 1832 Brew.

In Wabash,

Graham Redweik ’16

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