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From the Vault | Board of Commissioners v Knight

Indiana’s path to suffrage took an interesting turn just a few years before women’s suffrage was the law of the land, which actually granted some limited form of suffrage. In this episode of From the Vault, we’ll share the story of how women gained some voting rights in Indiana in 1917, only to see their hopes dashed by the Indiana Supreme Court

Learn more about the Archives: https://www.in.gov/iara/

Learn more about the history relevance campaign at https://www.historyrelevance.com/

Visit our Blog: https://www.in.gov/iara/3098.htm

Please comment, like, and subscribe!

Credits:

Written and produced by Justin Clark

Special Thanks to Jennifer Kalvaitis, Michael Vetman, Costin Ritter, and Elizabeth Hague

Music: “Bongo” by KV, “Resolution” and “Under Cover” by Wayne Jones, “Intro” by Red Roses Realm, and “Before I Forget” by Artificial.Music

Full Text of Video

In 2020, Americans will celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage, which came with the ratification of the nineteenth amendment to the US Constitution on August 18, 1920. Cultural memory often frames this narrative in national terms, but it took 36 states for suffrage to be ratified. Each one of them has its own unique story. As one of the 36, Indiana and its path took an interesting turn just a few years before ratification, when its General Assembly actually granted women a limited form of suffrage. In this episode of From the Vault, we’ll share the story of how Hoosier women gained and lost voting rights in 1917, three years before the Nineteenth Amendment.

In the fall of 1916, Hoosier voters elected a new Republican governor, James P. Goodrich, and installed a Republican majority in the Indiana House and Senate. This political transition gave Indiana leaders in the women’s suffrage movement a prime opportunity to raise their concerns during the legislative session. Two groups played a key role in this effort: the Women’s Franchise League of Indiana and the Legislative Council of Indiana Women (itself a subgroup of the League). The League used its considerable infrastructure and membership to lobby for bills being considered while the Council developed legislative strategy. One such plan from the Legislative Council, spearheaded by President Luella McWhirter, was to enact targeted bills that would grant women the right to vote in local elections.

This proved to be a winning strategy. Two women’s suffrage bills passed through the General Assembly and became law in 1917. Senate bill 77, a bipartisan piece of legislation from Whitley County Democrat Marion H. Maston and Delaware County Republican Arthur D. McKinley, granted women the right to vote for presidential electors, constitutional convention delegates, as well as a wide variety of state and local offices. Senate Joint Resolution 14, introduced by Senator Andrew Beardsley of Elkhart, proposed a constitutional amendment that would delete the word “male” from the state constitution’s voter qualifications. The latter would not be considered for ratification until 1919, but the General Assembly, led by passionate and well-organized women’s suffrage activists, significantly moved the state towards equal voting rights for men and women.

Within months of the Matson-McKinley Partial Suffrage Act’s passage, roughly 30,000-40,000 women registered to vote in the state of Indiana. It looked as if women were going to vote for the first time in local elections. But these hopes were dashed by William W. Knight, an Indianapolis resident who filed a lawsuit on August 9, 1917 in the Marion County Superior Court, who cited the law’s obligations as a tax burden. As historian Jennifer Kalvaitis noted, Knight’s involvement in this case is “strange” as he didn’t have the “financial means” to file the suit. She speculates that he may have been the face of larger business and political interests. Either way, Judge John J. Rochford of the Superior Court ruled against the law on September 17, 1917, citing Article II, Section 2 of the Indiana Constitution, which stipulates that only men over the age of 21 are legally allowed to vote. The suffragists, led by attorney Emma Eaton White, immediately appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

This is the Supreme Court case packet for Board of Commissioners v Knight, filed with the court in the early days of October, 1917. These documents are a part of our extensive collection of Indiana Supreme Court case files.

Briefs were filed with the court by October 4 and 8, 1917, according to court order books. The suffragist’s side argued that any rights not explicitly laid out by the Constitution under Article II could thereby be determined by the legislature. In a brief filed in defense of the act by White and Catharine W. McCullough, the women attorneys challenged the merits of Knight’s lawsuit as well as outlined how states like Kansas and Illinois granted women suffrage in some elections despite similar language in their constitutions.  This is why a partial suffrage bill seemed more than reasonable, as it allowed women the right to vote in specific, local elections. Knight’s attorneys argued that since Article II explicitly designated voting rights to men, it should be broadly interpreted to mean that women could only be granted the right to vote by an amendment to the Indiana Constitution and not through legislative action.

Oral arguments were heard just a few days later on October 9. The mood of the public during the court’s deliberation of the case was one of uncertainty, as the South Bend News-Times reported. “It is pointed out that if the decision is held up until a few days before the election,” the News-Times declared, “great confusion will result.” If the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision, ballots for women would have to be prepared on “very short notice.” If it affirmed the decision, “women would have to be removed from the registration books. This would be a long task.”

Ending such uncertainties, the Indiana Supreme Court handed down their decision on October 26, 1917, ruling the Partial Suffrage Law unconstitutional. Chief Justice John W. Spencer wrote the majority opinion. In it, the Chief Justice argued that the law violated Article 2 of the Indiana Constitution. “The right of suffrage is not a natural or an inherent right,” he wrote, “it is a political privilege held only by those upon whom it is bestowed either by virtue of express constitutional grant or by authorized legislative provision.” Since Article 2 explicitly stated that “in all elections not otherwise provided for by this Constitution—every male citizen of the age of twenty-one years and upward—shall be entitled to vote,” a woman’s right to vote in even local elections could not be granted without a constitutional amendment.

Justice Moses B. Lairy, in a concurring opinion, agreed with the majority but stressed the historical record of the Constitution. The 1816 and 1851 constitutions only granted suffrage to men, and an 1881 amendment to Article 2 added further residency requirements to voters. Thus, local elections were just as much under the auspices of Article 2 as statewide or national elections. This essentially nullifies the Partial Suffrage Act. As Justice Lairy wrote, “I am prepared to hold that, in so far as the act of the legislature here under consideration attempts to confer on women the right to vote for municipal officers in cities and towns, the same is in conflict with that section of the Constitution as amended in 1881.”

However, the court was not unanimous in its decision. Justice Lawson M. Harvey wrote a blistering dissent, completely disagreeing with the views of Justices Spencer and Lairy. He argued that the 1881 constitutional amendment did not take power away from the legislature to decide the eligibility of voters in local elections, since the constitution proscribed two sets of rules regarding voters: rules subject to the constitution and those subject to the General Assembly. Local elections, historically, had been subject to the latter. As he wrote:

This long-continued and consistent construction of the Constitution to the effect that the people thereby delegated to the legislature power to name the qualifications of voters at town elections, was not at any time, or in any manner, questioned by the people, by any branch of the state government, or by any litigation to which my attention has been called, or which I have found, and it thus has the force of positive law.

Therefore, the unique change of view which animated the majority was not based on precedent but on a broader reading of the Constitution, specifically Article 2 and its amendments. Harvey concluded that the Supreme Court should have reversed the decision in the lower court and the law should be held constitutional.

While the supporters of women’s suffrage lost a major battle in Board of Commissioners v Knight, the case had shown the complex and often contradictory legal ground that only allowed male suffrage. The tides of public opinion were shifting, and fast. President Woodrow Wilson endorsed women’s suffrage in 1918 and Indiana passed a law in 1919 granting women the right to vote for presidential electors. Once that happened, it was a matter of months before the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, known today as the Women’s Suffrage Amendment, was ratified by Indiana on January 16, 1920. By August, women had the right to vote across the nation. And it wasn’t until the 1965 Voting Rights Act that these rights were fully protected for all women.

This story illustrates how voting rights are not easily won by those who don’t have them. It takes many years and many defeats before meaningful progress happens. The suffrage activists in Indiana developed an ingenious plan to provide voting rights to women in some elections, and even though the Supreme Court struck it down, their efforts showed how potential victories could be possible. They showed that the price of citizenship is paid by those who struggle for representation.

Thanks for watching! Please click “like” if you enjoyed this video and make sure to subscribe to keep updated on all new videos. We also want to give special thanks to Jennifer Kalvaitis, whose research on this case greatly informed this video. Finally, leave a comment or a story idea for a future episode. We want to hear from YOU!

Past Posts

From the Vault | Marion County Circuit Court Eulogy for Abraham Lincoln

At the twilight of the Civil War, the news on April 15, 1865 of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination stunned the nation. In our collections, the Archives has one of the more unique and poignant memorials for the fallen leader, one steeped in literary allusion and reflective mourning: a eulogy from the Marion County Circuit Court.

Learn more about the Archives: https://www.in.gov/iara/

Learn more about the history relevance campaign at https://www.historyrelevance.com/

Visit our Blog: https://www.in.gov/iara/3098.htm

Please comment, like, and subscribe!

Credits:

Written and produced by Justin Clark

Special Thanks to Elizabeth Hague and Robert F. Gilyeat

Music: “A Life in a Day” by Ian Post, “After the War” and “Dreams of our Possibilities” by Cinematic Sounds

Full Text of Video

The death of a political figure often prompts public commemorations. This was especially the case with the death of an American president. At the twilight of the Civil War, the news on April 15, 1865 of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination stunned the nation. Tributes and eulogies filled newspapers and public addresses around the country. Indiana was no exception. In our collections, the Archives has one of the more unique and poignant memorials for the fallen leader, one steeped in literary allusion and reflective mourning: a eulogy from the Marion County Circuit Court.

Nearly all of Indiana’s 92 counties have a circuit court, presided over by a judge and a clerk. The clerk of the court records the cases, trials, and any other developments that arise within its jurisdiction. During the nineteenth century, these records were handwritten. After Lincoln’s assassination, Judge Fabius M. Finch  and prominent attorney James Morrison convened the Indianapolis Bar Association and requested that the Marion County Circuit Court record a eulogy to the fallen commander-in-chief. In the hour of national grief, especially for a president who grew up in Indiana, the request was fulfilled.

This is the Marion County Circuit Court’s eulogy for President Abraham Lincoln, written on Monday, April 17, 1865. As was common custom during the nineteenth century, the pages are bordered in black, signifying mourning of a politician or public leader. Judge Finch wrote the eulogy for President Lincoln himself. It is a document full of poetic language for the fallen chief executive. “The assassination of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States on the evening of the 14th day of April 1865,” Judge Finch wrote, “is an event so shocking and deplorable as to fill the heart of every citizen worthy of his birthright with the keenest anguish. In this dreadful tragedy, acted almost in the face of the nation, no circumstance of horror seems wanting.” Finch knew firsthand the tragedies of the Civil War; his oldest son, Heneage, died in service of the Union. His words most certainly speak of Lincoln, but knowing the context of Finch’s life underscores the personal grief which may have animated his emotions.

From there, Finch extolled Lincoln’s qualities, writing:

His genial nature, his great heart full of tenderness and sympathy, his boundless charity for the faults of enemies as well as of friends; his unfailing good sense displayed in forms of reasoning and modes of expression entirely his own and perfectly adopted to touch the judgements and control the actions of plain men.

While Lincoln’s presidency often sparked intense debate among Hoosiers, especially editors of the pro-Democratic Indiana State Sentinel, many like Finch were quick to acknowledge Lincoln’s “better angels,” as the slain leader had said of the citizenry only four years before.

Finch’s eulogy also memorialized Lincoln through literature, a feature that the 16th President would have appreciated. Three separate passages from titans of the Western canon of letters – Pope, Shakespeare, and Tennyson— allude to Lincoln’s own importance in the American canon of political rhetoric. The first quotation is from British poet Alexander Pope’s, “Epistle to Robert, Earl of Oxford and Mortimer,” published in 1721:

“A soul supreme in each hard instance tried,

Above all pain, all passion, all pride,

The page of power, the blasts of public breath,

The lust of lucre and the dread of death.”

Pope wrote this for Robert Harley, a British politician and parliamentarian who as Lord Treasurer successfully placated the Protestant and Catholic factions of civic life during the reign of Queen Anne. He was accused of treason and imprisoned for two years before being acquitted of all charges. Perhaps Finch chose this poem as a recognition of Lincoln’s leadership among two warring factions in his own time.

The second passage comes from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Act I, Scene 7). It reads:

“Borne his difficulties so meek, hath been

So clear in the great office, that his virtues

Will plead like angels, trumpet tongued, against

The deep damnation of his take off.”

In the scene, Macbeth is speaking of King Duncan, the good-natured leader who Macbeth later kills in a quest for power. Macbeth was Lincoln’s favorite Shakespeare play, one he reportedly carried with him on the legal circuit as a young man. The literate public in America during the nineteenth century, who were well versed in Shakespeare, likely made the literary connection between Macbeth and Duncan and assassin John Wilkes Booth and Lincoln. In fact, this passage was later printed on broadsides after the assassination and spread throughout the country. Finch may have seen these posters as he was drafting the language, or like Lincoln, he may have known the text well.

The final selection comes from the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson and his work, “Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington.” The stanzas read:

“O Friends our chief state oracle is mute,

Mourn for the man of long enduring blood.

The statesmen, moderate resolute—

Whole in himself a common good.

 

Mourn for the man of amplest influence,

Yet clearest of ambitious crime;

Our greatest, yet with least pretense,

Rich in saving common sense,

And as the greatest only are,

In his simplicity sublime.”

Written for Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, former Prime Minister and the man who led the British to victory against Napoleon at Waterloo, “Ode” circulated around the time of Lincoln’s death, especially in newspapers. Lincoln’s connection to Wellesley is actually pretty clear. Both led their armies to successful victories against a powerful enemy (for Wellesley it was the French and for Lincoln it was the Confederacy) and both advocated policies that led to the emancipation of some of their nation’s people (Wellesley helped grant full citizenship to Catholics in Britain and Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and the joint resolution for the proposed Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which after ratification would free enslaved African-Americans in the United States). The “sublime simplicity” and “amplest influence” of Abraham Lincoln, like with the Duke of Wellington, comes through loud and clear in Finch’s eulogy. z

With his death in 1865, Abraham Lincoln became a national martyr and a secular saint. Monuments, parks, museums, and historical institutions exist throughout the world to share his legacy. While the Marion County Circuit Court’s eulogy is not as grand as the Lincoln Memorial or, as Archives volunteer Robert F. Gilyeat noted, “not as poetic as Walt Whitman’s famous poem “O Captain! My Captain!”, it is a solemn and eloquent tribute the nation’s most-revered President.

Thanks for watching! Please click “like” if you enjoyed this video and make sure to subscribe to keep updated on all new videos. Finally, leave a comment or a story idea for a future episode. We want to hear from YOU!

Past Posts

The Kindig Mystery

By Jessica Petty

One of our virtual volunteers for our World War One (WWI) service card transcription project noticed several soldiers who enlisted around the same time with the last name Kindig from South Bend, Indiana. They also all seemed to be from the same place, Union City, Michigan. We decided to investigate and see if we could figure out the mystery! (Note: All images are taken from Ancestry.com, except the “J. Edward Kindig for Auditor” newspaper clip.)

In researching these names, our first breakthrough was a 1910 Census record that puts four of the five Kindigs in the same household. 

Ephiram (with different spellings everywhere you look) and Myrtle Kindig appear to have moved from Union City, Michigan with at least one of their children. They settled in South Bend and founded the family that piqued our curiosity. We’ll talk about their children from oldest to youngest, with the fifth unrelated Kindig last, and two bonus Kindigs at the end.  

Vern Kindig (sometimes listed as Verne) was the oldest child. A 1917 article in the South Bend News-Times, listed him as  a former pupil of Franklin School, a South Bend elementary school. In the same article, his brother Cecil was also listed as a former pupil (more on him later). Before Vern’s service in the war, which began on June 18th, 1917 (one day after his brother Cecil joined), Vern married Marie Yeagley. The couple are listed in the 1916 South Bend City Directory (where all our Kindigs and some others are mentioned). Marie was granted a divorce from Vern in 1916 on the charge of “abusive and cruel treatment.” Vern then remarried Charlotte Lawrence in 1919 (see above).

According to the 1920 Census, Vern and Charlotte were living in their in-law’s house. Vern had a job as a machine operator at the Motor Wheel Company. However, a 1922 newspaper article stated that Charlotte was granted a divorce. She told authorities that Vern “threw her violently out of the house” and “called her vile names, beat and kicked her.” The story gets even more complicated. A record notes that Vern was admitted to a home for disabled veterans in 1923, (where his service in the 137th Artillery during WWI was listed). The record attributed his death in 1928 to “General paralysis of the insane.” It is worth noting that his WWI service card (linked above on the date of his enlistment) described that he was 25% disabled upon his leaving the army. Vern may have suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or some other underlying issue from the war (or even earlier) that never received proper treatment.

The second oldest brother was Lisle Kindig. He is harder to track in the historical records. He enlisted on December 12, 1917, the same day as his younger brother Carlton. In the 1920 Census, he lived at home as a 23 year old, with his name listed as “Lyle”. There were multiple misspellings of his name in different records. In the 1920 Census, he is listed as a sign painter. Despite being the second oldest, we found the least information about him, as he is not mentioned in the household’s 1930 Census.

The second youngest brother was Cecil Kindig, who was at Camp Shelby in Mississippi in 1918. He enlisted on June 17th, 1917. He is also mentioned in the article on Franklin School with his brother Vern.

 

In the 1920 Census (see above), he is listed as living at his in-law’s house, with wife Vivien, and newborn daughter Marilinn. Interestingly, it appears another couple was living in the house alongside Vivien’s parents. Boyd and Helen Gandy (Vivien’s maiden name) are listed along with a newborn daughter Luana Gandy. It is likely that Boyd was Vivien’s brother. In this census, Cecil was listed as a repair man in a garage. By the 1930 Census, however, Cecil is listed back at home with his parents, as a 32 year old. We’re not sure if he was single due to a divorce or being widowed, nor do we know the fate of his child. He is listed as the proprietor of a Radio Shop in this census.

The youngest brother Carlton Kindig (sometimes written as Carolton) was listed as 17 years old and living at home in the 1920 Census. However, the service card we have for Carlton lists his age at 18, enlisting on December 12, 1917. It could be that he faked his age in order to serve, or that the birth year is wrong in the Census. In the 1940 Census, Carlton is listed as married to Ruth Fortin and living in South Bend as a “Manager”. It is also stated that his education is “High school, 3rd year”. This supports the hypothesis that he faked his age and dropped out in order to enlist.

We also found a death certificate for Carlton (see above), listing his age as 94 (he died in 1996) and cause of death as pneumonia. In addition, I found an obituary for Carlton Ephraim Kindig Jr (Remember that Ephraim is the name of the Kindigs’ father). It confirms other information located, as Jr’s parents are listed as Carlton and Ruth Kindig. He was also a lifelong resident of South Bend, living from 1934 to 2013. Carlton Sr. and Ruth had four other children.

The fifth South Bend native with a Kindig surname in the WWI registration cards was James Edward Kindig. He was the only Kindig not related to the other four. He enlisted on April 27, 1918.  After he returned home from the service in 1919, the newspaper reported that during the war he was “detailed to a theatrical troupe composed entirely of doughboys which gave vaudeville performances at all of the leading rest camps in France.” Not only this, but “Due to his slim figure and tenor voice, the sergeant was given the part of a girl to play.” (See article here). He was married to Gertrude Dienhart in 1920, and she survived him until 1991.

James, or Edward (which he evidently preferred), was also active in civil service. He ran for auditor (image above) of St. Joseph County in 1922, but lost. According to his obituary (below), he served in the Rainbow Division, 344 Field Artillery during WW1 and was the district manager of Indiana Gross Income Tax Division for 16 years. In addition to this information, we found his service card for World War II (see right). It is not mentioned in his obituary (or in the newspapers that we searched) but he signed up in 1940 and was in the Navy during World War II. He served on the USS Shangri-La, and is listed on the muster rolls of that ship in 1946. He died in 1954, at 64 years old.

Bonus!

Gertrude Kindig was the fifth child in the Kindig family and was listed as living in the house with her older brothers in the 1910 Census (before the sixth and seventh children, Evelyn and Esther, were born – they are mentioned in the 1920 Census.) While we found two Gertrude Kindigs in the censuses, including James Edward’s spouse,  it’s always important to consider who is who in the census, and just because you find the same names, it does not always mean that it’s the same person. Keep in mind that  James Edward Kindig married Gertrude Dienhart. She was born in Lafayette, Indiana, and was a school teacher in South Bend most of her life (obituary here).

The “Kindig” Gertrude, whom I found a death certificate for, died in 2011 at the age of 92, listed as widowed Gertrude Martin. She also lived in South Bend her entire life.

Another coincidence, Vernon Kindig has a service card in our collection, but is a different person than Vern/Verne. He was married to Geneva (Neva) Personette in 1920, according to his obituary and the 1920 Census. He lived in Akron, Fulton County, Indiana and died in 1941.

The Kindig family is an extremely interesting look into the great interest Hoosiers had in serving in WWI, and how family ties and geographical ties were abundant. Although four of the five Kindigs from South Bend were related, our service card collection includes thirteen total men with the last name Kindig from all over the state, and newspapers from South Bend place many other Kindigs in that city before and after the war. Their stories are just some of thousands that can be discovered because of the efforts of our transcription virtual volunteers! If you have any information on the Kindig Family, have a story you want to share, or want to help transcribe WWI Service Cards, feel free to contact us at arc@iara.in.gov!

From the Vault | Vigo County Registry

A free state upon entering the union in 1816, Indiana nevertheless had a Constitutional provision that attempted to exclude free African-Americans from moving and living there. In this episode of From the Vault, we shine a light on an item in our collections that highlights this contradiction: the Vigo County registry.

Learn more about the Archives: https://www.in.gov/iara/

Learn more about the history relevance campaign at https://www.historyrelevance.com/.

Visit our Blog: https://www.in.gov/iara/3098.htm

Please comment, like, and subscribe!

Credits:

Written and produced by Justin Clark

Special Thanks to Claire Horton, Chandler Lighty, and Michael Vetman

Music: “Memories” by Sappheiros, “Allemande” by Wahneta Meixsell, and “The Coldest Shoulder” by the 126ers

Full Text of Video

Studying American history uncovers contradictions, many of which center around the subject of race. Jefferson wrote that “all men are created equal” yet enslaved people. The Constitution, a document revered the world over for its defense of representative democracy, nevertheless originally regarded enslaved African-Americans as 3/5ths of a person. As the U. S. fought fascism abroad, it engaged in segregation and Jim Crow from within. Trying to reconcile these paradoxes has led to civil wars and social revolutions.

Indiana’s history also reveals contradictions regarding race. A free state upon entering the union in 1816, Indiana nevertheless had a Constitutional provision that attempted to exclude free African-Americans from moving and living there. In this episode of From the Vault, we shine a light on an item in our collections that highlights this contradiction: a 1853 registry from Vigo County that was described then as the “Registry of Negroes and Mulattos.”

Before the Civil War, Indiana's politics concerning African-Americans reflected the period’s prejudices and conflicts. Even though the state had banned the practice of slavery in its 1816 Constitution, and subsequently upheld that view in an 1820 Indiana Supreme Court case, many political leaders and citizens still believed that African-Americans were inferior to whites and that the laws should reflect that. In 1831, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law that required all African-American settlers to the state to pay local authorities a $500 bond as a declaration of good citizenship and penalties for any employer who hired those who failed to meet these requirements. Despite strong opposition from religious communities like the Quakers, the law was never repealed and never overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court.

When a Constitutional convention was called in 1850, African-American citizenship became a key issue. While some advocated voting rights, most notably delegate and future vice president, Schuyler Colfax, the convention went in the opposite direction. This culminated in Article XIII, one of the most controversial aspects of the 1851 Indiana Constitution. It called for the ban of African-American immigration to the state, voided all contracts of African-Americans moving into the state, authorized fines for employers of African-American immigrant labor, promoted the colonization of African-American Hoosiers to Africa, and authorized further legislation to uphold this article of the new state constitution.

One of the laws subsequently passed to enforce Article XIII, mandated that free African-Americans in Indiana needed to prove that they lived in the state before the 1851 Constitution went into effect.  The law required that African-American men, women, and children should register with the local county clerk’s office. Even though this legal requirement languished under largely poor enforcement, as indicated by the vast difference in numbers between African Americans living in a county and those who actually registered, registries were still kept.

This is the Vigo County Registry of Negroes and Mulattos, recorded from 1853 to 1854. It is one of the few surviving registry books from the period that is in the state archive’s collections. A digital version is available for researchers on our website.

The registry contains 32 names of African American men, women, and children, the date they registered, their ages, a physical description (which at the time meant labeling individuals based upon the complexion of their skin “negro” or “mulatto”), their place of birth, current residence, and the names of white witnesses who attested to their residency. Many African Americans from Indiana who registered were immigrants from North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky. In the Vigo County register, only nine people were born in the state of Indiana. Five of the nine native-born Hoosiers listed included, Kinchen, Benjamin, Amanda, William, and Augustus Brooks. They ranged in age from 15-3, and were likely the children of John and Lucy Brooks, ages 45 and 35 respectively. Two of their sons, Kinchen and Benjamin, later enlisted into 102nd U.S. Colored Infantry of the Union Army during the Civil War, the first African-American regiment from Michigan. The parents immigrated to Indiana from North Carolina. Indiana’s government required a registry of its native born—simply because of the color of their skin.

 According to Census records, many registrants were farmers or laborers, but some held other professions. George P. Miller, born in Washington County, Kentucky, was a doctor. Armsted Stewart, originally from Virginia, was a plasterer, who assisted in brick-laying and building. Also from Virginia, William Clark worked as a barber. One treated the sick; another raised up buildings; another was a businessman. All were vital parts of their homes—yet seen as less than in the eyes of politicians and other citizens.

After the tumultuous years of Civil War came the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which banned slavery, codified birthright American citizenship, and extended voting to African-American men, respectively. These constitutional provisions essentially nullified Article XIII of the Indiana Constitution, which was repealed in 1866 and removed from the Constitution entirely in 1881.

 Like the history it represents, the Vigo County African-American registry represents both a problematic past and an opportunity for the future. Indiana’s past contains many instances of injustice—discrimination, racism, and bigotry. And yet, this record now exists as something people can use for research, especially genealogy. Very few records exist for African-Americans in Indiana before the Civil War, so this registry is a powerful tool for many who seek to learn more about their lineage and history.

Painful contradictions abound in our past. The point is not to ignore them, but to acknowledge them and build a better society from what we learn.

Thanks for watching! Please click “like” if you enjoyed this video and make sure to subscribe to keep updated on all new videos. Finally, leave a comment or a story idea for a future episode. We want to hear from YOU!

 

From the Vault | Holiday Special: Children’s Guardian Home Postcards

In this episode of From the Vault, we share our unique collection of holiday postcards that were sent to a woman who improved the lives of young children: Leota Trook of the Children’s Guardian Home in Indianapolis.

Learn more about the Archives: https://www.in.gov/iara/

Learn more about the history relevance campaign at https://www.historyrelevance.com/.

Visit our Blog: https://www.in.gov/iara/3098.htm

Please comment, like, and subscribe!

Credits:

Written and produced by Justin Clark.

Special Thanks to Quinn Frey, Sandy Ricketts, Rose Butler, and the Indiana Historical Society

Music: “12 Days of Christmas,” “First Noel,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” by Jingle Punks

Full Text of Video

The Holidays are such a special time of year, a time to connect with loved ones and appreciate the important things in life. One way we share our appreciation is with greeting cards. There’s something personal and kind about receiving a card in the mail during the holidays.

In this episode of From the Vault, we share our unique collection of holiday postcards that were sent to a woman who improved the lives of young children: Leota Trook of the Children’s Guardian Home in Indianapolis.

The Indiana General Assembly established the Children’s Guardian Home in 1889. As author Rose Butler noted, “it was not an orphanage, or a reformatory, but a rescue program for children, initially ages newborn to fifteen years, who were neglected, abused, or abandoned by family and custodians.” The Guardian Home worked to improve the future for these children by providing temporary housing and then finding them permanent homes.

Over the years, many people worked at the home who left a positive impact on the children, but few were as beloved as Superintendent Leota Trook. She worked at the home for over 30 years and oversaw its transition from oversight by the Board of Children’s Guardians to the Marion County Welfare Board. She often wrote past residents of the home to make sure they were doing well—and they wrote back to her.

This is the earliest holiday postcard sent to Mrs. Trook, postmarked from 1911. A young woman named Myrtle Engle, who had lived in the home in 1909, wrote to Trook “wishing her a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” According to city directories, Myrtle lived in South Bend until at least 1914. She married Harrison Ledbetter in 1918, had at least three children, and died in 1971 at the age of 77.

Another card, dated from 1912, came from a young man named Frank James, who wrote to wish her a Merry Christmas and to have her “say hello” to fellow children still at the Guardian home. In the 1920 Census, Frank James is listed with his family in Knox County, where he worked as a clerk in a drugstore. It’s likely that the young man from the Guardian Home moved in with a family and started a whole new life.

Mrs. Trook also received New Year’s cards. The first card, also from 1912, came from Miss Ruby Hupp, who lived at the home as late as 1910. She wrote this card from Greenfield, which was likely her new home. She wrote:

Dear Mrs. Trook,

I was very much blessed with your nice card and I thank you very much. I just dearly love to stay here Mrs. Trook and I am very thankful for your kindness. Wishing you the very Happiest of New Years.

Miss Ruby Hupp

P.S. I am getting along just fine so far and hope it will proceed.

Yours R. H.

Unfortunately, not much else is known about Ruby, other than she was likely married. Regardless, you can get a sense of the importance of Mrs. Trook to Ruby from her earnest words in the postcard.

The last postcard that we’ll share comes from a young lady named Martha Oliver in 1920. Her message reads:

Dear Mrs. Trook,

I received your little card and was very glad to hear from you. I am getting along pretty well and hope you are the same. I would like to go out to my cousin to spend New Year’s Day and will you call me up on the phone and let me know if I can go.

From your little friend

Martha Oliver

According to Census, marriage, and death records, Martha married Joseph Daugherty in 1928, had two children, lived for a time in Philadelphia and Washington State, and died in 1994.

Each of these postcards are a window into the importance of Leota Trook in the lives of children, displaying the special connection she had with those under her care. And it’s these connections that matter the most during the holidays.

Thanks for watching! Please click “like” if you enjoyed this video and make sure to subscribe to keep updated on all new videos. Finally, do you send out holiday cards? Do you prefer funny cards or serious ones? Leave your answers in the comments below. We want to hear from YOU!

Statehood Day 2018

Every year on the anniversary of Indiana’s statehood (December 11), the Indiana State Archives participates in a big celebration at the State Capitol, which culminates in the installation of Indiana’s 1816 and 1851 Constitutions in the rotunda for the duration of the legislative session. This video chronicles the journey of both constitutions from the Archives to the State Capitol.

Learn more about the Archives: https://www.in.gov/iara/

Learn more about the history relevance campaign at https://www.historyrelevance.com/.

Visit our Blog: https://www.in.gov/iara/3098.htm

Please comment, like, and subscribe!

Credits:

Written and produced by Justin Clark.

Special Thanks to Elizabeth Hague, Michael Vetman, Capitol Police, and Friends of the Indiana State Archives

Music: “Old Friend” by Silent Partner

From the Vault | Marshall Constitution

In this episode of From the Vault, we’ll uncover the largely-forgotten story of how the Indiana Constitution almost changed overnight by the stroke of a Governor’s pen—and the forces that shut it all down.

Learn more about the Archives: https://www.in.gov/iara/

Learn more about the history relevance campaign at https://www.historyrelevance.com/.

Visit our Blog: https://www.in.gov/iara/3098.htm

Please comment, like, and subscribe!

Credits:

Written and produced by Justin Clark.

Special Thanks to Quinn Frey, Indiana Legal Archive, Indiana Historical Bureau, and Hoosier State Chronicles

Clips of Erza Klein from Vox Media, Inc.

Music: “Switch It Up” by Silent Partner, “Cielo” by Huma-Huma, and “The Big Score” by MK2

Full Text of Video

In a 2018 video for Vox, journalist Ezra Klein discussed how “states routinely amend and even rewrite their constitutions. On average, each state has had 3 constitutions, and Louisiana—they’ve had 11.” He argued that the Federal constitution should be amended more like the states, in order to improve our democracy. This is an interesting thesis—but one period of Indiana’s history shows just how hard this process can be, so much so that it can lead to a constitutional crisis.

In this episode of From the Vault, we’ll uncover the largely-forgotten story of how the Indiana Constitution almost changed overnight by the stroke of the Governor’s pen—and the forces that shut it all down.

In its two centuries as a state, Indiana has had two constitutions—one from statehood in 1816 and a revised constitution from 1851. In the wintry months of 1911, there was almost a third.

Thomas R. Marshall, progressive Governor of Indiana from 1909-1913, stressed in his January 5, 1911 message to the General Assembly that a wide array of constitutional reforms were necessary to improve Indiana’s government. Specifically, he called for extending the length of the legislature’s session from December through May and limiting the right to vote of “foreign-born citizens.” Like with many progressive reforms of the period, you get some good (more time to complete legislation) and you get some bad (disenfranchising immigrants’ voting rights).

However, changing Indiana’s constitution is difficult; Article 16 notes that for an amendment to be added to the Constitution, it must be passed by two sessions of the Indiana General Assembly and then approved by a majority of the voting public. This made adding amendments a long and arduous process, especially if more than one was being considered.

With all of this mind, Marshall and the Democratic majorities in the General Assembly decided to attempt a workaround.

This is Senate Bill 407, also known as the “Marshall Constitution.” Democratic State Senator Evan B. Stotsenburg introduced the bill on February 23, 1911. The House passed the bill on March 1 with a vote of 59-37 and the Senate passed it on March 2 by a vote of 60-39. Governor Marshall signed it the very next day.

This revised Constitution comprised over 20 reforms, including authorizing the General Assembly to pass a workman’s compensation program, increasing the membership of the House to 130, expanding the number of Indiana Supreme Court justices from 5 to 11, lengthening the duration of the legislative session, and stricter voting rules.

Despite passing the General Assembly, the new constitution faced swift and powerful opposition in the form of Indianapolis lawyer John Dye. He filed a suit in Marion County Circuit Court against the new constitution, arguing that “(1) the General Assembly lacked the authority to prepare and submit to the electorate a new constitution, and (2) the method of submission violated constitutionally-prescribed procedures.” Judge Charles Remster agreed with Dye, arguing that “[t]he delegation of power is specific and empowers the General Assembly to propose one amendment or any number of amendments to the constitution. This power does not specifically authorize the proposal of an entire new constitution.”

The state appealed the case all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court. In their landmark ruling in Ellingham v. Dye on July 5, 1912, the Supreme Court ruled the Marshall Constitution unconstitutional. In their decision, the Court firmly established that Article 16 could not be   circumvented by legislative action. In other words, you cannot change the constitution by statute alone.

The impact of the Marshall Constitution lingered for decades. Many of its reforms, including voting regulations and changes to the General Assembly’s schedule, became laws and constitutional provisions in their own right. It also benefitted Marshall himself, who gained a national profile for his progressive instrumentation of power. In 1912, he was tapped to be Woodrow Wilson’s running mate and then served 8 years as his vice president.

The Marshall Constitution, and its aftermath, reinforced a profound lesson for both public leaders and citizens: Constitutions can be bent, but they cannot be easily broken. If Hoosiers believe it is in their best interest to pass a Constitutional amendment, or propose a new Constitution, they will do so under the guidelines of Article 16. As examples, the 2016 amendment to protect the right to hunt and fish and the 2018 balanced budget amendment followed this exact approach.

So, while Ezra Klein’s view of Constitutional malleability is possible in theory, the Marshall Constitution shows that it’s a lot harder in practice.

Thanks for watching! Please click “like” if you liked this video and make sure to hit that “subscribe” button to keep updated on all new videos. Finally, what changes would you propose to the Indiana Constitution, or do you think it should stay the same? Leave your answers in the comments below. We want to hear from YOU!

From the Vault | Evansville Ku Klux Klan Charter

In this episode of From the Vault, we look at one of the most controversial items in the Archives’ collection, one that powerfully symbolizes a dark period and its politics: the Evansville Ku Klux Klan Charter.

Learn more about the Archives: https://www.in.gov/iara/

Learn more about the history relevance campaign at https://www.historyrelevance.com/.

Visit our Blog: https://www.in.gov/iara/3098.htm

Please comment, like, and subscribe!

Credits:

Written and produced by Justin Clark.

Special Thanks to Claire Horton, Indiana Memory, and Hoosier State Chronicles

Music: “Philae” by Olivaw, “Echoes of Time v2” by Kevin MacLeod, “It’s Coming” by Josh Kirsch, Media Right Productions, and “Court and Page” by Silent Partner

Full Text of Video

America’s history is riddled with horrifying stories of political extremism, which have inspired intense bigotry and even violence. This is especially true of Indiana during the 1920s, when one of the most notorious extremist groups took over civic life: the Ku Klux Klan.

In this episode of From the Vault, we look at one of the most controversial items in the Archives’ collection, one that powerfully symbolizes the period and its dark politics: the Evansville Ku Klux Klan Charter.

The Klan first emerged in Reconstruction-era Tennessee and quickly spread throughout the South. They terrorized recently freed African Americans, as well as their Republican allies, with violence, threats, and intimidation. They described themselves as the “Invisible Empire of the South.” Thousands of people died from their acts. Throughout the late 1860s and 1870s, Congress passed a slew of laws to suppress the Klan and they worked. The Klan fell apart as an organization by the 1880s.

But that was the first wave of the Klan. The second wave, which occurred throughout the first half of the twentieth century, became nationally significant and politically powerful. This wave was emboldened by D. W. Griffith’s landmark 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation, which displayed the Klan as the protector of American democracy. As a result, a resurgence of the Klan began in the 1920s.

Indiana’s Klan started in Evansville around 1920 and by 1923, chapters held massive rallies around the state. By 1925, the Klan had a quarter of a million members in Indiana and published its own newspaper, the Fiery Cross.

They were motivated by an intense bigotry against not only African-Americans, who represented less than 3% of Indiana’s population, but against Catholics, Jews, and immigrants. Of these, Catholics became a central focus. As historian James Madison noted, “the Fiery Cross published a list of Roman Catholic businessmen in Indianapolis, all presumably unworthy of Klan patronage.”

This is the Evansville, Indiana Ku Klux Klan Charter. The charter was signed on March 14, 1922 by the leadership of the Evansville chapter of the Klan. The Archives acquired this item from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

The man whose name appears in the bottom, left-hand corner of the charter under the title of “Exalted Cyclops” is David Curtis “D. C.” Stephenson, a man of immense power and influence within the Klan and Indiana politics.

He broke away from national leadership in 1923 and started running his Indiana faction of the Klan like a political machine, with him as the all-powerful boss. His leadership and successful infiltration of Indiana politics lead to the 1924 elections of a Klan-backed governor, Ed Jackson, a pro-Klan legislature, and even the mayor of the capital city.

Once they came to power, they methodically worked to pass measures that persecuted Catholics, particularly their parochial schools. These included mandatory readings of the King James Bible in schools, discrimination against privately-educated teachers seeking a teaching license, uniform textbook standards for public and private schools, and a very controversial attempt to ban “religious garb” in the public schools.

Fortunately, those who opposed the Klan grew wise to their antics and defeated these proposals, citing the importance of “individual freedom or of separation of church and state.”

The Klan’s political grip on Indiana quickly began to loosen, mostly as a result of poor organizational strategy and the conviction of D. C. Stephenson for the murder of Madge Oberholtzer, a government employee he assaulted, raped, and kept from medical assistance in March of 1925.

Governor Jackson was later exposed for corruption by the Indianapolis Times, who reported his illegal financial dealings with Stephenson and the Indiana Klan. The Times won the 1928 Pulitzer Prize for their investigations into Stephenson, Jackson, and the Klan. By the end of the decade, the Klan was all but eliminated from Indiana state government.

The Ku Klux Klan charter, and the history that surrounds it, remind us of an important lesson. In our past, extremist, bigoted organizations have used their power to harm the liberty and dignity of all people in our state. This history isn’t pleasant, but it provides us with the knowledge to be better citizens and to recognize discrimination and extremism in all its forms.

Thanks for watching! Please click “like” if you liked this video and make sure to hit that “subscribe” button to keep updated on all new videos. Finally, what do you think we can do as citizens to challenge harmful extremism in our state? Leave your answers in the comments below. We want to hear from YOU!

Electronic Records | Don't Get Caught in the "Twilight Zone"

From email and social media to government documents, electronic records are a big part of our work at the Indiana Archives and Records Administration. We preserve these records in order to provide transparency and accountability to our government. Thus, any problems we encounter with them will bring challenges, but it’s our job to handle them.

Learn more about the Archives: https://www.in.gov/iara/

Learn more about the history relevance campaign at https://www.historyrelevance.com/.

Visit our Blog: https://www.in.gov/iara/3098.htm

Please comment, like, and subscribe!

Credits:

Written and produced by Justin Clark.

Special Thanks to Jeannine Roe and Brian Taylor

Music: “View” by Ametryo

“Twilight Zone” Clips and Music Copyright: CBS Television

Full Text of Video

“Imagine if you will a world where electronic records suddenly disappear. Cities would collapse; governments would fall; widespread panic would ensue. The existential dread that would hang over the world like the Sword of Damocles. . . .”

Cue TV Channel Change

Actually, it wouldn’t be that crazy, but it would be rough. From email and social media to government documents, electronic records are a big part of our work at the Indiana Archives and Records Administration. We preserve these records in order to provide transparency and accountability to our government. Thus, any problems we encounter with them will bring challenges, but it’s our job to handle them.

So, what are electronic records? They come in two broad categories: “born digital” and “converted to digital.” Born digital records are emails, social media posts, documents, spreadsheets, and anything else created by a government agency that exist electronically. Converted records originated on paper, tape, or microfilm and processed for electronic access.

The first is the purview of Jeannine Roe, our electronic records specialist here at the archives. Her job is to retrieve and then process electronic records from state and local governments.

Her biggest challenge is formatting, especially old formats that we no longer use. Think about how many cell phones you’ve ever had. Or computer’s you’ve owned. They’ve changed a lot, haven’t they? The key constant of electronic devices is change-- and this change makes it almost impossible to preserve electronic records in the long-term.

As she said to me in an interview: “Deterioration and obsolescence over time are the biggest factors that we run into for maintaining these things for the longest-term. . . . You can keep paper for 500 years if kept in the right conditions, but electronic records . . . with the larger servers that we utilize here . . . we replace them every four years.”

Yet, electronic records do have one great advantage: access. As Brian Taylor, head of our micrographics lab noted, “Electronic records are the easiest thing to access, as opposed to digging up paper or microfilm.”

Despite technological change, there’s one format that works better for preservation than any electronic medium, and like vinyl, it’s never really gone out of style: microfilm. As Brian said to me, “Preservation, long-term, always has to go to film. . . . We cannot guarantee digital information tomorrow let alone 10 or 20 years from now.” If an EMP spike hits Indiana, wiping out our servers and computers, the only thing we need to look at microfilm is a light and a magnifying glass.

Microfilm, when stored in the correct conditions, can last up to 500 years. Let’s elaborate on the “correct” part of this for a second. The best kind of microfilm for preservation is polyester film with a silver-halide emulsion (that’s the image). This film doesn’t tear like acetate film or fall privy to something called vinegar syndrome, where the film begins to smell and deteriorate. If we really want to preserve electronic records for the long-term, we should consider putting them on polyester microfilm.

So, why should we care so much? As Indiana government becomes more and more committed to digital devices and mediums, it is vital that our staff prepare the archives for the perils and promises of keeping electronic records.

As Jeannine said to me, “For the public, that matters because if they send out a records request or they’re looking for specific topics, about specific people, then we can provide them with those things with certainty that they were what they have requested, and that they were created as they were intended to be and held as they were intended to be.”

This ensures that we provide accessibility, accountability, and transparency of state government to our citizens. In short, it’s a small but essential part of maintaining our democracy.

Thanks for watching! Make sure to hit that “subscribe” button to keep updated on all new videos. Also check out my full interviews with Jeannine and Brian available on this channel. Finally, what kind of electronic records do you have that are worth preserving? Leave your answers in the comments below. We want to hear from YOU!

1917 Fort Benjamin Harrison Postcard

1917 Fort Benjamin Harrison Postcard

This postcard shows soldiers performing field maneuvers at Fort Benjamin Harrison in 1917. 

Thanks to the State Archives of Florida, the Indiana State Archives can add some Indiana postcards to our collection. While doing an assessment of their holdings, the State Archives of Florida discovered records that did not fit their collection policy. They identified institutions that would get better use of the items, and donated them to the appropriate place. 

The postcards, part of the Harold and Geraldine Haskins Postcard Collection, depict a wide range of Indiana life. One postcard shows soldiers performing field maneuvers at Fort Benjamin Harrison in 1917. Other Indiana landmarks and buildings featured include Union Station in Indianapolis, the Methodist Episcopal Hospital in Indianapolis, Abraham Lincoln’s Home, and the Wyandotte Cave. 

Archives use collection policies, also referred to as accession policies, to ensure that consistent decisions are made when forming the archives’ collection. Having a strong collection policy allows the archives to identify a clear mission and to focus resources on those records that will best serve the constituents. 

Here at the Indiana State Archives, our collection policy is to preserve and make accessible records of state and local governments that document public and private rights, actions of state and local government officials, and the institutional character of state and local governments. Exceptions are made for records that have permanent legal and research significance, or document the history of the state. In this case, the postcards, while not created by a government unit, document key Indiana landmarks and scenes.

1867 Indiana State Fair Full Page Print

1867 Indiana State Fair 1867 Indiana State Fair

This is a full page print from "Harper's Weekly" featuring the 1867 Indiana State Fair.

The Indiana State Archives holds records produced by the Indiana State Fair Commission as well as ephemera about the fair collected through the years. This full page print and accompanying article in Harper’s Weekly features the 1867 Indiana State Fair. Harper’s Weekly, was an American political magazine based in NYC and known as “"A journal of civilization.”

Notes about the print:

The print features views of the fair, held in October in Terre Haute, which was “the most successful ever held in that State,” with the Board of Agriculture clearing over $6,000, according to the article.  Additionally, “real live Hoosiers” are pictured in the print. The Harper’s staff attendance at the fair and complimentary article was prompted by the public response to a previous Harper’s Weekly issue that contained a caricature of Hoosiers received poorly: “Many were the indignant letters which we received from Hoosierdom…The real live Hoosier is a gentleman of taste, and culture, and refinement, and the women are beautiful and charming beyond description….”

Want to research this Indiana State Fair resource?

This resource is also available online, digitized by The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection (Lincoln Library, Allen County Public Library) and hosted by the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/harpersweeklyv11bonn