Author Archives: morris18

(Dis)Content in the Heartland: Protest and Peace at Purdue by Devan Lindey

The traditional narrative of college life in the 1960s seen through journalistic coverage blurred the narrative by painting it as the “summer of love” and “days of rage.”[1] This image continued into the 1970s as the United States became more entangled in Vietnam. Protests riddled campuses across the country in retaliation to escalation in Vietnam and funding of military research at universities. John Thelin in Going to College in the Sixties argues we need to consider the tameness of college in the Sixties with fraternities, athletics, and admissions processes. I intend to examine a Purdue student tradition, the “Senior Cords,” to juxtapose the on-campus protests with the more mundane side of student life to give a more nuanced picture of student life in higher education.

More extreme attacks did occur at Purdue. In response to a flag desecration a “Student Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate” was assembled to investigate. Personal intimidation as well as threats ensued while a member of the Committee was chased in their car and nearly ran off the road. Additionally, “a dean’s home was splattered by shotgun pellets.”[2] However, most of the protests in response to on campus issues or international events were far more tame than outright threats on lives. When President Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia, students acted. We witness a spontaneous reaction by students in protest when over four hundred students rallied which resulted in some window breaking at the armory.[3] However, this event was followed shortly thereafter by a more peaceful retort to Nixon’s action when students distributed fliers calling for the campus and surrounding community to non-violently protest through the boycott of any store not displaying a particular sign.[4]

Handbill calling for a boycott

Despite promotion of peaceful methods of protest and boycott, students did advocate for more hostile methods. The assistant to the then President Hovde announced that some students were urged through handbills to equip themselves with “guns, knives, razors, etc.” in response to arrests.[5] Students did peacefully sit in the Union as a form of non-violent protest. However, the administration saw potential for violent confrontation to develop. While we must keep in mind that this source is officially from the administration and could therefore skew information to support its own actions, other sources corroborate such fears of the administration. Specifically, we can point to a handbill circulated by students titled “Police-State Terror at Purdue,” proclaiming that “Purdue must be destroyed.”[6]

Handbill calling for the destruction of Purdue

Administrative response to threats at the Union

Despite the tumultuous affairs of protests and violence, campus life for many continued unimpeded. Classes and teaching continued while many students either unaware or simply ignoring the dissent of others immersed themselves in campus life.[7] To view this side of student life, one can look to the “Senior Cords” worn by senior students on campus. The students adorned these clothing items with imagery of student organizations, personal interests, and popular culture of the time.

The Purdue Archives contain myriad pairs of pants and skirts worn by students that all contain elements revealing the more mundane and non-radical nature of student life, a contrast with the dominant narrative of the time. As an example, we can consider Richard Gehlbach’s “Senior Cords.” When we analyze the iconography of his pants, we witness a student engaged with on campus activities such as Collegiate 4H. Additionally, Gehlbach adorned his pants with popular culture images of Yogi Bear and the spies from Spy vs. Spy of the “Mad” magazine.[8]

His pants contain various other images showing the other side of student life that we need to take into consideration to grasp a more thorough picture of student culture in the protest era.

Gehlbach cords, front

Gehlbach senior cords, back

Purdue was no stranger to discontent though the protests at the campus were less volatile than others at Berkeley and Kent State. However, in contrast to this traditional narrative, student life often remained unbothered. An observance of student culture through campus traditions reveals a much more complex image of the protest era on college campuses. The “Senior Cords” are one such source through which we as scholars can engage with Thelin’s idea of the normalcy of student life. Some students truly remained content with having the typical college experience as exhibited through the “Senior Cords.”


[1] John R. Thelin, Going to College in the Sixties (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018), xiii.

[2] Robert Topping, A Century and Beyond: The History of Purdue University (Purdue University Press, 1988), 329.

[3] Skip Wollenberg, “Nixon sends G.I.’s to Cambodia.” Purdue Exponent, 1 May 1970. Accessed via

[4] Student Protest Materials, 1967-1984, B1F3, MSF 495, William Buffington Collection of Student Protest Papers, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries and Special Collections, West Lafayette, IN.

[5] Student Protest Materials, 1967-1984, B1F4, MSF 495, William Buffington Collection of Student Protest Papers, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries and Special Collections, West Lafayette, IN.

[6] Student Protest Materials, 1967-1984, B1F3, MSF 495, William Buffington Collection of Student Protest Papers, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries and Special Collections, West Lafayette, IN.

[7] Robert Topping, A Century and Beyond: The History of Purdue University (Purdue University Press, 1988), 333.

[8] Senior Cords, 1965, Box 1, 20180212.3, Richard A. Gehlbach senior cords, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries and Special Collections, West Lafayette, IN.


Primary Sources

Purdue University Exponent student newspaper. Accessed via

Student Protest Materials, 1967-1984, Box 1, MSF 495, William Buffington Collection
of Student Protest Papers, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections,
Purdue University Libraries and Special Collections, West Lafayette, IN.

Senior Cords, 1965, Box 1, 20180212.3, Richard A. Gehlbach senior cords, Purdue University
Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries and Special Collections, West
Lafayette, IN.

Secondary Sources

Thelin, John. Going to College in the Sixties. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018.

Topping, Robert. A Century and Beyond: The History of Purdue University. Purdue University
Press, 1988.

Blog post by guest blogger Devan Lindey. 

This blog post is by Devan Lindey, a third year PhD Candidate in the History Department at Purdue University. The blog post reflects Devan’s archival research in the course ILS 695, Digital and Analog Archives. Devan studies the history of higher education and legal history.

Note: In Spring 2020, students of the Digital and Analog Archives course (ILS 695) conducted research into hidden or lesser known aspects of student life in Purdue history. Each student conducted original archival research on their individual topics and selected source materials from the archives to digitize. Originally, the plan was for students in the course to create an online exhibit using the digital humanities tool, Omeka. Due to the interruption of COVID-19 in March, the course was partially reworked. Rather than creating a group online exhibit in Omeka, each student was given the option to translate their individual research papers into a different form of digital scholarship: published blog posts.  We are excited to share shortened versions of these research papers on the Purdue Archives and Special Collections blog!

Herman Murray: Breaking the Color Barrier for Purdue Football

In 1948, Herman Murray began playing for the freshman football squad at Purdue. According to the student newspaper, Murray stood out as a player in a game between the “frosh” team and the “B eleven,” when he pounced on a fumble and helped turn the tide in favor of his team (Exponent November 13, 1948). Murray joined Purdue’s “B Team” (similar to a junior varsity squad) as a tackle in 1949. Jim Smith, writing for the student newspaper, pointed out the significance of Murray’s place on the team: “Here’s hoping that the plucky Murray can help the varsity and here’s also hat’s off to the athletic department for helping to break down racial prejudice at Purdue” (Exponent, February 23, 1949).

Herman Murray, shown in the center of this photo of residents of the International House at Purdue. Debris 1949.

Murray’s athletic skills were not lost on Purdue coaches or students.  The following year he became the first African American student to play in an official varsity football game when he played in the November 11, 1950 game against Northwestern at Ross-Ade Stadium (Exponent, November 14, 1950). Students in the crowd enthusiastically chanted his name from the stands.  The student newspaper pointed out the hard work and persistence on Murray’s part that led to this important moment in Purdue history, writing that although Murray “played but a few minutes he deserves mention for his long road up. Big Herman Murray finally got his chance to appear in a ball game and he has really worked for that chance. Herm has been plugging away for the past two years serving as bait for the varsity and doing his bit in the “B” games. A good example of what determination can do.” (Exponent, November 14, 1950).

Murray is shown in back row, #99. Debris 1950

Murray was born in Indianapolis on January 2, 1930. He graduated from the Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis (1948), where he served as captain of his football squad and was named most valuable player. Murray entered Purdue University in 1948, graduating in 1952 with a BS degree in Science. For at least some of his years at Purdue he lived in the International House on Salisbury Street.

Herman Murray, Boilermaker tackle, circa 1948-1952.

Following graduation, Murray served for over twenty years with the U.S. Navy as a doctor of dentistry. He also worked for Arco Durethene Plastics and Arco Chemicals. Following retirement, Murray drove a school bus for special needs children in Long Beach, California. He passed away on August 2, 2017 (Source: Obituary, Serenity Funeral Services, 2017).

The archives staff recently learned of Murray’s passing and we wish to respectfully express our condolences to his family. 

Memoirs and Memories: Purdue University Archives and Special Collections


Welcome to the new blog for the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center.  We are pleased to launch this blog to increase awareness of the Archives and Special Collections, our unique collections, user-centered services, and exciting new initiatives.

The Archives and Special Collections at Purdue are closely connected to the University’s land grant mission and support the University’s overarching goals of learning, discovery, and engagement.  As a division of the Purdue Libraries, Archives and Special Collections contributes to the three main components of the Libraries strategic plan: learning, scholarly communication, and meeting global challenges.

We live in a time of great scrutiny over the costs of higher education and the need to demonstrate the value of all parts of a university in contributing towards its mission. Libraries, archives, and special collections are no different, although it can be challenging to put a monetary value on preservation of the cultural and historical record to advance research and learning. In this first blog post I’d like to provide a general overview of the ways the Archives and Special Collections division has aligned itself with the mission and goals of the Libraries.

ASC Entrance

Archives and Special Collections, located on the fourth floor of HSSE Library in Stewart Center.

Learning: Integration of Information Literacy

The faculty and staff who work in Archives and Special Collections actively contribute towards teaching and learning at Purdue. We collaborate with faculty in instructing students on how to conduct research using primary sources such as archives, manuscripts, and rare books. The archives reading room functions as an active laboratory space where students benefit from hands-on practice conducting research in a real-world research environment. Students who interact with our collections to analyze primary sources not only improve their problem-solving and critical thinking skills, they often make exciting discoveries that spark their research interests.

Each year, we host a growing number of students whose classes visit Archives and Special Collections, utilize the collections for class assignments and research papers, and, increasingly, publish their work in journals such as JPUR, the Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research. Our philosophy is that the archives and special collections exist to be used by students, faculty and staff, and the public, and we encourage students to come back and pursue their own independent research projects outside of class. Amazingly, many of them do. Several of the students who have used the Archives and Special Collections holdings in their assignments have been so inspired by working with original primary sources that they have made the decision to pursue graduate degrees in library and information science, archival science, or museum studies.

Scholarly Communication: Increase Access To and Use of Scholarly Resources

As part of the Libraries strategic goal of scholarly communication, Archives and Special Collections increases access to and use of unique and distinctive collections. We actively acquire manuscripts and personal papers, university archives, and rare books that support teaching and research. The collections are built strategically, in alignment with Purdue’s disciplinary strengths and land grant mission. As such, the Archives and Special Collections has identified several areas of focus for the collections: the history of flight and space exploration; the history of women in Indiana and/or affiliated with Purdue; the history of psychoactive substances research; and Purdue University history. We are committed to making all of our collections as easy to locate and use as possible, and we do this in a variety of ways. First of all, when we acquire a collection we create an online accession record for it immediately, to allow researchers to find it as soon as possible. Secondly, we process the collection, taking steps to preserve items in the collection, arrange them, and create a finding aid or guide to the collection that enables researchers to see what is contained in the collection and if it is relevant to their research. The finding aid goes into our collections database, available online freely for anyone to find. Additionally, catalog records are created and contributed to WorldCat and the Libraries online catalog, to ensure a variety of routes for students and scholars to discover the collections.

Primary Sources

Archives and Speical Collections holds numerous primary and secondary sources.

In addition to these traditional accessioning and processing steps, the collections are regularly brought to students and used in class assignments. Collections are rotated for exhibits, allowing visitors to benefit from viewing displays of these rare materials. Finally, collections are increasingly being digitized, as resources allow, to provide researchers worldwide the opportunity to use the unique special collections at Purdue to meet their research, teaching, or personal needs. This enables scholars to access our collections regardless of geographic location and without the constraints of time and expense of traveling to use the collections. We have created several online exhibits, experimented with crowd sourcing the identification of photographs, and enabled users to add keywords and tags to scanned items in e-Archives, our digital library. We are committed to free and open access to our collections, and to prioritizing digitization efforts to meet the areas of highest research demand.

Increasingly, we are finding ways to publish materials in Archives and Special Collections to expose the collections to a wider audience. In collaboration with the Purdue University Press, we have worked to have materials in the collections used more frequently in the Press’s publications, digitized and linked content to print and e-books published by the Press, and collaborated on creation of an app for the Spacewalker biography of Jerry Ross, that links to digitized videos, images, and related materials from Ross’s personal papers in the Archives and Special Collections.

Preservation of the cultural and historical record is a key aspect of the work we do in Archives and Special Collections, and we take that role seriously, particularly as the majority of new manuscripts, archives, and images are created digitally today. These “born digital” items are inherently at risk due to the rapid obsolescence of software and file formats. Without active stewardship, many of today’s digital files will be unreadable to future generations. Some of the initiatives the Archives and Special Collections staff have undertaken to preserve important digital collections include creation of digital preservation policies and practices for working with born digital manuscript collections and university records; web archiving of critical university web sites, particularly the webpages of academic units that contain university publications, reports, minutes, and related content that needs to be accessible in the future; active membership and contribution of digital collections to MetaArchive; and data curation, with archivists as active partners in appraising and preserving data sets in PURR, the University’s research data repository.

I hope you enjoy our blog, and that you find something in our future posts that will spark your curiosity, engage your interests, and encourage you to interact with us and our collections. Please visit our website for more information.  If you have an idea for a future blog post, please feel free to contact us at