Monthly Archives: November 2008

A Very Blanchard Thanksgiving

Nov. 25, 1872 LetterThe Jonathan Blanchard Papers are a diverse gathering of items covering the family history of Wheaton College’s first president. Ranging from the scribbling of grandchildren to a petition for the abolition of slavery, they illuminate Blanchard in his many roles. The heart of the Collection is the more than 4600 letters preserved by his wife, Mary Bent Blanchard. Dating from 1808 to 1892, the items cover a wide range of topics with writers including family members, friends, students, Civil War soldiers, church associates, colleagues, reform workers, and others. These letters are a valuable resource for scholars, students, and other history enthusiasts alike.

During this Thanksgiving holiday one such letter was written by Jonathan and Mary’s daughter, Maria Blanchard Cook from Chicago on November 25, 1872.

Dear Father, the turkey which I heard you prepared for our Thanksgiving, in order perhaps that we might more keenly realize the blessing of having kind parents, came safely to the city. Mr. Cook was hauling lumber to his new place of business that day and at noon placed the turkey on the open wagon he was using and supposing it was fully secured by things he placed over it came home and on reaching here found the paper it was wrapped in empty. We were sorry to lose it the more because it was the turkey from home. But Mr. Cook says he will replace it and mother Cook has invited us all over to her house on Thanksgiving day so we will be thankful for our turkey, hope some one more needy and deserving than we found it and “rejoicing evermore.”

Trumpet Call to Wheaton

It has been wisely suggested that each incoming Wheaton College student mandatorily read The Silver Trumpet (1930) by J. Wesley Ingles. The Silver Trumpet received the John C. Green Award from the American Sunday-School Union as its unanimous choice for a manuscript whose subject was “the heroic appeal of Christianity to young people.” It went through nearly two dozen printings through the 1950s, later republished under the title The Amazing D. Randall MacRae (Moody Press) and has made its way online as an “on-demand” book through Amazon.

Silver TrumpetDedicated to “President Charles A. Blanchard who, of all my teachers, has left the deepest and most abiding impress upon my life,” the novel follows the fortunes of D. Randall MacRae, wealthy worldling and hotshot football hero who, pursuing a pretty young lady, reluctantly transfers from magnificent, ivy-walled Princeton to backside-of-nowhere “Wharton College,” a repressive “fundamentalist” institution situated somewhere west of Chicago. MacRae painfully adjusts to campus life, fumbling about with less certitude than his athletic reputation might suggest. His anxieties are gradually lightened as the semester progresses and he at last secures sweet romance–along with a genuine, humbling faith in Christ. An airy, wholesome romp, Ingles’s tale conjures the gentler, courtlier moods of the pre-War Midwest, the imminent thrill of the Big Game against North Central, autumn’s chill and the coloring leaves against gray skies, blossoming friendships in depressed times and the promise of bright young lives wholly devoted to Christ. In a day when there was no other “safe” place to attend college, alum of a certain age point to an early reading of The Silver Trumpet as the deciding factor for choosing Wheaton College, a fact bolstered by Rudolph Nelson in his biography of Edward Carnell. He notes that “Dr. V. Raymond Edman…administered a questionnaire to freshmen one year during the forties. In response to a question concerning their reasons for having decided to attend Wheaton, more than half of the entering class included in their list a reading of The Silver Trumpet” (p. 28).

Christian Contextualized

To paraphrase the joys of William Sanford Akin’s life would be say that he collected books. Akin’s interest in books began as a teenager. He recalled with a note of humor that it all started when “someone hit him over the head with a first edition.” But elsewhere he stated that he became interested in Samuel Johnson when he was 14 when he was told to read Beauties of Johnson as “penance for his sins.” During this time he served as an acolyte while Dr. George Craig Stewart was rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston. Pilgrim\'s Progress (Japanese ed.)When he was 16 he obtained a job in an old bookstore. Ultimately, Akin knew “of nothing more gratifying, physically, mentally, or spiritually, than to sit down to a cup of tea and browse among [his] books until [he found] something to satisfy [his] need at the moment.” The connection between Akin and Wheaton began when Akin developed a friendship with Wheaton’s president, V. Raymond Edman’s brother who was a member of Chicago’s Union League. Akin donated the bulk of his collection in Dr. Edman’s memory after his sudden death in 1967.

Along with his interest in Johnson and Boswell, Akin grew fond of illustrated editions of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. In many homes of the 18th and 19th century, particularly in America, Pilgrim’s Progress, ranked second only to the Bible in importance. The third edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress, published in 1679, appears to have been the first printing with any illustration, which have always played a key role in the story of Christian as he journeys from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. This particular edition was the first to bring the two previously separately published parts into a single volume.Fighting Apollyon

Pilgrim’s Progress became a part of the evangelical canon and as missionaries went around the world they took Bunyan’s Christian along with them. This Japanese edition is decidedly Asian in its illustrations. Not only has the book been translated into Japanese but care has been taken to translate the imagery as well. Here is Christian’s encounter with Apollyon in a decidedly different perspective. It is much more suited to the Japanese audience, especially with Fuji-esque mountain in the background and Christian wearing the armor and accoutrement of a samurai soldier.

Rockwell at Wheaton

Mary Barstow RockwellA copy of Norman Rockwell’s autobiography, My Adventures as an Illustrator (1960), archived in our Rare Book Collection (SC-10), boasts an intriguing inscription: “My best wishes to the art department at Wheaton College, sincerely, Norman Rockwell. My late and beloved wife, Mary Barstow Rockwell, was a native of Wheaton.” At the bottom of the page is another handwritten note, declaring that the book is dedicated to Mary, and directs the reader’s attention to her portrait on page 9, seen here.

Mary was the daughter of Alfred E. Barstow of California, and (Dora) Bernice Gary of Wheaton, IL; Dora, who took science courses at Wheaton College, was the niece of the famed U.S. Steel founder and Gary, Indiana namesake, Elbert Gary. Mary, born November 26, 1907, studied education at Stanford University Graduate School.

The circumstance under which the book was signed is not known. Rockwell divorced his first wife, Irene, in 1930. He was married to Mary from 1930 until her death in 1959, after which he married Molly Punderson in 1961. The famed Saturday Evening Post illustrator died in 1978 at his home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

A ministry in Art

Oswald Chambers’ strong faith was accompanied by an abundant imagination that developed into a vibrant creativity. After attending Sharp’s Institute as a child, Oswald received further education from several institutions including the National Art Training School in London (later renamed the Royal College of Art) where he received the Art Master’s Certificate, despite his father’s objections to his art studies. His father, a Baptist minister, did not believe that art could be a platform for ministry.

Chambers furthered his art studies at Edinburgh University and saw the arts as a gift of God to make life on earth bearable–they were a necessity, not a luxury.

In God’s Workmanship Chambers wrote that:

“The Personality of Truth is the great revelation of Christianity–“I am … the Truth.” Our Lord did not say He was “all truth” so that we could go to His statements as to a text-book and verify things; there are domains, such as science and art and history, which are distinctly man’s domains and the boundaries of our knowledge must continually alter and be enlarged; God never encourages laziness. The question to be asked is not, “Does the Bible agree with the findings of modern science?” but, “Do the findings of modern science help us to a better understanding of the things revealed in the Bible?”

Charcoal drawing of Beethoven by ChambersArt is one of those domains wherein humanity can both imitate God’s creativity and find expression for our own. Here are some examples of Oswald’s work, the originals, of which, are located in our collection.

It was at Edinburgh that Oswald prayed that he would serve God through art. As he continued his studies Chambers sensed that he was being called into fuller service and ministry. While in Edinburgh, he came under many positive influences, but particularly that of venerated Scottish Presbyterian pastor and Keswick leader Alexander Whyte. Especially influential was his Young Men’s class. Chambers struggled immensely regarding the ministry. George Oxer, a longtime friend, sought to correct “any who may think that Oswald Chambers had an easy passage to the heights God took him. The measure of the valley is the height of the mountain. My friend’s soul was a lone rough rider passing through the wilderness to his Canaan.”

Shown here is a charcoal drawing of Beethoven that is housed in the Chambers collection.

Good soil.

The details of James Burr’s early life are little-unknown. It appears from the scant evidence that he was born in Cuba, New York, in 1814, but details of the subsequent twenty years trail off, until his enrollment at Oberlin College in 1834-35. He stayed a year and then was drawn away to The Mission Institute, also known as The Adelphia Theopolis Mission Institute, in Quincy, Illinois. The Institute was founded by Dr. David Nelson, a former Revolutionary War soldier and physician. Both Oberlin and The Institute were renowned for their open sympathies with the cause of abolition.

After a reconnaissance mission into Missouri to free those enslaved, on the night of July 12th, 1841 Burr returned with two classmates, George Thompson and Alanson Work, and the slave owners ambushed them during their rescue attempt. The men were bound by ropes and paraded off to Palmyra, Missouri. They were quickly indicted for stealing slaves, held without bail, and chained together for months until their trial was called. In 1841 Missouri had no law against encouraging slaves to flee north. In addition, the testimony of blacks could not be used in court as evidence against a white man. Technically the three had broken no law since no slave had run away. In addition, they had spoken only to slaves and there was no legally admissible evidence for the prosecution. Still, the men were tried in mid-September on an illogical combination of trumped-up charges and found guilty of grand larceny though they had stolen nothing. Outside the court, the town’s citizens prepared a gallows “in case they were acquitted.” Dubbed “The Quincy Abolitionists,” they each received 12 years at hard labor in the state penitentiary, and, still in chains, they left for Jefferson City. Years later George Thompson wrote his memoir Prison Life and Reflections from the prison journals and letters from all three menThe Quincy Abolitionists. Thompson vividly recalled their first night together in jail, “[we] knelt down, and committed ourselves to God, imploring His guidance and protection, feeling that He had wise purposes to accomplish by this unintelligible dispensation.” Denied paper for nearly two years, Thompson kept his journal on “bedstead, old boards, and blank leaves, by recording, sometimes a word, sometimes two or three words, and sometimes a sentence or two-just enough to bring the occurrence or scene to my mind-with the date.” Deprived of all but the thinnest of clothing and blankets, they almost froze during the first two winters.

Eventually James was permitted to refashion their two small beds into one so that all three could sleep together and “we could take turns getting into the middle. If an outside one was becoming frostbitten, he only had to request the middle one to exchange places awhile; and we were ever ready to oblige and accommodate for each knew how to sympathize with the other. So far from murmuring, we had great cause for thankfulness-for many were in a worse condition than we.” As “the cause” advanced, the health of all three declined, but Burr was most severely affected, and he was often unable to work for weeks at a time.

James BurrOn January 19, 1844, James’s arm was caught in a machine, twisted and crushed in such a way that both bones in the wrist were broken with one protruding through the skin. The doctor “set it according to the best of his skill; which we feared at the time was not very good, as the result proved. He [James] bore the setting very well, scarcely uttering a groan-painful yet needful. As feared, his arm never healed properly, remaining useless for the remainder of his life. Burr was repeatedly ill and unemployed but this probably worked to his advantage. Inasmuch as he was of little value to the prison lessees, he was pardoned a year later. Freed quite suddenly in January 1846, he remembered feeling so stricken at the thought of leaving George alone that he offered to give his pardon to his Brother Thompson, but the authorities wouldn’t permit it. Burr returned to Quincy after his pardon, but moved about one hundred miles north to Princeton, Illinois, by 1849. The 1850 census reported him working as a carpenter and having a wife, Mary Anne Munroe, and two children: Charles H. and Mary A. Munroe who were 13 and 11 years of age respectively.

The Illinois Institute had been founded in 1853 by Wesleyan Methodists who had split from the main body of the Methodist Church over the question of slavery. Early in 1859, two months before his death from consumption, which he probably contracted while in prison, he prepared a will leaving $300 of his $4000 estate to the Illinois Institute in Wheaton. This money was “to be used for the educating of indigent fatherless young men who were wholly devoted to the cause of Christ wishing a preparation for such a calling and wishing to preach said gospel to all irrespective of color and who are opposed to slavery and sin of every grade and in favor of the reformers of the present day.” The question of how Burr’s grave came to campus remains an unsolved mystery. According to a brief letter in the Christian Cynosure of February 20, 1879, by George Thompson, Burr was buried there “by special request.” He wished his grave to be on grounds untrampled by slavery. There were many other ties between the tiny school and the city where Burr lived. In 1860 two of the trustees of the institution, Rufus Lumry and Owen Lovejoy, (another zealous abolitionist), list Princeton, Illinois, as their home address. In addition, John Cross, who taught in the school, was also from Princeton. Undoubtedly, Burr was well acquainted with the sympathies of these men and knew of their efforts to aid runaway slaves. Given tuition costs of $24 per year for the college by 1860, his legacy endowed a full scholarship. When forced to reorganize in 1859-60, the administration natuBurr graverally looked for a man who felt as deeply as they did about the issue of abolition. Consequently, they invited Jonathan Blanchard to become the president of the struggling school and he arrived in January, 1860, almost a year after Burr’s burial. No one knows whether these two men were acquainted, but it is almost certain that they knew of each other and their joint sympathy for the abolitionist cause.

For years Burr rested quietly, his grave officially decorated once each year by students. Then the damage done by pranksters to the tombstone caused campus officials to remove the seven-foot high marker and replace it with one flush with the ground. In April of 1959, there was a special commemorative service in his memory, focusing attention on his life. Although speculation about Burr waxed and waned following that occasion, he didn’t return to prominence until 1987 when the new James E. Burr Scholarship for first-year minority students was announced.