Friday, April 30, 2010

New Digital Collection Documents Muncie During the Gas Boom Era

The Historic Muncie Souvenir Booklets digital collection provides students, historians, and other researchers with a glimpse of Muncie during the Gas Boom of the late 1800s.

When abundant pockets of natural gas were discovered in Muncie in the 1870s, the quiet farming community of 7,000 people began to develop overnight. Real estate values soared and manufacturers began to set up shop, lured by the promise of cheap energy. Muncie’s reign as the “Magic City,” or the “El Dorado of the West,” had begun.
The six books that comprise the Muncie Historic Souvenir Booklets Collection document this era through the view of various Muncie advocates, including the Dynamo Club, the Muncie Commercial Club, and the Central Indiana Gas Company. These promotional materials, designed to entice other manufacturers and businesses to relocate to Muncie, tout the city’s fine parks, shady streets, friendly citizens, and astonishingly rapid growth.

Students and historians interested in Muncie and the Indiana Gas Boom can review these accounts of the growth and decline of natural gas in Indiana. As a testament to the “limitless” supply of gas, pillars of flame were kept burning for years. Today’s natural gas experts have estimated that as much as 90% of the supply was wasted by these flambeaux. In less than 20 years, the supply of gas was depleted.

These booklets also provide a rich source of photographs and illustrations of Muncie from the 1890s through the 1920s. Images include prominent Muncie homes, parks, the Eastern Indiana Normal School, and the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Business.

Original copies of the booklets are located in the University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections. The complete digital collection is available at collection.php?CISOROOT=/MunHistBklt. For more information, contact Katherine Givens, DMR Resident, at