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Dig a little deeper into stories about our history, unique guest features, and what’s happening around the resort.


French Lick Resort in Vintage Cartoons, Postcards & Ads

February 27, 2024
Vintage French Lick Pluto Water Ad

It's always fun perusing historical photos of French Lick Resort for a little glimpse about what life used to look like around here. But cartoons, ads and postcards add a little extra color to the story, too. Let's illustrate with some of our favorites from over the years.

Vintage French Lick Resort Ad

"There's nothing to beat French Lick for results." 

If you've ever heard of the Pluto Water from French Lick or the equivalent Sprudel Water of West Baden and wondered what it was all about ... well, this cartoon sums it up pretty well. Guests in the 1800s and early 1900s would drink the cleansing mineral waters and walk the hotel grounds while waiting for it to take effect. From all accounts, the waters worked well. And in a hurry. When nature called, gentlemen would hang their canes on outhouse doors to signify it was occupied — so a popular prank was to place canes on the doors so folks would desperately scramble for an open stall. (Savage, but funny.)

Vintage French Lick Resort Ad

This political cartoon depicts former French Lick Springs Hotel owner Tom Taggart with Indiana Governor Harry G. Leslie when the 1931 National Governors Conference came to Taggart's hotel in 1931. (West Baden Springs Hotel is also depicted at the edge of the cartoon.) Leslie was a Republican while Taggart was prominent in Democratic politics, but having a high-profile governor's conference in Indiana was a boost for everyone involved. 

Of course, one notable footnote from the event was that Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was simply known as the Governor of New York at the time, gained support for his presidential candidacy the following year right here in French Lick.

Vintage French Lick Resort Ad

Did you know Donald Trump once had big plans for what is now French Lick Casino? Regardless of politics, it's an interesting flashback to the pre-casino days here. In 2004, Trump proposed a $108 million investment for a riverboat casino in French Lick. Not long after, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts filed for bankruptcy protection. Just like that, the French Lick plans were scrapped as quickly as they surfaced.

Vintage French Lick Resort Ad

"Labor is busy, trade is active at French Lick and West Baden." This 1907 cartoon from the Indianapolis News was during the era when gamblers flocked to French Lick and West Baden. Technically, gambling was illegal. But that didn't stop dozens of underground casinos from operating. The road in this cartoon leads to Chicago, where many folks visited from. Big-time gangsters of the era (including Al Capone) were rumored to come to French Lick, as this low-profile location would have been a prime locale to hide out and gamble.

Vintage French Lick Resort Ad

A hundred or so years ago, you could find the devilish mascot associated with French Lick Springs Hotel and Pluto Water everywhere. Even on a postcard of Pluto being pulled by a turkey on a water bottle sleigh. This had to be one of the best-selling postcards at the hotel around the holidays. Who wouldn't love getting this deliciously bizarre greeting in their mailbox?

Vintage French Lick Resort Ad

More Pluto sightings in this classic. This 1907 photo shows iconic magician Harry Houdini pointing to a Pluto Spring advertisement on a building in Indianapolis. You can see the Pluto mascot and the French Lick Springs Hotel property in the upper right. 

Vintage French Lick Resort Ad
One more Pluto gem, which is also appropriate for these post-pandemic times. In the early 1900s, folks believed Pluto Water could heal or cure anything — even the Spanish Flu Pandemic that began in 1918. The hotel always remained open to guests throughout the Spanish Flu Pandemic, with these ads even enticing folks to come escape the disease in French Lick and fight it with Pluto Water, aka "America's Physic."
Note the ad below, which mentions a 9 p.m. departure from Chicago with sleeper car service, arriving at French Lick Springs Hotel at 7 a.m. "in time to get the full benefit of the waters before breakfast."

Vintage French Lick Resort Ad

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