Friday, March 29, 2013

Wallace Scholar Dr. Howard Miller to Speak in Franklin

Wallace Scholar Dr. Howard Miller will be speaking about Ben-Hur before the evening screenings of the film at the Historic Artcraft Theatre in Franklin, Indiana.

Dr. Miller is a Professor Emeritus with The University of Texas at Austin and a world-recognized scholar on the history of American religion. His article "The Charioteer and The Christ: Ben-Hur in American from the Gilded Age to the Culture Wars" was published in Indiana Magazine of History, and he has also authored a book-length study of Ben-Hur.

Dr. Miller will be speaking at 7:15 Friday and Saturday evenings. If you're planning on joining us for the movie, make sure you arrive early to hear him speak!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Civil War Music Coming to the Study

Lew was a fan of music. He played the violin and Susan played the guitar. One of his reasons for building the Study was so he could play the violin at midnight if he chose. We think he would approve of our upcoming event! A choral group from Wabash College will be performing a concert of Civil War songs inside the Study building Thursday, April 4.

Songs being performed will include:
Battle Cry of Freedom
The Soldier's Return
When Johnny Comes Marching Home
The New Emancipation Song
Ashokan Farewell
Battle Hymn of the Republic

Because seating is limited, RSVPs are required. Please call the Study at 765-362-5769 for details and to reserve a spot.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Growing Up With Ben Hur - a Guest Post

by Nancy VanArendonk

When I was growing up -- back in the days before Netflix, Redbox, Movies On Demand and the like -- there were just two possibilities if you wanted to see a film that had been made some years earlier. You could hope that it might someday be run on one of the four existing TV channels (three national networks and one local station), or that the film studio would deem it worthy of re-release and that it would come back briefly to theaters. Which is why I remember that when I saw the splashy newspaper ad for the re-release of the 1959 Ben-Hur (possibly for the 10th anniversary of its release?), I put up a positively merciless campaign of begging to get my parents to take me to see it. Eventually my dad gave in and took me to a drive-in theater where it was showing.

And I loved it. :)

Apparently I had good taste. No film in history has ever won more Academy Awards (11), and only two have even tied with it (Titanic and The Lord of the Rings) -- and it took 40 years and the invention of computer generation to do that!

I read the novel, and for once thought the film version of a story actually better than the book. Mind you, I definitely enjoyed Wallace's tale, but for me the film had an impact that the written version didn't deliver in the same way... especially in regard to the final part of the character Messala's story.

Eventually it became possible to see the film every few years, as it began to be shown on TV on some Easter weekends. With each viewing I appreciated new aspects. Were not the Sheik's horses the most gorgeous in filmdom? And how deliciously potent those three words, "You're wrong, Messala," just before Judah steps from the shadows!

Then came the availability of the home videocassette recorder. As my husband Larry remembers it, we purchased our first VCR -- a Beta, yet -- specifically to record Ben-Hur, which was scheduled to be run on TV. This was not the casual investment that VCRs later became; at that time each blank cassette tape cost $26 and could record just over four hours of material. But we'd end up splurging still more because of the film: Years later, when friends from another country moved to Indiana, we discovered in conversation that they'd never seen the movie. We invited a group and planned to make a big evening of it, and how better to do that than to buy a bigger TV? (Hey, you can't fully appreciate the chariot race when it's all compressed can you?) ;-)

There's a family story about Ben-Hur that predates me by many decades, though I hadn't heard it until after I'd developed my own fondness for Lew Wallace's tale. My parents were married in 1926. Since they were young and without money, someone suggested that they drive out of state to the farm of an aunt for their honeymoon. The drive there was a disaster in itself, as they camped in a pup tent en route; one night it not only rained, but a stray cat ran into their tent to escape the weather and used the dry area therein as a toilet, forcing them to relocate. And then, as you might imagine, staying with an elderly aunt wasn't really a honeymoon-conducive scenario. My father started reading Ben-Hur, and continued to do so throughout their stay. My mother, bored and frustrated with the entire situation, was still aggravated decades later about my dad having read that book on their honeymoon!

My own fondness for Lew Wallace's story began to give family members ideas when searching for birthday or Christmas presents for me. My younger daughter bought an autographed photo of Charlton Heston as a galley slave. Larry began shopping for unusual editions of the novel. One vintage volume, for instance, is illustrated with photos from the 1899 Broadway stage production, which ran for 21 years and featured live horses in the chariot race. Later, Larry found for me a century-old program from that play. And, since the novel's decades-long popularity had led to countless things being named after it, another of my surprises was an antique box of Ben-Hur brand black pepper (see photo)... the box was still filled with peppercorns!

The search for such things is half the fun, and today I was again rewarded with a "find." I attended a Vintage Book & Paper show, and while there I found an 1880s copy of Ben-Hur that had been autographed by author Lew Wallace! This makes my second autographed Wallace volume, the other being a copy of The Prince of India.

Such finds are fun. The search (to paraphrase a line from the film) goes on. :)

Larry & I appreciate a lot of classic films, so when the historic Artcraft Theatre in Franklin reopened about a decade ago and began showing classic movies to raise money to restore the 1922 building, we attended regularly, and seven years ago we sponsored our first film there. It was (surprise!!) Ben-Hur.

In the years since, we have sponsored many other films at the Artcraft. But when we learned that Ben-Hur was once again on the schedule, there was no question; we had to sponsor the movie! And so, on March 29th & 30th we will again be sponsoring this. I hope that many will come and enjoy this film as it was meant to be seen, on the Artcraft's 33-foot-wide screen. 
Showings will take place both days at 2:00 and at 7:30, but for the evening showings I strongly recommend finding seats no later than 7:00. Tickets are $5, or just $4 for students or seniors.

The Artcraft, by the way, is interesting in its own right. All those who work in the theater are volunteers. This way all the funds from the ticket sales can go to restoring the theater. The popcorn sold there is grown just five miles away and is popped fresh as you watch, and all evening films are preceded by door-prize drawings, the singing of the national anthem, and the showing of a vintage cartoon. For a few hours, you've gone back in time.

But those added benefits won't distract us; we'll all know why we're there:  To see BEN-HUR!  :)


Note: Nancy and her husband Larry are members of the Lew Wallace Study Preservation Society as well as enthusiastic Ben-Hur fans. I asked Nancy to write this guest post so we could learn more about her reasons for sponsoring the movie screen as well as her relationship with Lew Wallace's legacy. If you have a story you'd like to share with our friends and readers, let me know! I'm always interested in sharing your stories.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

1959 Ben-Hur Screening at Historic Artcraft Theatre

Ten days from now, the 33-foot screen at the Historic Artcraft Theatre in Franklin, Indiana, will be home to a film spectacular. Just in time for the celebration of Easter, movie-goers can see Charlton Heston starring as Judah Ben-Hur. The 1960 Academy Awards presented Ben-Hur with eleven of twelve awards for which it had been nominated. In 1998 the American Film Institute listed Ben-Hur as one of the 100 Greatest Movies. For more information about the movie, as well as the book which inspired it, check out our website's Ben-Hur page. Lew Wallace Study Preservation Society members Nancy and Larry VanArendonk are sponsoring the showing. (Stay tuned next week for a guest post from Nancy about her love for Ben-Hur and her reasons for sponsoring it.)

What: 1959 Ben-Hur movie screening
When: Friday, March 29 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 30 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Historic Artcraft Theatre in Franklin, Indiana (map)

Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under, with discounts for seniors, college students and military (with ID). Each performance includes skits, classic cartoons, door prizes, and a fully-stocked concession stand.

Check out the Artcraft's website for further details and to purchase advance tickets.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lew Wallace and his Lost Masterpiece

Lew Wallace is generally given credit for writing three novels of historical fiction. The Fair God: The Last of the ‘Tizins (1873), Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880); and The Prince of India; or, Why Constantinople Fell (1893). It is true that these were his three major novels that were actually published, but he wrote another novel that didn’t survive long past its initial public presentation.

While a student at the Indianapolis Seminary, Lew Wallace attended meetings of the Union Literary Society where students shared debates, recitations, readings, and parliamentary proceedings. In time, Lew began writing and publically reciting a lengthy historical poem he had written with John Smith of Virginia the hero. In the poem, this hero is aptly named “Virginia John.” Written in the flavor of Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion his poem ended with the dramatic rescue of Pocahontas.
A young Lew Wallace

Irving McKee in his book The Early Life of Lew Wallace speculates that Lew might have been inspired by a production of the play Pocahontas by Robert Dale Owen that was performed by the Indianapolis Thespian Corps in the winter of 1839. In this production, Lew had the role of “Numony,” Pocahontas’ sister and his real-life brother, William, had the lead role of John Smith.

Lew’s historical poem was then followed by his Travels of a Bed-bug. In this poem, a bed-bug, born in the office of an Indianapolis lawyer passes from office to office and from hotel to hotel with adventures and commentary on local citizens along the way until it dies from over drink—much like the famed Alexander the Great. Lew had this effort published to the great amusement of the town, but to his regret, as he wrote of: “. . . the just indignation of the gentlemen concerned. Learning that several of them were looking for me, canes in hand, I went hunting, and was gone time enough for the flurry to blow over.”

After these two efforts at epic poetry, Lew realized that his forte might rather lie in prose. He then commenced writing a lengthy novel that he read to the Literary Society in installments. This work, The Man-at-Arms: A Tale of the Tenth Century truly became an epic production. Just the synopsis in Lew’s autobiography runs from page 63 to page 72! To summarize the summary, the hero was a page named Pedro, who was of good blood and bore himself like a paladin. A talented youth, he played the lute, sang ballads of knights and ladies fair, excelled at horsemanship, spoke with grace and was generally heroic. Among the cast of hundreds, the story included an evil duke, a fair maiden named Inez, and a hateful old widow, and a kindly hermit who married the young lovers in a cave in the mountains.

Trials and tribulations flowed from Lew’s pen as the story wound on and on with the young lovers separated by the evil duke. Set in the year of our Lord 1097, Pedro eventually finds glory on a Crusade to Jerusalem. The finale included a famine, a plague, and a dying hero. As Lew wrote in remembering this work: “On a bed of straw she found him lying, to all appearance dying. Not minding his feeble protest, she unlaced his helmet and took it off. The recognition was instantaneous. The scene that ensued was to the author’s heart, and he gave it his best power.” Ultimately Pedro was restored to health because “there is no leech like love” and the duke, seeing Pedro and Inez’s love grants Pedro his dukedom.

By the time Lew had finished this gripping tale it had stretched to over 250 pages of text closely written and bound in a book. He kept the book at his home for several years, but while away serving in the Mexican War, the book was misplaced or destroyed. Even as Lew penned his autobiography some fifty years later he wrote that the loss of this book was one of his standing regrets—not so much for its literary quality, but for the amusement it would have provided. He stated that even with his youthful tendency to waste time, writing this book proved to him that he was capable of continuity of purpose. It also proved to him, that although sophomoric and overly sentimental, he could capture an audience with his writing and with his public speaking. The members of the Union Literary Society turned out in force whenever he had a new installment of the story to present. In theme and prose this effort presaged his later works of religious fiction. More importantly, this lost masterpiece demonstrated to Lew that he had abilities that deserved further self encouragement and ultimately led to the writing of The Fair God and ultimately, Ben-Hur.

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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

6 Questions With Board Member Helen Hudson

Helen Mundy Hudson is a retired public school teacher of AP English and German, part-time Wabash professor, director of Athenas, and erstwhile writer. She has served as president of the LWSPS board. She is fascinated by Icelandic studies.

How long have you been on the LWSPS board?
6 or 7 years

Tell us something funny or interesting (or embarrassing, if you're brave!) about yourself.
I was once a barrel racer and pole bender in horseback competition, played tenor sax, and collected stamps. I've been involved in a 30+ year love affair with Iceland.

How did your involvement with the Lew Wallace Study begin?
I knew it as a pretty place tied to Ben-Hur. Then Dale Petrie called me, I met Cinnamon, and the rest is history.

Why do you think the preservation of the Lew Wallace Study is important?
I'm a trained Mid-Century Modern :) and so entirely believe in our motto - "power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture." Lew and Susan Wallace were not only bright and important people, they knew how to live their lives richly, and because they were rich they left us the increasingly more valuable Study and grounds.

What is your favorite thing about Lew Wallace?
His painted walls and his library--especially his library...  Oh, and there was the Civil War and New Mexico and Turkey. What's not to like?

What is one thing you would like our blog readers and Facebook friends to know?

About Bohumir Kryl, the valuable paint (equal to the U.S. Capitol paint), the worldwide scholarship done on Lew Wallace. I would love for people to learn more about the contents of Lew's library.

Thank you, Helen, for all your hard work and your dedication to preserving culture in our community!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Angel of Grief

The Angel of Grief by William Wetmore Story is one of the most evocative stone carvings of the late nineteenth century. It became so famous that the term has become synonymous with many grave stones erected in Story’s style. William Wetmore Story was born in 1819 in Boston, educated at Harvard and his father was Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story. A child of privilege; as his life developed he was surrounded by influential people like Robert Browning, Thackeray, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hans Christian Anderson, Henry James, and James Russell Lowell. William had a successful law career and was a published poet and essayist, but also pursued sculpture as a hobby. The hobby took on new meaning in 1845, when he was commissioned to execute a monument in memory of his father. This commission combined with a bout of typhoid fever caused Story to leave his law practice and pursue sculpting full time.

William W. Story ca. 1885
In the 1850s, Story moved his family to Rome where he completed one of his most famous works, Cleopatra, in 1858. With this statue, he moved American sculpture toward a new romanticism that combined realism and psychological drama that proved to be in sync with the Victorian tastes of the day. Pope Pius IX so admired Cleopatra that the Roman government paid all shipping costs in order to exhibit it in 1862 at the Roman Court of the International Exposition in London, where it made Story's reputation.

William Story married the love of his life Emelyn Eldredge in 1843. Together they had three accomplished children and their home in Rome became world famous for its hospitality. Their hospitality was helped by the fact that their “home” was a forty room apartment in the Barberini Palace, one of the most important examples of Baroque architecture in Rome. It was begun in 1625 and built according to the desires of Urban VIII, the Barberini pope.

Among the world famous guests who visited Mr. and Mrs. Story were Lew and Susan Wallace. The Wallaces visited the Barberini Palace in 1883, and the two couples developed a significant friendship. In a letter Anne Hampton Brewer, who was in attendance when the Wallaces were visiting the Palace, wrote “how the General literally charmed us all last evening at Mr. Story’s with his brilliant conversation. It is so seldom that a fine writer is a fine talker.”

In 1884, William Story penned a letter to: My Dear Mrs. Ben-Hur. In this letter Story noted how touched he had been by a letter from Susan Wallace and he apologized for his delay in responding. He blamed his delay on the desire to finish reading Ben-Hur before writing. He said that with all of the interruptions of his life he just could not find time for the book until he and his wife decided to read the story aloud to each other. They developed a deep and sustained interest in the vivid prose and both felt great regret as they finished the last page.

The relationship continued through letters between the families. In 1886, Mrs. Story wrote in a long letter to Susan Wallace: “Many a time, impatient of the silence which has come between us, have I wished to break it on my side, but so vague was my knowledge of your whereabouts that I was frightened about launching into infinite space my little skiff. Your most kind letter came and helps me to find you out. . . . The book of books [Ben-Hur] of this age read aloud for the second time has lost none of its rare charm and it is beyond words to say how greatly we prize it. All our English friends to whom we have introduced it join in this chorus and its reputation is fast growing there as in America. . . . I do not like you to think that being snugly settled in your old home, ‘outre mer,’ we are not likely soon to see you in Rome, but we cling to the hope that it is not impossible. . . .How pleasant had we hope of seeing you there [Plazzo Barberini] this winter, I do not like to wait too long for my good things, but am impatient in my old age to snatch them up lest the escape me altogether.”

Angel of Grief created by William W. Story
to mark the grave of his wife.
When Susan wrote her book, Along the Bosphorus, she wrote warmly of William Story, describing him as one of the finest people she had ever known. She went on to say “Of the friends we left in Rome, Story was among the last to join the silent majority. The loss of the wife of his youth whom he survived but a year, was a bitter blow, and with her passed his interest in affairs. It was only when his children suggested that he should make a monument to her memory that he consented to resume work: the design he chose was the Angel of Grief and it is wrought to exquisite finish, . . When this was done he left the studio never to return. The illness which began shortly afterward was long and severe. Soon he was forced to stay almost continually in his room, and strength waned till time became a burden too grievous to be borne. His best lover would not have held him back from the unseen land of which he wrote so tenderly.” Story died in October of 1895, just a year after the death of Emelyn. The monument he created for her marks their graves in Rome and became one of the most powerful and touching illustrations of love and loss in the Victorian era.


Letter from Anne Hampton Brewer to Susan Wallace, March 11, 1883
Articles by Joann Spragg, Journal Review, August 18, 2000 & September 21, 2000
Susan Wallace, Along the Bosphorus, Rand McNally & Co., New York & Chicago, 1898.

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

Exhibiting Excellence: Challenges to Finishing a Museum Exhibit

Associate Director: Collections Amanda McGuire places exhibit text
Associate Director: Collections
Amanda McGuire places exhibit text

Last week, I posted about how a museum exhibit is built. Associate Director of Collections Amanda McGuire took some time to talk with me about what goes into choosing an exhibit theme and content. Today, I'd like to tell you all a little more about the challenges we face when we're preparing our exhibit.

What are some of the challenges you encounter when putting together an exhibit?

Anything and everything.  Sometimes you have too much information, sometimes not enough.  Sometimes you can’t find artifacts to help tell the story and sometimes it is hard to decide what to leave out.  We print a lot of things in house and technology doesn’t always cooperate when you need it.

We have also had guest curators in the past.  In 2009, for the exhibit “Embattled”, Gail Stephens wrote the text.  She has studied Wallace’s military career extensively and wrote the book “Shadow of Shiloh” so who better to write the exhibit text on Wallace’s military experiences

Do you only use artifacts that belong to the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum collection?

No.  We use as much of our own collection as we can but it is very limited so we often look to other individuals or institutions for loans.  We have borrowed items from the Ramsey Archives at Wabash College in the past and last year we borrowed some items from Wallace Scholar Roger Adams.  We do not have any artifacts relating to Wallace’s time in Cincinnati in 1862 and that was a big part of our exhibit last year so we knew we needed to have some objects to help tell that part of the story.  Roger graciously loaned us several items that helped fill the gap left by our collection.  This year we borrowed a jacket and kepi that belonged to Henry Wallace as a young boy from the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.  One of the curators there attended a meeting here and told our Director about the items in their collection.  When we decided to do the exhibit about the family, we knew this was something that we wanted to include because we really don’t have a lot of objects related to Henry.  Our Associate Director: Collections got in touch with the curator and started the process of obtaining the loan.

Are there challenges related to the amount of space or the shape of the exhibit room?

Of course!  There is no straight wall in the carriage house so it is hard to get the exhibit cases level and the labels to appear straight on the walls.  The large exhibit case only has two places that it can sit and be level (this year is actually the first time it will be in a different location) so that limits how we can display items as well as the flow of the exhibit.  If you use a level to hang the labels or the large acrylic quotes, they look incredibly crooked due to the slope of the ceiling so it all has to be done by eye and what looks straight instead of what actually is straight.

What factors do you have to take into consideration when planning an exhibit?

You have to think about how much space you have, where artifacts and labels can go to make the exhibit flow well and how to tell the story in an interesting way. Another important factor is the balance of artifacts and text. Visitors at a museum learn from the information on labels, but an artifact can often convey more emotional impact than text, so it's important to have a good balance.

What are some challenges that occurred specifically with “Generations”?

WWI US Marine Corps uniform belonging to Tee
World War I US Marine Corps
uniform belonging to Tee
We didn’t know a whole lot about some of the family members.  At first we didn’t know how we were going to talk about everyone.  It looked like it was just going to be biographies about everyone but that is kind of boring.  After doing some more research we found that there were a lot of similarities so we decided to explore those more.  Making the connection of shared characteristics with Lew and Susan tied the exhibit together.  Once we figured that out it was a little easier to focus the research and ask the family the right questions.  We also did not have a lot of artifacts for some people.  We have a lot of stuff related to Lew’s grandson Tee but it is all centered on his military career.  We barely have any artifacts related to Henry (other than his photographs) and his other son Lew Jr.  Some members of the family like Josephine and Lew III, we had never seen pictures of or only had baby photos.  Members of the Wallace family were kind enough to scan some for us to use in the exhibit.


Our exhibit officially opens tomorrow, so be sure to stop in and check it out! We're also running a Facebook check-in special to kick off our exhibit opening. If you visit, make sure you check in on Facebook to receive a 10% discount on all gift shop purchases!

Friday, March 8, 2013

International Women's Day

"The destiny of the whole race is comprised of four things:
Religion, education, morals, politics.
Woman is a religious being; she is becoming educated;
she has a high code of morals; she will yet purify politics."

- from "Women's Ballot a Necessity for the Permanence of Free Institutions"
by Zerelda Sanders Wallace, 1887

Today is International Women's Day, celebrated since the early 1900s to mark achievements and milestones for women around the world. While Lew Wallace died before the idea took root, he might have liked the idea of such an event, since he was raised by a strong woman and married another.

Zerelda Gray Sanders gained an education in medicine by accompanying her father on his frontier physician rounds. When her family moved to Indianapolis in 1830, they became charter members of the Central Christian Church, where she got an early taste for temperance and suffrage ideologies. In 1836, Zerelda married Lew's father, David Wallace, and became a stepmother to three, later raising six of her own children.

She became the first president of the Indiana chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. As a result of being met with "open contempt" by the male legislators of the Indiana State Senate, she became, at age 56, a crusader for women's suffrage. She traveled around the nation, working alongside such leaders as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Lew wrote of her, "In all the states of the Union...there are good people who know and speak of her as Mother Wallace, sweet-tongued apostle of temperance and reform."

She died without being able to cast a ballot, but she was a driving influence on the American suffrage movement. She provides an excellent example for women today.

International Women's Day logo

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Exhibiting Excellence: How a Museum Exhibit is Built

We are all getting excited about our upcoming exhibit. "Generations: The Descendants of Lew and Susan Wallace" opens to the public Tuesday, March 12. If you visited us today, you would find the Lynne D. Holhbein Education Room mostly empty, which just a handful of vinyl labels and an artifact or two. But show up on March 12 and you'll find a full-fledged exhibit!

Since this is my first time behind the scenes of putting together a museum exhibit, I was fascinated by the process behind putting an exhibit together, and wanted to give you all a behind-the-scenes look at how we put together the story you'll see in a couple of weeks.

How do you decide on a theme for an exhibit? Is it done by the whole staff or a single person?

It is usually a staff decision.  We talk about what we have done recently and what questions we get frequently from visitors.  Sometimes the exhibit decides itself.  For example, in 2010 when the Study was closed for renovation, we still wanted visitors to see the iconic pieces of the Study and still be able to tell Lew Wallace’s story without them actually going into the Study.  That led to us doing the exhibit “Sanctuary”.

Right now we are in the middle of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, so last year it made sense to talk about what Lew was doing in 1862 since that was big year in the war for him.  He really didn’t do a lot as far as the Civil War goes in 1863, so we decided to take a year off from talking about the war. We wanted to focus on the rest of his family because that is something visitors frequently ask about, and we wanted to learn more about them as well.

What factors are involved in deciding what the exhibit should focus on?

It helps to already know something about the topic.  Even if we don’t have a lot of information to begin with, as long as we have a starting point, we can usually fill in the rest later.  We also have to think about what artifacts we have to go along with the exhibit topic.  Objects sometimes tell a better story than what we can do through exhibit labels. If we don’t have artifacts in our collection, is there somewhere or someone out there that does have them?

We also have to think about how big of a story it is.  We have a very small exhibit room so we have space limitations to deal with.  No one wants to stand in that room for an hour reading exhibit text, so we need to be able to tell the story we want to tell in a short and concise way that is interesting.

What is the research process for an exhibit?

We always have an exhibit fact sheet for each exhibit.  This tells us the logistics of who is responsible for what, what the budget is, who the audience is, what the thesis of the exhibit is and what impression we want visitors to walk away with.  This really guides where our research should go and what we want to tell our visitors.

Research often starts a year or two before we actually install an exhibit.  We start with what we know and what has already been written about that topic.  Sometimes we have interns who have already researched and written up papers on it. An intern last summer researched Lew Wallace and the Henry Wirz trial and wrote up a paper on it.  We will start with this when we plan our exhibit for next year.  

We also look at Lew’s own words about a subject by looking at his autobiography.  That usually leads to more information or even more questions that need to be answered.  We have a group of Wallace scholars that are always willing to answer questions.  You never know where you are going to find an answer to a question. 

Our Associate Director: Education (Erin Gobel) often does research on the internet and ends up finding some obscure piece of information completely unrelated to her original search.  We always file these away so we have them when we need them.  The Indiana Historical Society has a huge collection of Lew Wallace material so we usually look to see what information they have as well.  For this year’s exhibit, Amanda and Erin spent a day looking through records to find out more about the Wallace family.

Who picks the artifacts that are used in an exhibit? How do you make those decisions?

This is usually done by the Associate Director: Collections (Amanda McGuire) with input from the rest of the staff.  She looks through the collections records and compiles a list of artifacts that are relevant to the exhibit subject and shares that with the staff.  Then it is a matter of logistics and what makes sense.  There are some things that are just too big to fit in our exhibit cases.  Often times these are items that are already on display in the Study so we just make sure to point them out on tours and relate them back to the exhibit. 

If something is in really poor condition, we try not to put it out on exhibit.  If we can, we make a replica to display instead.  This is often done with photographs or letters.  We also try to avoid putting the same things on exhibit year after year.  When we talk about the Civil War again next year we will try to have different items on display than we had out last year.


Stay tuned for the next post in our series on exhibits, when we'll talk about some of the challenges we face when putting an exhibit together!

Wallace, Trustin Kinder & the Battle of Buena Vista

“A victory so great, so unprecedentedly glorious, could not have been purchased without loss on our side. Among the 700 heroes who were slain and wounded on that bloody day we who knew him from infancy have to mourn the death of Captain Kinder. Poor Truss. The glory which shall forever shine upon the field which was thy deathbed, which shall reflect luster upon thy name and fate, is but sorry consolation for the loss this death inflicts upon his country and friends. Peace, though, to his name. When we reach Saltillo we will mark his resting place and save it from obliteration and disrespect.”
Lew Wallace, age 20, writing to his “Friend Chapman” on March 12, 1847 regarding the Battle of Buena Vista fought on February 23, 1847.

Lew Wallace about the time he served
in the Mexican War
Trustin Kinder, Truss to his friends, was born in 1822 and grew up in Indianapolis. He graduated from Asbury College (DePauw University) in 1845. He returned to Indianapolis, but soon moved to Paoli, the county seat for Orange County, where he practiced law. In letters back home to friends in Indianapolis, he described Paoli as “. . .a very pretty little town of about six hundred inhabitants who are very kind and clever people. The scenery around the town is delightful. Indeed, it is quite romantic and I am inclined to think that if I was given to writing poetry that it would be an admirable location. But my genius not inclining that way, I just stand and look out and think upon the subject.”

When the Mexican-American War broke out, he volunteered for service and was voted First Lieutenant of Company B, 2nd Indiana Regiment of Volunteers. Kinder was a talented young lawyer and a gifted speaker. In support of the war, he delivered a speech of considerable length and great strength declaring that he “. . . would leave his bones to bleach on the sunny plains of Mexico rather that see his country’s flag dishonored and trailed in the dust.”

By the fall of 1846, Kinder’s letters were being posted from distant locations like Camp Belknap in Texas and Monterey in Mexico. On January 1, 1847 he wrote his parents to wish them a happy new year from a camp near Saltillo, Mexico. He detailed the march to the new encampment, the countryside, and some of the skirmishes that had raised excitement in the area. In letters Kinder also discussed activities of Lt. Governor Paris Dunning who was serving in Mexico but was also engaging in personal business that brought him financial gain such as selling liquor to soldiers at exorbitant prices. Kinder’s charges were quickly reported in Hoosier newspapers and created a stir but Kinder and other officers stood by the comments.

By early February of 1847, Kinder’s letters are reflecting increased fighting between the Mexicans and Americans. He also noted that members of Congress who were not supporting the war effort were doing a favor to the Mexicans noting that “In fifteen years they will deny their opposition to this war. They had better back out in time to save their credit, if they have any to save.” Finally, he wrote that rumors were afloat that reinforcements would be arriving and his regiment might be headed home in early April.

News of the Battle at Buena Vista did not reach Indianapolis for almost a month after the fighting on February 22 & 23. Although Lew Wallace’s letter was written just two weeks after the battle, with slow mail delivery, it did not reach home for several more weeks. In the Battle, General Zachary Taylor with 4,600 men faced Mexican General Santa Anna with over 15,000 men. During the fighting, the 2nd Indiana was given orders to retreat and some men left the field of battle in confusion leading Taylor and his son-in-law Jefferson Davis to later accuse them of cowardice. Kinder was wounded in battle and placed in an ambulance wagon. As the wagon was leaving the field it overturned when it fell into a shallow ravine. Before it could be righted it was attacked by Mexican lancers who killed and robbed Kinder. Although Taylor was considered victorious at Buena Vista, it was a hard fought and bloody win.

On April 5, the Indiana State Sentinel published a lengthy tribute to Trustin Kinder, saying in part: “. . . It is not for us to tell the merits of the departed one—for many know him, and many a weeping eye and heavy heart responded to the news that the open and noble-souled Kinder was gone.”

Kinder was buried in Mexico, but in an unusual effort his elderly father travelled to Mexico and in June made arrangements for the body to be shipped back to Indiana. It was announced that a procession would be formed at the Palmer House (hotel) which would proceed to the city limits to meet the remains and escort them to the Orange County Courthouse. After a short time in Paoli, the body was removed to Indianapolis.

Until the death of Oliver P. Morton in 1877, the funeral was the largest seen in Indianapolis and included a lengthy procession from the Kinder home to the State House Square where the body lay in state in the Capitol rotunda on July 12, 1847. A funeral train under military escort then took the body to the City Cemetery in Indianapolis. Kinder was considered the first war hero from Indianapolis and was the only casualty from the capital city to be returned from Mexico. His mother had the body moved to Crown Hill Cemetery in the fall of 1864 shortly after Crown Hill was established. This made Trustin Kinder the first man to die in service of his country to be interred in Crown Hill.

The Battle of Buena Vista affected Wallace deeply. He quit his father’s Whig party and joined the Democrats because of his contempt for the comments made by General Taylor, a leading Whig, regarding the actions of the 2nd Indiana. In 1861, Wallace served as adjutant general for Indiana at the outbreak of the Civil War. After barely two weeks of service with his initial mission accomplished Wallace resigned and Governor Oliver P. Morton placed Wallace in command of the 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry regiment as its colonel.

Harper's Weekly image of Lew Wallace and his
11th Indiana Volunteers at the Indiana State House
in May of 1861 swearing to "Remember Buena Vista!"
 Before the regiment left Indianapolis, Colonel Wallace had his men march to the Indiana State House, where he had them kneel and swear an oath to avenge their comrades whom Wallace believed had been unjustly accused of cowardice at the Battle of Buena Vista by none other than Jefferson Davis. Wallace had his regiment take as its battle cry: “Remember Buena Vista!” This stirring scene was captured in a full-page illustration by the influential magazine Harper’s Weekly and circulated nationwide. Although Kinder was not singled out by Wallace at the time, he certainly would have reflected on his friend killed fourteen years earlier who had been lauded in the press as one whose “. . . memory will forever live; for he was of the number who nurtured the rose around which our affections twine—and who by his frank and noble nature secured the love of all with whom he daily walked.”

Thanks: Sharon Gerow for flagging Wallace’s letter in a book during her inventory of Wallace’s library., Crown Hill Heritage Foundation

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

Friday, March 1, 2013

Employee Appreciation Day, Lew Wallace Style

Today is Employee Appreciation Day! If you're a manager, take a moment to say thank you to your staff. If you're an employee who hasn't received appreciation today...take heart. Even the great Lew Wallace didn't always receive thanks for his brilliant job performance.

As he wrote in his autobiography:
There can be no question, I think, that my services were fully appreciated except in Washington and the executive office in Indianapolis. Acknowledgements pour in upon me from every quarter save the two, silencing my detractors, especially such of them as had made light of the danger and my methods of meeting it and the other set who had sought to displace me.
General U.S. Grant, in particular, was less than appreciative of Lew's services, largely because of their misunderstanding at the Battle of Shiloh. It wasn't until the end of Grant's life that he acknowledged his condemnation of Lew might have been mistaken.

Regardless of official appreciation during the Civil War, Lew went on to do great things, including serving as a territorial governor, receiving several patents, and writing the best-selling novel of all time.

1895 Speaking Tour

On October 14, 1895, a local news item announced that a lecture bureau out East had arranged for a lecture tour. Lew Wallace was named as one of the important people to be a part of this tour. The tour was unusual because of the diversity of the assembled speakers. In addition to Lew Wallace, the speakers included Max O’Rell, C.E. Borchgrevick, and Robert E. Peary. Each of these men was considered a “hot topic” of the day. The diversity came with the two others named to the tour—a woman, Rose G. Kingsley and an African American, Booker T. Washington. The details of the tour are not specified, but it is clear Lew Wallace was a highly sought after speaker to be included with this group.

Max O’Rell was born Leon Pierre Blouet in Normandy in 1847. He moved to Paris at the age of 12 and eventually graduated from the conservatoire and the collège in Paris and went on to take a B.A. degree in 1865 and a B.Sc. in 1866 at the Sorbonne. After 1866, he enrolled at the École Militaire which he left in 1869 with the rank of lieutenant in the French artillery, spending five months in Algeria and, after a short stay in the Versailles garrison, was called up to fight in the Franco-Prussian War. Wallace surely would have found this military career fascinating.

Max O'Rell
Blouet left France and secured a position teaching French at the prestigious St. Paul’s London boys’ school. Like Lew Wallace, he wrote on the side, but unlike Lew he published his works under a pseudonym in an effort to protect his teaching position. He published a book of sketches and observations about England under the name Max O’Rell that gave an overview of English customs, peculiarities, and institutions. He discussed everything from British colonial ambitions to the Anglo-Saxon concept of home. His book went through 57 editions within two years, eventually selling 275,000 copies in England and over 200,000 in America.

In 1885, he resigned his teaching post and began working full time as an author and lecturer. In seven lecture tours—including the one announced in 1895, he spoke over 2,600 times. Earlier in 1895, O’Rell and Mark Twain had a heated exchange about French morals that the world press documented even hinting at a physical altercation between the two men. Although he fell out of the limelight later in life, to American and British audiences, O'Rell served as a reference for everything French and he had great impact on public discussions of political, social and cultural matters. He continues to be of particular interest to cultural historians studying the presentation of gender roles.

C.E. Borchrevick
C.E. Borchgrevick was a famed Anglo-Norwegian explorer of the Antarctic. At the time of the 1895 announcement he had just returned from a Norwegian whaling expedition, from which he brought back a collection of the first specimens of vegetable life from within the Antarctic Circle. Like Lew Wallace, Borchgrevick was child with a restless nature and a passion for adventure. Born in Norway, he studied forestry in Germany and worked in Australia for four years, where he became interested in polar exploration. His first expedition to Antarctica came in 1894. On August 1, 1895 just weeks before he was hired for the lecture circuit, he addressed the Royal Geographical Society in London announcing plans to develop a research station that would overwinter in Antarctica. His enthusiastic but brusque presentation did not result in financial support from the Royal Geographical Society so he used the 1895 lecture circuit to raise both awareness of and funding for continued polar expeditions. He continued his explorations for years including some to the Caribbean for the National Geographic Society.

Robert Peary
Perhaps to balance Borchgrevick and Antarctica, the 1895 selection of speakers included Robert Peary who was an explorer at the other end of the world. Peary’s explorations that would ultimately take him to the North Pole in 1909 began in the mid-1880s with trips over Greenland’s ice caps in an effort to determine whether or not Greenland was an island. His explorations captured the public imagination throughout the 1890s and turn of the twentieth century.

Rose G. Kingsley (no image available) was famous first as the daughter of the Reverend Charles Kingsley, Canon of Westminster in the 1870s and widely known at the time as a professor, historian and novelist. Perhaps his most famous work was a tale about a chimney sweep entitled The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby (1863). Retaining its popularity well into the 20th century, the story demonstrated his concern for social reform and dealt with the scientific debate over human origins, as Kingsley was one of the first influential religious leaders to embrace Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. With a curious and learned father, it was no surprise that Rose Kingsley was an adventurous spirit.

Rose moved from England to Colorado Springs in 1871, just one year after it was founded. For a young woman raised in affluence, life on the frontier was challenging, but Rose soon helped establish the Fountain Colony Club for natural sciences which served as a vehicle to counter some of the rougher elements on the frontier. She soon began her own writing career with her book South and West which was published in London in 1874 and detailed her experiences in Colorado and New Mexico. The book was illustrated with sketches of local scenes drawn by Rose and hers are the first sketches made of Colorado Springs. By the 1890s, Rose was gaining notice for her books on nature and gardening.

The final speaker listed in the 1895 lecture program was Booker T. Washington. As the newspaper notice said: “The world is moving very rapidly these days, when an eloquent and brainy negro is named in the same list with eloquent and brainy white men as platform favorites.” Washington was born into slavery but went on to become an educator, author, fund-raiser, orator, and advisor to Republican presidents. As the first leader of Tuskegee Normal & Industrial Institute, he became the dominant leader in the African-American community in the United States from 1890 until his death in 1915.

Booker T. Washington
Although much respected and admired, Washington was not without controversy. In October 1895, when he was included in the lecture bureau, he was in the news for his Atlanta Exposition speech delivered at the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition. This speech, delivered just four weeks earlier in September, was viewed as a revolutionary presentation at the time it was delivered. Although the Exposition was opened by President Grover Cleveland, it was and still is best remembered for Washington’s speech.

In this speech he advocated a “go slow” approach to integration to avoid a white backlash and emphasized the need for blacks to concentrate all their energies on industrial education, accumulation of wealth, and conciliation with the leadership of the South. He thought these skills would lay the foundation for the creation of stability that the African-American community required in order to move forward. He believed that in the long term "blacks would eventually gain full participation in society by showing themselves to be responsible, reliable American citizens." His approach advocated for an initial step toward equal rights, rather than full equality under the law. Ultimately this philosophy would put him at odds with many in the black community who felt disenfranchised and placed in subordinate roles in society.

Each of these speakers announced in the 1895 lecture tour was either at or approaching the pinnacles of their respective careers. Their names were widely known and their topics would have been of great interest. Given his broad personal interests Wallace would have certainly appreciated the opportunity to travel with and privately discuss the pressing issues of the day with this distinguished group. While Wallace was widely recognized as a gifted speaker, it is intriguing to wonder if sharing the stage with some of these other gifted orators inspired him to install the roll-out full length mirror in his Study that was under construction in 1895, so that he could practice his speeches and refine his presentations.

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