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French Lick History 1901-1946, Part II

 

The Taggart era, Part II

 

French Lick Pluto Spring
Thomas Taggart’s son Tom supervised two of the major hotel additions. A Yale graduate in philosophy, he began his hotel education by working in the storeroom, “learning the business from the ground up.” In 1912, with his father, absorbed in his many and varied political and business activities, young Tom assumed the day-to-day management of the hotel.

 

By 1919 business was booming as over 450 railroad carloads of Pluto Water were shipped in a year, and sales reached $1,249,401.08. A substantial part of Taggart’s income could now be traced to the sale of Pluto Water. Pluto Water was sold over drugstore counters around the world and took first prize at the Worlds Fair in Paris. In 1948, the Pluto operation became separate entity; production ceased in 1971 after one of the naturally occurring elements in Pluto Water, Lithium, came into use as a drug treatment of bipolar disorder and was classified as a controlled substance. The current Pluto Corporation, which includes the 1913 bottling plant across from the hotel on IN56, bottles household chemicals and manufactures plastic containers.

 

As golf grew more popular, the Taggarts added a second course in 1920 two miles from the resort.  Designed by the famed Donald Ross, the Hill Course hosted the PGA Championship in 1924, won by Walter Hagen. Golf became a significant and sustained draw for the resort

 

French Lick, FDR

The last wing added by the Taggart family opened in 1925. Called the Convention Hall, it became an unofficial Democratic Party headquarters: it was here that Franklin Roosevelt rounded up support at a Democratic governor's conference for his party's presidential nomination in 1931.  FDR’s formal nomination as the Democratic candidate for President came one year later at the National Convention held in Chicago. Although involved in the state and national Democratic Party leadership, young Tom did not equal his father as a commanding and charismatic powerbroker. Tom Taggart sold the French Lick Springs Hotel in 1946 for a reported $4 million; he died in 1949. 

 

 

History of French Lick

1845-1900: From salt lick to health resort

1901-1946: Expansion marks the Taggart era, Part I

1901-1946: Expansion marks the Taggart era, Part II

 

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