The disappearance of Abe Martin

Who is this mysterious character, where did he go, and why is he a figure in Indy?

The Kin Hubbard Memorial Park sign with Abe Martin cutout

Abe may have survived an Indiana winter, but was no match for one mysterious Hoosier.

Photo via Irvington Historical Society

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It’s the year 1910. You crack open the Indianapolis News + go straight to the comic strips. You skim through the black-and-white drawings until you find a man with patterned pants, a dark jacket, and hat.

Who is he?

It’s Abe Martin, your friendly Brown County cracker-barrel philosopher.“You can take a voter to th’ polls, but you can’t make him think.” That’s just one of the quips you’re likely to read from the cartoon, which appeared in nearly 300 newspapers in the early 1900s and was drawn by long-time east-sider Kin Hubbard.

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Kin has a small park memorializing him. You’ll find it on the corner of Emerson Avenue + New York Street close to Irvington. The park’s sign even had a cutout of the famed Abe Martin leaning against it. Key word “had,” that is.

Where did he go?

Twice now, it’s been stolen, most recently during the evening of September 12, 2022, when someone removed its bolts + sawed him right off. Though we don’t know what anti-comic culprit would do this, we can tell you that a clone will take the lost cutout’s place sometime later this fall.

We also know that if you’re interested in learning more about Kin or Abe, you can explore a plethora of information at the Bona Thompson Memorial Center (5350 E. University Ave.), where the two have a permanent exhibit. While you’re there, you might consider contributing to the Center, which has now created three copies of Abe Martin’s cutout.

Why Indy?

While Abe might be from Brown County, Kin Hubbard resided in Irvington, not far from the park in his honor. The Ohio-born artist moved to the Circle City after a friend showed his drawings to the Indianapolis News owner + editor at the time, John H. Holliday (yes, as in Holliday Park). For $12 a week, Kin worked at the paper for three years, left for a bit, then came back to work at the Indianapolis News until his death. Despite repeated job offers from other cities, he said he stayed in Indy because "[he’d] rather stay here where [he’s] known and can play in the band.”

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