Helping Hoosiers celebrate for 100 years
December 12, 2016

The State of Indiana officially celebrated Statehood Day on Sunday. It was December 11, 1816, when President James Madison signed an act of Congress admitting Indiana to the Union as the 19th state. And Culver Academies and Culver Summer Schools & Camps have been helping Hoosiers celebrate this anniversary for the past 100 years.

Culver’s role in the Bicentennial celebration culminated Oct. 4 when the statewide Torch Relay made its way through the Town of Culver and the Academies, with Ben Snyder ’17 (Carmel, Ind.), alternate  Claire Martinez `17 (Lowell, Ind.), and staff members Dana Neer and Jeff Kenney ushering the torch onward. This included Snyder taking a short boat ride on Lake Maxinkuckee and carrying the torch to the Culver Homestead.

It should come as no surprise, however, that Culver has had a role in past observations of the Hoosier State’s anniversaries, including both the 1916 centennial celebration and 1966 sesquicentennial festivities.


In the summer of 1916, Culver cadets and faculty/staff were among the 900 people taking part in Marshall County’s centennial pageant, held in Plymouth during its Aug. 6 through 10 celebration. Culver’s Black Horse Troop performed in a Civil War scene during the event.

Within the Culver community itself, Culver cadets dramatized the seminal Battle of Tippecanoe (which happens to be portrayed on the murals in the Lay Dining Center), on July 27, with Woodcrafters performing an ‘Indian War Dance’ under the direction of naturalist and conservation legend Ernest Thompson Seton.

Sadly lost to history, though, is the Troop’s participation in a seven-reel centennial film produced by the State of Indiana and narrated by legendary ‘Hoosier Poet’ James Whitcomb Riley (brief, non-Culver portions of the film remain, including this YouTube clip of Riley at his Indianapolis home.

In the movie, Troopers reportedly portrayed Morgan’s Raiders, a band of Confederate soldiers who attacked war and food supplies in Indiana during the Civil War in order to destabilize Union efforts.

Culver’s Vedette in May of 1916 commented that, “It is hinted that (Troop Director) Captain Rossow is to don whiskers and brass buttons and perform murderous deeds of violence that old John himself would approve of. Rebel raiders should be popular with the Texan members of the troop, and their yells will penetrate the barracks ere many days.”

Culver was also represented at the gala capstone to the year-long centennial observance: a parade on Dec. 11, 1916 at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. There, Culver superintendent Col. L.R. Gignilliat joined Governor and Mrs. Ralston and a host of Hoosier notables on the receiving line as the third regiment of Indiana’s National Guard (“fresh from the Mexican border”) broke ranks after marching to the statehouse to greet them.


The Hoosier State didn’t skimp on feting the 150th anniversary of its birth in 1966, a celebration which involved Culver even more, and led to an iconic moment for students in the Summer Schools & Camps.

The photo above says it all: President Lyndon B. Johnson with Culver Naval Midshipmen and Woodcrafters in the background, alongside future Indiana Governor and U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh (W`69 at right, in the photo) in Woodcraft uniform flanking the president with his mother Marvella, wife of U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh.

As the Summer, 1966 Culver Alumnus reported, 171 Culver musicians (the Naval School Band and Woodcraft Drum & Bugle Corps) shared the spotlight with Johnson when he delivered a major foreign policy address July 23 in Indianapolis in observance of the Sesquicentennial (the magazine noted that the event marked “at least the sixth time in history that Culver units have been invited to participate in events honoring the nation’s chief executive”).

In fact, it was Culver musicians who welcomed the president officially with the playing of “Hail to the Chief” and the national anthem.

Senator and Mrs. Bayh shared the platform with President Johnson, and their son Evan, then a first year student in the Woodcraft Camp, presented President Johnson with a Gold C Beaver award from Culver after the ceremony.

Also as part of the anniversary observance, Culver artist-in-residence Warner Williams was commissioned to design the official state Sesquicentennial Medal, for which he won $1,000, as well as the medal marking the 50th running of the Indianapolis 500 (that medallion featured first winning car, the Marmon Wasp, which also made it a reference to a Culver family — the Marmons, later Greenleafs and Lewellans, with long tenure on Lake Maxinkuckee and several of whose members are also Culver alums). Sales of the medals surpassed $500,000, it was noted.

Williams’ many other commissions through the years included an array of notables, such as bas reliefs of John F. Kennedy, Thomas Edison, George Ade, Pope Paul XXIII, Knute Rockne, and Stan Musial, among others.

The work of Culver instructor Harvey Firari, who passed away earlier this year, was part of the celebration as well, when a play he wrote, “The Vagabond from Indiana,” based on the life and works of Hoosier World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle, was performed as the first production of the 1965-66 theater year (Culver theater director William J. Martin directed).

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