Settler fictions set in a settler fiction: James Joseph Buss, ‘Appealing to the Great Spirit: Foundational Fictions and Settler Histories in Middletown America’, Middle West Review, 2, 2, 2016, pp. 143-167

05Aug16

Excerpt: In 1929 Bertha C. Ball and her children placed a life-size copy of Cyrus Dallin’s statue, Appeal to the Great Spirit, in a small park at the intersection of Walnut Street and Granville Avenue in Muncie, Indiana. The figure—a generalized Great Plains warrior on horseback with outstretched arms and head tilted toward the heavens—may be one of the most recognizable images associated with the trope of the nineteenth century vanishing Indian. Dallin himself arrived in May of that year to install the work. It was the second full-size casting made of the piece, and the only such copy made during his lifetime (a posthumous version was commissioned for the city of Tulsa in the 1980s). Dallin was hired by the Ball family to erect the work in honor of Edmund Burke Ball, who had died in 1925. The Ball family, owners of the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company, moved their factory from Buffalo, New York, to Muncie, Indiana, in the 1880s in order to take advantage of natural gas fields discovered there. By the 1920s the Ball Brothers had become incredibly wealthy as their fruit canning jars became staples of the average American household. When Edmund died in 1925, he and Frank—the two brothers who originally started the company—occupied palatial homes on the northern bank of the White River (they had named the family compound Minnetrista). Bertha Ball placed the copy of Appeal to the Great Spirit on the eastern edge of the sprawling family estate, where passersby might notice it as they crossed the White River. While the statue’s initial placement in Muncie has its own interesting story, it is not the focus of this essay. 



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