The Victor Talking Machine Company, which produced Victrola phonographs and Victor records, was incorporated in 1901 with its headquarters in Camden, New Jersey. This company was sold to a banking firm in 1926, which sold it to RCA in 1929. Many music-related stores started selling the Victrolas in the early 1900s, including department stores as well as Victrola stores.
The Circle Talking Machine Shop incorporated in 1920 and was located on 35 Monument Circle, Indianapolis, Indiana. This was a prime location for a retail store in the center of the city, it was very near the popular Circle Theater, but it had heavy competition, including the Indianapolis Talking Machine Store. The Shop closed its doors in 1924.
The Directors of the Circle Talking Machine Shop were Ward Hackelman, Fred Appel, H. T. Griffith, Wallace O. Lee, Harry E. Whitman, and Jean R. Whitman. The Whitmans were married and were the operators of the store. Harry had been a salesman for the Pearson Piano Store and Jean had run a typewriter supply store in the Hume-Mansur building. Ward Hackleman and Fred Appel were both insurance company executives. Howard T. Griffith worked for the Udell Works, a furniture manufacturer in Indianapolis that made cabinets for the table model Victrolas.
Wallace O. Lee was the Vice-President of the Indianpolis Heat & Light Company, which was the predecessor of the Indianapolis Power & Light Company. Lee’s office was also on the Monument Circle. He and his wife were very active in Indianapolis civic and charitable activities. And, during WWI Wallace was a member of a controversial secret patriotic society called the American Protective League.
The American Protective League (APL) was founded on March 22, 1917, shortly before Congress declared war on Germany. A Chicago businessman had suggested to the Department of Justice, Bureau of Investigation, that a volunteer organization should be set up to monitor treasonable activities within war-related factories and within American communities. A national network was set up and they claimed that up to 250,000 “operatives” were involved in almost 600 cities in the United States. Most of members were in the big cities like Chicago and New York City, but Henry Ford claimed he had 400 APL members working in his Michigan factory which employed 30, 000. The APL was particularly interested in the activities of German immigrants, and the organization claimed that up to 3,000,000 investigations were conducted for the U. S. Government. The APL was dissolved in early 1919, but the FBI later used the organization’s records to conduct some of its own investigations.
My brother told me about a similar situation during WWII. A German immigrant family moved into the neighborhood where he grew up, in what is now called South Broad Ripple, in Indianapolis. In 1941 this family moved into a house in the 5500 block of Rosslyn Ave. They spoke German, as well as English, and they kept mostly to themselves. They had two little girls who also did not play with the neighborhood children. The husband rode a bicycle to work every day, and he eventually motorized the bike. Their neighbors were naturally suspicious of them, since we were at war with Germany. The German family moved away after the war, in 1946.
So, I researched this German family on the internet. They immigrated from Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. In 1940 they lived in Chicago, and the husband was a salesman for the Stein Sewing Machine Company. Their first daughter was born in 1940. They moved to Indianapolis in 1941 where the husband managed a sewing machine sales and repair shop at 644 E. 52nd street, a few miles from where they lived. The brick building is still there, around the corner from the Aristocrat Restaurant, one of our favorite places to eat. The wife became a naturalized citizen in 1943. When they left Indianapolis they moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they lived the rest of their lives. I can see why neighbors would be suspicious of them, but I bet these German immigrants felt they were very lucky and thankful to have escaped Nazi Germany before WWII started.
by Robert F. Gilyeat, an Indiana State Archives volunteer