Author Archives: Jonathan Jeffrey

Your Discovery!

WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections (DLSC) recently added a discovery sharing page to its website that allows patrons to share items that they found in Special Collections and how the material aided their research.  Our first respondent was Michelle Dilliha, a local CPA and owner of Front Porch Rentals.  Dilliha has been responsible for adapting historic properties into multi-family living arrangements.  Most of these properties have been in the College Heights Historic District.  Before purchasing another property in which her company was interested, Dilliha came to Special Collections to see if the house’s original drawings existed.


DLSC owns over 1500 sets of architectural drawings, chiefly from Bowling Green.  Although a number of architects are represented, the majority of them come from James Maurice Ingram (1905-1976), Frank D. Cain (1922-1994), Joseph P. Wilk (1926-1994), and Bill Finley (b. 1939).  By providing some details about the property including the address of an early resident–which Michelle gleaned from city directories–the DLSC staff was able to locate the drawings by James Maurice Ingram.  The original drawings provided information about the structure that was helpful in evaluating how the house had evolved over the years and the best way to handle several unusual details during renovation.

Dilliha was happy to find the drawings and was equally impressed with DLSC’s staff who were “extremely helpful” and “went above and beyond” expectations.  A basic database for searching the architectural drawings is available in-house; approximately 25% of the drawings have been cataloged in DLSC’s catalog KenCat.

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Tearing Up the Roads

Minute obstacles can cause huge delays when moving armies.  If anyone doubts this, they need only see how a small accident or distraction can stymy traffic on a major interstate.  During wars, strategic transportation routes are often heavily reconnitored or destroyed in order to impede an army’s progress.  In Kentucky roads and railroads were of major importance for moving troops and supplies during the Civil War, particularly in the interior.  Steamboats were more significant on the Commonwealth’s perimeters.

A Civil War era illustration from Frank Leslie's.

A Civil War era illustration from Frank Leslie’s.

In a letter recently donated to the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit of the Department of Library Special Collections, Confederate J.J. Williams writes to his wife Emeline about how the southern army had played menace with the Louisville and Nashville railroad, which had only recently been completed through Bowling Green.  To disable the railroad, Williams wrote, “our men had torn up the rail road some 5 or 6 miles and Blowed up the tunnel and burnt the ties[,] beat the rails to pieces with a Sledg[e].”  They wreaked further havoc by blockading the Louisville and Nashville road “by cutting the trees a cross it for a bout 3 miles and Some other Place they have plowed up the road so they can not haul a thing a long it.” To see the finding aid for this small collection and a typescript of the letter, click here.

To search finding aids for hundreds of other Civil War letters in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit, click here.

The salutation of J.J. Williams' letter to his wife, 13 January 1862.

The salutation of J.J. Williams’ letter to his wife, 13 January 1862.

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Filed under Acquisitions, Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Hire Intern Scholarship, A First in Special Collections

HirschMy name is Sidney Hirsch and I am proud to be the first Dr. Delroy and Patricia Hire Intern in the Department of Library Special Collections this fall.  I am a senior at WKU with a double major in history and sociology with a minor in art history.  I have a strong passion for learning and researching history, specifically the history of the United States, and the people who built our nation.  I grew up on a farm in a rural community, so I enjoy learning about the early farmers and settlers of south central Kentucky presented in the Petersen collection, which I have been working with this semester.  I have also been working on a project concerning Joe Downing, an internationally known artist and native of Monroe County, Kentucky.  His abstract works of brilliant colors have hung in galleries from Kentucky all the way to Paris, France, and this collection has been particularly interesting due to my attraction to art history.

The research presented by Dr. Albert J. Petersen Jr., provides a range of slides and notes recording vernacular architecture of south central Kentucky that he hoped would become part of the National Register of Historic Places,

Photo of a single pen log cabin in Allen County from the Petersen Collection.

Photo of a single pen log cabin in Allen County from the Petersen Collection.

specifically Allen and Monroe counties.  Allen County was formed in 1815 from land which was previously part of Warren and Barren counties.  The architecture represented in the collection reflects the style of each county’s earliest settlers and their use of the abundant timber and local resources.  The research conducted by Petersen and his students sited that 48 of the 283 buildings recorded were single pen log cabins, characterized by one room and an exterior brick chimney.  Pictured is an example of this style recorded as the John Cole home.

Brick House

Photo of the Brick House in Monroe County found in the Petersen Collection.

Monroe County, founded five years after Allen County in 1820, was also a subject of research for Petersen and his geography students.  This area’s abundant supply of natural resources, both above and underground, brought the county’s population to nearly 5,000 at its establishment.  One of the homes photographed during the study of the county was a home with an interesting history known simply as the “Old Brick Home.”  The two-story house is thought to be the earliest brick home in the area having been built around 1806.  Its builder, William Howard, lived in and ran his relatively large farm of several hundred acres from this home.  Howard is also significant in the county’s history because he freed his slaves who would eventually go on to found the African American community of Freetown.

Dr. Delroy Hire was born and raised in Monroe County, the son of Osby Lee Hire and Lillian K. Garrison Hire.  He graduated from Tompkinsville High School in 1959.  Dr. Hire is a 1962 WKU graduate and a graduate of the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He is board certified in anatomic, clinical and forensic pathology.  After furthering his education, Dr. Hire enlisted in the Navy and served for more than 20 years.  He retired as the Deputy Armed Forces Medical Examiner based out of Washington, D.C., and now lives in Pensacola, Florida.  “In the Department of Library Special Collections (DLSC) we have unique collections that allow students to literally touch history,” said Jonathan Jeffrey, DLSC department head.  “Dr. Hire is providing a scholarship for a student intern interested in the histories of Macon County, Tennessee, and Monroe County and Allen County, Kentucky.  It is more than a magnanimous gesture, it is an investment both in our collections and future curators of similar collections.  Sidney Hirsch is a fine example of Dr. Hire’s investment.  This is the first intern scholarship ever offered in our department.  We are thrilled to offer this opportunity to WKU students.”


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by | October 30, 2015 · 8:15 pm

Reconstruction-Era Broadside Outlines Democratic Party Woes

The Kentucky Library Research Collections in the Department of Library Special Collections recently acquired a rare broadside related to civil rights in Kentucky after the Civil War which includes a blistering attack on Democrats who were supportive of Reconstruction and universal male suffrage. The broadside was addressed to voters in Henderson County, but it discussed political wrangling within Kentucky’s Democratic Party.

FullSizeRenderThe broadside begins with a diatribe against the “Radical party led by the dominant majority in Congress on the one side and the friends of Constitutional government on the other—This Radical party is led by those men in the North, who for many years have been notorious sectional agitators, enemies of the Union and the Constitution, and who ceased to proclaim their hostility to them both, only when the war offered them the means of gratifying their malignity, and effecting their sectional and selfish ends.”

After providing a list of 5 grievances that the state party had with national leaders, the broadside writer turns his attention to recent events within Kentucky’s Democratic Party.  Chief among them was two conventions called to elect a state party leader.  Both meetings were held in Louisville; one in May and the other in June.  The more conservative faction of the party elected Alvin Duvall as party chairman, and the liberal leaning members elected General Edward H. Hobson.  Interestingly, the writer never refers to Hobson by his full name, only as General Hobson.  He had no kind words for the General, saying “Hobson is supported by every radical newspaper in the State, and every one, which has delighted to stigmatize Northern Democrats as copperheads and traitors.  And his election is advocated and desired and will be hailed as a cheering omen by every radical man and newspaper in the North, who has spoken or who will speak of it.”

The writer surmised that if Duvall was elected as the true leader of the Kentucky’s Democratic Party, “the friends of the Constitution will accept it as a cheering omen of approaching triumph, as the breaking light of a glorious morn, and after a long and dreary, and almost hopeless night, and encouraged by the omen, will follow Kentucky’s lead as in 1798, to a universal national triumph, and the restoration of our ancient liberties.”

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WKU Acquires Rare Robert Penn Warren Item

A young Robert Penn Warren.  Courtesy of Dept. of Library Special Collections, WKU.

A young Robert Penn Warren. Courtesy of Dept. of Library Special Collections, WKU.

The Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies and the Department of Library Special Collections at Western Kentucky University (WKU) are pleased to announce the acquisition of Driftwood Flames, the first poetry anthology containing Robert Penn Warren’s poems.  The Poetry Guild of Nashville published the limited edition compilation in 1923.  The anthology, dedicated to influential Vanderbilt English professor John Crowe Ransom, includes five poems by Warren:  “The Fierce Horsemen,” “Wild Oats,” “Iron Beach,” “To Certain Old Masters,” and “The Golden Hills of Hell.”  Later in life, RPW had  no kind words to proffer about his early efforts.  In a poem, “Red Tail Hawk and Pyre of Youth,” Warren described himself as burning “a book/Of poems friends and I had printed in college.”

Published when Warren was a sophomore at Vanderbilt University, Driftwood also includes poems by fellow poet Andrew Lytle, who along with Warren was a member of the Fugitives, a literary group composed of Nashville residents who shared an interest in poetry.  Although some of the other poets included in Driftwood do not have easily recognized names, many of them enjoyed distinguished academic careers:  John Paul Abbott taught English at Texas A&M University, Warren Taylor was a professor at Oberlin College and published several books including an important textbook Poetry in English, and Richard S. West, Jr. taught humanities at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Driftwood Flames is important because of its association with the Fugitives and because it is Warren’s first published verse in an anthology.  The volume is rare, because it was produced in a limited edition of only 325 copies and because it is soft bound.  Soft bound books cannot generally endure the same wear and tear that a hardback volume receives.  These factors, combined with the age of the piece, make it difficult to find.  “We consider WKU’s Warren collection to be one of the finest in the country, and anyone conducting serious Warren research should include WKU in their itinerary,” said Center co-director and Robert Penn Warren Library curator Jonathan Jeffrey.  “We are thrilled to add Driftwood Flames to the collection. It was one of only a handful of Warren items the collection lacked.”

Founded in 1987, the Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies at Western Kentucky University honors the legacy and achievements of native Kentuckian Robert Penn Warren, the first poet laureate of the United States and the only person who has received Pulitzer Prizes for both poetry and fiction. The Center is proud to celebrate Warren’s life and work by increasing awareness of Warren’s achievements, curating an extensive collection of Warren-related memorabilia, artifacts, and documents, and, in collaboration with the Robert Penn Warren Circle, supporting an annual symposium on Warren every April.


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Ladies Literary Soiree of 1914

One of the programs handed to guests attending the meeting.

One of the programs handed to guests attending the meeting.

Manuscripts & Folklife Archives staff recently processed the records of the Current Events Club, a ladies literary club in Bowling Green founded in 1902. For their motto they chose lines from English poet Edward Young (1683-1765):  “Thoughts shut up want air, and spoil like bales unopened to the sun.” Tucked within the club’s records, processors found several beautiful programs printed on textured rice paper documenting an evening of Japanese music and dance. Each program featured its own unique cover illustration; the interiors announced the program and listed the members of the Currents Events Club. Fortunately an old newspaper clipping was included that explains the significance of these unique paper items. The newspaper title and date are not recorded on the clipping.

Under the title “The Current Events Club’s Entertainment,” the article reads: What was said to be the prettiest and most unique social event of the season was the Japanese entertainment given on Friday afternoon at 2:30 o’clock in Neale’s Hall (also known as the Davenport Building, which was at the corner of State Street and 10th Avenue. It was razed in the mid-1990s.) by the members of the Current Events Club for the six literary clubs of the city. This was in keeping with the annual custom for one club to entertain the other clubs every year. Each guest was presented at the door with a Japanese program with “Current Events Club, 1914” on the face of the program. The interior contained the list of the members, the second page contained the program which consisted of selections from the Japanese musical sketch given at New Vanmeter Hall (the current Van Meter Hall which was completed and opened in 1911; the old Vanmeter was located in the old Southern Normal School Building which located where Bowling Green Towers is today.) on Friday evening by Mr. and Mrs. Michitaro Ongawa.”

“The hall was artistically decorated in the club colors, green and yellow. The chandeliers were wrapped with yellow crepe papers with festoon of twisted yellow crepe paper draped from the large chandeliers to the small ones. In the hall were tables decorated with jonquils, each table having a large bouquet of jonquils.”

Promotional brochure about the artists performing at the meeting.

Promotional brochure about the artists performing at the meeting.

“One end of the hall where Mrs. Ongawa, of Japan, rendered her program, was in Japanese decorations, consisting of cherry blossoms, fans, parasols and screens. She was attired in a handsome Japanese costume, and the program was rendered very entertainingly.”

“The ices which were served were beautiful, consisting of individual ices shaped with Japanese figures holding fans and parasols. At each plate was a Japanese souvenir. In the receiving line were the officers of the club and Mrs. R.H. Lacey of Franklin, president of the Kentucky Federation of Woman’s Clubs.”

“The members of the Current Events Club were highly praised by the various clubs, on the preparation of the delightful entertainment.”

To see the finding aid for the club’s records click here.  To view finding aids for other literary clubs in Bowling Green, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat, the catalog for the Department of Library Special Collections.

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African American Church Records Donated

Church records

Mount Union Baptist Church Minutes – Green County, Kentucky

Stella Hill of Louisville recently donated a minute book from Mount Union Baptist Church in Summersville, Green County, Kentucky to the collections of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit of the Department of Library Special Collections.  The minutes from church business meetings chronicle the church’s history from 1898 to 1921.  The minute book also contains membership lists and financial information related to the church.

Mount Union was established, like many African American churches in the region, soon after the Civil War ended.  After completion of their new church building in 1868, the Liberty Church of Dezarn, Kentucky, donated their old log building to African Americans in the immediate vicinity.  These blacks had been members of Jacob Grove Baptist Church in Summersville, Kentucky.  They worshipped in the log structure until they purchased ten acres one mile northeast of the Liberty Church in order to construct a new building.  This new structure burned around 1907, so the congregation erected a new church.

Along with the donation of the minute book, Ms. Hill donated a photograph of her parents, Richard F. & Margaret “Maggie” Owens.  Interestingly, Mr. Owens served as church clerk for many years and you can find his beautiful penmanship throughout the minute book.

Richard Owens

Richard F. & Margaret “Maggie” Owens. Mr. Owens was church clerk at Mount Union for many years.

The Manuscripts & Folklife Archives houses records for a large number of churches in south central Kentucky.  To see finding aids related to these records, click here.

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“El Temblor”: Description of an 1870 Ecuadorian Earthquake

ecuadorWKU is celebrating the International Year of Ecuador during the 2014-2015 academic year. All types of events including film presentations, lectures, exhibits, and foodways demonstrations have been planned across campus. Interestingly in researching for an exhibit titled “Ecuador in Library Special Collections” at the Kentucky Building, curators found several letters written by the U.S. consul to Ecuador and his wife, Edward Rumsey Wing and Louise (Green) Wing. They both write back to her Kentucky parents telling them about their exciting adventures, longing for home, intellectual pursuits, family affairs, and adjustment to a new culture. Wing served in Quito from 1870 to 1874.

In late-September 1870, Rumsey (as he was called) wrote to his in-laws about an earthquake that he and Louise experienced in Quito.  With the skill of a poet, Wing described the event:  “It was ten o’clock and Louise had gone to sleep on a sofa over a ‘Cornhill Magazine’ whilst I was lying on the bed reading a law book and deeply interested, which I presume kept me from fully appreciating the situation at the first shiver of the earth I could still hear voices in the street and and then a heavy heel went clanging by over the resonating sidewalk.  The white light of the moonlight enwrapped the houses and the hills and silvery kiss of our windows.  All at once there was a sudden silence that I now remember first attracted my attention, & the very night seemed to hold its breath as if waiting, listening, terror-stricken at the coming shock.  The next moment it struck me that the bed curtains were stirred as if by a strong wind.    Still I did not think of the dreaded ‘temblor’ until in a flash I heard groans, screams and prayers issuing from every direction – our own servants rushing across the courtyard with loud outcries for ‘El Senor Ministre’ – and the bed trembled as if in the grasp of some fierce giant.”

“I recall then the queer jingle of the windows,” Wing continued, “and their latches, & springing up felt the room with its ‘six foot’ walls reeling like a beaten ship at sea.  Glancing from the window at the moonlit street I could see many people on their knees & many prostrate on their faces. praying most fervently, whilst loud above all other sounds. I could distinctly catch the cry of ‘El Temblor, el Temblor.’”

After a contemplative night, Wing summarized his reaction to the event:  “The most disagreeable thing in connection with an earthquake like a battle is really ‘after it is over.’  Then one begins to realize what an infinitesimal atom he is, and not only himself but all men and all nations and all the ambitions of life and all the absorbing interests which we so untiringly & eagerly pursue, – in the face of these tremendous convulsions.  These terrible forces of nature, these awful agencies, so bitterly dreaded and so little understood, & of their supreme ruler and controller…Why should helpless man be thus made  the unwilling sport of misfortune – or of superior power & wisdom & goodness?”

These ruminations continue to arise after each natural disaster.  Some things do not change, even in this rapidly evolving world.

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Mistaken for the Devil


WKU is celebrating the International Year of Ecuador during the 2014-2015 academic year.  All types of events including film presentations, lectures, exhibits, and foodways demonstrations have been planned across campus.  Interestingly in researching for an exhibit titled “Ecuador in Library Special Collections” at the Kentucky Building, curators found several letters written by the U.S. consul to Ecuador and his wife, Edward Rumsey Wing and Louise (Green) Wing.  They both write back to her Kentucky parents telling them about their exciting adventures, longing for home, intellectual pursuits, family affairs, and adjustment to a new culture.  Wing served in Quito from 1870 to 1874.

In a June 1870 letter Louise writes her parents back in Grayson County, Kentucky, about an experience traveling through the Ecuadorian mountains.

Imagine me in a mask, goggles, veil, man’s hat, green yarn gloves, the thickest of clothing, trotting on a mule past a snow clad mountain—grand, threatening, and awe inspiring. I thought I should never see the last of it, and I pray that I may never behold it again while I live.  By the by I was taken for the Devil in the costume by a little crosseyed Indian girl who insisted I was le diablo.  Our eyes & faces are still afflicted from the sands & wind.  Rumsey looked as if he had been on a royal spree for [the] last forty years and I am not quite a beauty myself.

Toward the end of the letter, Louise summarizes her feelings about the mountain trip:

Language fails me when I attempt to tell you what I have endured and seen in this delectable Republic of Ecuador.  I do not wish to recall it.  Indeed I should like to blot the whole journey thus far, until all of its extentuating and beautiful surroundings, entirely from my memory.  Much to my amazement I reached this spot alive, and today am almost myself— again, though stiff & burnt to a crisp.

To search for other letters and diaries written from distant lands search our finding aids in TopSCHOLAR.

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Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Ecuador Exhibit Educates

Ecuadorian Rug & Photos

Ecuadorian Rug & Photos

“Ecuador in Library Special Collections” features colorful contemporary artifacts from Ecuador which accent research items from the Department of Library Special Collections, including two letters from the U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, Rumsey Wing, and his Kentuckian wife, Louise (Green) Wing.  One letter written by Rumsey describes in detail an 1870 earthquake.  Louise’s letter is lengthier and describes a mule ride across a mountain pass and colorfully depicts the people she meets.  Heavily clothed for the frigid mountain air, one native mistook her for the devil and called her “El Diablo.”

Letter from Ambassador Rumsey Wing to his in-laws in Grayson County, Kentucky

Letter from Ambassador Rumsey Wing to his in-laws in Grayson County, Kentucky

The exhibit also features twelve 1920s-era Ecuadorian photos selected from the Ewing Galloway Collection.  Mr. Galloway, a native of Henderson, Kentucky, operated one of America’s largest photographic syndicates of the early- twentieth century.  Library Special Collections owns approximately 1200 photos from the Galloway syndicate.  The exhibit also includes a map of South America from the 1856 Colton’s Atlas and one of the Smithsonian Institution’s ethnographic studies featuring a native Ecuadorian tribe.  The exhibit will remain on display in the Jackson Gallery outside the Harrison-Baird Reading Room on the second floor of the Kentucky Building until December 15, 2014.

Alpaca wool coat from Ecuador

Alpaca wool coat from Ecuador

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