What I Learned in Summer School…

Gabe

Gabe Sudbeck, summer intern in Manuscripts.

“Everyone has a story and I want to know what it is.” These words were spoken by the late WKU history Professor Carlton Jackson. These words have formed a phrase that have stuck with me since I read them. My name is Gabe Sudbeck, and during my time as an intern in WKU’s Library Special Collections Manuscripts unit, I spent a lot of time reading his work and looking over his research about the HMS Rohna and the 1918 flu epidemic. When I was home one night talking with my mother about my internship. She is a WKU Alumna, and I found out that she had actually been a research assistant with Jackson during her time at WKU. She said that he was a wonderful man. While I personally never had the honor to meet him in person, I do believe that he was a wonderful man full of energy and passion for his field.

The stories that I read concerned regular people dealing with survival and tragedy in world events. The sinking of the Rohna for example was a tragedy in which over 1000 American men lost their lives. Many were left adrift for three days. Many men began to think of their loved ones. One story featured a man lost at sea who could hear his wife telling him that he could pull though. Another consisted of a priest recalling the story of a member of his church who refused to be baptized due to fear of being submerged under water which reminded him of being adrift at sea for three days.

One thing I learned from the internship is the personal connections that the researcher makes with his subject when he begins to study a historical event or person. I have heard stories that David McCullough, when researching John Adams intended for it to be about both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. But McCullough found Adams to be more interesting and less appreciated, despite his significant contributions. McCullough truly enjoyed his discovery and his research; in the same spirit Carlton Jackson relished each of his writing projects. If I have learned anything from studying his work, it’s that we all have our own story to tell from the greatest of tragedies to the minutiae of everyday life.

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Rare Shaker Timeline/Chart

A recent purchase by the Department of Library Special Collections bolsters the significant Shaker holdings in Kentucky Library Research Collections. This two-piece timeline map/chart is titled, “Genealogical Chronological and Geographical Chart Embracing Biblical and Profane History of Ancient Times from Adam to Christ.” The map was produced by Jacob Skeen of Louisville, Kentucky in February 1887 as an educational tool to reinforce the traditional Christian validity of Shaker communities and to arrest the decline of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing or as they were more commonly known, the Shakers. Elder Alonzo Hollister of the Mount Lebanon, New York community wished to show that Shaker orthodoxy had continuity with scripture and the traditional church. It was also a grasping attempt to reconcile their beliefs with a fast changing, progressive worldview. Copyrighted 1887, the detailed chart with many sub-charts purports to show locations and relationships of humanity, the Church and the Devil. W.F. Pennebaker of the community at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky also participated in the publication of this lithograph. David Rumsey, a world renowned map collector and the founder of the David Rumsey Map Collection notes that “although researched, designed, drawn, and copyrighted by Jacob Skeen, a Presbyterian, the chart is strongly associated with the Shaker Church. Skeen spent 10 years developing it and it was to be used in the biblical instruction of children and adults alike.” Some 204 charts were produced, the KLRC is one of only a few holding libraries in the world. The Manuscripts and Folklife Archives has more extensive documentation of the South Union Shakers’ 115 years of existence than any other repository with many Journals, diaries, account books, hymnals, and business records chronicle the activities of the religious community of Shakers, who gathered at South Union in Logan County, Kentucky, in 1807 and disbanded in 1922.
Call the Reference Assistance desk at 270-745-5083 or search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat<BRM2482-Skeen-Geographical-Chart-1887_lowres-3000x1921

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“Dearly Beloved. . .”

Bride Mildred Tucker, 1925

Bride Mildred Tucker, 1925

Summer is wedding season, and the collections of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections provide evidence of the pomp and circumstance, excitement and humor with which Kentuckians have tied the knot through history.

To begin with, our collection of more than 7,000 Warren County, Kentucky marriage bonds begins in 1797 and is a gold mine for those researching family history.  In addition, many collections of family papers, such as the Margie Helm Collection, contain wedding invitations and announcements.  Other collections document the unusual; for example, a double wedding that took place inside Mammoth Cave in 1879, inaugurating a custom that lasted until 1941.  Photographs, such as Mildred Tucker‘s before her 1925 wedding, are indispensable to the occasion.  In particular, many a local bride proudly posed in a creation made by the celebrated Bowling Green dressmaker Mrs. A. H. (Carrie) Taylor.

And, of course, there are the diaries and letters of both participants and observers recalling the triumphs and tribulations of the big day.  “This is Birdie’s wedding day,” wrote Russellville’s Fannie Morton Bryan on February 27, 1889.  “Lena and Joe Gill and Mot Williams and myself stood up with them.  That is as near married as I ever expect to be.”  (She was right).  Amid a whirlwind of preparations for her February 16, 1926 wedding, Bowling Green’s Mildred Potter and her mother addressed the “burning question” of attire for the men in the party.  “Agonizing” over cutaways or tuxedos, they settled on “gray trousers and cutaways, with spats,” but a stressed-out Mildred “shed a few tears” when a telegram arrived from her fiance in New York that betrayed his misunderstanding of her diktat.

Marriage of Margie Helm's parents, 1888

Marriage of Margie Helm’s parents, 1888

Some enjoy scrutinizing a wedding and judging it against their own ideal.  Writing to his cousin in 1861, Charles Edmunds of Princeton described the curious ceremony of his family’s domestic servant.  “Mother’s house girl Vic was married,” he reported.  “An old negro preacher officiated, and he made the man promise to do a thing I never heard of before. . . he turned to the man and said, ‘Richard Calvert, do you promise to take this woman to be your lawful wife and be unto her a kind, loving and obedient husband’; if I had been his place I would not have agreed to that because I think that if ever I get married, my wife will have to obey me, and not I obey her, but he assented, and the ceremony was performed, and they were made man and wife upon those terms.”

Search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat for more of our collections that feature weddings.

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“We Are Saved” (Again)

Elijah Hise's celebratory letter

Elijah Hise’s celebratory letter

As the major party conventions kick election season into high gear, and we brace for dark predictions that the ascendancy of one or the other candidate to the presidency will mean the certain destruction of the republic, here is an expression of relief from Elijah Hise (1802-1867) after the 1844 election of Democrat James K. Polk to the Oval Office.  Sharing his elation in a letter to a fellow supporter, Hise, a Kentucky state legislator, diplomat and future U.S. Congressman, dramatically inventoried the disasters averted by Polk’s triumph over Whig opponent Henry Clay.  Among them:

1st We are saved from the Shylock dominion of the money changers.

2nd The Constitution is saved from mutilation . . . .

4th The agricultural and planting classes saved from legal plunder . . . .

7th National debt funding system, British influence and finally a dissolution of the Union all, all prevented by the gallant brave & virtuous democracy of the Union . . .

9th Our prospect is brightened to rescue our beloved state from the extravagant and corrupt rule of modern Whiggery.

Recalling a taunt in the Senate that “the Democrats were like condemned felons upon a cart going to execution,” Hise rejoiced that “this universal proscription has been prevented” and that the speaker’s “insatiate maw . . . will never be filled with the food it so much craves.”

Elijah Hise’s letter is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For more of our political collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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A Sober Agreement

A Contract for Sobriety?

A Contract for Sobriety?

“He lived to a good old age, three score and ten.  He was an honest man and a good citizen.  May the sod rest lightly upon him.”  So was the blessing of an old friend on hearing of the death of James William “Gee” Pool in 1907.

A member of one of the oldest families of Metcalfe (formerly Barren) County, Kentucky, Gee wore several hats during his life, one of them being, as we have seen, that of a hotel-keeper in Horse Cave.  In addition to having a wide circle of lady friends (one of whom referred to her rivals as his “sugar plums”), in his youth Gee appears to have enjoyed raising a glass or two with his cousin and contemporary, John I. Pool.

Feigning regret at such indulgence (and possibly under the influence at the time), the two entered into an agreement.  “It is highly necessary that we should curtail the use of ardent spirits,” read their contract.  Therefore, under penalty of one gallon of “good rye whisky,” they covenanted “not to get drunk but three times in the next twelve months,” said times being July 4, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

But there was a mile-wide loophole in the contract.  Given the obvious benefit of spirits to “our health, morals & good name,” the cousins also agreed to “get gentlemanly tight on all Election days, horse races, shows, Temperance celebrations and on all irreligious and religious occasions”. . . and, for good measure, on January 8, February 19 and March 4, dates having a significance known only to these two drinking buddies.

Gee and John Pool’s “contract” is part of the Howard and Anne Doll Collection in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For more of our collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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“All the King’s Men” Recommended

An early edition of ATKM with dust jacket.

An early edition of ATKM with dust jacket.

For its 75th anniversary, the editors at Parade Magazine asked author and Nashville bookstore owner Ann Patchett to compile a list of the 75 best books from the past 75 years.  One of the books she recommended from the 1940s-era was Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men.  Published in 1946, ATKM chronicles demagogue Willie Stark’s election and subsequent governorship in the deep south; Warren always minimized comparisons to Louisiana’s own Huey Long, but the similarities are strong.  The story is told through Jack Burden, a political reporter who becomes Governor Stark’s assistant.  Burden, a man of ethical and moral scruples, must wrestle in the mire of politics throughout the novel.  Response from the public and critics was positive. George Mayberry, in the New Republic, compared the book to such classics as Moby Dick and The Great Gatsby.  He ended his review with high praise:  “All together it is the finest American novel in more years than one would like to have to remember.”  Warren received the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for ATKM.  Hollywood adapted the book into film in 1949 and 2006.  The 1949 version won the Academy Award for Best Picture.  The novel is rated the 36th greatest novel of the 20th century by Modern Library and Time magazine chose it as one of the best 100 novels since 1923.

The Robert Penn Warren Library housed in the WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections includes Warren’s own personal copies of ATKM as well as numerous editions, printings, and foreign language editions collected by Warren’s bibliographer Dr. James A. “Bo” Grimshaw, Jr.  The bibliographer’s collection contains 94 copies of ATKM, including copies of the first edition and many printings of paperbacks that have been used by high school and college students in literature classes for decades.  Bibliographers of literary figures are often engrossed with locating every edition and printing of an author’s works.

Numerous copies of ATKM found in the RPW Library.

Numerous copies of ATKM found in the RPW Library.

Ann Patchett’s novels include Bel Canto, The Magician’s Assistant and Commonwealth (due out in September). She is the co-owner of Parnasus Books in Nashville with Karen Hayes.

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Southern Kentucky Book Fest 2016

2016.04.22_ bookfest _lewis-0032The Southern Kentucky Book Fest celebrated its 18th year this past April, welcoming over 140 authors and illustrators to the Knicely Center in Bowling Green for two full days of celebrating readingMTA-pubedit and the love of books. With dozens of panels and presentations on Saturday, book fans were able to learn from and interact with best-selling authors representing all literary genres. On Friday, aspiring teen and adult writers attended writing conferences with authors, focusing on everything from writing with the 5 senses to character development and more.

DSC00476SOKY Book Fest events are free and open to the public, and we’ve got plenty of exciting programs to celebrate literacy throughout the year. Visit our website sokybookfest.org, or find us on facebook, twitter, and Instagram for updates and announcements. If you have any questions, send an email to Book Fest coordinator and Literary Outreach Coordinator Sara Volpi at sara.volpi@wku.edu.

Photo Album

 

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A Historic “Hotel Impossible”?

Albert Shirley's hotels

Albert Shirley’s hotels

After the Civil War, the Pool and Shirley families of Metcalfe County, Kentucky added hotel-keeping to their many commercial ventures.  Albert H. Shirley (1842-1895) operated the Garnett House in Richmond, Kentucky, and later the Hotel Shirley in Glasgow.  In 1876, when his cousin James W. Pool (known as “Gee”) and his father William C. Pool leased a hotel property in Hart County, Albert drew on his own experience to offer advice to this new family enterprise.

As the risk of being “officious,” Albert wrote Gee, he had thought “a great deal” about the business and believed it would be a success if managed properly.  His greatest concern, however, was that his cousin would be too soft-hearted: “Your entire patronage almost will be acquaintances and friends, . . . & I have feared you would pass too many without charging them any bill.”  Only friends paying a “special visit” should expect a complimentary stay; the rest, Albert believed, should not look for such indulgences and ought to be charged the same as any other business.

Albert had another suggestion: When a drummer (that is, a traveling salesman) stopped in, he should get “the very best room.”  Able to spread the word quickly about a bad experience, these customers were the equivalent of a hotels.com review.  “I have often heard your predecessor, Mr. Biggerstaff,” wrote Albert of the hotel’s previous proprietor, “abused for his dirty rooms and especially mean beds.”  Albert also urged his cousin to drive a hard bargain with food suppliers, for it was at the dining table that he could make a good profit from his hungry guests.

Finally, in what sounded like the pilot for a 19th-century reality show, Albert told Gee of his wish to make an on-site visit and “be with you for about half a day, I could then say a good many things to you that would be of service to you.”

Albert Shirley’s letter is part of the Howard and Anne Doll Collection in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to download a finding aid.  For more of our family collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

 

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A Tribute to a former Kentucky Librarian: Jeanette Farley

Jeanette Farley (Nov. 5, 1920 – June 13, 2016) always had a welcoming smile for everyone! That message was the “take-away” theme from her memorial service today. No one that knew her did not know Jeanette’s smile lit up the room.Jeanette Wilson Farley (1920-2016)

I first met Mrs. Farley when I was an undergraduate student using the Kentucky Library. Her desk was in the middle of the research room. She was so approachable by a student new to the use of Library Special Collections. My respect for her grew when I became a student worker; she was never too busy to help me. She was a role model of how librarians should work with researchers and mentor historians and future librarians. In 1982, she retired from WKU Libraries.

Always a life lesson teacher, Mrs. Farley gave her sons the following poem as she approached her senior years.

Given to her sons as Mrs. Farley began her 70s.I

We will miss you, Mrs. Farley, you serve the Kentucky Building well.

 

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Land of Contrasts

Iceland 5 krona banknote (Frank Chelf Collection)

Iceland 5 krona banknote (Frank Chelf Collection)

June 17 marks the official anniversary of the 1944 founding of Iceland as a republic independent of Denmark.  Two Kentuckians had the opportunity to experience this nation of “extreme contrasts” (to quote its web site) both before and after its independence, and their impressions are recorded in the collections of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.

In January 1942, Hopkins County native Jim Wooton, then serving in the U.S. Army, was ordered to Iceland to help staff a transfer station for troops and equipment being sent to England.  He and 1,200 other men experienced a rough, late-winter crossing in a 300-foot United Fruit Company “banana boat,” but arrived in Reykjavik unmolested by German U-boats.  Hunkered down with his fellow soldiers in reinforced Quonset huts, Wooton vividly recalled the howling winds that gusted as high as 120 miles per hour.  He returned from his 9-month tour of duty understanding the reason for the island nation’s high literacy rate: “everyone stays home and reads.”

In August 1977, Bowling Green’s Clara Hines, the widow of cake mix magnate Duncan Hines, visited Iceland as part of a tour of several Nordic countries.  Her experience, needless to say, was starkly different from Wooton’s.  The intrepid 73-year-old hopscotched around the island by bus and small plane, viewing lakes, forests, lava formations, natural hot springs and waterfalls as well as picturesque villages.  The weather was warm and sunny most of the time–she only found the wind “very cold” on the walk from her hotel to the airport.  She spent her krona on a souvenir doll and a figure of the god Thor fashioned from lava, and pronounced herself tired but exhilarated by the sights in this “fantastic country.”

Click on the links to access finding aids for Jim Wooton’s and Clara Hines’s impressions of Iceland.  For more accounts of travels by Kentuckians, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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