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Archives - 2020


The Hoosier History Live archives are now organized by year. See the links above for all 10 years of our show descriptions and resources.

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Ask Nelson - and Chris May, too - about high school basketball history and more

Ask Nelson...and Chris May, too.

(February 22, 2020) It's time for another of our periodic "Ask Nelson…" shows. This time around our host, author and historian Nelson Price, is joined by a co-host, Chris May, executive director of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle. The Hall of Fame is a museum with interactive exhibits exploring the evolution of the high school sport from its debut in the state during the 1890s to the current season.

The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame is a museum with interactive exhibits exploring the evolution of the high school sport. Courtesy Indiana  Basketball Hall of Fame.Why is the hall of fame located in New Castle? That's just one of the questions Chris May addresses when he and Nelson interview each other in between phone calls from listeners.

At any point during the show, listeners are invited to call in with questions for Nelson and Chris. The WICR-FM studio number is (317) 788-3314.

During the show, Chris describes the high school basketball exploits of Hoosiers who achieved fame in endeavors unrelated to sports. They include iconic movie star James Dean, a member of the class of '49 at the former Fairmount High School, where he was an impressive basketball player; astronomer Edwin Hubble (the revolutionary Hubble Telescope was named in his honor), who was a coach at New Albany High School; and Hill Street Blues actor Michael Warren, who was an outstanding player in the 1960s at the former South Bend Central High School.

In addition, Nelson shares history insights related to the Diamond Chain Company, following news that its 102-year-old plant in downtown Indianapolis near the White River will close. The business actually predates the plant, which opened in 1918. Founded in 1890 by entrepreneurs who included Arthur Newby (later a partner with Carl Fisher and others in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway), Diamond Chain began by making bicycle chains. According to historic accounts, the "diamond" in the company's name was chosen because it implies perfection.

High school basketball coaching legend Bill Berberian, now 95, is a veteran of the WWII Battle of the Bulge. Courtes WLFI.comThe company gradually expanded beyond bicycle chains to manufacture roller chains of many kinds; the plant in downtown Indy currently makes high-performance chains for various industrial uses. Following a series of acquisitions, the business was purchased last year by Timken Co., which is based in Akron, Ohio. Company officials recently announced they will phase out the Indianapolis facility - and eliminate 240 jobs there - during the next two to three years. History fact: Newby's success with Diamond Chain and other endeavors enabled him to live in one of the first mansions built on Meridian Street north of 38th Street; Tarkington Tower is now on the site of his long-demolished, spacious home.

During our show, Chris May describes the history associated with two Hoosiers who will be inducted (one of them posthumously) into the basketball hall of fame. West Lafayetteresident Bill Berberian, now 95, is a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.

"His name is so synonymous with West Lafayette High School basketball that the Red Devils play in Berberian Gymnasium," Chris notes. The majority of Bill Berberian's 31-year career as a coach was spent at the high school, where he coached the team in 1979 to its first regional win in the school's history. Chris also will discuss Davage Minor, a 1941 graduate of the former Froebel High School in Gary; Minor, who died in 1998, had the distinction of being the first African-American from Indiana to play in the NBA.

Listeners are invited to call in and share their pick for the greatest team in Indiana high school history. Those frequently mentioned as contenders, Chris May notes, include three state championship teams from Indianapolis: The 1955 and ’56 teams from Attucks High School and the 1969 team at Washington High School

Listener phone calls during our show are not restricted to the history topics that Chris and Nelson plan to discuss. The two will welcome questions, comments and insights about any slice of Indiana's heritage.


Roadtrip: Dublin, Ind., and the historic Woman's Rights Convention

A traction train can be seen in the distance on the railroad tracks that ran down Main Street in Dublin, Ind., in the early 20th century. Dublin was the site of the Indiana Woman’s Rights Convention in October 1851. Courtesy dublinin.org.

Guest Roadtripper George Hanlin, director of grants at Indiana Humanities and a sixth-generation Hoosier, suggests we head east of Indianapolis on the Old National Road, U.S. 40, to visit the small town of Dublin, Ind., which lies a few miles west of Richmond

Dublin has the distinction of being the site of the Indiana Woman's Rights Convention, convened in October 1851, just three years after the nation's first woman's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. 

Few would call Indiana a bastion of progressive politics, but Hoosier women and their male allies led one of the earliest women's rights movements in the country. In 1852 they formed the Indiana Woman's Rights Association, which eventually became the Indiana Woman's Suffrage Association, which worked for nearly 70 years to secure women's rights to vote.

A historic marker now memorializes the site of the convention; it's just one stop on a "Woman's Suffrage Automobile Tour" recommended by the Indiana Historical Bureau

As for Dublin itself, George tells us there's not a heck of a lot else to do there. In the spirit of Hoosier Roadtripping, however, driving down the Old National Road allows us to visit some great small towns along the way. And the fantastic Huddleston Farmhouse, a pioneer-era farm and inn restored by Indiana Landmarks,  is just a mile to the east of Dublin. 

Happy cruising down the highways of Hoosier History!

History Mystery

This 1920s-era basketball testifies to the fact that orange has not always been the standard color. A famous Hoosier basketball coach is credited with first suggesting the change. Who was he?

Basketballs have not always been orange. Before the late 1950s, most basketballs were brown - sometimes described as "muddy brown" - whether the game was being played by a high school, college or professional team.

A famous Hoosier is credited with suggesting that orange would be a better color, primarily because the ball could be seen easily by all spectators, even those seated far from the court. After 1958, orange became the standard color for basketballs.

Question: Who was the famous Hoosier?

Hint: He was a legendary coach, although not at the high school level.

The prizes this week are a gift certificate to Story Inn in Brown County, courtesy of Story Inn, and two tickets to the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, courtesy of the Studebaker National Museum.

About Vonnegut, and the misconceptions about him

Julia Whitehead, CEO of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, joined host Nelson Price on Feb. 15 to talk about "Vonnegut and an array of misconceptions." Calling in was guest Dan Simon, founder of Seven Stories Press, the New York-based publisher of Vonnegut's final three books. Courtesy Molly Head.


Vonnegut and an array of misconceptions

Although one of the most famous literary figures to emerge from Indiana, Kurt Vonnegut isn't as well understood as we might think. In this show we explore common misconceptions and assumptions that fail to capture the nuances of his life, personality and beliefs. Courtesy Indiana University.

(February 15, 2020) Some folks assume Kurt Vonnegut seldom visited Indianapolis after he achieved fame. Others claim the literary lion disliked his hometown - intensely and continuously - until his death in April of 2007.

Julia WhiteheadStill others make assumptions about his religious and spiritual beliefs. Then there are those who think of him as a curmudgeon. And those who assume that most of Vonnegut's extended family members remain involved in the multi-generational hardware business that his great-grandfather, Clemens Vonnegut, founded in the 1850s.

Our show explores a range of misperceptions - as well as aspects that are much more nuanced than often assumed - related to the author of the classic Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) and other bestselling books, including the semi-autobiographical Palm Sunday (1981).

Clemens Vonnegut (1824-1906), great-grandfather to novelist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., founded a hardware store in Indianapolis in the 1850s.We also explore little-known episodes in Vonnegut's life. Nelson's studio guest Julia Whitehead, executive director of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library in Indianapolis, will talk about how Vonnegut and his first wife, Jane, were inadvertently involved in the cruel hoax that became known as "reverse Freedom Rides" during the turbulent 1960s. Tune in to hear details about the infamous "rides" initiated by segregationists in the Deep South - and the connection to Cape Cod, Mass., where the Vonneguts had a home.

Julia and Nelson are joined during the show by Dan Simon, founder of Seven Stories Press, the New York-based publisher of Vonnegut's final three books, including A Man Without a Country (2005). In addition to being Vonnegut's publisher, Dan was his editor and friend.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was born in Indianapolis in 1922. His grandfather, Bernard, a well-known architect, was the only one of Clemens Vonnegut's four sons not to be involved for an extended period in the hardware business.

Clemens was a local leader of the German Freethinkers, which Hoosier History Live explored during a show last June. Clemens' grandson, Kurt Sr., was the architect for a Unitarian church in Indianapolis and attended services there.

In Palm Sunday, Kurt Jr. refers to himself as a "Christ-worshiping agnostic." In other references, he describes himself as an atheist, but his works frequently include biblical references and analogies. Our guest Julia Whitehead notes that Vonnegut credited a childhood nanny for much of his early spiritual instruction.

History Mystery

Scene from an off-Broadway revival of a play written in 1970 by Kurt Vonnegut. What is the name of the play?

Although Kurt Vonnegut was best known for his novels and short stories, he also wrote a play. It opened on Broadway in 1970. The next year, a movie version with the same title, based on a screenplay Vonnegut wrote himself, was released. 

The central character in both the play and movie is a war hero and big-game hunter who has disappeared but then returns to his family after an absence of eight years.

In 2016, the Indianapolis Opera used the play as the basis for a production, retaining the title.

Question: What is the name of the Vonnegut work that began as a play in 1970?

The prizes this week are four tickets to An Afternoon with Dave Eggers, courtesy of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, and two tickets to the Indiana Medical History Museum, courtesy of the Indiana Medical History Museum.

Celebrating the life of Rev. Boniface Hardin

Joseph Smith Sr. (left), a retired attorney and longtime friend of Rev. Boniface Hardin, joined host Nelson Price in studio on Feb. 8 to discuss the Reverend's life and impact. Nelson is holding Nancy Chism's new biography of Hardin, Pickin' Cotton on the Way to Church. Nancy joined the discussion by phone. Courtesy Molly Head.


The life and impact of Rev. Boniface Hardin

Hoosier History Live salutes Black History Month with an exploration of the life of Rev. Boniface Hardin (1933-2012). Among his many achievements, Father Hardin founded Martin University, the only predominantly African-American institution of higher learning in Indiana. Courtesy WTHR.

(February 8, 2020) With what was often described as a "cloud of white hair" and a distinctive beard, Rev. Boniface Hardin would have drawn attention even if he had not emerged during the 1960s as one of the most prominent civil rights activists in Indianapolis.

As Hoosier History Live salutes Black History Month, we explore the impact of Father Hardin (1933-2012), the founder of Martin University, the only predominantly African-American institution of higher learning in Indiana. He was among the first wave of black students to attend St. Meinrad Seminary in southern Indiana during the 1940s and '50s; when Father Hardin was ordained in 1959, he was one of only 88 black Catholic priests in the country.

The nearly 50 years he was based in Indianapolis were eventful, to say the least.

When Father Hardin was ordained in 1959, he was one of only 88 black Catholic priests in the country. Courtesy Indiana Historical Society.Because of his outspoken support of teenage protesters during the late 1960s, some civic leaders urged the Archbishop of Indianapolis to have him recalled to St. Meinrad. When that seemed likely, dozens of his supporters at Holy Angels Parish walked out of Mass on Easter Sunday in 1969, drawing national media attention.

In addition to Father Hardin's unflagging advocacy on behalf of disenfranchised people - and his crusade to provide new educational opportunities - he was well known in later years for his public re-enactments of one of his role models: 19th-century abolitionist Frederick Douglass, to whom he bore a remarkable physical resemblance.

To share insights about Father Hardin, who had a soft voice but a compelling, folksy speaking style, two guests join Nelson in studio:

  • Nancy Chism, the author of a new biography of Father Hardin, Pickin' Cotton on the Way to Church (Indiana Historical Society Press). Nancy, who retired as associate vice chancellor of IUPUI, chairs Martin University's board of trustees.
  • And Joseph Smith Sr., a retired attorney and former parishioner at Holy Angels. His family had a decades-long friendship with Father Hardin.

Father Hardin was born and grew up in Kentucky. He came to Indiana, as our guest Nancy Chism reports in her biography, after he was "excluded from the seminaries in Kentucky because of his race."

Nancy ChismFather Hardin's impact on his adopted home state resulted in honors such as being named a Living Legend by the Indiana Historical Society in 2002.

Martin University evolved out of Martin Center, a non-profit organization that Father Hardin founded; it offered workshops on racial harmony, programs for leadership development among African-Americans and a clinic dedicated to testing for and disseminating information on sickle-cell anemia, a severe hereditary disease that is most common among those of African descent.

"With typical disregard for the complexities entailed," Nancy Chism writes, Father Hardin decided that founding a university should be his next mission. He named Martin University (initially known as Martin College) in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Martin de Porres, a Catholic saint who advocated for social justice.

Particularly in the early years, Martin's students primarily were adults who had not been able to attend college immediately after high school. By the 2007-08 academic year, Father Hardin's final term as president, 961 students were enrolled.



Roadtrip: Freetown Village brings African-American history to life

Freetown Village teaches Indiana's black history by re-enacting life in the predominantly African American settlements that were scattered throughout the Hoosier state during the post-Civil War years. Courtesy Freetown Village.

Guest Roadtripper Ophelia Wellington, founding director of Freetown Village, invites us to join her for a "living experience in African American history" to learn about black lives, arts, and culture in Indiana.

Freetown Village, which calls itself "a living history museum without walls," was dreamed up by Ophelia in the early 1980s as a way to teach local African-American history by re-enacting life in the predominantly African American settlements that were scattered throughout Indiana during the post-Civil War years. 

Ophelia tells us that Freetown Village originally came to life as a pilot project for the Indiana State Museum. The project then grew into a long-term exhibit, with actors portraying characters living in the 1870s and performing monologues in the staged settings of a seamstress shop and a barbershop. 

Although the State Museum exhibit closed in 2001, Freetown Village lives on in the form of educational programs performed throughout the Midwest. Ophelia explains that Freetown Village programs have been presented in "schools, churches, libraries, museums, theaters, centers, parks, hotels, offices, gymnasiums, parades, homes, and for almost every type of event or occasion."

Be sure to join Ophelia on this intriguing look into the history of African-American Hoosiers!

History Mystery

The monks who established St. Meinrad in the 1850s in southern Indiana did not come from Germany, although the area has a strong German heritage. What European country did they come from? Courtesy St. Meinrad.

In southern Indiana, St. Meinrad Archabbey, where Boniface Hardin studied for the seminary, is in a scenic part of Spencer County. Like several of the nearby counties, including Dubois County, it has a deep German heritage.

But the monks who established St. Meinrad in the 1850s did not come from Germany. They arrived from an abbey in another European country.

Question: What was the country of origin of the monks who founded St. Meinrad?

The prizes this week are a gift certificate to Story Inn in Brown County, courtesy of Story Inn, and two tickets to Indy's Teeny Statue of Liberty Museum, courtesy of Tim and Julie's Another Fine Mess.


Studebakers: the brothers, the cars and the legacy

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The Studebaker brothers. From left, seated: Clement, Henry and J.M. Standing: Peter and Jacob. Although all of the brothers were involved in the South Bend, Ind., vehicle manufacturing business, Clement, J.M. and Peter were most closely associated with it.

This 1927 Erskine Landau model Studebaker was photographed at Leeper park in South Bend. Courtesy Studebaker National Museum.(February 1, 2020) For many generations of South Bend residents, Studebaker Brothers - which later became the Studebaker Corp. - was the largest employer in town.

It all began in 1852 when the two oldest of five Studebaker brothers - Henry and Clement - opened a blacksmith shop, pursuing a trade they had been taught by their father. By the 1880s, Studebaker was the largest maker of vehicles - wagons, carriages and sleds, at that point - in the world.

Then came the heyday of auto production, with models like the Commander, the President, the moderately-priced Erskine and the luxurious Pierce-Arrow during the 1920s; the Land Cruiser in the 1930s; Champion Regal coupes in the 1950s; and the Avanti and the Daytona during the 1960s. 

Although the final Studebaker car to be assembled in South Bend rolled off the production line in 1963, thousands of aficionados around the world continue to drive them.

Among the most popular destinations for visitors to South Bend is the three-story Studebaker National Museum, where galleries include exhibits of U.S. presidential carriages. Among the crown jewels displayed at the Studebaker museum: the Barouch carriage that transported the Lincolns to Ford's Theatre on the the night of the president's assassination in 1865.

For a motoring excursion through a broad landscape of Studebaker history, our two guests are:

  • Andy BeckmanAndy Beckman of South Bend, the archivist for the Studebaker National Museum and past president of the Society of Automotive Historians. The museum, which has 55,000 square feet and galleries of vintage cars and wagons, also houses the archives of the Studebaker Corp. and other South Bend businesses dating to the 1850s.
  • Bob Palma of Brownsburg, who writes Studebaker columns for auto collector publications, including Hemmings Classic Car magazine; he also serves as the technical editor for the Studebaker Drivers Club's magazine, Turning Wheels. The owner of a fleet of four Astra white 1964 Daytona models (the last model year of South Bend production), Bob is retired from a career that included teaching auto mechanics at Arsenal Tech High School and editing industrial arts textbooks. During the mid-1950s, his father co-owned a Studebaker dealership.

Family connections have been part of the Studebaker heritage since the beginning. The fortunes of the wagon-making business are said to have been jump-started when John Mohler (J.M.) Studebaker, the third of the five brothers, returned from California to invest in his siblings' company. J.M. (1833-1917) had become wealthy by selling wheelbarrows to miners during the Gold Rush.

Bob PalmaAt various times, all five Studebaker brothers were involved in the business, although Clement (1831-1901), J.M. and Peter (1836-1897) were most closely associated with it. Clement's mansion, built during the 1880s and christened Tippecanoe Place, is now home to a popular restaurant in South Bend.

During World War II, Studebaker manufactured trucks and other vehicles used by the military. After the war, the company returned to making popular cars for middle-class Americans; our guest Bob Palma notes their 1947 models were touted with the slogan "first by far with a postwar car."

Other history facts:

  • Perhaps the most famous Studebaker models were the "bullet-nosed" cars of the early 1950s. Bullet-nosed Champions, Commanders and Land Cruisers were manufactured then.
  • Although Studebaker was based in South Bend, the Hoosier city wasn't the only site of its plants. In fact, a factory in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, continued to build cars for a few years after assembly operations in South Bend closed in 1963. During our show, guest Bob Palma explains how he and other enthusiasts obtain replacement parts for the cherished Studebakers that they continue to drive.
  • Studebaker cars competed in the Indianapolis 500 during the early 1930s. For the 1962 race, the newly introduced Daytona convertible was the pace car.


Roadtrip: Culbertson Mansion in New Albany

Ornately painted plasterwork is among the opulent architectural and design details that delight visitors to the Culbertson Mansion in New Albany. Courtesy Indiana State Museum.

Guest Roadtripper Kisha Tandy, Curator of Social History at the Indiana State Museum, suggests a visit to southern Indiana to visit the Culbertson Mansion in New Albany

As Kisha tells us, the Culbertson Mansion was built in 1867 by William S. Culbertson, who had worked his way up from a lowly clerk in an Albany dry-goods store to own an investment company worth millions. He was the richest man in Indiana at the time of his death in 1892.

The opulence of the Culbertson Mansion reflects the wealth of the man who built it: hand-painted ceilings, a carved staircase, marble fireplaces and elaborate plasterwork are among the details that delight modern-day visitors. Size alone is an impressive feature: The Second-Empire style mansion contains 25 rooms that encompass more than 20,000 square feet. 

But Kisha assures us that this Roadtrip isn't just about the architectural bling: as an official State Historic Site, the Culbertson Mansion seeks to educate visitors about the lifestyle of the Victorian-era moneyed class, as well as that of the servant staff who were responsible for maintaining the affluent household.

Sounds like a bit of Downton Abbey right here in Indiana! Be sure to tune with Kisha for this dramatic Roadtrip!


History Mystery

In the late 1950s, Studebaker Corp. introduced a compact model car - one of the first to be manufactured among major automobile makers in the United States. What was the name of this model, pictured here in its 1961 convertible version? Courtesy Hemmings Motor News.

In 1959, Studebaker Corp. introduced a compact model car. According to our guest Bob Palma, Studebaker's compact model beat the "Big Three" automakers - General Motors, Ford and Chrysler - to the growing small-car market.

After the South Bend plant stopped making cars in 1963, the compact model continued to be built for a few years at Studebaker's smaller assembly plant in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Question: What was the name of Studebaker's compact model car that debuted in 1959?

The prizes this week are two tickets to the Indiana Medical History Museum, courtesy of the Indiana Medical History Museum, and a gift certificate to Story Inn in Brown County, courtesy of Story Inn.



A collector's guide to Indianapolis memorabilia

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A china plate from the long-demolished Claypool Hotel in Indianapolis makes up just one piece of Charles Alexander's staggering collection of hundreds of rare items of Indianapolis memorabilia and ephemera. Courtesy Charles Alexander.

(January 25, 2020) Where do you start in describing a staggering collection of hundreds of rare items of Indianapolis memorabilia and ephemera?

Charles AlexanderA private collection owned by antiques dealer Charles Alexander includes miniature models of iconic structures like the Soldiers and Sailors Monument; he owns two replicas created as the landmark was being constructed during the 1880s and '90s. The historic models differ in appearance because the monument's design was still evolving.

His private collection also includes historic photos and postcards depicting the Woodruff Place neighborhood and bygone Riverside Amusement Park; architectural sketches of the Murat Shrine Temple (now the Murat Theatre at the Old National Centre) and the World War Memorial; embossed silverware from the long-demolished Claypool and Lincoln hotels; Amaco art pottery made in Speedway during the Great Depression; and yearbooks from Shortridge and Arsenal Tech high schools.

Although Charles owns a booth at Midland Arts & Antiques Market, none of his rare Indianapolis memorabilia and ephemera is for sale there. Or anywhere else.

"I love the Indianapolis collection too much to sell any of it," says Charles, 63, who began collecting artifacts related to his hometown's heritage as a teenager in the early 1970s.

Alexander's collection includes miniature models of iconic Indianapolis structures like the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Courtesy Charles Alexander.In addition to describing cherished items in his vast collection (it includes 150 dinner spoons from the Indianapolis Athletic Club, long before it was converted into luxury condos), during our show Charles offers advice for folks who enjoy hunting at garage sales, flea markets, antique booths, auctions and estate sales.

He's been a full-time antiques dealer for more than 35 years. At Midland, he primarily sells china, silverware and vintage furnishings not made in Indianapolis. He also has moonlighted at auction houses including Christy's of Indiana in Indianapolis, Heimel's Auction in Beech Grove and Burgess Auctions in Knightstown. Those gigs often enable him to get first dibs on rare Indy memorabilia to add to his ever-expanding collection.

Some listeners may recall Charles from his memorable appearance on the PBS series Antiques Roadshow when the program was filmed at the Indiana Convention Center in 2000. Charles, who emphasizes that he's not an appraiser, showed up with a rare World War I poster for which he had paid $35. It turned out to be worth an amount that Charles describes as "far, far more than that."

Fortunately, his Arts & Crafts-style house, which was built in 1917 in the Meridian Park neighborhood, has an attic, a basement and spare bedrooms for storage of his Indianapolis memorabilia and ephemera.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Charles has won the History Mystery prize several times on Hoosier History Live, sometimes drawing on knowledge gleaned while finding local treasures.

He also has put his knowledge to use at the Indiana State Fair, where he has judged 18 categories, primarily pottery and china. In addition, Charles has taught classes in antique china, pottery, glass and silver at various auction houses.

He offers up this tidbit of advice for collectors, using the popular Woodruff Place Flea Market as an example:

"Don't go expecting to find a specific item or treasure. Go to Woodruff Place to enjoy the historic neighborhood that it is. If you find something wonderful, that will be the icing."



History Mystery

This 1928 photograph of Riverside Amusement Park in Indianapolis includes serpentine roller coaster tracks in the background. Can you name one of the two roller coasters that were among the park's most popular attractions?

Riverside Amusement Park, the iconic entertainment center northwest of downtown Indianapolis that opened in 1903, was depicted in dozens of postcards, including some in the collection of guest Charles Alexander. For many decades, among the most popular attractions at Riverside were two massive roller coasters. Children and teenagers often debated which of the two roller coasters was more frightening.

After flourishing for more than 60 years, Riverside closed in 1970. The two dueling roller coasters were removed from the site, along with the other rides and attractions, which included a Ferris wheel, a miniature railroad and a water slide.

Question: Name at least one of the two roller coasters at bygone Riverside Amusement Park.

The prizes this week are a gift certificate to Story Inn in Brown County, courtesy of Story Inn, and two admissions to the Indiana State Museum, courtesy of the Indiana State Museum.


Celebrating a century of women's suffrage

Guests Sally Perkins (left) and Jill Chambers joined host Nelson Price for our January 18 show to talk about "Women's suffrage crusade in Indiana and beyond." Courtesy Molly Head.


Women's suffrage crusade in Indiana and beyond

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Leaders in the women's suffrage movement toured the United States to promote their cause. Included in this group is Marie Stuart Edwards (middle) from Peru, Ind., who became prominent in the National League of Women Voters. Courtesy indianasuffrage100.org

(January 18, 2020) The upcoming 100th anniversary of women's voting rights is certainly a reason to celebrate, but the history made in 1920 was the result of a long, arduous struggle, with setbacks, conflicts and crusaders who would not give up.

All of that was true both nationally and in Indiana, so Hoosier History Live is exploring an array of aspects of the women's suffrage movement that led up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment on Aug. 26, 1920.

Indianapolis suffragist May Wright Sewall (1844-1920), who served as an educator and civic leader in addition to founding The Propylaeum, became a top lieutenant of Susan B. Anthony.Our deep dive includes a look at the roots of the suffragist campaign (there are links to abolitionists during the Civil War), conflicts among them over the best strategies to pursue, and a setback in the Hoosier state in 1917.

That's when the Indiana General Assembly approved suffrage legislation and nearly 40,000 Hoosier women registered to vote - only to have the act swiftly struck down by the courts before the women could cast ballots.

In Indiana, historians point to the tiny town of Dublin in Wayne County as the birthplace of women's suffrage. The first women's rights convention in the state was held there in 1851, three years after a landmark national convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y.

The Indiana Women's Suffrage Centennial, a statewide network of women's and history organizations, is organizing a year-long series of events and programs to commemorate various milestones including Jan. 16, 1920, when Indiana became the 26th state to adopt the 19th Amendment.

For this show, Nelson is joined in studio by two guests:

  • Indianapolis-based storyteller Sally Perkins, whose presentation about the suffrage movement, "Digging in Their Heels," is popular with civic groups, educators and others. She will share insights about women who felt left behind by suffrage (including African-Americans), why states in the West tended to be among the first to grant voting rights to women, and other aspects of the crusade that often are overlooked.
  • And Jill Chambers, president of the Indiana Women's History Association and a member of the Indianapolis Propylaeum, a historic hub for women's advocacy. The Propylaeum, along with Indiana Humanities, the Indiana Historical Society and the Indiana Historical Bureau, are among the organizations involved with the Indiana Women's Suffrage Centennial.

Sally PerkinsThe Propylaeum was founded by Indianapolis suffragist, educator and civic leader May Wright Sewall (1844-1920), who became a top lieutenant of Susan B. Anthony. Jill Chambers discusses Sewall as well as Grace Julian Clarke (1865-1938), a suffragist who was based in Irvington; like Sewall, she founded civic organizations and eventually became a peace activist.

Events and programs commemorating the suffrage centennial and related topics include Be Heard: Women's Voices in Indiana, an exhibit that opened Jan. 11 at the Indiana History Center.

Elsewhere in the state, events include a reception at the Monroe County History Center in Bloomington that kicks off a year-long exhibit about the 19th Amendment. In South Bend, history lovers enjoyed "Secure the Vote," an exhibit at the University of Notre Dame School of Law.

Jill ChambersSome events already have occurred in Dublin, the site of the 1851 convention. That historic gathering, which was attended by men as well as women, was held at a Quaker meeting house.

A marker from the Indiana Historical Bureau stands today on the site of the convention, which resulted in an advocacy group that eventually became known as the Indiana Woman's Suffrage Association.

During our show, guest Sally Perkins discusses what she calls the "second generation" of suffragists. "The second generation had new ideas about strategy," Sally says, noting many of them observed the efforts of crusaders for women's rights in Great Britain.

Also during our show, Sally shares insights about the role of Prohibition in women's suffrage. She describes the advocacy for Prohibition among many suffragists as a "double-edged sword" for the movement:

 "It convinced many conservative women to begin supporting the movement, but also stirred up a strong anti-suffrage coalition among those in the brewing, farming, banking and railroading industries, among others."

Roadtrip: Kellar Grist Mill in Jennings County

The Kellar Grist Mill site just south of Brewersville in Jennings County, southeast of Indianapolis. Courtesy Duane Hall.

Mill founder Adam Kellar chiseled a mill race out of bedrock between two stretches of a loop on Sand Creek. Courtesy Duane Hall.Guest Roadtripper and adjunct professor Ken Marshall suggests that we learn more about the hard work and delayed gratification of early Hoosier settlers by visiting the Kellar Grist Mill site just south of Brewersville in Jennings County, southeast of Indianapolis

Ken tells us that Adam Kellar began chiseling a mill race out of bedrock between two stretches of a loop on Sand Creek, starting in 1813, and completed the job after ten years of labor. 

When the grist mill opened in 1823, it was used to grind corn and saw lumber, and it became an important part of the local economy. Flatboats carried mill products from Jennings County as far as New Orleans. 

A state road to mill was built in1834, and Brewersville was established in 1837, named after its founder Jacob Brewer.

In 1937, a flood damaged the mill and it closed. Almost a century later, the site attracts picnickers, kayakers, and explorers interested in Indiana's pioneer settler heritage.

So whether you love history, nature, or both, break out of your daily grind and find some "grist for the mill" on this exciting Roadtrip!


History Mystery

Our mystery woman was Indiana's second female to serve as lieutenant governor, between Kathy Davis and Sue Ellspermann, and the first to be elected to the office, rather than appointed. Who is she?

Although Indiana never has elected a woman as governor, four women have served as lieutenant governor. In 2003, Kathy Davis, a Democrat, became the first when Gov. Joe Kernan, who had been lieutenant governor, appointed her after he moved up from the position when Gov. Frank O'Bannon died in office.

In November 2004, a Republican who had a long career in the Indiana State Senate became the first woman to be elected lieutenant governor. She served as the state's 49th lieutenant governor until early 2013. Her successor was Sue Ellspermann, who stepped down in 2016 to become the president of Ivy Tech Community College.

Question: Who was the first woman to be elected (not appointed) lieutenant governor in Indiana?

The prizes this week are two admissions to Indy's Teeny Statue of Liberty Museum on East 10th Street, courtesy of Tim and Julie's Another Fine Mess, and two admissions to the Indiana History Center, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society.



The legacy of Indy native James Baskett and Song of the South

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(January 11, 2020) Even specialists in African-African history could be forgiven for drawing a blank at the mention of the name of Indianapolis native James Baskett. In spite of being the first black male actor to win an Oscar - for a role in which he sang a song that also won an Academy Award - Baskett's place in the annals of African-American history seems to be largely forgotten.

In 1948 James Baskett received an honorary Academy Award for his role in Disney's Song of the South. That's because the role for which Baskett won his honorary Oscar was that of Uncle Remus in the much maligned, now virtually banned film Song of the South. The Disney musical was a modest hit when it was released in 1946, but changing sensibilities about race over the past three quarters of a century have made the film toxic to the image-conscious studio.

Disney chose not to release the film for home viewing during the 1980s VCR boom; nor did they cash in on a DVD release in recent decades. With the 2019 advent of the Disney+ streaming service, Song of the South has once again found itself locked out of the Magic Kingdom. 

And not without good cause. Film critics and historians have condemned the film's sweetly nostalgic portrayal of the social hierarchy of the post-Civil War, Reconstruction-era South. As Guardian film blogger Xan Brooks put it recently, "the film trades in a dubious form of myth-making - implying that African-Americans stuck below the Mason-Dixon line were a cheerful bunch who liked nothing better than going fishing, spinning tall tales and looking after white folks' kids."

The very title of the film and its focus on song can be viewed as perpetuating a racist myth. As 19th century abolitionist Frederick Douglass - who himself escaped slavery - commented, the singing of enslaved people in the Southern United States was not evidence of their contentment or happiness.

"It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake," Douglas wrote. "Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy."

Brer Rabbit in Song of the South. The origin of the character can be traced to folklore in native African cultures.But does the film deserve to be virtually banned, especially when a novel like Gone with the Wind and its 1939 film adaption - with all their racial stereotyping, glorification of white privilege and perpetuation of the myth of the "happy slave" - are still held up as classics?

Does Song of the South have anything to offer the modern viewer? Does the legacy of Hoosier James Baskett deserve to be reevaluated? 

To explore these questions and more, Hoosier History Live associate producer and guest host Mick Armbruster is joined in studio by two guests. They are:
  • Film historian Eric Grayson, who specializes in the collection and preservation of vintage films;
  • and Ophelia Wellington, director of Freetown Village, a living history museum she founded in 1982 out of a desire to teach African American history.

We also look into how Baskett's portrayal of the Uncle Remus character might teach us something about the role of folklore in African-American culture, and explore how the content of his tales - with their focus on the archetypal trickster Brer Rabbit - can be traced back to folklore found among native cultures in Africa.

And while our discussion may not leave listeners whistling "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," we hope it does give them an appreciation of the legacy of James Baskett and a more nuanced understanding of the film he starred in.

Roadtrip: Corydon in southern Indiana

The original state Capitol building in Corydon, Ind., which served as Indiana's government center from 1816 to 1825. Courtesy Indiana State Museum.

Guest Roadtripper Jeff Kamm, author and teacher at Zionsville Community Schools, invites us to travel to the southern border of the Hoosier state - and go back in time 200 years - to visit Corydon, Ind.

As Jeff explains, Corydon was founded in 1808 and served as the capital of the Indiana Territory from 1813 until the milestone year of 1816, when Indiana became a state. The town's status as state capital lasted only until 1825, however, when that designation shifted north to Indianapolis.

While visiting Corydon, Jeff suggests you explore the historic Corydon Capitol building that served as the original Statehouse from 1816-1825. You can also check out the Constitution Elm, where delegates drafted Indiana's first state constitution. The tree has long since died, but the trunk has been preserved and encased in a large sandstone monument.

Civil War buffs will want to visit the site of the only Civil War battle fought in Indiana; along with Gettysburg, it's one of only two Civil War battlefields on Northern soil. The Battle of Corydon Memorial Park is located just south of town and remains largely unchanged from when the battle was fought in July of 1863, when Morgan's Raiders crossed the Ohio River into Indiana and continued their way northeast into Ohio.

Don't miss this step back in time with Jeff!


History Mystery

Our mystery Hollywood Hoosier (second from left) was hired by Orson Welles (kneeling) to work on the films Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons.

Sound of the South was released in 1946. Just a few years earlier, in 1942, the novel The Magnificent Ambersons by Indiana author Booth Tarkington was made into a film by director Orson Welles. Welles hired a young man from Indiana with whom he had worked on Citizen Kane to be editor of The Magnificent Ambersons. After filming was complete and Welles was out of the country, the studio put pressure on the Indiana-born editor to shorten the film drastically and even give it a different ending. Welles was furious and blamed the editor for "destroying" the film. 

Question: Who was the Indiana-born editor who drastically altered the original version of Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons?

Hint: The editor went on to have major Hollywood success, including numerous hit films and best director Oscars for West Side Story in 1962 (shared with Jerome Robbins) and Sound of Music in 1965.

The prizes this week are a gift certificate to Story Inn in Brown County, courtesy of Story Inn, and two admissions to the Indiana History Center, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society.  


Centennial of Indy in 1920, Bicentennial era in 2020-21

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In 1920, the city of Indianapolis celebrated its centennial with pageantry; in 1971, its 150th birthday jubilee included the issue of a commemorative coin. In this show, we look back to these celebrations and also look ahead to the 2020 city bicentennial.

(January 4, 2020) With our first show of the new year, Hoosier History Live looks both backward and forward.

That's because our focus is not only on how the city of Indianapolis celebrated its 100th birthday in 1920, but also on how the Hoosier capital plans to salute its bicentennial jubilee, which kicks off in June. We also explore what happened in 1971, when Indy threw a year-long sesquicentennial (or 150th) birthday celebration.

Jeff BennettNelson's studio guest is Deputy Mayor Jeff Bennett of Indianapolis, who is a key figure in planning the upcoming events. The Indianapolis Bicentennial Commission is co-chaired by two former mayors, Greg Ballard and Bart Peterson.

In June 1920, an "Indianapolis Centennial Pageant" at the Coliseum on the Indiana State Fairgrounds consisted of seven "episodes,"  or acts, with titles such as "Coming of the Pioneers" and "Selecting a Site," according to booklets and other memorabilia distributed then. 

Reenactors portrayed such historic characters as early settlers John McCormick and George Pogue; Indiana's first governor, Jonathan Jennings; surveyor Alexander Ralston, who planned the city, and Dr. Isaac Coe, one of the first physicians to arrive in the new state capital.

The grand finale of a six-day birthday party for the city's centennial in 1920 was held at the White River. Thousands of residents lined the river banks for a band concert and enjoyed a parade of illuminated riverboats, followed by fireworks, according to the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis.

In 1971, the city's 150th birthday involved a year-long celebration that included a multimedia extravaganza at the Murat Shrine Temple (now the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre). The Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted a special antique car parade and race. 

A note on the disparity of dates: The city's centennial was celebrated in 1920 after civic leaders decided to identify 1820 as the birth of the city because of a meeting held that year to specify the location of the new state capital. In 1971, however, the founding was defined as 1821, the year when the Indiana General Assembly approved the site and Ralston laid out the city.

Alexander Ralston created the original lat map of Indianapolis in 1821.Hoosier History Live has explored aspects of Indy's deepest history on previous programs. These have included a show in June 2019 about the earliest settlers. The guests were a descendant of McCormick (who built a cabin and tavern in what is now White River State Park) and Jordan Ryan of the Indiana Historical Society, which has launched an Indianapolis Bicentennial Project. In 2013 we explored the life of Ralston (1771-1827), a native of Scotland who helped plan Washington D.C. before coming to the Indiana wilderness and designing the city.

Our guest on this new show, Jeff Bennett, has a history degree from Indiana University and has been deputy mayor since 2016. His career includes serving as Warren Township's trustee and working at Indiana Landmarks, the historic preservation organization.

The Bicentennial that kicks off in June 2020 is being described as the celebration of an "era" because it will extend through May 2021 as a salute to historic events in both 1820 and 1821. The Bicentennial Commission already has endorsed several projects, including some being organized by Visit Indy and Indy Hub.

Jeff Bennett describes those projects during our show as well as a Bicentennial mural series sponsored by the Arts Council of Indianapolis.

Last year, city leaders also invited submissions from artists for a Bicentennial logo. The winning logo will be unveiled later in January.

Community groups, including neighborhood organizations, have been urged to submit proposals that may be endorsed as Bicentennial projects. According to Jeff, the roll-out eventually will involve an announcement every month about endorsed community projects along with partnerships involving various sports, arts, civic and cultural organizations.

History Mystery

1899 newspaper rendering of the cabin John McCormick built on the banks of the White River in 1820, in the area  that would become Indianapolis. What was the name of the town John McCormick (along with George Pogue) traveled from when he came to the site of the future state capital?  Courtesy Mike Todd.

In 1820, the earliest white settlers arrived in the isolated area - primarily swamps and marshland - that was to become Indianapolis. Both of the two first white settlers, John McCormick and George Pogue, made their way to the wilderness area from a town in eastern Indiana. That town, one of the oldest in the state, had been established in 1813. The town is named in honor of its founder, a fur trader who was a member of an influential family in early Indiana.

Question: What town did John McCormick and George Pogue leave to travel to the frontier area that became Indianapolis?

Hint: Today, the town is a city of about 12,700 people.

The prizes this week are a gift certificate to Story Inn in Brown County, courtesy of Story Inn, and four admissions to Indy’s Teen Statue of Liberty Museum on East 10th Steet, courtesy of Tim and Julie's Another Fine Mess.



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