Primary Source: July News from the Indiana Historical Bureau

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Independence Day Celebrations of Yore

Fireworks were not always the center of a July 4 celebration.  Pageants, like this one, the first to be held in Indianapolis in 1821, were common:
“. . . the young people of the place had obtained a keelboat that had recently come up the river, and [went] up to Anderson’s spring for a picnic. . . .”
The following year, in June 1822, citizens met at Hawkin’s tavern, and made arrangements for a public celebration on the Military Reserve, which then extended to Washington Street as well as including the present Military Park. The celebration opened with a sermon from Rev. John McClung, from the text, “Righteousness exalteth a nation but sin is a reproach to any people;” which was followed by a brief speech and the reading of the Declaration of Independence by Judge Wick, Washington’s Inaugural Address by Squire Obed Foote, Washington’s Farewell Address, by John Hawkins, and a prayer and a benediction by Rev. Robert Brenton. Then followed a dinner, the central feature of which was a barbequed buck that had been killed the day before by Robert Harding, with patriotic toasts, and ample supply of the spirit of the maize. The toasts, fourteen in number, were written by Calvin Fletcher, the last one being, “Indianapolis. May it not prove itself unworthy the honor the state has conferred upon it by making it her seat of government.” At night there was a ball at Crumbaugh’s tavern and justice shop, at the corner of Market and Missouri streets.

Source: Jacob Piatt Dunn, Greater Indianapolis: The History, the Industries, the Institutions, and the People of a City of Homes Vol. 1, (Chicago, Lewis Publishing Company, 1910) p. 88-89.

Speeches were also popular.  James S. Hinton, Indiana's first African-American legislator, delivered a speech at Wood’s Hill, Vigo County, Ind., July 4, 1876.  An excerpt:
"The changes which have swept over this land by reason of war, have at last lifted him to the plane of recognized manhood. At last, through civil strife and fraternal blood, the negro has found himself to be a man, if not a brother. The forces of truth and the principles of liberty, born in the days of the revolution, and proclaimed in the Declaration of 1776 have placed the negro for the first time in his history on this continent in a position to realize that he is a man and an American citizen. In this centennial year the negro assists in nominating a President who is to stand upon a platform broad enough to embrace all Americans, giving security to life and property, while it extends the hand of fraternal greeting to the men who a few years ago were engaged in sectional strife. Masters that were, and the slave that is a man now, stand side by side in the conventions, and sit in legislative assemblies, and mutually labor to build up a common country."

Trail of Broken Promises Walk arrives in Indiana

Submitted by Shirley Willard, Fulton County
On May 13, thirteen students, an elder and a dog named Willie left Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, Kansas, on a walk to Washington, D. C., to ask the government to stop destroying wetlands and native sacred places. The elder is the uncle of Millie Pepion, a junior at Haskell who organized the walk. She submitted her plans to Clinton Global Initiatives (CGI), Chicago, and when it was accepted, she met former President Bill Clinton and talked to him on April 30. CGI endorses people who try to effect change in their community in a positive way. Clinton has American and African initiatives and Millie is requesting that he make a Native American Indian initiative. She presented this request to him in person June 8.
Since leaving Kansas, the group walked the Potawatomi Trail of Death. This trail now has over 80 historical plaques and many highway signs across 25 counties in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. Towns and communities along the way opened their hearts to the group, welcoming them with food, water, and free camping in parks and backyards.
The group entered Indiana June 4. Williamsport and Attica’s Potawatomi Festival hosted a meal for them and provided free camping at Ouibache Park. They joined Purdue’s Native American Cultural Center for dinner and a movie on June 5.  On June 6 the group was led by Bill and Shirley Willard to retrace the Trail of Death from Lafayette to Rochester. Geneva Center brought canoes for the students to take a ride on the Tippecanoe River at the Trail of Courage. 
The Haskell students have stopped at nearly every one of the 80 Trail of Death historical markers. All the historical markers were erected with donations at no expense to the taxpayer. Over 30 were erected by Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Cub Scouts.  You can follow the group's progress on the Trail of Broken Promises Facebook Page.
Peru cover

Shop @ IHB

Thursday (7/5) is the anniversary of P.T. Barnum's birth.  Celebrate with the Peru: Circus Capital of the World Indiana Regional History book or set of 15 historic photo postcards.

Spice up your marker hunt!

Wish hunting for markers was a little more silly? has plenty of fun landmarks in Indiana for you to visit while you're out taking photos for the marker survey.  This National Ice Cream Month, check out Montpelier's Ice Cream Man, or choose from their selection of other roadside Oddities in your county.

Independence Day Amusements for Today's Hoosiers

It's rare to see an old-fashioned 4th of July pageant these days.  If you can't make it to Mitchell, Indiana's Old Fashioned Independence Celebration, you can still celebrate in early July with fellow history lovers. 
On July 1, check out the Independence Day Weekend Living Farmstead at O'Bannon Woods in Corydon, The Salamonie Summer Festival in Warren, Michigan City's Kite Festival, or the Linton Freedom Festival.
Find more free festivals, and search for music- and food-related events for the 4th at Visit Indiana.


Mark your Calendars

This fall, recipients of Indiana Legal History Grants from Indiana Humanities and the Indiana Supreme Court will make public presentations.  These are sure to fill up fast, so reserve your space early!
Sept. 25: Maxine Brown, from Southern Indiana Minority Enterprise Initiative, will discuss a number of cases from 1800-1900 that were filed by African Americans in southern Indiana.
Nov. 15: Jennifer Kalvaitis, an M.A. student in public history at IUPUI, will discuss how Indianapolis women first gained a limited right to vote, then lost it, when the Marion Superior Court and then the Indiana Supreme Court, overturned a 1917 state statute.
Dec. 6: Richard Day, a historian at Vincennes State Historic Sites, will discuss documents pertaining to Isaac Blackford’s early years in Vincennes, from 1813-1824. Blackford is the Indiana Supreme Court’s longest serving justice and was a nationally recognized legal jurist.
To register, or for more information, contact Dr. Elizabeth Osborn at

 Ask IHB

Q: I have this antique book [or postcard, newspaper, artifact].  Can I donate it to you?
A:  IHB is not a collecting institution, so we don't have the ability to properly store and maintain donations.  If your item has a state, county, or local connection, consider contacting the Indiana State Library or Indiana State Archives (for books and ephemera) or the Indiana State Museum (for objects).