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Looking Back

The "Looking Back" series comes from the IHB blog Marking Hoosier History and covers the commemorations of IHB's centennial and the bicentennial of statehood using the weekly newsletters of the Indiana Historical Commission. All posts by Aimee Formo.

Looking Back: Governors Descend on Boone County
November 9, 2015

The week of June 26, 1916, the Historical Commission featured Boone County’s centennial celebration.  Benjamin McKey, a newspaper editor who served on the Historical Commission’s State Advisory Committee, was the force behind Boone County’s celebration, and it seems there was a great interest in him from politicians.   Not one but three governors would be in attendance, Indiana’s Samuel Ralston, Mississippi’s Theodore Bilbo, and Louisiana’s Ruffin Pleasant.

Commissioner Charity Dye lauded Benjamin McKey along with others who gave “centennial gifts” in her book Some Torch Bearers in Indiana, saying:

“The point is that these people have not merely given money, but themselves.  Among these, especially, I should like to call attention to our native pageant writers, whose offerings were truly labors of patriotism and love.  These, it seems to me, are the priceless gifts after all, far beyond mere money.”

“The point is that these people have not merely given money, but themselves.  Among these, especially, I should like to call attention to our native pageant writers, whose offerings were truly labors of patriotism and love.  These, it seems to me, are the priceless gifts after all, far beyond mere money.”

6-26-1916 Centennial Newsletter

Looking Back: Harrison County’s Centennial Celebration
September 14, 2015

The week of May 29, 1916, the Historical Commission featured many upcoming celebrations.  Notable was Harrison County, where another W.C. Langdon-directed pageant was planned and the Governor was to speak. The pageant celebrated Corydon, the State’s first capital, as the preeminent place in early Hoosier history, and was entitled “The Pageant of Corydon: The Pioneer Capital of Indiana.”  Read it here.

The two-day celebration in Corydon was also slated to host the debut of the Selig Polyscope-produced centennial film.

5-29-1916 Centennial Newsletter

Looking Back: Bloomington Celebrates the Centennial
July 6, 2015

The week of May 8, 1916, the Historical Commission advertised the joint centennial venture of the city of Bloomington and Indiana University:  a pageant directed and written by W.C. Langdon and featuring, fittingly, the founding of the University and “struggle in Indiana for education,” as well as determined pioneers and the Civil War era.

View image: Cover of the program from Bloomington and Indiana University’s pageant held May 1916. From the collection of the Indiana State Library. View an online exhibition of pageant programs and centennial images at

5-8-1916 Centennial Newsletter

Looking Back: Hoosieroons
May 11, 1015

The week of April 24, 1916, the Historical Commission announced the formation of a new history-focused social and patriotic club called the “Hoosieroons.”  The mission of the group would be to “foster the right kind of state pride,” preserve Indiana history, and unite native Hoosiers.

What’s a “hoosieroon,” exactly?  The moniker was taken from the popular John Finley poem “The Hoosier’s Nest” (read it here).  The “Hoosieroons” in the poem are the young children of Hoosier pioneers depicted in the verse.  Centennial Hoosieroons were to be children of native Hoosiers, those people living in Indiana at least as early as 1866.

And what did the Hoosieroons do?  According to the Bloomington Evening News, July 1, 1915, the group elected IU professor James A. Woodburn to be their president at the June 29 charter meeting held at the Indiana State House.  Harlow Lindley was named vice president, Lucy M. Elliot was voted secretary, and Max Hyman was named treasurer.  The group reaffirmed their interest in “the preservation and study of Indiana history” at the meeting.  No mention of the Hoosieroons’ official activities appears in the post-Centennial reporting of the Historical Commission, perhaps because its leadership and undertakings overlapped so closely with the Commission itself.  Elliot served as assistant director of the Historical Commission, and all three of the male executive committee members of the Hoosieroons were Commissioners.

The leadership took their charge to foster state pride seriously.  For example, Elliot took a leadership role in education and the centennial activities of schools during the centennial year.  Lindley served as President of the Ohio Valley Historical Association.  He would go on to edit The Indiana Centennial and write Indiana as Seen by Early Travelers.

ead more about the activities of the Commission and its Hoosieroons in Harlow Lindley’s The Indiana Centennial and James A. Woodburn’s article “The Indiana Historical Commission and Plans for the Centennial” in The Indiana Magazine of History. You can also access Lindley’s Indiana as Seen by Early Travelers online.

4-24-1916 Centennial Newsletter

Looking Back: A $25 Prize for the Best Film Title
April 23, 1015

The week of April 17th, 1916 was a busy one for the Historical Commission and the Selig Polyscope Company.  Frank Beal and his “corps of assistants” descended upon Indianapolis, filming the State House, the city’s iconic Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, and many other locations.

According to this update from the Centennial Newsletter, the filmmakers were taking suggestions for the film’s title, with a prize of $25 going to the selected submission.  That’s the equivalent of over $400 today, adjusted for inflation!

4-17-16 Centennial Newsletter

Looking Back: A Centennial Centenarian
March 20, 2015

The week of January 24, 1916, the Centennial newsletter featured Ephriam Lowman, Fulton County’s “Centennial Centenarian.”

Oddly, the week before, the Logansport Journal Tribune and Rochester Weekly Republican reported the January 14 death of one Ephriam Lowman, Fulton County resident, aged 92 and laid to rest in Fletcher Lake Cemetery.*  Perhaps Fulton County had two Ephriam Lowmans, but it is equally likely there was confusion surrounding the exact date of the gentleman’s birth.  If you know more about this genealogy mystery, we’d love to hear your findings (email IHB).

Though life expectancies have increased in the last hundred years, being a centenarian is still a noteworthy distinction.  Boone County, Indiana has undertaken a project to collect the oral histories of its Bicentennial centenarians and other senior citizens.  Learn more about the project here.

1-24-1916 Centennial Newsletter

*Source: “News from our Country Correspondents,” Logansport Journal Tribune, January 15, 1916, 8; Rochester Weekly Republican, January 20, 1916, 2.   Accessed NewspaperARCHIVE.

Looking Back: More on the Centennial Film
February 16, 2015

In early April of 1916, the Selig Polyscope Company was beginning to seek a rather impressive number of extras for the filming of “The Birth of the State.”  We learn in this excerpt from the April 3, 1916 newsletter that the filmmakers planned 250 distinct scenes, some needing over 1,000 cast members.  Further details about the “types” being sought to portray the most notable Hoosiers were published in the April 3, 1916 issue of the South Bend News-Times (read the article in the Hoosier State Chronicles).  A March 31, 1916 Liberty Express article marveled at the 7,000 feet of film (7 film  reels) expected to be used for the production,  though the Express exaggerated a bit, suggesting that 300 scenes were planned.

As noted in my previous post about the Centennial Film, while a couple of clips survived to be digitized, there are no known complete copies of “The Birth of the State.”  We cannot be certain so many extras were actually used, but if the company followed through on their plans, it must have been quite impressive!

4-3-1916 Centennial Newsletter

Looking Back: Influential Women
January 27, 2015

Last September, we shared an excerpt from the March 13th issue of the Centennial Newsletter.  The note went on to identify some of the most influential and active women in Centennial celebration planning.

Commissioner Charity Dye was singled out for her self-sacrifice, vision, devotion, and many other noble qualities–she was also labeled a “prophetess.”

She was not alone in her loyalty and efficiency.  Juliet V. Strauss and Mary Flanner may be the most recognizable names to a modern audience, but ladies from all over the state were contributing, even young girls.

03-13-1916 Centennial Newsletter