Take a long look at the objects in the picture below. What do you think they are? I bet that your first guess was just a little bit off. They are not small hand-cuffs (as they were originally labeled in the lab!), buckles, or tiny …
Tag: student life
So far this year, I have been examining the ceramics from various assemblages associated with early Michigan State. While I have looked at what types of dishes were present and how they were used, I have not looked at how these assemblages compare to other …
The discovery of several horseshoes in Munn Field a couple of weeks ago (near the location of the old horse arena),
coupled with the CAP team’s ongoing archival research on the origins of the Grand River corridor, got me thinking about the importance of transportation during the early days of the university.
It comes as no surprise that travel by horseback or horse-drawn vehicles would have featured as a regular part of life for both students and professors in the pre-motor-vehicle days of 19th-century campus.
It also stands to reason that shipments of supplies or mail, or the arrival of visitors, to M.A.C. by wagonload or railroad would have been a noteworthy event at a time when even a place like Grand Ledge was far enough away to which to send a postcard (The cost per ounce of postage in 1885: 2 cents, the 2013 equivalent of which is 51 cents).
The M.A.C. Board of Trustees’ meeting minutes from the late 19th century regularly mention reimbursing members of the college for transportation costs, or votes to allow the payment of transportation for building supplies, new farm animals, or faculty trips.
For example, in 1876: “Resolved that the Farm Dep’t be instructed to accept the offer of a Harvester from the College to pay the cost of transportation.” (By comparison today, transportation costs with large purchases today are often covered by the seller).
In 1877: “Resolved: That Prof. Gulley be allowed Five dollars each for the fifty pigs furnished by him to the Farm Department.
Resolved that the pair of Poland China pigs purchased by Prof. Gulley for the Farm Department be returned and the bill for their cost including transportation amounting to $52.95 be paid” (the 2013 equivalent would be $1141.88).
In 1881, a professor’s participation in an agricultural expo was contingent upon the reliability of the rail system:
It was resolved that the Prof. of Agriculture be required to make an exhibition of Cattle at the next State Fair, provided the railroads give the usual facilities for transportation
In 1902, transportation problems prevented the college from receiving shipments of coal necessary for smithing, smelting and coking:
I have thus far been unable to purchase any hard coal though it is greatly needed and some difficulty is being experienced in getting delivery of soft coal under our contract. The following letter from A.B. Knowlson who has our soft coal contracts will show this situation:
” Grand Rapids, Mich. Dec. 5th 1902.
A.M. Brown, Sec’y.
Agricultural College P.O., Mich.
Replying to yours of the 4th we have had trouble with the parties whom we had our contract covered with for Hocking coal, and they would not ship us coal, claiming they could not get transportation. We have been forced to go out in order to try and fill the contract, and pick up coal without any profit. We are doing the best we can for you in order to
fill the contract, although our contract with you is made subject to strikes and transportation, etc. We want to fill the order even if we don’t make a cent, and trust you will bear with us, as well as you can under the circumstances. If you think it is necessary we will come down and talk the situation over with you.
The importance of transportation for the time period (and the awareness of such) is underscored by the copy of the commencement address by E.D. Partridge printed in the September 15, 1896 issue of the M.A.C. Record (the student paper at the time).
Titled ‘Transportation’, Partridge opens the address by commenting that “The growth [of the American transportation system], though slow and almost unnoticeable at times, has resulted in more good to the nation, and greater advantages to the people than any political movement could have brought about…. For, as farming increased, as manufacturing progressed, as the people turned their eyes westward and located at a distance from the center of civilization, as each community became less and less independent, it became plainer and more desirable that some regular means of transportation be established.” In this case, Partridge is speaking primarily of the trans-continental railroad system. He later says, “It is hard to say just what line of development the future will follow; so let us leave the future, and look at few of the needs for, and results of a good transportation system.”
He goes on to discuss the relative costs and benefits of cable cars, electric railroad, and bicycles for both urban and rural areas alike.
It’s interesting to note that, by the time Partridge’s speech was published in 1896, automobiles had been in production for 10 years in Europe (not that they were big sellers). Just a few years after Partridge’s speech, automobiles would go into large-scale production down the road from M.A.C. at the Oldsmobile Plant in Lansing, established in 1902, and a few years later by Ford. Yet it doesn’t appear that Partridge or his contemporaries would have predicted how predominant motor vehicles would become, nor their effect on the infrastructure and even social organization of a place like the M.A.C. Just a few years later, students at the college were apparently part of the growing national discourse passionately arguing over whither the future of American technology. A printed version of a speech given by one Mr. Geo B. Fuller, M.A.C. 1900, printed in the March 13, 1900 issue of the M.A.C. Record, titled “The Evolution of the Automobile”, demonstrates the underlying optimism many had regarding this new technology and its potential for social and economic progress. Mr. Fuller’s speech talks of the public prejudice against early automobiles and their inventors in Europe. “The Englishman is an admirer of the horse; and those engaged in the horse trade were afraid of the automobiles, and took measures to have laws passed which would render them useless…. It was not until recently that movements might have been seen preparatory to the development and manufacture of automobiles as a new industry.” He furthermore speaks of automobiles as the solution to several extant problems, and predicts a new age of technological equality: “For the future, the automobile promises a city practically free from the rumbling of heavy drays, and the clatter of the horses hoofs which make modern urban life more or less miserable…. Not only will the rumble of heavy trucks disappear, but the removal of the horse from the street will practically solve the problem of street cleaning. The repairing of roads will be reduced to a minimum…. Once the horseless age is in full sway, every man will own his automobile. The bicycle will be put away – except for sport. Even on the farm motor-driven wagons will carry the hay from the field and the grain to the market. The horse will still be harnessed to the plow, furnish sport on the race course, and exercise for the few, but he will no longer be the burden carrier of man.”
It’s clear that the “horseless age” as envisioned by Mr. Fuller isn’t quite what came to pass, and the arrival of personal automobiles on the M.A.C. campus came with its own problems, to judge from further mentions of transportation in early 20th century M.A.C. Record issues and Board of Trustee minutes. By the 1920s automobiles had become common enough for college officials to worry about organizing parking during football games, but also popular enough for the student paper to offer advice on driving routes between cities.
The October 15, 1920 issue of the M.A.C. Record provides advice on automobile routes between East Lansing and Ann Arbor. Navigation by automobile in those days was much like driving off-road today, it seems; the routes between the two cities include dirt and gravel roads linking between the incipient state highway system, which did include Grand River (M-16) by 1918.
It’s not clear how students and faculty at an agricultural school such as M.A.C. would have felt about the changes that came with the transition to “the horseless age.” On the one hand, the presence of motor vehicles may have made certain aspects of campus life easier. On the other hand, some, especially those whose work (or research) depended a horse-based transportation system, may have felt that their future livelihood was at stake. It’s also not clear yet (from what I’ve found) just how quickly horse-based transportation truly disappeared from the landscape in a place as rural as the M.A.C. campus once was.
The reports on the first and second annual horse shows at the college in the early 1920s go out of their way both to remark on the presence of numerous automobiles (which underscores how noteworthy they actually were at the time) as well as comment at length on the importance of holding a horse show in the first place:
“The importance of such a contest at M.A.C. is twofold. It inspires interest in well-bred and trained animals and touches also on the preparedness of the military program. As an annual feature the horse show will undoubtedly grow in popularity and in the general interest displayed by the people of the state.” (M.A.C. Record, May 12, 1924). By 1930, however, emphasis on the nature of the horse show in the M.A.C. Record had shifted to its ‘aristocratic’ nature (actual wording used in the article), not its practical one (link). I can’t be sure that this is linked to changes in infrastructure and technological access, but this topic is of continuing interest to me, so I’ll likely be following it up more in the future. Stay tuned.
As you all may have noticed, I am kind of a geek. I love to research many subjects, and archaeology and pharmacology (particularly psychopharmacology) are two of my favorites. So, when CAP found an old Benzedrine inhaler on campus, I jumped at the opportunity to …
This time of year it’s not uncommon for a Spartan to come down with the seasonal flu. Luckily the Olin Health Center is readily available to treat the aches and pains of MSU’s student body. However this professional care was not always so readily available. …
As a new member of Campus Archaeology I have begun my research in the University Archives. Looking through the keepsakes of Irma Thompson with Amy Michael, one document specifically stood out to me: a booklet about the Themian Society. The booklet, published in 1922, commemorates the society, which was the second social organization for women at Michigan State University, then the Michigan Agricultural College. The booklet features information about the society, the school, and letters to the national chapter from faculty members, including the Dean of Women, who praise the accomplishments of the local chapter.
The Themians were a literary society for women on campus founded by eleven women in January of 1898. One of the founding members, Irma Thompson, was one of the main efforts in the establishment of the society and was the first secretary. Irma and her family moved to the area while she was in high school in order for her to attend college. Here she majored in the Women’s Course and participated in many campus activities, including the Themian Society.
The name of the Themian Society was chosen after Themis, the Grecian goddess of justice, as the society was dedicated to help in societal matters and “cultural advancement”. In order to become an active member in the society, the women were required to have an average grade of eighty or above and they needed to participated in at least two campus activities of their own choosing. Additional societal events took place throughout the year, including a formal banquet named the Themian German, a ball, and faculty teas.
In 1900 after the construction of Morrill Hall, the women’s dormitory on campus, the Themian Society was given a room specifically to hold its meetings, which was still in use at the time of this booklet’s publication. The Themian Society later became nationally known as Kappa Kappa Gamma, with MSU’s local chapter of Delta Gamma, which is still active today.
Also included with the booklet was a document called the “Themian Themes”, which outlined the constitution for the Themian Alumnae Association. Here it states that the annual dues for the National Association of Alumnae were one dollar, which included a subscription to the “newspaper”.
As an officer for a women’s group on campus, Graduate Women In Science, it is interesting to discover the history of this group on campus and how it differs from societies and sororities for women today. I hope that through my work through Campus Archaeology I will be able to continue to research the experiences of women here at MSU.
From the frenzied freshman with campus maps to the jaded senior who’s barely bothered to shower, the first day of classes always makes me slightly nostalgic. It reminds me of the days when I was that bright-eyed freshman excited for the first real college experience. I wandered the beautiful campus of MSU from the Sacred Space to the football stadium absorbing everything that it meant to be a Spartan. In my new role as Campus Archaeologist I find myself taking a new perspective, a perspective which considers the evolution of the student throughout MSU’s history. On this gloomy first day of classes as I watch students scurry across campus, I wonder if the students realize the history of the ground on which they tread?
While Campus Archaeology is gearing up for fall construction projects, I’ve been researching the history of Michigan State University and the role of the student. The goal of our program is not only to protect and mitigate the archaeological resources of this historic and beautiful campus, but also to add to the historical records and better understand how the university has changed and developed. In this case, I want to understand the heart and soul of the University, the students.
MSU’s first class session took place in 1857. The students of this first year had the same goals as the students of today, to earn a degree that would advance their careers. The students were required to take courses in natural science, chemistry, mathematics, and English (including Rhetoric, history, and political economy); foreign languages were not required because they were not seen as practical. Additionally, students had to perform three hours of mandatory labor. Generally, this labor was done on the farm, since MSU was first and foremost an Agricultural College. But, for the first set of students, this manual labor entailed clearing the swamp to make agricultural fields, planting trees, laying brick; building the campus we know today (Widder 2005:37). Students slept, studied, and ate in the first dormitory, dubbed Saint’s Rest by the students. Campus Archaeology has excavated several portions of this building in order to understand student life.
Since the new Agricultural College was erected three miles east of the Capitol in the middle of nowhere, students soon began to form their own social clubs and plan social activities. Debate clubs were organized so young men could heatedly discuss their new-found knowledge. Student publications like the Bubble and the Wolverine, gave views on campus life and concerns with instructors (Widder 2005: 288). The cafeteria food was so despised by students that they created boarding clubs which provided well-balanced meals for a weekly rate of $2.00 (Widder 2005:292). Men’s and Women’s Societies provided much need social activities, like dances in the armory and concerts in the park. Pledges of these societies were required to follow certain rules such as “every pledge must appear at breakfast”, or “two pledges can’t be seen together on campus together” (Widder 2005:302). Not too different from sorority pledges of today.
Athletics were also quickly adopted by the early students of MSU. Initially, the college would not financially support sports, so students organized on their own time (Widder 2005:371). The college administration soon changed its opinion and argued that physical education was good for the student and created a stronger identity with college. Beginning in the 1880’s, MSU supported numerous athletics for both male and female students (Widder 2005). MSU’s first football team was organized in 1884 for a field day with Olivet College. The football team lost that year (0-8) and had a losing season for the next two decades; one of the most humiliating losses was against the U of M with a (0-119) defeat (Widder 2005:378). It was not until 1913 that we had our first win over Michigan and a perfect season. After the first win over U of M, excited fans marched to Lansing, “built a bonfire in town, and called upon local businessmen to make speeches extolling the virtues of M.A.C. and its great football team” (Widder 2005:382). The celebration was so great that the faculty declared a campus holiday on Monday.
Traditions, like athletics, helped create the strong unified identity that has continued to grow and expand beyond the physical campus. The strong foundations laid by the early students and forged throughout the decades is still evident in the archaeology of MSU. By understanding the past students and their daily lives, we can connect the artifacts we find today to their actions and behaviors. The University not only is looking forward, but has begun to protect its past. In 2007, the Campus Archaeology Program was founded as a way to protect and integrate these artifacts with the general narrative and documentary history of MSU.
You can help with this timeline and add to our understanding of changes to the campus by volunteering for CAP or becoming one of our interns! If you’re interested, contact Kate Frederick, Campus Archaeologist, at email@example.com.
Widder, Keith 2005. Michigan Agricultural College: The Evolution of a Land-Grant Philosophy 1855-1925. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, MI
I am still working on the sustainability project which seems to have generated endless research questions. As I try to reign it all in, I have been writing about a category that I have blandly termed “Student Life” in my draft. This is the catch-all …