A Year in the Life of Magic City: Mapping a Muncie Founding Father
The Ball State University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections and the GIS Research and Map Collection (GRMC) on the second floor of Bracken Library are celebrating the Muncie Sesquicentennial with a special exhibit. The exhibit includes historic maps of Muncie displayed in the front windows in the GRMC, including a bird’s eye view of the city from 1872, a natural gas map of Muncie, a map of streetcar lines from 1907, and a map showing the quarantine area during the smallpox outbreak of 1893. A map of factories located in Muncie in 1939 and a pictorial map of merchants in Muncie in 1985 are also displayed.
The main part of the map exhibit, however, focuses on one of Muncie’s early residents, Thomas Neely. Neely arrived in Muncie in 1839. He organized a fundraising drive to build Muncie’s first schoolhouse. Neely served as a member of the Board of County Commissioners, as School Director, as a blacksmith, and printer. He established a daguerreotype (photographic process) gallery and created the first photographs in Muncie. His family also had a roller skate factory next to his residence.
Thomas Neely began keeping a diary in January of 1860, and he continued to make regular entries with few interruptions for almost 42 years. He often wrote about the weather and the condition of his garden and orchard behind his residence on East Adams Street (above as seen today). But his diaries also offer a detailed description of life in Muncie. Neely offered glimpses of the city’s happenings and historic events happening in the state and nation. For example, Neely described the presidential election of 1888 that was decided by the Electoral College and the smallpox epidemic that hit the city in 1893.
Neely attended church at the First Presbyterian almost daily. He describes sleighing in the winter streets and the heat of the summers. Neely tracks the building of the new Courthouse in 1887 and the gas boom in Muncie, drawing visitors from around the Midwest but eliminating the need for a hired helper to chop wood. Emancipation Day, women’s suffrage, and cultural trends like the Chautauqua education movement are all depicted in the diaries, with many special events taking place in the nearby roller skating rink. Neely also notes the arrival of the Ball Brothers Glass Factory in 1887.
One of the posters in the exhibit displays some of the diary pages with excerpt text highlighted. The accompanying map of Muncie shows the location of some of the events and people mentioned by Neely in the diary. The map is a base street map of Muncie with Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps overlain to show the location of the Courthouse, factories, Neely’s doctor’s office, and even where Thomas Neely had boots made. Photographs and drawings of other important locations are also included. Advertisements from Muncie city directories are also included on the map.
The diaries are available from the Libraries’ Digital Media Repository (DMR). The DMR includes volumes of the Neely diaries dating from 1867 through 1901. Other collections of the DMR used to create the exhibit are the Muncie Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and Muncie city directories.
The Neely diary poster and map are also available from Cardinal Scholar. The GRMC includes two large-format plotters for printing large maps and posters for members of the Ball State University community.
These maps will be exhibited through the end of September. Paid visitor parking is available on the top floor of the Emens Parking Garage; free parking in the Emens Garage is available after 7:00 pm Monday through Friday.
For more information about this exhibit, please contact the GRMC at 765-285-1097.