Wednesday, August 29, 2012

People Lew Knew: Charles Major, Indiana Author

Recently I had two literary guests visiting the Study who asked about Charles Major of Shelbyville, Indiana. I didn’t recognize the name at first, though I should have--Major is remembered now for having written The Bears of Blue River, but he was a celebrated author in his day. His book When Knighthood Was in Flower, published in 1899, was a bestseller and was adapted on Broadway and in film.

Lew made a habit of encouraging young and struggling authors in Indiana. He knew most of those who are today remembered as Indiana’s greats--James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, George Ade, and many others. But he also had an influence on Charles Major.

They met shortly before Major’s first novel was published, and after the meeting, Major wrote a letter to Lew. He confessed that, many years earlier, he had traveled to Crawfordsville in the hopes of meeting the famous author...but then lost his nerve and went back home! It made their meeting in 1898 even more important to Major.

I wish I had known all this before my visitors asked. Hopefully by sharing it on the blog, I’ll be able to reach those who asked as well as all our regular readers.

For more in-depth information about Charles Major, see our earlier post about him here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Great Variety of Flavors at the Taste

The 6th Annual Taste of Montgomery County arrives this Saturday, August 25, and the variety of foods being offered this year is sure to please almost every palate.

Two Guys Cooking will return with their famous ribbon chips with cheese and deep-fried caramel turtle cheesecake. The China Inn will serve California sushi rolls and crab rangoons; while Waynetown Bar and Grill will serve frog legs and catfish bites. Bon Appétit will present a popcorn barn with assorted mix-ins and flavorings.

Three new exhibitors to this year’s Taste are Lil Sweetums Cupcakery, featuring cupcakes from their new store on Main Street, the General Store in Darlington, featuring delicious cinnamon rolls and sticky buns, and Chewy’s, with authentic Mexican food. Favorites from previous years will also be returning, including Norvell’s BBQ, China Inn, The Iron Gate, Miller’s Quality Meats & Catering, A Country A-Fair, Hawg Wild BBQ, The Big Dipper, Coal Creek Cellars, 1832 Brew Espresso Bar, and the Juniper Spoon.

The Taste of Montgomery County takes place at the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum in Crawfordsville on Saturday, August 25 from 12:00 noon to 10:00 p.m. Tickets for the Taste are now on sale at the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum and several downtown locations. Advance tickets to the Taste are $4 for adults and $2 for students; on the day of the Taste, tickets will be $5 for adults and $3 for students. For the full menu and more information about the Taste, visit our website at

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Get a Taste for a Good Cause

It’s become one of the area’s most anticipated annual festivals, but the Taste of Montgomery County also fulfills a very important role: the Taste is the largest fundraiser for the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum, located on the grounds in Crawfordsville where Lew Wallace penned his masterwork, Ben-Hur. The 6th Annual Taste of Montgomery County will be held this Saturday, August 25, from 12:00-10:00 p.m.

Revenues from the gate sales at this year’s Taste will go to fund the Museum’s extensive programming and the 2013 annual exhibit focusing on Wallace descendants. 2013 programming will tie into exhibit themes and will include genealogy and family history workshops, lectures, and a walking tour.

Tickets for the Taste are now on sale at the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum and several downtown locations. Advance tickets to the Taste are $4 for adults and $2 for students; on the day of the Taste, tickets will be $5 for adults and $3 for students.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Fun Fact: Lew Wallace, Fishing Fanatic

Did you know that Lew Wallace was crazy about fishing?

Patent diagram for
traveler's fishing pole
Lew had a moat on two sides of the Study and stocked it so he could fish from the back porch. In the winter, he could fire up the coal furnace in the Study basement and stick his fishing pole out the windows.

In fact, he loved fishing so much he invented a special traveler’s fishing pole.

The line reel was integrated into an aluminum handle. A hollow wooden pole attached to the end of the handle and carried the line inside. US Patent No. 460,272 was issued for the invention on September 29, 1891.

Be sure to stop by the Study for a tour, where you can see this invention along with his collection of fishing poles!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lew's Legacy Continues

I had a great story from one of our visitors the other day. Several years ago they came to see the Study and brought their young son. We have Lew’s violin on display here, as well as several violin pieces that he used to build violins. After seeing the display, the son took up playing the violin. Now, several years later, he still plays!

It’s great to know that Lew Wallace is still inspiring people today.

Monday, August 13, 2012

New in the gift shop--My Indiana: 101 More Places to See

Past visitors to the Study gift shop will recognize My Indiana: 101 Places to See by Earl L. Conn. New to the gift shop this week is Mr. Conn’s sequel, My Indiana: 101 More Places to See. Both books sell for $19.95.

The books are divided into regions of the state: North, East, Central, West, South Central, and South. Each region features notable locations in several cities. Crawfordsville, listed in the West region, is mentioned because of the Rotary Jail Museum.

Many nearby locations in the West region are just a short drive from the Study. Come in to see us, pick up a copy of the book while you’re here, and plan some short excursions from the book!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lew Wallace's Carriage

In 1873, perhaps feeling flush with royalties from his book The Fair God, Lew Wallace ordered a new carriage. This was not just any carriage. It was a made to order French Victoria Carriage that cost $1,000 with an additional $200 for shipping. At this same time, Lew and Susan were completing work on their new Carriage House immediately north of their home.

It is reported that Wallace bought the carriage during one of his trips abroad while he was visiting in Paris and no expense was spared. It has a relatively low body with one forward-facing seat for two passengers and a raised driver's seat supported by an iron frame, all beneath a calash top (one that folds back in accordion style). In front adjacent to the driver’s seat, there are mounted brass lanterns and a holder for the buggy whip. Behind the main seating there is a footman’s seat. The wheels all have expensive brass boxings (a part of axle and hub connections) and the two front wheels were removable so that they could be attached to another body to make a two wheeled cart. The carriage has leather curtains, cushions, and fenders. With a simple conversion, this one horse buggy could be pulled by a beautiful matched pair of horses. The front drivers’ seat was also removable so that the driver (Lew Wallace himself) could sit in the main compartment of the carriage.

Lew Wallace's carriage after its purchase by Frank Oliver
in 1915. 

A carriage of this general form might have been called a phaeton in the early 19th century. These were sporty open carriages drawn by a single horse or a pair, typically with four extravagantly large wheels, very lightly sprung, with a minimal body, fast and even considered dangerous. Phaetons usually had no sidepieces in front of the seats. The name phaeton refers to the disastrous ride of the mythical "Phaëton," son of Helios, who nearly set the earth on fire while attempting to drive the chariot of the sun. American versions often had a higher carriage of light construction, with a covered seat in front and a footman's seat behind just as Wallace’s carriage has.

The Victoria version was an elegant French carriage based on a phaeton that had been made for King George IV who ruled Great Britain until 1830. The name Victoria was not actually attached to this kind of carriage until 1869, when one was imported to England by Prince Albert for his wife, Queen Victoria. As a result of its association with the Queen these carriages became very popular with the wealthy in the late 19th century.

Wallace owned this carriage for over 30 years and probably did not begin to retire it from service until he purchased his horseless carriage around 1900. In 1915, ten years after his death, it was purchased by Frank Oliver of Crawfordsville, for this mother. Sometime after her death it was returned to the Study. Over the years it was exhibited at community gatherings across Indiana and around the country and it was shown several times at the Indiana State Fair. Years ago, some enterprising person disassembled the carriage and moved it to the basement of the Study where is continues to be on display.

To see a phaeton in action, each June, during the official "Queen's Birthday" celebrations, Queen Elizabeth II travels to and from Trooping the Colour Horse Guards Parade in an ivory-mounted phaeton carriage made in 1842 for her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. In this country, another vehicle carries on the tradition of Wallace’s French Victoria Carriage if in name only—the Ford Crown Victoria.

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

Lew Wallace Needs Your Help!

Are you interested in the programming and events we have here at the Lew Wallace Study? Do you wish we did more about the gardens and less about the Civil War? More about the Civil War but less about study architecture?

Now is your chance to speak up and be heard! We really want to know what you think. Take our BRIEF survey and we'll be grateful!

And as always, feel free to comment here at the blog.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Taste of What’s to Come

The Sixth Annual Taste of Montgomery County is fast approaching! Come out to the grounds of the Lew Wallace Study & Museum on Saturday, August 25. From noon to 10 pm we will have great food and great music for you to enjoy!

Bands performing are Nut Hatch from 1-3, Mike Butler & Slim Pickin’ from 4:30-6:30, and The Snakehandlers Blues Band from 8-10. With all the wonderful restaurants in Montgomery County, there will be tastes to please every palate.

Be sure to pencil August 25 on your calendar!

Monday, August 6, 2012

New Curtains for the Study Doors

We’re fortunate here at the museum to have historical photos of the Study--interior and exterior--as well as the Study grounds. Our goal is to present the Study to visitors as it would have been in Lew Wallace’s lifetime. We want visitors to see it the way Lew saw it.

One thing we have learned from our historical photos is that the doors of the Study all had curtains on the inside. You can see his curtains in the picture to the left.

The curtains might have functioned to preserve heat in the winter, to provide privacy, or simply to block out distractions. Whatever the reason Lew had them, we are proud to have reproduction curtains installed as of this week.

Board member Laura Conners made the reproduction curtains, as well as the curtains over the bookshelves, and they look fantastic. Fabrics were chosen specifically to replicate the drape and weight of the curtains. There are two kinds of velvet that accent the colorful golden brocade. The borders are made of velour.

Visit us at the Study and see our new additions!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Shirt Sale!

We only have a few of our Lew Wallace Study t-shirts left! If you’ve been putting off your purchase, make sure to stop by in the next few days. T-shirts are currently marked down to $7.

We do have more of the Princess Irene t-shirts. If you’ve visited the Study, you’ll know there are four faces carved in stone on the four sides of the building. One is the Princess Irene, a character in Lew’s novel The Prince of India. T-shirts with her picture are also marked down to $7.
Princess Irene t-shirt 
Polo shirts with an embroidered Lew Wallace Study & Museum logo are marked down to $20. And if you’re feeling festive instead of historical, we have Taste of Montgomery County shirts available as well.

Stop by the gift shop today!