Baseball 1920s

This is a picture of a Wabash College home baseball game from the 1920s. I love this picture for many reasons. It is so visually rich in appearance. I also love it for the way it captures the fans of the sport in the 1920’s. We can see the gents in their straw boaters and the ladies in their hats, along with the ever present crop of small boys. The baseball teams of the 20’s were outstanding and a few of our alums went on to play in the majors. Baseball was serious business in that decade.

I should note that although the style of the stadium closely resembles that of the recently retired Mud Hollow field, it is not the same stadium. At this time the baseball field was on the north side of Jennison Street along with the football field.

But as with most things, with the opening of the Spring home baseball season at Wabash, everything changes. This year, the team will have a new and modern field on which to play. Construction is nearly finished, the crews have worked through good weather and bad, (mostly bad lately!) to finish on time. Here is a link to the Brent Harris’ web posting about this project:

One thing that hasn’t changed is Wabash’s commitment to the national pastime – baseball was the first sport at Wabash and continues to be a core part of our athletic program. This new field is a tangible sign of that commitment and the onset of baseball season is one of the surest signs that spring might actually be on its way! Might I add that it is not a moment too soon…

Beth Swift
Wabash College
The ball field is ready for prime time here is a link to Brent Harris’ great piece…Play ball!

Civil War at 150

Book plate created by Eli Lilly and used by his men - Ramsay Archives

This year marks the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. All over America various organizations are marking this year in all sorts of ways and throughout this year I will share a few of these projects and some interesting links.

I want to start with the daily blog DISUNION from the New York Times.

Each day there is a new post, “using contemporary accounts, diaries, images and historical assessments to follow the Civil War as it unfolded.” A fascinating concept as the reader can walk through history as it happened day by day.

I was tickled to hear from and then read three posts by a Wabash man, Daniel Crofts [W1963]. A history major at Wabash, Dan went on to Yale and then to the College of New Jersey where he has taught history for over thirty years. It is not suprising that he was asked to write for the Disunion series as he has studied and written extensively about this period in American history. Daniel’s posts for Disunion, so far are: “The Diary of a ‘Susseader’”, “No Better Southern Man” and “A Baptism of Blood?” You can search the blog for CROFTS and these will pop up for you.

His first book, published in 1989 by the University of North Carolina Press was  Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis. The last of his five books, published by the Louisiana State University Press in April of last year is A Secession Crisis Enigma: William Henry Hurlbert and “The Diary of a Public Man”. More information on these and his other works can be found at

Civil War artifacts of Benjamin Marshall Mills, only son of Caleb Mills who was the first member of the Wabash College faculty. Benjamin died soon after the war of illness contracted during his service. It is said that Caleb Mills never recovered from this loss. Near our campus is Marshall Street, which Caleb named for Benjamin following his death.

I will close with a couple of great links for those who are interested in pictures from the War of the Rebellion as it was called for many years…these photos are from a Library of Congress collection donated by the Liljenquist Family.

The next link is also to the Library of Congress web page. This is their Civil War Photograph collection page. In addition for the photos, there are all sorts of other links to more information – about their collection, about photography during the war and about specific photographers.

So if you have some free time, take a look at these various projects all connected to the War Between the States…


Beth Swift
Wabash College

Student life in 1950

As the Archivist of this small college, I struggle a bit with the concept of an accurate picture of student life in any given era. I understand many things about student life in various eras and the photos in yearbooks are helpful, the Bachelor is a tremendous source and the Scarlet Yarns program of the Big Bash are all parts of the huge, multilayer puzzle that I try to assemble and share. Thankfully, it is an endlessly fascinating puzzle. But there are times when I come across something that shines a bright light on student life at Wabash. That happened this week….

While working in the 1950 yearbook I found a set of four images that I had never seen before. These four images tell the story of the school year 1949 to 1950 from the perspective of each class.

Freshman class in 1950

This image shows the various activities of the freshman class. At the top they are busily building a bonfire for Homecoming, a serious responsibility. In the center a member of the senior council (in his Sphinx Club pot) is drilling the Rhynies on the words to Old Wabash and threatening a haircut if they blow it. At left are a pair of freshmen reading the infamous “Read and Reading Tremble” poster and we can see that they are indeed trembling.

Almost the entire right of the picture tells us about class day…as summarized in this announcement from the Bachelor of November 11, 1949, “Thursday afternoon at 4:00 o’clock there will be held on Ingalls Field the annual Freshman-Sophomore Fight to determine whether Freshman Pots will be worn the remainder of the year. There will be three events, the Greased Pole Fight, the Tug of War, and the Two Mile Relay.” The far upper right shows the pots (freshman beanies) tossed in the air in celebration.

Sophomores of 1949-50

This drawing show us the sophisticated sophomore class and their many interactions with the freshmen a year below them. All freshmen are shown wearing their freshman pots and many of them are at the mercy of the sophs. In the center is a caveman with his club, the Caveman magazine was a large part of student life at that time. I see a fellow at the right and wonder if that might not represent longtime faculty member Neil Hutsinpillar looking on with some disdain. Sophomores having fun seems to be the theme of this panel.

The junior class of 1949-50

This image shows the junior class and it seems all is in good order. We see students engaged in deep conversations, reading intently, checking the accuracy of the Milligan Clock and greeting old friends. The junior class seems to be at the height of student life, beyond the need for sophomoric exploits, not yet facing the challenges of the real world, in a word….relaxed.

The class of 1950

Here we have the senior class, the men of 1950. In the center at bottom, we see two fellows moved to tears at the thought of well, we don’t really know…leaving Wabash, leaving old friends behind or maybe facing their futures…We see a set of parents speaking to a member of the faculty or perhaps it is President Sparks. We see one young man who looks as if he is being sold a bill of goods by the man in the striped suit – or is this a job offer? There are so many characters in this image that observers from a later era don’t really know and yet the picture is so clear. This scene happens every spring as Wabash graduates another class. Each commencement we see these things, with a different class and a different cast of characters. What a great image!

The artist behind these striking images is Don Cole [W1952].

Cole was on the Board of Editors of the Caveman and the only Caveman Artist in the 1950 yearbook.

Here is a picture of the artist from the 1950 yearbook. Cole, as many alums know, gave Wabash the first Wally…in many ways, the one true Wally Wabash. Wally as created by Don was a gregarious fellow with a crew cut and a letter sweater. Don, as we can see from his work of 1950, even as a sophomore, was an incredibly talented cartoonist with a gift for finding the humor in a situation. I love these four images and the snapshot of student life they give us for this particular year, 1949-50. I also love that 60+ years later, they are still fresh and full of life. They still have the power to bring a smile and they are a delight to share.

Beth Swift, Archivist, Wabash College