By: James H. Capshew, University Historian
Many people, in ways both large and small, have contributed much to the writing of the history of Indiana University over the years, and Daisy Beck is a fine example. In 1899, Daisy Woodward received her Bachelor of Arts degree and married Frank O. Beck (AB 1894, AM 1895).
After spending a quarter of a century in Chicago where they were involved in church work and social welfare activities, they retired in 1934 to Bloomington, where they were both unofficial counselors to the student body as well as the IU administration.
They were indefatigable advocates for a place of worship on campus serving all faiths, and through their moral and financial support, Beck Chapel was opened in 1957.
Daisy, who was a direct descendent of John Ketcham, one of IU’s original trustees, published an informal history of IU in 1962, entitled Once Over Lightly: An Indiana University Story. In a series of delightfully written vignettes, she accurately sketches out the main events, the personalities, and the place of IU in different times. Here is an example:
“Indiana University has a magnificent spread of subjects from which to choose, and it is gratifying that so many students elect to learn something of the fine arts in addition to the more practical subjects.
The Auditorium offers this opportunity in abundant measure, be it music, drama, painting, that is desired. Is there a student who has been on Campus for four years who has not grasped an opportunity of hearing the Barnes organ, of listening to opera? Or has any student neglected to see and study the Thomas Hart Benton murals?
In 1942 the great Chicago Auditorium figured it had not used its organ for twenty-five years; therefore, it concluded, it no longer needed an organ. The instrument had been built in 1889 by Hilbourne L. Roosevelt, the greatest organ builder of his generation, at a cost of $65,000, a sizable sum in that day, and, when dedicated, it was the largest in America.
Dr. William Barnes, an organ architect and recitalist, had no earthly use for the huge organ, but he bought it at auction, anyhow, for a thousand dollars. After it was torn down, its parts were stored in the basement of the First Baptist Church in Evanston.
When Dr. Barnes heard from Robert L. Sanders, then dean of our Music School, of Indiana’s splendid new auditorium, he deemed it a fitting home for the magnificent organ, and gave it as a present to the new building.
In 1944 its parts were shipped to the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company in Boston who restored and rebuilt it, requiring two years for the work. Five months were spent in adjusting and tuning, after which the parts finally arrived by truck in Bloomington.
It is somewhat overwhelming to contemplate that the organ’s longest pipe is 32 feet, and 109 stops control register and tone, that twenty-five horsepower motors it and that 100 miles of electric wiring was used to install it.
Result: An instrument recognized among musicians as one of the greatest in the world in size and tone, besides having richness of historical background.
Grateful thanks to Messrs Barnes and Sanders.
Since its rebuilding and dedication in 1948, it has been played by some of the world’s greatest organists, including E. Power Biggs, Marcel Dupre, Alexander Schreiner, and Fernando Germani.” (pages 109-110)
Writing over 50 years ago, Daisy Beck captured the excitement of the new Auditorium and the flavor of its impressive organ with its rich background, producing a gem of IU history.
For further information about the subsequent career of the IU Auditorium organ, please consult: