Living in Community….The Abbey of Gethsemani

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

One of the collections within University Archives and Special Collections is Communal Studies. The Communal Studies Collection began in conjunction with the Center for Communal Studies, which promotes the study of contemporary and historic communal groups, intentional communities and utopias. The key word is intentional. These communities were/are deliberate attempts to live communally, with shared goals and economies. This blog is one of a continuing series….you can search for the phrase Living in Community to find others.

This blog will talk about the Abbey of Gethsemani, a historic and continuing Cistercian monastic community in Trappist, Kentucky (near Bardstown).

Image CS 662-190ad-0001, the Don Janzen collection
Abbot Benedict of Nursia, depicted in the act of writing the Benedictine Rule, painting by Herman Nieg, 1926; in the church of Heiligenkreuz Abbey near Baden bei Wien, Lower Austria.
Image found here.

The monks at this abbey follow the rule of St. Benedict to order their days. Benedict (480-547 A.D.) was born in Italy, and sent by his parents to Roman schools. “Shocked by the licentiousness of Rome, he retired as a young man to Enfide (modern Affile) in the Simbruinian hills and later to a cave in the rocks beside the lake then existing near the ruins of Nero’s palace above Subiaco, 64 km (40 miles) east of Rome in the foothills of the Abruzzi. There he lived alone for three years, furnished with food and monastic garb by Romanus, a monk of one of the numerous monasteries nearby. When the fame of his sanctity spread, Benedict was persuaded to become abbot of one of these monasteries.”i

Eventually Benedict formulated what became known as his Rule governing the monastic life. “Accentuated was the harmony of a simple, unpretentious life in common wherein all were exhorted to “prefer nothing whatever to Christ.” Practical, flexible, and balanced, it became the standard for Christian monasticism in the West.”ii

But I initially said this was a Cistercian monastery….so where does this fit in? In 1098 a group of 21 monks, seeking to simplify their lives and return to more of what Benedict originally intended, established Citeaux, the “New Monastery,” near the city of Dijon, France. “They trimmed the thicket of medieval liturgy, creating space for the formerly discarded manual labor, the integral rhythm of Benedict’s rule emerged in a harmony of work, prayer, and spiritual reading.”iii

The monks at Gethsemani are also known as Trappist, springing from yet another reform that began in 1664 at La Trappe, near Paris. “Forced to leave the country at the time of the French Revolution, this community eventually became the nucleus of the Trappist branch of the Cistercian order, also known as the Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.)”iv

French Trappist monks first ventured to this part of the country in 1805, coming to and staying in the Bardstown area for about 4 years until continual bad weather drove them back home. The second, and successful attempt at establishing themselves in Kentucky came in 1848, when 44 monks from the Abbey of Melleray in France once again ventured to the New World and came to the Bardstown area just before Christmas of that year. Their leader was a man named Eutropius Proust, who became the first abbot of the new monastery. The current monastery was built beginning in 1852, with later modifications and additions.

Abbey of Gethsemani historic marker – photographed September 29, 2009. Image CS 662-190dc-0004, the Don Janzen collection
Front side of document announcing the appointment of Dom. Eutropius Proust as first abbot of Gethsemani Abbey, circa 1851. Image from the Archives & Records Center of the Diocese of Pittsburgh as found on Facebook.
Thomas Merton. Image found here.

A well known person affiliated with Gethsemani that you may have heard of is Thomas Merton (1915-1968. “His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold over one million copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages. He wrote over sixty other books and hundreds of poems and articles on topics ranging from monastic spirituality to civil rights, nonviolence, and the nuclear arms race. … After a rambunctious youth and adolescence, Merton converted to Roman Catholicism whilst at Columbia University and on December 10th, 1941 he arrived at the Abbey of Gethsemani, a community of monks belonging to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists), the most ascetic Roman Catholic monastic order.The twenty-seven years he spent in Gethsemani brought about profound changes in his self-understanding. This ongoing conversion impelled him into the political arena, where he became, according to Daniel Berrigan, the conscience of the peace movement of the 1960’s. Referring to race and peace as the two most urgent issues of our time, Merton was a strong supporter of the nonviolent civil rights movement, which he called “certainly the greatest example of Christian faith in action in the social history of the United States.” For his social activism Merton endured severe criticism, from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who assailed his political writings as unbecoming of a monk. During his last years, he became deeply interested in Asian religions, particularly Zen Buddhism, and in promoting East-West dialogue. After several meetings with Merton during the American monk’s trip to the Far East in 1968, the Dalai Lama praised him as having a more profound understanding of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known.”v The Seven Storey Mountain is available in our General Collection, BX4715.M542 A3.

The Abbey of Gethsemani is considered to be the “motherhouse” of all Trappist monasteries in this country, and the oldest one still in operation. Its 40 some monks lead quiet, structured lives of prayer, study, and work, and welcome visitors to visit, only 2.5 hours away from Evansville. There is a welcome center, 1500 acres of hiking trails to explore, and homemade fruitcake and bourbon fudge available for purchase (this is how the monks support themselves). All of its services are open to the public.

Sign at entrance to Abbey – photographed September 29, 2009. Image-190dc-0002, the Don Janzen collection
Main entrance – photographed September 29, 2009. Image CS 662-190dc-0010, the Don Janzen collection
View of Abbey – photographed September 29, 2009. Image CS 662-190dc-0012, the Don Janzen collection

Resources Consulted

Abbey of Gethsemani website                                                                                                            "Cistercian Life at Gethsemani," pamphlet found in CS002-1, the Abbey of Gethsemani collection                                                                                                                                                       Saint Benedict entry in Encyclopedia Brittanica online                                                                                 "Thomas Merton's Life and Work." The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY

End Notes                                                                                                                                                
i Saint                                                                                                                                                    ii Cistercian                                                                                                                                           iii Cistercian                                                                                                                                                       iv Cistercian                                                                                                                                                        v Thomas
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“She wore an itsy bitsy, teenie weenie, yellow polka dot bikini”

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

This lyric is from a novelty song written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss and recorded by Brian Highland, way back in 1960.  (listen here)  It’s definitely an oldie, and although probably not a golden oldie, this phrase is in common parlance, and is used here to introduce a blog on the history of the swimsuit. Anything to take you away from a dull, grey January, right?

To begin with, let’s discuss terminology… was originally referred to as a bathing suit.  Swimming in the recreational sense that we know it today didn’t even begin to be considered popular until early in the 20th century. People bathed or swam privately, and au naturel was the style. 

Niccolo Cecconi, Pompeiian Bath, c. 1880.  Painting in the Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, image courtesy of akg images.
Maker unknown (American). Bathing gown, ca. 1767-1769. Linen, lead. Mount Vernon: George Washington’s Mount Vernon, W-580. Gift of Mrs. George R. Goldsborough, Vice Regent for Maryland 1894. Source: George Washington’s Mount Vernon.  Image found here.

“In the eighteenth century, the idea of a retreat to the seaside for bathing grew more attractive as the benefits of water, fresh air, and exercise were extolled.”i  The bathing gown was appropriate attire for women.  “However, immersing oneself completely was discouraged. This was deemed particularly important for women as activity in water was not seen as sufficiently feminine. For bathing, women would wear loose, open gowns, that were similar to the chemise. These bathing gowns were more comfortable to wear in the water, especially when compared to more restrictive day clothes. The bathing gown [seen to the right] is from 1767 and belonged to Martha Washington, the wife of then-Continental Army commander, and later the first US president, George Washington. The blue and white checked gown is made from linen and is in an unfitted shift style. Small lead weights are sewn into each quarter of the dress, just above the hem. This was to ensure the dress did not float up in the water, helping women to maintain their modesty. It is known that Martha Washington travelled in the summers of 1767 and 1769 to the famed mineral springs in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, to absorb the apparent health benefits.”ii Given the sheer fabric seen here, there would have been nothing modest about it when wet, so it’s presumed that Martha bathed privately.

By the 19th century, swimming became more popular, more for recreation than for health benefits.  At the most, women paddled in the water—exercising was seen as unladylike.  Given their attire, they could do little more without drowning!  Sometimes they waded out (not very far) holding on to a rope.  “Along with wool, swimsuits from this era were also made from canvas and flannel, which, naturally, were far too heavy for real swimming, but which at least had the virtue of being sturdy and, most importantly, didn’t turn transparent when wet.  Some gowns even had weighted hems to prevent the fabric from riding up mid-swim, saving women from suffering the embarrassment of unwittingly showing some leg.”iii In addition to providing modesty, these swimsuits covered up all your skin so there was no chance of having any tan, which was seen looking like a farmer.  NOT cool!

Interestingly, these 1800s bathing suits were two-piece!  In this context, the two pieces were a long dress over ankle length pants.  The Victorians even used bathing machines to preserve privacy.  These were small houses that were pulled out into the water.  A lady could enter beach side in full attire, change inside into her bathing costume, and then emerge out the back into the water to bathe in relative privacy. 

Queen Victoria’s bathing machine, restored. This is located at Osborne Beach, on the Isle of Wight.  Image foundhere.

These two images show the progression of bathing suits—the first is from the mid 1800s and the second from the turn of the 20th century.  The dresses and pants have both shortened, and arms are now visible.  Although these women have bare legs, keeping the legs covered with long black stockings and wearing shoes was more common at first.  The sailor suit, seen on some of the women in the second picture, was popular.

A child and his grandfather wearing similar suits, early part of the 20th century.    Image courtesy of Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty

Men also bathed or swam, and in general, their attire was less restrictive.  “Nineteenth century men were able to escape the restrictions of swimwear for much longer than women.  Nude male bathing in public places continued into the second half of the century, although times and places were regulated.  Experiments with woolen swimming drawers began in the 1840s, but were not entirely successful because of the tendency of the drawers to droop and drop when waterlogged.  This lamentable state of affairs led to the introduction of 1870 of a short-sleeved, all-in-one costume which covered the body from neck to knees.  Striped costumes were especially popular.  Although young boys and older men continued to wear drawers only, most men preferred the more substantial costume.  Two-piece costumes consisting of a vest and drawers were available at the end of the century.”iv

The shockingly indecent Miss Kellerman.  Image found here.

Big strides were made when Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman became one of the first women to attempt to swim the English Channel in 1905.  “Her passion and courage led her to design a one-piece, form-fitting swimsuit that was more aerodynamic than the bulky, heavy swimsuit styles of that day. Known as the “Annette Kellermann,” these one-piece suits changed swimwear forever.”v  This is not the end of the story.  “In 1907, [she] was arrested on a beach in Boston, Massachusetts, and charged with indecent exposure because she’d been wearing a knee-length swimsuit that resembled a unitard and showed her arms, legs, and neck.”vi

The revolution continued in 1912 when women first competed in swimming at the Olympic games.  This image of the British freestyle swimming team that won the gold medal, dressed in silk suits, is particularly amusing for the juxtaposition of their attire next to that of the woman in the center!

Annette Kellerman and the 1912 Olympics notwithstanding, there was still a great deal of pushback in the 1920s and 1930s to showing too much skin on the beach.  “Something had to be done before America fell into irretrievable debauchery, so many municipalities passed laws enforcing the length of swimsuits, often prohibiting anything shorter than six inches above the knee. Swimsuit police were employed to make sure swimmers didn’t break the rules, and if they found a woman with a swimsuit that was too short, she was either sent home to change or forced to cover up. Beach police in Chicago found a clever method of ensuring that patrons maintained their modesty: a “beach tailor” who could be summoned to sew up oversize armholes or affix a layer of fabric to the bottoms of skirts deemed too short or the tops of necklines deemed too low. … Women weren’t the only ones whose beachwear was policed. On the grounds that no one wanted to see “gorillas on the beaches,” the city council of Atlantic City, New Jersey passed laws mandating shirts at the shore, and beaches around the country followed suit. Men who went topless could be fined and forced to put their shirts back on, but starting in 1937, many of these local rules were overturned and men could once again enjoy the sunshine on their bare chests.”vii

Washington policeman Bill Norton measuring the distance between knee and suit at the Tidal Basin bathing beach after Col. Sherrill, Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds, issued an order that suits not be over six inches above the knee, 1922.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, found here.

Two bathers being escorted off the beach by a police woman, Chicago, 1922.  Image found here.
Chicago policewomen checking for violations of the bathing suit-length laws, 1921.  Image found here.

By 1940 the term swimsuit came into vogue as styles became more and more streamlined.  During World War II, wartime rationing encouraged designers to use less fabric.  Maybe the designer of the bikini was only doing his patriotic duty?! “It wasn’t until after World War II that two Frenchmen invented the modern bikini, which shows the navel and was the next major stepping stone in the history of swimwear. In 1946 Jacques Heim first invented the ‘Atome’, named so because it was a very small two-piece bathing suit. Then an engineer named Louis Réard, made sure his bathing suit was even smaller and named his two-piece outfit the ‘Bikini’, after the Bikini island where a nuclear test had taken place that year. Réard wanted the excitement about his new Bikini swimwear to be just as ‘explosive’….

Micheline Bernardini modeling the world’s first bikini. Source: NY Daily News.  Image found here.

The Frenchman was right: it did shock the world seeing the sexy bikini on a Parisian catwalk for the first time. The invention made everyone forget about the ‘Atome’ and ‘Bikini’ became the generic name for two-piece bathing suits in Europe. It took a while for the rest of the world to take a liking for bikinis and they were initially banned in the USA and Catholic countries.”  Apparently Réard’s bikini was so shocking that regular models would not wear it, so he had to hire a Parisian showgirl named Micheline Bernardini to show it to the world.

It’s tempting to go on with this history, but you can consult the resources listed below to learn more.  Let me end by noting that while these photographs are great, nothing beats looking at the real swimsuits themselves.  University Archives and Special Collections is fortunate to have a few of these in the Beardsley, Montgomery, and Gordon Families Collection, MSS 297.  These are all made of wool, and while only the green and black one is actually dated to 1920, they are probably all from the same general time period. 

Three images above, MSS 297-23-5, front, side, and detail views.  Can you imagine having to button your swimming suit?  This suit is a wee bit more modest in that it covers the shoulders/upper arms.

Three images below, MSS 297-16-3, front, side, and detail of the embroidery.  Although not shown here in detail here, if you look closely at the first photograph you can see that this suit also has the buttoned shoulder.

Three images below, MSS 297-16-6, front, side, and detail views.  Note that this suit only has a single button.

I would not wish to swim, or even bathe, in any of these wool items, but they are very interesting to see. If you’d like to see any of these three in person, contact University Archivist Jennifer Greene in advance and arrange for a showing.


i Baclawski, p. 30

ii Ibbetson

iii Radical

iv Baclaswki, p. 31

v Swimsuits

vi Booth

vii Harris

Resources Consulted

“45 Interesting Vintage Photographs of Bathing Machines from the Victorian Era.”  Vintage Everyday website, April 30, 2015.

Baclawski, Karen.  The Guide to Historic Costume.  London: B.T. Batsford, 1995.   General Collection GT507 .B33 1995.

Booth, Jessica.  “From the 1800s to Now: Here’s How Swimsuits Have Changed Over the Years.” website, July 16, 2021.

“Did You Know: In the 1920s, Police Could Arrest Women for Exposing Their Legs in One Piece Bathing Suits?”  Vintage Everyday website, November 3, 2016.

Faust, Ella.  “The Evolution of the Swimsuit.”  CR Fashion Book website, June 29, 2020.

Harris, Karen. “Bikini Laws: When Women Could Be Arrested for Wearing The Wrong Swimsuit.”  History Daily website.

“History of Bathing Suits.” Victoriana Magazine online.

“History of Swimwear.”  Swimwear Shack website.

Ibbetson, Fiona.  “A History of Women’s Swimwear.”  Fashion History Timeline, a project of the History of Art Department at the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York, 2022.

Komar, Marlen.  “Women’s Swimwear Photos from the 1800s Until Today.”  Bustle website, February 14, 2016.

Picone, Kiri.  “Appreciate Your Bikini: A Brief History of Women’s Swimwear.”  Ati (All That’s Interesting) website, May 30, 2015.

“The Radical History of the Swimsuit.”  Google Arts and Culture. 

“Swimsuit Police to the Rescue!”  Recollections website.

“Swimsuits Throughout History: Swimwear for Women, Men & Competition.” website.

“Women being arrested for wearing one piece bathing suits, 1920s.”  Rare Historical Photos website.

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Happy New Year!

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

Welcome to 2023!

Here’s hoping you had a relaxing and restorative break, and that you’re ready to hit the books again. All of us at Rice Library wish you all the best in the coming semester, and stand ready to assist you in achieving academic success. Let’s start Spring 2023 off with a smile, perhaps even a laugh, as we look at some of these turn of the 20th century postcards sent to wish friends and family a happy new year. All images are from MSS 010, the Postcards Collection.

For more fun, take a look at the display of postcards in the display case to the right of the library reading room on the second floor, room 2001.

MSS 010-0788
MSS 010-0793
MSS 010-0797
MSS 010-0790
MSS 010-0791
MSS 010-0814
MSS 010-0815
MSS 010-0827

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McCutchan at War, part 2: The Tourist Experience

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

In the previous blog I told you about local historian Kenneth McCutchan (1913-2002) and his journals and scrapbook documenting his WWII service abroad.   That blog focused on his military service overseas; now we’re going to see how McCutchan used his time abroad to see more of the world.

UASC MSS 004-4725, the Kenneth McCutchan Collection

From May 20, 1943 through the first week of January 1944, McCutchan was in Tunisia.  On June 9, 1943 he got an all-day pass and hitched a ride into Tunis, the capital, and the ancient city of Carthage.  Hannibal, who crossed the Alps on elephants to threaten the Roman empire circa 218 B.C., was from Carthage.  The Roman empire proved mightier and decimated the city in 146 B.C.  McCutchan says that the ruins at Carthage were worth the trip alone, with the most beautiful being those of the Temple, with its marble and granite columns and mosaic floors. 

By August the regiment had moved on to Tabarka.  McCutchan’s August 26th journal entry says, “Had the day off and went to Tabarka…visited the old Roman fort and ruins dating to the 6th century.  Strolled through the old French cemetery, and visited the old Roman ruins….”  In MSS 004-2402 below, on the right can be seen an Arab cavalry unit bivouacking there. 

MSS 004-2398
MSS 004-2402

MSS 004-0733

Mid-January 1944 found McCutchan on the island of Corsica, seemingly little affected by war.  One day they were unexpectedly given 6 hour passes into Ajaccio, the capital, complete with transportation.  Napoleon Bonaparte was born there.  “In the center of the Place du Diamant, facing the bay, stands this [1865] statue of Napoleon with his four brothers.  They say that the sculptor died of a broken heart because he had intended this monument to be his masterpiece, but when it was unveiled, the citizens of Ajaccio laughed.  Even today they refer to it as ‘l’encrier,’ the inkstand.”

MSS 004-4930

On January 15, 1944: “Today I have seen some of the most beautiful scenery one can imagine.  It reminds me of what I would expect the Swiss Alps to look like. … Tonight we are bivouacking just at the edge of the snow line in a forest of giant pine trees, so dense that sunlight hardly penetrates.  Mountain streams are bubbling and tumbling over boulders….”  In his scrapbook he says, “These streams, fed by springs of melting snow, leapt and skipped over the rocky forest floor, filling the solitude with a water music that was a fitting accompaniment to the wind’s singing in the trees…forests below clung to the slopes like green cloaks that had slipped from the mountains’ shoulders.  Tiny red-roofed villages appeared toy-like in the valley far below, and smoke-blue heaps of more mountains were piled against the distant horizons.”  On June 4, McCutchan and a fellow soldier decided to try to climb Monte d’Oro, Corsica’s second highest peak.  Good progress was made at first, following the mountain stream.  “By the end of the second hour we reached a large glacier which had been hollowed out by a stream until a cave of ice had formed with huge icicles hanging from the ceiling….Soon after, we struck a spot that was almost impossible to scale bare-handed.”  They wisely retreated.

MSS 004-4906

In August they moved to southern France, arriving in Marseille on September 2, where he found that despite much damage, many parts of Marseille retained its historic beauty.  His visit to the Palais Longchamp is a good representation of the sights he enjoyed.  His scrapbook says, “The Palais Longchamp is a series of great buildings in the style of the Italian Renaissance erected about 1869.  The Museum of Fine Arts on the left and the Museum of Natural History on the right are joined to the central building by semi-circular colonnades.  A grand fountain ornamented with statuary feeds a pool in the front of the palace.”

On March 30, 1945 they moved into Germany.  On April 5 he received word that his 2-week furlough to Great Britain had been approved, and so began his first opportunity to truly play the tourist.  On April 8, he arrived in Paris and made the most of every minute, enjoying Notre Dame, the Arc d’Triomphe, and the quintessential Parisian attraction, the Eiffel Tower. (seen respectively below)

MSS 004-4954
MSS 004-4958
MSS 004-4961
MSS 004-4806

From Paris he went to Edinburgh and toured Edinburgh Castle and other city sites, and spent a day in Sir Walter Scott country.  Edinburgh Castle, pictured left, was “perched on a high formidable rock in the very center of the city.  One of the most interesting rooms at the castle was the great banquet hall where all coronation banquets for centuries have been held.  The guide explained that one of the most colorful ceremonies of the coronation banquets was the challenging, in which a knight in full armor rode a horse into the dining hall and challenged the guests in the name of the newly crowned king.  The great hall is lined with suits of mail and weapons of all eras, as well as portraits of all the kings and queens of Scotland and England for centuries.” Pictured here is the drawbridge entrance. 

MSS 004-4989

On Sunday he took a bus tour through the countryside with lunch on the grounds of Abbotsford on the River Tweed.  “Abbotsford is the country estate of Sir Walter Scott, built to his own plans after he had acquired the property in 1811.  He called it his dream house. … His rooms are exactly as he left them, lined with books and collector’s objects.”

Then to London for 3 more busy days: Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (“very weird because some of the figures are so real that you are not sure who is alive and who isn’t),  St. Paul’s Cathedral (just the outside since it was very crowded for the memorial service for the recently deceased Franklin D. Roosevelt), Parliament, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge, Tower of London, Kew Gardens, and Buckingham Palace (for the changing of the guard).  This is Big Ben and Parliament as viewed from Westminster Bridge.

MSS 004-4864

His furlough ended, McCutchan arrived back at company headquarters the afternoon of April 24.  The next few months were spent in Mannheim and Bremen, Germany.  While in Mannheim, McCutchan had the opportunity to see Heidelberg, about 15-20 miles away.  The scrapbook says that Heidelberg is a famous university town, “a seat of learning, and since it was of no military importance, it is one of the few German cities that weather with but little damage.  It was never bombed from the air, and only a few of the bridges were demolished deliberately.  This is the bridge gate on the left bank” [of the Neckar River.]

MSS 004-2558
MSS 004-4661

June 11, 1945’s journal entry: “An interesting memorandum came out today announcing that the University of Paris is soon to take 750 U.S. Army students for eight weeks courses in languages and studies in French culture. … I have been hoping for an opportunity like that. … It would be wonderful to live in Paris for a while.”  July 3 brought an official letter from Bremen Post Command about this course of study, but McCutchan, uncertain his Colonel would approve his application, asked directly and was told yes.  July 10: “Sgt. Iula and I have been selected for the course at the Sorbonne.  Our travel orders will be out tomorrow.”  He was in Paris the next day, eager to embark on this new adventure.  He was early since classes didn’t start until the 16th, but was able to enjoy the Bastille Day celebrations. This was the first Bastille Day celebration since Paris and France were liberated, so crowds were really exuberant.  Under this photograph in his scrapbook, McCutchan notes, “Sidewalks for miles along the route of the parade were jammed with people from soon after dawn.  They stood on chairs, on step ladders, sat on one another’s shoulders, hung from windows.  Those who were unable to see a thing cheered and screamed just as loudly as all the others when the parade came by.”

MSS 004-4998

Students in the Latin Quarter of Paris customarily studied outdoors on very warm days.  They often went as a group to the nearby Luxembourg Gardens and sat under the huge chestnut trees.  Here are some of his classmates with their teacher, Mademoiselle Louise Durand.  Mlle. Durand worked with the underground during the German occupation, “caring for allied fliers whose planes were shot down over France.  She and her group smuggled the fliers into Paris, fed and housed them and supplied them with civilian clothes until arrangements could be made to have them taken back to England.  Mlle. Durand, who had studied in England before the war, maintained secret short-wave radio communication with her friends there, and through them made the arrangements to have the men picked up by reconnaissance planes that would make quick landings for that purpose in secluded spots in the country.  In order to protect herself in case she was arrested by the Germans, she carried various kinds of false identification.”

Field trips were part of the curriculum.  One day he and a friend went to Montmartre, the artist colony of Paris and climbed to the top of the highest tower.  “All Paris was at our feet.  We could see the Seine winding through the city, and the Eiffel Tower stood up like a bony finger pointing toward heaven through the mists that lingered over the river.”   

MSS 004-4957
MSS 004-5041
MSS 004-5046

Another day the class went to Versailles. It “is so large that it is said that at no one spot can one get a view of the entire building.  The façade on the garden side is 2,413 ft.  During the reign of Louis XIV the court, including nobles and servants, numbered nearly 10,000 persons.”  Marie Antoinette built an entire idyllic rural village, the Hamlet, with a mill, mill pond, cow barn, and buttery.  She built a house for herself there, too, when “she felt the need to ‘get away from it all’ and bake bread and make butter with her own hands.  When she had the Hamlet constructed in 1783, people began to accuse her of ruining France with her caprices.  Much unsavory gossip also rose against her because she refused to admit people of the court to her pastoral retreat.”

Another day Mlle. Durand took her class to see Fountainbleau. “The palace is built on the location of a hunting lodge that King Louis VII had built in the heart of a forest.  Legend says that here was a spring of fine clear water (La Fontaine Belle-eau) where the king stopped to quench his thirst after the chase. …The horse-shoe staircase at the main entrance is particularly interesting.  It was from these steps that Napoleon said good-bye to his officers before he went into exile.”

MSS 004-4821

McCutchan enjoyed his time in Paris.  “I tried to see Paris in all attitudes.  Then, too, I was there to celebrate VJ Day, the end of the war.  I loved Paris, but all good things must end sometime, so on September 7th we finished our school term.  The first tinge of autumn was beginning to appear.  Chestnuts were starting to fall in the Jardin du Luxembourg and the leaves were turning a rusty color.  September 9th I flew back to Bremen, Germany and rejoined the 335th Engineers.”

From the previous blog you know the ending of this story, with McCutchan back at home in Indiana.  He made the most of 959 days overseas and as a historian, left a wonderful record for us to enjoy.  You can always stop by UASC on the 3rd floor of the Rice Library to look at these in more detail.  Be sure to call first: 812-228-5046.

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McCutchan at War, part 1: The Military Experience

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

Recordkeeping sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it?  We tend to think about it primarily in terms of financial matters, tasks that must be done.  In the broader context of keeping a record of one’s daily activities, however, it’s a different matter.  Keeping a journal, for instance, is recordkeeping.  Historians certainly appreciate the value of good records when they are doing research.  One man who excelled at this was Ken McCutchan.

Kenneth Peva McCutchan (1913-2002) was a historian at heart.  His family was part of the early history of Evansville and Vanderburgh County, and the section of northern Vanderburgh County called McCutchanville is named for his family.  Ken McCutchan had ample reason to appreciate history and value of good recordkeeping.  This is demonstrated by his World War II journals and a scrapbook of his time serving overseas.  The journals begin with this entry on July 15, 1942: 

“Off to the Army today on the noon train for Fort Benjamin Harrison.  Had lunch at the Red Cross Canteen at the L & N depot before leaving.  At Vincennes we picked up more draftees, and at Indianapolis, 5 carloads coming in from Ohio, Virginia, and points East.”       

He continues with daily entries until November 15, 1945:

“Arrived at the local airport shortly before noon and as the plane taxied up the runway I could see Mother standing there waiting—all dressed up in her Paris hat.  It is good to be home again.  Everything looks just the same as when I left, and I know that in a short time, as I look back upon the past years, it will be hard to realize that it really happened.”  After some 8 months of training in various locations, McCutchan embarked on duty overseas in March 1943.  In addition to his journal entries, he recorded his time overseas in an incredible scrapbook (185 pages!) he entitled 959 Days Overseas.  He kept notes and completed this when he finally returned home as he could not have carried something this large with him.  Those notes were very detailed—he names the soldier in a picture, says where his hometown was, and tells something about him.  He provides information such as background or history of the locations.  In his preface to this scrapbook, he admits to a bit of misbehavior: “Back in the spring of 1943 cameras were forbidden to soldiers going overseas.  I owned a little inexpensive Brownie that I had purchased at the PX at Fort Leonard Wood the autumn before.  I wanted very much to take it with me.  If it was confiscated, I thought, there won’t be much lost, so I decided upon taking the chance of smuggling it across, with five rolls of film as a starter, in the toe of my overshoes.  Had it not been for that little camera, the picture record of my experiences which follows in this book would never have been made.” 

UASC MSS 004-0217, the Kenneth McCutchan Collection

McCutchan served as Company Clerk with the 335th Engineer Regiment.  He was ‘behind the lines,’ i.e., arriving in a location after the Germans had been defeated and the location at least somewhat secured.  He and his fellow soldiers arrived in North Africa April 13, 1943, and spent most of the time through January 7, 1944 in Tunisia.  He was as interested in the local area and peoples as he was in the military experience, and frequently commented on how eager the children were to be around the soldiers.  Whenever the unit stopped for lunch, they gathered around to get the leftovers from C rations: sugar cubes, hard candies, and little packets of soluble coffee.  No matter how desolate the area appeared, the children always appeared, seemingly from out of the bushes and rocks. This photograph of an old shepherd demonstrates that it was not only the children who took advantage of the soldiers’ largesse—if you look closely, you will see that he is wearing GI shoes! 

MSS 004-0889

As the summer turned into fall in Tunisia, the unit continued its work of repairing roads, maintaining hospitals, and working on the docks.  Back in camp, there were housekeeping chores such as the weekly laundry.  While the quality of this photograph isn’t ideal, you can see the men scrubbing the clothing on a makeshift table, and in the background, getting ready to boil it to remove any germs, etc. 

As 1943 drew to a close, the men felt certain they would be leaving Africa soon, probably headed for Italy. The Allies were beginning a difficult push to Rome, and losses were heavy as judged by the ships full of wounded coming into the port of Bizerte, Tunisia.  Heading to Italy wasn’t a pleasant prospect. After packing up and crating their equipment, they went aboard LSTs on January 8.  Not until they were out at sea did they learn that they were headed instead to the island of Corsica. 

On January 11 the unit landed at the capital of Corsica, Ajaccio.  McCutchan noted that the city was “pleasant looking with palm lined boulevards, gay flowers, and a lovely backdrop of mountains.  The most unforgettable thing about … Corsica is the smell which wafts delicately out to the boat before you have ever actually set foot on land—the mixed fragrance of the maquis, mimosa, and eucalyptus.”  The unit remained on Corsica until August 17, at various locations.  The men spent a lot of time on roadwork, in particular rebuilding a road that local defenders had blown up to prevent the Germans from reaching the interior of the island. For the last 5 months on Corsica they built and operated a sawmill to supply lumber for needs at the airport, to build props for coal mines in Sardinia, and to build up a stockpile to be used whenever the invasion of southern France got underway.

MSS 004-2491

Corsicans speak French, and this gave McCutchan an advantage since he spoke the language—probably textbook French, but he had more knowledge of it than most.  In the village of Vivario, McCutchan was assigned as a liaison officer and billeted with a local family.  He was the first American to live there and so became known as ‘l’Americain.’  This is Grandmama Casanova, a “sweet old lady who had lived almost her whole life of 84 years in her own tiny world in and around Vivario.  Once, when she was young, she had visited Toulon in France.  There she had ridden in an elevator and that was the most thrilling experience of her whole life.  She always called me ‘mon Americain,’ and insisted on washing and darning socks for me, or making a cup of coffee when I would come in on a cold day.”


MSS 004-2510

By mid-August of 1944, France was being secured and the regiment sailed to southern France.  The coast had been fortified with the heavy concrete gun emplacements seen here.  McCutchan notes that “the weather was very hot, and the bodies of the German gunners lying inside these pill boxes had already started to bloat.  The stench was sickening.  Notice the clothing and equipment scattered over the ground, indicating the great haste in which these positions were evacuated.” They also came across an emergency hospital dug under the hill.  Inside the operating room lights were still on, unclean surgical instruments were lying around, and the operating table bore blood stains.  There were 2 wounded Germans dead in their beds. 

MSS 004-2575

By August 29 the unit moved on to Marseille.  The people there were hungry after suffering German occupation and gathered around any Army installation to salvage any edible food from garbage cans.  The unit made it a habit to set the kettles out after the men had been served so that the civilians could take what was left.  One of the scavengers was this little boy named Napoleon.  He was so small that he didn’t stand much of a chance getting anything in a crowd.  “But, when he stood by the wall with his gallon bucket, sucking his thumb, we always saw that he got filled with the best there was left—and often some candy for good measure.”

MSS 004-4745

The regiment was fortunate in being able to utilize residences for housing.  They were particularly lucky on December 18, 1944, when they took up residence in the Chateau Champ Renard.  It was built in the 1870s as a summer house but was no longer occupied by members of the original family.  Located on 20 acres, it had 3 stories and about 40 rooms.  There was a caretaker’s cottage with attached greenhouse, large barn, laundry, and pigeon cote.  The German army had occupied it and took with them some of the art treasures, including a $20,000 hand-made Chinese rug.  McCutchan and 2 others made their bedroom in an elaborate library, complete with walnut paneling, brocade wallpaper, and large oil paintings.  “The Army cots looked rather sad among all the splendor.”

MSS 004-2507
MSS 004-2535

By March 30, 1945, McCutchan’s unit had moved into Germany.  “The extent of the destruction was almost indescribable.  Every town and village seemed to be leveled.  Fields were pockmarked with bomb craters and the roadsides were littered with debris.  Few civilians were seen.  Now and then we would pass a family walking along the road dragging what was left of their belongings in a broken-down baby carriage.  Sometimes we would see them digging among the rubble of a bombed house.” The railyard seen here showed evidence of the hundreds of freight cars that had been loaded with every possible commodity.  “Many of the cars had been demolished by bombings and fire, but those that had not been destroyed had been pillaged by the armies and the liberated prisoners from forced labor camps in the vicinity—the armies looking for souvenirs, the liberated prisoners looking for food and clothing.”   On April 28th, the regiment crossed the Rhine into Mannheim.  “Once a lovely modern city of about 250,000 population, [it was now] a mass of ruins.  Miles and miles of its streets looked like this this.  Only the main streets were opened and free from rubble.  Most of the side streets were impassible.  It was a ghost city.  Almost nobody could be seen.”

McCutchan’s ‘959 Days Overseas’ was nearing an end.  His number finally came up for a return to the United States, and on October 8, 1945, he and other ‘home-bound boys’ headed to Holland and Belgium.  After hurricane-related weather delays, he was aboard the U.S. Merchant Marine Thomas Johnson, pulling out into the ocean on October 28.  The GREAT DAY came on November 10, 1945, when the ship neared Boston harbor.   “It was just twilight when the ship pulled into its berth at Boston docks.  All the whistles blew and a band was playing when we came down the gangplank.  The Red Cross ladies were on hand with pints of milk and doughnuts.  It was an all-out welcome. … A train was waiting to take us to Camp Miles Standish, where more welcoming committees were waiting, and a huge first-night-home dinner, with everything anyone could wish for in the way of good eats.  Yes, we were finally back in the U.S.A.  It was good!  And so ended my 959 days overseas.” 

After a trip to Camp Atterbury for a clothing check, physical, shots, and final pay settlement, his final discharge came at 2:15 pm on November 14, 1945.  “The next morning I flew home… Mother was waiting at the airport.  I was really home.”

There is far more to Kenneth McCutchan’s journals and scrapbook than can be explored here.  I’ve made no mention of his exploration of the places where he was stationed, two-week furlough to Paris, London, and Edinburgh, or his eight-week study at the Sorbonne in Paris, all of which will be covered in the next blog.  Read on!

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The Circus is Coming to Town!!

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

Photo by sergio souza on

At the turn of the 20th century, the words, ‘the circus is coming to town’ would have struck delight and anticipation in the hearts of nearly every American. It was a HUGE event. “Shops closed their doors, schools canceled classes, and factories shut down. In 1907 the Board of Education in Bridgeport, Connecticut, voted to closed the schools on Circus Day, and children in Paterson, New Jersey successfully lobbied school officials to dismiss classes. When the Adam Forepaugh circus arrived in South Bend, Indiana that same year, the Studebaker Wagon Works locked its doors so that its seven thousand employees could see the program.”i The thrill wasn’t limited just to small towns…when Barnum and Bailey played New York in March 1905, huge crowds had to be turned away because the arena was already jam-packed. The Ringling Brothers played New Orleans in 1898, with accounts that everyone in the city was at the circus. Another circus reported selling 8,00 to 9,000 tickets in 40 minutes with at least 1,000 sold in advance. “No other amusement saturated consumers like the circus at the turn of the century. … The traveling circus….came to one’s doorstep. Disconnected from daily life, the nomadic circus had a distance from community ties that enhanced its ability to serve as a national and even international popular form, because American railroad shows traveled overseas. … The circus was ubiquitous in all regions of the nation, small towns and urban centers alike…. Circus Day disrupted daily life thoroughly, normalized abnormality, and destabilized the familiar right at home, day after day, town after town.”ii

Cole Brothers Circus tents in New Harmony, IN on August 9, 1909. UASC MSS 247-8055, the Don Blair Collection

The circus is by no means a modern phenomenon. Elements of it, particularly the animals and the parades, existed in ancient times. Ptolemy II, aka Ptolemy the Great (309-246 B.C.) was the pharaoh of Egypt from 284-246 B.C. He presented incredible parades. “The procession of Ptolemy II began at dawn and took all day to pass through the stadium….Barnum and Bailey themselves would have envied the turnout of animals. First came an elephant caparisoned in gold and crowned with ivy leaves, bearing a satyr astride his neck. Then followed 24 cars drawn by elephants, 60 by he-goats, 12 by lions, 6 by she-goats, 15 by buffaloes, 4 by wild asses, 8 by ostriches, and 7 by stags. Behind camels hitched to chariots came mules….Camels loaded high with spices and perfumes were followed by Ethiopians bowed down under elephant tusks, ebony, gold and silver goblets, and powdered gold; hunters leading thousands of dogs; men holding branches to which numerous kids of animals were attached; exotic birds in cages made of reeds; hundreds of sheep; and an Ethiopian rhinoceros. …. As the line of the parade moved on, there were horses, more wild beasts, including 24 enormous lions; statues of still other kings and gods; a choir of 600 men, 300 of whom played on gilded citharas and wore gold crowns; 2,000 bulls….”iii

Although there are no images of Ptolemy II’s parades, this marble sarcophagus detailed with a Triumph of Dionysus, circa 190 C.E., gives a good idea of what it would have looked like. This sarcophagus, discovered in Rome in 1885. is in the collection of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, MD.

The Romans were no slouch when it came to spectacles, either. Consider the amphitheatres, the Circus Maximus and the Circus Flaminius (the very word circus is Latin for round), and the Colosseum. “During [Julius] Caesar’s triumph in 46 B.C. he was escorted to and from the Capitol by forty elephants carrying blazing torches. In the arenas, the mighty beasts fought like gladiators, danced to cymbals clashed by other elephants, and threw weapons in the air. … In the time of Tiberius, an elephant walked across the Circus Maximus on a tightrope.”iv Despite a fascination with wild animals and large collections of them, the Roman attitude towards ‘beasts’ was vastly different than that of the circuses generally discussed in this blog. To be clear, there have always been concerns about the ethical treatment of circus animals, but the Romans had no such compunctions. “When the Colosseum was dedicated, 9,000 wild and tame animals were killed in a hundred-day show. At Trajan’s triumph, 11,000 were destroyed. In one great festival, enough animals were killed to stock all the zoos in modern Europe.”v

The exterior of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy (Image credit: Getty Images)

Fast forwarding to medieval times, traveling was extremely difficult, so most people stayed home. Traveling bands of performers and sellers of folk remedies provided a ‘thrill’ of contact with the wider world. Medieval fairs were similar to modern carnivals, with an aded element of the marketplace. These were supported and encouraged by the church. One of the oldest was St. Bartholomew’s, held on the site of an 1123 priory just outside the city wall of London. This fair lasted 700 years! Especially popular were amazing tightrope acts (including tightrope-walking horses) and side shows. Collections of animals, or menageries, continued to be very popular. These were not limited to emperors and rulers; wealthy Italians and French, as well as Popes, had menageries. William the Conqueror is credited with setting up the first real collection of wild beasts in England.

Renaissance Italians continued Roman processions, creating what could be considered the predecessor of the contemporary circus parade. One re-enactment of Julius Caesar’s triumphs had Caesar standing atop a revolving globe. Lions were known to walk in these processions. “Cosimo d’Medici showed twenty-six lions in a pageant in honor of Pope Pius II, and tried to stage a Roman hunt.”vi By the 16th century, the Italian Commedia dell’Arte all’ Improviso was generating performances that were the forerunners of today’s clowns. In England events were falling into place to bring the disparate parts of a circus into a cohesive whole. Much of this came in the person of the man called the Father of the Circus, Philip Astley. Astley was born in 1742 in a small English village, and despite the plans of his cabinetmaker father, he was crazy for all things horse. At the age of 17 he enlisted in the 5th regiment of Dragoons and made a name for himself. When he was discharged he was given a horse and soon purchased two more. “In 1768, after taking to himself a wife who also loved to ride, Philip Astley bought a field called Halfpenny Hatch, in Lambeth near Westminster Bridge, and advertised that he would teach vaulting on two or three horses, and saber attacks and defenses such as were in use among the Hussars. Naturally, he also gave exhibitions of his own superlative skill. Performances were in an open ring enclosed by a rough fence of palings. To attract the crowds, one or two fifers stood on a small platform in the middle, and produced shrill tootings while Mrs. Astley beat on a bass drum. At the end of the performance she passed the hat. The venture was a success and, after a year or so at Halfpenny Hatch, Astley acquired a piece of ground some 200 yards away, facing Westminster Bridge, and put up a permanent building.”vii

Astley’s Amphitheatre, coloured aquatint engraving after a drawing by A.C. Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson; first published in Rudolph Ackermann’s The Microcosm of London, 1808.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Ricketts Circus at the corner of Market and 12th Streets in Philadelphia in 1797. Watercolor by David J. Kennedy, after an original painting by F.J. Dreer, Esq (1870). The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, David J. Kennedy Watercolors Collection

An Englishman by the name of John Bill Rickets (a student of Astley) brought the first circus to American, debuting on April 3, 1793, with George Washington in attendance for one of the first performances. “Contemporary reviews noted particularly Ricketts’s grace and good taste: he rejected as ‘both unfashionable and vulgar’ tricks that evoked fear and tension in his viewers. … Aiming to provide a wholesome, amusing, and diverting programme, Rickets urged parents to bring their children–unusual for eighteenth-century audiences. Newspaper reports remarked on the attendance of young boys and girls among the audience as early as May 1793.”viii

This circa 1900 photograph shows a circus parade on Main St. in Evansville, IN, at the corner with 4th St. UASC MSS 181-0040, the Darrel Bigham Collection

If you didn’t know the circus was coming to town, you just weren’t paying attention. Posters plastered nearly every available space, promising untold delights. When the circus got to town, the parade it staged tantalized perspective circus-goers. Initially, these parades were fairly modest. “By the middle of the century [19th], though, the circus pageant had evolved into a spectacle in itself. Carved and gaudily painted wagons carried clowns, acrobats, jugglers; riders in glittering costume pranced on bedecked horses; the brass band played on; and finally there was the unmistakable tooting of the steam organ or calliope. A menagerie followed in cages, or elephants took the lead, if the circus could afford to buy, feed and care for them. Spectators felt engulfed by the bustle and fervour of the pageant. … The circus parade reprised the experience of being at a fair, where a panoply of entertainment was free and accessible to all. For some, the parade was their only circus experience, available to anyone–including blacks in places where they were barred from entering the tent, children whose parents forbade them to see a performance, or families adhering to their minister’s prohibitions.”ix

(The following three posters are from UASC MSS 326, the Thomas Dunwoody Circus Collection. This collection was only recently received and remains unprocessed. When it is processed and thus accessible, there will probably be another circus-related blog. Courtesy of the USI Foundation)

By 1903 there were 98 circuses and menageries who toured….the largest number in U.S. history. At least 38 of these traveled by railroad, and some traveled cross country within a season. The sheer logistics of moving this would have been a nightmare. Traveling by road (many of which were very poor) was extremely slow, which explains why circuses played so many small venues. If they could travel by rail, they could afford to play only in larger cities, to larger crowds, and thus make more money. The problem was, there was no uniform railroad gauge. “Every change in gauge meant a shift from the cars of one railroad to those of another. After a manager packed everything into and onto one set of cars and started forth, after only a few miles he might have to repack all the paraphernalia, animals, and human beings into cars that fitted the width of the rails that went on from there. Such disturbances could happen as often as three or four times in a single night. The process was almost worse than struggling through the mud on the roads.”x

By the late 1860s, railroad gauge became uniform, so it became more economical for circuses to travel by rail. It still wasn’t easy, because not every circus property could be transported in freight cars. Things like animal cages, band wagons, and the calliope had to travel by flatcar. But how to get them loaded onto flatcars? Customarily 3-4 wagons or cages would be placed on a flatcar side by side, with each one being hoisted aboard. There were size limitations–for them to fit, none could be longer than 8-9 ft. Longer wagons were more efficient, but in addition to the length limitations, the heavier weight of longer wagons made them more dangerous to load. A man named William Cameron Coup, then in partnership with P.T. Barnum, devised a method of unloading/loading a string of cars from the end. “For getting them [the wagons] up to the proper level and down again, Coup created the steel ‘plank’ or run. To smooth the process of getting them over the annoying and dangerous gaps between cars, he invented the fishplate, which can be attached between one car and the next, to make a strong, level surface. Snubbers helped slow up the pace of a wagon going down the plank. Coup’s system of ‘end loading,’ with snubbers and hook ropes, steel runs and fishplates, is still used today by every circus that travels by rail…. For 1872, the show set forth by railroad, with sixty or seventy freight cars, six passenger cars, and three engines. Nothing like it had ever been seen. It could go as far as a hundred miles in a night, arriving each day to a sizable town in time to give a parade and three exhibitions. Audiences in these towns included thousands from outlying districts, who often arrived in the night and camped out. Financial rewards were fantastic.xi

The image below provides a view of this endloading process.

This 1923 image was made by the Strobridge Lithographing Company and is in the Tibbals Circus Collection of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL

There’s so much more to say about the circus, so stay tuned for future blogs.

End Notes

i Davis, p. 2

ii Davis, p. 13-14

iii Murray, p. 31-32

iv Murray, p. 43-44

v Murray, p. 47

vi Murray, p. 71

vii Murray, p. 79

viii Simon, p. 37

ix Simon, p. 109-110

x Murray, p. 225

xi Murray, p. 226

Resources Consulted

Albrecht, Ernest J. The new American circus. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1995. General Collection GV1803 .A43 1995

Davis, Janet M. The circus age: culture and society under the American big top. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002. (MSS 326, the Thomas Dunwoody Circus Collection)

Murray, Marian. Circus! From Rome to Ringling. New York:Appleton-Century-Crofts [1956] General Collection GV1801 .M8

Simon, Linda. The greatest shows on earth: a history of the circus. London: Reaktion Books, 2014. General Collection GV1801 .S56 2014; also available electronically Online Access

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ArchivesFest 2022: Discover It in the Archives!

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

Interesting/beautiful/bizarre/fantastic/unusual/historical/challenging (pick your adjective!)–there are lots of items like this to be found in museums and archives. This year UASC is partnering with the Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science, the Evansville African American Museum, the Newburgh Museum, the USS LST Ship Memorial Museum, and the Lawrence Library to introduce you to some of these wonders. You are invited to come up to UASC (Rice Library, 3rd floor), see what’s on display, and pick your favorite. You can even hug your favorite if you like, and we’ll take a picture and post it on social media.

ArchivesFest 2022 runs from September 26 through October 21. UASC is open M-F 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Let’s take a brief look at the museums that are participating in this year’s ArchivesFest.

Hours: Thursday-Saturday: 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM; Sunday: 12:00 to 5:00 PM

411 SE Riverside Drive, Evansville, IN 47713

Evansville has had a museum since 1906, with today’s location dating to the 1950s.  This appearance dates to a major update and remodel circa 2014. The Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science houses a permanent collection of more than 30,000 objects, including fine and decorative art, as well as historic, anthropological, and natural history artifacts. Over twenty temporary, regional and international exhibitions are displayed each year in four galleries.  The Koch Immersive Theater houses a 40-foot diameter domed screen with 360-degree digital projection featuring astronomy and science programming.  Evansville Museum Transportation Center (EMTRAC) featuring transportation artifacts from the late 19th through the mid-20th centuries. On exhibit is a three-car train. The museum is home to a model train diorama of Evansville.

For more information on the Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science, please visit and follow their social media accounts at:

Evansville African American Museum
Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM; Saturday 12:00 AM to 4:00 PM
579 South Garvin Street, Evansville, IN, 47713

“The mission of the Evansville African American Museum is to continually develop a resource and cultural center to collect, preserve, and educate the public on the history and traditions of African American families, organizations, and communities. Located in Evansville, Indiana as the last remaining building of Lincoln Gardens, the second Federal Housing Project created under the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1938, our building serves as a permanent artifact in itself.”

For more information on the Evansville African American Museum, please visit and follow their social media accounts:

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 and follow their social media accounts at:

An LST is a Landing Ship Tank, a type of ship that saw much service during WWII, particularly during the landings at Normandy. Because of its design, an LST could land tanks and fighters very close to the beach. During the war, Evansville operated a shipyard that produced 167 LSTs, more than any other inland shipyard in the country. Note that LST 325 was not produced in Evansville, but it is an example of the work done at the Evansville Shipyard.

USS LST-325 is located at 610 NW Riverside Dr. (on Riverside Drive in downtown Evansville, Indiana, immediately across the road from the Bally’s Evansville (formerly Tropicana) LST 325 is currently on a voyage to Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio, and will not return to Evansville until October 8. After this date it will be available to tour Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

John M. Lawrence ’73 Library

Room 0119 of the Liberal Arts Center

Lawrence Library, n.d.

The Lawrence Library is located on the lower level in room 0119 of the Liberal Arts Center of USI’s campus. The concept for this library sprang from the friendship of Patricia (Patty) Aakhus and John M. Lawrence. The library is named for Mr. Lawrence, a graduate of USI’s class of 1973 and an international expert and collector of medieval manuscripts, for his generous support of the College of Liberal Arts. John Lawrence donated many items to the College, including a collection of medieval manuscripts as well as other artifacts, for use as a study collection for students. Patty Aakhus was an associate professor of English and served as the director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and program director in International Studies. Aakhus also published three novels based on medieval texts that she studied and translated. Patricia Aakhus served as the first caretaker of the space prior to her death in 2012. The Lawrence Library prides itself on the student leadership of the space where student archivists curate exhibitions, research manuscripts and artifacts, and participate in collections management and care

To tempt you further, here are some photos of items from UASC that will be on display during ArchivesFest 2022. Come up and visit the department September 26 through October 21, M-F 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., pick your favorite, and have your photo taken. Enjoy Discover It in the Archives!

WWI German helmet
Life-size photograph of John Hollinden, former ISUE basketball star. He was 7’4″ tall.
ISUE Letter Jacket
Traditional African clothing
Traditional African clothing
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The Queen is Dead, Long Live the King

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

The longest reigning British monarch, Elizabeth II, died at the age of 96 on Thursday, September 8, 2022. When Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born April 21, 1926, there was no expectation that she might someday ascend the throne. Her father, Prince Albert, Duke of York, was the second son of the reigning monarch, George V, making Elizabeth third in line at her birth. Should George V’s eldest son, the future Edward VIII, marry and have children, she would have been further down the line of succession.

History proves that this was not the case. Edward VIII abdicated the throne on December 11, 1936, and Elizabeth’s father became George VI. Elizabeth became the heir presumptive at the age of 10. She was only presumptive because of the possibility that a son might yet be born to her parents. “Primogeniture is a system of inheritance in which a person’s property passes to their firstborn legitimate child upon their death. The term comes from the Latin “primo” which means first, and “genitura” which relates to a person’s birth. Historically, primogeniture favored male heirs, also called male-preference primogeniture. Under this regime, the eldest living son would inherit the entirety of his parent’s estate. A daughter could inherit if and only if she had no living brothers or the descendants of deceased brothers. … Primogeniture was a common method of determining succession in hereditary monarchies throughout the world.”i

Upon the death of George VI on February 6, 1952, Princess Elizabeth became Elizabeth II. The coronation was June 3, 1953.

Front page of the U.S. Armed Forces newspaper, the Stars and Stripes, telling of the death of King George VI. MSS 282, folder 5
Elizabeth II at her coronation. Official portrait by Cecil Beaton.

Here are some interesting facts about the ceremony, from the Royal Family website page about the event:

Westminster Abbey has been the setting for every Coronation since 1066. Before the Abbey was built, Coronations were carried out wherever was convenient, taking place in Bath, Oxford and Canterbury.

The Sovereign’s procession was made up of 250 people including Church leaders, Commonwealth Prime Ministers, members of the Royal Household, civil and military leaders and the Yeoman of the Guard.

The Archbishop of Canterbury conducted the service, a duty which has been undertaken since the Conquest in 1066. For the first time in 1953, a representative of another Church, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, also took part.

A total of 8,251 guests attended The Queen’s Coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey. 129 nations and territories were officially represented at the Coronation service.

The Queen was crowned in St Edward’s Chair, made in 1300 for Edward I and used at every Coronation since that time. It is permanently kept in Westminster Abbey.

BBC coverage of the Coronation was a breakthrough for the history of broadcasting. It was the first service to be televised and for most people, it was the first time they had watched an event on television. 27 million people in the UK (out of the 36 million population) watched the ceremony on television and 11 million listened on the radio.  There were more than 2,000 journalists and 500 photographers from 92 nations on the Coronation route.  Among the many foreign journalists was Jacqueline Bouvier (later the First Lady of the United States of America, Jackie Kennedy), who was working for the Washington Times-Herald at the time. (Some sources say that people purchased their first television just to be able to watch this event.)

St. Edward’s Crown. Image from a May 11, 1937 supplement to the Daily Telegraph celebrating the coronation of George VI. MSS 004-folder 7, the McCutchan Family collection

The St. Edward’s Crown, made in 1661, was placed on the head of The Queen during the Coronation service. It weighs 4 pounds and 12 ounces and is made of solid gold.  After the crown, the orb, also made in 1661, was the most important piece of regalia. It is a globe of gold surrounded by a cross girdled by a band of diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphire and pearls with a large amethyst at the summit.

May 11, 1937 supplement to the Daily Telegraph celebrating the coronation of George VI. MSS 004-folder 7, the McCutchan Family collection
George VI, Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth (later aka the Queen Mother), and Princess Margaret at the time of his coronation in 1937. Image from a May 11, 1937 supplement to the Daily Telegraph celebrating the coronation of George VI. MSS 004-folder 7, the McCutchan Family collection
Princess Elizabeth and her grandmother, Queen Mary, widow of George V. Image from a May 11, 1937 supplement to the Daily Telegraph celebrating the coronation of George VI. MSS 004-folder 7, the McCutchan Family collection

Sometime in the next two weeks the state funeral will be held at Westminster Abbey, and be buried with her parents and sister in Windsor Castle’s King George VI Memorial Chapel. It is likely that her husband, the late Prince Philip, who died April 9, 2021 and was laid to rest in Royal Vault at St George’s Chapel, will be moved to be buried next to her. Her son, Charles, became king immediately upon her death, but no date has been set for his coronation.

On her 21st birthday, April 21, 1947, the then Princess Elizabeth was on a tour of South Africa with her parents and sister. During a radio broadcast, she declared to the commonwealth and the the world how she intended to live her life, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Mission accomplished.

Elizabeth II. Image from Westminster Abbey website.


Resources Consulted

Burack, Emily.  “Where Will Queen Elizabeth Be Buried?” Town and Country, September 8, 2022.

Cornell Law School.  Legal Information Institute online. “Primogeniture.”

“50 facts about The Queen’s Coronation.”  Royal Family website.

“The Queen’s Coronation dress, designed by British Fashion designer Norman Hartnell, was made of white satin and embroidered with the emblems of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in gold and silver thread.” 

Westminster Abbey: History.



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That’s Not There Any More

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

There are a lot of buildings that once stood proudly in Evansville, but no more.  Let’s take a look at some of these lost treasurers.

The Orr Iron Company was founded in 1835 by Samuel Orr (1810-1882), an Irish blacksmith.  For the first 80 years of its existence, the company did business at 10-12 Sycamore St.  In 1913 the growing company built a new facility at 1100 Pennsylvania St. (originally the address was 17-25 E. Pennsylvania St.  By mid- 1988 the construction of the Lloyd Expressway was complete; part of the Lloyd followed the path of Pennsylvania St.  Thus, in 1988, the Orr Iron Company stood at the corner of Fulton Ave. and the Lloyd Expressway, complete with a traffic light.  As traffic increased, it became clear that this stoplight was hindered the flow of traffic and, in 2008, the stoplight was replaced by an interchange.  Unfortunately, the Orr Iron Company building had to be razed to make room for this.  The building on Sycamore St. was razed in the 1970s.  Before the Pennsylvania Ave./Lloyd Expressway building was completely razed, the lintel from the original doorway was saved and repurposed when USI remodeled its University Center.

Two locations of the same company: first, the Sycamore St. address, second and third the Pennsylvania St. address. (The second and third pictures are of the Pennsylvania St. address as first built, and after expansion.                 UASC MSS 157-0090, the Schlamp Meyer Family Collection
Removing the door from the Orr Iron building. Photograph from USI Photography/LaVerne Jones
Door from the Orr Iron building in place in the University Center.
Photograph from USI Photography.

Does that name Orr sound familiar to you….as in, the Orr Center building on campus?  That building is named in honor of former Indiana governor Robert Dunkerson Orr (1917-2004; governor 1981-1989).  Robert Orr is the great-grandson of that Irish blacksmith who came to Evansville in 1835.

Evansville, as you might expect from a city with a strong German ethnicity, had a lot of breweries.  One of these was Sterling at 1301 Pennsylvania Ave, on the corner with Fulton Ave.  It was originally built at 330-340 Fulton Ave. in 1863.  In 1880 a new building was built across the street and known generally as the Fulton Avenue Brewery.  A severe windstorm on March 28, 1890, destroyed parts of the building.  According to the Historic Evansville website, “The ice house cupola toppled over and a the wall facing Fulton gave way. The damaged half was torn down for a new stock house.”  What resulted was the iconic building that many people remember.  Again, from Historic Evansville, “Like many others during Prohibition, the company renamed itself Sterling Products Co. They made soft drinks, near beer, and malt extract (which was used by illicit homebrewers). It became Sterling Brewers Inc after Prohibition was over in 1933.”  In 1972, the G. Heileman Brewery bought the company, closing it in 1988.  A group of local investors managed to keep the brewery afloat for a bit longer, but after bankruptcy was declared, the brewery was razed December 1998.

Sterling Brewery circa 1920.       
   UASC MSS 026-066, the Joan Marchand Collection
Sterling Brewery, March 1976.     
      UASC MSS 184-0308, the Brad Awe Collection

In the days before everybody owned a car, railroads were a major source of transportation.  In a November 2018 blog I talked about the razing of the C & EI (Chicago and Eastern Illinois) railroad depot in the 1960s.   Another railroad station for the L & N (Louisville and Nashville) railroad was located at 300 Fulton Ave.  Built in 1902, it also served the C & EI after its depot was razed in the 1960s, and was often called Union Station.  Although there were highways before 1956, the growth of the interstate highway system got a big boost in the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, championed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  This, in addition to the popularity and affordability of air travel, eventually brought an end to the popularity of passenger railroads.  This magnificent building was vacated by 1975 and sat empty for a decade.  In 1985, despite public protest, it was torn down.

Union Station circa 1950.     
          UASC MSS 264-2535, the Thomas Mueller Collection
Although not dated, this is how the original construction would have appeared.                 UASC MSS 157-0451, the Schlamp Meyer Family Collection

The year 1868 saw the opening of the first public high school in Evansville, at least in its “permanent” home at 203 NW 6th St.  Classes had been held in various buildings over the years (with a founding date of 1854, this is the oldest free public high school in continuous operation west of the Allegheny Mountains), but this was to be the home of Evansville High School.  Originally a 3-story building with 12 rooms, in 1898 it was expanded with the addition of a tower and north and south wings.  In 1918 another high school, Reitz, was opened and Evansville High School was renamed Central.  By 1971 growth and housing patterns for the city had changed, and Central High School on 6th St. closed and moved to a new facility at 5400 N. First Ave. This explains the seemingly odd name of a high school that is no longer by any measure in a central location.  In 1973 the original Central was razed, with the exception of the gymnasium.

Central High School, circa 1950.
UASC MSS 157-0477, the Schlamp Meyer Family Collection
Central High School, circa 1920. UASC MSS 264-1232, the Thomas Mueller Collection
School crest from school’s website.

UASC MSS 181-0063, the Darrel Bigham Collection

A building that has long been gone, and was not long in existence, is the Evansville Taxi Cab garage at what was 124-128 Upper 4th St. (now NW 4th St.).  Built in 1890, it was razed in 1920 for the construction of what became the Sears building in downtown Evansville.  That building still stands, although clearly no longer Sears.

Another old building, although not gone quite so long as the garage shown above, is the Keller Crescent building at what would now be 24-8 SE Riverside Dr.  The building was built around 1895 as a warehouse for the Bement and Seitz Wholesale Grocery.  In 1930/1931 that company moved to a new location and the Keller Crescent printing business moved in.  Keller Crescent stayed until 1961 when it moved to a newer location.  In 1962, the vacant building was razed.  Today, Old National Bank (with an address of One Main St.) occupies this location. The advertisement below for Bement & Seitz has a good illustration of the building as well as a listing of its best products.

UASC MSS 184-0555, the Brad Awe Collection

Although this image was taken during the 1937 flood, it is a good view of Keller Crescent (on the left) and the Hotel McCurdy on the right.  There was a dock or catwalk between these buildings that was used for boats and staging during the flood.

UASC MSS 264-0327, the Thomas Mueller Collection

Below is a photograph from 1962, with the Keller Crescent building almost entirely gone.  The building that is seen in the middle is the Hotel McCurdy.

UASC MSS 181-1084, the Darrel Bigham Collection
UASC MSS 184-0440, the Brad Awe Collection
UASC MSS 228-0137, the Sonny Brown Collection

Earlier I said that Old National Bank’s headquarters were at One Main St., where Keller Crescent once stood.  That’s the newest ONB headquarters.  Before 2003/2004, the headquarters were at 420 Main St.  That building opened in 1969, and was razed at 7:00 am Sunday, November 21, 2021.  What is seen above towers above the skyline no more.  Interestingly, ONB has had a number of its previous buildings razed.

The Old State National Bank was established in 1834 as a branch of the Old State Bank of Indiana in a temporary location at the corner of Main St. and Water St. (now called Riverside Dr.) In 1835 it moved across the street into a new building at 20 Main St. and changed its name to Old National Bank.  The Greek temple façade seen here dates to 1855. When the bank moved to a new location in 1916, the Moose Lodge used this building.  The façade was changed again in 1950, with the final end to the building coming in 1960.  Back to 1916—the bank moved to this building (below, left) at 420 Main St. It was modernized a bit in 1927, which is reflected in this image.  The bank moved in the 1960s to an adjacent and built the tower seen in UASC MSS 184-0440 above. 

UASC RH 033-015, the Evansville Postcard Collection

This is the latest Old National Bank headquarters, at One Main St.

Roberts Stadium, November 1956.
UASC MSS 264-0430, the Thomas Mueller Collection

Waiting for tickets to see Elvis, September 1976.  
               UASC MSS 034-0674, the Gregory T. Smith Collection                    

The Old National Bank tower on Main St. may be the latest Evansville building to be razed, but the one that probably had an impact on the largest number of people was Roberts Stadium.  “Roberts Stadium opened on October 28, 1956 and hosted a total of 109 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers through the years and the NCAA College Division (now Division II) national tournament from 1957 to 1977. It hosted the Division II Elite Eight in 2002.”[i]  Named for the 1952-1955 mayor of Evansville, Henry O. “Hank” Roberts, the stadium was a place where many enjoyed circuses, saw concerts, graduated from high school or college, attended basketball games, political rallies, etc.  It was the home arena for University of Evansville basketball.  After the Ford Center opened, Roberts Stadium was seen as unneeded and razed in 2013.

Billy Joel in concert, April 24, 1979.
 UASC MSS 034-2984, the Gregory T. Smith Collection                                                                                
Roberts Stadium in the 1950s or 1960s.      
UASC RH 033-331, the Evansville Postcards Collection                                                                                    

Roberts Stadium in the 1950s or 1960s.   
UASC RH 033-331, the Evansville Postcards Collection                                                                                    


I’ve just scratched the surface of buildings that once stood in Evansville but have been razed.  This stanza, from a poem by Isaac Watts, describes this well.  (You may also recognize this text from a hymn entitled “O, God, Our Help in Ages Past.”)

Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away; They fly forgotten, as a dream Dies at the opening day.

[i] Engelhardt

Resources Consulted

Engelhardt, Gordon. “Roberts Stadium put Evansville basketball on the map, hosted 109 hall of famers.”  Evansville Courier and Press, November 23, 2017.

Historic Evansville website

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Living in Community….the Amana Colonies

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

One of the collections within University Archives and Special Collections is Communal Studies. The Communal Studies Collection began in conjunction with the Center for Communal Studies, which promotes the study of contemporary and historic communal groups, intentional communities and utopias. The key word is intentional. These communities were/are deliberate attempts to live communally, with shared goals and economies. This blog is one of a continuing series….you can search for the phrase Living in Community to find others.

Christian Metz home in West Seneca, NY. Image found here.

This blog will talk about the Amana Colonies, primarily in Iowa. The story starts in Germany in the early 18th century. “Germany [was] in the midst of a religious movement called Pietism, [and] two men, Eberhard Ludwig Gruber and Johann Friedrich Rock, advocated faith renewal through reflection, prayer and Bible study. Their belief, one shared by many other Pietists, was that God, through the Holy Spirit, may inspire individuals to speak. This gift of inspiration was the basis for a religious group that began meeting in 1714 and became known as the Community of True Inspiration. Though the Inspirationists sought to avoid conflict, they were persecuted for their beliefs.”i They moved to the German state of Hesse, a more liberal area. By 1749 both Gruber and Rock had died and the movement faltered. It was revived in 1817 by Christian Metz and Barbara (Heinemann) Landmann. Due in large part to its strong pacifist stance, they were once again unwelcome in Germany, and led by Metz, they immigrated to the United States in 1842 and settled near Buffalo, New York, establishing the Ebenezer Society, “a communally-organized settlement where they could be economically self-sufficient and spiritually free. By the middle of the 1850s their numbers had increased to such an extent they required new land for their community. Land shortages, as well as the disruptive influence of nearby Buffalo, encouraged the Inspirationists once again to move westward. They left New York in 1855.”ii

Over a period of ten years the group (1,200 strong) sold their New York property and moved to east central Iowa (some 30 miles southwest of Cedar Rapids). This would be their final home, and they named it Amana after a place name in the Bible book of Song of Solomon that means to remain true, to believe faithfully. There were eventually seven villages: East, South, West, High, Main, and Middle Amana, and Homestead. Homestead was a town they purchased so as to have access to the railroad. Villages varied in size from about 100 residents to 400, and each was roughly, at least, self-sustaining.

Contemporary “tourist” map of the Amana Colonies. Image found here.

Life was truly communal in Amana. The community provided all residents housing, food, education, a job, and medical care. Adults received an amount of annual credit to purchase items in stores, etc. that were not otherwise supplied. No one, other than outside hired help, received wages. Families lived together in homes, but these houses did not include a kitchen. Meals were taken communally; each village had a number of communal kitchens, each of which fed 30-40 people. You were assigned to eat at a certain kitchen, and men ate at one table, women and children at another. Each kitchen had its own garden, and was the sole province of a Küchebaas or “kitchen boss,” always a woman (and the kitchen was often named after her). The boss was assisted by other assigned women and young girls. Meals were served at a set time–no coming to dine when you merely felt hungry!

Contemporary view of the Ronnenburg Restaurant. This building once housed the Zimmerman Kitchenhouse. Image found here.

Metz and other leaders were those to whom God sent special inspiration. They were called Werkzeuge, or “instruments of the Lord.” “The prophecy of these human “instruments” was divine authority for the Inspirationists. They followed the inspired advice of the Werkzeuge unquestioningly and made their commandments into law.”iii Daily life was managed by trustees and elders. Each village had its own centrally located church, with 11 church services each week in additional to special services. “Unpretentious, the churches were indistinguishable in appearance from the appearances from the homes and other buildings. Inside, the white-washed walls, bare floors, and unpainted benches were a testimony of the simplicity of the Christian faith. Women, wearing black shawls and bonnets, sat on one side of the church, men on the other. There were no musical instruments. Hymns were sung, and the messages of the elders were from the Bible and from the testimonies of the founders and leaders of the church.”iv As you can see from the pictures below, it would be very difficult to identify these as churches!

Homestead (Amana) church and dwelling, April 29, 1979. CS 662-034sc-0006, the Don Janzen Collection
Rear view, Homestead (Amana) church, April 25, 1996. CS 662-034sc-0097, the Don Janzen Collection
Interior view, Homestead (Amana) church and dwelling, October 9, 1996. CS 662-034sc-0114a, the Don Janzen Collection
West Amana church, April 30, 1979. CS 662-034sc-0035, the Don Janzen Collection

Education for a young Amana resident began at age three, with attendance at the Kinderschule, or “child school.” “Predating modern child care centers by over a century, the Kinderschule were essentially day care facilities where young children were watched over and cared for by a few women selected for the task. Generally, very few children at a time would be in Kinderschule, so the buildings were small and set in a secluded part of the village. Each of the Kinderschule were surrounded by a wooden fence, provided, as more than one former student noted, to keep the children from running away. [It] was equipped with a swing, books, and, of course, a myriad number of toys.”v These children were in day care so their mothers could return to work in (usually) her assigned kitchenhouse,

From ages 5 to 14, children attending “learning school,” Lehr Schule. Lessons combined typical things like “reading, writing, and arithmetic,” as well as knitting taught to both boys and girls during an activity period called Strickschule. There were periods of manual training or Arbeitschule (“work school”) for older children to help with gardening and farming. Rigorous religious education (at least in the early years when these schools were independent of the state) included cathechism and Bible history. School was in session year round, six days per week, no holidays or breaks. Teachers were always men, chosen by elders, and staying on the job for many, many years. “Instruction in the schools remained in German, and German was the language spoken by the children as they played in the school yard. As early as the 1870s children were taught English grammar, and surviving copy books from the period suggest that they diligently practiced writing in English from Appleton’s Grammar. However, before World War I, English was not emphasized. Many residents, beneficiaries of English instruction as children, never learned how to speak the language and spent their entire lives within a predominately English-speaking nation unable to speak the language. One woman, recalling her English instruction in school, noted that she never really learned to speak English until her son married a woman from outside the community. To learn grammar was one thing, to actually speak it, another.”vi

Amana Colonies school, April 30, 1979. CS 662-034sc-0057, the Don Janzen Collection

After 8th grade, most children’s schooling ended and they were given their adult work assignments. Girls began working in kitchenhouses, and boys began a trade or agriculture. A select few boys (never girls) began high school via correspondence courses for two years, and then possibly went on to more education outside the community. More education was strictly on a needs basis….if a community needed a doctor, then a boy might be sent to train for that, but it the community had a sufficient number of like professionals, this would not occur. After training (paid for by the community), it was expected the newly graduated advanced student would return to the community and share his skills without pay, as all other community workers. With time, many Amana education practices were forced to change. World War I ended the emphasis on the German language (no good, LOYAL American would speak/write in German). As education came more under control of the state of Iowa, religious education ceased, teachers had to be certified, and textbooks were standardized.

Werkzeuge Christian Metz died in 1867 and Barbara Heinemann Landmann in 1883. No other “inspired instruments or leaders” came forth in Amana after that time, although the colonies continued to exist and thrive. Elders and trustees kept things running, but they did not have the same respect as the werkzeuge did–after all, the elders and trustees were appointed by humans, not divinely inspired by God. This did not cause the end of the communal way of life, although it undoubtedly contributed. “People had been planning for a reorganization for some time but the final change came June 1, 1932. The reorganization is often referred to by Amana people as “The Great Change.” There were numerous reasons to change the structure of the business and social system. There had been a disastrous fire in 1923 which destroyed the flour and woolen mills in Amana, causing substantial loss of capital. Young people were leaving the community in order to find better jobs and get a higher education. 1932 marked the third year of the Great Depression — orders for woolen goods and farm items were being canceled. Most importantly, the religious and economic life of the community was separated. The Amana Church continued to be the religious focus of the community and the Amana Society Corporation guided the business activities. People were given shares of stock in the corporation which they could sell if they wished. Some purchased cars and homes and other necessities of a non-communal lifestyle. A high-school was built so that children could continue their education. People began to work for wages, cook their own meals, and individualize their homes.”vii

Amana continues today, probably in large part as a tourist attraction. Many of the things that made the colonies thrive in their heyday now attract visitors: delicious food, wine and beer, German ambience, beautifully crafted items, museums celebrating the heritage, etc. Church services very similar to the original are conducted in German and English, with visitors welcome. A canal dug over a period of two years of very hard labor, 1865-1867, “furnished direct water power for [two] woolen mill[s]…for a cereal meal, a print shop for calico cloth, a starch factory, saw mills, machine shops, millright shops and threshing machines.”viii Although these industries no longer operate on water power, the woolen goods they produce, in particular, are still highly prized. And now this is a “hot spot” for fishing! The building now seen by this canal is Amana Refrigeration. It was begun by the Amana Society Corporation after the “great change,” and introduced a number of firsts over the years: first upright deep freezer (1947), first side-by-side refrigerator (1949), first bottom freezer (1957), first consumer microwave (1967), first clothes drier with a stainless-steel drum (1992), first refrigerator with a dry-erase surface (2007), etc. It is still in operation, but since 1965 is no longer owned by the Amana Society. Enjoy the pictures of Amana below….maybe you’ll want to visit it one day!

View from Middle Amana toward Amana showing canal and refrigeration plant, March 8, 1997. CS 662-034sc-0130, the Don Janzen Collection
Better view of refrigeration plant, April 30, 1979. CS 662-034sc-0060, the Don Janzen Collection
Museum of Amana History, January 26, 2001. CS 662-034dc-0003, the Don Janzen Collection
Restored kitchenhouse, now the Communal Kitchen Museum,in Middle Amana, March 8, 1997. S 662-034sc-0146c, the Don Janzen Collection
Homestead General Store, April 29, 1979. CS 662-034sc-0007c, the Don Janzen collection.
West Amana General Store, April 30, 1979. CS 662-034sc-0032, the Don Janzen collection.
Street scene in High Amana, April 30, 1979. S 662-034sc-0044, the Don Janzen collection.

Sources Consulted

Amana Brand History: 80+ Years of Innovation. website

Amana Colonies.  Encyclopedia Britannica online.

Amana Colonies: Most Frequently Asked Questions.  University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.

The Amanas Yesterday: Seven Communal Villages in Iowa.  Historic Photographs collected by Joan Liffring Zug, with text edited by John Zug.  Amana, IA: The Amana Society, 1975.  (booklet located in CS 021-9, the Amana Colonies collection)

History of the Seven Villages: Amana Colonies.  Amana, Iowa Visitors Bureau.

Hoehnle, Peter.  “The Schools of the Amana Society, 1776-1932.”  (Paper written for an independent study class  May 8,1999, and located in CS 021-11, the Amana Colonies collection)

Richling, Barnett.  “The Amana Society: a History of Change.” Palimpsest, v.58:no.2, March/April 1977, p. 34-47.  (located in CS 021-5, the Amana Colonies collection)

End Notes

i History

ii Richling, p. 36

iii Richling, p. 34.

iv Amanas Yesterday (unpaged)

v Hoehnle, p. 12

vi Hoehnle, p. 15

vii Amana Colonies: Most Frequently

viii Amanas Yesterday (unpaged)

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The Boatload of Knowledge

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

In the early 19th century, New Harmony, Indiana was the site of two experiments in creating a better way of life. Very briefly, the first lasted roughly 1814-1825 and was formed by a group awaiting the Millenium, the return of Christ. The second lasted only two years (1825-1827) was an effort to put into place the ideas of social reformer and industrialist Robert Owen. This blog addresses the Owen experiment. An October 19, 2020 blog dealt with Robert Owen–read it for some more background if you like.

Sketch of Robert Owen. UASC MSS 247-8206, the Don Blair collection

Robert Owen (1771-1858) was born into a working class family in Wales and had limited educational opportunities, but he had a curious mind and was a voracious reader, and began to work his way upwards. In 1799 he married Caroline Dale, the daughter of a Scottish philanthropist and owner of a large textile mill in Lanark, Scotland. Owen and several partners purchased this mill from his father-in-law, David Dale, and at the beginning of 1800, Owen became the mill’s manager. This provided him the stage to implement many of his ideas about social reform. “His ultimate objective was to create a New Moral World, a world of enlightenment and prosperity leading to human happiness defined as mental, physical and moral health enjoyed in a rational way of life. … Educators and scientists were crucial to Owen’s plans because education, science, technology and communal living were the means he felt could effect the New Moral World.”i

Portrait of William Maclure. UASC MSS 247-4564, the Don Blair collection

Owen had a like-minded colleague in the president of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences (now the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University), William Maclure (1763-1840). Born in Scotland, Maclure moved to Philadelphia and became an American citizen in 1796. He had a deep interest in educational methods, influenced by an 1805 trip to Switzerland where he met the progressive educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827). Maclure was also very interested in the sciences. Many of those who came to New Harmony for the second experiment in communal living came because of their relationship with Maclure. “Maclure’s radical social philosophy divided populations into nonproductive and productive classes, the governors and the governed. He argued that knowledge held exclusively by the governing class accounted for the concentration of power and property in the hands of the few. Likewise, knowledge made available to the masses would become the engine for their liberation and the equalization of power and property.”ii

Plans began to come together when Owen came to the United States in November 1824. “He used his fame as a businessman and social reformer to propagandize his new social system among the cultural and political elite of New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. And he risked about half his fortune to purchases the town of New Harmony, Indiana, and its surrounding 20,000 acres for an original price of $135,000, which was later negotiated downward to $125.000.”iii With the site established (and a good site it was, as New Harmony at that time already had a reputation as a “wonder” town with some 180 buildings, lots of farm acreage in use, and a strong market for its products), “Maclure and Owen needed to recruit members for their new “Community of Equality,” and they opened it to anyone who wanted to join. By April of 1825, the town had between 700 to 800 residents. To jumpstart New Harmony’s intellectual heart, Maclure organized something called “The Boatload of Knowledge.” On a ship named the Philanthropist, a group of European and American geologists, entomologists, naturalists, zoologists, artists, and teachers took the month-long journey down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to New Harmony.”iv They set out on December 8, 1824.

Not The Boatload of Knowledge, but what a keelboat would look like. Image found here.

Let’s be clear about that method of transport…although a streamboat was originally intended, the water levels were too low, so a keelboat was necessary. The compartment was divided into four sections: for crew, for the men, for the women, and finally, for the children. It certainly was not luxurious, probably not even particularly comfortable, and keep in mind, these travelers were not hardy pioneers, accustomed to discomfort. The journey wasn’t particularly easy, either–just 3 days after they left and only 15 miles from where they started, they were stuck in ice. They were marooned for 28 days at a spot ironically named Safe Harbor.

On January 8, a successful attempt was made to chop a path out into the main channel of the river, and the Boatload was once again underway. They stopped in Cincinnati on January 17 where they toured a museum and heard a lecture, and again stopped in Louisville on January 19. Finally, they reached Mt. Vernon, Indiana on January 23, where some disembarked for a wagon ride to New Harmony the next day, but others remained on board and went further downstream to the Wabash River, then up the Wabash to New Harmony itself.

This portrait of Thomas Say was done by Charles Willson Peale and is in the collection of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Image found here.

Let’s take a look at some of these “Boatloaders,” with the fuller list for you to examine above. We’ve already discussed Maclure and Robert Owen. Philadelphia born Thomas Say (1787-1834) was a self taught naturalist, interested in many fields of natural history–entomology, zoology, palentology, herpatology, conchology, etc. He was closely affiliated with the nation’s first natural history museum in Philadelphia as its keeper of collections. He went on several expeditions, including those to the Rocky Mountains and to the headwaters of the Mississippi River. He made a number of discoveries, publishing some of these in the 3 volumes of American entomology or Descriptions of the insects of North America, in 1824-28. Say’s work continued in New Harmony, where he married Lucy Way Sistare, a talented illustrator who had studied with Charles Alexandre Lesueur and John James Audubon. She illustrated much of her husband’s printed works. Say’s health was adversely affected by the climate in New Harmony, but he didn’t want to leave, dying there in 1834 of typhoid. Lucy died in 1886.

Say’s grave in New Harmony, located behind the Rapp/Maclure/Owen house at the corner of Main and Church Sts. UASC CS 662-117sc-0163, the Don Janzen collection
Drawing of Charles Alexandre Lesueur. UASC MSS MSS 247-4525, the Don Blair collection.

Charles Alexandre Lesueur (1778-1846) was a French artist, naturalist, and explorer. He was friends with both Maclure and Say and traveled with them to New Harmony. He had visited the United States previously and in 1833 visited Vincennes and drew the first known drawing of William Henry Harrison’s home, Grouseland. While in New Harmony he continued his drawings and collection of natural history specimens and artifacts, many of which are still in French museums. He remained in New Harmony until his friend Say died, returning to France in 1837.

Madame Marie Duclos Fretageot. UASC MSS 247-4498, the Don Blair collection

Marie Duclos Fretageot (1783-1833) was a French educator who had been trained by Pestalozzi. She was teaching in Philadelphia at this time and was familiar with and enthusiastic about Owens’s ideas on social reform. She was also well acquainted with William Maclure and perhaps helped influence him to join the Boatload of Knowledge. The boatloaders, during the stop at Louisville, met William Neef, a Pestalozzian teacher who later joined them in New Harmony. While in New Harmony, Fretageot and Neef and others eagerly began to implement a new style of education. At the Infant School (what we would call pre-school), Fretageot’s method, ala Pestalozzi, was to teach the children simply, with ample use of all their senses, and without prejudice. “The school curriculum [beyond Infant School] included arithmetic, geometry, mechanism (physics), natural history (science and health), writing and drawing, gymnastics, languages, music, and manual training. The girls followed the same curriculum, taught by Madame Fretageot, as the boys, who were instructed by Neef. Maclure believed that the school students could feed and clothe themselves and this his would be a useful part of their education; thus, both the boys and the girls worked in the cotton and woolen mills and the fields.”v Fretageot remained in New Harmony long after the Owen period, continuing to teach there until 1831 and directing Maclure’s printing press. She died in Mexico in 1833, while visiting Maclure who had moved there for his health a few years earlier. Members of the Fretageot family remained in New Harmony, including her son, Achilles, who came with her on the Boatload. A quick check of that last name shows at least 21 burials in Maple Hill Cemetery in New Harmony, the latest in 1972.

Drawing of Robert Dale Owen. UASC MSS 247-5338, the Don Blair collection

Owen’s oldest son, Robert Dale Owen (1801-1877) came along with his father in 1825 to New Harmony. He remained in New Harmony and promoted educational reform. He served in the Indiana House of Representatives 1835-1838 and 1851-1853, and in the U.S. House 1843-1847. Because of his efforts, free public education was part of the second Indiana constitution, written in 1851. In 1846 he helped establish the Smithsonian Institution, America’s “national museum.” Other Owen sons, although not part of the Boatload, also came to the United States and New Harmony. David Dale (1807-1860) gave up a career in medicine to pursue geology, and commissioned the first geological survey of Indiana in 1837. Under his leadership, New Harmony was the national headquarters for federal geological surveys from 1837-1856, before the U.S. Geological Survey came into existence in 1876. He also served as the state geologist of Kentucky, then Arkansas, and then Indiana. The youngest of Robert Owen’s sons, Richard Dale (1810-1890), succeeded his brother as Indiana state geologist, then became a natural history professor at Indiana University from 1964 to 1879, and served as the first president of Purdue University 1872-1874.

If you recall, the Owen New Harmony experiment lasted only two years. Owen’s utopian ideals, although deeply held and of real value, were not deeply rooted in practicality. “Owen never adequately understood or adopted the secrets that made the three Harmonist and nineteen Shaker communities thrive. In fact, Owen’s own faith in mental freedom and his insatiable urge to travel and speak on behalf of his social system militated against his adoption of the unquestioning commitment of members and the daily authoritarian administration that insured Harmonist and Shaker solidarity and economic success. This basic defect helps explain the monumental debates at New Harmony and the eventual dissolution of the communal aspect of Maclure’s and the other scholars’ involvement with Owen by 1827.”vi

Two years isn’t very much time, but Owen’s, his sons’, and his friends’ and colleagues’ contributions still echo today, and visitors and scholars still flock to New Harmony to partake of the utopian dream.

NOTE: the following two photographs are from the October 1977 filming of “The New Harmony Experience,” the first orientation film shown in the Atheneum/Visitors Center in New Harmony. (This is not the film shown today.) Nor are these photographs of the real Boatload of Knowledge, or necessarily even scale models. These are only the creation of the film’s artists as they sought to show visitors a representation of what the Boatload might have looked. Still, they are interesting and informative to give you a contemporary view of what might have been seen in New Harmony in 1826.

UASC UA 058-00382, the Historic New Harmony collection
UASC UA 058-00557, the Historic New Harmony collection

Resources Consulted

  • Budds, Diana.  “This small Indiana town is a hotbed of utopianism.”, August 5, 2019.
  • Pitzer, Donald E.  “The Original Boatload of Knowledge Down the Ohio River: William Maclure’s and Robert Owens’s Transfer of Science and Education to the Midwest, 1926-1827.”  Ohio Journal of Science, v. 89: no.4 (1989), p. 128-142. 
  • Pitzer, Donald E.  “William Maclure’s Boatload of Knowledge: Science and Education into the Midwest.” Indiana Magazine of History, v.94: no. 2 (June 1998), p. 110-137. 
  • Reynolds, Virginia K.  “Madame Marie Duclos Fretageot—The New Harmony Years.”  Contemporary Education, v, 58: no.2 (Winter 1987), p. 90-91. (journal article located in UA 058-1-18, the Historic New Harmony collection)

End Notes

  • iPitzer/Original, p. 130
  • ii Pitzer/William, p. 111
  • iii Pitzer/William, p. 115
  • iv Budds
  • v Reynolds, p. 91
  • vi Pitzer/William, p. 115-116
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Meet the Face Behind the Place: Pearl Drive

*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant for the University Archives and Special Collections.

Men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl, c. 1995. Source: UASC, UP 01670.
Men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl, c. 1995. Source: UASC, UP 01670.

Basketball is Indiana’s favorite past-time. It doesn’t matter if it is high school, collegiate, or professional basketball, Hoosiers love the sport. At the University of Southern Indiana, basketball is one of the top sports on campus. Even on the west side of Evansville, a prominent drive is named after the USI basketball coaching legend, Bruce Pearl.

Until the arrival of Bruce Pearl, the USI men’s basketball team had six head coaches over a twenty-one-year span. Pearl was among eighty applicants for the head coach position in April 1992. Before coming to USI, he served as the assistant coach for the Iowa Hawkeye men’s basketball from 1986 to 1992 and at Stanford University from 1982 to 1986. By May 1992, USI announced Pearl would become the seventh coach in USI men’s basketball history

Pearl went to work, and the men’s basketball shined throughout the season under his leadership. The results were evident as the team posted their best season in school history at that point. The 1992-1993 team went 22-7, after going 10-18 the previous season. The team entered the 1993 NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball tournament but did not make it out of their region. By the next two seasons, no one realize how much the USI men’s basketball team was going to become a powerhouse.

(L-R): Men's basketball player, Chad Gilbert, coach Bruce Pearl, Dick Stockton from CBS Sports, Scott Boyden, and Cortez Barnes, after winning the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball title, 1995. Source: UASC, UP 00524.
(L-R): Men’s basketball player, Chad Gilbert, coach Bruce Pearl, Dick Stockton from CBS Sports, Scott Boyden, and Cortez Barnes, after winning the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball title, 1995. Source: UASC, UP 00524.

The 1993-1994 season outshined their previous season by improving their record to 28-4 and winning the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) championship and made it to the NCAA Division II championship; however, USI fell to the California State University, Bakersfield Roadrunners, 92-86. As a consolation, Stan Gouard, won the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award, despite losing. The 1994-1995 season proved to be redeeming as the Screamin’ Eagles dominated and returned to the NCAA Division II championship, facing UC Riverside. Unlike the previous year, the team defeated UC Riverside, 71-63, winning USI’s first ever collegiate championship. Following their win, the Indiana General Assembly honored and recognized the team. After their championship win in 1995, the men’s basketball team continued to be a force to be reckoned; however, the team did not return to the championship round until 2004, where they lost to Kennesaw State.

Pearl would stay at the helm of USI’s men’s basketball team until 2001, when he left for the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, as their head coach. Rick Herdes, an assistant coach for Pearl, later became the next coach for the team. During Pearl’s tenure at USI, he garnered a 231-46 record, a school record, and 146-28 record in the GLVC. He also won the GLVC Coach of the Year in 1993 and 1994. Pearl also became the fastest coach in NCAA history to win 200 games by doing so in 240 games. He was inducted in the GLVC Hall of Fame in 2008 and continues to coach men’s basketball. Pearl has worked for the University of Tennessee and Auburn University, reaching the Final Four in 2019, the first time in school history.

At the University Archives and Special Collections at the David L. Rice Library hosts an online digital gallery containing over 6,800 materials pertaining to USI history. The materials cover a wide array of topics and departments, including USI Athletics. The materials are free and available at


Borgus, H. (1995, April 24). General Assembly recognizes basketball team’s achievement. The Shield, page 8. Retrieved from

Great Lakes Valley Conference. (n.d.). Bruce Pearl.

Smith, N. (2001, April 12). Coach Pearl on his way out. The Shield, page 1. Retrieved from

University Notes. (1992, May 27). Retrieved from

USI Athletics. (2020). University of Southern Indiana men’s basketball all-time records. Retrieved September 11, 2020, from

USI Athletics. (2020). Year by year results for USI men’s basketball. Retrieved September 11, 2020, from

Wendt, B. (1992, April 22). Big 10 assistant basketball coach interviews at USI. The Shield, page 12. Retrieved from

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Meet the Face Behind the Place: Lloyd Expressway

*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

Mead Johnson complex in Evansville, Indiana. The road intersection is St. Joseph Avenue and Pennsylvania Street (later becoming the Lloyd Expressway), 1966. Source: UASC, MSS 184-0671.
Mead Johnson complex in Evansville, Indiana. The road intersection is St. Joseph Avenue and Pennsylvania Street (later becoming the Lloyd Expressway), 1966. Source: UASC, MSS 184-0671.

Most Evansvillians have a love-hate relationship with Indiana State Road 62, better known locally as the Lloyd or Lloyd Expressway. It is a common road to travel and one of the few roads that go all the way through east to west, even if an expressway has stoplights. The expressway has a unique history in Evansville and most residents have varying opinions. The story of its namesake is heartbreaking, to say the least.

Aerial view of the Lloyd Expressway in Evansville, Indiana, n.d. Source: MSS 184-1564.
Aerial view of the Lloyd Expressway in Evansville, Indiana, n.d. Source: MSS 184-1564.

By the 1950’s, construction started on the expressway on the west side of Evansville by extending Pennsylvania Avenue. The expressway would extend from the Posey County line on the west side to Interstate 164, now known as Interstate 69, on the east side of Evansville. During the 1970’s, funds were secured by then-Evansville mayor, Russell G. Lloyd, Sr. The expressway was not completed for close to thirty years. Finally, on July 19, 1988, the expressway was officially open for business. The originally renamed of the expressway was Division Street-Pennsylvania Expressway until 1980, when it was renamed to honor Lloyd.

Russell G. Lloyd, Sr., served as Evansville mayor from 1972 to 1980. He was born on March 29, 1932 in Kingston, Pennsylvania. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a law degree. Lloyd would move to Evansville and make a local political career there. He served as an alternate delegate for Indiana in the 1972 Republican National Convention and become the mayor for Evansville, serving two terms. Lloyd would leave office in 1980 but he was assassinated by Julie Van Orden on March 19, 1980. Van Orden had issues with local officials and believed Lloyd was still in office. She decided to voice her opinions to Lloyd at his home and after a belief argument, Van Orden pulled a gun and shot Lloyd. Two days later, Lloyd passed away. In 1981, Van Orden was found guilty by insanity and sent to the Logansport State Mental Hospital until her death in 2014.

Interested in learning more about local history? Check out the UASC Digital Gallery,, from the University Archives and Special Collections at the David L. Rice Library. There are over 50,000 photographs and over 1,000 oral histories relating to local history and various subjects.


AA Roads. (2013). Lloyd expressway: State road 62 and state road 66.

Driving Division was frustrating, scary. (2007, Sept. 27). Evansvile Courier and Press.

Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library. (n.d.). Browning genealogy. Browning Genealogy: Evansville Area Obituary Search. Retrieved May 21, 2021, from

Lutgrieg, T. & Gross, E. (n.d.). Moments that shaped our city. Evansville Living.

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Living in Community….Bethel Colony in Missouri and Aurora Colony in Oregon

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

One of the collections within University Archives and Special Collections is Communal Studies. The Communal Studies Collection began in conjunction with the Center for Communal Studies, which promotes the study of contemporary and historic communal groups, intentional communities and utopias. The key word is intentional. These communities were/are deliberate attempts to live communally, with shared goals and economies. This blog is one of a continuing series….you can search for the phrase Living in Community to find others.

William Keil (1812-1877). Image found here.
Historic photograph of portrait of Louise Reiter Keil (artist unknown). UASC CS 662-40hp-0082c, the Don Janzen collection

The story of these two colonies begins with, is entwined with, and ends with, a man by the name of Wilhelm (William) Keil, born in Prussia in 1812. He worked as a milliner and a tailor, and married Louise Reiter in 1836. He had a curious mind that led him initially to mysticism and a search for “religious truth.” He searched for a universal cure for all ills, a panacea. He and his wife came to the United States circa 1836 and settled for a time in New York, “working at the tailor trade. But a nature like Keil’s is not satisfied with the handling of needle and scissors. He delved deeper into mysticism, theosophy, alchemy, magnetics, and botany and soon moved to Pittsburgh, where he opened a drug store and became known as “Doctor.” He had not been here long before he performed some strange cures. … As a result he was known in some circles as the Hexendoktor or witch doctor.”i

Copy of an oil painting of George Rapp. This is the only known portrait of him, and was done by memory by the artist, who had met Rapp as a child. UASC MSS 247-4230, the Don Blair Collection.

In 1838 Keil attended a German Methodist revival and was converted, renouncing his “witch doctor” ways. He wholeheartedly embraced Methodism, even becoming a licensed local pastor (although the actual licensing seems to be in doubt). He was appointed to a church in Deer Creek, near Pittsburgh, but soon began to chafe under the church’s authority. “Keil’s entire life showed that he was a man who could not conform, and that he was restless under any authority. But notwithstanding his independent spirit, he desired to belong to an established religious denomination. On leaving the Methodist Episcopal Church he joined the Methodist Protestant Church, again taking his entire congregation with him. … Because he refused to obey his superiors in the Methodist Protestant Church, he was expelled from that body. Thus, in less than a year, Keil was in and out of two of the major branches of American Methodism.”ii It is at this time that his story intersects with that of another communal group of local interest, the Rappites or Harmonists that settled in New Harmony, Indiana, and were now living in their third and final colony in Economy, PA. Keil met them and was influenced by their communal lifestyle. Some of those disenchanted with life in Economy, particularly the stance on celibacy, became part of Keil’s congregation and followed him when he moved on.

Seeking to find a place where he could establish his own community, he and his scouts purchased 2500 acres in Shelby County, Missouri, in 1844. Eventually the community of Bethel covered 4000 acres. Bethel is a Hebrew word meaning “house of God.”

UASC CS 662-040ad-0001, the Don Janzen collection.

The hardworking and talented German craftsmen and farmers, after a difficult first winter, were able to build a stable and prosperous town. Nearly all the houses were made of brick, with that brick made right there in Bethel. All farming equipment and all furniture was also made by local craftsmen. “Each family was given a house, while a long two-story brick building near the center of the village served as a hotel and dormitory for the single men. Besides the homes and the hotel, the village consisted of a church, school, tannery, distillery, mill, glove factory, drugstore, and a wagon shop. Agriculture was a means of livelihood in the colony, but apparently the glove factory and the distillery were more important features of the economy of the group. Gloves made by the colonists were so superior in quality that they won first prize at the New York World’s Fair in 1858. The main source of revenue was the distillery which sold whiskey by the wagon load in Quincy, Illinois, for 15 cents per gallon! Bethel boasted the first steam mill in rural Missouri. All clothing, shoes, brick, furniture, wagons, and farm implements used by the colonists were made in the village shops, and the surplus was sold in the surrounding area.”iii

Historic photograph of Bethel Colony looking southward from the balcony of the colony church. The colony school is the large building in the foreground. UASC CS 662-40hp-0070, the Don Janzen collection.
Historic photograph of Bethel Flour Mill c1900 with engine shed in foreground. UASC CS 662-40hp-002, the Don Janzen collection.
Historic photograph of Bethel Flour Mill, c.1890-1910, with north extension (right) and engine shed (left). UASC CS 662-40hp-003, the Don Janzen collection.

Keil’s house, Elim, was about a mile outside of Bethel. It was a large building made of locally-made brick. It had a full basement and wine cellar, paneled walnut doors, and a large ballroom on the second floor. This ballroom was where many celebrations were held, particularly for the holidays and the annual celebration of Keil’s and his wife’s shared birthdays on March 6.

Elim, the William Keil house, photographed May 7, 2009. UASC CS 662-040dc-0299, the Don Janzen collection.
Elim, the William Keil house, photographed May 7, 2009. UASC CS 662-040dc-0302, the Don Janzen collection.
Elim, the William Keil house (south side), photographed May 7, 2009. UASC CS 662-040dc-0308, the Don Janzen collection.
Elim, the William Keil house (looking northeast), photographed May 7, 2009. UASC CS 662-040dc-0312, the Don Janzen collection.

Bethel Colony thrived, but by 1855, Keil was growing restless. “He dreamed of a chain of colonies reaching from his first venture to the Pacific Coast.”iv A site was selected in Washington, and Keil and his followers (some stayed in Bethel and that community continued) got ready to head west. His 19 year old son Willie was very excited that his father had promised to take him along. On May 19, 1855, before the wagon trail could leave, Willie succumbed to malaria. A promise was a promise, though, so his father had him placed in a lead-lined coffin and had it filled the finest locally-made 100 proof Golden Rule whiskey. The body was carried in the first wagon in the train across the Oregon Trail and not laid to rest until November or December when the group arrived in Washington. Ironically, the climate in Washington did not suit the colonists and they settled the Willamette Valley in Oregon, leaving the beloved son behind. Keil also remained in charge of Bethel, even though he never returned.

Aurora Colony Hotel, with the band playing on the roof. Image found here.

The new colony was named Aurora, meaning dawn, also the name of one of Keil’s daughters. “As early as 1860, after the stagecoach line that connected San Francisco and Portland was established, Keil turned of portion of his “Great House” into a hotel and restaurant for travelers. Aurora, located halfway between Portland and Salem, found itself right on the line. Ten years later, Keil faced a new challenge when Ben Holliday’s Oregon and California Railroad also came through Aurora. But this time Keil was ready. He had anticipated the railroad and had the colonists build a large hotel which they completed in 1867. … Visitors coming into Aurora on the train sometimes were greeted by the colony band playing from the top of the hotel. Colony women cooked and served the food and Federal Judge Mathew Deady was so impressed with the food that he wrote in his diary that he wished there was “a Dutchtown” at every stop.”v (Clarification: Dutch is a “corruption” of the German word for German, Deutsch.)

The Old Aurora Colony Museum (formerly the Colony ox barn) with the Kraus house on the left, photographed November 6, 2010. The ox barn was first built circa 1860; what is seen here reflects later renovations into a store and a home. UASC CS 662-216dc-0002, the Don Janzen collection.
George Kraus house dining room/kitchen , photographed November 6, 2010. Kraus was the colony shoemaker. Constructed circa 1864, it was lived in by members of the family until the 1960s. UASC CS 662-216dc-0035, the Don Janzen collection.
The John Stauffer, Sr. farm, photographed November 6, 2010. The log house seen here has 2 stories plus an attic and cellar and was built circa 1867. UASC CS 662-216dc-0043, the Don Janzen collection.
Frederick Keil house in Aurora, built circa 1870, photographed November 6, 2010. UASC CS 662-216dc-0046, the Don Janzen collection.

What were the beliefs and practices of Bethel and Aurora colony members? When he broke completely with the Methodist church, Keil had “found church regulations irksome, and ….declared that he would accept no authority except the Bible, no rule except the Golden Rule, no creed except that of moral living. … In 1844 the plan was made to establish a Colony, based on the Christian ideal of equality and sharing.”vi He refused to have any written constitution, so his word or interpretation was always final. “Practical Christianity was stressed. Each family was given a house, and each person worked as he or she was able. Unlike the practices in most intentional communities, no records of accounts were kept. Attendance at church services, held every two weeks, was voluntary, but the church was usually filled to capacity. Most of the traditional Christian rituals were abolished. There was no baptism or confirmation, but Easter was celebrated. … The practice that caused the most unrest was that of confession and public repentance, but most of the colonists bore Keil’s recriminations from the pulpit for their transgressions with stoicism. Others withdrew from the Colony (but remained in the settlement) or did not join in the communal practices.”vii

Henry Conrad Finck and his children. Finck was a prominent musician, and son Henry Theophilus Finck graduated from Harvard in 1876, became a famous author, and was music critic for the New York Evening Post for 43 years. Image found here.

One thing that characterized both colonies was a rich musical tradition. There were at least two bands in Bethel, the Bethel Band and the Bethel Independent Brass Band (it is believed these later merged into one). The Aurora Pioneer band did a 16-day tour of the Puget Sound area in 1869, headlined the American centennial celebration in Portland in 1876, and were greeted with much enthusiasm and anticipation at an 1877 college graduation ceremony. Aurora also boasted a “Pie and Beer Band” made up of boys and young men, so named for how they were paid. Choral music was also quite popular. “Most of Aurora’s music was borrowed from its German heritage, but some was adopted from the new American culture. … The old, familiar German music reminded the colonists of their Heimat (homeland), but the new, American airs helped to make their musical groups acceptable and popular throughout Oregon.”viii A portion of the music was locally composed, unfortunately not always signed.

Schellenbaum, circa 1910, from the Bethel colony. Although there is testimony that it was used at Aurora, there are no photographs of such. UASC CS 662-040hp-0100, the Don Janzen collection.

“Perhaps the most celebrated instrument of the Aurora band was the Schellenbaum or bell tree. It was made in Bethel by John L. Bauer, a talented craftsman….The Schellenbaum is comprised of three circular patterns of bells (with attached clappers), interspersed with jingles (with unattached clappers). It was carried by respected members of the colony and marked the head of band processions. Resting in a belt much as a flag is carried, the Schellenbaum jingled brightly in time to the steps of its bearer. Common to 19th century German bands, the Schellenbaum….had its origins in Turkey.”ix

William Keil died December 30, 1877. His rule, both in Bethel and Aurora, had been an autocratic one, based strongly on his charisma and ability to persuade others to follow him. Any society so focused on one person will suffer when that person dies; indeed, both Bethel and Aurora were disbanded and dissolved by 1883. There were no half measures with Keil–you either adored and followed him, or despised his despotism. “His friends praised him and considered him a superman; his enemies maligned him and thought of him as a man without principle, integrity, or honor.”x

Resources Consulted

Dailey, Harold.  “The Old Communistic Colony at Bethel.”  The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, v.52:no.2 (1928), p. 162-167.  

Gooch, John O.  “William Keil: A Strange Communal Leader.” Methodist History Journal: July 1967, p. 36-41.  United Methodist Church: General Commission on Archives and History.

Kopp, Jim.  “Wilhelm Keil (1812-1877)”  The Oregon Encyclopedia online.  Oregon Historical Society.

Old Aurora Colony website.   Aurora Colony Historical Society.

Olsen, Deborah M. and Clark M. Will.  “Musical Heritage of the Aurora Colony.”  Oregon Historical Quarterly, v. 79: no.3 (Fall 1978), p. 233-267. (located in CS 044-3, the Aurora Colony collection)

Schroeder, Adolf E.  “Bethel German Colony, 1844-1879: Religious Beliefs and Practices.”   Historic Bethel German Colony, Inc., 1990. (pamphlet located in CS 057-4, the Bethel German Communal Colony collection)

Schroeder, Adolf E.  “The Musical Life of Bethel German Colony, 1844-1879.”   Historic Bethel German Colony, Inc., 1990. (pamphlet located in CS 057-4, the Bethel German Communal Colony collection)

Simon, John E.  “Wilhelm Keil and Communist Colonies.”  Oregon Historical Quarterly, v.26: no.2 (June 1935), p. 119-153.

End Notes

i Simon, p. 120

ii Gooch, p. 38

iii Gooch, p. 39-40

iv Dailey, p. 165

v Old Aurora Colony website: Colony History/Hotel

vi Schroeder/Bethel, p. 14-15

vii Schroeder/Bethel, p. 16

viii Olsen, p. 235

is Olsen, p. 255

x Simon, p. 152

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Meet the Face Behind the Place: Robert D. Orr Center

*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant for the University Archives and Special Collections.

Throughout Evansville, there are numerous buildings and streets that bares someone’s name. The real question is, have you ever wondered the story behind it? You are in luck because several Evansville icons will be discussed in a seven-part miniseries. The first place is in the heart of the University of Southern Indiana (USI): the Robert D. Orr Center.

Former Indiana governor Robert D. Orr at the Orr Center dedication ceremony at USI, 1990. Source: UASC, UA 078-04994.
Former Indiana governor Robert D. Orr at the Orr Center dedication ceremony at USI, 1990. Source: UASC, UA 078-04994.

Robert D. Orr was born on November 17, 1917, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Evansville. He graduated from Yale University, with a bachelor’s in American History, and attended Harvard Graduate School; however, he left Harvard to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. Orr was stationed in the Pacific Theatre through the war. He did achieve moving in rank from private to major and awarded the Legion of Merit medal for exceptionally conduct in his service. After the war ended, Orr moved to Evansville and worked in the family business, Orr Iron Company.

(L-R): Dr. Patrick V. Corcoran, Lt. Governor Robert D. Orr, Dr. Charles E. Rochelle, Dr. Snively, and Indiana Governor Otis Bowen in Evansville, Indiana, 1975. Source: UASC, MSS 229-529.
(L-R): Dr. Patrick V. Corcoran, Lt. Governor Robert D. Orr, Dr. Charles E. Rochelle, Dr. Snively, and Indiana Governor Otis Bowen in Evansville, Indiana, 1975. Source: UASC, MSS 229-529.

In Evansville, Orr achieved political success and served as precinct committeeman, convention delegate, and the chair of the Vanderburgh County Republican Party. The first elected position Orr held was on the Center Township Advisory Board in Vanderburgh County as member and chair. He decided to move his political career to the state level. It finally happened in 1968 when he was elected to the Indiana Senate. Before he realized it, his political career had skyrocketed. Orr was elected as lieutenant governor in 1972 and 1976, serving alongside Dr. Otis Bowen. During his lieutenant governorship, Orr served as the director of Indiana Department of Commerce, Commissioner of Agriculture, and President of the Senate. As 1980 approached, Bowen couldn’t run for governor because of term limits; however, Bowen gave Orr his approval and he won the Republican nomination. He would win the governorship in the largest margin in Indiana gubernatorial history, 57.7% to 41.9%.

Robert Orr, Joel Deckard, and Gerald Ford in Evansville, Indiana, 1976. Source: UASC, MSS 181-0443.
Robert Orr, Joel Deckard, and Gerald Ford in Evansville, Indiana, 1976. Source: UASC, MSS 181-0443.

In Orr’s first term as governor, Indiana was in a recession. His focus was getting the state out of a deficit, which finally happened in 1982 when the state legislature increased the state income and sales taxes. He continued to focus on economic development into his second term after being reelected in 1984; but he was also centered on education. His “A-Plus” package was passed, which required achievement testing and the creation of a new school accreditation system, and “Prime Time” program, which reduced classroom sizes and increased the school year. After he left office in 1989, Orr served as the US ambassador to Singapore until 1992.

Some maybe asking, what did Orr do for USI? If it wasn’t for Orr, there wouldn’t be USI because it was known from 1965 to 1985 as a satellite campus for Indiana State University (ISUE). On April 16, 1985, then-governor Orr signed Senate Bill #207, allowing ISUE to become an independent university, becoming USI in the process. USI dedicated to honor Orr and his work for USI by naming the next university building after him. The Orr Center was only the sixth building built on the property of USI and first since 1980, when the HYER or Physical Activities Center (PAC) was completed. It was opened and dedicated on June 10, 1990 (“Orr Center dedication”, pg. 1). Orr would receive an honorary degree at the first commencement for USI in 1986, along with his wife, Joanne. Orr passed away on March 10, 2004.

For more information on the Orr Center and the University Archives collections, visit the Online Digital Gallery available at the David L. Rice Library through the University Archives and Special Collections (UASC). The gallery has seven galleries over the history of ISUE and USI, such as university newsletters, the Shield newspapers, yearbooks, and commencement programs.


Associated Press. (2004, March 12). Robert D. Orr, 86 governor who revamped Indiana schools. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Indiana Department of Administration. (2020). Robert D. Orr. Retrieved from

Indiana Governor History. (2020). Robert D. Orr. Retrieved from

Indianapolis Star. (2004, March 15). Governor Robert D. Orr. Retrieved from

National Governors Association. (2020). Governor Robert D. Orr. Retrieved from

Orr Center dedication. (1990, June 6). University Notes. Retrieved from

University of Southern Indiana. (2020). Honorary degrees, 1985-1989.

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ARCHIVES Madness 2022

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

The votes are in and the winner and is…

Evansville Wartime Museum

Congratulations to this year’s winner. You can see the “Coolest Artifact” at the Evansville Wartime Museum. For more information on the museum visit,

And big thank you to all of the participants: Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science, John James Audubon Museum, USI Art Collection, USI Lawrence Library, Willard Library, and Working Men’s Institute.

And thanks to everyone that voted and helped to make this year’s event another great tournament!

University Archives and Special Collections, Rice Library, 3rd floor

University Archives and Special Collections David L. Rice, USI

In the summer of 1972 the Lilly Endowment, Inc. of Indianapolis, Indiana awarded the then Indiana State University Evansville a three-year grant to establish an archival project for the acquisition, preservation 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.

Meet the Competitors

The first entry is this hat from the Beardsley, Montgomery, and Gordon Families Collection. MSS 297.  It’s a cloche hat, a “a close-fitting hat worn by women from c. 1908 to 1930.  Its bell-like shape, which gave the hat its name, is most associated with the 1920s.”[i]  This was the era of the flapper—a young woman who pushed the boundaries of society and pushed hard.  The cloche-wearing flapper was a modern woman. (quote from Baclawski, Karen.  The Guide to Historic Costume.  London: B.T. Batsford, 1995.   General Collection GT507.B33 1995) This brown straw hat dates to 1920 and has grosgrain ribbon around the brim and surrounding the colorful decoration, which is made from bakelite.  Bakelite was the first plastic made from synthetic materials.


The second entry this “blooper” poster advertising the release of the third film in the vastly popular Star Wars series.  The original version was released March 25, 1983.  It’s from MSS 118, the Jeanne Suhrheinrich Collection.  Suhrheinrich was a long time entertainment editor for the Evansville Courier.

Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science at 411 SE Riverside Dr. 

Evansville has had a museum since 1906, with today’s location dating to the 1950s.  This appearance dates to a major update/remodel circa 2014

“The Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science houses a permanent collection of more than 30,000 objects, including fine and decorative art, as well as historic, anthropological, and natural history artifacts. Over twenty temporary, regional and international exhibitions are displayed each year in four galleries.  The Koch Immersive Theater houses a 40-foot diameter domed screen with 360-degree digital projection featuring astronomy and science programming.  Evansville Museum Transportation Center (EMTRAC) featuring transportation artifacts from the late 19th through the mid-20th centuries. On exhibit is a three-car train. The museum is home to a model train diorama of Evansville.”

The first item is this doorknob, from the infamous Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest retreat near Berchstegaden, Germany.  It was taken in July 1945 by U.S. Army Air Corps Captain Henry J. Luerssen, who also provided a notarized document attesting to its authenticity.

The second is this letter written by Abraham Lincoln to David Turnham, a childhood friend from Spencer County, Indiana.  Written just prior to the 1860 election, Lincoln speaks of wishing to see his old friends and old home again.  Turnham was later able to provide historians with information about the assassinated president’s time in Indiana.

John M. Lawrence ’73 Library in Rm. 0119 of the Liberal Arts Center

Lawrence Library is located on the lower level in room 0119 of the Liberal Arts Center of USI’s campus. The concept for this library sprang from the friendship of Patricia (Patty) Aakhus and John M. Lawrence. The library is named for Mr. Lawrence, a graduate of USI’s class of 1973 and an international expert and collector of medieval manuscripts, for his generous support of the College of Liberal Arts. John Lawrence donated many items to the College, including a collection of medieval manuscripts as well as other artifacts, for use as a study collection for students. Patty Aakhus was an associate professor of English and served as the director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and program director in International Studies. Aakhus also published three novels based on medieval texts that she studied and translated. Patricia Aakhus served as the first caretaker of the space prior to her death in 2012. The Lawrence Library prides itself on the student leadership of the space where student archivists curate exhibitions, research manuscripts and artifacts, and participate in collections management and care.

The first entry is an etching on paper by Francisco Goya entitled “Los Caprichos: Los Chinchillas”, created in 1799.   This piece of art served as the inspiration for the vidual design of the monster character made famous by Boris Karloff in the 1931 film, Frankenstein.

The second entr is this Roman Redware Terra Sigillata Jug, circa 150 CE.  Terra sigillata clay was found in Gaul (present day France).  This jug was excavated in North Africa, once a part of the Roman empire.

John James Audubon Museum in John James Audubon State Park, 3100 US Hwy 41 North, Henderson, KY

The museum interprets the lives and work of John James Audubon and his family within a timeline of world events. Three galleries chronicle the Audubon story, including the family’s 1810-1819 residency in Henderson, Kentucky. Over 200 objects are on display, including artifacts from Audubon’s Kentucky years, a complete set of his masterwork, The Birds of America, and many original artworks.

The first entry this life-sized bronze sculpture of John James Audubon’s White Headed Eagle by Raymond Graf, completed in 2008.  The original Audubon painting was plate 31 in the Double Elephant Folio of the Birds of America.  This sculpture sits outside the museum in Henderson, KY.   Raymond Graf is a Louisville artist and graduate of Murray State University.

The second item is this hand-colored lithograph from 1851 of John Woodhouse Audubon’s painting, “Cat Stalking Bird on Bough.”  John Woodhouse was the son of John James Audubon.

University of Evansville, University Archives in Bower-Suhrheinrich Library/Clifford Memorial Library

University Archives is the repository for archival records pertaining to the history and operations of the University of Evansville.

The first entry is this English moss rose china teapot measuring 37 inches high and weighing roughly 90 pounds empty, 355 pounds filled. This teapot can hold enough tea for an estimated 850 people. The hand-painted teapot was made by Alfred Meakin of Tunstall, England in 1890. It first arrived in Evansville from England as a present to the old Ichenhauser & Sons Company on NW First Street, which claimed to be the largest glass and china dealer in the Midwest. Silas Ichenhauser was a trustee of Evansville College, and when the firm closed in 1927, he presented the teapot to the college, where it was displayed for years in the front hall of the Administration Building (now Olmsted Administration Hall).  This image, with two University of Evansville (Evansville College at the time of this photograph) students gives you a good idea of the large size of this teapot.

The second item is this Japanese mask.  It was sometimes worn on religious occasions, but more commonly by children or adults for amusement.  This white mask has a pointed nose with whiskers along it, and a red painted mouth that opens.  A string tied through the eyes holds it on the face.

Evansville Wartime Museum The EWM focuses on the manufacturing contributions made during World War II by local industries and celebrates the service of hometown and regional members of the armed forces.  It is located in a hanger near the airport, at 7503 Petersburg Rd

The first entry is “Hoosier Spirit II”, a Republic Aviation P-47 Thunderbolt.  This WWII fighter plane was manufactured in Evansville.  Republic Aviation didn’t even come to Evansville until November 1942, but it immediately geared up and by the time production ceased in mid-August 194, some 5,000 employees (about half women) had contributed 6,242 P-47 Thunderbolts to the war effort. Combat pilots loved the P-47.  It did the job, and it brought them home safely.

This specific P-47 Thunderbolt was originally developed as a trainer plane for the U.S. Air Force in May of 1945. In August of 1947, it became part of the Venezuelan Air Force and remained there for 28 years. In 1975, the plane became part of a private collection in France where it stayed for 12 years. In 1987, the plane returned to the U.S. by a private collector who had the plane for 11 years. During that time, the plane was restored and given the name of “Big Ass Bird II” after a plane from WWII. The name caused some booking problems in parts of the U.S., so it was renamed “Tarheel Hal” after another P-47 flown during WWII. In 1998, the plane became part of the collection of the Lone Star Museum in Galveston, Texas, where it remained for 22 years.  On Saturday October 17, 2020, The Evansville P-47 Foundation purchased Tarheel Hal as a symbol for all the planes produced in Evansville during WWII.  Shortly after being flown back to Indiana, the plane was renamed “Hoosier Spirit II”. Following the passing of House Bill 1197 on April 26, 2021, the Hoosier Spirit II became Indiana’s State Aircraft. It is now on display inside the Evansville Wartime Museum located at 7503 Petersburg Road, just a mile from where it was manufactured by Republic Aviation in 1944.

The second entry is the first Evansville gravestone of James Bethel Gresham. The one now standing in Locust Hill is a replacement. When it was replaced it was given to a group of disabled veterans who met at the Coliseum, and they, in turn, donated it to the museum. James Bethel Gresham (August 23, 1893 – November 3, 1917) was one of the first three American soldiers to die in World War I. He was born in Kentucky, but moved with his family to Evansville in 1901, attended Centennial School, and worked in one of the furniture factories. He died in France and was originally buried there, but in 1921 was reinterred at Locust Hill Cemetery in Evansville.

Working Men’s Institute at 407 Tavern St. in New Harmony, IN

“Established by philanthropist William Maclure in 1838, the Working Men’s Institute (WMI) set as its mission the dissemination of useful knowledge to those who work with their hands. After 170 years of continuous service, this goal is still at the heart of our mission.  Maclure, who was a business partner with Robert Owen in the communal experiment in New Harmony from 1825-1827, was devoted to the ideal of education for the common man as a means of positive change in society. At New Harmony, The Working Men’s Institute was one manifestation of this ideal.  The Working Men’s Institute in New Harmony was the first of 144 WMIs in Indiana and 16 in Illinois. It is the only one remaining. Many WMIs were absorbed by township libraries or Carnegie libraries. Yet the one in New Harmony remained.  …  Today, the WMI is a public library, a museum and an archive. In each of these areas, the WMI tries to stay true to the original mission of William Maclure.”

The first entry from WMI is a Harmonist sewing clamp.  This is a pincushion with a wooden clamp for attaching it to the edge of a table.  The outer portion of the pincushion appears to be cloth which was re-used garment fabric, an example of Harmonist frugality.  The Harmonists were a utopian group that lived in New Harmony between 1814-1825.

The second entry is the “Pat Lyon” fire engine, circa 1804.  It was made for George Rapp, leader of the Harmonists, in Philadelphia by Pat Lyon and brought to New Harmony in 1815.  This engine has been in New Harmony ever since. It is a hand power machine, the pumping may be done by eighteen men. A fire company was organized in 1848, and until 1879 the old Rapp engine was the only one used.

Willard Library at 21 N. First Ave.

Willard Library is the oldest public library building in the state of Indiana.  It was established by local businessman and philanthropist Willard Carpenter, opening its doors in 1885, two years after his death.  For the past 137 years Willard Library has maintained an excellent reputation for its local history archives and genealogy collections.

The first entry is this 1894 bride’s book/scrapbook lovingly made by Emily Orr Clifford (1866-1952) celebrating her marriage to George Clifford (1858-1927).  Clifford was a prominent businessman and citizen who was instrumental in the establishment of the University of Evansville (then Evansville College).  Emily Orr was also from a prominent family—her grandfather, Samuel Orr, was one of the first settlers of Evansville and established the Orr Iron Company.  A first cousin was Robert Dunkerson Orr, the 11th governor of Indiana, 1981-1989.

The next entry are these eyeglasses belonging to Willard Carpenter (183-1883).  The Victorian era frames feature hook temples, and are stored in a thin black sleeve-style case, here seen below the glasses. Born in Vermont, Carpenter was a local businessman and philanthropist; although he did not live to see its completion, Willard Library is his legacy to the city of Evansville.

Vote for your favorite artifact!

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“A Baptisttown Requiem”: Part 2

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

Although vitally important, housing isn’t enough to improve a community. As needed as Lincoln Gardens was, its very existence alone was insufficient to alleviate Baptisttown’s problems. Fortunately, Lincoln Gardens had a neighbor that was deeply invested in its success.

Lincoln High School, 1978. Source: UASC, MSS 229-055.
Lincoln High School, 1978. Source: UASC, MSS 229-055.

Directly across the street was Lincoln High School at 635 Lincoln Avenue. Built in 1927-1928, it “was the first new school in Evansville built for the black minority community. The school cost $275,000 to build. The school included twenty-two classrooms, a gymnasium, auditorium, sewing room, home economics kitchen, study hall, and manual training center. However, Lincoln didn’t have a cafeteria. The library had no books and the board refused to allocate money for that purpose. To stock the library, Mrs. Alberta K. McFarland Stevenson, Lincoln’s first librarian, went door to door collecting books and money donations. Classes were first begun in 1928. It was a K-12 school. Since Lincoln was the only black high school for miles around, black students from Mt. Vernon, Rockport, Newburgh, and Grandview were bussed to Evansville to attend Lincoln. In 1928, the enrollment was over 300” (i).

William Ebenezer Best. Source: UASC, MSS 181-395.
William Ebenezer Best. Source: UASC, MSS 181-395.

Granted, Lincoln was a segregated school, and clearly it wasn’t supported financially as well as non-black schools. (This librarian author is particularly incensed about not allocating money to purchase materials for the library!) What it did have was pride. It had been in operation for about 10 years when Lincoln Gardens was built, and the African American community loved and supported the school. The school had dedicated and forward-thinking teachers and administrators, one of whom was then principal W.E. Best. Dr. William Ebenezer Best (1884-1959), was the first principal of Lincoln School, 1928 to 1951. According to his obituary, Best joined the local school system in 1913 and was formerly principal of Douglass High School. He graduated from Indiana State University, earned a masters from Indiana University, and was granted an honorary doctorate from Wilberforce University.

Best initially “conceived the plan of using Lincoln Gardens as the spark to ignite interest of his people in improved living conditions. Three-fourths of the city’s Negro population of 6,500 lived in the slum area of Baptisttown prior to inauguration of the better housing project” (ii). The first manifestation of this idea was seen at Lincoln’s 1938 graduation ceremony. The theme of the commencement was Lincoln Gardens as a stepping-stone to a better future. In addition to the main speaker, four student speakers discussed “Housing as Related to Citizenship.” They included:

  • “What Constitutes a Housing Problem?” by Hazel Gracey
  • “The Federal Government and Housing” by Sarah Crutcher
  • “Lincoln Gardens: A Contribution to Good Citizenship” by Stephen Wells
  • “Making Lincoln Gardens a Success” by Margaret Bass (iii).

In the fall this idea was incorporated into a complete 16-unit curriculum taught at Lincoln. Each unit was taught as part of some related class already established in the curriculum. Related classes were in the social sciences, health, home economics, industrial arts, science, mathematics, and bookkeeping. There was a plan underway to get permission to use one apartment for demonstration purposes. The foundation was to be laid in the 8th grade social science class, which included “material about early housing attempts and traces the awakening of public interest in housing through modern surveys and legislation. Economic and social aspects of large-scale housing are studied somewhat in detail.” Practical lessons covered studying the relationship between sanitary facilities and possible quarantines, how to maintain a clean and orderly household, basic electricity issues like changing fuses, etc., how to do basic plumbing like shutting off water and fixing leaks, handyman chores, and basic “scientific principles incorporated in the apartment units. This [included] mechanical refrigeration, construction features, heating, and ventilating. …We are attempting to make a practical application of classroom work, and we feel that this course of study will help tenants get the most from the use of their new apartments” (iv). If this seems like very basic knowledge that should already be known, take another look at the housing that some Lincoln Gardens’ residents had lived in previously. If this was the only sort of housing you and your family had ever known, how could you know anything about efficient heating? Indoor plumbing? Cleaning your windows?

Days Row in Evansville, IN, c. 1900. Source: UASC, MSS 181-1368.
Days Row in Evansville, IN, c. 1900. Source: UASC, MSS 181-1368.

Best also intended this as “a challenge to the Lincoln faculty, to raise living standards of Evansville’s Negro people to a much higher plane by inculcating permanent ideals into the coming generation.” What might be considered the capstone classes were taught in two 12th grade “American Problems” classes, which included dealing with community relationships. Evidently the then new educational theory of learning by doing met with approval. “An outline of the 17 study units of the new course on housing, built around every-day living problems and largely demonstrated right in the Gardens, has been released throughout the country by the U.S. Housing authority. The release quotes an Indiana University professor who expressed the possibility that the course may be incorporated in the curricula of all public schools.” The article also indicated that a U.S. Department of the Interior representative was expected to visit soon “to designate an apartment of Lincoln Gardens for use of the school in teaching the new course” (v).

Homes in the 600 block of Lincoln Avenue, n.d. Source: UASC, MSS 284-120.
Homes in the 600 block of Lincoln Avenue, n.d. Source: UASC, MSS 284-120.

Another example of the close connection between the school and the community is this row of houses directly across Lincoln Avenue from the school. Many of these were owned by Lincoln faculty. From the left are Alfred (taught Latin, science, and music at Lincoln for 37 years) and Phoebe Porter’s house, Thomas (Lincoln faculty and coach) and Pauline Cheeks’ house, Boyd Henderson’s house, William (Lincoln principal) and Helen Best’s house, and Raymond (dentist and Lincoln Gardens administrator) and Bessie King’s house.

Our requiem for Baptisttown ends here, with the twin pillars of housing and education serving to revitalize the community. Forward strides have been made, but the struggle for quality housing and quality education for everyone continues.

Reference Consulted

  • (i): Lincoln School webpage—About Us: History
  • (ii): The Evansville Argus, October 8, 1938, p. 6.
  • (iii): Evansville Press, June 10, 1938, p. 18.
  • (iv): Evansville Press, July 4, 1938, p. 3.
  • (v): The Evansville Argus, October 8, 1938, p. 6.
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“A Baptisttown Requiem”: Part 1

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

Interpretive sign from Evansville African American Museum (EAAM).
Interpretive sign from Evansville African American Museum (EAAM).

Baptisttown is an old name for an area of Evansville once a primary African American neighborhood. This area corresponds with the city’s 7th Ward, roughly bounded by Governor Street, Canal Street, and Lincoln Avenue. At the turn of the 20th century, segregation laws had forced some 54% of the African American population to live in this area. There were a number of Baptist churches in this area, and the name was originally a pejorative that played on the stereotype of “all blacks as Baptist.” Baptisttown residents, however, co-opted the term for their own and it became a source of pride. “Over 200 businesses, civic organizations, churches, and social clubs located in Baptisttown during its heyday between 1930 and 1960” (i).

An area with a vibrant social and cultural life, yes, but this area had its share of crime and poverty-related problems. “While no group escaped the economic devastation of the Great Depression, few suffered more than African Americans. Said to be “last hired, first fired,” African Americans were the first to see hours and jobs cut, and they experienced the highest unemployment rate during the 1930s. Since they were already relegated to lower-paying professions, African Americans had less of a financial cushion to fall back on when the economy collapsed” (ii). Housing, in particular, was deplorable. The houses seen below are on Days Row, the northeast side of Canal Street, between 10th Street and Governor Street. The surrounding 10 acres was the site of the city’s worst slum. These dwellings appear ready to fall apart. There was no insulation, inadequate or non-existent indoor sanitation, and certainly no central heating. No one would want to live here; no one should have to live here. In addition, the (iii) that “the district was recognized as a breeding ground of crime and epidemics. Its efficiency in filling jails and hospitals was well known. Scarlet fever, diphtheria, malaria, and typhoid fever thrived. Deaths from tuberculosis ran high.”

Top Image: MSS 181-0936 Bottom Image: MSS 181-1348, Darrel Bigham Collection

The area’s housing stock consisted of small structures, many little more than shacks. Most were rental units. At the turn of the twentieth century, only 9 percent of black household heads in Evansville owned their own home, and in the three census districts in Baptisttown with the largest number of African American residents the figure fell to a miniscule 6 percent. Most of those who did own their dwellings belonged to the small black middle class consisting of teachers, barbers, and owners of small businesses who remained in the area because they had few options. … These dilapidated structures generally had no connection to city sewers and most still relied on cisterns for their water supply” (iv). Several efforts over the years to deal with this failed due to financial constraints. But persistence paid off! In 1933 William Best, principal of Lincoln High School (a black school located on the edge of this area) “approached Mayor Frank Griese “to determine if there is a possibility of cleaning up conditions in Baptisttown,” perhaps with federal funds” (v).

One of FDR’s alphabet-soup attempts to put the brakes on the Great Depression was the Public Works Administration. “Language in the 1933 legislation that created the Public Works Administration (PWA) “broke open the door to the nation’s first significant public housing experiment.” The PWA’s Housing Division conducted that experiment, which continued until the advent of the United States Housing Authority in 1937, and it marked “the first direct federal intervention into the housing market in the United States during peacetime.” Over the course of its brief and often controversial existence, the Housing Division was the direct builder of fifty-one projects in thirty-six cities” (vi).

With federal funding now feasible, the City Plan Commission et al immediately conducted a housing survey and worked to garner public support, enabling it to submit a proposal on April 17, 1934. The Housing Division began work on an internal review, and correspondence flowed between interested locals and federal employees. In August, a site visit was conducted, and Evansville was notified that its proposal had made the cut as one that warranted more detailed consideration. More correspondence and documentation were exchanged, and in March 1935 then mayor William Dress and others were informed that “because of the Housing Division’s “sound standards of construction,” it could not set rents low enough to be “satisfactory for the income group we are trying to rehouse in Evansville.” Since the city had a “limited group of families of sufficient income to meet our rents,” federal officials had deemed it “inadvisable to make final disposition of the Evansville project” for the time being. Proponents should not, however, “abandon all hope”” (vii). Negotiations resolved this issue, and the project was back on track.

There was one final hurdle to cross. Early on there had been debate as to where to build this new housing. Some felt that it was cheaper to use undeveloped land on the outskirts of town, while others argued for replacing sub-standard housing in the same location. The second argument won the day; now, what to do with those who would be displaced during the demolition and construction? Options for dealing with this were ironed out, supported by cooperation with the YMCA. “The final few months of 1935 witnessed a flurry of activity. The Housing Division required that its projects have a local advisory committee, and Mayor Dress had named such a group in May. The eleven members included several businessmen (including [industrialist Richard] Rosencranz, who became chairman of the committee, and A. W. Hartig, who served as its secretary), the city’s superintendent of schools, a judge, a minister, and the president of Evansville College. Two members represented the African American community: Dr. Raymond King, a dentist, and Mrs. L. A. George, a Lincoln High School teacher who had been involved in anti-tuberculosis and child welfare work. In December, officials in Washington approved the plans submitted by the consortium of local architects, and an Evansville company received the contract to demolish buildings in the Lincoln Gardens area” (viii).

Portion of Baptisttown razed for the construction of Lincoln Gardens, 1937. Source: UASC, MSS 181-0354.
Portion of Baptisttown razed for the construction of Lincoln Gardens, 1937. Source: UASC, MSS 181-0354.

The Chicago firm of A. Smith and Company won the construction contract with a bid of $483,333. The land cost $161,480.40 and the foundations $70,335.85. Superstructure costs, architects’ fees, and administrative expenses brought the total to $715,148 (ix). What about those concerns with the original cost making rental costs prohibitive? They were lowered by switching from a brick exterior to a brick veneer, and by eliminating a central heating plant in favor of individual heating stoves. Additional economies of scale were had by increasing the number of units to 191 in 16 buildings, instead of the original 138 units in 12 buildings (x).

Men laying concrete at Lincoln Gardens, n.d. Source: UASC, MSS 284-0119.
Men laying concrete at Lincoln Gardens, n.d. Source: UASC, MSS 284-0119.

By January 16, 1938, the project was 65% complete (xi), with full occupancy expected by June 17 (xii). The cornerstone was laid April 23, 1938. Mrs. L.A. George, a teacher at Lincoln and active participant in the planning process, called it “a requiem to the dead –the old Baptisttown. Today is one of the happiest days of our lives. It marks the building of a different set of men in the colored race, boys and girls who will see beauty in the project and rise to it. Give us more schools, teachers, and slum clearance like this, and we won’t ask anything else (xiii). The Evansville Argus, a black newspaper, carried the glad news of Lincoln Gardens’ grand opening on July 1, 1938. “The apartments are made of 2-3 and 4 rooms that rent from $10.95 to $14.95 per month for the 2 rooms, $16.40 and $18.70 for the 3 rooms, and $19.35 to $23.35 for the 4 rooms. [These] rates include electricity for lights and refrigeration, gas for cooking purposes and hot water. Each apartment has an individual heater. … There are 191 apartments that include 40, 2 rooms; 121, 3 rooms and 30, 4 rooms. Each apartment comes equipped with an individual coal bin” (xiv). Another newspaper provided further information: the ceilings were white, the walls gray, the floors hardwood in the living and bedrooms, with ceramic tile in the bathroom (which included a lavatory and tub), and Havana brown linoleum flooring in the kitchen. The kitchen included the gas hot water heater, electric refrigerator, gas stove, built-in work table and cabinets, and a built-in combination sink and laundry (xv).

Example of a Lincoln Gardens apartment bedroom and kitchen. Photos courtesy of the Evansville African American Museum,
Example of a Lincoln Gardens apartment bedroom and kitchen. Photos courtesy of the Evansville African American Museum,
Example of a Lincoln Gardens apartment living room. Photos courtesy of the Evansville African American Museum,
Example of a Lincoln Gardens apartment living room. Photos courtesy of the Evansville African American Museum,

The local manager for Lincoln Gardens was Dr. Raymond B. King, a graduate of Indiana University School of Dentistry. “Dr. King is well-known in civic affairs of Negroes in Evansville and was an active worker with the Red Cross during the flood of 1937. He has been a member of the Evansville Advisory Committee on Housing and was particularly active in the development of Lincoln Gardens.” King was responsible for choosing which of the applicants would live in Lincoln Gardens (xvi). By July 1, 1938, there were 300 applicants, with only 65 chosen (xvii). “The government employed several criteria in the selection of residents. An applicant’s “fidelity and character” had to be “well established.” The federal George-Healey Act of 1936 specified that families would be eligible only if they currently lived in substandard housing and their monthly income did not exceed five times the rent (or six times for families with three or more minor dependents). … Low income, however, did not mean no income. As Dr. King explained several months later, “public housing is for poor people, yes, but for the poor who show some sign of being able to pay rent regularly” (xviii).

Exterior of the Evansville African American Museum, housed in a unit of the former Lincoln Gardens, n.d. Source:
Exterior of the Evansville African American Museum, housed in a unit of the former Lincoln Gardens, n.d. Source:

The final family moved into its apartment on December 20, 1938. In total, 509 applications were received, 262 approved. Tenant annual incomes ranged from $584 to $1,407, with 39.8% of families representing WPA employment (xix). Although not without its naysayers, Lincoln Gardens was well regarded when it was established, but fast forward through the decades and this is no longer the case. By the 1990’s it had fallen into disrepair, and eventually all but one unit was demolished. That unit was upgraded and remodeled into the Evansville African American Museum. Within the museum is a full-size model of one of the apartments: living room, bedroom, and kitchen. The full text of the historical marker reads: “African Americans settled in Evansville in the early 1800’s and established a vibrant community here in Baptisttown by 1890. Segregation and discrimination led to a section of overcrowded, dilapidated buildings. With citizen support, city officials applied for New Deal funding to clear part of this area in the 1930s and develop a federal housing project, Lincoln Gardens. Opened in 1938, Lincoln Gardens provided low-cost housing managed by and for African Americans. During World War II, occupants started a club for African American service members barred from the local USO. Lincoln Gardens served as a community center for decades. Saved from demolition, this building opened as the Evansville African American Museum in 1999.”

The story of Lincoln Gardens does not end here. Be sure to read “A Baptisttown Requiem,” part 2 when it is published.

Reference Consulted

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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:
James M. Cox. n.d.

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 Democrat. 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:
Wendell Wilkie, c. 1940.

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:
Thomas Dewey, c. 1940’s.

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
President-elect Harry S. Truman enjoying “the joke’s on you”. Source:
George Wallace, 1968. Source:
George Wallace, 1968.

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:
President portrait of Gerald Ford, n.d.

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.

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“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:
In Point Pleasant, OH, Ulysses S. Grant’s birthplace was nearly submerged by flood waters on January 26, 1937. Source:

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.

Flooding History in Louisville. Louisville MSD

The Floods.

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

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