It was delayed for a year (thanks, COVID), but the new book is finally coming! Indianapolis: An Illustrated Timeline will hit bookstores September 15. Watch this space for info on upcoming book signings and other events. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at the cover, as well as a brief description.
Indianapolis didn’t yet exist when the Indiana legislature chose it as the new state capital in 1821. The city was purpose-built, emerging from a wilderness of swamplands and forests to become the Crossroads of America. Indianapolis: An Illustrated Timeline traces the city’s history from the Ice Age to the present, focusing on the people and events that shaped the Circle City. Early settlers overcame illness, isolation, and the Great Squirrel Invasion of 1822. But the arrival of the railroads in 1847 finally transformed Indy from a sleepy backwater to a Midwest boom town. In the 1870s, suffragette May Wright Sewall laid the groundwork for the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Lyman S. Ayres invested in a downtown department store, and Civil War veteran Eli Lilly opened a pharmacy on Pearl Street. By the turn of the century, Indianapolis was a thriving cultural and commercial center, and the cycling craze of the 1890s had paved the way for a thriving automotive industry. Indianapolis: An Illustrated Timeline tells some dark stories—the massacre of Native Americans in 1824, for example, and the dominance of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. But it also highlights success stories such as Madam C. J. Walker, the nation’s first self-made female millionaire; jazz legend Wes Montgomery; and Nellie Simmons Meier, palm reader to the stars. And it traces the trajectory of revitalization strategies such as Unigov and the push to position Indianapolis as a global sports capital. Richly illustrated with maps, paintings, and historic photographs, this essential book celebrates 200 years of the Circle City story.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put many things on hold, among them the publication of Indianapolis: An Illustrated Timeline. The book has been delayed until spring so we can celebrate its publication properly with signings, presentations, and other events. I can’t wait for you to see it.
In the meantime, here’s a snippet from the early years:
1823 | Indy’s First Theatrical Performance
As New Year’s Eve approached in 1823, Indianapolis residents had something special to look forward to: the town’s first theatrical performance. Mr. and Mrs. Smith, an elderly couple “late from the New York theater,” advertised that they would perform several short plays. In addition, Mrs. Smith would sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” while dancing a hornpipe, blindfolded, amongst eggs.[i]
The performance was held in the Rosebush Tavern owned by Thomas Carter, a religious man who insisted on solemn music. “This restriction, considering the nature of the performances and the character of the players, was so extremely ludicrous that the audience was convulsed with laughter during the whole evening,” one historian wrote.[ii] Calvin Fletcher later wrote in his journal, “I apologized to myself for going.”[iii]
In honor of the city’s upcoming bicentennial, my next book is all about Indy history. (Can you believe Washington Street ever looked like this?) It’s called Indianapolis: An Illustrated History, and it’s coming this September from Reedy Press.
Here’s a quick description of the book:
“Two hundred years ago, Indianapolis was carved out of a forest in the middle of nowhere—a planned capital city at the geographic center of a new state. The first few decades were marked by economic isolation, squirrel invasions, and a canal project that bankrupted the state. But the arrival of railroads in 1847 transformed Indianapolis into an economic powerhouse. And this “Crossroads of America” has been growing, transforming, and reinventing itself ever since.
“This book tells the Indianapolis story from prehistoric times to the present day, exploring its Native American heritage, its rich automotive history, and its most beloved restaurants, sports teams, and cultural institutions. The timeline includes terrible disasters and crimes, but it also celebrates the city’s unsung heroes and the rich cultural diversity inherent to a city of immigrants. At its core this is a story about people, from humble pioneers to US presidents—not to mention a celebrity palm reader, a vaudeville mayor, a wide array of writers, and the nation’s first self-made female millionaire. It’s all right here at the heart of the Hoosier state.”
I’ve been having a blast researching this book, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
I also appeared on the mid-day news last Friday, but I can’t seem to find that clip. Meanwhile, the Daily Reporter in Greenfield also featured the book last week. You can read the full article here: “A Bucket List of Indy Fun”
The official launch party for “100 Things to Do in Indianapolis Before You Die” is happening Friday, Oct. 12, at New Day Craft in Fountain Square! Stop by from 7pm to 9pm for Indy-themed trivia/prizes and get your book signed! While you’re there, you may as well try a tasting flight of New Day’s meads or hard ciders. (I’m partial to the South Cider.) Hope to see you there!
Other upcoming events include:
Sunday, Oct. 7 – Signing at Costco (Castleton), 1-3pm
Saturday, Oct. 13 – Signing at Goose the Market, 1-3pm
Y’all, I’m so excited to officially launch the second edition of 100 Things Indy, now available wherever books are sold! The mini book tour kicked off this morning with an appearance on Fox59. (Here’s the link in case you missed it.) Check back soon for a complete list of signings, presentations and other events!
A brand new edition of 100 Things is coming this fall! It’s been three years since the first edition hit the shelves, and writing this second edition made me realize how much has changed. In the end, seventy of the entries had to be updated, overhauled, or simply replaced. This is a whole new book for a whole new city, and I can’t wait to share it!
Travel + Leisure has dubbed Indianapolis “America’s next big destination” for 2017, and with good reason. It’s hard to keep up with everything that’s happening here, including new restaurants and hotels.
With that in mind, here are five fresh ideas for Indianapolis activities in 2017:
See a burlesque show at the White Rabbit Cabaret in the trendy Fountain Square neighborhood. These tongue-in-cheek, body-positive shows are perfect for a girls’ night out.
Book a private karaoke room at Punch Bowl Social, which recently opened downtown. Not a crooner? Go bowling or play the vintage arcade games instead.
You love watching curling every four years during the Olympics. Why not try it yourself? The Circle City Curling Club offers clinics ($30 per person) that nearly always sell out, so reservations are essential.
Cooking with kale. Composting with worms. Making your own knitting patterns. Navigating public records. These are just a few of the things you can learn at Trade School Indianapolis. The catch? Payment is via the bartering system. Your instructor might ask you to bring cooking spices, sheet music, bike parts, postage stamps or … well, pretty much anything.
Compete in the Linear Bocce World Championships, a game of bocce that rolls along block by block. Neckwear, such as a scarf or a tie, is mandatory because … well, just because.
What are your favorite new things to do in Indy? Add a suggestion in the comments!