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 http://history.cdpl.lib.in.us/images/p025-7.pdf

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!