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

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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

 

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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
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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.

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…

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.

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 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
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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
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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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Did Wabash win?

Chances are most members of the Wabash family have heard the story of Ralph Lee Wilson. He was the football player who died in 1910 as a result of injuries he received in the Washington University game in St. Louis. He regained consciousness long enough to ask, “Did Wabash win?” That quote now hangs over the exit of the home locker room in the Allen Center. Each year Tom Bambrey tells this story to the football team. I thought that in this posting I would share a little more information and some pictures connected to it.

Ralph Lee Wilson was a talented local boy who, doubtless, had watched the Little Giants playing football for years. He enrolled at Wabash and Coach Harper (later of Notre Dame fame) put this young player in the halfback position. The photo of Wilson in his football uniform is one of the few that we have of him. In this photo we can see that Ralph was a slight fellow.

The Harper team of 1910 was off to a roaring good start. In the first four games of the season the team was not scored on and beat Georgetown by 57 points, Purdue by 3 and Butler by 30. The fourth game of the season was in St. Louis at Washington University. From the history Wabash College the First Hundred Years, “Ralph Wilson, freshman halfback, received an injury from which he died a few hours after the game. He had fractured his skull against an opponent’s knee in making a tackle; and the fracture had not at first been suspected.”

Wabash did win that game 10-0 and that was the last game of that season. All further games were cancelled without dissent. Wilson was popular on campus and immediately calls went out for a permanent memorial to the fallen player. The memorial was created by the same sculptor who did the Thomson (Senior) Bench, the Civil War Roll of Honor on the east face of Center Hall and the bust of President Tuttle. This memorial shows a torch that has been dropped and the plaque hangs on Hollett Stadium yet today. Ralph Lee Wilson is well remembered on this campus and thanks to Tom Bambrey each new team knows his great story.

Best,

Beth Swift

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