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:


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


Figure Skating at MSU

30 12 2015

Every four years, the Winter Olympics bring figure skating to a world-wide audience. At the University Archives, figure skating fans can learn about our local ties to this graceful, artistic sport. The Archives are fortunate to hold the Beryl Williamson Papers and the Paul Dressel and Family Collection, both of which provide an insider’s view of the world of figure skating.

MSU Library and Archives

Beryl Williamson’s scrapbook.  Photo: Harley J. Seeley

Beryl Williamson taught figure skating at MSU from 1957 to her retirement in 1996. Williamson grew up in London, Ontario and learned to skate from her father, a referee with the National Hockey League. She came to MSU in the summer of 1957 to teach a student, was offered a job, and never left East Lansing. Her dream to train somebody bound for the Olympics was achieved, both for the U.S. and Canadian Olympic teams. Williamson coached Alice Cook as a child, right here on campus, who would later attend the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics. Her collection includes programs, newspaper clippings, photographs, photo albums, and film. Included is a photo of a young fashion designer, Vera Wang, participating in a figure skating show.

MSU Library and Archives

One of Wilma Dressel’s ice skating patches. Photo: Harley J. Seeley

The Paul Dressel and Family Collection includes mementos from Wilma and Jenna Dressel, both long-time members of the Lansing Skating Club. Members used to skate at Demonstration Hall and Munn Arena, where numerous shows and competitions took place. Within the collection are programs from various figure skating shows, which again include a young Vera Wang, Carol Heiss who was a world and Olympic champion, and Bradley Lord and Douglas Ramsey who were both killed in the 1961 Sabena Flight 548. Included in the collection are programs, directories, newspaper clippings, magazines, photographs, and Wilma’s hat and patches she wore when judging figure skating competitions.

Wilma Dressel's hat.jpg

Hat worn by Wilma Dressel when judging figure skating.  Photo: Harley J. Seeley

Figure skating enthusiasts, both new and old, will enjoy these two fascinating collections!

Written by Jennie Russell, Assistant Records Archivist

Where were you on September 9, 1994?

8 12 2015

At the Rolling Stones concert at Spartan Stadium, of course!


That night, 46,000 MSU students, alumni and community members attended the first ever rock concert at Spartan Stadium – the Rolling Stones on their Voodoo Lounge tour, with Lenny Kravitz opening. The only other concert held in Spartan Stadium was seven years later when U2 performed for more than 65,000 fans on June 26, 2011.

Renovations to the stadium were completed just in time for Stones concert and included a new tunnel large enough for trucks to haul in the stage and lighting. When assembled, the stage was 92 feet tall and 220 feet wide, stretching across the entire north end zone.

“The set was pretty amazing. There were massive balloons that dwarfed the stage. The Rolling Stones, and their backup singers, were phenomenal,” remembers University Archives cataloger Susan O’Brien. Fireworks accompanied the final song, and the Stones sang their classic Jumpin’ Jack Flash as an encore.


Video footage from the Rolling Stones concert was recently discovered among the Archives’ film and video holdings, which we’re digitizing with help from our many supporters. Your gift to the MSU Film and Video Preservation Fund will preserve valuable footage like the Rolling Stones concert and our treasured history of Spartan athletics and campus events.

To contribute to the MSU Film and Video Preservation Fund visit

Photographs of the concert and a set list can be viewed on our On the Banks of the Red Cedar website.

Written by Ed Busch, Electronic Records Archivist

Upcoming Closings & Holiday Hours

2 12 2015

Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections will be closed the morning of Wednesday, December 9, 2015.  We will reopen at 1:30 pm that day.  Due to an all day staff meeting, we will be closed Tuesday, December 15, 2015.

The following changes will also be made due to the fast approaching holidays:

December 21-23, 2015                              By appointment only

December 24-25, 2015                              Closed

December 28-30, 2015                              By appointment only

December 31, 2015-January 1, 2016         Closed

Please contact the University Archives to schedule an appointment or for more information.

We are sorry for the inconvenience and will try to accommodate researchers’ requests as best we can.

We will resume our normal reading room hours on January 4, 2016.

Happy Holidays!