In August 1915, author Theodore Dreiser and artist Franklin Booth, both Indiana natives, set off from New York City in a 60-horsepower, Hoosier-made Pathfinder touring car on a trip that brought Dreiser home after a more than 20-year absence.
The result of the two-week, 2,000-mile journey was A Hoosier Holiday, published in Indiana?s centennial year. Dreiser?s work helped inaugurate an era of highway literature? or road books,? inspiring others to hit the road in their cars and visit long-forgotten destinations of their past.
It seems appropriate in 2016, to help commemorate Indiana’s Bicentennial, that the IHS Press follow, as it were, in Dreiser?s tire tracks by publishing Andrea Neal?s Road Trip: A Pocket History of Indiana.
Neal is a former Indianapolis Star journalist and current history teacher. She selected the top 100 events/historical figures in Indiana history, some well-known such as George Rogers Clark, and others obscured by time or memory such as the Marquis de Lafayette’s visit to southern Indiana.
Neal took some time to answer questions about her new book.
Indiana schools don?t teach state history beyond fourth grade, yet all of the big events in U.S. history can be studied with a zoom lens in our own backyard. For example, students read about the Erie Canal in American history class without ever learning that an even longer canal the Wabash-Erie was built in Indiana. There are certain things all Hoosiers should know about our past, and I wanted to do my part to tell those stories.
My goal was to pick the top 100 stories in Indiana history. They had to have state or national significance, and there had to be a physical location that Hoosiers could visit. I also wanted to tell some stories, overlooked or forgotten through the years, that would delight and amuse people.
It?s not flat. Just go to Clifty Falls State Park. It?s not that conservative. President Benjamin Harrison, was a progressive Republican, and we produced socialist Eugene Debs. The state has so many impressive historic sites and museums that operate on shoestrings that most Hoosiers have never visited.
That?s like choosing a favorite child! The Studebaker National Museum in South Bend had the biggest wow factor. Cars have always been purely functional for me, so I didn?t understand folks who collected antique automobiles. I now see old cars as works of art. This museum does an exceptional job showing the evolution of the automobile with clear and easy-to-read text in all its exhibits. While in South Bend you can also visit the adjacent History Museum and Oliver Mansion.
Start in Corydon, where our Founding Fathers wrote the first state constitution, and work your way north as the pioneers did. Pick at least one state park to visit in honor of the park system?s centennial, and be sure to take a canal ride in Delphi or Metamora. Call before you go. Many of the sites referenced in my book are run by volunteers, and hours of operation change frequently.
I am writing a children?s book about Old Whiskers, the pet goat that lived at the White House when Benjamin Harrison was president. The goat had a wagon and often took the president?s grandchildren on rides on the White House lawn. One day the goat escaped, and Harrison had to chase it down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Get your copy of Road Trip here.