Research Files: Boarding Clubs

In an earlier post we sketched out known histories of a variety of buildings on campus, including early residence locations for students. This time we have an intriguing new piece of knowledge about student life thanks to a new donation: a gold pocket watch.

J.P. Edgar’s watch

The granddaughter of Reverend John Perry Edgar, Class of 1893, gave the university his watch and an inscription in that gift led me to an interesting finding. The inscription reads “Presented by Edgar Club, IWU, 1893.” The owner of the watch was the Club’s founder and its purpose was to provide students with room and board.

John Perry Edgar, Class of 1893

John Perry Edgar

 

 

An article describing the Club says it was formed in 1889 with 22 men enrolled as members. In 1891 the group held a “unanimous vote that ladies be admitted.”

This seems shocking, at first glance. Men and women boarding together in the 19th century? The article continues with descriptions of the benefit of such an arrangement: providing suitable company at “the dinner table [where] character is developed, courteous behavior and polished manners reign.”

1893 Edgar Club

1893 Edgar Club

The official word from the University was that young women should board at Henrietta Hall, a residence run by the Women’s Education Association from 1874-1892, but the same publication also acknowledged the existence of the privately run clubs.

But what about the rooms? The details with regard to the descriptions provided by the clubs seem ambiguous but the 1895 IWU Catalogue of Courses is quite clear:

1895 Boarding description

1895 Boarding description

With the closure of Henrietta Hall,* rooming took place in private homes of “suitable” families but boarding with clubs continued for at least a few years after Edgar left and two (Bundy and Ross) credited him as the originator of the idea.

But back to the watch…it still keeps time well and both covers are etched but worn down with use. Still, the designs are visible: on one side are the initials JPE and on the other is a building. In this enlarged and enhanced image, it looks like Old North, which was built in 1856 and so was the first building on our campus. Edgar would also have had classes in Old Main, erected in 1870. Next time you’re on the 4th floor, stop by the archives to check out this “new” addition!

Old North

Old North in center of watch

 

*After Henrietta closed it wasn’t until 1956 that a dorm for women opened again. That was known as “Southwest Hall” and was operated by the Women’s Guild of IWU until it became a co-ed dorm–IWU’s first–in 1976. That’s also when it was renamed for benefactor Anna Gulick, a name it carries today.

Remember the archivists’ rallying cry!

Periodically, people go through attics and storage boxes and send items to the archives that are related to IWU history. Sometimes amazing finds arise from the people who take time to send them “home.”

Just today I opened a box that held Student Senate Minutes dated May 17, 1970…how timely! On May 4 of this month, we took part in a commemorative event for the 45th anniversary of the Kent State killings in 1970. Documentation for eventsĀ on our campus that were recounted in that blog post were limited to the Argus, Wesleyana and a few photographic files.

While researching that event, I marveled to discover that the IWU archives holds no Student Senate meeting minutes from March 22, 1970 until January 10, 1971.

It sure would help us appreciate the Senate’s actions if we had the primary sources they created to consult! Don’t get me wrong, the news sources are great to have, but it’s these kinds of gaps that make anyone doing historical research a little crazy.

So yes, it was good to see minutes in a recent donation, but it was a huge letdown to find that pages 2-15 of those minutes had been removed. We may never know why that happened, but on the very last page there is evidence that helps us understand a little more about the May 1970 student reactions in that turbulent month. The first image below was scanned from the minutes and it contains an announcement that the Black Student Union was responsible for the walkout. From this brief note, we also find out why they felt compelled to walkout 14 days after Kent State.

There was also a green flyer (image below) that explains the Peace Symbol students wore during Commencement in 1970–that event was also described in the previous post on the May 4th commemoration. These kinds of documents connect us with our past in tangible ways…stop by the archives if you want to see the real things someday!

Think you can’t make a difference? There’s only one way to find out…if you ever come across Senate records — or other records from IWU — give me a call! (309-556-1538)

And here’s a catchy little phrase to help reinforce the point:
When in doubt, don’t throw it out!

[click on images to enlarge]

Flyer stating reason for wearing the peace symbol at Commencement.

5×7″ flyer stating reason for wearing the peace symbol at Commencement.