Fact Checking the Rumor Mill

Posted by sylvia on December 6, 2012 under CAPBlog | Read the First Comment

Sideboard rumored to have belonged to President Hannah, Photo by S Deskaj

A few weeks ago, Kat Cooper from the MSU Union asked us to come in and take a lot at several pieces of furniture that are currently located in the Union’s Spartan Spirit Shop.  What is so significant about these three pieces of furniture?  Rumor has it that they once belonged to former MSU President John A. Hannah – if true, the furniture would contribute to MSU’s exciting past!  I took several photos and headed out to the MSU Archives, where I carefully looked through countless photos of President Hannah taken throughout the course of his 28-year tenure.

Cupboard rumored to have belonged to President Hannah, Photo by S. Deskaj

Admittedly, I knew very little about President Hannah prior to my trip to the MSU Archives, but after looking through photos of him and his wife Sarah Shaw (daughter of Robert Shaw – former MSU President), I was able to piece together some of their life stories.  Some cool things I learned about them include: on the wall above President Hannah’s desk, he kept a photo of U.S. President Abe Lincoln; Sarah received a Master’s degree here at MSU.  Usually referred to as “Mrs. John A. Hannah,” I was surprised to learn about Sarah, particularly since the goal was to search for and identify pieces of furniture!  Her many scrapbooks revealed personal items from her life – such as pressed flowers from her wedding and local newspaper clippings announcing the “elaborate event of the century”: her engagement to John.  She also kept a “death” scrapbook where she posted in memoriam articles on various family members – which included death notices for her parents, grandparents, and her brother.

By the end of the day, I had examined each piece of furniture in every photograph of President Hannah in an attempt to make a positive identification, or at the very least, establish some kind of link between him and the furniture at the Spartan Spirit Shop.  So, I was ultimately unable to find adequate evidence to suggest that the furniture did indeed belong to President Hannah.  While I was unable to verify the claim that these pieces of furniture belonged to President Hannah, archaeology teaches us that absence of evidence does not indicate evidence of absence.  I suppose that this rumor will live on!

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