Indiana University and World War I: The Spanish Influenza on Campus (Part 4 of 5)

The fourth in a five-part series highlighting Indiana University’s role in the first World War.

Notice printed in the Indiana Daily Student.

Notice printed in the Indiana Daily Student.

In the fall of 1918 Indiana University had 1,935 students, which was the largest enrollment to date. This record number, however, corresponded with the outbreak of the Spanish Flu epidemic, and, that fall, numerous students fell ill. President Bryan and the administration were forced to make the decision on October 10, 1918, to close the University for ten days — until October 20th. All students not in the Student Army Training Corps were asked to go home until the university reopened.

Hospital beds were set up in the old Assembly Hall to combat the influenza epidemic.

Hospital beds were set up in the old Assembly Hall to combat the influenza epidemic.

Sixty percent of the school’s population however were members of the S.A.T.C. and were required by army regulations to remain on campus. Thus, to fight the outbreak effectively, hospital beds were set up in Assembly Hall (the old Assembly Hall) and the auditorium of the Student Building. The peak of the epidemic at IU hit on October 16th, with 174 cases of influenza. In light of the continued prevalence of influenza on campus, the administration extended the closure of the university until November 4th.

S.A.T.C. member and IU student, William Ringer, contracted the flu and wrote about his experience illness in his diary on October 18, 1918:

William Ringer, Class of 1920 and member of the SATC.

William Ringer, Class of 1920 and member of the S.A.T.C.

I felt rotten, and could scarcely hold up my head while Rawles rambled away. . . . I felt worse all day, ate only a little dinner. The next morning I felt rotten, and did not get up until 7:30. There were four of us stumbled down to the infirmary where there was the sickest looking bunch of fellows I ever saw. He ordered us to the hospital, so we walked back to the barracks and lay there all day until a taxi came for us. I was put on a cot on the lower floor after some delay, and there I settled down for 6 days’ sickness. And I was pretty sick for three or four days. My temperature got only as high as 102.6 but it stayed up north stubbornly. They took good care of us, gave us plenty of very good food. . . . Horace [his brother] was brought in Saturday, and put on the stage. He was more sick than I, had a slight congestion in one lung, and had to wear a pneumonia jacket.

[You can read the original diary at the University Archives.]

Even after classes resumed, people were still being cared for at the University Hospital. In total, 350 people were hospitalized at IU during the fall influenza outbreak. Thanks to the nursing staff and warm hospital quarters only three people died, a mortality rate of less than one percent. That is much less than the estimated global mortality rate of 10%.

Flu cases continued to crop up into the spring 1919 semester. As a result, a late winter basketball game against the University of Iowa was supposed to be closed to the public to prevent the flu’s spread. Despite the risk, five hundred students made it past security in order to watch the game. According to IU basketball player Ardith Phillips, they were “500 of the most enthusiastic spectators you ever saw.”

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Russian and East European Institute, leader in area studies

We are pleased to announce that there is now a finding aid available for IU’s renowned Russian and East European Studies Institute! A major research institute on the Bloomington campus, the REEI was proposed in 1957 based on a need to restructure and combine the existing departments of Slavic Studies, the East European Institute and Uralic/Asian Studies. The proposal indicated that the undergraduate programs would be discontinued and the institute would only award graduate certificates.

News clipping from 1994 concerning the visit of politician Gennadi Zyuganov

News clipping from 1994 concerning the visit of politician Gennadi Zyuganov

The Institute was officially established in 1958 and quickly became one of the top ranking international studies centers in the world. The Russian and East European Institute was the first area studies program at Indiana University and the first within the state of Indiana. At its inception, four departments formed the basis of the institute: Government, History, Slavics and Sociology.

In 1974, an undergraduate certificate program was initiated and in the 1980s, a Master of Arts program was approved for Russian and East European Studies. Students enrolled in the master’s program were required to complete courses in four related disciplines and have proficiency in a relevant language.

The Russian and East European Institute is a Title VI National Resource/FLAS Center and as a result the U.S. Department of Education is a major source of funding. In the 1980s, the Institute faced severe budget cuts from federal funding and was thus forced to pursue other sources of funding. The Ford, Mellon and Rockefeller foundations all provided substantial support for projects initiated through the institute.

An active institute on the Bloomington campus, the REEI has hosted many conferences, lectures and workshops. The institute still remains a leading Russian and East European area studies center in the United States. Over the decades the institute has grown and as of 2014, eighteen departments were affiliated with the institute.

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American Veterans Commitee – Bloomington Chapter

American_Veterans_CommitteeFormed in 1943, the American Veterans Committee was meant to serve as a more liberal alternative to other veteran’s organizations such as the American Legion. Chapters were formed across the country and the organization sought to undertake political and social issues such as civil rights and civil liberties.

A local chapter of the organization was formed on the Indiana University Bloomington campus and was largely comprised of male students who were attending college on the G.I. Bill. History Professor C. Leonard Lundin served as the group’s faculty sponsor during the chapter’s short existence in Bloomington. In oral history interviews conducted in 1972, 1985, and 1994 Professor Lundin comments that the organization was “supposed to be a sort of liberal version of the American Legion, and it was for a while and then petered out…it didn’t last very long here.” (1985) He also told interviewers that while the organization existed on campus, he was very actively involved. “I think it’s strongest hold almost everywhere [was] among the veteran students at universities. This campus was no exception. It took a decided interest in community affairs.”(1972) “They had been roused by the war,” Lundin notes. “Then of course came the McCarthy years” (1985).

Image from The Arbutus yearbook, 1946

Bloomington AVC, Image from The Arbutus yearbook, 1946

National membership in the AVC dropped dramatically during the late forties and early fifties as worries about communism swept the nation. Members of the American Communist Party had originally been opposed to their members joining the AVC because they felt the organization was too “ivy-league” but later reversed their position. As the AVC gained communists members, the Second Red Scare, or McCarthyism, was taking hold in America. In order to avoid scandal, the AVC dismissed its communist members. However, their membership significantly decreased and remained low for the rest of its existence. The organization formally disbanded in 2008 when the last two chapters folded.

Despite its short tenure, the Bloomington chapter of the AVC actively worked to better the Indiana University campus and larger community through efforts towards desegregation on campus and the larger Bloomington community, as well as better housing and payment for veterans.

The Archives holds a scrapbook of the local chapter, which has been fully digitized. Take a look and let us know if you have any further questions!

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Indiana University and World War I: Student Involvement (Part 3 of 5)

The third in a five-part series highlighting Indiana University’s role in the first World War. Part I ; Part II

IU students and alumni served in both military and non-military ways during the war; the following details just a few of their stories.

Elder Watson Diggs

Elder Watson Diggs

Elder Watson Diggs.

Lieutenant Elder Watson Diggs attended Indiana University from 1911-1916. As an IU student, he was one of the principal founders of Kappa Alpha Psi, a historically African American fraternity. Following his graduation in 1916, he served as the principal of public schools in Bloomington, Vincennes, and Indianapolis.

During the First World War, he served with the Expeditionary Forces in France. Nicknamed the Buffalo Soldiers, Diggs’ division, the 92nd, saw active service in the front line trenches on the western front in France in the Vosges Mountains, the Argonne Forest Offensive, and at Metz, according to a letter he wrote to the IU’s Committee on War Work. He returned to the United States after six months overseas and was formally discharged on April 1, 1919.

Horace Goff

Horace Goff in 1918.

Horace Goff, 1918.

Born in Middletown, Indiana, Horace Porter Goff attended Indiana University between 1912 and 1918, earning a degree in Chemistry. In December 1917, during the semester break of his senior year, he voluntarily enlisted in the United States Military at the age of twenty-eight.

Goff left for Columbus, Ohio, on December 13 to commence military training. “I now feel like a full-fledged soldier,” he wrote to his parents and brother. “My squad received their uniforms, fingerprints, and inoculations.”

Honorable Discharge Papers, February 15, 1919.

Honorable Discharge papers, February 15, 1919.

From Columbus, he was moved to Washington D.C. and Maryland before being sent overseas to France. Goff was assigned to the 30th Gas and Flame Engineer Regiment of the Regular Army. He had hoped that he would be employed as a chemical engineer to produce and analyze gases, but instead served as part of the gas unit on the Western Front.

Goff served in France for just over a year, until he was discharged in February, 1919. He died in 1936, possibly as a result of his prolonged exposure to mustard gas.

Letter to his parents, December 19, 1917.

Letter to his parents, December 19, 1917.

[View all of Horace Goff’s paper online, digitized by the University Archives.]

Louise Stubbins

Red Cross workshop.

Red Cross workshop.

Besides training as soldiers, IU students helped out with humanitarian efforts. In May 1917, IU student Louise Stubbins (’19) and Assistant Professor of Home Economics Elizabeth Sage traveled to Chicago in order to take a course in the making of surgical dressings. Upon their return to Bloomington at the beginning of the summer session, they taught a Red Cross course to university students and local women on how to prepare gauze dressing and bandages for overseas hospitals. In November of 1917, a Red Cross Workshop opened in room four of Kirkwood Hall and was eventually expanded to accommodate up to one hundred fifty women at one time to produce thousands of bandages. White aprons and white caps were the required uniforms.

Ernest Bicknell

Ernest Bicknell

Ernest Bicknell

IU connections to the Red Cross extended the national level. Ernest P. Bicknell, a 1887 graduate of Indiana University, was named National Director of the Red Cross in 1908. During the war, Bicknell served as Deputy Commissioner to France, Commissioner to Belgium, and Special Commission to the Balkan States, as well as serving as a member of several international relief organizations. His scrapbooks provide an in-depth view of his time in the Red Cross.

The end of the war meant even more work for Bicknell as the Red Cross sought to provide aid to those who had been displaced and impoverished by four years of conflict. He was named Red Cross Deputy Commissioner to Europe in 1919 and then promoted two years later to Commissioner to Europe. He went on to serve as the Director of the Rockefeller Foundation War Relief Committee as well as the Office for Insular and Foreign Operations.

[Visit the University Archives to see all of Ernest Bicknell’s scrapbooks and papers.]

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The Bored Walk

BoredWalk006BoredWalk008Feb1940

Self-described as “the humerous publication of Indiana U.” the Bored Walk was a humorous college magazine published by students at Indiana University from around 1931 until 1942.  The publication featured jokes, cartoons, and campus gossip and news. Cover art was unique and often featured student artwork.

October 1935The 1931 Arbutus described the Bored Walk‘s scandal page, “Borings,” as one of its most interesting features, though the content was usually related to campus happenings and may be difficult for today’s reader to fully understand. For example, a “scandal” tidbit from the 1934 remarked that, “Maybe the coeducational system has its good points after all. Fygam Flowers had intended to deny our almy mammy the pleasure of his Feb1934presence this semester. But he met Trydelt Prentice and changed his mind.”  A 1942 Borings report similarly states that, “S.A.E. ex-rod man Neal Gilliatt recently placed his badge for safe keeping in the care of Theta Mary Rees.  If she keeps it as safely as she does her scholastic average, Neal will never more wear his frat pin.”

As is the case with many magazines of this time period, BoredWalk004it is also particularly striking that nearly every back cover features a large, colored cigarette ad.  Yet interestingly, in a letter to President William Lowe Bryan, the magazine’s 1935 general manager comments that “A high standard of advertising has been maintained although it has meant the rejection of lucrative contracts for beer and liquor advertising.”  Apparently alcohol was not appropriate for students, but cigarettes were!

The Bored Walk student staff members believed their privately owned and operated publication to be highly circulated, widely read, and much enjoyed.  In 1932, the staff attempted to hand it over to the University in order to ensure its continued publication citing a circulation of 2,000 copies and that subscriptions were not merely for IU students. Subscribers included folks outside the state of Indiana, and that a number of readers were potential IU students and extension students. The Board of Trustees considered the matter, but declined.

In 1942 student owner Meredith Bratton once again tried to sell the publication before he joined the military but IU News Bureau Director E. Ross Bartley opposed the proposition saying, “The parents of our students would not understand how the University would permit some of the things that have been published in the last two years.” Bratton replied that he did not want to hand over management of the Bored Walk, but simply wanted University backing in order to more easily obtain advertising and gain recognition from the merchants bureau of Indianapolis.

Eventually, two students by the names of Bob Anderson and Nat Hill leased the Bored Walk from Bratton. The magazine, however, went into a steady decline following a series of complaints from the Dean of Women, local church officials, administrators, and Bloomington residents over the magazine’s content. The IU Bookstore and Union both cancelled their subscriptions. The October 1942 issue sealed the Bored Walk‘s fate. According to a letter written by Bartley, the offending issue contained several jokes of a sexual nature, some of which included rude remarks against the Catholic Church. Furthermore, a local priest had felt it necessary to report the magazine to higher church officials as material not suitable for Catholics to read. Anderson and Hill shouldered the blame and requested that the University order the cessation of the publication.

IU Comptroller W. G. Biddle wrote to Meredith Bratton at naval training to tell him the news of the publication’s end stating, “It was no longer decent enough to distributed as a product of Indiana University students.” Unfortunately, no copies of the issue in question exist in our collection, so we can’t see the offending articles for ourselves.

Interested in learning more about the Bored Walk? Contact the staff at the Archives!

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