Student Highlight: Josh Knecht

*Post written by Josh Knecht, student assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

My time in the archives has been valuable to me; it provides an atmosphere that allows me to unwind after my classes. It is quiet, relaxing, and affords me the chance to make money as a student without having my grades suffer as a result. Having had jobs in the past that do affect my grades, I value this quality. Everyone that I work with are very helpful, and I never feel like I don’t understand what I am supposed to be doing.

McKinley Memorial Service Pamphlet

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

2. Inside Page.jpg

Inside Page, 1901

On September 14, 1901, William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States was assassinated by anarchist, Leon Czolgosz. The assassination of President McKinley occurred in the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York; however, a public service was held in Evansville in remembrance of the late president. The service was held by Charles Harvey Denby, colonel of the 42nd Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War and former ambassador to China, from 1885 to 1898. This pamphlet is housed in the University Archives and Special Collections on the 3rd Floor of the Rice Library.



Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

In honor of Rogue One, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi came out in May 1983.  The original title of Episode VI was Revenge of the Jedi.  Star Wars creator, George Lucas, changed the title in December 1982 because he believed the Jedi should not seek revenge.  This rare piece of American culture is available for everyone to view if they stop by the Archives.

Student Spotlight: Brady Bolinger

*Post written by Brady Bolinger, student assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.


Brady’s striking a “selfie pose” while wearing a 1920’s hat during National Archives Month for UASC this past fall semester.

Books, clothing items, maps, photos, paintings…the list goes on and on. These items are all things that could be considered an artifact. Artifacts, defined as something made by a human being with cultural or historical interest, can be anything from a book to something even as small as a dress that your great, great grandmother wore. Often times, these items are passed over, mistaken for junk. However, that is absolutely not the case!

Imagine you’re cleaning out a grandparent’s attic you see an old stack of books. Perhaps your first thought would be that they aren’t worth anything, so the trash is the perfect home for them. Although, upon further inspection, one of those books may have been a journal from a distant relative of his trials during the Great Depression, or maybe even a customer log at a long since closed pharmacy from the 19th century. Trash and historical artifacts run a thin line at first glance, but if you take just a moment to stop and just appreciate what the true value of such an item holds, that outcome could be unbelievable.

In archives, there is a book that could have easily been seen as trash, however it is anything but that. Paracelsus, an alchemist in the 16th century, wrote several books on alchemy and toxicology. This book, written about medieval alchemy, is so extremely brittle that you can barely turn the page without it falling apart. From very first glance, fire starter is the only thing I thought it could have been. However, after researching Paracelsus and his occupation, this book helps unravel some questions about how medieval science worked, as well as the language and writing style in that time.

It’s items like that book that make me truly appreciate history. Not something written in a text book, or some lecture from a teacher, but something tangible. Something solid, in my own hands, causes my imagination to run wild! Who else has held this book? Why did Paracelsus write this book? How has this book lasted so long? Nothing but historical artifacts can give such a true sense of reality. Artifacts alone are a connection between then and now.

John Leech Cartoons

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

Born on August 29, 1817 in London, England, John Leech became a well-known British caricaturist. His best known work came from Punch Magazine in 1841 and created over three thousand caricatures. He focused on an array of issues: social reform, anti-Americanism, the Crimean War, and much more. Leech collaborated with Sir John Tenniel and created John Bull, the American equivalent of Uncle Sam. Leech passed away on October 29, 1864 in London, England. These cartoons are view-able at the University Archives on the 3rd floor of Rice Library.


The Peckinpaugh Collection: From Connection to Inspiration

*Post written by Stacy Waters, an English 601 student, at the University of Southern Indiana.

I recently went to Rice Library’s archives looking for a project topic, I selected the Peckinpaugh collection because it consisted of Civil war correspondence, family histories. Having a chance to use and intimately examine personal letters and actual physical memorabilia from this time period, perked my interest in connecting American’s Poet, Walt Whitman to the Captain William Henry of

As an English major, I knew Whitman poetry reflected an accurate portrait of the war and its participants, many of whom are unknown. As a young student I learned about the Civil War from The Big Book of the Civil War, a pop-up picture book that contains treasure flips full of historical reference and personal information, portrait flips with pictures and biographical information, and paper canons.


From the book I learned the Civil War was a result of social, racial, and economical tensions and differences divided the nation. The Civil War began in 1861, coined the largest and bloodiest war fought in the United States, because citizens had varying beliefs on how the country should ran as well as their personal right’s and parotic obligations. The book also focuses on the hardship the nation and outlines personal stories of soldier’s life, reveling the attitudes and experiences of soldiers and civilians.

As explained in The American People (2006), the Civil War of the United States was bloodiest battle in our history in terms of lives lost. This horrible time of war was a due to a conflict between the northern and southern states, mainly over slavery policies, being adopted with the newly elected president Abraham Lincoln in 1860. This resulted in the southern states succeeding from the Union forming the Confederate States of America in attempt to form their own country.

Below is an excerpt from Nash’s Book which reflects the effects of war on the nation.


The experience of discovering knowledge from treasure troves lead my investigation to the many hand writing letter between the captain and his wife “Mollie,” pictured below with her family. Like the books, the Peckinpaugh collection yields many treasure like these photos of the family.

Wm. Henery and Mollie Peckinpaugh, and their fathers, Paul Peckinpaugh and Sallie Emmick, and their son Harry J. Peckinpaugh. Notes attached to these photography’s told me that the Peckinpaugh men had a long history with war, active in the Revolutionary War and Civil War. In this time of war, it was crucial for soldier’s morale to try and keep in touch with their loved ones.

These were times of limited media and communication sources so hand written letters were the main source of communication. A good example of this is the letters between Captain Henry Peckinpaugh, of the Union forces, and Mollie Emmick of Stringtown Indiana. These letters obtained from USI library archives are the actual letters is from the Peckinpaugh Collection.

Captain Henry Peckpaugh’s letters are valuable because they present hints of struggles and disparities of a young Union soldier and his wife during the hardships the nation face in attempting national unity while living his life.

These letters are only a few from hundreds of letters found in the collection dating back to 1860, not only allowing Henry and Mollie catch up on what’s happening at home, but reflecting their concerns and hopes for the future. Very rarely are actual letters written anymore, but in the Civil War they were, at times, a lifeline that may be the only thing soldiers could look forward to, escaping the death and destruction all around.

In this letter from Mollie dated April 29, 1865, just a week after Lincoln was assassinated, Mollie replies that “The intelligence of the assassination of our beloved President amid the shouts of victory was truly appalling” and “If rumors are true, President Johnson isn’t exactly a man into whose hands a people could consistently desire to government affairs transmitted” (2).

Thus expressing her ire and concerns about the events of the previous week. She goes on to express some fears and hopes that the war will end in speaking of John “he will remain at home until his physician pronounces him able for service. I am greatly in hope that he will not be called upon to jeopardize his life, for surely the war must be almost over” (3-4).

This valuable letter reflects their reaction to the events and happening of the war. Here, Mollie expresses her concerns after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the future of the nation. She goes on to reveal how she feels about new President Johnson. Not only does Mollie talk about her national concerns, but proceeds to tell Henry how much she misses him and reports the happenings in her life and community.

Unfortunately, Henry’s letters replying to Mollie’s letters have started to faded away, almost impossible to reads, so I turned to Whitman’s emotional poetry and writings, to find his reaction to the war as well as his perspective of the turbulent atmosphere and warily temperament of the times.

But from an English major’s perspective, I find these writings capture and enhance the essence of personal and national struggles and insights to the personality and character of those involved in the Civil War and reconstruction of the nation.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892), a very notable writer and poet of the Civil War era, often heralded as “America’s Poet, gives us more glimpses into the war’s atrocities and personal struggles and uncertainties. Interestingly, Whitman echoes and reinforces the perceptions and attitudes of the Peckinpaugh’s on the state of the nation, and President Lincoln.  Whitman poetry, like the letters in the Peckinpaugh’s collection seems to be talking about the struggles of soldiers on the battlefield and the struggles of those at home, actually allowing the reader to becoming a part conversion, and allowing a realistic portrait of the life in the late 1800s.

It was during this time that Whitman’s writing style took a somewhat darker tone, revealing how deeply affected he was by what he was witnessing. One of the most heartbreaking events for Whitman during this time was the assassination of President Lincoln compelling him to pen one of his most famous poems “O’ Captain my Captain.” Here, courtesy of The Poetry Foundation.

Another treasure I found was this excerpt from his memoranda book, Specimen Days titled “The Inauguration” in Holt’s Element of Literature.


Here, Whitman reflects on his thoughts and perception of President Abraham Lincoln as well as the condition of the nation’s morality. Whitman, notes that “the real war will never get in the books,” and it is in the personal writings – letter, journals, and diaries of people who was there -like the Peckinpaugh’s, that the true story of the Civil War is found.


My mind set when making the visual presentation, The Peckinpaugh Collection: From Connection to Inspiration, was focus on how as a student I created a treasure trove of information from books, photos, and writings.I selected the Peckinpaugh collection because it consisted of Civil war correspondence and family history. Having a chance to use and intimately examine personal letters and actual physical memorabilia from this time period, perked my interest in connecting American’s Poet, Walt Whitman to the Captain William Henry Peckenpaugh.

Work Cited

Beers, G. Kylene, and Lee Odell. “American Masters: Whitman and Dickinson.” Holt Elements of Literature, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Orlando, FL, 2008, p. 377.

Eason, Katherine, and Croft, Tom; Spender, Nick; Mitchell, Jim; Thakrar, Sailesh. Big Book of the Civil War. Kettering, UK., Book Studio, 2008.

“Forever Words.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation,

World War 2 through Owen Hamilton’s Eyes

*Post written by Jessica Reinbold, an English 601 student, at the University of Southern Indiana.

While looking through letters written by a World War II soldier, I couldn’t help but wonder who the man behind the letters was and how he was affected by his three-year deployment in the United States. Below are summaries and annotations of three letters: one from the beginning, one from the middle, and one from the end of his two-and-a-half-year deployment across the United States.


I have been unable to confirm who Morgan is to Owen Hamilton, but it seems as though he could be a close friend due to the informal writing style and contents of this letter. Morg, as Hamilton refers to him, gives Hamilton access to an application for a job as a Mason, I presume, as the writing is unclear.

After thanking Morgan for the application and inquiring what he should use as his address on the application, he tells Morgan about his military job and surroundings beginning with the airplanes. As though in awe of his surroundings, he writes

Fort Sill is really a fine place Morgan, you really should see it… We have an airport at the Fort… On Sunday they are all grounded and there is some 350 or 400 planes all lined up. You have never seen so many planes in one place.


Hamilton then references June, who I have discovered to be his sister. Because Morgan is in contact with June and the contents of the letters she receives from Hamilton, I am beginning to think Morgan may be June’s husband or June and Owen’s brother.

Hamilton’s job as “Section leader” is then explained to Morgan. He describes life where he is stationed as “it would be in some resort.” He doesn’t have “extra detail,” and doesn’t have to do the treacherous drills the others must complete. For this, he seems glad because not participating means not working in the stifling 118-degree temperatures.

Lastly, he explains an upcoming opportunity that includes travel and women. Hamilton shares his excitement to travel to Dallas, Texas, a place he has never been before, with a “fellow” who lives there and who promised Hamilton “Texas beauties.” Hamilton’s character changes as he explains his eagerness to meet Texas women and offers an explanation of Oklahoma women.


Hamilton says he does not think too much of the Oklahoma women, who he describes as “Indian Squaws,” and follows the statement with “and I am not that hard up yet.” Through a little bit of research, I found that a squaw is another term for an American Indian woman but haven’t found anything that says the term is derogatory, though it may have been in the 1940s.

Hamilton tells Morgan that he “got in” with a California girl whose father is a Captain. He explains that “if you play the right angles, you can take these girls out Dutch as they realize the income of a poor soldier,” with “out Dutch” meaning that each person pays for his/her own entertainment; he does not have to pay for two when going on dates.

Hamilton tells “Morg” to write when he gets the chance and closes with “as I enjoy hearing from you.” He signs with his first name, Owen.

The first letter shows Owen Hamilton’s youth, eagerness, and excitement. It also seems as though he enjoys himself and makes the most out of his situation. The second letter, taken from the middle of his deployment, shows a different persona. This can be attributed to one of two factors, or both factors, really: a change to whom he writes and his experience in training.


The majority of the letters in the archived collection were addressed to June, Hamilton’s sister. He opens this letter with a reminder to his sister that he wants to hear from her regardless of the dollars she sends with her letters. My best guess as to why she might do so is due to the “income of a poor soldier” as stated in Hamilton’s letter to Morgan. Regardless, Hamilton feels appreciative of the dollar and June’s thoughtfulness.

An inquiry about his family and friends follows, which is common in almost all of Hamilton’s letters to his sister. He worries about his mother and ensures she has good company. Also common are updates about his schooling, training, and personal life. Here, he describes the increased difficulty at school, a place where he takes pride in his hard work.

Hamilton updates June about his most recent outage with Edith, presumably his close friend or girlfriend, during which he went on a double date with a Tennessee friend and his new wife to a national park where they swam and “had a good time.”

He excuses himself from June with the want to “write a few more letters before supper.” He requests that June “tell Morgan hello” for him and says he will see them on the upcoming weekend. He closes with another thanks for the dollar and “Lots of Love” before signing “Owen.”

In the letter written towards the middle of his deployment, Hamilton seems as though he found a routine and has settled. His demeanor is much calmer than it was in his first letter to Morgan. In the final letter of the series, Hamilton’s demeanor changes, once again, this time to a more anxious one and one that did not appear until around his final month of deployment.



In January of 1946, after almost two and a half years of being stationed all over the United States, Owen Hamilton writes his second-last letter to his sister.

With an address to June, he opens this letter. He describes the “fog” he experiences “as to when [he] will leave.” He has knowledge of his Division’s inactivation not taking place until February 15 and expresses his frustration with the thought of having to stay until then with the statement, “I will blow my top.”

Hamilton is unsure of when he will leave; if “they don’t hold [him]” there, June will receive this letter as her brother makes his way home. He assures her that either way, he will send their mother a “cablegram” when he leaves before informing June of the upcoming lack in writing after he leaves.

Disbelief about his approaching leave “after all this waiting around” is expressed. Hamilton seems anxious to go home but says he dislikes thinking about the long trip “as [he] will be really anxious the last 100 miles or so.”


An update about his job is provided. Hamilton writes that he “made Tech Sgt” on his birthday and follows with “that was quite a nice present.” He mentions the new income of $150 a month that accompanied the promotion but hopes he “won’t draw over a couple more pays.”

Hamilton concludes this letter with an inquiry about “everyone at home.” He requests that June tells his family hello before expressing his hopes to “be seeing [her] shortly.” He closes with “Lots of Love” and signs his name.

In the final letter, Owen Hamilton appears calm, yet anxious. He speaks less of his job than usual; instead he uses this letter to express his thoughts about when he will leave and his return home.

When comparing the three letters, Hamilton goes from excited to settled to anxious. He wrote to June frequently, sometimes, every day of the week. In almost all letters, Hamilton requests updates about family and friends from home and sends updates about his life in various states including, but not limited to, Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Kansas. In reading these letters, I learned that Owen Hamilton valued his friends, family, and freedoms. But, because I only had letters to read, I was left wondering about the rest of Hamilton’s life: What was life like upon his return home? Did he remain in the military? How did being away from home affect his person, physically and mentally? Unfortunately, these questions will never find an answer.