Author Archives: Jonathan Jeffrey

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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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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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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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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Early 19th-Century Mental Health Pamphlet Acquired

Title page of newly acquired pamphlet.

Title page of newly acquired pamphlet.

The Kentucky Library Research Collections in the Department of Library Special Collections recently acquired a rare pamphlet about the status of the Kentucky Lunatic Asylum (Lexington) published in 1841 by Prentice and Weissinger of Louisville. The pamphlet, Insanity and Insane Asylums, by Edward Jarvis discusses asylums throughout the United States with particular emphasis on the four mental health institutions at:  Lexington, Kentucky, Charleston and Worcester, Massachusetts, and Columbus, Ohio.  Jarvis mentions the physical plants of each facility as well as their methodologies.  He is particularly interested in statistical information collected from the various institutions, including total number of cases, patients that were discharged, duration of stay, percentage of cures, percentage of deaths, etc.  Jarvis, a young physician who moved from Massachusetts to Kentucky, used statistical information from the pamphlet to lobby the Kentucky General Assembly to convert the Lexington asylum from a purely custodial institution to a modern mental hospital using the “moral treatment.” This treatment attempted to inculcate self-control in patients rather than impose violent coercion.  Proponents of the moral treatment envisioned the asylum as a curative milieu that would instill discipline through the gentle influence of a carefully regulated, meticulously sane environment. They expected the insane to benefit from the order of a daily routine, the satisfaction of meaningful employment, the intellectual stimulation of diversions, an identity in the asylum community, and above all the guidance of the asylum personnel.

Eastern Kentucky Lunatic Asylum at Lexington

Eastern Kentucky Lunatic Asylum at Lexington

In the course of his work, Jarvis befriended perhaps the most important citizen advocate for the humane treatment of the insane, Dorothea Dix.  During the 1840s, Dix, also a native of Massachusetts, no doubt, corresponded frequently with Jarvis. During that decade, she visited the Commonwealth more than once petitioning the General Assembly to open an additional mental health facility west of the Green River.  The legislative heeded her entreaties as well as those from mental health professionals and approved funds to construct Western State Hospital in Hopkinsville in 1848. Jarvis returned to Massachusetts in 1843. His interest in vital statistics resulted in his gaining a notable reputation as a statistician.  His library on the topic was eventually donated to the American Statistical Association.

WKU is one of twelve libraries in the country that own this title, and the only repository in Kentucky.  It’s uniqueness includes the fact that the author signed this copy and inscribed it to Luther V. Bell, the superintendent of the McLean Hospital for the Insane which was located in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

 

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Architectural Acquisition Fund Built

"The Small House for a Moderate Income"

“The Small House for a Moderate Income”

The Department of Library Special Collections is pleased to add the first acquisition using funds from the Jonathan Jeffrey Architectural Endowment Fund. It is a slim volume titled The Small House for A Moderate Income by Ekin Wallick. The book printed in 1915 by Hearst’s International Library Company features lovely, pastel illustrations of home exteriors and interiors, as well as floor plans, for seventeen homes of varying sizes and styles. Wallick is no wall flower author; he has definite opinions about design, building materials, subdivision planning, color palettes, etc. He saves particular disgust for the multiple architectural styles that ran rampant in the late-nineteenth century, “the Early Victorian Era, a period of abortions both in the building and decorating of houses. We can now look back on this period with a keen sense of disgust and fully realize that we are on the threshold of great achievement in the matter of house building,” Ekin wrote. He goes on to call the Era “one of mediocre architectural achievement. There may be many excuses put forth for the unitelligence of the time, but the fact still remains that it was most decidedly an architectural blot on our national escutcheon.”

"The House with the Green Shutters"

“The House with the Green Shutters”

Nearly ten years ago, I began pondering what I could leave, a legacy if you will, at WKU once I had completed my career. With the help of our then development officer Carrie Barnette, I concluded that one of the best enduring legacies would be an endowed acquisition account that would funded by my estate upon my demise. That sounded a little grim, but it fulfilled my purpose and represented one of my passions, as I decided that the endowment would be dedicated to purchasing books, printed material, or architectural drawings for the Kentucky Library Research Collections and the Manuscripts units of the Department of Library Special Collections and/or the housing and exhibition of the same. Although we have very fine collections, limited acquisition funds sometimes hamper us for purchasing significant items for the collection when they become available on the market. I really didn’t want to wait until my death to establish the account, so Carrie mentioned that we could begin a fund and I could add to it rather painlessly by having a payroll deduction go directly into it. I could also use that as a gift to the university and thus have a tax deduction each year. Two years ago I reached the minimum amount of $10,000 in the endowed account. I could not have done this in a single lump sum gift.

small house144

I am so pleased to select this book to begin the legacy. It is a perfect example of the evolution of architectural styles, steering away from the old, tried examples of the Victorian Era and defining the Colonial Revival as America’s new style of choice. This book, geared toward families with moderate incomes eliminates the excessive ornamentation and asymmetrical massing found in many Victorian Era homes. The slightly self-righteous Wallick declares the new American style “free from affectation, a concrete crystallization of common sense. The American architect…strives for unbroken lines in his exterior designs, for he knows by experience that they add decidedly to the dignity and charm of the house.”

To search other architectural related items in the Department of Library Special Collections, search KenCat.

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Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives, Uncategorized

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. This notion has formed a phrase that has 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, and I found out that she (a WKU Alumna) 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 fine man full of energy and passion for his field.

The stories that I read about in the collection 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 under 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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“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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Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Gordon Wilson’s Love of Birds

Dr. Wilson's field glasses and some of his bird checklists.

Dr. Wilson’s field glasses and some of his bird checklists.

“Tiny Treasures,” curated by Special Collections Cataloger, Joseph Shankweiler, contains several pieces related to Dr. Gordon Wilson, former professor and head of WKU’s English Department as well as avid bird watcher.  The exhibition features miniature books from the Department of Library Special Collections (DLSC), and one case highlights several bird identification guide books.  To enhance the case, the curator chose a pair of field glasses (loaned by the Kentucky Museum) that Gordon Wilson used on his well-known bird watching expeditions.  Also included in the case are several bird checklist cards, produced by the Kentucky Ornithological Society, on which birders could mark the specific birds they spotted on individual treks.  These two small cards, from a collection of close to 1000 similar cards in Dr. Wilson’s papers, document a trip taken in 1964 to Mammoth Cave National Park.

Alexander Gordon Wilson was born on 14 October 1888 in New Concord (Calloway County), Kentucky. He attended local public schools and Clinton College and afterwards taught in the rural schools of Hickman County.  He entered the Western Kentucky State Normal School, now Western Kentucky University (WKU), Bowling Green, Kentucky, in January 1908 and received a life teaching certificate in 1913.  He then matriculated at Indiana University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1915, a master’s degree in 1924 and a Ph.D. in 1930.  The two later degrees he earned while teaching at WKU. Wilson became an English instructor in 1915; he was formally appointed department head in 1928 and held that position until his retirement in 1959.  Besides teaching the classics, Wilson was nationally recognized as a folklore expert.  A finding aid to Dr. Wilson’s collection can be found by clicking here.

A typical bird checklist from the Wilson Papers.

A typical bird checklist from the Wilson Papers.

Wilson was an accomplished amateur ornithologist. He began observing birds around 1909 and recording information about his nature walks and sightings while he was at Indiana University. Upon returning to Bowling Green, he became more serious about the avocation and published his first major article on birds in The Auk (1921).  His fieldwork concentrated on south central Kentucky and he published several articles and pamphlets about the area’s birds.  Wanting to share his information with fellow enthusiasts, Wilson helped found the Kentucky Ornithological Society in 1923 and edited its publication, The Kentucky Warbler, for a number of years. In recent years, DLSC, in cooperation with the Kentucky Ornithological Society, has digitized copies of The Kentucky Warbler. They can be accessed by clicking here.

“Tiny Treasures” will be on exhibit through December 8, 2016, in the Kentucky Building’s Jackson Gallery.

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