Looking Back At Baylor: ‘The length of the tail should vary according to the age of the child’

This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in June 1981, then was reprinted in Looking Back at Baylor (1985), a collection of Keeth and Harry Marsh’s historical columns for the Line. Blogging about Texas periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.

One of the most magnificent and well-known buildings on campus is the Armstrong Browning Library, known for its large collection of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning works and beautiful stained glass windows. But before the iconic building was constructed, the Baylor Browning collection was housed within Carroll Library. Read on to learn more about the collection and performance based on one of the stained glass windows. 

For the first four years after its inception in 1918, Baylor’s Browning collection shared quarters with the university’s general library in the Carroll Chapel and Library Building. Starting with Dr. A. J. Armstrong’s gift of his personal library of Browning manuscripts and publications, the burgeoning young collection rapidly acquired a large oil portrait of Robert Browning painted by his son, its famous bronze casting of the Brownings’ clasped hands, and additional writings and memorabilia.Continue Reading

Armstrong’s Stars: Robert Frost

Armstrong’s Stars” is a collaboration between the Armstrong Browning Library and Baylor’s Texas Collection. Once a month we feature a story about a celebrity that Dr. A.J. Armstrong brought to Baylor. These stories highlight an interesting part of Baylor’s history and include collection materials housed in both the Armstrong Browning Library and the Texas Collection.

This month’s story was contributed by Ph.D. candidate Jeremy Land.

Frost portrait by Farmer
Signed photograph of Robert Frost by Farmer, Waco (Celebrities Visiting Baylor photo file, Armstrong Browning Library)

When he arrived at Baylor in 1922, Robert Frost was one of the most famous poets in America. He had yet to win many of the accolades that would come later in life, but he was well on his way to becoming the household name that he is today. By the time Dr. A.J. Armstrong asked Robert Frost to come and read at Baylor, the poet was already known for his dramatic monologues and innovative blank verse celebrating the lives of New England farmers. Many of his more famous works like “Mending Wall,” “Birches,” and “The Road Not Taken” were well on their way to becoming staples in the American literary canon and poems to study for many American students.

Because of this popularity Frost earned a series of teaching jobs and public readings around the country. However, his confessed love for “barding around, ” a phrase he used to describe his itinerate lecturer lifestyle, had not really brought him very far south, and it apparently would take some convincing before the poet would come to Baylor in 1922 (Burnshaw). To sell Frost on the merits of reading poetry in Texas, Dr. Armstrong relied on his relationship with other literary luminaries who had previously read here. It even took the efforts of fellow poet and mutual friend Carl Sandburg to write Frost on Dr. Armstrong’s behalf and promise him that “they [Baylor students] not only read a man’s books before he arrives but they buy them in record-breaking numbers” (Sandburg 213).

We may never know whether or not Sandburg’s promise of profits and literate crowds was the tipping point in convincing Frost to come to Texas, but we can say that within a few months of Sandburg’s letter, Frost arrived in Dallas for a five city tour of Texas universities. Throughout November of 1922, Robert Frost gave readings at Southern Methodist University, Mary Hardin-Baylor, the City of Temple, and Southwestern University in Georgetown, in addition to Baylor; all of course were arranged by Baylor’s own Dr. A.J. Armstrong. According to the Baylor Lariat, Frost was said to have enjoyed his time at Baylor so much that he frequently said over the next few years that he would like to return to Waco (“Robert Frost, Famous Poet Speaks Here” 1).

A "heavy Frost...in the form of Robert, the Poet" was featured in the 1923 Baylor yearbook The Round Up (The Texas Collection)
A “heavy Frost…in the form of Robert, the Poet” was featured in the 1923 Baylor yearbook The Round Up (The Texas Collection)

It may have taken him a decade, but in 1933 Dr. Armstrong again convinced the New England poet to return to Texas for a second reading. By that time Frost’s reputation as a poet had only grown exponentially. Just two years earlier, he won his second of four Pulitzer prizes for his collected works and was well on his way to completing his seventh volume of original poetry. When he arrived for the second time, Frost was greeted with close to 500 audience members, all eager to hear him recite his most famous works (“Robert Frost, Famous Poet Speaks Here” 1). Ultimately, Frost’s two visits to Baylor left a lasting mark on the University. When he died in 1963, the Lariat dedicated two full pages to the poet’s life and praised his contribution to the American literary landscape. In the end, Robert Frost’s time at Baylor might be best summed up by the students themselves who claimed in their 1923 yearbook that Robert Frost’s visits “materially help[ed] put Baylor on the map” (The Round Up 161).

Works Cited

Burnshaw, Stanley. “Robert Frost.” American National Biography Online. American National Biography Online, Feb. 2000. Web. 5 June 2015

“Robert Frost, Famous Poet Speaks Here.” The Daily Lariat [Waco] 19 Apr. 1933: 1. Web. 5 June 2015

The Round Up. Ed. Enid Eastland. Vol. 22. Jefferson City: Hugh Stephens, 1923. 161. Web. 5 June 2015

Sandburg, Carl. Letter to Robert Frost. Summer 1922. The Letters of Carl Sandburg. Orlando: HBJ, 1968. 213. Print.

Learn more about Armstrong’s Stars in previous posts.

Armstrong’s Stars: Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson, Baylor Lariat, March 24, 1939
Friday’s Lariat announced the expectation of a performance on Monday by Marian Anderson. Baylor Lariat, March 24, 1939.

“Armstrong’s Stars” is a collaboration between the Armstrong Browning Library and Baylor’s Texas Collection. Once a month we feature a story about a celebrity who Dr. A.J. Armstrong brought to Baylor. These stories highlight an interesting part of Baylor’s history and include collection materials housed in both the Armstrong Browning Library and the Texas Collection.

This month’s story was contributed by Amanda Mylin, graduate assistant, The Texas Collection.

When renowned African-American singer Marian Anderson was not permitted to sing in the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall in Washington, D. C. in March 1939, the nation reacted (in large part) with astonishment. Anderson is quoted in an article published in the Baylor Lariat saying, “It shocks me beyond words that after having appeared in the capitols of most of the countries of the world, I am not wanted in the capitol of my own country” (“D.A.R. and Americanism,” 2).

Eleanor Roosevelt’s response was the most notable: the First Lady protested the move by resigning from the DAR, and encouraging a concert at an even more prominent venue. Anderson performed a free open-air concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, April 9, encouraged and arranged by the First Lady, Anderson’s manager, Walter White of the NAACP, and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes.

In the midst of this drama, Anderson came to Baylor. Two weeks before her famed Easter concert, Anderson performed at Baylor University’s Waco Hall at the behest of Dr. A. J. Armstrong and Sigma Tau Delta. She was the first African-American soloist to grace the Hall. Her March 27 performance included an array of spirituals and compositions by Handel, Schubert, and Carissimi. The Baylor Lariat for March 3 stated that Sigma Tau Delta had taken the “liberal side of the week’s race question” by selecting Marian Anderson to perform (“Negro Singer Will Follow First Lady,” 4). The same article also noted that Mrs. Roosevelt would speak in Waco Hall on March 13, two weeks before the concert. A nationwide commotion had found its way to Baylor’s campus in a small capacity.

Seats went quickly for Anderson’s upcoming performance, The Waco News-Tribune, February 26, 1939, Newspapers.com (accessed April 9, 2015).
“‘Procrastination is the thief of time’–and good seats!” Tickets sold quickly for Anderson’s upcoming performance, according to this ad in tThe Waco News-Tribune, February 26, 1939. Newspapers.com.

Anderson’s performance was well-received by the Waco audience even though it was primarily formed of a distinct “cross-section of the community’s white citizenship.” The Waco News-Tribune for the next day stated that this turn-out “was pretty much proof that the DAR of Washington, D. C., acted in silly fashion to say the least” (“Marian Anderson is Well Received by Waco Audience”). Furthermore, this article mentioned that Anderson’s well-attended performance was an instance of a slow but steady “solution of a leading American problem.”

Interestingly enough, even Waco Hall remained segregated for Anderson’s concert, with a special portion of the balcony reserved for African-Americans. Eventually, Anderson would insist upon what she called “vertical” seating for her concerts, with available seats throughout the auditorium reserved for African-Americans, and by 1950, she refused to sing for segregated audiences. Yet in the wake of the Constitution Hall incident, Anderson was pleased to perform at Baylor by invitation of Dr. Armstrong.

Dr. Armstrong attempted to bring Anderson back to Waco again in the 1940s, but her schedule was full. Her booking agency offered instead the Don Cossack Chorus, which did come to Waco that February.
Dr. Armstrong attempted to bring Anderson back to Waco again in the 1940s, but her schedule was full. Her booking agency offered instead the Don Cossack Chorus, which did come to Waco that February. Anderson, Marian, Records of Visiting Celebrities, Armstrong Browning Library.

Although Anderson was in a hurry and allegedly declined to discuss her recent deterrence by the DAR and the First Lady’s defense of her attempt to perform, she did offer a small informal interview to the Baylor Lariat. She had never been to Waco and commented on the beauty of driving through the Texas countryside from San Antonio. Her enthusiasm and unstoppable energy seemed to bubble over as she explained, “I think America offers vast unlimited opportunities for youthful singers who have the seriousness and determination to become great artists no matter what their race of color” (“Eleanor Roosevelt Versus D.A.R. Feud is Closed; Field Unlimited, Says Anderson,” 1).

Sources:

Negro Singer Will Follow First Lady,” Baylor Lariat, March 3, 1939.

D.A.R. and Americanism,” Baylor Lariat, March 23, 1939.

Eleanor Roosevelt Versus D.A.R. Feud is Closed; Field Unlimited, Says Anderson,” Baylor Lariat, March 28, 1939.

Marian Anderson to Sing in Waco Hall: Famous Conductor Says Negro Artist is Best Living in This Day,” Baylor Lariat, March 22, 1939.

http://marian-anderson.com

“Marian Anderson is Well Received by Waco Audience,” The Waco News-Tribune, March 28, 1939, Newspapers.com (accessed April 9, 2015).

Learn more about Armstrong’s Stars in previous posts.

Armstrong’s Stars: Katharine Cornell

Text by Geoff Hunt

“Armstrong’s Stars” is a collaboration between the Armstrong Browning Library and Baylor’s Texas Collection. Once a month we feature a story about a celebrity who Dr. A.J. Armstrong brought to Baylor. These stories highlight an interesting part of Baylor’s history and include collection materials housed in both the Armstrong Browning Library and the Texas Collection.

This month’s story was contributed by Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator, The Texas Collection.

Andrew Joseph Armstrong, and Katharine Cornell at Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University
Katharine Cornell and A.J. Armstrong enjoy a moment of laughter on the dedication day of Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, on December 3, 1951. Cornell was the main speaker at the event, along with Baylor President W.R. White. Jimmie Willis photographic collection, 4×5 photo negative 1038.

While A.J. Armstrong’s stars included celebrities with little to no connection to the Brownings—his primary area of interest—some had very deep affiliations with the poets. In fact, a few of the stars played them!

Katharine Cornell visited Baylor twice, both times in relation to her role as Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Rudolf Besier’s play, “The Barretts of Wimpole Street.” The part became her signature role, one she started playing in 1931. According to her 1974 New York Times obituary, “The Barretts’” ran for a year on Broadway, and then Miss Cornell shepherded her company on a 20,853-mile tour of the United States, a daring venture in the Depression…” Cornell was “actress-manager” for this performance, and her husband, Guthrie McClintic, was director.

Of course, Armstrong could not miss an opportunity to have this production come to Baylor, and the tour made a stop in Waco in 1934. In her obituary, Cornell is quoted saying, “‘The Barretts’ never played to an empty house—the receipts would be something like $33,000…so we came back having more than broken even. We really felt prideful.” Additionally, Cornell, along with Brian Aherne (playing Robert Browning), performed this production for servicemen and women during World War II in USO Camp Shows.

It was thus fitting that when Armstrong’s efforts came to fruition at the dedication of the Armstrong Browning Library on December 2 and 3, 1951, Cornell would be a part of the festivities. The library was a $2 million facility and called “a shrine to the poet, Robert Browning.” Armstrong stated it is “not far below the Taj Mahal in beauty.” For such a special occasion, the dedication called for a grand ceremony.

Katharine Cornell and group at the Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, Waco, TX
Left to right: Baylor President William Richardson White, Andrew Joseph Armstrong, Katharine Cornell, Marrs McLean, former Baylor president and Texas governor Pat M. Neff. This photograph was taken on the dedication day of Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University, on December 3, 1951. Jimmie Willis photographic collection photo negative 1045.

Well-known in the world of Browning enthusiasts, and those of the stage and Broadway, Katharine Cornell was the main speaker for the event. Waco Hall was the venue for Cornell’s appearance in what A.J. Armstrong called the “the cultural and literary dedication program” for the new Armstrong Browning Library. Although Basil Rathbone played Robert Browning in the 1934 touring production, Brian Aherne was the original Robert, “brought from his native England by Miss Cornell,” and he came with Cornell to the dedication.

On the day of the event, Cornell and Aherne received an honorary Doctor of Laws during a dedication convocation, along with D.K. Martin, Marrs McLean, A.J. Armstrong, and Herbert Dunnico. Robert Roussel of the Houston Post, upon witnessing a portion of the dedication, commented: “It was indeed an inspirational day… All the humane arts were represented, and the theatre was as handsomely served as it could have been with Katharine Cornell and Brian Aherne as its messengers.”

Katharine Cornell Portrait, Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University
Katharine Cornell portrait by the artist Alexander Clayton. The painting depicts the actress in the role of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The item was unveiled at Waco Hall on February 9, 1956, and hangs in the Austin Moore-Elizabeth Barrett Browning Salon, Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University. Photo by Geoff Hunt.

Roussell uses the term “messengers,” and Katharine Cornell rightly served the part as one for the Browning’s legacy. That legacy lives on in the portrait that adorns the wall of the Armstrong Browning’s Austin Moore-Elizabeth Barrett Browning Salon, as well as her other donations such as the shadow box depicting a scene from the “Barretts” stage production. Further, her impact far beyond Baylor as “messenger” for Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning in her role in the “Barretts” made many audiences more familiar with their poetic works while entertaining and bringing joy to many along the way.

Sources:

“Baylor Opens World Shrine to Poets…,” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX.), Dec. 2, 1951.

“Broadway Stars To Be Here For Browning Dedication,” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX.), Nov. 4, 1951.

Campbell, Reba. “Waco Dedicates Its Taj Mahal,” Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, TX.), Dec. 4, 1951.

“Death Claims Dr. ‘A’,” Baylor-Line, v.16 (March-April, 1954): p. 5.

Roussel, Hubert. “Some Out-of-Town Drama With Cornell In a Leading Role,” The Houston-Post (Houston, TX), Dec. 9, 1951.

Katharine Cornell Papers, Armstrong-Browning Library, Baylor University.

Thomas E. Turner, Sr., Papers, Accession #2200, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Whitman, Alden. “Obituary: Katharine Cornell is Dead at 81,” The New York Times (New York City, NY), June 10, 1974.

Learn more about Armstrong’s Stars in previous posts, and see more photos of Katharine Cornell’s 1950 visit to Baylor in our Flickr slideshow below.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Armstrong’s Stars: Richard Halliburton

Halliburton
Richard Halliburton on one of his adventures. General Texas Collection Photographs–People–Richard Halliburton

“Armstrong’s Stars” is a collaboration between the Armstrong Browning Library and Baylor’s Texas Collection. Once a month we feature a story about a celebrity that Dr. A.J. Armstrong brought to Baylor. These stories highlight an interesting part of Baylor’s history and include collection materials housed in both the Armstrong Browning Library and the Texas Collection.

This month’s story was contributed by Amie Oliver, Librarian/Curator of Print Materials, The Texas Collection.

One of the most exciting personalities to ever visit Baylor is one who has seemingly been forgotten by many. Writer and adventurer Richard Halliburton came to Baylor twice at the invitation of Sigma Tau Delta. His first visit occurred on March 23, 1929, just after appearances in Austin and Dallas, where thousands were turned away. Crowds from as far away as Hillsboro, Mexia, Belton, and Temple were expected in Waco (“‘Playboy Adventurer’ to be Presented in Chapel Tonight at 8” 1).

Apparently Halliburton’s lecture did not disappoint. He began by stating, “I am the only lecturer who has ever come to you with no philosophy, with no message, with no uplift, and with no problem to solve.” He then regaled the audience with tales of adventure exploring three continents as he “would rise to romantic heights and would dramatically sway his body as he told of a tense moment in one of his thrilling adventures.” (“Tales of Adventure Captivate Audience” 1). Halliburton entertained the audience for two and half hours. So moved by the performance, an article appearing on the Lariat editorial page nearly a week later declared:

“We were sorry that there were many in his audience who did not catch in a slight way the spirit of adventure and romance…. We were sorry that many went away still satisfied with their own little lives, content with the lethargy which had characterized their former days, and content to remain in Waco or in McLennan County the remainder of their brief span on this globe. They are the mediocre men and women who spend their time admiring the works of other men and pitying themselves for not being greater” (“Wanderlust” 2).

Halliburton’s appearance raised more than $100, which was earmarked for the purchase of a bookcase for the Browning Collection (“English Frat Plans Trip to Fort Worth” 1).

Lariat February 15 1929
Student newspaper article promoting Halliburton’s first appearance at Baylor University. Baylor Lariat, February 15, 1929.

Seven years, three books, and one film later, Halliburton returned to Baylor for a lecture on March 19, 1936. Student tickets were reduced from 75 to 35 cents in an effort to entice many to attend the event at Waco Hall (“Halliburton to Speak Thursday in Waco Hall” 1). A McGregor high school student, Richard Phelan, longed to see his hero and hoped to interview him for his school paper (Phelan 64). Once at Baylor for the event, Phelan learned that a private post-lecture reception would limit opportunities to meet him. However, Mrs. Armstrong encouraged him to wait with other students seeking autographs backstage in the hopes that Halliburton would answer some questions (78).

When Halliburton took the stage, he noticed empty seats in the orchestra and invited students in the balcony to come down. Phelan noted that after Halliburton’s invitation, an older gentleman walked on stage and stepped into the wings. Just a few remarks into his lecture, Halliburton was called off stage. When he returned to the podium, he appeared shaken, but he continued his presentation (80).

After the event, Phelan headed backstage, where he got his autograph—and more. Mrs. Armstrong personally introduced Phelan to Halliburton and proposed an interview. Phelan and Halliburton dined at the Elite Café, where Halliburton told him that Dr. Armstrong was the gentleman who called him off stage to inform him that orchestra seats were sold at full price and students should not have been asked to move from the balcony. Halliburton was embarrassed by the faux pas. He was also disinvited from the reception in his honor, which is why Phelan was able to score the dinner and interview with his hero (103). Of course, most never knew about the exchange between Halliburton and Armstrong. Luther Truett of the Lariat published an article praising the lecture and Halliburton, the man who “held an audience spellbound for two hours without a blank moment.” Truett did note Halliburton’s gracious invitation for students to move from the balcony to the “best seats in the house” (Truett 3).

Halliburton was declared legally dead in late 1939 after the boat he was traveling on from Hong Kong to San Francisco sank during a typhoon. The Lariat published an article about Halliburton’s death, praising the “unique and unusual man” for accomplishing amazing feats, exploring foreign lands, for living a life that others envied, and who “died doing exactly what he wanted to do” (“Halliburton: American Ulysses” 2).

Works Cited

“English Frat Plans Trip to Fort Worth.” Lariat 29 March 1929: 1. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

“Halliburton: American Ulysses.” Lariat 13 Oct. 1939: 2. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

“Halliburton to Speak Thursday in Waco Hall.” Lariat 17 March 1936: 1. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

Phelan, R.C. “Halliburton’s Banana Peel.” Vogue Feb. 1960: 64-105. Print. Richard C. Phelan papers, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

“‘Playboy Adventurer’ to be Presented in Chapel Tonight at 8.” Lariat 23 March 1929: 1. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

“Tales of Adventure Captivate Audience.” Lariat 26 March 1929: 1. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

Truett, Luther. “Author Captures Audience Praise.” Lariat 20 March 1936: 3. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

“Wanderlust.” Lariat 27 March 1929: 2. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

Armstrong’s Stars: Vachel Lindsay

“Lindsay Here Saturday”:  March 27, 1919, issue of The Lariat announcing Vachel Lindsay's upcoming visit to Baylor (Texas Collection)
“Lindsay Here Saturday”: March 27, 1919, issue of The Lariat announcing Vachel Lindsay’s upcoming visit to Baylor (Texas Collection)

“Armstrong’s Stars” is a collaboration between the Armstrong Browning Library and Baylor’s Texas Collection. Once a month we feature a story about a celebrity that Dr. A.J. Armstrong brought to Baylor. These stories highlight an interesting part of Baylor’s history and include collection materials housed in both the Armstrong Browning Library and the Texas Collection.

This month’s story was contributed by Baylor graduate (BA ’14) and Sigma Tau Delta member Susie Park.   

One of the most memorable scenes from the movie Dead Poets Society captures the musical aesthetics of American poet Vachel Lindsay’s style of singing poetry. The cave scene of the schoolboys chanting Lindsay’s poem “The Congo” begins with one of them rhythmically reciting a few lines and escalates to all of the boys joining in by clapping, hissing, chanting along, hollering, and banging on drums to create a musical performance out of a written work of poetry. As described in the March 27, 1919, issue of Baylor’s student newspaper The Lariat, “[Vachel Lindsay] is a singer in addition to being a poet, and chants many of his verses, often persuading his audience through his magnetic personality to join him” (“Vachel Lindsay Here Saturday” 1).

Vachel Lindsay made several appearances at Baylor University at the invitation of Dr. A.J. Armstrong. His first major public appearance at Baylor was on March 29, 1919. Interestingly, an article from The Lariat, dated March 13, 1919, specifically notes that Lindsay is scheduled to visit on March 28, but a later article from March 27 states that Lindsay will visit on March 29 at 8:15 in the evening at Carroll Chapel (“Vachel Lindsay to Be in Baylor March 28” 1; “Vachel Lindsay Here Saturday” 1).

“Diamond Jubilee Poets”: Poets participating in Baylor's Diamond Jubilee celebration (Trantham, page 43)
“Diamond Jubilee Poets”: Poets participating in Baylor’s Diamond Jubilee celebration (Trantham, page 43)

The April 3, 1919, issue of The Lariat includes details of Lindsay’s March 29 visit to Baylor, listing the poems that he recited as well as the students’ reactions to the poet. Lindsay read some of his poems, like “The Santa Fe Trail” and “The Chinese Nightingale,” and shared a series of interpretations of the works. The Lariat praises the poet’s unique style and his outlook on poetry. When discussing his style of reciting poetry, Lindsay is quoted as saying that the human voice “‘is the perfect instrument of musical expression, and with the twenty-six letters in the alphabet as keys upon which the human voice may play at will, true poetry is capable of being brought to its highest rhythmical perfection’” (“Vachel Lindsay Has Extended Visit to Baylor and Waco” 1).

After his eventful visit to Baylor in 1919, Lindsay announced that he would visit again on March 20, 1920. The Lariat article from February 19, 1920, notes the poet’s future visit to Baylor and that he has come out with a new volume of poems (“Vachel Lindsay to Be Here on March 20” 10).

“1922 Round Up”:  The 1922 issue of Baylor's yearbook The Round Up highlighting celebrities who had visited Baylor (The Texas Collection)
“1922 Round Up”: The 1922 issue of Baylor’s yearbook The Round Up highlighting celebrities who had visited Baylor (The Texas Collection)

The celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Baylor University, or the Baylor University Diamond Jubilee in June 1920, brought together many celebrities, including Vachel Lindsay. Lindsay was one of the visiting poets who participated in “The Browning Benefit,” or “All Artists’ Benefit.” This program was a presentation event to showcase the “Clasped Hands,” an original bronze casting of the clasped hands of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning that was being added to the Baylor Browning Collection. The other three visiting poets participating in this presentation ceremony included Edwin Markham, Judd Mortimer Lewis, and Harriet Monroe (Trantham 44).

An article in The Lariat, dated May 20, 1920, expresses the excitement surrounding the Diamond Jubilee, listing some of the distinguished guests to be present at the celebration: “Among the celebrated poets and writers who will honor Baylor in June will be William Butler Yeats, Vachel Lindsay, Edwin Markham, Amy Lowell, Dorothy Scarborough, and the poet laureate of Texas, Judd Mortimer Lewis” (“Distinguished Guests to Be Present at Diamond Jubilee” 6).

“The death Saturday of Vachel Lindsay brought to a close a friendship of eighteen years between one of America’s greatest poets and Baylor University” (“Baylor Loses Friend as Lindsay Succumbs” 2). Vachel Lindsay passed away on December 5, 1931. The December 8, 1931 issue of The Lariat mentions the poet’s death, tracing back Lindsay’s close relationship with Dr. Armstrong. Lindsay supposedly planned to visit Baylor University again in the spring of 1932; Sigma Tau Delta wanted to present the poet to the Baylor student body. From his initial participation in Dr. Armstrong’s contemporary poetry class in 1913 to his planned visit in 1932, it is not an overstatement to say that Vachel Lindsay and the Baylor Browning Collection grew together in time.

Works Cited

“Baylor Loses Friend as Lindsay Succumbs.” The Daily Lariat 8 December 1931: 2. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

“Distinguished Guests to Be Present at Diamond Jubilee.” The Lariat 20 May 1920: 6. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

The Round-Up 1922. [Waco, Tex.: Baylor University, 1922]. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

Trantham, Henry. The Diamond Jubilee, 1845-1920: A Record of the 75th Anniversary of the Founding of Baylor University. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 1921. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

“Vachel Lindsay Has Extended Visit to Baylor and Waco.” The Lariat 3 April 1919: 1. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

“Vachel Lindsay Here Saturday.” The Lariat 27 March 1919: 1. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

“Vachel Lindsay to Be Here on March 20.” The Lariat 19 February 1920: 10. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

“Vachel Lindsay to Be in Baylor March 28.” The Lariat 13 March 1919: 1. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

Armstrong’s Stars: Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg letter to A.J. Armstrong
Letter from Carl Sandburg to A.J. Armstrong, dated 11 May 1921 (Armstrong Browning Library)

“Armstrong’s Stars” is a collaboration between the Armstrong Browning Library and Baylor’s Texas Collection. Once a month we feature a story about a celebrity that Dr. A.J. Armstrong brought to Baylor. These stories highlight an interesting part of Baylor’s history and include collection materials housed in both the Armstrong Browning Library and the Texas Collection.

This month’s story was contributed by PhD candidate Jeremy Land. 

Sandburg sketch
A sketch of Carl Sandburg’s 1925 reading by Baylor undergraduate Henry Cecil Spencer, class of 1929 (Carroll Science Building)

In 1920 Baylor University celebrated its Diamond Jubilee with help from the English department’s Dr. A.J. Armstrong. The university used the occasion to invite some of the most important names in American letters to speak at Baylor. A year later Baylor was developing a reputation as a place where not only poets were welcomed, but a place where they could find a receptive student body.

One of the first and most important writers to travel to Baylor was the noted poet, journalist, historian, and folk musician Carl Sandburg. By the time Dr. Armstrong persuaded Sandburg to visit and read his work at Baylor in the spring of 1921, the poet had already won the first of his eventual three Pulitzer prizes—Sandburg won the Pulitzer Prize for his books Cornhuskers (1918), Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (1939), and Complete Poems (1951). In the early 1920s Sandburg was building a reputation as a first rate poet of the American people. His early poetry drew inspiration from his time as a hobo traveling across the west, his years working as a journalist in Chicago, and the lives of ordinary Americans. His first major volume Chicago Poems established him as an innovative and powerful new voice in American poetry. It was this reputation that prompted Baylor’s student newspaper The Daily Lariat to describe Sandburg as a “man’s poet” as early as 1925, and perhaps attracted so many young Baylor Bears to Sandburg’s readings (“Carl Sandburg, Noted Poet, Coming Here for Reading on April 3” 1).

Tickets to Sandburg reading at Baylor, 1952
Tickets to Carl Sandburg’s March 10, 1952 reading at Waco Hall (Armstrong Browning Library)

The poet apparently enjoyed his time at Baylor and made great efforts to ingratiate himself to the students while he was here. He even went so far as to visit a sick Baylor undergraduate in the hospital and give him a private recitation of his work when he discovered that the young fan could not make his reading.  Ultimately, Sandburg was so impressed with the Baylor students he met that he cited them to his fellow poet and friend Robert Frost as a reason to journey to Texas (Douglas 129-135).

Armstrong and Sandburg before the 1952 reading
A.J. Armstrong (left) and Carl Sandburg (right) before Sandburg’s 1952 reading at Waco Hall (Conger-Gildersleeve Collection, The Texas Collection)

Over the next thirty years, Sandburg would make an additional three visits to Baylor. Each time his stays were heralded as the coming of a great poet, and each time he offered his audience something new and innovative. By his third visit in 1932 Sandburg’s critically successful collection of American folk music, American Songbag (1927), was fully integrated into his performance and, in addition to reading poetry, he would sing from his collection to Baylor students during chapel (“Carl Sandburg Will Speak Here Friday” 1).

By his fourth visit in 1952, Sandburg had achieved an elder statesman status among American writers. During his final trip to Baylor, Sandburg used his last time before the student body to discuss the value of going into the world and experiencing life firsthand as opposed to vicariously living through pop culture, going so far as to critique one student who claimed to have sat through over 200 episodes of “The Jack Benny Show” (“Poet Slams TV, Movies, Radio” 1). As anarchistic as Sandburg’s criticism sounds to modern readers, his intent illustrates Dr. Armstrong’s ultimate goal in bringing writers like Sandburg to Baylor. Dr. Armstrong’s programs routinely brought Baylor’s students great writers from across the world. His intent was always to “give students an opportunity to come into contact with world forces and world geniuses” (Douglas 173). Sandburg’s time at Baylor surely exposed the students who came to see him to one of the greater geniuses and challenged them to see their lives in a new light.

Works Cited

“Carl Sandburg, Noted Poet, Coming Here for Reading on April 3.” The Daily Lariat 23 March 1925: 1. Web. 1 Dec. 2014

“Carl Sandburg Will Speak Here Friday.” The Daily Lariat 2 February 1932: 1. Web. 1 Dec. 2014

Douglas, Lois Smith. Through Heaven’s Back Door: A Biography of A. Joseph Armstrong.  Waco, TX:  Baylor UP, 1951. Print.

“Poet Slams TV, Movies, Radio.” The Daily Lariat 12 March 1952: 1. Web. 1 Dec. 2014

Armstrong’s Stars: William Butler Yeats

“Armstrong’s Stars” is a collaboration between the Armstrong Browning Library and Baylor’s Texas Collection. Once a month we feature a story about a celebrity that Dr. A.J. Armstrong brought to Baylor. These stories highlight an interesting part of Baylor’s history and include collection materials housed in both the Armstrong Browning Library and the Texas Collection. This month’s story was contributed by Baylor graduate (BA ’14) and Sigma Tau Delta member Rebecca Hans.   

Photograph of William Butler Yeats appearing in the April 8, 1920, issue of The Lariat (The Texas Collection)
Photograph of William Butler Yeats appearing in the April 8, 1920, issue of The Lariat (The Texas Collection)

On April 16, 1920, at five o’clock in the evening, poet William Butler Yeats shared about his life and influences and read his work in front of a packed house of Baylor students, faculty, and community. The evening, part of the university’s Diamond Jubilee celebration, had been eagerly anticipated in four Baylor Lariat articles articulating not only W.B. Yeats’s notability and talent, but also the hard work of Dr. A.J. Armstrong for orchestrating the visit. The Lariat especially emphasized the singularity of the event, urging students not to miss the unique opportunity. The first news regarding the event was an April 1st issue of the Baylor Lariat. The piece announced W.B. Yeats’s lecture and described him as a poet “considered by all competent critics the foremost English man of letters now living.” The lecture would be titled “Friends in my Youth” and was already expected to be “a great day in Baylor history” (“William Butler Yeats” 7). These early Lariat articles advertising Yeats’s appearance are particularly interesting from a modern perspective. In 1920, Yeats had not yet achieved the irrefutable eminence associated with his name today but was instead described as a brilliant poet on the rise. Many of the great works for which Yeats is known today had yet to be written; even “The Second Coming,” one of his most famous works, may have been unknown to the Waco audiences. Regardless, the literary community thought highly of Yeats. He was so respected even in 1920 that the Lariat accurately prophesied that his “name and work will take place in the front rank of the poetry that passes from this generation to posterity” (“W.B Yeats Secured for Friday, 16th” 1). When the official invitation appeared advertising the “First Big Guns of Baylor Diamond Jubilee,” Former President William Howard Taft and the poet William Butler Yeats both shared the advertisement. Although President Taft’s portion was presented in a grander style, Yeats’s portion Yeatswas given equal importance. The invitation emphasized Yeats’s appearance as an important event for anyone interested in “world affairs,” not just a night out for poetry enthusiasts. These instructions were heeded, and long before Yeats took the stage, a varied collection of people paid fifty cents to fill Carroll Chapel to capacity (“William Butler Yeats Delivers Fine Lecture” 1; “Yeats Friday, 5 O’Clock” 2). The poet laureate of Texas, Judd Mortimer Lewis, also came to Waco specifically for the event, and introduced W.B. Yeats to the crowd himself. Yeats began the lecture, “Friends in my Youth,” with details of his childhood, specifically the influence of his father, an artist. The larger part of the talk, however, focused on his mentors and other literary men who had profoundly influenced his growth as a man and poet. Of these influences Yeats mentioned Arthur Symons, Francis Thompson, and William Ernest Henly, and read examples of their work aloud to the Waco audience. To the delight of the crowd, Yeats read aloud from his own work for the concluding half hour, “a treat to lovers of poetry” (“William Butler Yeats Delivers Fine Lecture” 1). Although the bulk of Lariat coverage focused on Yeats himself, the writers did credit Dr. Armstrong’s work bringing influential speakers to the campus: “The policy of Dr. Armstrong in bringing men to Baylor is to get men who have a world-wide reputation” (“W.B Yeats Secured for Friday, 16th” 1). In a letter to the University President, Samuel Palmer Brooks, Dr. Armstrong reflected on the events of the previous year and described in further detail what the Lariat titled “his policy”: My primary purpose is not to make money but to give the students an opportunity to come in contact with world forces and world geniuses. I believe it is one thing they will remember longer than anything else connected with their school days. I consider these attractions all of the highest type and I think my English Department is gaining launch for itself abroad. Today, Baylor University features visits from world-renowned thinkers, writers, and speakers who also share their work and experiences with the university and community. The English Department especially has preserved Dr. A.J. Armstrong’s tradition through events such as the Beall Poetry Festival, an annual event bringing internationally acclaimed poets to Waco. Many modern students can speak with a similar satisfaction as those of 1920, although many may wish they had been present to witness “the biggest literary man that has yet spoken in Carroll Chapel,” as William Butler Yeats shared his story and his art (“W.B Yeats Secured for Friday, 16th” 1).   Works cited: Armstrong, A.J. to Samuel Palmer Brooks, 4 April 1921, Andrew Joseph Armstrong Papers #0449, Box 1, Folder 1, Texas Collection, Baylor University. First Big Guns of Baylor Diamond Jubilee, Invitation. The Texas Collection, Baylor University Libraries, Waco. Print. W.B Yeats Secured for Friday, 16th.” The Lariat 8 Apr. 1920: 1. Web. 3 Oct. 2014. “William Butler Yeats.” The Lariat 1 Apr. 1920: 7. Web. 3 Oct. 2014. “William Butler Yeats Delivers Fine Lecture.” The Lariat 22 Apr. 1920: 1. Web. 3 Oct. 2014. “Yeats Friday, 5 O’Clock.” The Lariat 15 Apr. 1920: 2. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

Armstrong’s Stars: “Where is Waco, Texas?”

By Jennifer Borderud, Access and Outreach Librarian, Armstrong Browning Library

In her biography of Dr. A.J. Armstrong, chair of Baylor’s English Department from 1912-1952 and founder of the Armstrong Browning Library, Lois Smith Douglas recounts Dr. Armstrong’s efforts to bring English poet Alfred Noyes to Waco in 1917.  Douglas writes that the poet’s manager initially declined the invitation “with undisguised humor,” asking “‘Where is Waco, Texas?’” (93).

Account of Noyes's lecture in the 18 January 1917 issue of the Lariat (found in The Texas Collection)
Account of Noyes’s lecture in the 18 January 1917 issue of the Lariat (found in The Texas Collection)

Undeterred by the remark, Dr. Armstrong arranged an additional thirteen speaking engagements for the author of the “The Highwayman” throughout Texas and the Southwest and succeeded in bringing Noyes to Baylor’s campus on 12 January 1917.  Waco was Noyes’s first stop on his tour of the United States that year (Douglas 93-94).  Baylor’s student newspaper, The Lariat, wrote of the event:  “It is unprecedented in the history of Texas and the South that a poet belonging to the world’s great poets has visited this section” (“Alfred Noyes to Lecture Here” 1).  Ever the ambassador, Dr. Armstrong enthusiastically introduced Noyes to Baylor and Waco, and over the course of his 40-year career at Baylor, Dr. Armstrong made certain that Baylor and Waco came face-to-face with the world’s dramatic, literary, and musical talents.

Armstrong’s Stars, a new blog series, is a collaboration between the Armstrong Browning Library and Baylor’s Texas Collection.  Once a month we will feature a story about a celebrity that Dr. Armstrong brought to Baylor.  These stories will highlight an interesting part of Baylor’s history and feature collection materials housed in both the Armstrong Browning Library and the Texas Collection.  Contributions to the blog series will be made by ABL and Texas Collection staff as well as by students from Baylor’s English Department, some of whom are also members of Sigma Tau Delta, Baylor’s English honor society.  We are particularly pleased to have members of Sigma Tau Delta participating in this series as Baylor’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, founded by Dr. Armstrong in 1925, sponsored many of these exciting events and ensured their success.

Members of Sigma Tau Delta with Dr. A.J. Armstrong (seated left of center) and actors Katharine Cornell (seated center) and Basil Rathbone (seated at far right) in 1934; Photo by Farmer, Waco, Texas (Armstrong Browning Library, Sigma Tau Delta Photo File)
Members of Sigma Tau Delta with Dr. A.J. Armstrong (seated left of center) and actors Katharine Cornell (seated center) and Basil Rathbone (seated at far right) in 1934; Photo by Farmer, Waco, Texas (Armstrong Browning Library, Sigma Tau Delta Photo File)

Works Cited

“Alfred Noyes to Lecture Here.”  Lariat 11 Jan. 1917:  1.  Web.  4 Sept. 2014.

Douglas, Lois Smith.  Through Heaven’s Back Door:  A Biography of A. Joseph Armstrong.  Waco, Texas:  The Baylor University Press, c1951.  Print.

To learn more about the life and career of Dr. Armstrong, see:

Lewis, Scott.  Boundless Life:  A Biography of Andrew Joseph Armstrong.  Waco, Texas:  Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University, 2014.  Print.  Now available here.

Research Ready: July 2012

A.J. Armstrong, Adventure, Andrew Joseph Armstrong, Annexation Temperance Society, Archives, Armstrong Browning Library, Baptist history, Baptist missions, Baylor at Independence, Baylor English department, Baylor University, Ben Milam, Bosque John McLennan, Brazos County, Brenham Texas, Bryan Texas, Cartoonists, Charles Chaplin, Cherokee, Chippewa, church history, Civil War, Clark Herring, Confederate States of America, Daughters of the American Revolution, Delaware Indians, Edward Rotan, Edwin James, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Elizabeth Gordon Bradley chapter DAR, First Baptist Church Austin Texas, First Baptist Church Brenham Texas, First National Bank Waco, First Presbyterian Church Waco, Francisco Banda, frontier and pioneer life, Galveston College, genealogy, Henry Downs chapter DAR, Historic Waco, Indian captivities, Indians of North America, John Gill Pratt, John Kern Strecker, Jotham Meeker, Kate Harrison Friend, Kate Sturm McCall Rotan, Lucy Exall Chaplin, Lykins Johnston, Mary Maxwell Armstrong, McLennan County, Medicine, Medina County, Milam Park, Milam's Colony, missionaries, missions, Moses Merrill, National Association of Railway Surgeons, National Catholic News Service, Neil McLennan, Noname Club, Oakwood Cemetery, Ojibwa, Oto, Ottawa, Pat Neff, Potawatomi, Railroads, Reconstruction, Religious journalism, Republic of Texas, Research Ready, Richard Pryor, Robert Browning, Robert Hodges Jr., Roger Conger, Roy Crane, Royston Crane, Sam Houston, Santa Anna, Shawnee, Sidebars: Reflections by a Missionary Journalist in New York, Snyder Texas, Tennessee history, Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, Texas land grants, Tracy Early, United Methodist Church, Waco, Waco Humane Society, Washington County Texas, William Carey Crane, William Maury Darst, William Shakespeare, Women social reformers, Woodmen of the World--Texas, World Church Council, Wright's Brigade, Zoology

Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here’s the scoop for July:

William Butler Yeats and William Howard Taft speak at Baylor Diamond Jubilee, 1920
A.J. Armstrong secured many renowned authors, politicians, explorers, and more, to visit Baylor. (See blogs.baylor.edu/armstrongbrowning to read more.) The Armstrong papers document some of his efforts to bring these speakers to Waco, among his many other activities.
    • Andrew Joseph (A.J.) Armstrong papers: The Andrew Joseph Armstrong papers consist of correspondence, literary productions, and other materials collected during his tenure as Chairman of the English Department at Baylor University. His wife Mary’s genealogical records comprise the final series of the collection.
    • Francisco Banda papers: Papers regarding Francisco Banda in relation to a 1922 conflict with his landlord, Clark Herring. Texas governor Pat Neff was asked to intercede.
    • Baptist Missionary Publications: Indians of North America collection: This collection contains religious and educational publications in American Indian languages, most of which were translated and printed by Baptist missionaries in the Midwest.
    • Bryan First United Methodist Church records: The Bryan First Methodist Church Records, 1903-06, consists of documents created by members of Bryan First Methodist Church (now First United Methodist Church of Bryan). The papers contain meeting minutes, financial ledgers, and attendance records.
    • Charles and Lucy Exall Chaplin papers: The Charles and Lucy Exall Chaplin papers contain literary scrapbooks, and photographs pertaining to the Chaplin and Exall families in Texas. The papers document the lives of important Baptist leaders in Texas during Reconstruction, and the family’s service at several important churches around the state.
    • Charles "Charlie" Exall, 1861-1862
      The Chaplin papers contain many photographs of family members around the time of the American Civil War, including this one of Charles Exall in 1861-1862.
    • Royston C. Crane collection: The Royston C. Crane collection contains personal and family correspondence, financial documents, legal documents, literary productions, and photographic materials belonging to Royston C. Crane, the son of former Baylor University President William Carey Crane.
    • William Maury Darst papers: The William Maury Darst papers consist of manuscripts collected from 1894-1973. These papers contain literary productions and photographic materials, with essays, notes, slides, and other printed materials, reflecting his historical research interests and medical work in Texas.
    • Daughters of the American Revolution: Elizabeth Gordon Bradley Chapter records: The [Waco] Daughters of the American Revolution: Elizabeth Gordon Bradley Chapter Collection contains materials concerning the organization’s activities in the McLennan County area. These include minutes, scrapbooks, video tapes, yearbooks, programs, clippings, handbooks, and directories.
    • Tracy Early collection: The Tracy Early collection contains professional and personal materials pertaining to newspaper and magazine articles written by Early, including correspondence, diaries, photographs, school work, books, and sermons.
    • William Carey Crane's home in Independence, Texas, 1912
      A reunion of friends in Independence, Texas. The Royston C. Crane papers include a good deal of genealogical work on the extended Crane family and historical research on Baylor's early days.
    • Kate Harrison Friend papers: The Kate Harrison Friend Papers consists of correspondence, literary manuscripts, scrapbooks, and photographs. The majority of the letters were to Kate Harrison Friend, philanthropist of Waco.
    • McLennan Family collection: The McLennan Family Collection consists of correspondence, legal, financial, literary, and photographic materials. This collection focuses on Neil McLennan, namesake of McLennan County.
    • Ben Milam papers: One letter from Ben Milam to Richard Pryor regarding the settling of Texas.
    • Rotan (Edward and Kate Sturm McCall) papers: The Rotan Papers contain literary productions, correspondence, photographs, clippings, and a ledger book. Edward served in the Civil War, then became a business leader in the Waco community as president of First National Bank, among other positions. Kate was very active in various civic organizations and helped establish Waco’s first public library.
    • John Kern Strecker papers: The John Kern Strecker Papers consist of correspondence, financial documents, literary productions, and a photograph. Strecker was curator of Baylor’s museum, which was named the Strecker Museum in his honor.

    You can see how wide and varied The Texas Collection’s holdings are! These records—and the finding aids we have online—are just a small representation of the thousands of collections we preserve for future researchers. We’re working hard to make our collections more visible and hope that one of them will spark your interest!