State library staff meet Governor Holcomb

On Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, staff from the Indiana State Library met Indiana’s 51st Governor, Eric Holcomb. After learning he was an American Civil War buff, Associate Director of Public Services Connie Bruder, Rare Books and Manuscripts Supervisor Bethany Fiechter and Rare Books and Manuscripts Program Coordinator Laura Eliason presented a Civil War carte de visite album commissioned by Governor Oliver P. Morton.

Bethany Fiechter shows Governor Holcomb a Civil War carte de visite album commissioned by Governor Oliver P. Morton.

The Governor Oliver P. Morton Civil War Soldiers Photograph Collection (P001) includes three carte de visite albums to perpetuate the remembrance of Indiana regiment officers. The portraits are arranged alphabetically by last name with notations indicating the name, rank, regiment and, if applicable, place of death.

L to R: Bethany Fiechter, Governor Holcomb, Laura Eliason and Connie Bruder.

For more information about Governor Oliver P. Morton, view our finding aid here. Interested in more Civil War photographs? The Rare Books and Manuscripts Division has made available over 80 photographs here.

This blog post was written by Bethany Fiechter, Rare Books and Manuscripts supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at

New exhibit! Decorating your home

Are you aware of the Indiana State Library’s massive collection of rare books, state and federal documents, Indiana history and genealogical material? There’s truly something for everyone – and for me, it’s an assortment of interior design, “how-to” books and advertisements and building samples, spanning from 1920-1960.

Our latest Rare Books and Manuscripts exhibit features a standard edition of the Munsell Book of Color created by the Munsell Color Firm in 1929. The Munsell color system was created by Professor Albert H. Munsell and is based on three color dimensions: hue, value (lightness) and chroma (color purity). The color of any surface can be identified by comparing it to the chips under proper viewing conditions.

ISL – [Cage] ISLM 752 M969m – Cage General Books

A Dictionary of Colours for Interior Decoration will also be on display. Developed by the British Colour Council in 1949, this volume was published to provide clarity and standardization of design work, specifically application to carpets, curtains and upholstery fabric, and in the making of paint or other materials used in decorating. The guide includes 378 colors displayed on three surfaces, including matte, gloss and fabric.

ISL – [Cage] ISLM 535.6 B862D – Cage General Books

Interested in Indiana furniture design during the 1960s? Several Tell City Chair Company catalogs are available to view. The catalogs were designed to aid the homemaker who desired a “comfortable and attractive living space.” They include a comprehensive review of Tell City’s furniture styles, the basic principles of decoration and tips on the care of furniture.

Paired with the Tell City Chair Company catalogs is one of our favorite volumes within the rare book collection titled “The American woods: exhibited by actual specimens and with copious explanatory text.” Each volume contains a booklet of descriptive text and at least 75 wood samples mounted in an estimated 25 plates. The featured specimen includes a transverse section, a radial section and a tangential section with Latin, English, German, French and Spanish names for maple wood.

ISL – [Cage] ISLM 634.9 H8384 – Cage General Serials

Maple wood was featured in many styles of the Tell City Chair Company, including the Young Republic Group and the Hard Rock Maple. Many of the furniture pieces are highly valued among collectors due to their fine craftsmanship and quality.

If you’re curious about building repair or home decoration supplies during the early 1920s-1950s, we have you covered! Booklets from the Louisville Wall Paper Company, Sherwin-Williams Company, Indiana Farm Bureau, Co-operative Association, Inc., Alabastine Company and the United States Rubber Company are on display, too.

ISL – John M. Smith collection (L596) – Rare Books and Manuscripts

The Rare Books and Manuscripts reading room is located on the second floor of the Indiana State Library. The interior design exhibit will be on display until the end of March.

This blog post was written by Bethany Fiechter, Rare Books and Manuscripts supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at

A Brief History of the United States passport

Pictured is an example of an early U.S. passport, found in the Hasselman-Blood family papers (MSS L385). The first United States passports were issued during the American Revolution. Early American passports were modeled after the French passports at the time and looked much like this example from 1873. This style was used from 1789 until 1900. This passport is slightly larger than 11 x 17 inches. On the left side, it gives a physical description of the bearer including age, height, and facial features. There is a passport number, but no explicit expiration date given. This particular passport was issued to Watson J. Hasselman of Indianapolis. This passport also boasts a large State Department watermark. 

Although the State Department issued passports beginning in 1789, states and cities were also able to issue passports to citizens until 1856. Passports not issued by the State Department, however, were not often recognized by other nations. During this period, the United States did not require a passport to enter or exit the country, but that changed at the start of U.S. involvement in World War II. Passports were not standardized until after World War I. The booklet layout that people recognize today was introduced in 1926. 

Averbach, Scott, “The History of the US Passport,” Passport Info Guide, September 13, 2014, Accessed October 12, 2016,

Woodward, Richard B., “Book Review: The Passport in America,” The New York Times, September 22, 2010, Accessed October 12, 2016,



Collection Highlight: 1930s Indiana State Fair Broadsides

As we recover from the crush and hubbub of this year’s Indiana State Fair (not to mention snarfing all those elephant ears and fried pickles), take a gander at a few gems from the fairs of the early 1930s in the Indiana State Library’s broadside collection.

The 1930 and 1931 Indiana State Fair broadsides (sheets of paper printed on one side, often mass-produced for wide dissemination, such as posters) were simple but vibrant, using only two colors in addition to black and very little text. The subjects, a rooster and a farmer with his scythe, demonstrate the original intent behind state fairs as primarily agricultural exhibitions.

But like the fairs nowadays, those of the early 20th century featured many of the traditional entertainment staples we have today: Ferris wheels, cotton candy, and contests. The fairs of old just did it on a smaller scale. (Those in the 1930s only lasted about a week. Inconceivable!) Here are two broadsides from 1931 and 1932, respectively, announcing specific activities at the fair—the horse show and racing.

Better Babies

The last broadside is from the Better Baby Contest at the 1930 state fair. While friendly competition is a longstanding tradition at all fairs, the Better Baby Contest at the Indiana State Fair, and others across the nation, represented something altogether more sinister. Between 1920 and 1932, white mothers entered their babies and toddlers in the contest, where the children were weighed, measured, and judged for mental and physical health using baby growth charts (which were later criticized as oversimplified and inaccurate). Those children rated the best were awarded ribbons and prizes, rather like livestock and baked goods. Although on the surface, the contest encouraged parents to take maternal health and early childhood development more seriously, in reality, the competition was fraught with the pseudo-science, racism, and ideology of the eugenics movement.

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, let’s think back on all the fun we’ve had at the state fair over the past 17 days. This year’s highlights included:

  • Riding the Tilt-A-Whirl to the point of nausea and (hopefully) no further;
  • Cheering on 4-H barrel riders;
  • Gawking at the World’s Largest Male Hog;
  • Cooing over the fluffy rabbits and baby chicks;
  • Inhaling a delicious sundae from Hook’s Drug Store;
  • Gazing at glowing hot-air balloons sailing the night sky;
  • Learning something new about Indiana history on the Indiana Bicentennial Train; and
  • Bidding farewell to the fair— until next year!

All these broadsides and more are publicly available online. This collection and many others continue to grow, so be sure to check back from time to time to see the newest additions to the ISL Digital Collections, found at

This blog post was written by Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarian Brittany Kropf. For more information, contact the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division at (317) 232-3671 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at

“Happy Birthday, Indiana” Bicentennial Project Update

Did you know the Indiana State Library is sending birthday cards to 4th graders? We’re asking students from around the state to decorate special, acid-free cards while briefly explaining “Why do you love Indiana?” and “What does being a Hoosier mean to you?” Our goal is to preserve 10,000 cards for future generations. 

To complete our collection, we need participants from the following counties:  


We hope you’re willing to take part in this historic project celebrating Indiana’s 200th birthday. If you’d like to participate, please contact Rare Books and Manuscripts Supervisor, Bethany Fiechter, at or (317) 234-8621.


4th Graders Submit “Happy Birthday, Indiana” Cards

Fourth grade students from around the state are being asked to decorate special, acid-free birthday cards supplied by the library while briefly explaining “Why do you love Indiana?” and “What does being a Hoosier mean to you?” Over the last few months, Rare Books and Manuscripts staff have contacted over 150 educators and parents.

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“It’s been a wild ride” says Bethany Fiechter, Rare Books and Manuscripts Supervisor. “We’ve made new connections between our library, public libraries and schools throughout the state. The student’s thoughtfulness and creativity shines through their work. It continues to be a rewarding experience for us all.” At the end of the project, the State Library’s collection will include a total of 10,000 cards with all 92 counties represented. Laura Eliason, Rare Books and Manuscripts Program Coordinator, has enjoyed seeing cards trickle in, including those from homeschooled children.

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Lauren Patton, Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarian, is “looking forward to seeing what students all over the state will come up with to express their love for Indiana. It’s neat for kids to know their artwork will be saved in the library forever.” Brittany Kropf, Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarian, explains “during Indiana’s tricentennial, researchers and students will have a glimpse into the minds and hearts of Hoosier children of today. We’re making history and that’s pretty cool!”

Fiechter mentions “think of this project as a time capsule – a wonderful collection of children’s perspectives that will be stored for generations to discover in the future.”

Is your county participating?

If your county is listed below, please contact a regional coordinator from the map below or Rare Books and Manuscripts Supervisor, Bethany Fiechter, at or 317-234-8621.

Participating Counties

Bicentennial Manuscript Regional Coverage Map

Indiana State Library / Manuscripts Bicentennial Regional Coverage Map (pdf)


‘Happy Birthday, Indiana’ Bicentennial Manuscript Collection: An Introduction

Between June 10th and June 29th, 1816, the first Indiana Constitutional Convention met at the territorial capital, Corydon, and created the Constitution for admission to the Union. Friday, December 11, 2015, marked the 199th anniversary of the day President James Madison signed the act admitting Indiana as the 19th state.

Constitutional Elm 1921-1925

Constitutional Elm, Corydon, Indiana, circa 1921-1925; Delegates to the 1816 constitutional convention worked under the shade of this tree.

The official countdown to Indiana’s 200th birthday began when over 120 fourth grade students participated in several Statehood Day activities at the library, including the creation of birthday cards. To learn more about the day, please visit our previous blog post.

Statehood Day 2015 Coloring_web

Statehood Day, December 11, 2015;Students participate in creating birthday cards for Indiana’s birthday

The bicentennial manuscript collection project was drafted in April 2014 and endorsed by the Bicentennial Commission in late 2014. Beginning in January 2016, fourth grade students from around the state will be asked to decorate special, acid-free birthday cards supplied by the library while briefly explaining “Why do you love Indiana?” andIBCLegacyProject_web “What does being a Hoosier mean to you?” The completed collection will include around 10,000 cards from each county and will be preserved for many generations with other notable collections, including William Henry Harrision, Abraham Lincoln and Helen Keller correspondence as well as the Treaty of St. Mary’s.

The first 500 cards received by June 1, 2016 will be on display in the Indiana State Library Exhibition Hall during the summer of 2016. If your class or student would like to participate, please contact a regional planner from the map or Bethany Fiechter, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division Supervisor at

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Bicentennial Manuscript Regional Coverage Map_web

This blog post was written by Bethany Fiechter, Rare Books and Manuscripts Supervisor. For more information, contact the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division at (317) 232-3671 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at


Rare Books and Manuscripts Division: Recent Civil War-Era Acquisition

The Indiana State Library Rare Books and Manuscripts Division recently acquired two Civil War-era handwritten letters by Henry B. and Sarah Ann Wilson Conn Looker. During March 1893, the couple wrote to L. T. Hewens, a medical doctor located in Oakalla, Illinois, regarding the use of an abortifacient.

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Henry was born in Fountain County, Indiana to George L. Conn and Nancy Bishop Conn in 1831. He enlisted in the 113th Illinois Infantry, Company D, and was stationed at Camp Butler near Springfield, Illinois. Conn died on July 4, 1863 due to an inflammatory disease while serving.

Sarah was born on July 23, 1831 and married Henry, having two children: Charles Henry (1857-1933) and Ella Gertrude (1860-1928). After his death, she married Robert O. Looker and had two children: Cora May (1870-1952) and Edwin Otis (1872-1952). Sarah died on January 4, 1911.

This blog post was written by Bethany Fiechter, Rare Books and Manuscripts Supervisor. For more information, contact the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division at (317) 232-3671 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at