Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas party -- but where?

Sometimes we come across photos that we can't place for certain -- even if we know the photographer (Hirshburg Studio of Crawfordsville), and several names have been written on the back of the photo. For example, here are some women who worked as telephone switchboard operators, posed by a Christmas tree and a Santa Claus. Are they in Crawfordsville? Where was this picture taken? When? Maybe you can help further identify this photo. The women are: Bottom Row (from left to right): ---, Thelma Johnson, ---, Barbara Westfall, ---, and Bertha Stark; Second Row (from left to right): Stella Hybarger, Gertrude Rafferty, Katherine Cope, "Santa," Carolyn Keeling, and Marie Mayer; Third Row (from left to right): Louise Carroll, Mildred Moore, Pearl Burkett, Mary Travis, Miriam Plank, Jane Scott, and Mary Galloway; Fourth Row (from left to right): Dorothy Holland, Pauline Hamm, Margaret Everhart, Anna Hartung, Ruby Rush, and ---. If you have any information on the people in this photo or the year/location of the party, please let us know! (e-mail or call at 765-362-2242 ext 117).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bischof's Big Store

We have many historic postcards of Montgomery County, and we are happy to reveal our latest acquisition: an interior view of the Louis Bischof Big Store, which was a landmark in Crawfordsville for many years. Louis Bischof came to Crawfordsville at the age of 17 from Terre Haute, Indiana, and soon became a partner of Jacob Ferber who owned a store at the corner of Washington and Main Streets. In 1882, Louis Bischof bought his partner's interest in their store and started his own career as a storekeeper, which would span three more decades. Bischof eventually built a four-story building on the corner of Main and Green streets, opening in 1899, and in 1907 this establishment became "Bischof's Big Store." The store was a cooperative with more than 3,000 area stockholders earning annual dividends (as well as a 5% discount on their purchases). Bischof was a lifelong bachelor and natural salesperson who wore a red carnation every day, which he would buy on the way to work, for more than 40 years. His successful store contained everything in its basement and four floors -- and in mass quantity. This postcard dates from 1908. Bischof's eventually became Goodman's store in the late 1920s but burned to the ground in 1933 in one of the town's most disastrous fires.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ben-Hur at the Strand Theater

You may already be familiar with the 1959 movie version of Ben-Hur starring Charlton Heston, but did you know it was already filmed twice before that as silent films, the first time in 1907, and then again in 1925? The 1925 film starred Ramón Novarro as Judah Ben-Hur.This version was a big hit for MGM, and its cost of $4-$6 million made it the most expensive silent film ever. Your library has preserved a part of a booklet that was circulated in Crawfordsville several weeks before this film was to be shown at the Strand Theater. The movie was shown twice daily for three days beginning on January 10, 1926. You can see a part of the cover here. To see the four-page booklet, view the .pdf at

The middle two pages of the booklet show pictures from the movie with captions describing the scenes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Montgomery County Courthouse, c. 1900

A generous donation a few days ago brought several more important artifacts to our Local History collection. One particularly interesting item was a photograph taken in 1900, from the corner of Main and Washington Streets. The view is looking toward the courthouse, which was completed some 25 years earlier. The buildings seen in this phootgraph still stand today -- but the courthouse no longer has its tower. (If you are wondering where the Veterans monument is, remember that is was not erected until 1906.) This rare view of downtown Crawfordsville at the beginning of the 20th century shows a much simpler life. Automobiles existed -- but much transportation was still done with horses. And the streets are not yet paved! Notice the board walkways that cross both Washington and Main Streets. The woman crossing Washington Street toward the courthouse would have certainly appreciated the opportunity to keep her dress from being soild by the dirt in the street.

Compare the 1900 scene with one taken near the same spot in 1913. The horse carriages you see were merely for a parade. If you look more closley, you can see parked automobiles on the paved streets. Notice also the streetcar tracks that are visible along Main street, south of the courthouse. Crawfordsville sure had changed in a decade!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

More Raybestos photos

In addition to our newly-acquired scrapbook of Raybestos photographs showing when the plant came to Crawfordsville in the early 1950s, we have benefited from a generous loan! Mary McClain has just allowed us to digitize dozens of Raybestos photographs she owns, all for the purpose of sharing these with the community. These rare photographs belonged to her husband, Lyle McClain, who worked for Raybestos for 50 years.

This aerial photograph shows the Wabash Division of Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc., under construction in Crawfordsville. The photograph was taken on September 16, 1951.  A barn adjoining the plant building had not yet been torn down. If you want to see more of these historic images, go to our Image Database and search for "Raybestos" as a keyword.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Scrapbook illustrates Raybestos history

CDPL has recently acquired a scrapbook of photographs and clippings centering on the 1951 construction of the Raybestos-Manhattan plant in Crawfordsville. The scrapbook, a significant addition to the library's historical collection of local industry information, was prepared by Clarence P. Schneider, the first factory manager of the new Wabash Division. Included in the scrapbook are aerial photographs of the plant under construction, many photographs of the work site, and a copy of the full-page ad purchased by Raybestos-Manhattan that was published in the Journal-Review on January 19, 1951, announcing the plans to construct a local plant. A Raybestos-Manhattan veteran, Schneider became general manager of the Wabash division in 1956, and returned to the Passaic, New Jersey area in 1959.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Have you ever seen the heating plant?

Did you know that there was once a central heating system built in Crawfordsville's downtown area to provide heat for homes and stores? In the early years of the 20th century, local citizens organized to create the Crawfordsville Heating Company and undertake this service. The central heating plant, shown in this newly acquired postcard, was built in 1909 -- and the building still exists. If you have driven around Crawfordsville, you have surely passed it numerous times: it is now the Enterprise building, located on Market Street. When the plant was active, its coal-fired boilers heated the water that was pumped through insulated underground pipes throughout the downtown area; the cold water then returned via another pipe to be reheated. The heating plant provided free heat to nearby Culver Hospital.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Speed Connection?

Dian Moore, Reference/Local History staff member, recently wrote about a genealogy project she completed:

"You just never know where you will end when you start genealogy research. Tamara Hemmerlein of the Montgomery County Historical Society and the Lane Place asked me to see if there was any connection between John A. Speed, who was a conductor and station master on the Underground Railroad, and Joshua Speed, considered to be Lincoln's best friend (Joshua Speed was from Louisville, Kentucky, and had a store near Springfield, Illinois). The possibility of a connection between John A. Speed and Lincoln through Joshua Speed seemed slight.

I found three apparently unrelated Speed families in Montgomery County but had no luck until I looked at the obituary for Thomas S. Speed. Thomas Speed was from Kentucky, but his wife, Margaret Hawkins, was an Indianapolis native who lived some time in Crawfordsville. Margaret's sister, Miriam, married Thomas's brother, John J. Speed, in Crawfordsville, on April 17, 1839. Thomas was also a "near relative" (as stated in his Crawfordsville Weekly Journal obituary of April 9, 1892) of James B. Speed, who was Attorney General under Abraham Lincoln. Joshua Speed – Lincoln’s friend – was the brother of James B. Speed.

It appears that John A. Speed had no connection whatsoever with Lincoln – but I did find a tenuous local connection to Lincoln through Thomas S. Speed’s brother who may never have come to Montgomery County but who married a woman who lived in Crawfordsville.

More research showed that another sister of Margaret Hawkins, Louisa, married Edward Canby, one of Crawfordsville's five Civil War Generals. To top it off, John P. Hawkins – brother to Margaret, Miriam, and Louisa – was also one of Crawfordsville’s five Civil War generals."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Susan Elston Wallace letter

Dated July 27, 1890, this original letter was written by Susan Wallace. Born in Crawfordsville, Susan Elston Wallace (1830-1907) penned six books of poetry in addition to publishing poems in numerous magazines and newspapers.

She married General Lew Wallace, noted Crawfordsville citizen and famed author of the novel Ben Hur (1880), in 1852. In reference to her husband's novel, Wallace ends the letter with "As all Ben-Hur's friends are our friends, I am yours."

In honor of her accomplishments as a writer, Susan Wallace's name is engraved on the front exterior of the Crawfordsville District Public Library.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Football season is again on us . . . and it is interesting to look back because Montgomery County has had a long tradition of supporting this sport. The young men in this photograph were members of the Crawfordsville High School football team during the 1901-1902 school year. They are (from left to right) front row: John Sidener and Ward Williams; middle row: Harry Richard, John Shepherd, Glenn Henry, Rome Williams, and Carl Alfrey; back row: Ralph Wicks, Robert Irone, Will Sprow, Niles Haton, Frank Symmes, and Frank Glover. This photograph was printed in the 1902 Crawfordsville High School yearbook, The Utopian. You can see a century of CHS Yearbooks in the Reference Department -- as well as yearbooks for many other schools. See our Yearbook database for details.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Meredith Nicholson Letter

The library has recently acquired a letter from a famous Hoosier author! This letter was written by Crawfordsville native Meredith Nicholson. It was sent to "W. D. H." at 333 N. Delaware Street in Indianapolis, Indiana. The letter is dated November 3, 1946 -- just a year before the author's death. In the letter, Nicholson talks frankly about his writing: "The fiction, long and short, that I did, doesn't matter. I was an essayist."

You can find such documents -- and more -- on our ever-expanding image and document database

Wikipedia article on Meredith Nicholson

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunshine Society at the 1914 County Fair

This picture, featured in CDPL's image database, shows the Sunshine Society booth at the 1914 Montgomery County Fair. Anna Willson is shown behind the booth, 3rd from the left. Can you find another notable Crawfordsville resident who went onto fame with her play about a sensational murder?

Maurine Watkins, the author of Chicago, is believed to be the young woman in a white blouse and black hat behind the booth and is standing beside a young man wearing a bow tie. Maurine Watkins was an officer of the Sunshine Society throughout her years of attendance at Crawfordsville High School and would have been a senior when this photograph was taken. Watkins went on to write the play Chicago in addition to writing screenplays in the 1930s.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Christmas Eve Ball invitation, 1858

On a cold December morning in 1858, some of Crawfordsville’s most influential citizens assembled in McClelland’s Hall for a Christmas Eve Ball. One of the invitations to this illustrious event is inset. Notables ranging from Capt. Lew Wallace (not yet a General) to Isaac Compton Elston, Jr. (a member of “Crawfordsville’s first family”) were present for the festivities. Since newspaper coverage was scarce at the time of the ball, the details of the gathering must be left to the imagination.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

1832 Montgomery County artifact discovered

It is quite rare to find an artifact from the earliest days of our county!

A letter written July 8, 1832 by Ripley Township pioneer Tollaver Larsh (1799-1870) was purchased by the library from James Schiele, of North Dakota, in July 2010. The letter was found by Mr. Schiele in a bag of assorted documents and letters obtained for $6 in a Seattle, Washington antique store. No items related to the Larsh family or the Crawfordsville area were included in the bag except the 1832 letter.

Tollaver Larsh came to the county in 1823 and remained here until his death on November 8, 1870. For his obituary, the Crawfordsville Weekly Journal spoke at length on Larsh's "noble virtues and matchless private character." The letter, that Tollaver wrote to his brother in Ohio, is transcribed here:

July 8, 1832
Sir I received your letter on the fourth [xx?] your
letter states that the farm of Sam'l Larshs can be sold
for fifteen hundred Dollars but I do not think
it would be advisable to sell it fifteen hundred dollars
under its value and the money be put in to the hands
of the Executors and one of them a bankrupt and the other
a drunkard when the rents of the farm has bin and
will be sufficient to rase and educate them childern
if it was conducted in a right manner and as for my
part I pray that I may never be an heir and I
hope the childern may live to be there own guardian
and receive and injoy their fathers estate intrests &
as for my part I never intend sineing my rights a way
and consider the rents and rise of the farm greater than any
way the money would be lade out. our frends and
relations are all well in this countary Cropes are
indifferent I have Cleared and fenced fourteen
Acres of land and have it under good cultivation
Since I left four mile [Four mile Creek, Ohio] and I think that does
very well for one hand tell Sister Anna & Lydia
that I am still at my old vocation I still
remain your most affectionate brother
Tollaver Larsh

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Indiana Telephone News 1939

We have a copy of the Indiana Telephone News from February 1939 -- and on the back page of this issue appears the the photos of "Indiana Bell Folks at Auburn and Crawfordsville." Twenty-two Crawfordsville men and women appeared in this collage of photos. Maybe you can recognize some of the names? As numbered, they are (11) Mrs. Miriam Plank, (12) Gertrude Moore, (13) Thatcher Carr, (14) Bertha Stark, (15) Mrs. Marie Mayer, (16) Mrs. June McCulloch, (17) George C. Peirce, (18) Pauline Hamm, (19) Norman Snapp, (20) Mrs. Dorothy Holland, (21) Daisy Busenbark, (22) Stella Hybarger, (23) Mrs. Mary Travis, (24) Edna Bannon, (25) Mrs. Nora Van Scoyoc, (26) Mildred Moore, (27) Thelma Johnson, (28) Mrs. Elva Gallatin, (29) Dale Elliott, (30) Mrs. Pearl McDowell, (31) Madge Scott, (32) Margaret Everhart

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Crawfordsville "Then and Now" display

A new display in the Reference Area on the 2nd floor may appeal to anyone with an interest in Crawfordsville's history. Take a trip through Crawfordsville with "Then and Now" images. You may be surprised at how Crawfordsville has -- or has not -- changed over the years. You can also test yourself by trying to identify famous (and forgotten) citizens from Crawfordsville, past and present.

Do you have any old photos of Crawfordsville you would be willing to donate to the library so that we can preserve them for future generations? We make a digital copy of our photos and place the originals in climate-controlled storage. We then make the images accessible on our image database. Even if you have photos that you do not want to donate, perhaps you would allow us to scan them so that the entire community can enjoy them? Contact the Reference Department (Bill Helling) at 765-362-2242 ext 5 or e-mail at

Here is a sample from Crawfordsville c. 1960 and also from the same spot in 2010. Does anything look familiar to you?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Meredith Nicholson inscription

In our archival storage we hold some of the earliest copies from works by local authors. One such work is by Meredith Nicholson (1866-1947), The House of a Thousand Candles (1905), which was a best-seller in its time. In the front of this book we discovered an original note by the author, written in 1933. In this note he states: "Inscribed for Minnie Campbell May, In the happy remembrance of old times in Crawfordsville, my birthplace, and in particular of her father, who was my father's friend -- and mine. Dear are my memories of the old town, and precious the recollection of its good people. I never think of it without emotion and it shall be so to the end of my days. Faithfully yours, Meredith Nicholson. September, 1933"

Wikipedia biography of Meredith Nicholson
Several works of Nicholson were also made into films: Internet Movie Database filmography

You can also check out a circulating copy of The House of a Thousand Candles @ CDPL!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Culver Union Hospital Dedication -- 1902

After a long struggle to obtain support and funding, Culver Union Hospital eventually opened in 1902 on Binford Street. It was considered to be a very sanitary facility (to keep dust down, no upholstered furniture or hanging pictures were allowed, and room corners were rounded). This hospital served until 1929 when it was replaced by a much larger building (still standing today, but slowing crumbling). These three images are of the 1902 dedication ceremony program that we just scanned.

Take a look at the original Culver Union Hospital building

Peek inside the surgery room or in a patient's room.

Here the first nursing staff posed for a group portrait.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Winter 1925

A photograph of downtown Crawfordsville from the winter of 1925 recently surfaced in our Local History collection -- a scene that has never before been published. This view is looking east on Main Street. The photographer is standing near where Walnut Street crosses Main Street. You may recognize the fronts of the stores on the left; most of this block is unchanged over the years, although the businesses that occupied them have changed many times over. On the right, you can see the tower of the old YMCA building, constructed in 1888. By 1925, however, it was no longer serving as the YMCA (which had opened a location on the corner of Pike and Green Streets). The original YMCA building was then being used as a station for the interurban trains. If you look closely, you can see one up ahead, turning the corner right onto Washington Street. Above the street are the electrical wires for the "trolley" part of the interurban service. It was possible to take the trolley west on Main Street just past the location of the present-day Mills School (which then faced Main Street). Also on Washington Street, to the left, appears the courthouse tower. The courthouse had an attractive tower that was taken off in 1940 because of alleged structural problems.

Are you interested in your Local History? Don't forget that the Crawfordsville District Public Library is dedicated in preserving and making accessible the county's history. Visit our Local History page to see what we have to offer you -- or come by and visit us in the Reference Department (2nd floor). We will enjoy helping you discover history @ CDPL!