The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.


THE University of Michigan is unique in the development of instruction in the field of speech. The first credit-bearing course in speech in any of the leading universities was given at Michigan, and the first separate speech department in any of the large universities was also established at this institution. And, carrying on the tradition of distinction, the University has at present one of the largest and most complete departments of speech in the United States.

The organization of the Department of Speech and its early development were largely the result of the ability and inspiration of Thomas Clarkson Trueblood (A.M. Earlham '86, Litt.D. ibid. '21) and his three early associates: Richard D. T. Hollister, Ray K. Immel, and Louis M. Eich.

Trueblood came to the University in 1884 to give a six-week course of lectures. For this innovation the University provided classrooms and other equipment, but the students were required to pay a tuition fee and to take the work without academic credit.

Returning in 1885-86, Trueblood found even greater interest in the study of speech, an interest which culminated in the presentation to the dean of the Department of Law of a petition by most of the law students for free tuition and a longer term of instruction. When it was found that Trueblood could arrange his engagements in other universities accordingly, Angell presented the petition to the Regents and recommended the inauguration of a ten-week course, the instructor to be a member of the University faculty for that period at least. This request was granted, and the longer course was made available.

Finally, upon the insistence of the students in the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts, a credit course for one semester was made available. The establishment of this course was a new educational venture, for at that time Page  734no college or university in the United States offered credit for work in speech. In the second semester of 1887-88 Trueblood was given the title of Assistant Professor of Elocution and Oratory in the Department of English. This arrangement was continued for the next two years, Trueblood relinquishing some of his other lectureships and also combining his courses at Ohio Wesleyan into the first semester of each year.

In 1889, college work in speech was extended to the full year, and Trueblood devoted his entire time to the University of Michigan. So successful was the development of new courses to meet the demands of all classes of students in both the Law and the Literary Departments that in 1892 a Department of Elocution and Oratory was created and the chairman was granted a full professorship. By this step, the University of Michigan created the first separate department and also the first professorship in speech in any of the large universities in the United States.

For the next eleven years, or until the end of 1903, the courses in elocution and oratory were handled entirely by Professor Trueblood. Soon, however, the enrollment became so heavy that assistance was needed, and in 1904 an instructor was added. In 1909, two more persons were added to the staff; others were added in 1914 and thereafter, until, at the time of Professor Trueblood's retirement in 1926, the departmental personnel consisted of nine members. Since that time it has continued its rapid growth; at present there are fifteen full-time staff members and an equal number of teaching fellows and assistants.

During the nearly fifty years of its existence (to 1940), the department has had several titles: Department of Elocution and Oratory, 1892-1908; Department of Oratory, 1908-19; Department of Public Speaking, 1919-27; Department of Speech, 1927-32; Department of Speech, Phonetics, and General Linguistics, 1932; Department of Speech and General Linguistics, 1932-39; and Department of Speech, since 1939.

In the years since Professor Trueblood's retirement the department has been under the chairmanship of three persons. Professor James Milton O'Neill (Dartmouth '07), who came to Michigan from the chairmanship of the Department of Speech at the University of Wisconsin, served from 1927 to 1932. Henry Arthur Sanders ('90, Ph.D. Munich '97), for many years a member of the faculty and now Professor Emeritus of Latin, served from 1932 until his retirement in 1939. Since that time Professor Gail Ernest Densmore ('22, A.M. '24), who joined the staff of the department in 1922, has been Chairman.

In addition to the departmental chairmen, the following persons of University Senate rank have been appointed to the staff, in the order indicated: Richard Dennis Teall Hollister ('02, Ph.D. '36); Ray Keeslar Immel (Albion '10, Ph.D. Michigan '31), now dean of the School of Speech at the University of Southern California; Louis Michael Eich ('12, Ph.D. '23), also secretary of the Summer Session; Carl Gunard Brandt ('21l, LL.M. '22), also Chairman of the Department of Engineering English in the College of Engineering and Director of Student-Alumni Relations; John Henry Muyskens ('13, Sc.D. '25); Valentine Barthold Windt (Cornell '21, A.M. Princeton '22), also Director of Play Production; Henry Michael Moser (Ohio State '24, Ph.D. Iowa '37), also academic counselor in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Clarence Linton Meader ('91, Ph.D. '00), now Professor Emeritus; Waldo Mack Abbot ('11, '13l), also Director of the Broadcasting Service; Henry Harlan Bloomer (Illinois '30, Ph.D. Michigan '35), also manager of Page  735the Speech Clinic in the Institute for Human Adjustment; William Perdue Halstead (Indiana '27, Ph.D. Michigan '35); Kenneth Gordon Hance (Olivet '24, Ph.D. Michigan '37); David Owen (Leland Stanford '23); and Ollie Lucy Backus ('29, Ph.D. Wisconsin '33).

During the years from 1892 to the present, the department has extensively broadened its curricular and extracurricular work from its original offerings in public speaking and interpretation. In particular, instruction has been added and developed in play production, speech science, and radio.

From 1892 to 1915, the courses in Shakespearean reading and interpretative reading constituted the only work in both interpretation and dramatics. Occasionally plays would be presented informally in connection with these courses, but it was not until 1915 that a course entitled Play Production was organized. In 1916 the first public play under the auspices of the department was presented, thus beginning a long and successful program in play production which has continued to the present time. This performance of Charles Rann Kennedy's The Servant in the House was presented in University Hall before a set of curtains and without special lighting effects or stage equipment.

The growth of interest in play production, however, was rapid. Courses were extended from a single course in 1915 to six courses in 1922, and to eight in 1926, with more than one hundred fifty students enrolled each semester. In 1927 the scenic aspects of production were expanded, and with the removal of the work in play production to the Mimes Theater in 1928 there was undertaken a more elaborate and finished mounting of plays with better staging and lighting facilities. Through successive directorships of play production, the program has been expanded, with improved facilities and an increasing number of students, until at present seven or eight plays are presented during each academic year and an equal number during the summer session. The former Mimes Theater, now called the Laboratory Theater, is used for some classes and the workshops; and the public performances are presented in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater. So great has been the public's response to the offerings of the play production classes that from four to seven performances of each play are necessary.

Work in speech science was first offered by the department in 1926, with courses in phonetics and biolinguistics.* Expanding from limited beginnings to more than twelve courses requiring the services of four members of the staff, this field developed rapidly to the point where, in 1937, a fully equipped and fully staffed speech clinic was opened. This clinic, which is operated in conjunction with the Institute for Human Adjustment, now includes a staff of fifteen persons and handles more than four hundred cases annually (see Part VI: Institute for Human Adjustment).

Through the co-operation of the Institute for Human Adjustment, the Medical School, and the School of Dentistry, the department has been able to provide distinctive opportunities to students in speech science. Not only the traditional courses in phonetics, voice science, and Page  736speech correction, but also specialized courses in the anatomy and physiology of the organs of speech, courses in clinical methods, and work in connection with the Department of Pediatrics and the University Hospital are available.

Similarly, the work in the field of radio has developed rapidly under the direction of the Department of Speech. In 1934 a specialist in this field was added to the staff of the department, and facilities in Morris Hall were made available for classroom work and broadcasting (see Part II: Broadcasting Service). Shortly thereafter, arrangements were made with commercial broadcasting stations in Detroit and Pontiac for allotments of time; and the University has since been "on the air" each day of the academic year and the summer session.

The course offerings in radio have increased from one in 1934 to seven at the present time, with a corresponding increase in the number of programs planned, directed, and produced under the auspices of the department. Each semester approximately one hundred and fifty students elect courses in this field, which prepares candidates for positions in commercial broadcasting as well as in educational radio.

The developments in these fields of dramatics, speech science, and radio, as well as similar developments in the original fields of public speaking and interpretation, and the number of students enrolled, have necessitated a significant increase in the total number of staff members and the breadth of the work done. At present the more than thirty staff members offer approximately seventy courses leading to the bachelor of arts, the master of arts, and the doctor of philosophy degrees. The courses are designed to provide abundant opportunities for the development of personal proficiency in speech, as well as to convey a body of information useful not only to teachers but also to clinical practitioners.

In addition, the department sponsors a wide array of extracurricular activities in various fields. Schedules in debating and oratory are developed in conjunction with the Western Conference Debate League and the Northern Oratorical League, and each year approximately thirty students represent the University in various forensic events. As previously mentioned, the extracurricular work in dramatics consists of a winter and a summer season presented by the classes in play production.

The physical equipment of the department has evolved extensively from the one classroom used by Professor Trueblood for his classes in 1884. The present facilities include not only a number of classrooms in Angell Hall and Mason Hall but also the Laboratory Theater, a broadcasting studio with ample electrical and mechanical equipment, a phonetics laboratory, and a complete speech clinic. In addition, the Department of Speech has the use of the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater for all of its public dramatic performances.

During its approximately fifty years the Speech Department has been instrumental in the establishment of a number of associations and leagues, many of which are active at the present time. In 1890 the Oratorical Association was organized for the purpose of co-operating with like organizations of other Midwestern universities to sponsor debate and oratorical contests. In the Northern Oratorical League, also organized at Michigan in 1890, were the universities of Chicago, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Wisconsin, and later Oberlin College, the University of Illinois, and Western Reserve University; this association has continued with only slight changes in membership until the present day.

Several debating leagues have also Page  737been organized by the Department of Speech (see Part IX: Debating). In 1893, an association including Michigan, Chicago, Northwestern, and Wisconsin was created. A few years later the Central Debating League was formed, and the Mid-West League was organized in 1915. Shortly thereafter the department, in co-operation with the Extension Division of the University, formed the Michigan High School Debating League, which is recognized as one of the outstanding organizations of its kind in the United States. For women debaters the Michigan-Ohio-Indiana League was created in 1922, and in December, 1923, there was secured for the University of Michigan an endowment of $8,000 from Mrs. Eleanor Clay Ford, to provide testimonials and gold medals annually for each of a selected number of Michigan women participating in intercollegiate debates.

Probably the largest organization created through the co-operation of the Department of Speech is Delta Sigma Rho, a national honorary forensic society with seventy-one chapters and more than ten thousand members at the present time. Not only was the University of Michigan one of the eight leading universities of the country to be charter members, but Professor Trueblood was one of the founders of the society and served as the chairman of the organization meeting held at Chicago in 1906.

Finally, the Oratorical Association Lecture Course, which had been functioning as a Student Lecture Association for several years, was placed under the sponsorship of the department in 1911 (see Part IX: Student Lecture Association). Professor Trueblood was chairman of the committee until the time of his retirement in 1926, and since that time a member of the Department of Speech has served in a similar capacity. During its years of management, the Association has presented such famous persons in the field of public affairs as William Jennings Bryan, William Howard Taft, Newton D. Baker, Winston Churchill, William E. Borah, Ruth Bryan Owen, and Albert J. Beveridge. In the field of literature and the theater, such personalities as John Galsworthy, John Drinkwater, Irvin S. Cobb, Alexander Woollcott, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Gilbert K. Chesterton, William Butler Yeats, Thomas Mann, and Edna St. Vincent Millay have appeared. In the field of exploration and travel almost every famous explorer of recent years — including Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Donald MacMillan, Carl Akeley, Roald Amundsen, Richard E. Byrd, Fritdjof Nansen, William Beebe, and Martin and Osa Johnson — has also been scheduled.

This Oratorical Association is one of the oldest institutions on the University of Michigan campus, is perhaps the oldest of such organizations in the country, and, throughout its long career, has been recognized as outstanding.

The summer of 1940 witnessed the establishment by the Department of Speech of a campus organization which promises to contribute much to the entire University as well as to the one field. This is the annual speech conference, conducted each summer, which makes available to all departments in the institution demonstrations and lectures in public speaking, debating, interpretation, the drama, radio, and speech correction. Each year one or more nationally prominent persons in the field of speech are to be brought to the campus for the speech conference, and the lectures and demonstrations conducted by these authorities will extend the usefulness of the department beyond the boundaries of its courses and of the contributions of its staff members.

The first university department of speech in the United States has evolved Page  738greatly from the one-person staff in 1884 to the more than thirty person staff in 1940 and from the work in elocution to that in five widely diversified fields — that is, from an undergraduate curriculum in platform arts alone to one designed to develop both graduates and undergraduates in public speaking, interpretation, drama, radio, and speech science. Throughout these years, not only has it grown within the University of Michigan, but also it has maintained its place as one of the strong departments of speech in the leading universities of the United States.


Calendar, Univ. Mich., 1887-1914.
Catalogue …, Univ. Mich., 1914-23.
Catalogue and Register, Univ. Mich., 1923-27.
General Register Issue, Univ. Mich., 1927-40.
[News Notes.] Mich. Alum., 34 (1927): 199; 34 (1928): 671, 781; 35 (1929): 511, 561, 694, 746; 36 (1930): 553; 37 (1930): 205-6; 37 (1931): 334; 38 (1932): 590; 39 (1932): 63; 39 (1933): 399; 40 (1933): 96, 181; 40 (1934): 345; 41 (1934): 114, 148, 171; 41 (1935): 225, 272; 42 (1935): 91, 151; 42 (1936): 516; 43 (1937): 194; 44 (1937): 67; 44 (1938): 322, 505-6; 46 (1939): 107; 46 (1940): 328, 544.
President's Report, Univ. Mich., 1887-1940.
Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, 1884-1940.