Owensboro Student Completes Internship in Special Collections

Hello, my name is Noah Hancock, and I am a history major here at WKU. I have had the opportunity to experience, learn, and work with historical materials through a

Noah Hancock, a WKU senior from Owensboro, has just completed an internship in Manuscripts, a unit of Library Special Collections.

summer internship in the Department of Library Special Collections in the Kentucky Building. This program allowed me to acquire skills and knowledge necessary to carry out tasks, such as organizing documents, reading and transcribing holographic letters, digitizing information, and entering data into TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Jonathan Jeffrey was very helpful, and he taught me the general processes of how the collections are acquired, accessioned, cataloged, and made accessible to the public both in person and online. For instance, one of the first things I learned was that the items in a collection are arranged in chronological order, which helped me to file and sort documents easier. One of the projects I worked on throughout the summer was a large collection of photocopied Civil War letters, diaries, roll calls, statistics, and records from both the Union and Confederate Armies. There were over twenty boxes filled with vast, indispensable information for research relating to the Civil War.  Dr. Kenneth Hafendorfer, Louisville, Kentucky, collected this material when writing his Civil War books.

While sorting these documents, I came across some original, personal letters written by certain Civil War soldiers to their respective family members. These letters were dated and had names and locations of where they were stationed. Some letters were short, others were long, with details regarding camp life, troop movements, combat actions, health conditions, and some even requested that items be sent from home. The letters contain information on a variety of subjects that were important many years ago. I found this intriguing, because they provide insight into historic topics, such as the controversy regarding slavery.

Moreover, I was assigned the task of reading and typescripting some of the letters, and creating finding aids with summarized descriptions. With Jonathan’s assistance, I uploaded the transcribed documents to TopSCHOLAR. Lastly, I cataloged them into a system called KenCat, the Department’s collection management system. This program allows, the Library to keep track of all documents and materials within the collection.

I greatly appreciate Jonathan’s help and mentorship throughout the summer! The internship opened doors for me to experience and explore new possibilities; it also enabled me to use my knowledge and skills. It will no doubt be beneficial in my future career endeavors.

If you would be interested in an internship in the Department of Library Special Collections, contact Department Head, Jonathan Jeffrey, at 270-745-5265 or jonathan.jeffrey@wku.edu

Blog post written by DLSC intern Noah Hancock.

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Nixon and Cox

President Nixon and William H. Natcher

President Nixon and William H. Natcher

When, on October 21, 1973, President Richard M. Nixon ordered the firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox and triggered the resignations of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General in protest, the upheaval became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.”  Charles Lowther, then a history student at WKU, wrote to several members of the U.S. Congress expressing his outrage at Nixon’s action.  The replies he received reflected a common fear that the country was in the midst of a deep political crisis.

“Removal of Mr. Cox was a serious mistake,” replied Kentucky Congressman William Natcher (D), aware that House Speaker Carl Albert had directed the House Judiciary Committee to assess whether there were grounds to impeach Nixon.  Kentucky Senator Walter “Dee” Huddleston (D), shared Lowther’s concern but, like Congressman Frank Stubblefield, assured him that Congress would maintain its investigations “to insure that we continue to have a government by law, and not by men.”  Kentucky Senator Marlow Cook (R) advised that he had co-sponsored a bill to allow the removal of a special prosecutor only on authorization of Congress, but pledged to retain his objectivity in the event he was called upon to “sit as a juror in an impeachment trial.”  Edmund Muskie (D) of Maine acknowledged Lowther’s letter as one of thousands he had received “urging Congress to act to reestablish the principle that no office in our government—and no office holder—is above the law.”

And finally, North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin (D), chairman of the Senate committee investigating the activities of Nixon’s reelection campaign, sought to refute any accusation of political bias by pointing out that his committee had been constituted by unanimous vote of the Senate.  Evidence uncovered so far, he suggested in language betraying both anger and sadness, “tends to show that men, upon whom fortune had smiled benevolently and who possessed great political power and great governmental power, undertook to nullify the laws of man and the laws of God for the purpose of gaining what history will call a very temporary political advantage.”

These letters to Charles Lowther are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more political collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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A Slice of Summer

Virgie Talbert's watermelon party invitation

Virgie Talbert’s watermelon party invitation

On this August 3, National Watermelon Day, we wonder what Kentucky summers would be without this delectable treat, or the role that it has historically played in socializing and courtship.  We’re sure that in 1899, Virgie Talbert of Nicholasville didn’t pass up John Chambers’s invitation to a watermelon party in Wilmore, Kentucky.  Nor did 20-year-old Josephine Walker decline her share of sweet slices at the 1884 Adair County Fair.  Sometime in the 1890s, Lucye Wolcott of Muhlenberg County teased her young suitor about a competitor’s bid for her company.  “Mr. Morgan invited us over to share his lovely melon,” she coyly reported, and “naturally we did not decline.”

In 1863, 11-year-old Elizabeth Gaines moved with her family from Bowling Green to a farm near Hadley, Kentucky.  After getting used to her new rural surroundings, she grew to enjoy fishing, hunting for wild nuts and grapes, and horseback riding.  One day, she and her friend Mary rode by the farm of George Washington Cherry, the father of WKU’s first president, Henry Hardin Cherry, where they spied a large watermelon patch.  Mary decided she wanted one, and sent Elizabeth over the fence to retrieve it.  When she returned, the two girls “burst it open” and devoured it.  At first, Mary teased Elizabeth into believing that the elder Cherry would find out and complain about his purloined melon, but later assured her worried friend that he would not take offense at their impromptu feast.

Click on the links for finding aids to these collections that feature watermelons, part of the Manuscript & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  For more, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Patty Hill and Her Happy Song

Patty and Mildred Hill

Patty and Mildred Hill

They wanted to create a song that was easy for young children to sing, so in 1892 Mildred Hill, a Louisville, Kentucky music teacher, wrote the tune, and her sister Patty Smith Hill, a pathbreaking kindergarten educator, wrote the lyrics.  Good morning, dear children, good morning to you, it began, with the children’s reply, Good morning, dear teacher, good morning to you.  But another sister, Jessica, adapted the song for a birthday, and the iconic “Happy Birthday to You” was born.

The story of “Happy Birthday” is known to some because of the song’s curiously long-lived copyright (it didn’t officially enter the public domain until 2016).  But in 1982, Hopkinsville, Kentucky teacher Marion Lee Adams delved deeper into the lives of the Hill sisters and their composition when she wrote an article, “Patty Hill and Her Happy Song,” for her professional society, Delta Kappa Gamma.  Further articles followed, as well as research on the Hill family and correspondence with Mildred and Patty’s nephew Archibald Hill, the sole surviving beneficiary of “Happy Birthday’s” sentimental and commercial popularity.  Archibald credited Mary, the first Hill sister to begin teaching, with the understanding that songs were a valuable part of a child’s education.  And Mildred, who gave private music lessons at home because of poor health, must have realized that her new tune had to accommodate the limited octave range of a child.

During its term of copyright, public performances of “Happy Birthday,” of course, earned generous royalties.  For example, Adams wrote, the long-running Broadway play “The Gin Game” generated $25 every time the strains of “Happy Birthday to You” played in the background of this tragi-comedy.

Marion Lee Adams’s collected research and correspondence about “Happy Birthday to You” is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more about Kentucky’s musical heritage, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Senior DLPS Faculty to Retire this Summer

Brian E.  Coutts, Rosemary Meszaros and Charles H. Smith, Professors in the Department of Library Public Service retire this summer.

Brian Coutts served as Coordinator of Collection Development from 1986 to 1991 and since 1991 has been Head, Department of Library Public Services.

He received the Reference and User Services Association’s highest honor, the Isadore G. Mudge Award in 2017 and is a past winner of the CQ Press Marta Lange Award for Distinguished Law & Political Science Librarianship and the Louis Shores Award for distinguished reviewing. For WKU he served as moderator for more than 200 programs in the WKU Libraries’ Far Away Places Series and Kentucky Live Series and was one of the founders of the Southern Kentucky Bookfest. From 1986-2016 he selected the “Best Reference Sources of the Year” for Library Journal, the nation’s leading trade journal. He serves on the Dartmouth Medal Committee and is a judge for the Benjamin Franklin Awards.

Rosemary Meszaros joined the DLPS faculty in the spring of 1998 and has served as the Federal Depository Librarian for the Second Congressional District and as the Coordinator of Government Information and Law.  She received the Government Documents Round Table’s

“Documents to the People Award” in 2018 and is a past winner of Kentucky’s Academic Librarian of the Year Award. She’s the author of Rising Through the Ranks: Women in War and chapters on government periodicals in numerous editions of Magazines for Libraries.  With Katherine Pennavaria she’s been a popular presenter at numerous academic and public libraries around the state on genealogical sources and strategies. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Academic Librarianship.

Charles H. Smith joined the DLPS faculty in March of 1995 and has served as Science Librarian and principal liaison to Ogden College of Science and Technology.  He’s a past winner of the American Library Association’s Oberly Award for distinguished bibliography and a Presidential Award for Distinguished Public Service.  Over the past two decades he has created the Alfred Russel Wallace Page as one of the leading and most widely consulted online sources on one of the world’s most distinguished scientists.  One of the world’s leading authorities on Wallace, his many books and articles on Wallace led to his induction into the distinguished Linnaean Society of London. He’s been a featured speaker in Mexico, Brazil, and the UK.  His Alfred Russel Wallace Page and his Classical Music Navigator sites are frequently consulted. His newest book on Wallace will be published by the University Press of Chicago in 2018.

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Two Authors

When, in 1953, she decided to do her doctoral dissertation on Kentucky author Jesse Stuart, West Virginia native Mary (Washington) Clarke could have asked for no better cheerleader than Stuart himself.  “You are the first ever to select my work for a dissertation and you will get the fullest cooperation I can give you,” wrote Stuart, the “voice of the Kentucky hill country,” whose prolific output of novels, short stories, poems and non-fiction would make him one of the 20th century’s best known regional writers.

Clarke’s dissertation, which she adapted into a 1968 book, Jesse Stuart’s Kentucky, marked the beginning of a friendship with Stuart that lasted until his death in 1984.  By the time the book was completed, Clarke and her husband Ken had joined the faculty of WKU, where they would become recognized authorities on Kentucky folklore.  Stuart celebrated with Clarke when Jesse Stuart’s Kentucky was published and joined her at book-signing events.  His letters to Clarke kept her abreast of his writing projects and speaking engagements and gave her support and encouragement in her other scholarly endeavors.  He commiserated with Clarke on accommodating the demands of publishers and picky manuscript readers, and was curious about the jealousies and anti-academic prejudice that sometimes dogged a successful scholarly author.  His support continued during Clarke’s work on Jesse Stuart: Essays on His Work, a 5-year-long effort that saw Clarke and her co-editor coaxing contributions from busy academics and critics, then crafting the results into a volume worthy of publication.

Jesse Stuart and Mary Washington Clarke at a book signing, Greenup, Ky., 1968

Jesse Stuart and Mary Washington Clarke at a book signing, Greenup, Ky., 1968

Mary (Washington) Clarke’s papers, which include her correspondence with Jesse Stuart and other materials on her scholarly work, are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more on Mary, her husband Kenneth, and Jesse Stuart, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Faraway Places & Kentucky Live Series to End

After more than 200 programs over the past two decades, most held at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Bowling Green, our DLPS Series will be ending this spring.

Peggy Wright and Brian Coutts conceived of an international series following the return of former Kentucky Librarian Nancy Baird from a trip to South Africa.  We launched our first program in September, 2000 and followed with programs on Costa Rica, China, Brazil, England and Germany.  We took our name from a 1948 song “Far Away Places with Strange Sounding Names ”. Since then we’ve visited every continent and places from Alaska and Greenland to Antarctica. Our final program was Soleiman Kiasatpour’s fascinating talk on Morocco in April. 2018

In February, 2003 we launched a companion series “Kentucky Live, southern Culture at Its best!” with a program on Jonesville & Shake Rag: Historic Black Community of Bowling Green from Maxine Ray and Dr. John Long, Department Head of Philosophy & Religion. Programs on photographers, artists, poets, writers, restaurants, historians, bourbon, coal mining,  the Derby and virtually every iconic Kentucky product from the Louisville Slugger to Fruit of the Loom Underwear, and the Corvette followed. Our final program this April was from J.D. Wilkes founder of the Legendary Shack Shakers, a Southern Gothic rock and blues band.  What a great way to end.

None of this would have possible without our genial hosts Barnes & Noble Booksellers.  Special thanks to Jennifer Bailey, David Hollifield and before them Natalie Boddeker and David Coverdale and all of your fine staff for setting up all those chairs and ordering all those books and helping us promote these programs.

Thanks also to Dr. Richard Weigel, Professor of History who edits the Book Page for the Bowling Green Daily News for running so many reviews of books from our featured speakers.  The attention you focused on many regional authors was very much appreciated by them and by us.

David Keeling, Michael Trapasso, John Dizgun and Haiwang Yuan, and so any others from around the country and beyond—world travelers all—thanks for so many exciting evenings.

To our sponsors Coca Cola, Trace Die Cast, Integra Bank and the Friends of WKU Libraries—we appreciated your interest and support.

To former Deans of WKU Libraries Mike Binder and Connie Foster—thanks for your interest and support.

Finally—thanks to our series team over two decades—Peggy Wright, Bryan Carson, Haiwang Yuan, Daniel Peach, Eric Fisher, Ryan Dowell, Shaden Melky, Jennifer Wilson, Christopher McConnell and a host of talented DLPS Office Assistants and Students.

Hasta luego,

Brian Coutts, Moderator

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“The End Approacheth”

Portion of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

Portion of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

The sun rose on Independence Day, 1863, to find the Confederate States of America reeling from two disastrous engagements at Vicksburg, Mississippi and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

From Pennsylvania, Charles Pennypacker wrote to his cousin Ellen Fort in Todd County, Kentucky, that his fellow citizens had “rallied as one man” to defend the state against General Robert E. Lee’s invading Confederate army.  July 1, the first day of battle at Gettysburg, “was but a repetition of ‘Shiloh,’” and on the next day Lee “hurled columns after columns of troops upon our lines.”  But on July 3, Charles reported proudly, “their whole army was in full retreat” toward Richmond and “we begin to see that ‘the end approacheth.’”

Like many tide-turning battles, Gettysburg left military historians asking “what if?”  In particular, how much blame did Lieutenant General James Longstreet deserve when, on the second day of battle, he delayed executing an early-morning assault that could have given the Confederates the upper hand?  Was Longstreet, who had made clear his disagreement with Lee over tactics, merely tardy, or was he insubordinate or even treasonous?

Confederate veteran J. W. Anderson looked forward to discussing the issue with a former comrade at their 1905 reunion in Louisville, Kentucky.  A defender of Longstreet, who he occasionally saw after the war, Anderson insisted that the relations between General Lee and his subordinate commander were “always of the most cordial manner.”  But a century later, the question still bothered Laban Lacy Rice, a Webster County, Kentucky native, polymath, and former president of Cumberland University.  In 1967, he sought the opinion of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “an expert who knows Gettysburg as I know my back yard.”

Replying from his farm, where he lived in retirement near the battlefield, Eisenhower concluded that Gettysburg had been “a succession of frustrations” for General Lee, and that his decisions could not be adequately examined in a short letter.  Nevertheless, Eisenhower judged Longstreet’s failure to attack early on July 2 as “his worse error of the battle.”  As for Pickett’s Charge, the ill-fated assault on July 3 named after one of Longstreet’s generals, Eisenhower did not think it could have been successful at any time during that day.  As Charles Pennypacker observed, “the end” had approacheth.

Click on the links for finding aids to these materials, part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives Collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  For more of our Civil War collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Rosemary Meszaros Receives National Award

Rosemary Meszaros, Professor and Coordinator of Government Information and Law, in the Department of Library Public Services at WKU since 1998 was honored on Sunday, June 24, 2018 with one of the American Library Association’s, Government Documents Round Table’s highest honors, the ProQuest/GODORT/ALA “Documents to the People” Award.  The award which consists of a cash prize of $3,000 goes to an individual, institution or library that has most effectively encouraged the use of government documents in support of library service.  A reception was held at the Louisiana Supreme Court Building, 400 Royal Street, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Rosemary received her MLS from LSU’s School of Library and Information science and an MA in history from California State University, Dominguez Hills. Prior to coming to WKU she worked at Boston University and the University of California at Santa Barbara.

In 2015 the Federal Depository Library for the Second Congressional District of Kentucky celebrated its 80th Anniversary.

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“And, daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County?”

Whether you have a taste for Serial, My Favorite Murder, Last Podcast on the Left, Making a Murderer, Wormwood, The Keepers, The Jinx, or the trusted ol’ standby—Unsolved Mysteries—it comes as no surprise that the true crime market is saturated with grisly tales of ne’er-do-wells and their unsuspecting victims. Kentucky, of course, has seen its fair share of jilted lovers and bank robberies gone sour, and, if history is to be trusted, the ol’ Bluegrass State is home to the Harpe brothers or, as they’re known more salaciously, the first documented serial killers in the country.

In her 1971 paper titled “The Harpe Brothers” former folk studies student Karen Hart details the rise and fall of Micajah and Wiley Harpe, two outlaws born in the wild thicket of Muhlenberg County in the late 18th century. The brothers, whose real names were Joshua and William, were notorious highway robbers, murderers, and river pirates whose reputation for blood lust and revenge would ultimately leave more than 40 men, women, and children dead in their wake. Hart’s paper gathers together legends relating to the brotherly bandits from current residents of the Green River Valley. The tall tales conjure images of stolen herds of prized cattle, barns burned to ashes, buried treasure, secret hideouts, and shoot-outs with the law. Their path of destruction, which spanned from Illinois to Mississippi, left whole towns cowering in fear.

As always, though, the brothers reaped what they sowed. While Wiley managed to outlive his brother by nearly four years, they both appear to have met the same fate. Hart’s paper spares the ghastlier details, but a quick online search sums it up: severed heads and spiked poles. A fitting reminder that cooler heads always prevail.

An 1875 broadside promises a handsome reward for the arrest of a train robber

An 1875 broadside promises a handsome reward for the arrest of a train robber

The paper itself (FA 1186), located within WKU’s Manuscripts and Folklife Archives, contains photographs of participants, brief biographical sketches, and a reel-to-reel audio tape of Hart’s interviews with her informants.

For more information on Kentucky’s sordid past, visit TopSCHOLAR or browse through KenCat, a searchable database featuring manuscripts, photographs and other non-book objects housed in the Department of Library Special Collections!

Post written by WKU Folk Studies graduate student Delainey Bowers.

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