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Archives - 2019


The Hoosier History Live archives are now organized by year. See the links above for all 10 years of our show descriptions and resources.

To listen to podcasts of old shows, just click on the link right below the show's headline.



Interstate highway construction and its impact on Indianapolis

Podcast coming soon!

(March 9, 2019) It's the largest engineered structure humans have ever built, covering a land mass the size of the state of Delaware. Along with the Great Wall of China, it's one of the few human creations that can be seen from space. In its entire length, it stretches 46,876 miles.

And you probably use it on a regular, if not daily, basis.

Routing diagrams show alternate possibilities under consideration during the late 1950s planning phase of the urban freeway portion of the Interstate system in Indianapolis. Maps provided b Indiana Historical Society.It's the Interstate highway system, and Indiana, true to its "Crossroads of America" official motto, has its share of the nation's federal highways - over 12,000 miles of them, criss-crossing the state and converging at Indianapolis, where Interstates 65, 69, 70, and 74 intersect. I-465 connects them all, circling the Hoosier capital and traversing 53 miles as it does so.

And while the nation's extensive network of well-engineered Interstate highways, which took over four decades to build, has brought undeniable benefits in the form of greater road safety and efficiency for personal travel and commerce, there's a darker side to the story.

Often unacknowledged by lovers of the open road are the high costs that Interstate highway construction wrought upon urban centers, where tens of thousands of American citizens lost their property to eminent domain, saw their neighborhood houses, schools and businesses bulldozed, and found themselves living next to an endless stream of noisy traffic.

Hoosier History Live associate producer and guest host Mick Armbruster delves into the impact of Interstate construction on the city of Indianapolis, looking at how it disrupted the lives of urban residents during the building phase and had long-lasting, far-reaching impacts on the city's development. Joining Mick in studio to discuss Indianapolis highway history are:

  • Jordan Ryan, who serves as Architectural Archivist and Curator of the City Bicentennjal project at the Indiana Historical Society. Jordan has conducted archival research into routing decisions made during the Interstate planning process in the late 1950s that brought the combined 65/70 inner loop to downtown Indianapolis, examining how those choices affected urban neighborhoods.
  • Paula Brooks, who as a child experienced firsthand the impact of Interstate construction on her Indianapolis neighborhood, Ransom Place. She is involved in current advocacy efforts regarding environmental justice and also works with Rethink 65/70, which seeks to influence plans by the Indiana Department of Transportation to redesign the Interstate 65/70 inner loop.
  • And Garry Chillufo, founding member and current president of Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis (HUNI), a coalition that supports older neighborhoods by working with local government and serving as a forum for urban residents. Garry is also involved with the work of Rethink 65/70.

The dream of a national highway system that would unite the sprawling territory of the United States goes back all the way to the founding fathers; it was President Thomas Jefferson who signed the act establishing a National Road in 1806, with the goal of connecting the Potomac River at Cumberland, Maryland, to the Ohio River at Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia).

But it was the explosion of automobile ownership in the 1920s that spurred the massive growth in paved, graded highways that could accommodate high volumes of traffic traveling at ever increasing speeds.

Road building did not stall out during the Great Depression, thanks to billions provided by New Deal programs that put drought-stricken farmers to work constructing hundreds of miles of new highways. But it was during the era of post-war prosperity in the 1950s, with automobile ownership rising faster than the tail fins on Cadillacs, that highway construction got into high gear.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, "Father of the Interstate System,"  never envisioned his superhighways cutting through urban centers.President Eisenhower, impressed by his post-war travels on Germany's Autobahn, saw the need for a national system of roads that could be used not only for personal travel and commerce, but for military preparedness in an era of growing Cold-War tensions. When Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, he funded the Interstate highway system and set in motion a process that would revolutionize transportation in the United states.

But Eisenhower never envisioned the Interstate highways reaching into the inner urban core. Modeled on the Autobahn, his proposed system would have carried traffic only between and around cities, not through them.

Under pressure from members of Congress, however, who believed that urban freeway segments were essential to the needs of their constituents, Eisenhower relented and went forward with plans that brought major highways through the heart of America's cities - and left destruction and social upheaval in their wake.

Some Interstate history facts:

  • The Interstate highway system is the biggest public works project in the history of the United States.
  • Missouri was the first state to begin building a segment of Interstate highway, reconfiguring U.S. 40 into what was later designated the I-70 Mark Twain Expressway. The work began on on August 13, 1956.
  • In 2002, native Hoosier David Letterman launched a humorous campaign to rename I-465 in his honor. "Honest to God, would it kill ya to do this?" the comedian asked in reference to renaming the roadway the "David Letterman Expressway."

History Mystery

Interstate construction on the Near Northside of Indianapolis threatened an historic home, visible at left, until Eli Lilly provided funds for the home to be purchased and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. What is the name of the home? Courtesy Indiana Landmarks.

Interstate construction in downtown Indianapolis in the late 1960s and early 1970s required the demolition of dozens of historic buildings. One building on the city's Old Northside came close to destruction but was saved by the intercession of Eli Lilly, grandson of Colonel Eli Lilly - the pharmacist, chemist, and businessman who founded Eli Lilly and Company. The architecturally distinctive home, designed in the Second Empire style, was built in the 1860s and served over the years as the residence of two notable Indianapolis families, whose names the building is now known by.

The home was slated for demolition to make way for Interstate 65 construction when Eli Lilly, who had lived in a nearby home in the 1920s, provided money to have it purchased by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana (now Indiana Landmarks) and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Because federal dollars were funding the Interstate construction, the route had to be moved south and the home was saved.

The home has been restored and serves as a venue for Indiana Landmarks programs, special events, and private rentals.

Question: What is the name of the historic home in the Old Northside neighborhood of Indianapolis that was in the pathway of Interstate 65 but was saved by the intercession of Eli Lilly?

Please do not call in to the show until you hear Mick 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 a pair of tickets to the historic Athenaeum Tour, courtesy of Indiana Landmarks, and a certificate to Story Inn in Brown County, courtesy of Story Inn.

Please email molly@hoosierhistorylive.org if your business or organization would like to offer History Mystery prizes that can be easily mailed to contest winners.


Historic women in science: encore

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(March 2, 2019) Women from Indiana became pioneers in sciences ranging from physics to home economics during the early and mid-1900s. But they confronted myriad challenges, and their trailblazing efforts often have been ignored.

Hoosier History Live strives to fill in this historical void as we salute Women's History Month with this encore broadcast (original air date: March 11, 2017) of a show that spotlights the innovations of - and obstacles confronted by - a physicist from southern Indiana who pioneered new theories (but whose career was stalled because of McCarthyism during the Cold War) and two women associated with Purdue University who were pioneers in "bringing science into the home." One of them traveled across the Hoosier state during the World War I era to share research with farm women.

Nelson's guests include:

  • Jill Weiss.Jill Weiss, digital outreach manager at the Indiana Historical Bureau. She shares insights about Melba Phillips (1907-2004), a native of Hazleton, Ind., who became an internationally acclaimed physicist, worked to improve science education and, according to Jill, "advocated for women's place at the forefront of science research." Following World War II, Phillips and other scientists organized to prevent nuclear war. She was fired from university posts, though, after being accused of advocating subversive positions.
  • And Angie Klink, a Lafayette-based author and historian whose eight books include Divided Paths, Common Ground (Purdue University Press, 2011). It is a dual biography of Mary Matthews, who became the first dean of home economics at Purdue University, and Lella Gaddis, the first state leader of home demonstrations in agricultural extension.

Angie Klink."She hit the road to take research and knowledge ... directly to farm women, who often were isolated," Angie notes, referring to Gaddis. Prior to her outreach, what farm women knew about food preservation (a particularly important topic during World War I, when meat, sugar and other goods were in high demand), sanitation and nutrition often had just been "handed down by word-of-mouth from their mothers."

When Matthews was initially appointed a department chair of home economics in 1912 prior to becoming Purdue's first dean of the subject, "she had little support from the men in power at Purdue," Angie writes.

Melba Phillips, the physicist, encountered enormous challenges during her long career, but she rebounded and became the first woman president of the American Association of Physics Teachers in 1966.

Hoosier Melba Phillips played a pioneering role in the field of physics.More than 20 years later, according to a blog post that our guest Jill Weiss has written for the Historical Bureau, Brooklyn College publicly apologized for having fired Phillips during the 1950s. Eventually, the college even created a scholarship in her name.

Phillips, who had studied under Robert Oppenheimer and went on to write two physics textbooks, was living in Petersburg, Ind., when she died at age 97. During the 1950s, she refused to testify before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that was investigating internal security.

Jill's blog about her is titled "Melba Phillips: Leader in Science and Conscience." Phillips also is the subject of an episode of the IHB podcast Talking Hoosier History, which Jill helps produce.

Divided Paths, Common Ground.According to Jill's blog, Melba Phillips graduated from high school at 15, then studied at Oakland City College (which became Oakland City University in 1985) in southern Indiana. Eventually, she earned a Ph.D. and became "known throughout the physics world" because of her contributions to the field.

As described in our guest Angie Klink's book Divided Paths, Lella Gaddis "tooled down the country roads past Indiana cornfields" to bring the latest science about vitamins, food preservation, sanitation and other topics to farm wives. On the running board of her Model T, Gaddis propped her demonstration suitcase - and held onto it as she traveled on the rural roads.

Divided Paths also tells the story of an unconventional "lady farmer," as Virginia Claypool Meredith was called during the late 1800s and early 1900s. During our show, we also will explore her pioneering career, which included becoming the first woman on Purdue's board of trustees in 1921.

When Virginia Claypool Meredith was 33 years old in 1882, she had to take over the running of a 115-acre cattle and sheep farm near Cambridge City, Ind, when her husband died unexpectedly, according to Angie's book. "She became a nationally recognized agricultural speaker and writer."

Roadtrip: Adams Mill in Carroll County

Adams Mill in Carroll County.Guest Roadtripper and travel writer Jane Ammesonsuggests a trip to Adams Mill in Carroll County, about 60 miles north of Indianapolis. John Adams built the three-and-a-half story mill on Wildcat Creek in 1845-46 in Cutler, a tiny village near Lafayette.

Adams Mill is filled with historic treasures on all its floors, including a Conestoga Wagon and a canvas bathtub used by pioneers as they traveled out west. The mill also has the original milling equipment and artifacts from when it housed a post office. And just down a winding country road is the Adams Mill Covered Bridge, built in 1872.

Adams Mill was placed into the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Open for tours, it is a fascinating look back in time when mills served the towns and outlying regions where they were located. And it's also one of the few survivors in the 21st century. At one time saw mills and grist mills dotted the landscape of Indiana, necessary for both grinding grain and sawing lumber for building. Now just about 13 remain.



Former Indy Mayor Ballard on electric car history and more

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Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard poses with a city police car in December of 2013 after signing an executive order requiring the city to purchase either electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles for the city’s non-police fleet. Courtesy www.showtimesdaily.com

Former Mayor Greg Ballard addresses the University of Indianapolis, where he now serves as a Visiting Fellow of the Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives. Courtesy University of Indianapolis(February 23, 2019) For several decades, each mayor of the Hoosier capital has had a relationship with the University of Indianapolis once his term in office has ended. Greg Ballard, who was elected to two terms as mayor of Indianapolis, is no exception; he currently serves as a Visiting Fellow at UIndy.

On this show, former Mayor Ballard describes his new role, reflect on his terms as mayor (which followed an unexpected victory in the 2007 election) and talks about historic aspects of one of his major areas of focus - electric cars - when he joins Nelson as studio guest.

Indiana-related aspects of electric car production involve modern history: During the 1990s, crucial components of General Motors' EV1, described as "one of the most technologically advanced" and fuel-efficient vehicles of the 20th Century, were made in two Indiana cities. A Delco Remy plant in Anderson produced the motors. The battery packs were made in Muncie, also at a Delco Remy factory.

The need to shift from oil as the primary transportation fuel is the focus of Less Oil or More Caskets (IU Press), a new book by former Mayor Ballard, who draws on observations from his 23-year career as a U.S. Marine, which included serving in the first Persian Gulf War.

In 2013, while serving as mayor, Greg Ballard was our studio guest to discuss historic connections between the Marines and the Hoosier state. He also shared insights about attending Cathedral High School (where he was a member of the Class of '72) during its final years as an all-male school located in downtown Indy.

Book cover: Less Oil or More Caskets by Gregory A. BallardThis time, former Mayor Ballard, a Republican, assesses his terms in office, including accomplishments and frustrations.

Documents, oral interviews and artifacts of former mayors are housed at UIndy's Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archives. Several former mayors, including Ballard's predecessor, Bart Peterson, a Democrat, have served on UIndy's board of trustees (Former Mayor Peterson was Nelson's studio guest on a show in 2015).

The history of electric cars stretches much further back than the 1990s production of the EV1. Early electric vehicles - powered by a battery charged by plugging it in - were built circa 1900 at the dawn of auto production.

As Ballard describes in his book, the challenges then involved the limitations of the vehicles; in the early 1900s, electric cars only could travel about 20 miles before requiring a recharge, severely limiting their range compared to gasoline-powered automobiles.

With substantial improvements in battery technology since that time, electric cars have made significant gains in range and efficiency. Less Oil or More Caskets is being promoted as a call to action to shift from gasoline to electricity in transportation, which former Mayor Ballard calls "the last industry dominated by the use of oil."

Blue Indy, an electric car-sharing program with a fleet of vehicles and charging stations across Indianapolis, is a visible legacy of the Ballard administration. Courtesy Blue Indy.Blue Indy, an electric car-sharing program with a fleet of vehicles and charging stations across Indianapolis, is a visible legacy of the Ballard administration. As mayor, he struck a deal with a French company, Bollore, to bring the electric car service to the Hoosier capital.

Billed as the "first of its kind" in the country, Blue Indy was unveiled in 2014, with the all-electric cars showing up in designated, charger-accessible parking spaces the next year. Controversy ensued, with businesses and homeowners complaining that neighborhoods were not consulted about the loss of parking spaces that were given over to the electric cars and their charging stations.

Since then, the city has renegotiated some aspects of the Blue Indy contract, but critics continue to question the public demand for the car-sharing program and its benefits to the city.

In Less Oil or More Caskets, former Mayor Ballard traces his enthusiasm for all-electric vehicles to his stint as a Marine based in the Middle East. During a recent appearance on the syndicated TV show Inside Indiana Business, the former mayor said, "Eighty percent of the world's oil reserves are in the hands of monarchs." The United States, he added, only has 2 percent of the world's oil - meaning conversion to other sources of energy is crucial for economic as well as environmental reasons.

Greg Ballard grew up on the eastside of Indianapolis and attended Cathedral on a scholarship. He graduated from Indiana University before his 23-year career in the Marines, retiring in 2001 as a lieutenant colonel.


Roadtrip: New National Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting

David Raymond, creator of the Phillie Phanatic, the official mascot of the Philadelphia Phillies, embraces Jennifer Smith at the National Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. Jennifer, CEO of Avant Garb and known as the “Queen of Fuzz,” serves as our guest Roadtripper this week.

Lately it seems that sports team mascots are getting as much attention as the teams they represent. Just ask Gritty, the mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, who made his debut last year and has become an Internet sensation and sought-after guest on the late-night talk show circuit.

To explore the exploding popularity of mascots, guest Roadtripper Jennifer Smith suggests an adventure at the National Mascot Hall of Fame, which opened last last year in Whiting, Ind., on the shores of Lake Michigan about halfway between Chicago and Gary.

Jennifer has more than a little experience with mascots. As the owner of Avant Garb, located in the Stutz Building in Indianapolis, she's a professional mascot maker who knows a thing or two about life-size, fuzzy characters designed to ratchet up the fevered devotion of sports fans. She also constructs mascots for corporations like Hewlett-Packard.

As Jennifer explains, the National Mascot Hall of Fame bills itself as an "interactive children's museum." Visitors can have fun trying out a T-shirt cannon, designing their own mascot, and tracing the historical development of mascots all the way back to Chinese dragons and Medieval court jesters.

And for those who dream of becoming mascots themselves, the Hall of Fame offers special events such as an upcoming "mascot boot camp" to help aspiring characters hone their craft.

Be sure to tune in to Jennifer's Roadtrip report to hear all about what a reviewer in Slate magazine called "one of the oddest museums I've ever visited."

History Mystery

In 1880, an early electrical experiment was conducted at this Indiana county courthouse. What town was the location of the experiment? Courtesy Charles Keck.

In 1880, a town in Indiana played a role in the history of electricity. The town, which often has promoted itself as the "First Electrified City in the World," was the site of one of the earliest experiments in electricity.

Four large arc lamps were set up in the dome of the county courthouse, which sits atop a hill in the town. The crude electricity "jumped" from one of the lamps to another - an experiment that amazed thousands of onlookers. The experiment in March 1880 made headlines around the world because even Paris, New York and London did not yet have electricity, and Thomas Edison was still refining his work with the incandescent light bulb.

Question: What is the Indiana town?

The prize is a pair of tickets to the historic Indianapolis City Market Catacombs Tour, courtesy of Indiana Landmarks, and a certificate to Story Inn in Brown County, courtesy of Story Inn.



Movies with obscure Indiana connections

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Close Encounters of the Hoosier kind? The typical American family portrayed in Steven Spielberg's 1977 science fiction drama lived in Muncie, Ind., although the scenes involving the family were actually shot Mobile, Ala.

Eric Grayson(February 16, 2019) Even though Close Encounters of the Third Kind was considered a blockbuster after its release in 1977, many Hoosiers may have forgotten its connection to Indiana. No scenes were filmed in the state, but the central characters were described as residents of Muncie.

In a scene played for laughs in Brother from Another Planet (1984), the protagonist, an alien who doesn't speak, encounters wide-eyed tourists from Indiana on a subway in New York City.

Titanic movie poster.The Great Dan Patch (1949), a biopic about the world's greatest racehorse during the 1890s and early 1900s, is set in the Benton County town of Oxford. (Hoosier History Live explored the life of Dan Patch during a show in 2012.) But the movie wasn't filmed in Indiana; that's obvious because of the mountain range visible in scenes of Oxford, which is in a flat region of west central Indiana

In the 1953 version of the film Titanic, a fictional passenger on the doomed ocean liner is a student at Purdue University. Played by Robert Wagner, the character is described as a college tennis star.

A Midsummer Night's Dream movie posterThose are among movies that we spotlight with our guest, Indianapolis-based film historian and preservationist Eric Grayson. Known across Indiana for his popular screenings of vintage movies ranging from classics to films so rare that Eric owns the only existing copies (including some he salvaged before they were about to be destroyed), he has been described as a "walking encyclopedia" of movie lore.

In addition to talking about movies with obscure links to Indiana, during our show Eric shares insights about actors and directors with Hoosier connections who - unlike the more famous James Dean, Steve McQueen, Carole Lombard and other stars - are seldom discussed today.

The Hoosier Schoolmaster movie poster.

They include Otis Harlan (1865-1940), a comedian and character actor from Martinsville. According to Eric, Harlan was featured in hundreds of silent movies and early talkies, including a film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935). Harlan also provided the voice of the dwarf Happy in Disney's animated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

Richmond native Norman Foster (1903-1976), an actor who enjoyed greater success when he became a director, also was involved in Disney projects. Foster was associated with Orson Welles for many decades, serving as the director of the spy thriller Journey into Fear (1943) starring Welles, as well as several Charlie Chan mysteries. As an actor, Foster had a major role in Welles' final movie, The Other Side of the Wind, which began filming in 1970; it was uncompleted when Welles died in 1985 and finally was released in 2018 after being reconstructed by other filmmakers.

Both Foster and Harlan were in the cast of The Hoosier Schoolmaster (1935), a movie based on a 19th-century novel by Indiana author Edward Eggleston. The setting is southern Indiana after the Civil War.

Please note: This show was original scheduled for January 12 but had to be rescheduled due to severe weather.


History Mystery

Bush Stadium in Indianapolis, pictured here in the years between its abandonment in 1997 and its conversion into a condominium complex in 2012. What Hollywood movie, actually set in Chicago, was filmed here? Courtesy www.worldabandoned.com.

A major Hollywood movie released in 1988 was set in Chicago, but many significant scenes actually were filmed in Indianapolis during the previous year.

The film's plot focuses on one of the most notorious scandals in baseball history. In 1919, Chicago White Sox players accepted bribes to lose the World Series. The movie, which starred John Cusack and Charlie Sheen, follows the unfolding of what became known as the "Black Sox scandal."

Historic Bush Stadium, still the home of the Indianapolis Indians during the 1980s, was the setting for many of the baseball sequences in the movie, standing in for the home field of the 1919 White Sox.

Question: What was the name of the baseball movie filmed at Bush Stadium?

The prize this week is a dvd of the newly remastered film Little Orphant Annie starring Colleen Moore and restored by Eric Grayson, courtesy of Eric Grayson. Don’t miss this opportunity to win a copy of this cinematic treasure telling the story of a beloved James Whitcomb Riley poem!


Christmas is long past, but here's a Hoosier History Live wish list

After our 2012 show about New Harmony, authors Darryl Jones and Donald Pitzer joined Nelson Price and Donald's wife Connie for lunch at Aesop's Tables. A big thanks to owner Kathy Sarris for many years of hosting these lunches. We miss you!

Hoosier History Live is seeking a restaurant sponsor near UIndy, Fountain Square, or downtown. We like to treat our studio guests to lunch after the Saturday show, and we will offer a complimentary sponsorship in exchange for the opportunity to bring our guests to your restaurant to dine and to chat!

We like prizes for the History Mystery contest, too, ideally items that can be mailed in a standard business envelope. In return we will feature your logo and a link to your organization's home page in our newsletter and on our website, and a mention by Nelson on the air.   

Also, if your business or organization would like to start a listening group during the live show, all you need is a quiet room and a radio, laptop or listening device and someone to facilitate the group. The Irvington Library has maintained a listening group open to the public for about eight years. This is a great opportunity for small busineses, libraries, or senior centers.  

For all of the above, contact producer Molly Head at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org.



Roots tracing for African Americans

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Attendees of the 2017 Annual Genealogy Conference sponsored by the Indiana African American Genealogy Group display their work. To share strategies for researching African American ancestry, host Nelson Price welcomes specialist Nichelle Hayes to the show. Courtesy www.iaagg.org

(February 9, 2019) Even with renewed, widespread interest in family history research - and the explosion of genealogical tools in recent years - challenges remain for those researching African American ancestry. Many of the challenges involve ancestors who were enslaved during the 19th century and earlier.

Nichelle M. HayesAs Hoosier History Live salutes Black History Month, Nelson's studio guest is one of Indiana's top experts on African American roots-tracing. Indianapolis-based genealogist and librarian Nichelle M. Hayes is a past president of the Indiana African American Genealogy Group. Currently, she is the leader of the Center for Black Literature and Culture of the Indianapolis Public Library.

In this show, Nichelle shares advice and tips for tracing African American family histories. As a genealogist for more than 25 years, Nichelle conducts workshops about African American family history research and blogs about it and related topics.

In a recent blog post, Nichelle described her research into the death in 1933 of a great-aunt who lived in the Brightwood neighborhood of Indianapolis and died of tuberculosis. Information on the death certificate opened doors for Nichelle to learn about her ancestor's civic life.

Book cover: Discovering your African American Ancestors."Genealogy is more than just birth and death dates," Nichelle writes. "It's fleshing the person out, so to speak."

To people beginning family history research, she recommends: "Start with yourself and work backwards."

In addition to examining U.S. Census data, records related to property ownership, probate and pensions also can be extremely helpful in illuminating the lives of ancestors, Nichelle says.

Among the resource books she recommends to African Americans are Black Roots: A Beginner's Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree (Simon & Schuster, 2001) and A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering your African-American Ancestors (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2003).

Ancestory.com, another resource popular with genealogists for its extensive database of family tree information, has published Finding Your African American Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide (2001).

With Nichelle on hand to respond to questions from listeners embarking on roots-tracing adventures, we will open our phone lines earlier than usual during this show. The call-in number to the WICR-FM studio is 317-788-3314.

Roadtrip: Lincoln State Park in Spencer County

Replica of the boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln in Spencer County, Ind., where the future president lived from age 7 to 21. Mr. Lincoln (portrayed by actor Danny Russell) will lead our Roadtrip to Lincoln State Park in the beautiful forested hills of southwestern Indiana.

President Abraham Lincoln is our guest Roadtripper this week; he talks about his boyhood home in Spencer County, Ind., where he lived on a family farm from ages of 7 to 21. (Mr. Lincoln is portrayed by Danny Russel, an actor who interprets historical characters from Indiana's past.)

Illinois claims the title of the "Land of Lincoln," but Abe certainly spent his formative years here in the Hoosier state.

Mr. Lincoln tells us about Lincoln State Park in the beautiful forested hills of southwestern Indiana, where his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, is buried, as well as his sister, Sarah Lincoln Grigsby. "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother," says Mr. Lincoln.

The park includes a replica of the Lincoln family farmstead. "Here I grew up," Mr. Lincoln has said of his Hoosier home.

The park is great for hiking, swimming, fishing, and camping. And while you're visiting Lincoln State Park, "Honest Abe" recommends you take a side trip to visit the Colonel Jones Home in nearby Gentryville, the historic residence of the merchant and Civil War officer who employed young Lincoln in a store there.

History Mystery

Mourners gather at the funeral of a prominent African American broadcaster, columnist and civic leader who died in 2015. He was born in Chicago, but spent more than 40 years in Indianapolis, where he became well known as a community activist and multimedia personality. Who was he?

Hoosier notables honored at the Center for Black Literature and Culture at the Indianapolis Public Library include a broadcaster, columnist and civic leader who died in 2015. He was born in Chicago, but spent more than 40 years in Indianapolis, where he became a community activist and carved out a multimedia career.

At WTLC-AM (1310), he worked in various capacities, including station manager, but is probably best remembered for hosting a daily afternoon talk show. For many years, he wrote a weekly column for the Indianapolis Recorder newspaper. During the late 1990s, he was the host of a local TV talk show. In his various platforms, he questioned city and state officials about the impact of local issues on the African American community.

He was inducted into the Indiana Broadcast Pioneers' Hall of Fame before his unexpected death at age 64.

Question: Who was the famous Indianpolis-based African American broadcaster and columnist?

The prize is a gift certificate to Story Inn in Brown County, courtesy of Story Inn, as well as four tickets to the Indiana History Center, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society.



French Lick, West Baden and The Wright Brothers

Vintage postcard images of the landmark resort hotels in the neighboring towns of French Lick (left) and West Baden in southern Indiana. The merger of the towns' high schools in 1954 is the focus of a new book and this week's show, with guest Tim Wright, who grew up in French Lick.

Tim Wright(February 2, 2019) The rivalry during the early 1900s between two lavish hotels in the southern Indiana towns of French Lick and West Baden is almost as well known as the mineral waters they sold - marketed, respectively, as Pluto and Sprudel water. Far less remembered: The small towns also were archrivals on the basketball court because, until a consolidation fraught with controversy during the late 1950s, French Lick and West Baden each had their own high school.

Among the residents who witnessed the merger and the creation of what became Springs Valley High School - with a basketball team known as the Black Hawks - was a first-grade student in French Lick named Tim Wright. He grew up to become a public figure, known as the banjo- and guitar-playing sibling in The Wright Brothers Band, the Indiana-based group that has performed pop, country, rock and bluegrass music at the Grand Ole Opry, on national TV shows and even on the soundtrack of a Hollywood movie.

Book Cover: Valley Boys - The Story of the 1958 Springs Valley Blackhawks. Tim Wright, who lives in Carmel now, has written a book, The Valley Boys: The Story of the 1958 Springs Valley Black Hawks, drawn from extensive interviews about the unfolding of the high school consolidation in the "twin cities" in Orange County. In addition to describing the social history of the school consolidation, Tim's book focuses on the basketball players themselves, former rivals who had to come together as one team.

He is Nelson's studio guest to discuss the merger that once was the talk of the state. The high schools' mascots had been the Red Devils (a nod to Pluto) for French Lick, and across the railroad tracks that separated the two town, the Sprudels (depicted as a wood gnome) for West Baden.

Tim also shares insights about the evolution of the Wright Brothers Band, who cut their first album in the early 1970s. Tim and his brother Tom, a vocalist, have been the core of the band, which has performed with headliners including Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. The band also has performed the national anthem at Indianapolis Colts and Indianapolis Indians games.

During the 1950s, Tim and Tom Wright's grandfather ran a barber shop in French Lick that was a hub for chatter about the consolidation of the high schools, the blending of the basketball teams and the economic challenges of Springs Valley.

From left, John McDowell, Tom Wright and Tim Wright of The Wright Brothers Band. Over their long career, the Indiana-based group has performed pop, country, rock and bluegrass, sharing the stage with some of the music industry's top entertainers.
Courtesy wrightbrothersband.com"Most folks in Orange County in the '50s considered themselves poor," Tim Wright notes in The Valley Boys. "There was no real industry, and wages were low."

In addition, the West Baden Springs Hotel - with a spectacular atrium touted as the "Eighth Wonder of the World" - had closed during the Great Depression. The landmark had various other owners over the years (including Jesuit priests and a culinary school), and did not reopen as a hotel until a spectacular restoration in 2007.

According to Tim's research, the combined population of the two towns was about 3,500 in 1958. Although wealthy visitors continued to patronize the French Lick Springs Hotel, which remained open, many assumed its glory era had passed.

Some history facts:

  • In the early 1950s, the West Baden Sprudels had been coached by Marvin Wood, who later became the basketball coach of another tiny school, Milan High School. In 1954, Wood was the coach for the legendary Milan team with Bobby Plump that won the state tournament.
  • John McDowell, a long-time bass guitarist and vocalist with the Wright Brothers Band (he sometimes is called the "third brother") is the nephew of Jimmy Mack, the former TV personality in Indianapolis who was the host of "Bandstand 13," a popular teen dance show during the 1960s. In 2016, Jimmy Mack, who is now 96, was a studio guest on Hoosier History Live.
  • The Wright Brothers Band can be heard on the soundtrack of Overboard (1987), a movie starring Goldie Hawn.
  • Known as the Wright Brothers Overland Stage Company when the band formed in 1972, the group has performed across the country. In Indiana, their performance venues have included the restored landmarks from Tim and Tom's boyhood, the French Lick and West Baden hotels.

The Wright Brothers gained national attention during the 1980s with their hit song "Made in the USA," which, as the title suggests, celebrates companies that manufactured their products in this country.

The brothers' father, Billy D. Wright, was a singer in southern Indiana. During the 1940s, he was a basketball star for the French Lick Red Devils, according to The Valley Boys.

For the book, Tim Wright interviewed one of the key figures involved in the aftermath of the consolidation of the rival high schools: Rex Wells, a West Baden native who, in his 20s, became the widely admired coach of the inaugural Springs Valley High School basketball team.

Wells is quoted as saying: "It was the team and not the school board that consolidated the two schools."

Roadtrip: Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum in Henry County

The Wilbur Wright Birthplace boasts a a full size replica of the  Wright Flyer ("Flyer 1"), which reveals the complexity of the plane's design. Courtesy Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum.

Our studio guest Tim Wright of The Wright Brothers Band sometimes has to clarify that there's no known kinship between his family and that of the "other" famous Wright Brothers - you know, the ones who had something to do with airplanes.

But the Wright Brothers who were pioneers in aviation also have an Indiana connection. Guest Roadtripper Ken Marshall, an educator and backroads Indiana "bon vivant," suggests a Roadtrip to the birthplace of Wilbur Wright, located a few miles north of I-70 in Henry County, twenty five miles northeast of Richmond.

The Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum preserves the house in which Wilbur Wright was born and seeks to educate the public by preserving and interpreting his life, family, and achievements. For fans of early aviation, perhaps the museum's most exciting display: a full-size replica of the 1904 Wright Flyer!

And to witness flyers of another type, Ken suggests a side trip to Summit Lake State Park, just a fifteen minute drive northeast from the Wright Birthplace toward Muncie. The park offers excellent birding: with its many low-lying wet meadows and prairies, you can spot such migratory species as the black tern, bald eagle, sandhill crane and American bittern, among others.

Be sure to listen in to join Ken for this gravity-defying Roadtrip adventure!


History Mystery

One of the original buildings on the campus of our mystery university, a private Christian school located in a small Indiana city in Grant County.  What is the name of the university?

For more than 35 years, the Wright Brothers Band has performed at universities and colleges across the country. Campuses that have been the settings for performances by "Indiana's Band" have included Texas Tech, North Carolina State, Indiana University, Wabash College and Butler University.

The Wright Brothers also have performed at a private university located in a small Indiana city in Grant County. The university is an interdenominational, evangelical Christian school attended by about 2,000 students. The mascot of its sports teams is the Trojans.

Question: What is name of the university?

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 a gift certificate to Story Inn in Brown County, courtesy of Story Inn, as well as four tickets to the Indiana History Center, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society.

Exploring Indiana's Civil War governor

Great minds illuminate Hoosier history! Jim Fuller (left), professor at UIndy, and Ron Morris, professor at Ball State, joined Nelson in studio on Jan. 26  to discuss "Indiana's Civil War governor and his historic house."
You can listen to the show podcast by clicking the link at the top of this newsletter and on our website, or via  iTunes or your favorite podcast purveyor. 
Courtesy Molly Head


Indiana's Civil War governor and his historic house

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A towering bronze statue of Gov. Oliver P. Morton, flanked by two Civil War soldiers, stands in front of the Indiana Statehouse. Morton was known as the "soldier's friend" and an ardent supporter of the Union Army cause.(January 26, 2019) He's been called the most consequential Indiana governor in state history. And a towering bronze statue of Gov. Oliver P. Morton stands in front of the Indiana State Capitol building.

But Morton - an ally of Abraham Lincoln who came close to being the Republican nominee for U.S. president in 1876 - was a controversial figure. Critics have contended that Morton (1823-1877) was practically a dictator who abused his powers as governor during the Civil War.

To explore the impact and colorful life of Morton, who served as a U.S. senator representing Indiana following his stint as governor, Nelson is joined by two distinguished guests:

Oliver P. Morton, circa 1867. Courtesy Library of Congress.Known as the "soldier's friend" and an ardent supporter of the Union Army cause, Morton even visited battlefields and traveled to Washington D.C. to plead with Lincoln to supply overcoats to shivering troops from Indiana. After the war, he was a fierce advocate for the civil rights of African Americans.

"His critics blasted him as a ruthless tyrant," Jim Fuller writes, noting that Morton was accused of exaggerating the threat of Copperheads and other Southern-sympathizing groups in Indiana as a means of rallying support for his expanded powers. He was also accused of misusing public funds and initiating "treason trials" in Indianapolis against his opponents.

Before the Civil War, Morton had been an attorney, practicing law in the house that Ron Morris is restoring. Morton was one of the early organizers of the Republican Party in Indiana and, before that, had helped form its predecessor, the People's Party.

James FullerAt the GOP convention in 1876 that ultimately settled on Rutherford B. Hayes as a compromise nominee for president, Morton "enjoyed widespread support," dropping out only after the sixth ballot, as Jim Fuller recounts in his biography. The enthusiasm for Morton as a presidential candidate persisted for several years, even after he had suffered a debilitating stroke that paralyzed his legs, rendering him unable to walk unassisted.

Thanks largely to Morton's dedication to the Northern cause during the Civil War, Indiana ranked second in the percentage of men of military age serving in the Union Army.

Ron MorrisHe was the target of at least one assassination attempt as governor, according to Jim Fuller's biography. As Morton was leaving the Indiana Statehouse after working late, a gunshot flew past his head. A second shot also narrowly missed him.

Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1867, Morton championed the rights of African Americans newly freed from slavery in the South and called for a Constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College. After suffering a second stroke, he died in Indianapolis in 1877 and is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, "next to the Union soldiers for whom he had done so much," Jim Fuller notes.

Morton and his wife, Lucinda Burbank Morton, sold the house in Centerville in 1863. Our guest Ron Morris has been restoring the stately house - the only one of Morton's residences that still stands - to what it would have looked like during the 1849-1862 period.


History Mystery

Our mystery man in 1891, posing with his grandchildren and two family pets. Like Oliver P. Morton, he attended Miami University of Ohio and played an important role during the Civil War.

Oliver P. Morton, Indiana's governor during the Civil War, studied at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, as a young man during the 1840s. He left after two years to become an apprentice to a lawyer.

Miami University in Ohio was the alma mater of another famous Hoosier political figure who, like Morton, had a connection to the Civil War.

Question: Who was the other important political figure from Indiana who attended Miami University and was connected to the civil war?

The prize is a gift certificate to Story Inn in Brown County, courtesy of Story Inn, as well as four tickets to the Indiana History Center, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society.



Rev. Martin Luther King's visits to Indiana

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Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at Manchester College in 1968. Manchester describes the speech as Dr. King's "last campus address" before his assassination two months later, in April 1968. Courtesy Manchester University.

(January 19, 2019) Both before he became a household name nationally and after he was a famous public figure, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made trips to Indiana. How those visits during the 1950s and '60s unfolded, where Rev. King stayed and other details, are the focus of our show that aired two days prior to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Martin Luther King with Mennonite theologian Guy Hershberger at Goshen College in 1960. Courtesy the Elkhart Truth.In February 1968, Dr. King spoke at Manchester College in northern Indiana to an "overflow audience," according to the small, private school affiliated with the Church of the Brethren. Now Manchester University, the school describes the speech as Dr. King's "last campus address" before his assassination two months later, in April 1968.

Nearly 10 years earlier, in 1958 when he was a young minister and civil rights leader in the South, 29-year-old Dr. King spoke in downtown Indianapolis at Cadle Tabernacle, a sprawling, Spanish-style structure that served as the site of conventions, religious gatherings, music concerts and a range of other events. Cadle Tabernacle, which was located at Ohio and New Jersey Streets, was demolished during the late 1960s.

In the decade between that speech and the talk at Manchester College near the end of his life, Dr. King periodically visited Indianapolis, often staying with the family of his close friend Rev. Andrew J. Brown (1921-1996), pastor of St. John's Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Brown, one of Indiana's most prominent civil rights leaders of the era, marched with Dr. King in Selma, Ala., in 1965.

For our exploration of Dr. King's trips to Indiana - which also included a speech at Goshen College in 1960 - our studio guests are:

David Leander WilliamsAccounts about Dr. King's speech at Goshen College, which is affiliated with the Mennonite Church, describe it a "spellbinding lecture." The speech, which he delivered in 1960, occurred about one year after he had traveled to India to study Gandhi's techniques of nonviolence.

At Goshen College, Dr. King discussed nonviolence. He also called on religious leaders to more strongly advocate for civil rights; Dr. King described most churches across the country as "segregated islands."

Susan Hall DotsonBeginning in the mid-1950s, Dr. King began staying at the home of the Brown family during his trips to Indianapolis. According to Rev. Thomas Brown, the family began receiving threatening phone calls around the time of the early visits. So the Browns kept quiet about where Dr King was staying when he came to the Hoosier capital.

Rev. Andrew Brown was active in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a civil rights advocacy organization; Dr. King served as its first president. Today, Rev. Thomas Brown is president of the Indiana Christian Leadership Conference, an affiliated chapter.

Just as streets have been named in honor of Dr. King in many Indiana cities - including Indianapolis, Evansville, South Bend, Gary and Elkhart - a street on the near-eastside of Indy was named Dr. Andrew J. Brown Avenue in 1986. In addition to serving as pastor of St. John's Missionary Baptist Church, which is located on the street named in his honor, Rev. Andrew Brown was one of the primary organizers of Indiana Black Expo during the early 1970s.

Exploring Rev. Martin Luther King's visits to Indiana

Studio guests on our Jan. 19 show, “Rev. Martin Luther King's visits to Indiana.” From left, Rev. Thomas Brown, Susan Hall Dotson and David Leander Williams.
Courtesy Molly Head.

History Mystery

The Loyola Ramblers' 1962-1963 team. Our mystery player stands on the far left.

Major organizers of Indiana Black Expo in the early 1970s included Indianapolis civil rights leader Rev. Andrew Brown, a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the father of our guest Rev. Thomas Brown. The inaugural Black Expo was a three-day event in 1971 attended by more than 50,000 people.

Celebrities featured at inaugural Expo events included a popular former player for the Indiana Pacers, which were then in the ABA (American Basketball Association). Our mystery player had been a basketball star at Loyola University in Chicago, leading the team to the 1963 NCAA championship. At the time of the inaugural Black Expo in 1971, he was working as the first African-American fundraiser for United Way of Central Indiana. During the 1970s, he became the first African-American sportscaster in the Indianapolis TV market.

In addition, he advocated for civil rights, working with the Southern Christian Leadership conference several years after Dr. King had served as the organization's first president.

Question: Who is our mystery man?

The prize pack is a gift certificate to Story Inn, courtesy of Story Inn, and four admissions to GlowGolf, courtesy of GlowGolf.


Bobby Plump, "Milan Miracle" shot-maker, to speak at Hoosier History Live 11th anniversary party!

The "Milan Miracle" team celebrates their state championship win in 1954. Bobby Plump, holding the basketball and with the net around his shoulders, will be the featured speaker at the 11th anniversary celebration of Hoosier History Live.

Once in a great while, the little guy wins.

In 1954, in what became known as the "Milan Miracle," a basketball team from a small, rural high school beat out the favored teams to capture the Indiana state championship, a feat immortalized in the 1986 movie Hoosiers.

Bobby PlumpLegendary Hoosier Bobby Plump, who made the final, winning shot for the small Milan High School basketball team in 1954, will speak at Hoosier History Live's 11th anniversary party. The party will be held on Thursday, Feb. 28 from 5:00 to 7:30 pm at the Indiana Landmarks Center, 1201 N. Central Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46202.

As our featured speaker, Bobby Plump will be helping to celebrate the success of another "small team" - the Hoosier History Live creative team. While quality journalism in newspapers, magazines and television news decreases, Hoosier History Live's independent production group continues to put out a compelling show and an informative newsletter each week.

And all the while expanding its reach as a podcast, available for free on iTunes and other popular podcast venues.

We invite all friends and supporters of Hoosier History Live to join the celebration as our guest. Come as you are, or (better yet!) dress in historic garb as your favorite character from the past. Watch our website for details and the RSVP form.

Thanks to our friends at Indiana Landmarks and Black Plate Catering for their support!



Avriel Shull, trail-blazing home builder and designer

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Avriel Shull, as photographed for a 1951 issue of Life magazine, which featured a spread on her wedding. Well respected as a designer and builder of mid-century modern homes in the Indianapolis area, Shull was known for her splashy personal style as well.
Courtesy Life magazine.

Catalog listing for an Ariel Shull home design from the early 1970s.(January 5, 2019) To kick off the 11th year of Hoosier History Live with flair, we spotlight the impact of an Indiana architectural trail-blazer who had both pizzazz and spunk.

Beginning in the 1950s, when women home builders were a rarity, Avriel Shull designed and built mid-century modern homes in Carmel, Indianapolis and other cities. National periodicals eventually distributed the house plans of "Avriel" (she often was referred to by her first name only), with orders for her home patterns continuing long after she died in her mid-40s in 1976.

"Years before branding became an essential component of business success, Avriel was both a well-known company brand and a synonym for modern design," according to our guest, historian, researcher and preservationist Connie Zeigler, owner of C. Resources. Connie prepared the nomination for the National Register of Historic Places of the Thornhurst subdivision in Carmel, where Avriel designed 21 mid-century modern homes.

One of many Avriel Shull designs offered in a book of home plans published in 1978.Just as Avriel's homes created something of a stir - with their floor-to-ceiling windows, sliding glass doors, vertical cedar siding and walled patios during an era noted for basic ranch houses - red-haired, charismatic Avriel drew attention on a personal level as well.

In 1951, Life magazine devoted a multi-page photo spread to her splashy wedding, during which Avriel entered amid a release of white birds; at 2 a.m., she lifted her white gown to perform the can-can.

Her husband was one of Indiana's best-known journalists of the era. An irreverent TV columnist for the Indianapolis News (and, before that, for the Indianapolis Times), R.K. Shull also answered reader questions in "Shull's Mailbag," which appeared in 260 newspapers across the country.

None of that overshadowed his wife, who, as Connie has written, "lived life at breakneck speed."

According to Connie, Avriel "often laid the stone herself on the houses she designed." As for an enduring architectural legacy, Connie notes that "At least 50, and probably more, of her houses are still standing in the Indianapolis area."

Avriel Shull often signed her work, as in this mark she left in the masonry of one of the homes she designed.But Avriel was not an architect. In fact, although she studied at what was then the John Herron Art Institute during the 1940s, Avriel never earned a college degree.

In all of her Thornhurst subdivision houses - which were the focus of a 2017 home tour organized by the Carmel Clay Historical Society - Avriel featured modern fireplaces, some of which she built herself.

In a cover story about Avriel for a 2012 issue of Traces magazine published by the Indiana Historical Society, Connie notes that many of the fireplaces "had two-sided hearths opening into two different rooms."

Connie writes that for home interiors, Avriel chose vinyl-topped stools, tripod-legged lamps and sofas with hairpin legs, "unlike the ruffled sofas and overstuffed chairs of earlier eras." In many of the bathrooms, she painted murals - and added an elaborate "Avriel" as a signature to her work.

By the mid-1960s, Avriel landed contracts to design homes in upscale neighborhoods on the northside of Indianapolis including Avalon Hills, Crow's Nest, Meridian Hills and Sunset Lane. In the final years before her death shortly before her 45th birthday, Avriel was building houses in Brownsburg, Kokomo, Westfield and Evansville.

An Avriel Shull home in the Thornhurst neighborhood of Carmel, Ind. The design shows typical Avriel features including vertical siding, floor-to-ceiling windows and a gabled roof with only the slightest of angles at the peak.


History Mystery

Detail from a 1958 cover of an issue of Life magazine that portrayed an Indiana city as a "thriving cesspool of vice." What was that city? Courtesy Life magazine.

The multi-page photo essay about the wedding of home builder Avriel Shull in Life was one of many times during the 1950s that the magazine - which then was published weekly as one of the country's most widely read periodicals - focused on a topic related to Indiana.

In 1958, a six-page essay in Life described an Indiana city as "a thriving cesspool of vice." The illustrated article included descriptions of illegal gambling and prostitution in the Hoosier city.

For several years after the article's publication in 1958, it remained a topic of discussion in households across the state. Outraged and distraught, civic leaders in the Indiana city were quoted as worrying that it might cause "irreparable damage." Reacting to the Life article, a local newspaper published a front-page editorial with the headline: "A Low Blow If There Ever Was One."

Question: What Indiana city was the focus of the controversial article in Life magazine in 1958?

The prizes this week are four admissions to the Indiana History Center, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society, and a gift certificate to Story Inn in Brown County, courtesy of Story Inn.



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