The longest, shortest, darkest race: The 1973 Indianapolis 500

Since the inaugural race in 1911, the Indianapolis 500 has provided racing fans with fast thrills in the month of May. Some years have provided more drama than others and 1973 was certainly such a year.

Poster advertising the 1973 time trials. Medium Broadsides Collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division.

1973 was the 57th running of the race and going into it, fans were excited to see cars possibly reach 200 mph speeds for the first time ever. Qualifications began on Saturday, but before they could even start, driver Art Pollard crashed on a practice run and would eventually die from his injuries. The time trials continued with Johnny Rutherford posting the fastest time at 199.071 mph, tantalizingly close to the coveted 200 mph, but still short.

The race was scheduled for Monday, May 28. After an initial four-hour rain delay, the race officially started but things went horribly wrong on the very first lap. Caused in part by a car moving extremely slow due to a mechanical failure, a 12-car crash put an immediate halt to the race. A massive fireball from the wreckage of driver Salt Walther’s car reached spectators in the stands and several were rushed to local hospitals with serious burns. While he survived the wreck, Walther would have to undergo a very lengthy recovery and, in the process, became addicted to pain medication, a condition he struggled with for the rest of his life until dying from an overdose in 2012. Perhaps fortuitously, another torrential rainstorm began shortly after the wreck and the race needed to be postponed to the next day.

Front page of The Indianapolis Star, May 29, 1973.

Racing conditions did not improve the following day. Despite over 200,000 fans showing up for the second attempt at the race, another postponement was announced. This was the first time in the race’s history that a race had to be postponed two days in a row. Spirits were low among drivers, crews and fans with some hoping the race would be completely cancelled.

Sheltering from the rain on Pit Row. Picture from the official yearbook for the 1973 Indianapolis 500 (ISLI 796.7 I388i 1973).

The third and final attempt at running the race occurred on Wednesday, May 30. The weather continued to threaten rain but the sun came out briefly and dried the track enough to start the race. Racing resumed and was a typical Indianapolis 500 for over 50 laps until a wreck on the 57th lap trapped driver “Swede” Savage in yet another huge fireball. Pit crew members from various teams ran on foot towards the accident and one of them, Armando Teran, was accidentally killed by an emergency vehicle which was also speeding towards the wreck. While initially surviving the inferno, Savage would ultimately succumb to his injuries several weeks later.

Spectators near the wreck were understandably traumatized. They had to watch both Savage moving around in the remains of his car, desperately trying to get out while completely engulfed in flames, followed by witnessing the violent death of Armando Teran. Several fans, including women from the 500 Festival court, fainted.

From The Indianapolis Star, May 31, 1973, page 19.

Once the accident had been cleared away, the race trudged on but when rain began to fall yet again, a final red flag was flown at lap 133, 67 laps short of the normal 200. The leader, Gordon Johncock, was named the winner and the 57th running of the Indy 500 mercifully came to end. Only 11 of the original lineup of 33 cars managed to finish the race.

The Indianapolis Star, May 31, 1973.

The troubles of the 1973 race and the collective anger of drivers and teams resulted in the creation of several safety measures. Due to the numerous large fires caused by crashes, cars were no longer allowed to carry so much fuel and it was recommended that fuel tanks be on the left side of the car, to avoid damage and explosions when hitting walls. Another change required pit crew members to remain at their posts in order to keep out of the way of safety crews.

Cover of the 1973 yearbook featuring winner Gordon Johncock.

Ultimately, it took the 1973 Indy 500 three whole days to complete a mere 332 miles making it both the longest and shortest race at the time. Even though Rutherford came very close to reaching 200mph during qualifications, race fans would have to wait four more years to witness a driver achieve that particular feat, which Tom Sneva did in 1977.

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

How to be hep to the jive with Cab Calloway

Cabell “Cab” Calloway III was indisputably one of the most popular and iconic jazz performers of the 1930s. He possessed a distinct entertaining style which combined catchy swing music with cheeky vaudevillian skits. He sang, he danced, he sported exaggerated “zoot suits” and he helped popularize jive talk, a particular form of African American Vernacular English that is believed to have started in the jazz clubs of Harlem – where Calloway got his start – and was prevalent throughout the country in the 1930s and 1940s.

From The Indianapolis Recorder, Aug. 12, 1933.

Calloway was the unofficial Ambassador of Jive. In 1938, he self-published a small booklet entitled “Cab Calloway’s Cat-ologue: a “Hepster’s” Dictionary.” Several revisions followed, all published by Calloway himself. The Indiana State Library has the 1944 edition, which was titled “The New Cab Calloway’s Hepsters Dictionary.” In the dictionary’s foreword, Calloway proudly proclaims it to be “the official jive language reference book of the New York Public Library.” It is considered by some to be the first dictionary written and published by an African American.

Cover of the Indiana State Library’s Hepsters Dictionary ([p.f.] ISLM 427 no. 1). Unfortunately, some “square” (un-hep) librarian in the past was a little overly enthusiastic with the labelling and barcoding of this item!

Entries from the dictionary.

By the 1940s, jive was prevalent in American popular culture and was particularly popular among white teenagers and young adults. Expressions such as “blow the top” (to be overcome with emotion), “gimme some skin” (shake hands) and “salty” (angry, ill-tempered) became commonplace and are still used to this day.

An article describing a “jive” dance program held at Culver High School. From The Culver Citizen, Feb. 3, 1943.

Jive expressions became so mainstream that a youngster in 1940s Indiana could go to the L.S. Ayres department store and be “togged to the bricks” (dressed to kill) in a pair of blue jeans featuring jive talk.

L.S. Ayres advertisement from The Indianapolis Star, May 16, 1947.

The jive fad was not isolated only to large cities. Even folks in smaller places did not want to come across as “corny” (old fashioned, stale) or “icky” (one who is not hip, a stupid person, can’t collar the jive).

Music column from The Call Leader (Elwood, Ind.), Sept. 13, 1944.

Cab Calloway continued to keep “joints jumping” (club is leaping with fun) for delighted “jitter bugs” (swing fans) for decades after his heyday in the 1930s. He experienced a resurgence of interest in his career after making a cameo appearance in the 1980 film “Blues Brothers,” where he performed his most famous song, “Minnie the Moocher.” Calloway died in 1994 at age 86. He was truly one of the “hepest cats” in American history.

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Butler vs. Purdue: A Thanksgiving story

Football is as integral a part of American Thanksgiving as turkey and pumpkin pie. Indeed, both Thanksgiving as a national holiday and the game of football originated around the same time. President Ulysses S. Grant established the official holiday in 1870, a mere year after Rutgers University defeated Princeton 6-4 on Nov. 6, 1869 in what is widely considered the first match of American football ever played. The game quickly grew in popularity, particularly among American universities, and as popular trends usually do, it eventually found its way to Indiana.

From the Indiana Pamphlet Collection. ISLO 813 no. 26.

A fictionalized account of an early Indiana football game can be found in the short story “Butler vs. Purdue: A Thanksgiving story,” written and published by George S. Cottman, a prolific historian and author who ran a printing press out of his home in Irvington. The story opens in Indianapolis on Thanksgiving morning 1890 with a young woman named Esther pleading with her father to take her to a local football match between Butler University (whose campus was located in the Irvington neighborhood at the time) and Purdue University. Her father, a stern military man dubbed Colonel Cannon, initially refuses and chides his daughter’s interest in the sport. Like many other older adults at the time, he holds the notion that football is an unusually violent sport and unworthy of being associated with institutions of higher learning. With little self-awareness he declares “If I’d a boy in college… who spent his time tussling about in the mud when I was paying for the cultivation of his brains I’d cudgel him till he took to his bed. Is that what they go to college for – to break bones and mash each other flat?”

After further cajoling and some overly dramatic tears from Esther, he relents and they make their way to the YMCA athletic park, located at the time in the Arsenal Heights neighborhood, just east of downtown. The game has already started and Butler is losing to Purdue 10-0. Esther, who incidentally is also being courted by a football player from Butler, is in despair at how dominant the Purdue team seems. “What great big ugly things they are! It’s too much to expect our boys to stand against a lot of elephants!”

She is equally disgruntled with the Purdue fans who have made the long trip to Indianapolis to cheer on their team. “Hear those horrid people. I hate to see country jakes come in and try to take the town. If they love to bellow so why don’t they go out in the woods around Lafayette and do it to their hearts content.” The snub “country jakes” is a jab at Purdue’s notoriety as an agricultural school and belies a distinct snobbery at the rural-urban cultural divide which was likely a common sentiment for city-dwellers such as Esther.

In what today would seem a bit of a gendered role reversal, Esther spends much of the game explaining the sport to her befuddled but increasingly interested father. The game she describes is quite different but still recognizable to the sport in its modern form. The match consists of two 45 minute innings. Touchdowns are worth four points and conversion kicks add another two. Teams have three downs to advance the ball five yards. Colonel Cannon’s martial sensibilities are particularly delighted by offensive plays employing the flying wedge formation, which is unsurprising considering the early football tactic was based on a centuries-old military maneuver (and then quickly banned in 1894 because it caused so many injuries).

As this is a story written by an Irvington resident, it predictably ends happily for Butler. The Butlers (the nickname Bulldogs was not adopted until 1921) rally in the second inning and ultimately win the match 12-10. The Purdues (the term Boilermaker wouldn’t make an appearance until the following year in 1891) fail to get any more points on the board. Colonel Cannon has been converted to football fandom and Esther can now safely invite her beau to dinner without dooming him to her father’s archaic notions on collegiate sports.

While Esther and Colonel Cannon are fictional characters, this game really did happen and was held Nov. 27, 1890. It was the state championship game for Indiana football and extensive coverage of the match appeared in multiple Indianapolis newspapers.

Indianapolis Journal, Nov. 28, 1890. From

While 1890 was a bit too early for photographs of the event to be printed in local papers, it was deemed an important enough event by the Indianapolis News to dispatch an artist to draw illustrations for the story.

Indianapolis News Nov. 28, 1890. Images from the game-day coverage. From Hoosier State Chronicles.

Adding to the day’s drama was the fact that a rowdy post-match victory drive through the streets of Indianapolis resulted in a large wagon referred to as a “tally-ho” being overturned and seriously injuring several football revelers, though all seem to have survived the ordeal.

Football continues to be an important part of Thanksgiving in Indiana, especially for Purdue. While the school no longer plays Butler in football, their annual Oaken Bucket game against in-state rival Indiana University is usually played near Thanksgiving. The weekend following Thanksgiving is also when high schools from throughout the state converge on Indianapolis to battle for various football championships. And of course, millions of Hoosiers will tune in to watch professional football from the National Football League, a holiday tradition that dates back to the NFL’s first Thanksgiving game held in 1934.

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

‘In the matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer;’ the saga of a government publication

Publishing a book is normally a very lengthy and complex process. Texts must be read thoroughly, proofread, checked for accuracy and edited accordingly. Printing machinery must be calibrated and prepped with enough ink and paper. In the pre-internet era, instant publication of important information in print form faced many hurdles.

The Government Printing Office has always been accustomed to confronting this dilemma. Founded in 1861 as the official publisher of all federal government materials, the GPO has a considerable amount of experience in quickly churning out print materials for consumption by the American public. However, in June of 1954 they faced a particularly difficult challenge. The physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer was undergoing a hearing in front of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. At the heart of the hearings was whether Oppenheimer, the man who was selected by the U.S. military to helm the top-secret laboratory at Los Alamos where the atomic bomb was developed, should continue to hold a high-level security clearance and have access to the country’s most sensitive data on atomic weapons. Oppenheimer’s war record, post-war activities and the events leading to his hearing with the AEC in 1954 have been discussed in greater detail elsewhere. In summation, the hearing involved testimony from several dozen witnesses, many of whom were prominent men in political, military and scientific fields. This was not a public hearing and all witnesses were assured by the AEC that their statements would remain confidential.

Logo of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

The chief instigator of the hearings was the chair of the AEC, Lewis Strauss. For a variety of political and personal reasons, Strauss had developed an intense dislike of Oppenheimer and displayed an obsessive fixation on removing him from a position of decision-making power. Concerned that Oppenheimer enjoyed too much public goodwill due to his part in developing the first atomic bombs and helping end the war, Strauss desperately wanted to portray Oppenheimer in as negative a light as possible. The result of the hearing was a foregone conclusion: Oppenheimer’s security clearance was going to be revoked regardless of any testimony for or against it and Strauss felt that making the hearing public would help show the American people that Oppenheimer was not the “atomic age” hero they all believed him to be.

Op-ed from the June 8, 1954 issue of The Indianapolis Star in support of Oppenheimer. From the article: “Dr. Oppenheimer is one of America’s most brilliant scientists. His country owes him a tremendous debt for his work on perfecting the atomic bomb, and later the hydrogen bomb. Certainly America owes him the greatest possible consideration for his services. Certainly we must bend over backward, even to the point of taking some risk, to uphold him now.” This is an example of the kind of sentiment Strauss was desperate to quash with the release of the transcripts.

Sometime shortly after June 11, 1954, Strauss strongly urged, and was able to convince, other members of the AEC to publish the transcripts of the hearings in their entirety and to do it as soon as possible. The AEC desperately tried to reach each witness and alert them that statements they had made under the assurance of confidentially would shortly become public knowledge and fodder for the press.

The transcript of the hearing ended up comprising a whopping 3,000 pages. Much of the discussions held within revolved around confidential national security issues and therefore someone would need to read through everything very carefully and redact any information deemed too sensitive for public consumption. Someone else would need to go through the entire transcript and perform basic editing. The final product, titled “In the matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” ended up comprising 993 pages and was officially released on June 15, 1954, mere days after Strauss convinced the AEC to go ahead with publication. It was no small feat that the GPO was able to produce this massive volume so quickly and thus make important information available to the American public.

The final product from GPO. Note the date stamped in the upper corner. The volume was released June 15, 1954. The Indiana State Library received their copy several weeks later on July 8, 1954.

The release received a front page headline in the Indianapolis Star.

Ultimately, the swift publication of the hearing did not have the affect Strauss wanted. Instead of damning Oppenheimer in the mind of the American public, many were alarmed at what they perceived as governmental bullying since parts of the hearing veered into salacious aspects of Oppenheimer’s personal life. Others noted that most of the security-related objections to Oppenheimer were well-known prior to his war work on the Manhattan Project. Essentially, the government had known most of the information released in the hearing and still trusted him to oversee the largest top-secret military project in history. The motivation to remove him from playing any role in the further development of atomic weapons was deemed political and petty and would eventually factor into Strauss’s own political downfall several years later.

The full unredacted transcript of the hearing was declassified in 2014 and is available in its entirety from the U.S. Department of Energy here.

In 2022, the decision to revoke Oppenheimer’s security clearance was officially vacated. The full text of the decision made by the Department of Energy is available here.

Curtis, Charles P. “The Oppenheimer case: the trial of a security system.” New York: Simone and Schuster, 1955. (ISLM QC16.O62 C8)

Schlesinger Jr., Arthur M. “The Oppenheimer case.” The Atlantic, October 1954.

Stern, Philip M. “The Oppenheimer case: security on trial.” New York : Harper & Row, 1969. (ISLM QC16.O82 S69)

U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. “In the matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer: transcript of hearing before the Personnel Security Board.” Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office, 1954. (ISLM p.d. 925 O62i)

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Hadley Industrial School for Girls

Known primarily as a significant driving force in the national movement to ban the sale of alcohol, which it saw as a corrosive force destroying families, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was a national organization involved in many other endeavors, all of which were rooted in a fiercely religious approach to social reform. In addition to raising concerns about the evils of alcohol consumption, the WCTU also advocated for female suffrage, prison reform, raised concerns about child labor, promoted regular church attendance and even took an interest in eugenics. As a group, they also encouraged rather strict guidelines on how women should comport themselves. Much of their work stressed themes such as morality and purity and focused on women’s issues like home economics. One manifestation of this endeavor were the industrial schools created by various WCTU chapters throughout the country.

The Indiana division of the WCTU was formed in 1874. Several years later in 1890, a prominent Hendricks County Quaker named Addison Hadley decided to donate a sizeable plot of farmland to the WCTU for the creation of a home for “neglected, abandoned and orphan girls.” Located slightly southwest of the city of Danville, the Hadley Industrial School for Girls opened in 1894. Its motto was “Our ideal: Right living. Our method: Training in industry. Our field: The state.”

Etching of the Hadley Industrial School for Girls.

While the school was intended for young girls and teenagers who found themselves in dire conditions, there was still an expectation that it would only accept “worthy” girls who were not “incorrigible” and could be molded to the devout and industrious ideals espoused by the WCTU. This idea of worthiness is expressed in much of the informational pamphlets and annual reports produced about the school throughout its existence. Such sentiments were alluded to in the school’s application form with the following questions: “Is the applicant truthful and honest? Does she use profane language? Is she disposed to appreciate her opportunities?”

Once accepted to the Hadley School, girls were given an education involving a standard curriculum comparable to what would have been found in local public schools, as well as rigorous training in home economics. In addition to cleaning, cooking and sewing, the girls were expected to help run the farm. The farm produced butter, milk, eggs, jams and jellies, wheat and lumber. All money raised went back into the school. When not involved in educational or industrial pursuits, the girls regularly attended religious services and were expected to be involved in local temperance movement activities.

Despite the lofty but strict ideals on which it was based, the school struggled to be successful. A study of its annual reports show that funding was a perennial problem. Even though the school provided a fair amount of farm labor in the form of the girls themselves, running a farm was extremely arduous work in the late 19th century and required an actual farmer to oversee operations. The school had a difficult time retaining a competent farmer as they could not provide much commensurate financial compensation. The same held true for other staff at the school. There simply was not enough money to pay anyone. By the early 1900s, turnover was very high. According to the 1903 annual report, “the Managing Board has had much anxiety in regard to finding suitable officers to live at the school and keep the Home as it should be kept.” Crop failures, many of which stemmed from indifferent farming techniques, also compounded the school’s problems as did the inability to afford essential farm equipment. To further exacerbate issues, in 1904 the school’s teacher failed to pass a certification examination and the school lost what little public funding it received and was forced to send girls to the local public school for that part of their education.

The Indiana WCTU released this cookbook as a way to make money for the school.

In 1902, a representative of the Board of State Charities conducted an inspection of the Hadley School. At the time of inspection, there were 35 girls living in the school. The building had no bathtub and the “home was clean but so inadequately furnished that a general impression of untidiness was given.” The girls’ clothing was considered “rather poor in quantity, quality and repair.” The school maintained a small library of “several hundred books” but the inspector felt that much of the literature was “too ‘red’ for the children.” However, not every observation was negative. The building was considered well-ventilated, and the food provided was “wholesome in character, generous in quantity and well cooked.” Most importantly, the girls’ general health was deemed “good” and the girls themselves were described as “strong and plump.” Ultimately, the overall verdict was that the school was severely lacking in certain areas and needed much work done to it. It especially needed more staff because much of the industrial work being performed at the school was “carelessly done.”

Excerpt from the 1902 Board of State Charities report.

The Hadley School was never able to correct its course and was officially turned over to the Children’s Home Society in 1910. The school building was eventually torn down sometime in the mid-20th century.

While the school was not particularly successful, it doubtless played an important role in the lives of the girls sent there to learn. Some girls were returned to their families once it was ascertained those families could resume care, others were adopted by families both within and outside of Indiana. A few went on to attend college. Many married and transferred the domestic skills they learned at Hadley to the running of their own households. And this, of course, was the ultimate goal of the school: To create reverent and hard-working wives and mothers who ensured that the principals championed by the WTCU would endure.

Indeed, the Indiana WTCU soldiered on and would eventually see their many years of diligent temperance work yield results with the adoption of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1920 which banned alcohol sales throughout the country. Prohibition was repealed in 1933 but the organization continued to operate for the rest of the century and remains active to this day.

Davidson, Joe Harris. “Indiana W.C.T.U. Industrial School for Girls.” Indiana, 1967. (ISLO 371.9 no. 16)

Hendrickson, Francis. “Hoosier Heritage, 1874-1974: Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.” Indianapolis, 1974. (ISLI 178.06 W872h)

“History of the Indiana W.C.T.U. Hadley Industrial School for Girls.” Indiana : Indiana Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1894. (ISLO 371.9 no. 9)

Rogers, A.K., Mrs. “Report of visit to Hadley Industrial School for Girls for the Indiana Board of State Charities.” Indianapolis: Indiana Board of State Charities, 1902. (ISLO 371.9 no. 13)

“Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of Indiana Meeting.” Annual meeting of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of the State of Indiana. (ISLI 178.06 W872c)

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Montgomery bus boycott

Most Americans know how the Montgomery bus boycott began: On Dec. 1, 1955 an African American woman in Montgomery, Alabama named Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to relinquish her bus seat to a white man. This seemingly innocuous act of civil disobedience led to a year-long boycott of Montgomery’s bus system by the city’s Black population and ended up being one the early battles in this country’s civil rights movement, a campaign which sought to promote and ensure racial equality after centuries of abuse.

Shortly after the arrest, Montgomery’s religious and civic leaders formed the Montgomery Improvement Association. Led by Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Edward Nixon, the MIA quickly organized travel alternatives for the boycotters. Privately-owned cars were used for carpools and people were encouraged to walk or bike when possible. Frequent rallies were held in local churches to help bolster the public’s resolve.

First article on the boycott in Indianapolis’s preeminent African American newspaper, the Indianapolis Recorder (Dec. 10, 1955).

Running a months-long boycott of this kind required a great deal of money. Not only did the MIA need hundreds of vehicles for their carpools, but those vehicles also required gas and frequent maintenance. Retaliation against the boycotters was endemic. Many carpool drivers were habitually pulled over and ticketed for minor or non-existent traffic violations. Some lost their jobs for participating in the boycott and needed financial assistance to survive. Representatives of the MIA made their way to other cities, particularly those in the north, to explain the situation in Montgomery and appeal for both public support and funds.

In March 1956, an MIA representative named Johnnie Carr appeared at a fundraiser in Indianapolis, hosted by the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Carr was a particularly appropriate person to represent the boycott. Born Johnnie Rebecca Daniels, Carr was a childhood friend of Rosa Parks. She also had been involved in civil rights activism for several years prior to the bus boycott.

Announcement of Carr’s meeting in the Indianapolis Recorder (March 31, 1956).

Program for Carr’s Indianapolis meeting from the Indiana State Library collection (ISLO 325.26 no. 5).

According to The Indianapolis Recorder’s coverage of the event, Carr spoke to a crowd of over 600 people at the Philips Temple Church and received a standing ovation. Her speech was one of absolute resolve, an assurance that the boycott would continue and that the rights and dignity of Montgomery’s citizens would prevail. The event managed to raise over $1,300 for the boycott cause (approximately $14,000 adjusted for inflation).

Indianapolis Recorder headline quoting Carr, April 7, 1956.

Carr’s prediction was correct. After lengthy legal maneuvers, the United States Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Montgomery’s practice of bus segregation was unconstitutional. The boycott officially ended in December of 1956.

The Montgomery bus boycott was an early and important victory in the civil rights campaign. Despite being a local issue to Alabama, it ended up garnering worldwide attention. Much of that was thanks to the tireless work of people like Carr and others in the MIA.

Complete digitized issues of the Indianapolis Recorder, documenting African American life in Indianapolis from 1899 to 2005 can be found on Hoosier State Chronicles.

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Indiana’s bobbed menace

The 1920s were an exhilarating and decadent era for Americans. With one devastating World War behind them, they were ready for peace, stability and fun. Businesses boomed, people prospered and modern technologies like radio and cinema exposed individuals to ideas and sensations never before experienced. All these changes had a particularly profound effect on the nation’s young women. They began to chafe against what they perceived as old-fashioned restraints on their behavior and appearance. Beginning in 1922, they could vote. They held jobs, shortened their skirts, wore make-up, smoked, drank alcohol (despite – or because of – Prohibition) and perhaps most shocking of all, they cut their hair and made the stylishly short bob the default hairstyle for women everywhere.

There is much debate over the origin of the bobbed hair fad of the 1920s. Some attribute it to a particular Parisian barber. Others to the 1910s dancer and megastar Irene Castle who shortened her tresses in 1915 for convenience prior to undergoing surgery and a long hospital stay. Another theory attributes the popularity of short hair to the prevalence of Joan of Arc imagery used in propaganda campaigns throughout the first World War, where she was often depicted as having short hair. Whatever its origins, once it took hold among the nation’s young women, it spread rapidly and thoroughly, including here in Indiana. Of course, not everyone approved and the resulting battle over female hair length played out in various newspaper columns throughout most Indiana communities in the 1920s.

Some businesses refused to hire women with short hair, considering a bob a sign of immorality. Interestingly, in this article shorn locks – a personal decision – is given equal consideration to blonde hair, a genetic condition, although dying hair was also increasingly popular during this time period.

Indiana Daily Times, July 9, 1921.

The “loose morals” trope of the bobbed hair phenomenon was underscored by accounts such as this article which gleefully highlights the offender’s hair style in the headline.

Daily Banner (Greencastle), Oct. 27, 1931.

As the bobbed hair craze took over the country, attempts were made to discourage the trend. Articles appeared encouraging women to keep their hair long thus retaining their “crowning glory.” Some articles offered “scientific” advice on how to quickly regrow hair for those regretting their bob. Underscoring many of these articles was the notion that long hair was inherently feminine and that women who deviated from this norm were an abomination of traditional womanhood.

South Bend News Times, Feb. 22, 1922.

Other articles argued that bobbed hair was somehow more expensive to upkeep than long hair. This brief article fails to make an actual argument in support of that thesis but still manages to throw out an inflammatory accusation with the almost certainly fabricated quote “…bobbing does destroy a girl’s personality… we all look like orphan asylum inmates.”

Greenfield Herald, Sept. 20, 1924.

Bobbed hair was used as a scapegoat for more serious social ills such as the dissolution of marriages and even suicide.

Evansville Courier and Press, Oct. 11, 1923. Brown County Democrat, Aug. 24, 1922.

Despite this barrage of negative media, bobbed hair did have its proponents in popular media. Some considered the hairstyle more hygienic and practical, such as the president of the Indiana State Board of Health, although he did use this opportunity to publicly scorn makeup use.

Garret Clipper, April 10, 1924.

While some businesses completely banned bobbed hair among female employees, others allowed it, albeit with some reluctance.

South Bend News Times, Aug. 14, 1921.

Still, others pointed out that women’s appearances and fashions have been constantly changing throughout recorded human history and that short hair and short skirts were not necessarily a new fad, but a return to an older social norm.

Evansville Courier and Press, Oct. 8, 1923.

But perhaps the strongest proponents of bobbed hair were the millions of young women who gleefully sliced off their long locks. For many it was a statement of personal choice and preference, a symbol of modernity and, as with voting, a chance to be citizens on their own terms.

Pictures of unidentified Hoosier women with bobbed hair circa the 1920s. From the Indiana Picture Collection, Rare Books and Manuscript Collection.

The trend became so prevalent, that by the middle of the 1920s it was very difficult to find any young women with long hair. Indeed, one occasionally finds them in the pages of local high school yearbooks. One has to wonder, how did these girls feel about their long tresses? Were they forbidden to cut their hair by their parents? Did they simply like having long hair? Or maybe they sensed that a daring and scandalous trend is no longer daring and scandalous when absolutely everyone does it and therefore by refraining, they signify themselves as unique and rebellious?

A long-haired holdout from Kokomo High School, class of 1923 (ISLI 379 K79 1923).

The social propensity to police women’s appearances did not end with the bobbed hair fad of the 1920s. While fashion dictates throughout the rest of the 20th century caused hair to lengthen again, the bob has remained a standard for millions of women everywhere. Public outrage gradually moved away from hair length to other considerations such as the wearing of pants, bikinis, crop tops, leggings, tattoos, etc. While contemporary women have a great deal more choice when it comes to how they appear and hair length is largely considered a simple personal choice and not a brazen social statement, it is helpful to remember that these have been hard-fought battles.

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Surviving the Cold War in 5 easy steps with government publications

The Cold War is a phrase used to describe global tensions in the post World War II era lasting until the official end of the Soviet Union in 1991. In overly generalized terms, these tensions pitted Western democratic countries against Eastern communist ones.

With a few significant exceptions, such as the Korean and Vietnam wars, most American military endeavors involved being perpetually prepared for engagement with the enemy. This resulted in a sprawling military bureaucracy with a large budget to publish a massive assortment of publications intended for use by personnel in the battle against communism.

Here are some examples of Air Force pamphlets published in the 1950s-60s. All direct quotes are taken from the publication being described.

Step 1: Know the enemy.

p.d. 358.4 Un58afp no. 190-1-10

This pamphlet, the title of which is a famous quote from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, provides an ideological overview of communism and its economic and cultural applications in the Soviet Union and China.

p.d. 358.4 Un58afp no. 200-2-3

In case one happens to find oneself behind enemy lines, this pamphlet provides some handy survival skills including this helpful phrase translated into Russian: “I am an American and do not speak your language. I need food, shelter and assistance. I will not harm you; I bear no malice toward your people. If you will help me, my government will reward you.”

Step 2: Be in excellent physical condition (even if you are female)!

p.d. 358.4 Un58afp no. 50-5-2

The content of this pamphlet, originally created by the Royal Canadian Air Force, was intended exclusively for use by female military personnel under the assumption that “physical fitness does not mean bulging muscles” and that regular exercise for women “improves such desirable qualities as vitality, appearance and personality.”

Step 3: Know your equipment, know your job.

From Releasable data on USAF aerospace vehicles, p.d. 358.4 Un58afp no. 190-2-2

During the earlier phases of the Cold War, if you were in the Air Force and worked with bombers, you were probably working with a B-52. This plane could fly at high altitudes, get refueled while in flight and could – and usually did – fly around the globe carrying several tons of nuclear weapons.

p.d. 358.4 Un58afp no. 34-2-2

In addition to regular military training and education, Air Force members could obtain further academic training from civilian trade schools, colleges and universities. In part, this extra training was necessary due to the high-tech aspects of the complex military equipment used during the Cold War but also served to strengthen patriotic resolve: “…today’s airmen, surrounded by conflicting ideologies and propaganda, must have sufficient education to provide them with insight, vision and self-confidence to defend the principles of American democracy in time of stress.”

Step 4: Relocate yourself  (and maybe your entire family) to a strategic location.

p.d. 358.4 Un58afp no. 34-8-6

Even though military aircraft could travel further distances without the need to refuel, it was still preferable that American air bases be located in strategic areas with easy access to the Soviet Union and eastern Asia. While not yet an official state at the time this pamphlet was published, Alaska was an ideal place to launch bombers and keep an eye on things to the East.

Step 5: Prepare for the worst-case scenario.

p.d. 358.4 Un58afp no. 163-1-3

For much of the Cold War, the entire planet lived under the constant unease of possible nuclear warfare. Even if someone managed to be lucky enough to survive an initial nuclear strike, the after-effects could render the area virtually uninhabitable and pollute food sources such as those provided by livestock.

p.d. 358.4 Un58afp no. 1-1-1

It is no coincidence that space exploration ramped up during the Cold War. If the geopolitical conflicts of the planet managed to render Earth uninhabitable, it was a good idea to seek out potential off-planet options for humanity.

The Indiana State Library has a fairly complete collection of United States Government Publications. More information on the collection can be found here.

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

‘A bill drawn by a woman:’ Mrs. Packard and rights for the insane

On the morning of June 18, 1860 an Illinois housewife named Elizabeth Packard was forcibly removed from the home she shared with her husband Theophilus Packard, a Calvinist minister, and their six children. The reason for her expulsion? Her husband was having her committed to the Illinois State Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois. Women had virtually no legal status in mid-19th century America and in the state of Illinois, a husband could have his wife committed to an insane asylum without showing any proof that said wife was, in fact, insane. Theophilus and his wife often quarreled over religious doctrines, with Elizabeth insisting that she had a right to her own beliefs and biblical interpretations and this, it seems, was her husband’s primary justification for having her institutionalized and removed from the lives of her children.

Photograph of Elizabeth Packard from

Elizabeth spent three years in the asylum with very few means to advocate for herself and her sanity. While incarcerated, she met many other women in similar situations, women who had become inconvenient or were socially noncompliant and therefore needed to be locked away by husbands or other family members. Some women did suffer from various mental health issues and Elizabeth frequently witnessed their cruel treatment at the hands of hospital staff. She diligently wrote down her observations and hid her journals to keep them from being confiscated.

Image of the Illinois State Hospital in Jacksonville, from her “Modern Persecution” (1875).

In 1863, she was released from the asylum to the care of her husband who immediately sought to have her permanently recommitted to yet another institution, this time in Massachusetts. In a desperate bid for freedom and with the help of friends, Elizabeth was finally able to obtain legal assistance. After a multi-day trial, she was deemed legally sane in the state of Illinois. Unfortunately, before the verdict affirming her sanity was rendered Theophilus fled to another state with her children. Despite being found officially sane, as a woman she still had little legal recourse to regain custody of her children.

Bereft at the loss of her family, Elizabeth began to publicly advocate for changes to the treatment of those deemed insane with a particular emphasis on the rights of female patients. She published various books drawing from her personal experiences, shedding light on rampant institutional abuse and calling for major reforms. Of particular concern to her was the right of patients to freely correspond with those outside the asylum without said correspondence being censored – or discarded – by asylum officials. For those improperly imprisoned such as herself, communicating freely with someone on the outside meant that inmates could access the meager legal resources and other practical support available to them. It meant that women could no longer be locked up, never to be heard from again.

Title page from one of her books in the Indiana State Library Collection (ISLM RC439 .P16 1875).

Elizabeth also travelled the country lobbying individual state legislatures to change their laws. In 1891, she set her sights on Indiana and promoted a “Bill for the protection of the postal rights of the inmates of insane asylums.” She implored members of the Indiana legislature that such a law was needed as “a potent remedy for the evils of false imprisonment, unreasonably long detention and abuse of patients.” Senator W.C. Thompson of Marion County officially read and introduced the bill as Senate Bill 55 on Jan. 14, 1891 and it was referred to the Committee on Benevolent Institutions for further consideration.

Article from Indianapolis Journal, Jan. 16, 1891. From Hoosier State Chronicles.

Copy of the proposed bill dated Jan. 20, 1891 (ISLO 362.2 no. 61).

Caption to a pamphlet addressed to the Indiana legislature dated Feb. 3, 1891 (ISLI 362.2 no. 61). Note “Compliments of Mrs. Packard” written in pencil at the top of the page.

According to a subsequent news story titled “Mrs. Packard snubbed,” it appears that Elizabeth herself attended the Committee hearing on her bill but was completely ignored by the men in attendance:

“I have this morning met by appointment the Senate Committee on Benevolent Institutions, in room 113 of the Capitol at 7 o’clock, and was there completely gagged, not allowed to speak one word.”

She concluded her description of the event with a strong condemnation of the behavior of Indiana’s male law-makers:

“To the manliness and honor of the American legislators, I am proud to say that thus is the first uncourteous treatment I have ever received from any legislative committee in these United States. In appealing to forty-three different legislatures I have invariably been allowed a manly, patient hearing before they decide how they should report my bill.”

Indianapolis Times, Jan. 27, 1891. From Hoosier State Chronicles.

In addition to silencing Mrs. Packard, the committee caused further offense by severely altering the language of the original bill and stipulating that the only person an inmate could correspond with uncensored would be the Secretary of the Board of State Charities. Moreover, the committee further recommended to remove the phrase “to prevent sane persons being imprisoned in insane asylums” from the language of the bill. The resulting document was a failure as it continued to leave all the power with the very institutions responsible for committing the abuses Elizabeth sought to remedy.

Ultimately, Senate Bill 55 never progressed passed its second reading. Despite this failure, Elizabeth Packard’s entreaties did lay the groundwork for Hoosier legislators to begin considering similar reforms. Eventually, the General Assembly would pass progressive legislation, such as an act in 1895, which required those accused of insanity to stand for an official inquest with proper legal representation.

Elizabeth Packard was reunited with her children – but remained estranged from her husband – and financially supported them with her earnings from writing and public speaking. She died July 25, 1897.

An excellent biography of Elizabeth by Kate Moore titled “The woman they could not silence” was released in 2021 and is available to circulate from the Indiana State Library.

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Indiana. “Journal of the Indiana State Senate, 57th session,” Jan. 8, 1891. (ISLI 328 I385Ljs 1891)

Indiana. “Laws of the State of Indiana, 57th regular session,” Jan. 8, 1891. (ISLI 345.1 I385 1891)

Indiana. “Laws of the State of Indiana, 59th regular session,” Jan. 10, 1895. (ISLI 345.1 I385 1895)

More, Kate. “The woman they could not silence: One woman, her incredible fight for freedom, and the men who tried to make her disappear.” Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks, 2021. (ISLM HN80.P23 M66 2021)

Packard, Elizabeth Parsons Ware. “Modern Persecution, or Insane Asylums Unveiled, as Demonstrated by the Report of the Investigating Committee of the Legislature of Illinois.” Hartford: Case, Lockwood & Brainard, 1875. (ISLM RC439 .P16 1875)

Packard, Elizabeth Parsons Ware. “Mrs. Packard’s argument in support of the bill for the protection of the postal rights of the inmates of insane asylums.” Indianapolis, 1891. (ISLI 329 I385 v.2, no. 12)

Packard, Elizabeth Parsons Ware. “A bill for the protection of persons confined in the insane asylums of this state in their rights to communicate by letter with their friends; and to prevent sane persons being imprisoned in insane asylums; and to punish persons violating the provisions of this act.” Indianapolis, 1891. (ISLO 362.2 no. 61)

The Booker T. Washington Grade School in Shelbyville, Indiana

For much of its early existence, Shelby County maintained a very small population of African American citizens. Prior to the Civil War, their number was less than 100. The 1851 Indiana Constitution prohibited the settlement of “Negro or Mulatto” people in the state which caused the African American population of Indiana to stagnate for over a decade. However, with the conclusion of the Civil War and the removal of the 1851 restriction, Blacks began to migrate into the state. By the early 1900s, Shelbyville was home to over 600 African Americans.1

Picture of students in front of an unidentified schoolhouse from the late 1800s. From the Indiana Picture Collection, Rare Books and Manuscript Collection.

The Indiana General Assembly mandated that separate schools be set up for Black communities in Indiana and the first such school for Shelbyville was created in 1869. By the early 1900s, this school was renamed Booker T. Washington School No. 2 and was located at the corner of Howard and Harrison streets where it served the community for several decades until it became so dilapidated it was officially condemned by the State Board of Health in 1914.

Photo of the Booker T. Washington School. From “Getting open: the unknown story of Bill Garrett and the integration of college basketball” by Tom Graham.

Despite suffering from official condemnation, the school continued to operate as both funds and perhaps the inclination to repair or replace the building were not forthcoming. The situation was so dire that a journalist for the African American newspaper the Indianapolis Recorder declared in 1930, “There is a number of citizens in our city who have stables that are palaces beside this old building.”

Indianapolis Recorder, May 10, 1930. From Hoosier State Chronicles.

In response to the situation and at the urging of the school’s principal Walter S. Fort – often affectionally called “The Professor” – plans to create an entirely new school building were put in place in October 1931. A copy of the proposed building’s specifications is held in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection at the Indiana State Library.

Cover, Booker T. Washington Grade School building collection (S3327), Rare Books and Manuscript Collection.

The specifications for this building were diligently typed up into a 78-page booklet created by the architecture firm of Henkel & Hanson from Connersville, Indiana. This plan maintained the school’s location at the corner of Harrison and Howard streets. The new school building would have a stage, a gymnasium, skylights, stone window sills made of “Indiana Oolitic limestone” and “jade green American method asbestos shingles.” The document describes a utilitarian and modern building that would have been a vast improvement over its predecessor.

Indianapolis Recorder, Dec. 26, 1931. From Hoosier State Chronicles.

While the old school enjoyed an outdoor basketball court behind the building, the inclusion of an actual gymnasium would have delighted students such as Bill Garrett, who attended Booker T. Washington in the 1930s and would later go on to have a successful basketball career first at Shelbyville High School and later at Indiana University where he became one of the first Black basketball players in what would become the Big Ten Conference.2

Unfortunately, this building was never actually constructed. No definite reasons can be discerned as to why the project got so far along in the planning process only to be abandoned, but it can be surmised that by 1932 the economic fallout from the worsening Great Depression made utilizing public money on a school intended for African American children a low priority for the city of Shelbyville. It’s also possible that Shelbyville school officials knew that complete school integration was on the horizon. By the end of the 1930s, older students were already integrated into the local high school and Booker T. Washington functioned solely as an elementary school. While the new building was never constructed there is evidence that the City eventually secured money to fix the old one through the Public Works Administration, a federal program intended to both fund building projects and provide employment to thousands of workers during the Great Depression. Instead of building an entirely new building, the PWA money was used to make some basic repairs to the already existing structure. The school remained in operation until it was closed in 1949 when all Shelbyville schools were officially integrated.

The man labeled 33 in the above picture is possibly principal Walter S. Fort, a well-loved and respected advocate for his pupils. He was instrumental in attempts at improving the school building. From “Shelbyville: a pictorial history” by Beverly Oliver.

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

2. Graham, Tom. “Getting open: the unknown story of Bill Garrett and the integration of college basketball.” New York:  Atria Books, 2006. (ISLI 927 G239gr)

1. McFadden, Marian. “Biography of a town: Shelbyville, Indiana, 1822-1962.” Shelbyville: Tippecanoe Press Inc., 1968. (ISLI 977.201 S544sm)

3. Oliver, Beverly. “Shelbyville: a pictorial history.” St. Louis: G. Bradley Publishing, Inc., 1996. (ISLI 977.201 S544Zso)

Shelby County Historical Society. “Shelby County, Indiana: history & families.” Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing Company, 1992. (ISLI 977.201 S544sc)