Miami County Museum
The Miami County Museum in Peru, Indiana is located in the former Senger Dry Goods Building. This is one of the finest county museums in the state. Near the entrance on the first floor is a stagecoach that was used by cowboy star Tom Mix for his movies and circus performances. Many models of circus wagons are on display. Obviously the products of skilled craftsmen, these models are quite detailed and beautifully painted. The museum has an extensive collection of stuffed animals, including an ivory-billed woodpecker, which is now believed to be extinct. Other items highlight the life of native son Cole Porter and describe the culture of the Miami Indians who originally inhabited the county, which is named for them. Numerous photographs and newspaper clippings are also exhibited. One headline proclaims the Peru Greys (a semi-pro baseball team) victory over the Chicago Cubs. A series of photographs shows an old county courthouse being brought down to make room for a new one.
Peru's Circus History
Peru's circus history begins with Ben Wallace. He earned some money by serving in the Civil War in place of another man. After the war ended, he used that money to start a livery stable back in Peru. This business was successful, and by 1884 he had earned enough money to start the one-ring Wallace and Company Circus.
The circus prospered, and in 1892 Wallace purchased a farm just outside Peru that he used as winter quarters for his circus. While in winter quarters, the circus would do everything that was necessary to get ready for the next season. Performers would work on their acts with animals that were housed in barns on the property. The elaborate circus wagons would be repaired, repainted and have gold leaf re-applied. It was not unusual for locals in Peru to see zebras or other exotic animals grazing in the fields.
Cole Porter was born in Peru in 1891. He would go on to write over 1,500 songs, many for musical plays, including 1948's "Kiss Me Kate." It won the very first Tony award the following year. In 1937 Porter suffered a serious accident while riding a horse and both of his legs were broken. Doctors wanted to amputate his right leg, but he refused. He underwent 34 operations before it was amputated in 1958. He never wrote another song after that, and passed away in 1964.
The Miami County Museum has a number of artifacts in its Cole Porter exhibit on the museums's first floor. These include his Grammy award and one of his couches. However, one of the museum's crown jewels is Porter's 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood, which can be seen in the video below. Each year the city of Peru holds its Cole Porter Festival on the weekend closest to his birthday (June 9)..
The area in and around Peru was once home to the Miami Indians. The museum has many stone tools & similar artifacts. They also have items related to Gabriel Godfroy and Frances Slocum. Godfroy was a Miami chief. Frances Slocum was a white woman who was abducted by Delaware Indians from her home in Pennsylvania. Her family kept looking for her, and over fifty years later they found her in Indiana. Three of her siblings came to see her. She opted to stay with the Miami tribe rather than return to white society.
- Cole Wide Web - the Cole Porter Resource Site
- Sawdust and Spangles: July 2012
- Bandwagon, July 1964
- International Circus Hall of Fame History, Peru Indiana
- Miami County Historical Society Museum
- Miami County History
- Cole Porter Festival
- Big Charley the Elephant, Peru, Indiana
- The Carpetbagger: Murdered Elephant and Weird Taxidermy: Miami County Museum