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Social Topics in Indiana Past & Present – Free Books and Articles

This webpage has links to free books and articles on social topics in Indiana past and present. Topics include:

  • Rural & Farm Life
  • Underground Railroad
  • African Americans
  • Women
  • Owenite communities
  • Charitable institutions
  • Ethnic group history
  • Pioneer life

“Indiana Emigrants to Liberia”

The Indiana Historian March 2000

Anthrop, Mary, ed.
Indiana Historical Bureau

16-page article by Indiana’s state historical bureau on Indiana’s efforts in the first half of the 19th century to remove black residents of the state by settling them in Africa, then termed “colonization”. Includes information on 19th century legal discrimination in Indiana and the American Colonization Society. Also a bibliography (including internet resources) and a list of known Indiana emigrants to Liberia.

“A Full Supply of the Necessaries and Comforts of Life”: The Owenite Community of Blue Spring, Indiana

Indiana Magazine of History Vol. 107, Issue 3. 2011, pp 235-249

Bakken, Dawn E.
Bloomington: Indiana University

This article is more valuable for its explanation of the American Owenite movement than for its sparse description of the short-lived experiment at Blue Spring, near Bloomington. The Constitution of the Blue Lick community is completely reproduced here.

See also: Podmore, Frank, Robert Owen in Century Past Biographies: M, N & O

Education and Reform at New Harmony: Correspondence of William Maclure and Marie Duclos Fretageot, 1820-1833

Bestor, Arthur E.
Indianapolis. Indiana Historical Society 1948

“[William] MacLure was the principal associate of Robert Owen in the social and educational experiment of the middle 1820’s [i.e. New Harmony], and was himself the prime mover in making the community by the Wabash the greatest center in its day of scientific research and publication in the West. The letters that passed between him and his trusted adviser and deputy, Madame Fretageot, or a period of nearly fifteen years constitute the only continuous contemporary record of the genesis, culmination, and dissolution of Owen’s social experiment and of the steadier advance of the scientific and educational programs connected with it.” – from the Editor’s Preface. Chapter headings are:

-William MacLure and the New Harmony Experiment -MacLure and Owen join forces. 1820-1825 -The New Harmony Kaleidoscope. January – September 1826 -Owen and MacLure reach an open break. October 1826 – May 1827 -Epilogue

We Ask Only a Fair Trial: A History of the Black Community of Evansville, Indiana

Bigham, Darrel E.
Indiana University 1987

“Despite its growth as an industrial center, Evansville remained heavily influenced by the virulent racism of its antebellum past. Bigham traces the development of a black community, focusing on the origin and nature of the obstacles to equal opportunity. He reveals, however, that black Evansvillians built a richly variegated subculture, relying heavily on their own resources, and occasional assistance from sympathetic whites. ” – Publisher

The Development of Public Charities and Correction in Indiana

Board of State Charities
Jefferson, IN: Indiana Reformatory Printing Trade School 1910

Chapters: The Board of State Charities, The Development of Charities and Correction, The State Institutions, Legislation, Child Saving Work, The Truancy Law, The Insane, The Feeble-minded, The Epileptic, Prisons and Prisoners, County Charities, Township Charities, State Conference of Charities and Correction

Our Towns: Remembering Community in Indiana

Bodnar, John E.
Indiana Historical Society 2001

“Based upon a series of interviews conducted for more than twenty years by the Oral History Research Center at Indiana University. The center interviewed residents in six Indiana towns – Paoli, Evansville, Indianapolis, Anderson, South Bend, and Whiting. The book is an illustrated and interpretive history of Indiana in the twentieth century told and remembered by people who lived in the nineteenth state. Our Towns contains discussions of a wide assortment of issues that have been crucial to the history of the state and its people since 1900: family, community relations, economic change, migration from Kentucky and Tennessee, emigration from Europe, race relations, industrial expansion (especially in the auto industry), rural life, the impact of new cultural forms such as television, changing notions of religion, and much more.” – Publisher

Plain Talk

Burke, Carol, ed.
West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University 1983

“This is a collection of reminiscences and stories gathered in tape-recorded interviews with residents of north-central Indiana, most of whom farm or belong to families who have farmed the black soil of White, Jasper, and Benton counties. Longtime residents of communities like Wolcott, Remington, Reynolds, Chalmers, Brookston, and Monon shared with us stories of little money and much work, of school pranks, of chivarees, of dates on bobsleds, of their childhoods and their adult working lives.” – Author’s introduction

History of the Underground Railroad as it was Conducted by the Anti-slavery League

Including many thrilling encounters between those aiding the slaves to escape and those trying to recapture them

Cockrum, William M., Col.
Oakland City, IN: Cockrum 1915

This is a book of true stories from the 1850s that include some incidents in which the author personally participated as a young man. The book describes the work of people in the Anti-Slavery League who operated south of the Indiana border to contact slaves on plantations and effect their initial escapes, connecting them to other members of the organization who would pass them along the underground railroad to Canada. The book also describes the activities of slave hunters in Indiana who, greatly encouraged by the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, hunted both escaped slaves and free African Americans, returning both to the slave south. The Anti-Slavery League operated against these gangs.

For biographies of people in the American abolition movement, see:
Swift, Lindsay, William Lloyd Garrison in Century Past Biographies: G & H
;
Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe in Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History;
Coffin, Levi, Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the Reputed President of the Underground Railroad in Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History;
Washington, Booker Taliaferro, Frederick Douglass in Century Past Biographies: D, E & F; and
Haviland, Laura S. , A Woman’s Life-Work in Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History

“Frances Wright’s Experiment with Negro Emancipation”

Indiana Magazine of History Vol. 35 no. 2 (June 1939): 141-157

Elliot, Helen
Bloomington: Indiana University

Frances Wright (1795-1852) first visited the U.S. from her home in England in 1818 and published in London a successful and admiring account in 1821 called Views on Society and Manners in America. After a close association in England with various reformers, she returned to the U.S. in 1824 and traveled for a time with the group accompanying the Marquis de Lafayette, who had participated in the American Revolution. On this visit she investigated slavery, meeting with both abolitionists and slave-owners, and also spent time at New Harmony, IN. In 1825 to 1826, with the assistance of George Flower from the English settlement at Albion, IL, Wright planned and implemented an experimental system for emancipating slaves at an estate she called Nashoba.

The Jewish Community of Indianapolis, 1849 to the Present

Endelman, Judith E.
Indiana University 1984

“To understand the American Jewish experience, scholars are beginning to look beyond New York City—site of the first, largest, and most studied American Jewish community— to the dozens of medium-sized cities, the regional centers of the West, South, and Midwest. Judith Endelman’s study of the Jewish community of Indianapolis reveals striking parallels with the development of other Jewish communities founded during the first half of the nineteenth century in places like Columbus, Louisville, Atlanta, and San Francisco.” – Publisher

Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves: Indiana Narratives

Federal Writers Project
Washington: Work Projects Administration 1941

This book contains accounts of interviews carried out from 1936 to 1938 with approximately 60 former slaves living in Indiana. Note that other volumes of oral interviews were also prepared in other states as part of this Federal Writers Project.

German Settlers and German Settlements in Indiana: A Memorial for the State Centennial, 1916

Fritsch, William A.
Evansville, IN: 1915

The author explained in the Preface of this small book that he was a German by birth and education, and had been a citizen of Indiana for over 50 years during which he had traveled widely around the state. He wrote that, “He believes that over half the population of the state are either German or of German descent and feels that they have not received due credit for their share in the development of the state. For many years he has devoted his leisure hours to the task of gathering facts and data regarding the Germans as a factor in the upbuilding of the state…” Chapter headings are:

-The Early Settlers of Indiana -New Harmony a German Settlement -Other Immigrants -Germans in the Civil War -After the Civil War -German Industry and Public Institutions -Pioneers in the Learned Profession -German-American Alliance of Indiana

Some suggested works for genealogy research in Indiana: Genealogy & Local History – Indiana

“A Letter of 1832”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 25, Issue 3, September 1929, pp 242-245

Fussell, Martha
Bloomington: Indiana University

Martha Fussell had recently arrived at Pendleton, on the Indiana frontier, when she wrote this letter home to her husband’s parents.

The Irish

Giffin, William Wayne
Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society 2006

A volume from the “Peopling Indiana” series. “The history of the Irish in Indiana is intricately woven into the fabric of the state’s history. The Irish first arrived in Indiana along with the fur traders in the 1700s. In the 1800s many Irish immigrants struggled to create new lives as they built Indiana’s early canals, roads, and railroads. As Indiana progressed, so did the Irish. Today, Hoosiers of Irish origin can be found in all facets of Indiana society from business and medicine to law and politics. From humble beginnings, Indiana’s Irish have become an integral part of the state’s tapestry while continuing to celebrate their Celtic past.”

Prairie Farms and Prairie Folk

– Volume 2

Gillmore, Parker
London: Hurst and Blackett 1872

These two volumes appear to be reminiscences of the author – mainly of his youth in southern Indiana and Illinois. There are numerous anecdotes that portray life in pioneer days.

Fleeing for Freedom: Stories of the Underground Railroad as Told by Levi Coffin and William Still

Hendrick, Willene and Hendrick George, eds.
Ivan R. Dee 2003

“Includes selected narratives from the two most important contemporary chroniclers of the Underground Railroad, Levi Coffin and William Still. Here are firsthand descriptions of the experiences of escaped slaves making their way to freedom in the North and in Canada in the years before the Civil War. George and Willene Hendrick have chosen a broad range of stories to reflect the strategies, tactics, heartbreak, and dangers—for both the slaves and the “conductors”—of the secret network.” – Publisher

When the Truth is Told: A History of Black Women’s Culture and Community in Indiana, 1875-1950

Hine, Darlene Clark
National Council of Negro Women, Indianapolis Section 1981

“The Coming of the English to Indiana in 1817 and Their Hoosier Neighbors”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 15, Issue 2, 1919, pp 89-178

Iglehart, John E.
Bloomington, IN: Indiana University

Hugging the Heartland: Prideful Essays About the Place and the People

Jacobs, Harvey C.
Highlander 1990

“All of the magnificent common sense and innate sophistication of the true Hoosier is to be found magnified in this charming collection of columns and memories of Harvey Jacobs, a true journalistic raconteur. In an often-alienated world, his rich words carry one back to the true life and humanity of America.” – Publisher

“A Forgotten Feminist: The Early Writings of Ida Husted Harper, 1878–1894”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 73, Issue 2, June 1977, pp 79-101

Jones, Nancy Baker
Bloomington: Indiana University

“Ohioans in Northern Indiana before 1850”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 49, Issue 4, December 1953, pp 391-404

Lang, Elfrieda
Bloomington: Indiana University

The New Harmony Movement

Lockwood, George B.
NY: Appleton 1905

A somewhat academic history of the movement. Chapter headings are:

-New Harmony’s Place in History -The Rise of the Rappites -The Rappites in Indiana -The Rappite Hegira -Robert Owen and the Industrial Revolution -Agitation in England -The New Moral World -The Founding of New Harmony -The Preliminary Society -“The Half-way House” -The “Permanent Community” -The Social System on Trial -The Duke of Saxe-Weimar at New Harmony -Two Views of New Harmony -Community Progress -Community Disintegration -Robert Owen’s Farewell Addresses -The Ten Lost Tribes of Communism -Woman at New Harmony -The Educational Experiment -Josiah Warren -Robert Owen’s Later Life -New Harmony’s Later History -The MacLure Library Movement -Robert Dale Owen -Appendix: Sources

See also: Podmore, Frank, Robert Owen in Century Past Biographies: M, N & O

“The Flow of Colonists To and From Indiana Before the Civil War”

Indiana Magazine of History Vol. 11, No. 1 (March 1915) pp 1-7.

Lynch, William O.
Bloomington: Indiana University

The author was a professor of American history at Indiana State Normal School. In this brief article Professor Lynch drew upon the censuses of 1850 and 1860 to describe the origins of Indiana residents before 1850, and show how migration patterns into Indiana were changing in the 1850s.

The Diaries of Donald Macdonald, 1824-1826

Macdonald, Donald
Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society 1942

This book contains the journals of two visits by Captain Donald Macdonald to the U.S. from his home in Ireland, in 1824-25 and 1825-26. Both journals contain accounts of his visits to New Harmony, IN.

A Lynching in the Heartland: Race and Memory in America

Madison, James H.
NY: Palgrave 2001

“On a hot summer night in 1930, three black teenagers accused of murdering a young white man and raping his girlfriend waited for justice in an Indiana jail. A mob dragged them from the jail and lynched two of them. No one in Marion, Indiana was ever punished for the murders. In this gripping account, James H. Madison refutes the popular perception that lynching was confined to the South, and clarifies 20th century America’s painful encounters with race, justice, and memory.” Publisher

A Public Charity: Religion and Social Welfare in Indianapolis, 1929-2002

Mapes, Mary L.
Indiana University 2004

“Arising out of the Indianapolis Polis Center’s Lilly-sponsored study of religion and urban culture, the book looks at three issues: the role of religious social services within Indianapolis’s larger social welfare support system, both public and private; the evolution of the relationship between public and private welfare sectors; and how ideas about citizenship mediated the delivery of social services. Noting that religious nonprofits do not figure prominently in most studies of welfare, Mapes explores the historical roots of the relationship between religiously affiliated social welfare and public agencies.” – Publisher

History of the Regulators of Northern Indiana

Mott, M.H.
Indianapolis: Indianapolis Journal 1859

Soon after the sale of public lands in northern Indiana began in 1835 and 1836, that country began to be particularly infested with horse thieves, blacklegs, etc. Their operations extended into southern Michigan because they, of course, knew no state bounds. The inhabitants suffered so much from their depredations that the State Legislature passed on March 9, 1852, an Act authorizing the formation of companies for the detection and apprehension of horse thieves andother felons, and defining their powers. These groups were known as regulators. The first group, known as the LaGrange County Rangers, was organized September 20, 1856. Other groups organized rapidly and effectively cleared the country of these ‘nefarious operators’.

Bean Blossom Dreams: A City Family’s Search for a Simple Country Life. An Adventure in the American Heartland

Murphey, Sallyann J.
Hearst 1994

A journalist, her husband and 5-year old daughter trade the confines of their Chicago home for a 22-acre farm in Brown County.

“Pioneer Life” Paper 1

– Paper 2

– Paper 3

– Paper 4

Indiana Magazine of History Vol. 3, Issue 1 pp 1-11, Mar 1907; Volume 3, Issue 2 pp 51-57, June 1907; Vol 3, Issue 3, pp 125-131 Sep 1907; Vol 3, Issue 4, pp 182-188 Dec 1907

Parker, Benjamin S.
Bloomington: Indiana University

This article, issued in four installments, was written from manuscript material that the author was working into a book on the history of Henry County, IN. Topics covered include:

Paper No. 1: Early Manners and Customs: The Ruffian Element; Early Fighting and Rude Amusements – Cooperative Tasks and Social Accompaniments; House-raising, Logrolling, etc.; Pastimes; Pioneer Feasts; Dances and Play-Parties of the Young People.

Paper No. 2. The Old-Time Singing Schools; “Missouri Harmony” and other Singing Books, Debating Clubs, Literary Societies and other Amusements, Winter Sport, Religious Life and its social Side.

Paper No. 3. Early Credit System and Scarcity of Money, The Backwoods Cabin and its Construction, Improvement; the Hewed log house, Capacity of the “Hoosier’s Nest”, Household Equipment, Culinary Utensils, the Fireplace; “Reflector” and “Dutch Oven”, Home-made Woodenware, the Gourd, furniture, the Loom and the Spinning-Wheel.

-Paper No. 4, Clothing of the Pioneers; the Deerskin and Its Uses; Picturesque Costumes–Home-made Fabrics: Linsey and Jeans–Dye-stuffs Used: Butternut, Walnut and Indigo–The Styles of Garments–Pioneer Finery; Ladies and Gentlemen of the Old School–The Quaker Costumes–Footwear; the Introduction of the Boot–The Surtout, Cloak and Shawl–A Traveling Outfit–Superstitions.

Related books are at: Making Cloth and Clothing on the Frontier

The Land, The People

Peden, Rachel
NY: Knopf 1966

“The Land, the People pays tribute to the American family farm and the people whose daily lives are tied to the soil. Rachel Peden once wrote of this book, “I wanted the land to be the main character, and to write about the family farm, its change, survival, character, and of people’s love of the land and need of it as a basic human hunger.” Lovingly recreating the story of a family living with the land, Peden breathes life into an abandoned farmhouse where children, long-since grown, once played in the dooryard. This is a very personal book, for author and reader alike, rich in the author’s sensibility and craft.” – Publisher

The Underground Railroad in Floyd County, Indiana

Peters, Pamela R.
McFarland 2001

“Floyd County, Indiana, and its county seat, New Albany, are located directly across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville was a major slave-trade center, and Indiana was a free state. Many slaves fled to Floyd County via the Underground Railroad, but their fight for freedom did not end once they reached Indiana. Sufficient information on slaves coming to and through this important area may be found in court records, newspaper stories, oral history accounts, and other materials that a full and fascinating history is possible, one detailing the struggles that runaway slaves faced in Floyd County, such as local, state, and federal laws working together to keep them from advancing socially, politically, and economically. This work also discusses the attitudes, people, and places that help in explaining the successes and heartaches of escaping slaves in Floyd County. Included are a number of freedom and manumission papers, which provided court certification of the freedom of former slaves.” – Publisher

“Hoosier Origins: The Nativity of Indiana’s United States–Born Population in 1850”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 81, Issue 3, September 1985, pp 201-232

Rose, Gregory S.
Bloomington: Indiana University

This is mostly a demographic study, using censuses, of the state or country of origin of Indiana residents by county.

“Indiana State Aid for Negro Deportation”

Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association Vol IX, 1915-18, 414-21

Sherwood, Henry Noble
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association

Beginning in 1831 no slave or freedman was allowed to settle in Indiana unless he gave a $500 bond, signed by a white man, for his good behavior. The state constitution of 1850 went further, prohibiting negroes and mulattos from settling in Indiana, and imposing fines up to $500 for anyone encouraging them to do so. After ratification of the Constitution there began a movement among the churches as well as the state government to deport to Africa any freedmen already in Indiana. This paper describes the history of that movement.

“The Bicycle Boom and the Bicycle Bloc: Cycling and Politics in the 1890s”

Indiana Magazine of History Vol 104, Issue 3, 2008, pp213-240

Taylor, Michael
Bloomington: Indiana University

Women in Industry

Trent, Ray S.
Bloomington: Indiana University 1918

The author was a professor of Economics and Sociology in Indiana University. The study applies to working women nation-wide, but one of the author’s stated goals was to influence applicable laws in Indiana.

“Home Life in Early Indiana” Part 1

– Part 2

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 133-161, 1914; Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 284-320, 1914

Vogel, William F.
Bloomington: Indiana University

Chapter and section titles for both parts of this article are:

Chapter 1. The Home
-Location of the House -The Half-Faced Camp -Cabin of the Earlier Period -House of the Later Period -Furniture and Fireplace Equipment -Method of Cooking -Articles of Food -Homemade Utensils -Lighting of the House -The Problem of Clothing

Chapter 2. Occupations
-Wild Game and Hunting -Bee Hunting -Clearing the Forest -Domestic Animals -Farm Implements -Crops -The Harvest Season -Hunting Ginseng -Sugar Making -Difficulty in Obtaining Salt -Flatboats -Stores and Trade -Pioneer Mills -Roads and Travel -Old Time Taverns

Chapter 3. Sickness and Physicians
-Prevalence of Sickness -Hard Lot of the Sick -Ague and Fever -Doctors and Methods of Treatment -Milk-Sickness and Cholera -Spells and Charms

Chapter 4. Churches and Preachers
-Early Catholic Missionaries -Early Protestant Preachers -Family Worship -Church Buildings -The Camp Meeting -Denominations

Chapter 5. Teachers and Schools
-Education under the French -Interest of Indiana in Education -Home Schools -A Pioneer Schoolhouse -Early Teachers -Books and Methods of Instruction -Loud Schools -Barring the Teacher Out -Hardships of Pioneer School Children -Real Education of the Early Hoosiers

Chapter 6. Social Life
-Log Rolling -Huskings -Quilting Bee -The Shooting Match -Goose Pulling -Dancing -Social Games -Sleigh Rides -The Spelling School -Singing Schools -Debating Societies -Weddings -The Infare -Training Day -Circus Day

“A Station of the Underground Railroad”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 7, Issue 2, June 1911, pp 64-76

Waldrip, W. D.
Bloomington: Indiana University

The story of the “Union Depot” of the Underground Railroad in Newport, IN, in Wayne county. The author claims this was the most famous depot on the railroad.

“Local Life and Color in The New Purchase”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 215-233, 1913

Woodburn, James Albert
Bloomington: Indiana University

This entertaining paper was an address by Professor Woodburn, from Indiana University, to the History Society of Wabash College. It describes life among settlers in the “New Purchase” region of Indiana in the 1820s, just after it was opened to settlement.

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