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

Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. ET on WICR 88.7 FM.
And always online at hoosierhistorylive.org!

You can listen to Hoosier History Live! live on the air each Saturday, or listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast on any computer with speakers, anywhere, or on a smartphone. We invite you to visit our website!

June 2 show

Brain chemistry and genetics studies in mental illness, addictions

Charles Ferster and Joseph Zimmerman observe a pigeon at the Institute of Psychiatric Research, late 1950s. IPR began to follow up on experiments begun by B.F. Skinner at Indiana University-Bloomington. Image courtesy Hawthorne Press.Folks who don't regard Indiana as cutting edge may be surprised to learn that, beginning about 120 years ago, Hoosier researchers were pioneers in brain studies to help the mentally ill.

The research, which eventually included the biological aspects of addictions, had its beginnings in a two-story, brick building known as the Pathology Department on the grounds of what was then called the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane (later Central State Hospital) on the near-westside of Indy. Today, the Pathology Department, which opened amid much fanfare in the 1890s, is the site of the Indiana Medical History Museum.

Studies that went on there - as well as subsequent lab work (including animal research that involved rats and pigeons) at the Institute of Psychiatric Researchat the IU Medical School - were at the forefront in establishing biological influences on depression, alcoholism and other mental health issues.

The idea for the studies, regarded as "state of the art in brain science of the time," according to two psychiatrists who will join Nelson in studio, was to "use the best in science to improve the condition of the mentally ill in Indiana."

This 1895 sign is near the front door of the Indiana Medical History Museum, formerly the Pathology Department of Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane.Nelson's guests will be Dr. Lucy Jane King and Dr. Alan Schmetzer, professors emeriti of psychiatry at the IU School of Medicine. They are co-authors of a new book, Dr. Edenharter's Dream (Hawthorne Publishing), which describes the decades of historic research in brain chemistry and genetics that unfolded in the Hoosier capital.

It began, our guests note, during an era when psychiatric hospitals were derided as "insane asylums"; mental illnesses often were attributed solely to bad parenting and other "nurture" factors.

Dr. Alan Schmetzer.Our guests credit Dr. George Edenharter (1857-1923), who oversaw the opening of the Pathology Department in 1896 as a house laboratory and teaching facility, with a "forward-thinking attitude" about the brain and genetics that kicked off decades of ground-breaking research.

Among the Hoosiers who were affected, during an era before antibiotics, were people suffering from syphilis and other disorders that involved infections of the brain and caused symptoms similar to those created by other conditions. Because symptoms of mental illness often improved if patients experienced fevers, some Hoosiers with syphilis and other disorders deliberately were infected with mild cases of malaria, according to Dr. Edenharter's Dream.

Dr. Lucy King.Decades later, studies with inbred rats - including some that preferred alcohol to other rewards - helped clarify various types of alcoholism in people, including binge drinking. Rat and pigeon research at the Institute for Psychiatric Research also clarified the impact of serotonin in mood disorders such as major depression, according to Dr. King and Dr. Schmetzer.

They trace the decades of brain and genetics research in Indiana to the studies undertaken at the Pathology Department, which had an autopsy room and labs equipped with low-level microscopes in the early 1900s.

"This was state-of-the-art at the time," Dr. King said during a recent presentation at the Indiana Medical History Museum, 3045 W. Vermont St. In their book, Dr. King and Dr. Schmetzer describe the Pathology Department as "a national model visited by psychiatrists from around the country."

Dr. King noted the Pathology Department, because it was a teaching facility located on the grounds of the state hospital, "was the first place in the United States where all of the components of psychiatry came together - patients, education and research."

An auditorium in the Pathology Department-turned-Medical History Museum was used for lectures and demonstrations to medical students about the influences of brain chemistry and genetics on mental disorders.

"When it opened, the building housed the largest research facility in the state, even larger than the laboratories at Indianapolis City Hospital (later Wishard) or the medical colleges," according to Destination Indiana (Indiana Historical Society Press) by historian Ray Boomhower, a frequent Hoosier History  Live! guest.

Dr. Edenharter's Dream book cover.Our upcoming guests Dr. King and Dr. Schmetzer have had long, distinguished careers in psychiatry.

Dr. King has written about the early years of what became Central State Hospital - and the lives of patients there - in a previous book, From Under the Cloud at Seven Steeples. (At Central State, a long-demolished building that housed women patients was known as "Seven Steeples" because of its distinctive architecture.)

Dr. Schmetzer interacted with many of the psychiatric researchers of recent decades described in Dr. Edenharter's Dream. The book also recounts the impact of Larue Carter Memorial Hospital, a psychiatric hospital that opened in 1952, on Cold Spring Road, and the rat and pigeon studies undertaken in the 1950s and '60s at the nearby Institute of Psychiatric Research. (Larue Carter and the research institute were connected by an underground tunnel.)

During the era of the animal research, Dr. Edenharter had been dead for about 30 years. His funeral, Dr. King notes, was on the grounds of the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane, which was renamed Central State in 1927. It was closed in 1994.

Note: The guests for this live program had originally been scheduled to appear on May 5, but Hoosier History Live! was pre-empted that day.

History Mystery

An Indiana governor during the 1950s campaigned on a platform that included reforms of mental health treatment. A native of Brazil, Ind., he was a Republican who had been a trial lawyer. During World War II, the future governor participated in the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944, and became a personal friend of Dwight Eisenhower. Before serving as governor, he was national commander of the American Legion.

Question: Who was the Indiana governor?

To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show and be willing to be placed on the air. Please do not call if you have won a prize from any WICR show during the last two months. The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and please do not call until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air.

This week's prize is a pair of tickets to Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, courtesy of Conner Prairie, as well as a one-night stay at University Place Hotel on the IUPUI campus, courtesy of the ICVA.

Roadtripper: History on tap at Conner Prairie

With Roadtripper Chris Gahl of the ICVA spending some quality time with VIPs this weekend (his family!), we expect a guest Roadtripper to call in and suggest that we check out "History on Tap" at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park the evening of Friday, June 15.

In Conner Prairie’s 1836 Prairietown, children purchase goods from Whitaker’s Store with earned coins.The park's first-ever craft beer event is being hosted by Conner Prairie Horizon Council, the park's young professionals group. A highlight of the evening will include a short beer brewed on site by Conner Prairie's costumed staff in 1836 Prairietown.

But, backing up a bit, don't forget that the 1836 Prairietown Grand Reopening weekend celebration will be June 9 and 10, unveiling new experiences, adventures and structures, including a brand-new entry portal to help orient guests to what life was like in 1836.

Special activities for the weekend will include a land auction where guests can bid on and "purchase" their own piece of Prairietown. Guests will also be able to visit the new Barker Brothers' Pottery Shop and, for an additional fee, participate in a new make-and-take pottery activity. A party will also be held throughout the town that includes music, dancing, games and more. Puppet shows, participatory plays, crafts and even a few surprises are in store for visitors during the weekend celebration as well.

Don’t forget that the Allisonville Road bridge over I-465 on the northeast side of Indianapolis will be closed this summer, so be sure to check out the Conner Prairie website for an alternative route.

June 2 show

Nelson will be guest Saturday on Legally Speaking show

If you aren't already in the routine of tuning in to WICR-FM (88.7) before Hoosier History Live! on Saturday mornings, be certain to do so this Saturday, June 2, for Legally Speaking at 10 a.m. Our host Nelson Price will be the studio guest of our good friend and WICR colleague, attorney Charles Braun, the host of Legally Speaking. His show is the longest-running call-in legal advice program on the air in the country.

Just as with Hoosier History Live!, you can call in to Legally Speaking at (317) 788-3314.

Charles Braun II.Charles has invited Nelson to share insights about "The Art of Interviewing." A veteran journalist who was a feature writer/columnist for 20 years with The Indianapolis Star and its sister newspaper, the former Indianapolis News, Nelson has interviewed thousands of Hoosiers. He also has taught classes in interviewing - often titled "Making People Talk" - at the Writers' Center of Indiana (where he's a board member) and at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, where Nelson has shared interviewing tips for an array of people, from professionals in sales and marketing to volunteers putting together church, family and neighborhood histories.

When he joins Charles on Legally Speaking, Nelson plans to share his favorite (and least favorite) interview questions. He also plans to talk about how to handle sensitive issues, tips for getting people to elaborate in their responses, the best (and worst) interview settings, and the legal and ethical issues of taping interviews, including phone interviews.

Your Hoosier History Live! team,

Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Chris Gahl, Roadtripper
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director

Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant
Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, grant consultants
Joan Hostetler, photo historian
Dana Waddell, volunteer-at-large 


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Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Indianapolis Public Library, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Heritage Photo and Research Services, Derrick Lowhorn 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. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially.


June 9 show

Very first Hoosiers: ancient people here

Nearly 11,000 years ago, people lived in the dense, mature forests that centuries later became the site of the Hoosier state. Our studio guest is an expert on these ancient human beings, what they ate, how they lived, and the animals (some long gone from Indiana; others similar to, but different in size and shape from critters found here today) with whom the people shared the wilderness.

Dr. Christopher Schmidt (in red shirt at right) hosts community archaeology day in his University of Indianapolis lab. Image courtesy University of Indianapolis.Dr. Christopher Schmidt, a biological anthropologist and archaeologist who is one of the most popular faculty members at the University of Indianapolis, will join Nelson in studio to share insights about the people who merit being called "the very first Hoosiers."

Chris, a lifelong Hoosier who is director of the Indiana Prehistoric Laboratory at UIndy, has led excavations across the state and is credited with being a crucial part of the team that discovered the oldest known man-made tool (that can be accurately dated) in Indiana.

"These were not slow-witted cave people or aimless wanderers," Chris emphasizes. "They were hunter-gatherers who lived in groups of about 20 or 50 people. When they ventured out into foraging groups, they would often stay under natural, overhanging rock shelters. For a more extended basis, they lived in dwellings they built that were comparable to what we know as wigwams."

According to Chris, these first Hoosiers shared the dense forest with mastodons, giant beavers, musk ox (which have long been gone from Indiana, but can be found in Alaska today) and the peccary, a pig-like creature that was becoming extinct.

"Other animals here then would be recognizable today - white-tailed deer, bobcats, snakes, lizards and black bears," Chris says. By studying the teeth of ancient humans, Chris gains insights about their diet and the diseases they endured.

So how did these ancient people get to the future site of Indiana?

"Our best information indicates they came from the Bering Straits, then over a period of centuries, spread out," Chris says. "First, they traveled south to what became California, then some of the ancient people moved into the Midwest."

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