Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Early Radio in Fort Wayne

 (“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” - May 2014, No. 113)

Early Radio in Fort Wayne
Tom Castaldi

“Wayne Offers Wonderful Opportunities” followed by “What God Loves.”  Recognize those sets of words?  That’s right…the first letter of each forms the call letters for W-O-W-O and W-G-L. The region’s early broadcast stations.

Kneale Ross, who for many years worked at W-O-W-O or more recognizably, “WOE-WOE,” radio, recalled how the station held a contest in 1941 inviting listeners to create a slogan using the station’s call letters.  Sacks and sacks of mail were received and out of it all, came the award-winning phrase: Wayne Offers Wonderful Opportunities.”  Since its beginnings in 1925, WO-WO has been an active promoter of Fort Wayne, and it continues as a legendary station in the world of radio.




WO-WO was also connected to the very beginnings of radio in Fort Wayne.  Chester Keen built the earliest radio transmitter in the city in 1921 as a part of the showroom of the Lauer Auto Company; its call letters were WHBJ but these were soon changed to WCWK for Chester W. Keen and the operation was moved to a studio at 1729 South Lafayette Street.  At the same time Frederick Zieg of the Main Auto Supply Company had a powerful transmitter built in a room over his store.  He began operating in 1925 a station with the call letters WOWO using “W,” the designation for east of the Mississippi, and “O” because it was easy to say after the “W.”  They liked “W and O” so much they simply repeated it for the four-letter call sign.  By 1927, WO-WO became a pioneer first station when CBS organized the nation’s first radio network.

In 1928, Fred Zieg purchased the station owned by Keen, changed its call letters from WCWK to WGL, and put the two radio stations under one roof – at the Main Auto Supply.  During these years the WO-WO–WGL combination achieved several notable national “firsts” in the radio business, from the first basketball game to be broadcast anywhere, to the first “man-on-the-street-type” broadcast from the lobby of the Indiana Theatre on Broadway.

During the mid-1930s, Zieg sold both his radio stations to the Westinghouse Company, which then became affiliated with the NBC network.  As the WO-WO operation sought to dramatically increase its transmitting power in 1936, a new tower was envisioned north of Fort Wayne, at the Fortmeyer Corner.  After a long struggle with the Civil Aeronautics Board since it would be close to Smith Field airport, and after the personal intervention of Governor Paul McNutt, the tower was completed as the tallest structure anywhere in the state.  Later, the transmission tower was moved to a location south of Fort Wayne.

WGL radio was eventually sold to the Farnsworth Radio and Television Company of Fort Wayne in 1945, and in 1949 the station was purchased by the News Sentinel and became an ABC affiliate.  The station was next owned by Summit City Radio Group and in 2014 Adams Radio Group announced the purchase of Summit City’ stations including WGL 1250-AM.

WO-WO continued its remarkable growth to become one of the nation’s most powerful radio stations. Reaching 50,000 watts in 1954, reception was recorded as far away as Alaska, France, and South America. The station developed a wide range of programs, from live broadcasts from area dance halls and local basketball coverage to the Hoosier Hop, which became a national phenomenon. WO-WO was also one of the first stations in the country to pioneer in FM radio.  The station personalities such as Bob Sievers, Sam DeVincent, Jay Gould, Tommy Longsworth and Bob Chase, backed by writers like Carl Vandagrift, became national figures.  Their programs, the “Little Red Barn,” the “AM Drive,” and the “Big Band Broadcasts” from Bledsoe’s Beach, Lake James, Tippecanoe Gardens, and Lake Manitou, were fed to all the major networks in the United States and Canada.

After many years with Westinghouse, WO-WO became a part of Federated Media and in 2016 owned by Pathfinder Communications Corporation found by tuning into its popular call letters News Talk 1190 AM and 107.5 FM. Those early broadcast pioneers were prophetic when they suggest that Fort Wayne indeed offers wonderful opportunities.




Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi  and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer  for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

James Barnett


(“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Apr 2014,  No 112)

James Barnett
Tom Castaldi

Many of Fort Wayne’s early settlers made important contributions to the region but whose story may not be well known.  James Barnett, born in Pennsylvania in 1785, came to the Three Rivers Region in 1818.  He decided to stay and made his home near the old fort.  He first travelled here as a trader in 1797. In 1812, as Captain Barnett he returned with a company serving under General William Henry Harrison among the twenty-five hundred armed men responsible for relieving Fort Wayne when the stronghold was under siege.

In 1824, James married Nancy W. Hanna the sister of Judge Sam Hanna. Together they built the first brick building in Fort Wayne. A small structure, James and Nancy made it their home located on the north side of East Columbia just east of Clinton Street.  It stood there until 1909.



Barnett entered into a partnership with Judge Hanna, and in 1827, the partners built a grist mill by the crossing on the west bank of the Saint Mary’s River south of the Broadway Bridge. The partners also operated a trading post at the ford.  Goods stocked at the post came from Boston on the east coast shipped by water to New York; up the Hudson River across to Buffalo, New York to Lake Erie then up the Maumee and into the Saint Mary’s River.

At one time, the partners became embroiled in an Ottawa revenge war against the Miami people. It started when a Miami man, who was a member of White Raccoon’s band, killed an Ottawa man in a scuffle.  When the news reached the victim’s home camp along the Auglaize River, the angered Ottawa people sent hundreds of warriors up the Maumee. Here they staged their numbers in a camp about a mile east of the fort. They were led by Ocquinoxcy, a seasoned leader known to be impulsive with many kills against the settlers in previous skirmishes.

During the morning, an advance Ottawa party approached Miami Chief Richardville demanding retribution for the crime.  If the Miami would pay $5,000 in silver to the Ottawa, paid out of the next annuity consignment from the government, the Ottawa war party would return without incident.  If the deal were to fail the Ottawa threatened to attack.
Richardville and his advisors decided to acquiesce to the aggressor’s demands and when meeting found the Ottawa party armed ready to do battle.  Meanwhile the Ottawa leaders had decided to revise their stipulation substituting merchandise for silver.  The agreement was to immediately obtain $5,000.00 worth of merchandise or else.  

It was a tentative time because the nearest military force was at Newport, Kentucky, a post on the south side of the Ohio River across from Cincinnati.  It was too far away to offer relief before a bloody carnage throughout the village would surely have taken place.  Fortunately, James Burnett and Sam Hanna were in a position to satisfy the ultimatum in the form of supplies to be repaid from the government annuity of the Miamis.

Once the goods were handed over to the aggressors, loaded down with their new-found property, the Ottawa war party returned peacefully to their camp. Mr. Barnett seems to have been a man always willing and ready to serve his neighbor.  In April 1849, Barnett handed over a log house he owned at the corner of Calhoun and Berry streets to receive patients when cholera struck Fort Wayne.   Perhaps not well remembered today, James Barnett stands as an example of the hard working settlers who helped build the early community that became the city of Fort Wayne.  









Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi  and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer  for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Breath of Fresh Air

(“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Jan 2014, No 111)

Breath of Fresh Air
Tom Castaldi

Among the more dreadful of news stories is an account of a horrific automobile fatality especially when it involves an intoxicated driver.  Wasteful of human life as well as property damage is so often associated with drunk driving gone wrong.

One of the greatest deterrents is the Breathalyzer which has been called the first practical breath-testing instrument for law enforcement.  The Breathalyzer’s roots began with Indiana University School of Medicine’s professor Rolla N. Hager who first developed a breath-testing instrument as early as 1938.  It was given the most descriptive name when it was dubbed the Drunkometer, and although a somewhat bulky device, historically it served in the study of alcohol detection.

Robert F. Borkenstein born on August 31, 1912, grew up in Fort Wayne and became a part of the story. He first entered the work force as a photographic technician. It was during the early 1930s that he developed a color printing process, which was received favorably by the commercial market.  In 1936 he took a position with the Indiana State Police and became involved with the early research and development of lie detector technology. Eventually it led to his being named captain and head of laboratory services.  It was then that he noticed the importance of the Drunkometer technology, but also recognized the difficulty to operate it effectively in the field by police.

Next Borkenstein enrolled at Indiana University and began his collaboration with Dr. Hager in advancing the Drunkometer.  By 1953, Borkenstein independently invented a more user-friendly means of detecting drunkenness now known as the Breathalyzer. His ingenuity served him well and when he had earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1958 from Indiana University, Borkenstein was named a professor in the school’s Department of Forensic Studies that same year. When IU formed its department of Police Administration he was named its chairman.

His invention of the Breathalyzer, which he began work on during the early 1950s, revolutionized law enforcement’s efforts to measure alcohol in the blood when investigating an accident and suspecting drink as the culprit. By exhaling, breath alcohol vapors can be proportionally measured. The Breathalyzer instrument can calculate the proportion of alcohol in the blood.

When Borkenstein was elected to the National Safety Council’s Safety and Health Hall of Fame International in 1988, the Council noted that, “This technological innovation enabled traffic enforcement authorities to determine and quantify blood alcohol concentrations with sufficient accuracy to meet the demands of legal evidence.”

Other positions this Fort Wayne-born Hoosier, whose career advanced in Bloomington, included chairing the National Safety Council, president of the Academy of Criminal Justice Services, as well as the International Committee on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety and consultant to the President’s Task Force on Highway Safety. He supervised a 1981 liquor study which revealed that driving with less than two ounces of alcohol prove less dangerous than a driver who abstained. The study concluded that a little alcohol could possibly assist a driver by relaxing him behind the wheel.  Nonetheless, before he died at age 89 on August 15, 2002, Robert Borkenstein advocated abstinence of any drink before driving.  


Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi  and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer  for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

“Angeline Chapoton (Chapeteau)”

(“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Feb. 2014, No. 110)
Tom Castaldi


At the age of 16, Miss Angeline Chapeteau, daughter of Louis and Catherine Meloche Chapoton arrived in Fort Wayne, during the year 1804. With her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Jean Baptiste Maloche as traveling companions, they came from Detroit in a dugout canoe called a pirogue. Her family of three first lived in a log house outside the fort, but within the outer stockade at a point near present-day East Superior Street and the Spy Run Bridge. It was during a time when the Three Rivers area was a French trading post and Angeline, or Emeline as she was sometimes known, became the wife of Louis Peltier an interpreter and trader. Later she married Edward Griswold, a contractor.


When first arriving in Fort Wayne Angeline, who had hair of such a strikingly red color, became known to the Indians as “Golden Hair.”  She was a bright young girl and at once became a favorite with the Miami.  During her young womanhood she became the heroine of many an episode with the Indian people who so admired her that they made her a member of the Miami family. With her husband Louis Peltier, she made many trips to and from Chicago then known as Fort Dearborn. Angeline and Louis became close friends with the various tribes including the Miami and Potawatomi.


In the files of the History Center, there is an unnamed and undated newspaper clipping that recalls the “golden-haired” woman who saved, “the lives of an emigrant party consisting of twenty-three people, who had been ambushed and would have been massacred by the hostile”  Indians, were it not for the bravery of Angeline.  With James Jr. her infant son in her arms she, “pleaded in the Miami language for the lives and freedom of the prisoners and succeeded in having her request granted.”  The soldiers at Fort Wayne having heard of the plight of the emigrants were gearing up to rescue the victims when a scout arrived at the gates.  Angeline had sent a friendly scout to arrange a meeting for her with an Indian chief whom she had once befriended.  Using his influence a release was brought about for the entire party.


During the 1812 siege of Fort Wayne, Mrs. Peltier, who had declined to take refuge in Ohio with the other women of the post, remained by her husband’s side. After the siege was in full force Angeline continued to remain in her house. From there she served as a friend of both the garrison and the besiegers using her good offices to bring about peace. During the milieu the Indian people time brought venison within reach of the house to exchange it for salt which Mrs. Peltier had received from the fort. So the garrison was kept in food and the tribes provided with salt.


Groups of Indians would oftentimes stop at her house even when she was alone.  She would feed them a meal and permit them to spend the night before her fire. However, when morning came she ordered them out to protect them from the fort’s soldiers.


On one occasion an intoxicated Indian actually attacked her. Angeline managed to overpower him and bring him to such a degree of subjection that she could tie him securely with a rope and give him a severe beating.  In this condition, he had no choice but to remain until following morning when he was finally released. Soon a group of excited natives surrounded the house and demanded to see her. As she peered from the doorway, she saw the fellow who had attacked her the night before. She hesitated, but it was only for a moment for to her surprise she found that the Indians had come to pay homage to a woman of bravery and skill in facing such an opponent.  The guilty brave had organized the party which came to pay their respects and obtained her forgiveness.


Angeline Chapeteau, Peltier, Griswold lived a full life in Fort Wayne becoming a part of the fabric of the region’s legacy. This remarkable woman, who helped form our community, died in 1877 and is buried in Fort Wayne’s Catholic Cemetery.






Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi  and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer  for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.


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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Don't worry, I'm not drilling into the trim!
Hello! This is Michael Rice. I am the summer intern at the History Center. I am a soon to be senior at IU in Bloomington from Fort Wayne, studying Anthropology, Folklore, and Museum Studies, and want to share what I have learned about making a museum exhibit.

The first step in creating a museum exhibit is to start with a central theme that joins the objects to be displayed. The theme usually depends on the museum’s objectives. In the case of the Fort Wayne History Center, the themes revolve around our community, representing both the present as well as the past. With our 200@200 exhibit for Indiana’s bicentennial this year, all of the themes have a tie to the community.
The next step in creating an exhibit is choosing the best items to represent the theme. We search through the museum database with search terms that are relevant to the exhibit to make sure we do not miss relevant contenders to be included. Many are considered, but only the best or most interesting pieces are selected to be put on display. The registrar, director, and curator all have a voice in deciding the items that make the final cut.
Labels need to be made for the exhibits once the objects have been finalized. The database often has enough information to write the labels, but sometimes further research is needed. Using reliable sources is essential. While Wikipedia can be a great place to start, using scholarly articles is the best source for information. After the verbiage is finalized it is printed and mounted on foam core board. This is done using a special machine that heats up a heat sensitive glue paper that bonds the label and board.
When deciding how to arrange the objects, many drawings of the possibilities are developed.  This helps to decide which design is best and takes into consideration size, height, color, similar materials, progression of age of the objects, and other factors pertinent to the display. One issue that arises with this is only having a limited number of display cases, which can be challenging. There never seems to be enough cases or the right size, but staff collaboration always makes a good display.
Finalizing and staging the case is the most satisfying part. After all the planning and research, the exhibit takes form. The plan either comes together perfectly, or it may have to be tweaked for unforeseen reasons like shadows, color clashes, labels too far away to be easily read, and weak lighting. While I was finishing a case working at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, at Indiana University in Bloomington, I had a group of women from a nursing home come up to me and complain that the labels were too small and it was not bright enough to read let alone see the objects well. One of the sweet old ladies said to me “It’s too small and too far away to see with my glasses.” We reprinted the labels with larger type and adjusted the overhead lights. She came back a few weeks later and was very happy we had listened. If we helped her, we probably helped others have a more enjoyable experience too. We use boxes that have been painted white or acrylic boxes that need to be draped in white cloth which helps with light reflection and a blank space to highlight the objects. The best part of developing a new display is receiving good feedback from the public. The negatives we try to learn from and hopefully become better museum professionals.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Encapsulating Time

            The first United Methodist church on Wayne Street was founded in 1871 under the name Wayne Street Methodist Episcopal Church. The first Methodist church in Fort Wayne was built in 1840 under the name, Berry Street Chapel. This chapel’s congregation grew so large that in 1849, all members living west of Harrison Street had to form a new congregation. This congregation decided to make it’s home in the chapel of the Fort Wayne Female College and in 1850 built a church of its own. This church proved too small and another, bigger church was erected in 1871, this being the Wayne Street Methodist Episcopal Church.
            Like many churches and religious groups, this was a community. Members cared about each other and liked to be involved in their lives. As a result of this, members of the congregation felt the need to commemorate their fellowship with the time capsule shown here. It was buried at the cornerstone of the church when it was built. It was dug up after only 8 years due to the church moving to yet another location, now the current First United Methodist Church on Wayne Street. The contents of this particular time capsule had documents of Fort Wayne including newspapers, directories, Christian pamphlets and a Bible.
            Mixed in with all the newspapers, pamphlets and directories was a copy of Our Methodist Paper. This specific local church newspaper  features a picture of the Wayne Street Methodist Episcopal Church in 1896. Also found were newspapers showing prices and job listings. Here is a picture of a job listing. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be too keen on a $30 a week salary!




            This time capsule will be on exhibit as a part of the Fort Wayne Bicentennial, 200 @ 200. It will be unveiled June 1st. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Electrifying Christmas

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” –Dec 2012, closes Oct. 1, 2012, No. 96)


How many electric light bulbs does it take to light up the Christmas spirit? For some of us it takes just one. Maybe that’s the reason 24,717 colorful lights can get an entire community up and running headlong into the Christmas spirit when the Wolf and Dessauer’s Santa and Reindeer display is energized on the PNC Bank building wall casting a glow over old “Transfer Corner.”
The story has been told of how some wonderful people including G. Irving Latz, of Wolf & Dessauer department store and Frank Dunigan, of the Brinkman Corporation first hatched the idea; how Isabel Wilkerson Parker sketched out the concept; how Leslie Pope transferred it to its actual size; and how the employees at Brinkman produced the unique Christmas display. We’ve heard too the story of how the display was stored away and forgotten gradually falling into a state of disrepair; how the IBEW 305 with the Iron Workers Local 147 combined their time and talents with the resources of Northeastern Indiana Electrical Contractors Association and the Chamber of Commerce along with untold numbers of interested businesses and citizens refurbished the display making it the reality we can enjoy in our day.

Main Street looking East from Calhoun, 1889

The intersection of Main and Calhoun streets, where holiday crowds gather to watch the lighting of the Santa display, is at a site that has long attracted people. For many years it was known as “Turntable Corner” and later “Transfer Corner” because a rotating track had been placed in the street to direct departing trolleys onto assigned outbound routes.  Between the 1890s and the 1960s, this corner was where all the trolleys and later buses converged from a network of routes. As horse-drawn street trolleys rolling on rails gave way to the electrified trolley buses in 1892, it has remained an energized place. During 1890s, Marmaduke Marcellus Slattery, an inventor working for Jenney Electric Company was experimenting with battery powered trolleys. Although a forward-thinking fellow tinkering with a technology whose time was yet to come, his experience was a little like Noah’s last dove sent from the Ark that full of energy never came back from somewhere in the “out there.” However, when Slattery sent his trial trolley out on a test run full of hope and vim, the battery drained of energy and the car failed to return.
True, many towns and cities have established favorite customs such as parades, festive window displays, church pageants, school plays, orchestral performances and the like, but Fort Wayne has a long-treasured tradition that extends back to the days of the Wolf and Dessauer Department Store when window displays drew holiday seekers and shoppers from miles around.  Those nostalgic days for the older generation may be gone, however, they have been replaced by a symbol of the season that can light up the legacy of those exciting November and December animated store windows.  Another of the remaining artifacts is the gigantic wreath, also festooned with lights just like Santa Clause, in November placed nearby on the north side of Fort Wayne’s signature high-rise building. But, it’s Santa Clause that gets the nod with his twinkling, blinking blue eye announcing to the thousands that energizes the crowd in the streets below officially opening Christmas Season in the Three River’s region.

Wolf & Dessauer building with electric Christmas displays

Best of all it is very nice watching the eyes of children of all ages sparkle.  Once Santa and his reindeer cast their radiance over the town, it sparks a tour of a veritable festival of Christmas trees, Gingerbread houses, model holiday villages, and with music in the air all over town.

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Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi © is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail” which is broadcast Mondays on 89.1 fm WBOI; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio106.3 fm. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at historycenterfw.blogspot.com.