Category Archives: Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

“Perfectly Harmless, and Sure to Do Good”

Advertisement for Lyon's French Periodical Drops

Advertisement for Lyon’s French Periodical Drops

Women’s History Month got you down?  Maybe it’s just those women’s “monthlies.”  From the Helm Family Papers in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Library Special Collections, we give you Lyon’s French Periodical Drops and Female Regulator.  “Powerful in their action, but harmless in their operation,” these miracle drops were the concoction of Connecticut-based, Paris-trained physician John L. Lyon.

Advertised from the Civil War until the early 20th century, this contribution to the vast pharmacopoeia of American patent medicines was for relief of “Irregularities, Painful and Imperfect Menstruation” or “Monthly Sickness of Females.”  A mere $1.50 paid for one bottle of Drops, to be taken daily by teaspoonful with an equivalent dose of molasses or honey.

Embedded in the lengthy advertisement was some fascinating text that instructed in the regulation of more than the monthly cycle.  The drops, warned the doctor, should not be taken if “Pregnancy be the cause of the stoppage” as “they will be sure to cause a miscarriage.”  On the other hand, three-times daily doses ahead of an “expected period” would operate “TO PREVENT CONCEPTION.”  Along with the honey-or-molasses chaser, Dr. Lyon also recommended “Strong Tanzy” or “Pennyroyal Tea”—both traditional abortifacients—as “beneficial in some cases in connection with this medicine.”

Lyon’s French Periodical Drops eventually fell victim to Progressive-Era regulation of food and drugs.  After a look and a sniff in 1908, the Kansas Board of Health found [surprise!!] alcohol in a compound marketed as “entirely vegetable.”  The Board dismissed the rest of the ingredients as a probable (and toxic) “aromatic solution of ergot and oil of savin.”

For more of our collections that feature medicines and prescriptions, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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“The Pore Has to be Fed”

Naomi & Lester Woosley, Luxembourg, 1948; Bert Raldon Smith

Naomi & Lester Woosley, Luxembourg, 1948; Bert Raldon Smith

During World War II, many WKU students serving overseas kept in touch with their friends and professors on the Hill.  Collections in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Library Special Collections attest to the bonds that faculty such as Frances Richards and students such as Dorthie Hall maintained with those in military service.

After the war, students continued to write home about lives, theirs and others, that had been changed forever.  In 1948, Naomi (Thurman) Woosley sent greetings from Munich, Germany to Bert Raldon Smith, her former education professor.  A 1940 graduate, Naomi had been teaching at a military dependents’ school while her husband served as chaplain at an American hospital.  Lester Woosley’s duties were somber; they included hearing “many sad stories” and officiating at the funerals of servicemen and their family members lost to accidents and illness.  Nevertheless, the Woosleys had had an opportunity to visit several European cities including Rotterdam, where they were immersed in the excitement of an international soccer game, and The Hague, where they took a snapshot of Eleanor Roosevelt and Crown Princess Juliana.

In Munich, however, Naomi was struck by conditions among the poor.  “I’ve seen some of them taking food from my garbage can,” she wrote.  She could not surrender completely to compassion for the German people—her brother had been a prisoner of war, and she was aware of the atrocities committed at Dachau—nevertheless, “hunger,” she declared, “is a terrible thing.”  She was reminded of a remark she had once overhead in front of WKU’s Industrial Arts Building on her way to Sunday School.  The speaker was Dr. Smith himself, reminding a friend that “the pore has to be fed.”

Click here for a finding aid for Naomi Woosley’s postwar letter to Bert Raldon Smith.  For other World War II collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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“Please Tell Me. . .”

A Van Meter and a questionnaire

A Van Meter and a questionnaire

It was a gargantuan undertaking, but for decades Jackson Clinton Van Meter (“J.C.”) labored toward his goal: to compile a history of the Van Meter family in America.  The old Dutch clan gained a foothold in the New World in the 17th century, when pioneer Jan Joosten Van Meteren arrived with his wife and five children and began to accumulate property in New York and New Jersey.  By the early twentieth century, J.C. estimated that there were about 20,000 Van Meter kinfolk to track down.

From his Edmonson County, Kentucky home, J.C. searched diligently for Van Meters and members of related families, sending letters to them all over the country and asking them to supply detailed information about their ancestry.  “Please Tell Me:” was at the head of his preprinted, fill-in-the-blanks questionnaire that asked the subject to begin with his/her grandfather and supply names, dates, birthplaces, occupations, professed religion, marriages, children, and so on.  J.C. would also type out tailor-made questionnaires, particularly where he was in need of certain information or the recipient had failed to supply a full genealogy.  New contacts gleaned from one subject would lead to a fresh round of letters and questionnaires.  In addition, J.C. vacuumed up data from other researchers of the same family lines and incorporated it into his collection.

To encourage his subjects to participate, J.C. had a unique selling point: somewhere back in the mists of time, the Van Meter family had married into the mysterious Hedges family.  Legend had it that one Charles Hedges died in England leaving some $269 million to a nephew who had emigrated to America.  The inheritance lay unclaimed in the Bank of England while the Van Meters and Hedges multiplied across the ocean, but J.C. theorized that if all the present-day heirs could be proven and the results presented to the Bank, the massive fortune could finally be distributed.

Hmmm.  We’ve seen this before.  And while we can’t conclude that J.C. believed the Hedges estate to be genuine (it wasn’t), it still allowed him and many, many Van Meters to fantasize about hitting the jackpot…and, incidentally, it generated a mass of genealogy, now held in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more family research collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Abel, Boyd, and Kuykendall

Abel Brothers funeral program (Kentucky Library Ephemera Collection)

Abel Brothers funeral program (Kentucky Library Ephemera Collection)

In 1900, James E. Kuykendall (1874-1960), an African-American native of Butler County, Kentucky, opened a funeral home at 819 State Street in Bowling Green.  For more than 50 years, he served the city’s African-American population both alone and in partnership with James A. Boyd.  In the 1930s, brothers Francis and Richard Abel established Abel Brothers, which also served the same constituents.

The records of these historic African-American businesses were later placed with Gatewood and Sons Funeral Chapel, and copies are held in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Dating from 1900-1970, they provide data about funeral dates and expenses, but some are useful genealogical resources because they provide additional information about the deceased such as occupation, cause of death, parents’ names, and place of interment.  Also included with these records is a listing of interments in Mt. Moriah, Bowling Green’s African-American cemetery.

A finding aid for these funeral home records can be accessed here.  For more collections on funeral homes and other businesses, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Sophia

Sophia, 1874

Sophia, 1874

She was, by his description, a “little mulatto girl” he first encountered in 1867 during his military duty at Little Rock, Arkansas.  Their ensuing 22-year relationship was neither simple nor ordinary, but the story of Sophia and Captain Richard Vance, a native of Warren County, Kentucky, is preserved in Vance’s diaries, now part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  The only thing missing from the story, sadly, is the voice of Sophia herself.

Separated from her family and cast adrift after her emancipation from slavery, Sophia, no more than sixteen years old, seemed doomed to become the sexual plaything of the officers in Vance’s garrison.  Indeed, that may have been how Vance himself, who frequented local prostitutes to satisfy his need for a woman’s “delicious embraces,” initially regarded her.  But he soon found himself “desperately stuck on my little girl”– my “new flame”– and when Sophia’s principal patron abandoned her, she became his servant and mistress.

Though completely smitten, Vance was fearful that his “dangerous experiment” would be discovered.  Nevertheless, neither he nor Sophia were inclined to end the relationship, and he was relieved in 1869 when he managed to bring her along to his new posting at Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  In 1876, they were at Fort Dodge, Kansas, where Sophia married and departed, Vance assumed, for a new life.  Before long, however, both Sophia and her husband George returned and took up the care of his household.  Throughout Vance’s subsequent duty in the Indian Territory, Colorado and Texas, they turned his military lodgings into a comfortable home, anchored his life, and eased his restlessness and unhappiness with the Army.  When Henry, a young boy abandoned to Sophia’s care, joined the household, an odd but strangely durable family unit was created.

Everything changed late in 1888, when Vance returned to Fort Clark, Texas from a lengthy trip to find Sophia ill.  He had been wearily searching for a place to retire and had even purchased a farm near Washington, D.C., but was torn between bringing Sophia, George and Henry into his post-Army life or making a clean break.  Only after watching in anguish as Sophia sank and died in May 1889 did he understand what he had lost.  His diary entry cried out simply:  I am in a world of trouble.  Sophia.

Sophia, 1888

Sophia, 1888

Wandering from place to place in retirement, Vance routinely turned his thoughts back to his years with Sophia.  “Those were my best and happiest days,” he wrote, “the like of which I must not expect to see again, for there was but one Sophia.”  On a January morning in 1893, he found the scene outside his lodgings so reminiscent of “the prospect from the back window of the last quarters I occupied in Ft. Clark that I can easily fancy that I have but to go below to find Sophia busying about some household duty; to find Henry playing with his toys in the yard; to find the dogs lazily dozing in the wood shed; and all the paraphernalia of my old establishment.”  For Vance, who never married, Sophia represented a golden age that he had failed to appreciate and to which he could never return.

Click here for a finding aid to the Richard Vance Collection.  For more collections search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Within the All of It: Trigg County African-American Oral History Project

“What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

In the fall of 1995, four folk studies students from the Cultural Conservation class at WKU conducted an oral history project to document African American heritage in Caldwell, Christian, Todd, and Trigg counties. With grant-based funding from the Pennyrile Area Development District (PADD), local committees were established in each county, allowing interviewers to become better acquainted with long-time residents and their personal narratives, which focused on their experiences of living in Trigg County.

The student group recorded a total of 18 interviews with 15 participants, most of whom have longstanding familial ties to the region. The interviews, which often take the format of a “life history,” cover a broad range of topics from American Bandstand, sorority life, courtship customs, and bootlegging, to tobacco harvesting, family reunions, quilting bees, and church services. The scope of the project, spanning nearly five decades from the early 1900s to the late 1950s, marks an era of both agricultural and industrial growth, political uncertainty, and technological advancement—all nipping at the heels of the stirring civil rights movement.

Serving as the first oral history project of its kind in Trigg County, the lives of its participants are played out on tape in ways that reveal what it meant to be black in the Jim Crow South, how physical landscapes shape cultural traditions, and how a strong sense of identity was—and remains—crucial in developing supportive, lasting communities.

Onie Bakerat her home in Cadiz, Kentucky (October 1995)

Onie Baker at her home in Cadiz, Kentucky (October 1995)

 

The collection itself (FA 196), located within WKU’s Manuscripts and Folklife Archives, contains photographs of participants, brief biographical sketches, original interview cassette tapes, and detailed indexes of every recorded interview.

For information on African American experiences in Kentucky, Trigg County, and additional oral history projects, visit TopSCHOLAR or browse through KenCat, a searchable database featuring manuscripts, photographs and other non-book objects housed in the Department of Library Special Collections!

Post written by WKU Folk Studies graduate student Delainey Bowers

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She Got to “Y”

Novelist Sue Grafton published her first “alphabet” mystery, A is For Alibi, in 1982.  At the time of her death in December 2017, the native of Louisville, Kentucky had penned 25 best-selling titles, most recently Y is for Yesterday, and both Grafton and Kinsey Millhone, her fictional “hard-boiled” female detective and heroine of the series, had earned a worldwide following.  Grafton had long known that her finale, slated to appear in fall 2019, would be called Z is for Zero.

Photo of Sue Grafton (then Susan Flood) in 1960 Talisman, the WKU yearbook.

Sue Grafton (then Susan Flood) attended WKU for two years (1960 Talisman).

In 2000, with her 15th book complete and many more yet to be conceived, Grafton told an interviewer that “thinking about the rest of the alphabet was apoplexy-inducing.”  But three years later, she was still on course, as she told a fan.  “I’m currently at work on ‘R’ IS FOR . . . which has a title that’s known only to me,” she wrote.  Ten chapters were done, but she believed it was better “to wait until the story’s laid out so I can make sure the title is appropriate.”  Though she confessed that “each book seems harder to write than the one before,” Grafton hoped her correspondent would “follow me all the way ’til ‘Z’ IS FOR ZERO.”

Sue Grafton’s letter to one of her many fans is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For more collections on Kentucky authors, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Sue Grafton's signature

“Yours in crime”

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Younglove’s Drugstore

Younglove's Drugstore

Younglove’s Drugstore

It’s January 12 – National Pharmacists Day, when we show appreciation for these health care professionals by, among other things, producing a valid insurance card and not whining about why it takes so long to fill our prescription.

As we have previously blogged, the work of pharmacists over generations appears in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  But if one Bowling Green pharmacy came closest to becoming an institution, it was Younglove’s Drugstore.

Born in Johnstown, New York in 1826, John E. Younglove followed his brother Joseph to Bowling Green in 1844.  The two became business partners in what was then known as the Quigley Building at the corner of Main and State streets (it still stands).  After Joseph’s death, John continued the business.  Younglove’s was not only a drugstore but a post office, stage coach stop and social center, and became known to everyone in the county.  Its display cases, sales counter, furniture and shelving remained unchanged for decades, and locals arriving for a chat would seat themselves on a venerated old seed box by the stove.  In addition to discussions of the day’s news, it was said that many political campaigns were waged astride this box.  Behind the counter, Younglove kept a vast trove of chemical knowledge.  His prescription book collected not only remedies for piles, cholera, gonorrhea and hay fever but preparation instructions for ink, “denarcotized laudanum,” hair color, and “cement for burial cases.”  His poison register recorded the sale of dangerous compounds: morphine for cramping, arsenic to kill mice, and strychnine for “varmints.”

John E. Younglove; a page from his prescription book

John E. Younglove; a page from his prescription book

John Younglove was as much of an institution as his store.  A man of modest height who was fond of tall silk hats, he was a repository of local history and a dabbler in many pursuits.  A naturalist, town trustee and cemetery commissioner, he collected archaeological specimens and rare books, maintained weather observations, and preserved data on milestones such as the 1811 earthquake, the 1833 cholera epidemic, the 1869 eclipse, and various floods, freezes and droughts.  When he retired in 1905 and rented his building to new druggists, they demanded such “newfangled” amenities as utilities, a plate glass window, and a soda fountain.  Insurance cards, fortunately, were still far in the future.

Click here for a finding aid to the Younglove family papers.  For more on pharmacists, the Youngloves and their drugstore, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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All the News from Birdland

The Kentucky Warbler, May 1980

The Kentucky Warbler, May 1980

Today (January 5) is National Bird Day, a good time to remind bird lovers that they can access full-text copies of The Kentucky Warbler through TopSCHOLAR, WKU’s digital repository.

First published in 1925, the Warbler is the bulletin of the Kentucky Ornithological Society.  WKU faculty member Gordon Wilson was one of the Society’s founders and an editor of the Warbler.  Its inaugural issue invited contributions of news, member activities, field notes, ornithological papers, and all things “of interest in birdland.”

Click here to access issues from January 1925 through February 2016.  For more on birds and birding, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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“Woven from the Warp and Woof”: Sarah Gertrude Knott and the National Folk Festival

1936 National Folk Festival

Window card for the 1936 National Folk Festival

Sarah Gertrude Knott knew how to set a stage.

Born in Kevil, Kentucky in 1895, Knott was no stranger to the deeply rooted folkways of small southern towns, but it was the siren’s song of the small stage and the silver screen that called her west. In St. Louis, Knott served as a member in a local theatre guild, The Dramatic League. It was in this space—surrounded by vaudeville performers, snake handlers, comedians, and musicians—where Knott first found inspiration for what would later become the National Folk Festival (NFF).

Having received funding from the National Council for the Traditional Arts, the first festival was held in St. Louis in 1934 at a time when the country was still in the economic throes of the Great Depression. In her 1946 article titled “The National Folk Festival after Twelve Years,” Knott remembers that at the time of its inception, “folk beliefs, legends, superstitions, folk songs, music, and dances were considered ‘crude relics of an outlived past.’” Seeking to redefine what constituted “American” folklore, Knott used her critically creative eye to frame (and stage!) folklife traditions in a way that underscored their relevance to a contemporary audience in a contemporary space. After World War II, when the United States saw an influx in immigration numbers, Knott’s vision sought to include performances from “Scandinavians, Italians, Jews, Bulgarians, Chinese, Finns, Rumanians, Filipinos, Portuguese, Russians, Czechoslovakians, Poles, Spaniards, and Lithuanians.” While the idea of the United States as a melting pot may be idealized, Knott was determined to give equitable recognition to cultures and communities that were beginning to blossom, and flourish, during the early 20th century.

The new addition in the Department of Library Special Collections accentuates Knott’s expansive collection held in DLSC’s Folklife Archives is a “visually striking (and somewhat disconcerting) promotional window card for the third annual National Folk Festival.” The NFF, hosted in conjunction with the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936, was the final festival in a year-long string of celebratory events sponsored by the State Board of Education and Departments of Recreation in the Lone Star State. While Knott was primarily concerned with incorporating representatives of Texas’ diverse ethnic population into the program—such as the Kiowa and Tigua tribes and members of Mexican and Spanish communities—Anglo and African American performers dominated the stages.

As with most folkloristic programs related to performance and presentation, the NFF was not without its faults. Knott was often accused of allowing her own aesthetic and theatric interpretations to overshadow the artistic expressions of the tradition bearers, and sometimes these arrangements could lean toward stereotypical representations of ethnic identities. However, Knott’s commitment towards emphasizing the relevance and significance of folkways should not be overlooked. Knott concludes her article on a note of hope when she writes, “Our national culture is being woven from the warp and woof of the variegated color strains of many nations. No one would want to dull the richness of that pattern. How bleak indeed would be the cultural outlook for the future if we overlooked the distinctive, individual cultures in a universal, standardized, regimented culture!”

To visit the WKU Manuscripts and Folklife Archives website, click here!

Post written by WKU Folk Studies graduate student Delainey Bowers

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