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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Far Away Places presents Christine Ehrick and “Radio and the Gendered Soundscape: Women and Broadcasting in Argentina and Uruguay, 1930-1950”


Event flyer

The next Far Away Places speaker is Christine Ehrick, Associate Professor of History at the University Louisville, who will be talking about “Radio and the Gendered Soundscape: Women and Broadcasting in Argentina and Uruguay, 1930-1950”. Ehrick is a native of Grand Forks, North Dakota who attended college at University of California, San Diego before receiving her MA and PhD from UCLA.  She conducted extensive field work in Uruguay under an Institute for International Education Fulbright Fellowship.


Christine Ehrick, Associate Professor of History, University of Louisville

Her first book The Shield of the Weak: Feminism and the State in Uruguay, 1903-1933 published by the University of New Mexico Press in 2005 is a comparative study of feminist political organizations and their relationships to the emergence of Latin America’s first “welfare state.”

A reviewer for the American Historical Review called it “one of the first monographs to address comprehensively the many feminist tendencies at work at the turnoff the twentieth century, and to place the history of those movements into dialogue with broader arguments about state formation and civil society.”  She added that as Ehrick concludes “Uruguay created a European welfare state within the context of America’s frontier conditions of weak civil society, and feminist movements were critical to this process.”

ehrick_shield of the weak

The Shield of the Weak: Feminism and the State in Uruguay, 1903-1933 by Christine Ehrick

In her newest book Radio and the Gendered Soundscape: Women and Broadcasting in Argentina and Uruguay, 1930-1950, published by Cambridge University Press in 2015, she describes the history of women’s voices on the radio in two of South America’s most important early radio markets.  It’s a groundbreaking study in the historiography of Latin American radio and sheds light on neglected figures like Silvia Guerrico and Nené Cascallar while providing an innovative reconsideration of Eva Peron’s radio career.


Radio and the Gendered Soundscape: Women and Broadcasting in Argentina and Uruguay, 1930-1950 by Christine Ehrick

Her most recent research explores gender, class and voice in Argentine comedy and children’s radio in the US and Latin America. In addition to a Fulbright she’s been the recipient of numerous research grants and awards including a National Endowment for the Humanities summer stipend in 2007.   Her article, “To Serve the Nation: Domestic Servants, Social Assistance, and State Formation in Uruguay, 1910-1930” published in Social Science History was an Honorable Mention for the Conference on Latin American History’s 2006 Vanderwood Prize.

CX48 Radio Feminina

CX48 Radio Feminina, Montevideo, 1935. Mundo Uruguayo, December 12, 1935.

She’s taught at UCLA, the University of Northern Iowa and is presently an Associate Professor of History at the University of Louisville where she teaches classes on Modern Latin America, women’s and gender history, and the history of media and sound.  She’s also a research associate for the Library of Congress Radio Preservation Task Force.

Join us to hear Christine Ehrick talk about her book Radio and the Gendered Soundscape: Women and Broadcasting in Argentina and Uruguay, 1930-1950 on Thursday, October 20 at 7:00 p.m. at Barnes & Noble (1680 Campbell Lane). The event is free and open to the public and ‘swipeable’ for WKU students, with door prizes to follow!

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Driscoll wins the 10th annual Evelyn Thurman Young Readers Book Award



Western Kentucky University Libraries has selected Duncan the Story Dragon, written and illustrated by Amanda Driscoll, as the winner of the tenth Evelyn Thurman Young Readers Book Award. The national award was created to honor the memory of former WKU librarian Evelyn Thurman, who made significant contributions to children’s librarianship and literacy during her 25 years of service to the university and community. Books eligible for the award must be written or illustrated by a Kentucky author or illustrator or have a significant Kentucky-related connection.

This year’s winning book is a children’s illustrated book. Duncan, the main character, is a charming fire-breathing dragon who loves to read. According to Driscoll’s website, his imagination catches fire, but so does his book.Driscoll, Amanda

Kirkus Reviews said “vivid colors, expressive faces, and comic details make this one likely to be a storytime hit. Like the last sip of a chocolate milkshake, it’s very satisfying.”

“Readers will enjoy the sweet story and whimsical illustrations as Duncan the Story Dragon finally figures out the ending to his story,” said Renee Hale, selection committee member and school media librarian at Drakes Creek Middle School.

Amanda Driscoll was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. She worked as a graphic designer in the corporate marketing departments of Humana and Providian, and directed art at a Louisville ad agency. She has been with her own company, Driscoll Creative, since 1997. After having children, Driscoll rediscovered her love of picture books, finding her true passion. Duncan the Story Dragon was her debut picture book, released in June 2015.

The author will be honored at an awards luncheon in November. While in the area, Driscoll will visit local schools, reinforcing the importance of reading, writing and the value of books. Visit for more information about the award.

This program is made possible by the Evelyn Thurman Children’s Author Fund, the Southern Kentucky Book Fest partnership, and Friends of WKU Libraries. For more information, contact Sara Volpi, literary outreach coordinator for WKU Libraries, or 270-745-4502.

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Kentucky Live! presents Sean Kinder and his new book “Una Merkel: The Actress with Sassy Wit and Southern Charm”


Flyer for Sean Kinder’s “Una Merkel: The Actress with Sassy Wit and Southern Charm”

Our next Kentucky Live! speaker is Sean Kinder, Associate Professor from the Department of Library Public Services at WKU Libraries. A native of West Virginia, he has been a member of the WKU Libraries faculty since 2001, serving as the Humanities and Social Science Librarian. Kinder began his project on the actress Una Merkel in 2006 and  a research grant enabled him to access rare archival material in California and interview both screen actors and people behind the scenes who were associated with Merkel. This work culminated into his first book, Una Merkel: The Actress with Sassy Wit and Southern Charm, which was published in January, 2016 by BearManor Media and is the first full-length biography of the actress.

Sean Kinder

Sean Kinder, Assoc. Prof., DLPS, WKU Libraries

Born December 10, 1903, in Covington, Kentucky, Una Merkel began acting at an early age, travelling extensively throughout her childhood. By the age of 20, Merkel was appearing in film, vaudeville productions and Broadway before finally heading to Hollywood to work for the famous director and fellow Kentuckian, D. W. Griffith in his first all-sound film, Abraham Lincoln. She became a familiar face on the silver screen throughout the 1930s – playing in 13 films in 1933 alone! Though she mostly played character roles such as “harebrained ingenues, wisecracking best friends, feisty pioneer women, or cantankerous matrons,” her quirky characterizations, Southern accent, and comic delivery made Merkel loved by critics and audiences. Despite her success as an actress, readers will see that her life was also marked with considerable tragedy as well.

Merkel & Summerville in <i>Her First Mate</i>

Una clowning around with Slim Summerville in Her First Mate. (Universal, 1933).

Merkel’s career spanned dozens of films and lasted for over forty years. Colleagues remembered her for her professionalism and work ethic and though she earned a Tony award, an Oscar nomination, and even a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she remained “unpretentious and down to earth” and was a “self-professed wallflower”. Though she lived in California for most of her life, she remained fond of Kentucky and ultimately was buried in Fort Mitchell, KY, upon her death on January 2, 1986.

Merkel in <i>Saratoga</i>

Una in a fashion shoot around the time she made Saratoga (MGM, 1937)

Merkel Photo (MGM)

“A portrait that captures Una’s winning personality – warm, engaging, and personable. (MGM)

Come hear Sean Kinder talk about the biography of “Una Merkel: The Actress with Sassy Wit and Southern Charm” on Thursday, October 13 at 7:00 p.m. at Barnes & Noble (1680 Campbell Lane). The event is free and open to the public, and ‘swipeable’ for WKU students. There will be door prizes and a book signing to follow; we hope you’ll join us!

book cover

Una Merkel: The Actress with Sassy Wit and Southern Charm A Biography by Larry Sean Kinder, WKU

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Hispanic Heritage

La Chiquita, Frankfort KY

La Chiquita, Frankfort KY

For this National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), here are a few collections in the Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Created primarily by students, they use interviews, photos, audio and video to document the customs and folkways of Kentucky’s Hispanic communities.

A 2005 folklife project profiled a Hispanic restaurant and grocery store in Frankfort, Kentucky, called La Chiquita.  Both video and photos show a business alive with food, merchandise, music and unique decor.

In 2011, students in WKU’s Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology began an oral history and folklife survey of Allen County, Kentucky.  Their work included an interview with resident John Hernandez about growing up in the county, speaking “Spanglish,” Hispanic foodways, and traditional 15th birthday celebrations known as “Quinceaneras.”

John Hernandez

John Hernandez

At the 2004 Shelbyville, Kentucky Heritage Festival, folklorists captured audio and video of the community’s increasingly diverse population, including its lively Hispanic-Latino culture.

And in 2007, student Linda Perez researched ghost stories and beliefs of the Hispanic community.  Her informants, natives of Mexico and Guatemala, told her stories of the supernatural, including “La Llorona,” an eerily wailing, shape-shifting female spirit whose presence is often invoked to get a child to behave.  Perez’s own husband described a “real life” ghost encounter when, at 8 years old, he came too close to a spirit masquerading as his father in the family’s cornfield, and required a folk healing ritual to recover from the ghost’s attempt to steal his soul.

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  For more studies of Kentucky folklife, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Josiah, the Jonah of Travelers

Josiah William Ware

Josiah William Ware

A prosperous livestock breeder before the Civil War, Josiah William Ware (1802-1883) rubbed elbows with prominent political figures at his farm, Springfield Plantation, in Clark County, Virginia.  But not even the perks of money and class could protect Ware from the vicissitudes of travel in early 19th-century America.  Our modern highway traffic, cancelled flights and long airport security lines look rather pale in comparison to Ware’s experience of a journey home in 1837.

Embarking on the Ohio River from Maysville, Kentucky, as he reported in a letter to his cousin, Ware boarded a steamboat. . . which promptly broke its shaft.  “We then got on another,” he continued, “which broke some part of her every morning making about 15 miles every night laying by in the day to repair & travelling at night.”  As they struggled up the ice-laden river, “we burst some part of our machinery knocked off both chimneys, were on fire 3 times or 4 and was nearly capsized.”  Ware and his fellow passengers were “at last compelled to foot it” at Wheeling, where they crossed over to Virginia (now West Virginia) in canoes.  From there, both the number (and mood, no doubt) of the “crowd of passengers” made it “quite difficult to be entertained” as they found lodging scarce or nonexistent during the final leg of their nightmarish journey.

Ultimately, Ware took everything in stride.  Calling himself “the Jonah of the travellers” (and perhaps thankful that no whales inhabited the Ohio River), he advised his cousin that if he was contemplating a journey, “never to associate yourself with so unfortunate a traveller as myself.  You never will have good luck if you do.”

A finding aid and typescript of Ware’s letter can be accessed here.  For more collections on travel in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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The Fog of Civil War Kentucky

Civil War flagsIn a letter recently added to the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections, a Confederate cavalryman tells his father of the ambiguities of war that confronted his Tennessee regiment after it occupied Brownsville, Kentucky.

First to be deciphered were the loyalties of the local citizenry: “strongly Union & Lincoln,” wrote the Rebel, and some “few southern men.”  But he detected “a difference between a Kentucky Union man & a Lincoln or an abolitionist.”  The principles of the latter made him more willing to fight, while the former, if forced to shed his neutrality, would cast his lot with the South.

Next was the level of the threat facing the Confederates, camped on a hill overlooking the town.  Someone had taken a shot at one of them while he was watering his horse at the Green River, prompting him to empty his pistol and raise the alarm. His comrades saddled and assembled in minutes to meet any attack with “a true Southern reception,” but both sides appeared to avoid any escalation.

Then came the question of how the occupiers should assert their authority, and here our correspondent had great praise for the diplomatic skill of his captain, John Bell Hamilton, a Tennessee lawyer and Methodist clergyman.  The “old United States flag was waving here when we came,” he wrote, but Captain Hamilton “gave the citizens a chance to take it down and they did so.”  There was, however, “no shouting, when it fell, for the Capt had injoined upon us not to, thinking it the best policy.”  And likewise, “no demonstration” had accompanied the raising of the Confederate flag in camp.  This “cautious & prudent” commander, wrote his subordinate with evident relief, was “making friends, certainly no enemies.”

A finding aid and typescript of this Confederate soldier’s letter can be accessed here.  For more Civil War collections, browse here or search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Tiny Treasures Miniature Books


According to Joe Shankweiler, library assistant professor and curator of the exhibition, miniature books are defined as books less than three to four inches in height.  “WKU Libraries has acquired several dozen miniature and pocket-size books over the decades,” said Shankweiler. “This is a great opportunity for scholars and the public to view a collection of very unique books dating back to the 1600s.”

The exhibition has been open to the public since June; however, the opening reception is intended to capture students and the community with the academic semester now is session. Tiny Treasures will be on display now until December 8, 2016.

The opening reception is free and open to the public. For more information about the reception and the exhibition, contact Joseph Shankweiler at 270-745-6303.

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Far Away Places presents Clinton Lewis’ “Exploring New Zealand”

Exploring New Zealand (6)
The 2016-2017 season of WKU Libraries’ “Far Away Places” talk series kicked off with Clinton Lewis, WKU’s University Photographer, who spoke about “Exploring New Zealand” at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Bowling Green, KY on the evening of September 15, 2016.

Photo Album | Sound File | Podcast RSS

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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.



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.

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