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.

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 (

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:


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:

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 (  The finding aid for the collection is available online:

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:

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: