SONGS FROM THE STACKS - August 2017

The Fra September 1912

By Scott Sanders, College Archivist

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) was one of the most colorful figures in an era positively loaded  Postcard announcing the "joyous occasion" of Hubbard's lecture in Yellow Springs in the summer of 1910.
with them. A writer, publisher, printer, artist, and philosopher, Hubbard got his start as a traveling soap salesman. He was best known as the founder of Roycroft, an artist colony near Buffalo, NY, that had profound influence on American art and architecture. He effectively launched the Arts and Crafts movement, largely through two beautifully illustrated magazines he produced, The Philistine and The Fra. Highly opinionated and more than a little eccentric, Hubbard considered himself both an anarchist and a socialist, expressing his often controversial views in highly idiosyncratic language (he referred to those who disagreed with him as “gloomsters” and “groucherinos,” for instance). In 1913 he was convicted in Federal court for using the postal service to distribute “obscene” and “immoral” materials (his magazines), a violation of statutes known as the Comstock Law. Hubbard was pardoned in 1915 just in time to book passage on the ocean liner RMS Lusitania, and he and his wife Alice were among the 128 Americans who died aboard ship when it was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland.

Despite his many diverse talents, Hubbard was a lousy historian. He shows us just how bad in the following “history” of Antioch College reprinted from The Fra (short for fraternity). He was undoubtedly moved to write it following a lecture he gave in Yellow Springs as part of the 1910 Antioch Chautauqua. He gets practically everything wrong when it comes to the historical details of Antioch College and Yellow Springs, Ohio. His chronology is poor, his analysis is flawed, and his assertions by and large cannot be substantiated. He sees conspiracy where none exists, gleefully displays debilitating bias, and drops names incessantly whether that individual had anything to do with Antioch or not (he’s especially enamored of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who Hubbard says spoke on campus four years before there was a campus to speak on). To punctuate this comedy of error, an obviously exasperated critique by Robert L. Straker, class of 1925 and one of the College’s more dedicated historians, is also included. 

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September 1910.   The Fra

Elbert Hubbard:  "Poetry, History and Tradition”

 

I have been down to Antioch College, where I liberated a few rhetorical jibes.

Antioch  Antiochiana's well worn copy of the September 1910 issue of The Fra.College is at Yellow Springs, Ohio, a place where you wade knee-deep in tradition and history hits you at every turn.

Yellow Springs derives its name from a chalybeate spring that gushes from a great cliff of limestone. This spring flows a hundred gallons of water a minute, and has, since the memory of the Oldest Inhabitant. The quantity of water never varies; in season and out, it flows its steady, big, busy, sparkling stream, coming from the Everywhere, going to the Nowhere.

The water running down the hillside and over the flat rocks below, leaves a marked trace of yellow iron, - hence the name.

The first white man to locate Yellow Springs was Daniel Boone, who was led here by an Indian guide, that the great pioneer might drink of the waters and be cured of rheumatism. The Indian were not much on sanitation and prophylaxis, but they were heavy on dope.

They had a scheme here that has Mudlavia skun a mile. Daniel Boone describes it.

The Red Brothers heated stones and placed them in a little tent made of hides fastened to the ground with pickets, within which the candidate was safely enclosed.

They gave him a sweat beyond the dreams of Battle Creek. When the patient was about smothered with the heat, they cut a hole in the tent so he could stick his head out. Then they gave him advice and spring-water, and usually he drank a gallon or more. Also hot stones were pushed under the tent to increase the sum of caloric and the world’s stock of harmless pleasure.
In the meantime the big Medicine Man walked round and round the patient and sang a Billy Muldoon melody to a Bernarr MacFadden two step.

For a day and a night the candidate was kept in hic signo Vincennes, Indiana. The plan really had much to commend it. All those who didn't die got well. Daniel Boone got well, but he only stayed in the bath for six hours, giving up a squirrel-rifle, eight feet long, to get out. Evidently, the Big Medicine Man who had charge of the case was on to his job, and the traditions still survive in ethical medical circles.

In 1832 there was a tavern here, built of logs, and in front of the tavern was a pile of crutches that would shame the Lady of Lourdes and put Doctor Munyon far to the bad.

 


Waters of Perpetual Youth

About 1841, the man who owned the Spring had a big idea. He must have been a mentally fecund person, gifted in the art of advertising, and a true Adscripter by prenatal tendency. This most enterprising gentleman warned all married ladies who did not wish to influence vital statistics, to keep away from Yellow Springs, as the waters had a quick Malthusian effect on man and beast.

The result was a great influx of Has-Wases, male and female. Ladies of discreet age dares the Spirits of the Spring to do their worst. It became bruited abroad that here, if anywhere, were the waters of Perpetual Youth.

Two big hotels were erected: the Yellow Springs Tavern and the Neff House.

The latter was built by a company, headed by Henry Clay. This hotel had four hundred rooms, and stables that accommodated a thousand horses. The colored quarters, where the servants lived, took care of five hundred Negroes. These colored brethren proved all the admen claimed.

To run a hotel then was to have your work cut out for you. There was no calling Cincinnati by telephone, ordering fifty cases of this or that. The Neff House had a farm which produced everything to feed and irrigate the throng, even to a distillery.

Yellow Springs is nine miles Southwest of Springfield, fifty miles from Columbus, twenty miles from Xenia, and one hundred miles from Cincinnati. It was on the direct stagecoach road between Columbus and the West and South. Travellers all stopped off a day or so for rest and recreation, and women old and young, with a recklessness worthy of a better cause, flung caution to the winds and guzzled, gulped or sipped, as mood inclined.

 


Falling of The House of Cards

The place prospered exceedingly, and there were rooms where the money stacked on tables by industrious gem'men with pasteboard proclivities made the colored waiters who carried trays in and out, turn white with astonishment.

But evil days were to come.

The Neff House had been built in three months with a penalty clause in the contract.   Guests were living in tents waiting to move in. The hardwood timbers were green, and, according to the custom of the time, mortised and pinned. Such a frame is built for the centuries. An earthquake could not shake it down; no blizzard could blow it over.

It had but one drawback. The green wood would warp. In time, the floors of this hotel looked like the ground-swell of the ocean after a storm. The Colonels swore that in places the floor flew up and hit them. To dance in the dining-room, you had to skate up hill and slide down.  Beds were tilted by the right oblique. At night there were loud R.G. Dun reports of creaking, cracking timbers “letting go.”  No table stood on four legs. The colored folks gave it out that the house was haunted. And the Yellow Springs Tavern people whispered industriously that the Neff House was unsafe.

 

Publicity Methods

About the year 1850 there was no resort West of the Atlantic as popular as Yellow Springs, save the Mammoth Cave, alone.

At the Mammoth Cave there was a hotel very much like the Neff House, and no doubt Henry Clay and his colleagues stole a deal of adcraft thunder from Mammoth Cave,   both places were advertised in many ingenious ways.

A reasonable amount of humbug is always allowable, and, in fact, is in demand where idle people much do congregate. Ice was stored up at Mammoth Cave, where visitors were shown it hidden in a cavern.

The temperature in the Cave never falls below fifty, and how the ice could form there was a question which long puzzled scientists, and caused much hot and angry debate among the Solons, until a [n-word] testified that he carried it in from the icehouse every morning.

lce was also carried into a cave dug out under the gushing waters at Yellow Springs, and long gave a thrill of awe and breathless oh! and ahs! to bridal couples and such.

 

Horace Mann's Ideal College

Here came Ralph Waldo Emerson to lecture in 1849; for culture and cards, suh, were the happy possession, suh, of the best Society of the South and West.

Emerson carried back to New England tidings of the growing metropolis Next came Theodore Parker.

At that time the Transcendental Movement was at its height. George Ripley, Henry Thoreau, Horace Greeley, George William Curtis, Wendell Phillips, Horace Mann and the Alcotts were firing their shots heard round the world.

Brook Farm had failed for want of a business head, but a big crop of ideas had been produced and sent out for seed purposes.

Horace Mann was quite the most level-headed and consistently safe man in the group. He was a graduate of Harvard, a lawyer who turned schoolmaster, and became principal of one of Boston's public schools. He had read Froebel and studied the methods of Arnold of Rugby. His ideas of education had been tinted by the Brook Farmers until his faith in the Classics had about departed.

He would bring men and women up to be useful, not ornamental.

Also, he stood for co-education, at a time when to do so was to be regarded as eccentric - I use the mildest word that was applied at that time to these who dared advocate the education of young men and women together.

"I want a school where a brother and sister can go and graduate from the same platform." This remark doubtless cost Horace Mann the Presidency of Harvard.

However, as a consolation-prize, his friends got together and elected him to the State Legislature - or General Court.   He was chosen Speaker of the House, and served with distinction. The following year he was nominated for Governor of Massachusetts. The nomination was equal to an election, but Horace Mann declined it. He had other ambitions. He was quietly raising money to found his Ideal College.

Horace Greeley, Peter Cooper, George Peabody, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edward Everett Hale were on the Board of Directors.

 

Antioch College

A Hundred thousand dollars in cash was raised as a “nucleus.”

This college was to be the Harvard of the West - only it was to be an improved Harvard, a Harvard with all Harvard's flummery omitted, and all her virtues conserved. Yellow Springs, Ohio, was chosen the place. The fact that the wealth and fashion of the West and South converged at Yellow Springs was the casting vote.

A college must have a constituency - it must be braced by Society.

Yellow Springs - yes, certainly.

And Yellow Springs it was.

The hundred thousand dollars were invested in buildings, with as little delay as possible.   The style of these buildings was worthy and right.  They were built to last. In every appointment they were complete.

Brick-kilns were erected, and the brick for the buildings was made on the spot. This brick-making was to become a part of the regular college work, and a planing mill was installed with similar intent.

The school opened with a thousand applications for entrance. Only half of this number could be accommodated. But matters went swimmingly.

The faculty was made up of Harvard men, disciples of the "New School of Thought."Many of President Mann’s old friend came out to see him, including Emerson, who on one visit remained a week and gave lectures every day to the students, and to the people from the hotels who packed the hall.

Emerson wasn't in very good repute at that time - even fair Harvard had disclaimed him. He had given a goodly part of his library to the College. Theodore Parker had made similar gifts. These books are now in the library, and are spoken of by some of the townsmen as “That Infidel Library.”

Curiously enough - or not- the patrons of the hotels, the folks who came to drink the waters, were orthodox - very orthodox. Instead of helping the College they criticized it.

Horace Mann was an Abolitionist - all his friends were abolitionists. It was rumored that the place was simply a station of the underground railroad.

Then the idea of setting people to work and of education for human service was beyond the Colonels.

"We don't want our son worked, we want him learned," wrote a fond Mamma to President Mann.

The good old idea of education for show and as a means of evading hard work was strong even in the minds of many who intellectually assented to the new regime.At first, the name of the school was to be simply The Horace Mann Institute, this on the suggestion of Peter Cooper.

Horace Mann, however, objected to having his name used so prominently, and insisted on the title, “Antioch College.” Success of a product, no matter how good, turns often on the name you use. It was declared that Horace Mann was not a Christian, and now as a sort of disclaimer he stuck to the word Antioch. "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch," says the bible. The name was a subtle form of defense, and a mistake all around.   Horace Mann was truly great, but like that good man mentioned by Carlyle he had his limitations. He should have let the world come to him, as it would have done. In order to put hie college in first-class shape, he accepted a loan of forty thousand dollars, at five years, from the orthodox local nabobs for nabobs who run horses, fight cocks and manipulate paste-boards, when they are religious, are very religious.

 

The Shipwreck of Mann's Hopes

It's a sad story - a story of the shipwreck of all the high hopes of as noble a man as the world ever saw.

The world was not ready for the New Education. And certainly it was not ready for the New Religion.

The student body dwindled away, debts piled up, the mortgage became due, for that is the way mortgages have.

And Antioch College was sold under the auctioneer's hammer.

Peter Cooper and several other men of means came to the rescue and bought in the property, turning it over to a self-perpetuating board of trustees, and arranging by a new charter that the place should never again be mortgaged. Horace Mann continued the work with shortened sail. The stigma of failure was upon the enterprise.

Work, worry, debt, unkind criticism undermined the health of the brave founder. He knew his days were few. On a certain day all the students, a bare hundred, came to the President's House at his request. They filed by the bedside of the stricken man, and each one pressed his hand. He called each by name, gave all his blessing, and closed his eyes to open them no more.

So died Horace Mann.

His worn out body was buried on the College Campus and there a monument to his memory now stands.

A few years later, his bones were exhumed and taken by kinsmen to Rhode Island, where the good man and great was born.

It was the last sordid blow at Antioch, given by the cheap and unthinking. They wouldn't let the College which the man founded and for which he died, have even his dust.And yet Antioch College still lives, and lives, too, the unselfish soul of Horace Mann.

 

A Land of Promise

The country around Yellow Springs is of rare beauty. Surely God has smiled upon the place. Such diversity of landscape one seldom sees. Gentle, undulating pastures, studded with noble, solitary oaks: fertile fields that laugh a harvest on sight of an Oliver Plow; woods as wild as Nature made them, lining the bluffs of the Little Miami River - woods that house a hundred kinds of birds, and hillsides that form a herbarium which would have delighted the soul of Linnaeus.

These bluffs reveal the strata, touched by the tooth of time, of great masses of limestone, from which run in steady streams of inexhaustible springs of pure and sparkling water.

No wonder the Indians called it a Sacred Place where the Great Spirit made his home.   There is everything here that might appeal to the savage heart, the soul of a poet, or the heart of a lover.

Also there are ruins here - and has not the taunt been thrown at America by blase Englishmen that we have neither a leisure class nor ruins?  Hut, suh, I'd have you know, suh, that we have both!

John Bryan of Ohio, King of Cranks,, recently sought the property where once stood the Yellow Springs Tavern in order to preserve it, as Kenilworth castle is preserved, just for the ruin. I think it cost him fully five hundred dollars.

The tavern was destroyed by the devouring element, as the village editor would say, about forty years ago. Many of the bricks have been carted away by the colored brothers, who here constitute a true leisure class.  But the remains of wide fireplaces yet stand, and toppling chimneys, which refuse to fall, wring from us our pity for the days gone by.

In these old chimneys, thousands of swallows make their homes, where the kitchen once stood a cellar so well built of stone that It affords a refuge for skunks who drove out a family of foxes, and now rule by right of squatter sovereignty.

On the spacious lawn, or what was once a lawn, groundhogs gambol and defy the colored population. There are the long strings of white-washed cottages, and the remains of what was once the great barn, most of the wood having been carted away for fuel.

Down in the valley are the jutting ruins of a beautiful stone wall where the spring was dammed to make an artificial lake, the size of the lake can be safely gauged by some steps, with big rusty iron rings where rowboats were moored and tied.

The great stone steps worn deep by the feet of travellers as they entered the tavern are there, but there is no tavern.

The fountains are filled with watercress, fresh and crisp, over which the spring-waters flow, and where frogs and turtles sun themselves on the low wall and laugh softly in derision at the pomp and pride of man.

Verily the tumult and the shouting have died away, and the captains and the kings have departed.

There is a dance-hall across the creek, once reached by a picturesque suspension-bridge, and over which lovers lingered late in the moonlight.

The dance-hall is now a cow-shed. The ruins of the distillery still stand, but no still is there, although through the place dance the waters that gush from the hill. Evidently there will be water here, even when whiskey is no longer in demand.

In Yellow Springs there is now no hotel or inn for the tired traveller, but I was directed to a boarding house kept by a "widow-woman," who offered to house and feed me for four dollars and fifty cents a week, being as how I was a college professor.

But while the hotels which once were mints of money are all gone, done into dissolution by the devouring hunger of moth, rust and the . death of the advertising man, the Antioch College buildings are in good repair.

This speaks well for the Trustees.

They have not made a great success of the College but they have held the plant intact over against the day when a strong man would come and pick up the work of Horace Mann where the great teacher left it.

And so the Messianic instinct never dies. And surely Antioch College will be redeemed. Its buildings are noble; its site is lovely beyond compare. Here traditions are splendid and inspiring. Here we tread the boards where have stood Tom Corwin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, Wendell Phillips, Horace Greeley and Peter Cooper. All these men had a great and loving solicitude for the place, because they loved Horace Mann.

Antioch College and Horace Mann stood for the New Education, the education for usefulness; and for the New Religion which is the religion of the Now and Here.
These things worked the downfall of the institution. But now the world is catching up with Horace Mann. Every great college ie in degree patterning lta work after the philosophy which he expressed. And the orthodox theology of our day is the Unitarianism of 1856.

Horace Mann, the abolitionist, died the year that John brown was hanged, and the year when Darwin issued his Origin of Species. The next year died Theodore Parker, in far-off Italy, an Indictment hanging over his head for treason and conspiracy.

There was none to seize the standard as it fell from the dying hand of Horace Mann. It fell, and was trampled ever by the hurrying rush of armed men.

During the war the place was used for a hospital for returned Union Soldiers, and as a storehouse for the Sanitary Commission.

Since the War, several denominations have tried to maintain it, and all with a degree of success. Surely an Alumnus of Antioch College should be proud of his Alma Mater!

There are forty colleges in Ohio which come within the scope of the Carnegie Foundation. In truth, no State in the Union has been so blest and benefitted by the small college, where every professor knows every student and the personal touch is not a theory.

Doctor S.D. Fess, the present President of Antioch College, left a position that paid him five thousand a year to work here for one thousand a year. He is a strong, earnest and tireless worker - a man of brains, all ballasted with common sense. He is a teacher and a teacher of teachers.

Other teachers who could command two or three thousand dollars a year struggle on here for six or seven hundred. They love the place, and eventually hope to tow the barque into the fairway of popular favor, where her sails will catch the breeze. Just now they need help.

But poor little Antioch, so rich in memories, so noble in tradition, is without the pale for the lack of a paltry two hundred dollars endowment.

When Horace Mann had passed beyond the reach of praise or blame, as a sort of tardy recognition of the ideas for which he battled, his successor. Thomas Hill, was called from Yellow Springs and made President of Harvard. Hill was the predecessor of Charles F. Eliot. What a pity that some Harvard man - aye! or some Ohio man - does not think to render himself immortal by stepping into the breach, writing his check for two hundred thousand, thus putting this splendid old place on its pedagogic pedals!

There is just one thing wrong with Antioch College - just one and no more - and that is its name. It should be the Horace Mann Memorial. 

 

The Horace Mann Memorial

The trustees have the legal power to change the name, and I believe that if this were done it would give the place a new lease of life. Antioch wae a city in Asia Minor. Long ago it crumbled to dust. There is only one thing that can consecrate a place and that is man. We are all hero-worshippers. But we only reverence places because great men once lived there. The word “Antioch” has a significance that grows dimmer as the days pass, but the name of Horace Mann is a coming quantity.

In Yellow Springs, Ohio, lived and passed out a great and noble and unselfish soul - one of the world's great teachers. From now on let the school born of his hope and love bear the name of The Horace Mann Memorial.
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Comment on Hubbard’s History by RL Straker


Program for the 1910 Summer Chautauqua at Antioch College.Hubbard’s badly informed pseudo-history is one of the less fortunate by-products of Dr. Fess's Chautauqua. The article contains so many inaccuracies that it is suspect throughout. He just made it up: he was blood-brother and fellow-artist with Mrs. Louise Hall Tharp.

Boone may have passed by the Yellow Spring in the spring of 1773.  He was captured in northern Kentucky in Feb. 1776 and taken to Old Chillicothe (Oldtown), thence to Detroit, and back to Old Chillicothe, from which place he escaped in June 1776 and returned to Kentucky. The Indian path may have passed by the Spring. Boone was then 43 years old and in fine physical condition; no rheumatism; he made the 160 miles from Oldtown to Boonesborough with great rapidity on foot, having only one meal on the way.

The Neff House was built during the winter of 1869-70, and opened July 29, 1870 - nearly twenty years after Mann's death. It was dismantled in 1892 and the lumber shipped to Cincinnati and sold; timbers probably not badly warped. Henry Clay died June 29, 1852.Emerson was in Yellow Springs only once, Feb 1, 1860, when he spoke before the Antioch literary societies; he may have stayed overnight with. Dr. Hill but even this is not certain.

Mann was a graduate of Brown, not Harvard; he seems to have had no special partiality for Harvard. It is doubtful that Mann ever read Froebel (they were contemporaries); Froebel's work not known in America before 1860. Thomas Arnold wrote on Roman history, not education.   Mann not appreciably influenced by the Brook Farmers; he did continue to teach the classics. It is highly unlikely that Mann was ever considered for the Harvard presidency, since as a Free-Soiler he would not have been in much favor with the Trustees or Overseers; Jared Sparks was President of Harvard from 1849 to 855, And James Walker from 1855 to I860; both were chosen from the Harvard faculty. Mann was elected Representative in the General Court, 1827-33, and State Senator, 1835-37, President of the Senate, 1835-37 he was in the National House of Representatives, 1848-53. He was nominated Free Soil candidate for Governor; he duly ran without expectation of election, and was defeated, 1852, by Clifford in a three-way contest which was thrown into the State Legislature because Clifford, the leading candidate, did not have a majority. Mann first heard of Antioch in May 1852 the Main Building and North Hall then being constructed, and the name Antioch already chosen. Of the men mentioned, only Cooper (1854-57) and Hale (1865-99) was ever a Trustee. There were no Harvard graduates on the faculty the first year. The brick for the buildings were not burned on the old main campus, unless the clay was hauled in - burned on west edge of town, near Prospect Hill (?).  Brick making not a part of the program for students. Probably no planing mill either; cured lumber was imported, partly from Dayton. Enrollment, 1853-54 was 8 in College, and 240 in Preparatory School. Emerson and Parker may have given some few books to the college library but not any great number. Mann was a Free-Soiler, not an abolitionist. The Colonels had nothing to do with the college. There was a fair number of students from the south, but they were not from the aristocracy. The college had been named Antioch before Mann ever heard anything about it. Cooper probably gave some comparatively small amount of money to the college; it was Palmer who advanced money for its purchase, though by no means all, in April 1859. The stigma of failure in 1859 was not noticeable, since the class of 1860 was the largest in its early history.   Mann was born in Massachusetts, not Rhode Island. Mann’s body was removed from the campus for burial in Providence beside his first wife, by his sister and widow, according to agreement with him the day he died; this hardly cheap or unthinking. According to the trustee minutes of June 18, 1907, Fess’ salary was $2,500.