Thursday, July 25, 2013

Samuel Hanna: The Founder of Fort Wayne

 by Tom Castaldi
Of those pioneers who devoted their lives to making the community of Fort Wayne, Indiana viable and prosperous, by far the most outstanding was Samuel Hanna.  He was the first ardent promoter of Fort Wayne, and in several important ways he was its real founder.

In 1797, three years after Anthony Wayne built the place which he would one day lead as its premier citizen, Samuel Hanna was born in Scott County, Kentucky.  His father James took the family to a spot near Dayton, Ohio, in 1804 and there young Sam helped his father and several brothers clear the farm.  He also took on the job of “post rider” to deliver the newspaper by horseback to outlying homesteads and by age 19 he embarked on his first business venture.

Hanna held a job as clerk for a dry good store in Piqua, Ohio in 1816 when he and another young companion bought out the proprietor on a $3,000 note. But the sale turned out to be fraudulent; the inventory of the store was seized by creditors and Hanna was left responsible for the debt with no merchandise to sell in order to satisfy the note.  His partner was a minor and could not be held liable, but Hanna, though also a minor, was determined to pay off his debt. To do so he taught school for a while but was not cut out for this since he himself had little or no schooling.  He attended the 1818 Treaty with the Indians as a sutler, or supplier, to the Indian Agent and this event led Hanna to take up the opportunities offered by the Indian trade.

In 1819, at age 22, Hanna took his trading venture to the primitive settlement at Fort Wayne.  Although the military had withdrawn that very year, the Indian Agency still was in full operation, especially at “annuity time” when the native peoples received their payments from the government for lands they had given up in various treaties.  He built his log store on the spot that later became the northwest corner of Barr and Columbia streets, today just outside the west doors of the Arts United Center in Freimann Square.  Despite the great difficulties getting trade goods up the St. Mary’s or overland, the business flourished and Sam Hanna began to make his mark in the building of the new town of Fort Wayne.

With the formation of Allen County in 1823, Hanna was named the first postmaster, and shortly thereafter he was elected Associate Judge of the Circuit Court.  He later expanded his business to the South Bend area, then newly developing, through a partnership with his son-in-law, Lathrop Taylor, one of the founders of that town.  He also invested as quickly as he could in the lands opening up through the U.S. Land Office sales of former Indian territories.  He later boasted that he could travel to Indianapolis by way of Lafayette and return by Anderson and feed his horse in his own corn crib every night of the journey.

Although successful in his business ventures, it was as a promoter of the pioneer town that Sam Hanna made his biggest mark.  Fearing that the swamp-locked village of Fort Wayne would have great difficulty in attracting settlers (to shop in his store or to buy his parcels of land), Hanna took the lead in developing plank roads in and out of Fort Wayne.  This was the beginning of the Lima Plank Road leading north, the Piqua Plank road (today’s Calhoun Street) leading southeast and the Goshen Plank road to the northwest.

Sam Hanna not only assumed the construction contract for the first plank road – the Lima Plank Road – he also personally supervised the work and on more than one occasion was found by friends wielding an axe himself working on the roadbed. But the plank roads were clearly not enough and Hanna soon worked out a scheme with a business colleague named Henry Burr that envisioned a canal connecting Lake Erie to the Ohio River.  This man-made waterway would not only be the longest ever built in North America, but it would be critical for the survival of the town of Fort Wayne.  Having been elected to the state legislature, Hanna worked tirelessly to introduce and see passed the necessary legislation that would provide for the canal.  He officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony on February 22, 1832.  Eleven yeas later, he was among the proud participants in the grand opening celebration held in Fort Wayne on July 4, 1843.

It soon became clear in the early 1850s that the canal would not produce the levels of transportation that Fort Wayne would need to thrive.  In addition, the new technology of the railroad threatened to bypass Fort Wayne unless aggressive action was taken by area leaders to ensure that the steel lines making their way west from Pittsburgh to Chicago passed through the Three Rivers.  To see that this happened, Sam Hanna embarked on his most ambitious and important enterprise and became the founder of the great Fort Wayne railroading industry.

When the Pennsylvania and Ohio Railroad reached Crestline, Ohio, Hanna led a subscription drive in Allen County to provide the capital to the newly formed Ohio and Indiana Railroad to bring the tracks to Fort Wayne.  In 1852, Hanna and his friend Pliny Hoagland undertook the contract for the construction of the line to Fort Wayne, but soon thereafter the entire enterprise faced financial ruin.  The president of the Pennsylvania and Ohio railroad resigned and Hanna was elected in his place; Hanna traveled from Fort Wayne to New York and Philadelphia to Boston and Quebec and Montreal for financing. By 1853 the work was begun again and in 1854 the rail line at last was completed to the Three Rivers, coming in on the south side of town.

The locomotive for this last leg was, ironically, brought in by a canal boat, unloaded at the foot of Lafayette Street and followed the track-laying where the main line came in near Baker Street (by the present-day remains of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Station).  “The town was all a jubilee of feasts” with the completion of this central line that one day would be the central line of many that would “radiate from Fort Wayne like the spokes of a wheel.”

In the succeeding decade the challenge to Sam Hanna and his fellow promoters of Fort Wayne was to see the rail lines connected to Chicago.  Already in 1852, while still dealing with the struggling Ohio and Indiana Railroad, Hanna and his colleagues formed the Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad, with Hanna as its first president.  Neither company had money, but Hanna, as president of each, continued to find resources, including the emerging power of the Pennsylvania Central Railroad.  A solution was at last found for the ailing financial picture in the merger of the eastern and the western railroad enterprises.  Despite considerable opposition to the consolidation, Hanna argued and won his case with the stockholders and executives.  In August, 1856, the two nearly ruined organizations were united into one forming the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad, the ancestor of the great Pennsylvania Railroad.  By 1858 the single line to Chicago was complete, and soon thereafter the north-south line from Cincinnati was completed to Fort Wayne.

The last great effort on Hanna’s part to enrich the community came just before the outbreak of the Civil War when he persuaded the directors of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad to build their all-important repair and construction shops in Fort Wayne – the great Pennsy shops that for a century dominated the Fort Wayne industrial world.

Thus by the beginning of the Civil War, Sam Hanna had realized his dream of making Fort Wayne a safe and prosperous place for business.  He had without a doubt the most important role of laying out the plank roads that began to conquer the swamps that surrounded Fort Wayne, exercised the leadership in creating the great Wabash and Erie Canal, served the local judicial system as a judge and the state legislative body as a committee chair, was one of the most influential persons behind the advent of the railroad to northern Indiana and was especially instrumental in making Fort Wayne the “Altoona of the West,” then a byword for industrial capacity and stability.

Samuel Hanna built his grand Greek Revival home at 1002 East Lewis Street in 1845.  For many years this was the center of social life on the east side of Fort Wayne.  Hanna died on June 11, 1866 and the city carried out a public funeral.  As the bells in every church tolled, a procession two miles long accompanied his remains to Lindenwood Cemetery and all the principal buildings in Fort Wayne were draped in black.  His daughter, Eliza, and her husband Fred Hayden, a judge and prominent businessman, lived in the mansion after their marriage in 1873. In 1938, it was bequeathed to the Fort Wayne Community Schools, which used it as a school for physically handicapped children until 1962 when the school corporation tore the building down. It was replaced by the Hanna Homestead Park.

You can find more information about Samuel Hanna at: 

This article was originally published in: Fort Wayne Magazine, "Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi", November/December 20005, No. 17, pp 42-43. We thank Fort Wayne Magazine for the use of this material.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thieme Drive Overlook

by Tom Castaldi

West of downtown Fort Wayne at the north end of Thieme Drive on the east bank of the Saint Mary’s River stands a barely noticeable river overlook. It is easily accessed near the southeast corner of the Main Street Bridge.  Thieme Drive took its name in 1911 from the founder of the Wayne Knitting Mills.  In the late 1800s, the Mills employed hundreds and became famous across America for its “Wayne Knit” line of fine hosiery.  Each day, Theodore F. Thieme, founder of the mill operations, walked from his home on the corner of Rockhill and Berry streets crossing over the Main Street Bridge west to his office.

Authors James M. Schaab and Angus C. McCoy, both writers of how the streets of Fort Wayne were named, say that Mr. Thieme was troubled by the sight of debris along the bank of the Saint Mary’s River.  Moved to institute a city wide waterway bank improvement project, Thieme decided to improve a small section along the river he passed each day. He had the rubble cleared away and the difference was so noticeable that he decided to expand the beautification effort.  Loads of fill dirt were brought in and a concrete retaining wall added.  When workers had finished, a small park-like overlook had been created.

On August 19, 1911 a plaque was dedicated featuring two half reclining female figures, one depicting “Nature Sleeping” and the other “Natural Beauty Awakened.”   Words on the plaque memorialize the “Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association as a testimonial of appreciation by citizens of Fort Wayne of the generosity of Theodore F. Thieme who erected the work to awakening of a new civic spirit and the beginning of a general scheme of River Improvement. Dedicated 1911.”

From this small overlook a person can reflect on a sampling of our history: Through this space the way pointed to the only land portage of an otherwise all-water route connecting the Maumee River and Wabash River valleys known to the American Indian peoples for generations. Europeans soon learned about the carrying place that some dubbed the, “Indian Appian Way.”  It was being used to connect the lower French posts on the Mississippi with their sites on the Saint Lawrence River. As early as 1699 Pierre le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville (1661-1706), a French soldier and adventurer, passed over the portage leading a colony of Canadians from Quebec to Louisiana.  Look for Iberville Street named in his memory next time you are in the New Orleans French Quarter.

To the north, remnants of the great Wabash & Erie Canal’s Saint Mary’s aqueduct still can be seen.   The aqueduct was a 160 feet long water-filled trunk that passed floating commerce between America’s Eastern Seaboard and to the Mississippi River valley markets.

Across the way to the east, and related to canal lore, is Fort Wayne’s smallest park.  Marked by a statue of two young boys, it recalls the Aqueduct Club formed in 1912 in memory of those who made the canal aqueduct their swimming hole.  Southwest of the statue easily viewed from the overlook is the girlhood home of the legendary Hollywood star Carole Lombard.  Born Jane Alice Peters in 1908 in Fort Wayne, she achieved film fame and was married to Clark Gable at the time she tragically lost her life in a plane crash while on a tour selling War Bonds during World War II.

South on Thieme Drive once stood the old Methodist College founded in 1846.  Today the spot is marked with a plaque on a large stone standing between the street and the river.  Over on the west bank of the river is Camp Allen Drive which leads to a park that was once the site where young recruits rendezvoused at the behest of Abe Lincoln before marching off to contest a Civil War.

The Main Street Bridge that spans the Saint Mary’s is where once the myth of “The woman in white" could be observed walking across the bridge at night and when greeting her some reported she would vanish before their very eyes. This is the same bridge that points the way west to the Nebraska neighborhood.  During the canal era, merchant A.C. Hutzell opened a store on what was then a country road.   So far west of the Saint Mary’s River, locals joked that Hutzell had moved out west to Nebraska. Not a man to let some unexpected opportunity for notoriety slip away, he promptly named his place the “Nebraska Store.”  The name spread over the entire neighborhood that grew up along the canal basin.

Over the years the overlook slowly fell into a state of disrepair and suffered vandalism.  The plaque survived and caught the notice of the West Central Neighborhood Association people who, with the cooperation of the City Redevelopment Commission, restored it in 1987.  The overlook may be barely noticeable in our faster paced lifestyle, but it’s a pleasant place to stop and reflect on the wide range of the heritage we share in this community.  

Originally published in Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – July 2011 

Monday, July 15, 2013

I Need Something to Read--part two

Carmen, who works in our gift shop, has compiled a list of many, if not most, of the books in our gift shop AND written a brief synopsis of each. If you're downtown during the 3RF...or anytime...we encourage you stop in and browse (as well as buy).  

by Carmen Doyle

Fiction (Michael Martone)

Double-Wide-This is actually a reprint of a few of his other volumes that went out of print.

Michael Martone- A collection of author’s notes and bios that Martone wrote about himself. Each one is different and some contradict themselves. It reads like Martone got bored of the standard author bio, and decided to start making stuff up to see if anyone noticed. It has made me read the author biography of other books a little closer.

Racing in Place- A group of essays on various topics.  The essays sort of ramble onto various topics, and can be a little hard to follow.


Remembering Grabill, Indiana- It is obvious that the author loves Grabill. This book serves as sort of a historical tour of Grabill, and includes many pictures of interest, such as an old newspaper or photos of families.

American Folk Art: Expressions of a New Spirit- Pictures of art work from the 1800s. A brief description of each piece is included. However, without reading the descriptions, I would have found it hard to distinguish between the sculpture and the paintings.

Done and Been: Steel Rail Chronicles of American Hobos- This was a really interesting book. The author first clarifies the differences between a hobo, a bum, and a tramp, and then has some of the hobos she has met tell their story. The most interesting parts are when the author tells her adventures riding the rails. However, because the book is written, not told around a campfire, sometimes the author’s prose gets irritating. A great book to just pick up and start reading anyplace.

Quest Club: the first 100 years and The Quest for Fort Wayne- These are a series of papers on a variety of topics, including politics, stem cell research, Stradivarius violins and prominent Fort Wayne people like Harry Baals and Hugh McCulloch.


A Trip on the Wabash and Erie Canal- This book is designed for grade school readers, but there is so much information that older readers can find it helpful as well. The story is about Daniel and his family leaving Toledo on their way to settle in Fort Wayne. They use the canal to travel, and Daniel learns about the mechanics of the canal- how long the trip takes, how locks works, and other activities.

Before the Dinosaurs- A good start to learning about fossils in Indiana.

Essential Atlas of Astronomy- Gorgeous photos and a ton of information. This book could be used by anyone interested in astronomy basics- there is more information in here than I remember learning in school. 

Eyes on the Skies: 400 years of Telescopic Discovery – Beautiful photos of not just stars, but of telescopes and planetariums. Also comes with a DVD.

*By Freedom’s Light- fictional story about a 13 year old girl who has to decide how she feels about slavery when she meets a slave girl her own age,

*The Civil War Book of Games, Puzzles, And Things To Do- These games range from “secret messages” (cryptograms) to mazes, matching, and coloring. Most of the activities would work in a car, so if you have a long trip in front of you, this might be a way to keep the kids entertained.

Birds of Indiana: A field guide- Organized by bird color, this book is great for a budding ornithologist.

Trees of Indiana: A field guide- Organized by leaf shape, the small size makes it easy to carry. Great for use outdoors!


Baseball in Fort Wayne- Images with detailed information attached. While this book was written before the TinCaps, it still has a lot to offer. I liked the section “Major Connections” which featured contemporary baseball players who had played for the Wizards before making it to the Major League.

Fort Wayne Sport History- This book is organized like a calendar, with every day of the year (including February 29) having some Fort Wayne sports record. If you don’t know when something happened, this book isn’t very helpful. It does work well if you use it as a sports devotional- every day read a new fact.

Dottie Wiltse Collins: Strikeout Queen of the All-American Professional Baseball League- This book is excellent for anyone wanting to learn more about women playing baseball during WWII. Dottie was an excellent pitcher. The book also tells of her experience advising for the movie A League of Their Own, (including the fact that Madonna’s character catching a ball in her cap would never have actually happened. A lot of the other baseball scenes were accurate.) A question I did have trouble finding the answer to in this book was how women’s baseball differed from men’s.

Opening Pitch: Professional Baseball’s Inaugural Season, 1871- How baseball started to evolve into the game as we know it today. Chapter 3 talks about the short lived Fort Wayne Kekiongas, and why they were short lived. Unfortunately, the writing style made it hard for me to follow the details. It is clear money was an important factor, but that wasn’t the only reason. I did enjoy learning about how the dimensions of the stadiums have changed. There are also lots of stats for the avid fan.

Indiana Sporting Life: Selections from Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History- This book is a collection of articles that originally appeared in Traces magazine.  The History Center has a small exhibit devoted to a baseball player form Fort Wayne, Chick Stahl. One of the stories in this book goes into greater detail of the tragedy of Chick. Baseball is not the only sport covered- basketball, fishing, horse racing and boxing are among the other sports covered. However, my favorite story was “A Major League Friendship: Carl Erskine remembers Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers”. Erskine talks about not only Jackie Robinson, but also how he got involved in Wildcat baseball- Erskine and Jackie Robinson were both named “the Godfathers of Wildcat Baseball”.  There are even photos of Jackie, Erskine, Bob Feller and Ted Williams with Dale McMillen, founder of Wildcat baseball. The recent movie 42, about Jackie Robinson, makes this article a great read.

Hoosier Leisure

50 Years Together: The Red Birds Remember- Joe Taylor and the Red Birds were a popular country music band from Fort Wayne for many years. This book traces how the band got started, including how Taylor came to record his signature song “Cowboy Auctioneer”. While the book includes a discography, there is no music attached to it. Difficult to have a book about a band without being able to listen to the music!

A History of Lake James-Lake James is the third largest natural lake in Indiana. The authors’ love for the lake clearly shows in this book. What makes the book really interesting are the illustrations- many are old postcards sent from the lake.

Spinning through Clouds- This book is the memories of Max Knight, who began flying at age nine in the mid 1930s. His adventures in flying are interspersed with stories of famous pilots, and their contributions to aviation.

Life in a 3-Ring Circus- The pictures in this book are gorgeous- very colorful. The description of circus posters isn’t very interesting- discussions of sizes are hard to tell in a book. The interviews with the circus performers is very good; however, the reader is assumed to know so much about renowned circus performers it was hard to follow. Get the book for the artwork, and the interviews. If you have background knowledge of circuses, this book is great. If you have only vague knowledge of prominent circus performers, then this book isn’t very helpful.

Wolf & Dessauer: Where Fort Wayne Shopped- On the off chance you have no idea what Wolf & Dessauer was, this book starts with a brief background, and then has interviews with various people who worked for W&D’s. There is also (of course) a huge chapter on Christmas at the store. The History Center has several of the animated figures from the store on display during the Festival of Gingerbread.

Indiana Living

A Swiss Community in Adams County- Photos of Berne, Indiana. Part of the Images of America series, so the photos are good quality.

Haunted Hoosier Trails- and More Haunted Hoosier Trails- scary tales from around Indiana. The story of the Embassy ghost even has an interview from Steve Toor, the History Center’s event coordinator! (I’m not a fan of scary stories, so I’m happy to know that the History Center isn’t among the haunted places in Fort Wayne)

Indiana: A new Historical Guide- A series of tours over several portions of Indiana. If you have a car, and are looking for a tour that lasts an entire day, this book is helpful. While some of the information is outdated, (sadly, the Lincoln Museum is no more) there are some interesting things. I enjoyed learning that Concordia Seminary, located not far from my house, was designed to look like a North European village.

The Irish in Indiana- The most famous Irish place in Indiana, Notre Dame, is only mentioned briefly, within the context of a deeper subject. And the football team gets only ONE mention! There is interesting information on social and economic interests of Irish from the 18th century to the present.

Peopling Indiana: The Ethnic Experience Every ethnic group is covered in this book, not just the groups from Europe. The difficulty faced by Chinese immigrants coming to Indiana isn’t a topic I had thought of before. There are many diagrams for the serious scholar, but the book is well written and clear enough that someone with a casual interest can read it as well. However, there is no mention of Notre Dame!

Play the Yellow Tape- If you like Unsolved Mysteries, this book is full of descriptions of crimes from 1854-1932 for which no explanation has been found.


 “There I grew up”: Remembering Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Youth- Lincoln spent 14 years in Indiana, and this book starts with Lincoln’s memories of IN, and then goes into memories from the people who surrounded him while he was there, including his stepmother, as well as his law partner (and later biographer) William Henry Herndon. If you’re a Lincoln scholar, this book is wonderful.

*Abraham Lincoln: Portrayed in the collections of the Indiana Historical Society- This book has wonderful images of Lincoln; not just portraits, but also political cartoons and paintings. Not only are there pictures, there are explanations of the role the pictures played in the memory of Lincoln.  A wonderful book for those who haven’t been able to make it to the Indiana State Museum to see their Lincoln collection, or for those who don’t want to look at the online Lincoln collection from the library

The Faces of Lincoln (postcards) - These postcards feature a wide variety of Lincoln images. My favorite was the reward poster for “THE MURDERER of our late, beloved President” These postcards would also make great thank you notes!

Abraham Lincoln stickers- Fun stickers are a great way to introduce Lincoln to younger kids. Plus, they make an excellent decoration for any patriotic occasion!

Young Lincoln: the early life of Abraham Lincoln, 1816-1830 (DVD) - This video has interviews with historians as well as excerpts from Lincoln’s writings.

The Life of Lincoln: Video & Interactive group learning tool (DVD)- a 3 disc set designed for classrooms, both school age and adult.


A Friendly Mission: John Candler’s Letters from America 1853-1854- Candler was an English Quaker who came to America on an anti-slavery mission. The letters are written to his wife, and tell of the people he met on his travels and how people in different areas felt about slavery. Really interesting view of the culture of the time period                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Indiana’s African-American Heritage: Essays from Black History News & Notes- The essays divided into five general topics, and each author goes into depth about their subject. Each essay is written by a different author, and well researched. The essays cover a variety of areas.

Negro Theatre in America Prior to the Civil War- Although there isn’t much directly written about African-American theater in this time period, the author uses mentions of theater in newspapers and other sources to try and figure out what theater there was and where it happened. Because the author has to rely so much on mentions of theater, not on actual sources, his enthusiasm is sometimes annoying. Lots of information for people who want to do further research.

A Communion of the Spirits- This book was very neat. It’s organized by people- the author interviewed multiple people about their memories of quilting, and what it meant to them. However, I would have appreciated more photos of the quilts, along with descriptions of the designs and how quilts are made- I have very little idea what a quilting frame is, for example.

Desperate Deliverance: The Story of African-Americans in the Civil War-Lots of information, and well told. I really liked some of the stories of bravery performed by the African-Americans, like the man who managed to steal a ship and successfully pilot it to Union territory.

The Black Women of the Middle West project- the oral histories are very interesting, but most of the book seems to be lists for additional research. Good for scholars seeking more information.

An Oral History of African Americans in Grant County- various people tell about an area of their life in Grant County. Everyone interviewed was born in the early 1900’s and when interviewed were in their 80s or 90s. The interviewees talk about their life when they were in their 20s and 30s, and some of the experiences they had.

 African-Americans in Fort Wayne: The First 200 Years – this book has interviews with several elderly African-Americans about their early memories of Fort Wayne. There are a lot of photos of African-Americans from the 1930s through the 1960s. The book also contains information about African-American churches and the first in Fort Wayne. The interviews are great, but it’s the photos that make this book really worthwhile.

Native Americans

Contested Territories: Native Americans and non-natives in the lower Great Lakes, 1700-1850- Seven in-depth essays on various topics related to Native Americans in the area. Great for scholars, but it can be hard for the average person to follow. The essays that discuss Chief Richardville is very informative, however, that essay didn’t discuss Richardville and M├ętis as much as I would have liked.

Long Journey Home- Oral histories of Native Americans from Oklahoma (The tribe was originally located in Indiana.) Really interesting but I would have liked the fry bread recipe (not just a song and a photo.) 

A Sorrowful Journey- The journals of John Shelby and Daniel Workman are presented side by side. Both men accompanied the Shawnee on their journey out of Ohio. The journals presented side by side can be confusing, as some of the line spacing is off. This is a minor problem, and the side by side presentation makes for an engrossing read.

The Lost Years: Miami Indians in Kansas- Very informative book about the problems encountered by the Miami Indians on the journey to Kansas. Despite the author’s writing (It reads like a book report from a junior high student, with sentence fragments and time confusion) there is a lot of good information in this book. Great for kids and those wanting just a little bit of information. Sources are given at the end of each chapter for further investigation.

Blacksnake’s Path- This book, while fiction, goes into depth about the life of William Wells, a white boy captured and raised by Miami. Wells was both a Miami warrior and later a scout for Anthony Wayne. This book goes into detail about Wells’ life among the Miami and then among white settlers.

Heart of a Warrior –This book reads like a Hollywood movie. It focuses on the relationship between William Wells and Sweet Breeze, Little Turtle’s daughter. Although their relationship was only a section of William Wells’ life, it’s still worth reading. Because the book is written like a movie, it’s easy and fun to read. One thing that would make this book better is pictures. Guess I’ll have to wait for the movie! (Assuming a movie is ever made.)

Land of the Indians: Indiana- a good beginner book. There is a ton of information in here, but a few spelling errors, bad pictures (the pictures all look like someone just printed them off from their computer) and lack of citations mean that this book is for starting scholars only. A good book to start research, but better information can be found elsewhere.

Miami Indians of Indiana: A Persistent People 1654-1994- This book has a ton of information, and is well written. The history of the Miami and the government continuing to take advantage of them is told. Also told is the process used to try and get the Miami federal status. This book was published in 1996, so an update or a place to get more information would be nice. 

Murder in their hearts: The Fall Creek Massacre--This book starts with a description of the 1824 murder of a small group of Indians, including children, who were killed by drunken white settlers. What’s unusual about the murder is that the murderers were tried and convicted. The book uses newspaper and court accounts to help tell the story.                                                                            
The Native Americans- History of the Native Americans  in Indiana from BC to the present, and how the view of the Native Americans have changed throughout the decades.

Northwest Territory

Bayonets in the Wilderness: Anthony Wayne’s Legion in the Old Northwest- This book tells about Anthony Wayne and his campaign in what would later be Fort Wayne. Heavily researched, and has information about William Wells and Simon Girty. (For more on Simon Girty, check out our blog )

Frontiersmen- Very entertaining book about Simon Kenton, who traveled around the Northwest Territory (which would later become Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.) The only problem with this book is that the hefty size (600 pages) makes it a little difficult to fit in your beach bag or on your nightstand. Engrossing read.

President Washington’s Indian War: The Struggle for the Old Northwest 1790-1795- The clashes between the Indians and the settlers, and Anthony Wayne’s campaigns. Includes maps of locations mentioned, to help better of the areas involved. The descriptions of some of the torture committed by both sides is enough to make those with weak stomachs (and I’m one of them) a little queasy. Don’t read while eating or before bed!

Mr. Jefferson’s Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the origins of American Indian Policy- William Henry Harrison is probably remembered best as “the President who made a really long inaugural speech, got pneumonia, and died a month later.” This book tells the story of Harrison before he became President, including his time as governor of Indiana. What I found interesting was the reasoning behind Harrison’s stance on slavery, even after the issue was hurting his political career.


Fighting For Equality: a life of May Wright Sewall- This biography is of an Indiana suffragist, who with her husband started a girls’ school in Indianapolis. The aim of the school was that the girls’ studies would be equal to the men’s. She also served as a delegate for Henry Ford’s 1915 Peace Trip, and worked with Susan B. Anthony.   

Maggie Ray: World War II Air Force Pilot-Margaret Ray was from Fort Wayne and wanted to fly since she was ten. This book tells the story of her learning to fly, then becoming a WASP in WWII. Her adventures learning to fly are awesome to read about- like the time after an appendectomy when a friend checked out a plane, not telling the people in charge at the airport that Maggie would be coming along as a passenger. Then he let Maggie fly the plane. The plane had troubles, but since he hadn’t told anyone he was taking a passenger, Maggie had to wait for him to go back to the airport, report the accident, and come back. The book was written by Maggie’s daughter, Marsha Wright. Margaret was also featured in Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation because of her work in WWII. The book also has photos throughout of Maggie. After you read this book, pick up a copy of the DVD Wings for Maggie Ray, a documentary film based on the life of this trailblazing woman.  

Nature’s Storyteller: The Life of Gene Stratton Porter- Porter was one of Indiana’s most well known people. She was a well-known author (the History Center has two books written by her, the Harvester and Mickey O’Halloran.) She was also a conservationist, using her popularity from her writings to encourage public interest in wildlife causes. This book focuses on her life and her lasting influence. A fun, easy read.

Hold Fast to Dreams: The Sixty-Year Career of an Indiana Teacher- An autobiography of Audra Snyder Bailey, who worked as a teacher in various capacities, from a boarding school to abroad to Milwaukee and then to Indiana. An interesting career.

*Carole Lombard: The Hoosier Tornado- Carole Lombard was a well-known actress in the 1930s and early 40s. Originally from Fort Wayne, (her house is on the Bicentennial heritage Trail) she became known as a screwball actress. This book details her life from Fort Wayne to her tragic death during a tour to sell war bonds. Easy read, if not as fun as watching her movies.

Pictorial Histories

Historic Photos of Fort Wayne- Beautiful black and white photos of Fort Wayne from 1860-1979. It’s neat to see how some places seem little changed, and how some beautiful buildings are no longer here.

“One Shot”: World War II Photography of John A. Bushemi- Not just photography, this book serves as a biography of a Bushemi, photographer during WWII, who became well-known for his photos capturing soldiers in the Pacific. The book also tells about some the difficulties photographers faced during the War, from being shelled to dealing with the elements. A great book for those interested in the Pacific Theater.  

Images of America: Fort Wayne, Indiana- photos of memorable Fort Wayne scenes and events. The picture of St. Mary’s Catholic Church after the fire is memorable, but I preferred the photos of kids at the zoo.

Images of America: New Haven- beautiful photos of New Haven. I liked the photos of the canals and the railroads, especially reading about railroad disasters and near disasters.

Images of Aviation: Fort Wayne Aviation: Baer Field and Beyond- Photos related to Fort Wayne aviation. While there are of course, many photos of planes, some of my favorite images weren’t directly associated with flying, like veterans housing at Baer Field or the photo of Hank Aaron’s bat, which was in Fort Wayne as part of a publicity tour. (The picture was taken when the bat arrived in Fort Wayne- by plane)

Headwaters Park: Fort Wayne’s Lasting Legacy- TRF is here, so what better time to look at Headwaters Park? The park has served many purposes, and there  are photos of many major events, including the many floodings, and baseball photos from when League Park, home of the Fort Wayne Kekiongas, was located in what became the park. (There’s even a photo of Babe Ruth when he played at League Park!)

Exploring Old and New

The Calumet Region: Indiana’s Last Frontier- exhaustive early history of Indiana, great for in-depth scholarship. For the casual reader, it can be difficult to follow.

*Wabash and Erie Canal Notebook I: Allen County and Huntington County, Indiana- History and importance of the canal to Allen and Huntington County.

Wabash and Erie Canal Notebook II: Cass, Carroll and Tippecanoe counties- Importance and influence of the canal in three counties. Exhaustively informative on each county and wonderful for the canal scholar.

Wabash and Erie Canal Notebook III: Wabash and Miami Counties- uses official reports and stories of two important canal counties. The book also has photographs and maps of the canals sprinkled throughout the text.

On the Heritage Trail- Chock-full of information on sites of local historic interest in Fort Wayne. This is designed to be an accompaniment to the Heritage Trail Guide Map, which is set up as a series of walking tours around Fort Wayne. The History Center is no. 7 on the Central Downtown Trail, and the Carole Lombard house is no. 32 on the West Central Trail. ARCH is in the process of digitizing parts of the trail with QR codes, but for those without smart phones, or who just prefer the sensory experience, the book is awesome. (And since TRF is in full swing, this is a great time to see how Fort Wayne started!)

Early Indiana Trails and Surveys- reprint of a 1919 book. In-depth information on early Indiana trails. The index is helpful in finding data on various aspects of early Indiana paths, focusing on the physical trails, and not as much on the people as I would have liked. (For example, I found that Aaron Burr may have stayed one night in Vallonia “during his famous conspiracy days of 1806” but does not explain who Aaron Burr was or what his conspiracy was)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Theodore Thieme -- Fort Wayne Industrialist

by Nancy McCammon-Hansen

One of the more interesting facets of life for me is to visit with others about what they remember about growing up and the world the way it used to be. That’s why I thought the story of retired Judge Phil Thieme’s grandfather would make a great blog post so I sat down with him over lunch one day to chat about Theodore F. Thieme.

Judge Thieme says he doesn’t remember much about his grandfather, who died when Phil was 13, but he does know that he has made some decisions in his life based upon his grandfather’s character. At age 16, Phil hopped a freighter to South America. His grandfather had been a world-travel all of his adult life. That travel led in part to the opening of the Wayne Knitting Mills behind what is now Paula’s Restaurant on West Main.

Theodore Thieme was referred to in the biography “Theodore F. Thieme: A Man and His Times” by Ross F. Lockbridge (copyright 1942) as “Little Napoleon”, a nickname the elder Thieme acquired due to his height of five feet five inches, weight of about 150, and his unusually strong shoulders. Lockbridge, who had at one time worked for Thieme, wrote his book because he wanted “to do some justice in this modest effort to a life that is singularly full of lofty vision, gigantic efforts long continued, heart-breaking disappointments, and substantial and enduring successes.”

The Thieme family hails from Germany and this German heritage led to a second career for Theodore Thieme, who at one time aspired to be a musician and ended up a pharmacist. He studied in New York City where he could enjoy music when not at work. His mother had wanted him to become a Lutheran pastor, but that was never a part of Thieme’s plan. In all honesty, neither was pharmacy, but sometimes life leads you to make career decisions based upon need rather than desire.

According to Judge Thieme, at age 33 his grandfather, now a fairly successful Fort Wayne business person, “was restless and bored and wanted to do more.” He had visited his mother’s family in Dresden and his father’s family in Leipzig, Germany in 1878, meeting relatives for the first time and visiting the Paris Exposition along the way. He had attended the World’s Fair in Philadelphia in 1876 and attended every international exposition of that type for the remainder of his life.

He loved adventure and he valued the training he had in owning a pharmacy in downtown Fort Wayne, never ceasing “to emphasize the importance of that kind of training—training in exactness covering numberless details—training in assuming responsibility for innumerable little things.”

He was also able to see opportunity in new laws, the most promising, at least for his personal interests, the McKinley Protective Tariff Law enacted by Congress in 1889. On March 31, 1890, he sold his half of the interest in the Thieme and Gross Pharmacy to J.B. Pellens. The business, located on Calhoun, was renamed Gross and Pellens. Thieme took off for Germany to start a new career.

He explained his mode of researching a new endeavor this way:

“In order to save time, I decided to begin my business investigation by inserting a few advertisements in the leading daily newspapers of each city of importance, announcing that an American gentleman was interested in introducing in his country the manufacture of some article benefitted by the new McKinley Tariff Law, and solicited correspondence. No immediate attention was to be given replies, save acknowledgement, until we arrived in Berlin, where the sightseeing part of the trip would terminate…When Berlin was reached some four months after landing in England, my mail had taken on larger proportions than I had expected; and I was assured that plenty of opportunities existed for me to grasp, the main consideration being the selection of something worthwhile.”

That “something worthwhile” proved to be full-fashioned hosiery. You can read a more detailed account of why knitting was such an art, and this style of stocking so important in Lockridge’s book, available at the Allen County Public Library. The Germans weren’t inclined to want to send trade secrets across the Atlantic to America, so Thieme set himself up in a hotel room as a prospective buyer of machinery from Poland. The Germans didn’t particularly want to sell to a Pole either, but he was better than an American.

Thieme then returned to the United States with a rough draft of the plan for his company, thinking he would set it up in Philadelphia. On a brief side trip to Fort Wayne to catch up with family and friends, he talked of his plans and was asked more than once, “But why not in Fort Wayne?” Exploring the idea with only half a mind that Fort Wayne would be an ideal location, he soon found that Henry C. Paul, president of the Old National Bank, had enough good reasons for him to light upon Fort Wayne as the location for his business. Those reasons were in the form of investors.

The caption in "Theodore F. Thieme: A Man and His Times" reads "The novelty of introducing a new industry direct from Europe in those early days of Wayne Knitting Mills, proved a fertile field for cartoonists."

In August, 1891, the Wayne Knitting Mills was organized with Paul as president; Charles S. Bash, vice president; William H. Dreier, treasurer; and Thieme, secretary-manager. The investment was small so that no one would lose money should the company fail, but enough to get it off the ground.

Thieme returned to Germany to purchase equipment and hire workers to run the knitters. Because he was fluent in German, he was able to bridge any communication gap that may have existed. Machinery was shipped within 60 days and 60 days after that labor to install the machinery would follow. Thieme returned to America.

“Arriving at New York, I arranged with an Immigration Institute to receive the people engaged upon their arrival and attend to forwarding them on to Fort Wayne. Factory quarters were rented in a building at the northeast corner of Main and Clinton Street, from corner to alley, and we proceeded to put them in a condition for installation of machinery and operation of the factory—a rather uncertain and difficult job.”

Wayne Knitting Mills opened in the fall of 1891 with the first finished product going on the market in 1892. These times were financially tenuous and it soon became apparent to Thieme that his factory must increase output without increasing costs to be competitive. More output for less wages was required but not without some dissension. However, Thieme was lucky in that eventually most who worked for him agreed and soon orders came into the plant, keeping it afloat.

Thieme worked tirelessly and by 1895, his mill employed 175 people, running 22 hours a day in three shifts. In 1898, “Thieme evolved a scheme to enlarge production without any considerable further outlay of money. He succeeded in inducing two German manufacturers to move their plants with their skilled operatives to Fort Wayne under contract with the Wayne Knitting Mills to finance and house them and also guarantee to take their output at a price of cost plus a certain per cent for profit. It proved to be a sound idea and brought valuable increases of better qualities of hosiery. After a few years, both of these were merged in the ownership of the mills.” Thieme added children’s ribbed hose and infant socks to the inventory of men’s and women’s full-fashioned hosiery.

Wayne Knitting Mill in 1910
Wayne Knitting Mills, 1910

Former Fort Wayne resident Peggy Seigel, who has written much about women’s history in Fort Wayne, noted in an article published in part on

“At Wayne Knitting Mills, the most highly skilled workers were male knitters, who were trained though apprenticeship programs to operate the complex machines that knit the legs of stockings. Male workers also took charge of the dyeing process. Most of the other jobs in the factory were semiskilled or unskilled and were performed by girls or women. Three or four ‘transfer girls' put the stocking tops onto quills that were then used to transfer the stockings onto simpler circular knitting machines, also operated by women. These operators, known as ‘loopers', sewed together the foot of the stocking. Other female workers shaped stockings by a process called ‘boarding.' Women and girls also worked as sorters, inspectors, folders, finishers and menders.”
Further on she explains, “Like female workers at Wayne Knitting, girls and women at GE and the Edison Lamp Works were not permitted to train as apprentices….”

Working conditions in those days were not what we see in today’s American factories and being a young, single woman living in a city after growing up “in the country” was not always an ideal situation. However, many young women found it necessary to work to supplement family incomes.

According to Seigel, “Wayne Knitting opened a three-story dormitory and clubhouse modeled after facilities in knitting mills in the Northeast. Widely hailed as ‘a notable step in advance in the industrial sphere’ and ‘the only building of its sort in the state, perhaps in the middle west,’ the dormitory accommodated one hundred out-of-town girls in single and double rooms at a weekly price of $3.50 for room and board. The cafeteria in the clubhouse, open to all employees, could seat 500 at a time. A large lounge was a place for residents to meet with male visitors. Recreation facilities, including five bowling alleys in the basement, were open to the women twice a week.’……The detailed descriptions of the dormitory and clubhouse in the local newspapers created an image of middle-class gentility. In the ‘large and brilliantly lighted' sitting room, ‘a young rose cheeked girl in a pretty pink dress sat at the player piano listening to the merry tune she was playing with evident enjoyment. Above the piano was a large oil painting one would look for only in an art gallery.' The room featured ‘comfortable chairs of mission style' and long tables covered with magazines.”

By today’s standards, work in the Wayne Knitting Mills was comprised of long, hard days and tedious work, just as it was in almost every factory in America at that time. But Thieme did view his employees as valuable assets and began profit sharing programs in addition to the apartments, bowling alley, tennis courts and annual parties that he hosted for his workers. Profit sharing “provided, in effect that out of each year’s net profit, 10 percent dividend should first be paid to the stockholders. Then the remainder of the profits was to be divided into two equal funds, one to constitute extra dividends to stockholders in cash, additional stock, or surplus; the other, to be applied to profit-sharing and welfare. The profit sharing covered three distinct classes—officials, heads of departments, and general employees, ranging from 250 to 300 in number, who were not on piece-work. The portion to be applied to welfare activities for the promotion of greater efficiency, unity, and good-will among all Wayne Knitters. The welfare plan was conceived for the common benefit of all, individually, and as an industrial group. It was based upon the conception that all had a mutual interest in the success of the business. It was a sincere attempt to follow the Golden Rule in the application of humanitarian principles to all features of the industry and to every individual in it.”

Welfare activities included education, recreation, protection in the way of insurance and safety measures, community activities, publicity such as an employee newsletter, health services, service awards and savings plans such as a Christmas savings.

Theodore Thieme married Bessie Loring of Boston on January 18, 1894. Together they set up house at their home on the corner of Berry and Rockhill. This home would later be given to the Fort Wayne Art School. In November, 1911, the new boulevard extending from West Main Street along the St. Mary’s River was named Thieme Drive in recognition for the improvements to that area spearheaded by the businessman.

Thieme had been an avid bicyclist in his younger days and a charter member of the Fort Wayne Bicycle Club (see the blog post and He was also a member of the Old Aqueduct Club and you can see a statue dedicated to the members at Main and Theime Drive yet today.

Thieme was also involved in a move to change the form of city government in Fort Wayne to a business form of government. The effort failed. Thieme was “not amused” so to speak and issued, in part, these words to the public:

“The legislature that was elected under the pledge to promote the widest and freest expression of local self-government, coldly refused the people of Fort Wayne an opportunity to determine for themselves the sort of government they wanted. The bill as framed, would not, if passed have bound the people of this city to a business form of government. It simply would have authorized them to determine at an election whether they desired such a change. It was designed to put the whole matter up to those most intimately and vitally concerned—the citizens of Fort Wayne. And the citizens of Fort Wayne by their own representatives have been denied a voice in their own affairs.”

In 1920, employees of the Knitters’ Union in Fort Wayne went on strike. Wages were being lowered due to a decline in business and  this action had been discussed among management and the union on multiple occasions. Thieme was in Los Angeles when the strike began and returned to Fort Wayne. The strike was eventually settled when 16 employees were terminated with the admonition that they would never be employed by Wayne Knitting Mills again. A training school for apprentices was up and running in no time and the overall damage to the company from the strike was not great.

(For more detail on this please consult Lockridge’s book and other works about unionization around the time of and after World War I.)

Thieme was one of the founders in 1915 of the Fort Wayne Morris Plan Company, the first of “twenty six companies established in the United States—the first in Indiana. It was a new type of bank—a bank for the individual. The idea was originated in Norfolk, Virginia, just five years before.”

At age 66, Thieme decided it was time to retire. He decided to form a committee of management in the year leading up to his retirement as president of Wayne Knitting Mills to train key men to step into positions of leadership with the company. But when he left for a trip to Florida, some board members pooled their stock to provide controlling interest in the company and sold it the Munsingwear Corporation of Minneapolis in April, 1923. A newspaper attack was launched against Thieme on a personal level, who responded with legal action, letters to stockholders, public statements in the Fort Wayne newspapers and a 12-page pamphlet entitled “How and Why The Wayne Knitting Mills Was Sold”. Thieme’s last annual meeting with the company was June 19, 1923.

Thieme was once again free to indulge his love of travel and from 1925 to 1935 crossed the Atlantic some 20 times and in 1929 took a tour around the world. In his later years, he and his wife split their time between Los Angeles and Fort Wayne, where they built a large home near what is now the Fort Wayne Country Club.

There are a number of resources available about the Wayne Knitting Mills. Here is one: