Upcoming Closings

13 06 2016

The Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections will be closed June 16-17, 2016.  If an emergency arises please call our main phone number and leave a voicemail (http://archives.msu.edu/about/contact.php?about_contact).

We are sorry for the inconvenience.

We will reopen on Monday, June 20th at 9:00 a.m.  Please see our website for additional upcoming closings.

Collections Spotlight: Lewis Richards papers

18 05 2016

Lewis Richards

Lewis Richards was born April 11, 1881, the son of Reverend Jonathan and Huldah Richards, in St. Johns, Michigan. After attending school in Ann Arbor, he studied music at the University of Michigan Conservatory.  He then continued his studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, Belgium. Richards graduated with distinction in piano from the Royal Conservatory, the first American to do so.

Richards married Berthe Smedt, a native of Belgium, in 1908, and they had two children, Elsa Loomis and Roger Lewis.


Berthe and Lewis on their wedding day, 1908

Also in 1908, Richards began his professional music career, touring Europe and America. In America Richards played at the White House, Steinway Hall, Carnegie Hall, and many others.

Richards took a hiatus from touring during World War I to become General Secretary (later Director) of the London Office of the Commission for Relief in Belgium.  Its purpose was to organize food supply routes from France to Belgium, which was occupied by German forces. The Commission was part of the U.S. Food Administration, headed by Herbert Hoover. Richards was awarded the Médaille de la Reconnaissance française in 1919 for his efforts.

After living abroad, Lewis Richards and his family returned to Michigan. In 1927 he became head of the Music Department at Michigan State College. He was not only instrumental in expanding the music program, but also in the planning of the modern music building on the Michigan State College campus built in 1939.

music bldg dedication

Music Building dedication program

Richards was a member of several professional organizations: the Capet String Quartet, Societe des Instruments Anciens of Paris, Beethoven Association of New York, Alpha Epsilon Mu, Phi Mu Alpha, Association of American University Professors, and Kappa Sigma. He also received an honorary M.A. from Wesleyan College.



Richards’ conducting baton

The Lewis Richards Collection contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, musical programs, legal documents, and other items primarily involving the musical career of Lewis Richards.

Most notable among the correspondence is Queen Mary’s secretary stating payment for the Queen’s purchase of two cushions at an exhibition of Belgian Lace supporting the Belgium Relief Commission.

royal letter

Also included is correspondence from President Herbert Hoover thanking Lewis for a performance at the White House, and a second letter extending sympathy to Mrs. Richards at the death of her husband in 1940. Correspondence from MSC Presidents Shaw and Hannah is also included in the collection. The bulk of the correspondence deals with family matters.


Richards’ children, Elsa and Roger

Also in the collection are many newspaper clippings announcing Richards’ recitals throughout the United States, and a collection of obituary notices after his death in 1940.

The four scrapbooks in the collection provide a detailed account of Richards’ activities on tour and at Michigan State College. The first scrapbook contains newspaper clippings announcing his performances and critiques of his playing ability in the United States and in Europe. The second scrapbook contains clippings from local newspapers about campus life during Richards’ years at the college. The third scrapbook contains newspaper clippings about his recitals. The fourth scrapbook, given to Richards by the Department of Publications at Michigan State College, contains newspaper clippings pertaining to the new MSC music building and dedication festivities.

Several programs from Richards’ recitals are also included within the collection, from Carnegie Hall to the MSC Concert Course at the People’s Church in East Lansing. Also in the collection is an issue of the Bulletin containing an announcement of artists for the 1929 season at Steinway Hall, listing Lewis Richards as harpsichordist. MSC publications within the collection include the 1931 MSC Music Department catalog with short biographies of music faculty.

The collection also contains legal documents involving royalties for a musical composition, a monetary valuation of the estate of Lewis and Berthe Richards, passports, marriage certificates, and population registers from Belgium.

The Arthur and Gertrude Farwell papers in the collection contain a nativity ceremonial by Gertrude and a music composition by Arthur, head of theoretical subjects at the MSC music department.

The Lewis Richards papers are open to researchers at the Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections. The finding aid for the collection is available online: http://archives.msu.edu/findaid/ua17-183.html.


Content curated by Megan Badgley Malone, collections & outreach archivist


Gordon E. Guyer (1926-2016)

1 04 2016


It saddens us to hear of Gordon Guyer’s passing on Wednesday, March 30th.  The University Archives & Historical Collections would like to extend our condolences to former President Guyer’s family and friends.

Gordon Guyer was a member of the MSU community for many decades.  Guyer came to Michigan State University in 1947 under the G.I. Bill and studied entomology.  He received his bachelor’s degree (1950), master’s degree (1952) and Ph.D. (1954) from MSU. He became a MSU faculty member in 1953. He is the author of over 60 scientific papers, some used as basic reference material in entomology.

Prior to being appointed as President of Michigan State University, Guyer was a professor and chairman for the Department of Entomology, and the director of the Pesticide Research Center at MSU. In the mid-1970s he led one of the first American scientific groups allowed to visit China.  He also served as the director of MSU Extension from 1973 to 1985. Guyer became MSU’s 18th President on September 1, 1992, and served for one year.

Dr. Guyer served as consultant to the following groups: Michigan Vegetable Growers’ Association, Michigan Farm Bureau, Agricultural Council, Michigan Departments of Health, Conservation, and Agriculture; Agriculture and Ways and Means Committees, Michigan Legislature, and the Michigan Governor’s office. He also held high-level positions at the Michigan Department of Agriculture, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the Kellogg Biological Station. He also was chairman of the Biological Science committee and a member of the Athletic Council at MSU.

Guyer received a National Science Foundation grant to participate in the International Congress of Entomology in London, 1964. He also received MSU’s Distinguished Faculty Award in 1965.

The Gordon E. Guyer papers are open to researchers at the Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections.  The finding aid for the collection is available online: http://archives.msu.edu/findaid/ua2-1-18.html

Scrapbook History: Walter G. Knickerbocker

31 03 2016



It has been awhile since we have written a Scrapbook History feature.  I recently visited the stacks and grabbed a scrapbook at random: #54.  This one was created by Walter G. Knickerbocker, an engineering student in the class of 1916.  It seemed apropos since earlier this month marked the 100th anniversary of the Engineering Building fire, and the near death of engineering as a major at Michigan State.


Walter G. Knickerbocker, of Clio, Michigan, studied Engineering at Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) from 1912 to 1916.  He was active in a number of clubs, including the Engineering Society, Phylean Literary Society (now Beta Kappa Fraternity), and the engineering honorary society Tau Beta Pi.  Following graduation, Knickerbocker moved to Detroit and became a meter superintendent for Detroit Edison.

The scrapbook itself was a mass produced item in college green with the white intertwined MAC logo and Knickerbocker’s name embossed in gold on the front.  The inside is a reflection of college life in the 1910s.  The first few pages are devoted to autographs.  Friends and acquaintances wrote their names, hometowns, birth dates, and “happy thoughts,” which consisted of favorite phrases and reminiscences.

The rest of the scrapbook contains programs and tickets from campus activities, receipts, report cards, news clippings, photographs of family and friends, and postcards from various Michigan cities such as Flint, Pontiac, Mt. Pleasant, Alma, St. Charles, and Port Huron, as well as El Paso, Texas, and Mexico.

One of the more interesting items is a note regarding a Tau Beta Pi meeting.  It has a list of items that he must bring to the meeting that requires some mathematical aptitude to decipher.  The note contains the warning “Do not fail in a single item.”


Tau Beta Pi meeting invitation

Also included are newspaper clippings and a photo of the Engineering Building fire that occurred on March 5, 1916.  Sadly missing from the scrapbook is his reaction to the Engineering Building fire.  As an engineering senior it must have been an important event in his academic career.  Since he left no record, it is impossible to know if Knickerbocker lost any equipment or schoolwork in the fire.  The fire was a traumatic event for the college.  It destroyed the entire building and the neighboring Engineering Shops.  Thankfully, no one was injured, but it left the Engineering department without classrooms, offices, shops, and equipment.  Tau Beta Pi also lost their meeting space and everything in it.  The engineering program would have been scrapped completely if not for a generous donation from local automobile industrialist Ransom E. Olds, and the dedication of the college’s administration, staff, students, and alumni.  The engineering honorary also contributed by raising money for the reconstruction of the building and engineering program.

Walter G. Knickerbocker’s scrapbook is open to researchers during the Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections’ normal hours of operation (http://archives.msu.edu/about/contact.php?about_contact).  The finding aid for the collection is available online: http://archives.msu.edu/findaid/ua10-3-19.html.

Written by Megan Badgley Malone, collections & outreach archivist


Upcoming Closings

30 03 2016

The University Archives & Historical Collections has several upcoming closings to announce.  We apologize for any inconvenience these closings may cause.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016           Closed from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm

Thursday, April 21, 2016                Closed from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm

Tuesday, April 26, 2016                  Closed from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm

From May 9th through May 13th we will be open by appointment only.  Please call or email to make an appointment at least 48 hours in advance.  Our contact information is available on our website: http://archives.msu.edu/about/contact.php?about_contact.

Additionally, June 16-17, 2016 Michigan State University is pleased to host the Michigan Archival Association’s annual meeting.  The University Archives will be closed both days to accommodate our guests and professional colleagues. More information about the meeting is available on the MAA website: https://miarchivists.wordpress.com/annual-meeting/.


Morehouse & Townsend Love Letters

11 02 2016

Valentine 1

A new collection available at the MSU Archives is the love letters of Frances Morehouse and Milton Townsend. The letters between Milton and Frances began in December 1921 and continue through June 1923.

Milton Townsend was born in 1897, attended Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University), and graduated in 1920 with a degree in agriculture science. He then took a teaching job in Hastings, Michigan where he met his future wife, Frances Morehouse. Frances was born in 1903 and after graduating from high school, she attended Michigan Agricultural College in 1922. While at college, she lived in the Women’s Building (Morrill Hall). During her freshman year of college, her relationship with Milton became serious. By January 1923, they were engaged, and were married March 25, 1923. Frances did not return to school after completing her first year.


morehouse and townsend

Frances Morehouse and Milton Townsend

The best part of this collection is seeing the progression of Frances and Milton’s relationship. In the beginning, they addressed their letters from “your friend”. As time passed, they called each other by their pet names, later “sweetheart”, and then “husband” and “wife”. Most of Frances’ letters are signed with S.W.A.K. (sealed with a kiss) and many “xxx” for kisses.

While professing their love for each other, they also talked about their day to day activities. Frances talked about her Home Economic classes, working on campus, and events she attended. She also mentioned someone preaching about prohibition during church and how several students on campus came down with scarlet fever and the flu. Milton talked about his teaching job, projects he was involved in, and people he interacted with.

Valentine 2

Included with some of the letters are extra items, such as newspaper clippings of poems, drawings, photos and negatives, valentines, swatches of fabric for dresses, an old stick of gum, letters from other people they wanted to share, extra stamps, and a piece of birch bark that Milton wrote on declaring his love for Frances.

Together, Frances and Milton had four children. After Milton quit his teaching job in 1926, the couple purchased a floral business in St. Louis, Michigan that they operated together until 1963. Frances died in 1984 and Milton in 1993.

Written by Jennie Russell

Assistant Records Archivist

Records Management Update: New Services for the New Year

2 02 2016

2016 is moving right along, and the Records Management Program is happy to announce two new services to assist your office and department with managing your records: Inventory Completion and Full-Service Boxing.

These services are offered at a cost to departments who may not have adequate staffing or resources to complete the records management transfer process on their own. However, offices and departments DO NOT have to use these services; they may complete the transfer process on their own for no charge. Details on the records transfer process can be found here.


Inventory Completion:

Cost:      $10 per box


Users who purchase the correct records boxes and box up their records, but do not have the time to complete an inventory, may have Archives staff complete the records inventory portion of the transmittal form for them.


Office/Unit will:

  • Purchase records boxes.
  • Ensure all files are adequately labeled before they are boxed.
  • Box their records appropriately.
    • Do not include hanging file folders.
    • Do not include binders.
  • Complete and submit the first page of the transmittal form.
  • Label boxes for transfer.
  • Arrange for transfer of boxes to the Archives.


Archives will:

  • Assign tracking number upon receipt of the transmittal form.
  • Inventory the boxes when they arrive at the Archives.
  • Send a copy of the completed inventory to the office.






Full Service Boxing (includes) Inventory Completion:

Cost:      $20 per box


Archives staff will work with users who are interested in having Archives staff come to their office, box their records, and assist them with completing the transmittal form and inventory. This service is offered depending on staff schedules and will require a pre-arranged appointment.


Office/Unit will:

  • Ensure all files are adequately labeled before they are boxed.
  • Submit the first page of the transmittal form to Archives.
  • Arrange for transfer of boxes to Archives.


Archives will:

  • Travel to Office/Department.
  • Provide records boxes and box records.
  • Assist with completing the first page of the transmittal form if needed.
  • Assign tracking number for boxes upon receipt of transmittal form.
  • Label boxes for transfer.
  • Inventory the boxes once they arrive at the Archives.
  • Send copy of the completed inventory to the office.


The Records Management Program hopes these new services will provide departments and offices with more options for completing records management tasks.


For more information about these services and fees, contact University Archives at 5-2330 or archives@msu.edu.