Listen to Hoosier History Live! at 11:30 a.m. each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM. You also can listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast or you can join our new listening group at Bookmama's in Irvington to listen to, and discuss, the Saturday show.
April 17 show
1920s auto heritage in Indianapolis
With so much focus recently on the Detroit-based auto industry, does anyone remember that before the Great Depression of the 1930s, Indy almost rivaled Detroit as the car-making capital? During the Roaring '20s, three of the most elegant American cars were designed and manufactured in Indy: the Stutz, the Marmon and the Duesenberg.
Certainly our studio guest has not forgotten the Hoosier auto-making heyday. In this "encore" show, originally broadcast in February 2009, Nelson welcomes well-known entrepreneur Turner Woodard, a vintage-auto buff, historic preservationist and owner of what was once the Stutz Motor Company building in the 1100 block of North Capitol Avenue in Indianapolis. Today, the Stutz Business Center houses more than 120 artists, architects, photographers and small businesses.
Fasten your seat belts as we roar back to the days when the Stutz Bearcat, the Blackhawk and other Indy-designed autos were captivating aficionados across the land. Turner, a board member of Indiana Landmarks and a former race-car driver, joins Nelson to explore how the luxury-car boom took off in Indy – and why it sputtered out, leaving Detroit unrivaled as the auto hub. Note: Because this is an encore broadcast, there won’t be opportunities for call-in comments.
Some tidbits about Indy’s auto heritage:
- Early auto entrepreneur Harry Stutz moved from his native Ohio to Indianapolis in 1903 to be at the epicenter of the city that, according to the book Lost Indianapolis by John McDonald, seemed positioned to become "the headquarters of the automotive industry." Thrilled at the notion of a 500-mile race, Stutz frantically built a race car in only five weeks for the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911. The Stutz car finished 11th, but that was considered a triumph because nearly half of the field dropped out during the grueling competition, which took seven hours to complete. For several years, the Stutz was advertised as "The Car That Made Good in A Day."
- The inaugural 500 was won by a Marmon car – a Marmon Wasp, to be precise. (Its average speed during the raced was 74 mph.) According to The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, about 22,000 Marmons with 8-cylinder engines were built in the Hoosier capital and sold in 1929. "Marmons were always an elegant and well-engineered machine, widely admired but never built in large numbers."
- Fred and August Duesenberg moved to Indy from New Jersey for many of the same reasons that brought Stutz to the city. The Model J Duesenbergs built for five years (1929-34) are regarded by some experts as among the most splendid cars ever produced, but their cost was exorbitant. Depending on the model and design, a Duesenberg sold for nearly $20,000 in 1929.
Buyers of the luxurious Stutz, Marmon and Duesenberg cars, according to the encyclopedia, "were people who regarded their automobiles the way they did their yachts, as exotic playthings." The Great Depression was among the factors that spelled doom. Turner and Nelson explore other factors, including the fact that many of the Indy-made cars were custom-assembled to buyers' specifications (Henry Ford is generally credited for having the genius to create assembly line production in Detroit), as well as the easy access in Michigan to the Great Lakes for shipping convenience.
Nelson also asks Turner about his collection of rare and exotic automobiles. Many of the Indy-made cars of the 1920s now are considered collectors' dream machines. And since the original broadcast of this show in 2009, Hoosier History Live! would also like to note that Turner also invested in Indianapolis heritage by buying the historic Canterbury Hotel in downtown Indianapolis in March of 2010.
History Mystery question
A Hoosier inventor born in 1857 is credited with creating one of the very first gasoline-powered cars in America. During a test run in 1894, the "horseless carriage" reached a top speed of about 7 miles per hour. To avoid scaring horses on city streets, the test run was conducted in a rural area near Kokomo, which was the inventor's adopted hometown. He built automobiles in Kokomo until the 1920s.
Question: Name the inventor.
Because this week's show is an "encore" presentation, you won't be able to call in with the answer. However, since Hoosier History Live! is now on Facebook, if you go to our page and sign up as a fan and are the first to put the correct answer on our Facebook page, we'll send you a pair of tickets to the Indiana Wine Fair on April 24 in Brown County! That might even be more fun than a drive around Howard County.
We're now on Facebook! Also, sponsor opportunities
You asked for it, you got it. Use Facebook to answer this week's History Mystery. Be the first and you'll win the prize!
We're also looking into adding a search feature to our website, as well as a "Contribute to the show" button.
Speaking of changes, the number of hits on the Hoosier History Live! website has been growing at a rate of 30 percent per month since January of this year. We have long anticipated that all media are going to the Internet. We offer several online sponsorship packages that include your logo and link on our website and in our e-newsletter.
Wouldn't it be nice if more of the shows were available for listening on our website? Sponsorships are available for putting more online audio (a.k.a. podcasts) of our shows onto the website.
We are determined to make this project a success, which means that it must be a fiscal success. People constantly tell us that they love the show, and they wish they could listen to more of the shows online. We need your help.
We are not running a pledge drive and asking for support for the rebroadcast of nationally produced programs; we are asking for support for our own program, Hoosier History Live!
In our shows and in our website and newsletter, history comes alive. This is original Indiana history, created each week by historian and journalist Nelson Price. You can make it possible with your sponsorship dollars.
For details, call our producer, Molly Head, at the number below, or visit the "Support the show" page on our website. It gets far fewer hits than does our very well-trafficked "Archives" page, believe it or not!
Your friends in Hoosierdom,
Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Richard Sullivan, tech and web director
Garry Chilluffo, online editor
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Acknowledgments to Scott Keller Fine Art and Antiques Appraisals, Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities Council, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Drew Pastorek and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through sponsorships and through individual tax-deductible contributions through the Indiana Humanities Council. Visit our website to learn more.
April 24 show
KKK stranglehold in the 1920s
Hoosier History Live! is dedicated to covering all aspects of Indiana's past, including those we wish had not happened. Certainly the political and cultural dominance of the notorious Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s falls into the category of shameful. To explore what happened and why, Nelson will be joined in studio by Allen Safianow of Kokomo, a professor emeritus at IU-Kokomo who has done extensive research on the KKK in Indiana.
The central figure during the 1920s heyday of the hate group was the flamboyant D.C. Stephenson (1891-1966), who rose to become Grand Dragon. Stephenson intimidated Indiana politicians, recruited large numbers of Hoosier members, and even boasted, "I am the law in Indiana." Stephenson's downfall (and the decline of the KKK's dominance in the state) came when he was arrested in the death of an Indianapolis woman whom he had brutally raped. During a sensational trial in 1925, Stephenson was found guilt of second-degree murder. The trial was in Noblesville, which drew national attention again decades later when a local building contractor discovered Klan records and memorabilia dating back to the 1920s.
Professor Safianow has analyzed the impact of those records, which contained membership rolls of Hamilton County citizens, hoods and sashes. Professor Safianow also has analyzed the KKK's impact during the 1920s in other parts of the state, including Tipton and Kokomo, said to be the site in 1923 of the largest conclave (called a "Konclave") ever held in the United States.
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