Tag Archives: Shakers

“A Memorable Day for Oakland”

Prof. Langley and the Shakers report on the eclipse, 1869

Prof. Langley and the Shakers report on the eclipse, 1869

As we all know, a total eclipse of the sun will pass over southcentral Kentucky in the early afternoon of August 21, 2017.  The last time such an event occurred in this area was August 7, 1869, and the tiny Warren County community of Oakland was expected to provide a prime viewing spot.

Four days before the eclipse, Professor Samuel Pierpont Langley, an eminent astronomer and later Secretary of the Smithsonian, arrived by train with a colleague to set up his observation post at Oakland.  Finding only a few houses in the vicinity of the station, he moved two small sheds to a field near the tracks and procured a telegraph connection.  He set up his telescope and other instruments, conducted some practice sessions, and prepared for the big event.

But Langley’s splendid scholarly isolation was not to last.  “On the afternoon of the 7th,” he reported, his station was overwhelmed by “all the inhabitants of the adjoining country, white and black, who crowded around the sheds, interrupted the view, and proved a great annoyance.”  As if that wasn’t enough, just as the eclipse neared its total phase, a special train pulled in carrying onlookers from Bowling Green and–of course!–a brass band.

Langley soldiered on with his work.  He calculated the duration of totality, when the moon completely obscured the sun, as lasting only a second or two, far less than the 30 seconds he expected.  Nevertheless, he was able to see the sun’s corona “visible through the darkening glass as a halo close to the sun, whence radiated a number of brushes of pale light.”  He felt particularly fortunate to get a 15-second view of “Baily’s Beads,” the effect produced when the disappearing sun backlighted the moon’s uneven surface–“like sparks,” he reported, “upon the edge of a piece of rough paper.”

In Bowling Green, druggist John E. Younglove noted the eclipse in his meteorological journal.  Though brief, the totality was sufficient to “observe the Corona with its variegated Colors.”  The eclipse also merited an entry in the daily journal of the Shaker colony at South Union–“nearly total here.”  Writing a history of Oakland in 1941, Jennie Bryant Cole conceded that the astronomers’ better position “should have been about one mile farther up the railroad”; nevertheless, when the “country people came in” and the crowd and brass band arrived, and when the stars suddenly came out in the afternoon and the chickens went home to roost, it was a “memorable day for Oakland.”

Click on the links to access finding aids for collections in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections relating to the eclipse of 1869.  For more firsthand accounts of eclipses, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Comments Off on “A Memorable Day for Oakland”

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Shaker Collections in Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

When the United Believers in the Second Coming of Christ established a religious colony at South Union in Logan County, Kentucky in 1807, they were fulfilling the missionary vision of Ann Lee (1736-1784), a British-born immigrant to New England and the founder of their faith.  “Mother Ann” had infused singing and dancing into worship services to such a degree that onlookers described an early meeting as full of “shaking, trembling, speaking in unknown tongues, prophesying and singing melodious songs.”  Thus was born the popular name for her followers, the Shakers.

Shakers dancing during worship

Shakers dancing during worship

The South Union Shakers were objects of curiosity for their practice of pacifism and celibacy, but by the time the colony dissolved in 1922, they had left a rich heritage of music, craftsmanship, and innovation in industry and agriculture.  Known especially for their packaged garden seeds and preserves, the Shakers also operated mills, sold livestock and poultry, and offered public meetings in addition to their private religious services.

The Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections is the premier destination for anyone interested in the history of the South Union Shakers.  Researchers can now browse a list of our principal Shaker collections, which focus on South Union but include materials relating to other Shaker colonies, by clicking here.  The collections include Shaker journals of daily activities, records of Shaker businesses, hymnals, memoirs, photographs, and the papers of leading Shaker scholar and WKU faculty member Julia Neal.  A fascinating Civil War resource is the diary of eldress Nancy Moore, which chronicles the hardships of the Shakers as both Confederate and Union troops descended upon them demanding food, provisions and horses.  Each listed collection includes a link to TopSCHOLAR, WKU’s digital repository, where a detailed finding aid is available for download.  For even more Shaker materials, search KenCat, the Kentucky Library Research Collections catalog.

Shaker colony at South Union

Comments Off on Shaker Collections in Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Dog Days

Bertha Lindsay and Penny

Bertha Lindsay and Penny

With National Dog Day (Aug. 26) recently past, here are a few items in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections that feature appearances by man’s (and woman’s) best friend.

Bertha Lindsay (1897-1990), an eldress of the Canterbury, New Hampshire Shaker colony and a friend of WKU Shaker scholar Julia Neal, had a silhouette made with her golden retriever, Penny.  Bertha played Frisbee with Penny until she (Bertha, that is) was well into her 80s.

Jiggs

Jiggs

While on vacation in 1945, WKU librarian Margie Helm received a long report (no doubt at her insistence) from her dogsitter in Bowling Green.  “Now Jiggs is fine,” she assured Margie.  Despite a bout with fleas, and once scampering to the door when he thought he heard Margie’s car horn, the little fox terrier was content with his temporary family, sharing their meals of corn bread, muffins, baloney and chicken, and displaying some jealousy when the household’s children got a greater share of attention.

In letters from Alaska, gold prospector Abram H. Bowman of Louisville took a more utilitarian view of his dogs.  “Anyone coming into this country should bring lots of dogs as you can always sell them for a good price,” he wrote his uncle in 1898.  “You have no idea what a tremendous load these little dogs can pull,” he added.  “But they are like lots of people.  When you want to hitch them up you better not have the harness in your hand or you will never catch them.”

And for WKU art professor Ivan Wilson, dogs were both helpmates and beloved members of the family.  Enduring a long hospitalization in 1927, he dreamed of roaming over the countryside with his colleague, English professor John Clagett, and their favorite hunting dog, “Boy.”  Wilson’s papers also include a eulogy for his Irish setter “Rufus the Red,” better known as “Poody.”  Warning: readers should have a hankie ready when they peruse this tender tribute.

Ivan Wilson, John Clagett, and "Boy"

Ivan Wilson, John Clagett, and “Boy”

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  For more on dogs and other pets, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Comments Off on Dog Days

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Rare Shaker Timeline/Chart

A recent purchase by the Department of Library Special Collections bolsters the significant Shaker holdings in Kentucky Library Research Collections. This two-piece timeline map/chart is titled, “Genealogical Chronological and Geographical Chart Embracing Biblical and Profane History of Ancient Times from Adam to Christ.” The map was produced by Jacob Skeen of Louisville, Kentucky in February 1887 as an educational tool to reinforce the traditional Christian validity of Shaker communities and to arrest the decline of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing or as they were more commonly known, the Shakers. Elder Alonzo Hollister of the Mount Lebanon, New York community wished to show that Shaker orthodoxy had continuity with scripture and the traditional church. It was also a grasping attempt to reconcile their beliefs with a fast changing, progressive worldview. Copyrighted 1887, the detailed chart with many sub-charts purports to show locations and relationships of humanity, the Church and the Devil. W.F. Pennebaker of the community at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky also participated in the publication of this lithograph. David Rumsey, a world renowned map collector and the founder of the David Rumsey Map Collection notes that “although researched, designed, drawn, and copyrighted by Jacob Skeen, a Presbyterian, the chart is strongly associated with the Shaker Church. Skeen spent 10 years developing it and it was to be used in the biblical instruction of children and adults alike.” Some 204 charts were produced, the KLRC is one of only a few holding libraries in the world. The Manuscripts and Folklife Archives has more extensive documentation of the South Union Shakers’ 115 years of existence than any other repository with many Journals, diaries, account books, hymnals, and business records chronicle the activities of the religious community of Shakers, who gathered at South Union in Logan County, Kentucky, in 1807 and disbanded in 1922.
Call the Reference Assistance desk at 270-745-5083 or search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat<BRM2482-Skeen-Geographical-Chart-1887_lowres-3000x1921

Comments Off on Rare Shaker Timeline/Chart

Filed under Latest News, Uncategorized

A Shaker Woodstock?

Shakers dancing; book title pageIn an April, 1848 letter to his nephew Robert in Marshall, Illinois, Woodford Dulaney discussed the family fortunes, both economic and personal.  Writing from Cloud Spring Farm in Warren County, Kentucky, Dulaney had advice for Robert, who was overseeing some business interests in Illinois.  He gave him instructions regarding the renewal of a store lease to one Greenough (“do so in black and white and bind him up close and have an eye to his neglect . . . for certainly he does not take any care of the property”).  He also sympathized with Robert’s travails over the settlement of an estate (“I am in hopes if you have to resort to the law, you may have justice”).  Dulaney reported that family health was mixed: “Your Aunt Nelly can’t stand it much longer has a very bad cold & cough,” but Robert’s 3-year-old cousin and namesake, Robert Fenton Dulaney, was “a bouncing boy & is cock of the walk.”  Dulaney then cast an analytical eye on the local economy: “The merchants in Bowling Green are bringing on very heavy stocks of goods & selling them very low.”  This was too tempting for the farmers, he worried, “for when goods are low they buy extravagantly.”

But Dulaney also had religious news, in particular of some recent activity in the local Shaker community.  The 1840s was a decade of national revival, and in Shakerism it manifested itself in the dedication of a plot of ground where members assembled in the spring and fall, according to historian Julia Neal, to “commune with the voice and receive the great outpouring of the spiritual.”  From what Dulaney had heard, however, this gathering promised to be unusual both in its size and public nature: a veritable 19th-century Woodstock, with the Shakers’ unique demonstration of devotion, their rhythmic marching and ecstatic dancing, much in evidence.  “[T]he Shakers have commenced worship again they jump higher & quicker than ever,” Dulaney told Robert, “and on Monday the 1st day [of] May they are going to worship out in a grove”–a 10-acre tract, no less, which they had cleared in order to give themselves “a far sweep.”  Likening the worshipers to frolicking creatures of the field, Dulaney declared “I intend to go and see them cut capers.”

Woodford Dulaney’s letter is only one of many sources on the Kentucky Shakers in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives holdings of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more collections about the Shakers and other religious faiths, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Comments Off on A Shaker Woodstock?

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Material from Manuscripts & Folklife Archives Used in Publication

Song from Betsy Smith's Shaker hymnal (MSS 143, Box 1, Folder 3)

Song from Betsy Smith’s Shaker hymnal (MSS 143, Box 1, Folder 3)

Recently Carol Medlicott, professor of cultural and historical geography at Northern Kentucky University, published an article about music in the western Shaker communities titled “Let’s mingle our feelings”: Gender and Collectivity in the Music of the Shaker West” in Common-Place, vol. 13, no. 3 (Winter 2013).  In the article she features photographs of manuscript music from several Shaker hymnals housed in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives unit of the Special Collections Library.  Her article is partially the result of research performed at the Special Collections Library as a Research Fellow several years ago.  Medlicott’s journal article is available online by clicking here.

 Over the past eight decades, the Special Collections Library has become one of the premier research libraries for researching the Shakers or the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing.  One reason for this niche collecting area is the library’s proximity to the Shaker village at South Union and the location of another Shaker village in the Commonwealth at Pleasant Hill.  Many printed and manuscript items about Shakers, and particularly South Union, are found in the Special Collections Library.  Examples of Shaker furniture, textiles, and other artifacts are housed in the Kentucky Museum.  Another reason for this outstanding collection was the tireless efforts of former Kentucky Libray & Museum director and Shaker expert, Mary Julia Neal, to add relevant Shaker and other utopian studies materials to the library.  To see the finding aid of Miss Neal’s own manuscript collection, click here.

To locate finding aids for other Shaker research collections in Manuscripts & Folklife Archives search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Comments Off on Material from Manuscripts & Folklife Archives Used in Publication

Filed under General