Dr. Dipa Sarkar, Historian Emerita

Dipa Sarkar, M.D., was born in a small village outside of Calcutta (Kolkata), India in 1931. She completed her undergraduate studies at Bethune College, Calcutta and finished her medical degree at the Calcutta Medical College. She began her career as a doctor as a gynecologist delivering more than 600 babies. After her marriage to Anil K. Sarkar, M.D., she changed her practice to pathology, specializing in cancer research.

Dr. Sarkar and her husband, Dr. Anil Sarkar, finished their residency in pathology in the United States, and moved to Terre Haute, Indiana in 1969. Dr. Dipa Sarkar worked as a pathologist in Union Hospital and in Clay County and Sullivan Hospitals. While working, she also taught medical and medical technology students at Indiana State University. She helped establish the Planned Parenthood clinic in Terre Haute. She retired from medical practice in 1990.

Working for the people and helping those in need became Dr. Dipa Sarkar’s passion after retirement. She was the First President of India Association of Terre Haute, and served as a volunteer and as a board member with Life Line, CODA (Council on Domestic Abuse), the American Cancer Society, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Swope Art Museum, the Vigo County Public Library, (where she taught English to foreign students) and with Catholic Charities (where she worked as a volunteer in the soup kitchen and taught the children about cleanliness and nutrition.)

Dr. Dipa Sarkar received a letter of appreciation for her work from President Bill Clinton in 1996. She was also awarded the first Aspire Higher Award given by Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in recognition of her dedication to volunteer work. Dr. Dipa Sarkar has one daughter, Rumu Sarkar, PhD, a lawyer in Washington D. C.

As a volunteer for the Vigo County Historical Museum, Dr. Dipa Sarkar wrote many biographical articles of important people of the Terre Haute area and other articles of general interest that were published in the local newspaper, the Terre Haute Tribune Star.

Arts Illiana

Sherri Wright contributed several articles to Spectrum (issues 34 and 35 respectively) detailing 200 years of “Historic Hautians” for Indiana’s Bicentennial. This grouping of biographies features prominent citizens of Terre Haute’s past as well as lesser known names who left a large footprint on Terre Haute’s, and the Wabash Valley’s, history. Spectrum is a quarterly publication published by Arts Illiana: the Arts Council of the Wabash Valley.

Digital Collections

Kussner, Amalia (3/26/1863-5/31/1932)

Historic tile done by famous miniature artist

On Display: The hand-painted tile was made by Minton Manufacturer around the 1870s and will be displayed at the Vigo County Historical Society museum.

By Dr. Dipa Sarkar

Special to the Tribune-Star

This gorgeous, Had-painted tile was made by Minton Manufacturer around the 1870s. Recently the Vigo County Historical Society acquired this tile and it will be displayed for your pleasure.

On the back of the tile is the manufacturer’s stamp and handwritten areas. There is the signature of the famous miniature artist, Amalia Kussner of Terre Haute. The tile measures 6-by-6 inches and has an ebonized frame. It is painted on Ivory and the color of the delicate paint is in superb condition. ON the tile is an engraving of “Animo Non Astutia” The Scottish arms stand for “Courage not Cunning” and was named for Sir Adam Gordon.

Kussner was born in Crawfordsville, on March 26, 1863. She was born of immigrant German parents, Lorenz and Emilie Kussner. Her parents moved to Terre Haute when she was still a baby. Her father was a gifted musician and trained as a piano repairman. He bought the Old State Bank building, using it as their residence and ran a music store called “The Palace of Music” at 213 Ohio St. There, he would repair musical instruments.

Amalia was the youngest of three children and all of them were very gifted. Her sister, Louise, was a vocalist and her brother, Albert, was an accomplished pianist/composer. All of them had a very good education and spoke German, French, Spanish and English fluently. At age 6, Amalia was admitted to St. Mary-of-the-Woods and, under the tutelage of Sister Maurice, founder of the college’s museum, she received all the encouragement as a talented child artist. Later, she graduated from the Public High School. After graduation, she went to New York and studied under Madam de Silva and Mrs. Bradshaw. However, she received no formal training as a miniature portraitist. She was determined to make this hundreds-years-old delicate art popular in America.

At this time, artists were experimenting with impressionism, symbolism or cubism, but Amalia was determined to revive this delicate art, which was getting crushed with the advent of the camera.

She used rejected ivory piano keys as her base material on which she painted miniature portraits, using delicate, pastel colored paints. Sometimes, she used porcelain tiles and painted on them, which were used around the fire-places.

In the early 1890s, she lived in New York with her mother and brother. She tried to make a living as a miniature portraitist and, with her persistence and talent, it became quite popular among the wealthy elitists of New York.

In 1897, she was commissioned to paint Edward, the Prince of Wales who later became Edward VIII. In this portrait, he was painted as the Knight of Malta.

In 1899, she was invited to Russia and painted miniature portraits of the czar, Czarina Alexandra, as well as the Grand Duke Vladimir’s wife, Maria and Grand Duchess Ellen.

After Russia, she went to South Africa and made the portrait of the Diamond King, Cecil Rhodes.

Upon returning from Africa in 1900, she married Capt. Charles Du Pont Coudert of New York. Amilia did little painting after her marriage. In 1914, she settled down in Windlesham Hall, an English manor near London and became a British citizen. The couple had no children. She died in Switzerland in 1932 of a lung ailment.

Amailia Kussner led a fascinating, life and brought back an almost dying art for all to enjoy and appreciate. It only took her talent, tenacity and enthusiasm.

Martin, Kenneth (3/14/1902-10/01/1999)

Photographer’s contributions to history can’t be measured

Making a difference: Kenneth Martin was an accomplished and talented photographer in Vigo County.

By Dr. Dipa Sarkar

Vigo County Historical Society

Kenneth Martin is known as probably the best and most prolific photographer of Terre Haute and all the adjacent areas. He was born into photography in 1909, one of seven children. His father, Frank Martin, opened Martin’s Photo Shop at 681 Wabash Ave. on the corner of Seventh Street and Wabash Avenue in 1906. The growing community needed a photo shop and he was a talented photographer, doing both portrait and commercial work.

Ken Martin started working in his father’s photo shop in 1928. Actually, all his brothers and sisters worked in the shop at one time or another. Ken Martin also attended Indiana State University.

Frank Martin met an untimely death form a road accident in the early 1930’s. Ken and his brother, Willard, purchased the business from their mother and continued it. Willard managed the studio’s portrait department and Ken handled the commercial and news department. In 1929, Ken married Margaret Evinger who also joined him in the photo shop and continued working there until the studio closed in 1976.

There is no doubt that Ken Martin was an accomplished and talented photographer. With the help of Martin, the Tribune-Star Publishing Co. ran the Rotogravure section in the Sunday paper form 1928 unitl 1976.

In those years, photography was no easy job. The photographer had to deal with heavy cameras, light equipment, stands and ladders, but this talents never failed. They overcame the financial difficulties during the Depression era. At times, there were 12 5o 16 employees. Ken Martin had talents, not only in photography, but also in public relations, particularly with children who were frequent objects of his art.

At the time of the Great Depression, he took photographs of people waiting in line for bread at the Salvation Army. This picture was forever etched in the memory of people of that time. He was particularly sensitive not to show their faces, but took the pictures from the back. His other favorite subjects were teaches and farmers. He also took pictures of many famous people, such as Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, John and Robert Kennedy, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Rudy Vallee, Bud Taylor and Mordecai Brown.

Ken Martin was a charter of the National Press Photographers of America and was the recipient of many awards for outstanding contributions to his profession.

After more than 50 years, Ken Martin closed his studio and retired. He had amassed a file of more than 500,000 photographs and negatives. The bulk of his collection was given to the Indiana Historical Society, with others going to the ISU Library, the Vigo County Historical Society and the Vigo County Public Library.

His contributions, through photographs, to the history of Vigo County cannot be measured. Among others, his photos are featured in two valuable sources of information, publications written by Dorothy Jerse and Judith Calvert, namely “Terre Haute, A Pictorial History” and “On the Home Front in Vigo County, Indiana 1941 to 1945”.

McMillan, Vernon R. (9/15/1892-12/1/1968)

McMillan sports a strong legacy in Terre Haute

One of Terre Haute’s most illustrious and effective mayors was Republican Vern R. McMillan, who served from 1944 to 1948.

He was born in Morril, Kan., on Sept. 15, 1892, and graduated from Baker University in 1913. He was captain of his college football team, participated in track events and was an early motorcycle enthusiast.

After coming to Terre Haute, he worked in his uncle’s bicycle shop. In 1926, he opened his own sporting goods store, first on Ninth Street, then Wabash and finally at 600 S. Third St.

He originated the famous slogan, “It Pays to Play.” McMillan, along with Dell Humphrey, was involved in the invention of football face guards. Table model inflators for footballs, basketballs, and volleyballs was another of his inventions. The originator of a color size marking system for socks, McMillan designed and patented a belt without metal in the buckle for football and baseball players.

Employees at McMillan Sporting Goods shared in an innovative pension plan under his ownership. As commander of American legion Post 40, he dedicated Sacred Heart School in spite of threats from Ku Klux Klan movements.

Many were surprised when he was elected mayor by an overwhelming majority. McMillan was instrumental in reducing gambling and houses of ill fame throughout the city. He made tremendous efforts in improving the park system, revitalized the health department by securing immunizations for all school children, providing treatment for syphilis and extending quarantine to tuberculosis patients.

Vern McMillan succeeded in interesting Anton Hulman Jr. in the city, which resulted in many improvements. During his administration, Memorial Stadium was completely remodeled.

Elected to the National Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame, McMillan also was a member of Terre Haute Rotary, American Legion, Elks Lodge, Zorah Shrine, and Masonic Lodge.

After a long, productive life, McMillan died Dec. 1, 1968, at age 76.

At the time of his death, he left behind three daughters, his wife having died previously. The city of Terre Haute lost a dynamic leader.

This picture was taken from the book, “Terre Haute, a Pictorial History” by Dorothy Jerse and Judith Calvert.

Melville, Rose (1/30/1873-10/08/1945)

By Sherri Wright

Rose Melville was born January 30, 1873 at the St. Clair House, located at 202 Wabash in Terre Haute. She was among America’s elite stage and screen celebrities and originator of a new theatre genre. She was the youngest daughter of Rev. Jacob and Caroline Smock and was christened “Rosa.”

Rose’s sisters, Josephine, Ida, and Maud adopted stage names and founded “The Meville Sisters Stock Company, and in 1891 she joined the company as “Rose Melville.” Ida and Rose remained together touring in Zeb, a comedy written by Ida’s husband, Samuel M. Young, Jr., also a native of Terre Haute. Zeb was about a southern Indiana hillbilly family. Among the characters was “Sis Hopkins,” an unsophisticated teenager.

In 1895, Rose was on her own—dubbed “The Artistic Comedienne.” She started in a three-act musical comedy, “Sis Hopkins,” which became a Broadway hit. Sis’s lament “There ain’t no sense in doin’ nuthin’ for nobody what won’t do nuthin’ for you,” was among the most quoted stage lines for a decade. Two humor magazines, “Sis Hopkins” and “Foolish Humor’ capitalized on its popularity and a novel was written based on the play. The “Sis Hopkins” doll with wired pigtails became a collectible.

On June 12, 1910, Rose married songwriter Frank Minzey, her stage costar. Minzey was introduced to Terre Haute audiences at the Grant Opera House in 1905. In 1910, Rose portrayed “Sis” on the silent screen in She Came, She Saw, She Conquered, and in at least nineteen “shorts.” The character Sis Hopkins was so popular, Motion Picture magazine featured Rose on its cover on the May 1916 issue.

Rose appeared in the role of Sis Hopkins more than 5,000 times before more than 5 million people. Rose served in an advisory role when both the silent and “talkie” versions of Sis were made (in 1919 and 1941, respectively,) rather than appearing in either film. By that time she had retired to her husband’s estate in Highwood, New York. Rose died in 1946 and is buried in Massachusetts.

Moench, Herman (8/11/1908-5/22/1990)

Rose-Hulman professor remembered for his dedication to school

Picture of dedication: Herman A. Moench spent nearly 56 years as a professor of electrical engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

By Dr. Dipa Sarkar

Special to the Tribune-Star

As Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology celebrates its 125th anniversary, we remember one of the most dedicated professors of this institute, Herman A. Moench, who spent almost 56 years as a professor of electrical engineering.

Moench, a Terre Haute native, graduated from Wiley High School and entered what was then Rose Polytechnic Institute, graduating in 1929.

After a brief employment with Bell Telephone Laboratories, he returned to Rose in 1930. Except for graduate study at the University of Michigan and World War II Army service, his professorship at Rose was continuous, a tenure unmatched at the college.

A lifelong bachelor, Moench was acknowledged as an engineer’s engineer and a teacher’s teacher. He served as chairman of the electrical engineering department, dean of engineering, twice acting president of the college and senior vice president. He was the governor’s appointee to the Indiana State Board of Registration of Engineers and Land Surveyors for more than 25 years.

Moench was recognized as Indiana Engineer of the year and received the Distinguished Service Award and Award of Merit of the National Council of Engineering Examiners. Rose-Hulman conferred to him a doctor of engineering in 1971, the same year the main academic building was named in his honor. Because of his lifelong dedication, he was honored by the establishment of; a chair known as the Herman A. Moench Distinguished Professorship; the Herman A. Moench Award; and the Herman A. Moench Summer Faculty Grants Program.

Moench also was active in community affairs, serving on the board of directors of the Terre Haute Rotary Club, Goodwill industries and the United Way of the Wabash Valley, and as a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church.

Moench died May 22, 1990, at age 81, His dedication to education and to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has been an inspiration to others to follow in his path. Historical Treasure is contributed by the Vigo County Historical Society.

Morrissey, Ernestine Myers (1/07/1900-6/29/1991)

Top-notch teachers taught children the art of dance.

A child wore this frilly outfit during a dance recital many years ago. “Let Us Entertain You” honors the art of dance at the Vigo County Historical Museum.

By Dr. Dipa Sarkar

Dancing has been a part of life from the beginning of human history. As soon as our basic needs and safety were met, we find that people danced with rhythmical beats of drums or the tunes of flutes. They joined hands and danced with the beats to express their joys, love, and thankfulness. Dancing was used as a form of socialization and also a sense of physical well-being. After millions of years, it is still being practiced today to give us pleasure and entertainment. It is a very hard discipline and needs to be nurtured by experienced teachers.

This article focuses on three experienced and dedicated dance teachers who had studios in Terre Haute. Ernestine Myers Morrissey, Nancy Sauer, and Archileen Chambers spent their lifetimes teaching but, through their efforts, brought fame to many youngsters from the Wabash Valley. Ernestine Myers Morrissey started her dancing career when she was still a student at King Classical School here. As a child, she had taken lessons from Rose Farrington, a local teacher. She then studied at the Chicago Musical College with Madam Marie Jung, a ballet mistress of the Royal Opera in Budapest. She then went to California to study with famous dancers Ruth St. Dennis and Ted Shawn. She went on concert tour with them all over the country and was in musical shows in New York City for six years. She appeared in a variety of shows, including the Ziegfeld Follies and taught at the American Ballet School.

More than 50 years ago, she came back to Terre Haute and opened a successful dance school, teaching many youngsters the poise and skill of dancing. She was honored for her achievement during the Bicentennial year, when her photographs were displayed in the Kennedy Center for Preforming Arts in Washington D. C. She retired in 1978 and died at the age of 91 in 1991. Nancy Sauer was born Nancy Cruchfield and took her first dance lessons from Ernestine Myers when she was 9 years old. When she was in seventh grade, she was one of six girls who performed in the Gentry Brother’s Circus. She did all the acrobatic and aerial routines with perfection and traveled all of Indiana. When in the ninth grade, Miss Ernestine sent her to the Fox Theatre in St. Louis to dance. Later, she launched her vaudeville career in New York. She then performed in nightclubs and on stage, traveling extensively.

In 1940, she married Arthur Sauer, kept house and had two children, Susan Helman and Arthur Jr. Resuming her work after a period of time, she helped local theatres with their musicals, dance recitals, and participated actively in in choreography. In 1953, Nancy opened her own school of theatrical dancing on Wabash Avenue where she taught. She also ran five different schools in the surrounding area. Now, she is retired, but her life has been rich, productive, and rewarding.

Archileen Chambers was a Terre Haute native born Sept 19, 1910, the only child of Archie and Maudette Chambers. Her father ran a restaurant, but was a talented musician specializing in xylophone, saxophone, and drums. Her mother was a pianist. She studied dance under Rose Farrington, later Ernestine Myers, and by the time she was 8, was giving recitals as a dancer, pianist, and drummer. She became a featured dancer on the vaudeville circuit. Growing tired of traveling, she returned to Terre Haute and opened a dance studio in 1946 at 324 S. Fourth St. and later at 9 S. 13th St.

At the age of 50, she married Shubert Sebree, a close associate of Eugene V. Debs and resided at 213 N. 13th St. She died Jan. 18, 2002, at the age of 91.

These three accomplished dancers of Terre haute, not only had brilliant careers of their own, but paved the way for many young children of the area, inspiring them to the path of beauty and grace through dance. They are featured in the Historical Museum’s current exhibit, “Let Us Entertain You”.

Perry, Cynthia Shepard (11/11/1928)

Vision, spirit tools for ambassador

"The earth is but one Country and mankind is its Citizen." — Cynthia Shepherd Perry

What a profound and prophetic statement made by who else but an ambassador of the United States to the African countries of Sierra Leone and Burundi.

Cynthia Shepherd Perry, a native of Terre Haute, was only the fifth African-American woman to be named an ambassador in the history of the United States.

Born on Veteran’s Day 1928 in Otter Creek Township, Perry graduated as valedictorian from Otter Creek High School in 1946. She came from a family of nine children- but her father always encouraged her to do her best and go as far as her talents would take her.

With her father’s support she learned to play the piano, clarinet and saxophone and played in her high school band. She loved art and music. After high school she married Otto Shepherd and raised four children and while doing that she also worked in Nichols’ Loan Corp. during the 1950’s.

Perry sought advice from her former principal, Herbert Lamb, who very promptly advised her to obtain further education to reach her goal, which was to become an ambassador to Kenya.

In 1968 she graduated from Indiana State University, studying political science and majoring in English. At the time she also worked as an educational representative at IBM.

Then she entered the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and in 1972 received a doctorate in international education. For the next few years she lectured in the United States and abroad.

She also traveled extensively with her husband, James O. Perry. She finally settled in Houston with her new family, which also included two stepchildren, and she was also host of a one-hour radio program on world affairs.

Then she joined Texas Southern university (where her husband also taught mathematics for 40 years) and for four years was the dean of International Student Affairs and professor of education.

Perry became a Peace Corps trainer in Texas and in Kenya from 1974 to 1976. From 1976 to 1978 she worked at the United Nations Commission for Africa.

By 1982, Perry was named chief of the Education and Human Resources Division in the African Bureau of the U.S. Agency for International Development and was responsible for projects in 43 African nations. In 1985 she was appointed as ambassador to Burundi by President George Bush.

She still has her eyes on Kenya. She always said “You don’t know how high you can reach- until you try.”

Because of her remarkable achievements in her life’s struggle and success, several universities gave her several honorary degrees, including and honorary doctorate of civil law from University of Maryland.

In 1988 she received an honorary doctorate in public service from University of Massachusetts School of Education.

Her life is truly an inspiration for all of us who are struggling to get somewhere in life.

Although born an African-American, in a large family with limited resources, marrying early and having several children, no obstacle was too high for her to overcome.

Perry did it all with clear vision, sheer determination, hard work and an indomitable spirit.

Root, Chapman J. (11/22/1864-11/20/1945)

World-famous Coke bottle had its Root in Terre Haute

The classic and distinctive 6.5 ounce green glass bottles with the slogan “Things go better with Coke” brought name and fame to Terre Haute because of a brilliant industrialist, Chapman Jay Root.

To serve its new soft drink, Coca-Cola, in a distinctive bottle, the company asked for designs in the early 1900’s. The Root Glass Co. of Terre Haute submitted a design for the bottle that was immediately accepted by the Coca-Cola company for its unique shape and design, and a patent was obtained. Earl Bean, recognized as its designer, reportedly got the idea from the cocoa bean.

Coca-Cola, distributed in its uniquely designed bottle, became very popular all over the world. The bottle and the drink became integral parts of each other.

Root was born Nov. 22, 1864 in Wayne County, PA., and was educated there. He started to work in a foundry in Ohio but joined the Ravenna Glass Co. later.

Because of his quality work, he became the company’s vice president and treasurer in a year. But then he moved to Milwaukee as the manager of the Cream City Glass Co.

In 1901, Root moved to Terre Haute and founded the Root Glass Co. at the northeast corner of Third and Voorhees streets. From the beginning, he manufactured glass bottles able to stand high internal pressure.

In 1905, he built another plant at Maple Avenue and 15th Street to manufacture fruit juice containers. This plant was later sold to the famous Ball Mason Canning Co.

The original plant was destroyed by a tornado on March 23, 1913. But with his indomitable spirit, Root inspired his people, rebuilt the factory and in the same year, submitted the design of the Coca-Cola bottle that put Terre Haute on the map.

In 1932, Root’s company merged with Owens-Illinois Co. and became the largest glass manufacturer in the world.

A devoted family man, Root was married to the former Ellen Agnes Ruffle of Ravenna and had one son who died in an air accident in 1932, leaving a grandson, Chapman Shaw Root.

Root was philanthropist and was involved with the education and character building of youth, and worked with Boy’s Clubs and Boy Scouts of America. He was a member of the Masonic lodge and many civic organizations and institutions, including Rose Polytechnic of Terre Haute. He died Nov. 20, 1945.

The Root Glass Co. does not exist today, but a commemorative plaque can be seen at the corner of Third and Voorhees streets.

The Vigo County Historical Museum at 1411 S. Sixth St. has an interesting exhibit of Coca-Cola memorabilia as well as extensive information and photograph files available for research.

Rose, Chauncey (12/24/1794-8/13/1877)

Recalling vision, philanthrophy of Chauncey Rose

The Rose Dispensary building, built on the north-west corner of Seventh and Cherry streets, opened for business in 1899. In 65 years of the dispensary’s operation, it filled 226,766 prescriptions and cared for 301,307 patients. It also offered a variety of free medical aid for indigent patients.

By Dr. Dipa Sarkar

Special To The Tribune-Star

For nearly 70 years, one of the many legacies of Chauncey-Rose was the continuous benefit to Vigo County’s indigent and ailing people, providing thousands of them with medical assistance.

Chauncey Rose was born Dec. 24, 1794, and died Aug 13, 1877. He journeyed through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama, but finally selected the Wabash Valley as his future home.

He had tremendous business acumen and was involved in many businesses, railways and banking.

He was a great philanthropist, particularly trying to help the poor who had illnesses. In his will, he stated a dispensary should be built one year after his death and left $75,000 for that purpose.

He carefully selected seven board members who would have the same feelings and would carry out his wishes. The board could use $15,000 for a lot and building and $2,000 for medicines.

The balance of the funds was to be preserved as a permanent fund and the interest income be used for the dispensary.

The Rose Dispensary Corp. was formed July 10, 1878, and in 1892 purchased the ground on the northwest corner of Seventh and Cherry streets.

On that spot was built an imposing five story Rose Dispensary building, which opened for business in 1899.

Paul R. Dietz of Chicago was the architect. The style reflected the late 19th century French Chateaux type; at the same time, it also reflected the Romanesque style. In the center was a circular bay capped by a tall conical roof which is balanced by projecting gabled pavilion, one on Cherry Street and ending in another gabled bay. Architecturally, it was a beauty.

In the 65 years of the dispensary’s operation, it filled 226, 766 prescriptions and cared for 301, 307 patients.

It offered a variety of free medical aid for indigent patients. Dr. J.V. Richart was the staff physician and Dr. Fred Isaacs was the staff dentist. Dr. Earl Shields handled eye, ear, nose, and throat patients.

As Rose Dispensary was a public trust, annual reports were submitted to Vigo Circuit Court.

With the change of time and needs of people, the dispensary could not be run as intended and was demolished in 1972. The site is now Oakley Plaza, a part if Indiana State University campus.

This dispensary helped the poor far more than 65 years but the philanthropy of Chauncey Rose extended far beyond that. He will always be remembered for his vision and generosity to the city of Terre Haute.

Historical Treasure is contributed by the Vigo County Historical Society. Website at

Scudder, Janet (10/27/1869-6/09/1940)

By Sherri Wright

Janet Scudder was born Netta Deweze Frazee Scudder in Terre Haute in 1869 to a poor family, but knew from the time she was small that she wanted to pursue a career in art. She received her first lessons (drawing) with her childhood friend (and another future Terre Haute artist) Carolyn Peddle Ball. These lessons were private lessons from Professor Ames at Rose Polytechnic Institute. Through encouragement from teachers and sacrifice by her family, she was able to study at the Cincinnati Academy of Art at the age 18. It was there that she changed her first name to Janet. She found employment with Lorenzo Taft for his project to produce the plaster decorations for the Columbian Exposition (1893 Chicago World’s Fair,) acquiring valuable technical skills. From there she persuaded Frederick MacMonnies, a well-known American sculptor working in Paris, to permit her to study with him. It was during a second trip to Europe, financed by a wealthy friend’s family, that she discovered her desire to create garden and fountain sculpture that would please and delight her future clients as much as the subject pleased her.

This apprenticeship should have opened doors for her in employment and continuing education, but prejudice against women artists by those such as the great sculptor August Saint Gaudens slowed her progress toward her goal of making money from her art. Fortunately, her persistence in trying to attract the attention of Stanford White was successful, and, in 1900, she sold her first fountain, “The Frog Fountain” to him. Her career was launched and she went on to design sculpture for wealthy Americans like John D. Rockefeller.

In the Bicentennial celebration year, it is important to note that it was Terre Haute’s own Janet Scudder who was commissioned by Governor Samuel M. Ralston to create the Indiana Centennial Medal. The front of the medal was a beautiful representation of “the baby state of 1816 being welcomed to the Union with the historic state house of Corydon and the Constitution Elm in the background.” On the reverse side was the State Seal.

Scudder’s contributions were not limited to art. She spoke on behalf of Woman’s Suffrage and worked with the American Red Cross during WWI. She returned to America for the last time on the eve of WWII in 1939. She died in 1940.