The Blue Bridge: An Owensboro Legend

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

Glover Cary Bridge in Owensboro, Kentucky

Glover Cary Bridge (also known as the Blue Bridge) in Owensboro, Kentucky, 1941. Source: UASC, Thomas Mueller collection, MSS 247-1476.

Scattered along the Ohio River, bridges have connected the Tri-State region together and for travelers of the Midwest. They maybe concrete and steel but they are more than that. They are symbols of history and help connect local communities together. For example, the New Harmony Toll Bridge was iconic to the town of New Harmony, Indiana and Crossville, Illinois, as I previously wrote back in December 2017. One bridge that has stood over the mighty Ohio River for eighty years has been the Glover H. Cary Bridge, locally known as the Blue Bridge in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Before the bridge was opened in 1954, talks about building it started back in August 1937 in Congress. There were three reasons for a bridge were to improve the interstate commerce, improve the postal service, and provide for military and other purposes. Congress created the Owensboro Bridge Commission (OBC) oversee the construction, maintenance, and operation of the bridge near the city of Owensboro. Both Indiana and Kentucky would have to work together on the bridge project because it would be shared between the two states.

Postcard of the Owensboro Bridge.

Postcard of the Owensboro Bridge, circa 1970. Source: UASC, Evansville Postcard collection, RH 033-316.

The bridge was built and completed in June 1940. The construction cost $2,500,000 and the OBC determined a toll would be used to offset the cost. It proved to be a good decision because by September 1940, approximately 7,000 motorists used the bridge a week. It was designed as a cantilever bridge having four spans and over 2,640 feet long (or a half mile long). By 1941, the Owensboro Bridge was entered a national wide contest to see which bridge would be named as the most beautiful American bridge by the American Institute of Steel. It was runner-up to Susquehanna River Bridge in Maryland.

By 1952, the governors of Indiana and Kentucky started discussions whether tolls should continue. This discussion would last for a couple of years and would be successful in 1954. Indiana governor, George Craig, and Kentucky Governor, Lawrence Wetherby, met in French Lick to the toll and agreed the toll wasn’t needed. The tolls were eliminated on August 18, 1954; however, Indiana and Kentucky would share the maintenance cost for the bridge. Fun fact: Dr. Dan M. Griffith, a physician in Owensboro was the first and last individual to pay the toll. Over the years, the Owensboro Bridge hasn’t had to undergo massive construction or issues; however, the bridge was been repaved and painted to retain its blue color.

Owensboro Bridge between Owensboro, Kentucky and Indiana.

The Blue Bridge on the Ohio River, n.d. Source: UASC, Schlamp-Meyer Family collection, MSS 157-1940.

The photographs in this blog are from various collections at the University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) at the David L. Rice Library at the University of Southern Indiana. There are over 44,000 photographs, videos, audio files, and documents available for research. If you need assistance, please contact UASC at archives.rice@usi.edu or (812) 228-5048.

References Consulted

Act Creating the Owensboro Bridge Commission, H. R. 7767, 75th Cong., 1st Sess. (1937). Retrieved from the Library of Congress (Chapter 629), April 22, 2020, from http://www.loc.gov/law/help/statutes-at-large/75th-congress.php

Fees to end August 18: Plan celebration. (1954, July 29). Evansville Courier. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3bvnQgO

Glenn, B. (2018, September 18). Today in history: Owensboro bridge becomes toll free. Owensboro Times. Retrieved from https://www.owensborotimes.com/news/2018/08/today-in-history-owensboro-bridge/

A new route to Owensboro, Ky. Points, and the south via Owensboro bridge. (1940, September 29). Evansville Courier. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2zlg8aL

7000 a week use Owensboro span. (1940, September 29). Sunday Courier and Press. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2XTRBUr

States to share costs span at Owensboro. (1954, July 31). Evansville Press. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3auNUai

Toll-free Owensboro bridge probably by 1957. (1952, February 23). Evansville Courier. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3cNR3nt

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Grandpa, Tell Me About the “Hee Haw” Days

This gallery contains 10 photos.

*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections. Long before Netflix, Hulu, or even cable, primetime television was where people could watch their favorite shows. With the help of a copy of TV … Continue reading

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Independence Day: ISUE Becomes USI

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

2020 marked the 55th anniversary of the founding of the University of Southern Indiana (USI). Most students at USI may not know that USI was originally a satellite campus for Indiana State University (ISU), know from 1965 to 1985 as Indiana State University-Evansville, or ISUE. If it was not for ISU, there would not be a USI. ISU was instrumental in the creation of USI along with Ball State University (when it was first created in 1918).

Donna Mesker at "Free the Eagle" independence petition.

Donna Mesker at “Free the Eagle” independence petition. Source: UASC, UP 08339.

In the 1960’s, numerous businesses were closing and leaving Evansville, leaving many out of work. USI, then known as ISUE, started out as an idea by local community leaders and members. They wanted another public university in Evansville (the other option was the private institution, Evansville College, known as the University of Evansville, today). Once ISU was on board and supported the idea, ISUE became a reality! Classes started at ISUE in the fall of 1965 at the old Centennial School on the west side of Evansville. By 1970, ISUE was moving to the far-west side of Evansville at its current location. USI had a long road ahead before it could be known as USI.

It would take nine more years for ISUE’s independence to a legitimate topic of discussion. In 1984, legislators who supported the independence movement and two more big-named supporters were recognized: the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and then-Indiana Governor, Robert D. Orr (who was from Evansville). A legislative bill was proposed for ISUE independence and was passed in the Indiana Senate for further review in 1985, after a 12-year long battle. ISUE was finally going to become an independent university (Harper, 1984, pg. 1).

Governor Robert Orr signing independence bill in 1985.

Governor Robert Orr signing independence bill, 1985. Source: UASC, UP 19625.

After a long-awaited journey for independence, the Indiana Education Committee voted on Senate Bill #207. The committee passed the bill, 7 to 3. ISUE would finally be granted independence. The ISUE campus and Evansville community held an unprecedented celebration. On April 16, 1985, ISUE become USI: Governor Orr signed the independence bill in the Physical Activities Center (PAC) in front of 1,500 people (Harper, 1985). After the bill signing, Archie the Eagle had a ball and chain on his ankle: in front of a large crowd, the ball and chain was symbolically cut, symbolizing his newly gained “independence”.

Independence bill signing creating USI in 1985.

Independence bill signing creating USI, 1985. Source: UASC, UP 21610.

During the 50th anniversary of USI, the university released footage from the signing of the bill for USI’s independence and unchaining of Archie the Eagle. The clips are available below from YouTube on USI’s official page at https://www.youtube.com/user/uofsouthernindiana.

Happy independence day, USI! Fight on, Screaming Eagles!

Part 1: Mid-America Singers at Independence Day

Part 2: Signing of the Bill

Part 3: Unchaining the Eagle

References Consulted

Ball State University. (2020). History, landmarks, and traditions. https://www.bsu.edu/about/history

Embrey, M. (1985, January 31). Independence issues leaps first hurdle. The Shield. http://digitalarchives.usi.edu/digital/collection/p17218coll4/id/2084

Harper, S. (1984, November 15). Election proved to be a plus for independence. The Shield. http://digitalarchives.usi.edu/digital/collection/p17218coll4/id/1926/rec/1

Harper, S. (1985, April 25). Gov. Orr signs independence bill. The Shield. http://digitalarchives.usi.edu/digital/collection/p17218coll4/id/2079/rec/1

Indiana State University. (2020). History and traditions. https://www.indstate.edu/about/history-and-traditions

Phillips, E. D. & Dorsey, M. A. (1975, November 7). Board of Trustees call for more cooperation; ‘working partnership’ replaces independence. The Shield. pgs. 1, 3. http://digitalarchives.usi.edu/digital/collection/p17218coll4/id/1327/rec/2

University of Southern Indiana. (2020). History. https://www.usi.edu/about/history/

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Archives Madness 2021: And The Winner Is …

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

UASC wants to give a special thank you to all participating institutions in this year’s Archives Madness competition! To learn more about this year’s competing institutions, please visit “Archives Madness 2021: Meet the Competing Institutions” for more information. This year’s competition reached new heights by surpassing the total record of votes cast. The record, which was set in 2020 at 3,843 votes was broken this year. The overall vote total for the 2021 competition was 4,447 votes! From the UASC staff, we thank you again for another successful year!

Now, the moment you have waited for four weeks. We started with sixteen artifacts and only one artifact could be the champion. Ladies and gentleman, the winner of Archives Madness 2021 is …

… the English Teapot from the University of Evansville Libraries! They defeated the defending 2020 Archives Madness champion, Silk Tapestry, also from the University of Evansville Libraries, 360 to 49, in the championship round! Congratulations on a great win and we look forward to seeing how the English Teapot defends its title in the 2022 Archives Madness competition.

Thank you all for voting and we will see you next year!

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Archives Madness 2021: Championship Round

The poll is now closed!

We are down to the final two artifacts: both from the University of Evansville Libraries. If you need to read the artifact descriptions, please visit the blog post, “Archives Madness 2021: Meet the Competitors“.

In the Final 4 round, there were 690 votes cast. As a reminder, the Championship poll closes on Sunday, April 4, 2021, at 11:59 PM.

Results from Final 4

English Teapot defeated 1873 Steinway Piano, 219-126.

Silk Tapestry defeated German Heller Coin (Black Death), 179-166.

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