Room for Learning, Part 2


Here are some glimpses from inside the Collins Schoolhouse on SR 120 in northeastern Indiana.  After being used from 1877 to 1943, it stood vacant for 20 years.  Then June Collins began its restoration.


More desks fill the room now than when it was operating, to accomodate the number of students who come on tours.  Miss Collins’s nieces and nephews say there used to be an open space between the two sides, where activities and games took place.


“It’s not the books that are on the shelves, but what the teachers are, themselves,” according to an old poem.  Visitors here see an array of vintage books.


The original Google: a large dictionary sat on a stand for students to reference.


Hornbooks, which preceded textbooks, displayed the alphabet and the Lord’s Prayer.  They were covered with a thin layer of cow horn to protect the surface.


The school’s weathervane now overlooks its interior.


The daily schedule was all about reading!



You could get a drink of water from the stoneware cooler, or lunch from your tin pail.  For the other kind of break, the privy was out back and remains there, still fully functional.


Photo of students in first through eighth grades in the school’s heyday.


A complete record of teachers of the school is posted on a wall.


Miss Collins hit the nail on the head.  Thank a teacher for where you are today!


The Collins School is open to the public on Sundays 2 to 5 p.m. during the summer beginning June 5.  A traditional ice cream social will take place there on July 31.

More Noise

When primaries wind down, campaigns shift to political party conventions of the summer.  Americans running for office will make noise and more noise, positive for themselves and negative for their opponents.  Name-calling and rumors are nothing new.  But perhaps they are more hard to ignore in our time because of the many and diverse kinds of media, and it is harder to decipher the truth.  Unless you’re up in the mountains off the grid (which often sounds superlative) you’re probably not going to avoid the spin.

When Aaron Burr fatally shot Alexander Hamilton in their famous duel of 1804, it was after a dozen years of high profile conflict.  Like Thomas Jefferson, Burr was a Democrat-Republican.  Then he ran for the governor of New York as an independent, and Hamilton, the Federalist, set out to thwart the campaign.  His mistrust of the candidate was great.

The two were still insulting each other as Burr, now Vice President, challenged Hamilton to a duel.  A meeting of seconds was not successful.  At the chosen site in New Jersey, Hamilton was said to have fired prematurely; however moments later it was he who was wounded, and died the next day.  Burr was arrested but never tried for murder.  He was later tried and acquitted for treason and his final years were spent in obscurity.

In this 1834 cartoon, Kentucky senator Henry Clay tries to sew Andrew Jackson’s mouth shut to stop his talk of ending the Bank of the United States.  Jackson believed its purpose was to benefit the wealthy.  He had conflicts with many and was never afraid to address them directly.

Ten years earlier, Old Hickory had won more popular and electoral votes for the presidency than John Quincy Adams, but lost in the House of Representatives with the help of – Henry Clay.  In the 1828 election, which Jackson won, his opponents publicized Rachel Jackson as a bigamist and she literally died of humiliation before her husband was inaugurated.  This naturally added more fuel to the fire of his political ire.

Most all of us have the image of lanky Abraham Lincoln debating squat Stephen Douglas before the Civil War (there was a one-foot difference in their height, exaggerated by Lincoln’s hat).  Seven times the two engaged in a three-hour debate to help Illinois voters decide who they wanted to fill their senate seat.  Though the incumbent Douglas won, the publicity propelled Lincoln to the presidency in 1860.

Douglas was author of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which gave settlers in new territories the right to decide whether to allow slavery.  He considered Lincoln a radical, who with the new Republican Party believed the country could not endure “half slave and half free.”

According to, both men were adamant about preserving the union, but differed in philosophy as to how it could be done.  Douglas died of typhoid fever in 1861, never knowing that his adversary would accomplish the goal.

I’ll bypass the Theodore Roosevelt/Woodrow Wilson rivalry which transcended the 1912 election to World War 1, to talk about T.R. Jr. and his run-in with first cousin Eleanor.  Her husband, Franklin, was not a candidate for the New York governorship in 1924, but they supported Al Smith rather than Ted.  Franklin was critical of Ted’s performance as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

Ted’s brother Archie was involved with the Sinclair Oil Company, which had been implicated in the Teapot Dome Scandal about oil leases in the west.  Eleanor and her friends drove through the state in a car with a giant steam-emitting papier mache teapot on the roof and denounced her cousin over a loudspeaker.

Smith won and Ted continued in business ventures.  In World War II, though, he was once again a soldier on Utah Beach, on D-Day.  He suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after on the eve of a promotion to Brigadier General.

Amid upheavals there are always small victories, as shown by a favorite story of my aunt’s.  She worked in a senator’s office on Capitol Hill in 1948.  Her boss, angry that Truman had pulled off the presidency, refused to go to the inauguration and gave his tickets to her and her brother.  The two obscure twenty-something Indiana Republicans were ringside at the president’s swearing-in ceremony, much to the chagrin of prominent Democrats who wanted the seats.

Pitch & Timbre

george-washington-large.jpg - Photograph Source: Public Domain

If you were able to ask George Washington a question, what would his answer sound like?

I wonder.  In portraits his mouth is always closed, due to the state of his teeth.  But according to the head librarian at Mount Vernon, our first president probably had an understated yet firm voice.  Unlike New Englanders, Virginians were soft-spoken.  Intonations came from the throat rather than the nose.  The regional dialect of the time would have included holt for hold, flo’ for floor, holp for help, sho-er for shower, wid or wud for with, and yaller for yellow.

We’ll never know for sure because nobody had a way to record sound in the Eighteenth Century.  The phonautograph, ahead of Edison’s phonograph, made the first recording of a human voice in 1860.  A Frenchman named Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville found a way to save sound waves forever, in particular a lady singing Clair de Lune, on a turning cylinder.

Lincoln’s first inaugural address on the east side of the Capitol (

In the 2012 movie Lincoln, Daniel Day Lewis probably represented the main character’s speaking voice accurately.  Historians like Harold Holzer agree that it was tenor in pitch.  It carried into crowds; it had a folksy twang; it could effortlessly change to a Scottish accent due to its host’s frequent study of the poetry of Robert Burns.  Abraham Lincoln did not move while speaking, with one observer stating that you could put a silver dollar between his feet when he began, and be able to measure the same distance from it to his shoes when he finished.  By looking at a photographic still of him in his stovepipe hat, one would think he had been a deep and robust bass.

Isn’t that the way it is?  Someone you’ve only seen in a picture sounds differently than imagined, or someone you’ve talked to only on the phone has an unexpected appearance.

I figured Theodore Roosevelt boomed those speeches from the tail end of trains and from tabletops and platforms.  Not so.  Several recordings of them are available on the Library of Congress website.  He almost sounds British to me, and his pitch is pretty high, maybe because it was coming from a pair of very asthmatic lungs.  I know that in person he was warm and personable, for it was said after he met you and shook your hand, you had to “wring the personality out of it.”  When I showed surprise at the sound of the commentary by his daughter, Ethel, in an award-winning film called My Father the President, a park ranger told me her voice was typical of old New York upper class society.

Once I asked an aunt what my grandmother, whom I never got to meet, sounded like.  She thought for a minute.  “Like Lilah,” she said, referring to one of her sisters.  That was a comfort to me.  I knew what my aunt sounded like, so I could imagine what it would have been like to talk to her mother, my grandma.

The average human voice registers 60 decibels.  I can’t resist saying that the Guinness World Record was made by Jill Drake of Kent, England at 129 dB — 30 dB above a jackhammer (She’s a teacher’s aide).  Anything that can’t be classified as pitch or loudness falls into the category of timbr, according to a recently published piece of research.  It’s a mixture of harmonics.  The relationship of bass clarinet:oboe is similar to the relationship of male voice:female voice.

“So, Mr. President: What improvements are you making at the plantation this summer?”

“Wid some holp, we’re painting the sheds yaller, even the flo’s (hesitating), but if there’s a sho-er we’ll have to stop for a spell.  In the meantime, join us fo’ a treat of ow-a own wah a tah mill ians.”

With substantiation from,,,,







I’d a general studies understanding of muckrakers in the Progressive Era, including Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle.  His novel led to the Pure Food and Drug Act, which in turn made food safer for all Americans to eat.

I’d a small memory of reading about a woman writer in this group, so labeled by President Theodore Roosevelt.  Her work helped bring down Standard Oil Company.

Ida Tarbell.

Born in 1857, Ida grew up in a comfortable home in northwestern Pennsylvania.  Her father developed wooden tanks for storing oil, and then became an independent refiner himself.  When John D. Rockefeller made secret deals with major railroads, most of the competition in the area were forced to sell out to him.

Not Tarbell.  But his business partner committed suicide, and things were rough for the family.  In the meantime Rockefeller repeated his tactics in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York, building up the Standard Oil monopoly.

Ida was the only female in her freshman class at Allegheny College.  After graduation she taught science, quitting after two years (I imagine most teachers entertain the same thought).  She became a writer for a magazine called the Chataquan in her hometown.  Then she left to live in Paris as a freelance writer, where she met Samuel McClure.  He asked her to join his new magazine’s staff in New York.

Something happened next which typifies her career in journalism.  Remembering from childhood the effect of Lincoln’s assassination on her family and community, she wondered if there was more information about his life yet to publish.  His former secretaries, John Hay and John Nicolay, had used access to his papers and their personal memories to write a well-received, multi-volume biography.  Was there anything left to be found on Abraham Lincoln?  So she went to see Nicolay.

No, he told her.  They’d covered it all.

Well, this is one reason I’d a liked Ida.  No one can say they’ve covered it all, and she knew it.  So she began to look.

She visited Robert Todd Lincoln.  He had the earliest known photograph of his father, a daguerreotype which had not been circulated outside the family, and was pleased to share it with her.  She dug deeper, finding Lincoln’s first published speech, and his and Mary’s marriage license.  Hay and Nicolay had missed both.  She interviewed many others who had known Lincoln, putting together a picture of his early life in Indiana and Illinois which led to different conclusions.  Though his childhood on the frontier had been rough, it was happy, and had encouraged traits that led to his presidency.

Ida’s investigative reporting turned into a Lincoln biography serialized in McClure’s.  It raised the magazine’s circulation substantially and was published in book form.  Then she began a five-year project on something else she could never forget: the business practices of Standard Oil.

Ida interviewed lawyers and employees of the company, including a senior executive.  Methodically, she read public records.  She took a lot of time studying court documents.  “One of Mr. Rockefeller’s most impressive characteristics is patience,” she wrote.  There was “no one who could dare more while he waited…”  She used the same patience while compiling her her massive notes.

When “The History of Standard Oil,” was published in installments in 1902 and 1903, it caused an uproar.  She also published a character sketch of him in 1904, describing him as “the oldest man in the world.”  Rockefeller refused to comment, saying she was misguided.  Ida Tarbell’s writings led to a lawsuit against Standard Oil via the Sherman Antitrust Act, and the eventual breaking up of the company in 1911.  “They had never played fair, and that ruined their greatness for me,” she said.

She had a talent for finding information and presenting it to the public.  “A mind which really lays hold of a subject is not easily detached from it,” was another of her frank observations.

President Roosevelt had coined the term of muckraker with his 1906 speech, “The Man With the Muck Rake.”  It was derived from a character in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, someone who was always looking down and stirring up what the animals had left behind.  The individual he was referring to at the time was David Graham Philips, who wrote for the Hearst magazine Cosmopolitan.

Correspondence survives from 1911 and 1912 between Theodore, a contributor to the Outlook magazine; and Ida, who had become the part owner, editor and writer for the American.  On April 28, 1911, he asked her to share his disappointment with colleagues whose article appeared alongside hers.  Soon after, on May 6, he dispensed with a formal salutation and began with: “Oh!  Miss Tarbell, Miss Tarbell!  How can you take the view you do of the Herald!  You compare it with the Tribune…”  She had criticized his magazine for printing an advertisement that looked like a regular news piece.  But friendly letters from the next year show that the two met occasionally for a business lunch.

She did not agree she had been one of the muckrakers, and wrote in her autobiography (not long before her death at age 86 in 1944), referring to

this classification…which I did not like. All the radical element, and I numbered many friends among them, were begging me to join their movements. I soon found that most of them wanted attacks. They had little interest in balanced findings. Now I was convinced that in the long run the public they were trying to stir would weary of vituperation, that if you were to secure permanent results the mind must be convinced.

I need to take more time with some primary sources to find out why many books and articles still lump her into the same category with them.

Sources: Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris,,,,,  The University of Michigan site offers a fascinating article from a 1998 issue of the Journal of Abraham Lincoln.  For an excellent, well-rounded account of early 20th Century journalists and politicians, see Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Bully Pulpit (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

Thanksgiving in Training Camp

It was a menu much like one we’ll all have this week.  Cooks in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, were serving up roast turkey, mashed potatoes, celery, pickles, and pie.  But the soldiers on the other side of the table 98 years ago were wondering where they would celebrate the next holiday, or if they’d still be alive, after going across the pond to help the Allies in battle.

One troop, my grandfather, wrote to his sweetheart from Camp Shelby.  Besides a quick review of the food, he told her of horseback training, officer’s school, and a football game he and his buddies had been to that afternoon between the teams of Indiana University and Army.  It was “hard-fought from start to finish.”



The 25-year old captain would write often and receive many more letters himself at the southern town, so different from his Indiana farm home.  He traveled to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for artillery school; and Camp Mills, Long Island, with his division, bound for France.  But then, to his disappointment, he was called back to Mississippi to help train a development battalion.


After the war’s end he mustered out of the army, returning to the life of a farmer, married his sweetheart, and raised a family.  Today he would be proud of his grandson who graduated from West Point, and great-grandson who finished four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Let us all be thankful for each soldier, retired, in training, or in active duty, who represents America on our behalf.

Facebook 1915

I wonder what we’d see on Facebook in November, a century ago.  Of course we wouldn’t, because people living in the time of my twenty-something grandparents didn’t have electricity, let alone instantaneous talking on Facebook. The word computer would never be a part of their vocabulary.  Social media was in the form of letters.

But suppose, for a moment, modes of communication were upgraded to the technology of today.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch 1900 (

(Shared Post) Exclusive: This is the must-have Christmas toy for 1915.  Johnny Gruelle has applied for a patent for a new doll named “Raggedy Ann.”  Sears, Roebuck & Co. is interested in distribution, and there are rumors he is planning to write children’s stories using her as the main character.

Breaking News: Who will be the Republican candidate for president in next year’s election?  It’s still anybody’s guess, with so many contenders.  People are saying the frontrunner for defeating President Wilson has no experience dealing in executive matters.  Charles Evans Hughes, the Supreme Court justice, is joined in popularity by Eliju Root, Albert Cummins, Theodore Burton, Henry Ford and Robert Lafollette.  Theodore Roosevelt is wanted by the old Progressive Party but has declined to be on the ballot.

Trending: Will women ever get the right to vote?  Although Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York will soon have a referendum on the issue, the House of Representatives in Washington has rejected a national plan for suffrage.

The Department of Health shared a post: Can we get a million likes for this?  Typhoid Mary has been arrested and quarantined so she won’t transmit the disease to anybody else.

Mrs. Ralph de Palma added a new photo: Ralph de Palma won the Indianapolis 500 this year in a time of 5 hours, 33 minutes, and fifty-five plus seconds.  His qualifying speed was 98 and a half miles per hour.

Major League Baseball was tagged in a post: With the Boston Red Sox victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, Chicago White Sox fans can look forward to watching power hitter Joe Jackson next season.  He’s been traded to the club from Cleveland.

The Ford Motor Company updated their cover photo: A stop sign recently was put up at an intersection in Detroit.  It is white with black lettering and is said to have been necessary because of the increasing number of automobiles and bicycles.

The Parents’ Generation

Are we always once removed from history?

It’s hard to believe that those men in the black and white movies — the ones with side parts, baggy suits and ties — are half my age.  They will always be older than I am because when I saw them first, they were.

Even in their thirties and forties adults in b/w photographs appear older, to me.  I suppose I associate the idea of “grownup” with the styles of the time.  It’s more than that, though.

It could be because they’re the generation from whom we learned.

When we were growing up, World War II seemed long ago and far away.  It is unimaginable the Holocaust happened just twenty years before I learned about it in school.  Today twenty years ago isn’t that far back.  Is it?

History is always then.  It was.

My grandmother’s family in an early Auburn automobile.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately looking through 100 year-old letters written by my grandparents.  As the events of their day unfold, I learn about farmers planting extra acreage for the war effort, neighbor boys enlisting or being drafted, and the desire to “get that old Kaiser’s hide.”

I also catch parallel glimpses of future generations: teasing younger siblings about “going on the chase;” planning surprise birthday parties, family get-togethers, or just the day’s meals; wondering what’s going to happen next.

Just as their letters are primary sources now, yours and mine soon will be.  Except we haven’t written or saved as many.  Our grandchildren will look back on visual images of us that were far faster, easier, and plentiful — but fewer letters and journals where they can get inside our heads.

I puzzle at colorless photographs and movies and letters with pristine loops.  That was then.  Style and technology are different now, but the living of life is not.  I guess that’s where history and the present meet up, and we’re all the same age.

Discover Greatness


How would you like to be pitched a greeting by showman Satchell Paige?  Or stand face to face with some of his contemporaries — Rube and Willie Foster, Hilton Smith, and Josh Gibson?  Patrons of the Allen County Public Library are invited to do just that, and find out what made these athletes great, in a striking display of Negro Baseball League photographs.

Visitors may return as many times as they like to the Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery at the main branch in downtown Fort Wayne to learn more, for free, during library hours.  The photos are presented in black and white, the way the world saw baseball until segregated teams were dissolved in 1960.  Negro League games were played in major urban centers in the US and Canada.  Teams would also “barnstorm,” or travel to play their white counterparts from the parallel Major Leagues.

In 1905, a player named Samson demonstrates his form.

How many know that the first Negro World Series was played in 1924?  This took place four years after the establishment of the first league, the National Negro League.  Andrew “Rube” Foster, a former player, manager and owner, was the guiding force in its organization.  Soon rival leagues were formed in eastern and southern states.

Rube Foster.

Though most everyone knows him as “Jackie” Robinson, his wife has said he felt the name was condescending; family and friends called him “Jack.”  He began his career with the Monarchs before being famously signed by Branch Rickey and the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, breaking the color barrier for good in the Major Leagues.  He was MVP in 1949 and appeared on the cover of Life Magazine the next year.  As his popularity grew, Robinson was invited to radio talk shows and featured in household ads and on TV.

Roy Campanella began playing with the Baltimore Elite Giants at fifteen.  He joined the Dodgers in 1948, winning MVP honors in 1951, 1953 and 1955.  Then in 1957, his baseball career ended tragically when he was paralyzed in an automobile accident.

Original pennants of long-ago teams flank the players’ portraits in the gallery.  Clubs also included the Cuban Giants, Leland Giants, Chicago American Giants, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Atlanta Black Crackers, Birmingham Black Barons, Memphis Red Sox, St. Louis Stars, and Indianapolis Clowns, where a young player named Henry Aaron got his start.

More information about this chapter in sports history may be found by visiting,, and  YouTube provides excerpts from some early TV shows, What’s My Line? where you can  listen to Roy Campanella; and I’ve Got a Secret, in which Leroy Satchel Paige is a guest star.

Ken Burns’ epic documentary Baseball devotes a section to the Negro Leagues.  To read a moving interview with first baseman Buck O’Neil in his later years, see  Among other gems, you’ll find out that while in the dugout Rube Foster blew smoke rings from his pipe to signal players on the field.

The exhibition Discover Greatness, which originated from the Negro Baseball Leagues Museum in Kansas City, will be on display in Fort Wayne until December 3.  It was funded by the ACPL Friends of the Library and is the last to be organized by Gallery Librarian Amy Griffin, who has taken a new position at the Central Library in Indianapolis as Lifelong Learning Team Leader.  We are proud of your hard work, Amy.  Congratualations!


We Are One…Aren’t We?

There is no better venue than the Boston Public Library for an exhibition called “We Are One,” showcasing priceless artifacts from America’s beginnings.  I count myself privileged to have spent a recent afternoon browsing there.

From top: compass, surveyor’s chain, and document by a young George Washington.  Below: list of ships in the British fleet, model of the Agamemnon (Lord Nelson’s favorite ship), detail of scrimshaw on a power horn.

Teapots of the era were small in comparison to their modern counterparts.

Cartoon depicting the death of the Stamp Act.

Above: a colonial family.  Below: poignant portraits of two people instrumental in shaping the history of our country.

Hendrick the Great (1692-1755), chief of the Mohawks, in British uniform (engraving made from the work of a British court painter). “Tee Yee Neen Ho Ga Row,” or “Tiyonaga,” ruled over six of his people’s nations, negotiating peace with England using the principles of the Iriquois government.  He was killed in a skirmish with the French and Canadian Indians just before the Battle of Lake George, while the little girl pictured next was running around free in Africa.

Phillis Wheatley (1853-1884) was an extraordinary poet, educated by the Boston couple who bought her.  She was seven years old when captured and removed from her family and homeland.

From one the eulogies she wrote, for a general in the army:

But how presumptuous shall we hope to find

Divine acceptance with the Almighty mind

While yet a deed ungenerous they disgrace

And hold in bondage Afric: blameless race

Let virtue reign and then accord our prayers

Be victory ours and generous freedom theirs.

(With appreciation for the scholarship of Dee Albrinck, Hebron, Kentucky; and Ted Green, Webster University, via

A Stroll in the Back Bay

We interrupt this blog’s planned programming on World War I Era research for some current photos of Boston.  Staying in the Back Bay last weekend prompted a walk in the area, and I couldn’t pass up sharing it with you.

Our good fortune was that the hotel was near so many historic pieces of architecture.  I hadn’t realized that, in addition to the Old North Church from which Paul Revere saw the light, there is an Old South Church.  Begun in 1669 when Massachusetts was still the Bay Colony,  it was this body, though at an earlier location on Milk Street, where Benjamin Franklin was baptized, the Sons of Liberty planned their tea party, and notable members (including poet Phillis Wheatley and the judge who presided over the Salem Witch Trials) attended.

Berkely, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield…parallel streets are flagged by Yankee names in alphabetical order, close to famous Commonwealth Avenue.

This photo and next by Amy Griffin

Townhouses with charming gardens in front are separated by grass,  flowers, and benches in the median of the street.

This statue in the Boston Public Gardens is something which visitors, joggers, and neighbors walking their dogs enjoy on a Sunday afternoon (it was only three months ago that the last snow from the city melted).  There is a special section here in memory of September 11 victims.

Fall flowers drape a church entry; a few blocks away the Boston Public Library is undergoing an expansion.  You will see some special exhibits we found waiting for us inside that beautiful building, next time, right here.