A Portrait is Worth a Thousand Words

Alison Davis Lyne’s portrait of Robert Penn Warren will be housed in the Kentucky Building’s RPW Library.

The Department of Library Special Collections recently acquired a portrait of Kentucky literary giant Robert Penn Warren.  Painted by freelance illustrator Alison Davis Lyne of Adairville, Kentucky, the portrait will be housed in the Robert Penn Library.  Lyne was approached by Historic Todd County, Inc. about painting several well known figures from Todd County for inclusion in a book titled T is for Todd.  Besides Warren, Lyne painted Dorothea Dix, an early 20th century advice columnist, and Natachee Momaday, a 20th century Native American author.  After volunteering to paint Warren, Lyne contacted WKU’s Library Special Collections about obtaining a photograph of Warren in a relaxed pose.  With several thousand photographs to choose from in the Warren Collection, the curator chose one that met her parameters.  In the color photo, Warren wears a tan sports jacket with a rust colored polo shirt.  He stands at ease, with his hands in his pockets and with a slight grin on his face.  As Lyne said upon seeing it:  “This photo would be just perfect!”  In the portrait, Warren stands tall in the foreground juxtaposed against the undulating Todd County landscape with a red tailed hawk gliding overhead.  Warren was always known as Red to his closest associates.  In one corner of the portrait, the artist has created an obelisk of sorts from Warren’s books.  Warren published over fifty books ranging from poetry to textbooks and remains the only author to win Pulitzer Prizes for both poetry and fiction.

The Robert Penn Warren Library in the Department of Library Special Collections houses Mr. and Mrs. Warren’s private libraries which they maintained at their Fairfield, Connecticut home.  It includes over 2,000 volumes of classical and modern Western literature and history.  It also houses the collections of Mr. Warren’s biographer Joseph Blotner and his bibliographer James Grimshaw.  The library also boasts several thousand Warren family photographs, which are cataloged and can be found in KenCat.  All the books in the library are cataloged and can be found in the library’s online catalog.  The Manuscripts & Folklife Archives houses several Warren-related collections.  Search TopSCHOLAR for those entries.

Alison Davis Lyne is best know as a children’s book illustrator.  To see more of her work, go to Lyneart.  Her husband, Frank, is a sculptor.

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Archives Month 2017 – Education

Archives Month Quote

Archives Month is a time to focus on the importance of records of enduring value. This year the theme is Education. With the help of the Kentucky Museum, Library Special Collections has created an exhibit in the Western Room of the Kentucky Building. This exhibit highlights items used by students in classrooms and shows some documents created by school administrators and students.

There is an online exhibit component as well where we highlight photographs and documents regarding all sorts of educational endeavors in Kentucky.

Lastly, we will be asking a question a week about your educational experiences. Question 1: Who was your favorite teacher? Take a look at some of the answers we’ve collected.

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From Juice to Jug: Cider Making in Western Kentucky

Students at cider press

Students at cider press

In the summer of 1970, Western Kentucky University folk studies student Karen Stewart set out to explore the cider making process at a small home in the even smaller river town of Woodbury, Kentucky. The cider press owners, Randall and Daisy Lytle, were certainly no strangers to the nuances of traditional cider making and shared with Stewart their history of owning a press and working the apples from juice to jug.

Snaking its way through thick forests and sprawling pastures, the Green River skirts the edges of small towns throughout south-central Kentucky. It was on these muddy banks where Lytle, at the time a young boy, received his first cider press from a ninety-year-old riverboat captain. Lytle restored the barely-functioning press to its former glory and began selling homemade cider for fifty-cents a gallon. Several years later, after returning home from serving in World War II, Lytle discovered his press had been sold as scrap iron for twenty cents. It would be another quarter of a century before Lytle found his second press, but the cider was worth the wait.

Enlisting the help of an orchard owner in Logansport, Kentucky, Lytle, along with his wife Daisy, began the intensive process of cider making. Adhering to the motto of “no apple left behind,” the Lytles gathered as many apples as possible, including those with worms, which, according to Daisy, were “just protein, anyway.” After sorting and washing, Lytle placed the apples into a large hopper on the top of the press. With a large crank to one side, the hopper served as a makeshift food processor reducing the apples to a thick pulp, which was collected in a barrel made of wooden slats. Lytle transferred the product to another barrel where a large wooden disc was lowered onto the pulp, squeezing out the juice between the slats. Afterwards, the juice was strained through a cloth into a glass jug, and any remaining pulp was fed to farm animals. Standing in the bottle for several days, the juice would begin the fermentation process, eventually resulting in the crisp, tangy flavor of a well-made cider.

With interest in southern foodways, self-sustainability, and cultivating intentional community at an all-time high, there is comfort in knowing that the Lytles served a vital role in carrying on the legacy of traditional craft brewing.

To access Stewart’s paper online, click here for a digital copy of the finding aid.

For more information relating to Kentucky folk studies, projects, and collections, visit WKU’s Manuscripts and Folklife Archives!

Blog post composed by WKU Folk Studies student Delainey Bowers

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Far Away Places presents Fedja Buric, “Bosnia: More Than Twenty Years Since Dayton”

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With support from an IYO grant Bellarmine Historian Fedja Buric will be our guest speaker at Barnes & Noble Bookstore on Thursday, October 26.  Born in Bosnia,  at the age of 13 in 1992, he was forced to flee his home town with his brother and parents when a brutal ethnic conflict broke out in the former Yugoslavia which would lead to the murder of over 100,000 people and displace 2 million more. After roaming the Balkans in search of a safe haven they slept in an out-of-service train car before the UNHCR relocated them to  a refugee camp in Turkey where they shared a couple of bathrooms with 3,000 unfortunate Bosnians. From there his parents wrote more than 30 letters seeking asylum.  All said no except for the United States and in June 1995 the family came to Louisville.  A graduate of Bellarmine University he spent a semester abroad at Oxford and a summer at Cambridge. He received his PhD in History at the University of Illinois.  He teaches modern European history at Bellarmine and is researching the “Mixed Marriages of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Creation of Ethnic Difference.”  He’ll be talking about “Bosnia: More Than Twenty Years since Dayton.”

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A Niche Market

The Scioto (Courtney Ellis Collection)

The Scioto (Courtney Ellis Collection)

Thanks to lock and dam construction by the Rough River Navigation Company, incorporated in 1856, the citizens of Hartford and Ohio County, Kentucky once enjoyed regular steamboat traffic along that tributary of the Green River.  Late in the 19th century the Scioto, a 94-foot-long craft owned by the Hartford and Evansville Packet Company, transported both freight and passengers between Hartford and Evansville, Indiana.

The daily demands of operating the Scioto are documented in a collection of bills and receipts held in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Dated 1899, they show the expenses necessary to maintain this floating conveyance of people and goods.  We see purchases of foodstuffs such as flour, peas, corn, butter, coffee, ketchup, sugar and potatoes; provisions such as oil, matches and deck brooms; services rendered for laundering sheets, towels and tablecloths; and repairs to stoves, pipes and flanges.  The Scioto‘s crew did business at both ends of its route, so Hartford and Evansville merchants are well represented.  Some of these firms catered specifically to the steamboat trade, promising to serve their customers’ needs “at all hours.”  Many of the Evansville businesses were appropriately located on Upper Water Street, now Riverside Drive.

Receipt from bakery serving steamboatsClick here to access a finding aid for the Scioto steamboat collection of receipts, and here to learn about our premier collection of Ohio River Valley steamboat photographs.  For more, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Kentucky Live! presents Joel Pett, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist

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Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Joel Pett will be the next speaker in this year’s series on Thursday, October 19 a 7:00 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Bookstore.  He won the Pulitzer for editorial cartooning in 2000 and was a finalist for the award in 1989, 1998, and 2011.  A native of Bloomington, Indiana he’s travelled to 30 countries on 5 continents.  He was a freelance cartoonist for five years before joining the Lexington Herald-Leader in 1984.  He joined the USA Today as a contributing cartoonist in 2002.  Since then his cartoons have been syndicated in print and online and appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and Newsweek.  He received the Robert Kennedy Journalism Award in 1999.  He’s a Past President of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists and has given U.S. State Department Workshops in Cameroun and Bulgaria. In recent years he’s drawn the wrath of everyone from Governor Bevin to Coach Calipari. A Board member of Cartoonists Rights Network International he contributes cartoons to the “Cartooning for Peace” website. On occasion he even does stand-up comedy.

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The Falling Leaves

Leaves from the Antietam Battlefield

Leaves from the Antietam Battlefield

I now promise to be less attentive to my military duties, which will enable me to pursue my other schemes more successfully.  This is the first feature of my new ‘leaf.’  So wrote Captain Richard Vance in his diary on January 1, 1887.  An Army career of more than 20 years had taken him to postings in the South, the western frontier, and now Texas, but Vance, who had never been particularly fond of the military, was yearning to retire.

By his own account, Vance resembled the stereotypical soldier:  a devoted hunter and scrapper (he was once acquitted of murder), he chided himself over his chronic weakness for women (more about that at a later date).  But he was also widely read and self-taught, and his resolution for 1887 was to focus on the things that truly interested him and that he believed he could master.  “For the present,” he wrote, “I shall confine myself to French, German, Botany & Ornithology.”

Sample from Richard Vance's Ringgold, Texas herbarium

Sample from Richard Vance’s Ringgold, Texas herbarium

While stationed in Texas at Fort Clark, Vance had begun work on an herbarium, but now, garrisoned at Ringgold, he began collecting, analyzing and preserving samples of local flora.  Though he made no claims to being an amateur, let alone professional botanist, Vance carefully researched, organized and classified his finds.  The result was a thick volume of specimens “collected and arranged entirely for my own amusement,” which enabled him to “pass a very pleasant summer at this place.”  While traveling, Vance also preserved leaves from the Antietam battlefield in Maryland and horse nettle from Warren County, Kentucky, where he was born.

Richard Vance’s herbaria are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a collection finding aid.  For more relating to botany and botanists, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Needed “Pure” Bourbon Whiskey

Today, obtaining needed medicine is relatively easy, but during the Civil War years and beyond, few medicines were available. Aspirin, which was discovered in 1849, still would not be used medically until the end of the 20th century. Doctors therefore relied on liquor such as brandy or whiskey to ease pain or disinfect a wound. It was many times the only anesthetic available. Whiskey could be purchased in large barrels but as a recent acquisition for the Department of Library Special Collections highlights, the quality of both brandy and whiskey for medical purposes was being questioned. Dr. William Cutter, of Louisville, KY was sent a “Circular to Physicians and Others, (January 1, 1862)” and it was also placed in such journals as the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. The New York physicians were asking for assistance to obtain “pure” bourbon whiskey from Kentucky as they could not find the unadulterated product in their area. Cutter promised to provide a “pure article of copper-distilled bourbon whiskey, which [he] trusts will fully meet the requirements of your letter.”
Bourbon, an American corn-based whiskey, is on the rise in popularity, now not as medicine but as a favored beverage. A recent edition of Restaurant News noted, “Bourbon is one of the fastest-growing categories in the beverage alcohol world. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, bourbon and Tennessee whiskey exports topped $1 billion in 2015 for the third straight year.” In 2016, the figure had risen to $1.56 billion.
See this latest acquisition and many other interesting bourbon related items in the Kentucky Research Collections. For more information email spcol@wku.edu or call 270-745-5083.

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“I can’t describe this storm”

Damage near Key West from the 1935 Labor Day hurricane

Damage near Key West from the 1935 Labor Day hurricane

Hugo.  Andrew.  Katrina.  Ike.  Harvey.  Irma.   These names no longer bring people to mind, but rather destructive hurricanes that have visited the United States.  The Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections offers many firsthand experiences of these terrifying weather events.  We have already mentioned Andrew in a previous blog, but here are a few more accounts of hurricanes, both named and unnamed:

It was a vicious storm, seemed as tho the world had come to an end. . . .  I wanted to make a dash for the mainland but by that time our car was flooded and it’s a good thing we didn’t start as the storm returned with such greater fury that we would have no doubt been blown in the bay. — Lena Standrod, Miami, Florida, 1926

Miamians know what these hurricanes mean, therefore they know how to make thorough preparations. . . .  The big leaves on the palm trees fluttered on the trees like feathers in a breeze.  Few coconuts fell; they have a good supple stem I suppose.Dee Perguson, Miami, Florida, 1944

Hugo’s aftermath is far more powerful than his presence. . . .  Outside the scene was shocking.  It looked like a war zone.  The German lady up the street said it reminded her of Berlin after the war, except there weren’t any bullet holes.John Lee Disher, Summerville, South Carolina, 1989

After the murderous hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas in September 1900, a traumatized Ellen (Temple) Parker wrote a heartbreaking letter to her sister. “At 2 o’clock Saturday Sept. 8, I looked out and saw the gulf water backing up 32nd Street,” she recalled.  She summoned her husband home from work just as the waves and wind intensified, but he was stranded, unable to secure a carriage or horse at any price.  “I was entirely alone with the children until the worst of the blow was over,” she wrote, “and did not know what second our house would go” and her “babies would be at the mercy of the water and flying timbers.” Praying and reading to her children to stay calm, she fought the urge to “scream with fear” over the fate of her husband.  The family home lost several windows and much of its roof, but stood.  Ellen’s husband finally made it home the next day and they evacuated to Fort Worth.  “Mary,” Ellen declared to her sister, “I can’t describe this storm.  What you see in the papers is not over drawn; if anything it was even worse than the papers put it.”  Thankful that the family had escaped with their lives and at least some of their belongings, Ellen faced her next challenge: to recover her nerves and “get to be myself again.”

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  For more of our firsthand accounts of hurricanes, tornadoes and storms, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Kentucky Live! presents Fred Minnick on “Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American Whiskey”

Bourbon-the-Rise-Fall-and-Rebirth-of-an-American-Whiskey (10)

On the evening of September 14 at Barnes & Noble Books, Bowling Green, KY, WKU Libraries featured Fred Minnick in its Kentucky Live! speaker series as part of its community outreach initiatives. Fred Minnick is the “Bourbon Authority” for the Kentucky Derby Museum. He talked about his newly published book Bourbon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of An American Whiskey and signed it at the conclusion of his talk.

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