Rumor Has It…

19 10 2016

With cooling temperatures, shorter days, and the crunch of fallen leaves, the setting couldn’t be better for a ghost story.  MSU is over 160 years old and, as with any old institution, whispers of ghosts and satanic rituals have spread.  At the MSU Archives, we don’t have official proof of spirits roaming the halls and dorms.  You can believe the tales or not, but we can share with you the stories that have been told about the various spirts that haunt this university.

Mayo Hall

The most famous ghost story on campus is the ghost of Mayo Hall, who people believe is Mary Mayo herself.  Mary Anne Bryant was born in Calhoun County on May 25, 1845 and married Perry Mayo, a Civil War veteran, on April 14, 1865.  They had two children together, a son named Nelson and a daughter named Nellie.  In 1884, the Mayos were founding members of a chapter of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, also known as the Grange.  Within the Grange, Mary advocated for girls and women to better themselves and to receive the same education as the men.  Even though women were admitted to MAC in 1870, the classes weren’t tailored to women; women were expected to work the land just like the men.  Only a handful of women graduated from MAC during this time.  In response, Mary was the main driving force for domestic science classes to be taught at MAC because she thought plowing and crop maintenance weren’t suitable for young women.  Her persistence paid off in 1896 when 42 women enrolled in the new Home Economics Program, which was an instant success.  Mary continued her work until she became ill in 1902; she died a year later on April 21, 1903.  She is buried in the Austin Cemetery that is located in Convis Township, Calhoun County.


Mayo Hall, 1940; A000343

It is said that the ghost of Mary Mayo haunts the dormitory named after her.  Students have claimed to see the apparition of a woman, lights which turn off and on randomly, and a piano that plays on its own accord.  Additionally they claim that the eyes of the Mary Mayo portrait that hangs on the first floor follow people across the room.  As to why Mary Mayo would haunt Mayo Hall, stories range from the theory that she killed herself, was murdered, or otherwise died in Mayo Hall.  The fourth floor, referred as the “red


Portrait of Mary Mayo that people claim the eyes will follow you across the room, undated; A003629

room,” is rumored to be sealed off to students because of satanic rituals taking place and rumors of a woman hanging herself.  None of these claims are true about Mary since she died at home from her illness in 1903.  Also, she died 28 years before Mayo Hall was built in 1931.  It seems very highly unlikely that Mary Mayo would haunt the building named after her years after her death, but many students believe that Mayo Hall is haunted.

Beaumont Tower

One of the most famous sites on campus, Beaumont Tower, also has its own ghostly stories to tell.  One legend states you aren’t a true Spartan unless you have been kissed in the shadow of the tower.  No reference as to how that legend got started has been found in the Archives.

Another story involves the ghost of a student that was killed in World War II.  He is said to haunt the tower as he searches for his lost sweetheart.  It would make sense that the student was from World War II because Beaumont Tower wasn’t built until 1928, 10 years after World War I.  Many students throughout the history of MAC have died in various wars, as far back as the first graduating class when two students died in the Civil War.  If there is a ghost of a student haunting the grounds of Beaumont Tower, it would be difficult to know who the student was.  Also, if a ghost is haunting Beaumont Tower, it could be a student that used to reside in College Hall, the first building on campus, since Beaumont Tower was built on the same location.  Or it could just be people’s eyes playing tricks on them as they kiss in the dark beside Beaumont Tower.


Beaumont Tower, 1969; A000236

The Halloween Massacre at Holden Hall

The most recent urban legend that affected MSU was back in 1998.  That October, a rumor spread around campus that a psychic on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” predicated that a mass murder might occur on a college campus.  This rumor was told a few different ways.  The story that MSU believed was that a serial killer dressed as Little Bo Peep would appear on a Big Ten campus in Michigan on Halloween. The killer would murder around 20 people in a dorm located near railroad tracks with a name beginning with an “H.”  Other versions claimed that the killer would be dressed in regular clothes, that the crimes would happen in a dorm shaped like an “H”, or that the building would be located near a cemetery.

Most people believed that the prediction related to MSU because we are located in Michigan, we are a Big Ten University, Holden Hall starts with an “H”, is shaped like an “H,” and is located next to some railroad tracks.  Of course, this rumor was just that – a rumor.  This rumor has been around since 1968 and has resurfaced other times in various locations since it first appeared, the most recent at Kent State University in 2007.  People believe that the rumor resurfaced again in 1998 because the movie Urban Legend was released on September 25 of that year.  Some students were worried about staying on campus that weekend with some parents even calling the university.  Needless to say, no murders happened that Halloween.

More Haunted Stories

There are many other ghostly and macabre stories about MSU.  It is up to the listener to decide if they are real or not.  If you do want to learn more about real grisly tales, the MSU Archives has some items in our collections to spark your interest.  We have Spirit Communication letters in two different collections where “the dead” would communicate via a person and write out what they wanted to say, information on the real “Burning Bed” incident that was popularized as a TV movie starring Farrah Fawcett, a Halloween play that was performed on campus at the turn of the century, and more.  You can read more about some of these grisly tales by reading some of our older blog posts or exhibit pages.

No matter how you celebrate, whether by watching a scary movie, telling a ghost story next to a bonfire, passing out candy, or Trick-or-Treating, have a safe and Happy Halloween!  And that rustling of leaves you just heard, it was just the cat…or so you think.

Written by Jennie Russell, Assistant Records Archivist

Earning a Seat at the Big Ten Table

6 10 2016

by Nick Kurtansky

This Saturday, the Michigan State football team looks to veer off the losing track with a visit from Brigham Young University. In many ways this game feels odd, and I believe it has to do with some source of unfamiliarity. Most likely it is because the two teams have never met before, especially since we are coming off of games with Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Indiana, in which we have played a combined total of 194 times. But then again, after a string of years competing as one of the national elites, maybe we are less accustomed to our 0-2 record in the Big Ten than we are a Mormon school located in the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. It is unusual that, after coming off of games versus two conference opponents, State faces a team that has no such affiliation. People today can’t imagine Michigan State not being part of the Big Ten. Yet it took a combination of administrative moxie by John Hannah, the cessation of an entire athletics program, consent among regional sportswriters, and a Clarence Munn coached football team to get them in. The only fans who might recall the independent status would have been born before World War II. So as we set to face conference Independent BYU, I figured I’d write about Michigan State’s ambitious campaign that triumphed in 1948’s vote into the Big Ten, where we have since grown entirely familiar.

John Hannah believed very strongly in athletics. He said, “I have always thought that a sound athletic program was good for a university… they unify probably more than any other feature of the institution… they merge the enthusiasm of students, alumni, faculty, friends and supporters of the university, and all to the university’s good.” In 1939, the University of Chicago dropped its football program, putting the Big Ten Conference, known as the Western Conference, at nine teams. From Hannah’s start as president of the college in 1941, his ambitions were to build Michigan State College into a worldly prominent university. He saw the open seat in the Western Conference as his opportunity.

Scheduling was very difficult for Michigan State as an Independent. In order to receive national or even regional attention, you have to play tough teams and be competitive. This has not changed. However, Michigan State was unable to attract tough teams or regional rivals to East Lansing. Reputable competition usually had to be played on the road, leaving home contests to weak, small schools and school out West, in which regional attention cared little. Only five of State’s 48 meetings against the University of Michigan were in East Lansing before election into the Big Ten. Inclusion into the premier Western Conference offered consistent opportunity to play tough competition evenly between home and road games.

As an independent, MSC did not have the same experience that Notre Dame had and continues to have. As a state college, they did not have access to similar resources or operate under such privileges as Notre Dame by virtue of being a rich, private, Catholic school. Nevertheless, Michigan State owes Notre Dame a great deal of thanks. John Hannah had built a valuable relationship with Father John Cavanaugh of Notre Dame, and in 1943 the two are said to have agreed upon an annual series beginning in 1948 (which lasted over six decades until Notre Dame’s recent decision to end the annual agreement). However Notre Dame has always been considered a powerhouse football program. This series was very attractive to the Western Conference as they considered candidates to fill the University of Chicago’s old seat in the Big Ten.


1948 action shot from the first annual meeting between the Spartans and Fighting Irish in South Bend.


Understandably, the interest in sports was at a low during World War II. But shortly after the War had ended, Hannah wrote a letter to the Big Ten requesting admission into the conference. At the same time, the student population under Hannah at Michigan State grew exponentially with Hannah’s efforts and help from the G.I. Bill. Then in 1946, the University of Chicago dropped the rest of its athletic program and the conference began considering candidates including Michigan State College, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Nebraska. The University of Michigan and their president, Alexander Grant Ruthven, represented strong opposition to Michigan State’s case. In the First half of the century the Wolverines had been nationally dominant. Adding an intrastate rival to the conference would undoubtedly dilute their resources and ability to sign the best athletes. Indiana and Illinois were concerned that an annual Michigan vs. Michigan State conference game would take the air out of their nationally recognized contest with the maize and blue. Iowa lobbied for Nebraska because of geographical proximity would have resulted in another neighboring rival. But for the most part, the Big Ten schools supported Michigan State in this so called election in order to weaken Michigan and level the playing field.

Especially beneficial was John Hannah’s relationship with Lewis Morrill, the president at the University of Minnesota. It was from this city that the sports editor of the Minneapolis Star urged his fellow Big Ten regional sportswriters to support Michigan State in their newspapers. Logically, media support weighed heavy in the conferences decision. Even legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote in support of Michigan State to a national reading audience, and in particular, expressed admiration for John Hannah. In justifying their case, he wrote, “And why not? Michigan State has more than 15,000 students. It also has one of the best football layouts in the game, a new stadium that can handle 55,000 spectators, the most modern one yet build. Beaten only by Michigan and Notre Dame, Michigan has known one of its best seasons this fall. It has a better team than several members of the Big Nine.” In support of Hannah’s ideas in favor of college administrative control over college athletic programs in order to preserve the purity of amateur athletics, Rice would later write in the Pittsburgh Press, “I would like to see Dr. Hannah put in charge of handling all of college football.”

One of the obstacles involved athletic scholarships. Michigan State awarded their Jenison Awards, a scholarship for tuition, books, room, and board, to 90 athletes each year. At the time, this aid was one the level of schools from the Southeastern Conference. The Big Ten did not approve of the Jenison Awards and looked down upon all athletic scholarships. State complied, and decided to drop this tradition in order to please the Western Conference.


Clarence “Biggie” Munn and his assistant coaches, including Duffy Daugherty.


Biggie Munn was hired in as the MSC football coach perfectly in between the folding of the University of Chicago’s athletic program and the beginning of the series with Notre Dame. He went 7-2 and 6-2-2 in his first two years, 1947-48. As a great coach, Biggie looked the part, and he went on bring the football team to national glory in the early 1950s. When the Michigan State News published the headline “State Makes Big 10” on December 12, 1948, a crowd of students gathered outside the home of John Hannah. It was announced as a unanimous, although that score is a likely formality to underscore any strife. In front of the joyous crowd, Hannah graciously downplayed his role in the decision, boiling the situation down to a credit to Biggie Munn and the football team’s performance.


State News of December 12, 1948 breaking the news with the headline “State Makes Big Ten.”

Because of scheduling, Michigan State did not play its first official conference football game until 1953. That year they were coming off of AP and Coaches’ Poll national titles in 1952 as independents, but in their first conference season, the Spartans won their first Big Ten title. As far as getting into the Big Ten, of course it was much more complicated than president Hannah claimed on the night of December 12, 1948. It required the recipe of student populating growth after WWII, administrative networking, one school’s crumbling athletics program to contrast State’s up-and-coming football program, and a little bit of help from our friends, the talking heads in the media, for Michigan State to since reap the fruits as a member of the proud Big Ten tradition.

American Archives Month 2016

3 10 2016


American Archives Month is celebrated every October to promote the value of archives and archivists.  The Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections (UAHC) is responsible for collecting and preserving the historical records of the nation’s pioneer land-grant university.  In essence, the university archives is the memory of MSU.  Our collections contain documents, photographs, scrapbooks, diaries, and audio and visual recordings on a variety of topics, including athletics, student life, and Michigan history.  UAHC is a valuable resource for the MSU community, historians, publishers and producers, K-12 students, teachers, genealogists, and the general public.

UAHC is celebrating American Archives Month with several special events throughout October.

#AskanArchivist – October 5th

We’re kicking off American Archives Month with #AskanArchivist on Twitter.  This “day-long event, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, will give you the opportunity to connect directly with archivists in your community — and around the country — to ask questions, get information, or just satisfy your curiosity.” [Read SAA’s full news release here].  If you have any questions for MSU’s archivists, simply tweet at @MSUArchives with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist.

MSU History presentation at CADL Mason – October 5th

Megan Badgley Malone, collections & outreach archivist, will take you through 160 years of MSU history in 60 minutes at the Mason branch of Capital Area District Libraries on Wednesday, October 5th from 6:30 to 7:30 pm.  Learn about the fascinating history of everyone’s favorite land grant university in this presentation featuring beautiful historic photographs from UAHC’s collections.  Registration is required. Call 517-676-9088 or register online.

1966 Game of the Century 50th Anniversary Celebration – October 12th

On October 12th, MSU Archives is hosting a 1966 Game of the Century 50th Anniversary Celebration.  The event will feature a discussion of the game by 1966 MSU Spartan football players, including Jimmy Raye, Clinton Jones, Regis Cavender, Bob Apisa, Jerry West, Sterling Armstrong, and defensive coordinator Hank Bullough, as well as George Goeddeke of Notre Dame (link: bios).  Sports radio broadcaster and author Jack Ebling will serve as moderator. Archival materials from our collections, including those related to the game, will be on display in the UAHC Reading Room.

Starting at 6:00 pm, Jimmy Raye and Tom Shanahan will be signing copies of Tom’s book Raye of Light.  Author David J. Young will also be available to sign copies of his book The Student and His Professor: John Hannah, Ralph Aigler, and the Origin of the Michigan State-Michigan Rivalry.  Light refreshments will be provided.

The 1966 Game of the Century 50th Anniversary Celebration will be held at Conrad Hall from 6:00 to 9:00 pm.  This event is free and open to the public.  We are asking people to RSVP so we can monitor the capacity of Conrad Hall. RSVP by calling 517-355-2330 or online


This event is hosted by Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, with sponsorship provided by the Office for Inclusion & Intercultural Initiatives.

Genealogy Research in Archives at CADL South Lansing – October 15thnk5yb

UAHC cataloger Susan O’Brien will present an informative session on Genealogical Research in Archives at CADL’s South Lansing branch from 2:00 to 3:00 pm on Saturday, October 15th.  Learn techniques for researching your families’ history, and about UAHC’s collections.

7-1d-200-31-a002743The Civil War in Michigan at CADL Leslie – October 20th

On Thursday October 20, from 6:15pm to 7:15pm at the CADL Leslie branch, Ed Busch and Ryan Huey will discuss UAHC’s Civil War website and some of the most interesting collection highlights, including diaries, letters, and photographs from the American Civil War period.

Alumni LENS Coffee with the Profs – October 24th

Have you ever wondered where the Rock came from?  How did the idea of having a Sacred Space develop?  What’s the story behind the MSU fight song?  Take a trip through MSU’s rich history in this session presented by the University Archives & Historical Collections.  Hear fascinating facts about MSU history, campus traditions, and things every Spartan should know!  This presentation by archivist Megan Badgley Malone is hosted by MSU Alumni Association, and will be held at the Kellogg Center on Monday, October 24th from 10:00 to 11:30 am.  Registration to attend in person is available online.  There will be a livestream for those who are not able to attend –

Twelve Twenty-Five book signing and talk – October 26th


Image: MSU Press

On October 26th, MSU Press is presenting a lecture by Kevin P. Keefe at Conrad Hall to mark the release of his book Twelve Twenty-Five. The book chronicles the Pere Marquette 1225 train, which once resided at MSU and later became the inspiration for The Polar Express children’s book and movie.  We will host an open house of the MSU Archives as part of the event.  The event runs from 5:00 to 7:00 pm.  The author will be available for a book signing prior to the lecture.  Copies of the book will be available for purchase. R.S.V.P. online at

The Civil War in Michigan at CADL Downtown Lansing – October 27th

To wrap up American Archives Month, Ed Busch and Ryan Huey will have a repeat performance of their Civil War in Michigan presentation at CADL’s Downtown Lansing branch.  It will be held on Thursday, October 27th from 7:00 to 8:00 pm.

Help us celebrate American Archives Month by joining us for some (or all!) of our fun events throughout October.

Written by Megan Badgley Malone, collections and outreach archivist

1966 Game of the Century 50th Anniversary Celebration

15 09 2016


As we prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 Game of the Century between Notre Dame and Michigan State, the university can remember it as the great national championship game that never was. Though American media outlets have gifted us with dozens of Games of the Century over the past fifty years, this one in particular is distinct. After what was a 60 minute clinical display of smash-mouth football, there was no celebration from the sidelines, no cheering from the grandstands, and no Gatorade baths. Instead, the game ended as it kicked-off: a tie. The game that would determine the 1966 college football season came and went, and in the end, settled nothing.


MSU halfback Dwight Lee (with ball) receives a not-so-kind embrace from Notre Dame’s Jim Lynch. A001073

Certain characteristics are required to qualify a college football game as a Game of the Century. They are played between the top two ranked teams in the national polls. In our 1966 case, the Irish entered the game as the top-ranked team with the defending coaches poll national champion Spartans sitting at number two. The second characteristic is that there must be great talent on the field to constitute a Game of the Century. That may never have been more the case than the 1966 game, which featured 25 players who would receive All-American recognition, 31 future NFL players, including ten first round picks, and the future number one overall selection in the draft: Bubba Smith.  Michigan State entered the game as a 4 point underdog to a team who had outscored their previous opponents 301-28; the Fighting Irish had both the top scoring offense and defense in the nation. The country’s best two teams met in East Lansing on November 19, 1966, in 33 degree temperatures under cloudy skies, in front of an attendance of 80,011. However, since both teams had already used their allotted national broadcasts, ABC could not televise the live game nationally. So instead of leaving the other regions of the country in the dark, the network made a decision to air the game after it had already ended. That evening, in a time very different from the modern college football landscape, more than an estimated 30 million people watched the ABC tape-delayed broadcast.

Both the Spartans and the Irish were steered by legendary coaches Duffy Daugherty and Ara Parseghian, respectively, and each had assembled outstanding defenses. The game lived up to its billing as a defensive struggle from the start and never yielded. Some of those who played in the game have recalled it being the most physical they had ever competed in, and that is confirmed by the violent sounds of crashing bodies described in college football folklore by players, coaches, and spectators. Early in the first quarter, Notre Dame’s star quarterback Terry Hanratty was hit particularly hard by defensive end Bubba Smith and linebacker Charlie Mad Dog Thornhill, separating his shoulder and ending his season.

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From the November 19, 1966 Spartan Gridiron Souvenir Program

In the second quarter, Michigan State ended a drive with a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Regis Cavender. Shortly after, Dick Kenney kicked a 47-yard field goal to extend the Spartan lead to 10. The Fighting Irish would strike back, however, with a 34-yard touchdown strike from backup quarterback Coley O’Brien to Bob Gladieux, which proved to serve as a crucial change in the momentum in the game. In the middle of the third quarter, O’Brien would orchestrate a long 70 yard drive that ended with a 28-yard kick from Joe Azzaro to tie the game 10-10 at the start of the final quarter. Spartan quarterback Jimmy Raye later threw an interception that set up Azzaro for an attempt to take the lead; however the kick went wide right from 42-yards out.

With a minute and half left in the game, Ara Parseghian’s team had possession of the ball near their own 30-yard line. Parseghian elected to call handoffs up the middle, instead of taking a shot at putting together a game-winning drive. Thus, the Game of the Century ended in a 10-10 tie. The Spartans won the total-yardage statistic 284 to 219. The crowd watched in disappointment as the two frustrated teams walked back into the tunnel. John Hannah and Father Teodore Hesburgh together visited both locker rooms to congratulate the players on an outstanding effort and competition.


MSU fullback Reggie Cavender (25) hurtles past the Norte Dame defensive forward wall on his way to an 11-yard gain to the Irish 9-yard line early in the second quarter.  A001072

Parseghian’s play-calling in this game would go on to earn him a lifetime of scrutiny, and to this day, he has had to defend his decision making. The following Monday, the State News wrote, “A modification of an immortal plea keeps running through my mind: ‘Go out and tie one for the Gipper.'” However, the State News understood what many emotional football fans did not. Michigan State’s season was over. Notre Dame, on the other hand, still had a trip to Los Angeles to take on a tough Southern California team. When the polls came out, Michigan State sat atop of the coaches’ poll and Notre Dame sat atop the AP poll. After the following Saturday’s Trojan beatdown at the hands of the Irish, Notre Dame was able to swing the coaches’ poll in their favor, as well. Neither school could play in a bowl game. Notre Dame did not partake in postseason games at the time, and since Michigan State had played in the Rose Bowl the year before, in accordance with the Big Ten’s policy at the time, they could not go again in a consecutive year.

Michigan State did win the vote of other polls, granting them the rights to some share of the national championship, which the university proudly remembers on the plaques outside Spartan Stadium. However, this  Game of the Century is primarily remembered for what it was not. In what was to be a national championship game played at the end of the regular season, two of the best teams in college football history came out even and  left empty-handed. Despite this disappointment, nevertheless, the Game of the Century legend will continue to live on in the memories of Michigan State University.

Written by Nick Kurtansky

gotc-event-flyer_revcgOn October 12, 2016 the University Archives will be hosting a 50th Anniversary Celebration of the 1966 Game of the Century at Michigan State University’s Conrad Hall.  The main program of the event will feature a discussion of the game by 1966 MSU Spartan Football players, including Jimmy Raye, Clinton Jones, Jerry West, and Sterling Armstrong. Sports radio broadcaster and author Jack Ebling will serve as moderator. Tom Shanahan, author of Raye of Light, will also join the discussion to provide insight into the historical importance of the Game of the Century.  The event is free and open to the public.  More information about the event is available at  Kindly R.S.V.P. by October 5th online ( or by calling the University Archives at (517) 355-2330.  We hope to see you there!

History of Temporary Housing on Campus after WWII

9 09 2016

Quonset Hut Village, 1946; A000106

With the start of a new school year, students move into either the campus dorms or off-campus housing. It’s always exciting to move into a new place, but what if you were starting your new school year in a Quonset Hut or a trailer? That was the reality for thousands of MSU students and new faculty members in 1946 and throughout the 1950s.

After the end of World War II, soldiers returning home were looking to continue on with their lives, by either returning to work, getting married and starting a family, or attending school. Now that returning soldiers had access to funding from the G.I. Bill, MSU President John Hannah opened up the college and welcomed the returning soldiers to campus. However, there was one huge problem: where to put the influx of students?


WWII Veterans Bunk in Jenison Fieldhouse, 1946; A000351

In 1946, the population of campus doubled in size. Campus went from 7,500 to 15,000 students, with 250 faculty members also being added. With the explosion of people, there wasn’t enough permanent housing for everybody. To prepare for the influx, plans were made to house the faculty along with married students. The temporary housing structures for the students included: 449 demountable trailers for families, grouped around 16 attractive service buildings constructed by the College; 104 Quonset Huts to house 1,456 single men, together with a bath house with forty showers and a cafeteria and kitchen to feed 2,000 persons; steel barracks to house 240 single men; and 1,100 family units erected by the Federal Public Housing Authority. For faculty members, 50 temporary houses were built, which included 32 Quonset Huts and 18 British Empire Flat Top houses (Brookover Memoir). With all the new construction taking place, not everything could be completed by the summer of 1946. For that reason, 600 men slept in bunk beds on the floor of Jenison Fieldhouse, and 200 women slept on the top floor of the Union until other housing became available.


Aerial View of Campus over the Temporary Housing Area, 1946; A000074

The temporary housing spread across a large portion of campus. The Quonset Huts and the cafeteria were located in the area of campus where the Breslin Center is now. The trailer housing was located between Harrison and Kalamazoo Streets. The faculty brick apartments were located on Cherry Lane, which was between Harrison and Birch Streets, and the temporary apartments were located between Birch and Chestnut Street. (This description of locations is based off a map of campus from 1950.)

Surprisingly, people have fond memories of living in the Quonset Huts. The men returning from war didn’t mind living in the Quonset Huts because it was something they were already used to from living in the army barracks during the war. According to Edna Brookover’s memoirs about living in the Faculty Quonset Village, she did admit that she cried after visiting campus and learning she would be living in a Quonset Hut, but after moving in and settling into her new life, she enjoyed it. She talked about how the Village was a true “cosmopolitan community” with all the various people and children interacting with each other. As stated by Brookover, “there was always a friend around and a pot of coffee ready at most neighbors’ homes. One could always borrow an egg, a cup of sugar, or whatever. We learned to share. We formed car pools, baby sitting leagues, etc.”

The University and the Director of Married Housing on campus were very responsive to the needs of the Quonset Hut Village community. A storage Quonset Hut, playground equipment, a nursery school, a postal station, and a cooperative grocery were built to help support the Village. As time passed, people saved enough money to buy a house off campus, and as new dormitories were built, students moved out of the barracks.


Quonset Cafeteria, circa 1946; A000378

The Quonset Huts were only supposed to be occupied for a few years, but instead, some stood until the late 1980s! Faculty still lived in the huts as late as 1959, and WKAR broadcasted most of their programs from the large cafeteria Quonset Hut that was converted into a television station.  As the years passed, the Quonset Huts were used for different purposes but were slowly demolished. In 1981, six of the last standing twenty Quonset Huts were torn down, and the rest were razed either in 1987 or 1988 to make room for the Breslin Center.

The Quonset Huts and other interim housing structures were a temporary fix to help the overcrowding of students coming in after the end of WWII. This explosion of people would help lead MSU to become the university that it is today. To learn more about what life was like living in a Quonset Hut, visit the Archives and read Edna Brookover’s “Life in Faculty Quonset Village on Cherry Lane-1946” which is part of collection UA 17.156 Wilbur Brookover Papers.

Written by Jennie Russell, Assistant Records Archivist


Audiovisual Collections: Spring 1957 Commencement Film

19 08 2016



Michigan State University President John A. Hannah (left) with U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon (right) at MSU’s 1957 commencement (resource identifier A001832)

 On June 9, 1957, Vice President of the United States Richard M. Nixon gave the commencement address at Macklin Stadium (now Spartan Stadium) to Michigan State’s graduating class.  In a photograph from the Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, Nixon can be seen standing next to MSU President John A. Hannah after the ceremony.


1957 Commencement film reel

Additionally, a 16mm reel of motion picture film of this event is also in the University Archives’ collections. The film, approximately 800’ in length (roughly twenty-two minutes long), contains moving image and optical sound elements from the Spring 1957 commencement.  A :30 silent clip of the commencement can be viewed on YouTube.

If you would like to help preserve Spartan history and get this footage preserved and digitized for online access, please consider donating to the MSU Film and Video Preservation Fund ( More information about the Film Fund can be found here:

Written by Matthew Wilcox, Audiovisual Archivist

Note: Commencement programs are available on the On the Banks of the Red Cedar website (, including the 1957 commencement program.

Additional information about Vice President Nixon’s visit can be found in the Commencement Records (UA 13.1).

Dictaphone Cylinders of the Edward Miller Sr. collection

20 06 2016
Dictaphone box

Box of Dictaphone cylinders from the Edward Miller Sr. collection

In 1977, the University Archives & Historical Collections received the papers of Edward Miller Sr.  The bulk of these papers consist of the records of the Sheldon School of Business (circa 1910-1935) of Chicago.  The School packaged business courses, primarily selling courses, and then sold them to various business schools throughout the country.  The school was a financial casualty of the Depression and in the 1930’s Miller bought the assets of the school.  The Sheldon School materials consist of records, publications, promotional materials, scrapbooks, etc.

The collection also includes a box of Dictaphone cylinders, an audio recording format popular in the first half of the 20th century.  The first Dictaphone machine was created only a few years after Thomas Edison created his first phonograph recording device, but by 1907 the name “Dictaphone” was so successful that it became a synonym for all recording devices of similar use, even though Edison tried to regain the dominance of his own “Ediphone”.  The cylinders in the Edward Miller Sr. collection contain recordings of lectures from the Sheldon School.


Box of Dictaphone cylinders from the Edward Miller Sr. collection

Until recently, the only means of playing back the audio recorded onto a Dictaphone cylinder would involve the use of a mechanical stylus, similar to that of a needle playing an LP record.  However, no-contact technology such as the imaging tool IRENE at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in Andover, MD, can eliminate the possibility of damage caused by the use of a stylus.  The IRENE service creates ultra high-resolution images of the audio grooves, then converts those image files into an audio file.


Box of Dictaphone cylinders from the Edward Miller Sr. collection

With many archived forms of audio and moving image media being available only on obsolete formats, reproduction of the recorded material on these documents can prove to be difficult.  Technological breakthroughs such as NEDCC’s IRENE technology can isolate audiovisual material while still maintaining the integrity of the material’s obsolete carrier.


Written by Matthew Wilcox, Audiovisual Archivist


“History of Dictaphone.” Sound Recording History. Web. 18 June 2016.

Open Entry: Michigan Archival Association Newsletter 4.2 (1977): 7. Print.