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Adding to perceptions about Civil War heritage. . . a speaking tour brings insights

For many years I have been privileged to be a speaker at Indiana meetings: library gatherings, books clubs, I HS events, Civil War organizations like the Sons of Union Veterans and Round tables in southern Indiana, Anderson, Indianapolis—and even White Plains New York and Portland Maine.

The invitations came as a result of interest in my first historical book Gallant Fourteenth: The Story of an Indiana Civil War Regiment. It was praised when it came out in 1980 by its Civil War Times reviewer as one of the two best regimental histories in modern times. Of course there weren’t many at that point; since then many good histories of regiments have come out, but I am happy to say this book, about the human side of the war as well as battlefield strategies, still remains a classic, through six re-printings.

My latest book is A Cabinet of Curiosities from the Civil war in Indiana: Important, Moving, and Sometimes Odd Stories from the Human Side of the War. Why did I focus on the human side: the women and children left behind, the Copperhead agitations, the unsung men from Indiana regiments stuck in the mud and swamps of the Mississippi valley instead of gathering glory at Gettysburg? There were 200,000 Hoosier men who went to the Civil War 1861-’65 and 20,000 didn’t come home. I’m spending time as I talk about the new book on real people, who had to fight that war (all of them), asking for people who hear me to help with heritage preservation for wartime documents and heritage. In a time where schools aren’t teaching much history and when it has been almost seventy years since the last veteran of the Civil War died, the memory of the sacrifices and lessons of the war are quite naturally fading.

My message is that the war achieved an amazing change in American society, a change which isn’t complete—the freeing of the slaves and the incorporation of them and their descendants into American society. The lesson that democracy such as ours needs to be guarded and even fought for by a unified society stood out then and stands out then, to be learned and learned again over and over.

When I spoke a short while ago to the Camp Tippecanoe Civil War Roundtable I found a very thoughtful and well informed group of men and women who listened with respect to readings from my book. They generally agreed with my arguments for collecting letters, diaries and journals which are in private collections in the state into archives, libraries and repositories before we forget what the conflict was all about. Time takes its toll; years pass and people’s care diminishes and dims. Already the new generation is asking “What was that 9/11 thing?”

After the presentation at Purdue University, when we entered into discussion on the subject, some people politely asked, “Why should we be preserving, revering and honoring the memory of the heroes of the Civil War? Theirs was a white society; many Indiana people are from another background and don’t have that same heritage. We are developing a multicultural society and there will be many backgrounds—so glorifying that heritage may not be useful.”

It was a little bit of a new perspective for me at one of these meetings. I was also recommending that a general history from Indiana be put in libraries around the state. It was from the Indiana Historical Society, and I immediately thought of their incentives to preserve the locations and history of the Underground Railroad, so I cited that as an example of preserving non-white history. I could have also mentioned more at I HS:  history of black industries and business leaders in Indiana and groups of freed slaves who settled in the state and colored Civil War units. The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is an active advocate for revering the American Indians in our midst—and in our history.

The point is right: we are getting to be an amalgam of many cultures. In Indianapolis exciting directions are happening, new educational institutions and initiatives, innovation in transportation and artificial intelligence and many different kinds of people, races and cultural groups, are bringing about the changes. Same for much of the rest of Indiana.

I don’t think the Purdue audience was calling for us to suspend the preservation of our Indiana history which, admittedly, has often been the story of white people. They were pointing to the celebration of the histories of all our people: Mexican Cinco De Mayo, African-American community roots and history of the Chinese contingent among us and Indian Hoosiers’ culture. And it isn’t all celebratory; we are still working on honest appraisal of racial antipathies and discrimination in post-Civil War Indiana, up to the present day.

Broad heritage study! Good idea.

By Nancy Baxter, Senior Editor at Hawthorne


Click back to order Nancy Baxter’s new book A Cabinet of Curiosities of the Civil War in Indiana

Posted in Books on Indiana, civil war |

Happy Birthday, Doris Day! From your former and loving secretary

Doris on her birthday in 1973Ever since I was a young teenager, April 3rd had a very special meaning for me.  Why, you ask?  It just happens to be the birthday of my childhood and lifetime idol.  On April 3rd legendary actress, DORIS DAY, will turn a youthful 96 years old.  Yes, it is hard to believe the “girl next door” is almost a centenarian, but thank God she is still alive and well.  I hope she will enjoy a glorious day and a happy and healthy year ahead.

I remember one of the surprise birthday parties we had for Doris when I was working for her in the early 1970s.  Doris never really enjoyed celebrating birthdays, because she said she just considered it another day.  But I and my friends who loved her, wanted to make April 3rd a special day for her.

Four of us in the local “Day Gang’”—Hilda, manager at Bailey’s Bakery which Doris frequented, along with Mary Kay, my roommate, and Linda, longtime friend and fan, and I invited Doris and her Mom, Alma, to a lovely dinner at a little bistro in Beverly Hills.  We had a nice meal with lots of conversation.  The cake we had specially made for her featured a large edible daisy on top.  In each of the 11 petals of the daisy were the names of Doris’s eleven doggies.  One of several cute nicknames Doris herself had was ‘Nora Neat’…in keeping with this, I remember giving Doris a broom and dust pan for her birthday that year with daisies painted all over them and she loved them…and better yet, she used them!

We returned back to Doris’s home which was laden with birthday cards and greetings from fans from all over the world.  Sometimes it took Doris a couple  of days to go through the stacks of birthday cards and gifts.  She had, and still has, a very devoted and faithful fan base and they always remember her on her special day.

These days, fans gather in Carmel, CA, to take part in special festivities planned for the birthday weekend.

In closing, I just want to say HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY dear Doris – thank you for the wonderful memories spent with you over the years.  God bless you and may your new year be filled with health and much happiness.

Mary Anne Barothy, author of Day at a Time: An Indiana Girl’s Sentimental Journey to Doris Day’s Hollywood and Beyond




Posted in Doris Day |

The Publishing World: Surprise! It has only now begun to change after 500 years of being about the same

A new book: Copernicus’ Secret: How the Scientific Revolution Began by Jack Repcheck, was surprising to me when I recently read it for a couple of reasons.

First, I did not know the details of the intense flaming of scientific inquiry in the mid-1500s in Prussia and Poland which eventually led to modern science. The book covers immediate predecessors of Nicolaus Copernicus in Wickenburg and other universities,  the rivalry to “be first” to enunciate some new theory, the fraternal interplay of minds in the academic world and the rush to publication of scientific treatises.

It is that facet of the book, the quick publication and circulation of books, that I found most fascinating. Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press 1468, which led to public circulation of books, had swept Europe and initiated a collective advance of ideas, theories, propositions, proofs and discussions on several fronts but particularly the scientific.

The author follows the development of Copernicus’ theory that the earth revolves around the sun not the sun around the earth, as Ptolemy had decreed. The scientist defended his theory with page after page of complicated proofs involving trigonometry and various solar movement charts. Though his friends urged, and finally succeeded in getting him to put out, an early version of the radical theory into book form, the full scientific proofs were not fully printed until after his death.

Why had Copernicus been so averse to publication and so careful when he did agree to having his theories put into books? He could hardly bear to put into the new public forum what he knew was the truth.  He realized that through the new distribution and trade system in Europe, books were going quickly from Germany to Russia, Italy and France, the northern counties and England for scholars to read—and inevitably challenge. He was aware that publication would rise a firestorm of controversy. His Heliocentric Theory would reflect on the new Protestant Reformation by challenging church doctrine, firm for hundreds of years in supporting Ptolemy.

The surprising aspect of the story to me was the rapidity with which book publishing had taken over the public mind and economy and how quickly it went into a predictable form. It was in this period that the system still present into our own day and age was firmly established.  Publishers, who were also printers, found investment money from entrepreneurs in the new post-Renaissance capitalistic economy to purchase the newest equipment in presses and for typesetting and binding. They advertised for authors and accepted submissions from agents who scoured the literate, in this case scientific, world, for new material. Editors edited, always an important part of the publishing process; expert readers checked. Proofers and the author corrected in the laborious pen and ink of the time and sent rapid couriers to the printers with Oks to publish. Books were generated as fast as could be expedited and put on trade ships in ports like Antwerp, Hamburg in northern Germany, Rotterdam, the Scandinavian countries and London and other English ports.

They were sold via posted broadside flyers and in newspapers and circulated even in the countryside towns. Books could be ordered directly or from bookstores which proliferated. How much did a book cost? Copernicus’ On the Revolutions cost about the equivalent of $150, as far as I can figure out (in Florins.) No wonder libraries also proliferated for borrowing. Books were precious. That was one of the few basics that did change over five hundred years: books became inexpensive enough for all to enjoy.

Today there is a second, less conspicuous revolution in book publishing. Although the venerable system of large publisher/printers still prints many books for the reading world, in America  and elsewhere also, many writers are skipping the middle part of the age-old publishing system. Instead of submitting to agents who then approach publishers who may farm out the printing in a process that may last two years or more, 40% of authors today choose to manage the process themselves. Digital printing has enabled  authors to  easily design and typeset and then through easy online publishing systems which may offer good (or poor) editing services, publish a book themselves. Or more likely, they will inexpensively hire a book to be digitally created—then copies ordered directly from the author, printed “on demand.” Broadside flyers  or newspaper announcements have been replaced by blogs, quickly sent releases, promotional schemes which include platform appearances, clever website book offers and all kinds of other creativity.

But ours is an age-old world, a world of publishing which has its impetus and origin in the oldest of all creative crafts, that of story-telling.

Nancy Niblack Baxter, Senior Editor at Hawthorne

Click back to the website to order Nancy Baxter’s newest book A Cabinet of Curiosities of the Civil War; Important, Moving and Sometimes Odd Stories from the Human Side of the War.


Posted in Book Publishing |

Writing Lessons: The Indianapolis News in the 1950s

thenewsAt fifteen, I took up summer employment as the switchboard operator and cub reporter on the “Great Hoosier Daily,” the Indianapolis News. My father was a friend of Orien Fifer, the managing editor, and they must have been willing to risk the communications network of this afternoon daily to a green-behind-the-ears girl with only her high school yearbook as a source of experience.

The fact that it was the Broad Ripple High School yearbook was a defining factor for me, though I don’t think the managing editors, Eugene S. Pulliam (the junior Pulliam) and Fifer knew or cared anything about that. They just expected adult-level performance from whoever sat at that front desk. My job was flipping little phone relay switches carrying reporters’ off-site stories to the re-write reporters who sat at the desk in that large newsroom in the Star and News building 307 N. Pennsylvania Street.

It could have been a scene from the famous 1931 movie The Front Page, by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Hot sweaty reporters truly did huddle at those beat-up desks in that un-air-conditioned room with large, old, typewriters clickety-clacking away. They could be writing stories or, just as often, covering the city’s news. These were the beat reporters, who jammed hats on their heads (sometimes) and rushed out to City Hall or the police station or the scene of some brawl or neighborhood where Korean war vets returning—and talked stories back to the rewrite guys. And I was the one to “act snappy” when Ed Ziegler Jim Newlin or Griff Niblack (oddly, my own uncle) called breathlessly to send their articles through before deadline.

Better not make a mistake, kiddo. They were not unkind, but they had a job to do to beat the Star and the Times in our town to the stories. My job at first included getting the weather forecast from the airport and writing a little box at the top of the front page. Writing! And then—the first week I was on the job, the summer headed for record-breaking high temperatures, 100 plus for five days in a row.  “Give me four short paragraphs,” City Editor Clay Trusty kind of growled at me. So I did, (Thanks Mrs. Griggs) and lo and behold, I had the lead, the headline on the front page! No by-line, of course.  It is still in my high school scrapbook. Nothing like that was due to happen for quite a while on that summer job.

What did happen was that I helped Albert, the copy boy, get the sweet roll and coffee order in that early morning time (report in 6:30), kept “nut cases,” as they were called, from getting past my desk to berate reporters who had written stories they didn’t like, steer legitimate visitors to the right desk (obituary for instance) and, soon, write small stories for the society page about groups who had planned meetings.

I absolutely adored it. This newspaper had a distinguished history dating back to just after the Civil War. The reporters had the reputation of being the finest in the state (not controlled nearly as much as those on Pulliam’s favorite The Star), they were excellent writers and the atmosphere was so high-powered, yet at other times marvelously funny and friendly, and always respectful of a young girl in their midst.

As the weeks and months progressed and turned into summer years, four of them, I was given increasingly large assignments and expected to write professionally. So I did. Soon I was fill-in for the vacationing reporters: for Bess Watson, obituaries, Georgia Gianakos, film and TV, and even the city desk guys. I found myself on conference calls with TV star Larry Storch and other celebrities and I was sent to cover and then review, at the Circle Theatre, the new Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s film Adam’s Rib. I hope but really doubt, that I could understand the subtleties and innuendos.

All kinds of assignments in Indianapolis eventually came my way and I admired, beyond measure, these excellent newsmen and women.

What did they teach me?

Deadlines are deadlines. Just accept this true saying and learn to pace yourself as a writer. You cannot bend it.

Writers are a fraternity and support each other when they can. They can be smart, caring and incredibly fun to be with.

It doesn’t matter who owns a newspaper and what the political persuasions of the people writing for it are; the news on the information pages (not the editorial ones) has to be honest. “Who, What, When and Where” was viewed as a sacred trust. Don’t think of putting a slant or opinion in on it.

Newspaper and periodical writers were, and I suppose still are, under tremendous pressure: they drank too much, smoked way too much in those days and had trouble maintaining relationships. Salaries were low; I made $25 a week at first, raised to $35 and some of the new college grad reporters made only $50 a week. It wasn’t much better up the line.

Grammar and syntax do count. There were editors of course, “copy desk” in our case back then, but you were expected to turn in “clean work” to them. No time to re-write your garbage; get it right and get it smooth the first time.

The main thing I learned at the time was that writing seemed to be in my bones. Yet, while I wanted to write more, I did not want to work under deadlines. Had enough of that, I told everyone. Not for me.

And so, ironically, I ended up teaching journalism including the every-week close for the school paper and also the student yearbook and eventually managing a publishing company for some thirty years, with hundreds of crucial book deadlines, all with financial implications in sometimes excruciating time constriction

So much for serenity in writing. There are other satisfactions

See Nancy Baxter’s books by clicking back to the website. Newest title: A Cabinet of Curiosities from the Civil War in Indiana: Important, Moving, and Sometimes Odd Stories from the Human Side of the Civil War.

Nancy Niblack Baxter, senior editor Hawthorne Publishing


Posted in Book Publishing, Indiana History, Self Publishing, Writing Non Fiction |