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Digital Collection Highlights Indianapolis at the Turn of the Century

Walter N. Carpenter Family Photographs

Walter Nathaniel Carpenter was born in 1865. He was a Federal District Court Reporter and prolific amateur photographer who documented life in Indianapolis from the 1890s until his death in 1937. Carpenter created more than 30 photo albums with carefully captioned and dated photographs of his family and his travels throughout the United States. He also captured many of the significant places and events that shaped Indianapolis at the turn of the century, including former President Benjamin Harrison’s funeral procession in 1901, the Flood of 1913 and Indiana’s Centennial Celebration in 1916.

Working in downtown Indianapolis as a court reporter allowed Carpenter the opportunity to closely observe the cityscape changing around him. Many of his photos contain old landmarks that did not survive past the early 1900s. He took several before and after photographs of building sites such as the Circle Theatre, the Odd Fellows Building and the United States Post Office – now the Birch Bayh Federal Building and United States Courthouse. Carpenter also took note of the city’s burgeoning park system, taking his family on drives or bike rides to Garfield Park, Brookside Park, Riverside Park, Fairview Park – now the grounds of Butler University – and others.

The Carpenter home in Woodruff Place served as the setting for many of his well-composed portraits of family life. Walter and his wife, Lizzie, had four children, and the family enjoyed spending time with their neighbors, having play dates, picnicking and visiting on the large porches that were typical of homes in the neighborhood. The Carpenter family also spent many weeks each year traveling in Indiana and all over the United States. Indiana destinations included French Lick, Rising Sun, Brown County, Lake Maxinkuckee and Bass Lake.

The Walter N. Carpenter Family Photographs digital collection contains selected photographs from the Louise Carpenter Stanfield Family Collection, which was donated to the Indiana Historical Society in memory of Walter Nathaniel Carpenter and his daughter Louise Carpenter Stanfield.

Access the Walter N. Carpenter Family Photographs digital collection here.

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