Author Archives: Jonathan Jeffrey

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 Warren 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 County.  Besides Warren, Lyne painted Dorothy 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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Making 1797-1850 Marriage Records Available Online

This week a patron from St. Louis came into the Library Special Collections Reading Room looking for documentation relating to his ancestors’ 1809 marriage in Warren County.  He had already been to the courthouse, where he was told that Special Collections had many of the original Warren County marriage bonds from 1797 to around 1850.  I was thrilled to be able to help him, because he was our first in-house patron to use the scanned Warren County Marriage Records online in TopSCHOLAR.  Rather than pulling out the vulnerable originals, I was able to guide him through the search process of finding the record online.  The marriage records have been scanned in the same order they appear in the collection, which is first arranged chronologically by year and then alphabetically by the gro0m’s last name.   If you don’t know the groom’s name, then you can do a keyword search by the bride’s maiden name by using the search box that appears in the top left corner of the page.  At this time, we only have the first fifteen years online.  We are adding new records incrementally as we complete the scanning and encoding.

Marriage bond.

An original Warren County marriage document from 1797.

Scanning these records and making them accessible is a time consuming and expensive process.  Personnel in Manuscripts & Folklife Archives will make tremendous progress on the project this summer, as we have a student and one part-time employee committed almost exclusively to the project.  The funding for their wages was made possible through a challenge grant made by Marilyn Forney, a friend of Special Collections from Pennsylvania but with local family ties.  Her grant was matched by members of the XV Club, Ray Buckberry, Tad Donnelly, Dean Connie Foster, and Jonathan Jeffrey.

The marriage records are our most requested resource both in-house and online.  This digitization project will not only make the items accessible to the public in the comfort of their homes, it will help save the documents by decreasing human handling.  To peruse the records scanned thus far click here.

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Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives, Uncategorized

Reflections of a Connie Mills Intern

My name is Sean Jacobson, and I am a graduate assistant in the History MA program at WKU. This spring, I completed the Connie Mills Special Collections Internship. For someone who wants to pursue a career in public history (click here for a description of public history), the Connie Mills internship provides an excellent opportunity to introduce yourself to a wide range of work within a special collections library. Over the course of the semester, I spent a total of 120 hours working among three units of Library of Special Collections: WKU Archives, the Kentucky Library Research Collections, and Manuscripts & Folklife Archives.

Each of these units exposed me to diverse projects on subjects I found very interesting. In the WKU Archives, I worked with accessioning the papers and records of Thomas Cherry Tichenor (1912-2009), who was a notable WKU alumnus and Kentucky educator. He was also a grandnephew of WKU founder Henry Hardin Cherry. I was responsible for going through the raw records received from Tichenor’s family members and accessioning them into an organized collection. For the purposes of WKU Archives, I created specific folders related to his time at Western Kentucky State Teachers College during the 1930s, particularly in his involvement in the College Heights Herald and the Talisman. With the hundreds of letters also a part of the collection, I sorted them by content, dates, and persons. Depending on their subject, I then divided these letters between WKU Archives and Manuscripts collections.

From there, I switched units and worked in the Kentucky Library Research Collections (KLRC). Here, I worked in the ephemera collections – in particular, the records of First Baptist Church of Bowling Green. Over the past year, First Baptist has donated much of their church archives to the Library of Special Collections in preparation for its bicentennial anniversary in 2018. Because a collection from an organization like First Baptist will continually create new materials as long as it exists, I learned how important it is for archivists to plan for future expansions when creating an organizational system. By making a skeletal structure for all of First Baptist’s ephemeral items (programs, Bible class yearbooks, newsletters, etc.) within the Past Perfect collection software, I gained an appreciation for the significant role it has played in shaping both the Bowling Green community and the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Following the KLRC, I also learned how to create online access to research collections with the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit. I developed and uploaded into the library’s TopScholar database finding aids for numerous small collections. These collections ranged from Civil War letters, correspondence between lovers during World War II, Kentucky court records, and political papers. Through inserting each collection’s metadata into online database, I learned the importance of keyword choices and search terms to provide ease of access for researchers around the world. The advent of online database entry has completely transformed the way special collections libraries operate. When online resources are successfully utilized, it multiplies the ways the public can interact with the collections and gain cultural appreciation.

My experience as a Connie Mills Special Collections intern has been highly beneficial for me. This fall, I will begin a joint PhD program in Public History and American History at Loyola University Chicago, where I will continue to build upon the public history skills I have gained this semester at WKU. I am very appreciate to Mr. Jonathan Jeffrey for providing me this opportunity and for his mentorship and desire for me to excel. I am also indebted to Dr. Marko Dumančić of the History Department for his support in allowing me to do historical practice both inside and outside the classroom.

If any students are interested in the Connie Mills internship and scholarship for next semester, he or she should contact Jonathan Jeffrey by phone at (270) 745-5265 or by email at jonathan.jeffrey@wku.edu.

 

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Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

A Hairy Experience

The Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit of Library Special Collections has acquired an unusual 1842 petition signed by 17 Harrison County citizens attesting to an unusual growth of hair on thumb and fingers of fourteen-year-old Penelope Stout and confirming that they knew the character of Penelope’s family.  Seven of the petitioners had actually seen the hair growth, ten others “never saw any hair But believe it upon the Confidence and Judgement I place in others.” Questioning a family’s character in this sense, typically meant they suspected her of devil worship or witchcraft.

The unusual phenomenon merited a full paragraph in Richard H. Collins’ History of Kentucky published in 1871. “Dr. Carson Gibney,” Collins noted, “a graduate of Transylvania medical school, practicing at Leesburg,

Petition acknowledging the mysterious hair growth on the fingers of Penelope Stout.

Harrison County, Ky., was called, Nov. 1, 1841, to see Miss Penelope Stout, daughter of Thos. H. Stout, of that place, a young girl of 13 years of age.  He was informed that for some days past, Miss Penelope had been giving off from the thumb of her right hand quantities of hair, varying in hue and thickness–portions of it occasionally appearing thick and harsh, and constructed precisely like hog-bristles; and again it would come long and soft and silky and beautiful as the hair on her head.  It would emanate most frequently from the end about the nail, but often about the thumb joints, leaving not a single trace on the surface of the skin to tell whence it had come.  When grown to a certain length the hair would drop off, creating at times no sensation at all, at others producing a numbness about the arm, such as is produced by the foot sleeping.  Some four or five inches in length.  This singular action or disease had been going on constantly for six weeks, when the account was published.  She was taken to Lexington, and other physicians were consulted to learn the cause of the phenomenon, but unsuccessfully.  Hundreds of citizens visited the wonder little stranger.  No charge was made for admission.”

The growth persisted for at least two years on Penelope’s right thumb.  The unwanted hair, did not hurt her marriage prospects nor result in exile.  In 1845 she married a merchant and county surveyor ten years her senior named Amelius Eggleston Ames.  She gave birth to her first daughter at age 16 and a second when she was 18.  She did not live beyond her youngest child’s second birthday and died in 1849.

To search other finding aids click here.

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Reconstructing History: Allen and Monroe Counties

Spring intern Brookelyn Smith of Sumner County, Tennessee.

My name is Brookelyn Smith and I am a student at Western Kentucky University, majoring in History and Social Studies.  During the fall semester of my third year on the Hill, my adviser made mention of an internship that I could possibly procure for the following semester.  When the spring 2017 semester began, I applied for and received an internship with the WKU Department of Library Special Collections, working in the Manuscripts unit.  The primary project I worked on during my time as an intern consisted of composing an online gallery of images for two Kentucky counties (Allen and Monroe) from a collection about historic structures, taken from a geographic survey done by Albert Petersen during the 1970’s and 1980’s.  This included selecting images from slides that were good representatives of the collection, scanning the

Ebenezer Church of Christ near Tompkinsville, Monroe County, Kentucky.

slides into the computer, collecting the pertinent information for each slide, and uploading all of this onto an informational site on the department’s website.  In addition, information was gleaned from the collection and sources in the Kentucky Library Research Collections to upload historical overviews of the respective counties to the site.  An overview was included in the collection for Monroe County, but I compiled sources and wrote the overview for the history of Allen County.  Here are links to the informational sites for each county, including the image galleries, historical overviews, and bibliographies of sources in the library:

Allen County, Kentucky

Monroe County, Kentucky

In working on this project, I learned a great many things.  First, I learned that the Library Special Collections contains and has access to an absolute wealth of information.  All kinds of records, genealogy, maps, posters, artifacts, histories, etc. are held in this library.  Beyond that, I learned that there is constant work in documenting this information, organizing it, and making available for the public to see.  My internship gave me a glimpse into the formulation of a website and my first encounter with publishing work online.  There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from making local history and information available to the public.  In addition, I became interested in looking at the local history of each of these counties.  Allen County was particularly interesting to me because my grandparents hail from Scottsville.  So throughout the process, I gained insight into the structures within that county.  Also, I learned a great deal about the history of that county through reading books to write the historical overview.  As a history major, I appreciate this focus on local history, as it is the foundation of our present society.  Finally, I had enough time to begin gathering information for a project that will eventually involve creating a biography for Douglas Keen, who was an alumni and member of the Board of Regents at WKU.  Beginning this project gave me exposure to some of the history of WKU, which, of course, is very interesting to me as a student of that university.

The experience of interning with the Manuscripts unit is certainly one that I will value and remember.  I have gained knowledge, skills, and insight from working on the Albert Petersen collection and creating a site for the information, and I am grateful to have done so.  I am also very grateful to Dr. Delroy Hire who sponsored my internship.  As a graduate of WKU and a forensic pathologist, he continues to support the University in various ways.  Under his sponsorship, I was able to gain a wonderful experience, and provide Dr. Hire and others with insight into some of Kentucky’s local history.  If a student wishes to obtain information about this internship, they can contact the Department Head, Jonathan Jeffrey, by phone at (270) 745-5265 or by email at jonathan.jeffrey@wku.edu.

 

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Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives, Uncategorized

The Days of My Life

It seems like I just started yesterday. I’m Sean Feole and I’m taking a major in History and a minor in Anthropology. Before signing up for the internship in Library Special Collections at WKU, my previous experience with

Sean Feole

Library Special Collections Intern – Sean Feole

museum work consisted of volunteering at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort in Summer 2016. However, my duties predominately consisted of filing donations from institutions and individuals. There were a few other tasks I fulfilled, such as recycling boxes, data entry, cleaning the kitchen, and spot varnishing vases and frames! That sounds like one of the least exciting summaries to put on a resume. But at the end of my volunteer shift, I had my first taste of museum life; before long, I thought working in a museum was something I could take on in life. So when I was told that I would have to take an internship to fulfill 3 academic hours, I signed up right away.

Quite honestly, it’s most likely the best choice I’ve made in college thus far. Why? Well, for one it was a full hands-on experience. Predominately, I numbered/catalogued materials from past lives. The main individual of my prognosis was Hugh Oliver Potter, one of the more well-known figures from Daviess County, Kentucky. His resume consisted of building WOMI, one of Owensboro’s oldest radio stations, increasing awareness of Kentucky radio broadcasting, and fostering support for educational television. But his presence at the Special Collections, based on my research, was due to his pursuit of Kentucky history, namely Abraham Lincoln and Daviess County local history. Words cannot describe how much effort he spent writing at least three book manuscripts on Abraham Lincoln alone. There were numerous other duties as well, such as ironing (!) court documents, transcribing written histories, copying damaged materials, and more.

I have to say, I will miss working with Mr. Jeffrey, the Department head, because he was great in teaching me the ropes about archival caretaking. However, the experience I’ve had working in Library Special Collections is one that will advantageous in my search for a job related to a museum. Lastly, I believe that Library Special Collections is a great starting for anybody wanting to get into public history.

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McGuffey Readers on Exhibit

McGuffey’s Second Eclectic Reader is one of many from the Library’s collection.

The Kentucky Library Research Collections currently has a display featuring early children’s readers.  William Holmes McGuffey (1800-1873) was a U.S. educator who is best remembered for his series of elementary school reading books called McGuffey Readers. McGuffey was a graduate of Washington College in 1826.  He began teaching in Ohio frontier schools at the age of 14.  During breaks from college studies in Pennsylvania, McGuffey taught elementary school in Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky.  In 1823, McGuffey set up a school in the dining room of Reverend John McFarland, a Presbyterian minister, where he taught for three years.  During his 10 years as a faculty member at Miami University, McGuffey took interest in public education and began assisting teachers at local elementary schools.  He also established a model school in his home for the neighborhood children.

Experts estimate that at least 120 million McGuffey Readers were sold between the years of 1836 and 1960.  The sales of the Readers are in a category with the Bible and Webster’s Dictionary.  Since 1961, McGuffey Readers have sold at a rate of some 30,000 copies a year.  The readers are still in use today at some schools and by parents who homeschool their children.

A sample lesson taken from one of the Library’s McGuffey Readers.

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Filed under General, Uncategorized

New Collection Documents Hopkinsville Asylum

The Department of Library Special Collections recently purchased a rare collection (Small Collection 3093) of documents related to the operation of the Western Lunatic Asylum (now Western State Hospital) in the mid- to late-nineteenth century.  The sixty-five items in the grouping includes contracts for food, coal and linens, as well as contracts for building projects, inventories, and several fascinating documents related to a devastating 1860 fire.

The Asylum was established in Hopkinsville by an act of the General Assembly on 28 February 28, 1848.  Hopkinsville citizens raised $4,000 to help fund the hospital.  N.B. Kelley, a Cincinnati architect, designed the first

Western Lunatic Asylum in Hopkinsville.

major Greek Revival building on the Hopkinsville campus. Master builders Samuel L. Slater and John Orr carried out Kelly’s design, and the institution opened on 18 September 1854 with twenty-nine patients.  A chimney fire ignited the wood shingle roof, and the facility’s chief building burned on 30 November 1860.  The staff helped find housing for the patients in the Christian County courthouse, a hotel, and private homes, while twenty-three log cabins were constructed on the grounds.  Reconstruction took six years at a cost of $258,900.

The Library’s new collection includes a printed broadside in the form of a letter written by the institution’s managers to then Governor Beriah Magoffin.  The letter was printed, because it was likely also disseminated to members of the General Assembly and other interested parties.  After making the governor aware of “the lamentable disaster,” the managers reported: “Every possible effort in now being made to recover and bring in those who fled from the scene of the disaster, and they are being brought in as rapidly as could be expected.”  “It is

Broadside issued by the Asylum’s managers to Governor Beriah Magoffin.

feared,” they added, “that one of the unfortunate patients (later identified as Isaac Stewart of Butler County) was consumed in the flames.”  The managers extolled the “self-sacrificing” tasks performed by the staff in saving the patients.  A good portion of the collection includes contracts and other data related to the reconstruction project, such as an agreement made between the institution and Samuel L. Slater under which the aforesaid agreed to perform “all the carpenters and joiners work, to complete the west front and western return wings of the Western Lunatic Asylum building” which included “all flooring, doors, door frames, window sash, casings [and]…mouldings.”  For his work, Slater would receive $4,050.

For more information about this new collection, see the finding aid by clicking here.  To see other manuscript finding aids, search TopSCHOLAR.

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Filed under Acquisitions

Milling Around

Title Panel for the Milling Around Exhibit in Library Special Collections.

Western Kentucky University’s Department of Library Special Collections is pleased to present “Milling Around: Flour in Our Cupboard,” an exhibit that features forty of the nearly two hundred Kentucky flour bags from its collection.  The bags with bold and bright iconography document an industry that was once local but is now consolidated into huge conglomerates.

At one time almost every hamlet of any consequence boasted one or more water- or steam-powered mills that produced flour and/or corn meal.  Beside flour bags, the exhibit features stationery with mill logos, books about mills—including a 1795 copy of the Young Mill Wright, photographs, and other ephemera, as well as a millstone.  One case features cloth flour bags.  After consuming the flour, customers used the bleached cotton bags for towels, cleaning rags, backing for quilts and even clothing.  As a marketing ploy, many flour mills eventually sold their flour in printed cotton fabric bags of varied colors and designs.  These bags were specifically made to be converted into fabric for clothing, quilting and other household uses.

“Milling Around” will run from February 1 to May 12, 2017.

Big Ben flour bag from Rocky Hill, Edmonson County, Kentucky.

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Filed under Events, Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Library Adds Rare Architecture Book to Collection

Recently the Department for Library Special Collections purchased a rare promotional book produced by the Louisville architectural firm of Kenneth McDonald and J.F. Sheblessy.  Kenneth McDonald worked as an architect in the Falls City for a number of decades. He graduated with a civil engineering degree from Virginia Military Institute in 1873.  While teaching, he worked for the architectural firm ran by his brother, Harry Peake McDonald.  In 1878 the two brothers joined forces under the firm name H.P. McDonald and Brother.  When they were joined by two of their other brothers, the firm became McDonald Brothers and enjoyed an enviable practice with commissions from around Kentucky and several contiguous states.  The building type for which the firm was most noted was the fortress-like jails built across the Commonwealth.  The old Simpson County Jail (now the Simpson County Archives) is the closest extant example of a McDonald Brothers’ jail.  They eventually designed over 100 jails in seven states. The main building for the Southern Exposition in Louisville is perhaps their best known design, but one that remains a favorite is the old Presbyterian Theological Seminary (today Jefferson County Community College) which can be viewed from the raised Interstate 65 as one passes through downtown Louisville.  In their wisdom, McDonald & Dodd selected Bowling Green limestone as the building material for that Gothic campus.

The Presbyterian Theological Seminary designed was designed by McDonald & Sheblessy.

The Presbyterian Theological Seminary designed was designed by McDonald & Dodd.

Kenneth McDonald left the firm in 1895 and practiced solo for several years before forming the practice with John F. Sheblessy in 1901.  This practice lasted less than five years, for in 1906 McDonald joined with architect William J. Dodd, a partnership that lasted until 1913, when McDonald moved to San Francisco.  Sheblessy (1873-1938) moved on to Cincinnati and enjoyed a long architectural career.  The brevity of the McDonald and Shelbessy partnership makes this promotional book quite rare.  Printing companies that specialized in this specific genre of architectural firm “advertising” were not uncommon, but this book was printed by the Courier-Journal Job Printing Company, again making it a rarity.

The Louisville Tobacco Warehouse.

The Louisville Tobacco Warehouse.

This book, containing both photographs and drawings, highlights some of the practice’s most important projects, including several churches–most notably Walnut Street Baptist Church, courthouses, residences, commercial buildings, and sprawling government structures such as the East Tennessee Insane Asylum.  The booklet also includes twenty-five pages of ads for regional contractors, building supply operators, lumber companies, fixture suppliers, etc.  One contractor of note is Peter & Burghard Stone Company whose name is mentioned in captions alongside a number of the photographs as providing the cut stone work for the highlighted projects. Peter & Burghard was known across the south for their tombstones and their other stonework.  When Van Meter Hall was built at WKU in 1911, Louisville architect Brinton B. Davis insisted on employing Peter & Burghard as the stone contractor.  According to WorldCat, WKU’s Library Special Collections is the only repository to hold this illustrated promotional piece.  To see other architectural treatises, drawings, and plan books in Special Collections search our catalog, KenCat.

Advertisement J.N. Struck & Brother Lumber Co.

Advertisement J.N. Struck & Brother Lumber Co.

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Filed under Acquisitions, Uncategorized