Friday, May 24, 2013

Archive Adventures: (Red) White and Blue

I know, I know. You're sitting there saying, "Hey, what happened to the April post, Alex?" Well, folks, things got a little crazy in April so I decided to postpone until May. Sorry! Originally my idea was to follow an "April Showers Bring May Flowers" theme, but while looking for some background on a photo request I found some extraordinary pictures that caught my eye. And just like that, the post idea changed.

Today, I'd like to salute the men and women of the armed services. PSU has a long and distinguished relationship with the military since its inception. As part of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, participating universities received federal lands in return for military training sponsored by the institution. One of things that I really enjoyed while researching this was that we have pictures almost all the way back to the beginning as well as great collections from all the armed services. Let's jump into the photos!

This awesome photo has a title on the back of "Uniforms worn by PSC (Penn State College) Cadets in the '70s." I'm gonna take a guess and say we're talking about the 1870s.

Part of the 1894 Annual Review. This photo of the artillery was taken in the Amory building (we still have the windows in storage!). Along the back wall, you can see dumbbells and barbells, which were used to strengthen muscles in preparation for dragging those heavy cannons around the field.
Whatcha thinkin' 'bout? Oh nothing, just drill!

A 1904 shot of the Ambulance Corps.
Drilling with the artillery at an undated Annual Review. Can you imagine the legal nightmare today if we tried something like this?
May Day 1920, and in the background are the grandstands of the New Beaver Field (built in 1909 and located near where the Nittany Parking Deck now stands).
An undated photo of an Annual Review drill out on the lawn. In the background is the original Old Main and the Armory building, which dates this photo somewhere between 1892-1929.

Midshipmen for the Navy ROTC learn the details of radar operation set in simulated anti-submarine warfare in 1955.
Three Navy ROTC students practice maneuvers. From left to right: Mario S. Valentini, Robert E. Solomon, and William E. Thomas. After finishing their degree and ROTC training, they became 2nd lieutenants in the Marine Corps Reserve.

Up until World War I, training comprised mostly of non-credited drill classes and occasional lectures on military tactics. It wasn't until 1916 that an ROTC unit was created on campus and a more thorough military curriculum was established. Of course, during WWII many undergrads left to fight or were drafted, but it was still a very busy time for the university. Classes focusing on defense fields, engineering, and aeronautics were offered to students who were finishing their degrees before shipping out or to civilians. In 1960, the Nittany Lion Battalion moved into the newly built Wagner building, and by 1964 the University Senate decided to nix mandatory military training for the students and make it elective.

No matter what era you're interested in, we've probably got something up your alley. For the Civil War folk, the James A. Beaver papers and a whole bunch of Civil War diaries will keep you coming back for quite some time. We also recommend that you visit the Richards Civil War Era Center, especially their webpage if you can't visit campus in person. It's a great place to meet up with fellow buffs and a lot of material has been digitized thanks to them!

Probably the best researched and documented wars were the two World Wars of the 20th century. How did PSU respond to the wars, considering its main demographic was enlisting and being drafted? What did survivors bring home? There are a lot more questions, and if you're thinking of asking some more...don't hesitate to march in on the double and get some answers from us!

Thank you to all the men and women who serve our country, in uniform and out of uniform. We at Special Collections hope that we can continue to serve you by preserving the history and memories for today's patrons and tomorrow's generations. Happy Memorial Day from all of us in the archives!

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