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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