Newspaper Coverage of the Angel Mounds Purchase, 1938-39

by Hannah Rea

In addition to working with social media this semester, I’ve undertaken a project using archival resources here at the Lab. I’m working with newspaper articles from the 1938-39 purchase of the Angel Mounds site near Evansville, which I think is a good intersection of my two areas of study—journalism and history. Being as I am a newspaper nerd, it’s also just a lot of fun.

We don’t know much about the collection of articles I’m using, other than they are part of the Glenn Black papers. That being said, we can’t be entirely sure it was Glenn himself who collected them. But I do thing these articles were collected to serve a purpose, while other articles were excluded.

So far I’ve found some interesting things, including examples of how journalism has evolved in the past 80 years and the editorial nature of many of the articles. There are a lot of what I would call ‘Call to Action’ phrases which indicate the author of the article was more than just informing on a situation, but pushing for action to be taken. This would fall under what some call ‘activist journalism’ today, but the lines between editorial (that is, more opinion-driven) content and not was much more blurred. Now, as a general rule, Opinion columns are labeled as such.

One feature of newspaper coverage at this time in Evansville was the work of Karl Kae Knecht, affectionately referred to by readers as ‘K.K.K.’ He produced editorial cartoons for the Evansville Courier from 1906 to 1960, and was an almost-constant presence in Evansville homes. Knecht often took on activist themes in his work, at times calling for change on a local, national, and global level. His interests ranged from maritime safety after the 1912 Titanic disaster, to keeping morale up during the Second World War, to —for the purposes of my research— the purchase of Angel Mounds.

Newspaper clipping from GBL collections (2019)

One of the most distinctive features of a K.K.K. cartoon is Kay the elephant, who shows up in nearly every one of his pieces and quickly became a recognizable signature. She’s at the bottom left of this cartoon —with her feathered headdress, she’s clearly meant as a caricature of a former Native resident of the Mounds site.

This brings up another feature of K.K.K.’s cartoons and of the coverage of the time: It’s just a few years after Howard Carter’s widely-publicized and global-attention-grabbing excavation of King Tut’s tomb, and archaeology in the 1930s is framed as ‘exotic’ and exciting. The focus of the public was on the artifacts and their potential value (usually monetary), not necessarily on the people to whom they belonged. The articles and this cartoon especially panders to that romanticized view of the study of the past.

When working with newspaper articles, you have to put them in the context in which they were written. They were produced for public consumption, to a public with little or no regard for the memory of the people who once lived and walked where they now stand. There was even less of an understanding that descendant groups were not only present around the United States, but actively being harmed by this method of undermining their existence and the memory of their ancestors.

This is not to say the coverage reflects the views of contemporary archaeologists and historians themselves; that’s a different research project. My focus is on that information meant for public consumption. Arguments can and have been made that the work of writers and artists like K.K.K. is a product of its time, a reflection of norms in how a group of people may be portrayed while at the same time their individual voices were stifled or ignored.

Everything from word choice to the amount of space dedicated to a column can tell us about the perceived importance of a topic. Reading these articles give a glimpse into the information being shared. While it can at times be offensive and shocking to our modern eyes, it shines a light on an important truth in our collective past.


For further information on Karl Kae Knecht, see:

MacLeod, James Lachlan. The Cartoons of Evansville’s Karl Kae Knecht: Half a Century of Artistic Activism (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2017).

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Angel Archives, Box 56

December 10, 2018

by Victoria Kvitek

Continuing where my last blog post left off, I am now about halfway through Indiana newspaper articles from the 1960s that mention Angel Mounds. I started coming across much longer pieces about the site mid-1964. These articles go into depth about Indiana’s pre-history as hypothesized based on findings at Angel. Earlier pieces have touched on these details but more frequently announced events that would discuss the excavation and its findings, or focused more on the political and economic logistics of acquiring and excavating Angel. My first explanation for this change was that by the mid-60s a) a critical mass of information had been collected about Angel, b) Angel had been a national monument and state park for a sufficient amount of time, and c) a level of widespread publicity about the site had been reached such that the public was finally informed and interested enough to know more about Angel as a place that they were welcomed to visit and feel entitled to inform themselves about as average citizens given the right and ability to learn about this heritage…that is, the mid-60s marked a transition of Angel’s status from the domain of academia in concert with governing bodies to that of academia in concert with the public….

But, a discovery made in the early stages of Glenn Black Lab’s collaboration with the Indiana Historical Society for an upcoming exhibit about Angel Mounds has caused me to question this theory, and wonder whether the lack of lengthy, juicy news pieces on Angel prior to the mid-1960s was due instead to a gap in the archive database I have been using.

Newspaper article with title "Washington Notebook..."
These articles go into depth about Indiana’s pre-history as hypothesized based on findings at Angel. Earlier pieces have touched on these details but more frequently announced events that would discuss the excavation and its findings, or focused more on the political and economic logistics of acquiring and excavating Angel.

Angel archives box #56 holds a folder of newspaper clippings from 1938 and 1939 published in the Evansville Courier/Evansville Courier and Press There are multipage articles about Angel, covering its purchase and the politics surrounding its acquisition as well as early findings at the site, quotes from Glenn Black, community and government opinion about the excavation, and large cartoons relating to these debates, along with illustrated and elaborated maps of the site. These articles are not included in the Newspaper Archive IU Libraries-linked database I have been using, and the Evansville Courier has not appeared on any database of digitized news articles I have found so far. Further, Hannah Rea has noted that newspaper articles in different Indiana cities early in the Angel excavation used different terms for the site, e.g. “Indian mounds”, “ancient mounds”. Searching for these phrases may pull up longer articles that include in depth information and conjecture about the project’s findings like that seen in the pieces from the 60s sampled above.

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“Angel Mounds” in Indiana newspaper articles, Update 1: First Half of the 20th Century (1923-1959)

November 8, 2018

by Victoria Kvitek

The Project

For the past 3 weeks I have been searching IU Library’s Newspaper Archive resource for mentions of Angel Mounds archaeological site in Indiana newspapers following the site’s discovery early in the 20th century. The first article I found was from 1923, in the Evansville Crescent. This earliest mention is the only one from the ’20s, and the city the newspaper was from makes sense as Angel is located near Evansville. The short article is titled “Geology Class Explorers,” and briefly details a class trip to Angel, ‘six mounds that shed light on pre-historical America.’

The Newspaper Archive allows me to sort the remaining search results by decade, showing that there were  three mentions of Angel in the ’30s, all from 1938, the year the 400 acres of land Angel sits on was purchased by the Indiana Historical Society; 32 from the ’40s, illustrating the co-evolution of the public’s interest in the pre-history of Indiana that could be revealed by Glenn Black’s excavations and the state’s interest in and financial support of Angel Mounds’ development as a state park and historical monument; 42 from the ’50s which describe society meetings featuring guest lecturers (including Glenn A Black) and documentary screenings about the Angel excavation at local primary and secondary schools, weekend historical tours—free and open to the public—of Angel and other state monuments and important sites, IU field schools, and plans to consider Angel for national monument status.

Short summaries of each article’s focus are recorded in an Excel document along with the date, year, and city of publication, the title of article, and the newspaper in which it appeared.

Greensburg Daily News, 1941

Tipton Tribune, 1946

Highlights

1) Greensburg, 1941: “Angel Mounds of Evansville of Interest”

This article was of interest to me because it was the first mention I found describing an interaction between Indiana University and Angel Mounds/Glenn A. Black: that Black lectured at Alumni Hall in April 1941. I found the article in the Greensburg Daily News, and provides a lot of information about the early phases of the discovery of Angel Mounds, its purchase (including land formerly part of a farm owned by the Angel family, the site’s namesake), and excavation.

2) Tipton, 1946: “Round Town With The Tribune”

This is my favorite article so far: a column in an issue of the Tipton Tribune published just over a year after V-E Day includes a suggestion for a new veteran’s rehabilitation program from Glenn Black: participation in the Angel excavation. According to the article, Black had said that such a program would entail “light work…would get the men out of doors and give them something to think about besides themselves.”

3) Seymour, 1949: “Junior Red Cross Here Completes Book on Hoosierana For Chileans”

I think this one is so sweet: the Junior Red Cross chapter at a local high school had received a book about life in Chile/South America from a Chilean high school. They were working on compiling their own scrapbook-style guide to Seymour, IN/the Hoosier state in general to send to the Chilean students with the “goodwill ambassador” who would be traveling to visit the high school in the coming months.  The Seymour students included Angel Mounds among “drawings of famous historical objects” highlighted in the book.

4) Terre Haute, 1950: “Kiwanis Club Observes National Newspaper Week, Speaker Tells Wonders of Southern Indiana”

This last article is especially interesting in the context of the current climate regarding the media. A professor of journalism and then director of communications at IU, Mr. Laurence Wheeler, came to speak at a meeting of the Kiwanis Club about the important services that newspapers provide. He gave a ‘verbal column’ on the important history of Southern Indiana as an example of the kind of information that could be shared most effectively in newspaper form.

Community life: the Midwest of the early 20th century

Hoosier Historical Institutes Series

Spring, Summer, and Fall sessions—ranging from a few days to several weeks long—were attended by school teachers, professors, married couples, and other interested community members from towns across the state. The inaugural series were put on by the Indiana Historical Society, but before long other community groups and historical societies organized their own smaller versions of the institutes: weekend tours and field trips led by historians, archaeologists, and other lecturers and lay enthusiasts.

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Old Newspaper Clippings

January 20, 2017

by Maclaren Guthrie

Newspaper clippings concerning Angel Mounds

As you may know, the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology is home to a large amount of information and different media stored in its archives. There are site records, maps, soil surveys, field notes, newspaper clippings, and more. For my project, I spent a few days looking through old Indiana State Site Files looking for old newspaper clippings about archaeology. In the archive, everything is sorted by county. So I had to go county by county recording how many newspaper clippings there were, what they were about, and any other notes I thought would be helpful later. My goal was to figure out if there is a difference in the public’s interest in and attitudes towards archaeology by comparing articles from the past to the present.

Since most of the articles in the archives are from the 1930’s, there are a fair amount of articles that mention the WPA (Works Progress Administration) and the work they did relating to archaeology. As part of the New Deal, WPA excavations were credited with uncovering some human remains, relics, and most notably for funding the Angel Mounds excavation in Evansville, Indiana. One clipping from February 1938 discussed that the Indiana WPA director John K. Jennings said that WPA crews could begin work at Angel Mounds in April. Another article shared that the WPA was going to finance the excavation at Angel Mounds with a $200,000 grant. Before looking at these articles, I hadn’t considered how good an investment archaeology was during the Great Depression. Archaeological excavations require lots of fieldwork and lab analysis, and all seemingly without developing a product. According to a newspaper article from December of 1938, the $200,000 WPA grant funded 50 to 100 otherwise unemployed men and women to work at Angel Mounds for 10 months.

There is also a large amount of newspaper clippings about members of the general public finding relics, features, or even remains. For example, in December 1938 a property owner found a burial while constructing a fence. There are many similar stories of residents finding and reporting sites and materials. There were also articles about people visiting sites, and in some cases getting injured while attempting to get a closer look at a discovery.

While reading all of the articles, I kept asking myself if archaeology is perceived the same way now as it was back then. The short answer is, I still don’t completely know. From these articles, it seems like people have always been interested to hear about someone digging up artifacts in their backyard, or just new discoveries in general. I did see that a lot of the articles were about finding or excavating remains or burial sites which doesn’t happen as often now, as laws and ethical codes governing the excavation of human remains have since been emplaced. These articles were collected over years, but I don’t see nearly as many articles about archaeology in the newspaper now as I saw represented in the archives. However, it is important to take into consideration the new methods of news and communication that weren’t available in the early 20th century, like online news, television, and social media. I may not have a solid answer to what I wanted to know yet, but looking through the archives has started me in the right direction.

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