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Animals in the Archives

February 23, 2018

As a collections assistant, it is my job to go through collections that have been donated to the Indiana Historical Society and put them in order. I often come across fun objects like someone’s old doodles left in the margins of a letter or silly photographs taken of people when they weren’t expecting it. As an animal lover, my absolute favorite finds are photographs with animals in them.

My most recent find was a pair of cat photographs, and needless to say, when I first came across them, I squealed with delight. These images were taken by a self-proclaimed expert amateur photographer sometime between the 1930s and 1940s by an Indiana man named Eugene Ezell (b. 1898, d. 1955) also known as “Ezy” by friends. Going through the Ezell family collection was an absolute pleasure, but not just because of the cats. It’s one of those collections where you really get to know the person through their letters and photos.

Mother cat with kittens

Through his letters and work records, I was able to see how Ezell was constantly forced to reinvent himself. He served in the Army during WWI, worked for his family’s tobacco business and then got a position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He joined the Army again for WWII and was honorably discharged less than a year in for health issues, then he came back home to Indiana and worked for the Office of Price Administration and later the Office of Rent Stabilization. In 1953, the Office of Rent Stabilization stopped receiving funding and was forced to lay off its staff. Now in his mid-50s, Ezell was forced to reinvent himself yet again. He applied for several jobs, even one that would make use of his self-proclaimed status as an expert amateur photographer-he was skilled in taking and processing photographs, and I like to think the cat photographs are proof. He ended up getting a real estate license and began practicing as a real estate agent until his death.

Jessica Fischer

Jessica Erin Fischer is a collections assistant at IHS. She loves all things old, all things odd and all things related to animals.

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