Indiana Magazine of History looks back at mayhem on 19th-century construction sites

  • Sept. 24, 2013


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The September 2013 issue of the Indiana Magazine of History looks at the rough-and-tumble world of canal and railroad construction in 19th-century Indiana.

Author Jay Perry shows that the brawling workers -- mostly young, unmarried immigrants -- were often stereotyped as drunken Irishmen, and their struggles attributed to Catholic/Protestant tensions. But based on similar disputes breaking out in other states during the same period, Perry discovers workers believed they were literally fighting for their jobs: They feuded to limit access to construction work to men from their own home region and to keep out competition from other groups of workers.

Also in the issue, Tamsen Anderson examines the early neighborhoods of East Chicago, Ind. Studying maps, newspapers and property records, she reveals how middle-class managers and skilled workers segregated themselves in small enclaves separated from laborers working the region’s steel mills. Such districts, which came to define middle-class living, also specified the exclusion of African-Americans, Hispanics and other ethnic groups as an essential part of social status.

Finally, Alissa Wetzel looks at the life of a young girl who, with her family, was featured in a series of Resettlement Administration photographs taken in 1937 on a farm near Fowler, Ind. Sue Estes and her family became part of a government photo exhibit intended to expose the extreme poverty of tenant farmers in the 1930s. Wetzel interviewed Sue Estes as an adult and gained her perspective on how the Estes family’s life was reflected in, and differed from, the photographs.

The Indiana Magazine of History is published quarterly by the Department of History in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington. For general information on the articles, contact the editorial office at 812-855-4139.

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Sue Estes as a child on her family's farm near Fowler, Ind.

Sue Estes as a child on her family's farm near Fowler, Ind. | Photo by Russell Lee

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Media Contacts

Dawn Bakken

Associate editor

  • Indiana Magazine of History
  • Office 812-855-4139