Author: Erin Dix

LU Archives FAQs

In our continuing recognition of American Archives Month, this week we’re talking about the kinds of questions that resources in the LU Archives are used to answer. We receive about 30 to 40 reference requests each month – through phone, email, and in-person visits from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the general public. There are certain questions that come up pretty often:

1. What can you tell me about my family member/ancestor who went to Lawrence?

This is the most frequently asked question around here. Family history researchers often contact the Archives looking for years of attendance, photos, and other biographical information pertaining to their ancestors. If the person in question attended in the 1800s, usually our only source of information is the course catalog, which listed all students in attendance annually from the first year of classes in 1849 through 1964. After the turn of the century, we can use yearbooks to find photographs and sometimes information about a student’s studies and extracurricular activities. We have similar resources for Milwaukee-Downer.

2. What can you tell me about this other Lawrence-or-Milwaukee-Downer-related person?

For faculty or staff members (and some alumni) at Lawrence, our first place to look for information is our vertical file. This file has folders containing biographical information, newspaper clippings, and photographs for over 3,400 individuals! You can view and search this very long list here. The Milwaukee-Downer vertical people file is available here.

3. Where is The Rock?

For those of you unfamiliar with this bit of Lawrence history, there is more information here and here. Alas, the current whereabouts of the Rock are unknown. Since it has been buried and unearthed years later once before, it’s possible that another class has undertaken this stunt.

4. Was Main Hall a stop on the Underground Railroad?

Unfortunately, we have no documentary evidence suggesting that Main Hall was ever part of the Underground Railroad, and there have been too many renovations for physical evidence to remain. Abolitionist sentiment was pervasive on campus, due in part to the college’s Methodist affiliation and the political leanings of its founders. Amos Lawrence was strongly in favor of abolition and was close friends with John Brown. He sent supplies and weapons  by boat through Appleton to Lawrence, Kansas. During the war, Main Hall served as an important meeting place for rallies and aid coordination for families of soldiers. But as for the Underground Railroad, we’ll have to label this a myth.

5. Anything and everything trivia-related, come January.

We have an ever-growing collection of materials related to the Annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest, dating back to its start in 1966. This includes the original, scribbled and scrawled copies of every single question compiled going back to the mid-1990s.

Are there other things related to Lawrence or Milwaukee-Downer history that you’re wondering about? You can visit the Archives in person any weekday afternoon, 1-5pm, or call or email anytime!

Photo caption contest winner

Announcing the winner of last week’s photo caption contest: Security Officer Michael Beaupre, with his elegantly simple caption: “Cooking 101: Have the girls make it!” Michael will be receiving a $10 gift certificate for Muncheez Pizza.

Honorable mentions:

Aubrey Lotz, for her caption: “Little did the rest of the group know, Bushy Mustache Man was a witch and he was going to turn them into newts.”

Antoinette Powell, for her caption: “The first multidisciplinary area of study at Lawrence: Chemistry (cooking I-don’t-know-what), Athletics (popcorn toss), and Building Maintenance.”

We had some tough choices to make among the submitted captions. Thanks for all of your entries!

This week’s contest on facebook for Best Facial Hair in 19th-century Lawrence history seems to have a clear front-runner, but we’ll hold off on making the official call until Friday, just in case there is a surge of support for another candidate.

Archives month!

October is American Archives Month! Archives all over the country will be celebrating, and the LU Archives is no exception. We have several activities lined up – one for each week of the month.

Note: this is not the contest photo - it's just cool.

Week of the 3rd: Photo caption contest – stop by the first floor of the library to see a photo from our collections and submit your idea for an accompanying caption. Library staff will judge the entries at the end of the week, and the first-place winner will receive a gift certificate. Depending on the number of entries, runners-up may also receive prizes.

Week of the 10th: Who in 19th-century Lawrence history had the best facial hair? Vote for your favorite from several contenders. (Modeled on Who Had the Best Civil War Facial Hair?, from the Smithsonian.)

Week of the 17th: Is there something related to Lawrence or Milwaukee-Downer history that you’ve always wondered about? It’s Ask a Question week!

Week of the 24th: The Haunted Lawrence tour, back by popular demand, will be held on Monday, October 24th at 8pm. Further details will be forthcoming, but if you’re intrigued, be sure to mark it on your calendar!

Summer Summary

Preservation intervention for newspaper clippings and floppy disks

Summer has flown by in the Archives, and now we’re gearing up to welcome students back to campus! While we’ve taken a brief blog hiatus, a number of other projects have demanded attention. Here’s a summary of where the time has gone:

  • 10 linear feet (and an as-yet-unknown number of bytes) of records acquired from campus offices, and several donations from alumni
  • 3 collections of past presidents’ papers processed (totalling 5 linear feet)
  • portions of the Archives stacks reorganized
  • reference questions (via phone, email, and in-person visits) from faculty and staff, alumni, researchers from other institutions, and the general public
  • lots of planning for the upcoming year

There are some changes on the way for the website as well as some fun things planned for the next couple of months, so stay tuned for updates!

July, 1861: Company E of the 6th Wisconsin

At this point in the early days of the war 150 years ago, there was much fervor for the Union effort in Appleton. Ernest Pletschke, Instructor in Modern Languages at Lawrence, had organized a company of men that became known as the Appleton Light Infantry. He served as the company’s captain and drilled the men from late April through early July. Because the state had already filled its quota for soldiers, the company was not immediately needed and was disbanded.

Russell Z. Mason, Lawrence University President 1859-1865

At about this time, the first of two units that contained a concentration of Lawrentians was forming: Company E of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry. On Monday, July 1st, 1861, the 41 Appleton volunteers left to join up with a group in Fond du Lac and head to Camp Randall, as described in a July 6th Appleton Crescent article:

“On Monday morning all was hustle and hurry to prepare for the ceremonies for the volunteers leaving that day for Fond du Lac and Bragg’s Rifles. Soon after noon the crowd commenced assembling at Reeder Smith’s park. At the park, the ladies formed in a line, each armed with a beautiful bouquet and a package, the latter containing towels, pins, needles, thread and other conveniences. The music struck up and the men were marched to the head of the column of ladies, where they halted and listened to a song by the Misses Merriman, after which President Mason of Lawrence University made a few appropriate remarks, encouraging them in the noble cause in which they were about to be engaged…

With cheers upon cheers, family farewells and the warm, earnest clasp of the hand, the heartfelt ‘good bye’ and ‘God bless you,’ the ‘all aboard,’ and then the shriek of the Iron Horse and they were gone.  With them goes the prayers of many a warm heart for their success and return when the traitorous hosts of the rebels shall have been humbled and punished for daring to trample on the Star Spangled Banner.”

Of these 41 volunteers, seven had been enrolled at Lawrence, mostly in the Preparatory Department. The 6th Infantry went on to become part of the famous Iron Brigade. You can read more about the 6th Infantry, including a full history and roster, from resources at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Glass slides digital collection

We are pleased to announce an exciting new addition to our digital collections! After several months of scanning and data entry, a collection of 240 glass slides depicting the Lawrence campus and student life from the early decades of the 20th century is now available here. The collection represents the majority of the glass lantern slides and glass plate negatives housed in the Archives and is composed of several distinct series of slides.

About half of the collection consists of lantern slides from promotional presentations that date from about 1910 to 1930.  These include images of campus buildings and grounds, student activities, and informational slides describing the college. A second series consists of photographs taken by Chester Allen, class of 1912. This series presents a view of Lawrence through the eyes of a student during Chester’s four years at Lawrence, 1909-1912. A third series includes images from the college’s 75th anniversary celebration held in 1922.

Since the fragility of the physical slides makes them somewhat difficult to use, we are particularly excited to be able to make these images more widely accessible through this digital collection. So go forth and check it out!

Main Hall meeting, April 1861

Following the firing on Fort Sumter in April of 1861, Lawrence officials and Appleton community members called for a meeting in the chapel of Main Hall. In a speech delivered at the Lawrence semi-centennial celebration in 1897, Col. J.A. Watrous recalled the proceedings:

“I remember that President Mason presided; I remember that graduates and others from neighboring cities came to attend the meeting; I remember the speakers. The first was Professor Henry Pomeroy, a man great in mind and patriotism, but small of stature. The flag of the Union was there as we see it here. After a few words of introduction, Professor Pomeroy, pointing at the stars and stripes, said, and with a tremble in his voice: ‘If that flag goes down never to rise in honor again, it will be the greatest misfortune to civilization that has ever overtaken it.’ He then enumerated some of the  many disasters that would follow the overthrow of the government of the United States. Drawing himself up to his full height, and throwing his head back, he again pointed to the flag and said: ‘Fellow citizens, I say to you that that flag shall not go down in disgrace. I say to you that the patriotism of the people of the North is such that every dollar and every man will be placed at the service of Abraham Lincoln in restoring peace.’ After this grand and patriotic flight there was an outburst by the audience that fairly made the building shake, well as it is founded. Such clapping of hands, stamping of feet and hurrahing were never before heard in Appleton. When quiet was restored, Professor Pomeroy, looking to heaven and raising his right hand, said: ‘I am not going to ask any of these people to go to the war, but I am going to ask some of them to come with me to the war.'”

This last line of Henry Pomeroy’s is the one most often repeated in contemporary accounts of this meeting. His speech and others “all bore fruit,” reported President Russell Z. Mason in a later recollection, in the form of “numerous enlistments.”

Peace Parade, 1936

In addition to being Earth Day, today is the 75th anniversary of a significant event in Lawrence history. Following the end of classes on April 22nd, 1936, 400 of the 700 students enrolled at Lawrence set out to march down College Avenue for a Peace Parade. They were marching in solidarity with students from college campuses around the country, who had formed anti-war mock organizations such as the “Veterans of Future Wars” and the “Association of Gold Star Mothers of Veterans of Future Wars.”  Though the leader of the march had initially secured permission from the Appleton Police Department, the police chief later changed his mind and forbade them from leaving campus. The paraders marched around campus with banners and baby buggies, and when they reached the corner of College and Drew, a few marched on. An April 24th, 1936 Lawrentian article describes what happened next:

” Appleton police climaxed the Lawrence Veterans of Future Wars Peace demonstration when an officer seized Albert Haak, former Wauwatosa High football player, by the shoulder and clubbed him on the head. Students rushed to the aid of Haak, who collapsed as he was knocked out…The strong arm of the Appleton law left its mark on at least four students and the minds of the faculty and towns people as the police force bore down on the order prohibiting a downtown parade of the local Viking Post, No. 815, Veterans of Future Wars.”

The incident received national attention as one of many similar demonstrations around the country. The Lawrentian describes students “huddled around radios…to hear the account of the student strike against war at Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and ‘small Lawrence College’ in Appleton.” The faculty, President Wriston, and the Board of Trustees unanimously denounced the “grossly provocative” actions of the Appleton police. In an era not typically associated with student protest, this event stands out as a showing of Lawrence support for a larger student movement as well as an episode that united the Lawrence community.

Lawrence in the Civil War

Today is the 150th anniversary of the Confederate firing on Fort Sumter, the opening action of the American Civil War. Like other academic institutions during these years, Lawrence was greatly affected by four years of the most brutal war that the country had yet seen. William F. Raney notes in his The History of Lawrence University, 1847-1925: “About 81,000 men from Wisconsin served in the armies of the Union at one time or another. To this number Lawrence made its contribution, both in those who left college and in those who, because of the war, never got there at all.” (82) Every graduating class from 1858 to 1870 included students who served. The war also had tremendous effects beyond the front lines. Main Hall served as a meeting place for the wider Appleton community during these years, where patriotic speeches were delivered and women met to coordinate aid for families of soldiers. Though classes continued at Lawrence throughout the war, the college struggled with plunging enrollment and other problems that lingered years beyond the end of the war.

To commemorate this extended sesquicentennial, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the stories of Lawrence students and faculty from 1861 to 1865. This is the inaugural blog post of what will be a series of posts exploring this part of Lawrence history. If you have any particular aspects of this history that you are interested in hearing more about, let us know in the comments.

Glass slides sneak peek

Appleton Post-Crescent, January 15, 1953

Materials in the Archives sometimes have odd lifecycles. Such has been the case for a set of glass plate negatives, recently rediscovered on a shelf in the back of the Archives. They represent a series of amateur photographs taken by Chester Allen, class of 1912, dating from his four years at Lawrence. They were found in an Appleton attic in 1953 and subsequently enjoyed a bit of fanfare.

"Studying in room," February 1, 1910

These negatives have sat in the Archives for almost 60 years since this discovery, still in their original, carefully labeled envelopes. Since our rediscovery a few months ago, the negatives have been re-housed for preservation purposes, and a digitization project is currently underway. The 70 photographs in this series represent a truly unique look at Lawrence through the eyes of a student 100 years ago, and we are very excited to be able to share them with a wider audience.

The digitization of the Chester Allen photographs is part of a larger effort to digitize all 250 of the original glass slides in our collections. The images will eventually be added to our digital collections database, so keep an eye out for future updates!