Hoosier History Live! with Nelson Price, Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on 88.7 FM, WICR in Indianapolis.

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 listening group at Bookmama's in Irvington to listen to, and discuss, the Saturday show. We invite you to visit our website!


July 24 show

Beer heritage in Indiana


Beer ad from 1914, featuring pretty woman. Courtesy New Albany Public Art Project.Did you know one of the country's largest brewers 100 years ago was in Terre Haute? Before Prohibition, a German immigrant section of the Hoosier city bustled as the setting of beer-makers. None was savored more than the Terre Haute Brewing Company, which was  located in a five-story complex that included a bottling plant and a stable that housed dozens of Clydesdale and Belgian horses. (The horses drew wagons that delivered the beer.)


Terre Haute-made Champagne Velvet became wildly popular with the World War II generation, with connoisseurs from coast to coast. Fort Wayne, Lafayette, New Albany and even tiny Aurora on the Ohio River also have rich beer-making heritages.


Thirsty for details? Nelson will be joined in studio by the writer recently dubbed "one of Indiana’s grand dames of beer" by The Indianapolis Star. Rita Kohn writes the "Beer Buzz" column in Nuvo newsweekly and is the author of a new book, True Brew (Indiana University Press), that explores all aspects of the Hoosier state's links to beer, present and past.


And the past goes way back. According to Rita's book, a brewery was built in LaPorte in 1831 – even though the town's streets weren't laid out until two years later. In the 1840s, a brewery in Aurora was so productive it exported beer to Germany. Even one of the most prominent residents of early Indianapolis, banker Calvin Fletcher, wrote diary entries about his occasional beer-making endeavors using local ingredients.


"Indiana has a 200-year-old tradition of brewing practiced by people whose beer heritage was part of their cultural, social and economic life as home-brewers and commercial brewers," Rita writes in True Brew.


According to her book, the monks at St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana started a brewery in 1860. Alas, their beer was so lousy the brewery closed the next year.


Rita Kohn, Bob Ostrander and Kris Arnold enjoying true brew.No such humiliation was suffered by several beer-makers in Terre Haute, Fort Wayne and other Indiana communities. In Fort Wayne, popular Berghoff Brewing got under way in 1887. Civic leaders in Terre Haute hoped that city, not Milwaukee, would emerge as America’s beer-making capital.


Prohibition, which began in 1918, changed the landscape in many ways. According to True Brew, when Prohibition ended in the 1930s only about half of the country's brewers reopened. The landscape changed again in the 1990s with the popularity of microbreweries and brew pubs, where beer is brewed and consumed on the premises.


Some fun facts:

  • "New Albany taverns emerged as a stopping place for travelers crossing the Ohio River," according to a website that celebrates the southern Indiana city's bicentennial this year. "The immigrations, in 1830 and 1850, of many Germans to the area directly contributed to the emergence of brewing in New Albany."
  • Book cover for "True Brew" by Rita Kohn.In addition to selling beer to Germany, the Great Crescent Brewery in Aurora supplied beer to the silver mines in Nevada during the late 1800s, according to True Brew.
  • Apparently the colony of Rappites who settled in New Harmony during the 1820s had a brewery, as well as two distilleries. "After all," Rita notes in her book, "it was to be a utopian society."

Our beer heritage - and Rita - will be featured in some upcoming events:

  • Saturday (July 24) at West Lafayette Public Library: A celebration begins at 1 p.m. with brewing demos. Rita will speak at 5 p.m. in a tribute to the late Bill Friday a West Lafayette reference librarian known as "Indiana's patron saint of home brewers."
  • July 28 at Bloomington Brewing Company: A celebration of True Brew, with signings by Rita, from 5 to 7 p.m.


History Mystery question


A former speakeasy is being reused in an unusual way in a scenic Indiana town on the Ohio River. During Prohibition, the two-story speakeasy was patronized by riverboat passengers. Today, the former speakeasy building is the home of a harp-making operation and gallery. Harps made there are sold all over the world - even to Ireland. The historic building, which is located on the town's Main Street, also is the setting for concerts involving harps, including Celtic music celebrations.


Question: Name the Indiana river town with a former speakeasy that's been turned into a harp-making operation.


The call-in number for the correct answer is (317) 788-3314, and the prize is a pair of tickets to the new Indiana Experience at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society.




Everett Greene, singer, with microphone.Stepping in this week for ever-busy Chris Gahl will be our Roadtripper-ess, Amy Lamb of the Indiana Historical Society.


Amy recommends that we Roadtrip down to weekly Concerts on the Canal on Thursday evenings through the end of August. The concert lineup includes a diverse selection of musical styles, from jazz, blues and Latin to cabaret and the Great American Songbook.


The IHS will also extend the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center's operating hours to 6 p.m. on concert nights. The new Indiana Experience includes a set of several interactive opportunities that connect visitors with the state's history in exciting and meaningful ways.


The home of the IHS is located at 450 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis along the Central Canal. And concerts are complimentary for those who bring chairs or blankets and sit on the east side of the canal!


Your friends in Hoosierdom,


Nelson Price, host and creative director

Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101

Chris Gahl, Roadtripper

Richard Sullivan, tech and web director    

Garry Chilluffo, consultant



Lucas OilIndiana Historical Society logo.

Barrington Jewels logo.The Fadely Trust. A fund of the Indianapolis Foundation.

Henry's Coffee Bistro logo.Story Inn

Broad Ripple Brewpub logo.

Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support:
Barrington Jewels, Broad Ripple Brewpub, Henry's Coffee Bistro on East, The Fadely Trust, Indiana Historical Society, Lucas Oil and Story Inn.


Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities Council, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Chelsea Niccum and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorships, grants and through individual tax-deductible contributions through the Indiana Humanities Council. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially.


July 31 show

Theater history in Indy with Howard Caldwell


The Rivoli Theater, pictured in the 1920s, was an eastside Indianapolis movie house for many years. Image courtesy Eastside.com.In 1934, an 8-year-old boy who lived in Irvington - and who would grow up to become one of the best-known TV news anchors in Indianapolis history - patronized a theater for the first time. It was Loew's Palace at 35 N. Pennsylvania, where young Howard Caldwell was captivated by a Laurel and Hardy movie, which was followed by a stage show starring bandleader-singer Ted Lewis.


Although Loew's Palace is long gone, its essence is re-captured in a new book by Howard, who became a familiar face - and often was described as "Indiana's Walter Cronkite" - during his long career at WRTV-Channel 6.


His book, The Golden Age of Indianapolis Theaters (IU Press), not only explores the city's majestic theaters, many of them bygone or renovated for other uses, it also analyzes the Hoosier capital's theater-going heritage.


Howard will join Nelson in studio to delve into the colorful history that kicked off in September 1858 when the Metropolitan, the city's first theater, opened its doors at 148 W. Washington St. (The Metropolitan later became known as the Park, then as the Capitol when it was a burlesque house as it declined before closing in the 1930s.)


The Lyric Theater in Indianapolis hosted notable performers for decades, including Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. This photo is from 1955.Almost from the start, there was controversy. Some shows at the Metropolitan featured dancing, which, as Howard points out, "was not tolerated by Methodists, Presbyterians or Baptists" during the 1850s.


And there's more. In the 1860s, famous actors who performed at "the Met" included none other than John Wilkes Booth. That's chilling, but details associated with other theaters evoke other emotions, as described in Howard's book.


The lavish English Theater and Opera House on Monument Circle (along with an ornate, adjoining hotel) became an Indy landmark for decades. In 1902, a production at the English of Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur featured "eight horses pulling two chariots on treadmills, powered by electricity," creating a sensation. Howard's book also features insights about the Lyric Theater, the Alhambra, the Circle Theatre, the Rivoli on East 10th Street - and, well, suffice it to say no stage-struck Hoosier will want to miss this show.

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