Facts and Events
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (; November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. His works such as Cat's Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973) blend satire, gallows humor, and science fiction. As a citizen he was a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union and a critical pacifist intellectual. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association.
This story begins with the arrival here in 1850 of Clemens Vonnegut. Vonnegut was in the silk ribbon business; he was 27 years old. At that time, the population of Indianapolis was 8,000 — and growing rapidly. Clemens “came and saw all this opportunity,” Price says. He soon found a partner named Vollmer and they started a hardware business. “By the 1960s it was the oldest family retail business in the city,” Price says. Clemens was a physical fitness advocate who was occasionally seen chinning himself on tree branches when the spirit moved him. He was also involved in the Maennerchor and supported German language instruction in the public schools, where he became one of the longest serving board members.
Clemens had four sons, one of which, Bernard, became an architect. Bernard, in turn, was father to Kurt Vonnegut Sr., also an architect, and a co-founder of the Children’s Museum. Kurt Sr. had three children of his own: Bernard, Alice and Kurt Jr. Their handprints can still be found in the cement of the driveway to the house they lived in on the 4400 block of North Illinois Street. The Vonnegut family was at the center of the city’s cultural life until the Great Depression. Kurt Sr.’s architectural practice suffered for lack of business. “Nothing,” Price says, “was being built.