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Indiana War History Commission collection

Identifier: L585

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the administrative files of the Indiana War History Commission, including a detailed history of the group, publication plans and ingoing and outgoing correspondence.

The commission collected information from most Indiana counties during World War I. This information falls into two categories: service records of soldiers, used for the publication of the "Gold Star Honor Roll" and "Indiana's Roll of Honor"; and war histories, records of civilian activities, including draft boards, ration boards and charitable and benevolent organizations. The "Military Service Records" include questionnaires of servicemen who died in active duty. Records are supplemented with correspondence from the soldiers' family or friends, descriptions of their training and service, details of their deaths, excerpts from their diaries as well as photographs.

A scrapbook, pamphlets, photographs and correspondence from the Indianapolis French Relief Fund provides a brief history of their activities. Information about the Navy Comfort Commission, Red Cross, Boys' Working Reserve, veteran re-employment, War Risk Insurance, and the State Wide War Conference is also included.

During and shortly after World War II, the commission was able to gather a large amount of material from around the state, although not all persons and institutions were equally cooperative. The bulk of the collection represents materials collected for the proposed publication series as well as materials collected from other activities.

The names of men and women who died while in service were recorded for the "Gold Star Honor Roll" as they had been during World War I. Newspaper clippings were assembled and arranged alphabetically, documenting casualties, missing, prisoners, sick, wounded and those awarded medals and citations. These records fall into three categories: service records of the deceased, arranged alphabetically by personal name; and county historians' records of war casualties; and soldiers' obituaries clipped by the Commission's staff, arranged by county.

The "Letters from Fighting Hoosiers" are arranged by war zones. In some cases, this was impossible, as either there was no address, or the letters were from multiple locations. The folders contain original letters, photographs, newspaper clippings, War History Commission correspondence and a few typed manuscripts. All branches of the service are represented: Army and Women's Army Corps (WACS) (including the Army Air Corps, Navy and Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services (WAVES); Marines and women Marines; Coast Guard, and the United States Coast Guard Women's Reserve (SPARS).

"Schools at War" scrapbooks are arranged alphabetically by county.

Business and industry histories are arranged by town. A separate list by county is also available upon request.


  • 1917-1989


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Historical Note

The Indiana War History Commission was charged with compiling and publishing histories of Indiana's World War I and World War II activities. John W. Oliver, director of the Indiana Historical Commission, specified the importance of collecting and making accessible records detailing Indiana's part in the first world war. Governor James P. Goodrich shared Oliver's passion and agreed to finance the work out of his emergency contingent funds until the 1919 session of legislature convened. When the session opened, a request was made for a biennial appropriation of $20,000.00 to carry on the work.

The commission was given two tasks during World War II: to gather information on Indiana's part of the war effort and to publish a series of books on various aspects of the war. The Commission was able to gather a large amount of material from around the state, although not all persons and institutions were equally cooperative. The publishing end of the project was less successful, mostly because the commission ran out of money. The bulk of the collection represents materials collected for the proposed publication series, as well as some materials collected from other activities. The list of proposed publications include: Gold Star Honor Roll; "Letters from Fighting Hoosiers"; Hoosier Training Ground; Indiana at War: Civilian Directory; "Hoosier Arsenal" (not published); "Hoosier Farmers in War Times" (not published); Indiana's Financial Role in World War II; "Indiana Civilian Soldiers" (not published); Hoosier Community at War; and "Indiana in a World at War" (not published).

The commission sought to document the contributions of all Indiana citizens on behalf of the War effort. The names of men and women who died while in service were recorded for the Gold Star Honor Roll. Separate volumes were published for only 4 of the 92 counties, including: Adams, Bartholomew, Brown and Whitley. The Gold Star list for each county was published in volumes of the Indiana History Bulletin beginning in August 1944.

The commission solicited letters from all over the state. Authors of the letters selected for the "Letters From Fighting Hoosiers" publication were asked to fill out a biographical form. Since very few of the letters were published, locations such as Iceland and the Persian Gulf were not represented. All branches of the service are included, however.

Dorothy Riker, author and editor of the Hoosier Training Ground volume, assembled most of the material used for the publication. Ordinance plants from Vigo, Charlestown, Evansville, and Lukas-Harold were to be included in the Hoosier Arsenal volume which was never completed.

In October 1942, every school in the state received a gift from the U.S. Treasury Department: a red, white and blue scrapbook to record its contributions to the war effort. Buying savings bonds and stamps was encouraged. Children put on shows, completed errands and sold candy to buy bonds. Schools around the state assembled the scrapbooks from October 1942-February 1943. During this time, sugar, gasoline, rubber and coffee were rationed items. Schools, teachers and students helped with the enormous task of registering families for rationing and distributing the ration books. Students were encouraged to "live without and like it."

Most of the collected business and industry material was assembled for the never published Hoosier Arsenal volume of the war history series. Items referencing "finance" and "rationing" were assembled for the Financial Role of Indiana in World War II written by Bernard Friedman.

The commission ceased further publication plans due to lack of funding.


Information found within collection.

Oliver, John W. "Indiana War History Records." Proceedings of the Annual Indiana History Conference, Held Under the Auspices of the Society of Indiana Pioneers, Indiana Historical Society, Indiana Historical Bureau, Indianapolis, December 9-10, 1921. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Commission, 1922.

Barnhart, John D. "The Indiana War History Commission." Indiana Magazine of History 40, no. 3 (September 1944): 227-242.


34.5 Cubic Feet (48 manuscript boxes; 16 small oversize boxes; 10 medium oversize boxes; 1 large oversize box)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged in the following series and subseries:

Series 1: Administrative files, 1943-1950

Series 2: World War I records, 1917-1943

Series 3: World War II records, 1942-1949

Subseries 3.1: Indiana goldstar records, 1942-1949 Subseries 3.2: Out of state goldstar records, 1942-1949 Subseries 3.3: Social and economic documents, 1942-1947 Subseries 3.4: "Letters from Fighting Hoosiers" documents, 1941-1948; 1989 Subseries 3.5: County historian's records, 1942-1944 Subseries 3.6: "Hoosier Training Grounds" documents, circa 1941-1968 Subseries 3.7: Subject files, 1943-1948 Subseries 3.8: "Schools at War" scrapbooks, circa 1939-1945 Subseries 3.9: Business and industry documents, 1942-1948

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as donation.


No further additions are expected.

Related Archival Material

Materials relating to this collection may be found in the following collections within the Indiana Divison of the Indiana State Library:

ISLG 977.2 G618in: Gold star honor roll: A record of Indiana men and women who died in the service of the United States and the allied nations in the world war. 1914-1918.

ISLI 940.53772 I385wh: Indiana in World War II

Indiana History Bulletin (1923-1947), ISL Digital Collections:

Processing Information

Collection processing completed by Alexandria Jones in December 2015 and Bethany Fiechter during August 2016. EAD finding aid created by Bethany Fiechter on 2016/08/03. EAD finding aid revised 2020/11/24 by Brittany Kropf.
Indiana War History Commission collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.