Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Reservations Open for 2013 Holiday Tea

Can you believe it's already November? Time goes so quickly...before you know it, it'll be Christmas! Which reminds me, our Holiday Tea and Fashion Show is approaching quickly.

Our Annual Holiday Tea is our second-largest fundraiser of the year. We have a wonderful time visiting with our friends, members, and supporters in a festive environment. It's one of the rare opportunities Lew's fans have to visit the home where Susan grew up. This year our second partner, along with the Elston Homestead, is Lane Place, where Henry and Joanna (Elston) Lane lived. Both historic homes will be beautifully decorated for the holidays. We're so excited to share this occasion with you!

The Holiday Tea will feature live holiday music from the Wabash College T-Tones, door prizes, refreshments and tea (of course), an interactive fashion show by heathcliff, artist-created holiday wreaths for sale, and, of course, lots of holiday cheer!

Tickets are $25 per person, and reservations are required. The event runs from 3-6 p.m. on December 6, and attendees can drop in any time between those hours. For reservations, call 765-362-5769 or visit our Holiday Tea website and make reservations online via PayPal.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Making A Historic Difference - Part Two

So last week I warned you I was going to ask you for money. Well, this is it--brace yourselves.

We would really appreciate it if you donated money to our Making A Historic Difference campaign.

(That wasn't so bad, was it?)

Thanks to our many generous supporters, we currently have $230,000 secured towards our $300,000 goal. The Jeffris Foundation granted us $100,000 for interior paint restoration, with the caveat that we must double-match that amount--that is, we need to raise $200,000 on our own to match their grant. Because we are owned by the City of Crawfordsville, the city has agreed to provide $30,000 for our efforts. Many private donors have given us $1,000 or more and will be honored with an engraved brick to be placed in front of the Carriage House. Lots of smaller donations have added up.

We're getting close to reaching our goal--but the last few milestones always seem to be the hardest to reach.

If you are able to give and want to be a part of this exciting effort to restore and preserve Lew's ornate interior decorations, won't you consider donating to the Making A Historic Difference campaign?

We've done our best to make the donation process as easy and painless as possible. You can donate from this blog post using your credit card. Our secure payments are processed through PayPal.

You can also donate by calling us at 765-362-5769 and providing your credit card information over the telephone.

Board Member Jerry Spillane was instrumental in helping us have a video created so you can learn more about the campaign. If you have four minutes, join me, Director Larry Paarlberg, and Jerry for a look around the Study.

It's exciting to be so close to reaching our goal. We hope you're excited too, and that you'll be with us through the whole process of restoring the Study interior to Lew's original vision. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Introducing Our New Website

We are going to be rolling out a new website in the next day or so. Don't worry, all the same information will still be there, along with some new stuff! And you won't have to update your bookmarks; we'll still be at www.ben-hur.com. We are changing the site's appearance, but the menu structure has a similar design as the old website. You shouldn't have to update any links if you've been linking to our website. We'll be using the name page names as far as possible.

So why change things, you're probably wondering?

Over 35% of our 2013 website traffic so far has come from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets; unfortunately, our old website wasn't built with a design that would respond to the various screen sizes--it just wasn't something we had to worry about back then. Our new design will adapt the display for optimal viewing across devices from iPhones to iPads to 23" computer monitors.

Here's the biggest change for you blog readers--our blog will no longer be located here at wallacestudy.blogspot.com but will be self-hosted at www.ben-hur.com/blog. If you use a feed-reader to keep up with our posts, you'll need to update your feed. To make it simple, we have a little RSS icon in the right sidebar of our blog page. If you'd prefer, you'll also be able to subscribe to our blog via email and have our entries sent straight to your inbox.

Our new site design will eventually incorporate an online gift shop and e-book sales. Our presence on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest will be better integrated with our website as well as the blog. We will continue to support online memberships and online donations, and this year for the first time Holiday Tea tickets are available to purchase by credit card on our website at www.ben-hur.com/programs/holiday-tea/.

I hope you like the new website design. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, I'm always happy to receive feedback from our members, supporters, and friends. Comment here, at the new blog, or email me with any feedback.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Henry's uniform, on loan from
Children's Museum of Indianapolis
If you're handing out sweets today, make sure to stop by the Study and hand some out to us! Director Larry Paarlberg is a fan of anything dark chocolate. Associate Director/Education Erin Gobel is a York Peppermint Patty fan. Grounds Manager Deb King likes peanut butter cookies. Associate Director/Collections Amanda McGuire prefers peanut butter M&Ms and dark chocolate. I personally will take anything that has the word chocolate in it, but Kit Kat and Butterfinger are a couple of current favorites. :) (We're also frequent customers at Dari-Licious!)

In Lew's day, Halloween wasn't celebrated much outside of Irish and Scottish immigrant communities, but even in the 1860s children did play dress-up. Lew and Susan's son Henry was eight at the outbreak of the Civil War, and he had a child-sized Union uniform and kepi. We currently have the uniform on display in our Carriage House. It is on loan from the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, and in less than two months, when our 2013 Generations exhibit ends, we'll be returning it to them. If you want to see it, make sure you stop in sometime between now and December 14!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Making A Historic Difference - Part One

If you're a Crawfordsville local, you may have seen signs around town with a big drawing of the Study and the phrase "Making A Historic Difference." You might be wondering why we're trying to raise $300,000 and what we're going to do with that money. We're going to have a series of posts on our blog about The Making A Historic Difference Campaign so you find out why we're so excited and, hopefully, get excited along with us.

Lew's mural

Ella Kostanzer was raised in Montgomery County and was teaching in Chicago when she visited Lew in his Study on January 1, 1900. She described a fresco painted inside the Study dome. An elaborate work of trompe l'oeil,
"The border around the skylight is handpainted, designed by the owner. It consists of implements of warfare in groups chained together. We see the shield, helmet, sword, bugle, breastplate, etc..." - Ella Kostanzer
Fast forward to 2011. Workers at the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum were in the midst of their Study Restoration Project designed to address structural deterioration and water damage inside the Study building. With the Study emptied of artifacts, it was an ideal time to have a paint analysis done.

After analysis by Matthew Mosca of Baltimore, we contacted Brian Fick and Mary Yeager of Acanthus Arts in Indianapolis. Thanks to their hard work, Lew's frescoes were partially uncovered.

That's great, but why are you asking for money?

Well, one of our goals here at the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum is to present the Study as close as possible to the way it looked when Lew used it. With very few exceptions, we have accomplished that. One of the exceptions, however, is the interior paint.

Except for the one corner of the interior paint uncovered by Acanthus Arts, the Study is decorated with paint put up in the 1990s. Not only is that historically inaccurate, but it's just not as dramatic as the paint decorations Lew had. We want to bring back the paint conservators and have them uncover all of the interior paint.

On top of that, we can't turn on the lights in the main room of the Study.

Lew had electricity in the building. Crawfordsville was one of the first cities in Indiana to be electrified. Lew was a wealthy man, and he spared no expense in creating this "pleasure house for [his] soul". The main room of his Study had almost 100 light bulbs in it. But the wiring in many places still dates back to the 1890s. No one wants to be responsible for burning down the Study, so we rely on natural light from the skylight. But we'd love to update the wiring so we can light the Study for evening events.

It'll be a lot of work, and it'll take a lot of money. The Jeffris Foundation of Wisconsin has generously awarded us a $100,000 grant, but we have to match that with $200,000 in funds we raise.

So this is where you come in.

We know you're a dedicated supporter of our museum and mission. After all, you read our blog, and you might even be a member of the Lew Wallace Study Preservation Society. But right now we need a little bit more from you.

Yep, you guessed it, I'm about to ask you for money.

But we'll save that for next week. I want you to take some time to browse our website and Flickr account. Take a look at the pictures we have of Lew's amazing interior paint. Read the articles written for this blog in 2011 while the original paint analysis was being done. Then next week, when you're still on a sugar high from Halloween, come back to the blog and we'll talk about how much we've raised so far and how far we have yet to go.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

People Lew Knew: Robert C. Ingersoll

Why did Lew Wallace write Ben-Hur?

In 1876, Lew was on a train headed for a reunion of Union soldiers. Also on the train was Robert C. Ingersoll, a noted agnostic. During the trip, the two men began a conversation on the divinity of Christ and other religious issues. In his efforts to sway Lew with his views, Ingersoll’s arguments instead had an opposite effect.

When the men detrained in Indianapolis, Lew waved the waiting cab off, stating he needed to walk to clear his thoughts. As he walked to his hotel he realized he needed to create a powerful refutation of Ingersoll’s arguments, but that he was ill prepared to do so.

In the mid-1870s, Lew had drafted a short story about the three wise men and their journey guided by the Star of Bethlehem.  He ultimately decided expand this story, through exhaustive research, as a convincing argument supporting the divinity of Christ. This "redraft" of his short story became Ben-Hur.

That's the story we relate to visitors about how Lew wrote the best-selling novel of the 19th century. But a couple of weeks ago, some great visitors who stopped in while waiting on car repairs asked me what happened to Ingersoll, and I didn't know! I had to find out.

What about Ingersoll?

The son of a Presbyterian minister, Ingersoll was an attorney. He served in the Civil War with the 11th Illinois Cavalry Regiment. He fought and was captured at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. He became the Illinois Attorney General, was active in the Republican Party, was an abolitionist, supported women’s suffrage, was a noted orator, and a famed agnostic.

After their conversation, as Lew pursued his writing, Ingersoll also moved on. Later in 1876, Ingersoll nominated James G. Blaine for President at the Republican Convention in Cincinnati. Hayes. While Blaine lost to Rutherford B. Hayes, Ingersoll’s "Plumed Knight" nomination speech was electrifying and long remembered. Almost 50 years later in 1928, Franklin D. Roosevelt likely used that speech as a template for his "Happy Warrior" speech when he placed Alfred Smith’s name in nomination as the Democratic candidate for President.

In 1884, Ingersoll spoke at the Republican National convention in Chicago. On his trip home from the convention, Ingersoll passed through Crawfordsville. It’s not known whether Ingersoll and Lew crossed paths on this particular trip, but while in Crawfordsville, Ingersoll was encouraged to give an oration. Joanna Lane graciously offered the front porch of her home, Lane Place, for the event. The wife of Senator Henry S. Lane, Joanna was a committed Republican who did all she could to support the party. She was also a devout Methodist; sharing her lawn with the agnostic Ingersoll must have been a trial for her. The crowd was enormous and according to news accounts of the day, Mrs. Lane listened attentively.

Like Lew, Robert Ingersoll travelled in powerful circles. Walt Whitman considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time and stated: "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass... He lives, embodies, the individuality, I preach. I see in [him] the noblest specimen--American-flavored--pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light."  Ingersoll later delivered the eulogy at Whitman's funeral.

Ingersoll's Continuing Legacy

Ingersoll died in 1899 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. In 1902, a twelve volume set of his complete works was published. In the early 20th century he was referenced in works by authors such as William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, and P.G. Wodehouse.

More recently a popular edition of Ingersoll's work, edited by Pulitzer Prize winner Tim Page, was published in 2005, by Steerforth Press. Ingersoll's thinking is being brought to new audiences with, "What's God Got to Do With It: Robert Ingersoll on Free Speech, Honest Talk and the Separation of Church and State".

As Robert Ingersoll once said: "There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments, there are consequences." How interesting that one of the consequences of a conversation on a train in the 1870s questioning the divinity of Christ led to the creation of a work like Ben-Hur.