Campus circa 1880s

This is a Sanborn fire map from the late 1870s. These maps were used by insurance companies to rate the fire hazards of a building. What is great about these maps is that they tell us a lot about a particular building, what it is made of and also how it was heated.

If you have ever wondered about your neighborhood in the past, these Sanborn fire maps are a real treasure trove of information.

I hope you enjoy this old map and to help you get your bearings, I have added notes about each location shown. For instance the building on the left about midway is Forest Hall, which is described as “Boarding” as it was then used as a boarding house for students. This also shows the first of three locations of Forest on this campus. It was purchased by Caleb Mills and moved to his land near campus from its original location overlooking Sugar Creek. Mills later donated it to the College.

The building located on the left, at bottom and labelled “Museum” is the old Polytechnic building which was repurposed as the Hovey Museum. Roughly on the spot where our Amory/Gymnasium is today.

In the middle of what we now call The Mall is a power plant which was built to power the machinery in Peck Hall, home to physics [natural philosophy as it was called then] and Chemistry.

As to a date on this map, we know it is post 1872 as it shows the wings of Center Hall, completed by 1872. We also know that Peck Hall went up in 1878, so it is later than that. The map is older than 1890 as that is when Yandes [now Detchon] was completed.

All best,

Beth Swift


Wabash College

Crawfordsville, Indiana

President Thaddeus Seymour – gone, but not forgotten…

Seymour leaving commencement holding the Caleb Mills bell. The ringing in as freshmen and ringing out as graduates is a tradition created by Seymour. This tradition was prompted by the discovery of the Bell during his tenure here at Wabash.

In late October we received word that former president Thad Seymour had passed. As I read the news I was sad, it seemed like something vital was gone from the world.

To be clear, although my husband’s family knew the Seymours quite well, I had never met Thad Seymour in person. It was only as Archivist that I interacted with him. Still, he had a way of making everyone feel like they mattered to him.

Seymour leading his iconic “Give me a W” cheer.

Thaddeus Seymour was immensely popular with the student body. Shown here in the midst of his famous cheer during football season, Seymour could really bring the crowd to life. It is interesting to me that in nearly all of the pictures that we have of him, he is almost always in motion. I came to have a sense of him as a fellow who embraced life to its fullest.

The first contact I had with him was in connection with some items he wanted to send to the Archives. From there we continued an irregular, but always delightful, correspondence. He kept an eye on Wabash, utilizing new media like a digital native. In one instance when I posted about Wabash cancelling classes for the blizzard of 1977, it drew a swift reply.  Here is the post that drew him in:

Seymour reads a selection from a volume of James B. Elmore’s poems.

Among the things that Seymour will be remembered for is a warm appreciation for autumn’s most beautiful day. Ask any former student what they most remember about President Seymour’s time here and they are likely to tell you that it is Elmore Day. Thad Seymour was bothered that there was no fall break scheduled for Wabash men. To rectify this, Seymour came up with Elmore Day. This holiday was named for Montgomery County’s most famous, and least admired, poet James B. Elmore, known to history as the Bard of Alamo.  

On some beautiful day in the fall, President Seymour would wake up and declare that day was Elmore Day. Classes were cancelled and students were encouraged to get outside and make the most of it. Back on campus, Seymour would read from the Bard’s works.

Here is a sample of Elmore’s immortal work:

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.

Here Seymour entertains a small group of students
on Elmore Day at Wabash College.

The students loved it while most of the faculty did not, as it threw off exam and lab schedules. Seymour himself noted that one of the first changes when he left here in 1978 was the end of  Elmore Day. A pre-scheduled fall break was substituted.

Seymour left Wabash and went to head Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. There he found that there was a similar holiday, no longer celebrated, Fox Day. Here is a short blurb from the Rollins College web site. “The savvy fox found his way back to campus in 1979, during Thaddeus Seymour’s administration (1978-1990). Seymour said, ‘When I was president of Wabash College in Indiana, we had a similar day called Elmore Day. It was very natural to me, and I believe any sensible college should have a day like this.’ So the popular Fox Day was reinstated and continues today. “

This picture, a large copy of which hangs in the 1832 Brew in the Library, was taken in 1974 on Elmore Day. When the picture first went up, I sent President Seymour an email with a few questions about the car. He responded quickly that this classic is an old family car – a 1929 Packard Phaeton convertible. He told me that it was still in the family and still running.

Seymour spent his retirement years seemingly everywhere at once, volunteering and working to make his adopted town in Florida better and better. Here are two links that highlight just a sliver of this good work. The first link is to a story on National Public Radio about driving and aging. Coming home from work one day ten years ago I heard this NPR piece. Needless to say I was stunned as I was listening to Thad Seymour talking about driving older folks to their appointments in Florida! Seymour’s portion starts at 9:19.

Our last email exchange was in May of this about Thaddeus Seymour, Jr.’s installation as acting president at the University of Central Florida. A proud father, Thad sent along this link to his son’s first commencement.

Thad Seymour in Chapel during his last visit to campus several years ago.

Thad Seymour was many things, husband, father, dean, president of two colleges and magician, he was also just a little bit larger than life. For the nine years that he headed Wabash, Seymour engaged with the students in such a close personal way that they bestowed upon him a loving title, full of respect and admiration – “Dad Thad”. I note simply that it is always said with warmth and humor – which seems to me a fitting tribute.

All best,

Beth Swift


Wabash College

Crawfordsville, Indiana

Tin Pan Alley hitmaker

As Archivist of Wabash College I am forever surprised by the stories I encounter of our alumni. Truly, these good men pop up all over the world and in all sorts of interesting professions. This post is yet another story, new to me, and full of interesting information. Lee Orean Smith was the son of a local merchant and a member of the Class of 1895. His father was Robert C. Smith who was a druggist here in Crawfordsville. Some readers may remember the old Gold and Blue drugstore, later Joe’s Market and the College Street Deli on South Water Street near the old CHS. Lee attended Wabash as a student in the preparatory department, as did many local fellows. However, Smith did not stay at Wabash, but transferred to DePauw to study music. Now before we get too excited, it was simply because Wabash did not offer the classes he needed to pursue his life’s ambition. In the early 1890’s Wabash did not offer classes in either music or art. I mention these two areas as Lee Smith was an incredibly talented fellow who excelled at both.

So talented, Lee could have made a living as an artist/illustrator. Here are several scans of his artwork, taken from the Ouiatenons of 1893 and ’94.

This first page is all Smith, he drew the header and the footer and a closer look at the central portion of the page shows us the Wabash College gymnasium and athletic field. Historically accurate down to the small sketch of Forest Hall just to the right of the goal posts. Forest was moved around campus a bit before settling in its current location. Here is a closer look.



The most delightful aspect of these drawings are their whimsy and tremendous detail. Each of his sketches are exceedingly clever, and more so the more time is spent with them.  The next image was drawn for the page of the NHS and features a cow, a horse, ten owls nicely line up on a branch and a budding scientist is napping under the tree. Just below that is a banner for the odds and ends page. Again his wit shines through in the miscellaneous items he sketched in the barrel, and out of it.

Perhaps his most impressive Ouiatenon sketch was the one above created for the baseball section. His work really brought this annual, published by the Junior class, to a higher level. But my personal favorite is this little section of a larger page. Is that him by the fire? In a photocopied picture of him, he is sporting quite the handlebar mustache, as was the fashion at that time. I believe that it is a sketch of the artist, plucking away at his guitar, warmed by the fire.

All of this artwork aside, Smith’s chosen passion was music. Smith’s father, Robert was an extremely talented musician who played with several local groups. It was said at this time that the Crawfordsville Orchestra was equal to any in the Midwest. Often Lee would also play with various bands in town. It is clear that music came second nature to him. He played the violin, viola, cello in his father’s orchestra and, lest we doubt his talent, in the town band he played in the brass section on whatever instrument was most needed. He left Wabash and enrolled in the DePauw Conservatory, where he completed their coursework in record time. After graduating from DPU, he taught music for a time in Indianapolis. He found that teaching was, “too slow for him…” according to an article from the Metronome magazine of March, 1932. Smith’s response was to take work as an orchestra conductor, “…in every city in the country of over 5,000 in population, waving the stick for concert, musical comedy, light and grand opera for some fifteen years.” Smith traveled until he decided he had traveled enough and wanted to settle down. It was at this point that Lee Orean Smith truly found his calling, as a composer of music. Here are several scans of his sheet music that we have here in the Archives.

In all, Smith wrote music and/or lyrics for several hundred published songs. As a part of expert testimony in a copyright case in 1917 Smith said his output to that point was in the neighborhood of four or five hundred songs, the majority of which were published. As Smith continued to work in Tin Pan Alley for at least another couple of decades, it is sure that his body of work runs to even higher numbers. Some pieces were published under an alias as we see in the piece below.

Down in the bottom right corner there is an autograph. Here is a closeup of that inscription. It says, “Compliments of the composer Lee Orean Smith (Leopold Lamont).”

A tremendously talented fellow with an amazing body of work. While researching for this post, I came across a sound clip of one of his songs. It reminded me of the music one might hear on an old-fashioned merry-go-round. It may be hard for us to process an appreciation of the importance of sheet music in the time before tv and the internet, even before radio. This was a time when there was a piano in most parlors and fun was had by playing and singing along to these hits out of New York’s Tin Pan Alley.  A composer as prolific as Smith was quite well known. Here is a link where you can hear one of his pieces.

Lee Orean Smith was a very talented man with a tremendous body of work in the musical arena, isn’t it nice too, to see his artistic talent. Truly it seems that whatever Lee touched he excelled at. Truly a great Wabash story!

All best,

Beth Swift


Wabash College






A life of service – Some Little Giant!

The men of Wabash are leaving their mark on the world in so many ways. One of the best ways is when they work to improve their community. Many are the alums who volunteer, lead important initiatives or in other ways model their commitment to the Wabash motto which is to educate men to think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely. The subject of this piece lived his life in just this fashion.


This is Spilman’s plane in a field south of town, photo from a piece in the Indianapolis Star of May 5, 1974, written by Spilman.

Louis Spilman entered Wabash in 1916 as a graduate of Crawfordsville High School. He left college when America entered the Great War, training as a pilot. Spilman trained in Indianapolis and at the age of 19 was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army air forces. Having been certified to fly, he borrowed a plane from the base and in a stunt designed to heighten attendance at a local bond rally, Spilman flew into history. Planes of this era had no hi-tech navigational equipment, to fly directly to Crawfordsville, Spilman followed the Interurban rail tracks from Indy to town. It was this plane, piloted by Louis that was the first airplane to land in Crawfordsville. This was early in aviation and the plane and its pilot were a big deal at the time.

This photo from the same piece, as above, in the Indianapolis Star of May 5, 1974 and written by Spilman.

The stunt served its purpose well and created quite a show in the field south of town. Spilman reveled in the cheers, then offered to take those who were willing for a short ride in his plane. As we might suppose, not many wanted to fly, but among those who stepped right up was Emily Jane Moon of Crawfordsville. Here is a great photo of the two of them on that day. So young and full of joy.

It reads like a plot from an old B movie, but Louis and Emily were married and, true to their vows, it was until “death do us part.” They moved to Virginia where for several decades Spilman owned and ran a newspaper called the Waynesboro News-Virginian. His two sons are Wabash men and in his weekly column, Spillman often wrote about the Little Giants of Wabash. What is even more interesting, he named the local school team the Little Giants as well. Seems Louis was quite an influential fellow in his adopted hometown. He is described as “…influential in securing funding for the construction of Waynesboro High School…” So much so that the city school named its auditorium after him.

Yes, Louis Spilman gave back to his town, but he never forgot his Alma Mater. And while few might remember this jaunty fellow, the men of the Stagg Bowl team have a lasting token of his love for Old Wabash in the rings he made possible with his generous gift in 1978.  Wabash noted his accomplishments with an honorary degree in 1980. Here is the thing with this good man, he is one of thousands of good men Wabash has turned out over its history. Every day they get up, go to work, support their families, give back to their community and lend a hand where needed. They think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely. Or, as we like to say around here, they are SOME LITTLE GIANTS!

Beth Swift


Wabash College

Campus Scenes circa 1920

This post features several photographs from the John Parrett Collett scrapbook which he created while a student at Wabash in the early 1920s. Collett, class of 1924, attended Wabash during the roaring 20s and his scrapbook gives us a good bit of insight on his time here at Wabash. Collett came from a long line of Wabash men and pledged the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. In his scrapbook he carefully pasted in Bachelor articles regarding sporting events, dance cards and more. Luckily for us, this scrapbook also includes photographs of campus at that time.

For this picture of old Center Hall above, I have highlighted a couple of features no longer in place. The first is in the foreground of the red box and is the college drinking fountain – now an obscure planter west of the Chapel. The second item, no longer there, is the Junior Fence. This fence was erected not long after the senior bench was dedicated. The fence was removed for the construction of Waugh Hall following the second world war.

Above is another picture which includes Center Hall. This one I love for the fellows ambling along to class, perhaps in Peck Hall or perhaps they are off to Yandes Library for a bit of studying.

This is Peck Hall, named for its donor. In this building pictured above generations of Wabash men learned chemistry and physics. It was taken down to build Waugh Hall, which is now the site of Hays Hall of the Sciences. Hays Hall replaced Waugh Hall as the home of Biology and Chemistry. It was named Hays in honor of Thomas Alvin Hays [W1955]. Hays, a member of the Board of Trustees since 1985, spearheaded the Campaign for Leadership which provided the funds to erect this building.

This photo was taken in the Arboretum [east part of campus] looking out toward Wabash Avenue. To get a feel for the location, the red square encloses the Herron House, a brick landmark with a tower, just across from campus. Just to the left is the future site of Trippet Hall.

This might be my favorite picture of the bunch! It is of the Grant/Wabash corner. I especially like the brick of Grant Street.

Lastly, there is this picture of the Class of 1924 taken during their freshman year. Collett is highlighted right in the middle of the group. John P. Collett loved Wabash College. As a student he was heavily involved on campus including as Editor in Chief of the 1924 yearbook, President of the Wabash Pan-Hellenic Council, Bachelor staffer, very active with debating, a member of the Wabash Players – a theater club and forerunner of the Scarlet Masque, a member of the Student Council and President of the Law Club among may other activities. Beginning in 1939, Collett served Wabash as a member of the Board of Trustees. From 1965-1975 he was President of the Board. For several decades, John Parrett Collett served Wabash well, with this donation of his student scrapbook, his family adds to his contributions by giving us a look at student life for the “Hell-Roaring 500” as the student body of that time came to be known. A real treasure for the Archives, and one we are delighted to share!

All best,

Beth Swift


Wabash College

From WABASH to Westwood…

From Wabash to Westwood – a story of football glory

The 1904 original “Little Giants”

At center holding the football is Bill Spaulding, Wabash class of 1907 and captain of the team. Coach Francis M. Cayou is at the far left of the picture, in the dark suit.

The teams of Francis Cayou were the first to be called Little Giants. These players worked hard and, although they didn’t always win, they always played tough. It was for this grit and determination that Cayou first told them that they played like little giants. This name was picked up by a sportswriter and it stuck. The captain of that first Little Giant football team was William Spaulding the handsome fellow at the center of the photograph above, shown holding the football.

Spaulding was a talented athlete from Melrose, Wisconsin as shown above in the 1904 photo. This image appeared in the November, 1904 issue of the Wabash Magazine highlighting Spaulding’s  selection as a member of All-Indiana football team. To get a better sense of his contribution to the team, here is a bit of information from the Wabash Magazine of 1906 describing Spaulding, “One of the best backs in the business. Is a strong offensive player, and the way he plunges the line is a revelation to the scarlet followers. He is also strong on defensive, and plays Cayou’s secondary defense to perfection. Bill is playing his third year on the team. He is one of our best ground gainers. Always plays hard and plays to win. Possesses an unlimited amount of grit and nerve, and a thorough knowledge of the game. He has the honor of leading the best team Wabash has had since the palmy days of ’95. Bill was picked for one of the all-Indiana backs last year. He is 25 years old, weighs 185 pounds, and is 5 feet 11 inches tall.”

A year later, in 1907, this was the write-up, “‘Bill’ spent his freshman year at Lawrence University. One of the ‘Little Giant’ foot ball men and captain of the team for two years. He was picked for one of the all-Indiana backs, and was also honored with a place on the all-Western team. ‘Bill’ also received a ‘W’ for sprinting on the track…”

It was not long before Bill was back in football as he soon took the job of head coach of the Western Michigan Teacher’s College in Kalamazoo, later known as Western Michigan University. He coached at Kalamazoo for 15 years before taking the head position at the University of Minnesota. It was there that he gained national prominence when his Golden Gophers beat the powerful Illinois team by shutting down their star player, Red Grange. In 1925 Bill left Minnesota to accept the head coaching position at the Southern Branch of the University of California. Their football team was fairly miserable when Bill came to coach. But just as Knute Rockne knew, when he recommended Bill for the position in Los Angeles, Spaulding was just the man to turn it around. And he did.

Folks who know their California football history might know that the Southern Branch of the University of California became UCLA. It was his teams that put UCLA football on the national stage against such great teams as Stanford and USC. Spaulding coached at UCLA from 1925 until 1938 and was a winning coach. In the book Stadium Stories: UCLA Bruins by Chris Roberts we get a sense of the man as coach, “Spaulding had a pretty laid-back style. There were never any fiery speeches before the games or at halftimes. He didn’t yell at players, and spoke in a soft, but forceful voice. Even during bad times he tried to keep a sense of humor. And when his team suffered a defeat, he would encourage, not berate, his players.” He was such an asset to the school that when he left the coaching position he became UCLA’s Athletic Director.

Bill Spaulding, shown here at his desk in Westwood, was a man that all admired and in 1941 Wabash awarded him an honorary degree. Here is the citation from the Wabash Bulletin of October, 1941, “William Henry Spaulding, of the class of 1907, you have carried the best of the athletic tradition of Wabash with you through a distinguished career as coach and director of athletics. As a young man at the Kalamazoo State Teachers College, later at the University of Minnesota, and since 1925 at the University of California in Los Angeles, you have made formidable teams and sportsmanlike men. No one in the West enjoys prestige like yours for handling, in the best interests of the students themselves, the complicated situations of contemporary intercollegiate athletics. For your enlightened understanding and humane leadership of sports in education, it is my privilege to confer upon you, by the authority of the Board of Trustees, the honorary degree of Master of Arts.”

So well beloved was Bill at UCLA that he was in the first class inducted into their athletic hall of fame. To get a sense of the honor a partial list of the others inducted in 1984 reads like a who’s who of American sports. Here is a link to that list:

And for a more lasting memorial, the football field on the Westwood campus is Spaulding Field, named for our man. Used today as a practice field, Spaulding is an integral part of UCLA student life.

One last note about this most amazing fellow, in my research I popped up information on iMDB – the internet movie database – that lists Bill as appearing in the film Knute Rockne All American which also starred Ronald Reagan as the Gipper and the film The Jackie Robinson Story, both times as himself.  Quite a career and quite a life!

I should add that Spaulding is in the Wabash Hall of Fame as well. All credit for this story goes to Max Servies and, as Max might say, Spaulding is SOME Little Giant! Indeed, one of the ORIGINALS! To read more about this team, click here:

All best, Beth Swift, Archivist

Peeking Into the Past

West Main Street looking east

This photograph is of downtown Crawfordsville, Indiana looking east toward the Montgomery County Courthouse. In this photo at top left, we can see the Courthouse tower and its beautiful clock, just recently restored.

Also note the tracks down the middle of the street, those are for the electric Interurban trains that ran regularly through town and on to downtown Indianapolis. An old fashioned light rail service, affordable AND convenient. In fact, many of Wabash’s football games were played in larger venues in Indy. The Ben Hur Line would add extra cars for the big games and our students and fans hopped on board. The electric power lines for the trains are clearly visible in this photograph.

The building on the right, with the round tower, is the first YMCA. Basketball fanatics might know it as the cradle of basketball in Indiana. It was here that a young man, trained under Naismith brought the game to West Central Indiana. The YMCA court served as the home of Wabash basketball for many years due to the unsuitability of our gymnasium.

Here is a picture of the “Old Barn” on campus.

The gym at Wabash set up as Assembly Hall.

Note the posts running down either side, completely unsuitable for the fast paced game of basketball. So it was that our teams played at the “Y” until the College built their own modern gym, late in the 19 teens. Here is a picture of the YMCA gym at the birth of basketball in Indiana.

As many of us succumb to the madness of March, it is fun to peek into the past and see the roots of our mania!


All best,

Beth Swift


Wabash College



Wabash Always Fights!

Heman Powers and his date at the Phi Gamma Delta dance in 1933

One hazard of the work we do in an archives is the constant draw of some fascinating item. This photograph drew me right in and I was overwhelmed with the urge to learn more of this Wabash fellow who is so clearly enjoying himself. Meet Heman Powers of the Class of 1933. And yes, that is the correct spelling, Heman, not Herman. His nickname was Heme and he was a big man on this small campus. Heme as he was known to his fellow students was President of his fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta, a member of the Senior Council and a varsity football player of determination.

From The Bachelor of January 6, 1933, “Seldom is it that we find an athlete who so nearly typifies the Scarlet slogan, ‘Wabash Always Fights’ as does the man who was recently chosen as honorary captain of the 1932 Wabash football team….So seriously injured in his first year of varsity competition that it was not to be hoped that he would again be able to wear the Scarlet upon the field, he continued his fight, evidencing a spirit that is peculiarly Wabash’s own…and he came back gamely, still fighting for Wabash.

“Again he was injured while personifying the slogan, ‘Wabash Always Fights’ and again he is fighting the good fight. Again he will win his battle for he has displayed that fortitude and spirit which has so markedly dominated his career as a Little Giant, that spirit always to be found in a true son of Wabash.” Indeed Heman did win his battle, but this second injury came at a tremendous personal cost.

Here is an article from The Bachelor 

As a result of this injury, Powers ended up in the hospital in a long, painful and painfully slow recovery. In fact, he was in the hospital all winter, through the spring and into the summer.

Here is another article on his injury and healing process.

In total Heme had 27 operations and while this was surely hard to bear, as a result of this injury and the year and a half healing process, he did not graduate with his class. Never the less, he attended Northwestern night school, Harvard’s Business School Advanced Management Program and learned chemistry on his own, all while working full time. He became a chemical engineer through determination and hard work. But the one thing he did not have was his Wabash diploma and this bothered him.

In 1940 Heme contacted Byron Trippet to ask about how he might complete his bachelor’s degree from Wabash. Arrangements were made for a program of reading followed by a series of examinations. This was possible since Heme had come so very close to finishing his Wabash courses. Life again intervened and before Heme had started this program, WWII began. With the extra duties and service required of those on the homefront, Heme was not able to execute his plan to fulfill the degree requirements. The war years came and went and it seemed as if Heme’s chance at a bachelor’s might have gone as well. But his fighting spirit alluded to above brought him back to Wabash again. In 1957 he applied once more to complete his bachelor’s via a focused reading program and completion of a supervised thesis. This time, the stars aligned and all was completed.

In 1958 Heman Powers received his Bachelor of Arts degree and his diploma. A lifelong dream achieved, a triumph surely celebrated. Heme personified Wabash Always Fights and was a natural born leader. At each stage of his life he led – as President of his high school class, as President of his fraternity, as Captain of the football team, as President of the National Association of Wabash Men and President of the Chicago Alumni, and professionally as Executive Vice President of the National Aluminate Corporation. A leader with a determination to fight against the odds – a real Little Giant!


All best,

Beth Swift


Wabash College




A trinket leads to a tale

Football charm of Palmer W. Hargrave. Sent by his daughter Marian in 2017.

Palmer W. Hargrave

One of the delights I take in the work here in the Archives at Wabash is the care and keeping of the artifacts in the collection. Gifts from alumni, or their families or even from someone with no connection to the college come to the Archives. All have in common the idea that the item should be here for safekeeping. So it was with this little beauty.  Described in our catalog as follows:  Miniature copper football engraved – Wabash Class 1909 on one side and J. W. Hargrave on the other. Football has a bail for the threading of a chain. Attached is a brass chain, all in a box from a jeweler in Los Angeles.

This charm belonged to Palmer W. “Jack” Hargrave and came to Wabash from his daughter who sent it to President Hess for deposit in the Archives. What it prompted was a correspondence and additional gifts of photographs and letters which, combined with what we already knew, create a picture of a life well lived. Indeed, this little charm points us to a legacy that continues well beyond the death of its owner.

Jack, as he was always known on campus, was the oldest of five children. His father was Arthur A. Hargrave, a member of the Wabash class of 1881. A newspaperman on his graduation, Arthur found his way to the Middle East as a printer with a Presbyterian mission. While there he married Marian Moore of Illinois and they had their first child, Palmer, born in Persia. Not long after the birth, the young family returned home to the Midwest. Arthur worked for the Terre Haute Express, an Indiana paper. Shortly thereafter Arthur bought the Rockville Republican, a local weekly. For the rest of his life he never missed writing his weekly column. At the age of 97 he was awarded an honorary degree from Indiana University.  When he died in 1957 at the age of 100, he was still the publisher of this small town paper. Arthur A. Hargrave is a member of the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.

As to that boy born in Persia, Palmer W. Hargrave seems to have lived what we might call a charmed life. Raised in the small town of Rockville along with his two brothers and two sisters, Palmer was a gifted athlete with a seemingly sunny disposition. From letters here in the Archives one gets the impression that he was one of those fellows that everyone is drawn to and likes immediately. As he was always known as Jack on campus, so it will be in this post as well.

Jack was a talented athlete, as mentioned above, but he was also a pretty darned good musician as well. While other fellows might be sweeping floors or stoking the coal furnaces, Jack earned his money by playing the clarinet for local dance bands. He pledged the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity when it was brand new to the business of communal living. In one letter Jack explains that to really focus on his German grammar, he got up early to study as the house was pretty noisy outside of study hours.

Jack was a hard worker, whether in his school work, his music or even more particularly in his football career here at Wabash.  From a letter in his sophomore year of 1906, “Each evening at four o’clock I go to the football field and play hard as possible….All week I’ve  had a blister on right heel, a knee swollen and stiff and a hip that almost put me out of business – my whole right leg is a bum. But, now it is improving and I think it will soon be all right.” He continues that his chances for a varsity spot are small, but vows to, “…work hard and have fun out of it besides.”

Clearly he did work hard at football as in his senior year he is the quarterback of the team.  Writing to his parents at the start of October of 1908, he is a busy fellow. “Football takes an enormous lot of time, so with my house duties, you see something must come secondary. However, I’m getting along all right and I enjoy my course[s] very much this year.

“As far as football is concerned I guess the team is starting OK for we beat Franklin 62-0.” He goes on to describe fellow players’ various injuries before adding his own list of miseries, “I have a black eye, a couple of bum toes and my legs are bruised as usual, but that’s all and I’m in pretty good shape.”


Photo of Jack, in his senior year as quarterback for the 1908 team.

Following his stellar career at Wabash, Jack migrates to the west coast.  This next series of images are all from the family.

Here we have a picture of Palmer in Portland, Oregon in 1910. He looks healthy and happy, full of enthusiasm and optimism.

And this sweet picture labelled Palmer Hargrave and Louie. The license plate is from Oregon for the year 1912.

And this one which looks like a fun day out with his girl.

As was true with so many young men of this era, days of easygoing fun and carefree laughter were brought to a halt as the Americans joined the war in 1917. Jack joined the Army, serving as a gunner in an airplane. Here is a picture of Jack in his uniform.

The next image is of Hargrave in his flight gear below. Below that is Hargrave on the left and his pilot on the right, with their plane.

In Crawfordsville in June of 1918, Jack married Anna McCabe, a graduate of UC Berkeley. She lived across from campus on College Hill, her father too was a Wabash man. Palmer and Anna had two daughters, the youngest, Marian, sent the football charm and family photos.  The other sister, Janet, followed in her father’s footsteps and was a flyer in WWII. She ferried transport planes as a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron of the WASPS.

The next image is undated.

After the war, Jack and Anna settled in the West for good. First in Portland, later moving to Los Angeles. It was there that they made their life and raised their daughters.

While researching this piece I learned that Jack was in the lighting business. Not just IN the lighting business, but in a big way. His company was the source for high end lighting for many well known buildings. Perhaps the most well-known is that of Union Station in Los Angeles. Below is a great image that I got from WikiCommons that really shows the massive chandeliers created by Hargrave. If you are interested in more on this beauty of a train station, here is a link to a short history of the station:

By Pedro Szekely from Los Angeles, USA – Los Angeles Union Station, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Opened in 1939, the station is on the National Register of historic places. One of its truly iconic features is the lighting. Palmer Hargrave is responsible for the gorgeous fixtures. In 1946 he bought a lighting business and Palmer Hargrave became the name synonymous with high end elegant lighting fixtures. To my surprise, it still is! Google the name and you will see hundreds of results in lighting. His legacy of taste and style persevered.

Here is an elegant picture of Jack, unfortunately it is not dated. Reminds one of an old style movie star. Very nearly swashbuckling in appearance.

Here is another picture of Hargrave, happily this one IS dated, 1965. And what a beauty of a station wagon.

This photo was taken in 1969 and shows Hargrave amidst several of his beautiful creations.

It seems that Palmer “Jack” Hargrave was one of those truly good guys that Wabash sends out into the world. Hargrave was a hard worker with an ability to focus. A cheerful fellow with a true and abiding love for his family. This next scan is clear evidence of both of those qualities.

This sweet letter, to his daughter and now in the Archives, still delights 62 years later.

What a family, what a fellow, what a story!

Beth Swift


Wabash College





185 years ago – the beginning


One of the hardest parts of this position is the constant distractions from the task at hand. The scan above is a perfect example of that concept. While working on displays for the Giant Steps campaign kickoff at the Indiana State Museum, I pulled this tattered old volume out. It contains the first faculty minutes, which I used in the display. Halfway through the book, like Spiegel catalogs of old, it becomes the Treasurer’s book. The scan above is of the first page. A lovely image which highlights the start of Wabash as a prep school [Classical and High School]. In this area of the country there were almost no students with the requisite Latin and Greek to begin collegiate studies. So, at first, they were preparing the young men for college work.



The next page of the book holds a very humble entry: 1833 12 04 buy 1 small hand bell $1.25.

What is so very cool about that is that it is the entry for the purchase of the bell we call the Caleb Mills Bell. Yes, the very bell that rings in our freshmen and rings them out at commencement too. It was 185 years ago this December that classes began at Old Wabash and over those years many men have come and gone. It was a small start, and yet, this small place lives on today, stronger than ever and looking toward a great future!


Best wishes, safe travels for the holiday season.

See you all next year,

Beth Swift


Wabash College