I Left Indianapolis because the Money was Gone: Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s Roots

Lee Little


This paper is a brief look into the family of author Kurt Vonnegut and its impact on the city of Indianapolis. Included in this research is a brief section on the Turner Movement, a German social movement which aimed to create physically and mentally fit citizens during the Napoleonic Wars. The research details not only the Turner Movement as a whole, but also the activity of the Movement in Indianapolis, where Kurt’s ancestors had leading roles. All branches of Kurt Vonnegut’s ancestry were key players in Indianapolis business, including brewing, land development and sales, all of which nearly dried up during the Great Depression. Included in this research are several personal stories from the life of Vonnegut’s ancestors, who helped to lay the foundation of a German presence in Indianapolis and raise Indianapolis into the business center of Indiana. The exploits of Kurt Vonnegut’s great-grandfather, grandfather, and father are detailed, including much about the business ventures of the Vonnegut family itself, including the Vonnegut Hardware Company and the Von Duprin Panic Bar Company and the Vonnegut and Bohn Architectural Firm, among others. Lesser members of the Vonnegut family are also highlighted, being used to draw comparisons between Kurt and the rest of his family, which he shunned as a result of the death of his mother and his experiences in the Second World War. While Kurt Vonnegut’s writing style has been called unique, the research points to the roots of that uniqueness, including the writing style of his great-grandfather, and also the cultural background in which the author grew up and impacted him greatly, but which he ultimately left behind.


Vonnegut; Indianapolis; German-Americans

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