Indiana Historical Society

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Indiana Historical Society
Indiana History Center Indianapolis, Indiana.jpg
The Indiana Historical Society is housed in the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center
MottoIndiana's Storyteller
FormationDecember 11, 1830;188 years ago (1830-12-11)
PurposeCollect, preserve and share the history of Indiana
HeadquartersEugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center
Coordinates 39°46′13.5″N86°09′58″W / 39.770417°N 86.16611°W / 39.770417; -86.16611 Coordinates: 39°46′13.5″N86°09′58″W / 39.770417°N 86.16611°W / 39.770417; -86.16611
7,500 households
President and CEO
Jody Blankenship
31 members
PublicationTraces of Indiana and Midwestern History
The Hoosier Genealogist: Connections
AffiliationsSmithsonian, American Alliance of Museums, American Association for State and Local History

The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) is one of the United States' oldest and largest historical societies and describes itself as "Indiana's Storyteller". Housed within the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, it is located at 450 West Ohio Street in Indianapolis, Indiana, in The Canal and White River State Park Cultural District, with neighbors such as the Indiana State Museum and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art. The Indiana Historical Society is the oldest state historical society west of the Allegheny Mountains. [1]

Historical society organization that collects, researches, interprets and preserves information or items of historical interest

A historical society is an organization dedicated to preserving, collecting, researching, and interpreting historical information or items. Originally, these societies were created as a way to help future generations understand their heritage.

Indiana State Museum museum in Indianapolis, Indiana

The Indiana State Museum is a museum located within White River State Park in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. The museum houses exhibits on the science, art, culture, and history of Indiana from prehistoric times up to the present day. The museum is also the site of the state's largest IMAX screen.

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art Art Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is located in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana and houses an extensive collection of visual arts by indigenous peoples of the Americas, as well as Western American paintings and sculptures collected by businessman and philanthropist Harrison Eiteljorg (1903–1997). The museum houses one of the finest collections of Native contemporary art in the world.


A private, nonprofit membership organization founded in 1830, the IHS maintains the nation's premier research library and archives on the history of Indiana and the Old Northwest. The IHS also provides support and assistance to local museums and historical groups, publishes books and periodicals; sponsors teacher workshops; and provides youth, adult and family programming, including Indiana's participation in the National History Day Competition series. Finally, it is responsible for appointing and training the state's 92 county historians. The Indiana Historical Society opened a new 165,000-square-foot (15,300 m2) headquarters in downtown Indianapolis in July 1999, built on the site of the prior Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of Indianapolis. [2]


The Indiana Historical Society was started on December 11, 1830, which was the fourteenth anniversary of the statehood of Indiana (December 11, 1816). A collection of Indianapolis-area movers and shakers chose to start the society, and sought to obtain many objects relating to Indiana's history. It was to hold a "collection of all materials calculated to shed light on the natural, civil, and political history of Indiana, the promotion of useful knowledge and the friendly and profitable intercourse of such citizens of the state as are disposed to promote the aforesaid objects". The headquarters of the Indiana Historical Society has remained within Indianapolis. [3]

In 1831, the IHS was granted a charter by the Indiana General Assembly. In the years following, two of the IHS's prevalent backers died, and between its founding in 1830 and 1886, only twelve annual meetings were held to promote the organization. Its collections were located in the old Indiana State Bank and old Indiana State Capitol. The IHS of those days was described by a historian as "a small private club for publishing local history." [4] [5]

Indiana General Assembly

The Indiana General Assembly is the state legislature, or legislative branch, of the state of Indiana. It is a bicameral legislature that consists of a lower house, the Indiana House of Representatives, and an upper house, the Indiana Senate. The General Assembly meets annually at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.

In 1886 the IHS was reorganized under the direction of Jacob Piatt Dunn. With trusted associates, Dunn started the policy of annual meetings of the society that continue to this day. Dunn was able to enthuse Hoosiers of several occupations to gather resources for the society, focusing on editors, professional historians, lawyers, librarians, and writers. However, Jacob Dunn's attempt to allow women to join the Society failed in 1888; it would not be until 1906 that a woman, editor Eliza Browning, would be admitted. Thanks to Dunn, the Indiana Historical Society had an office at the state capitol building from 1888 to 1914. [4] [5]

Jacob Piatt Dunn Ethnologist, historian, journalist, lawyer, and political reformer from Indianapolis

Jacob Piatt Dunn Jr. was an American historian, journalist, and author. A political writer and reformer, Dunn worked on ballot reform issues based on the Australian ballot system, authored a new Indianapolis city charter, and served as adviser to Indiana governor Thomas R. Marshall and U.S. Senator Samuel M. Ralston.

Hoosier is the official demonym for a resident of the U.S. state of Indiana. The origin of the term remains a matter of debate within the state, but "Hoosier" was in general use by the 1840s, having been popularized by Richmond resident John Finley's 1833 poem "The Hoosier's Nest". Anyone born in Indiana or a resident at the time is considered to be a Hoosier. Indiana adopted the nickname "The Hoosier State" more than 150 years ago.

Indiana Statehouse State capitol building of the U.S. state of Indiana

The Indiana Statehouse is the state capitol building of the U.S. state of Indiana. Housing the Indiana General Assembly, the office of the Governor of Indiana, the Supreme Court of Indiana, and other state officials, it is located in the state capital Indianapolis at 200 West Washington Street. Built in 1888, it is the fifth building to house the state government.

The Indiana Historical Society continued to affect and be affected by the happenings of the Indiana Historical Bureau (originally the Indiana Historical Commission), the Indiana State Museum, and the Indiana State Library. The IHS's executive secretaries also acted as directors of the Historical Bureau for over fifty years, from 1924 to 1976. This connection allowed the Indiana History Bulletin , controlled by the Historical Bureau, to be distributed to the members of the society. (Members of the time also received a publication of Indiana University entitled Indiana Magazine of History .) The bequest of philanthropist Delavan Smith in 1922 of a vast sum of money, and a sizable collection of books allowed the IHS to start its William Henry Smith Memorial Library. [4]

Indiana University university system, Indiana, U.S.

Indiana University (IU) is a multi-campus public university system in the state of Indiana, United States. Indiana University has a combined student body of more than 110,000 students, which includes approximately 46,000 students enrolled at the Indiana University Bloomington campus.

<i>Indiana Magazine of History</i> journal

The Indiana Magazine of History is a peer-reviewed academic journal published quarterly by the Indiana University Bloomington Department of History. Established primarily as a venue for historical documents of interest, particularly on Indiana's territorial and early-statehood periods, the journal today publishes a range of scholarly articles, reviews, roundtables, and interviews covering the history and changing culture of Indiana and the Midwest from early European and Native American encounters to the present.

During the 1940s Howard Henry Peckham was the director of the IHS and established many professional standards in the field of public history. [6]

Beginning in the 1950s, the Indiana Historical Society started publishing works related to the history of Indiana. The most important of these works was the 1966 multi-volume set on the history of Indiana, in celebration of the sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary of Indiana's statehood. Other notable works included the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Old Northwest in 1950. [7] In 2009, the IHS celebrated the 20th anniversary of its award-winning popular history magazine, Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History. It also publishes the family history magazine, The Hoosier Genealogist: Connections, and a membership magazine, IN Perspective.

By 1970 the membership of the Indiana Historical Society reached 5,000 members. The most noted of these was Eli Lilly, a longtime trustee, whose donations funded additional building additions in 1976. Lilly's bequest allowed the IHS to achieve its own identity with its offices and library occupying a floor in the addition. Also at this time, the IHS/Indiana Historical Bureau leadership was separated with the creation of the title of Executive Secretary being retained for the IHS leadership. Lilly's bequest helps the general financial welfare of the society to this day. By 1993 the membership rose to 10,000, with forty percent of the Society's members living in the Indianapolis metropolitan area. [7]

For years, the headquarters was in the Indiana State Library and Historical Building, but in 1999 it moved to its current headquarters. The 165,000-square-foot (15,300 m2) building includes the 300-seat Frank and Katrina Basile Theater, the William Henry Smith Memorial Library, a vault to house the IHS's collections, the Stardust Terrace Cafe, conservation and preservation imaging facilities, classrooms, the Basile History Market, the Cole Porter Room, Eli Lilly Hall and various exhibition spaces.

Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center

Indiana Central Canal by the Indiana History Center Indiana Central Canal IHS.JPG
Indiana Central Canal by the Indiana History Center

In December 2007, the IHS launched its Campaign for the Indiana Experience and renamed the building the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in honor of the Glicks' gift to the campaign. The History Center underwent renovations in 2009 and reopened with new program offerings in the spring of 2010.

The Indiana Experience now includes "You Are There!", an exhibit exploring various photos and documents in the IHS collection through "living history", the use of costumed historical interpreters to take visitors back in time and allow them to interact with history. Past exhibits include the history of organizations such as the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company, L. S. Ayres department store, and the Ball jar company, as well as more personal glimpses into the lives of individuals in Indiana during the Civil War, World War II, and the civil rights movement. The Indiana Experience also features The Cole Porter Room, a space dedicated to the life and legacy of the famous Indiana composer. The exhibit includes personal items belonging to Cole Porter, including the Tony Award he won for Kiss Me, Kate , and a singer who performs a variety of Cole Porter songs upon request.


A 31 member board of trustees oversees the operation of the Indiana Historical Society, which includes a staff of approximately 96 people. There are a number of functional divisions within the IHS, including Administration, Collections, Conservation, Development, Publications, Marketing, and Education & Community Engagement. The organization continues to oversee actions that collect, preserve, interpret, and share the history of Indiana.

The current president and CEO of the Indiana Historical Society is Jody Blankenship. He was appointed by the board of trustees in January 2019 [8] [9] .

The official membership of the IHS includes approximately 4,500 households across the United States.


The IHS's collections, accessible online through the society's website and at the William Henry Smith Memorial Library, is one of the largest archival repositories of material on the history of Indiana and the Old Northwest. The collection is composed of 1.7 million photographs (615 visual collections), 45,000 cataloged printed items (books, pamphlets, etc.), 14,000 pieces of sheet music, 5,450 processed manuscript collections, 3,300 artifacts, 1,700 cataloged maps, 800 broadsides, and 129 paintings. More than 70,000 digital images representing 61 collections are currently available through the IHS website. [10]

Among the items held by the Society is a 130-year-old Bible used in 2008 to swear in Mayor Greg Ballard of Indianapolis. [11] One of the most significant items in the IHS's collection is the original glass-plate negative of an Abraham Lincoln photograph taken by Alexander Gardner just weeks before the Gettysburg address (this image was used as the model for the creation of the Abraham Lincoln National Memorial in Washington D.C.).

Subject strengths of the IHS's collection (especially as they relate to Indiana and the Old Northwest) include architecture, agriculture, American Civil War, business, communities, education, ethnically and racially identified groups, families, government, journalism and communications, medicine, military affairs, notable Hoosiers, Old Northwest Territory, organized labor, politics, the professions, religion, social services, transportation (including railroad and interurban history), and women.


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The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

Harvey N. Middleton was a physician and cardiologist in Indianapolis, Indiana, who is best known for his efforts to open opportunities for black physicians to serve on the staffs of Indianapolis hospitals and for his community service. Middleton was born in Denmark, South Carolina, and received a bachelor of arts degree from Benedict College (1919) in Columbia, South Carolina. He attended two years of medical school at Boston University before transferring to Meharry Medical College, in Nashville, Tennessee, where he received a medical degree (M.D.) in 1926. Middleton took short courses for additional training at Harvard University; the University of London, England; the University of Michigan; Indiana University; and Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. In 1928 Middleton moved to Anderson, Indiana, where he joined the staff of Saint Johns Hospital. Around 1935 he relocated to Indianapolis, established a private medical practice, and volunteered at Indianapolis General (City) Hospital's outpatient heart clinic. Middleton was accepted as a member of City Hospital staff in 1942 and joined the staffs at other Indianapolis hospitals. Middleton wrote several articles relating to cardiology that appear in state and national medical journals. He was a member of the American Medical Association, the National Medical Association, the American Heart Association, the Indiana State Medical Association, the Hoosier State Medical Society, and others.

The Propylaeum

The Propylaeum, also known as the John W. Schmidt House or as the Schmidt-Schaf House, is a historic home and carriage house located at 1410 North Delaware Street in Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana. The Propylaeum was named after the Greek word "propýlaion," meaning "gateway to higher culture." The property became the headquarters for the Indianapolis Woman's Club in 1923, as well as the host for several other social and cultural organizations. It was initially built in 1890-1891 as a private residence for John William Schmidt, president of the Indianapolis Brewing Company, and his family. Joseph C. Schaf, president of the American Brewing Company of Indianapolis, and his family were subsequent owners of the home.

Gayle Thornbrough was born in Hendricks County, Indiana, and grew up in Indianapolis. She joined the Indiana Historical Society in 1937 and served as its director of publications and library, an editor of historical documents, and its first executive secretary until her retirement in 1984. In addition to her work at the IHS, Thornbrough was involved in historical editing projects for the Indiana Historical Bureau from 1947 to 1966 and spent twenty months in 1967–1968 as a manuscript specialist at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Thornbrough is best known for her contributions to editing historical documents. She is named as the editor of nearly twenty publications, the most notable include The Old Northwest: Pioneer Period, 1815–1840, a Pulitzer Prize winner by R. Carlyle Buley; Journals of the General Assembly of Indiana Territory, 1805–1815; Indiana Election Returns, 1816–1851; three volumes in the governors of Indiana series ; and The Diary of Calvin Fletcher, among others. The Indiana Magazine of History's annual Thornbrough award and Indiana Association of Historians' annual fall lecture are named in honor of Thornbrough and her sister, Emma Lou.

William Fortune was a wealthy American businessman, journalist, and civic leader who was a prominent figure in the development of Indianapolis, Indiana, for more than five decades. Fortune is best known for his support of paved city and state roads as part of the Good Roads Movement and leading a thirty-year effort to elevate railroad tracks in Indianapolis, in addition to leadership in several civic organizations. In 1890 he helped establish the Commercial Club, the forerunner to the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce; in 1916 he was a founder of the Indianapolis chapter of the American Red Cross; and in 1918 he led a local War Chest fundraising effort, which was a forerunner to the city's present-day United Way campaigns. In 1920 Fortune purchased the home where Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley once lived in Indianapolis in order to preserve it. Fortune retained the property, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, until the nonprofit James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Association was formed in 1922. Fortune also acquired and donated a 30-acre (12-hectare) site in Indianapolis in 1930 for a U.S. Veterans Health Administration hospital that was completed in 1931.


  1. Beck, Bill."Indiana historical society: oldest state historical society west of Allegheny Mountains celebrates 175 years." Indiana Business Magazine December 1, 2005
  2. "Church lifts golden dome" Indianapolis Star, December 28, 2007
  3. Bodenhamer, David. The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis p.739, 740
  4. 1 2 3 Bodenhamer 739
  5. 1 2 Beck
  6. The Clements Library Associates, 1995, p.4
  7. 1 2 Bodenhamer 740
  8. "Indiana Historical Society names CEO to replace retiring Herbst". Retrieved 2019-01-20.
  9. "Indiana Historical Society Names New President and CEO" . Retrieved 2019-01-20.
  10. "Our Collections". Indiana Historical Society. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  11. O'Shaughnessy, Brendan. "Ballard says crime will be top priority", Indianapolis Star, January 2, 2008