Richmond is a city largely within Wayne Township, Wayne County, in east central Indiana, United States, which borders Ohio. The city also includes the Richmond Municipal Airport, which is in Boston Township and separated from the rest of the city. It is sometimes called the "cradle of recorded jazz" because some early jazz records were made here at the studio of Gennett Records, a division of the Starr Piano Company.
In 1806 the first European Americans, Quaker families from North Carolina, settled along the East Fork of the Whitewater River. This was part of a general westward migration in the early decades after the American Revolution. John Smith and David Hoover were among the earliest settlers. Richmond is still home to several Quaker institutions, including Friends United Meeting, Earlham College and the Earlham School of Religion.
The city was connected to the National Road, the first road built by the federal government and a major route west for pioneers of the 19th century. It became part of the system of National Auto Trails. The highway is now known as U.S. Highway 40. One of the extant Madonna of the Trail monuments was dedicated at Richmond on October 28, 1928 The monument sits in a corner of Glen Miller Park adjacent to US 40.
Richmond is believed to have been the smallest community in the United States to have supported a professional opera company and symphony orchestra. The Whitewater Opera has since closed but the Richmond Symphony Orchestra has continued. In 1899 Will Earhart formed the first complete high school orchestra in the nation. A later high school orchestra director, Joseph E. Maddy, went on to found what is now known as the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan.
In the 1920s during the national revival of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), Indiana had the largest Klan organization in the country, led by Grand Dragons D. C. Stephenson and Walter F. Bossert. At its height, national membership during the second Klan movement reached 1.5 million, with 300,000 from Indiana. Records show that Richmond (home to Whitewater Klan #60) and Wayne County were Klan strongholds, with up to 45 percent of the county's white males having been Klan members. Forty percent of Richmond's Kiwanis club members, thirty percent of its doctors, and 27 percent of its lawyers were Klan members, but none of the city's bank executives or most powerful business leaders were members. In 1923 a reported 30,000 people watched a Klan parade through Richmond streets. Richmondite Robert Lyons was national chief of staff for the Klan.
A group of artists in the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries came to be known as the Richmond Group. They included John Elwood Bundy, Charles Conner, George Herbert Baker, Maude Kaufman Eggemeyer and John Albert Seaford, among others. The Richmond Art Museum has a collection of regional and American art. Many consider the most significant painting in the collection to be a self-portrait of Indiana-born William Merritt Chase.
The arts were supported by a strong economy increasingly based on manufacturing. Richmond was once known as "the lawn mower capital" because it was a center for manufacturing of lawn mowers from the late 19th century through the mid-20th century. Manufacturers included Davis, Motomower, Dille-McGuire and F&N. The farm machinery builder Gaar-Scott was based in Richmond. The Davis Aircraft Co., builder of a light parasol wing monoplane, operated in Richmond beginning in 1929.
After starting out in nearby Union City, Wayne Agricultural Works moved to Richmond. Wayne was a manufacturer of horse-drawn vehicles, including "kid hacks", a precursor of the motorized school bus. From the early 1930s through the 1940s, several automobile designers and manufacturers were located in Richmond. Among the automobiles locally manufactured were the Richmond, built by the Wayne Works; the "Rodefeld"; the Davis; the Pilot; the Westcott and the Crosley.
In the 1950s, Wayne Works changed its name to Wayne Corporation, by then a well-known bus and school-bus manufacturer. In 1967 it relocated to a site adjacent to Interstate 70. The company was a leader in school-bus safety innovations, but it closed in 1992 during a period of school-bus manufacturing industry consolidations.
Richmond was known as the "Rose City" because of the many varieties once grown there by Hill's Roses. The company had several sprawling complexes of greenhouses, with a total of about under glass. The annual Richmond Rose Festival honored the rose industry and was a popular summer attraction.
David Hoover and three other young men followed a section line from West Milton. Miami, Ohio in 1806 and are recognized as the founder of Richmond. The first name that the area was know as was Smithville. The locals did not like this name and so they had three members nominate a new name. David Hoover offered the name Richmond and in a vote the community choose Richmond.