Indiana University

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Monday, July 26, 2004

Last modified: Monday, July 26, 2004

IU history journal describes the Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Noblesville

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A chance discovery of an old trunk in a barn in Noblesville, Ind., in 1995 drew national media attention to an important part of the city's history.

The trunk contained over 1,000 membership cards and dues receipts revealing the names of "citizens" of the local chapter of the Invisible Empire of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as hoods, sashes and other equipment, according to Allen Safianow, professor of history at Indiana University's Kokomo campus.

In the lead article in the June issue of the Indiana Magazine of History, Safianow describes in detail the effects of the discovery. They ranged from calls for public disclosure of the names to comments that the finder of the trunk, a local building contractor named Don Roberts, should have burned its contents and kept his discovery secret. Instead, Roberts donated all of the Klan materials to the Hamilton County Historical Society, where they are preserved as a valuable resource for those seeking a better understanding of the Klan's operations in Indiana.

"You can't burn history," Roberts said later in explaining his decision. "That's what is wrong today. Too many people are trying to bury history, and history is history. You may have liked to change it, but it's gone, it's behind us."

Safianow's article explores what may be learned today about the Noblesville Klan of the 1920s, not only from the newly discovered records but from local histories, official accounts, personal recollections and contemporary press accounts. "It also addresses the sensitive issue of how a community deals with the fact that its most respected citizens, its esteemed forefathers, embraced an organization which now is commonly regarded as an anathema, a gross antithesis of the fundamental ideals of this nation," he writes.

The Indiana Magazine of History is published quarterly by the Indiana University Department of History in cooperation with the Indiana Historical Society. The magazine is provided free to all members of the society. Subscriptions are also available for $18 per year from Indiana Magazine of History, Ballantine Hall 742, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. For information on subscribing, contact the magazine at 812-856-5394 or The magazine's Web site is at

For information on joining the Indiana Historical Society, visit the society's Web site at

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