By Baylee Pulliam–
Nearly 80 years ago, Mr. Paul Willingter got his news from The Louisville Cardinal, deposited once weekly on his West Burnett Avenue doorstep.
Thumbing through the paper, the then University of Louisville liberal arts student, could have read about football captain Threkheld’s game-winning run against the Tigers, or about Dr. Raymond Kent, then U of L president, who was leading a social work field trip that week to Berea College.
When Willingter died in 2009, his collection of newspapers went unread until a few weeks ago, when Professor Michael Johmann stumbled across them at an estate sale.
Johmann donated the papers, around 30 issues in all, to the university archives last week.
“Stuff from that far back in U of L’s history is pretty rare,” Johmann said. “It’s important to get it on record.”
Most of the papers date from 1934 to 1942, with the occasional dateline from the ‘20s. Tom Owen, archivist for regional history, said the papers cover a broad span of the university’s past, including the Great Flood of 1937, which is responsible for wiping out most copies of the paper printed before it.
“Belknap Campus – which was much smaller in 1937 – was an island surrounded by flood waters,” Owen said. “City-wide, massive amounts of historical materials that were not moved to upper floors or high ground were destroyed, but my guess is that the university was able to get most records out of Belknap Campus basements which were flooded.”
A few issues of The Louisville Cardinal from 1937 survived with Mr. Willingter, and Johmann said they give insight into the flood’s effect at U of L. Articles dating just weeks after the disaster show discussions on “how the university’s going to make up missed classes,” he said.
In addition to several copies of The Cardinal, the donation included back issues of some of The Cardinal’s predecessors.
An earlier student newspaper, The Cardinal News, was a self-supporting, weekly nickel paper, lead by graduate and undergraduate editors. According to an essay by former U of L associate archivist Dwayne Cox, the paper’s 31st and final issue ran on June 3, 1927.
The U of L News followed it, free-of-charge, under the control the university’s new Faculty Committee on Student Publications. The News was short lived, running for only about three months in 1928.
The Louisville Cardinal, as it now stands, first appeared in 1932. Much like today, it ran weekly, run by students and financially independent from the university through ad sales.
“The sheer beauty of Dr. Johmann’s donation,” Owen said, is that it gives insight into “a very interesting time in our university’s history.”
In the 1950s, Louisville Municipal College dissolved, and black students were absorbed into the University of Louisville system. The Louisville Cardinal described the problems of “operating an integrated university in a segregated city,” wrote Cox.
The paper ran stories to highlight those problems, like the fact that black students couldn’t enroll in swimming classes that met at the YMCA.
Owen said the university archives has “a complete run of the Cardinal and its predecessors back to 1926,” and that he hopes the copies and those donated by Johmann can aid in both instruction, and giving the university a deepened sense of history.
“There’s nothing like being able to respectfully touch an original document that’s 80 years old,” Owen said.
Photo courtesy of the university archives