Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bicycling in Fort Wayne

We thought, after Carmen's blog post on cycling, that you might enjoy seeing what bicycling was like in earlier times in Fort Wayne. Makes those bike trails look mighty good!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Imogene's Last Stand

Imogene Tripp is no ordinary little girl.

Imogene Tripp loves history and isn’t afraid to tell the world.

Imogene Tripp sets out to save her town’s historical society and save it she does in the wonderful children’s book “Imogene’s Last Stand”.

Lettie Haver of the Paul Clarke Non-Profit Resource Center, located in the main branch of the Allen County Public Library, showed me this book on Friday while we were visiting about the History Center, this blog and ways to tell our story to those who have yet to discover all of the wonderful facets of our museum’s work.

Lettie’s slightly younger than me--actually, I’m old enough to be her mother—and we had a good discussion about how we tend to view history. For me, the Vietnam War was a part of growing up and had a major impact on how I view government, politics and civic involvement. For her, it’s history.

Why do we teach history in our schools? My home state of Nebraska is looking at a re-evaluation of social studies curriculums. See http://www.omaha.com/article/20120108/NEWS01/701089897

Here’s a good question to get a conversation rolling: What’s the purpose of teaching social studies in our schools?

As a mother of young children and a library employee, Lettie knows the value of parents using the library to teach children about their world. Imogene’s story was a recent hit at her house and so we walked down to the children’s section to pull the volume from the shelves. (And if you’re an adult with adult children…or no children…and have not been into the children’s department at ACPL, do yourself a favor and make a side trip. The place is amazing.)

Winter is a good time to curl up with a book. Why not make it a book about history?

One of the facets of motherhood I enjoyed the most was learning new things with my son. It’s good for kids to have parents who spark an interest in learning and intellectual growth and a public library is a good place to start. Check out (figuratively and literally) the ACPL’s children’s section to see what books you discover on history and do a little reading.

The History Center’s got a great selection of books for all ages about history in our gift shop too.

Imogene Tripp will introduce you to Abraham Lincoln, The Oregon Trail, Davy Crockett, William Morris (who was new to me, so see…you’re never too old to learn something new), John Paul Jones, Paul Revere, Teddy Roosevelt, Chief Joseph, Vietnam War Protestors, Martin Van Buren (I learned something about him I didn’t know before), Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. Martin Luther King.

Although I don’t agree with King 100% on this…here’s a quote by King that appears in Imogene’s book that you can ponder:

“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”

Imogene’s Last Stand was written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Copyright 2009. Schwartz and Wade Books, a division of Random House Children’s Books. www.randomhouse.com/kids

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fort Wayne Cycling

By Carmen Doyle

Carmen Doyle works in the gift shop at the History Center so she has a good knowledge of what's available for purchase here. A 2004 Ball State grad with a bachelor's degree in Public History, she's not only worked here but at the Lincoln Museum. PLUS...she also enjoys cycling! And she assures us she doesn't have a bell on her bicycle so "it isn't constantly ringing". (If you want to know what that means, you'll have to read Carmen's post.)

Fort Wayne has a rich history of biking dating to a time long before the River Greenway became popular or was even an idea. Biking was not only considered good fitness, it was also entertainment. The corner of Hanna and Lewis streets was the site of a Cycling Carnival in June 1887. A Cycling Carnival seems to have been a sort of Halloween parade on bicycles. The descriptions in the pamphlet “Ordinaries, Safeties and Fun” (on sale in our gift shop)get your imagination running. (See the photo of some of the pamphlets on display and stop in to browse.)

There were 70 riders in various costumes, carrying “transparencies” lit with lanterns. Two riders dressed as a racing yacht, one dressed as George Washington, another as a “water mill”, another as Oscar Wilde, another as a jester. The entire parade took place at night. There was elaborate preparation for the event with the anticipated “use of fireworks and lighted flares”. People were asked to keep horses away from the pageant route so as not to frighten the animals. Residents were asked not to water that evening so roads would be dry.

Despite detailed planning, the event was not successful. An immediate delay occurred when the horse leading the ammunition for flares became sick. A replacement had to be found. Most likely the biggest reason the procession was unsuccessful was due to “mischievous boys and hoodlums” who deliberately threw sticks and rocks at the all male riders, causing the riders to fall and lanterns to go out. The parade was never completed, a disappointment to the watchers further along the route. The majority of the men would likely have been riding ordinary bicycles.

By the next year bicycle processions were generally done. There was more emphasis on “practical every day cycling”. The “ordinary” bicycles- the ones with the large front wheel- were being replaced by “safeties”- the bikes we see today with two wheels of equal size. The safety bicycles helped to lead to another change in cycling- the rise of women cyclists.

In 1888, the Fort Wayne Bicycle Club decided to extend honorary membership to women. By that time, there were “some half-dozen lady riders” in Fort Wayne. Female riders led to changes in social mores. There was proper etiquette to be followed when riding- no racing, no continual ringing of the bell. (Only the “vulgar herd...who delighted in noise” did those sort of things.) The “well informed wheelwoman” used the bell rarely.

There was considerable controversy over the “correct” position of a woman when sharing a tandem with a man. If she was in front, she had a better view, but she would also be in charge of steering. In back, a woman would be better protected from danger, the steering would be in the “capable hands” of the gentleman and she would appear to be driving him “which should gratify her vanity.”

There were also changes in cycling costumes. In 1884 Fort Wayne Bicycle Club had worn uniforms of navy blue trimmed with red cord and nickel buttons. When women became avid cyclers, the “ideal costume” was bloomers. The large number of women riding bicycles in bloomers was sometimes frightening.

A July, 1895 article in the Journal Gazette told of an incident where two ladies in bloomers and on bikes accidentally frightened a horse. The horse “leaped into the air, broke the hitching strap and galloped madly down the street.”

Maybe the young ladies were actually part of the “vulgar herd” that constantly rang their bicycle bells and it wasn’t just the bloomers that frightened the poor horse! Bicycling had certainly changed since the disastrous cycling parade less than ten years before.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Scottish Rite History in Fort Wayne

The Scottish Rite is moving out of its building at the corner of Ewing and Berry as St. Francis University has purchased the structure and prepares to expand course offerings and create a new program in Media Entrepreneurship in the Arts.

This remarkable downtown building holds a great many memories for Shrine and Scottish Rite members and is a part of the history of our city.

The Scottish Rite is one order of the Masons, an organization created in 1717 in England that claims George Washington and Benjamin Franklin as members from colonial days in America.

The original Scottish Rite Cathedral in Fort Wayne was on the corner of Washington and Clinton Streets. This building, which sat next door to the Masonic Temple, no longer exists. The Scottish Rite bought the Mizpah Shrine building on West Berry in 1953.

Guy Mahurin, who at the time was one of the better-known architects in Fort Wayne and a member of the Shrine, designed the structure on Berry for the Mizpah Shrine with a fa├žade “intended to create an atmosphere of the orient and yet give it a logical setting in the midst of a modern American city,” according to a history of the Scottish Rite provided to this writer.

Max Irmscher & Sons began construction in April of 1924 with 200 workers, mostly local, taking a year and a half to complete the project at a total cost over $1 million. The ballroom’s excavation took two steam shovels and six weeks to complete. More than 350,000 bricks were used in the building’s construction and led to the structure being considered the most “fire-proof” building in the city at the time.

The facility, which had its grand opening on November 18, 1925, was created to provide Northeast Indiana with some much needed community meeting space for speakers and theatrical productions as well as for large banquets. The original configuration of the auditorium allowed for 2,400 patrons and the lower level banquet hall seated 2,000. Because the Shrine needed the auditorium no more than five days a year, the remainder of the time was filled with other events.

The first of these was a performance of “Aida” by the Chicago Grand Opera Company. This was followed by “The Ziegfield Follies” with Fanny Brice, Mae West in her controversial play “Sex” and Ethel Barrymore in “Scarlet Sister Mary”.

In 1937, due in large part to the Depression, the Mizpah Shrine lost the building, which was purchased by Kaplan Realty for a cost of just over $50,000. Continuing as a community center, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic was one of many groups performing there.

Mayor Harry Baals, with the support of local music groups, stopped a move in 1941 to rip out the main floor seats and turn the auditorium into a bowling alley. But in the 1930s and 1940s, the ballroom was used as an indoor golf course.

The Quimby Theater chain leased the auditorium in 1945 and renamed it Quimby Auditorium. Entertainers such as Victor Borge, Duke Ellington, Tallulah Bankhead and Janet Blair performed in stage productions. The Quimby’s also showed popular movies of the era such as Laurence Olivier’s “Hamlet” and “The Mikado”.

The auditorium remained the home of the Shrine Circus until 1952 when the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum was built.

The Scottish Rite purchased the facility in 1953 and in 1958 undertook a major renovation which updated the building. Use of the structure by community groups continued as well as the hosting of performers such as Imogene Coca, Betty Grable, Marcel Marceau, Eileen Brennan, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, and Peter Nero.

The year 1963 saw the addition of the west building, which housed Scottish Rite administrative offices, the Gentleman’s Lounge, Lodge Room and small dining room.

Popular entertainers continued to perform in the auditorium with Glen Campbell, Jack Hanna, The Temptations and Keith Urban featured on stage at various points.

One of the more interesting facets of the Gentleman’s Lounge was a large flag—12 feet by 16 feet--that was the first official flag flown for a vice president of our country. Thomas Riley Marshall, vice president during Woodrow Wilson’s administration, substituted for Wilson at the opening of the Panama-Pacific Exposition on March 15, 1915. When the fleet commander discovered that Marshall was stepping in for Wilson, he had the flag made at the Navy Yard in San Francisco for the USS Colorado, the battleship designated as flagship.

The flag was first displayed in Fort Wayne at the original Scottish Rite Cathedral on Clinton and East Washington Streets. Similar to the Presidential Flag, it has a white background as opposed to the blue of the president’s flag. Mrs. Marshall, upon the death of her husband, gave to the flag to William Geake, one of the founding members of the Fort Wayne Scottish Rite.

For those of you not familiar with Marshall, he was a prominent lawyer in Indiana, and as our state’s 27th governor, served amid some controversy over his proposal of progressive reforms to the state constitution.

Marshall’s time as vice president was also not without controversy as he and Wilson disagreed on political ideology, leading Wilson to limit Marshall’s influence and move his office away from the White House. Marshall was the first vice president to conduct cabinet meetings, doing so while Wilson was in Europe. He presided over a Senate during anti-war debates that gridlocked legislation, leading Marshall to move forward on a procedural ruling that filibusters could be ended by a two-thirds majority vote.

Wilson’s advisers and wife, none of whom liked Marshall, kept him from assuming control of the presidency when Wilson suffered a stroke in October, 1919. Although he was urged to forcibly assume the presidency, he declined to do so, fearing this would establish a precedent that was not good for the country. But because there was no strong leadership in the executive branch, the ratification of the League of Nations treaty was defeated thanks to the work of the administration’s opponents and the United States returned to an isolationist foreign policy.

Marshall coined a quote many of us remember: “What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar.” This was in response to Senator Joseph Bristow’s list of the nation’s needs during Senate debate.

Marshall opened an Indianapolis law practice after serving as vice president, traveled, wrote several legal books and his memoir, “Recollections”. He died on a trip in 1925 after suffering a heart attack.

Even though the Scottish Rite has sold their building, they will continue to be a part of the Fort Wayne community. New office space will soon be announced and if there is room to display Marshall’s flag, it will again be on display. If that is not possible, the flag will be sent to the American Heritage Museum in Massachusetts, also home of the Supreme Council of the fraternity.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Power of Indiana's Early Colored Women's Clubs (Part I)

The following article is the first in a series excerpted from a longer article by board member Marsha Smiley entitled "Extolling Indiana's Early Colored Women's Clubs: Initiating Socio-Economic Projects, Instilling Self-Reliance and Imparting Ethnic Pride".

Part 1: The Historical Context

In recent times, more African American history is being ‘recovered’, restored and becoming known. Historical research by scholars have found significant first hand accounts once disregarded or overlooked—causing analysts to reexamine the accepted nineteenth century history of the United States. For example, Eric Foner, a noted historian, who has done extensive research on America’s Reconstruction period, in 1978, discovered in South Carolina’s State Archives, “121 thickly packed boxes of correspondence received by the state’s Reconstruction governors.” These documents which “had been untapped by scholars”, according to Foner, “contained an incredibly rich record…..of black and white Carolinians attempting to rebuild their lives after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, of struggles for human dignity and ignoble violence by the Ku Klux Klan.”1

United States history bearing on race and its related politics, is being more even-handedly recounted, overturning the commonly held traditional Dunning School diktat, which portrayed blacks as ‘childlike’ and ‘incapable of properly exercising the political rights Northerners had thrust upon them.”2 As early as 1935, W.E.B. Dubois in his Black Reconstruction in America had called into question the accepted historical record, indicting historians for ignoring the accounts of “the principal actor[s] in the drama of Reconstruction—the [newly freed]…”3

Historical accounts published in recent times are telling untold stories and shedding a much deserved ‘light’ on those who struggled, sacrificed, and worked so diligently to make possible the progress of a populace long held captive within the vise of oppression. We are learning more about these lesser-knowns who stood on the precipice of justice, demanding human and civil rights for blacks, oftentimes in the face of great peril.4 One constructive result has been the more balanced and accurate coverage of America’s past as it relates to its citizens of color in our nation’s school history textbooks.

In their own right, the history of African-American women, for the most part, has been largely unnoticed by historians, often being allowed to lapse into obscurity.5 The stories of those who were instrumental in helping to build and safeguard the needs of the African-American community include united astute, knowledgeable, powerful black women. One such segment of historical note, within that milieu, is the generally unsung achievements of colored women’s clubs which formed during the post-Reconstruction era for the purposes of self-improvement, to provide a safety net for those oppressed amongst them, and to advance the status of the African-American community.

Following the Civil War, finding itself in the thrall of great social / economic change and political upheaval, America neglected to enforce the newly enacted laws passed to insure and protect the rights of its newly freed. One of the black institutions that formed at fast clips during that harrowing period was colored women’s clubs that stepped into the chasm to aid their downtrodden brethren. Their stories, their critical community leadership role, their accomplishments, historically, have been overlooked, disregarded or treated inconsequentially.

However, the evolution and history of these women’s clubs have begun to receive the scholarly research and relevancy that should be accorded them. These institutions included in their work integral socioeconomic projects, implementing elemental programs in all spheres of communal development that proved so invaluable. Across the length and breath of this state, Hoosier women’s clubs, part of this movement, have a noteworthy history that attest to the crucial contributions they made in their communities in the areas of vital services and philanthropy.

Historically oppressed in U.S. society, African Americans have claimed and sought to safeguard their human dignity and attain their own self-affirmation by establishing their own institutions. As early as the 1770’s, freedmen demonstrated efforts at self-help and sharing by establishing mutual aid societies, and other private organizations.6 A black Masonic order has existed and flourished within the black community since the Revolutionary War.7 Upon gaining freedom, those formerly held in bondage sought to establish autonomy by forming their own Baptist and African Methodist Episcopal churches, reconstructing their families, and legalizing their marriages.

For them, however, the glow of freedom with its according of U.S. citizenship, enfranchisement, its promise of economic independence and educational opportunities proved short-lived; the problems that arose for them in the aftermath of the Civil War were complex and many. One discordant issue at odds was the very meaning of America, which left the needs of the recently freed unmet and caught between competing theories in ‘mainstream’ America, especially in the North, in regard to how a free labor system should function. In general, whites believed that blacks wanted the role of government enlarged to meet their basic needs so they would not have to work; while the newly freed, lacking resources and being penniless, believed governmental assistance was critical for their survival. Those who had been enslaved felt help was due them in order to have a start and survive the transition to independence after centuries of involuntary servitude, lacking any pecuniary compensation.

The U. S. Congress, after the Civil War, passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery, the 14th Amendment conferring citizenship and the 15th Amendment securing the right to vote for recently freed bondsmen. After the War, foregoing a lasting redistribution of land to freedmen, as required by the Civil Rights Bill of 1866 and the shut-out of gainful employment in the North assured a failed transition.8 The Civil Rights Law of 1875 gave blacks the right to public accommodations, such as transportation, hotels, etc. Declaring some portions of the 1875 Civil Rights unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1883, ruled that Congress lacked the power to protect civil rights against private citizens.9 With their citizenship rights abridged, eventually the system completely segregated blacks. The doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ that evolved out of the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision of the Plessy v. Ferguson case, temporarily ended any “black chances of full participation in and unfettered access to American educational and social institutions”.10

Reconstruction ended summarily after President Hayes withdrew federal troops from the South in 1877. The end result was the economic and political plight of blacks regressing at every level. The South began an oppressive economic system, a form of quasi-slavery, which forced black workers to accept tenant farming, sharecropping, and/or unskilled low paying jobs, in order to earn a livelihood. Having been left to fend for themselves without any independent viable means of earning a living, the freedmen found themselves entrapped. The withdrawal of federal troops sealed their fate, and without protection, “whites set about reestablishing white control through violence, fraud and intimidation, with [an] end result of regaining total power—politically, socially, and economically— in the late 1870’s’’.11

Changes in labor, following the Civil War, came upon the heels of another momentous development—industrialization. As widespread industrialization transformed the nation, the accepted model of labor and capital as conflict free came into question. In The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North 1865-1901, Heather Cox Richardson declares,“…fear of a perceived black rejection of the free labor ideal, coupled with anxiety over labor unrest, made the self-styled “ better classes” abandon the mid-century vision of an egalitarian free labor society that included blacks as well as whites.”12

The unyielding, further entrenchment of racism, with its tentacles sunk deep into U.S. institutions, gained an unfettered, accepted permanence in American society. By the turn of the 20th century, blacks were relegated to second class citizenship, black codes, Jim Crow laws, and segregation. In the face of these ominous developments, blacks collectively organized associations and clubs to help meet the needs of their fellow brethren, set adrift in a social order which devalued their worth as human beings and deprived them of their civil rights. So important and vital were the black institutions that took root during Reconstruction, asserts noted historian Eric Foner in Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, that “…the institutions created or consolidated after the Civil War—the black family, school, and church—provided the base from which the modern civil rights revolution sprang.”13

Realizing the futility of their situation, where their humanity was constantly queried, their civil and voting rights withheld, their labor fleeced, their equal protection under the law as citizens not enforced, and the opportunity for advancement in Southern society nil, led to thousands of blacks, in mass, to migrating to the West, to such states as Kansas and Nebraska where hope for a better life beckoned. 10 Large numbers of these people, who became known to history as ‘exodusters’ decided to settle in the Hoosier state. Reportedly, between November 1878 and February 1879, more than 1, 100 blacks arrived in Indianapolis alone. “A second wave of mass migration swept into the state in 1890 as blacks fled the final triumph of southern white supremacy, mob violence and lynchings.”14

Want to read more? Click here for part 2!


1. Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution (1863-1877), Harper/Collins Publishers, New York, 1988, pp. xix-xxiv.
2. Ibid, p. xx.
3. Ibid., p. xxi.
4. Benjamin Russman, American Uprising, The Untold Story….Harper, 2011. Suzanne Lebsock, A Murder in Virginia: Southern Justice on Trial, W.W. Norton & Company, 2003. Elizabeth D. Leonard, Men of Color to Arms! Black Soldiers, Indian Wars, & the Quest for Equality, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, N. Y. / London. Carrie Allen McCray, Freedom’s Child: The Life of a Confederate General‘s Black Daughter, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Workman Publishing, N.Y., N.Y., 1998. Cameron McWhirter, Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 & the Awakening of Black America, A John Macrae Book, Henry Holt & Co., New York, 2011. W.E.B. Dubois, Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880 / 1935, Atheneum Publishing, New York, 1970. Florette Henri, Black Migration Movement North, 1900-1920, Anchor Press / Doubleday, 1975, pp. 81-173. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Black Profiles in Courage: A Legacy of African American Achievement, William Morrow & Co., Inc, N.Y., 1996. pp. 146-154, pp.86-90, pp.89, 153-4. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. /edited, The Bondman’s Narrative, Warner Books, Time Warner, 2002, the Introduction. John Edgar Wideman, My Soul Has Grown Deep, Running Press, Philadelphia/London , 2001. Virginia Ingraham Burr, edited, Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, The Secret Eye: The Journal of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1848-1889, the University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London, 1990, p-10-11, 20, 48-51. Juanita Patience Moss, Created To Be Free, Willow Bend Books, Westminster, Maryland, 2001. Manning Marable, Malcom X: A Life of Reinvention, Viking Co., N.Y., N.Y. , p. 15-18.
5. Kathleen Thompson and Hilary Mae Austin, The Face of Our Past—Images of Black Women from Colonial America to the Present, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN., 1999. Wilma Gibbs, The History of Black Women, Emma Lou Thornbrough / Indiana’s African American History: Essays from Black History & Notes, Indiana Hisorical Sociey, Indianapolis, 1993, p.68.
6. Indianapolis Freeman, June 20, 1896 and June 29, 1896. Wilma L. Gibbs, Indiana’s African-American Heritage: Essays….,William H. Grimshaw, Official History of Freemasonry among the Colored People in North America, 1903, reprint Negro Universities, 1969. Southern Sociological Congress, 1918, p. 342-343.
7. Emma Lou Thornbrough, The History of Black Women in Indiana, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, 1993., p. 74. Earline Rae Ferguson, Blacks in Antebellum Indianapolis, 1820-1860. pp. 130-135.
8. Heather Cox Richardson, The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865--1901, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.2011.
9. Darlene Clark Hine, When the Truth is Told: A History of Black Women’s Culture & Community in Indiana, 1875-1950, Indianapolis 1981, p.11.William S. McFeely, Frederick Douglass, W.W. Norton & Com-pany, New York, 1991, p. 285, 314-318, 380.
10. Annette Gordan Reed, Andrew Johnson: The American Presidents, Times Books, Henry Holt & Company, New York, 2011. David Levering Lewis, W.E.B. DUBOIS, The Fight for Equality and The American Century (1919-1963), Henry Holt & Co., New York, 2000. Kenneth Stamp, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Antebellum South, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1956, p. 144-191.
11. Nell Irvin Painter, The Exodusters: Black Migrations to Kansas After Reconstruction, New York, 1977, p. 251-253. Heather Cox Richardson, The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics…., Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2001. Eric Foner, Reconstruction…, p. 150, 187-189, 198, 207. William S. McFeely, Frederick Douglass, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1991, p. 317, p. 379-380.
12. Heather Cox Richardson, The Death of Reconstruction…, Harvard University Press 2011, p.31-32, 122-125. Jeffrey Stewart, 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History, Doubleday, New York, 1996, p.113.
13. Eric Foner, Reconstruction…, Harper/Collins Publishers, p. 612.
14. Emma Lou Thornbrough, The Negro in Indiana Before 1900, Indianapolis, 1957, p. 224. Darlene Clark Hine, When the Truth is Told: A History of Black Women’s Culture & Community in Indiana, 1875-1950, Indianapolis 1981, p. 12. 10. Ira Berlin, The Making of African Americans: The Four Great Migrations, Viking, Penquin Books, 2010, p. 132-135.Darlene Clark Hine, When the Truth is Told: A History….p. 13.