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The Magic of the Dunes in Art and Photography


In 1899, a struggle began between industry and preservationists for control of the Michigan lakeshore in Northern Indiana. The area was booming with industry, steel mills and power plants. Companies like Ball Brothers Co. and Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. carried away tons of sand from the dunes in railroad boxcars during the early years of the 20th century. People interested in preserving the area formed the Prairie Club of Chicago in 1908, and by 1929, the Indiana Dunes State Park opened. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was finally established in 1966. A collection at IHS focuses on the beauty and unspoiled nature of the area and people enjoying the lake.

The William F. Gingrich Glass Lantern Slides collection contains 92 slides from the 1920s labeled with handwritten titles and Gingrich’s name. They came in a small wooden carrying case made for lantern slide storage.

Gingrich was born in Bentonville, Ind., in Fayette County in 1874 to German immigrants. He became a teacher and later a school principal in Chicago, where he met and married Bessie S. Davis in 1915. Gingrich was also interested in photography. He wrote an article for January 1919 issue of Photo-Era: The American Journal of Photography titled “Experiences with the Gum-Bichromate Process,” which included a picture of him and his wife.



After more than 40 years as an educator, Gingrich retired about 1940, and he and his wife moved to Palo Alto, Calif., where he took up painting and became a noted landscape artist. He died in 1959.

Gingrich’s slides of the Dunes have an aesthetic quality that is very similar to Frank Virgil Dudley’s paintings. Dudley and his wife appear in the collection, along with pictures of their cabin. IHS also owns two Frank Dudley paintings.

Dudley, known as the “Painter of the Dunes,” was born in 1868. He first visited the Dunes on a hiking trip in 1911 and began to paint the scenery there. By 1916, it became his primary subject. In 1921, Dudley built a studio cabin on Lake Michigan near Chesterton that became a gathering place for other artists and conservationists interested in preservation of the area. He died in 1957.