Saturday, August 25, 2018

Bertram Day--A Poet and Businessman in Irvington

Bertram C. Day, a prominent businessman, and his wife, Alice Temple Day, moved into Irvington in 1905. The couple hailed from Tecumseh, Michigan and had only been married for two years. Mr. Day's talent in the business world of Indianapolis quickly materialized in both the insurance and real estate realms. The couple first rented a double at 5446 University Avenue and then at 245 South Audubon Road. By 1910, they lived in one of the most beautiful homes in Irvington, a lovely arts and craft dwelling at 251 South Audubon Road.  At the age of 35, Mr. Day purchased a large tract of land for an undisclosed price at North Audubon Road along the Pleasant Run Creek from the Beveridge family in 1916. The property came with four houses. He and his wife rented a double at 18 North Campbell Avenue while they sold and redeveloped their new real estate. The Days moved into a stunning new custom-built brick home at 46 North Audubon Road in 1923.

While he was busy making money, Mr. Day was also composing sonnets and poetry in his spare time. He traveled on a Chautauqua speaking circuit from 1916 through 1918. His writings and speeches had a Christian slant and were frequently guides for how to live a purposeful life. Some of his earliest works included Song of the Senses and The Secret of Character Building, both published before 1919. The Days traveled the world and even boasted that they had properly been around the world at least once.  Sometimes, Mr. Day gave speeches to local church groups about his travels. In 1931, a writer for the Munster Times in northern Indiana wrote that Mr. Day's speech on Venice "was so absorbingly interesting that the audience felt as if it had actually taken the Italian trip."

By 1931, Mr. Day was president of the Northern States Life Insurance Company based in Hammond, Indiana although he kept his primary residence in Irvington. In that year, he published Sonnets of a Sojourner.  His stanzas were written in the Elizabethan style and he boasted to a reporter that he had produced more sonnets than Shakespeare.

In 1934, residents of Irvington were shocked to learn that Mr. Day had been indicted on charges of fraud in his capacity as president of the Northern States Life Insurance Company. Five other men were also indicted in Chicago and arrested. The subsequent trial made national headlines as the insurance company fell into receivership. Throughout the 1920s, Mr. Day had led camps of YMCA boys on how to avoid temptations and "traps" in life. Now, he found himself in a serious trap.

As the proceedings of the trial dragged on in the winter of 1934, Mr. Day continued to write sonnets. One of his works was clearly written to appease Judge Epstein with the title, "The Honest Judge." He maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings once pleading, "how could a man who writes such beautiful sonnets and teaches Sunday School be convicted?" The jury agreed and on February 2, 1934, Bertram Day along with one other defendant was found not guilty. The Muncie Star Press reported that Mr. Day wept upon hearing the verdict.

Mr. Day never went back into the business world and retired to his home on Audubon Road where he composed more poetry and went back on the church-speaking circuit. Eventually, the childless couple moved to Florida. Mrs Day, an active clubwoman and church soloist, died in 1955. Mr. Day died in 1961 at the age of 89. The couple are buried in their hometown cemetery in Tecumseh, Michigan. Bertram Day's work has largely been forgotten today and his books are out of print and rarely found.

As early as 1910, Indiana newspapers began reporting on Bertram Day as an inspirational speaker. He later toured with a Chautauqua circuit from 1916-1918. (image courtesy of Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, February 3, 1919)

The Days dwelled in several Irvington homes before settling down at 46 North Audubon Road. In the 1910s, they rented this spacious double at 18 North Campbell Avenue. (image taken on August 23, 2018)

Bertram Day worked for at least three insurance companies. He was president of the Crescent Life Insurance Company and later the Northern States Life Insurance Company. This image was snapped of him in 1926 and appeared in Fellow Citizens of Indianapolis.

Mr. Day became quite popular throughout the state so much so that he frequently endorsed products. This ad appeared in the Indianapolis News on June 9, 1925.

An ad for "The Dawn" by Bertram Day appeared in the Indianapolis News on December 22, 1926. He wrote it as a warning for young men to stay out of crime. Ironically, he would later be involved in his own criminal suit in 1934. 

The Days moved into the beautiful home at 46 North Audubon Road in 1923. They moved away from Irvington in the early 1940s when they relocated to Florida. This photo of the house appeared in the Indianapolis Star on August 1, 1962.

46 North Audubon Road in 2018
Sources:  Bertram Day as a speaker:  "Will hear from Bertram Day This Evening," Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, February 13, 1919, 6; "Bertram Day Tells Baptists of Venice," Munster Times, March 20, 1931, 28;
     Bertram Day as an Author: "Bertram Day Pens Charming Sonnets From View Point of Sojourner," Munster Times, November 28, 1931, 5; "Bertram Day," Indiana Authors and Their Books, Crawfordsville, Indiana, 1974, 156.
       Bertram Day Biographical Information:  Federal Census records; "Beveridge Property is Bought by Bertram Day," Indianapolis News, April 17, 1916, 14; "Bertram Day Writes Poetry in Jail," Munster Times, January 26, 1934, 37; "Jurors Debate Fate of 6 Men in Fraud Trial," Munster Times, February 3, 1934, 25; "Acquitted Man Weeps," Muncie Star Press, February 4, 1934, 6.