Friday, February 22, 2013

6 Questions With Board Member Gail Stephens

Gail Stephens has a Bachelor’s Degree in International Politics from George Washington University in Washington DC, and did graduate work at Johns Hopkins and Harvard Universities.  She worked for the Department of Defense for 26 years, retiring in 1994 as a member of the Department’s Senior Executive Service.  Upon retirement, she began to study the American Civil War.  She lectures regularly on various Civil War topics, including Monocacy, Major General Lew Wallace and the 1864 Maryland campaign, and gives battlefield tours.  In 2002, she won the National Park Service’s E.W. Peterkin award for her contributions to public understanding of Civil War history.  She has written articles on Lew Wallace and Early’s 1864 invasion of the North for several Civil War publications, including North and South magazine. Her book on Wallace’s Civil War career, Shadow of Shiloh, published by the Indiana Historical Society Press in October 2010, won the Civil War Forum of New York City’s William Henry Seward Award for best Civil War biography of 2011.

How long have you been on the LWSPS board?
I was just elected to the board in December 2012 and I'm happy to be a member.

Tell us something funny or interesting about you.
I loved Ben-Hur when I was a kid.  I read the book twice and saw the movie with Charlton Heston no less than four times, but I thought it was totally weird that it was written by a General.

How did your involvement with the Lew Wallace Study begin?
I've been a volunteer at Monocacy National Battlefield, the site of Lew Wallace's greatest military feat, since 1997.  One of the rangers and I began to study Lew Wallace about ten years ago, so we came out to Indiana, did some research at the Indiana Historical Study, and then stopped by the Study where we spent a couple of days with Joann Spragg, learning about Wallace and looking at the collections.  I loved the Study and the sense it gave me of Wallace as an incredibly creative person -- which gave me real insight into the man because I realized that creativity and military success go hand-in-hand.

Why do you think the preservation of the Lew Wallace Study is important?
Because Lew Wallace is a great model for us all.  He rose to fame and distinction because of his own hard work and creative abilities.  His fame spread throughout the U.S., particularly after the publication of Ben-Hur, but he was justly famous during the Civil War as the man who helped U.S. Grant win his first big victory at Fort Donelson, the man who occupied the great Confederate city of Memphis, and the man who saved the cities of Cincinnati and Washington from Confederate armies.  He was also one of the first Union generals to advocate recruiting and arming Negroes for the Union army.  If you read U.S. newspapers published during the Civil War, his fame is obvious.  Wallace went on to a rich life as an inventor, territorial governor, diplomat and writer.  His contributions to this country are numerous, and Indiana saw fit to make him one of their two "immortals" in Statuary Hall at the US Capitol, so his memory should be preserved.

What is your favorite thing about Lew Wallace?
His creativity -- especially when he applied it to dealing with the Confederate sympathizers in Maryland during his time as department commander.  Those folks, including the women who attempted to smuggle drugs and other supplies south, weren't going to get away with anything if Lew Wallace could help it!

What is the one thing you would like our bloggers and Facebook followers to know?
Lew Wallace DID NOT GET LOST AT SHILOH and U.S. GRANT DID NOT REMOVE HIM FROM COMMAND!  At Shiloh, Wallace was obeying the orders he received from Grant.  After Shiloh, Wallace could have remained a division commander in Grant's army but there was little fighting after the seizure of Corinth, Mississippi, so he left -- voluntarily -- hoping to find a command elsewhere.  I truly hate the old saw that Wallace was lost at Shiloh.  It's one of the reasons I wrote my book, Shadow of Shiloh, and in it, I explain the true situation before and during that great battle.

Check out this video of Gail explaining the battle of Shiloh while she was here in 2009.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

1925 Ben-Hur and its Cast of Unknowns

The two leading actors in the 1925 silent movie version of Ben-Hur, Ramon Navarro and Francis X. Bushman, are still well remembered. Many of the others who played lead roles in the movie and were famous in their day have fallen into relative obscurity. Because of the large crowd needed for the Chariot race, it’s not surprising that famous actors like Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, John and Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, John Gilbert, Sam Goldwyn, Dorothy & Lillian Gish, Sid Grauman, Colleen Moore, and Harold Lloyd were pressed into service. What’s surprising is the number of actors and actresses who worked as unbilled players or extras, unknown at the time but who went on to fame and fortune.

Among the lesser lights who made early screen appearances in Ben-Hur were Gary Cooper and Clark Gable as uncredited Roman guards. Beyond these two men, the list of guards is noteworthy, but the list of uncredited slave girls is equally significant. While the names of many of the girls who toiled, twirled and danced as slaves have been lost, the list of those who have been identified is impressive. Among these actresses are:

Janet Gaynor
• Janet Gaynor, who went on the win the very first Academy Award for Best Actress in 1927 just two years after Ben-Hur. Gaynor then became one of the most accomplished actresses to make the transition from silent to talking pictures. After a string of successes in the 1930s, Gaynor largely retired from the industry in 1938 shortly after the release of A Star is Born. Gaynor was nominated for best actress in this film that was nominated for seven academy awards, including best picture. Beyond Gaynor’s performance, this film is remembered as the first color film nominated for best picture.

Carole Lombard
• Carole Lombard, who was born in Fort Wayne and went by the nickname the Hoosier Tornado. Lombard was one of the most beloved actresses in Hollywood and met future husband, Clark Gable on the set of Ben-Hur. Beyond her extraordinary film career, she was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by Franklin Roosevelt as the first woman killed in the line of duty during World War II.

Myrna Loy
• Myrna Loy, who was discovered by Rudolph Valentino’s wife, played a variety of roles and by the mid-1930s was considered the Queen of Hollywood movies to Clark Gables’ King. Her work included the Thin Man series and an extraordinary film, The Best Years of Our Lives. Beyond her film career, Loy was an outspoken critic of Adolph Hitler ultimately making his blacklist, was Co-Chairman of the Advisory Council of the National Committee against discrimination in housing - exposing segregation in federally funded projects, and was the first actress to work for the United Nations (UNESCO) as a film advisor.

Although they haven’t been officially identified, some speculate that Sally Rand, who was famous for her ostrich feather fan dances, and Fay Wray, who went on to greater things as the girl friend to King Kong, also made screen appearances as seductive slave girls.

The impact of the 1925 film version of Ben-Hur resonated throughout Hollywood and the film industry for years. It assured the survival of MGM as a major studio, it put “business” in the driver’s seat in show business as accountants and financiers took firm control of creative projects, and it gave countless numbers of struggling young actors and actresses precious time on screen as they rose from obscurity to become leaders in Hollywood for decades.

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

Monday, February 11, 2013

5 Questions with Board Member Rusty Carter

Rusty Carter headshot

Rusty Carter is another familiar face around Crawfordsville, thanks to his real estate work with F.C. Tucker West Central. Rusty is rejoining the Lew Wallace Study Preservation Society in 2013 after several years of hiatus; however, he isn't new to helping out around the Study!

How long have you been on the LWSPS board?
1 month this time. Not sure how many years last term.

Tell us something funny or interesting (or embarrassing, if you're brave!) about yourself.
When we rehabbed the Carriage House - I pushed for the gift shop area to have a full size horse - I lost this idea. [ed: For those of you who don't realize it, our gift shop is located in the horse stall of the Carriage House!]

How did your involvement with the Lew Wallace Study begin?
I began several years ago when Joanne Spragg was director. Not sure why or how, but it all started then.

Why do you think the preservation of the Lew Wallace Study is important?
History is important to this city. We must maintain it.

What is your favorite thing about Lew Wallace?
Nothing specific. [ed: We think Rusty meant to say, "Everything!" ;-) ]

Thanks for being involved and working hard to keep Lew's legacy going, Rusty!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sleeping in the Snow

While a nor'easter dumps feet of snow on New England, we're reminded of Lew's snowy experience at Fort Donelson nearly 151 years ago. Tennessee may not see two feet of snow, but it still gets pretty cold. Here are a few excerpts from Lew's autobiography about sleeping in the snow:
The snow was all of a couple inches deep on the level; on the south side of the logs it had collected in cadaverous drifts. Frost in specks of glancing sheen still streaked the air. We walked about and beat our bodies to keep up circulation, teeth chattering meanwhile like castanets. Shade of Thor, how cold it was! Yet there was nothing to do but wait and be ready.
The next day, Admiral Foote attempted a gunboat assault on the water batteries of the fort, but was defeated. On the morning of February 15, the Confederates attempted to break out, and nearly succeeded. Lew was able to reinforce McClernand before the Union line crumbled completely. Lew's troops eventually retook the ground that had been lost in the breakout attempt. Then, more waiting:
There was nothing for us then but another night in bivouac without fires, and nothing to eat but crackers; literally suffering from the pinch of hunger added to misery from the pinch of cold. Yet I did not hear a murmur. This, I think, because there was not a soldier there so ignorant as not to know the necessity of keeping a tight grip upon our position.
Lew returned to his tent, hoping for food and fire, but discovered the tent looted and unattended. Discouraged, he returned to the command:
Behind their stacked muskets the thousands walked about, stamped, danced, threshed their bodies with their numbed hands, and kept the struggle with Jack Frost heroically going. If they were tired, hungry, cold, sleepy, so were we? Everybody watched the sky in the east, and had some Gheber of the kind sung by Tom Moore arisen and preached to us as became a fire-worshipper, there is no telling how many converts he might have made.
If you're in New England, trying to dig out from under this weekend's blizzard, at least you can take comfort that you aren't sleeping in the snow!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

6 Questions with Board Member Suanne Milligan

Suanne Milligan is a familiar name in Crawfordsville, since she is an attorney here in town. She served on the board several years ago and is a past board president. She has been a member of the Holiday High Tea Committee and the Collections and Executive Committees.

How long have you been on the LWSPS board?

3 years

Tell us something funny or interesting (or embarrassing, if you're brave!) about yourself.

I live in the neighborhood and saw the "Study hawk" attacking a crow in my driveway--very bloody! The hawk flew off with the crow in its talons.

How did your involvement with the Lew Wallace Study begin?

My Girl Scout troop had an overnight at the Carriage House--then called the Girl Scout Little House.

Why do you think the preservation of the Lew Wallace Study is important?

It is completely unique and Ben-Hur was (and still is) an amazing accomplishment.

What is your favorite thing about Lew Wallace?

The broad scope of his interests.

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

The Study stimulates the imagination and the grounds are lovely and serene.

Our many thanks to Suanne for her dedication and involvement with the LWSPS board!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Henry Lane Wallace and his Spirit Photo

The impact of the Civil War was felt in many ways. One of the more unusual was in the passion that developed for spirit photography, a process in which photographers were able to capture the image of a ghost or other spiritual entity. Photography was still a relatively new and a quickly evolving art form in the 1860s. During the War, photographer William H. Mumler was surprised when he developed one of his glass plate negatives and found a second person in the image that he took of himself. Mumler realized two things in short order. First, that the photograph resulted from a simple double exposure. Second, that there was a market for people desperate to reconnect with those who had passed on.

Mumler built a brisk business taking spirit photos including a famous image of Mary Lincoln with her martyred husband, Abraham, standing behind her. Mumler did very well until he accidently included images of people still very much alive and walking around on the streets of Boston in some of his photographs and he was exposed as a fraud. In spite of Mumler’s fall from grace spirit photography had gained traction and continued to be a much debated topic throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Among the most ardent supporters was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle while one of the most strident critics was Harry Houdini.
Henry Lane Wallace
Henry Wallace, son of Lew Wallace, was a gifted amateur photographer and a number of the photographs we have in the collection of Lew Wallace and his grandchildren were taken by Henry. Beyond these wonderful images of the family on the grounds of the Study, we have a spirit photo in the collection. According to penciled information on the back, this photograph was taken in the office of the Blancherne apartment building in Indianapolis owned by the Wallace family. The information reads: “Spirit” photo taken by HLW who was the only person who touched the plate. Taken in Blacherne office with his own camera in presence of Jno [Jonathan] Nicholson, Nethery, and the medium Frank Foster.” In this slightly blurry photograph a woman’s head is seen floating in an upper corner.

The woman who has magically appeared, Jno Nicholson, and Nethery are not well remembered, but in certain circles Frank Foster is still known. He was a renowned spiritualist from Grand Rapids, Michigan and he had a following of believers around the turn of the 20th century. In his book, Photographing the Invisible: Practical Studies in Spirit Photography, (1911) Phil Coates cites a number of spirit photos taken by Foster as well as “spirited” stories. By 1904, Foster had been traveling the country and producing spirit photos for approximately 40 years. In the Coates book there is a lengthy interview with Judge Levi Mock of Bluffton describing his experience with Foster.

Foster was at “the Chesterfield Camp” when Judge Mock approached him for a photography session. Foster charged $2.00 for a photo. Mock first sat for the picture, then Foster put his hand on the camera, Mock placed his fingers on top of Foster’s hand on the camera and after much “quivering” an electric shock passed between them. A few days later Mock received his picture with several images of people he did not know. Mock took the photo to a Mrs. Herbine who was a gifted “slate writer” and she related to Judge Mock that his father who was in the Summerland (he had passed away) wanted Mock to return to Foster for another sitting. In this new photograph by Foster, Mock recognized four of the spirit images. With his picture in hand, Mock returned to Mrs. Herbine with a series of questions for the spirits to answer to authenticate their images. Mock prepared what he believed to be a double blind approach to garnering answers and Mrs. Herbine was able to slate write the correct answers. Case closed for Judge Mock—he was a true believer.

The date of the Wallace spirit photo is not known, but it probably dates from about 1904, the same time that Judge Mock was having his experiences with Foster. While it would be interesting to know who the mystery woman is, it is perhaps more intriguing to wonder why Henry met with Frank Foster in the first place, how they came to set up a photography session at the Blancherne, and what did Henry think of the results of this session. When it came to spirit photography did he side with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Harry Houdini? If only Mrs. Herbine was still available!

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

Friday, February 1, 2013

6 Questions with Board Secretary Anne Moore

Anne Moore's first board meeting was this past Monday, but she's definitely a familiar face around the Study grounds. Anne and her husband Chris are the driving force behind our History Beneath Us weekends each spring and fall. They have been doing archaeology here for several years, and have unearthed portions of the reflecting pool wall and an as-yet-unidentified structure to the west of the Carriage House.

How long have you been on the LWSPS board?

I just started!

Tell us something funny or interesting (or embarrassing, if you’re brave!) about yourself:

I used to think that the lyrics to Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” said “Pay the rent, come back”
How did your involvement with the Lew Wallace Study begin?

Several years ago, I attended a historic preservation lecture series at the Study. At that time, the staff approached me about doing some archaeology on the grounds. Partnering with the University of Indianapolis, we have been conducting an archaeological dig twice a year titled “History Beneath Us” to expose part of Lew’s reflecting pool.

Why do you think the preservation of the Lew Wallace Study is important?

I think Lew was an extraordinary gentleman and his study is a physical representation of that spirit. By preserving the study, we can hopefully preserve some of that spirit and continue to share it with generations to come.

What is your favorite thing about Lew Wallace?

I love that he was a renaissance man. He had so many talents and interests, and excelled at all of them!
What is one thing you would like our blog readers and Facebook friends to know?

That the Lew Wallace Study and Museum has so many opportunities to become involved, events are happening all the time and there’s something for everyone! Come out and join us!

We're grateful to have Anne coming on board with us here at the LWSPS!