They called themselves “The Academy Girls.” This group of graduates from The Old Academy in Franklin, who at a May 26, 1905 meeting at the house of Mrs. Sarah Briggs Sloan, elected Sarah Deitch Sibert their president and Martha Coleman Johnson, nicknamed Mattie, their secretary and treasurer. Their mission was to organize reunions of classmates and friends to reminisce about their school years.
Built in the influence of Greek Revival, The Old Academy in Franklin lasted only twelve years, from 1858 to 1870, when it was sold and used as a furniture factory until it burnt down. However, the boys and girls of the Old Academy continued to gather and remember their years there. The boys organized first, but by 1905, the girls had started to their own reunions.
In our Digital Collections at the Indiana State Library, we recently added “USM U.S. Mail Composition Book no. 702,” used as a scrapbook to organize and document the history of The Academy Girls reunions from their first in 1905 up to 1914. You will see on the inside cover a newspaper article with a sketch of The Old Academy followed by general notes from their first meeting. It is here that we learn that their first reunion, “an all day affair” would be held at the Greenwood Park on June 6, 1905. Total attendance would be 36 members, a number that would rise and dwindle over the years following their first reunion.
You can read the article that appeared in an unknown newspaper about the reunion. It recounts their activities, meeting and help of the chivalrous old academy boys in the organization of this first event. The scrapbook contains letters, newspaper clippings and ephemera such as ribbons.
The Academy Girls continued to meet me many years after, at least until the late 1920s as the group began to shrink. The venues included Garfield Park and the Old Academy grounds on Monroe Street in Franklin. The Franklin Evening Star recounted the history of the Old Academy and their reunions in an article on Nov. 12, 1963.
This scrapbook is a part of a larger collection called Education for Women. This new collection has materials as early as the 1850s about the various academies and school across Indiana.
This post was written by Christopher Marshall, digital collections coordinator for the Indiana Division at the Indiana State Library.