Also Rans

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

As this blog is being written, the United States recently completed another presidential election. For every election, there must be someone who did not win. The dictionary defines an also ran as the loser in a contest or race, particularly by a wide margin. The origin of this phrase is believed to be in the late 1800s, when it originally meant a horse which did not finish in the top 3. Let’s look at 8 of these non-winners who visited our area. To be clear, I’m only including those who visited on a non-successful presidential bid, and for whom we have photographs of that visit within University Archives Special Collections (UASC).

James M. Cox, n.d. Source: https://bit.ly/3q5ehPt
James M. Cox. n.d.
Source: https://bit.ly/3q5ehPt

Let’s begin 100 years ago, with a 1920 visit from James Middleton Cox. Cox was born in Ohio in 1870, and served as its governor for 3 terms: 1913 to 1915 and 1917 to 1921, the first from Ohio to serve 3 full terms in office. He was also a successful journalist, owning and editing multiple newspapers in Ohio, Florida, and Georgia. Cox’s success as governor made him prominent within the Democratic party, which nominated him as its candidate for president. Cox chose as his running mate the then Assistant Secretary of the (U.S.) Navy a man you may have heard of … Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 1920, Cox visited our corner of the Hoosier state, seen here in Princeton, IN. Cox is 2nd from the left, pictured with several men from Evansville, including Mayor Benjamin Bosse, (2nd from right), a Republican. Cox and Roosevelt lost in a landslide, winning only 127 electoral votes to 404 for another Ohioan, Warren G. Harding, and his running mate, Calvin Coolidge. Cox/Roosevelt only won 11 of the then 48 states, neither man even carrying his home state.

(L-R): Carlton McCullough, James M. Cox (Democratic presidential candidate), Clint Rose, Benjamin Bosse, Felix Hinkle, and Thomas Taggert, 1920. Source: UASC, MSS 264-2957.
(L-R): Carlton McCullough, James M. Cox (Democratic presidential candidate), Clint Rose, Benjamin Bosse, Felix Hinkle, and Thomas Taggert, 1920. Source: UASC, MSS 264-2957.
Wendell Wilkie, c. 1940. Source: https://bit.ly/3GNC50p
Wendell Wilkie, c. 1940.
Source: https://bit.ly/3GNC50p

Next up was a Hoosier boy, Wendell Lewis Willkie, born February 18, 1892, in Elwood, IN. Elwood is about mid-way between Kokomo and Anderson. He graduated from the Indiana University School of Law in 1916, and after serving in World War I, moved to Akron, OH for a position with the Firestone Rubber Company. After going into private practice, he moved to New York, where he served as legal counsel for the Commonwealth & Southern Corporation, a public utility, eventually becoming its president.

Early in his career Willkie was a Democrat; indeed, he had supported the presidential aspirations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932. But, one of FDR’s New Deal initiatives was the establishment of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Willkie believed public utilities like he owned would be unable to complete with programs run by the federal government, and thus causing him to move to the Republican Party in 1939. In 1940, he was nominated as the Republican candidate for president. At this point, Willkie had never held any political office. Surprisingly, he won the nomination on the 6th ballot, defeating much better-known candidates, earning the sobriquet “Dark Horse.” He visited Evansville in 1939 or 1940, riding in a motorcade down Main Street. “Despite a well-fought campaign, Willkie lost the election to Roosevelt in a landslide, earning only 82 electoral votes to Roosevelt’s 449. He also lost the popular vote by nearly five million.” Willkie again sought the presidential nomination in 1944 but dropped out after poor early showings. He died October 8, 1944.

Willkie waving to the crowds on Main Street in Evansville, IN, c. 1940. Source: UASC, MSS 264-2429.
Willkie waving to the crowds on Main Street in Evansville, IN, c. 1940. Source: UASC, MSS 264-2429.
Thomas Dewey, c. 1940's. Source: https://bit.ly/3wfj4z5
Thomas Dewey, c. 1940’s.
Source: https://bit.ly/3wfj4z5

Thomas Edward Dewey was born March 24, 1902 in Owosso, MI.  He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1923 and received his law degree from Columbia University in 1925.  He remained in New York, passing the bar in 1926.  In 1931 he became chief assistant to the U.S. attorney for the southern district of the state, soon going after bootleggers and racketeers.  In 1935 the governor of New York appointed Dewey as special prosecutor for the County of New York, aka Manhattan.  He continued his crusade against the mob, eventually sending Lucky Luciano to Sing Sing prison. “Between 1935 and 1937, Dewey won 72 convictions out of 73 prosecutions. His success against New York’s biggest mobsters gave him a huge political platform. He was elected district attorney for New York in 1937; he immediately launched an effort to win the governor’s seat in New York in 1938 but lost. He was successful in his second try, winning the governorship in 1942 and two more terms, serving until 1955.

Turning his attention to national politics, Dewey failed to garner the Republican presidential nomination in 1940. He was one of those far better-known candidates who lost to Willkie. Trying again in 1944, he won the nomination unanimously, choosing his former rival, Ohio governor John W. Bricker as his running mate. Dewey himself may well have visited Evansville that year, but we have this photographic proof that Bricker did, here speaking from the back of a train.

John W. Bricker, Republican vice-presidential candidate, running with Thomas E. Dewey for president, on the back of a train with microphones, 1944. Source: UASC, MSS 264-0789.
John W. Bricker, Republican vice-presidential candidate, running with Thomas E. Dewey for president, on the back of a train with microphones, 1944. Source: UASC, MSS 264-0789.

FDR’s wartime popularity proved too much to overcome. Dewey lost, 99 electoral votes to Roosevelt’s 432. They only won 12 of the then 48 states; Dewey won neither his home state of Michigan nor his adopted state of New York, although Bricker was able to garner the votes of his Ohio constituents. Undeterred, Dewey ran again in 1948. By this time, FDR was gone, having been succeeded in office by his vice-president Harry S. Truman after FDR died in 1945. This time Dewey chose California governor Earl Warren to run with him. Dewey was considered a shoo-in, unless he made a huge public gaffe. Truman’s Democratic party was split 3 ways. Dewey made a whistle-stop trip to Mt. Vernon, IN, and the sign on this caboose shows just how confident he and his supporters were!

Thomas Dewey visiting Mt. Vernon, IN, c. 1948. Source: UASC, MSS 022-0079.
Thomas Dewey visiting Mt. Vernon, IN, c. 1948. Source: UASC, MSS 022-0079.

After the dust had cleared, results showed that Truman earned 303 electoral votes to Dewey’s 189, with the remaining 39 going to Strom Thurmond. Dewey carried 16 states, Truman 28, and Thurmond 4 (and one of Tennessee’s 11 electoral votes). The Chicago Tribune made the famous gaffe in its headline seen here on November 3, 1948. Dewey went on to be active in Republican politics as an advisor until his death in 1971.

President-elect Harry S. Truman enjoying "the joke's on you". SourceL https://bit.ly/3wfJRuV.
President-elect Harry S. Truman enjoying “the joke’s on you”. Source: https://bit.ly/3wfJRuV.
George Wallace, 1968. Source: https://bit.ly/3GNI99i.
George Wallace, 1968.
Source: https://bit.ly/3GNI99i.

George Corley Wallace was born in Alabama on August 25, 1919. In 1942 he graduated from the University of Alabama Law School and then served in World War II. After the war, he served in the Alabama House of Representatives and as a state judge. He launched his first attempt at the Alabama governorship in 1958. After losing that race, he “became” what he was known for, a staunch segregationist and populist. His 1962 run for the governorship was successful, and he served from 1963 to 1967. His inaugural speech, written by a Ku Klux Klansman, ended with this sentiment: ”Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” In 1963 he made his famous “stand in the schoolhouse door,” literally standing in the doorway of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama to block the entrance of black students Vivian Malone and James Hood. Term limits prohibited a second term as governor, but no matter, his wife Lurleen won that election, making him governor in all but name only from 1967 until her untimely death in 1968. After successfully amending the Alabama constitution to permit a second term, Wallace served as governor of Alabama from 1971 to 1979 and again from 1983 to 1987. During this time period he also made 4 unsuccessful runs for the presidency. In 1964, he failed to get the nomination that went to Lyndon Johnson. In 1968, he ran on the American Independent Party ticket and got 46 electoral votes, winning 4 southern states (plus one vote in North Carolina). In 1972, he was back in the fray, this time vying for the Democratic party nomination against Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, and John Lindsay. Things were going well for Wallace, who had disavowed his earlier stance on segregation.

George Wallace arriving in Evansville, IN, 1976. Source: UASC, MSS 228-1002.
George Wallace arriving in Evansville, IN, 1976. Source: UASC, MSS 228-1002.

That is, until May 15, when, while campaigning at a shopping mall in Laurel, MD, he was shot 5 times by would-be assassin Arthur Bremer. One of the bullets lodged in his spinal column, rendering him paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. His 1972 campaign ended abruptly, but Wallace was up for one more try at the presidency in 1976, once again as a Democrat. “From the start, aides noticed that the applause dwindled once crowds saw his shiny wheelchair. Mr. Wallace noticed it, too, and in private he disputed friends who reminded him that Franklin D. Roosevelt had won despite crutches and wheelchair. ”Yeah,” Mr. Wallace told his confidant Oscar Adams, ”they elected Roosevelt, but they didn’t watch him on television every night getting hauled on a plane like he was half-dead.”” Wallace visited Evansville, holding a press conference at the airport April 22, 1976. He dropped out of the race in June, just before the Illinois primary. He served one more term as Alabama governor, dying some 11 years later, in 1998.

President portrait of Gerald Ford, n.d. Source: https://bit.ly/3GQGsaO
President portrait of Gerald Ford, n.d.
Source: https://bit.ly/3GQGsaO

To date, the United States has had only one non-elected president, Leslie Lynch King, Jr. If you don’t recognize that we ever had any president by that name, you’d be both right and wrong. King was born in 1913 in Omaha, NE, but his mother soon divorced his father and in 1916 remarried a man in Grand Rapids, MI by the name of Gerald Rudolph Ford. “Leslie King, Jr., did not learn of his biological father until he was a teenager, and after graduating from college he officially changed his name to Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr.” Skipping ahead, Ford was elected to the House of Representatives from Michigan’s 5th district in 1948, serving 12 successive terms from 1949 to 1973. Meanwhile, Richard M. Nixon had been elected president in 1968, with his vice president Spiro Agnew; the two were re-elected in 1972. In 1973, Agnew resigned after pleading no contest to tax evasion and money laundering charges that began during his time as governor of Maryland and continued during his tenancy as vice president. Ford, then House Minority Leader, was nominated and elected by both the Senate and House to serve as vice president. During this time the Watergate scandal was spiraling out of control, and Nixon soon faced impeachment. He resigned on August 8, 1974, and the next day, after only 8 months as vice president, Gerald Ford was sworn in as president.

Gerald Ford campaigning for U.S. President, accompanied by Russell G. Lloyd, Sr., then mayor of Evansville, in a motorcade, 1976. Source: UASC, MSS 034-1010.
Gerald Ford campaigning for U.S. President, accompanied by Russell G. Lloyd, Sr., then mayor of Evansville, IN
in a motorcade, 1976. Source: UASC, MSS 034-1010.

In 1976, Ford decided to run for election as president in his own right, winning the nomination narrowly after a heated battle with Ronald Reagan. Ford and his running mate, Kansas Senator Robert Dole, faced the Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter and his running mate, Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale. On April 23, 1976, Ford visited Evansville, seen in company of then Evansville Mayor Russell Lloyd in this photo.

Robert Dole, U.S. Senator from Kansas, at a press conference, 1976. Source: UASC, MSS 034-0799.
Robert Dole, U.S. Senator from Kansas, at a press conference, 1976. Source: UASC, MSS 034-0799.

On October 27, 1976 Ford’s running mate, Senator Robert Dole, also visited Evansville. History puts Ford/Dole in the also ran column, with Carter’s 297 electoral votes to Ford’s 240. Senator Dole stayed firmly in the also ran group, failing to win the Republic party nomination for president in both 1980 and 1988. In 1996, he was successful at winning the nomination, but lost the election to Bill Clinton, 379 to 159 electoral votes. Dole carried 18 of the 50 states. Ford passed away in 2006; at the time this blog was written, Dole was still living.

Resources Consulted

Clark, Justin. “Wendell Willkie: The Dark Horse.” Indiana History blog, the Indiana Historical Bureau of the Indiana State Library, May 17, 2016.

Gerald Ford. Miller Center of Public Affairs, the University of Virginia.

Historical Presidential Elections. 270toWin website.

James M. Cox. Ohio History Central website.

Pearson, Richard. “Former Ala. Gov. George C. Wallace Dies.” The Washington Post, September 14, 1998, p. A1.

Raines, Howell. “George Wallace, Segregation Symbol, Dies at 79.” The New York Times, September 14, 1998, p. A1.

Thomas Dewey. The Mob Museum website.

“Thomas E. Dewey.” Encyclopædia Britannica website, March 20, 2020. Wendell L. Willkie. Ohio History Central website.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Water, Water, Everywhere, nor any Drop to Drink”

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge penned this in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but I’m going to co-opt it for this blog about the 1937 flood of the Ohio River. You may be thinking, oh, no, not another article about Evansville and the flood … and you’d be right! I’m going to focus on other locations, and there won’t be much text, concentrating on telling the story visually with some explanations.

The Ohio River is 981 miles long, beginning in Pittsburgh, PA where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers meet, and it ends in Cairo, IL where it empties into the Mississippi River. In January 1937 there were torrential rains. There were about 14 inches of rain in Cincinnati, nearly 15 in Evansville, and almost 20 in Louisville. “Overall, total precipitation for January was four times its normal amount in the areas surrounding the river. In fact, there were only eight days in January when the Louisville station recorded no rain. These heavy rains, coupled with an already swollen river, caused a rapid rise in the river’s level.” Flooding was inevitable.

Everyone knows that water flows downstream, so the Ohio River thus flows northeast to southwest. The unusual thing about this flood is the way or order in which the various tributaries flooded and thus contributed to the flooding of the Ohio. The tributaries on the lower Ohio (i.e., those nearer the mouth of the river in Cairo, IL) flooded earlier than those near the headwaters in Pittsburgh dd, giving the odd appearance that the flood moved from the mouth (near Cairo, IL) to the headwaters (Pittsburgh, PA). This was not true, but that is how it appeared, and this is how we’re going to take a look at the pictures.

Let’s head back to 1937 and up the river!

Sometimes the aftermath of the flood had ironic consequences, such as this picture of a mule pulling a car! At other times, there was pathos – a family’s ruined belongings, possibly even family heirlooms, piled up by a shed.

Skipping Evansville, we now come to Henderson. While the low-lying areas around the town certainly suffered flooding devastation, the city itself held the distinction of being the only town along the river without water within its city limits. As of “Feb. 1, … Henderson was safe and dry. Utilities were working, refugees were being housed, food was well supplied and businesses continued to operate, some of them around the clock. “Our visitors are well-fed and well entertained,” The Gleaner reported the next day. “Thousands of toys have been given to the children, and games and magazines have been distributed to the adults. We are just one big family, thankful that our forefathers selected the highest point on the Ohio River for our homes.”” Just because the city itself wasn’t flooded didn’t mean it got off scot-free. The bridge across the river flooded and was unavailable for a period of time. Trains could not get through. Getting in and out of Henderson meant a circuitous route “via Zion, Niagara, Robards, Dixon, Slaughters, Hanson and Madisonville.” Water availability was lost twice and residents were ordered to boil all water. Finally, through the generosity of Hendersonians, there were 16 refugee camps within the city, but this brought its own challenges. “At least 2,649 refugees were housed here temporarily increasing Henderson’s population by about 22 percent so diseases such as typhoid fever, scarlet fever and influenza were a very real concern. At least 33,000 vaccinations were administered locally. Mandatory immunization for typhoid fever was done on all refugees, and vaccines were also provided by the U.S. Public Health Service for tetanus, diphtheria and smallpox. At least nine people with scarlet fever were quarantined, as of mid-February, and 7-year-old Reba Daugherty died of it.

The small town (2010 Census: 238) of Leavenworth, IN was laid out in 1818 on the banks of an oxbow bend in the Ohio River, below the bluff. The picture below is ample evidence for why the entire town, in 1938, moved to a location atop the bluff, although there are still some businesses in the lower town. I’m NOT a paid spokesperson for them and will not be compensated for this, but a trip to Leavenworth and a meal at the Overlook Inn are well worth your time. The food is good, and the views of that oxbow bend from atop the bluff are spectacular.

This photograph from New Albany, IN demonstrates just how “capricious” a flood can be. Note the homes in the foreground are not in water, but those in the background are, as evidenced by the house in the middle of the street that has come off its foundation. Furthermore, merely one block away from this view of Spring and Jay, the water at Spring Street and Silver Street just touched the bottom of the traffic signal there at the January 27 cresting of the flood water.

Moving on to the largest city in Kentucky, we find that on “the morning of January 24 the entire Ohio River was above flood stage. In Louisville, the river rose 6.3 feet from January 21-22. As a result, the river reached nearly 30 feet above flood stage. Louisville, where light and water services had failed, was the hardest hit city along the Ohio River. On January 27, the river reached its crest at 460 feet above sea level or 40 feet above its normal level, which is well over a 100-year event. Almost 70 percent of the city was under water, and 175,000 people were forced to leave their homes. The U.S. Weather Bureau reported that total flood damage for the entire state of Kentucky was $250 million, an incredible sum in 1937. The number of flood-related deaths rose to 190. The flood completely disrupted the life of Louisville, inundating 60% of the city and 65 square miles.

On Jan. 26, 1937 a fifth of the city of Cincinnati was under water and across the river conditions were worse, with about one-third of the river cities of Kenton and Campbell counties under water. Nearly one of every eight people in the Tristate were left homeless. … At Coney Island, carousel horses became unglued and floated away to later be found in Paducah, Kentucky, according to the amusement park’s recounting of the flood. In Cincinnati, residents were not just dealing with homelessness. High water forced the power plant offline and limited power was diverted from Dayton, Ohio. At least 10 gas tanks exploded and there were oil fires on the Ohio and in Mill Creek Valley…. Still, somewhat remarkably there were only two deaths in Cincinnati as a result of the flood.

In Point Pleasant, OH, Ulysses S. Grant's birthplace was nearly submerged by flood waters on January 26, 1937. Source: https://bit.ly/3o0jGoG
In Point Pleasant, OH, Ulysses S. Grant’s birthplace was nearly submerged by flood waters on January 26, 1937. Source: https://bit.ly/3o0jGoG

Getting near the end of our trip now … just a couple of pictures from West Virginia and finally Pittsburgh, PA where the river begins, and the flood ended.

The flooding on the Ohio River caused its tributaries to back up, causing flooding in places like Hazleton, IN and Patoka, IN that aren’t near the banks of the Ohio. Advances in engineering, etc. have given us a better handle on flood control, rendering another flood of this magnitude unlikely. Still, never say never to Mother Nature!

Artistic rendering of map of the Ohio-Mississippi Valley Flood Disaster of 1937, showing American Red Cross locations.  Not to scale. Source: UASC, MSS 272-1164.
Artistic rendering of map of the Ohio-Mississippi Valley Flood Disaster of 1937, showing American Red Cross locations (not to scale). Source: UASC, MSS 272-1164.

Resources Consulted

1937 Flood: U.S. Army Corps of Engineer Photographs, Huntington, WV, During the 1937 Ohio River Valley Flood, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Huntington, W. Va. District) dispatched Corps photographers to capture the extent of the damage in the Huntington area. These photos are a portion of the Marshall University Regional Photograph Collection, a continually expanding collection of photographs of individuals, groups, buildings, locations, and activities of the Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia region. The manuscript collection accession number for The Regional Photograph Collection is 1978/04.0227.

Beyer, Richard. “Hell and High Water: The Flood of 1937 in Southern Illinois.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, March 1938, Vol.31 (1), pgs. 5-21.

Boyett, Frank. “Floodless city: Henderson was a refuge during historic 1937 flood.” Henderson Gleaner, January 28, 2017. 

“A Business Survey of the Flood.” Barron’s, February 1, 1937, Vol. 17(5), p. 9.

Eleven Days of Rain: the Ohio River Valley Flood of 1937. January 12, 2020. Orangebeanindiana.com

Flooding History in Louisville. Louisville MSD

The Floods. ExploreNewAlbany.com

The Great Flood of 1937. National Weather Service (Louisville, KY office)

Historic Ohio River Flood of 1937. National Weather Service (Wilmington, OH office)

LaBarbara, Jane Metters. The Flood of 1937. Blog posting from West Virginia University Libraries, January 26th, 2015.

Noble, Greg. From The Vault: Great Ohio River flood of 1937 was biggest event in Tri-State history. WPCO, Cincinnati ABC affiliate, January 25, 2018.University of Pittsburgh Library Systems Digital Collection

Posted in Evansville, Indiana, Indiana history, Local history, Natural Disasters | Leave a comment

Never Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Story

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

This phrase has been attributed to Mark Twain (is there anything evenly remotely plausible that hasn’t been attributed to Twain?), but other sources call it proverbial. This itself is an exquisite irony! Today’s blog is going to be about Minnesota Fats, a man who easily could have, and probably did, say this about facts and stories. Minnesota Fats (1913-1996) was born Rudolf Walter Wanderone, Jr. in New York.  In the 1930s-1980s he made his living as a pool hustler and claimed he had been doing so from an early age. “By age 10 he was playing adults for money in poolrooms in New York City. In his prime as a player, from the 1930s through the 1960s, he made his living by wagering on private games in pool halls throughout the United States, which contributed to his legendary standing as one of the best players in the nation.” He was a gentleman hustler … charming, outgoing, with the gift of gab to spin any story and make you believe it. And he’d laugh with you. “In many ways, the man known as Minnesota Fats was the precursor of today’s athlete, a self-promoter and a blowhard. He could be beaten in a match, but by the time he finished talking he’d have you swearing that he’d won.

Minnesota Fats cuing for a shot. An irrepressible showman, he was pocket billiards' greatest hustler. Source: https://bit.ly/3mGyauo
Minnesota Fats cuing for a shot. An irrepressible showman, he was pocket billiards’ greatest hustler. Source: https://bit.ly/3mGyauo

Although he had genuine skill for the game of pool, he never won a tournament, but he won many a hustle. Even his nickname is a bit of fiction … he was originally known as New York Fats.  In 1961 the movie, The Hustler, was released, with Jackie Gleason playing the part of a hustler known as Minnesota Fats. The movie was a big hit, winning an Academy Award for best picture, best actor (Paul Newman), best supporting actor (Jackie Gleason), as well as many others. Rice Library has this DVD available for checkout: PN1997 .H9 2002. Not one to miss an opportunity, Wanderone immediately began to call himself Minnesota Fats, claiming that the Gleason character was based on his life. The author of the novel on which the novel was based denied this to his grave. Wanderone was able to parlay this into household recognition in the 1960’s by competing in televised tournaments and hosting a television show. There was a grain of truth in his appropriation of the name Minnesota Fats, at 5’10” and about 300 pounds, he was a big man. He had a prodigious appetite, particularly for sweets, but never indulged in the habits of many pool hall habitues, smoking and drinking. “An irrepressible showman with a flair for windbag stories, Fats was more of a trickster and entertainer than a great champion of the art. Always carrying wads of hundred dollar bills rolled in his chest pocket, Fats never won a major pool tournament. But his sideshow verbal antics nonetheless made him one of the most recognizable and colorful figures in the circuit.

Minnesota Fats appeared in Evansville at least twice. In March 1965, he appeared at the Tri-State Boat and Sports Show at Roberts Stadium. In April 1972, he played in the River City Pool Tournament held at the Elks Club. The club was on SE 1st Street but burned to the ground in 1977 and was razed. Hmmm … Roberts Stadium has also been razed. Fats also had ties to the Tri-State: he lived for a period of time in Dowell, IL, about 16 miles north of Carbondale, IL. His first wife, Evelyn, was from Dowell. They were married just 2 months after they met and stayed married for 44 years. And moving a bit further afield, he spent his last years in Nashville, TN. With his last wife, age 27 and her boyfriend.

You cannot make this stuff up! It’s a challenge to try to pin down the truth about Minnesota Fats, a man to whom truth was fluid. It was always about the story, about the entertainment. Researching this, I stuck to reliable, credible sources, but even there I found conflicting information. Only Fats knows what’s true, and “he ain’t telling!” Here are some of the more amusing, entertaining, outrageous, etc. bits of information…and this time, you get to decide if you believe it…or not.

First, even his birth date is in question…most sources say 1913, but the man himself sometimes claimed 1910 or even 1900. The family name is transcribed in a variety of ways, too.

The family’s pet goose, Gans, won in a game of chance by Fats at an early age, brought him to the pool table. “Well, the way Gans introduces me to pool came about when I was four years old. We were at an outing and Gans took off on me and ran into a big pavilion at the amusement park and I ran inside after him. It was an enormous place with bowling lanes and card tables and a bar that looked like a distillery and right near the bar they had these pool tables. It was the first time I ever saw one.

“Fats was playing a card game at a gambling hideout that belonged to the late Louie Reid of Du Quoin on the Little Muddy Bottoms. On this particular night, there was a robbery, and some men with guns were coming after their money. “Fatty always had either a diamond ring or a sapphire ring on his hand – a big, flashy thing,” Keith said. “Anyway, the story goes that as they were coming in, he slipped off that ring and swallowed it.”

As he told it in his 1966 biography, “The Bank Shot and Other Great Robberies,” by Tom Fox, “I’ve been eating like a sultan since I was 2 days old. I had a mother and three sisters who worshiped me, and when I was 2 years old they used to plop me in a bed with a jillion satin pillows and spray me with exotic perfumes and lilac water and then they would shoot me the grapes.” The early pampering perhaps explains why Mr. Wanderone, who once said he never picked up anything heavier than a silver dollar, grew up with a fierce aversion to physical labor, so much so that on their cross-country trips his wife was expected to do all the driving, carry all the luggage and even change the flat tires. “Change a tire?” Mr. Wanderone once exclaimed. “I’d rather change cars.”

According to Parker in The Southern Illinoisan, Fats had a soft spot for animals, unable to turn away any stray that crossed his path. “Of animals, Fats wrote in his biography: “I’m crazy about every living creature, it doesn’t matter what it happens to be. I even love insects; in fact, I wouldn’t swat a fly or a mosquito for a whole barrel of gold.”

Fats once claimed, “I outdrew the pope in Rome by 200,000 people–and that ain’t even good pool country,

Fats had the last laugh … take a look at the inscription on his gravestone below. “Beat every living creature on Earth. St. Peter, Rack ‘em up! Fats.”

Minnesota Fats is buried in the Hermitage Memorial Gardens in Nashville, TN. Source: https://bit.ly/3mEK2Nd
Minnesota Fats is buried in the Hermitage Memorial Gardens in Nashville, TN. Source: https://bit.ly/3mEK2Nd

References Consulted

Boyer, E. J. (1996, Jan 19). “Minnesota Fats: flamboyant pool player.” Los Angeles Times, January 19, 1996.

Lyons, Bill. “Here’s one superstar who wasn’t all talk.” The Sporting News, January 29, 1996.

McDonald, Mark.  “Here’s the Skinny on Minnesota Fats.”  The Oklahoman, January 2, 1994.

“Minnesota Fats.”  Encyclopædia Britannica online.  January 14, 2020.

“Mosconi & Fats, The Great Pool Shoot-Out.” sportshistory.com, January 27, 2019.

Parker, Molly.  “Remembering Minnesota Fats: The real, imagined and exaggerated.” The Southern Illinoisan, March 1, 2017.

Thomas, R. M.  “Minnesota fats, a real hustler with a pool cue, is dead.”  New York Times, January 19, 1996.

Posted in American history, Local history, sports | Leave a comment

ArchivesFest 2021: UASC and Posey County Historical Society

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian, and James Wethington, senior library assistant at the University Archives and Special Collections.

Though #AmericanArchivesMonth is over, the University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) thanks all of this year’s participating institutions. In our final post for #ArchivesFest, the focus is on the UASC and the Posey County Historical Society.

University Archives and Special Collections (UASC)

UASC Logo, n.d.

Hours: Monday-Friday: 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM (by appointment only!)

8600 University Boulevard, Evansville, IN (3rd floor of the David L. Rice Library)

reservation and processing of regional material. At the end of the third year the University was to assume responsibility for continuing the growth of the Special Collections. It started with just a few regional history books on Indiana from the library’s own collection. Today, the University Archives and Special Collection has over 850 unique collections, 800 oral history interviews, 6,500 rare and unique books, and 30,000 digital resources.

To learn more about the University Archives and Special Collections (UASC), please visit https://usi.libguides.com/uasc and follow their social media accounts:

Posey County Historical Society logo.

Located inside Hedges Central Community Center, 716 Locust Street, Door #4, Mt. Vernon, IN

Hours: Wednesdays, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM

“The Posey County Historical Society was established in 1922. After the collection was vandalized in the 1930’s, the Society disbanded. In 1972, a group re-organized the Historical Society and has been going strong ever since!”

Be sure to follow the Posey County Historical Society on their social media at:

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ArchivesFest 2021: Willard Library and Newburgh Museum

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian, and James Wethington, senior library assistant at the University Archives and Special Collections.

As #AmericanArchivesMonth comes to a close, the University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) thanks this year’s participants for another successful ArchivesFest promotion and Annalise Snyder, who created these wonderful videos. This week’s focus is on Willard Library, Newburgh Museum, and UASC. Enjoy!

Willard Library.

Hours: Monday-Tuesday: 9:00 AM – 8 PM; Wednesday-Friday: 9:00 – 5:30 PM;

Saturday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM; Sunday: 1:00 – 5:00 PM

21 First Avenue, Evansville, Indiana 47710

Willard Carpenter was born in Vermont in 1803 and came to Evansville in 1837 to continue to pursue his fortune. Desirous of leaving a lasting legacy, in 1876 he expressed his intention “to establish and endow a public library, to be located in a public park, on land owned by me, situated in the city of Evansville. I am induced to do this in the well-grounded hope that such an institution may become useful toward the improvement of the moral and intellectual culture of the inhabitants of Evansville, and collaterally to those of the State of Indiana; and also toward the enlargement and diffusion of a taste for the fine arts.” The library opened in 1885, 2 years after Carpenter’s death.

For more information on Willard Library, please visit https://willard.lib.in.us/ and follow their social media accounts at:

Hours: Friday and Saturday, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

503 State Street, Newburgh, IN 47630

“The Newburgh Museum’s mission is to preserve, exhibit and educate all visitors about the history and culture of Newburgh and the surrounding area’s unique river town heritage. Located on the first floor of the Old Newburgh Presbyterian Church, the museum opened in July 2012. The permanent displays at the museum include information about the town’s founding, how it got its name, its early industry, a period of decline and how it has changed in modern times. The main exhibit at the museum is changed every few months.”

For more information on the Newburgh Museum, please visit https://www.newburghmuseum.com/ and follow their social media accounts at:

Posted in #ArchivesFest, Evansville, Indiana, Indiana, Local history | Leave a comment