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


Scrapbook History: Donna Moran

21 02 2014

Think about life at MSU in the early 1950s. Is it easy to picture? Unless you are an avid historian it might be harder than you think. While scrapbooks may not tell us the entire story they certainly give us a wonderful glimpse into the past. Donna Moran was a student at Michigan State College from 1949-1954. She kept a detailed scrapbook of her freshman year as a co-ed at MSC.

Taken from the 1953 Wolverine yearbook. Donna is pictured with her hands on the pianist.

Taken from the 1953 Wolverine yearbook. Donna is pictured with her hands on the pianist.

Originally from Detroit, Donna was an avid theater goer and kept many programs from shows she attended on campus. She witnessed the Ballet Russe, University Concert Series and many other shows during her freshman year. Dances were especially popular during her time at MSC. She kept track of many of the dances she attended, who her dates were, and even the names of other couples she attended with.

Although Donna lived in the newly completed Elida Yakeley Women’s Dormitory, MSC was struggling to keep up with student housing needs. With too many students and not enough campus dormitories during the post World War II boom, MSC had to install temporary structures to accommodate them.  A campus map from 1949, found in Moran’s scrapbook shows the barrack-like Quonset Village in the bottom left hand corner.

MSC campus map, 1949

MSC campus map, 1949

Without the use of cellphones, most dorms and dorm rooms had their own land line phone to be shared.  To keep track of who was calling them and for what reason, Moran and her roommates kept a comprehensive record of their messages. Donna preserved this record in her scrapbook.

Donna's telephone list

Donna’s telephone list

Like many women in the early 1950s, Donna graduated with a degree in Education. Although there were women enrolled in almost every program at MSC during this period, the two most popular subjects for co-eds were Home Economics and Education.

Life at MSU over 60 years ago would have been quite different than it is today. Although many traditions and practices remain the same, clothes, activities, and even communication on campus would be unrecognizable to freshman classes in 2014.  Through Donna Moran’s scrapbook she allows us to take a small peek into her life at MSC in 1949.

Moran and her friends share some fun in East Yakeley Hall.

Moran and her friends share some fun in East Yakeley Hall.

Source: Donna Moran papers, UA 10.3.120, Scrapbook #317

Written by Caroline Voisine

Scrapbook History: George Henry Ellis

3 02 2012


The scrapbooks housed at the archives are definitely one of my favorite historic MSU artifacts. If you remember a while ago, I decided to pick up a random scrapbook and see what it had to offer (if you don’t remember, check out the blog post here). Today, I decided to do the same thing – I chose scrapbook number 60…

“George Henry Ellis 1907

His book of useful information.

Begun this 12th day of April A.D. 1905

Changed to a scrap book in September 1905”

Those words are written on the first page of the book and are followed by an image of Ellis. His scrapbook is quite unique. As I began looking through it, I noticed the typical images and newspaper clippings, but what made this one stand out as different was the unique set up of the book. It appears as though Ellis originally used it as a notebook for one of his classes (perhaps a math or engineering class) and then decided to convert it into a scrapbook.

By reading through Ellis’ scrapbook, we are able to get a very unique and rather comical view into the life of a M.A.C. student living in the early 1900s. Various images flood the pages, yet Ellis always adds his own clever captions:

Machine Shop “This room contains a lathe which Noah is said to have used in building the Ark”

Mechanical Drawing Room “Uncle Billy’s Hangout”

President’s Residence “Prexy’s house”

Williams Hall “Places of Interest 1. YMCA room    2. Three Frat Rooms      3. Bed Bug Alley”

Women’s Building “Chicken Coop – Club C; where they sling hash a la style”

Physics Laboratory “Home of the ‘Physicists’. ‘Much more might be said.’ We were all asleep.”

Battalion “These guns are relics of the Crusades”

He also included sheet music and many cheers that the students used to chant at athletic games back in the day. One of my favorite things in the scrapbook was an article titled “Five Girls in the River”; it tells of 5 co-eds walking by the river when they noticed a man with a camera and wanted their picture taken. When they climbed up onto a tree branch that hung over the river, the age of the tree came through and the branch gave way and snapped into the river taking the five girls with it. They were then rescued from their unexpected plunge bath by the man who was going to take their picture – nice guy!

Ellis’ scrapbook makes me wish that the pastime of keeping a scrapbook was still used today. I wonder what students would say about various aspects of campus in present times…hmm…


Scrapbook History: Wendell Paddock

30 11 2011

The Archives is home to a plethora of documents, records, photographs, journals, magazines and so much more! Out of all of these things, my favorite gems are the scrapbooks. Today I decided to pick a random scrapbook off of the shelf and see what stories it would hold. So I chose Number 35…

This scrapbook belonged to Wendell Paddock, a student at MAC from 1888-1893. He was a student studying agriculture and his scrapbook consists of many receipts, invitations, announcements, dance cards, and other sorts of record-type memorabilia. When I first began looking through the scrapbook, I was thinking that I might have to choose another one, because all this had in it were boring documents! However, as I continued looking through it, I noticed that we could learn a lot about Wendell through these old documents he kept.

Wendell enrolled at MAC for the fall term of 1888. When he first enrolled, he was required to pay a fee of $11.75; $5.00 for Matriculation fees, $4.25 for room, and $2.50 in incidentals. His registration card helped us see some of the first classes he took while at MAC. For his first term, he was enrolled in “1 Agriculture”, “F.H. Drawing”, and “Engineering”. Each semester, Wendell would take a variety of classes eventually hoping to achieve his Bachelors of Science degree in Agriculture. Throughout his five years at MAC, Wendell belonged to the Club Boarding Association. Membership in this gave students the ability to live in the college dormitories. Our friend lived in room 131 of Abbot Hall. Wendell also was fairly involved in the college social life.  He was a member of the Olympic Society, the Feronian Society, the MAC Social Club, and was a subscriber to The College Speculum, the school newspaper of the time. He also attended many school dances such as the Olympic Society socials and the Junior Hop.

Then I came across this…

This is a hand written letter to our dear friend Wendell from the president of the university at that time, Oscar Clute. It reads:

June 7, 1892

Dear Mr. Paddock,

           Word comes to me that instead of giving yourself to the furniture room, to look after goods where called for, you give the key to the utterly irresponsible parties to go there alone.

           I am paying you for looking after that room. If you do not want to do the work you need not the job. I know that you very responsibly neglected the order of the rooms, and now I find that you do not attend to the other work .

           Any further delinquency as to the this work will at once cancel the job.

                                                                                           Truly yours,

                                                                                                           Oscar Clute

Clearly, Wendell was not attending to his duties called for by his job! I thought it was really interesting to see that the president of the university himself, would write Wendell a handwritten letter addressing this issue!

Overall, Wendell seemed like your average college student back in the day. This scrapbook provides a really unique gateway to get a glimpse into Wendell Paddock’s life.