Thursday, July 5, 2018

Mooresville's New Facebook Local History Page

Mooresville Public Library has a new Facebook page dedicated to local history.  Test your knowledge of Mooresville (and Morgan County) history by taking our fun quizzes, watch videos showcasing historical sites and people, and browse through other historical tidbits.  Click the logo below to take a peek.

Click logo (above) to learn more
about the history of Mooresville (IN)
and vicinity

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Privy Pit Treasury

Mooresville resident Martin Van Zant kindly emailed the following photograph showing a medicine bottle that native Mooresvillian William L. Thompson, M.D. (1866-1932), prescribed to a patient in the early 20th century.

Click photos to enlarge

As the label reveals, Doctor Thompson prescribed a remedy for gastrointestinal distress ("Two teaspoonfuls [in] water every two hours until bowels are qu[iet]" is our best guess).  Perhaps the patient was experiencing severe G.I. distress due to chronic constipation, and the prescription was meant to address that.  Conversely, the patient may have had the opposite difficulty, and perhaps the bottle's contents were an anti-diarrheal or anti-gas treatment.  In any event, we hope the patient found relief from his or her ailment.

Although Mr. Van Zant discovered this particular bottle in a shop, he said that, as an avid antique bottle collector, he has found many bottles (and other items) in the pits of old outhouses.  He is an expert on the subject and has an extensive collection.

Before indoor plumbing and municipal trash collection, it was common for Americans to dispose of all manner of household objects in their outdoor toilets.  Glass bottles were often discarded in this fashion.  When one pit filled with waste products (both organic and manufactured), poorer people usually filled it in and dug another privy hole, while more affluent folks simply paid to have the pits scooped.  Items that sank below the dredging level would remain to be later discovered.

A typical outhouse (ca. 1920)

Plates found in an excavated privy pit

Cross-section reveals buried treasures at the bottom of a privy pit

Collectors of rare household objects, such as pioneer bottles, cups, dishes, utensils, tools, and other historically curious objects search outhouse pits or other trash repositories as carefully as archaeologists excavate living and working areas in buried structures.  There is a veritable treasury of antique household items awaiting discovery at the bottom of pioneers' outdoor toilets.

Outhouses in Mooresville (ca. 1880)

A Mooresville Academy and DePauw University graduate, William Lee Thompson earned his medical doctorate in 1889 from Indiana Central Medical College. Dr. Thompson practiced medicine in Mooresville for over 43 years. He drove an average of 100 miles a day to make house calls and delivered over 3,000 babies.

Mooresville Public Library has a few of Doctor Thompson's medical treatises and an amputation surgical kit (complete with various bone saws, probes, and blood-soaked tourniquet) he probably acquired during his medical school or residency days.  His obituary record is in the library's digitized Legacy Links database.

Dr. Valentine Magenheimer (left) and Dr. William L. Thompson (right) pose (ca. 1909) outside their offices in the automobiles they used to make house calls in Mooresville and the surrounding area.

Dr. William L. Thompson poses (ca. 1920) in front of his automobile used to make house calls.

Advertisement from the 1917 Mooresville High School yearbook,
The '17 Packet

Dr. Thompson served on the Mooresville School Board
(from the 1909 Mooresville High School Senior Annual [yearbook])

From the Mooresville Times, April 18, 1974, page 17

William L. Thompson's obituary
(Mooresville Times, February 18, 1932)

Indianapolis News (undated, ca. December 10, 1920)

Image credits:
  • "Dr. W. L. Thompson's Medicine Bottle" © 2018 by Martin Van Zant.
  • "Outhouse" © 2018 by Getty Images.
  • "Privy Pit Excavation" © 2007 by Digger Odell Publications.
  • "Privy Pit Cross-Section" © 2015 by the University of Iowa.
  • "Mooresville From Atop the M.E. Church Steeple" (ca. 1880) by J. P. Calvert © 2008 by Mooresville Public Library Indiana Room Collection.
  • "Doctors Magenheimer & Thompson's Cars" (ca. 1909) by J. P. Calvert © 2008 by Mooresville Public Library Indiana Room Collection.
  • "Doctor Thompson's Car" (ca. 1920) by Manley Brown © 2008 by Mooresville Public Library Indiana Room Collection.
  • Newspaper clippings courtesy of Mooresville Public Library Indiana Room Collection.
  • Digital scans of 1909 & 1917 Mooresville High School yearbooks © 2015 by Mooresville High School Alumni Association.

Images reprinted by permission.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Comer & Scearce (Newcomer) Lumber Co. (Mooresville Moments #11)

The latest installment of Mooresville Moments, a local history video series, looks at the Comer & Scearce Lumber Company, which later became Newcomer Lumber Co., in Mooresville.

Comer & Scearce (Newcomer) Lumber
(Mooresville Moments #11), by Mooresville Public Library

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Twittering Local History

In a previous blog post, we talked about using Facebook to promote local history through daily quizzes.  Twitter may also be used, and Mooresville Public Library (MPL) now has a local history Twitter feed upon which the quizzes will now be included.

Click logo (above) to go to Twitter

Why use Twitter and Facebook to promote the same content?  Online users prefer different social media, so duplication reaches a broader audience.  At MPL recently, a decision was made to reduce the local history quizzes on Facebook, so it seemed sensible to create a specific social media account (in this instance, on Twitter) dedicated to local history content.  It remains to be seen whether or not patrons who enjoyed the previous local history quizzes on MPL Facebook will follow the migration to Twitter.  Furthermore, MPL now has two Twitter feeds (the other is a general library account), which may splinter the library's Twitter audience and thereby reduce overall reach and interactivity.  Conversely, having a separate Twitter account for local history better focuses that content to relevant readers.  All they need to know is where to find it now.

UPDATE (JUNE 27, 2018):  Anthony Woodside wrote a nice article in the Mooresville-Decatur Times (Wednesday, June 27, 2018, pages A1-A2) about the library's local history quizzes on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Facebooking Local History

On another blog, I recently posted an article discussing local history posting to Facebook as a means of expanding libraries' (in particular, Mooresville Public Library's) "reach" to patrons.  Since more people follow the library's Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube feeds than read this blog, it seemed like an excellent vehicle to promote the history of Mooresville and vicinity.

Results have been excellent.  MPL's Facebook "reach" for April and May, 2018 was considerably higher than previous months.  (Click on the graphic below to enlarge.)

MPL 2018 Facebook "Reach" Statistics

The only content change on MPL's Facebook feed during April and May has been the addition of daily local history quizzes, so the jump in readership may safely be attributed to that material.

MPL's Twitter and YouTube statistics are relatively consistent; the local history quizzes have not been featured on these social media (although both offer other local history content).

Local historians (particularly those employed by libraries) may find non-blogging social media to be an important tool to reach their patrons.  Our experience has been that blogs (such as this one) are declining in readership due to the increasing popularity of other social media platforms (Facebook Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Vimeo, etc.).  Consequently, I don't post as much to blogs as I once did.  However, I still believe blogs serve a useful informational purpose and so will continue to occasionally use them.

UPDATE (JUNE 27, 2018):  Anthony Woodside wrote a nice article in the Mooresville-Decatur Times (Wednesday, June 27, 2018, pages A1-A2) about the library's local history quizzes on Facebook and Twitter.