Category Archives: Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Jackpot!

Lottery ticket for John Grimes's property

Lottery ticket for John Grimes’s property

Until 1816, when legislative authorization was required, anyone in Kentucky could conduct a lottery to raise money for public improvements such as a church, school, road or bridge, or just to fund some private scheme: only a year earlier, John A. Grimes of Madison County had parted with his property by holding a lottery and charging $20 per ticket.

Even with the introduction of legislative oversight, the history of lotteries is rife with tales of fraud and corruption.  Former WKU librarian Mary Leiper Moore researched the story of James R. Golladay of Bowling Green, who ran a number of high-rolling lotteries in the 1870s; prizes included $10,000 in cash, a brewery, houses and lots in Louisville and Bowling Green, and various smaller awards of cash, horses, and carriages.  Golladay’s empire collapsed in controversy, however, after the winner of a “handsome residence” in Bowling Green turned out to be. . . his own wife.

The "Great Land Sale" lottery ticket

The “Great Land Sale” lottery ticket

The Manuscripts and Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections include other materials relating to this strike-it-rich pastime.  There’s a ticket for the “Great Land Sale” in Henderson County, held in 1870, where four substantial prizes of good “river bottom land” and cash were awarded.  There’s the scrapbook of Captain Richard Vance, a devotee of the Louisiana State lottery who apparently never threw away his tickets.  And there’s Kentucky’s first state lottery ticket, issued in commemorative form in 1989.

Richard Vance's Louisiana lottery tickets

Richard Vance’s Louisiana lottery tickets

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

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“They either get well or die”

Philadelphia's Liberty Loan parade on Sept. 28, 1918 triggered one of the worst outbreaks of flu in the country.

Philadelphia’s Liberty Loan parade on Sept. 28, 1918 triggered one of the worst outbreaks of flu in the country.

Besides the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, 2018 marks the centennial of one of the deadliest scourges in history, the 1918 influenza pandemic.  Striking in three waves, the outbreak finally subsided in summer 1919, leaving tens of millions dead worldwide and about 675,000 in the United States.

Lacking the means to diagnose flu viruses or any drugs to combat them, the medical community was overwhelmed.  But the scale of the pandemic seemed to do little to dampen the enthusiasm of George Hays, then working for the U.S. Public Health Service.  Writing in February 1919 to his stepmother Georgia (Carley) Hays, a native of Scott County, Kentucky, George gave her an account of his experiences among the sick at Philadelphia General Hospital that was both upbeat and curiously matter-of-fact.

Cash-poor and in debt to his stepmother, George had at first contemplated a two-week paid stint in New York “to help inoculate the Police force with a new pneumonia serum.”  The assignment in Philadelphia, however, with medical tutelage under two renowned instructors, looked to be more beneficial in the long run.  “We have been given a new ward of Men’s Medical and all of Women’s Influenza,” he wrote.  He felt lucky, for with this newly opened ward came fresh new patients, instead of “a number of old bed-ridden uninteresting patients who have been here for years.”  The women’s influenza ward, he observed clinically, “is a good thing also because all cases are new and they either get well or die and leave room for new ones quickly.”  Finally, there was the challenge of weeding out cases “sent to Flu because they give a history of symptoms similar to Flu, when in reality they are not Flu at all.”  And so, decided Hays, here lay a great opportunity to hobnob with some “really big men of the surgical and medical world,” see the sights of Philadelphia, and forget about his own bout with the flu, which had left his heart struggling under “terrific prostrating toxemia.”

George Hays’s letter is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For other collections about the influenza pandemic, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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The Captain’s Husband

"She says I must write": Josiah Dunham's letter

“She says I must write”: Josiah Dunham’s letter

Josiah Dunham (1769-1844) came to Kentucky from Vermont, where he had enjoyed a distinguished career as a Federalist newspaper publisher, Secretary of State, and colonel in the Vermont militia during the War of 1812.  In Lexington, he founded the Lexington Female Academy, soon renamed the Lafayette Female Academy in honor of the great Frenchman’s visit during his tour of the United States in 1825.

Left behind in Vermont were Dunham’s sister-in-law Eleutheria (“Thery”) and her husband Daniel Chipman, an equally prominent lawyer, teacher and Federalist member of Congress.  In a lengthy letter, written on Christmas Day 1842 and now part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections, Dunham brought the Chipmans up to date on his domestic life and preoccupations.

Despite his accomplishments, Dunham recognized who ruled the roost at home.  His letter, in fact, was written at his wife Susan’s bidding: “she is still ‘the Captain’ at our house,” he observed with affection, and “I have nothing to do but obey orders.”  Now in their seventies, Dunham and his wife were “getting too rapidly on in the down hill of life,” but Susan’s energy far exceeded his as she ably commanded a household of 15 or 20, including servants and a loyal teacher (“adjutant”) from their academy days.  Servants, however, cost “a heap,” as the family made use of enslaved Africans hired out by their owners: a man and four women, Dunham reported, were priced at $340 a year plus food, clothing, medical bills, and city and state tax levies.

Noting his brother-in-law’s reentry into Vermont politics via the latest state constitutional convention, Dunham also commented on the great Kentucky statesman, Henry Clay.  On his way south, apparently to attend the wedding of his daughter Anne’s widower James Erwin, Clay had been greeted everywhere with bipartisan admiration for “his talents and his virtues.”  But would Clay, soon to make his third try for the presidency, be able to translate that enthusiasm into votes?  That, Dunham (rightly) concluded, “will probably be another affair.”

A finding aid for Josiah Dunham’s letter is available here.  For more of our political collections, search TopScholar and KenCat.

Josiah Dunham's signature

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A Connecticut Yankee in Kentucky

"I am still in the land of Old Kentuck": Noah Pond from Trigg County, 1836

“I am still in the land of Old Kentuck”: Noah Pond from Trigg County, 1836

“The folks here are very different from what they are in Connecticut.”  It was 1836, and the economy in his home town of Washington, Connecticut had impelled Noah Pond to sign on for a 22-month stint as an itinerant seller (read: peddler) in Kentucky, based in the Trigg County community of New Design.  His letters home offer us a fascinating picture of this frontier community as seen through the eyes of a curious but homesick Yankee.

In Trigg County, Pond found immigrants from Pennsylvania, Virginia and the Carolinas, as well as Dutch, Scots-Irish, English and “now and then a Spaniard.”  He also found a county of slaveholders, and noted with interest the habits of the 16 enslaved Africans who labored on the farm where he boarded.  Witnessing their informal marriage customs, their Christmas and Easter holidays, and the latitude given them to farm small plots of their own, Pond indulged the conceit that they were “better off than the poorer class of people in the east.”

Generally impressed by local farming practices and prices, Pond saw the chance for an enterprising settler to make good.  For the most part, however, he couldn’t shake the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land.  He had to turn on the charm to get a Yankee-hating old Dutchman and his wife to buy some of his goods, and was outraged at the costs, both in travel and treatment, of a doctor’s care when he fell ill.  He found teachers and preachers in short supply— “I can preach better myself than the Priests can,” he wrote, “for they are nothing but Farmers”—but perhaps Pond’s biggest complaint was the fickle Kentucky climate.  “The weather is so changeable here,” he wailed, “that it will freeze a man to death one minute and roast him the next go to bed at night half froze and before morning you will be hot enough to roast eggs.”  He concluded that one needed a “constitution like a Horse to stand it.”

Noah Pond’s letters are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more collections on frontier life in Kentucky, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Notice to Vacate

Another dissatisfied customer? Carlton Jackson's passport photo

Another dissatisfied customer? Carlton Jackson’s passport photo

As students descend on WKU and set up housekeeping in residence halls and apartments, let’s hope that none has the experience of a former faculty member during one of his many overseas adventures as a visiting professor.

Carlton Jackson (1933-2014) taught history at WKU for more than four decades.  An enthusiastic traveler, Jackson accepted several Fulbright professorships and visiting lectureships in countries such as Finland, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.  In the fall of 1978, he and his family headed for Shiraz, Iran, where Jackson was to serve in an endowed professorship at Pahlavi University (now Shiraz University).

Jackson leased a house in September, but only a month later was preparing to vacate.  “The electric supply in the house is faulty,” he complained to the University’s representative, “and extremely dangerous. . . . The wires are exposed, and would electrocute anyone who touched them.  One of the plugs has a piece of newspaper stuffed into it, creating a real danger of fire.”  As if that wasn’t enough, the house’s proximity to a nearby farm field attracted “huge amounts of mosquitoes, flies, and other biting and possibly disease spreading insects.”  And then there was the rodent population.  The house “is full of rats and mice,” complained Jackson.  “Each night, several of them come through the bedrooms and get on the curtains and Venetian blinds.”

And finally, there was the danger that this whole house of horrors might explode: there was “a serious leakage of gas in the front yard” that was seeping into the family’s bedrooms at night.  Jackson was unimpressed with the representative’s assurance that “It’s been there for two years, and goes up in the air.”  With a friend’s help, Jackson had contacted the gas company, and while the problem was quickly fixed he had become convinced that the landlord had no intention of making the house habitable.

Ultimately, however, it was the Iranian Revolution that cut short Jackson’s time at the University and sent him home, one hopes, to better housing.  “I only taught two hours at this position,” he would later write ruefully in his vita.  “I had to leave early for reasons that are well known.”

Carlton Jackson’s papers are held in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  A finding aid is available here.

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Nixon and Cox

President Nixon and William H. Natcher

President Nixon and William H. Natcher

When, on October 21, 1973, President Richard M. Nixon ordered the firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox and triggered the resignations of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General in protest, the upheaval became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.”  Charles Lowther, then a history student at WKU, wrote to several members of the U.S. Congress expressing his outrage at Nixon’s action.  The replies he received reflected a common fear that the country was in the midst of a deep political crisis.

“Removal of Mr. Cox was a serious mistake,” replied Kentucky Congressman William Natcher (D), aware that House Speaker Carl Albert had directed the House Judiciary Committee to assess whether there were grounds to impeach Nixon.  Kentucky Senator Walter “Dee” Huddleston (D), shared Lowther’s concern but, like Congressman Frank Stubblefield, assured him that Congress would maintain its investigations “to insure that we continue to have a government by law, and not by men.”  Kentucky Senator Marlow Cook (R) advised that he had co-sponsored a bill to allow the removal of a special prosecutor only on authorization of Congress, but pledged to retain his objectivity in the event he was called upon to “sit as a juror in an impeachment trial.”  Edmund Muskie (D) of Maine acknowledged Lowther’s letter as one of thousands he had received “urging Congress to act to reestablish the principle that no office in our government—and no office holder—is above the law.”

And finally, North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin (D), chairman of the Senate committee investigating the activities of Nixon’s reelection campaign, sought to refute any accusation of political bias by pointing out that his committee had been constituted by unanimous vote of the Senate.  Evidence uncovered so far, he suggested in language betraying both anger and sadness, “tends to show that men, upon whom fortune had smiled benevolently and who possessed great political power and great governmental power, undertook to nullify the laws of man and the laws of God for the purpose of gaining what history will call a very temporary political advantage.”

These letters to Charles Lowther are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more political collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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A Slice of Summer

Virgie Talbert's watermelon party invitation

Virgie Talbert’s watermelon party invitation

On this August 3, National Watermelon Day, we wonder what Kentucky summers would be without this delectable treat, or the role that it has historically played in socializing and courtship.  We’re sure that in 1899, Virgie Talbert of Nicholasville didn’t pass up John Chambers’s invitation to a watermelon party in Wilmore, Kentucky.  Nor did 20-year-old Josephine Walker decline her share of sweet slices at the 1884 Adair County Fair.  Sometime in the 1890s, Lucye Wolcott of Muhlenberg County teased her young suitor about a competitor’s bid for her company.  “Mr. Morgan invited us over to share his lovely melon,” she coyly reported, and “naturally we did not decline.”

In 1863, 11-year-old Elizabeth Gaines moved with her family from Bowling Green to a farm near Hadley, Kentucky.  After getting used to her new rural surroundings, she grew to enjoy fishing, hunting for wild nuts and grapes, and horseback riding.  One day, she and her friend Mary rode by the farm of George Washington Cherry, the father of WKU’s first president, Henry Hardin Cherry, where they spied a large watermelon patch.  Mary decided she wanted one, and sent Elizabeth over the fence to retrieve it.  When she returned, the two girls “burst it open” and devoured it.  At first, Mary teased Elizabeth into believing that the elder Cherry would find out and complain about his purloined melon, but later assured her worried friend that he would not take offense at their impromptu feast.

Click on the links for finding aids to these collections that feature watermelons, part of the Manuscript & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  For more, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Patty Hill and Her Happy Song

Patty and Mildred Hill

Patty and Mildred Hill

They wanted to create a song that was easy for young children to sing, so in 1892 Mildred Hill, a Louisville, Kentucky music teacher, wrote the tune, and her sister Patty Smith Hill, a pathbreaking kindergarten educator, wrote the lyrics.  Good morning, dear children, good morning to you, it began, with the children’s reply, Good morning, dear teacher, good morning to you.  But another sister, Jessica, adapted the song for a birthday, and the iconic “Happy Birthday to You” was born.

The story of “Happy Birthday” is known to some because of the song’s curiously long-lived copyright (it didn’t officially enter the public domain until 2016).  But in 1982, Hopkinsville, Kentucky teacher Marion Lee Adams delved deeper into the lives of the Hill sisters and their composition when she wrote an article, “Patty Hill and Her Happy Song,” for her professional society, Delta Kappa Gamma.  Further articles followed, as well as research on the Hill family and correspondence with Mildred and Patty’s nephew Archibald Hill, the sole surviving beneficiary of “Happy Birthday’s” sentimental and commercial popularity.  Archibald credited Mary, the first Hill sister to begin teaching, with the understanding that songs were a valuable part of a child’s education.  And Mildred, who gave private music lessons at home because of poor health, must have realized that her new tune had to accommodate the limited octave range of a child.

During its term of copyright, public performances of “Happy Birthday,” of course, earned generous royalties.  For example, Adams wrote, the long-running Broadway play “The Gin Game” generated $25 every time the strains of “Happy Birthday to You” played in the background of this tragi-comedy.

Marion Lee Adams’s collected research and correspondence about “Happy Birthday to You” is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more about Kentucky’s musical heritage, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Two Authors

When, in 1953, she decided to do her doctoral dissertation on Kentucky author Jesse Stuart, West Virginia native Mary (Washington) Clarke could have asked for no better cheerleader than Stuart himself.  “You are the first ever to select my work for a dissertation and you will get the fullest cooperation I can give you,” wrote Stuart, the “voice of the Kentucky hill country,” whose prolific output of novels, short stories, poems and non-fiction would make him one of the 20th century’s best known regional writers.

Clarke’s dissertation, which she adapted into a 1968 book, Jesse Stuart’s Kentucky, marked the beginning of a friendship with Stuart that lasted until his death in 1984.  By the time the book was completed, Clarke and her husband Ken had joined the faculty of WKU, where they would become recognized authorities on Kentucky folklore.  Stuart celebrated with Clarke when Jesse Stuart’s Kentucky was published and joined her at book-signing events.  His letters to Clarke kept her abreast of his writing projects and speaking engagements and gave her support and encouragement in her other scholarly endeavors.  He commiserated with Clarke on accommodating the demands of publishers and picky manuscript readers, and was curious about the jealousies and anti-academic prejudice that sometimes dogged a successful scholarly author.  His support continued during Clarke’s work on Jesse Stuart: Essays on His Work, a 5-year-long effort that saw Clarke and her co-editor coaxing contributions from busy academics and critics, then crafting the results into a volume worthy of publication.

Jesse Stuart and Mary Washington Clarke at a book signing, Greenup, Ky., 1968

Jesse Stuart and Mary Washington Clarke at a book signing, Greenup, Ky., 1968

Mary (Washington) Clarke’s papers, which include her correspondence with Jesse Stuart and other materials on her scholarly work, are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more on Mary, her husband Kenneth, and Jesse Stuart, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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“The End Approacheth”

Portion of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

Portion of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

The sun rose on Independence Day, 1863, to find the Confederate States of America reeling from two disastrous engagements at Vicksburg, Mississippi and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

From Pennsylvania, Charles Pennypacker wrote to his cousin Ellen Fort in Todd County, Kentucky, that his fellow citizens had “rallied as one man” to defend the state against General Robert E. Lee’s invading Confederate army.  July 1, the first day of battle at Gettysburg, “was but a repetition of ‘Shiloh,’” and on the next day Lee “hurled columns after columns of troops upon our lines.”  But on July 3, Charles reported proudly, “their whole army was in full retreat” toward Richmond and “we begin to see that ‘the end approacheth.’”

Like many tide-turning battles, Gettysburg left military historians asking “what if?”  In particular, how much blame did Lieutenant General James Longstreet deserve when, on the second day of battle, he delayed executing an early-morning assault that could have given the Confederates the upper hand?  Was Longstreet, who had made clear his disagreement with Lee over tactics, merely tardy, or was he insubordinate or even treasonous?

Confederate veteran J. W. Anderson looked forward to discussing the issue with a former comrade at their 1905 reunion in Louisville, Kentucky.  A defender of Longstreet, who he occasionally saw after the war, Anderson insisted that the relations between General Lee and his subordinate commander were “always of the most cordial manner.”  But a century later, the question still bothered Laban Lacy Rice, a Webster County, Kentucky native, polymath, and former president of Cumberland University.  In 1967, he sought the opinion of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “an expert who knows Gettysburg as I know my back yard.”

Replying from his farm, where he lived in retirement near the battlefield, Eisenhower concluded that Gettysburg had been “a succession of frustrations” for General Lee, and that his decisions could not be adequately examined in a short letter.  Nevertheless, Eisenhower judged Longstreet’s failure to attack early on July 2 as “his worse error of the battle.”  As for Pickett’s Charge, the ill-fated assault on July 3 named after one of Longstreet’s generals, Eisenhower did not think it could have been successful at any time during that day.  As Charles Pennypacker observed, “the end” had approacheth.

Click on the links for finding aids to these materials, part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives Collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  For more of our Civil War collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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