Sonny Wharton: ‘Southern Indiana’s best-known bartender’

During this time of social distancing, some of us are likely missing our favorite watering holes and beloved bartenders. What better time to tell one of their stories? Bartender extraordinaire, William “Sonny” Wharton was born around 1905 in Nashville, Tennessee. Our story finds him much later on in Evansville, Indiana, where Wharton was mentioned in the Evansville Argus when that newspaper first began its run in 1938. The Evansville Argus was a weekly African American newspaper published in Evansville from 1938 to 1945 and included local, national and international news. By the end of 1938, Wharton began an informal column on liquor and mixing drinks. At the time, he was likely working at the Lincoln Tap Room, located at 322 Lincoln Avenue, per articles from early 1939. It’s clear that “Sonny” had much to say and a wealth of knowledge on the fine art of imbibing. His column began with insight into the importance of garnishes, the premiere liquors to choose for your cocktails and the etiquette of glassware amongst other topics. As time went on, he also began sharing more recipes.

Wharton was best known for working at the Green Room at the Palm Hotel, which was located at 611 High Street. He was a mainstay in Evansville’s black community and his expertise behind the bar at the Palm Hotel was advertised heavily. He was “night time head bartender” in the Green Room for most of the early 1940s. By early 1939, his Argus column had developed into “Tid-bits from Sonny” and featured regular cocktail recipes. While many spirits were in limited supply due to wartime restrictions, rum was readily available during the 1940s due to trade with Latin America and the Caribbean. Rum’s availability and popularity is reflected in Sonny’s columns and recipes.

In his personal life, Wharton had a daughter with Leola Marshall of Indianapolis. Both Leola and their daughter, Juanita Oates – later Johnson – worked for the Madam C.J. Walker Company in Indianapolis. Johnson later became the manager of the Madam Walker Theatre Center. Additionally, “Sonny” was married to Naomi Wharton, but they divorced in 1941.

The lifetime of the Palm Hotel could not be determined by the author at this time, but it was advertised with “Sonny” as its bartender into 1943. Wharton’s obituary notes that he had lived in Indianapolis for 19 years upon his death in 1961, so it’s clear that he left Evansville around this time, although the reason is not known.

Thankfully, the legacy of good times and good drinks continues and Wharton left behind his column for us. I decided it was only right that one evening after work I re-create, to the best of my ability, one of the cocktails he noted as a favorite. I chose the commodore, which was referenced twice in his column. A brief internet search on this drink notes that it also appeared in “The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book” from 1935. While I had most of the ingredients on hand, mixing this drink did involve a commitment to making fresh raspberry syrup. Not as difficult as you’d think, actually! I used aquafaba in lieu of egg white and eliminated the additional half teaspoon of sugar surmising that it would push the drink over the edge in terms of sweetness for my taste. Served in a martini glass, the commodore is sweet, frothy and certainly boozy. It’s sure to brighten your day and maybe even make you forget your troubles. If fruit and rum aren’t your game, you can find more “Tidbits from Sonny” in the Evansville Argus via Hoosier State Chronicles. Cheers!

This blog post was written by Lauren Patton, Rare Books and Manuscripts librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

River city maps

Town maps can certainly be beautifully done, but they are at the mercy of the grid of streets to give them visual interest. Throw in a variable, like a winding river, and they become ever more interesting. The way the water meets the land and how a town is forced to bend along the banks adds lines and color to the maps. Where waterways meet cities the grid breaks down and leaves behind some visually rich maps.

Sometimes the river makes the city, both in development and in character. Indiana’s most famous river city is probably historic Madison, along the mighty Ohio River. Kentucky is usually omitted from maps, making it look like the town is situated at the edge of a cliff. The river is impossible to ignore there.

Likewise, Huntington was built up along a river. The Wabash, Little Wabash and the canals; waterways were ever important to its development. The maps are beautiful in the way the angled streets disorient the buildings. Especially lovely with the illustrations is this detailed map from 1879.

Other times, the city seems to develop while almost ignoring the river. Columbus seems to just dip a toe into the East Fork of the White River. Indianapolis, too, seems to be shying away from the White River and looking inward toward the circle center. Both of these towns have had interesting relationships with their rivers, but now Columbus Riverfront and Indianapolis are looking for ways to embrace their beautiful waterways.

It seems Logansport’s not afraid to straddle and nestle within the arms of the Wabash and Eel rivers. And Elkhart, too, appears not to have shied away from the St. Joseph and Elkhart Rivers. The river seems to be coming and going, swirling and whirling on the page.

If you enjoyed looking at these maps, take time to explore some of the great digital map collections available online. Don’t we all need something for our minds to linger on right now?

David Rumsey Historical Map Collection
American Geographical Society Library
Osher Map Library
New York Public Library

This post was written by Indiana Collection Supervisor Monique Howell

Haugh, Ketcham and Company Iron Works

Benjamin Franklin Haugh was born on Aug. 19, 1829 in Maryland and moved to Indianapolis with his parents by 1850. He and his brother, Joseph R. Haugh, formed a partnership in the manufacturing of architectural iron work and fencing, specializing in iron fronts, roofs, stairs, furring and lathing. In 1880, the company expanded and relocated from downtown Indianapolis to the city’s near west side due to the close proximity of rail transportation. John Lewis Ketcham, a prominent Indianapolis businessman, became a proprietor and later secretary to the Haugh, Ketcham and Company Iron Works.

OB065 Boston Photogravure Company, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library

Notably, ornamental iron from the Haugh, Ketcham and Company Iron Works could be found in the façade of the When Building located at the 30 block of North Pennsylvania Street. The structure was built in 1875 and housed specialty clothing as well as the Indianapolis Business College and the Indianapolis Law College. In 1946, the building was renovated and much of the exterior ornamentation was removed. It was demolished in 1995.

OB065 Boston Photogravure Company, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library

Haugh, Ketcham and Company Iron Works lamp posts adorned the Indiana Statehouse grounds along a retaining wall as seen below in a photograph from the Gov. Oliver P. Morton statue dedication along Capitol Avenue in 1907 and in an exterior photograph of the Statehouse taken from sometime between 1907 and 1930. The posts were removed from their limestone bases as part of a renovation project during 1946-48.

Morton statue dedication, 1907, P0 General Photograph Collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library

In 1889, the company dissolved and became known as Brown, Ketcham and Company. Benjamin F. Haugh moved to Anderson and died on Sept. 3, 1912. Ketcham died shortly after on Dec. 27, 1915.

For more information about Benjamin F. Haugh and the Haugh, Ketcham and Company Iron Works, please visit this Hoosier State Chronicles blog post.

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.

A city with a heart: Charitable organizations and philanthropy

Due to such a large collection of historical materials and resources relating to philanthropy and charitable organizations in the Indiana State Library’s collections, I was stumped on where to start my search. By browsing the stacks, I could see many materials on various organizations that focused on the betterment of people, society and communities. Annual reports, brochures and newsletters from various societies and organizations fill our shelves. Ultimately, by pure serendipitous discovery, my starting point found me.

With the impending bicentennial of Indianapolis, I had been focusing on adding materials to our digital collections from, or about, Indianapolis. So, while browsing our vertical files, I stumbled across a hefty file with lots of pamphlets, brochures, reports and so on. I pulled the file, and one particular item caught my eye: one about a Red Feather campaign.

I recognized the name from my work digitizing company employee newsletters. The campaign was a way of gathering up monetary donations to give to the Indianapolis Community Chest. From there, I found myself searching our collections and unearthed a range of materials about the Community Chest from its beginnings in the 1920s up to the 1950s. This became the starting point for our newest digital collection, “Charitable Organizations and Philanthropy.” The collection’s focus will be on the various organizations across the state.

Currently, I’ve only added materials about the Indianapolis Community Chest.

The Community Chest began in the early 1920s as a unified way to raise money for various social agencies around the city. It eventually became the Community Fund, and by the 1950s, was renamed the Indianapolis Community Chest.

The Community Fund was the financial arm of the Indianapolis Council of Social Agencies. Eventually, the organization morphed into what is currently called the United Way of Central Indiana. Its goal was to provide funds for various social agencies and groups such as the YMCA, YWCA, Salvation Army and the Girls and Boys Scouts, to name a few. After their fundraising, the Community Fund would give the money to the Indianapolis Council of Social Agencies for distribution.

The Red Feather campaigns, popular in the ’40s and ’50s, were being promoted in many company employee newsletters, such as Ayrograms and the Serval Inklings.

In the future, I will be adding more materials about other similar organizations across the state, as well as information about the Indianapolis Council of Social Agencies.

This post was written by Christopher Marshall, digital collections coordinator for the Indiana Division at the Indiana State Library.

‘Winter Wonderland Story Hour’

By the time the middle of December rolls around, kids are ready for a snowy morning. Regardless of whether or not it’s snowing on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, the Indiana State Library invites children to join in on some winter-themed fun from 10:30-11:30 a.m. inside of the library. The Talking Book and Braille Library and the Indiana Young Readers Center have put together “Winter Wonderland Story Hour,” a story time that will be filled with books, activities and a winter-y snack. While the program has been designed for readers who are blind or vision impaired, all children are encouraged to attend. Stories, read by ISL staff and Talking Book Library patrons, will be interactive. Children will follow along as “An Old Lady Swallows Some Snow” and help an assortment of stuffed animals take shelter in a lost mitten. Snacks will be provided in the Great Hall, which will be decked out in its holiday best.

Sledding in Broad Ripple Park, circa 1900. Courtesy of Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, Indiana State Library.

Parents or guardians should plan on being present for the duration of the event. Older siblings, grandparents and other adults are welcome to come along. There are 20 spaces available for children and registration is required. This event will be most appropriate for children in third grade and under.

For more event details and to register click here.

This blog post was written by Kate McGinn, reader advisor and outreach consultant for the Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library, Indiana State Library.

Found in the Genealogy Division: From one pioneer to another, a special inscription

In 1887, John H. B. Nowland wrote a special inscription to Emily Stewart Cravens in the book, “Sketches of Prominent Citizens of 1876, with a few of the pioneers of the city and county who have passed away.” Both Nowland and Cravens were pioneers from Indianapolis’s early days.

In the mid-to-late 19th century, Indianapolis was slow-growing and a small enough large town for the people who populated it to be friendly, neighborly and still very much of hard-working pioneer attitudes. The streets were dark and muddy; lined with taverns and cold houses lit by candle light. The 1830s saw the budding start of manufacturing and construction of factories and all was flavored with Gemütlichkeit from German immigrants who started arriving in the 1840s.

Nowland was born in Kentucky and came to Indianapolis late in the year 1820 with his pioneering parents, Matthias Nowland and Elizabeth Byrne. The first abode the family lived in was a cabin in the middle of Kentucky Avenue. Nowland, after spending some time in Washington D.C., returned to Indianapolis. He worked for various Indianapolis newspapers and wrote two history books about Indianapolis: “Early Reminiscences of Indianapolis” and the aforementioned “Sketches of Prominent Citizens of 1876.” He died in 1899.

Cravens, born in Maryland, was the daughter of William Stewart and Sophia Doud. Her father, William Stewart, a bookseller from Hagerstown, Maryland, arrived in Indianapolis in 1853 and set up a book shop on Washington Street with Silas T. Bowen. In 1871, Emily married Junius Cravens, a dentist of Indianapolis. She died in 1932.

How did the two meet? Maybe in her father’s book store or through a literary club, such as the Fortnightly Literary Club, to which Emily Stewart Cravens belonged. Whatever the connection, the lady obviously deserved more than just a simple signature from Mr. Nowland.

I have tried my best to transcribe the poem Mr. Nowland wrote to Mrs. Cravens in 1887. My note in parentheses, the poem follows:

In Indianapolis you will find
People of every grade and kind
Black and white all mixed together
Muddy sheets in rainy weather
Full markets and but little money
Pretty girls as sweet as honey
And many a bargain if you (word unknown) it
Here’s Indianapolis how do you like it

January 1st 1887

This blog post is by Angi Porter, Genealogy Division librarian. 

Researching in ISL Digital Collections: Indianapolis Bicentennial

The city of Indianapolis is about to turn 200 years old and the Indianapolis Bicentennial Commission is planning a celebration which will begin in June 2020 and last through May 2021. Those planning to celebrate can check the commission’s website for announcements, contests, events and a list of commission members. Since the Indiana State Library is continually adding materials to its online collections, now seems like a great time to check the collections for information about Indianapolis in order to gear up for the forthcoming festivities.

The Indiana Historical Legislative Documents collection contains the earliest volumes of the Indiana Acts. The volumes have an index to help locate specific laws passed in a year by the General Assembly. In this case, browsing the index and noticing “Seat of Government” points toward Indiana Acts 1820, Chapter 10, “An Act appointing Commissioners to select, and locate a site for the permanent seat of government of Indiana,” which was approved Jan. 11, 1820, and would move the state capitol from Corydon to a new location to be determined.

Indiana Acts 1821, Chapter 18, “An Act appointing commissioners to lay off a town on the site selected for the permanent seat of government,” was approved Jan. 6, 1821, and stated “the said town laid out as the permanent seat of government for the state of Indiana shall be called and known by the name of Indianapolis.” It was then necessary to plat it out on a map.

Indiana State Library Map Collection contains a digital copy of Plats of the town of Indianapolis, which shows maps of the downtown Indianapolis mile-square donation lands with the names of the first patentees. It includes a comprehensive list of Indiana laws from 1821 to 1913 related to the lots and out-lots. The Indiana Archives and Records Administration has additional details about the Indianapolis Donation and the official state land records held there.

The Indiana Documentary Editions collection contains the Messages and papers of Jonathan Jennings, Ratliff Boon, William Hendricks, 1816-1825. Jonathan Jennings was the governor at the time and issued a proclamation calling for the commissioners to meet in 1820 to select a site for the new capitol. John Tipton was one of those commissioners. The book “John Tipton papers. Volume I: 1809-1827” includes the transcript of the journal Tipton kept during the May 17-June 11, 1820 expedition. Here’s a bonus: the Rare Books and Manuscripts online John Tipton Collection contains digital copies of Tipton’s 1820 journal in his own handwriting.

There is a wealth of information not only in the Indiana State Library’s physical collections, but also in the ever-growing online digital collections. As the Indianapolis Bicentennial approaches, more online materials about the history of the city could show up. Keep searching!

This blog post was written by Indiana Division Librarian Andrea Glenn. For more information, contact the Indiana Division at 317-232-3670 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Homeschool fair at Indianapolis Public Library

On Sept. 14, 2019, the Indiana State Library and the Indianapolis Public Library are joining together, along with other partners, to present “Homeschoolers and Libraries: Partners in Learning.” This homeschool fair will run from 10 a.m. until 4:15 p.m. at the Indianapolis Public Library’s Central Library building located at 40 E. St. Clair Street. The event is free and open to the public.

Homeschooling families and all those interested in learning more about homeschooling are invited to attend this fair, the first of its kind presented by the Indianapolis Public Library. Registration is required. Interested families can click here to register. The first 250 families to register will receive a reusable shopping bag and a free book! Walk-in registration will also be available the day of the event.

The fair will include panel discussions, presentations on a variety of topics including technology as well as hand-on STEM activities. Kicking off the day will be Lilly scientist, Guy Hansen with his entertaining and informative science demonstration. Partners for the event also include WFYI, the Indiana Association of Home Educators and Kids Ink.

The Indiana State Library is excited to be a part of this event and will be involved in several presentations covering topics like digital collections, early literacy and library services for homeschoolers.

The program is made possible by Friends of the Library through gifts to The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation.

Submitted by Suzanne Walker, Indiana Young Readers Center librarian at the Indiana State Library and director of the Indiana Center for the Book.

Turnverein Clubs of Indianapolis

While exploring the Bates-Hendricks neighborhood district on the Southside of Indianapolis recently, I noticed a beautiful old building at 306 Prospect Street. I wanted to find out about its history. After conducting an internet search for the address, I found out that the structure was built in around 1900 for the Southside Turnverein Club. I then looked in the Indiana State Library catalog to see what types of materials were available about Turnverein Clubs.

From the mid-19th to the beginning of the 20th century, German-American Turnverein Clubs were spreading across North America. Indianapolis had several of these Turnverein, or Turners, clubs, which were athletic clubs for German-American immigrants.

According to the “Indianapolis Turnverein 1851-1926 Seventy-Fifth Anniversary” pamphlet (ISLO 977.201 M341 no. 40), the Indianapolis Turnverein was started in 1851 by August Hoffmeister, a “zealous agitator for the founding…” of the club. Below is a rendering from the program of some of the “turnhalls” in Indianapolis included in the pamphlet.

These Turner Clubs were social clubs as well as for physical fitness and gymnastics. The best known Turnverein Club in Indianapolis is the Athenaeum, which was built from 1893-1898 and was originally called Das Deutsche Haus.

The Turnverein Clubs helped German-Americans preserve their German culture and philosophies, while also honoring their new homeland, the United States. The Turners’ philosophy was that mind and body wellness and fitness were of great importance and integral to a healthy life.

Among several German-language titles in the Indiana State Library’s newspaper microfilm collection, we have one geared specifically to Turnverein Clubs. This newspaper was called Die Zukunft. Organ des Nord-Amerikanischen Turner-Bundes, which roughly translates to The Future. Organ of the North American Turner Foundation. This Indianapolis newspaper was printed using the Indianapolis Telegraph’s press on a weekly basis from about 1867-82. If you read German, you may be interested in seeing this title on microfilm. Here is the front page of the Oct. 29, 1868 edition of the newspaper:

Turnverein Clubs flourished in the United States until after the start of World War I, when growing anti-German sentiment caused the clubs’ membership and funding to dwindle. Despite efforts to revitalize Turners Clubs during the second half of the 20th century, most of the buildings here in Indianapolis were sold or used for other purposes. Fortunately, the Southside Turnverein building is in the process of being remodeled and reopened as a corporate headquarters later this spring.

This blog post was written by Leigh Anne Johnson, Indiana Division newspaper librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana Division at (317) 232-3670 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Picture it… Indianapolis… 1852.

Image traveling through a forest so thick that you could do it without ever touching the ground. You could go from tree limb to tree limb, with very little visible grass or flowers, just climbing along. Now imagine this area being Indianapolis, circa 1780. Up until around 1820, the area we now know as the capitol of Indiana was exactly that, a massive dense forest. Settlers then moved in, cleared land, began farms and started to form a community.

Several maps of early Indianapolis show the layout of the mile square, but it wasn’t until 1852 that we saw the first map of the city with any detail.

When we first got this map out and saw exactly what we had to deal with, we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task to digitize it. In fact, the two pictures below show what the book looked like. It had been dissected, glued onto linen and folded to fit on the shelf, which was a very common library practice early on. Nowadays, we don’t do that.

Rebecca, our conservator, painstakingly took pictures of each section, then recreated the completed image that you now see in our digital collections. This was a several day process. Now this extremely rare map has come back together and we can study it and learn what the layout of the city was like in the early 1850s.

For example, the railroad lines and their depots beeline the map, showing how the trains moved merchandise, goods and passengers in all directions. Passengers might have seen a map like this hanging at the train station. Checking the legend, they could have found several houses for accommodations, such as The Palmer House (H) or The Bates House (J), both at the corners of Illinois and Washington Streets, just a few blocks up from the station. After getting settled in, they might have walked up to the governor’s residence to pay a call on Joseph Wright, Indiana’s governor in 1852.

The map also shows the small portion of the massive 296-mile planned canal system and its path through the city; only eight miles of the canal were completed. Beginning at the White River, the canal ran east, then headed north and south. The canal helped facilitate interstate commerce and also provided alternative transportation for passengers.

Most of the transportation routes, such as the canals and railroads, are south of the residential areas, including the current Lockerbie Square and the old Northside neighborhoods. Oftentimes, residential areas grew north of the industrial areas as winds would blow the smoke and pollution south.

Later maps, such as those published in 1855 and 1866, show fewer details. Both maps can be viewed on the Library of Congress’s website. We have the maps at the state library, but the Library of Congress has done such a great job digitizing their copies that we just refer researchers to those digitized maps. Our copies, sadly, are in need of much repair.

This post was written by Chris Marshall, digital collections coordinator for the Indiana Division at the Indiana State Library.