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November 23, 2016

Flour Week – Thanksgiving in Noblesville a Century Ago

Flour Week – Thanksgiving in Noblesville a Century Ago

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian


The Thanksgiving holiday has been celebrated in Indiana since the Civil War and, much like today, with feasting and reminders of the Pilgrims.  One hundred years ago the activities would have been much the same, (except, of course, for televised football).  On November 25, 1916, the Noblesville columnist for the Indianapolis Recorder, the leading African American newspaper in the state, said:

“Thanksgiving day promises to be a high day in Noblesville.  Many out of town people and relatives of people here will be present which will add to the joy of all.”

However, there was something extra in 1916 – the Indiana Millers Association decided to declare Flour Week.  The phrase had been used previously when a merchant put a special price on flour to sell off a large batch.  In this case, you might look at it as a sort of an early “locavore” concept to encourage buying food products from regional producers.  It was also very business oriented and shows that commercialism around the holidays in nothing new.  Interestingly, there was no economic need to promote sales.  The European war (which we would join in April of the next year and would be known as World War I) had caused profits from wheat sales to go up.

1916-flour-adOne of the largest producers in the state was the Noblesville Milling Company, which had been started in 1891.  It was built by the Marmon Company to demonstrate state of the art milling equipment, but also produced a great deal of flour under the brand names of “Kismet” and “Diadem”.  They built a large multi-story building at Mulberry and Eighth Streets in Noblesville which still stands.  They also built and office building and housing for workers.  Eventually, the complex took up the entire three blocks between Division Street and Walnut Street.

Charles B. Jenkins was made manager of the mill in 1909.  In 1916, he was president of the Indiana Millers Association and on the special committee for Flour Week.  The committee began promoting the event in mid-October and, understandably, the Noblesville Milling Company tended to be featured.  In this article from the Indianapolis News dated Nov. 18, 1916, the Noblesville Milling Company is at the top and center.

The Alexandria Times-Tribune said of the Noblesville mill that “… it is recognized by milling experts that the plant at Noblesville is one of the most modern and complete in the country.”  [November 25, 1916]  They particularly emphasized the new concrete elevators, (which were demolished last year).

There were no reports on how much of a success Flour Week was.  It was tried again in March of 1923.  You can research more about Flour Week at the Hoosier State Chronicles and Newspapers.com at the library website.