Historic Treasure: Ashtray from the Deming Hotel | Valley life

Ever since the National Highway cut a path through the prairie to the Wabash River, Terre Haute has been a busy town.

Passengers traveled by the thousands on waterways, roads and trains. Some to stay and settle into a new life, others were just passers-by.

During its formative years, the sheer number of local businesses, hotels, and superior transportation were exact proof of what Terre Haute had become. Although many companies and industries, large and small, have long faded from the scene over the years, their memory lives on.

Encased inside small artifacts of advertising memorabilia, several former companies are represented, their legacies preserved at the Vigo County History Center.

Items like this week’s historic treasure – a glass ashtray from the Deming Hotel – serve to remind us of the importance that fundamental publicity has for a growing community.

Ashtrays have fallen along the way to novelty collectibles, much like their predecessor, the spittoon. They used to be as mundane as a pair of salt and pepper shakers on a coffee table. Ashtrays could be seen in public places and even in the homes of non-smokers, who offered them as a courtesy to smoking guests.

Since the introduction of the smoking ban in public places, ashtrays are more likely to collect coins or keys than ashes.

It was common for travelers to pick up souvenir ashtrays from various restaurants or hotels throughout their trip. In Terre Haute, the Deming Hotel was a privileged destination.

Boasting being the largest hotel in town and one of the largest in the state of Indiana. The fireproof building was constructed in 1914. It was not until after the 1920s that Americans became more comfortable with automobile tourism, venturing onto the roads. However, the hotel was completed at a time when many people traveled on the railroads or by the Wabash River, and Terre Haute was the place to be.

Guests of the Deming Hotel were treated like royalty and enjoyed amenities such as a steam-heated attached garage, hair salon, exquisite restaurant, grand ballroom, and billiard room. No wonder it was advertised as an “All Comfort” destination in Terre Haute. Complete with all the comforts of a luxury stay, including an ashtray in each bedroom.

About Brad S. Fulton

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