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Emory and the 1918–20 Pandemic

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, many questions have come up about the impact of the 1918-20 pandemic on Emory. How did that terrible influenza more than a hundred years ago affect life on campus for students, faculty, and staff? What role did Emory’s new medical school play in battling the pandemic, if any? How did Wesley Memorial Hospital (later Emory University Hospital) respond in its location in downtown Atlanta? (The hospital moved to Druid Hills in 1922.)

When the virus hit in 1918, Emory college was still located on its original campus, in Oxford, Georgia, while the schools of theology, law, and medicine had barely gotten a start on the Druid Hills campus, which opened in 1916. The student body on both campuses was small, and both campuses were somewhat isolated from major population centers. Still, the 1918–20 influenza pandemic infected millions of Americans and killed more than 31,000 Georgians in 1918 alone.

Caelan Bailey, a first-year student at Oxford College of Emory University, has written the most thorough history of that earlier pandemic as well as the current pandemic in the context of Emory. I’m grateful to her and to the Emory Wheel, where the story was originally published, for permission to repost the story here.

Gary Hauk

Emory University Historian, Emeritus

The 1918 Pandemic: Then and Now

by Caelan Bailey

Copyright, The Emory Wheel

November 18, 2020

When a virulent disease upended Katherine Anne Porter’s life, the author turned to writing to process her experience. 

“All the theaters and nearly all the shops and restaurants are closed, and the streets have been full of funerals all day and ambulances all night,” Porter wrote.

While the scene may sound familiar in 2020, that excerpt is from “Pale Horse, Pale Rider,” Porter’s 1937 collection of short stories largely based on her experience surviving the 1918 influenza pandemic, commonly known as “The Spanish Flu.”

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

October marked 102 years since the deadliest month in American history when 195,000 Americans succumbed to the Spanish Flu. The peak of the pandemic came in the fall of 1918 and by the end of 1919, the disease left a total of 50 million deaths, 675,000 of whom were Americans.

Despite its immense toll, with influenza deaths surpassing those of coinciding World War I, Emory pediatrician and medical historian Dr. Hughes Evans noted that knowledge of the 1918 pandemic was not widespread until recent decades.

“For a long time, people called the 1918 epidemic America’s forgotten epidemic because it was as if it never happened,” Evans said. “No one talked about it, no one taught about it, no one read about it.”

Ten months into the COVID-19 pandemic, global deaths have reached one million worldwide. By press time, the New York Times estimated that 246,879 Americans and 8,740 Georgians have died of COVID-19. 

“It’s useful to make a comparison [between 1918 and 2020] only to say that the virus is the public health crisis of the century,” said Dean of the Rollins School of Public Health Dr. James Curran. “We’ve not had anything like this in a hundred years that has such worldwide impact and such consequences — economic consequences, other health consequences, international consequences.”

While the specific origin of the 1918 strain of influenza is unknown, the first outbreak occurred in March 1918 at Camp Funston in Kansas, according to John M. Barry’s “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Plague in History.” Troop movement during World War I facilitated its spread throughout Europe and the world, likely mutating along the way to become deadlier to humans by its second wave.

The disease was later dubbed the “Spanish flu,” which was largely due to Spain’s reporting of the sickness when no other countries did, according to infectious disease expert Dr. Robert Gaynes of the Emory School of Medicine. 

“When it began to occur in Spain, they reported it,” Gaynes said. “People erroneously believed it started there.”

Today, the World Health Organization uses “Spanish flu” as an “example to be avoided” in the naming of new diseases, advising against including geographic locations in names of viruses. President Donald Trump’s use of “China virus” to describe COVID-19 has endured similar criticism.

Unlike most viruses, including COVID-19, the 1918 influenza largely impacted young and healthy people. Gaynes said as fear grew about the swiftly acting disease, the phrase “well at breakfast, sick at lunch and dead by dinner” became popular.

Medicine at the time, according to Evans, was in its “pre-virology days.” 

“They knew it was a respiratory infection,” Evans said. “They thought it was probably bacterial, although I think there was some vague understanding that there may be something else going on.”

In Georgia, the disease first appeared in September 1918 at Camp Gordon, a temporary military training camp outside of Atlanta. Military officials placed the camp under quarantine, with reports of “iron-clad sanitary precautions being forced on each man at the camp.” Nurses were in short supply.

However, by Oct. 4, 1918, the Georgia State Health Board issued a warning as influenza showed “a considerable presence,” advising that “the epidemic now sweeping the country must be intelligently met or a vast toll of suffering and many deaths will result.”

In Atlanta, doctors reported 230 influenza cases in early October and the city instated a “ban on public gatherings” as the police force was “instructed to keep vigilant watch over persons who expectorate in the streets.” As the Red Cross opened work rooms to sew masks, health authorities assured the public that there was “no reason for alarm.” 

The Atlanta History Center noted public outcry in October 1918 as movie theatres closed to prevent the spread, citing former President Woodrow Wilson’s own continued patronage. Outdoor entertainment like the Georgia state fair and college football games, however, continued with masked crowds, as they do today.

By the end of October 1918, The Atlanta Constitution ran the headline “Influenza Showing Decrease in State.” A health official credited the “early closing of schools, churches, theaters, and other places of public assembly” for the “relatively small number of cases in Georgia.” By November, the Atlanta city health officer announced the threat had subsided. 

In the Georgia State Board of Health report for 1918, officials wrote, “We will never know how many succumbed to the disease in Georgia, but the death rate has been high.” With 30,768 instances recorded, influenza was listed as the leading cause of death.

According to Oxford College’s Dean of Campus Life Joseph Moon, Emory College chose its original location in Oxford, Georgia, because it was away from coastal marshes that harbored diseases like malaria, although influenza spread would theoretically not have been impacted.

In 1918, when it was still a white men’s college, Emory began its last school year on Oxford campus. There is a gap in University records for that time, for which archivists credit the move to Atlanta and World War I. Oxford campus partially converted into a military training camp during this time. 

At the end of the school year, Atlanta University, now Clark Atlanta University, extended its academic calendar by two weeks in the summer “to make up for time lost in the fall on account of the influenza.” 

In June 1919, however, The Atlanta Constitution reported on “the historic final Oxford commencement of Emory college,” writing it was “delightful.” The paper made no note of influenza.

The newly amalgamated Emory University School of Medicine and School of Nursing were active in treating the outbreak both in Atlanta and abroad, mobilizing medical resources as Emory’s schools are today with COVID-19.

The School of Nursing’s 1918 annual report stated “very few cases” of influenza were recorded among nurses at the school and “none were serious,” although the house physician “contracted the disease and died.” The school was “very much handicapped this year for want of lecturers,” although the report was unclear about the purpose of doctors’ absences.

University Historian Emeritus Gary Hauk wrote about a group of Emory doctors and nurses dubbed “The Emory Unit” who established Base Hospital 43 in France, where they treated influenza patients during the third global wave in 1919.

Barry underscored that during those past epidemics, “governors and mayors, and nearly all the newspapers insisted that this was influenza, only influenza.” Meanwhile, the Public Health Service sent out six million copies of an informational flyer whose “warning to avoid crowds came too late to do much good.”

According to Gaynes, the recurrence of influenza to this day is due to changes in molecules on the outside of the virus that specifically trigger mammals’ immune responses. In 1918, the shift of both at the same time caused such a virulent strain. The virus then causes a “cytokine storm,” where immune cells leak too much typically helpful liquid, which leads those afflicted to “essentially drown in their own fluid.” 

Medicine was ill-equipped to respond. In the Georgia State Board of Health’s original statement, it incorrectly identified the cause of influenza as “influenza bacillus,” a bacteria scientists could inconsistently isolate from patients. Scientists developed a vaccine to treat the bacteria, and the board wrote that their “laboratory forces cannot begin to supply the demand for this vaccine.”

Barry wrote that “no medicine and none of the vaccines developed then could prevent influenza.” He added that due to the presence of improved antibiotics today, “modern medicine could likely prevent significantly more than half of those deaths” in a modern-day 1918 pandemic. 

Despite such improvements, the danger of a potential epidemic still loomed. 

“We were worried about a H1N1 flu epidemic a few years ago and no one thought it was going to be as bad as 1918 but we were concerned that it was going to be quite a disruption,” Curran said. “COVID has really been as bad as we were worried about H1N1 flu. … We have a new organism which seems to, in some cases, defy treatment and has kind of taken over the world.”

Evans highlighted that medicine has been “decreasing the deadliness” of COVID-19 by tailoring treatments for those infected. Curran emphasized that the over 5,000 patients admitted to Emory Hospital “do really quite well compared to the national average with COVID.”

In a recent interview, Barry underscored that COVID-19 is a slower spreading and less deadly disease than influenza, although they share similarities in respiratory transmission, ability to affect various organs and novel demands on public health. 

Regarding long term effects, Barry added, “In 1918, there were complications that didn’t surface at all until the 1920s. We just don’t know.”

Doctors have reported strokes and seizures associated with COVID-19. Recent research has documented a range of neurological effects in hospitalized patients and there have been recent instances of “brain fog” after those infected recover.

Evans noted that masks in 1918 that were often made out of gauze or other thin fabrics likely did little to protect people. PBS’s American Experience compared wearing a mask to combat the 1918 influenza to “trying to keep out dust with chicken wire.” In contrast, modern masks significantly reduce COVID-19 spread.

Distancing procedures, however, have remained as effective a century later.

“The main method has always been there,” Barry said. “Social distancing is more important than anything else.” 

World War I was a critical cultural context for the influenza outbreak as well. Barry wrote, “the preservation of morale itself became an aim” for the Wilson administration. When the pandemic threatened the war effort, Wilson “express[ed] concern about shipping troops to Europe,” but otherwise “continued to say nothing publicly.”

Wilson contracted influenza in the spring of 1919 amid peace negotiations, leading some to draw parallels to Trump’s recent contraction of the virus after dismissing ts threat.

When state and city health officials spoke on the virus, they denied the severity of influenza to maintain wartime morale, quickly losing the public’s trust. 

“It is impossible to quantify how many deaths the lies caused,” Barry wrote.

Curran expanded on this lack of government transparency, saying, “Public health is always political because we’re trying to save the lives of groups of people. … [There] are different political considerations that require consistent leadership at the state and federal level to bring people together.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, inconsistent directives on mask-wearing have stood in the way of establishing mask-wearing as the public-health norm. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp filed a lawsuit against Atlanta’s mask-mandate over the summer before dropping it in Aug. and shifting his position to allow local mandates. Georgia local governments have since passed 25 mask mandates.

In 1919, influenza receded despite the lack of an effective vaccine. According to Evans, influenza viruses “kind of just peter away.” With COVID-19, numerous people have asked Curran: When’s it going to be over? Where’s the magic bullet?

“It’s very clear the vaccine is not going to be the answer, it’s going to be hopefully another tool,” Curran said. “We don’t really know exactly what’s going to happen.”

Curran noted Emory’s ability to control COVID-19 case numbers, largely due to the accessibility of asymptomatic testing, contacting tracing, mandated masking and distancing on campus. 

In September 1919, The Atlanta Constitution published an excerpt from the U.S. Health Service’s Flu Warning: “The most promising way to deal with a possible recurrence of the influenza epidemic is to sum it up in a single word, ‘preparedness.’ And now is the time to prepare.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is not our first. Yet even after 102 years, Americans were ill-prepared for another. 

“This is the public health crisis of my lifetime and our century,” Curran said. “I think there will be a recognition of the shortcomings and needs for public health going into the future. Save your masks. I think that they’ll come in handy after COVID is over.”

Caelan Bailey (22Ox, 24C) is from Charleston, South Carolina.

Remembering John Lewis

Screen Shot 2020-07-20 at 7.58.46 AM
Congressman John Lewis delivering the Commencement address at Emory in May 2014.

John Lewis’s death on July 17 marked the passing of a great American and a good friend to Emory. He was our representative in Congress and a frequent visitor to campus, where he delivered the Commencement address in 2014 and the Oxford Commencement address in 2019. An endowed chair in the law school honors him.
His leaving us prompted me to dig out the citation I wrote when he received the Emory President’s Medal in 1999. Unthinkingly, I had scheduled his speech and the award ceremony for the first Sunday afternoon in February, the beginning of Founders Week at Emory–oops, also Super Bowl Sunday! Happily, the program was scheduled before the big game, and Glenn Memorial filled with an audience eager to hear this American hero.
The reference to his “cooped-up compassion” was an inside joke for him, who recounts in his autobiography, “Walking with the Wind,” that he used to preach to the family chickens in the hen house when he was a child.
Gary Hauk
John Robert Lewis
Son of Alabama, Midwife of a Revolution, Walker with the Wind:
Thank God for the adamantine hardness of your head,
upon whose fractured skull broke waves of arrogance—
arrogance that saw its doom in the patient marching,
the willing endurance
of those who did not have enough
but by God had surely had enough.
Thank God for the caged-bird heart of you,
in whom childhood’s cooped-up compassion grew large
to embrace the one wielding a weapon against you
as well as the beaten-down.
Thank God for those sturdy feet
that walked the fifty-four miles from Selma to Montgomery
and trod the floors of Woolworth’s and W. T. Grant and Kress
in search of lunch-counter hospitality—
those feet that know the halls of Congress
and remember the furrows of a sharecropper’s cotton field.
Thank God for the ears that listen for the Spirit of History,
the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice.
Built for the long haul, built for holding on to truth,
you clasp to you the moral outrage bursting from your soul
but also the hope that infuses the weak with strength,
with power as a mighty river of truth.
Make it clear, John Robert Lewis:
You have had your rides in paddy wagons,
those freedom chariots.
You have had your forty arrests,
your forty years in the wilderness,
your forty days and nights on the mountain
in a drama of good and evil, no less.
We do not come to sanctify you today, however;
we will not make of you a stained-glass saint.
Our day, no less than a generation ago, requires
that ALL be mobilizers,
that ALL clarify blurred vision,
that ALL reject self-interest and seek the common good.
Our day requires the principles of nonviolence and democracy.
Our day requires that decency rise above difference,
honesty above pride,
and conscience above the world’s beguilement.
By this award we pledge not adulation but common cause
in the effort to live as the Beloved Community
on a scale that encompasses all.
Humbly acknowledging the humility that motivated you,
we bestow on you the Emory President’s Medal.

 

Emory and Methodism, Part 2

The 1915 birth of a new university named Emory relied heavily on Methodist connections. The first board of trustees of the new university comprised members of the Educational Commission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS), and a number of them continued as trustees when a new board was elected in 1916. Even before the university received its charter on January 25, 1915, the theology school of the university began operations in September 1914 at Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, built by the North Georgia Conference of the MECS in downtown Atlanta in 1910. Bishop Warren Candler, former president of Emory College, guided the design and completion of the edifice.

Not far from the church was Wesley Memorial Hospital, which had been established in 1905 by the North Georgia Conference with significant funding from Asa Candler; in 1922 this Methodist-founded hospital moved to the new Druid Hills campus of Emory to become Emory University Hospital. Along with the hospital came a nurses-training program, which later became the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. Another part of the health sciences center at Emory with links to Methodism is the Rollins School of Public Health, established with the support of a family of prominent Georgia Methodists whose patriarch, O. Wayne Rollins, designated his first gift to Emory to the Candler School of Theology.

After the move of Emory College to Atlanta in 1919 to join the professional and graduate schools already growing on the Druid Hills campus, Emory continued its entwinement with Southern Methodism through the first half of the twentieth century. The first three presidents of the university—Harvey Cox, Goodrich White, and Walter Martin—all had roles in local, state, and national Methodism, while two deans of the theology school—William R. Cannon and Mack B . Stokes—were elected bishops of the United Methodist Church in 1968. The first three chairs of the university board of trustees—Asa Candler Sr., Charles Howard Candler Sr., and Henry Bowden Sr., who served for a combined sixty-four years, from 1915 to 1979—all were prominent Methodist lay leaders in Atlanta.

Methodist faculty members in the theology school played critical roles in debates over the reunion of the southern and northern branches of Methodism in 1939 and later played a still more important role in helping the university move toward integration in the late 1950s and early 1960s. One of the arguments in favor of opening the doors to African American students was that the 1952 Discipline of the Methodist Church stated, “There is no place in the Methodist Church for racial discrimination or racial segregation.”

Founded by Methodists who were keen on educating their children through a Methodist lens, Emory nevertheless has always been open to believers (and nonbelievers) of every stripe. Presbyterians and Baptists, while scarce, enrolled in the college during the nineteenth century. Jewish students began enrolling in the late nineteenth century and became a growing presence from the early twentieth century on, after Bishop Candler—the university chancellor from 1915 to 1920—excused the children of Orthodox Rabbi Tobias Geffen from Saturday classes.

In time, Roman Catholics and, later, adherents of the world’s other major religions would come to outnumber Methodists among the student body. The openness of the campus to this religious multiplicity reflects the Methodist tradition of seeking unity within diversity.

John Wesley himself expressed this attitude. He recognized his own fallibility and sought to learn how other traditions practiced holy living, even as he held fast to his belief in the truth of Christianity. In a sermon titled “A Caution Against Bigotry,” Wesley encouraged his followers to support whatever activity advances the love of God in the world, even if that activity is the work of other sects or other religions.

This article of the Methodist creed was tested at Emory in 1997 when controversy erupted over the question whether same-sex commitment ceremonies could be performed in Emory chapels. An employee of Oxford College had requested use of the chapel on that campus for a commitment ceremony with his male partner. The dean of Oxford College initially granted permission but later rescinded it over concerns about the university’s relationship with the church. The Book of Discipline prohibits use of United Methodist churches for same-sex ceremonies and prohibits United Methodist clergy from performing them.

After extensive discussion, the university adopted a chapel policy that relied on Emory’s nondiscrimination policy but also called on the Methodist tradition of respecting the practices of other religions—including the right to perform ceremonies that might not comport with the United Methodist Discipline. This chapel-use policy was approved by the board of trustees, including all of the United Methodist bishops on the board.

Once nurtured in part by a somewhat Methodist-heavy hierarchy in the university administration, over the past quarter of a century the relationship between Emory and the church has lost much of that unofficial connection—what Russell Richey, former dean of the theology school, has called “embodied presence and unified leadership.” Today the relationship of church and university depends largely on the theology dean, development officers, chaplains, counselors, and other administrators whose work in various niches of the university overlaps with the interests of the church. (This month, Emory President Claire Sterk appointed the first non-Methodist chaplain in the university’s history, the Rev. Gregory W. McGonigle, a Unitarian-Universalist minister.)

Owing to the university’s charter relationship to the Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ) of the United Methodist Church, senior leaders of the university report on the status of the university at each quadrennial jurisdictional conference in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. In addition, Emory periodically hosts the SEJ Committee on Coordination and Accountability. Emory thus enjoys a healthy and collaborative relationship with the United Methodist Church.

The Emory University charter and bylaws do not mandate Methodist representation on the Emory University Board of Trustees. By custom, however, a number of the positions on the board are filled by United Methodist bishops, including the resident bishop of the North Georgia Episcopal Area. Moreover, one of the vice chairs of the trustees traditionally has been the senior bishop on the board.

As confirmed by the Georgia Nonprofit Corporation Code, regulations of the Internal Revenue Service, and historic activity of the Emory University Board of Trustees, the university is a separate and self-sustaining corporation not controlled by the United Methodist Church. Nevertheless, the university’s work and self-understanding continue to respect a traditional relationship between the church and the university.

Different institutions with different missions, the church and the university collaborate and inform each other as independent entities. Their shared history suggests that the church has learned as much from the instruction and example of Emory as Emory has benefited from the church, each institution balancing and nourishing the life and commitments of the other.

Gary Hauk

Emory and Methodism across the Years

This week the United Methodist Church Southeastern Jurisdiction Historical Society will meet at Emory, so it seems appropriate to reflect on the long history between Emory and Methodism. Both the Pitts Theology Library and the Stuart A. Rose Library at Emory are storehouses of archives and books that fill out the story. This post is the first of two; look for the second one tomorrow.

The relationship of Emory University to the United Methodist Church and to Methodism generally often surprises casual observers and visitors, even Emory students and faculty members. Emory’s Methodist heritage has no prominence on university websites or in official publications. The make-up of both the student body and the faculty has long demonstrated a mutually respectful mix of the world’s great religions as well as the greater secularization of Western society.

Yet the historic connection between Emory and Methodism is long, deep, and complicated. It is somewhat like that of a dear, benevolent aunt and a headstrong, independent niece who is embracing her maturity and setting her direction in life.

Once a powerful influence in the daily life of Emory College, the church has become a more distant presence while maintaining a proud interest in Emory; the university in turn has continued to acknowledge the church’s legacy while recognizing that any university worth its charter must adapt to changes in society and to increased knowledge.

Emory University has its roots in the founding of Emory College by the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) in 1836. Half a century had passed since the formal organization of Methodism in the United States at a conference in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1784.

Methodism provided a solid foundation and rationale for a new college. John Wesley—an Anglican priest and founder of the Methodist movement in England—was above all things an educator of great energy and vision. He built schools, started publishing enterprises, wrote prolifically, and preached and taught tirelessly, all with the aim of transforming English society by the education of hearts as well as minds, or what he called “religion and reason joined.”

Wesley’s brother Charles, also a leader of the movement, phrased the aim somewhat differently as the union of “knowledge and vital piety, truth and love.” At Emory today, this heritage translates into “a legacy of heart and mind,” as Emory has long spoken of educating the whole person, body, mind, and spirit.

In the American context, the Methodist movement planted seeds of social uplift not only through the establishment of churches and Sunday schools but also in the founding of academies and colleges. The founders of the Methodist church in America had heard themselves addressed by a gospel promise that the truth would set them free, and in their minds freedom, education, and religious faith all relied on each other to some extent. They established dozens of academies and colleges throughout America in the nineteenth century; in Georgia alone, these included not only Emory College but also Wesleyan College, LaGrange College, Andrew College, Young Harris College, Paine College, and Reinhardt University.

Emory College’s namesake, Bishop John Emory, from Maryland, had played a role in founding Wesleyan University, in Connecticut, and had chaired the board of trustees of Dickinson College, in Pennsylvania, until his death in 1835. Set within a new town laid out specifically to house the new college—a town called Oxford to honor the university that had educated the Wesleys—Emory quickly became a center of intellectual and spiritual life among Methodists in the South.

From the beginning, the faculty, presidents, and trustees of the college demonstrated a conviction that faith and science were not at odds, and that education should embrace all of human experience. In their view, a traditional education heavy in Latin, Greek, and the Bible should expand to include modern languages and up-to-date understanding of the natural sciences.

Tragically, within a decade of the founding of the college, some of its leaders figured prominently in the division of national Methodism over the issue of slavery, which John Wesley had abhorred, and which the American movement initially had prohibited in its Book of Discipline. The details of this split are told in many chronicles of Emory history, but the gist of the matter is that leaders of the college, defending the institution of slavery, helped lead the Methodist churches of the South to secede from the MEC and create the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS). This rift would not be healed until 1939.

In the meantime, the Southern Methodist church came to view Emory College as the institution where its most talented clergy should serve as faculty members and presidents. Many of the faculty and nearly all of the twelve presidents of Emory College until 1915 were Methodist clergy, and four of those presidents were elected to serve as bishops.

The church also viewed Emory as the place where future leaders of society would mature, and Methodist alumni of Emory College in many respects justified this expectation. They included, before 1915, the most renowned Methodist missionary to China, a future government minister of Korea, a US Supreme Court justice, a future vice president of the United States, the founding president of Georgia Tech, many presidents of other colleges and universities, the founders of Paine College for freed African Americans, the first state superintendent of education in Georgia, and countless lawyers, doctors, clergy, and business leaders who returned to their home towns from Oxford to lead their communities.

The establishment of the university in 1915 changed the mission of Emory to a significant degree, but not the institution’s Methodist identity. The sole impetus for the founding of Emory University in Atlanta was the role of the church in education. The MECS had created Central University in Nashville shortly after the Civil War. A gift of a million dollars to the university from Cornelius Vanderbilt, in 1873, led to the renaming of the institution in his honor. Over the next four decades, a growing dispute over policy decisions and the locus of authority led the church to part ways with Vanderbilt University and create a new university — Emory.

Next: Methodism in the life of Emory since 1915.

Gary Hauk

Emory and “A Perfect Mess”

Stanford professor David F. Labaree, a social historian who writes about education, has published a short and engaging book about American higher education. He sums up his take on the industry with the book’s title–“A Perfect Mess” (University of Chicago Press, 2017). His thesis is that the rise of American colleges and universities to a position of dominance in the ranks of the best in the world could not have been predicted in the  nineteenth century. True, by 1880 the US had five times as many higher ed institutions as all of Europe, and Ohio alone had three times as many as the UK. Yet these American colleges held about as much promise of triumph as a go-cart at the Indy 500.

Unsurprisingly, the story of most  American colleges through the nineteenth century sounds like much of the history of Emory back then. Scores of small colleges founded by religious denominations were isolated in rural areas or tiny towns. Presidents and faculty members wrestled with a constant shortage of funds and relatively small enrollments. The faculty often were clergy first and scholars second, many of them having attained little more than a BA degree and rarely a doctorate. As many as half the students failed to graduate, not necessarily for want of brains but for the need to earn a living as farmers, merchants, or even professionals in work that required less formal education in those days (law and ministry especially).

The location of Emory College in little Oxford, Georgia, and then the establishment of Emory University in Atlanta underscore two observations Labaree makes.

The first observation is that the founders of the liberal arts colleges in the nineteenth century often chose rural areas or small towns for their schools out of a belief in republican (small r) values–the integrity and individualism of the small landholder, the family-like ethos of community, the nurturing of civic and religious habits, and a suspicion of the corrupting influence of commercial centers in large cities.

All of these principles seem to have motivated the founders of Emory College, who not only set their college two miles from the center of Covington but also created a new town as a buffer against intruding vices. (Initially each residential lot in the college’s town, Oxford, was offered on a lease of 999 years, with stipulations that the lease would be forfeit if the property were used for games of chance or selling of “spirits.”)

Labaree’s second observation, though, points to a curious and often-unremarked-upon fact about the location of Emory University. He comments that many nineteenth-century colleges were founded by civic boosters who wanted to increase the value of their property. “Settle in East Podunk–we have a college!” I think something of that strategy was at work in Asa Candler in 1914.

By 1914, when the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was looking for the site for a new university, wariness of city vices still persisted among many Emory supporters, and they made a strong case for keeping the college at Oxford while allowing the university’s new professional schools to take advantage of access to lawyers, doctors, business leaders, and clergy in the city. In the end, the trustees thought it made more sense to have the college and the professional schools on the same campus in Atlanta.

Curiously, though, that campus in Atlanta began with seventy-five acres that Asa Candler carved out of his suburban development in Druid Hills. What better way to ensure the marketability of his massive real estate plan than to carve a bucolic university campus from the woods and fields right next door?

This is not to minimize Candler’s genuine philanthropic impulse or his indispensable largess. But his biographers have always noted that his deep and extended civic engagement with Atlanta, as well as his commitments to church and university, never diminished or got in the way of his always-functioning business savvy. He was ever, in the apt title of Kathryn W. Kemp’s book about him, “God’s capitalist.”

Gary Hauk

 

Postcards from the edge–of the Quad

Al Dowdle III, a research administrator in the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory, enjoys collecting old postcards, and some years ago he sent me scans of a few that he had come across here and there. Recently he sent me some more that show “dear old Emory” as it was fifty, eighty, or more than a hundred years ago. With his permission, I’m sharing them below with his comments and questions and my responses.

Al says: This is a real photo card, meaning the postcard was individually printed from a photographed image onto this photo paper and developed. From the stamp box, this paper was made between 1910 and 1930. Do you think this is the bridge behind the Carlos facing away from the quad?

a Emory Snow

Me: Yes, this is a view of the bridge now known as the Mizell Bridge, after Robert C. Mizell (1911C), long-time university administrator. In this photo, the photographer is standing near where visitors now enter the Carlos Museum from the ravine side of the building. The photo is rare because it shows not only the Mizell bridge but also, in the distance to the right, a bridge that no longer exists. The original drive into the campus crossed two bridges – one near where the Church School Building now stands, and the second behind the museum (Mizell). You can see a close-up of that first bridge on my blog post of July 27, 2017. In the July post, the photographer is looking toward where the Rich Building now stands.

Al: This is also a real photo card. Again dated from 1910 to 1930. The stamp was produced from 1908 to 1920. I think the postmark is 1923 or ’28? Where was this building? My mom, who was at Emory in the very early 1950s, does not remember it.

b Emory Chapel

Me: This is the chapel in the Old Theology Building (formerly the home of Pitts Theology Library). The building opened in 1916 as one of the first two academic buildings on the campus, across from its twin, the Law School (now Michael C. Carlos Hall). When the theology school acquired the Hartford Collection in 1975, the entire building was converted to library space, and this chapel was deconsecrated and filled with shelves. You can read more about this space in my blog post of November 8.

Al: I believe this is a white-border card dating between 1915 and 1930. Now that I look at it again, I think I have the same image in color. I will have to look.

c Emory Quad

Me: This photo certainly was taken after 1926, when Candler Library, facing the viewer, was opened.

Al: I love this card. It again is a real photo card. The paper was manufactured starting in 1950. The blue lettering on the left says “swimming pool.” I wonder what game the writer marched into wearing blue jeans?

d Emory Aerial

Me: Good question about the game; I don’t know what it might have been. It sounds like Karen was living on campus, in which case she may have been one of the first female students to reside on campus. That would date this postcard to after 1953. Her mother, Mrs. John E. Buhler, must have been the wife of the dean of the dental school at the time, Dr. John E. Buhler, who served from 1948 to 1961. (His deanship was marked by anti-Semitism in the school, a story told here.)

Al: I love the cars in this one. Post mark of 1971.

e Emory Wesley Woods

Me: They don’t make ‘em like that anymore! Wesley Woods was built by the Methodist Church in 1954 on a sixty-acre campus next to Emory and has been a partner of Emory’s ever since. In 1998 the geriatric hospital there–the first of its kind in the nation–became part of Emory Healthcare.

Al: “Lovely Glenn Memorial…” in 1955. Are those electric trolley wires in the top center of the photo?

f Emory Glenn Memorial

Me: Yes, those are streetcar wires. The streetcar stopped running past there in 1948 or so, and the car in the photo looks about that vintage, so the photo may be a decade old.

Al: I know this is not technically Emory, but I also have read the Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons eventually became part of Emory SOM. Postmark 1909. Does this look anything like the new SOM classrooms? I wish I could read all of the message on the back where the sender describes what they did in each room. “#3 is where I look at frogs.” The last line mentions a Halloween party with a “girl as sweet as a pickle.”

g Emory Atlanta College

Me: No, the latest SOM labs are a bit more up to date, thankfully. Looks to me like the card says “Ga. girls sweet as pickle.” I always thought they were sweet as peaches. It’s great to find these messages on the cards, though. Makes me wonder who will be reading my postcards a hundred years from now.

Gary Hauk

Starvine

It bears a name at once both celestial and terrestrial, evoking an image of Jack’s beanstalk climbing from field to clouds, a green rope winding its way from Shakespeare’s “sullen earth” to farthest heaven, a stem of vegetation reaching to the night sky—starvine. And for the shuttle road that links Emory’s residential Clairmont Campus with the main campus—across a rainbow-arch bridge over the CSX railroad tracks—it lends an equally suggestive name: Starvine Way, perhaps a winding starlit path.

This obscure plant, the starvine, hides throughout Lullwater, the 150-acre preserve that also harbors the home of the Emory president. Starvine sprouts in other parts of the Emory Forest as well, a botanical treasure whose threatened existence in the Southeast, its only native habitat, makes Emory perhaps its most important home anywhere in the world.

I first became acquainted with starvine as a name on a list of plants indigenous to Lullwater. When the University was building the shuttle road in 1999–2000, it needed a name. Because the road hugs the edge of Lullwater, I searched the list of indigenous plants included in the report on Emory forests prepared in 1986 by biology professors Bill Murdy and Eloise Carter. And there was starvine–a poet’s name for a threatened species.

Also called bay starvine or magnolia starvine, its scientific name is schisandra glabra. Emory environmentalists have taken to calling it American starvine, to distinguish it further from its more prolific Asian cousin, Chinese starvine (schisandra chinensis). Slender tendrils with widely spaced, shiny green leaves trail along the ground or stretch up in little palm-tree-like stalks or twine themselves around slender saplings to pull themselves up toward the sun.

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Starvine shoots cultivated from cuttings at Wesley Woods. Photo by Emory Photo/Video.

Born in leaf litter, the vine reaches for the light and sometimes shoots up twenty feet or more toward the tops of its host trees, which include the rare broad-leaved or umbrella magnolias (not the non-indigenous Southern magnolia, which was imported to these parts). The vine’s red berries open, when ripe, into a five-petal flower with a rounded star shape.

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Starvine blossom. Photo by Emory Photo/Video.

Around the starvine grow other wild medicinal celebrities: the bane berry bush with its small fruits that look like porcelain doll’s eyes (a poisonous plant, as the name suggests, except in very small amounts brewed in tea for headaches, coughs, and colds); sweet shrub (useful for nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea); spice bush (for colds, dysentery, intestinal parasites); and, perhaps most striking, wild ginseng (for higher mental and physical energy and reduction of stress).

These plants, growing on the north-facing slopes of Emory’s protected forested acres, make the woods of the campus places where idle strolling leads to scientific speculation. Carl Brown, an adjunct faculty member in Environmental Sciences, has taught me almost everything I know about starvine. Carl and others have been working with descendants of the Creek Indians who once inhabited this area to determine whether Native Americans used starvine for healing.

Kirk Hines, a horticultural therapist at the A.G. Rhodes Home on Emory’s Wesley Woods campus, has engaged residents of the home in planting seeds and cultivating an experimental starvine “vineyard” as one of the therapeutic activities he directs.

It may be time for the little plant to have its day in the sun — but it really prefers filtered light, with dappled shade. Halfway between earth and heaven.

Gary Hauk

For more about the cultivation and study of starvine at Emory, check out the “Emory Report” article by Kimber Williams.

Doggerel for the Class of ’77

One delight of my job is the invitations I receive to speak to various gatherings about days of yore at Emory. Such a gathering occurred during Homecoming last month as the Emory College Class of 1977 convened in Ackerman Hall of the Carlos Museum to renew friendships and swap reminiscences.

Emory Morsberger, who had served as Student Government Association president during the class’s senior year, recalled the astonishing fact that he won the Domino’s Pizza–sponsored pizza-eating and beer-drinking contest. What was astonishing about the event was not who won it—the identity of the victor is really immaterial—but that the university sanctioned the event at all. The drinking age in those years was 18. But still . . . Bishop Candler surely was turning in his grave.

Charged with the task of commemorating the class’s era in seven minutes or less, I went to work in Rose Library digging through the Campus yearbook, the Emory Wheel, and other sources, then penned a bit of doggerel to read aloud. For those readers who have memories of the era, some of the lines may ring with a note of familiarity.

Epic of the Class of Seventy-Seven

It was back in the autumn of seventy-three

When the Watergate scandal was raging,

And the gas lines were long because OPEC was strong,

And your parents were all middle-aging.

 

Pharrell Williams and FedEx were born in that year,

Hip hop launched a new genre of music.

On the other hand, Bruce Lee, Picasso, Jim Croce

All fell to the Grim Reaper’s choosing.

 

By the time that year ended King beat Bobby Riggs,

Nixon told the press “I’m not a crook.”

And the people before me—alumni/alumnae—

Had taken to life with a book.

 

It was then, as I’m sure you remember quite well,

That you came in your tie-dyes and blue jeans

To this old Druid Hills with its woodlands and rills,

Trading family and home scenes for new scenes.

 

And the fall of your first year at Emory was wild:

A Dooley’s Den coffee house opened;

Yom Kippur brought a war; gas prices still soared,

But at Horton’s, The Grille kept you copin’.

 

The dean who made Wonderful Wednesday resigned,

While the president looked toward retirement.

He enjoyed his pipe smoke while the students would toke,

Though today’s smoke-free campus would fire him.

 

In the fall of your second year traipsing the Quad

You could hear a quite famous exhorter,

As the great Margaret Mead told the students, “Take heed—

Your tuition’s nine-fifty a quarter!”

 

There was fear that old Emory was just for the rich,

While financial aid needed some boosting.

Meanwhile AMUC, alas, didn’t have enough class

As a place to support student roosting.

 

Through the culture at large there pervaded a sense

Of bleak doom that the era was rousing.

Yet if all went to pot, the doom simply would not

Put a damper on campus carousing.

 

By the time you were juniors a theme had emerged

In the pages of Campus, the yearbook:

Every party and dance seemed to offer a chance

For each student to have their own beer truck.

 

As September of seventy-six rolled around

You were wrestling with things existential:

Should you plan on more school, find a job, or play cool?

Meanwhile questions arose presidential.

 

For the nation was voting that fall to decide

Between Ford and our own peanut farmer.

While much closer to home, Sandy Atwood made known

He would take off his president’s armor.

 

As the board of trustees got a search underway

For the seventeenth leader of Emory,

Lots of other good things came on stage from the wings—

Let me name some and freshen your memory.

 

In November Theology remade its home

As a library, painting it pink.

Although students were pissed for the chapel they missed,

They soon left off from causing a stink.

 

In curricular matters, ten years of hard work

By a Methodist chaplain named Boozer,

Endowed a chair newish for studies quite Jewish.

David Blumenthal, hats off to you, sir.

 

At the business school two million dollars was tabbed

For enhancing the school’s future picture.

Soon a three-story stack was tacked onto the back,

And the Rich Building thus became—richer!

 

On the student front, life often felt like a grind,

Or so said a Wheel editorial.

The inadequate gym, dormitories quite dim,

And the ancient Alumni Memorial

 

Raised the question if twenty-five years farther on

There would be any student activities.

Surely something must change to address the full range

Of students’ creative proclivities.

 

As the search for a president grew more intense,

Unfortunately so did the winter.

That year it was colder than Aspen or Boulder—

Even Yankees at Emory felt bitter.

 

Well, the spring soon arrived, and the trustees announced,

After being with questions just peppered,

That theology deans were the stuff of their dreams—

They chose Laney to be Emory’s shepherd.

 

As you marched on the Quad in regalia in June

To receive your new-minted diplomas,

You may have felt shaken, as if now awakin’

From four-year-long undergrad comas.

 

For the world now before you was risky and cold

When compared to your warm alma mater.

But you went forth with grace and a smile on your face

Marked by Emory’s hard-won imprimatur.

 

Forty years have flown by in the blink of an eye.

Here you are for a wondrous regathering.

I have talked long enough about lots of old stuff

And should leave you to drinking and chattering.

 

But before I sign off, let me offer a toast

To the spirit with which you have leavened

Your Old Emory dear. Let us give a loud cheer

To the Class of Seventy-Seven!

 

Gary S. Hauk

Read to the reunion of the Emory College Class of 1977

At Carlos Reception Hall, October 21, 2017

 

Emory then and now                         1977                              2017

Fall enrollment (total)                        7,572                           15,252

Varsity athletic teams                               8                                   18

Full-time faculty                                   904                              3,000+

Degrees conferred                            2,010                                4,721

Total operating budget             $136.3 million                 $4.8 billion

Sponsored research                      $25.7M                             $628M

Endowment market value      approx. $165M            $6.5B (8/31/16)

 

The Sword in the Library

I was talking with Emory College junior Karan Malhotra about nineteenth-century secret societies when he suddenly asked, “What do you know about Archie Drake?”

Not a thing, I said. Who was he?

“There’s a sword in the alumni house with his name on it. His full name was Archelaus A. Drake.”

Hmmm. That name rang a bell, but I couldn’t place it. An antebellum Emory student? A faculty member who served briefly before disappearing from the school and its history? Not sure. But a sword in the alumni house? I’d never heard of it.

“I could show you the sword. Do you have time?”

We walked from the coffee shop to my car in the Oxford Road deck and drove to the alumni house, where we rousted Tom Brodnax, resident curator, and climbed the stairs to the Schley Library.

Karan walked to a far window, reached behind the sideboard there, and pulled out a sure-enough sword in a tarnished but emblem-adorned scabbard.

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The hilt of the Archelaus Drake sword.

The thing cries out chivalry, knighthood, crusades. The pommel on the hilt is a knight’s helmet, while figures of knights adorn the scabbard and hand guard. The blade of the sword is engraved from guard to tip with scenes of knights on horseback, desert oases, and something resembling the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

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Part of the blade of the Drake sword.

A scouring of available alumni records back to the Civil War turned up no Archelaus A. Drake, but faithful Google found two: Archelaus Augustus Drake, who lived from 1857 to 1929 and is buried in Texas; and Archelaus Augustus Drake III, son of Archelaus A. Drake Jr. and a member of the Citadel class of 1945. He enlisted in 1943 and and died in combat in Europe the next year. His nickname was Archie.

A search of the Emory website also turned up Archie Drake. His friend William Matheson, who attended Emory one year in the 1940s and for whom the magnificent reading room in the Candler Library is named, created the Archie Drake Prize in memory of his childhood friend in Macon. The prize in Archie’s name recognizes an Emory College junior who has demonstrated academic growth and leadership potential.

An engraving on the blade near the hilt has the logo of Pettibone Bros. of Cincinnati, Ohio, which apparently was the premier maker of Masonic and other regalia in the 1890s to 1920s. So this likely was a Masonic sword owned by the first Archeleaus Drake, Archie’s grandfather. The description of a sword up for auction online fits almost exactly the description of the Drake sword, from the reclining knight and red cross on the scabbard down to the Masonic emblem near the embossed name on the blade.

But the provenance of the sword is a mystery. It probably was passed from grandfather to son to grandson and may have come to Mr. Matheson after his friend’s death. It’s possible he then donated it while creating the Drake Prize.

Time for more detective work.

Gary Hauk

Unlucky DUC

In 1985, Emory added a John Portman-designed wing to the west façade of the 1927-vintage dining hall and auditorium, which stood on one of the highest points of the campus. An earlier addition to the east side of the dining hall, dedicated in 1950, had led to the renaming of the structure as the Alumni Memorial University Center, or AMUC. Rechristened at its dedication in 1986 as the Dobbs University Center, in honor of its principal donor, R. Howard Dobbs Jr. 27C, the entirety of the new student-life center quickly gained the nickname of the DUC.

The year after the DUC opened, Emory observed its sesquicentennial, and part of the celebration of that milestone included the burial of a time capsule near the DUC. I commented on this time capsule in an earlier blog. Plans call for the time capsule to be opened in 2036, at the bicentennial, but no one said anything about digging it up before then.

With the demolition of the DUC this summer to make way for a new Campus Life Center (CLC)–which you can see in a drone’s-eye fly-through–construction crews had to dig up the time capsule and set it aside for reburial later.

Al Herzog, the Emory manager overseeing demolition of the DUC and construction of the CLC, sent me this photo of the time capsule last week to reassure me that it is safely in the hands of folks in Campus Life.

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The exhumed time capsule, still sealed until 2036.

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Explanatory plaque that had been set into the ground above the buried time capsule.

Al also sent an aerial view of the construction site, which shows the vacant area where the DUC once stood. The time capsule had been buried near the large bush in the lower right corner. In the back stands the old AMUC, with its 1927 façade covered by plywood for protection against construction debris. Plans call for restoring the AMUC as a stand-alone building.

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Time capsule was buried near the large shrub just above the truck with the white cab, lower right.

Gary Hauk