Eli Lilly’s Putnam ties explored in new IHS exhibit

Thursday, September 29, 2016

An exhibit exploring Col. Eli Lilly’s life and legacy, including his ties to Greencastle and Putnam County, will be featured in the Indiana Historical Society’s (IHS) award-winning “You Are There” series.

The exhibit, “You Are There: Eli Lilly at the Beginning,” launches Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center. The History Center is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and runs Tuesday through Saturday.

The exhibit will take visitors back in time to Col. Lilly’s original laboratory on Pearl Street in Indianapolis. From there, guests will experience the Indianapolis wholesale district in the late 1800s and learn how the colonel’s early experiences helped shape his ideas of leadership, philanthropy and perseverance.

The colonel moved to Greencastle as a child in 1852 and went to Indiana Asbury College, now DePauw University, from 1852 to 1854. His parents are buried in Forest Hill Cemetery.

He then opened a local drugstore in Greencastle (2 W. Washington St., now the site of the Conspire shop) only to close its doors when he enlisted in the Putnam Rifles’ 21st regiment of the Indiana Volunteer Militia after the outbreak of the Civil War.

Greencastle lore speaks of Lilly marching his troops up and down local streets in preparation for their deployment. Col. Lilly later took command of the 18th Indiana Artillery Battalion, a unit which at first had little time for training being without horses and mules to pull the guns and equipment.

The unit became a part of the Army of the Cumberland, playing important roles at the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga, among others. Lilly left the regiment in 1863 and became a major in the 9th Indiana Cavalry. He was captured by the Confederates, but he was later paroled.

After surviving fierce Civil War combat, as well as personal highs and lows, Lilly went into business for himself in Indianapolis in 1876.

The exhibit Visitors to You Are There: Eli Lilly at the Beginning will meet actors portraying Col. Lilly and several other important players from the early days of the company. Guests will also meet the colonel’s son, J.K. Lilly Sr., then a teenager helping in his father’s store; Augustus Kiefer, a local wholesaler who encouraged the colonel to open his own business; and Caroline Kruger, one of the company’s first employees.

In a second section of the exhibit, visitors will see artifacts on loan from Eli Lilly and Co. and gain a greater knowledge about changes in the pharmaceutical industry. Guests also will see how the colonel’s legacy lives on in both the philanthropic and business communities in Indianapolis and around the world.

You are There: Eli Lilly at the Beginning is presented by Eli Lilly and Company, with support from Ruth Lilly Philanthropic Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Eli Lilly II and Mr. and Mrs. Peter Nicholas.

For more information about You Are There: Eli Lilly at the Beginning or other IHS offerings, call 317-232-1882 or visit IHS online at www.indianahistory.org.

The Indiana Historical Society has been “Indiana’s Storyteller” since 1830, connecting people to the past by collecting, preserving and sharing the state’s history. A private, nonprofit membership organization, IHS maintains the nation’s premier research library and archives on the history of Indiana and the Old Northwest and presents a unique set of visitor experiences called the Indiana Experience.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: