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Wabash History 101

Steve Charles—The Purdue Boilermakers got their name from Wabash.

The Glee Club used to have its own Queen Contest.

The annual Class Fight (thankfully, a lost tradition) was covered by The New York Times in the 1890s.

These were just a few of the nuggets the 90-plus students attending Wabash History 101 heard today. That’s right—more than 90 students turning out to learn more about Wabash history.

Wabash Archivist Beth Swift is the reason. We call her the "activist archivist." She’s been bringing Wabash history alive with her digital archives, on-campus presentations, and articles in Wabash Magazine and the Parent’s Post.

Wabash yearbook editor and Sphinx Club member Ross Dillard ’07 spent part of last summer doing research in the archives and realized how fascinating Wabash history could be when Beth talks about it. He invited her to speak to students about it, and the turnout was gratifying.

"There’s a real interest in the history and traditions," Beth told me enthusiastically after her talk—well, a few minutes after her talk. I had to wait for four students and an alumnus to finish asking her questions before she could leave.

By the way, Purdue got its "boilermaker" moniker after playing Wabash, whose team members found the West Lafayette team lacking gentlemanly refinement. Playing "a bunch of foundry molder and boilermakers" is how the Little Giants put it, I believe.

As for the Glee Club Queen Contest—let’s not go there.

But you can check out the digital archives here.