Monthly Archives: October 2018

Carlton Jackson Papers Celebrate Archives Month

Dr. Carlton Jackson at a book-signing for "Allied Secret: The Sinking of HMT Rohna"

Dr. Carlton Jackson at a book-signing for “Allied Secret: The Sinking of HMT Rohna”

Heartbreaking memories of the 1918 influenza pandemic.  The FBI dossiers on a husband-and-wife team of socialist labor activists.  Gracious letters from Gone With the Wind star Olivia de Havilland.  The gritty details of a guest’s sudden collapse and death during a television talk show.  Accounts from survivors of one of America’s worst wartime naval disasters.

Where can you find all of these within easy reach of one another?  In the papers of Dr. Carlton L. Jackson, a prolific author and historian who donated a large portion of his research and manuscripts to WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Processing of the 4,336 items in this collection was completed in October, which happens to be American Archives Month.  A finding aid is available here.

Carlton Jackson’s career as a history professor at WKU began in 1961 and continued until his death in 2014.  A high-school dropout, the Alabama native resumed his studies during service in the Air Force, then taught school and worked as a newspaperman before arriving at WKU.  The author of more than 20 books, he also held several Fulbright awards and visiting teaching posts, and in 1996 was appointed WKU’s first Distinguished University Professor.

Jackson’s books included Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel, a biography of the Oscar-winning actress who immortalized the role of “Mammy” in Gone With the Wind; Allied Secret: The Sinking of HMT Rohna, an account of the 1943 guided missile attack on this troopship that killed more than 1,000 American servicemen; J. I. Rodale: Apostle of Nonconformity, a look at the self-described “father of the organic movement” in the United States, whose life ended suddenly while a guest on the Dick Cavett Show; and Child of the Sit-Downs: The Revolutionary Life of Genora Dollinger, a biography of this workers’ rights champion whose career began in earnest during the great 1936-1937 “sit-down” strike at the General Motors plant in Flint, Michigan.  Other books of Jackson’s have told the story of the iconic World War II song Lili Marlene; related a social history of the Greyhound Bus Company; assessed the career of movie director Martin Ritt; recalled the heroism of Joseph Gavi, a Louisville restaurateur who was once a partisan fighter in the Jewish ghetto of Minsk; and novelized the life of George Al Edwards, a Green County, Kentucky outlaw.  For a 1976 book on the 1918 influenza pandemic, Jackson placed ads in newspapers across the country seeking eyewitness accounts, and received more than 400 replies documenting the flu’s deadly march through 42 states and 9 foreign countries.  The book was never completed, but this unique collection of letters has been preserved.

“Dr. Jackson’s research and writing testified not just to his energy but to his eclectic interests and inveterate curiosity,” says WKU Special Collections department head Jonathan Jeffrey.  Searching for sources in both public archives and private collections, Jackson corresponded with anyone who might provide a lead.  As a former journalist, he never hesitated to seek a telephone or personal interview, making many friends along the way.  As the collection reveals, his efforts generated wins and losses, both big and small.  While researching a biography of Western novelist Zane Grey, Jackson wondered if Grey’s tales of shark fishing had influenced Peter Benchley’s blockbuster novel Jaws, but Benchley politely replied in the negative.  A greater disappointment occurred when, after his initial contacts proved promising, the Greyhound Bus Company withdrew its cooperation for Jackson’s history.  He scored a coup, however, when he located and corresponded (in German) with the pilot of the plane that had attacked the Rohna.

“I’m basically lazy,” Jackson once insisted in a profile published in WKU’s On Campus.  But it never showed.  After he got an idea for a book he would begin work, reading, traveling, knocking on doors and, like a good ex-journalist, digging.  The result, in addition to his publications, was a trove of research, now available to anyone else who wants to keep digging.

The Department of Library Special Collections is located in the Kentucky Building on WKU’s campus.  Hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Search our online catalogs at TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

“Far sadder than insanity”

Anna Kirkland's letter

Anna Kirkland’s letter

On this World Mental Health Day, we look back to 1872 when, in the absence of systematic treatment or medication, an ordinary woman tried to cope with depression.

On March 13, 55-year-old Anna Mary Kirkland wrote from North Carolina to her niece Eliza “Lizzie” (Edmunds) McNary, who as a girl had moved with her family to Caldwell County, Kentucky.  Anna apologized for the long drought in her correspondence, “but wretchedness such as no language can convey any adequate idea of has still’d my pen for more than two years.”  She had entered the North Carolina Asylum, but knew it wasn’t the right place: “I am considered insane & would to God that was the proper name for my malady, but alas!  I fear the case is a far sadder one than insanity, tho’ that is sad enough.”  Stalked by obsessive thoughts about her “lost” soul and those of her children, Anna bewailed the state of “living death” she could not overcome.

Well-meaning family members had tried act as armchair psychiatrists, but Anna explained that her “periods of darkness” were unresponsive to “human reasoning and eloquence” or to the theory that they were merely “insane delusions.”  She confessed that Lizzie’s news of her husband and children had made little impression: “Were I not so wretched your good accounts of the dear boys would please me so much & I would be so much interested. . . as it is I can’t take an interest in anything.”

Anna managed to convey a few items of her own family’s news, but returned to the notion that a diagnosis of insanity might actually help her come to grips with her paralyzing burden.  In that case, she wrote, she could even believe herself capable of visiting Lizzie, of experimenting with travel and change. . . “but I can’t.”

Anna’s letter is in the Edmunds Family Papers, part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Archives Month Exhibit

The Kentucky Museum, WKU Library Special Collections & WKU Archives contain thousands of objects, documents and photographs. While the majority Kentucky-centric, many reflect the world outside Kentucky and the United States as experienced by Kentuckians. This online exhibit called Seven Continents created in conjunction with a physical Archives Month exhibit housed in the Western Room, showcases some of the international collections housed in the Kentucky Building. Additional information regarding these collections is available through KenCat the online catalog.  Some highlights include:

Clara Hines diary

April 17, 1954 diary page from Clara Hines European vacation diary.

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under University Archives

Putting the Rug Underneath Your Feet

Arline Rawlins admiring her “Kentucky Stair Runner.”

The Manuscripts unit of the Department of Library Special Collections recently acquired papers and photographs related to hooked rugs created by Bowling Green artist Arline (Perkins) Rawlins. The estate of her daughter, Alicia (Rawlins) McFarland gifted the material to Special Collections.  The collection consists chiefly of correspondence with magazine editors related to articles published about Rawlins’ rugs, as well as a large number of black and white photographs documenting her creations.

Arline (Perkins) Rawlins was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky on 3 February 1899. She attended Gunston Hall in Washington, D.C. and graduated from Western Kentucky State Normal and Teacher’s College in 1923 with an AB degree.  She eventually taught art on an adjunct basis at Western.  She also studied art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Mellon Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. during World War II.  In 1946 she became the art supervisor for Bowling Green city schools.  In 1952 she earned her BA at WKU and in 1958  her MA.

A number of Rawlins’ paintings, chiefly oils and palette knife, are in private collections in Bowling Green and in various museums, but she is best known for her hooked rugs which she designed and hooked herself. Her best known rug was titled Kentucky Stair Runner; it featured twenty Kentucky themed scenes and was installed in her Bowling Green home.  The rug won first place at the September 1949 Kentucky State Fair and was featured in several articles in regional and national publications.  National magazines, such as Woman’s Day, American Home, and Family Circle carried articles penned by Rawlins or about her rugs.  She considered her rug work part of the regeneration of American craft, and indeed she fits perfectly into the craft revival movement of the 1930s and 1940s.  Interestingly, this parallels the revival of quilting as a craft in this country.

…making something from nothing is just about what rug making is. Part of the fun and a great part of the charm of rug making is in the ability of the maker to see the possibilities…

Rawlins’ rug work gave her great satisfaction as witnessed by this quote from an article she wrote for Farm and Ranch:  “People who have the ingenuity to make something from nothing are the envy of all their friends.  And making something from nothing is just about what rug making is.  Part of the fun and a great part of the charm of rug making is in the ability of the maker to see the possibilities around her—to see in that old, worn-out blanket a beautiful background, in that moth-eaten tweed skirt a handsome scroll, and in that faded red woolen skirt a lovely rose.” Her love of rug making allowed her to incorporate the love for the Commonwealth.  This is reflected in the names she gave her patterns:  “Kentucky Bouquet,” “The Mint Julep,” “The Winner,” “The Thoroughbred,” “The Pennyroyal,” “The Cardinal,” and “The Strawberry Patch.”

Mailing label from Rawlins’ mail order business.

Besides this collection, other material related to Rawlins exists in the Temple Family Papers. One of Rawlins dearest friends was Ruth Hines Temple, who played with Rawlins as a child, was a bridesmaid at her wedding, and remained a close contact throughout her life.  For most of their lives, they lived only a few blocks from each other.  Temple, who became the head of the Art Department at WKU, assisted Rawlins in the design concept for packaging, marketing and stationery for her cottage rug industry.  Rawlins actually rejected Temple’s concept for Pennyroyal Rugs and developed her own Nine Hearths Hooked Rug Designs, named for her house on Park Street.

To see the finding aid for the Rawlins collection click here, to see the same for the Temple Family Papers, click here. To look for other textile or women’s related collections, search KenCat or TopScholar.

Comments Off on Putting the Rug Underneath Your Feet

Filed under Acquisitions, Manuscripts & Folklife Archives