Last year, Reporters Without Borders ranked the United States 45th on their annual Press Freedom Index. RWB advocates for “the defense of media freedom” as a “basic human right to be informed and to inform others.” Their annual list assesses press freedom in 180 nations.

While American reporters don’t have it as bad as their counterparts in North Korea, RWB did find in 2019 that the U.S. “has become a less safe place for journalists, and the threats they face are becoming standard.”

The growing assault on our nation’s press is symptomatic of a larger problem, the American embrace of…

On Christmas Eve in 1917, bandits Dewey Stout and Otto “Hickory” Harris donned masks and burst into Watson’s Drug Store at the corner of 8th Street and Sampson Avenue. Brandishing revolvers, the robbers demanded money from Elsie Watson, who was writing an order behind the counter. Thinking the duo a hoax, Elsie laughingly replied “What’s the joke?”

“It’s no joke, give us your money,” Harris bellowed as he raised his revolver to her head. Elsie pointed to the cash register, which Stout then attempted to open. Elsie reached down for her pen, scaring Harris who fired a shot. The bullet…

100 years ago on Christmas Day, the mood in Delaware County was both joyous and apprehensive. The First World War ended a few weeks before and soldiers began returning home from European trenches. Their friends and family met them with open arms, but also anxiety as the Spanish Flu pandemic raged across the globe.

Both issues came together for the Wright family of Muncie. Milton Wright, a private in the American Expeditionary Forces, had been severely wounded just before the Armistice. A telegram indicating as such arrived at a grieving Wright house in Muncie on Christmas Eve in 1918. …

Halloween in the United States evolved mostly into a children’s holiday following the Second World War. Yet, with origins extending back thousands of years, All Hallow’s Eve was originally a time to celebrate the harvest, mark the change of seasons, and honor dead ancestors. While many Mexican-Americans have kept ancient traditions alive on the Day of the Dead, the rest of America has not.

But this wasn’t always the case, certainly not in Muncie. Halloween was widely and deeply celebrated by Munsonians of all ages throughout the late Victorian era and well into the 20th century.

An exemplar from…

Halloween has evolved as a uniquely American holiday. European immigrants brought differing traditions, which reassembled into a new October observance.

In Europe, the Celts marked their new year on October 31. This festival was known as Calan Gaeaf in pre-Saxon England, Kalan Gwav in Cornwall, and Samhain in Scotland. The Celts believed that on this night, a thinned barrier between the living and the dead permitted migrations of supernatural forces.

The Romans celebrated the harvest festival of Pomona on November 1, which spread north with the empire. After the establishment of Christianity, they held a triduum observance for the…

On October 6, 1843 the abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass arrived in Indiana to speak against the horrors of chattel slavery. In Richmond, a rancorous crowd pelted Douglass with eggs as they jeered. The Richmond Palladium newspaper reported the incident as “a most disgraceful riot.”

Douglas fared worse in Pendleton. After arriving to speak, a drunken throng threatened violence. …

I do not understand why our ‘leaders’ — at local, state, and national levels — won’t just make wearing masks in public mandatory, as in, wear a fucking mask or get arrested. It’s exhausting watching all these faint-hearted politicians wring their hands as they worry about upsetting someone’s archaic notion of negative liberty.

Every nation in every age has had a segment of the population that is basically and fundamentally ignorant — you know the type, people that were convinced that Bush planted thermite at the base of the World Trade Center or those who believed Obama was born in…

I look forward to when we can look back on COVID-19 and see it as an ‘old-timey’ disease like the mumps and whooping cough; illnesses that became (mostly) irrelevant with vaccinations. We certainly hope for a similar fate with the coronavirus. Furthermore, although only smallpox has been eradicated, many other infectious diseases have been eliminated in the United States, such as yellow fever, malaria, polio, measles, rubella, and diphtheria.

The latter made local headlines in 1895 when a deadly outbreak occurred in Yorktown. On April 5, the Muncie Evening Press reported that 16-year-old Laura Belle Flowers died after suffering from…

Liberty Theater. Image courtesy of Ball State University’s Bracken Archive and Special Collections.

Rumors floated around Wall Street a few weeks ago hinting that AMC Theatres was considering bankruptcy. The theater chain has found itself in financial trouble amidst the COVID-19 closures in place around the country. They can’t show movies, ergo no revenue. AMC’s management refuted the gossip, but did issue $500 million in corporate debt to offset their losses.

Losing the theater would be a blow to movie buffs like me, as it’s Muncie’s only cinema house. But this wasn’t always the case. Muncie was home to numerous movie theatres, drive-ins, and nickelodeons over the years.

Societal disrupting events, while perhaps novel for the generations alive today in the United States, weren’t unknown to our forebears. American history is littered with pandemics, economic shocks, and war. When occurring at or near pivotal moments in time, they severely alter the economic, political, and cultural path of the United States in the years that follow. The COVID-19 pandemic is no different. As time passes, it’ll show itself as a pivotal moment in history, one that fundamentally alters the American way of life — a Great American Reset.

Such events also expose our nation’s fault lines, stripped bare as…

Chris Flook

Public historian, animator, and resident of Muncie, Indiana.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store