Friday, December 28, 2012

"Pete" Vaughan, sports hero

This photograph of "Pete" Vaughan was found in the Louis Spilman Scrapbook, recently loaned to CDPL by the Spilman family.  Spilman served on the Mexican border circa 1915 with Robert Edward “Pete” Vaughan, who later became a sports legend in Montgomery County. Although born in Tippecanoe County, Vaughan spent the majority of his life in Crawfordsville. He was considered a pioneer of Indiana basketball, playing three seasons at Crawfordsville High School with Ward “Piggy” Lambert, later famous as a coach of Purdue basketball.  In fact, it is said that Vaughan helped Lambert land his job at Purdue. Vaughan was a football and basketball star at Notre Dame, where he was chosen to be a member of Walter Camp’s All-American team.  After two years at Notre Dame, he transferred to Princeton University, where he met Woodrow Wilson, at that time serving as president of Princeton.  After coaching at Purdue University, he served with Montgomery County’s Indiana National Guard unit on the Mexican border, although Vaughan's father tried to convince him to come home to help him run the Vaughan & Casey firm in Crawfordsville.  “Pete” served as captain in the Army overseas during World War I, and coached the football team of the Pennsylvania National Guard.  King Albert of Belgium attended one of Vaughan’s football games in Brussels, taking such interest that he walked to the field to be able to better see and understand the action. Vaughan served as Wabash College Athletic Director from 1919 to 1947 and again from 1961 to 1963. After his retirement from Wabash in 1947, he served as manager of the Coca-Cola Bottling plant in Crawfordsville.  Vaughan died in Crawfordsville in 1969. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Long-Lost Images Found!

Photographs of the first airplane landing at Crawfordsville have just been rediscovered in a newly-arrived scrapbook lent to CDPL by the son of pilot Louis Spilman. The pilot, a local native, was assigned to the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps when he was persuaded to make the Crawfordsville flight on May 25, 1918. Proposed as a way to promote the purchase of War Bonds to finance World War I, the flight involved dropping hundreds of informational leaflets over the city, and culminated with a landing witnessed by the thousands of Crawfordsville residents gathered to welcome him. 

In addition to images taken on the day of the flight, the scrapbook includes dozens of photographs relating to the Crawfordsville National Guard unit during the days leading up to World War I, local Boy Scout troops, Wabash College, and Crawfordsville High School during the 1911-1919 time frame, making this album an incredibly rare historical artifact.  Thank you to Bob Spilman for his generosity in sharing the scrapbook with our local history collection! Check back soon to see many of the scrapbook’s photographs, which will be added to the CDPL image database.

Read the article "Thousands saw Louis Spilman make city's first plane landing" (.pdf) from Montgomery County Remembers (1976).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Display Honors Aeronaut Malcolm Ross

The most recent CDPL Local History display honors the aeronautical achievements of Linden High School graduate Malcolm Ross. On May 4, 1961, the U.S. Navy Strato-Lab V balloon Ross piloted with Lt. Commander Victor Prather ascended to an altitude of 113,740 feet, becoming the highest manned balloon flight ever.  Following splashdown of the successful flight, co-pilot Victor Prather drowned when he slipped from the rope lowered from a helicopter to transport him to a nearby ship. The Strato-Lab V mission tested spacesuits to be used for NASA’s Project Mercury program, and as a result, the next morning NASA launched astronaut Alan Shepard into space, a milestone in space exploration made possible in part by Malcolm Ross.  The library exhibit features a photograph of President John F. Kennedy speaking at the presentation of the Harmon Trophy to Malcolm Ross and Virginia Merritt Prather in 1962, among other photographs provided by the Ross family.
On October 14, 2012, more than fifty years later, the altitude record set by Malcolm Ross and Victor Prather was finally broken by the Red Bull Stratos program when pilot and parachutist Felix Baumgartner ascended 128,000 feet higher in a balloon. The new record is pending verification.

The Crawfordsville District Public Library thanks Mrs. Marjorie Ross and the Ross family for their generosity in sharing their family’s photographs and artifacts that have made it possible to tell the story of our overlooked Montgomery County hero.