By: Spencer Bowman, Bicentennial Intern, Class of 2020, English and Media, Bloomington
Indiana University has a long tradition of commemorating its past, present, and future with time capsules. Capsules inserted into the cornerstones of Wylie Hall, Student Building, Memorial Hall, Indiana Memorial Union, and Bryan Hall demonstrate this commitment to preserve the past for future generations to study.
At the cornerstone laying ceremony of Wylie Hall in 1884, future IU President William Lowe Bryan—who completed his undergraduate degree that year—spoke the following words:
“Today we find our sermon in a stone. A multitude of people are gathered here…and all are gathered about a senseless block of granite. What is there in this polished cube to justify such an assemblage? What motive or inspiration can there be in a mass of limestone? How was this rock transformed into a swift and subtle magnet which could draw about it the mind of the State, and evoke from it this stately ceremony…The stone before us is more than worthy of this presence and this ceremonial. It stands between all the past and all the future–full of eloquent significance, holding in itself the most complete summation of the past and the largest promise of the future.
I might say it grew beneath this sod, and that today it rests here, patient and strong—strong as the centuries through which it grew, and patient for the burden it is to bear—proclaiming with stony lips that all excellence and strength are the product of patience and time.”
Bryan’s message of a “senseless block of granite” which holds the meaning of both the past and future, and due to the presence of a time capsule inside the stone, echoes to the present year of 2017 as the Office of the Bicentennial continues planning new university time capsules to be buried in 2020.
This idea of a physical item—or rather, a collection of items in the form of a time capsule—serving as a “swift and subtle magnet” of a greater meaning is something being carried today when considering the form our generation’s time capsule will ultimately take, and has served as an inspiration to search for the troves of hidden treasures around our campus.
Following the University’s move from Seminary Square to what is now known as the Old Crescent, the location of today’s campus west of Indiana Ave., a cornerstone was placed by IU President Lemuel Moss in Wylie Hall, the first building on the new property along with neighboring Owen Hall.
Only six days before the cornerstone was to be laid, the Board of Trustees appointed President Moss, along with James D. Maxwell and Isaac Jenkinson, to arrange the contents of the cornerstone’s time capsule.
The ceremony was on June 10, 1884, and items placed into the cornerstone’s time capsule included the names of officers of the state, a historic sketch of Indiana University, the program of the 44th commencement, class day exercises, local newspapers, a list of offices in Bloomington and a sketch of Bloomington churches.
The Student Building
On June 21, 1904, a cornerstone was laid at the new Student Building, still under construction, following an alumni reception as part of that year’s commencement ceremonies. Among the speakers at the ceremony, despite her original hesitation to give much of a speech, was Frances Morgan Swain, the ninth first lady of the university who lobbied and fundraised for the building to be created as a space for female students on campus.
Items placed in the cornerstone, which can be found on the southeast corner of the building, included copies of letters from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (who donated to Swain’s fundraising campaign), programs and pamphlets, “copy of history of movement, by Mrs. Swain,” copies of local papers, a list of graduates, the University Bulletin, class schedules, copies of diplomas, a photograph of campus, and a set of Louisiana Purchase Exposition stamps.
Just last year, it was renamed the Frances Morgan Swain Student Building as part of a bicentennial initiative to increase public recognition of important women, such as Swain, and other underrepresented individuals throughout IU history. Today, the cornerstone can be found on the southeast corner of the building.
Along with the IMU and the original Memorial Stadium located on 10th St., the Memorial Fund Drive allowed for the construction of a new women’s dormitory, Memorial Hall. The building was dedicated on October 20, 1924 and the time capsule in its cornerstone contains several documents related to the Memorial Fund and women’s organizations on campus at the time.
These documents included the handbook and governing documents of the Woman’s Self-Government Association, details of the Women’s All-Campus Committee, and a list of the 5,356 women who contributed to the Memorial Fund, raising a total of $501,399.23, the average donation being $93.50.
Today, the Memorial Hall cornerstone can be found on the southwest corner of the building’s archway. In a great example of today’s campus reacquainting itself with its past, Memorial Hall will return to its original use as women’s housing when it is rededicated in September 2017 as part of the new Wells Quad Residence Hall and houses the Women in STEM Living Learning Community.
Indiana Memorial Union
Soon after the laying of the Memorial Hall cornerstone, on October 31, 1924, a cornerstone was laid by architects Granger and Bollenbach during construction of the IMU.
The building was funded by the same Memorial Fund Drive as Memorial Hall and the original Memorial Stadium on 10th Street. Items placed inside included various university, Bloomington, and state publications, photos of the campus, students, staff, and faculty, an autographed copy of “The Spirit of Indiana” written by President Bryan, and a list of all IU men and women who served in the military in all wars. Today the cornerstone can be found to the right of the main south entrance to the IMU.
Bryan Hall, (originally named the Administration Building) was originally constructed as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the mid-1930s, contains a time capsule in its own cornerstone, placed there on June 15, 1936 by IU president William Lowe Bryan.
According to a letter sent to architects Granger and Bollenbach, Bryan arranged for “sundry articles” to be placed in a 12”x6”x8” copper box which went into the cornerstone on the northwest corner of the building. Indiana Governor Paul V. McNutt was in attendance to help lay the cornerstone during that year’s commencement ceremony. That day’s issue of The Daily Student reported the following items to be placed in the cornerstone:
“In the stone was placed photographs of the University administrative officers and members of the Board of Trustees. A copy of the University catalogue for 1935-36 and a copy of the current issue of the Alumni Quarterly also are to be sealed in the stone…As representative of the student publications, copies of the Red Book, the Arbutus, and the two Commencement issues of the Daily Student will be placed in the stone. University history to go in the stone will include the Centennial volume of the University, published in 1920, and the History of Indiana University, written by the late Dr. Theophilus A. Wylie, professor emeritus of physics.
Copies of two books by President Bryan, “Spirit of Indiana” and “The President’s Column,” also are to be included in the list of articles placed in the stone. Autographed photographs of Dr. Bryan and Governor McNutt will complete the list.”
The cornerstone can be found on the northwest corner of the building’s main tower, directly across from Franklin Hall.
Due to the efforts of numerous people, particularly women in the cases of The Student Building and Memorial Hall, a vibrant historical record now awaits researchers all around our campus. Most of all, these cornerstones serve as a reminder of the rich history of IU Bloomington’s campus that may not always be apparent until you begin to look.
Read more about Spencer’s time capsule research here: https://blogs.iu.edu/bicentennialblogs/2017/04/14/my-semester-as-a-treasure-hunting-time-traveler-part-1/
 “Oration delivered at the laying of the cornerstone of a new university building,” speech by William Lowe Bryan. IU Archives: C69, Box 6
 Indiana University Board of Trustees Minutes, June 4, 1884.
 “Owen/Wylie Hall Rededication,” speech by Kenneth R.R. Gros Louis. IU Archives: C220, Box 2
 Letter from Frances Morgan Swain. IU Archives: C270, Box 121
 “A Successful Year,” The Daily Student, July 23, 1904.
 Indiana University News-Letter, vol. XIII, no. 2.
 Construction report. IU Archives: C286, Box 110
 Letter from President Bryan to Granger and Bollenbacher. IU Archives: C286, Box 110
 “McNutt to Give Talk at Laying of Cornerstone,” The Daily Student, June 15, 1936