Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wallace and the Donkey

In 1877, the Republicans won the controversial presidential election between the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio and the Democratic nominee, Samuel Tilden of New York. With his party in power General Lew Wallace anticipated a reward for his support. The first offer that came to him in 1878 from President Hayes was the diplomatic position of minister resident and consul general to Bolivia—a position that today would be called an ambassadorship. After some consideration, Wallace declined the position saying that it was too far away from his family and offered inadequate compensation.

Within weeks, Wallace received the offer of an appointment as governor of the New Mexico Territory. For a variety of reasons, Wallace accepted this appointment. Wallace’s time in New Mexico was eventful and added much to his personal story. To share some of his New Mexican experiences, Wallace sent a shipment of souvenirs and curiosities back home to his friends and family. These tokens included boxes of minerals, furs, Indian blankets, and beads. Included in this rail shipment was also a small burro that he planned to give to a neighbor’s child as a pet.

When the rail car reached its destination and the receiving clerk was checking the shipment against the manifest, everything looked to be in order except for one item. In going down the list he noted the description “burro.” The agent assumed that someone at the shipping end was sending a chest of drawers—or bureau—and had spelled the word phonetically. As he checked the bill of lading, there was nothing in the rail car that resembled a piece of furniture—just a little, long-eared, donkey that was not on the bill.

Following company procedure, when irregularities were discovered the agent promptly telegraphed back to the shipper that “Car No 27390, Albuquerque, consigned Wallace, arrived minus one bureau, plus one jackass. Please trace and notify.” Although Wallace was not always noted for his brevity in writing, he personally sent the short telegraph response back: “Change places with the jackass.”

Sources: Crawfordsville Review, December 5, 1896
The Sword & the Pen, Ray Boomhower

The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum celebrates and renews belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bust of David Wallace

The large statue of Lew Wallace on the site of the Ben-Hur beech is not the only piece of free-standing sculpture on the grounds of the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum. Visitors who walk down into the swale behind the Study find themselves face to face with an image of Lew’s father, David Wallace, who served as the 6th governor of the State of Indiana from 1837 through 1840.

Bust of David Wallace from English's Hotel in Indianapolis
 This limestone likeness of David is one of the 31 images of Indiana governors and members of the English family that once adorned one of Indianapolis’ downtown landmarks, English’s Hotel and Opera House. In the 19th century, the English family was one of the most prestigious in Indiana. William Hayden English was born in Lexington, Indiana in 1822 to a family with Kentucky roots. William attended Hanover College but did not graduate. Instead he followed his father’s lead and developed interests in politics and the law. His father, Elisha G. English, served in the Indiana House for almost 20 years. By the age of 19, William H. English was certified as both a teacher and a lawyer. By the age of 23 he was licensed to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

William English and his father were both members of the Democratic Party and were not opposed to slavery. By the early 1840s, William had come under the influence of Jesse Bright, a powerful Hoosier politician who secured local appointments and positions for young English. Bright was also a slave owner. In the mid-1840s, English was living in Washington, D.C. and working as Clerk of the Second Auditor for the Treasury Department. There he met and married Emma Jackson, a Southern belle from Virginia.

Throughout the 1840s, English continued to live and work in Washington, D.C. He forged powerful alliances; secured the friendship of important political leaders; and through diligence, hard work, and shrewdness proved his abilities. In 1851, English was elected to the Indiana House from Scott County, serving as Speaker of the House in 1852. During this time he grew more and more influential among the pro-slavery Democrats of Indiana and the nation and in the fall of 1852 he was elected to Congress.

As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, English worked closely with the Buchanan administration in the late 1850s and in 1858, he helped secure passage of the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution of Kansas. While serving in Washington, English also served as a Regent for the Smithsonian Institution from 1853 through 1861. When his term in Congress ended in 1861, English moved to Indianapolis and began a business, banking and legal career that led to a great family fortune.

During the Civil War he served as an advisor to Governor Morton even though the two were political opponents and he aided in the raising of troops for the Union cause. He was chosen as vice-president on the Democratic ticket that nominated General Winfield Scott Hancock for president in 1880. Hancock and English were only narrowly defeated in the election. English also authored several well received books during his time in Indianapolis including an exhaustive history of the State of Indiana. He died in his rooms in English’s Hotel in 1896 after an illness of about six weeks.

Perhaps the most visible example of the fortune W.H. English amassed was the English’s Hotel on Monument Circle that was built in three phases. The first phase of this grand Victorian edifice included an elaborate Opera House that was completed in 1880 with an entrance facing Circle Park. The architect of the original building was J. Morgan McElfatrick of J.M. McElfatrick & Sons who were theater design specialists from New York City. In 1884, the building was extended east all the way to Meridian Street. In 1897, William H. English’s son, William E. English expanded the building to fill the entire northwest quadrant of Monument Circle. The architect for this project was Oscar D. Bohlen of D.A. Bohlen & Son. The building remained an Indianapolis landmark for another five decades until it was demolished in 1948-1949.

English's Hotel and Opera House, ca. 1900
The bust of David Wallace that is now located in the swale behind the Study was carved for the 1897 expansion of the English’s Hotel and Opera House. The busts of the governors and English family members were located in a decorative band that ran between the second and third floors of the stately hotel. Research by Ratio Architects of Indianapolis for a Historic Structures Report they have completed on the Lew Wallace Study & Museum indicates that the bust of David Wallace was the second one north of Market Street on the Monument Circle fa├žade.

When the hotel was demolished, many of the busts were salvaged and sold to various collectors and groups. The bust of David Wallace was acquired for the grounds of the Study by Crawfordsville’s Dorothy Q chapter of the DAR. A brick and stone structure was built to hold the David Wallace bust and the sculpture was dedicated in a ceremony on the Study grounds in 1963 when Donnis Widener was serving as Chapter Regent.

This sculpture in the swale provides visual interest for the grounds, assures that the contributions of David Wallace are remembered, and allows our tour guides to say on a regular basis: “No that’s not where Lew Wallace’s father is buried.”

Sources: Historic Structures Report, Ratio Architects, 2012
History of the Dorothy Q Chapter, DAR
New York Times, “William H. English is Dead,” February 7, 1896

The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum celebrates and renews belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

William Farnum & Ben-Hur

The play Ben-Hur opened on Broadway in 1899. The first male lead was an actor named Edward Morgan and Messala was first portrayed by William S. Hart. Lew Wallace attended the opening night performance at the Broadway Theater and, like the rest of the audience, was pleased with the dramatic presentation of his work. An opening night critic penned: “Mr. Morgan looks well, and has a few stirring moments. Mr. Hart, as Messala, is as crudely violent and incoherent as ever.” This critic, while apparently underwhelmed with the lead performances, had complimentary things to say about other performers and the music.

William S. Hart went on the play Messala for hundreds of performances over many years. In his autobiography he wrote how honored he was when Lew Wallace asked for a meeting where he praised Hart’s interpretation of Messala. In fact, Hart was still performing the role of Messala on stage when he also played Messala in the first filmed version of the story in 1907. Mr. Morgan as Ben-Hur, on the other hand, was soon replaced. Morgan had been an actor of note in the 1890s. He was a handsome man who had some ability on stage, but for reasons unknown he left the production. Although he continued with a limited stage career for more than a decade, the role of Ben-Hur did not do for him what it did for others and Morgan slipped into obscurity.

Morgan was replaced by William Farnum, who, thanks to Ben-Hur, became one of the leading actors of his day and is still widely remembered. He was born on the 4th of July in 1876 in Boston, Massachusetts and came from a family of performers. He was the son of actor G.D. Farnum and singer Adela Le Gros. As stage performers they trained William and his two brothers, Dustin and Marshall, in the family business.

William Farnum as Judah Ben-Hur
Farnum made his stage debut at the age of ten in the play Julius Caesar with famed actor Edwin Booth as the title character. Farnum had a number of small roles in the 1890s, but his casting as Judah Ben-Hur in 1900 made him a star. His highly regarded portrayal of the Jewish prince led to a string of successful performances in other plays including the Broadway adaptation of Lew Wallace’s Prince of India, which had a limited run in 1906.

After his successes on Broadway, Farnum took his good looks and acting flair to the silent screen in 1914. He became one of the most successful of the silent screen stars with more than 50 films and even made the transition to talking pictures in the late 1920s. During the silent film era he became one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood earning $10,000 per week. He was injured in 1924 while filming the movie, The Man Who Fights Alone and this forced him to take smaller and less stressful roles. During the 1920s, he returned to the Broadway stage at different times with well received performances.

When his roles as a leading man became fewer and farther between, he deftly switched to playing a character actor, often in westerns, and continued his career for many years. In 1951, Farnum and Francis X. Bushman (who played Messala in the 1925 Ben-Hur movie epic) had cameo roles together in a movie called Hollywood Story, which had a storyline based on the murder of silent screen director William Desmond Taylor, who had been a friend to both men. Farnum died in Hollywood on June 5, 1953 and his pall bearers included Hollywood luminaries Cecil B. DeMille, Jesse Lasky, Frank Lloyd, Clarence Brown, Leo Carillo and Charles Coburn with a eulogy by Pat O’Brien. Gary Cooper, William Boyd (Hop-A-Long Cassidy), Noah Beery, Randolph Scott, and John Wayne were all directly influenced (and in some cases coached) by Farnum. While most of us remember Charlton Heston’s impressive performance, actors such as Francis X. Bushman, Ramon Navarro, William S. Hart, and William Farnum also became Hollywood legends because Lew Wallace gave life to Ben-Hur.

P.S. William Farnum was not the only child of G.D. Farnum and Adela Le Gros to make good in Hollywood. His brother, Marshall, became a highly regarded actor and director until his death in 1917. The third brother, Dustin, developed a Vaudeville act and became a leading man on Broadway. Like William, he followed his Broadway successes by becoming one of the leading actors of the silent film era. Perhaps, his most famous role was in the 1914 movie, The Squaw Man by Cecil B. DeMille. For his role in the movie, he was paid with cash and stock in the company formed to film The Squaw Man. He thought so little of this company that he gave the stock to his valet who became an overnight millionaire when the movie was released and became a huge hit. Farnum retired from acting about 1926 and died in 1929 from kidney failure. Beyond his acting career he is also remembered by movie trivia experts because in 1937 Lillian Hoffman of Los Angeles, named her son after her favorite movie actor, Dustin Farnum.

Internet Movie Data Base
Internet Broadway Data Base

The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum celebrates and renews belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dan Macauley

Lew Wallace was not the only famous member of the 11th Indiana Volunteers during the Civil War. The visage of Colonel Dan Macauley, another famous man in the 11th Indiana graced the cover of the sheet music for the “The 11th Indiana Quickstep” a toe-tapping song composed for the piano by Hubert J. Schonacker in 1863.

Dan Macauley was born in New York City on September 8, 1839. His parents were Irish and when Dan was seven years old, the family moved to Buffalo, New York where his father died of cholera in August of 1849. Although he spent a little time acting on the stage, after the death of his father, he was apprenticed to a book-binding business where he stayed until about 1860. At that time he moved to Indianapolis to work for Mr. Bingham and Mr. Doughty at the Sentinel book-binding company.

When the war broke out in 1861, Macauley joined the Indianapolis Zouaves as a private but was soon elected first lieutenant. His unit was assigned to the 11th Indiana volunteers under the command of Colonel Lew Wallace. Wallace personally asked Macauley to serve as his adjutant (assistant). Promotions followed and within a year Macauley was a major, by September of 1862 he was a lieutenant-colonel, by March 1863 he was a colonel and during the war was made a brevetted a brigadier general. He was made Brevet Brigadier General by General Phillip Sheridan for gallantry on the field, having been specifically recommended for the promotion by General Grant.

Macauley saw significant action throughout the war including fighting along side Wallace at Romney, Fort Heiman, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and Shiloh. He fought at Corinth, was wounded during the Vicksburg campaign, and wounded again during a battle in the Shenandoah. Macauley lived for the rest of his life with a bullet in his hip from this second wounding. By April of 1865 he commanded the defenses of Baltimore. After almost five years of continuous service, in August of 1865 he returned to Indiana with his regiment and was mustered out of the army.

Macauley married on March 26, 1863, and after the war he and his wife returned to Indianapolis where he again entered the book-binding business and they raised their family. In April of 1867, he was nominated by the Republicans for Mayor of Indianapolis. He won the election and served for six years from 1867 to 1873 as the youngest Mayor of Indianapolis up to that time. His Irish ancestry together with his Civil War record made him an appealing cross-over choice. In 1867, thirty-one percent of Indianapolis’ foreign population was Irish but most of the Irish were Democrats. Macauley contributed much to his adopted hometown including being one of the developers of the Woodruff Place suburb.

Dan Macauley had a varied career. After serving as mayor, he served as superintendant of the Indianapolis water works and as manager of the Academy of Music. In 1880, he left Indianapolis and in 1882 was engaged in developing Mexican mining interests, followed by stints managing hotels in New York City and Columbus, Ohio. During Benjamin Harrison’s administration he held the position of appointment clerk for the Treasury Department. In his last job he worked for the Nicaragua Canal Company that ran steamers on Lake Nicaragua. While on business for the company he died unexpectedly in Nicaragua in 1894 and was buried there with full military honors. Macauley’s family later brought his body home and he was buried with honors in Arlington National Cemetery. As Dan Macauley was laid to rest, one of the memorials stated: “The Eleventh Indiana Infantry was distinguished as one of the fighting and best drilled regiments, and from the date of its muster in until it finished its splendid career it never suffered defeat. When it is considered that such men as Gen. Lew Wallace and Dan Macauley were the directing influences that inspired this gallant command one has to look but little further to discover the reason for the success of the Eleventh Indiana.”

The revolver used by Macauley during the war as he fought beside Lew Wallace is part of the permanent collection of the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum and on display in the 2012 exhibit, Courage & Conflict: Lew Wallace in 1862.

The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum celebrates and renews belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture.