Friday, January 27, 2017

The J.W. "Blind" Boone House: Perspectives through the Years

Blind Boone Exhibit on the first floor of the MU Student Center

In honor of Black History Month in February 2017, the Public Arts Collection at the Missouri Student Unions is pleased to present an exhibit honoring the house of J.W. "Blind" Boone, a prominent figure in the history of Columbia, MO.

J.W. “Blind” Boone later in life. Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri (002313).

The “Blind” Boone House, located on 10 N. 4th Street in Columbia, was the home of John William Boone. He was born in 1864 to a contraband slave cooking for soldiers in the Federal Camp of the Seventh Militia. “Blind” Boone, whose nickname derives from his loss of vision as a baby, first began playing small instruments and later took up the piano after he went to the St. Louis School for the Blind. Later, John Lange Jr. of Columbia undertook Boone’s education in music and career.

Boone had a very important musical career giving over 7,200 piano concerts during his lifetime. His style of playing is seen as the forerunner from which ragtime sprang; he mixed European musical forms with African American folk music. He died of a heart attack on October 4, 1927 and was buried in the Columbia Cemetery.

Boone’s two-story Victorian house was a landmark even during his own time as few African Americans owned such grand homes. Lange built the home in the late 19th century. The original house with its two-story balcony and wooden siding was obscured in the 1930s/1940s when the house was stuccoed and then later given aluminum siding in the 1970s. In 1931 the house was sold to William and Parker Undertakers. In the late 20th century a plan was formed to restore the building as a museum. Restorations benefited from both federal grants and funds from the City of Columbia. The Grand Opening of the house took place on September 28, 2016.

The images on display show the house during various stages of its life history. The historical photograph, courtesy of the State Historical Society, depicts the house at it was during Boone’s day. The painting by Byron Smith, courtesy of the Daniel Boone Regional Library, depicts the house with the modifications accrued throughout the 20th century and as it looked when it was the Warren Funeral Chapel. Most recently, the painting loaned by Heinrich Leonhard shows the house as it has been recently restored; the artist added the car of Blind Boone in front of the house.

Be sure to visit our exhibit, up through the end of February, on the first floor of the MU Student Center. 

Also on view is an exhibit commemorating Black History Month in the Lower Lair of the MU Student Center- check it out!

Blog post authored by Lauren DiSalvo, Curator of Public Arts at the Missouri Student Unions 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Unions Welcomes both the Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection and the artworks of Professor Mannella's Intermediate/Advanced Fibers Class!

It is a busy start to the new semester in 2017 as the Public Arts Collection at the Missouri Student Unions welcomes an exhibit of clothing from the 1960s from the Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection and an exhibit of baskets made by the Intermediate and Advanced Fibers class of Professor Pazia Mannella.

60s Savitar Style

The Missouri Historic Costume Textile Collection and Public Arts Collection teamed up to create an exhibit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection that was begun in 1967 and now has a collection of over 6,000 apparel and textile artifacts. Images from the Savitar, the university's yearbook, illustrate the styles of clothing highlighted in the exhibit worn by MU students during the 1960's.

The exhibit will stay up until February 20, 2017 so be sure to stop by and visit it in the Lower Lair of the MU Student Center!

Spotlight on Mizzou Student Artwork: Baskets
inspired by the exhibition Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America 

The Student Center is hosting an exhibit of baskets made by the students of Professor Pazia Mannella's Intermediate and Advanced Fibers class.  The students made the baskets during the Fall 2016 semester in connection with the upcoming Spring 2017 exhibit, Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America, curated by MU Professors Jo Stealey and Kristin Schwain.  The Rooted, Revived, Reinvented exhibit will be on display at the Museum of Art and Archaeology at Mizzou North from January 28- May 14. 

The exhibit will be up on the main floor of the MU Student Center through March 2017- come take a look!  

Blog post authored by Lauren DiSalvo, Curator of the Public Arts at the Missouri  Student Unions

Friday, December 9, 2016

Academic Hall: Before and After the 1892 Fire

Academic Hall Exhibit is located on the second floor of the Missouri Student Center in the Traditions Lounge.

Academic Hall, whose cornerstone was laid in 1840, was the academic heart of Missouri State University, as the University of Missouri-Columbia was known in the nineteenth century. Students had both classes and extracurricular activities in this building.

The original Academic Hall on the quadrangle on a snowy day. Courtesy of the State Historical Society Manuscript Collection (Joseph L. Douglass Studio Photographs P0434).

A close-up of Academic Hall. Missouri Alumnus 1922.

Also part of the original Academic Hall was a museum of natural history that contained mounted animals such as gorillas, a giraffe, a hippo, a rhino, a manatee, a whale, caribou, and many birds.  One of the most notable animals in the museum was Emperor the Elephant.  Emperor was the impetus for the museum and was purchased by Samuel Spahr Laws, the University President from 1876-1879.  Emperor had recently died of unknown causes while he was with the Forepaugh Circus in Independence, MO.  Laws purchased the elephant with his own money and sent him to Professor Henry Ward of Rochester, NY to cure and mount. The Board of Curators paid Laws back $1,100.67, leaving him $585 short.

The museum of natural history in Academic Hall.  Emperor the elephant is featured in the foreground.  He was rumored to have had a Bengal tiger mounted on his tusks, however, this is not pictured in this image of the elephant. Courtesy of the University Archives (C:0/47/2).

The General Assembly did not approve of the purchase both because of its enormous cost and that they did not think it brought any prestige to the university.  Laws did not agree, citing that "the value of the present collection consists in the circumstance that it has been gathered for teaching purposes and is eminently representative of the entire animal world....Our youth can be taught more natural history with its aid in a few months than a lifetime could acquire without such aid" (Jefferson City Daily Tribune March 12, 1887). However, the legislature ultimately decided to withhold funding from the university unless Laws resigned as president, and he ultimately did step down. 

Disaster struck Academic Hall on January 9. 1892 when a fire started, likely due to faulty wires.  Students were gathered in the auditorium for a meeting of the Athenaeum Society when the chandelier fell from the ceiling and smoke began to fill the building.

Academic Hall on fire the night of January 9, 1892 (Savitar 1939).

"Soon the great dome burst with heated air and as the glittering showers of sparks were thrown against the sky, it seemed to us as if the great heart of the University had burst, and a feeling of gloom that will never be forgotten came upon those who beheld the spectacle." Charles M Howell (Missouri Alumnus 1922).

"You ought to have seen the old M.S.U. burn; it made an awful nice warm fire. I was out skating on a pond right near and I was nearly frozen when the thing caught so I just walked up and got warm..." Letter to India Walsh. January 17, 1892. Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscript Collection C3982 f. 635).

 Professors and students dashed back into the building in an attempt to save books from the Law Library, maps from the Latin Department, and specimens from the Entomology Department and Natural History Museum.  Students went into the museum to rescue Emperor the elephant.  They broke the window with an axe and put two timbers out the window angled down to the snowy ground of the quadrangle.  They then pushed Emperor down the ramp and onto the quad.  The tiger mounted on Emperor's tusks was too wide to go through the window so they ripped him in two.  A first hand account described the scene of the saved mounted animals as follows: "[Emperor] was hustled out of the blazing museum in a jiffy, the zebra turned out to graze, and the lion and lamb were made to lie down together...It was a queer site to see the big elephant lying on his side in the snow; near by was the tiger, which had been mounted on the elephant's tusks, with a little grinning monkey perched on his back; here a gorilla and an arctic fox were keeping each other company; and here a huge crocodile seemed scarcely at home lying half buried in the snow drift" (Savitar 1895).

Following the fire, Emperor was displayed in Swallow Hall.  Sadly, Emperor eventually began to disintegrate and he was destroyed, but his bones were saved.  His remains were found in the attic of LeFevre Hall by Carla Williamson, an archives employee.  Today all that remains of Emperor are his two hind legs and they are stored by the Division of Biological Sciences.

Carla Williamson with the skeletal remains of Emperor in the attic of LeFevre. Photo by Nick Kelsh. Courtesy of University Archives (C:1/7/11) and The Columbia Daily Tribune (Sunday August 3, 1980).
One of the remaining hind legs of Emperor the elephant. Courtesy of the Division of Biological Sciences.

The blazing hot fire destroyed Academic Hall and was so hot as to cause other nearby buildings to also catch fire. All that remained of the building were a few brick walls and its iconic columns.

The morning after the fire all that remains of Academic Hall are its six columns and a few walls. Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscript Collection (Louise Stephens Otto Photograph Collection. P0901). 

The remaining walls were dynamited and clean-up began of the building.  The university kept classes going in other buildings around Columbia. 

The ruins of Academic Hall after the remaining walls had been dynamited.  Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscript Collection (S. Pommer Photograph Collection. P0056).

 The fire was of such a high temperature that for the months of following clean-up, people were reportedly still finding iron rods that were hot in the debris. In the late 1980/.early 1990s Dr. Michael O'Brien of the Department of Anthropology led excavations on the quadrangle that uncovered rubble from the destruction of Academic Hall.  Some of the bricks they uncovered from the debris demonstrate how the fire was so hot that they had vitrified.

A selection of bricks from the destruction of Academic Hall as uncovered by Dr. O'Brien and his team during excavations on the quadrangle.  Note how the brick has melted, as can be seen by the grayish vitrification. Bricks courtesy of the Museum of Anthropology.

 Although for a brief period of time the university contemplated moving to a different city in Missouri, it was ultimately decided that it should remain in Columbia. While the six Ionic columns were deemed to unstable to incorporate into a new building, officials determined that they should remain where they stood as a memorial.

Postcard showing the columns of old Academic Hall standing alone. (2011.088).

 Instead, architect Morris Frederick designed a new Academic Hall that was placed further back behind the columns.
The newly rebuilt Academic Hall, as designed by architect Morris Frederick in 1895 (Savitar 1898) .

Academic Hall continued to be the center of the university playing much the same function as its predecessor.  It still housed campus museums, such as the Museum of Classical Archaeology. This museum was started by John Pickard of the Department of Classical Archaeology who was concerned that the department had no equipment with which to teach.  He petitioned the Board of Curators for money to purchase plaster casts of Greek and Roman statues for the beginning of a museum.  The Board approved and Pickard went to Europe in 1895 and 1902 to retrieve casts from noted museums such as the Louvre or British Museum. He then used these casts routinely in his courses, and there was even a class called "Explanation of the Masterpieces in the Museum of Casts" listed in the 1896 university handbook.

The casts of ancient Greek and Roman statues were displayed on the third floor of the west wing of the newly rebuilt Academic Hall. Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscript Collection (University of Missouri Photographs 3756 f. 238).

The museum remained in this location in Academic Hall for many years until they moved, with the Department of Art History and Archaeology, to Pickard Hall in 1975.  Most of the casts are now on a long term loan to the Museum of Art and Archaeology where they are currently on display at Mizzou North.  Others can still be found decorating the halls and offices of Swallow Hall where the Department of Art History and Archaeology is currently housed.

Plaster casts of the Portland Vase (left) and Lenormant Athena (right).  The Portland vase is a cast of a glass cameo vase with historical and mythological figures.  The vase became extremely well-known during the eighteenth century.  The Lenormant Athena is a small Greek statue that was a copy of the over lifesize statue of Athena by the Greek sculptor Phidias that was located in the Parthenon.  Both plaster casts are courtesy of the Department of Art History and Archaeology.

The newly built 1895 Academic Hall still stands today, though of a different name.  In 1922 Academic Hall was renamed Jesse Hall after the popular University of Missouri President, Richard Henry Jesse.

Come by and visit the Academic Hall Exhibit in person on the second floor of the Missouri Student Center through January 2017!

Blog post authored by Lauren DiSalvo, Curator of Public Arts, Missouri Student Unions. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Politics in Missouri and Elections at the University of Missouri

With election season upon us, the Missouri Student Unions turns to election history right here in Missouri and at the University of Missouri.

Come see our prints of George Caleb Bingham and Missouri politics on the ground floor of the MU Student Center 
Come see our exhibit about politics at MU in the Traditions Lounge on the second floor of the MU Student Center.


Renowned nineteenth-century Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham composed a triad of paintings relating to politics right here in Missouri, two of which are currently on display on the ground floor of the Missouri Student Center.  Bingham himself was active in the Missouri political scene, being a member of the Whig party, only leaving it over the divisive slavery issue.  Then he joined Abraham Lincoln and the Republican party, but by 1872 he was associated with the Democratic party instead.  Bingham was also an active participant in the politics of the state of Missouri, having himself served in the state legislature.

The print of The County Election on display represents a local event for Bingham that took place in Saline County, Missouri.  This election day in 1850 was when the Bingham himself was running for a seat in the state legislature, which he ultimately lost to E.D. Sappington.  Bingham's painting, which features Sappington, is a commentary on the political processes of the day and its corrupt nature.  For example, alcohol was often used to buy votes and this is represented by a man sitting at a table drinking and another man who has already drunk too much and is being held up in line by a friend. This representation of voting is a very different picture than what we might see today.  First of all, the voters are all male and do not include African Americans or women.  Secondly, casting a vote was conducted very differently, because men had to speak the name of their selected candidate aloud to a clerk who would then record the vote.  This, naturally, led to some amount of corruption.

Stump Speaking also speaks to Missouri Politics.  The corpulent man sitting on a chair behind the speaker has been identified as M.M. Marmaduke, the former governor of Missouri. In this print of Bingham's painting we see the Democratic speaker bent over, perhaps literally bending his words to appeal to his audience.  At this point in his life Bingham was a Whig and he painted this image to reflect the Whig's feelings towards Democrats.  We can see this in the contrast between the speaker at the podium and the stately man in a top hat sitting at the right of the composition.  Not only is he highly illuminated and sitting up very straight, but he also sits on a real stump, unlike the man made platform of the speaker.  This suggests that he, the Whig, is the real stump speaker and not the Democrat at the man made podium; here Bingham is drawing a comparison between real and artificial politics.


Elections at the University of Missouri are represented in several different ways.  Of course, student body elections were well represented in the tradition of the university.  As early as the 1910s, the students of Missouri met and formed governing bodies, but it was not until 1923 that the Student Government Association (SGA) was formed. For the first half of the twentieth century, women at the university had a different governing association, the Women's Student Government Association (WSGA).
Members of the SGA in 1936 (Savitar 1936)

Members of the WSGA in 1943 (Savitar 1943)

Corruption was rampant in student government politics at MU and was often credited to the fact that it was very much tied to Greek life.  In 1917 the Savitar documented the political situation at the university: “Don’t think you have to be honest about this politics business.  It isn’t being done, this year. It never was done…the records show that there has only been one honest politician here for the last twelve years.” A 1941 investigation into the Student Government Association was conducted by the university because “evils of a sort commonly recognized to be contrary to public morality, offensive to good citizenship, destructive to good government, and which have had a tendency to bring the University into disrepute.”  However, the university ultimately did not suspend student government at this moment.
The last class of elected officers in 1941 before student government was disbanded for the war (Savitar 1941)

Instead, student government was suspended in 1942 because of the war.  Arising in its place was the Student War Board, whose mission was to promote and coordinate all activities concerned with the war effort.  For example, it sponsored registration for service, physical fitness, first, aid, home nursing classes, a milk campaign, war savings stamps benefit concert, and student war speakers. 

Members of the Student War Board (Savitar 1942)
In 1945 student government was reinstated with a new constitution ratified.  In 1959 the SGA yet again adopted a new constitution and renamed the student governing body the Missouri Students Association (MSA), which remains its name to this day.

Members of the MSA Senate (Savitar 1964)

In 1975 Carrie Francke was elected the first woman president of MSA. 

Carrie Francke (AB '75, BJ '76, JD '81)
Francke had an active political career that began at Mizzou where she was elected the first woman as President of the Student body. She served as Assistant Attorney General in Missouri from 1982-1985.  
Savitar 1975

In 1997, MSA introduced electronic voting with the option to cast ballots by e-mail, which increased voter turnout.
Students voting the old fashioned way, in person (Savitar 1997)


The University of Missouri also played host to state and national politics by bringing politicians and political speakers to campus and through student activism. 

Important national political figures visited the campus.  Such visitors included Harry S. Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt. 
Harry S. Truman on his 1954 visit (Savitar 1954)

Eleanor Roosevelt was invited to MU by the Student Unions Board and she gave a lecture entitled "You and the United Nations" (Savitar 1957)
Politicians also made the university part of their campaign stops during election seasons.

Republican Senatorial candidate John C. Dansworth came to Missouri’s campus for a debate against Democratic candidate Stuart Symington. Dansworth attacked Missouri’s seniority system and Symington spoke against Nixon and the Vietnam War.  Symington won his re-election. (Savitar 1971)

Republican Vice-President George H.W. Bush speaking at University of Missouri during his 1988 Presidential Campaign, which he would go on to secure. (Savitar 1988)


The University of Missouri has also produced many illustrious graduates who would go on to have political careers on state and national levels.

Democrat Jay Nixon (BA ’78, JD ‘81). Nixon was elected as Governor of Missouri in 2009 and was re-elected for a second term in 2012. He has also served as the Attorney General of Missouri and as a representative in the Missouri Senate (MIZZOU Spring 2004)

Republican Sam Graves (BS ‘86)
Graves was elected in 1992 to serve on the Missouri House of Representatives.  In 1994 he was elected to the Missouri Senate.  Graves is currently a representative in the U.S. House of Representatives of Missouri’s 6th congressional district.  He has served in this position since 2001. (Savitar 1983)

Democrat Claire McCaskill (BA ’76, JD ‘77).
McCaskill was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri in 2006.  She was re-elected in 2012. She has also served as State Auditor and as a member of the Missouri House of Representatives (Savitar 1975).

Republican Forrest C. Donnell  (BA ’04, JD ‘07). Donnell was elected Governor of Missouri in 1940. He also served as a U.S. Senator from 1945-1951. Here Governor Donnell oversees the first graduating class of the Naval Training School in 1943 (Savitar 1943)

Democrat Tim Kaine (BA ‘79). After moving from Missouri following graduation, Kaine was very active in Virginia politics. He served as a mayor in Richmond, a Lt. Governor of the state, and then was elected Governor of the state in 2006.  Kaine is currently a U.S. Senator and is running as the vice-presidential nominee of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election (MIZZOU Spring 2004)

Come and visit our exhibits on the first and second floors through the end of November!

Blog post authored by Lauren DiSalvo, Curator of Public Arts at the Missouri Student Unions