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Jan 20, 2018 - Upcoming

Indy wife of Treasure Island's Robert Louis Stevenson

Indianapolis native Fanny Vandegrift was born in 1840 into a prosperous family during the early years of the Hoosier capital.  She had left an unfaithful first husband when she met Stevenson at a dinner party in Paris during the 1870s; she later married Stevenson and is regarded by some historians as his literary muse.

Unlikely as it may seem, Scottish novelist, poet and essayist Robert Louis Stevenson - author of such classics as Treasure Island (1883) - married an Indianapolis native.

Fanny Vandegrift was more than 10 years older than Stevenson. Born in 1840 to a prosperous family during the early years of the Hoosier capital, she had left an unfaithful first husband (whom she later divorced) when she met Stevenson at a dinner party in Paris during the 1870s.

Stevenson, the author of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), wrote most of his best-known works after he met Fanny Vandegrift; some historians even regard her as his muse.

Indianapolis historian Sharon Butsch Freeland, who has researched and written about Fanny Vandegrift's colorful life, will be Nelson’s studio guest.

Fanny's father, a prosperous lumber dealer in Indianapolis, was a close friend of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, the preacher at Second Presbyterian Church during the 1840s. (Beecher, the brother of Uncle Tom’s Cabin novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe, eventually moved to New York and became one of the best-known clergymen in America.) In fact, Beecher baptized young Fanny in the White River.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote many of his greatest literary works during the years of his marriage to Fanny Vandegrift.
According to Sharon's research, the Vandegrifts initially lived in a red brick home across from Monument Circle, then known as Governor's Circle. At the time, Second Presbyterian was adjacent to the house; since the late 1950s, the church has been in the 7700 block of North Meridian Street.

Also unearthed by Sharon: the Vandegrifts owned a farm in Hendricks County, the farmhouse of which still stands. Fanny stayed with her parents at the farmhouse during a rocky period with her first husband, Sam Osbourne, who lived in Nevada and California, where he patronized saloons and brothels, according to historians.

In the 1870s, Fanny and the couple’s three children moved to Europe. She eventually enrolled as an art student at an academy in Paris, where she met Robert Louis Stevenson, who was in frail health. When they married in 1880, she had just turned 40 and he was 29. The couple honeymooned in California, where they decided to live during the first years of their marriage.

Although the marriage initially upset Stevenson's family in Scotland, Sharon writes that they were won over after the novelist took Fanny to Edinburgh to meet them. "Fanny's father-in-law was so impressed with her literary judgment that he made his son promise never to publish anything without Fanny's approval."

In 1880, the Stevensons moved to Samoa in search of a climate that would provide relief for his respiratory problems. Robert Louis Stevenson died on his village estate in Samoa in 1894 at age 44. Fanny lived until 1914 and is buried next to Stevenson on Mount Vaea, which overlooks the Samoan capital of Apia and its harbor.


Seeking History Mystery on-air giveaways

Do you work for a  business or organization that could use a marketing boost? Contributing prizes for our weekly History Mystery on-air giveaway can be a great way to spur interest among the educated, affluent listeners of Hoosier History Live. In exchange for your prize contribution, you get a linked reference to your organization in the History Mystery section of our website and weekly email newsletter, as well as a mention by Nelson on the live show.

If you are interested in contributing prizes, contact molly@hoosierhistorylive.org for more details. The prize or voucher must be something that can be mailed in a regular business-size envelope and must also arrive in advance to our office before being offered in our newsletter. Or, arrangements can be made for the prizes to be picked up.  Tickets to dated performances are great, but must be offered well in advance.


Save the date! Hoosier History Live 10th Anniversary Party!

Mark your calendars for the Hoosier History Live 10th Anniversary Party.  The annual soiree will take place on Thursday, March 1, from 5 to 7:30 pm at Indiana landmarks Center, 1201 N. Central Ave. Brief remarks by Indianapolis Mayor Joseph  Hogsett and catering by MBP Distinctive Catering.


A note of support

'We hope to see it broadcast far and wide'

A particularly nice letter of support came in some time ago from authors James Alexander Thom and Dark Rain Thom. We like to re-read it from time to time!

To Whom it May Concern:

Last Spring, my wife and I were interviewed by Nelson Price on his Hoosier History radio program, as authors of frontier and Native American history books. Mr. Price's program was so well prepared and conducted that we feel it should be made available to students and general audiences as widely as possible. His program is well-researched, all questions pertinent to the chosen theme, and moves along briskly. Listeners called in with questions and comments that were intelligent and relevant, a sign of an avid audience.

As historical writers, we try to overcome the public's indifference to history, to bring alive in any way we can the important lessons of the past, and are enthusiastic about programs and writings that make those lessons interesting. The Hoosier History Live program does that so well that we hope to see it broadcast far and wide over this historically significant State of Indiana. It is an excellent program, worthy of extensive distribution and strong support.

James Alexander Thom & Dark Rain Thom, authors
Bloomington, Indiana
July 14, 2011

Shows, we got shows

We have more than 470 Hoosier History Live radio shows completed, as a matter of fact. We certainly welcome underwriting support to get more of our show audio online. Let's help support the hardworking Hoosiers who do the writing and editing for Hoosier History Live!

No one else is doing anything quite like what we're doing. We are the nation's only live call-in radio program about history. We offer a permanent and growing archive of quality content, available for sponsorship opportunities.

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor of Hoosier History Live, click here or call Molly Head at (317) 927-9101 for more info.

What people are saying about Hoosier History Live

"Hoosier History Live does more to promote Indiana history than does any single source."

Andrea Neal, Indianapolis author and educator

"Hoosier History Live is a fun and interesting way to learn about the heart and soul of Indiana. No boring classes or books here! The production team does an outstanding job."

Judy O'Bannon, civic leader and public broadcasting producer

"The folks at Hoosier History Live are able to find great stories and the people to tell them - people and stories that you seldom hear on the national air."

Dr. James H. Madison, author and Indiana University history professor

"As museums and educational institutions scramble to make their offerings more interactive, more entertaining and more 'relevant' to today's digitally obsessed consumers, Hoosier History Live seems to have mastered that formula."

Glynis Worley, rural Bartholomew County listener

"Hoosier History Live is a perfect place to consider and reconsider history ... not just what happened in the past, but what it may mean in the present. Nelson Price is the perfect host: enthusiastic, curious and knowledgeable. Tune in to Hoosier History Live and be prepared to be surprised."

James Still, playwright in residence, Indiana Repertory Theatre

"Hoosier History Live is a fantastic opportunity for people to not only learn about history, but also become a part of the conversation. Much like our mission, the telling of Indiana's stories, Nelson and his guests wonderfully connect people to the past!"

John Herbst
President and CEO, Indiana Historical Society

"The links on the Friday Hoosier History Live enewsletter are a great way to learn more about history, and from a variety of sources."

Jill Ditmire
Omni Media Specialist

"Distilling life experience into stories is an art. Telling stories of life experience for Hoosiers past and present will shape the lives of young people and enrich the lives of all in our state. Mr. Nelson Price brings alive the life experience of notable Hoosiers in Hoosier History Live."

David T. Wong, Ph.D., President
DT Wong Consulting, LLC
Former Lilly research scientist who developed Prozac

"Nelson Price, more than anyone I know, infuses joy into the pursuit of history. And that joy rings out loud and clear on the radio show, Hoosier History Live."

Marsh Davis
President, Indiana Landmarks

"No, I haven't heard of another call-in talk radio show about history. Our airwaves are now full of the worst vitriol! Give me the phone number for the show. I want to call in!"

Ken Burns, speaking at a preview of his film "The War" at Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, April 18, 2007


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