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An American Hometown

Terre Haute, Indiana, 1927

Tom Roznowski. Foreword by Scott Russell Sanders

Publication Year: 2009

They lived "green" out of necessity -- walking to work, repairing everything from worn shoes to wristwatches, recycling milk bottles and packing containers. Music was largely heard live and most residential streets had shade trees. The nearby Wabash River -- a repeated subject of story and song -- transported Sunday picnickers to public parks. In the form of an old-fashioned city directory, An American Hometown celebrates a bygone American era, focusing on life in 1920s Terre Haute, Indiana. With artfully drawn biographical sketches and generously illustrated histories, noted musician, historian, and storyteller Tom Roznowski not only evokes a beauty worth remembering, but also brings to light just how many of our modern ideas of sustainable living are deeply rooted in the American tradition.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

The earth is a patchwork of places, each with its own natural and human history. In recent decades, however, the qualities that distinguish one place from another have been eroding under the impact of global corporations, electronic communications, and the uniform design of everything from high-rises to highways. ...

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pp. xv-xvi

This book would not have been possible without contributions from a mighty cast of characters. I am forever indebted to the inspiration, encouragement, and research made available to me by three exceptional historians: Dorothy Jerse, Judith Calvert, and Mike McCormick. ...

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pp. 1-6

Terre Haute, Indiana, was once one of America’s shining jewels. Set along the banks of a legendary river, it was a thriving Midwestern city, surrounded by fertile farmlands, rich coalfields, and mature hardwood forests. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Terre Haute became known as “The Crossroads of America,” ...

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Abel Manufacturing Company—to—Robert Axlander

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pp. 7-18

As good a place to start as any. The Abel Manufacturing Company was the kind of small local production facility based on a skilled handicraft that flourished in Terre Haute and throughout America, up until the Great Depression. Despite the ambitious corporate titles here, Abel’s Manufacturing was really just a step or two removed ...

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Bachelor Club—to—Roxie Byrd

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pp. 19-35

The origins of the club date back to 1914, when Everett Cole decided to organize a group of 15 male friends into a social club that would sponsor dances, outings, and other planned events with the eligible young women in town. By 1917, the group had formalized its operations with Robert’s Rules of Order, ...

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Barden Calloway—to—John Crowe

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pp. 36-57

It’s interesting to note that even though the miners listed in the 1927 Polk Directory worked for various companies like Walter Bledsoe & Company or Coal Creek, the employer is never mentioned. It might be a union preference or perhaps they just considered the earth to be their boss. ...

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Daphne Confectionary—to—Lemon H. Dunn

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pp. 58-69

Like so many of the single-proprietor businesses in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1927, the Daphne Confectionary was perceived as inseparable from the life of its owner, so much so that one newspaper account of the time would actually refer to him as John Daphne. John Kostavetes personally created every one of the candies he sold at the Daphne. ...

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Tilatha East—to—Mary Euriga

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pp. 70-77

That lovely first name immediately draws you in, but there’s also that vague address. In 1927, she was a single woman with no reported occupation living in a poor part of town. No numbers on the houses. Probably wasn’t too tough to find her, though. Follow Cherry Street west to the river. Just ask for her by name. ...

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Ethel Failing—to—Emma Fyfe

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pp. 78-90

How they ever eluded Robert Ripley and his popular news feature is a mystery unto itself. After all, the coroner of Will County, Illinois, a Mr. Blood, was featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, as was Mr. Barber, a barber from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and Miss Toombs and Miss Coffin, employed by Parklawn Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland. ...

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James H. Gallian—to—Flora G. Gulick

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pp. 91-100

In the late 1920s, writers like Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain began to create what would become the popular image of the private investigator: small upstairs office, slouch fedora, a bottle of whiskey stashed in the desk drawer. Terre Haute during the 1920s could have provided real inspiration for this genre, even if James Gallian himself didn’t. ...

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Joseph A. Haddox—to—Frances Hughes

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pp. 101-115

A fertile yet frustrating market for his skills, considering the fact that the soot and smoke from bituminous coal would have made any window in Terre Haute, Indiana, dingy almost as soon as it was cleaned. In 1927, Joseph still probably relied on the popular standard for the task at hand: a bucket of hot water mixed with a half cup of vinegar. ...

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Josephine Ice—to—Abe Issac

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pp. 116-118

The Indiana Theater turned out to be the last commercial theater built in the twentieth century in downtown Terre Haute. Both its construction features and the date of its completion reveal a great deal about where the city was in the 1920s, especially how it imagined itself moving into the future. ...

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Mary Jackman—to—William R. Joyce

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pp. 119-128

In 1906, Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, an expose of unsanitary conditions in the Chicago meat-packing industry. The resulting public outcry led to the speedy passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act, which provided for routine federal inspections of meat slaughtered and sold commercially. ...

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Albert Kaeling—to—Lillian Kuhn

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pp. 129-139

Behold the classic boardinghouse, which would be gradually phased out of existence by a combination of permit renewals, zoning regulations, occupancy restrictions, and insurance requirements. The need for cheap room and board never went away in America’s cities. Witness the long waiting list for Katherine House, ...

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Minnie Mayme Lacy—to—Lena B. Lyda

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pp. 140-149

Much like Leon Bingham, Minnie would swipe a good ten years off her age when the U.S. census takers came calling in 1930. Turns out her 1958 obituary, over which she had considerably less control, lists her as being 76. The potential health benefits of sulfur spring therapy notwithstanding, the census taker apparently had no trouble believing her. (See Denzil M. Ferguson.) ...

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Albert McBride—to—Ernestine Myers Dancing Academy

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pp. 150-166

By 1927, it had become the family profession and possibly a source of pride. David McCarter began the tradition, having left the family farm in Seymour, Indiana, where he had been born on New Year’s Day in 1870. Like many Indiana farm boys of his generation, David migrated to the nearest big city and learned a trade. ...

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Agnes Nairn—to—North Baltimore Bottle Glass Company

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pp. 167-173

The Columbian Enameling and Stamping Company was the largest single employer in Terre Haute in 1927 with about 950 employees. The massive facility covered 13 acres. Like many of the industries operating in Terre Haute around this time, the company marketed an iconic piece of Americana: the white enameled coffee pot commonly found in campsites, ...

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Harry E. Oaf—to—James Osler

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pp. 174-176

Supposedly the answer to every Irish mother’s prayer—that is, if her son hadn’t chosen the priesthood instead. Well-worn stereotypes aside, many ethnic groups in America did gravitate toward particular occupations in the early decades of the twentieth century. A large number of grocers in Terre Haute came from the Syrian community. ...

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Mabel P. Paine—to—Arvella Pushback

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pp. 177-186

This was regarded as a fundamental skill in 1927. Like daily grooming and good grammar, neat penmanship was valued as a quality that enhanced an individual’s status in a community. You don’t need statistics to trace its declining importance over recent generations. Currently, many 80-year-olds still display the skill with proficiency ...

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The Quality Shop—to—Jacob Ryan

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pp. 187-198

The finer details of personal appearance have traditionally been the province of women, from polished nails to jewelry to perfume. But in 1927, men of average means gave enormous attention and spent a good bit of their resources on grooming and adornment. This effort might have occasionally gone to what we now consider extremes, ...

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St. Joseph’s Academy—to—Marcella Swim

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pp. 199-219

The Sisters of Providence, who had first arrived in the wilderness west of Terre Haute in 1840, were fiercely dedicated to the cause of female education. Initially, their mission found expression through the establishment of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, located on the west bank of the Wabash River. ...

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Elmer E. Talbott—to—Alice Twadell

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pp. 220-234

The Filbeck Hotel at the northeast corner of 5th and Cherry Streets was located about a block from the unmarked boundary to Terre Haute’s red light district. This would provide the answer to the most common question Elmer was asked by out-of-town salesmen next to: “Can I have an extra key to my room?” ...

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Jacob Umble—to—Alm Utz

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pp. 235-238

One of the most impressive structures ever built in Terre Haute. It was completed in the summer of 1893, when railroads were still considered the future of land transportation. The Union Depot was a massive three-story building constructed of quarried red stone and pressed brick. ...

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Ohmer D. Vance—to—Robert T. Vrydagh

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pp. 239-241

Much business to be done on Thanksgiving Day when Garfield and Wiley High Schools traditionally faced each other for their annual football game at Memorial Stadium. The trophy awarded to the winner was, appropriately, a solid bronze turkey. ...

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Clarence W. Wagner—to—John Wright

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pp. 242-250

He was clearly a professional, at least in the same sense that musicians and actors and artists and ballplayers living in Terre Haute were around this time. In short, here were just enough incentives and opportunities within reach for Clarence to practice his craft and keep him fed and busy week to week. ...

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Ivan Yates—to—George A. Zwerner

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pp. 251-254

There are many examples of home businesses in Terre Haute in 1927, but perhaps only those operating in the city’s red light district would be considered more intimate than Ivan’s. One intriguing possibility is that his neighbor Julia Thomas had converted him to the physcultopathy movement. ...


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pp. 255-264

E-ISBN-13: 9780253005038
E-ISBN-10: 0253005035
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253221292

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 82 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2009