Dickinson College, Spring 2023

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Christopher Miniclier ’57 and the Associated Press

The coolest primary source find I came across while researching Christopher Miniclier ’57 was the Associated Press Name/Subject Card index, which organized the articles AP authors had written by date under their author. It was the key to figuring out Miniclier’s story. Reading through the article titles alone is enough to get an idea of what he experienced, but its research value is so much more than that.

It was a real cipher, both in the sense that it was like a code and in the sense that it symbolized his impact on the public perception of events. I decided to look deeper into the index as a case study of historical research: what did they represent? who saw them? what did they not say? what contradictions could they give up? More importantly, what conclusions could I draw from my analysis of them? (And most importantly, how much could I work on the project at the same time as doing research for my thesis?)

Being an index, the cards did not tell me nearly enough information to tell what was going on when Miniclier was writing his articles; they could only point me to other things. While I was organizing my database of evidence, I had to do some on-the-fly historical research: many of the titles in his Name/Subject index cards contained names with which I was unfamiliar. He had spent seven years as a foreign correspondent in Northern Africa and the Middle East in the late 1960s/early 1970s, and he’d written about coups, wars, tenuous alliances, drought and political assassinations—there was a lot going on.

Conclusion #1: The cards didn’t have all the information I needed to understand their full value. But that much was obvious. They did, on the other hand, often hint just enough at something that I could either look up the article in a newspaper database or look up the figures, places and events the subject titles referenced.

Joy Adamson entry in the Britannica Academic Encyclopedia

For example, Miniclier wrote several articles about George and Joy Adamson, who were European wildlife conservationists in Kenya. Both would later be murdered.1

AP Name/Subject Index card that mentions George and Joy Adamson. Courtesy of the Associated Press.

I wanted to see what I could learn about Miniclier’s job as a reporter in general and a foreign correspondent in particular, so I used JumpStart to find some sources related to the Associated Press and foreign correspondents. Some parts of Ulf Hannerz’s Foreign News: Exploring the World of Foreign Correspondents were not relevant to my research, because they dealt with a later time period, but one passage particularly struck me:

On New Year’s Eve 2001, Leif Norrman (2001), in Cape Town, had a reflective piece in Dagens Nyheter, occasioned by a telephone call he had received from a young woman from a Swedish radio station. She was doing a program on foreign correspondent life (I was also on it) and asked him how his experience compared to that of foreign correspondents in the movies. He felt a bit embarrassed because it was not much like that. […] Yes, there were times of fright, and uncertainty, and the stench of dead bodies. But the most destructive part of a correspondent’s everyday life, he concluded, was emptiness: the emptiness that comes when one’s beat is out of focus, when nobody seems to care what happens there.2

The burden to “represent groups to spectators” who are quite far away is a heavy one.3 And as Hannerz points out, these representations often have to compete for primacy in the public sphere, shared by a public that may be interested in the goings-on around the correspondent, but not necessarily more so than they are the goings-on around themselves.4  Hannerz (and Norrman) articulate a tension between “communication” and “publicity,” where communication—what the foreign correspondent may wish to engage in—involves a transmission of information, and publicity involves a sense of shared spectatorship.5

This aspect of publicity is effected by the newspaper medium, which visibly and invisibly links acquaintances and strangers alike by creating “a collectivity consisting of strangers who realize each other as the spectators of the same thing,” because newspapers, and the “pieces” of news they contain, are understood to be distributed among the public.6

Conclusion #2: The index represents not just Miniclier’s story but an impression of his audience (including the AP) and their impact on him; it is the story of a negotiation between their expectations and his work.

Skimming through the two databases that list articles Miniclier wrote—the Associated Press Name/Subject card index and Newspapers.com—I noticed that many of the articles I was finding in the newspapers were not the same ones listed in the AP index. Most of the ones listed in the AP index were published without a byline that named Miniclier, instead giving the location (“Nairobi, Kenya (AP)”). The hiddenness of the author contributes to the publicity of whatever event the article describes, and it obfuscates any personal bias or subjectivity on the part of the author.

Yet, some people obviously knew which articles Miniclier had written. The AP Name/Subject Card index, then, is the site of a power differential between the author (Miniclier), the Associated Press and the two groups—his countrymen/reading public and the people he wrote about—for which Miniclier was, in a way, responsible.7 It is a removed site, placed out of reach of the general public, and even out of reach to those who have access to archival databases, because deciphering the story still requires effort. Removed sites, though, are still accessible.

Conclusion #3: The index disrupts the publicity/passive spectacle of current events/history built up by the uncredited AP articles by assigning subjects to their authors, grouping titles together by author and date to create a subjective narrative.

That’s what the work of history is about: it’s the grouping of facts that counts more than the finding.

If journalists manipulate time, lists that put the events journalists write about right next to each other condense it even further, creating a strange temporality.8 Events just keep on happening. Or, if one pays attention to the dates next to each subject listed in the index, sometimes there are gaps between articles that last months. Did nothing happen? Were the events put on hold for a bit? Because newspapers report on things of note, descriptions of the everyday are likely to be only incidental to setting the scene.

The subject lines for 1971-74, during which years Miniclier was in Egypt, reference the 1973 war between Egypt and Israel. They don’t mention what was doubtless another topic of much discussion among the residents of Cairo: the monthly radio concerts by Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum that were broadcast all over the Arab world, and that singer’s illness and death in the latter half of Miniclier’s stay.9 Did Miniclier and his family listen to these concerts? How immersed were they in the culture of the countries he reported on? The articles don’t tell us very much.

Conclusion #4: By grouping together all the articles in a (relatively) full list, the index betrays what storylines were privileged over others, and gestures toward the ways public perception is shaped by the intersection of political agendas.

I knew Miniclier’s time as a correspondent had to have been characterized by the Cold War. Although he was not near Vietnam, he probably felt its impact as a journalist: the New York Times and the Washington Post published the “Pentagon Papers,” documents about that war, in 1971, in a move that declared their control of public information against government interests.10

That wasn’t the first time a news company had used news as leverage or as property. Miniclier himself was employed by one of the organizations that worked to “establish control over news reports through contracts that excluded other providers,” a strategy that “shaped the business of news and competition” and put the investigation and dissemination of information firmly under the yoke of capital.11

Conclusion #5: Even if certain storylines are privileged over others, the index reminds us researchers to be compassionate to the author of the source and to consider all nuances, no matter what the storyline is.

[1] “Joy Adamson,” Britannica Academic, Accessed April 3, 2023, https://academic.eb.com/levels/collegiate/article/Joy-Adamson/485.

[2] Ulf Hannerz and Anthony T. Carter, Foreign News: Exploring the World of Foreign Correspondents (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 213.

[3] Ari Adut, “A Theory of the Public Sphere,” Sociological Theory 30, No. 4 (December 2012): 244.

[4] Hannerz, 213.

[5] Adut, 244.

[6] Adut, 244.

[7] James L. Baughman, “The Decline of Journalism Since 1945,” in Making News: the Political Economy of Journalism in Britain and America from the Glorious Revolution to the Internet, ed. Richard R. John and Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb, first edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 169.

[8] Hannerz, 208.

[9] Virginia Danielson, “The Voice of Egypt”: Umm Kulthūm, Arabic Song, and Egyptian Society in the Twentieth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 1.

[10] Baughman, 169.

[11] Heidi J. S. Tworek, “Protecting News Before the Internet,” in Making News: the Political Economy of Journalism in Britain and America from the Glorious Revolution to the Internet, ed. Richard R. John and Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb, first edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 198.


Adut, Ari. “A Theory of the Public Sphere.” Sociological Theory 30, No. 4 (December 2012): 238-262. [JSTOR]

Associated Press File Drawers of National, International, News Feature Name/Subject Cards, 1937–1985. Microfilm, 1114-1154. Associated Press Corporate Archives, New York, NY. [Ancestry.com]

Baughman, James L. “The Decline of Journalism Since 1945.” In Making News: the Political Economy of Journalism in Britain and America from the Glorious Revolution to the Internet. Edited by Richard R. John and Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb. First edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. [EBSCO]

Danielson, Virginia. “The Voice of Egypt”: Umm Kulthūm, Arabic Song, and Egyptian Society in the Twentieth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Hannerz, Ulf, and Anthony T. Carter. Foreign News: Exploring the World of Foreign Correspondents. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004. [ProQuest]

“Joy Adamson.” Britannica Academic. Accessed April 3, 2023. https://academic.eb.com/levels/collegiate/article/Joy-Adamson/485. [BRITANNICA ACADEMIC]

Tworek, Heidi J. S. “Protecting News Before the Internet.” In Making News: the Political Economy of Journalism in Britain and America from the Glorious Revolution to the Internet. Edited by Richard R. John and Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb. First edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. [EBSCO]

Christopher “Kit” Miniclier ’57

“FM SECSTATE WASHDC,” the message read, “TO AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI.” Dated September 28, 1979, the telegram from the Office of the Secretary of State to Richard Smith contained only one line of message text: “KIT MINICLIER SAYS HE IS LOOKING FORWARD TO MEETING YOU ON OCT. 3.” It was signed merely “VANCE”—Cyrus Vance, then Secretary of State.1

A screen capture of the telegram sent to the American embassy in New Delhi. Text reads: Sheryl P. Walter Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 20 Mar 2014Sheryl P. Walter Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 20 Mar 2014 Message Text UNCLASSIFIED PAGE 01 STATE 255731 ORIGIN NEA-07 INFO OCT-00 ADS-00 /007 R DRAFTED BY NEA/INS:JRMALOTT:CES APPROVED BY NEA/INS:HBSCHAFFER ------------------106829 282350Z /14 R 282045Z SEP 79 FM SECSTATE WASHDC TO AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI UNCLAS STATE 255731 FOR RICHARD SMITH E.O. 12065: N/A TAGS: OGEN SUBJECT: MESSAGE FOR ADMIN COUNSELOR KIT MINICLIER SAYS HE IS LOOKING FORWARD TO MEETING YOU ON OCT. 3. VANCE UNCLASSIFIED

Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s message about Christopher “Kit” Miniclier. Courtesy of the National Archives.

When I first saw this telegram in the Central Foreign Policy Files database in the National Archives on my initial search through the archive databases available through Dickinson, all I knew about Christopher “Kit” Miniclier was that he had graduated from Dickinson two decades before the message was sent, in 1957, and that he had written an editorial in the Dickinsonian protesting the dismissal of Professor Laurent R. LaVallee the year before that, in 1956.2  How had the Secretary of State come to know him?

An Intriguing Story

I had decided to do an preliminary search on Miniclier to see if there was any more to the LaVallee story from the perspective of students on campus, but my first stop—Ancestry.com—turned up a much more interesting story that held the key to deciphering the telegram. Among the passenger records detailing the travels of a teen-aged Christopher, his parents Louis and Lois, and other members of his family; the high school and college year books; the city directories; and the birth records were several Name/Subject index cards for the Associated Press, which list articles written by AP journalists. Under “Miniclier, C. C.” there were forty cards in all, from 1964 through 1978—a year shy of the telegram to New Delhi.

The first card has story titles like “Eric Goldman, the new idea man for Pres. Johnson” and “What’s a wife worth?” and the last lists “Institute for Religious Studies opens its doors (Peking),” but in between these are titles that reference places and political leaders in Burundi, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Nigeria, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Yugoslavia and Zambia.3 As I skimmed through the cards, I quickly realized that Miniclier’s life was a story in its own right, independent of the LaVallee case. Here was a sprawling story about journalism, international politics and interpersonal ties—from Fairfax County, VA (where Miniclier attended high school), all over North Africa, and then back to Denver, CO, and through the turbulent years of the Cold War.

An Associated Press Name Card Index to AP Stories, which reads:MINICLIER, C. C. 8. REVOLUTIONARY COUNCIL SEIZES POWER IN MILITARY COUP, 24 hurs after funeral of Pres. Shermarke. b21/10/69 713 4 Life on the Upper Nile. b26/10/69 APN MINICLIER Somalia's coup reflects tension felt across eastern Africa. B3/11/69 70 28-9 Nyerere defends his country's association with Red China; hopes to meet Pres. Nixon someday. b18/11/69 735 13-4 Chinese-Tanzania. c30 11 69 735 14 Kenyatta approaches 80. c 3 12 69 732 28

One of Miniclier’s AP Name/Subject cards from October-December, 1969. Courtesy of the Associated Press.

And in the middle of all that, Dickinson College: first during his undergraduate days, and then in 1979, when he sent an article describing his impressions of China to the Dickinson magazine after he became “the first American news agency journalist to be granted a working visa, and permission to travel extensively without a delegation” in the People’s Republic of China.4

Dickinsonian Editor… and Mermaid Player

A photograph of Christopher Miniclier

Christopher Carver Miniclier. Courtesy of the Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections.

In order to find out more about Miniclier’s time at Dickinson, I browsed the digital collection at the Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, which gave me an idea of what materials would be easy to find and what might be lurking under the surface, so to speak. In addition to Miniclier’s 1979 article on China, I found a few photographs, including one that does not seem to come from a yearbook (though it is not in his drop file). The close-up of his face (right) helped me identify him in other places, such as photographs in the Microcosm yearbooks.

The Microcosm yearbooks were a great way to find out what sort of things Miniclier had been involved in on campus. His senior portrait was accompanied by his oft-used sayings and a list of his on-campus activities, which included the Mermaid Players (started the year before he arrived to campus) and ROTC.5 Searching through the Dickinsonian for his name proved not as fruitful as I had hoped, because the editors, including him, were listed on multiple pages. However, I was able to find out that he had majored in political science and minored in economics.6

At the Dickinson Archives, archivist Malinda Triller-Doran helped me find out more about Miniclier. Although the drop file for “Miniclier, C. C.” only contained the magazine article about China, Malinda knew that he had been in a production of Our Town in 1954.

A promotional poster for “Our Town.” Tickets cost $0.75. Courtesy of the Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections.

There was a drop file for the production, which contained photographs, as well as a file for the 1954-1955 Mermaid Players season. Although only one photograph was labeled, I was able to identify Miniclier in other photographs. It turns out he was only a named character in one production that season—he was the “First Dead Man” in Our Town (and credited as “Kit Miniclier”).7 Tickets were 75 cents apiece.

My visit to the Archives didn’t turn up much that aided me in figuring out what had happened to Miniclier after he’d left Dickinson, but it gave me some background on him. I’d gotten a general sense of his character—actor, journalist, smiling in nearly every photograph. It was time to dig a little deeper.

Organizing Evidence

The AP Name/Subject Card Index had given me a good starting point for analyzing Miniclier’s journalistic activities. I headed to Newspapers.com to see what I could dig up there. Searching “Christopher Miniclier” brought up hundreds of results, most of them about our man. He’d authored so many articles! I had to scroll through the repetitive ones—“What’s a wife worth?” must have been reprinted in at least thirty papers. There were a few that were credited to him that matched the ones in the AP Name/Subject Card Index. One thing I learned by browsing through those newspapers, though, is that articles weren’t always attributed to an author. One article would have “by Christopher Miniclier (AP)” printed at the top, but the next one would simply say something like “Nairobi (AP)” without crediting an author.

Being able to see not only the individual articles but also the whole pages on which they appeared helped me to see the context in which the articles might be read. Sometimes they appeared next to sensational stories of murder. Sometimes they were the sensational stories—Miniclier himself wrote about coups, wars, child murderers, famine and assassinations—and appeared next to advertisements for baby clothes. I guess not much has changed in that respect—the biggest differences between that kind of newspaper and Twitter are the time-frame and format—but a lot has changed in the world since Kit was acting in plays at Dickinson, and Miniclier was right there in the middle of it, documenting, analyzing and exploring.

How many articles did Miniclier actually write, and where did he actually go? To get a sense of the scope, I picked out some of the more interesting articles gleaned from Newspapers.com and put them in a database using Notion. I also input the headlines of the articles in the AP Name/Subject Card Index, as well as all the evidence I’d gathered so far. By noting the date of publication (or date of event) and tagging for region and source type, I would be able to organize the list of references in a timeline, or by region. For each entry, I included all relevant photographs and notes.

Organizing the evidence in a Notion database

I didn’t only find articles written by Miniclier, though. Keeping in mind his nickname, I searched for both “Christopher Miniclier” and “Kit Miniclier” and found a few articles that mentioned him and his family. The earliest examples are from 1944, when he and his grandmother visited relatives in York County, PA. The “County” section of the September 6, 1944 Gazette and Daily included a segment “Brief News, Notes of Stewartstown,” which included the following paragraph:

Courtesy of The Gazette and Daily of York, PA. Newspapers.com.

Mrs. Arthur H. Carver and grandson, Kit Miniclier, Oak Park, ill., have returned home after spending several weeks here with Mrs. John H. Kurtz, Dr. and Mrs. Evans M. Free and other relatives and friends in this section.8

Twenty-four years later, on April 3, 1968, the same newspaper reported that Lois Carver Miniclier, Kit’s mother, was “fatally injured” in a car crash. Surviving her were her husband and three children, including Christopher, who was in Kenya for the Associated Press.9 I had collected the titles of the articles Miniclier had written during that year, but this new article put those in a new context. There was an emotional punch hidden in the puzzle of evidence that only revealed itself once I put the databases in conversation with each other.

A note on searching

With databases at our fingertips, it’s easy to get bogged down in the weeds of newspaper articles, passenger lists and duplicate records. Taking a step back can be helpful: big-picture stuff, things that wouldn’t be in an archive but are still primary sources for a biography. To get a sense of what was “out there” on the Internet, I asked Professor Google, and found a few more items of note, including an interview with Miniclier’s daughter and a 2020 death notice for his wife, Olga, whose photographs appear in the 1979 Dickinson magazine article about China.

[1] Department of State to Embassy New Delhi, Telegram 255731, September 28, 1979, 1979STATE255731, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives (accessed April 3, 2023). [AAD]

[2] “Without Due Process Can There Be Unity?,” Dickinsonian, 23 March, 1956.

[3] Associated Press File Drawers of National, International, News Feature Name/Subject Cards, 1937–1985, Microfilm, 1114-1154, Associated Press Corporate Archives, New York, NY. [Ancestry.com]

[4] C. C. (Kit) Miniclier, “No Fortune Cookies Here,” The Dickinson College Magazine 56, no. 2 (May 1979): 2.

[5] “Christopher Carver Miniclier,” Microcosm (1957): 67.

[6] “Miniclier heads 1956 ‘Dickinsonian,'” Dickinsonian, 13 January, 1956.

[7] Mermaid Players, Our Town program, 1 December, 1954, Mermaid Players, 1954-1955, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

[8] “Brief News, Notes of Stewartstown,” The Gazette and Daily (York, PA), September 6, 1944, Newspapers.com.

[9] “Former Resident Of Stewartstown Killed in Crash,” The Gazette and Daily (York, PA), April 3, 1968, Newspapers.com.


Alesbury, Elizabeth. “What’s in a Name? Giving the PA Counterpart a Global Connection.” PAEA, August 25, 2015. Accessed April 3, 2023. https://paeaonline.org/resources/public-resources/paea-news/giving-the-pa-counterpart-a-global-connection.

Associated Press File Drawers of National, International, News Feature Name/Subject Cards, 1937–1985. Microfilm, 1114-1154. Associated Press Corporate Archives, New York, NY. [Ancestry.com]

Department of State to Embassy New Delhi, Telegram 255731, September 28, 1979. 1979STATE255731, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives (accessed April 3, 2023). [AAD]

Fairfax High School. “Fair Facts.” Fair Fac Sampler. Fairfax, VA: 1952. Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/farefacsampler1952fair/page/92/mode/2up. Accessed on April 3, 2023.

Mermaid Players. Our Town program, 1 December, 1954. 1954-1955, Mermaid Players, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

Microcosm (1957).

Miniclier, C. C. “No Fortune Cookies Here.” The Dickinson College Magazine 56, no. 2 (May 1979): 2-4.

“Olga Johanna Miniclier.” Starks Funeral Parlor. Accessed April 3, 2023. http://www.starksfuneral.com/obituary/2389-v0nipvhxys.

Photograph of Christopher Carver Miniclier, 1957. Photograph Archives, Students, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

“Brief News, Notes of Stewartstown.” The Gazette and Daily (York, PA), September 6, 1944. Newspapers.com.

“Miniclier heads 1956 ‘Dickinsonian.'” Dickinsonian, 13 January, 1956.

“Without Due Process Can There Be Unity?” Dickinsonian, 23 March, 1956.

“Former Resident Of Stewartstown Killed in Crash.” The Gazette and Daily (York, PA), April 3, 1968. Newspapers.com.

JOURNAL 2: Laurent LaVallee Secondary Source Post

Beginning secondary source research, in my opinion, can be even tougher. But I have found two key takeaways, so far when it comes to secondary sources. One is that the difficulty in finding secondary sources comes in choosing the correct key terms- not too specific or too broad- and applying them to the correct databases. So, finding these terms and choosing the right databases is essential. Moreover, after class discussions and readings this semester, I have found it helpful to imagine the perfect source and then design key terms around what that source might include. For me, this came from developing good research questions, and then imagining the source that might perfectly answer that question.

War and Labor Board

For this project, I began by attempting to discover the role of Regional War and Labor Boards in the early 1940s. LaVallee served on one in Denver, and this is where he was accused of communist activities. As such, I figured it would be important to discover the roles he held and duties for which he was responsible. Honestly, in my original search, I could not find many sources that specifically dealt with regional labor boards and communism. So, I widened my search and tried to do some research on roles of the Regional War Labor Boards in general. This too was frustrating and produced few results.

Political Cartoon promoting Labor from the National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons

It was then that I decided it was time to close my laptop and send an email to Professor Pinsker, asking for advice on where I might find more sources on this topic. The email was sent via scheduled send, of course, because at this point it was about 1:30am. When you find yourself in the dark, over an hour deep in failed searches about World War II labor administration, I’ve found it’s a good time to temporarily call it quits.

When I resumed the search at a more respectable hour, I realized that I might have to not only expand my topic, but also expand my database list. I had mostly limited my search to JSTOR and America: History & Life. When I expanded my search to Google Books (at Professor Pinsker’s suggestion), I was still not able to find much on regional labor boards. But, I did find a book which included a chapter on the National War Labor Board. Though it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, it still gives me some information generally about War Labor Boards, and I know that I will keep trying, more creatively, as I continue researching.

Red Scare

Another main question I wanted to answer surrounded the role that communism played in universities during the Second Red Scare. For LaVallee, an academic accused of once being a communist sympathizer, the answer to this question would have been extremely influential. I was able to identify the correct combination of keywords and databases more quickly for this question and immediately got more hits than previous searches about the War Labor Boards.

Senator Joseph McCarthy, Wikimedia Commons

Terms that worked for this second topic included: AAUP (including spelling out the acronym), Cold War, House Un-American Activities Committee, and the best term: academic freedom. Terms like WWII (spelled out) and communism seemed to confuse the search engine – I believe they were too broad either geographically or chronologically. Curiously, McCarthyism did not turn up many usable results. The combination of Cold War and academic freedom was particularly useful. Using JSTOR and America: History & Life I quickly found a few journal articles that loo

Representative, Martin Dies, Head of the House Un-American Activities Committee, Wikimedia Commons

-ked worth my while. I expanded my search to Jumpstart, which produced a journal article, Google Books, which did not have much, and EbscoHost which generated a book that had a section dedicated to the topic.

Though this process was certainly frustrating, I think it taught and continued to remind me that it is important to keep topic in mind when you are deciding where you look for sources. Because of the nature of academic freedom as a topic, it makes sense that academics at universities would write about it. This explains the abundance of journal articles: the topic is directly pertinent to a large demographic that writes and researches in peer-reviewed sources. The first topic, though, is uber specific and seemingly lacks as natural an interested audience of historians and researchers. This means that I will have to be more creative in locating sources related to it.

A final quick takeaway: book reviews are your friend, especially in the initial stages of research! From the book review that I found, I know that I probably won’t read the whole book, but I did get some others in the historiography section that seem helpful and about half of the book sections look like they could be useful.

Once I had my sources organized, I went through them more carefully than a quick skim, and these were my findings:

One of the main contributions these sources made to my project was giving me more ideas for how to research the Times section of Life and Times. I would like to look into further O. John Rogge, a lawyer who fought against the House Unamerican Activity Committee and several other professors that were removed during the McCarthy era under the guise of being communists. I will be interested to see if these professors were granted a hearing by their universities because while LaVallee was, other professors were not even given that opportunity to defend themselves.

I want to learn more about the Hiss and Smith Acts and the following trials, as well as the other active institutions which fought for academic freedom such as the ACLU and Progressive Education Association. I would also like to find out if LaVallee was tenured as one of the articles discussed in detail the factors of public vs private institutions and tenured vs untenured status as protections for academic freedom.

Closing Thoughts and Discoveries:

First, the California Plan held that communists could not be employed at academic institutions, not because of their political beliefs, but because they had abandoned objectivity which, its creators hold as vital for employment in an academic institution. This plan guided institutions in their “trial” process and determined what due process meant in these situations.

Secondly, the sources also suggested that LaVallee’s case was not particularly out of character in students’ reactions to the situation. In other, similar, cases of the suspension/firing of professors, it seems as if students protest the removal intensely. However, the extreme faculty upset at Dickinson seems unusual for the time. In most cases, the administration is painted as paranoid villains, out to get pillars of academic freedom. Recognizing this narrative will help me in attempting to prevent bias when I write more about this story, myself.


“Academic Freedom – Censure List.” American Association of University Professors. Accessed March 27 2023. [URL]

Brown, Ralph S., Kurland, Jordan E. “Academic Tenure and Academic Freedom.” Law and Contemporary Problems 53, no. 3 (1990): 325-55.[JSTOR]

Cain, Timothy Reese. “’Friendly Public Sentiment’ and the Threats to Academic Freedom.” History of Education Quarterly 58, no. 3 (2018): 428-35.

Deery, Phillip. “Political Activism, Academic Freedom and the Cold War: An American Experience.” Labor History 98, (2010): 183-205. [JSTOR]

Franklin, RW. “Lessons from the Past Illuminate the Curran Affair: ‘No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities.’” Review of No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities, by Ellen Schrecker. College Teaching, 35, no.2 (1987): 50-52. [JSTOR]

Kersten, Andrew E. Labor’s Home Front: The American Federation of Labor During World War II. NYU Press, 2006. [Google Books]

McCumber, John. “Rationalizing Academic Repression: The Allen Formula.” In The Philosophy Scare, 135-153. Chicago University Press, 2016. [EbscoHost]


JOURNAL 1: Laurent LaVallee Primary Source Post

Beginning primary source research can be tough. But it is also rewarding, and I found that each time I went into the archives I was appreciative to be able to do historical research. I found some interesting things and I still have a lot more work to do.

Laurent LaVallee was a professor at Dickinson College, accused communist, and employee of the United States government as both a soldier and economist. When I decided upon LaVallee as my topic, he seemed like a shadowy figure shrouded in the smoky circumstances of the Red Scare and the twists and turns of academia’s politics. As I have begun the process of researching his Life, Times, and Memory, my goal was to clear a bit of the smoke and create a map for the twists and turns. In order to do this, I took a few trips to the Dickinson Archives and used online databases.

To The Archives!

My first step, before I went into the physical archives, was to look at the Dickinson Archives online collection, where I fou

Student Statement of Belief, Dickinson College Archives, March 2023

-nd some articles in the Dickinsonian from the year that LaVallee was fired, and perhaps more importantly, the finding aid for LaValles’ file. With this I was able to plan trips to the archives and study similar material at the same time. This helped to keep my research (and notes) more organized, though I quickly learned the importance of this when a third trip to the Archives was necessary at the last minute, in order to cite my sources.

The articles in the Dickinsonian (as student written sources) focused heavily on student reaction to the proceedings of the case. So, for my first trip, I was interested in looking further at the students’ reactions. One of the articles from the Dickinsonian referenced a petition by students that protested the firing of LaVallee. I found the petition. In fact, I found at least 15 copies of this petition. At first, I could not understand why there were so many copies, but I realized that it was because each copy had different signatures, a testament to the at least dozens of students that disagreed with LaVallee’s suspension.

One of my other favorite finds was also a source in duplicates. I came across a several copies of the report by administration announcing the removal of LaVallee from the College. Upon closer look, I realized that the writings were edits made by William Edel (president of the College at the time) because he signed them at the end (thanks, Edel!). Sure enough, when I compared them to the final copy, the handwritten changes had been made.

President William Edel, Edited and Final Copies of Dismissal Report to the Board

I’m glad that I found these sources, for what they helped me to learn about the LaVallee situation, but also because I think it reminded me the of the value of archival research. Though it can be tough to handle documents by hand, without the benefit of technology that identifies keywords, comparing the signed petitions and the copies of Edel’s report in-person gave me insight into the sheer number of students that supported LaVallee and into Edel’s thought process.

Online Research Between In-Person Visits

After this, I did another round of at-home, digital, research where I looked at secondary sources (see second journal entry), into the AAUP (American Association of University Professors, who censured the college after LaVallee’s firing), and Ancestry Library. I knew going into this project that the biggest challenge would be looking at LaVallee’s life after Dickinson, because in talking to both Malinda Triller-Doran and Professor Pinsker, I was warned that there was not much research done on the topic previously.

I started out on ancestry with a basic search of his name and birthplace, Worchester, MA and immediately found a birth record and death record (from Plainsfield, VT in 1998). With a little bit more digging, I found records of his entry/discharge into the army in 1944/1945 and his marriage to Louis Merrix in 1948. I was able to find these documents once I realized that on his birth record his name was listed as Lawrence, not Laurent, LaValle (though with the same birth date and place as was listed in other sourcs).

Massachusetts Birth Record, 1913, Laurent R. LaValleeves, Melinda helped me to use Newspapers.com to find a report of his hiring at Goddard College in 1961, after he was fired from Dickinson.

Additionally, I saw some sources that referred to him as Raymond, his middle name. These were mostly repeated documents, but having a potential pseudonym was helpful. I confirmed Raymond as an alternate name when a source in the Dickinson Archives had him listed as Raymond (a colleague referred to him as Raymond in a letter of recommendation to the College). This will be helpful for further research, and perhaps explains why he seemed to disappear after he left Dickinson.

Back to the Archives!

This brings me to my next trip to the archives, where I wanted to establish a timeline of his accusal, trial, suspension, and removal at Dickinson. I was also on the lookout for a source that referred to Herbert Fuchus, the person who originally named LaValle as a communist in his trial with the Committee on Un-American Activities. One of the first things I looked at was the correspondences between William Edel, other administrators, faculty, and lawyers (mostly David Kohn, who seemed to be Edel’s personal lawyer, though I’m not yet sure why Kohn is not listed as the College’s lawyer, instead).  These letters mostly went over possible evidence for the trial against LaVallee and had a distinctly accusatory tone. This was consistent with McCarthy era (and according to Malinda, with Edel’s reported personality).

I also was able to locate the court record of the trial Herbert Fuchus, where he named LaVallee as a communist (a common practice for these trials). The timing of these sources allowed me to construct a timeline from start (when LaVallee was accused) to finish (when he was fired) for the affair, overall about a year.

What’s Next?

Going forward, I would like to do some more research into the timeline of events and dedicate a few days into fully reading the hundreds of pages of LaVallee’s trial documents, including a transcription and exhibits, which I skimmed, but did not have the time to read in detail. Additionally, I will investigate the AAUP documents that I discovered in my last trip to the archives in speaking to Malinda, including Dickinson’s report of the AAUP censure. I also have plans to contact the other colleges where LaVallee worked and request through Inter Library Loan a copy of his obituary that Malinda helped me to locate with the Dickinson Archives account through Newspapers.com.


“Board Holds Hearing For Dr. LaVallee.” Dickinsonian, April 27 1956.

“Dr. L. LaVallee Hearing held Friday, April 26.” Dickinsonian, April 13 1956.

“Economics Teacher Named at Goddard.” The Burlington Free Press (Burlingtonette, VT), Jul. 14, 1961.

Students of Dickinson college, “Statement of Student Belief” 1956, Carlisle, PA, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

Edel, William E., Carlisle, to David Kohn, April 16 1956, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

Edel, William E., Carlisle, to David Kohn, May 31 1956, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

Edel, William E., “RE: Professor Laurent R. LaVallee.” June 1, 1956, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

Hearing Before the Committee of House, Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-Fourth Congress, First Session, Investigation of Communist Infiltration of Government, December 13, 1955, pg. 2999-3000.Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

Kohn, David, Harrisburg, to William E. Edel, March 30 1956, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

“LaVallee questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee.” Dickinsonian, March 9 1956.

“LaVallee Action Protestsed by Students and Faculty.” Dickinsonian, March 23 1956.

“Massachusetts, U.S., Birth Index, 1860-1970.” AncestryLibrary.com. 2023

“N.S.A. Sends a Statement on Recent Issue.” Dickinsonian, May 4 1956.

“Oregon, U.S., Country Marriage Index, 1851-1975.” AncestryLIbrary.com. 2023.

“U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014.” AncestryLibrary.com. 2023.

“Vermont, U.S., Death Index, 1981-2002.” AncestryLibrary.com. 2023.

Uncovering the Life of Gertrude Bonnin/Zitkala-Ša

Zitkala-Ša, courtesy of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

Courtesy of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

To begin my search for sources on Gertrude Bonnin/Zitkala-Ša, a Yankton Sioux woman who had taught at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, I decided to go to the Dickinson College Archives and speak with the people I figured would know the most about her—my bosses, Malinda Triller-Doran and Jim Gerencser. 

As a student archival assistant, I spend lots of time in the archives with our resident archivists,  so I decided to take advantage of that. I asked Malinda if she knew who Gertrude Bonnin was. I mentioned that she had been a teacher at the Carlisle Indian School, but she did not recognize the name. “Jim will definitely know about her,” Malinda told me. 

When I asked Jim if he knew who she was, and whether there was any information on her in the archives, he knew exactly who I was talking about, but told me that I was unlikely to find much on her in the College Archives. He told me that Bonnin, who also shows up on records as Gertrude Simmons or as Zitkala-Ša, was only a teacher at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School for about eighteen months, so the Carlisle-related documents were scarce. None of these documents were available for viewing in the college archives, but those that did mention Bonnin could be found online through the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center.

After my shift ended, I entered Bonnin’s name into the search bar of the Digital Resource Center’s website. Nothing came up, so I tried her tribal name, Zitkala-Ša, and got multiple hits. Just by looking at the first document that came up, a report on Carlisle Indian School teachers from 1897, I saw that Bonnin was still unmarried while she was at Carlisle and therefore came up under Simmons, her anglicized maiden name. I now knew the right name to use in searches if I wanted to find anything relating her to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. 

As I continued to sift through the documents that mentioned her name, I found two that allowed me to piece together her time at Dickinson. The “Oaths of Office” documents from July 1897 contain the Oaths of Office of numerous teachers who were new to the school, including Gertrude Simmons. Her Oath was dated July 10th, 1897, officially marking her time at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Simmons’ time at the school soon came to an end, however. After seventeen months of teaching music, Simmons’ resignation was announced by Pratt in a telegram to the Office of Indian Affairs where he requested a replacement. The telegram is dated December 12th, 1898. 

Gertrude Simmons went on to the New England Conservatory for Music to continue her studies while also publishing short stories and essays in publications like The Atlantic Monthly, which she had begun to do while teaching in Carlisle. I was told previously by Jim Gerencser that this time of her life, the post-Carlisle era, was truly the start of her incredibly prolific career as an artist, in more ways than one. Naturally, I wanted to find out about her own work and the life she led once she moved on from the school.

I went down to the Cumberland County Historical Society to see what they had. I was hopeful they might have some of her writings, but my primary goal was to look at Newspapers.com and find articles about her and her career. I searched specifically for hits on Bonnin in the period after she left Carlisle, setting the limitations to 1899-1910. She was often written about in regards to her musical talent (she was a composer and played the violin), but occasionally for her writing as well. The most interesting bit of information I found was in an article about her titled “A Bright Sioux Maiden,” from Lyon County Monitor. It included a sketched image of her, and ended with this: “She will go to the Paris exposition with the Carlisle Indian Band.”

"A Bright Sioux Maiden," Article from the Lyon County Monitor, 1900

Article from the Lyon County Monitor, 1900

Because the article was dated from 1900, I assumed this meant she would be performing at the 1900 Paris Exposition, an international fanfare, and I was immediately impressed. I had no idea that she had performed at such an event, never mind the fact that she was there with a band from Carlisle. This was a clear indicator of just how talented a musician Bonnin was. A quick look at her Wikipedia page seemed to confirm this information, and I knew that I was just scratching the surface of Gertrude’s life.

While at CCHS, I also looked up Bonnin up on Ancestry. I discovered that she married her husband, Raymond Bonnin, in 1902 and managed to locate an article announcing their marriage. Furthermore, her burial information was made available to me—Gertrude Simmons Bonnin is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Her husband’s status as a veteran of WWI qualified her to be buried there despite the fact that she predeceased him, and she was interred there just two days after her passing in January 1938.

Gertrude Bonnin Interment Record, courtesy of Ancestry.com

Courtesy of Ancestry.com

I was pleased with what I had found, but I hadn’t even searched in the CCHS catalog for relevant materials, so that was what I did next. There were pages and pages of results, and I knew I would never be able to read them all, so I tried to focus on anything that looked like Bonnin’s own writing. I made sure to search for sources under her tribal name Zitkala-Ša because that is how she was commonly known publicly, especially as a writer. Eventually I found what looked like correspondence between her and various people amongst some other interesting items, so I asked the archivist to pull those items for me. Her correspondence ended up being in a long black binder. The first few letters were handwritten, clearly copies of originals, and split onto multiple little pieces of paper taped onto a sheet in the binder. Many of them were addressed to an unnamed person—only “Dear friend” was written. I also noted that they were sometimes signed as Zitkala-Ša and other times as Gertrude Simmons (she was not yet married—these letters were from 1901), so she seemed to use the two interchangeably in her personal life. 

The first one begins like this:


“Dear friend —


Your letter found me in the midst of writing a short story. My Indian characters have my interest but no less do real live ones claim what small sympathy I can give.”


Some words are harder to read, but it seems that her friend had written her with bad news, or retelling something troubling (she referred to a “sad affair”) and so she responded accordingly. It was also fascinating to see her speaking of her own work and writing process. This was the time in her life where she wrote many pieces for The Atlantic Monthly, so it was reasonable to infer that whatever she had been writing when she received the letter from her friend may have ended up in a 1901 issue from that publication.







Ancestry.com. U.S., National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928-1962 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

“A Bright Sioux Maiden.” Lyon County Monitor, June 15, 1900. Newspapers.com, [WEB]. 

Britannica Academic, s.v. “Zitkala-Sa,” accessed March 30, 2023, [WEB].

Kort, Carol. “Zitkala-Sa.” In A to Z of Women: American Women Writers, by Carol Kort. 3rd ed. Facts On File, 2016. [WEB].

 “Oaths of Office, July 1897.” Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center. Archives & Special Collections: Waidner-Spahr Library, Dickinson College. [WEB]. 

“Report on Teachers at the Carlisle Indian School in 1897.” Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center. Archives & Special Collections: Waidner-Spahr Library, Dickinson College. [WEB].

“Resignation of Gertrude Simmons and Request for Replacement.” Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center. Archives & Special Collections: Waidner-Spahr Library, Dickinson College. [WEB]. 

Zitkala-Ša, Letters (in binder). 1901. Cumberland County Historical Society, Carlisle, PA. 

“Zitkala-Sa.” Wikipedia, 11 Sept. 2021, [WEB]. 


Biography Topics

Esther Popel Shaw Dickinson Archives & Special Collections


Esther Popel Shaw (1896-1958)








Josephine Brunyate Meredith (1876-1965)

Josephine Brunyate Meredith (1876-1965) Dickinson Archives & Special Collections


Learning and Living in Black Carlisle

If I had one goal for my work at the Cumberland Historical Society, it was to prioritize and increase my effectiveness. The biggest roadblock I had run into in my past research efforts had been my affinity for overextending myself. This time, I wanted to focus my attention and efforts on one topic and truly explore that as far as I could. This led me to answer the question of education. In my Ancestry research, I had noticed a trend among the Spradleys.

In the 1870 Census, Henry (Williams) Spradley was identified as being able to read, but unable to write. There’s some discrepancy, then, in the 1880 Census, as it identifies him as unable to read and write. In both the 1870 and 1880 Census, Mina is identified as unable to read or write. Compare this to their children; William and Elizabeth are identified as recently attending school in 1870, and Shirley is identified as being able to read and write in the 1900 census. This difference over generation made me think about the increased access to education post-enslavement, and to wonder how that took place in Carlisle specifically. With almost no knowledge of the Carlisle school system, I decided to dive head-first.


1870 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.


1880 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.


1900 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.

Thanks to the work of Professor Pinsker, I was provided with a list of relevant primary and secondary sources about Black communities in Carlisle in the late 19th century. My first step, therefore, was to read these sources in order to find more direction when I arrived at the Historical Society. In hindsight, this work would have been better done on campus, during the hours that the Historical Society was closed, but I didn’t have that foresight. Instead, I read over these contextual documents in the Historical Society library, which left me with less time to search in the library itself. That’s a mistake I’ll certainly learn from.

I found a lot of important information in the contextual readings. The 1896 article; “Negroes Under Northern Conditions” by Guy Carleton Lee, was greatly useful in creating a general understanding of the education system in Carlisle. In this source, I read an introduction to the separate school system created for Black children.

book quote

Guy Carleton Lee, “Negroes Under Northern Conditions,” Gunton’s Magazine 10 (January 1896): p. 60)

The author, Guy Carleton Lee, cited records of the Carlisle School Board. I was quick to jot that down and figured the Historical Society would have some resources from the School Board.

This being my third research attempt on the Spradleys, I knew better than to expect to find an exact record of Shirley, William, Elizabeth, or Emma. But I knew I could at least paint a picture of their time, enough to suppose the conditions they encountered.

Specifically, after conversations with Professor Pinsker, I wanted to know when the separate schools were created, and if there had ever been integrated classes pre-official integration. This topic veered off from the Spradleys and towards the story of the Youngs; the story of fellow janitor Robert Young’s fight to have his son (Robert G. Young) admitted to Dickinson in the 1880s. Newspaper articles reporting on the case had interestingly identified Robert G.’s classes as being integrated, which directly conflicted with the widely understood timeline of integration. If I could answer this question as well, I’d be pleased.

I used the Historical Society’s Past Perfect search database next. The database was slow, especially compared to Ancestry and the Dickinson Archives, so this was another opportunity to be careful budgeting my time. I searched “colored school”, “school board”, “Carlisle schools”, and “Black school.” From those searches, I found a good amount of sources.

The first thing that caught my eye was “Carlisle School System Records, 1836-1935.” This was the perfect, primary source material I was looking for to describe the schools and maybe even list the students. Next, I found the “Development of Colored Education,” another source developed by the Carlisle School System. I found a large number of secondary sources that recounted the Carlisle schools, including Thomas Vale’s “A Century of Progress” (c. 1934) and “Mary E. Brown vs Carlisle School Board” by David Strausbaugh (c.1985.)

Satisfied with my results, I requested the items and went through them one by one. By reading all the sources, I was able to construct a rough timeline of the school system.


Timeline, created by James van Kuilenburg.

I learned that the “colored school” was founded in 1836, along with the rest of the school system. As the need grew, additional schools were opened in 1864, 1878, 1882, and 1892.  [1]

I had hoped to find some building plans or photos included in the school board’s notes, but unfortunately, I had no such luck. I used PastPerfect again, using similar search terms, but the photos that turned up were few. I spent a lot of time trying to download the images to my computer, so that I could retain their quality, but too late into the process, realized that was a poor use of my time.

photo 2

Courtesy of the Cumberland Historical Society.

Generally, I learned a lot about the culture around these “colored schools” because of their marked absence from many documents. These schools, in every way, were afterthoughts in budgeting and public memory keeping.

The most useful source I found was “Development of Colored Education,” an abridged version of the school board’s notes. This collection of notes specified the exact dates schools were founded, but rarely their full addresses or building details. The most exciting part of this source was absolutely the list of student graduates (from the regular schools and the “colored” ones.) Once I realized I could find the Spradley children among these names, I became very excited.

graduate text

“Carlisle School System Records, 1836-1935,” Cumberland County Historical Society.

While I understood the “colored schools” were much smaller than the mainstream ones, I was still surprised at how few graduates were produced. Guy Carleton Lee attributed this to a “lack of parental co-operation”, or in other words, Black parents were too busy at work to help their children in school. [2] I can’t say whether or not this was true, but unfortunately, it seems the Spradley children may have been part of this trend of failing to graduate.

Doing some simple math, I found roughly the years I could expect the Spradley children to be enrolled. As of the 1870 census, Elizabeth and William had been recently enrolled, and Shirley was literate by age 22 in 1900. This was a window of 30 years, but even so, there were no traces of any of them.

graduate text

“Carlisle School System Records, 1836-1935,” Cumberland County Historical Society.

I felt defeated by this discovery. I had been so excited by the idea of finding them recorded in the school system notes that I didn’t know what to do once I had failed. Then, I realized, I had yet to answer the question of Robert Young’s son, Robert G., and the mysteriously integrated schools.

I went to the Freedom’s Legacy website, and refreshed myself with the story of Robert G. According to an October 1886 article, Robert G. had “graduated from the High School… among a large class of white and colored students.” [3] Armed with the student rosters, I went searching for Robert’s name.

I found it under June 1886. There his name was listed; “Robert Young” under the header “Colored High School.” Above, were listed the white male graduates. This evidence, paired with the school board notes cited above, I believe, puts the mystery to rest. Schools were in fact still segregated as of 1886, and newspapers were using the term “class” to describe the entire graduating class, as opposed to the specific school.

graduate text

“Carlisle School System Records, 1836-1935″, Cumberland Historical Society.

My time in the Historical Society was running out, so after searching for photos one last time, I called it quits. I hadn’t accomplished everything I had set out to do, but I found some answers to other questions along the way. Furthermore, I discovered a more complicated story of Black education than I had previously known. Maybe we’ll never find answers to the questions about where and when the Spradley children attended school, but we do now know that education was highly controversial, and even when schools were available, they didn’t always support their students as best as they could.

Lessons Learned and Loose Ends

I wish I had had more developed knowledge of Carlisle geography, as that could have helped me greatly in guessing where the schools may have been and conducting more research.

Greater access to School Board information could have been useful as well, especially as there were references to incident reports in the “Negroes in Northern Conditions” piece that could not be found in the notes available at the Historical Society.

There is more work to be done on the Spradley family, but an interesting lead I noticed was Henry being identified as disabled in 1870 and 1880, and Mina in the 1870 census. The causes of these identifications may be available through newspapers if they had been the result of accidents or something similar. Furthermore, I’d be interested to see how this ties into the greater white impression of disabilities in Black populations, pre, and post-slavery.

I learned a good deal about archival research, especially when it came to using secondary sources that summarized events. I knew they were good jumping points, but that there was always a bias or motive driving the creation of the work.

[1] Lee, Guy Carleton. “Negroes Under Northern Conditions.” Gunton’s Magazine 10 (January 1896): 61–62.

[2] Lee, Guy Carleton. “Negroes Under Northern Conditions.” Gunton’s Magazine 10 (January 1896): 62.

[3] “Kept Out of College,” Philadelphia Times, October 20 1886, http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/slavery/files/2018/10/Screen-Shot-2018-10-10-at-1.33.04-PM.png)

Memories of the Spradleys

Following my research using Ancestry, I had a lot of questions about the Spradleys to answer. I had started a big puzzle and using Ancestry, I was able to create what I would consider a border of the picture. I knew the names, dates, and general family structure of the Spradleys. What I was missing was the middle of the puzzle – real, concrete details about the Spradleys’ lives. Now, it was time to fill in that middle by focusing on their connection to Dickinson College and the campus. 

After an in-class discussion with my professor and classmate, I decided to pursue a few specific topics. First, I wanted to trace where exactly on campus the Spradley family had lived. Did they live alongside students? Secondly, I was interested in a newspaper article I had come across in my Ancestry research. It was a parody letter written from the perspective of Henry (Williams) Spradley by Dickinson students. 

Just like the rest of the nation, these Dickinson students had used exaggerated misspellings, a minstrel type of

cartoon letter

“Spradley cartoon letter.” Microcosm (1893-94).

tone, and cartoonish features to parody Black people, and in this specific case, Spradley. Was this a trend to make fun of Spradley, or a one-off?

In all, I had a lot on my plate, and I was hoping the College Archives would have some of the many, many, many answers I was looking for. 

Before finding any of these answers, I decided to create a timeline of sorts for my own note keeping purposes. By creating this, I was able to list some of the important events in the lives of the Spradley family in an easy to read, accessible way. These events came from my previous Ancestry research as well as the new newspaper articles my professor had provided me. The highlighted text signifies further work needs to be done. In this case, researchers in the future need to compare more historical records of Mina Spradley’s death in order to determine her death location.


 Timeline, created by James van Kuilenburg.

I begun with the Archives’ online search engines of the Microcosm and the Dickinsonian. Going year by year, I began with a group of words: Spradley, Sprad (a nickname for Henry), Shirley, South College (the building where his family lived), janitor (in order to get accounts of janitor life not specific to Henry), negro, Black, and Shirley. Through using these words I found a plethora of articles, poems, letters, and tidbits of information. 

I learned more information about South College or should I say South Colleges. I had wrongly assumed there was only one South College in the school’s history, but I learned instead, there were three separate buildings. I consulted the archivist on staff and learned about the Archives’ Encyclopedia. On the website, you can access overviews of buildings and staff members, so I was able to learn more about the South Colleges quickly. 


South College, c.1880. Photograph Collection, Record Group 2000.1, South College II, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

The South College I was interested in was built in 1838 and lasted until 1927, when it was razed in order to build a new gym. I learned this information through the encyclopedia entry as well as the South College drop file in the Archives. Inside this South College was a lab, library, and museum, as well as the opportunity for students to rent rooms.


“Carlisle,” Microcosm (1881-82): 11.


“Boarding Houses,” Student Handbook (1893-94):

Unfortunately, I learned I wouldn’t be able to see a campus-wide map of the time because maps were hardly necessary for such a small campus.

Once I realized that South College was both residential and classroom-oriented, I began to understand why Henry (Williams) Spradley had been jokingly referred to as the “Adjunct Professor of Experimental Physics.” What would have simply seemed like an odd joke now was contextualized because of my greater understanding of South College.

faculty microcosm

“Faculty,” Microcosm (1881-82): 5.

There was a trend among student publications to ironically assign janitors academic titles, and I found another similar instance where Henry (Williams) Spradley was identified as “Dr. Spradley,” tasked with showing students their measly accommodations in South College. 


“Class of ’95,” Microcosm (1892-93): 34.

Later, he was referred to as a professor of “Bellology” and “higher Janitorology.” 


“Old Dickinson” Microcosm (1895-96): 16.

In this same excerpt, a story was told from the perspective of Spradley about carrying his children to freedom during the Civil War. Again, a minstrel accent was adopted by the student authors, effectively patronizing Spradley. That aside, the story was greatly useful to my understanding of the Spradley family history. Through my genealogy work, I understood this story was most likely describing William and Elizabeth Spradley’s move to Pennsylvania, as they were both born in Virginia before appearing in the 1870 census. 

Through these examples, I began to understand the relationship between the students and the Spradley family. Sometimes mocking in nature, but as other examples suggested, revering and respecting. 

Henry (Williams) Spradley was described as an almost paternal figure when students lamented they “didn’t have Spradley to tuck us in.”


“’85,” Microcosm (1881-82): 192.

Furthermore, his position as a bellringer was subject of many a poem and song. 


“A Spradley Antic,” Microcosm (1893-94): 87.


“Serenade to Dickinson,” Microcosm (1891-92): 140.

In an interesting story, “Spradley” was jokingly(?) blamed for a water poisoning. I was unable to find more evidence in the Dickinonsian or Microcosm of this, but if I had more time, I’d like to learn the entire story.

lead poison

“Terrible Lead Poison Panic” Microcosm (1881-82): 96.

I feel as though Henry (Williams) Spradley was belittled in a specific way; students transformed him into a one-dimensional, dumb, “Uncle Tom” stereotype. This stereotype relied on depicting Spradley as stupid and non-authoritative, while also emphasizing his love of doing work (bell-ringing) for white students on campus.

While researching, I found myself frustrated because I know by using student-created resources, I will always struggle to find humanity in any depictions. This process led me to think carefully about how I might accidently replicate the same racism that existed in his time, and how I could afford him more respect and create a more complicated portrayal. 

Moving on from Henry (Williams) Spradley, I found a variety of mentions of Shirley Spradley as well. Perhaps the most interesting and complicated portrayal was in a short science fiction piece. 

science fiction

“Class of ’96,” Microcosm (1893-94): 95.

In the story, a character named “Shirley Spradlerio” is identified as a consul in the distant future of 2000 A.D. While a lot of analysis could be devoted to this piece alone, from what I could glean, the work was purposefully absurdist. The words and expressions used were other-worldly, bizarre, and confusing. The use of the Shirley Spradley’s name, I believe, then, was a testament to how Dickinson student couldn’t realistically believe a Black man like Shirley to be in any position of power in the future. I’d be very curious to hear what other opinions people may have about this, especially those with more experience in science fiction of the era.

In my searches of Shirley’s name, I found a recurring name; George Edward. He was also satirized in the science fiction piece, as well as mentioned in a variety of short reports on campus events. From what I read, I was led to believe he may have been another member of the janitorial staff, or in a similarly low ranking position. I couldn’t find any more information about him in online House Divided or Archives searches. 

george edwards

“Calendar” Microcosm (1895-96): 265.

Another unsolved mystery I ran into – a man named Shirley referred to on a first-name basis. In one instance, a reference was made to “Shirley’s dog,” and in another, to a man who passed out “college bills.” I think a strong case could be made that this was referring to Shirley Spradley, as these references would be sensical for Shirley as a janitor employed at Dickinson. But I wouldn’t say this with 100% certainty. 

shirleys dog

“Class of 96” Microcosm (1894-95): 40.


“Calendar” Microcosm (1897-98): 257.

Lessons Learned

Through my research at the Archives, I was able to gain a larger picture of the Spradleys’ lives. I was overwhelmed by how much information I found, and summarizing/creating a narrative was a point of difficulty for me. I found a lot of use in the student publications, but I think my narrative could have been stronger if I had found more sources (faculty minutes, catalogues, etc.) From this experience, I have a greater appreciation for time management and balancing research priorities and interests. There were a lot of threads I would have liked to follow further, but couldn’t because of how I structured my time. These lessons will be useful for me as I continue my research at the Historical Society, and generally as a historian. 

The Name Game: Demystifying the Records of the Spradley Family

I have never found census records to be particularly emotional. Names, numbers, and dates are supposed to objective things. When I began this assignment, I expected it to be interesting, but hardly emotional. By the end of my research, I had been proven wrong. Henry Spradley, my subject of study, has become more than just a name and a set of numbers. Through census records, marriage and death certificates, and the quickly growing family tree I have constructed, I discovered respect and admiration for Spradley’s family, a family I will never meet. 

Photograph of Henry Spradley.

Henry Spradley, House Divided.

As with many subjects of historical research, I am far from being the first person to research his family, so I began where others had left off. Cursory searches of Dickinson’s House Divided and the Dickinson and Slavery pages were fruitful. I found the work of Colin Macfarlane, a 2011 student of Professor Pinsker’s who had researched Henry Spradley’s life. I watched his engaging video and read over the many blog entries he created. Next, I skimmed the encyclopedic entries about him on the House Divided page, gaining the valuable basic information about Spradley that I could use later (birth date, death date, birthplace, and so forth.) My goal from this secondary source research was to gather key terms or facts in order to use the Ancestry database as effectively as possible. So, armed with a master document of all the information I found, and most importantly, the primary sources these articles cited, I was ready for my next step.

One of the most impactful skills I learned using Ancestry was the art of narrowing my search requests down. Searching “Henry Spradley” without any supplementary information brought up thousands of results, so I became adept at plugging in the necessary supplements. From my secondary research, I knew he was formerly enslaved and born in Winchester City, Virginia, so at the suggestion of Professor Pinsker, I turned to the 1850 U.S Federal Census Slave Schedules. I tried every possible description of Spradley I could think of, typed in his birth year, and found… nothing. Without knowing where in Winchester City he had lived or what his “owner,” for lack of a better term, was named, the slave schedules were simply too vast for my research. The earliest documents were the Civil War-era registration records of Spradley entering the Union army on July 1st, 1863.

Registration document.

U.S Civil War Draft, Registrations Records, 1863-1865, Ancestry.

I may have had a rocky start, but this find propelled me forward. I immediately took notice of Spradley’s marital status – married. I knew Spradley had freed himself from slavery and escaped to Pennsylvania, thanks to the secondary sources, so that meant this “marriage” couldn’t have been legal. I tucked this thought away for research at a later date. 

Another point to mention is Henry’s decision to use the last name Williams instead. I attribute this difference to the same reason as found by previous researchers of Spradley, like Colin McFarlane. It appears to be a choice Henry made to identify with Williams during the war as he had just freed himself from slavery. After the war, he used Spradley. The change in middle names later in his life in student publications like The Dickinsonian and the Microcosm, I believe, can be explained by typos or misunderstandings.

Next, I found the Pennsylvania Civil War Muster Rolls, where more information about his unit could be found. I was on a search for his family, however, so I moved on from his time served. His household appeared in the 1870 Federal Census and provided me with the first glance at his children (Elizabeth, Alexander, William, and Shirley) and wife (Jemima).

Census record.

1870 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.

I took down the names and age estimates and began my family tree on a website called Family Echo

I jumped ahead to the 1880 Federal Census, where Spradley’s occupation was described as “laborer,” along with the first official mention of his son Shirley.

In an 1882 U.S City Directory, Henry Spradley’s address is listed as South College, and his job as “janitor.” He passed in 1897, as attested to by his death record. Satisfied with the overview I gained about Henry Spradley, I began what I can only call “the name game.”


U.S. City Directories 1882, Ancestry.

To find more about their children, I moved on to Spradley’s wife, Jemima. Quickly, I discovered there was a host of names she was identified by – Mina, Minie, and Jennie.  She was born around 1842, based on her age of 38 in the 1880 Federal Census.

Under the name Jennie in the 1900 United States Federal Census, I found her living with her then-married daughter, Elizabeth.  I was excited to find three obituaries, dating her death to be in 1904, which had been unmentioned by any previous research. Unfortunately, behind a paywall, I couldn’t get access to them. 

Census 1900.

1900 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.

Next, I focused heavily on Elizabeth Spradley and her spouse, Alexander Bowman. Elizabeth, following the legacy of her mother, appeared as both Elizabeth and Lizzie. She was born around 1858, according to her age of 12 in the 1870 Federal Census, and lived with her family during the 1880 Census. She married Alexander Bowman in 1894 while Alexander was working as a dairyman. No children appeared in the record as far as I could tell. Elizabeth worked as a laundress in 1900, while she lived with her husband and mother. Alexander, like the Spradley family, was from Virginia. In 1900, he worked as a day laborer.

In 1909, Elizabeth passed away, and from what I could understand of the cause of death, it may have been cancer in her uterus. If I had more time, I would try harder to understand this entry and consult other people’s opinions.


Death certificate.

Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1967, Ancestry.

After her death, I found Alexander living with his sister in the 1910 United States Federal Census. In 1920, he lived as a boarder in a house full of mostly children.

Shirley, Elizabeth’s brother, was born in 1874, according to the 1880 census. In 1896, he married Jennie Caldwell (yes, just like Jemima “Jennie” Spradley). In the 1900 census, Shirley and Jennie’s children, Mary and Martha are mentioned. The family lived with Patsy Davis, Jennie’s grandmother, and Mary, Jennie’s mother.

In 1910, Jennie identifies herself as divorced from Shirley, as well as mentioning her son Reed. Shirley enlists in the U.S army in 1917, but continues to refer to Jennie as his wife.  In the 1920 census, Jennie and Shirley appear as still married. In 1928, Shirley passes. Jennie lives until 1937, working as a cook for 15 years in a hotel. 


1910 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.

These were all only names and numbers, but through them, I followed an extended family as they moved, changed jobs, married, divorced?, and died. I found myself smiling when I calculated the dates of all the family’s marriages. Jemima and Henry both barely survived long enough to see Shirley and Elizabeth marry their spouses.

Family tree.

Spradley Family Tree, Family Echo.

Lessons Learned and Loose Ends

Using the Ancestry database truly tested my ability to keep track of information effectively and efficiently to maximize my findings. Conflicting dates and names tripped me up, but by keeping detailed notes helped me power through. Though I was satisfied with the family tree I was able to construct, there remain some intriguing loose ends I hope to research in the future:

  • the life of Alexander Bowman, especially as related to Dickinson College
  • the remaining children of Henry and Jemima – William and Emma
  • the marriage of Jennie and Shirley Spradley

Pennsylvania Newspapers in 1863: A different perspective

After four long year of studying at Dickinson, I hope to graduate. And with this will come the long and anticipated commencement ceremony. It will be the conclusion of all my hard work here at this institution. I’m sure most students have these feelings about the ending to their college career, including the graduating class of 1863 at Dickinson. However, their commencement was far from normal. With the heart of the Civil War in place, Dickinson was caught in the middle of it. The Confederacy was advancing and gaining momentum, and were on their way from Harrisburg to Carlisle. In my previous post I researched different journals and letters from people that experienced the week long occupation and shelling of Carlisle, which was the precursor to the important Battle of Gettysburg. With so much chaos and confusion going on in Carlisle in late June through early July in 1863, it is interesting to research how people obtained the information of the events that were happening. The way we understood this event is through primary documents and newspapers. Having already investigated the first hand accounts of Carlisle residents during this time, I was eager to see what the newspaper articles were reporting on it.

To start my research, I believed that the most useful newspapers to research were local Carlisle papers. I started looking on Dickinson’s library catalog to find local newspapers. After a long and unsuccessful time researching on the databases, I came to realize that local newspapers were not online. I learned that they were only available at Dickinson’s Microfilm, located in the basement of the library. The first newspaper I attempted to research was called The Carlisle American. I was sure that there would be abundance of information of the shelling of Carlisle. After  figuring out how to use the Microfilm with the help of fellow scholar Ryan Lucas, I began my research. However, it came to a dead end. Confused on why there was no reports of this event, I decided to look closer into the newspaper. I came to realize that this paper was a monthly publication, rather than a weekly. It was released on the 17th of every month. In the June issue, the invasion had not happened yet, so the articles were advertisements and general political events that were happening in the country. The next issue was on July 17th which was more Civil War specific. However, with the major event of Gettysburg happening in that time frame, most of the articles were about it and its importance. The tone of the articles were hopeful with the turning point of the war occurring. My research, however, was not. I understood that there were many newspapers to research though. I turned to another local newspaper called the American Volunteer. Before I researched the week of the bombing, I made sure this was a weekly article. Luckily, it was. This newspaper was far more informative than the previous one. In this, it described each day and the events that had occurred. Fascinated, I read over each day, gaining more knowledge about this historic event. On one of the last days that was reported, something caught my eye. It was about the influential figure  named  General Smith of the Union army. During the shelling, a truce was sent over by the Confederates to General Smith. The deal was that the bombing would stop, as long as they gave up Carlisle. He refused. General Smith was known to have kept Carlisle from surrendering, and was a hero in Cumberland valley. I recalled my previous research about letters and documents from Carlisle residents recounting his war efforts.

Predicting the Invasion

After finishing up my research at the Microfilm, I turned my attention to bigger publications. I referenced back to the Dickinson databases in order to gain more information. I used the PA Civil War Newspaper Collection under the Penn State library. This proved to be very useful. I simply searched “Carlisle” into the database. There were a lot of different results so I decided to narrow down my search. I filtered the time to only newspaper articles in 1863. With this I was able to acquire different newspapers that had multiple reports on the shelling of Carlisle. The first article I read was from a Philadelphia news paper named The Press on June 26, 1863. There were only brief information about Carlisle, however it was intriguing. In the subtitle it reads, “Their Advance Twelve Miles From Carlisle. Battle expected at Carlisle”. This jolted my memory of a journal entry from Charles Himes during my previous research. In his personal diary, he wrote that the rebels were 15 miles away and advancing to Carlisle. This journal entry was written on June 26, 1863. The connection between the the diary and the newspaper article was fascinating to see.

After going back to the search on the PA Civil War Newspaper Collection, I decided to research a different newspaper. I found an article from The Evening Telegraph. This article proved to be insightful because it went into detail about the events leading up to the truce sent over by General Lee. It describes General Smith’s forces being caught by surprise by the Confederates, however was able to regain their ground and hold off the rebels. This led General Lee to send over the truce and General Smith’s heroic rejection.


The Press detailing the shelling


Having read so many reports on General Smith, I focused my attention to him to see if I could find any articles on him. I went back to the PA Civil War Newspaper Collection and looked up “General Smith-Carlisle” into the search bar, along with the year 1863 to see if I could find more about this officer. An article from The Press appeared from July 3, 1863  recounting the events that had happened in Carlisle. Again, it wrote about the truce that was sent over by General Lee, and General Smith’s refusal. It also wrote about the actual bombings that occurred. It wrote “During the shelling a detachment of the enemy made a detour around the railroad and fired the barracks. the gas-works were also set on fire, the sparks from which are said to have burned several lumber yards, one private dwelling, and several barns”. This article proved that I did not know everything about the shelling, and gained more knowledge about the event. This was equally insightful as the article I found at the Microfilm, and was important to see that not just Carlisle knew about General Smith’s efforts, along with the bombings. This was read about all over the state of Pennsylvania, along with the country.

I don’t know why making the connections from first hand documents such as letters and journal, to newspapers was so interesting to me. The dates, events and people all aligned with each other, and gave a sense of validity to my research. However, I still know there is still more to explore about the Invasion of Carlisle, and I look forward to discovering it all.


  1. “The Preservation of the Constitution” American Volunteer, June 25, 1863, Page 2, Column 1
  2. “The Invasion” The Press, June 25, 1863, Page 2, Column 1
  3. “The Situation” Evening Telegraph, July 2, 1863 Page 2, Column 1
  4. “The Invasion: The Battle at Carlilse” The Press, July 3, 1863, Page 1, Column 1

























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