Casey Jones’s Last Ride

Written by: Jerret Barker Collections and Education Intern

Some events transcend their time and place. Stories about these events are told, and then retold, throughout the generations leading to the creation of legend. American folklore is littered with such stories: John Henry defeating the steam drill in a race between man and machine and Billy the Kid’s fatal reunion with former friend-turned-sheriff Pat Garrett. One such legend, that of Casey Jones, was instantly created in the early morning of April 30, 1900, when his train crashed into another near Vaughn, Mississippi.

(Casey Jones in 1898. Schenectady, New York Historical Marker.)

John Luther “Casey” Jones was born on March 14, 1863 (or 1864, as records are unclear) in Missouri but moved to Cayce, Kentucky shortly after his birth.[1] His childhood hometown would later serve as the nickname in which Jones became known. Longing for the respect and praise that accompanied railroad engineers, Jones left home at 15 and slowly made his way through the railroad industry, serving as a telegrapher, brakeman, fireman, and eventually an engineer.[2] As a railroad engineer, Jones was known throughout the country for his impeccable adherence to train schedules (even if it meant increasing his speed beyond the limit) and his modified whistle, which became recognizable to anyone who heard it. So renowned was Jones that he was asked to operate trains for the visitors to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

In January of 1900, Jones took over control of the Illinois Central Railroad’s Cannonball, a fast passenger express that traveled from Chicago to New Orleans.[3] On April 29, making a late start and with orders to make up lost time, Jones and his fireman Sim Webb (the one responsible for feeding coal into the firebox to produce the steam necessary for travel) left the station on a dark and cloudy evening. Near Vaughn, Mississippi, in the early hours of April 30th, Jones noticed red lights on the back of a caboose stopped on the track in front of him. Jones, going too fast to stop, hit the airbrakes as soon as he realized something was wrong. Jones died as his engine struck the rear of the stopped caboose.[4] His last words were to tell his fireman to jump to safety, which Webb did.[5] Webb sustained minor injuries, and none of the passengers on board were seriously injured.[6]

The David Owsley Museum of Art currently displays an action-packed depiction of this deadly scene. Painted in 1939 by Edwin Fulwider, Casey Jones features Fulwider’s interpretation of Jones’s last ride. Although the actual event involved Jones hitting the caboose of another train, Fulwider portrays two speeding trains racing toward each other. Black smoke ominously billows out of both locomotives into the night sky while the tracks curve and twist, adding to the suspense of the eventual collision. Viewers can see the Vaughn train station, and even the jumping figure of Webb narrowly escaping the doomed train. This painting allows viewers to experience the drama of the collision.

(Edwin Fulwider, 1913 – 2003, Casey Jones, 1939, Oil on Masonite, Gift of Charles and Kathleen Harper, 2015.022.000, © artist’s estate)

Edwin Fulwider was born in 1913 in Bloomington, Indiana. As a child, he became enamored with trains and travel as a boy, even memorizing the trains’ schedule and timing their stops across town.[7] He later graduated from the John Herron Art School in Indianapolis in 1938. Becoming a teacher later in his career, Fulwider taught at Miami University of Ohio, the John Herron Art School, and the Cornish School of Allied Arts in Seattle, Washington. He retired from teaching in 1992 but remained active as an artist until his death in 2003. Coincidently, Fulwider was able to meet and work with Thomas Hart Benton during the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, 40 years after Casey Jones operated the trains there.[8]

(Edwin Fulwider. Photo courtesy of Covington Fine Arts Gallery.)

Fulwider’s depiction of the fatal crash is just one of many honoring Casey Jones’s legacy. Songs, books, documentaries, paintings, sculptures, and a museum are dedicated to the man who lost his life trying to save his passengers on April 30, 1900. 122 years later, the legend of Casey Jones continues in art and memory. Check out Johnny Cash singing “Casey Jones,” 1963: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_XUV3HJajQ.

As always, thank you for reading the DOMA Insider and make sure to come see Edwin Fulwider’s Casey Jones piece for yourself! DOMA is open: Tuesday-Friday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Did I mention it’s free admission?


[1] “This Week in Railroad History: The Legend of Casey Jones.” National Railroad Museum. https://nationalrrmuseum.org/blog/this-week-in-railroad-history-the-legend-of-casey-jones/.

[2] Moody, James W. “Casey Jones Railroad Museum.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 25, no. 1 (1966): 4.

[3] “This Week in Railroad History.”

[4] “Railroaders Hear Straight Story on Casey Jones’s Famous Ride.” Western Folklore 13, no. 2/3 (1954): 135–36.

[5] Cohen, Norm. “‘Casey Jones’s: At the Crossroads of Two Ballad Traditions.” Western Folklore 32, no. 2 (1973): 78.

[6] “This Week in Railroad History.”

[7] Gottschlich, Michelle. “Edwin Fulwider’s Early-1900s Boyhood in Bloomington, ‘A Memoir’.” Limestone Post Magazine. (2018). https://limestonepostmagazine.com/edwin-fulwiders-early-1900s-boyhood-bloomington-memoir/.

[8] “Edwin Fulwider.” Seattle Art Museum, https://art.seattleartmuseum.org/people/4752/edwin%20%20fulwider;jsessionid=E6ACB6406B0C1C77ABDE8FDAB3925BA;jsessionid=E6ACB6406B0C1C77ABDE8FD0AB3925BA.

Family Workshop: Forms and Figures

Written by: Kaitlyn Yeager – Visitor Assistant

In February the curator of education at David Owsley Museum of Art, Maureen Nicholson, held a family workshop for children and parents to learn about Larry Day’s early abstract art in the exhibition titled Body Language. Larry Day (1921 – 1998) was an American artist residing in Pennsylvania for nearly all his life, where he created his works and taught as a professor at the Philadelphia College of Art. Day’s work can be divided into three themes: abstractions, figures and forms, and cityscapes. His paintings and drawings can be described as “ironic realism”, as these works are not quite the photorealistic reproduction of a depicted scene but rather an idea or a comment about such. The artist uses references from the past, such as works by the old masters for inspiration.

For this workshop we took a tour through the museum to first view Larry Day’s abstract artwork on the main floor in the Brown Study Room, where students had the opportunity to critically analyze the work by asking questions about why the artist had abstracted the subject and how this was done. Afterward, we practiced our abstracting skills by using the artist’s work in the Special Exhibition upstairs as inspiration. Both the parents and their children took part in sketching one of Day’s original works of their choice, and then simplifying it into shapes and lines to experiment with abstraction.

For the last portion of the event, we moved to the workshop area to use the skills and knowledge learned through viewing Day’s artwork and create our own abstracted pieces using oil pastels on paper. The children and adults chose an object or artwork in the museum as a reference to draw an abstracted version, which could be done by adding new colors, simplifying or transforming the shapes and figures, or by fixating on only a portion of the original work. During this time everyone got the chance to draw and color, listen to some music, and chat with one another. At the end of the event all of the kids were photographed with their artwork.

This workshop was one of the first opportunities to hold an in-person, family-friendly art event at the David Owsley Museum of Art since before the pandemic. I worked with Maureen as her assistant to help with the event, and I personally loved it! The kids were enthusiastic and a joy to be around, and the parents were so kind. It was exciting to see all of the families making art together, and we were very happy to provide them with the art supplies and opportunity to do so. I would love to see more of these experiences here at DOMA and, based on the many positive reports from our recent participants, we hope to hold more family workshops in the near future!

As always, thank you for reading the DOMA insider and make sure to come visit the museum soon! DOMA is free and open to the public; we are open Tuesday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., and Saturday from 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Check out our website at bsu.edu/doma.

Tiles Tell a Tale of Beneficence

By: Sophie Edens, Public Relations & Marketing Intern

 

During the final event to celebrate Ball State’s Centennial on Friday, June 14, President Geoffrey Mearns unveiled a work of art created for Ball State University by artists in the community. This was done by the Muncie Artists Guild.

Each artist and guild member created an 18-by-18-inch panel that, when all 24 are combined, form the Beneficence Mural. Currently, the future home of the Beneficence Mural has yet to be determined. A campus-wide email was sent, asking Ball State University students where they believed the mural of Beneficence should be placed. It won’t be till later this summer that President Mearns will announce the mural’s future location.

For those unfamiliar with the beloved Beneficence who watches over the students of Ball State University, she is a bronze statue on the campus of Ball State University, located in Muncie, Indiana. She was created by Daniel Chester French in 1937.

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She is lovingly referred to as Benny by students. She is an angel with outspread wings, her hand extended to the viewer. She symbolizes the generosity of the five Ball brothers whose land donation to the state of Indiana allowed Ball State to flourish.

Tiles have been used for quite some time as decoration, such as interior and exterior design. Functionally, tiles have been used for flooring and walls. Artistically, tiles can be used to tell stories or portray an idea. It is a different method of portrayal.

For example, on display in the blue room of the John J. and Angeline Pruis Gallery by the elevator, you will see a series of decorative tiles. One appears as a starfish, another of birds, one with eyes, a sun, and guitars — the artwork on these glazed tiles were designed by Salvador Dalí.

Salvador Dalí was commissioned by Maurice Duchin Inc. to design a series of tile images for production. Dalí reused themes from various paintings as he created his designs.

Dalí’s tile designs told a story. But Dali’s are not the only decorative tiles that can be found in the museum.

If you venture into the Frank and Rosemary Ball Gallery, the Edmund F. Petty Gallery, or the Margaret Ball Petty Corridor by Recital Hall, you will see some decorative wall tiles! American artist and educator Emest A. Batchelder designed these glazed tiles during the construction between 1924 and 1935.

These individual tiles depict Medieval and European Renaissance subjects, including birds, other animals, sailboats, and historical figures. Figures such as helmeted soldiers and graceful peacocks grace these relief tiles.

Somewhat surprisingly, many people ask about these tiles. It took me a while before I noticed them or regarded them as more than decoration. However, they can tell a story of their own.

So what do these tiles of Beneficence tell us?

She is a beloved symbol of our Ball State University, and a shining icon of our proud past and the bright future!

The new tile-mural shows the views of the artists as they thought of Beneficence, and how they should portray her. Everything from the color to the angle and the season shown depicts the story of Beneficence and what she means to the campus.

Tuesday, June 25th was the final day for people to cast their votes on where they believed Beneficence would best be placed. Exactly one month later on Thursday, July 25th, President Mearns sent another email announcing the forever home of the Beneficence Mural.

The mural will be installed in the first floor of the Art and Journalism Building (AJ), between the south entrance and The Atrium food court. AJ—also home to Ball State’s bookstore, an art gallery, and multiple academic programs—is a high-traffic area that will result in maximum exposure for the Beneficence Mural. Here, it can be admired by all. Over the course of the next few weeks, staff members will be installing the mural in its new home.

Connecting Through Art

By: Faleece Childress, Education Intern

On Tuesday, June 11th, DOMA hosted an event called Connecting Through Art, and it was a huge success! We would love to thank everyone who joined in and connected through art with us here at DOMA. Everyone who attended this event interacted well with one another, and worked to create a positive atmosphere. We had a huge crowd with a wide range of ages and those who were students and those who were not.

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Everyone interacted with art in a way that people normally would not when going to a museum. At this event, those attending took their time to experience works of art as a whole, looking them over, describing them to each other, and coming up with questions that they would ask the artists.

 

 

 

One of the many things done at this event, was to leave notes for works of art that those who came enjoy the most, or that really resonated with them. Next time you come to visit, what kind of note would you leave?

 

 

 

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Join us for our next Connecting Through Art event tomorrow, Tuesday, July 9th! Meet in DOMA’s Sculpture Court. This event is free and open to the public, suitable for all ages, and absolutely no art experience is required.

International Museum Day

By Emily Horn, DOMA Social Media Assistant

May 18th is International Museum Day!

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The International Council of Museums (ICOM) created International Museum Day in 1977 with the objective to raise awareness of the fact that, “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” Participation in International Museum Day is growing among museums all over the world. In 2018, more than 40,000 museums participated in the event in some 158 countries.

The organisation chooses a different theme for the day and coordinates every year. This year’s theme, “Museums as Cultural Hubs: The future of tradition,” focuses on how the role of museums in society is ever changing. On its website, ICOM writes “As museums increasingly grow into their roles as cultural hubs, they are also finding new ways to honour their collections, their histories and their legacies, creating traditions that will have new meaning for future generations and relevance for an increasingly diverse contemporary audience at a global level. This transformation, which will have a profound impact on museum theory and practice, also forces us to rethink the value of museums and to question the ethical boundaries that define the very nature of our work as museum professionals.”

Come celebrate International Museum Day at DOMA with Art in Bloom Public Exhibition & Tours this Saturday & Sunday from 1:30 – 4:30 pm with a docent tour at 2:30 pm!