Monday, January 30, 2017

German Instruction at State Normal during World War I, part two

In last week's blog post, we looked at the history of German language instruction at State Normal (now UNCG) as well as the growing anti-German sentiment in Greensboro and across the United States after the U.S. officially entered World War I in April 1917. This week, we will look more closely at how the war impacted a German-born member of the State Normal faculty.

As mentioned last week, Christine Reincken was hired in Fall 1913 to head the German department at State Normal. Reincken was born in Germany but had spent most of her adult life in the United States as a student and instructor. On February 13, 1918, she wrote State Normal President Julius Foust after a German-born faculty member was fired from his teaching position at Greensboro College, asking if she should resign her position. After a face-to-face discussion, Foust persuaded Reincken to stay on campus.

State Normal President Julius Foust
Sadly, no photos of Reincken could be located.
When the Spring semester concluded, Reincken wrote Foust again -- this time with a request. In a letter dated June 1, 1918, she asked that Foust "write a few lines for me, just stating how long I am at the College. I thought it might simplify matters if I had it to show since I as a foreign born will have to register soon." Foust quickly responded and provided her with a statement, which read:
To whom it may interest: I write to say that Miss Christine R. A. Reincken has been teaching German in this College for the past four years. We have found Miss Reincken a most satisfactory member of our faculty in every way, and she has gained and maintained the highest respect and admiration both of our faculty and students. This has been due to the thoroughness of her work, and also to her fine character and wholesome influence.
Reincken also formally offered her resignation for Foust's consideration. Foust presented her resignation to the college's Board of Directors, who, "after a thorough discussion," chose not to accept it. Foust did note, however, in a letter dated June 22, that "it is impossible for us at this time to know what may happen. So far as I am able to judge, there has been no criticism of you or the Board on account of your connection to the College, but ... we can never know what may happen."

Reincken reported back to Foust in a letter dated July 4, 1918, that she had indeed registered in Milwaukee, where she was visiting at the time. She thanked him for his letter of support, adding that, while the information he provided was helpful, she doubted that it would prevent him from having to answer more questions about her employment. Reincken also stated that his "reassuring words" helped her decide to return to the college in the Fall semester. She once again mentions, though, that she "fully understand(s) that conditions may change and demand different decisions at any time."

Eleven days later, on July 15, German troops launched their final offensive of the war with the Second Battle of the Marne. And on July 25, Foust wrote Reincken to let her know that the conditions changed and that he feels it would be best for her not to return to the college in the Fall. Foust stated:
I am not writing this letter to you as an official of the College, but wish it to be considered simply a personal one. I have endeavored to think about this whole matter not simply from the standpoint of the College, but also from the standpoint of what is best for you. I have come to the conclusion that it is doubtless best, if you can make satisfactory arrangements, not to hold any public position during the war ... The suggestion that I have to make, as indicated above not as an official of the College but as one who feels a very cordial friendship for you, is that you withdraw from the College from the present at least ... Your service to the College has always been manifestly satisfactory, and I regret to think of losing it even for a short time, but I believe the suggestion I have made is the best from every standpoint.
Caroline Schoch
At the same time, Foust was in conversation with Caroline Schoch to join the German Department in Reincken's place. Born in northeastern Iowa, Schoch was the granddaughter of self-exiled liberals who had fled the German state during the revolutions of 1848. Unlike Reincken, she was not subject to the registration requirements and other public critiques that came with being German-born.

Understandably, Reincken was upset by this outcome. In a three-page response to Foust dated August 5, she described her feelings of hurt and fear -- but she also noted that she "must accept it at present as an outgrowth of the conditions that develop daily now." But she continued:
I have been over 30 years in this country, have 5 nephews now in the service - one in France, one in Italy, one as officer on a U.S. steamer, 2 soon going over. Yes, I am a German born, stamped an Alien Enemy, and must take the consequences. One cannot forget and lose the deep affection for ones old home, but one would not help them do wrong - on the contrary, help to destroy it ... I have quietly done what I thought right with all the sympathy and feeling and compassion for those who go and for those who sent their loved ones over for the cause. Gladly would I do and give anything to help humanity, where I can and I probably shall find the place. ... I, as an Alien Enemy, must be utterly silent and express no opinion ... But I have felt and acted loyal in every respect for and towards this country, thinking it only right to do so, and I thought you and others there knew. 
Reincken never did return to State Normal. Schoch accepted the position of department head and served as the lone professor in the department until her retirement in 1948. When Schoch passed away in 1961, the memorial statement issued by Woman's College began, "In the fall of 1918, when American patriotism expressed itself oddly but decisively by banning the study of German from high schools, Dr. Foust, president of this college, had sufficient faith in the eventual wisdom and sanity of the College and the people of North Carolina to bring to its faculty Miss Carolina P. B. Schoch, a dynamic teacher of German."

Monday, January 23, 2017

German Instruction at State Normal During World War I, part one

Our colleagues in University Archives at UNC Chapel Hill recently wrote a great blog post about a parent who, in 1918, was upset that his son was required to have two years of German courses before registering for a chemical engineering class. This letter from the parent to UNC President Edward Kidder Graham (father of later Woman's College chancellor Edward Kidder Graham, Jr.) was sent approximately one year after the United States declared war on the German empire and officially entered World War I.

At the State Normal and Industrial College (now UNCG), teaching of the German language also fell under attack during this time. German language instruction had been offered at the school since its opening in 1892. Both German and French were offered under the Department of Ancient and Modern Languages during that initial year. By 1895, students were required to complete four years of foreign language study in either French, German, or Latin. In 1896, Bertha Lee (one of the first graduates of State Normal) was named head of the department - a position she held until ill health forced her retirement in 1913.

Cornelian Literary Society, 1914
The October 1913 State Normal Magazine announced the arrival of professor Christine Reincken, the new head of the school's German department. Reincken was the first faculty member dedicated solely to teaching German; previous German instructors also taught courses in other departments, such as mathematics or pedagogy. The announcement in State Normal Magazine notes, "Miss Reincken, who is a native of Germany, has been living in this country a number of years, and has taken courses at Columbia University and like institutions. She comes to us from Ward Seminary, Tenn., where she was likewise head of the German department." Under Reincken's leadership, the German department continued to grow as a small, but strong, academic unit. She also served as a faculty member of the Cornelian Literary Society.

On April 2, 1917, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson appeared before Congress to ask for an official declaration of war against Germany. Four days later, with a vote of 82-6, Congress passed a resolution stating:
Whereas, The Imperial German Government has committed repeated acts of war against the people of the United States of America; therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government, which has thus been thrust upon the United States, is hereby formally declared; and that the President be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial German Government; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination all the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.
As U.S. involvement in the war progressed, so did anti-German sentiment across Greensboro (and across the United States). In their February 8, 1918 issue, the Greensboro Daily News reports the resignation of Professor Robert L. Roy, a faculty member at Greensboro College. The article notes that "the resignation was the result of a complaint voiced by E.D. Steele of High Point, at the time he withdrew his niece from the student body, giving publicly his reason that the college was employing a German citizen on its faculty."

Fearing that parents might similarly argue against her employment, on February 13, 1918, Reincken sent a letter to college president Julius Foust expressing concern. She wrote, "conditions may make it necessary that I resign my position, for my presence here as a German may be embarrassing. Will you please tell me when the time has come or if it is better not to wait and resign now? It is with a heavy heart that I write this for I love my classes and could not appear before them and feel their mistrust in these times." Foust met with her, and Reincken decided to stay at the college for the time being.

Greensboro Daily News, March 22, 1918
The following month, on March 22, State Normal hosted a competition between Davidson and Lafayette Colleges in which students debated over the whether or not "the successful prosecution of war requires that all citizens of Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Turkey now residing in this country be interned for the term of the war." In their argument in favor of this statement, Davidson debaters argued that "enemy aliens" had destroyed $50 million of American property, "distributed propaganda in the United States that is dangerous," and "influenced nearly 2,000,000 negroes to leave the south." One debater questioned whether Germany would provide American citizens with freedoms, adding "do you think that you could listen to this debate in Berlin and come out alive?" Ultimately, however, the judges determined that Lafayette's debaters who spoke in opposition to internment were victorious.

Anti-German sentiments continued to grow across Greensboro as well as most of the United States as the war progressed. Next week, we will look in depth at how this affected Christine Reincken and her work at the State Normal.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Rise of Campus Dramatics (Part III): The Raymond Taylor Years

Raymond Taylor
The most significant event to happen to early campus dramatics was the arrival of Raymond Taylor, who joined the English Department in 1921 as a professor of speech. He would go on to become the school’s Director of Drama for the next thirty years. Taylor was a very qualified hire, having a Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master’s degree from Harvard. Although College president Julius Foust was not convinced that dramatics should be included in the school’s official curriculum, Taylor was eventually allowed to teach courses in theatre production and playwriting, as well as speech. Foust also was not supportive of the female students dressing in pants, even for theatre productions, but Taylor purchased men’s suits for the young women to wear when they were playing male roles. He pushed the rules even further when he allowed students to smoke cigarettes on stage, an activity strictly forbidden by the College.

Under Taylor’s guidance, the Dramatic Club became The Dramatic Association of the North Carolina College for Women (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) and finally, in 1924, the Playlikers, which became the only campus organization allowed to perform plays. That year, the students performed five plays featuring both students and faculty. In 1925, the students took one of their production, Will-o’-the-Wisp, to Chicago for the National College Theatre Tournament and won second place. Taylor also accompanied his students to New York to see plays featuring famous stars, such as Ethel Barrymore, and to visit sites such as the Metropolitan Museum, the Aquarium, and the Statue of Liberty. In 1926, the Playlikers first performed plays written by students, specifically, a tragedy titled The Quick and the Dead, set in Eastern North Carolina, and a comedy titled Sims.  Taylor also established the Masqueraders, an honorary dramatic society.

The Playlikers Try on Costumes for a Campus Production

Eventually, the Playlikers would include not only students, but also members of the community in their productions. This added much-needed male participants to the all-girl school performances, now held at Aycock Auditorium (currently UNCG Auditorium).  By the 1930s, the students were offering one play per month to audiences of over 2000 people. Perhaps recognizing that his students lacked proper stage elocution, Taylor requested that the College add two speech specialists to the faculty. He commented that his students showed “nasality, lisping, harshness, weak and thin voice texture, lack of breath control, sameness and monotony of tone, drawling and stuttering, exaggerated and disagreeable sectional accents, nervous rapidity, faulty enunciation and pronunciation, [and] affected elocution.”

The Parkway Playhouse
The venue for campus programs expanded in 1941 when an amphitheater was constructed as part of a Works Project Administration (WPA) project. It had a seating capacity of 2500 people and included an outdoor stage to be used for May Day celebrations, plays, and pageants. Additionally, the 1940s ushered in a summer repertory program which would eventually move to the small town of Burnsville, North Carolina. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the theatre would be called the “Parkway Playhouse.” 

The Taylor Theatre
In the late 1940s, Taylor began to lose control of the program, and a growing lack of student interest caused the Playlikers organization to “disintegrate.” Finally, in 1949, the faculty advisory committee recommended that the College hire a new director of Dramatics, and Raymond Taylor, once considered the father of the school’s Dramatic program, was removed from leadership. Although he had less administrative responsibilities, Taylor continued to teach until his retirement in 1960, and when a new theatre was constructed on campus in 1967, it was named in his honor.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Rise of Campus Dramatics (Part II): Plays and Pageants

While the earliest campus presentations were staged as entertainment for visits by state dignitaries, increasingly, other sources of student entertainment began to sprout up at the State Normal and Industrial School (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro). Recitals were planned by music professor Wade Brown, who also assisted the campus Literary Societies in staging elaborate operettas.

The Little Minister, 1910
The Literary Societies were created in 1893 as social organizations that focused the energy of the student body on debates, dramatic productions, and social activities. In the early years, there were only two Societies (Adelphian and Cornelian), but as the school’s enrollment grew, two additional organizations were added (the Dikean in 1918 and the Aletheian in 1923). Involvement in plays and pageants were a popular benefit of belonging to a Literary Society and the students enjoyed participating in theatrical events that allowed them to dress in ornate costumes.

In the early years, the students at the all-girl State Normal played both male and female roles in the productions. Following 19th century conventions, the school’s Lady Principal, Sue Mae Kirkland, would not allow the girls who held the male parts to wear pants. Instead, they wore long black skirts. By at least 1910, as seen in still photographs of the production of The Little Minister, students were allowed to wear black bloomers instead. It was not until 1911 that the students could wear pants on stage.

In most part, the school plays were held in the auditorium or “chapel” of the Main Building (now the Foust Building). When the Students’ Building was completed in 1902, each society had a separate meeting room and an auditorium, which included a stage for debates and productions. Yet, not all performances took place inside. A staging of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, performed by the Ben Greet Woodland Players, was given at the outdoor theatre in Peabody Park. This venue was comprised of a wooden stage fronted by a sloping ground, which acted as seating. The theatre was also one of the locations used for the school’s elaborate May Day festivals, the largest of which took place in 1912 and 1916. 
May Day Heralds, 1916

These May Day celebrations, organized by drama professor Mary Settle Sharpe, featured an Old English theme and included large parades with horse-drawn floats, colorful dances, and creative “tableaux vivants.” In 1912, the students presented three plays at several different areas of the campus, which were repeated during the day, enabling 3,000 observers to partake in all of the entertainments. The 1916 May Day event was even larger than the first, again featuring Shakespearean plays performed by elaborately costumed students.

To Arms for Liberty, ca. 1918

As interest in campus theatre grew, the Dramatic Club was formed between 1912 and 1913, to allow girls with a particular interest in theatre to participate more fully in campus productions. Incorporating both a general manager and a business manager, as well as an active membership, the new group performed Booth Tarkington’s The American at the 1913 Commencement exercises. Additionally, special performances such as To Arms for Liberty, which included the students representing the Allied nations as well as American farmers, Red Cross workers, and Liberty Bond representatives, were produced to raise money for World War I mobilization efforts. Yet it wasn’t until 1921, with the arrival of Raymond Taylor, that campus dramatics flourished.

The next installment of The Rise of Campus Dramatics will feature the establishment of the College’s Playlikers group and the hiring of Raymond Taylor, who would become a major figure in campus theatre until his retirement in 1960.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy Holidays!

The staff of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives wishes everyone a happy holiday season! We're taking a break this week, but please join us on Monday, January 9th for a new Spartan Story.

Santa and his Christmas Tree,
a tableau performance by the Cornelian Literary Society in 1913