Throwback Thursday: The 1900 Census

Today's surprise from yesteryear features a copy of the 1900 Census abstract book we found in our archives.The book is over 440 pages long and it contains enough statistics to make even Ken Jennings' head explode. But here are some you'll find interesting:

U.S. Population
1890: 62,947,714
1900: 75,994,575 (about 51% male)

Indiana in 1900
Population: 2,516,462
Population engaged in gainful occupations (at least 10 years of age): 1,006,755
Foreign born population: 1,058
Population unable to speak English (at least 10 years of age): 12,118
Males of "militia age": 530,615
Population attending school: 491,951
Illiterate population (at least 10 years of age): 90,539

Throwback Thursday: 1944 Chamber Board Meeting in Gary

While digging through the archives, we found this packet from a Chamber board of directors meeting in Gary in 1944. A compiliation of some text:

Minutes of Board of Directors Meeting
September 9-10, 1944

The second regular meeting in 1944 of the Board of Directors of the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce was held in Gary, Indiana September 9-10. The Board members, their wives and the staff were guests of Mr. S.M. Jenks, General Superintendent of the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation…

The meeting opened with a tour of the plant of the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation on Saturday forenoon, September 9, with Mr. Jenks, Mr. J.L Perry, President of the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation, and a number of his assistants conducting the tour. Following the completion of the tour, the Directors were guests of the Steel Corporation at a luncheon. This luncheon also was attended by the officers and members of the Board of Directors of the Gary Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Jenks presided at the luncheon and the program included remarks of welcome by Mr. W.E. Hadley, Manager of Operations, Chicago District, Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation; response by Mr. Dean Mitchell, President of the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce; and remarks by Mr. J.L. Perry, President of the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation…

The dinner for Directors, their wives and guests on the evening of Saturday, September 9, was held at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago and was preceded by a cocktail party.

Many of the public policy issues addressed at the meeting included unemployment compensation, old age and survivors’ insurance taxes, public welfare problems, hospitalization and sickness insurance, federal and state taxation, state aid to local government, city financing and tax exemptions.

Watergate Reporters Reflect on Audacity of Nixon

How awful were Richard Nixon’s actions as President? Apparently, he was bad enough to unify Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward on the same joint byline for the first time in 36 years. In this piece for The Washington Post, America’s most famous journalistic duo reflects on Nixon’s dubious legacy.

Also, get tickets now for our Annual Awards Dinner on November 1 to hear more from Woodward and Bernstein, who will be on hand to discuss the 40th anniversary of Watergate — and I’ll be interviewing the two for our September/October edition of BizVoice, as well. For now, here’s an excerpt from the aforementioned Washington Post article, but read the entire story for their list of five reasons why Nixon was worse than we thought.

As Sen. Sam Ervin completed his 20-year Senate career in 1974 and issued his final report as chairman of the Senate Watergate committee, he posed the question: “What was Watergate?”

Countless answers have been offered in the 40 years since June 17, 1972, when a team of burglars wearing business suits and rubber gloves was arrested at 2:30 a.m. at the headquarters of the Democratic Party in the Watergate office building in Washington. Four days afterward, the Nixon White House offered its answer: “Certain elements may try to stretch this beyond what it was,” press secretary Ronald Ziegler scoffed, dismissing the incident as a “third-rate burglary.”

History proved that it was anything but. Two years later, Richard Nixon would become the first and only U.S. president to resign, his role in the criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice — the Watergate coverup — definitively established.

Another answer has since persisted, often unchallenged: the notion that the coverup was worse than the crime. This idea minimizes the scale and reach of Nixon’s criminal actions.

Ervin’s answer to his own question hints at the magnitude of Watergate: “To destroy, insofar as the presidential election of 1972 was concerned, the integrity of the process by which the President of the United States is nominated and elected.” Yet Watergate was far more than that. At its most virulent, Watergate was a brazen and daring assault, led by Nixon himself, against the heart of American democracy: the Constitution, our system of free elections, the rule of law.

Today, much more than when we first covered this story as young Washington Post reporters, an abundant record provides unambiguous answers and evidence about Watergate and its meaning. This record has expanded continuously over the decades with the transcription of hundreds of hours of Nixon’s secret tapes, adding detail and context to the hearings in the Senate and House of Representatives; the trials and guilty pleas of some 40 Nixon aides and associates who went to jail; and the memoirs of Nixon and his deputies. Such documentation makes it possible to trace the president’s personal dominance over a massive campaign of political espionage, sabotage and other illegal activities against his real or perceived opponents.

In the course of his five-and-a-half-year presidency, beginning in 1969, Nixon launched and managed five successive and overlapping wars — against the anti-Vietnam War movement, the news media, the Democrats, the justice system and, finally, against history itself. All reflected a mind-set and a pattern of behavior that were uniquely and pervasively Nixon’s: a willingness to disregard the law for political advantage, and a quest for dirt and secrets about his opponents as an organizing principle of his presidency.

Long before the Watergate break-in, gumshoeing, burglary, wiretapping and political sabotage had become a way of life in the Nixon White House.

Press-Seal Gasket Corp: Fort Wayne Company Seals Future with Dynamic Approach

Founded in 1954, Press-Seal Gasket Corporation has grown from a small Fort Wayne operation to a company with international reach, selling to customers in Israel, Sweden, Norway, Mexico, Canada, Japan and some Caribbean countries.

“When I first started as a salesman in 1978, I was just the 13th employee,” relays Chairman and CEO James Skinner, adding the company now has 138 on staff.

Skinner explains the company was initially founded by a concrete pipe producer who wasn’t satisfied with the quality of rubber gaskets available at the time. Ten years later following some deaths in his family, two attorneys serving as the company’s counsel ended up owning the company. They struggled to produce a reliable accounting report, so they called IBM to send a computer salesman out in 1964 to straighten it out.

“My father (Hank Skinner) was working for IBM and was sent out to Press-Seal and explained IBM could not sell them a computer because the company was too small, and the cost of the computer would have been half of its annual revenues.”

He did provide them with a bookkeeping system and a list of accountants who could keep it straight.

“Basically, they were so impressed with him that they offered him part of the business – to come in as general manager,” Skinner says. “Then over the next eight years, my father purchased the interest of the other two stockholders. Since 1964, our family has been involved in the management of the company, and I purchased it from my parents in 1984.”

Over time, the company has expanded from mainly pipe gaskets and pipe-to-manhole connectors, and in 1990 expanded into extrusion and molding. Press-Seal has also added a tool and die operation.

“That’s a similar story to how the company started,” Skinner notes. “I was unable to get good delivery from local tool and die shops because we were a small company and all the larger companies in the Fort Wayne market were their priority. So I bought a small tool and die shop in Columbia City and turned it from a small shop that was servicing the foundry and automotive industries to a shop that focuses on medical, aerospace, automotive and higher tech things. It’s now a fully integrated shop…

“It allows us to take a different tack on how things are made,” he adds, noting that stainless parts are a specialty of the operation. “While a lot of tool and die shops are going out of business these days, we are thriving. We find a lot of customers are in a lot of pain in terms of non-delivery and (a shop) not understanding the customers’ needs.”

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Conner Prairie History on Tap: Think While You Drink

The craft beer explosion in Indiana over the last few years has been downright euphoric for those of us who enjoy beer brewed with care. Conner Prairie’s Horizon Council (a group for young professionals — to which I belong, actually) will be putting a new spin on the movement on June 15 when it hosts "History on Tap" at Conner Prairie. 

The event will feature beers from Sun King Brewing, Bier Brewery, Upland Brewing Co. and Fountain Square Brew, among others. Additionally, Douglas Wissing, author of Indiana: One Pint at a Time, will be on hand to speak about the history of brewing in Indiana. Wissing was featured in the 2011 article in BizVoice about Indiana’s microbrew industry, "Taste of Success: Local Craft Brewers Building an Industry."

You can register for the event here.

The Rest is History: One Resident Strives to Keep Old Indy Alive, Share it With Others

In a future edition of BizVoice, we'll take a look at historic preservation efforts around the state. But for now, one web site that is gaining popularity is Historic Indianapolis, the brainchild of downtown Indy resident and Los Angeles transplant Tiffany Benedict Berkson. I recently interviewed Tiffany about her site:

Chamber: How long has Historic Indianapolis been up? Why did you launch it?
Tiffany: Historic Indianapolis started as a periodic blog in July 2009. I started it as a way to share all of the offbeat finds I discovered as I was doing research on my home. If someone had told me 10 years ago I’d be doing this, I would have laughed. Now, I have trouble imagining doing anything else. The goal is to get people to see that no matter where you are, there are fascinating discoveries to be made that will make you feel a deeper connection to said place. The echoes in history can seem almost magical, but you have to be open to listening and capable of connecting the dots. 
What is it about history that appeals to you? Why do you think it doesn’t resonate with some people in younger age brackets? How have you tried to make your site appealing to those people? 
I love how history is just one giant game of "Six Degrees of Separation." Everyone is looking for their connection to the story and it’s just a bit more laborious, layered or labor intensive to discover the connections from many decades past — but the connections are there somewhere, awaiting discovery. I think that’s why it doesn’t necessarily resonate immediately with the younger set. If the timeframe/ person being examined is farther removed than someone they have personally known — like a grandparent — they don’t have a first-hand connection, and therefore, it’s too taxing to use imagination to flesh out. There are so many other things vying for their attention, that this one is easy to flush. I try to make the past relevant by presenting the information in a quick, accessible way, for the most part. There are always visuals; the stories aren’t too long, typically; the site can be irreverent — just look at WTH Wednesdays. People have tortured old buildings and done things that even most untrained eyes can discern — this makes for an interesting hook, akin to hiding a kid’s medicine in something they love.  
What is your goal with the site? Are you looking to expand it further?
The most immediate goal is finding sponsors to help underwrite the cost of running the site. This is a very time intensive endeavor, and there are thousands of visitors each month. Yes, I have a lengthy list of other features I plan to add once more resources are secured. There are tons of ways to get people inspired about community, history, heritage, family and I look forward to making a growing contribution in all those arenas. 
You now have over 4,000 Facebook fans? How are you promoting the site to generate that much interest?
Recently, I did a small promotion and museum ticket giveaway, but for the most part, I just ask the existing audience if they know anyone else who loves history and heritage or who has pride in Indianapolis and ask them to suggest it to friends. Plus the Facebook page is very active. New photos, questions or posts are added at least once, but oftentimes more frequently, each day.
Operating a site like this must expose you to a great deal of information – perhaps some that has been buried, so to speak, for a long time. In your research, what are some of the most surprising facts you’ve uncovered about the city or state?
Well, it’s no longer surprising — but at first, I was in absolute shock at what an opulent place this was and what stunning big city, old architecture we had — and that most of it is gone. Indianapolis has earned a nickname relating to wrecking balls. Thankfully, when I get out of the city, there are lots of lovely town squares that remain mostly intact. That’s always refreshing. 

Are there people in any other major cities in the U.S. with sites like yours that you’ve seen? Any others in Indiana?
I’ve not found anything exactly like; I’ve seen preservation sites, vintage real estate sites, sites for a specific museum, neighborhood, etc., but not one that pushes out seven days a week of content and is not comprised solely of long dissertations, as you would expect from the world of academia, for example. The unabridged version of the story should be out there — and there are plenty of academic journals or publications to accommodate that, but the medium of a website (also accessible by smartphone) almost dictates a quicker breakdown of material, if that makes sense.
What have been your greatest challenges in creating the site and keeping it going? 
The biggest challenge has been finding the time to pursue sponsorships. Though a number of people have suggested making this into a not-for-profit, I’m not yet convinced that is the way to go. It makes sense from the perspective of going after a big grant versus smaller amounts of money from sponsors and underwriters, but I’m still experimenting. Other than my three weekly contributors and other occasional ones, I do all the content, research, photos, scanning, etc. This is all incredibly time consuming, so adding to that: meeting people and pursuing potential sponsors, following up, and the like… it quickly becomes exhausting. I work at least 12 hours a day, at least 6 days a week. And I love it, but time management is a constant struggle.
The site is supported by sponsors. Who are some current sponsors, and what benefits do sponsors of your site receive?
The sponsors of static placement have one of a limited number of spaces that appear on all pages of the web site with an embedded link to their home web site or wherever they’d like. The sponsor’s visibility is high because of the very limited space for those. The other opportunity is underwriting the cost of research/ time/ photos for an article or series. For example, a vintage clothing store called Minx, (which is located in an historic building) is going to sponsor Ladies Lounge for a series of weeks. The shop logo and link will be embedded at the top within the body of the article for this weekly feature that regularly explores vintage fashion or other topics more of interest to our female audience. This is a great way for the business to also have something to Tweet out, link to on Facebook, or to list as something they are part of that will be relevant to their audience.
For more information, or to inquire about sponsoring, contact Tiffany at [email protected] and follow HI on Twitter (@historicindiana).

1888 a Big Year for Pres. Harrison, Union Station and Indiana

I’m doing some writing in a volunteer capacity for the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site here in Indy. For the upcoming September edition of its newsletter ("The Statesman"), I wrote an article about Union Station — which was built the same year Harrison was elected. I’m reposting the article here with permission (and please consider visiting or volunteering at the Harrison Home; it’s a wonderful standing tribute to a past president and Indiana resident):

The image and landscape of Indianapolis was changing in 1888. The population had boomed in the middle of the century, and its place in a nation still on the mend – just a quarter of a century after the Civil War – was evolving. The year saw many developments in the city, in fact. U.S. Senator Benjamin Harrison thwarted incumbent President Grover Cleveland’s bid for re-election. Indiana limestone and oak provided the foundation for Indiana’s new Statehouse – and at the heart of it all for residents and visitors alike was a new Union Station. While Harrison traveled out of the old Union Station en route to his posts during the Civil War, as well as his later duties in Washington, D.C., his grand departure to the White House was out of the new station in 1889.

To understand why the new station was necessary, one must turn back the clock even further to 1860. Just a decade after rail first came to Indianapolis, the city’s population had more than doubled in size to 18,611. This is not only when it became the state’s largest city, but when it became the state’s central hub (as Madison and New Albany had been the most critical conduits before that time due to their locations along the Ohio River). Soon, five railroad trunk lines and about 40 smaller operations were running trains through the Hoosier State. Though one of the first belt railroads in America was built for the Union Stockyards in 1877 (and the Indianapolis Union Railway Company leased it for the staggering duration of 999 years), owners of the five main lines knew a new building would soon be in order to accommodate the increased traffic.

The man cited by many as the chief visionary for the new facility was James McCrea, president of the Indianapolis Union Railway Company (and later president of the Pennsylvania Railroad). In an 1886 article, The Indianapolis Journal credited McCrea’s persistence as being the driving force in the development of the new facility. Once legislative approval came in 1885 and the real estate was acquired, the wheels were in motion, so to speak, to erect the new station between Illinois and Meridian Streets – just north of where the existing facility stood.

The new station opened in September 1888. The Indianapolis Journal reported:

The station proper is 150 feet square, three stories high, with basement and attic rooms. The tower is 185 feet high, and besides this structure there are two baggage rooms, one at the west and the other at the east end of the train sheds. The baggage rooms are each 150 feet long by twenty-five feet wide.

The train sheds are 741 feet long by 200 feet wide, constructed of iron with a tin roof. The station proper rests on a granite foundation, the stone coming from Iron Mountain, Missouri. The walls above are constructed of pressed brick, with brown-stone trimmings, which were shipped from Pennsylvania… Under cover of the sheds are ten long tracks, 741 feet long, and two short tracks…

Furthermore, The Indianapolis Sentinel explained:

Ticket-agent [Daniel] Donough is much pleased with his quarters. “It is absolutely,” he says, “the finest ticket office in the United States.” Tom Taggart’s lunchrooms are open this morning, fully prepared for the multitude who are already coming for the fair. The rooms on the upper floors, with the exception of the telegraph room, are not ready for occupancy.”

While most publicity was positive, this admonishing note was published in the September 22 edition of The Indianapolis Journal, although it likely seems comical to today’s reader:

There is a good deal of complaint among the male population who are not admitted to the ladies’ [waiting] room in the new Union Station. This is a rule at all large railway stations in this country and will doubtless be enforced until men have better habits. There should be one room at a large railway station, in fact, at a small one as well, where a lady can move about without her skirts dragging in tobacco spit.

As it pertains to Harrison, the station played a major role in his campaign. Oddly enough, it wasn’t because he travelled a great deal – but because he opted not to. In choosing to run a locally-based – or “front porch” – campaign from his home in Indianapolis, reporters, delegates and celebrities instead came to the city to see him, thus bringing more traffic through Union Station. His exposure proved to be just enough as he lost the popular vote, but was victorious in the all-important Electoral College.

Though he triumphantly left the station en route to his new accommodations in the White House in 1889, he would soon make a very forlorn return to the facility, coming back for his wife Caroline’s funeral in October 1892. (She died in the White House following a yearlong battle with tuberculosis.) Her death occurred just two weeks before the 1892 election, which he lost to Cleveland.

For more on the history of Union Station, read Indianapolis Union Station: Trains, Travelers and Changing Times, by James R. Hetherington.


BONUS FUN FACT: An energetic, inquisitive 17-year-old Thomas Edison worked at the old Union Station as a Western Union telegraph operator for a few months in 1864.

American Students Lack Basic Historical Knowledge

As a fan of history, and a strong believer that a key to progressing forward is a firm grasp of the past, this article in the Wall Street Journal concerns me. As a general plea, I’d just like to remind parents and teachers to take advantage of the wonderful resources we have in the state, including Conner Praire, the Indiana Historical Society, the Benjamin Harrison Home, the governmental and Civil War history in Corydon, etc.:

The results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed that U.S. schoolchildren have made little progress since 2006 in their understanding of key historical themes, including the basic principles of democracy and America’s role in the world.

Only 20% of U.S. fourth-graders and 17% of eighth-graders who took the 2010 history exam were "proficient" or "advanced," unchanged since the test was last administered in 2006. Proficient means students have a solid understanding of the material.

The news was even more dire in high school, where 12% of 12th-graders were proficient, unchanged since 2006. More than half of all seniors posted scores at the lowest achievement level, "below basic." While the nation’s fourth- and eighth-graders have seen a slight uptick in scores since the exam was first administered in 1994, 12th-graders haven’t.

One bright spot in the data was the performance of African-American and Hispanic students in fourth and eighth grades. The average score of Hispanic fourth-graders jumped to 198 last year, versus 175 in 1994, which helped shrink the gap with their white counterparts. In eighth grade, black students improved to 250 points in 2010 from 238 in 1994. At the fourth-grade level, the gap between Hispanic and white students was 39 points in 1994 and 26 points in 2010. In eighth grade, the black-white gap narrowed to 23 points in 2010 from 28 in 1994.

The overall lackluster performance is certain to revive the debate about whether history and other subjects, such as science and art, are being pushed out of the curriculum because of the focus on math and reading demanded under the No Child Left Behind federal education law. The federal law mandates that students be tested in math and reading.

New Conner Prairie Exhibit Brings Indiana Civil War History to Life

Conner Prairie (Fishers), an Indiana Chamber member and an organization I’m proud to be affiliated with via its Horizon Council, just announced a new exhibit and massive undertaking launching in June. Though Indiana is not often thought of as a site for Civil War battles, anyone whose traveled to Corydon knows Hoosiers of the day were privy to one major scare courtesy of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan. Now, visitors can be part of an interactive experience telling the story of this event. The Indy Star reports:

A $4.3 million Civil War exhibit, unveiled Wednesday, is the museum’s newest way to present history.

The "1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana," opening June 4, will integrate technology with Conner Prairie’s first-person interpretation in an outdoor setting to create a new kind of guest experience focused on personal stories during the Civil War in Indiana. Conner Prairie’s largest exhibit, at 8,800 square feet, it will use projected images, video, theatrical sound, staging, hands-on experiences and live action to bring the drama of Civil War Indiana to life.

"It’s going to be an experience like none other in the country, and maybe even in the world," said Ellen Rosenthal, Conner Prairie’s president and chief executive officer.
The museum, on 850 acres at 13400 Allisonville Road, offers programs designed to engage and connect people of all ages and backgrounds with one another and the past.

The new exhibit will tell the story of Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s cavalry raid through Dupont during July 1863. The characters in the exhibit are based on real people who lived in Indiana during the Civil War when Morgan’s Raiders invaded.

"It’s the most important Civil War event ever to occur on Indiana soil," Rosenthal said.

The exhibit posed three challenges: to re-create Morgan’s raid with 2,500 cavalry over and over again daily, to make visitors feel part of the experience and to make the experience engaging for the entire family, not just for military history buffs.

Dan Freas, the museum’s vice president of guest experiences, said "Civil War Journey" doesn’t rely on an increase in staff.

"That’s where technology comes into play," he said. The exhibit incorporates theatrical wizardry that includes interactive video, special effects, lighting, sound and costumed interpreters "to provide that sense of excitement."