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May 19, 2018

Famous but forgotten: Indiana writer George Ade

Indiana author George Ade (1866-1944), along side two of the books that brought him fame and fortune. Although now largely forgotten, Ade was regarded in his lifetime as one of nation’s greatest writers.

He may be the most famous Hoosier author you've never heard of.

In 1915 an Oxford literary scholar deemed him "the greatest living American writer." His work was regarded as part of a Golden Age of Indiana Literature, on par with the writing of such luminaries as Booth Tarkington and Theodore Dreiser. His earnings as a writer financed the construction of a lavish English Tudor estate near the banks of the Iroquois River in Newton County, where he hosted parties for Presidents and celebrities. By the 1920s he had accumulated enough wealth that he could help fund the construction of a football stadium at his alma mater.

Cover image for one of George Ade’s plays. Songs from the play will be performed at an upcoming event organized by guest Mike Davis. 
In spite of the fame and fortune he achieved in his lifetime, however, Indiana author George Ade (1866 - 1944) has drifted into obscurity. His works are not even currently stocked by the bookstore at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in downtown Indianapolis.

But an enterprising resident of Newton County in northwest Indiana hopes to change all that.

Hoosier History Live associate producer and guest host Mick Armbruster will be joined in studio by Mike Davis to explore the life, humor and literary legacy of George Ade. Mike has portrayed Ade in historical reenactments and is organizing an upcoming musical show dedicated to Ade's creative work as a song lyricist. Mick will also welcome Jeannie Logan of Indianapolis, who will star as vocalist in that show featuring Ade's songs. Pianist David Meek, also of Indianapolis, will provide accompaniment and additional vocals for the musical performance and will also join Mick and his guests in discussing Ade's place in Hoosier cultural history.

In many ways, Ade's life reflects essential elements of the American experience at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Born to an immigrant father and second-generation mother and raised on a farm near the small town of Kentland, Ind, Ade showed early academic promise and attended Purdue University on scholarship.

Another source for songs that will be performed at the upcoming George Ade musical dinner.
At Purdue, Ade distinguished himself as a writer for the school newspaper and made lasting friendships that would serve him in his writing career. Purdue's enduring importance to Ade is evident from his philanthropic efforts there later in life: a substantial gift from him helped fund the construction of the Ross-Ade Stadium in 1924.

Like many young people of the era who had grown up in rural America, Ade chose to relocate the big city to begin his career. Within a few years of graduating from Purdue, Ade took up residence in Chicago and found work reporting the weather for a daily paper. His colorful sketches of how the weather impacted the lives of everyday citizens made such an impression that he quickly was granted a humor column, "Stories of the Streets and of the Town." The newspaper sketches and "fables" of ordinary city folk - which Mike notes reveal Ade's remarkable powers of observation - later served as the basis for several best-selling books.

Later in his career, Ade applied his satirical take on life to writing works for musical theater; at one point he had three theatrical works playing on Broadway simultaneously. Guest Jeannie Logan describes Ade's lyrics as "sophisticated and witty" and compares them to the sly humor of Noel Coward.

Official portrait of George Ade as Grand Consul of the Sigma Chi fraternity at Perdue. Courtesy history.sigmachi.orgAs Mike Davis points out, "[Ade's] contributions to the theater changed Broadway by introducing the story style of musical that is popular today."

Ade's talents as a lyricist will be heard in their original musical context in an upcoming dinner theater project Mike is organizing with Jeannie and David. The meal will recreate the chicken dinner George Ade was famous for serving guests, as well as feature renditions of music from two of his plays, The Sultan of Sulu and Peggy from Paris. There will be two performances, June 3, and June 10, 2018 at the Old Colonial Inn in Kentland.

What unique insights about life do Ade's writings offer us today? Does his humor hold up for a contemporary audience?

Join us in exploring the range of George Ade's creative work as we talk with guests Mike, Jeannie and David about their efforts to breath new life into this Hoosier writer's literary legacy.

Roadtrip: Hazelden, the home of George Ade

The home of George Ade, which he called “Hazelden” after his English grandparents, in Brook, Ind. Constructed in 1904, the home served as the setting for parties attended by U.S. presidents and celebrities, as well as ordinary citizens.

Guest Roadtripper Tim Myer invites us to Brook, Ind. in the northeast corner of the state to visit the elegant home of George Ade.

Ade built the English Tudor-style estate in 1904 as a retreat from his hectic schedule in Chicago, where he lived at the time. Ade originally intended to build a simple cabin, but once he hired Chicago architect Billy Manns, the project grew enormously in scope.

By the time construction was complete, the project had become a two-story, grand Elizabethan manor home surrounded by landscaped gardens, pool, pool house, garage, greenhouse, barns, outbuildings and a caretaker's home. A passionate golfer, Ade added a golf course and country club in 1910. He named the estate Hazelden in honor of his English maternal grandparents.

Ade's home quickly became the social center of the area and hosted visits from four U.S. presidents, as well as some of the nation's most celebrated personalities of the time.

Of the many notable parties and events held at Hazelden, Tim our draws our attention to one of the most famous: a political rally in 1908, in which William Howard Taft kicked off his run for the presidency. Historical accounts estimate the crowd in attendance to be over 25,000.

Hazelden may be toured by appointment only; please call the Newton County Historical Society at 219-474-6944 to schedule a visit.


History Mystery

Indiana songwriter Cole Porter. What Cole Porter song refers to the name of a river in the great composer’s home state?
While we are exploring the life of George Ade, whose body of literary work includes book and lyrics for a string of successful Broadway musicals, Mick will pose a question about another Hoosier of musical inclination, Cole Porter. The Peru, Ind. native wrote the words and music for hundreds of songs, but only rarely alluded to Indiana. Listening to his music, one might never guess he was a Hoosier.

One notable exception: a song in which Porter refers to a river in Indiana - in fact, the river's name is in the title of the song. We won't reveal the 1943 show that the song comes from, but we will note that the song was performed by Ethel Merman, starring in her fifth Porter musical.

Question: What is the name of the Cole Porter song which refers to a river in Indiana?

Hint: It's not "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" which was written by Paul Dresser and adopted as the Indiana state song in 1913.

The call-in number is (317) 788-3314. Please do not call in to the show until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air, and please do not try to win if you have won any other prize on WICR during the last two months. You must be willing to give your first name to our engineer, you must answer the question correctly on the air and you must be willing to give your mailing address to our engineer so we can mail the prize pack to you. The prize is two passes to the Story Inn in Brown County, courtesy of the Story Inn, and two passes to the Indiana History Center, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society.

Joining Nelson in studio last week...


May 26 2018 - Upcoming

International aspects of early Indy 500s

Jules Goux of France poses at the wheel of his French-made Peugeot after winning the 1913 Indy 500. As our guest Mark Dill notes, "1913 was a pivotal year, distinguished as being the first to attract international factory entries."
Courtesy indycar.com

In 2017, the Indianapolis 500 was won by a driver born in Japan. Over the last 15 years, victorious drivers in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" have included natives of Colombia, Brazil, Scotland, England and New Zealand.

So while race fans are probably well aware of the prominence of foreign drivers in recent years, they may not know that the impact of international racers was nearly as significant during the early era of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, beginning just a few years after the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911.

The 1914 Indy 500 was another year dominated by foreign drivers and cars. In this photo Frenchman Rene Thomas poses in his winning car, a French-made Delage.
Courtesy pddnet.comThe early streak of victories by drivers born overseas - and racecar entries by automakers based in foreign countries - preceded a "drought" of foreign winners that lasted about 45 years during the middle of the 20th century.

In 1913, the Indy 500 was won by a Frenchman driving a car made in his homeland. Other European entries that year included competitors from England and Italy.

Another driver from France won the Indy 500 in 1914. The next year, an Italian sped to Victory Lane. Then came the fabled Chevrolet Brothers, who had lived in France and Switzerland. Two of the three Chevrolet brothers, who died nearly penniless, are buried in the Holy Cross and St. Joseph Cemetery on the eastside of Indy.

Indianapolis native Mark Dill, an auto racing historian and marketer now based in Cary, N.C., will be Nelson's studio guest to describe the international drivers and overseas automakers who competed in early Indy 500s. Mark has written an article about the history of early drivers for the racetrack program that will be distributed at this year's Indy 500; he oversees an extensively researched and illustrated website about auto racing history.

The 1914 Indy 500 was another year dominated by foreign drivers and cars. In this photo Frenchman Rene Thomas poses in his winning car, a French-made Delage.
courtesy vanderbiltcupraces.comMark notes that "1913 was a pivotal year, distinguished as being the first to attract international factory entries." The race was won that year by Jules Goux of France; his car was a French-made Peugeot.

"Legend has it that Goux consumed six pints of Champagne during pit stops," Mark says, "but the reality is probably a different story. Goux competed in five Indianapolis 500s, finishing first, fourth and third in his first three efforts."

Three of his competitors in the 1913 race drove Isottas manufactured in Italy. "The Isottas traveled across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Lusitania and arrived just three days before the race," Mark explains. (Two years later the Lusitania, a British ocean liner, was torpedoed by Germans during World War I.)

Of the Indy 500 in 1914, Mark says: "The French dominated, finishing in the top four places." The triumphant drivers included winner Rene Thomas, who drove a Delage made in France.

The next year, the winner at the Speedway was Ralph DePalma, who had been born in Italy.

Jimmy Clark of Scotland celebrates his win at the 1965 Indy 500. His victory followed a long drought of foreign-born winners. 
 Courtesy hemmings.com"DePalma was as American as Mario Andretti,” Mark explains, noting that “Race promoters liked to bill him as the 'Italian champion,' even though he did not grow up racing there. IMS was keenly interested in attracting European car companies in the earliest years. The idea was that it would create more interest for fans and a better measuring stick for U.S. car companies in product improvement."

This was the era of the three Chevrolet brothers: Louis, Arthur and Gaston, founders of the Chevrolet Motor Company. Although Louis is considered to have been the most successful driver among the three, youngest brother Gaston was the sibling who captured the checkered flag at the Speedway, winning the Indy 500 in 1920.

During our show, Mark will discuss the dramatic lives of the Chevrolet brothers. He also will explore some of the reasons for the long drought - following Gaston's win in 1920 - of foreign-born winners of the Indy 500. The drought lasted almost without interruption until the victory in 1965 by popular Jimmy Clark of Scotland. Mark Dill was a guest on Hoosier History Live two years ago for a show that also focused on Indy 500 drivers, but looked at the opposite end of the spectrum of drivers' origins. That show highlighted Indiana natives who won - or became fan favorites - in early Indy 500s.


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!

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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

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"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

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


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