Saturday, April 9, 2016

My Country, 'Tis of Tea — Indiana

Ever wonder why Indiana is known as the Hoosier State? Well, you’ll have to keep wondering, because apparently the exact origin of the term “hoosier” has been lost to time. According to the Indiana Historical Society, "No one seems to know how the word ‘Hoosier' came to be. Some people think it was meant to mock Indiana as a rough, backwoods and backwards place. Others think that early settlers used the term with pride to describe themselves as a hearty, courageous group.” I was amused to learn that one legend—which is false, alas—is that the question “Who’s your (relative)?” was shortened to just “Hoosier.” Ha! So while we may never know what Hoosier really means, I can tell you that Indiana has a few teatime connections that are indeed known!

• Certainly one of the most legendary tearooms ever to operate in Indiana was the tearoom at L.S. Ayres department store in Indianapolis. The tearoom was in business from 1905-1990, and when it closed, the tearoom reopened at the Indiana State Museum. The tearoom appears in this photo as it looked around the time of its opening (photo courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society). Now I pass right through downtown Indianapolis on my way to see my stepdaughter and her family in Wisconsin each year, but I’d never been able to time things just right to pay a visit to the recreated L.S. Ayres tearoom. I've apparently waited too late, as now it's available only to groups of 15 or more by reservation, and I can't think of a good reason to get 14 friends to go to Indianapolis with me! Fortunately, a cookbook of the tearoom’s famous recipes was published, with copies still available regularly on eBay, and I have made and enjoyed the famous Chicken Velvet Soup. 

• Many tea lovers like old glassware, and plenty of it hails from Indiana. Ever heard of Indiana Glass Company of Dunkirk, Indiana? The company traces its beginnings to 1897 and produced a glassware pattern called Avocado, considered by some to be the first real pattern of Depression glass. You may also have heard of Cracked Ice, Pyramid, Horseshoe, Pineapple and Floral, Old English, and Sandwich patterns. My favorite Indiana Glass pattern, though, is without a doubt the Art Deco Tea Room pattern, the teacup and saucer of which are shown here. If you’d like to learn more about Indiana Glass, there are lots of articles online, and I found this website most helpful with its extensive history and listings.

• Finally, I learned that like most states, Indiana has an active tea community and is regularly hosting teas at lovely and often historic venues around the state. If any Hoosiers happen to be reading, I came across a notice about a May 7 Mother’s Day Tea in Indianapolis, an event sponsored by the Hoosier Chapter of the Victorian Society of America. Now doesn’t that sound like fun? The tea will be held from 1-3 p.m. that Saturday at the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home in Indianapolis. Speaker Doreen Squire Ficara will speak on the Authentic English Tea, will display her own English silver tea pieces, and some lucky guest will win a piece of English silver. Email for more information.


  1. Love that Tearoom pattern ! It's a shame Indiana is so far away, it would be fun to be part of a group of 15 or more and visit the museum tearoom. Glad you have the cookbook, at least.

  2. I'm thinking we may need to take a long tea friends road trip when you complete this series.

    1. Now you're talking! Know any good trip organizers? (You know, maybe someone who used to work in tourism, perhaps …)

  3. Thanks for another history lesson.

  4. Great information on Indiana, a state I had the pleasure of living in for a few months, way back in 1988.

    It's a beautiful state with such friendly people - I was taking some classes at Fort Benjamin Harrison, near Indianapolis. Did you ever see 'Good Morning, Vietnam,' starring Robin Williams?

    They based that movie on Adrian Cronauer who was in the Air Force- he was assigned to a unit in Vietnam that provided news, music and entertainment to all the military, serving in the area. One of our professors remembered Airman Cronauer and we were all so 'psyched' to be at the same school he attended.

    The school was sponsored by the Department of Defense, (it was called DINFOS) and it was an 'all service' school - students from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy - everyone in their respective uniforms: it was a diverse group, to be sure! *

    * I remember the Navy students were enrolled for the longest period: they not only had to learn radio / TV programming, news reporting, photography, videography - they had to learn how to order shipboard entertainment and movies.

    We had some time on the weekend to explore Indiana and we found some Amish villages not too far from Indianapolis: they were gorgeous and had the best bakeries and restaurants!

    I remember Goshen was very pretty, especially the Bonneyville Mill. I highly recommend it! **

    ** As great a writer / researcher as you are, I bet if you call ahead, they will 'allow you' to see the exhibit, I feel pretty certain about that! (They would be silly not to!). Thanks for this USA Tea series - it's so interesting, Angela. Have a great week, Joanie

  5. How fun to read all the tea things you found for Indiana. I would love visiting that tearoom mock up too. Now wishing I was close enough to gather 15 people to do so.


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