From Woody's Couch

Our Playbook on OSU History

Movember Motivation: Faculty Facial Hair

All month we’ve been providing photos of historical chinstraps, muttonchops, and sidewhiskers to motivate your Movember efforts over on Twitter. Today the fun comes to the blog with a look at some fancy faculty facial hair, courtesy of the 1897 Makio yearbook. To vote, select the button next to the photo you like best and then click “Vote” at the bottom of the poll.

The College of Public Health is heading up the #MOhio effort on campus. If you’re participating, hang in there!

Vote for your favorite!

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If these names seem familiar, it’s because these faculty all have (or at least had) buildings on campus named after them.

Block “O” manager was ‘letter’-winner in many ways

bannerRecently, the Archives received a scrapbook, a Varsity sweater, a Block “O” banner and several other items from the family of Charles Riegle, a student who earned a bachelor of science degree in Agriculture in 1941. Not only are we excited about this very kind donation because of the cool artifacts we received, but because we learned about this extraordinary student who truly was a man of many talents.

1938_reigle_yokom_newsclippingFirst, there was the letter-writing business he started with a friend in order to make money for school. Today, letters written home or to a significant other or even a family member are a rarity since communication mostly relies on texts, sometimes emails, and if you’re lucky, a phone call. Back in the 1930s, though, letter-writing was a prime means of communication. Some students, though, apparently were too busy to write home, so Riegle and a friend started a business writing letters for them. While clients had to supply their own stamps, Riegle and fellow freshman Julian A. Yokom charged 10 cents per 50 words. Riegle and Yokom’s motto was, “Give Us a Chance and the Girl Back Home a Break.” While some customers wanted letters written home to “doting parents,” most preferred a letter home to a sweetheart. And in that department, Riegle and Yokom might even use their word expertise to “break off relations with a girlfriend tactfully but don’t know how to do it,” according to a 1938 Lantern article on the pair.

In addition to his letter-writing business, Riegle also was a member of the OSU Cheerleading Squad, The Buckeye Club, the Men’s Dormitory Association and Gamma Sigma Delta, an honorary society for agriculture students. Being a member the Buckeye Club actually meant that Riegle lived in the Stadium Scholarship Dorms, which at that time were for male students who couldn’t otherwise afford to go to college (hence, the letter-writing business).

Charles Riegle, Cheerleading, c.1939-40

Charles Riegle in his OSU Cheerleading uniform, c1939

And of course, he was a very dedicated member of Block “O.” During the 1938-39 academic year, Riegle became Junior Manager of the Cheering Section and by the following year became Manager. Riegle managed three juniors, six sophomores, and six freshmen, while the cheering section had a total of roughly 1,200 men and women wearing scarlet capes against a grey background to create the impression of a block “O.” Each person would participate in different cheers while holding up different colored cards and singing along to certain songs and yells. There were 30 designs and 10 were used in a single game. By the end of the season, 3,000 cards were used. For his role as manager, Riegle received a Varsity “O” sweater in 1940.

Riegle’s energy and management skills served him well after his time at OSU: He joined the military and served in three wars: World War II, the Korean War, where he worked after the war on the establishment of the De-Militarized Zone between North and South Koreas; and the Vietnam War. He retired in 1968 as a U.S. Army Colonel and died several years later.

We very much appreciate the kind donation made by Dwight and Mary Helen Tuuri of the materials once owned by Riegle. It is because of people like the Tuuris that we have such wonderful stories to tell about OSU history, so we thank them very much!

Dead body + electricity = spooky experiment conducted by first faculty

T.C. Mendenhall, 1874

T.C. Mendenhall, 1874

Since it’s Halloween, we’d like to tell you about Thomas C. Mendenhall, the very first faculty member hired by the then-Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1873. He was a real Renaissance man when it came to the many and varied interests he pursued – including reanimation of corpses.

Though Mendenhall was a Physics professor, he also had a great interest in electricity (and other subjects, as you will read later). In 1872, while he was a teacher at Central High School – then known as Columbus High School – he decided to test a theory that a dead body could be brought back to life through electric shock. He received approval from the Ohio Penitentiary to transfer the corpse of a recently hanged prisoner to Starling Medical College, located in downtown Columbus and one of the predecessors of Ohio State’s College of Medicine. So, on October 4, 1872, Mendenhall tried, by use of electric shocks, to reanimate the corpse of John Barclay—a man who was hanged for murder that same day.

Starling Medical College

Starling Medical College

According to a history of the Columbus High School, the experiment was performed in front of the judges of the State Supreme Court and other witnesses, including a reporter for the Police Gazette. “In so far as anyone knew,” the history said, “the Judges might have to pass upon the uncanny question of Barclay’s legal status as a living person who had already suffered the death penalty. However, they were spared that embarrassing situation” since the experiment obviously did not succeed.

It was just one of many ways in which Thomas Mendenhall went about satisfying his curiosity on a wide variety of subjects.

In addition to his interest in electricity, Mendenhall dabbled in English literature as well. In 1887, Mendenhall conducted a study on stylometry, the analysis of word length in an author’s work, and particularly pinpointed William Shakespeare in his study. With the help of some diligent counters, Mendenhall counted and classified 400,000 of Shakespeare’s words, most consisting from his famous plays. Mendenhall published his stylometric graphs in The Popular Science Monthly in 1901. They compared Shakespeare’s average word length with other contemporary authors, such as Ben Jonson, Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlowe. Mendenhall’s graph visibly showed that Shakespeare and Marlowe had nearly the exact same word length frequency; Mendenhall concluded that Marlowe’s and Shakespeare’s work were written by the same author.

Overall, Mendenhall had a long and full life. After teaching for five years at Ohio State, Mendenhall, then 36, traveled to teach physics at the Imperial University in Tokyo. In 1881, Mendenhall returned as professor of physics at Ohio State and also became director of the Ohio Meteorological Bureau. By 1884, however, Mendenhall was back at to working with electricity at the U.S. Signal Service in Washington D.C. and then was elected president of Rose Polytechnic Institute in Indiana in 1887. Then in 1889, he was appointed superintendent of the Coast and Geodetic Survey by President Benjamin Harrison, where a few years later a glacier would be named after him. Ohio State named him Professor Emeritus in 1900, and became a board member in 1919. Mendenhall died in 1924, at the age of 82.

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