Time travel

There are some collections here in the Archives that have the ability to transport you to another time. A couple of weeks ago we had an art class in the Archives really digging around. Among the things that they brought to light was a diary kept by Ralph D. “Hoggie” Mount, Wabash class of 1922. Beginning with January 02, 1921 and continuing through the end of the school year in June – Mount with his clever sketches of student life –really takes us back in time.

This first image is the front page of his diary to which he has added two drawings – self-portraits, these figures represent Mount in the diary.

So who was Ralph DeWitt Mount? He came to Wabash as one of the Student Army Training Corps fellows during the first World War. After the SATC came to an end, Mount did what a number of other men did and stayed at Wabash. He was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and President of the Pan-Hellenic Council. He worked on the yearbook, he managed the football team, but his primary sport was baseball.

The next page starts his story and establishes the format for the rest of the book. Each day is one page. In the upper left corner he gives us the weather for the day. Some terribly clever little weather drawings and commentary.

In this drawing for Sunday, January 2, 1921 we see Mount boarding a train for Indianapolis, the first leg of his trip back to school.


Student life in the Kappa Sigma house in 1921 – and so finely drawn. In this sketch we see Mount sleeping in and having a late breakfast.

Pledging, intramurals, house activities, weather and sports scores – a tidy little package.

Mount was a very talented cartoonist and here are a couple of great cartoons. With all of this talent I wondered if Mount ever used these talents professionally – he did not, but clearly art was a passion his entire life.

From a letter back to the college in 1978 signed Ralph D. “Hoggie” Mount 1922, “Nothing of interest to report. 78th birthday coming up on Sept. 16th, ’78…I ‘eat-up’ with interest any and all information from and about Wabash! I’m doing quite a bit of oil painting, as a pleasant hobby, and TRY to play golf three or four times a week. Keep the news coming in any shape or form!”

What a gift he left behind and what fun to page through it nearly 90 years later…

Beth Swift
Wabash College

Who knew?

The Hovey Museum housed the Botany and Zoology Departments at Wabash in the 1890’s.

As the Archivist I receive research requests of all sorts. Everything from requests for information on great-grandfather’s history while at school to information on a former faculty member. These requests are great and it is almost always the case that I learn something new about the history of Wabash.

I received a request from a researcher about the Ph.D. program at Wabash which began in the late 1880’s and was discontinued in the early 1900’s. The central question was did Wabash award any Ph.D. degrees earned “in course”? My first thought was no – so I turned next to that good old source – Wabash College the First Hundred Years, where I read this on page 152,

“In 1887, Wabash, in addition to offering work for the A.M. degree, which had been provided for during Dr. White’s presidency, permitted work for the Ph.D. This degree was to be granted not less than three years after the attainment of a bachelor’s degree, and only on completion of two years’ resident graduate work. A printed thesis of high merit was also required. During Mr. Tuttle’s presidency (1862-1892) a number of students registered for graduate work; but none of them completed his Ph.D. requirements at Wabash. During President Burroughs’ administration (1892-1899) the faculty wisely abandoned the attempt to give work leading to the doctor’s degree.”

Joseph Nelson Rose as a senior

That confirmed my first thought…So I researched the men who were a part of that program. The first graduate student I encountered, Joseph Nelson Rose, caused me to pause. Rose, I knew, had done spectacular, even groundbreaking, work as a botanist. I also knew that he had studied under John Merle Coulter – one of the nation’s pre-eminent botanists. So I pulled his folder and there in a questionnaire answered in preparation for the 1912 Alumni Directory, Rose had noted that he had a Ph.D. from Wabash.

So now the digging started – turns out we awarded at least six Ph.D. degrees and here are quick summaries of the men who earned them…

Joseph Nelson Rose [W1885] was in the first class of post-graduate students and the first recipient of the Ph.D. Rose is described in the Wabash Magazine of 10/1886 as “the best scientific student…kept as a post-grad with a fellowship. “Rose worked with John Merle Coulter here at Wabash for two years and was listed as Botany Assistant during that time. His degree was mistakenly classified as Honorary – but was clearly an earned degree. He completed the two years of study and produced, along with Coulter, an incredible paper entitled Revision of North American Umbelliferae which was printed in December of 1888 in Crawfordsville. Later presidential correspondence confirms these statements.

Robert N. Whiteford [Wabash class of 1890] studying English and German received his Ph.D. in 1893 and we have his thesis The Myth of Beowulf

Marion W. Baker [Wabash class of 1892] studying Philosophy, English and Literature received his Ph.D. in 1895 and we have his thesis The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse.

Walter Harrison Evans [Wabash class of 1887] studying Botany received his Ph.D. in 1895. No thesis found.

James G. McMurtry [Wabash class of 1893] studying German and Greek received his Ph.D. in 1899. No thesis found.

Charles Ezra Fisk [not a Wabash man, listed as M.A.] studying Education, History, Psychology received his Ph.D. in 1901. No thesis found.

So, now we know, at least six men have received the earned Ph.D. from Wabash. Research requests sometimes pop up the greatest information – and this is certainly one of those times!


Beth Swift


Wabash College

A new hall of sciences

Goodrich Hall now home to the Mathematics and Physics departments  was built in the late 1930’s as a hall of sciences at Wabash.  The new building was the result of two very determined men and a stiff challenge.

Former Governor of Indiana, James Putnam Goodrich was a member of the Board of Trustees from 1904-1940. He was President of the Board of Trustees from 1924 until his death in 1940. Goodrich was a fiscal conservative and the fact that Wabash was running a deficit bothered him greatly. In the middle of the Great Depression many things had been cut to the bone and still there was an operating deficit. Governor Goodrich told President Hopkins that if the college would balance its budget for three years running, he would fund a badly needed new building for the sciences.

The 1920’s had been good to Wabash…enrollment was up and the “Hell-roarin 500” as our student body was sometimes called, were full of spirit and optimistic. As the 20’s ended and our national economy went sour, many students had to leave college. There are those who never returned and there are those who, with great personal hardship and some clever financial assistance from Wabash, managed to make it through. It was a hard time in the history.


The Goodrich challenge was made at the height of the Great Depression, yet with extreme cost cutting measures, the goal was achieved. All maintenance was delayed. The buildings on campus were left unpainted and all other non-essential expenditures were put on hold. Dick Ristine used to say that the mall was cut once a summer, just before the students returned to campus in the fall, “whether it needed it or not!”  Even staff and faculty salaries were cut with the understanding that they would be restored as soon as practicable.


The new building for the sciences was a brilliant addition to the campus. Designed by the same architect as the Chapel, Goodrich made a truly lovely anchor for the southwest corner of the mall. In fact, that corner is still just brilliant. Truly these two buildings, Goodrich and the Chapel, are a great pair. How nice that they both still serve our college today!


Beth Swift


Photo above is of Goodrich Hall when first built.

Sassafras, oh sassafras…

One of the most delightful outcomes of blogging is the chance that I get to hear from people when a story strikes a chord. It is doubly delightful when the blog prompts a story from them. This posting is just such a story.

To students of a certain era – just the mention of Elmore Day brings a wistful smile. The Bard of Alamo lives on in the hearts of many a Wabash man. In December we had a visit from one of these fellows and here is a link to that Elmore Day blog entry…

From time to time I have had the pleasure of corresponding via e-mail with former President Thaddeus Seymour. Just this week I received these gracious words…


I really enjoy reading your blog and write to thank you for all those wonderful stories.  I will look forward to a visit sometime, because there are some gaps I may be able to fill in… And there are some Elmore stories….I hope that someday you will meet our wonderful Rollins Archivist, Wenxian Zhang… I have done a number of recording sessions with him…He posted my discussion of Fox Day (Elmore Day translated to Rollins) on-line.  You can read and listen to it.  I explained how the idea came with me from Wabash and even included a verse from Elmore in the Rollins proclamation:

I thought you might enjoy this pair of proclamations.  As you can see, Elmore lives at Rollins! The Elmore proclamation is from 1972, its first year.  The Fox Day is from 1979. Thad Seymour


If you click on the link of the oral history you can hear Seymour recite this timeless Elmore poem…

“In the spring of the year, when the blood is too thick, there’s nothing so rare as a sassafras stick. It strengthens the liver and cleans up the heart, and to the whole system new life doth impart. Sassafras, oh sassafras, thou art the stuff for me! And in the spring I love to sing, sweet sassafras, of thee.”

Beth Swift
Wabash College

A piece of the past

Here in the Archives we receive many donations – some are what might be expected – an old letter sweater or an old journal. Some of our donations are just plain odd – like the collection of bricks from Kingery Hall or the old ventilation grate from Center Hall. One of the odder pieces in our collection is the Halls Mentholyptus from Bryon Trippet’s commencement regalia. I found it when we pulled some of his things out for the dedication of Trippet Hall. 

But sometimes the things we get are more like voices from the past.  This envelope is just such a piece.

A great deal of the business of the college is transacted via these inter-office correspondence envelopes. Jim Amidon brought this envelope over to the Archives because, despite its lowly function, it has captured a large piece of history.

The first name on the list is President Salter. Lew Salter was the 12th President of Wabash College. He served from 1978-1988. In 1988 Salter became the only Chancellor in Wabash history. That is the third entry on the envelope so we know that this envelope was in service during the year 1988-1989. When Lew Salter became Chancellor, Vic Powell stepped up into the presidency. We also see that entry – President Powell.

This envelope and hundreds like it fly around campus every day. It is not at all uncommon to see names of people who have left the college. Or in the case of President Salter who are no longer among the living. So as I look down the list, I see Don Dake who died just this week and Paul McKinney who died a few years ago. 

When I encounter an envelope with such names, I do what Jim Amidon did, I stop to reflect a minute on the lives of those now gone. It was thoughtful of Jim to pass along this envelope as it is truly a snapshot of the past.It captures in just a few names, a huge piece of our history.

It will be saved as an artifact and will, someday, serve to tell a story about that time in the history of Wabash.

Thanks Jim!