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My Favorite Little Book

A request this morning reminded me of this book. I say it is one of my favorites because I recommend it a few times each year. It is from the Wild Plants in Flower series with photographs by Torkel Korling and essay and species notes by Robert O. Petty – longtime biology professor here at Wabash College. My favorite is Volume III The Deciduous Forest. Maybe this is because these are the plants that I know best; the flowers from the woods of my childhood. The excellent photography of Mr. Korling is still, all of these many years later (the book was published in 1974), just as fresh as ever. But I think the real reason that I like it so very much is because of the essays and species notes by Bob Petty.

Listen to this description of the image on the cover, “Spring light in a young forest, a crowd of trillium above decaying leaves – we have been here before. But long before us, before the millennia of glaciers brought summer as but a taunting of the sun, recurrent drought had shaped evolving strategies – autumn and spring of the deciduous forest, where to survive was to win by loss, or not at all. Slowly our curve of earth tilts south again, and here and there we find the ancient secret.”
 
The opening phrase just draws me into the remainder of the description. As I read this description I feel that out in the woods I am part of a crowd, one of the “we”. All through the book this feeling is fostered as if there were any number of good friends walking in the woods with us.
 
In one of the essays, Petty gives a full natural history of our area. He explains the various upheavals and changes in the forest over millions of years. “In the late 1700’s, settlers reaching a crest of the Wilderness Road in a notch of the Cumberlands stood blinking into the western light across the greatest deciduous forest that ever was.” This is so vivid a description that again it seems like I can see this scene.
 
In the next few pages Petty paints a picture of the clear cutting that took place in this forested area. He writes of the cutting of trees “five feet through and towering one hundred and fifty feet. How do you ‘cut the top off’ all the flat land between the Cumberlands and the Mississippi?” In these two sentences the author gives an absolutely clear sense of the size and scale of the clearing efforts which took three generations.
 
I think of these essays as I drive through the country here. In the spring I pull out my copy and wander into the woods. But of all of the species photographs I am drawn to this one…
 
I believe it was taken in the woods at my home over three decades ago. Bluebell valley we call it and it is just a gorgeous little valley when completely covered with these lovely blue flowers. A sure sign that summer is on its way. Yet, as the weather is cooling here I think about the end of this book, “By October, the forest is burning amber and crimson in the brief evening light. There is a sharp and pungent sweetness to the air – the smell of walnuts. The nights are cold.”
 
A sudden wind drifts storms of yellow leaves and tumbles fruits and seeds. A night rain breaks the last dead leaves away from ash and maple. The walnut trees are long since bare – the last to get their leaves, the first to lose them. Here and there in the dry oak woods, a clatter of acorns breaks the stillness. The youngest oak and beech trees wear their dead, russet foliage into winter.”
 
The wild flowers are only a rumor now. The plants are dormant. All the ancient strategies are one.”
 
Really a lovely book and as I return to it each spring I wonder…was Petty a biologist with poetry in him or a poet who studied biology?  
 
Best, Beth

Homecoming in the 20s and 30s Part II

This is a continuation of the homecoming 1920s and 30s story…B

Here are a few freshmen in their pajamas and pots working their way around the bonfire.

Here is a shot of the 1939 Chapel Sing with members of the freshman class on the steps of the Pioneer Chapel. The upperclassmen, probably members of the Senior Council, are closely watching for the least mistake. Unlike the Chapel Sing of today, in this era and for decades after, all freshmen took part and it was every man for himself.

Lastly, here is a great picture of the Lambda Chi house all decked out for Homecoming 1939. Enjoy the week and enjoy the game on Saturday!!

Best,

Beth Swift

Archivist

Wabash College


Homecoming in the 20s and 30s Part I

Note: This entry on homecoming has a lot of images with it so I am breaking it into two parts. I hope that this helps a little with load times…B

As the campus gears up for Homecoming 2009, I thought it might be fun to look as some old images of this celebration…The poster above was for the homecoming celebration of 1937. It is interesting to note that this was the Monon Bell game. I also note that no speeches and no programs were to take place! However there was lunch, then the game, then a meeting of “W” men or men who had won athletic letters. All of that fun and, just as now, there was a Homecoming Concert free to the public. This is just a great old poster filled with loads of energy!

This photo shows the homecoming bonfire built by the Class of 1925. It was the chore of each freshman class to build a bonfire and protect it from the sophomore class. These bonfires were built of anything the marauding freshmen could find and drag back to campus.

As seen in the photograph above, an outhouse was the preferred topper for a really good bonfire. I have always wondered what the neighbors thought at this time of year. Were they out in their backyards standing guard?

Continues in Homecoming part two

Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College

This is sooo cool!

As we are moving things around, we are encountering any number of interesting items. These films of 1928 are excellent examples of a couple of such items. These 16mm films have been kept in the Archives and, while neat to look at as artifacts, it is their content that is of real interest. A casual chat with Adam Bowen in the Media Center about how neat it would be to be able to see these movies. Adam placed a campus classified ad asking for a 16mm projector and Jamie Ross in IT found one in a closet in Baxter Hall. Better yet, it was in perfect working order.

Adam projected the movie on to a blank background for filming with a digital video camera. He called me over and for the first time ever I saw the old history move!! Right there on screen was President Hopkins, Dean George Kendall, Doc Howell and tons of others. I saw the freshman class practicing their spirit yells. I watched the football team play, including some pretty good kick-offs. All of these combined with that now rare, but easily remembered, sound a film projector makes as it plays, click, click, click…IT WAS SO COOL!!!

We will have the silent film running in the Lilly Library over Homecoming if you would like to see a little about life at Wabash in 1928. There are scenes of golf at the Country Club, football, tennis in the arboretum, Chapel, faculty members, fraternities of that era – including a very young Byron Trippet – the old FIJI house when it was new, same for the old Kappa Sigma house. This film is really just a wonderful little window on Wabash in the late 1920’s.

Best,
Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College

Update: You can find some of these clips on You Tube. Adam Bowen posted them. Search Wabash College+1928s and you will find them. Many thanks to Adam for his tech savvy!!!


Football in 1912

Now that it is football season again, here is a little story about a great team…

It was the fall of 1912 and the Wabash team was back on the field after a longer than usual break from football. The tragic death of a Wabash football player the year before had forced the cancellation of the remainder of the 1911 season. Ralph Lee Wilson’s story continues to inspire Wabash men yet today. As you might imagine, it was quite a blow to the school and yet the team was ready to get back to playing football.

The team of 1912 was coached by Jesse Harper, in the picture below far left, back row. Harper left Wabash later for Notre Dame where he created a football dynasty with his use of the innovative forward pass. Two books have recently been published about Harper that pull extensively from Wabash archival sources.

Here is a picture of the 1912 team…

Seated in the front row and holding the ball is team captain Morris “Doc” Elliott [W1913]. Doc was voted All-State first team for football. An article from the Indianapolis paper says of his place on the All-State team, “Elliott, the fighting Wabash Captain, is the smallest and probably the best in the bunch.”

Doc served as the class president, was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and, as the oldest of eight sons, worked his way through college doing odd jobs. Upon graduation, Doc attended Pharmacy School and became a pharmacist and drug store owner like his father. For 20 years Doc was a Class Agent keeping his classmates in touch with Wabash. In a letter to the College, his daughter said that next to his wife, Doc loved Wabash best.

Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College


Progress!

Big news from the Archives…we now have more room…In fact, a lot more room. Many thanks to our Head Librarian, John Lamborn – Head of IT, Brad Weaver and Dean Phillips for their support on this expansion.

The genesis for this project was the ever increasing need for additional storage here in the Archives. We were truly desparate for the room needed to store our growing collection. Not only did we need more storage space, but we were so crowded, it was difficult to properly process a collection of any size. Stacked to the rafters is about the best way to describe our situation last year.

It was either find more space or stop the history – so we began looking around the Library. The largest single space nearest our current space was the computer lab in the basement. We started monitoring student use of the space and discovered that students preferred to use the previously small number of computers on the main floor. Not uncommonly when I would arrive in the morning the computers upstairs were nearly always occupied, if I then came downstairs to the old lab I would see a couple of fellows in a facility designed for many more users.

So this summer the work began. Our library student workers began the demolition of the wooden risers where the computers sat. They carried the mess away, campus services patched the walls and floor, did a great deal of rewiring and painted the room. Carpet was installed and shelves went up all over the room.

In the meantime, the moving of the computer lab ( alot of work by the IT team) is complete. The computers are now in place and functioning beautifully. The students seem to enjoy them in their new location. Still, it was a big project for everyone involved. .

It is not too much to say that now I can see what we have and most importantly, can begin more processing in all of this space that we are now lucky enough to have. Here is a picture of the new space and our collection all lined up and ready to be of use.

Here is a picture of the sight that now greets students as they come out of the north stairwell…

Now this is REAL progress :~)

Best,

Beth

 


They’re here!

Campus is alive again…Classes started yesterday and there is a buzz of excitement on campus. I love this time when everything starts over for another year. This picture conveys the feeling of youthful exuberance still present on campus. This photo was taken at a courthouse pep rally in the 1920s. I wish we had more information about it, who this young man is or at least the event that prompted the gathering. Yet this picture still manages to convey a great deal and it seems a perfect metaphor for a new year, full of hope and energy.

Best,
Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College

A Philadelphia Story…

As I come and go in the Library I see things that catch my eye – some because they are clearly old, some because they are handsome and some simply because of their content. Down here in the lower level (okay, the basement) of the Library, while working in the stacks, I came across the Annual Cyclopedia. It is a handsome old set which has been beautifully bound. The year 1876 had been in my mind following an e-mail research request for information on the Centennial Exhibition and our faculty member John Lyle Campbell’s participation. I pulled the volume for 1876 off of the shelf to see the entry for the Centennial Exhibition. Held in Philadelphia to mark the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the exhibition was open every day for six months, from May 10th to November 10th. The Exhibition was wildly popular and nearly 10 million people were admitted to the grounds. On display were the latest technological advances in science and industry. There were also individual displays of manufacture and agriculture from countries around the world. Twenty-six of the United States had buildings highlighting their natural resources and notable commercial achievements. All of this is notable because among the head management team of the Centennial Exhibition was a Wabash man and long-time member of the faculty, John Lyle Campbell [W1848] who taught physics, astronomy and civil engineering courses here at Wabash.

Campbell JL CropPD_066

John Lyle Campbell had a national reputation for excellence. Following a lecture at the Smithsonian Institution on Galileo, Campbell suggested that a world’s fair might be a fitting way to celebrate the nation’s centennial and that Philadelphia was the obvious location. I should note that Campbell was not the only person who thought this might be a good idea, yet he was appointed Secretary of the event.

To give you a sense of the honor and responsibility this appointment carried, the entire fair was run by a President, six vice presidents, John Lyle Campbell and one lawyer who served as counselor. This was a monstrous event and to give you a sense of the scale of the fair, here are a couple of images from the Cyclopedia…

CentennialEXP

This first engraving is of the fairgrounds and we can see Philadelphia in the middle distance. The buildings included an Agricultural Hall, a Horticultural Hall, a Machinery Hall (with 14 acres of exhibition space), Memorial Hall, a Women’s Pavillion (which housed “the products of female industry and ingenuity of every class…”), and the largest building of all, pictured below, the Main Exhibition Building.

CentennialMainBldgSmall

With 20 acres under roof this building housed the manufacturing, mining, science, education and metallurgy exhibits of all of the nations as well as the offices of the Exhibition administration. This was the building where Campbell would have done most of his work. Not surprising then that that he returned to Crawfordsville inspired by what he had seen of the possibilities of electricity. Indeed, all of the newest inventions in the world came to Philadelphia that year and right in the middle of all of this was our Professor Campbell. His good work was recognized by the Centennial Commission and he was presented with a gold medal (not here in the Archives), this great certificate ( a gift to the Archives from my good friend Jack Wyatt[W1958]) and a lovely cane (which we do have here) created from a piece of wood which came from Independence Hall.

campbell certificateLOCampbell would go on to serve as Indiana’s representative to the Chicago World’s Fair, but most importantly he was the longest serving member of the faculty, much beloved by his students and a real inspiration to all who knew him.

Best,
Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College

The General in his study

General Lew Wallace, the author of Ben Hur, is seen in this image in his reclining chair along with his writing board. It was in exactly this fashion that he wrote a bit of the world famous novel under his beech trees. This picture of the General was taken in front of the fireplace of his study. Wallace very carefully designed this unique building and oversaw every detail of its construction. I understand that, even down to the exact color of the bricks, every aspect of his study was the subject of his intense scrutiny.

Dreaming of this project while Governor of New Mexico in 1879 Wallace wrote to his wife Susan Elston Wallace, ““I want a study, a pleasure-house for my soul, where no one could hear me make speeches to myself, and play the violin at midnight if I chose. A detached room away from the world and its worries. A place for my old age to rest in and grow reminiscent, fighting the battles of youth over again.” The dream lingered and sixteen years later, when Wallace returned from his post as Minister to Turkey, the construction began. It was here that Wallace spent the last of his days, reading, writing, painting, playing his violin and entertaining the occasional guest.

Though Wallace attended Wabash very briefly, he always considered himself an alumnus of the College. He enjoyed the student pranks, sent his son here and attended college events. He is listed on the Civil War memorial on the east side of Center Hall. In fact, he spoke at the dedication ceremonies.

Lew Wallace is an excellent example of the broad interests of a Wabash man and also of the value of lifelong learning. The Study is full of items that show this commitment to knowledge. It is a very nice place to visit while here in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

Best,
Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College

This just in…

What a great picture! Former swim coach and Wabash Athletics Hall of Famer Gail Pebworth just came by with this incredible gift for the Archives. It was sent to her by the family of Albert Otto Deluse, a Beta in the class of 1925. It is a picture of the first Beta House in its Homecoming finery in the early 20’s. This house was the first residence of the fraternity and is in the same location as the Beta house of today. Later in the 1920’s this house was extensively remodeled. The front porch was removed, leaded glass windows were added and the whole house was bricked rendering an “English” effect.

Although not dated, this photo is probably from 1921 or 1922. With the donor being a member of the Class of 1925, we might assume it was taken during his time here. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, there is a replica of a football field including miniature bleachers and yard markers on the left. On the football field there is a scoreboard listing Wabash and the “Aggies” and a quick phone call to SID Brent Harris gave me the answers I needed. Brent could tell me that we played the Michigan State Aggies, as they were then known, from 1907 to 1922. He added, also off the top of his head, that we went 1-5-1 against them. The last time Wabash played this team was in 1922 which would limit the timeframe to just a couple of years.

I am delighted with this donation and the chance it gives me to tell a little of the story of this old house!

Best,
Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College



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