A Visit to the Home of Vice President Thomas R. Marshall

Several of the characters in Liberty Girl are based on real people. Eleanor is based on my grandmother. Her parents and the other relatives you hear about like Uncle Alvin are all members of my family tree. Maggie is based on a real person, as are many of the adults Eleanor meets around Baltimore. And some of the characters are based on real people from history, including Thomas Marshall, Vice President of the United States.
Thomas R. Marshall, 28th Vice President of the United States A 1912 Harper's Weekly cover, showing Marshall and President-Elect Woodrow Wilson
My grandmother didn't really meet Vice President Marshall, but she did go hear him speak at a Liberty Bond rally in the Fifth Regimental Armory. I made up the incident where Eleanor got to meet him, and I knew that if I wanted to do a good job of writing it, I would have to learn what he was like.
An ad encouraging people to buy Liberty Bonds - certificates loaning money to the government in order to fight the war. Marshall and some of his US Senator friends posing for a publicity photo.
Luckily, Marshall wrote a book after he was finished being vice-president. It was called, Recollections of Thomas R. Marshall: A Hoosier Salad, and you can still find copies of it from "Used & Rare" book dealers. It gives you a great sense of Marshall's personality and his sense of humor. Several of the things I had him say in Liberty Girl came from the stories in his book, including that he told policemen no one was crazy enough to shoot at a vice president, and that his father took him to the Lincoln/Douglas debate when he was very young.






If you drive down State Road 9 in northern Indiana, you'll find yourself on the "Highway of the Vice Presidents." The stretch from Shelbyville to Columbia City passes through the home towns of three American vice presidents - not just Thomas Marshall, but also Dan Quayle (vice president for George H.W. Bush) and Thomas Hendricks (vice president for Grover Cleveland). And when you get to Columbia City, you can stop and visit Thomas Marshall's former home, which is now known as the Whitley County Historical Museum. I paid them a visit in 2012, and they were nice enough to show my parents and me around, even though the only time we could be there was late in the afternoon on the day after Thanksgiving.
The house belonged to Marshall's parents before he inherited it. The Historical Society maintains it largely as it would have appeared in Marshall's time, and much of the furniture belonged to him. The front room and the music room beyond it give you a grand view from when you first walk in. (Especially when it's decorated for Christmas, as it was when I was there.)

(Click on the two panoramas to see even larger views.)
Marshall is best remembered for a joke he made one day in the middle of a long, boring speech in the Senate. The speaker was going on about the things he thought the country needed, when Marshall turned to a colleague and muttered, "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar." When news of his quip got out, one enterprising cigar maker decided to give him what he asked for - and even put his name on it. The desk in the front room is the one Marshall used when he practiced law in Whitley County.
Elsewhere on the lower floor, you'll find an elaborate secretary desk and fireplace.
Some personal items from Marshall's time. I like the "mustache cup."
The upper floor includes Marshall's bedroom.
There are some other buildings on the grounds, and the Whitley County Historical Society presents a variety of exhibits and programs. All in all, it was an interesting visit, and a great way to get some more insight into the real story behind Liberty Girl.


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