Thumbing Through the University Archives…One Binder at a Time

As the semester comes to a close, I feel confident that I am not alone in saying that we all feel a bit frenzied. As I looked through my notes taken during my research time at the University Archives from the last few weeks, I noticed that my previously full sentences and attempts at synthesizing information from multiple sources gave way to bullet points and a flurry of keywords sometime around, oh say, the beginning of November. As such, in lieu of a cohesive blog entry about one theme, I offer the following factoids and items of interest that I have learned about the historic campus (next semester these items will appear in some kind of sensible academic format – fingers crossed!). Perhaps sentence fragments are all we can handle computing in our brains these next few weeks…

  • Beal Botanical Garden is the oldest continuously operated garden of its kind in the US (started in 1873)
  • The first display at Beal Garden was comprised of 140 species of grasses and clovers that were studied by agronomy students on campus
  • One of Beal’s first endeavors was to assemble native plants of Michigan – by 1882, he had created a reserve covering 1/3 of an acre with several hundred plants!
  • The original Michigan Agricultural College farm was a T-shaped tract of land that spanned the Red Cedar River and covered about one square mile
  • This farm did not increase in acreage between 1855-1913, but by 1928 six additional farms were added
  • The Department of Foods and Nutrition in the College of Home Economics sent out newsletters in the 1930s encouraging graduates to keep in touch with one another and with the university – there was even a file system whereby graduates would be made aware of jobs in the community that they were particularly qualified for
  • Akers (he of the golf course and the hall) was a student at MSU in the early 1900s – he was asked to leave the university without receiving a diploma after reports of poor grades and disciplinary issues (he later become a major benefactor to MSU)
  • Akers was even accused of lighting a powder keg during Teddy Roosevelt’s semi-centennial speech on campus!
  • Archives records show that during the years of 1938-1940, the Public Works Administration (a government initiative to provide employment during and after the Depression) granted jobs to numerous men who labored to build a number of halls on campus (note: if anyone has information on which buildings these might be, please comment!)
  • In a speech on the importance of manual labor on campus, early president TC Abbott remarked that students were able to earn up to 8 cents an hour for their required labor (though they could earn nothing for their work if overseers thought that is what they deserved)
  • In the 1880s, students were required to do manual labor each of their four years (and every day save for the weekends) – upper classmen acted as foremen for student work groups


Author: Amy Michael

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