Kentucky Live! presents Mary Ellen Pethel, “College Life and the Making of Modern Nashville”


Kentucky Live! Presented Mary Ellen Pethel on College Life and the Making of Modern Nashville  on Thursday, February 15, 2018 at Barnes & Noble Bookstore (1680 Campbell Lane).

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Drakes Creek Middle School receives WKU Libraries School Library Grant

Bowling Green, Kentucky – Drakes Creek Middle School Library was recognized on Thursday, January 25 for being this year’s winner for the School Library Grant sponsored by the Friends of WKU Libraries. This is the fourth year WKU Libraries has offered the grant to schools in the Barren River Area Development District.

The grant is made possible with funds from Friends of WKU Libraries and is given out to one middle or high school annually with different purposes, including improving collections or technology, for professional development funds, to improve students’ research skills, and to offer reading enrichment opportunities.

Renee Hale is the Library Media Specialist who wrote the winning application for the school. According to Hale, the grant money will be used to improve the technology of the library by creating a Green Screen studio for students to create and edit video projects.

“The video projects will encourage hands-on, creative application of thinking,” said Hale. “We are thrilled to be able to offer this to our students.”

WKU Libraries Dean Susann deVries, Library Advisory Council Chair Nancy Priest, and WKU Libraries Communications Coordinator Jennifer Wilson attended the school’s morning meeting to make the announcement to the entire student body and present the check for $500 to Ms. Hale and Principal Daryl Woods. For more information about the grant, contact

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She Got to “Y”

Novelist Sue Grafton published her first “alphabet” mystery, A is For Alibi, in 1982.  At the time of her death in December 2017, the native of Louisville, Kentucky had penned 25 best-selling titles, most recently Y is for Yesterday, and both Grafton and Kinsey Millhone, her fictional “hard-boiled” female detective and heroine of the series, had earned a worldwide following.  Grafton had long known that her finale, slated to appear in fall 2019, would be called Z is for Zero.

Photo of Sue Grafton (then Susan Flood) in 1960 Talisman, the WKU yearbook.

Sue Grafton (then Susan Flood) attended WKU for two years (1960 Talisman).

In 2000, with her 15th book complete and many more yet to be conceived, Grafton told an interviewer that “thinking about the rest of the alphabet was apoplexy-inducing.”  But three years later, she was still on course, as she told a fan.  “I’m currently at work on ‘R’ IS FOR . . . which has a title that’s known only to me,” she wrote.  Ten chapters were done, but she believed it was better “to wait until the story’s laid out so I can make sure the title is appropriate.”  Though she confessed that “each book seems harder to write than the one before,” Grafton hoped her correspondent would “follow me all the way ’til ‘Z’ IS FOR ZERO.”

Sue Grafton’s letter to one of her many fans is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For more collections on Kentucky authors, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Sue Grafton's signature

“Yours in crime”

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Younglove’s Drugstore

Younglove's Drugstore

Younglove’s Drugstore

It’s January 12 – National Pharmacists Day, when we show appreciation for these health care professionals by, among other things, producing a valid insurance card and not whining about why it takes so long to fill our prescription.

As we have previously blogged, the work of pharmacists over generations appears in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  But if one Bowling Green pharmacy came closest to becoming an institution, it was Younglove’s Drugstore.

Born in Johnstown, New York in 1826, John E. Younglove followed his brother Joseph to Bowling Green in 1844.  The two became business partners in what was then known as the Quigley Building at the corner of Main and State streets (it still stands).  After Joseph’s death, John continued the business.  Younglove’s was not only a drugstore but a post office, stage coach stop and social center, and became known to everyone in the county.  Its display cases, sales counter, furniture and shelving remained unchanged for decades, and locals arriving for a chat would seat themselves on a venerated old seed box by the stove.  In addition to discussions of the day’s news, it was said that many political campaigns were waged astride this box.  Behind the counter, Younglove kept a vast trove of chemical knowledge.  His prescription book collected not only remedies for piles, cholera, gonorrhea and hay fever but preparation instructions for ink, “denarcotized laudanum,” hair color, and “cement for burial cases.”  His poison register recorded the sale of dangerous compounds: morphine for cramping, arsenic to kill mice, and strychnine for “varmints.”

John E. Younglove; a page from his prescription book

John E. Younglove; a page from his prescription book

John Younglove was as much of an institution as his store.  A man of modest height who was fond of tall silk hats, he was a repository of local history and a dabbler in many pursuits.  A naturalist, town trustee and cemetery commissioner, he collected archaeological specimens and rare books, maintained weather observations, and preserved data on milestones such as the 1811 earthquake, the 1833 cholera epidemic, the 1869 eclipse, and various floods, freezes and droughts.  When he retired in 1905 and rented his building to new druggists, they demanded such “newfangled” amenities as utilities, a plate glass window, and a soda fountain.  Insurance cards, fortunately, were still far in the future.

Click here for a finding aid to the Younglove family papers.  For more on pharmacists, the Youngloves and their drugstore, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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All the News from Birdland

The Kentucky Warbler, May 1980

The Kentucky Warbler, May 1980

Today (January 5) is National Bird Day, a good time to remind bird lovers that they can access full-text copies of The Kentucky Warbler through TopSCHOLAR, WKU’s digital repository.

First published in 1925, the Warbler is the bulletin of the Kentucky Ornithological Society.  WKU faculty member Gordon Wilson was one of the Society’s founders and an editor of the Warbler.  Its inaugural issue invited contributions of news, member activities, field notes, ornithological papers, and all things “of interest in birdland.”

Click here to access issues from January 1925 through February 2016.  For more on birds and birding, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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“Woven from the Warp and Woof”: Sarah Gertrude Knott and the National Folk Festival

1936 National Folk Festival

Window card for the 1936 National Folk Festival

Sarah Gertrude Knott knew how to set a stage.

Born in Kevil, Kentucky in 1895, Knott was no stranger to the deeply rooted folkways of small southern towns, but it was the siren’s song of the small stage and the silver screen that called her west. In St. Louis, Knott served as a member in a local theatre guild, The Dramatic League. It was in this space—surrounded by vaudeville performers, snake handlers, comedians, and musicians—where Knott first found inspiration for what would later become the National Folk Festival (NFF).

Having received funding from the National Council for the Traditional Arts, the first festival was held in St. Louis in 1934 at a time when the country was still in the economic throes of the Great Depression. In her 1946 article titled “The National Folk Festival after Twelve Years,” Knott remembers that at the time of its inception, “folk beliefs, legends, superstitions, folk songs, music, and dances were considered ‘crude relics of an outlived past.’” Seeking to redefine what constituted “American” folklore, Knott used her critically creative eye to frame (and stage!) folklife traditions in a way that underscored their relevance to a contemporary audience in a contemporary space. After World War II, when the United States saw an influx in immigration numbers, Knott’s vision sought to include performances from “Scandinavians, Italians, Jews, Bulgarians, Chinese, Finns, Rumanians, Filipinos, Portuguese, Russians, Czechoslovakians, Poles, Spaniards, and Lithuanians.” While the idea of the United States as a melting pot may be idealized, Knott was determined to give equitable recognition to cultures and communities that were beginning to blossom, and flourish, during the early 20th century.

The new addition in the Department of Library Special Collections accentuates Knott’s expansive collection held in DLSC’s Folklife Archives is a “visually striking (and somewhat disconcerting) promotional window card for the third annual National Folk Festival.” The NFF, hosted in conjunction with the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936, was the final festival in a year-long string of celebratory events sponsored by the State Board of Education and Departments of Recreation in the Lone Star State. While Knott was primarily concerned with incorporating representatives of Texas’ diverse ethnic population into the program—such as the Kiowa and Tigua tribes and members of Mexican and Spanish communities—Anglo and African American performers dominated the stages.

As with most folkloristic programs related to performance and presentation, the NFF was not without its faults. Knott was often accused of allowing her own aesthetic and theatric interpretations to overshadow the artistic expressions of the tradition bearers, and sometimes these arrangements could lean toward stereotypical representations of ethnic identities. However, Knott’s commitment towards emphasizing the relevance and significance of folkways should not be overlooked. Knott concludes her article on a note of hope when she writes, “Our national culture is being woven from the warp and woof of the variegated color strains of many nations. No one would want to dull the richness of that pattern. How bleak indeed would be the cultural outlook for the future if we overlooked the distinctive, individual cultures in a universal, standardized, regimented culture!”

To visit the WKU Manuscripts and Folklife Archives website, click here!

Post written by WKU Folk Studies graduate student Delainey Bowers

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Explore World War I

A soldier's postcard (Price Family Collection)

A soldier’s postcard (Price Family Collection)

About 84,000 Kentuckians saw Army service in World War I.  About half of them served overseas, and out of a total of 2,418 deaths, 890 were battle-related.

In this anniversary year of the U.S.’s entry into the war, a web site now allows researchers easy access to information about the World War I collections in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Included in our collections are letters, diaries, photographs, military records, scrapbooks and other materials documenting the experiences of Kentucky soldiers and those they left behind on the home front.  Young men from the Commonwealth and elsewhere arrived at Camp Zachary Taylor, Louisville’s massive training site, where they were inoculated, drilled, and prepared for war.  They wrote encouraging letters to lonely wives and sweethearts.  They endured the ocean voyage to England and France, and marveled at the sights and strange customs “over there.”  Some of them escaped wounds and death from battle, only to succumb to influenza and other communicable diseases.

Click here to go to the site.  Each listed collection comes with a link to TopSCHOLAR, WKU’s digital repository, from which a finding aid explaining the collection in more detail can be downloaded.

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Exhibit Commemorates Kentucky’s Role in WWI

Title panel for “Kentucky in the Great War.”

The Department of Library Special Collections invites you to view an exhibition titled “Kentucky and the Great War” through January 28 in the Jackson Gallery found on the second floor of the Kentucky Building.  The exhibit highlights several themes including military service, the costs of war, life on the home front, and the effects of war on the family.  Over 150 artifacts, documents, photographs, posters and sheet music specimens are used to document Kentucky’s involvement in the war effort.

World War I (July 1914 – November 1918) was a global and devastating conflict that attracted the attention of the world’s leading powers.  Shortly into the war, the death toll crescendoed for all nations involved in the hostilities.  German submarines began sinking passenger ships traveling across the Atlantic resulting in the deaths of many American civilians.  In response, American forces entered into the war  in April of 1917 with support from most United States citizens.

A medic uniform and helmet worn by a Kentucky soldier.

This exhibit highlights the lives of a few Kentucky soldiers and their contributions to the war effort.  We are able to follow our soldiers from the U.S. to France via correspondence and photos.  In addition, we take a look at the home front and how civilians on U.S. soil, particularly Kentuckians, aided the troops from home.  The ‘Great War’ resulted in millions of lives lost on all fronts.  This exhibit aims to honor their memory and celebrate their lives.

One of the exhibit cases features letters, photographs, and other memorabilia documenting the supreme sacrifice made by George Dewitt Harris of Simpson County, Kentucky.  The Harris Family Collection contains well over 50 letters written by George, a lawyer from St. Louis, to his family back in their hometown of Franklin.  They brim with confidence and are filled with detailed insights into military life from an educated professional.  George was wounded near Epionville, France when a piece of shrapnel broke his jaw as he aided a wounded commanding officer off the field on October 7, 1918.  George died a week later and was buried in France.  Later letters document how the family handled the grieving process as they continued to search for answers surrounding George’s death.  The collection also documents the eventual return of George’s body to the U.S. and internment in Franklin’s Greenlawn Cemetery.

A doughboy doll from the Kentucky Museum.

Another case documents the construction of Camp Zachary Taylor, the largest of the sixteen cantonments built in the continental U.S.  Camp Taylor, located near downtown Louisville, consisted of nearly 2,000 chiefly frame buildings which hosted nearly 40,000 troops at a time.  Despite its vast size the cantonment was built in a mere 90 days.  It closed in 1920 and only one of its buildings still stands today.

The main purpose of the exhibit is to demonstrate how international events trickle down to the local stage.  It all boils down to one person at a time being engaged in the event, whether that person served in the military or participated in the war efforts on the home front.

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Over Here and Over There: World War I Songs

Patriotic recruitment song published in Louisville, KY.

In The Piano in America, 1890-1940, Craig Roell states that by 1915 the majority of white middle-class urban families had pianos. With such a large market, it is not surprising that author Bernard Parker located over 9500 patriotic songs published in the United States between 1914 and 1920.
WKU Library Special Collections currently has a total of 4,438 pieces of sheet music. Our World War I holdings include titles that show the many facets of the war experience. Probably the best known hit patriotic song written for troop recruitment was George M. Cohan’s “Over There.” Louisville, Kentucky, musicians did their part with Clarence Zollinger and Billy Smythe’s rallying recruitment song, “Fight for the Flag We Love.”
Tucked among many love songs is the title “I Wish I had Someone to Say Goodbye To.” Children of soldiers are represented by “Don’t Leave Me Daddy,” “I Miss Daddy’s Goodnight Kiss,” and “Just a Baby’s Prayer at Twilight (For Her Daddy Over There).” Loved ones left stateside were admonished not to let their tears add to the soldiers’ hardship in “Keep the Home-Fires Burning (‘Till the Boys Come Home).”
Soldiers’ experiences vary from “Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” to “When Yankee Doodle Learns to ‘Parlez Vous Francais’.” A lyric that also speaks to the world experience gained in France appears within “Johnny’s In Town:” “he’s been aroun’, He knows French and ev’rything, You should hear him when he goes ‘Ooo-la-la-la.’” A father’s concern about the Paris exposure is expressed in the well known “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm.”

Popular WWI songs often spoke of the gaiety of Paris.

Due to the generosity of numerous donors, including Mary Clyde Huntsman, Drucilla Jones, and Bob and Carol Crowe Carraco, WKU is fortunate to have a good representation of the songs of World War I.

For additional reading, see: Bernard Parker, World War I Sheet Music: 9,670 Patriotic Songs Published in the United States, 1914-1920, with More Than 600 Covers Illustrated. Jefferson, N. C.: McFarland, 2007; Vogel, Frederick G., World War I Songs: A History and Dictionary of Popular American Patriotic Times with over 300 Complete Lyrics. Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland and Company, Inc., 1995; Watkins, Glenn.. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2003.

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Picturing World War 1

World War 1, this was it, this was going to be the “the war to end all wars.” Sadly, as we all know, this did not happen. The cessation of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany occurred on November 11, 1918 so the 100th anniversary will soon be commemorated. The first’s years commemoration occurred in November 1919 as President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations….” The war however would not officially end until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles several months later. The war affected South Central, Kentucky as it did the whole country. In Warren County, the citizens of our area responded quickly with about 1000 serving in the war; four received Distinguished Services Crosses; two were awarded the Croix de Guerre; 49 gave their lives during the war. In the holdings of the Kentucky Library Research Collections are photographs, real photo postcards, and other materials. One of the highlights of the collection is a rare poster featuring Presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson with accompanying text: “Washington gave us freedom,” “Lincoln kept us united,” and “Wilson fights for America and all humanity.” These are primary sources, the raw materials of history, and they bring the first great worldwide conflict of the twentieth century to us in direct, unfiltered ways. Photographs from albums documenting World War I era service and stereo cards that were produced by the Keystone View Company show the events and tragedy of World War I. For more visual collections, search TopScholar or KenCat or contact Special Collections at 270-745-5083 or

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