Author Archives: Jonathan Jeffrey

Ronald Reagan Speaks About Panama Canal

Panama Canal LogoAfter a close, and acrimonious bid to win the Republican Party presidential nomination in 1976, Ronald Reagan lost to the more moderate and sitting President Gerald R. Ford.  In the ensuing Bicentennial election, Ford lost to his charismatic, grinning Democratic opponent Jimmy Carter.  Confident that his future included national service, Reagan never stopped campaigning over the next four years.

In 1977 Reagan was invited to speak at Western Kentucky University’s Free Enterprise Fair.  Prior to his speech on September 22, Reagan participated in a press conference in which he answered questions about issues of national concern.  One of the most heated topics of the day was the Panama Canal Treaty; 80% of Americans believed that the U.S. was giving the  canal away.  When asked about it, Reagan railed against the Carter administration for contemplating the transfer of the canal to “a man [Omar Torrijos] who’s there, not because he had the most votes, but because he had the most guns.”  In his remarks, Reagan basically promotes the chief tenet of the MonroeRonald Reagan Doctrine which acknowledged the United States as the protector of the Americas.   “I think that basically the world is not going to see this [giving away the canal] as a magnanimous gesture on our part, as the White House would have us believe,” noted Reagan.  “They are going to see it as once again American backing away and retreating in the face of trouble.”  When it came to giving the canal away, Reagan strongly stated:  “I’m going to talk as long and as loud as I can against it.”

His press conference remarks were recorded for posterity and are located in the Manuscripts & Folkife Archives unit of the Department of Library Special Collections.

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Poetic Tribute

Panama Canal LogoR.C.P. Thomas, scion of a prominent Bowling Green family and beloved member of the local bar, was appointed the District Judge of the Panama Canal Zone in June 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  As he prepared to leave the U.S., local poet and friend John A. Logan penned a poetic tribute for his departing friend.

“The East is East and West is West/And ne’er the twain shall meet,”/Was prophesied, but Teddy the Great/Performed the wonderful feat.

One stroke of his club, two continents/Majestically sprang apart;/An East met West in a brotherhood/Ne’er dreamed by the great Bret Hart.

Down by the side of this great highway/Kentucky now sends her best,/To cheer the hearts of the sons of men/Where the East now meets the West.

He goes to live by the side of the road,/Where the ships of the earth go by,/Wherever he dwells, in his heart of gold,/There dwells both you and I.

As he sits by the side of this wonderful road/And looks on the tropic scene,/His heart will be with the folks at home/And beautiful Bowling Green.

His thoughts will be of our tiny lakes/And his heart in sweet accord,/With their gentle wave-lips whispering love/As they kiss the soft green sward.

He will dream of the warbled melody/Of Kentucky’s myriad birds,/And the redolence of home grown flowers/Beyond the power of words.

We send him away that the world may know/That hospitality/With justice and mercy go hand in hand/With Kentucky gallantry.

With an aurevoir, just for a day/We send our friend away./Let these flowers with their perfumed breath/Speak the words we cannot say.

Shaker Collectors342Thomas did an admirable job in Panama, but declined reappointment after his four-year term ended in 1937. He returned to Bowling Green, retired from his law practice, and spent time working with a herd of Jersey cows on his farm until he died in 1939.  To research the worldwide contributions of Kentuckians, check out KenCat and TopSCHOLAR.

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Panama Canal LogoAmericans were fascinated by the Big Dig going on in Panama in the early-1910s. The Latin American isthmus project was a sterling example of American ingenuity, Big Stick diplomacy, and cooperation. A Kentuckian with keen interest in the project was Earl Palmer of Paducah. He was co-founder of the Ferguson & Palmer Lumber Company of Paducah in 1898 and a man of adventure and florid words.  The industrialist decided to satisfy his curiosity about the canal project by visiting Panama in 1913 and preserving his observations for posterity in print form.  This first paragraph from the resulting book, titled The Panamaniacs, gives you an impression for Palmer’s prose and sense of humor:

“When one packs a steamer trunk and fares forth to foreign parts in search of new experiences, fresh ideas and palpitating thrills, he is under no particular obligation to any one [sic] to reduce said experiences, fresh ideas and palpitating thrills to writing. Indeed he is more highly esteemed if he does nothing of the kind.  But as the attempt is not yet actually prohibited by law, which possibly is due to oversight on the part of our dilatory legislators, I shall hasten to get into the game before our law-makers are awakened to a proper sense of duty.”

Title page from “Panamaniacs”

Palmer never mentions the names of his traveling companions; he simply refers to the other Paduchans as a Banker, a Lawyer, a Merchant, and himself. He calls himself “the first person singular personal pronoun,” in other words “I.”  The Paducah party left by rail on the morning of 17 January 1913 accompanied by their “four loving and lovable wives, each fair, fat and forty.”  Upon reaching Jacksonville, they added to their party the Human Encyclopedia, the Entertainer, and the Altruist and then proceeded to Key West where they added the Pessimist and the Boy, “bringing the total up to the fateful and ominous number of thirteen, which doubtless accounts for much which befell the party.”

Besides his brief descriptions of the canal construction, which he observed on a four-hour train ride from Colon to Panama City, Palmer discusses his views on Panamanian history, culture, geography.  The party also stopped in Cuba and enjoyed the nightlife in Havana which Palmer faithfully records.

Panamaniacs 1

Autographed and dated frontispiece photograph of Earl Palmer.

This small book is not listed on WorldCat, meaning that the Kentucky Library Research Collections in the Department of Library Special Collections at WKU may be the only repository worldwide to own this title. It was purchased, by chance, at a small antique store in Paris, Kentucky.  The book features a bookplate indicating that it once belonged to Margaret Yopp.  For decades the Yopps ran a seed cleaning and seed selling operation in Paducah.  From the description of the Palmer party, it is unlikely that Margaret participated in the Panamanian jaunt.  The small monograph features only one photograph and that is of the author which he signed “Very Truly Yours Earl Palmer Mch. 22, 1913.” The Young Printing Company of Paducah published the “Limited Edition” travel account for Palmer, and it undoubtedly was a small printing run.

For those receiving this small book as a token of affection or friendship, Palmer noted in the a foreword: “This modest booklet does not pose as an object lesson of perfection in orthography, etomology [sic], syntax or prosody…Therefore, should anyone upon whom this book is bestowed be too greatly annoyed by the many obvious errors in construction…may return the book to the donor, and his thanks will be cheerfully refunded.”


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Richey Completes Preservation Certificate Program


Nancy Richey received a Collections Care certificate earlier this month from the Campbell Center.

Nancy Richey, Visual Resources Librarian in the Department of Library Special Collections (DLSC), recently received “Collections Care” certification from the The Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies in Mount Carroll, Illinois.  Over several years, Richey has completed the following courses at the Campbell Center:  three sections of progressively intensive classes titled Care of Photographic Collections, Care of Historic Scrapbooks, Archives Principles and Practices, and Digitizing Museum Collections.

“Because of the diversity of materials in my care,” noted Richey, “the training I received at the Campbell Center in Collections Care, enables me to more carefully identify the nature of the material in question and the cause of its deterioration and subsequently prescribe preservation remedies.”  Richey currently manages illustrative material in the Kentucky Library Research Collections, including photographs in many formats, maps, broadsides, prints, and postcards.  “We are always pleased when faculty proactively seek out additional training to add to their expertise,” said Jonathan Jeffrey, DLSC Department Head.   “Besides completing an arduous curriculum of courses, Nancy helped procure funding to assist her in attaining this certification.  She has enchanced her own professional resume, while concurrently boosting the reputation and expertise of our department.”

Founded in the mid-1980s and located on a historic school property, The Campbell Center provides interdisciplinary and continuing education to meet the evolving training needs of individuals who work to preserve historic landscapes, and cultural, historic, and artistic properties.  Workshop topics range greatly and include hands-on training in areas such as art restoration, tombstone repair, historic masonry, preservation of historic properties and landscapes, basic archives training, and document preservation.


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Bowling Greeners in the Panama Canal Zone

Panama Canal LogoNative Bowling Greener, Ruel Sullivan Love (1903-1987), suffered from wanderlust.  He tried his hand at several occupations early in life before settling into a position as a court reporter in Chicago.  When Judge Richard Curd Pope Thomas (1872-1939) asked Ruel to serve as his personal secretary and court reporter in the Panama Canal Zone, the young man jumped at the opportunity.  Shortly after Ruel’s arrival, Judge Thomas, who was also from Bowling Green, wrote the young man’s father that his son was doing a fine job in the work, enjoyed plenty of rest, received a “good salary” of $27 per month, had a cozy home, and most importantly “married a fine little woman.”  Thomas reassured him that Ruel had picked out a woman “of good common sense” and was “sensible in every particular and much better looking” than Ruel had led the family to believe.


Letter from Thomas in the Canal Zone to George Love

When Ruel took time to write, he informed his father that he was enjoying his work and asked about ways that he could invest his money in Bowling Green.  In one letter he mentioned a recent court incident in which “They arraigned a Chinaman for murder.  He killed two of his countrymen on one of the Dollar line boats.  The case will come up soon before the Judge, and I imagine the Judge will have to pass the death sentence.”

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R.C.P. Thomas

President Franklin Roosevelt appointed R.C.P. Thomas as the District Judge of the Panama Canal Zone in June 1933.  As he prepared to leave the U.S., local poet and friend John A. Logan penned a poetic tribute:  “We send him away that the world may known/That hospitality/With justice and mercy go hand in hand/With Kentucky gallantry.”  Thomas did an admirable job in Panama, but declined reappointment after his four-year term ended in 1937.  He returned to Bowling Green, retired from his law practice, and spent time working with a herd of Jersey cows on his farm until he died in 1939.

Ruel also returned to Bowling Green after Thomas’s term ended.  He and his “sensible” wife divorced soon afterward.  In 1943 Ruel moved to Louisville, where he established a court reporting business.  Later he became a court reporter in New Orleans, where he remained until his retirement.  Ruel died in 1987; both he and Judge Thomas are buried in Bowling Green’s Fairview Cemetery.

In celebration of the Panama Canal’s centennial, the Department of Library Special Collections will feature items from the collection during the month of August.

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War Bride Receives the Dreaded Telegram

Aline & Ralph Shrewsbury

Aline & Ralph Shrewsbury

“My Dearest”

“Last night was the first night that has gone by since I left you without my writing to you!  I think that was the hardest part of the whole day!  Oh, darling, I’ll never be able to tell you the anguish I’ve been in since I got that nasty telegram.  I thought–first–only that I’d never see you again–never wake up beside you anymore–never have your babies–never never anything anymore!  But then I thought of all the ways it were possible to get you out safely!  So now I’m beginning to hope again.”

So begins Aline Shrewsbury’s short journal on 4 August 1944, shortly after she received a telegram stating that her husband, Ralph Damon Shrewsubry, was missing in action.  The couple had been married less than two years when the dreadful missive arrived.  Aline’s journal from 4th to 21st of August 1944, along with photographs, service records, family correspondence, and news clippings documenting Ralph’s WWII career were recently donated to the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit of the Department of Library Special Collections by the couple’s daughter and former WKU Educational Resources Center librarian Becky (Shrewsbury) Leavy.


Becky Leavy donates the Shrewsbury Collection to Manuscripts & Folklife Archives Coordinator Jonathan Jeffrey

This small collection documents the story of the unlikely meeting, and subsequent whirlwind romance, of a Georgia medical secretary at Camp Blanding, Florida, Aline Lanier, and Lieutenant Ralph Shrewsbury from Caneyville, Kentucky.  Shewsbury had participated in ROTC training at WKU prior to the war.  Aline and Ralph married only a few months after meeting.  Wartime marriages are difficult for both partners, but the spouse left behind can imagine all types of distress.  Ralph did have quite an adventure after landing at Utah Beach in June 1944.  Part of the collection features Ralph’s narrative about his stay in a German-occupied hospital in France.  In relation to nourishment, he noted:  “The usual fare at the hospital was a tea made of apple leaves and a quarter of a loaf of bread for breakfast, and sometimes not even the bread.  At noon we received a very small bowl of thin soup.  For supper we usually had a bowl of soup or stew containing very little nourishment.  Some of the French people working in the hospital brought us eggs and bread on the sly.”  Eventually he escaped from a transport train en route to a POW camp.  After finding American soldiers, Shewsbury by chance reunited with his old WKU ROTC commander E.B. Crabill.  It is a small world after all.

To investigate other WWII collections archived at WKU, click here.

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Seeing With the Heart

Alice Hegan Rice & Cale Young Rice

Alice Hegan Rice & Cale Young Rice

Dr. Charles & Mary Boewe recently donated a letter written by Alice Hegan Rice to Helen Keller to the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections. In the short 1905 missive, Rice extolls Keller’s recent autobiography The Story of My Life published two years earlier. She further notes its popularity with the girls that Rice met at a Japanese boarding school the previous summer. Rice quoted from one Japanese girl’s composition when she wrote Keller that despite her handicap “the eyes of [her] heart are open.” To see the letter in full-text and view the finding aid click here.

The Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit owns a large collection of Alice Hegan Rice material donated by her brother-in-law, Laban Lacy Rice in 1943. That collection contains personal and business correspondence, literary manuscripts, research notes, reviews, poems and other material related to Alice Hegan Rice and her poet husband Cale Young Rice. Alice Caldwell Hegan Rice (1870-1942)  is best known for her first novel Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1901), but she wrote several other books as well as short stories and literary reviews. Forlorn after his wife’s death in 1942, Cale Young Rice committed suicide a year later. Mary Boewe was familiar with the Kentucky Building’s Rice Collection, since she used the material in preparing Alice’s biography Beyond the Cabbage Patch in 2010.

The Boewes donated the letter in memory of WKU’s distinguished history professor Carlton Jackson, who died earlier this year. The Boewes first met Jackson in the early-1970s when Dr. Boewe was director of the United States Educational Foundation in India. Dr. Jackson was there on a Fulbright grant teaching American history. Their friendship grew when Boewe, in a similar position in Pakistan, was requested to help organize an American Studies program at Quaid-i-Azam University. Boewe called on Jackson, who along with a colleague designed the curriculum, taught all the courses, and saw the first group of students through to their master’s degrees. Boewe and Jackson later collaborated in bringing a distinguished Pakistani professor to WKU on a Fulbright grant.

In making the gift, the Boewes noted:  “We believe this manuscript letter by Alice Rice to Helen Keller is a fitting memorial to historian Dr. Jackson and that it rightfully belongs among others by the same author on the campus of Western Kentucky University, where already there exists the largest single collection of Alice Hegan Rice manuscript materials.” To see a finding aid for the Rice Collection click here. To search for other Rice material in the collection or other literary papers, search TopSCHOLAR.

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DAC Chapter Meets in Library Special Collections

DAC PhotoJonathan Jeffrey, Manuscripts & Folklife Archives Coordinator in the Department of Library Special Collections met with members of the Cumberland Trace Chapter of the Daughters of American Colonists in the Kentucky Library Research Collections area to discuss local material available for genealogical research. He put particular emphasis on the Library’s family files and manuscript collections that contain genealogical materials, including the Mildred Eubank Collection which covers Simpson, Allen, and Logan Counties, the Drucilla Stovall Jones Collection that specializes in southern Logan County, and the Nora Young Ferguson and Lloyd M. Raymer collections which document northwestern Warren County and Butler County. He also discussed the usefulness of TopSCHOLAR for searching Warren County’s marriage records and equity court records. You too can search any of these finding aids by clicking on the links.

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To Speak of All Things As They Are

Spirit of the TimesDetermined to start a non-sectarian, non-political newspaper in Bowling Green, Kentucky, William B. Kilgore issued a broadside in late-1826 soliciting subscribers.  In the advertisement he declares “it almost unneccesary to say any thing of his political opinions”, because the paper was “not intended to be established for political purposes.”  Contrary to his stated resolve, Kilgore quickly  avers “himself in favor” of the Old Court, referencing a political imbroglio that devisively affected Kentucky politics for decades. 

Instead of political diatribe, Kilgore committed his paper to presenting “current news of the day, interspersed with poetical, moral and amusing pieces, as are common to impartial village journals.”  The veracity of his reporting was reflected in his paper’s motto:  “To speak of things as they are.”  Kilgore implored those interested in such a publication to “enroll their names without delay,” and if enough subscribers enlisted he promised he would deliver a newspaper “as soon as practicable.”  Subscribers could pay $2.50 in cash within the first six months of publication, or they could delay payment until the end of the year and pay the full subscription of $3.00.

Kilgore acquired enough subcribers to initiate his endeavor, for on Saturday, 25 November 1826, the first edition of his Spirit of the Times appeared.  Like most local papers of the era, it contains little  local news.  In a town of less than 800 people, everyone already knew each other’s business.  Still, advertisements for local businesses, governmental notices, political announcements, and lists of those having letters at the local post office are of great interest to local historians and genealogists.  The remainder of the newspaper was filled with serialized stories, old national and international news, poetry, and even less noteworthy filler.

One item of interest in the first issue related to the newspaper’s appearance.  “We regret to have occasion to apologize,” wrote Kilgore, “for our maiden sheet not appearing in as handsome dress as we intended in consequence of an unlucky oversight in those who furnished us with type not sending a sufficient quantity of the letter (w) which renders the balance of the fount [font] useless for a time. The deficiency we hope will be supplied in two or three weeks at farthest.”

This fascinating piece of Bowling Green history was discovered as the Lanier Family Papers were being processed in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit within the Department of Library Special Collections.  Fortunately the Kentucky Library Research Collections owns what is believed to be a complete run of the newspaper, in both original copy and microfilm, from its maiden issue to November 1827.  To find other collections related to Bowling Green’s past or to the history of Kentucky journalism, search finding aids to our collections in TopSCHOLAR.


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A Solemn Commemoration

JFK in Bowling Green

JFK riding in the Bowling Green motorcade, 1960. Donated by Gerald Givens.

Over the past two months approximately 100 people have submitted remembrances of John F. Kennedy’s (JFK) visit to Bowling Green in October 1960 or of his 1963 assassination in Dallas to the JFK Memory Project at WKU. Many of them have been quite touching. Eventually all the remembrances will be archived for posterity in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of the Special Collections Library. Besides remembrances, people have also donated memorabilia and photographs such as the one featured here that was given by Gerald Givens. Because of the good response, the deadline for remembrances to be submitted has been extended until Presidents Day, Monday, February 17, 2014.

Here are two brief, but memorable, local remembrances:

“The next day, I traveled to Bowling Green with my Dad and Granddad to see Western play Murray in the last regular season game of the year. Many games were cancelled across the country. Western was undefeated and went on to win that cold day….but what I remember most was that a lone bugler stuck his bugle out a window from the old fieldhouse….and in total silence the crowd stood while he played “Taps” in memory of the President.”  Bill Edwards, Bowling Green

“As I recall the autumn of 1963 was dry but towards the last of November a change in the weather was expected. My raincoat needed replacing so on November 22 I met my mother for lunch at the Dixie Café and then went to Norman’s to shop. Just as I was trying on a coat, a distraught Ruby Norman approached us to say the President had been shot. The three of us stood together, a trio of agonized disbelief. Soon I bought the coat and went in search of more news. As many others did, I saw and heard Walter Cronkite’s announcing Kennedy’s death. And the world was forever changed. As for the raincoat, I never wore it.” Ann Dickey, Bowling Green

To see more about the JFK Memory Project at WKU click here. To send a remembrance, simply type your thoughts in an e-mail to or send it as an attachment to the message.

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