Pamphleteer George Gundelfinger Is Soiled Galahad of Yale Morals
Jail, Asylums, and 'Sexual Sublimation'
Herman Hickman received throaty huzzahs from the 300 partisans who jammed last week's football rally in New Haven.
Captain Brad Quackenbush was welcomed by an elephantine roar from the crowd.
But he greatest ovation of all bailed the news that a telegram of encouragement had been received from Sewickly, Pennsylvania. The message exhorted the Rine to knock a certain capital letter out of Princeton.
It was signed, supposedly, by someone named Gundelfinger.
Thus the Eli students showered their affection on a man who has accused them for years of being infected with "the Yale virus of license, lethargy, and bigotry."
George Frederick Gundelfinger, Yale '06, distributor of pamphlets decrying Yale as a den of iniquity, has become as much a legend in New Haven as Rinehart in Cambridge--but in a different way. Gundelfinger has been a very real and present figure to 30 years of Yalies.
In that time he has been arrested twice. He has been threatened with commitment to a sanitarium because of his annual flood pamphlets to Eli freshmen, U. S. Congressmen, and Presidents, advocating the principles:
1) That Yale is a swamp of evil. Yale men drink, smoke, and go out with girls.
2.) That this country is travelling too far to the left in politics. Gundelfinger decries New Dealism, American "Roman Catholic Fascism", and Communist influences in U. S. colleges, notably Harvard and Yale.
3) That the faculties of the human mind can be greatly enhanced through practice of Gundelfinger's somewhat vague theories of "sexual sublimation."
The last two of these principles caused the legal trouble Gundelfinger ran into in 1939 and 1940. The first theory made his name a by-word among Yalemen. But while many residents of New Haven's gothic towers will speak at length, and in joking terms, about the Gundelfinger legend, there is an equal number that shudders and clamps up at the mention of his name.
"Any mention of that man," says Hollon A. Farr, curator of the Memorabilia Room in Yale's Sterling Library, "only brings disgrace upon the name of Yale. In this day and age, almost anything can be discussed as a joke. Nothing is at all sacred."
Farr, a righteous, graying, onetime German professor, has had several opportunities to see the man he thinks so little of. The Gundelfinger of today--distinguished-looking and mild-mannered--occasionally returns to New Haven from his "New Fraternity" publishing company in Sewickley, and visits the library for new material
There is a tacit agreement among many Yale administrators that these visits be kept quiet and unpublicized, to prevent a possible student riot. This silence is also observed by the Yale Daily News--former booster of the Gundelfinger legend --which no longer prints his name in its pages.
The man who caused all the commotion entered Yale's Sheffield Scientific School in 1903. He settled down in a small room at 124 Wall street (it was long before the College plan) and proceeded to take his studies by storm. He won "General Honors" for three consecutive years and wrote a thesis on "The Geometry of the Line Elements in a Plane with Reference to the Oscillating Circles." The 1906 Class Book says, "Gundelfinger is one of the brightest men in our class."
Young "Gundy" was no recluse, but was anything but a social success. He never drank or smoked, and turned down dance invitations from Smith girls. About the closest he came to his fellow students was playing his piano while they learned to waltz for the Junior Prom. Gundelfinger, of course, never attended the prom.
He was a relatively accomplished pianist, and wrote everything from operettas to marches. He amazed his comrades by turning out three love songs--"I Think of You", "All the World Is in Love", and "Wonderful Glorious Spring."
He belonged to the Math Club, but steered clear of Mory's.
In 1906 he graduated with honors and became an instructor and a proctor in his house on Wall street. During the first few years of his proctorship he wrote, "I find my work interesting and enjoyable." But soon the morals of his students wore him down.
One day Gundelfinger returned to the house and found all of his abstemious lads partying, smoking, and drinking like mad in one of the upstairs rooms--and with ladies present! He broke up the party and delivered a long lecture.
For the next month his students, even if returning from classes, made a point of staggering into the House and blatantly hiccouging. Gundelfinger considered himself a failure, resigned, and left New Haven.
In 1913 his first book, "The Ice Lens," caused a commotion on the campus. It described the evil and vice of undergraduate life at Yale. From then until 1940 Gundelfinger produced more than 40 books and articles from his New Fraternity press, and swamped Yale with "den of iniquity" pamphlets.
His "Ten Years at Yale" blew up a storm in 1914. An article in the New York Evening Mail of May 19 read, "President Hadley of Yale today declared the University would not take official notice of the new book "Ten Years at Yale' written by G. F. Gundelfinger, Class of 1906, in which Dr. Hadley is criticized for "trying to make the public believe that drunkenness is frowned on at Yale' . . ."
In the ensuing years more and more pamphlets and reprints of pamphlets littered the floor of the Yale Station post office.
Some of them discussed politics. Some discussed sex. "Roman Catholic Fascism" got him indicted in 1939, with three Yale professors and three football players testifying. He was released, but letters to President Roosevelt were termed violation of parole in 1941, and he was in jail again.
But they can't keep Gundelfinger down, Released again within a year, he became a little more cautious about his material, but has continued to rail against Eli morals, New Deal politics, and academic freedom.
One of his latest brochures reads:
"Communism is nowhere more rampant than in the field of Higher Education with Harvard in the lead, her faculty embracing 76 professors with the Russian Reck, despite the efforts of President Conant to disguise and praise the predicament as 'academic freedom.' It was this same slinking subterfuge which enabled President Seymour of Yale to invite Earl Browder to New Haven several years ago. . ."