Author Archives: rob5444gil

About rob5444gil

I volunteer at the Indiana State Archives

Gene Stratton-Porter’s Company

Kendallville Broom and Brush Company, incorporated from 1914 to 1926.

The object of this company was to manufacture brooms and brushes in the town of Kendallville, Indiana. This company was started by Gene Stratton-Porter, a very popular novelist and naturalist from northern Indiana in the early 20th century. There are copies of the incorporation papers, amendment papers and annual reports for the company in this file. The first papers are the Articles of Incorporation filed on May 14, 1914. It is interesting that her husband, Charles D. Porter, did not sign on as a director at the inception of the company as he did in the subsequent years.

There are various annual reports signed by the directors from 1914 to 1926. Besides the Porters the directors were Gertrude Lay Sumption and her husband Rinaldo Sumption, Wells S. Murphy, and John E. Jellison. Rinaldo Sumption was listed in the 1910 Federal Census as a General Merchant and Gertrude had no listed occupation. Wells S. Murphy was listed in the 1910 Federal Census as a Railroad Yard Marker in Cadillac, Michigan, and was listed as a manufacturer of brooms in Kendallville in the copy of his WWI registration. He was also the company’s secretary. John E. Jellison was listed as a laborer in the 1910 Federal Census, and was listed as manager of the broom company in 1920. Gene was listed as a writer of fiction in the 1920 Federal Census, and her husband as a bank manager in Rome City.

The Amendment papers for the company on January 20, 1921 increased its Capital Stock from $15,000 to $100,000. By that time the Porters had moved to California, where these papers were signed. Its interesting that all of the company’s directors had also moved to California by then. Gene was involved in producing films of her novels while in California, but was killed in an auto accident in December of 1924.

The last set of papers in this file is the Corporation Report of 1926. It looks like some investors from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania had bought the broom and brush company by then. Arthur A. Auer of Kendallville, Indiana is listed as the Vice-President of the company. Auer’s occupation listed on his death certificate in 1967 was as a manufacurer of brooms and brushes in Kendallville, so maybe the company started by Gene Stratton-Porter stayed in business in Kendallville for many years after she died.

Mono-Wing Aircraft Corp. or Arup Inc.

In 1926 Dr. Cloyd L. Snyder, a podiatrist from South Bend, Indiana, supposedly got the idea for a single-wing aircraft after noticing the shape and gliding ability of a shoe’s heel lift. So, with the help of others he developed a mono-wing glider which was successfully piloted in 1932 by Glen Doolittle, cousin of the well-known pilot Jimmy Doolittle.


Raul Hoffman, an experienced aircraft engineer, then added a motorcycle motor and stronger landing gear to the glider, which was successfully tested in 1933 by Glen Doolittle. They designated this single-wing aircraft the Arup S-2 for its quick take-off ability, or Air & Up.


“The purpose or purposes for which it is formed are as follows:

  1. To engage or become engaged generally in the manufacture and sale of aeroplanes, dirigibles, and all other types of flying craft and all parts and accessories thereof including gas bags and balloons.
  2. To manufacture, purchase, lease or otherwise acquire and/or  sell, mortgage, lease or otherwise dispose of any and all kinds of flying machines or motors; to export or import the same and to carry on any trade or business incidental thereto or connected therewith.
  3. To apply for, purchase or otherwise acquire, hold, own, use, operate, sell, assign or grant or conduct licenses in respect to any and all inventions, improvements and processes used in connection with or secure under letters patent of the United States or elsewhere in the whole world.”20181203_19563288407807.jpg

The 1932 investors in this unusual airplane were all South Bend, Indiana, residents. Francis J.Vurpillat was a doctor, Roland W. Goheen a banker, Forbes A. Hurcomb an automobile engineer, Otto H. Collmer, Jr. a tool maker shop owner, Harold A. McCollough a life insurance agent, Paul O.Kuehn a shoe store merchant and J. Clifford Potts an attorney. I couldn’t find anything about H. L. Stuart.

20181203_135622_001331476601.jpgPhoto from “365 Aircraft You Must Fly” by Robert F. Dorr

The Arup S-2 was shown off at events like the Indianapolis 500, the 1933 National Air Races, and for the Army, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and the Civil Aeronautics Authority.

Strangely enough, a modified version called the Arup S-3 was destroyed by arson. A re-engineered version, the Arup S-4, was built on a tight budget and again successfully tested by Glen Doolittle in 1935.


This new and improved model could not be sold to aircraft companies during the Depression. It was mainly flown to advertise the Sears & Roebuck Co., and then was grounded and abandoned during WWII.

Dr. Snyder’s mono-wing airplane was significant as a bold experiment. It later influenced the radical aeronautic designs of Charles H. Zimmerman who interested the U.S. Navy after WWII in his quick take-off mono-wing airplane. But his creative concepts were cancelled with the development of jet aircraft.


Anderson Amusement Corporation, owner of the Anderson, Indiana Paramount Theatre




Anderson Amusement Corporation owned the Anderson Paramount Theatre located at 1129 Meridian Street, Anderson, Indiana; Anderson Amusement was incorporated from September 15, 1933 to 1946. The directors were Isaac R. Holycross, Claribelle Holycross, Neil M. McCullough, and Harry W. VanNoy.



Isaac R. Holycross had been a printing press manager and an oil salesman before he got into the real estate  and theatre businesses; Claribelle was his wife. Harry W. VanNoy was a messenger and then the manager of the Western Union Telegraph office in New Castle, Indiana. He also got into the real estate business and then became the manager and part owner of the Anderson Paramount Theatre. Neil M. McCullough was the president of the Citizens Bank in Anderson, and was also an owner of the Riviera Theatre across the street from the Paramount.

The Anderson Paramount Theatre was originally owned by the Publix chain of theaters, a division of Paramount Pictures. It was designed by architect John Eberson, a famous designer of impressive theaters across the United States. According to the Wikipedia article about the Anderson Paramount Theatre, it “is an atmospheric theatre (an architectural style that gave the appearance of an open star-filled sky) and is one of the twelve atmospheric theatres left standing in the United States and Canada. The auditorium was decorated in the style of a Spanish village.” The theatre opened on August 29, 1929, but closed on June 1, 1930 due to the Depression. Anderson Amusement Corporation probably bought the theatre from Publix and reopened it on December 27, 1931.

Anderson Amusement gave up ownership of the theatre in 1946, after which different owners let the structure slowly deteriorate. The Anderson Paramount Theatre was beautifully restored by community interests and reopened in 1995.








The Starr Piano Company, Oriental Branch (a Gennett Record connection)


The Starr Piano Company, located in Richmond, Indiana, was incorporated in 1893. Henry Gennett invested in the Company in 1893 and by 1903 the Gennett family controlled it. They produced high-quality pianos that sold world-wide.

On December 3, 1919, the Gennett family incorporated the Starr Piano Company – Oriental Branch. I believe the purpose of this company was to sell their products to middle eastern countries. The directors were Mardiros Nigohossian, Haig Varvarian, Clarence Gennett, Fred Gennett and William A. Klein. Clarence and Fred were sons of Henry Gennett. Annual Corporation Reports were submitted to the Indiana Secretary of State through 1934, but the corporation never did any business.


On each report was written “no stock was ever issued – no books opened – no directors chosen – no officers elected – no stockholders meeting held.”

According to ship passenger lists, Mardiros Nigohossian was of Turkish nationality and resided in Greece, and Haig Varvarian was a subject of Persia. Clarence Gennett was treasurer of the Starr Piano Company, and Fred Gennett was its secretary. On the 1920 Federal Census William A. Klein was listed as the Starr Piano Company’s “foreign manager”.

In 1915 Starr’s board of directors voted to produce phonographs and recordings to keep up with this new form of home entertainment. Fred Gennett was put in charge of the endeavor, and production of the phonographs began in Richmond, Indiana in 1916; recordings began with the Gannett label in 1917. Fred was successful in choosing artists that were known nationally and the Starr phonographs were popular. In 1919 Fred decided to make Gennett Record recordings using a popular procedure that was patented by Victor Records. Victor sued Gennett in response, and Gennett won the court battle in 1923.


Then in 1923 Gennett Record sales increased dramatically when they recorded Chicago-based jazz bands at the suggestion of Fred D. Wiggins, the company’s Chicago branch manager. Wiggins was thus promoted in 1924 to head Gennett’s recording department, and he actively searched for and recruited new, regional recording artists like Louis Armstrong, Hoagy Carmichael, and Bix Beiderbecke. As a central, mid-western studio located in Richmond, Indiana, Gennett Records’ reputation flourished.

The book “Gennett Records and Starr Piano”, published by Arcadia Publishing, stated “Gennett discovered a vibrant and underrecorded group of groundbreaking jazz, blues, country, sacred and ethnic musicians who changed the face of American music and culture.”

Gennett Record sales dropped drastically during the Depression and they stopped recording in 1934. The defunct Starr Piano – Oriental Branch also stopped sending in its Annual Corporation Report the same year.





Victrolas & Spies


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 1924.20180902_0957411173217575.jpg


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.20180909_0534301101986329.jpg20180909_0556461862963414.jpg

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 the 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.







Santa Claus, Indiana

20180820_210817689198255.jpgWhen I was a boy in the 1950s my parents drove from Indianapolis, Indiana to southern Indiana to visit a village named Santa Claus where stood a huge Santa Claus statue. There I rode in a small train to view elf-like statues and visit the real Santa Claus. Many years later my wife and I took our kids to Santa Claus, Indiana to visit the expanded Holiday World and ride the roller coaster, a water log ride, and several kiddie rides. Also, to visit a very authentic-looking Santa Claus in a room filled with colorful Christmas decorations.

According to Holiday World history, Evansville industrialist Louis J. Koch visited Santa Claus, Indiana with his kids during WWII and was disappointed to find only a post office, a general store, a few houses and no Santa Claus. Actually, I bet he was really excited to find an opportunity where other entrepreneurs had failed. During the 1930s other businessmen tried their best to attract tourists to the Christmas-themed village, but eventually failed. During the late 1930s thousands of tourists visited Santa Claus Town, but tourism and sponsorship dried up during WWII, and a rivalry between two local opportunists didn’t help either.



I came across five different Santa Claus-themed companies incorporated during the 1930s in Santa Claus, Indiana. The first was the “Santa Claus Industries of Indiana”, incorporated by Stanley C. Hill, Laura B. Wylie, and William D. Fitzpatrick on October 2, 1931. Stanley C. Hill was a 44-year old Indianapolis salesman, Laura B. Wylie – a 44-year old widow from Elwood, Indiana who owned the Elwood Lumber Company, and William D. Fitzpatrick – a 43-year old Indianapolis attorney. I think this might have been a general store in the village that probably sold toys, but it didn’t last very long.


Santa Claus, Service Inc., incorporated on November 18, 1933. These incorporation papers were written with catch-all phrases that would include just about everything that could be sold in a Santa Claus-themed store. The incorporators were Eugene C. Wharf, Thomas M. Shircliff, and Charles R. Shircliff, all from nearby Vincennes, Indiana. Eugene C. Wharf was a 55-year old district agent for a life insurance company. Thomas M. Shircliff  and his younger brother Charles M. were involved in the furniture sales business. Later, in 1935, they, started Shircliff Industries to manufacture furniture in Vincennes, as well as opening a Pepsi-Cola bottling plant there. Again, their enterprise in Santa Claus didn’t seem to last very long.


The first entrepreneur to be commercially successful in Santa Claus, Indiana was Milton Harris, a lawyer from nearby Vincennes, Indiana. For years thousands of letters and packages had been sent to and remailed from Santa Claus, Indiana to children as a Christmas surprise. In the early 1930s the village’s postmaster, James Martin, and Harris conceived the idea of opening there a Santa Claus-themed brick castle named the Candy House. In 1934 Harris incorporated the plan as “Santa Claus of Santa Claus, Indiana”, along with Cincinnati road building contractor Lester R. Geiler. I imagine Geiler provided some funds for the project, and maybe had something to do with the building of the Candy House.


Strategically, they also leased many acres of land around the village for further development of their Santa Claus Town. Gilbert Fahr, a farmer from Santa Claus, Indiana, later signed on as a director of this corporation. Maybe he was the farmer from whom Harris leased the land.

Milton Harris opened his Candy House, sponsored by Curtis Candy Company, during the 1935 season and it had a booming business. But, a competitor unveiled a huge “granite” Santa Claus  on Christmas on a nearby knoll, and had bought the Santa Claus Inn in the village.20180831_232812345984838.jpg

This competitor was Carl A. Barrett, President of the Illinois Automobile Club. Barnett claimed that he had also bought property around Santa Claus, Indiana, and that he intended to build a Santa Claus Park on this property, which was also Harris’s idea,. The trouble was that the property he bought had already been leased for 25 years to Harris. So, they went to court and Harris won a temporary injunction against Barrett in 1936. The enthusiastic Harris then built onto his Santa Claus Town, with other pavilions sponsored by companies like Daisy Air Rifles and Lionel Trains.

According to a 1938 newspaper article about the situation, “Barrett then asked a higher court to review the evidence.” The matter went to the Indiana Supreme Court to decide, and Harris eventually won his case. Barrett could not develop his Park, but he still owned the 40-ton Santa Claus (a crack revealed that it was not made of granite, but of concrete), and his Santa Claus Hotel and Restaurant.20180816_165030372990507.jpg20180816_165219128396066.jpg

According to a U.P. newspaper article dated December 21, 1938, “Last Sunday more than 10,000 persons walked through the streets (of Santa Claus, Indiana) … and the toy village contains miniature replicas  of story book houses built by Milton Harris.”

Unfortunately, WWII interrupted the dream of Harris to build upon his Christmas-themed business. Sponsorship and tourism dried up during the war years, and when Louis J. Koch and his family visited Santa Claus Land, only the general store and post office were open. Koch opened his fantasyland train ride and exhibits successfully in 1946. Harris died in 1950, and his Christmas-themed park closed.

The Koch family have very successfully developed their modest Christmas-themed enterprise into the award-winning Holiday World & Splashin Safari. Also, an enthusiastic, Christmas-loving entrepreneur named Kevin Klosowski has recently  renovated and reopened Santa’s Castle. And, even though the foundations of the little “story book houses” are still barely visible, he hopes to continue the legacy of Milton Harris.