Putting the Rug Underneath Your Feet

Arline Rawlins admiring her “Kentucky Stair Runner.”

The Manuscripts unit of the Department of Library Special Collections recently acquired papers and photographs related to hooked rugs created by Bowling Green artist Arline (Perkins) Rawlins. The estate of her daughter, Alicia (Rawlins) McFarland gifted the material to Special Collections.  The collection consists chiefly of correspondence with magazine editors related to articles published about Rawlins’ rugs, as well as a large number of black and white photographs documenting her creations.

Arline (Perkins) Rawlins was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky on 3 February 1899. She attended Gunston Hall in Washington, D.C. and graduated from Western Kentucky State Normal and Teacher’s College in 1923 with an AB degree.  She eventually taught art on an adjunct basis at Western.  She also studied art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Mellon Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. during World War II.  In 1946 she became the art supervisor for Bowling Green city schools.  In 1952 she earned her BA at WKU and in 1958  her MA.

A number of Rawlins’ paintings, chiefly oils and palette knife, are in private collections in Bowling Green and in various museums, but she is best known for her hooked rugs which she designed and hooked herself. Her best known rug was titled Kentucky Stair Runner; it featured twenty Kentucky themed scenes and was installed in her Bowling Green home.  The rug won first place at the September 1949 Kentucky State Fair and was featured in several articles in regional and national publications.  National magazines, such as Woman’s Day, American Home, and Family Circle carried articles penned by Rawlins or about her rugs.  She considered her rug work part of the regeneration of American craft, and indeed she fits perfectly into the craft revival movement of the 1930s and 1940s.  Interestingly, this parallels the revival of quilting as a craft in this country.

…making something from nothing is just about what rug making is. Part of the fun and a great part of the charm of rug making is in the ability of the maker to see the possibilities…

Rawlins’ rug work gave her great satisfaction as witnessed by this quote from an article she wrote for Farm and Ranch:  “People who have the ingenuity to make something from nothing are the envy of all their friends.  And making something from nothing is just about what rug making is.  Part of the fun and a great part of the charm of rug making is in the ability of the maker to see the possibilities around her—to see in that old, worn-out blanket a beautiful background, in that moth-eaten tweed skirt a handsome scroll, and in that faded red woolen skirt a lovely rose.” Her love of rug making allowed her to incorporate the love for the Commonwealth.  This is reflected in the names she gave her patterns:  “Kentucky Bouquet,” “The Mint Julep,” “The Winner,” “The Thoroughbred,” “The Pennyroyal,” “The Cardinal,” and “The Strawberry Patch.”

Mailing label from Rawlins’ mail order business.

Besides this collection, other material related to Rawlins exists in the Temple Family Papers. One of Rawlins dearest friends was Ruth Hines Temple, who played with Rawlins as a child, was a bridesmaid at her wedding, and remained a close contact throughout her life.  For most of their lives, they lived only a few blocks from each other.  Temple, who became the head of the Art Department at WKU, assisted Rawlins in the design concept for packaging, marketing and stationery for her cottage rug industry.  Rawlins actually rejected Temple’s concept for Pennyroyal Rugs and developed her own Nine Hearths Hooked Rug Designs, named for her house on Park Street.

To see the finding aid for the Rawlins collection click here, to see the same for the Temple Family Papers, click here. To look for other textile or women’s related collections, search KenCat or TopScholar.

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Lil Yachty Is to Mumble Rap as Roy Butler Is to Auctioneering

In his paper titled “Notes and Speculations on Country Auctioneering as It Is Practiced in North Central Kentucky,” former Western folk studies student Joseph King attempts to frame auctioneering as an expressive lyrical performance similar to folk singing or folk preaching. King examines specifically the country auction and draws a stark contrast against the “sedate art auctions and auctioneers in urban areas.” His descriptions of the auction sites—often farm houses, barns, and churches—the goods being sold—“…anybody can haul in a load of anything, an old mule, a load of manure, six bags of wilted lettuce, old fruit jars…”—and the people in attendance—“…the auctions are a place to talk to your neighbor, a chance to look at his wife when she is ‘fixed up’ a little (clean overalls and freshly ironed dresses seem to be de rigueur at these events”—are heavy-handed and patronizing, but King’s argument relating the art of auctioneering to a musical performance may hold some weight.

During his fieldwork investigation, King visited several auctions throughout North Central Kentucky, gathering information on specific auctioneers, their professional training (or lack thereof), and their highly stylized “calling” techniques. He also recorded auctioneers on a single reel-to-reel audiotape at live sales in order to analyze individual idiosyncrasies and highlight further connections between calling and singing. King’s most salient point is the study of the auctioneer’s chant. He writes,

“The auctioneer’s chant is infused with a strong measure rhythm. A heavily accented syllable is uttered at periodic intervals (a trained musician could probably give the exact rhythmical time for any auctioneer). There is, perhaps, a semblance of a monotonous tune…the chant, however, does not sound particularly musical because of the harshness of the auctioneer’s voice and the lack of variation.”

As with most folk traditions, the emphasis is on oral transmission—informal knowledge passed from one person to another; however, King also notes that a handful of auctioneers he spoke with attended an auctioneering school where courses were taught by highly trained professionals in the field. Nevertheless, King asserts that the sales, and by extension the auctioneer, “express community values” and serve as a release valve for locally-situated tensions and anxieties. Perhaps a slight stretch, but King’s conclusions offer further points of inquiry concerning the intersection of folk music, identity, religion, and craft.

1973 Antique Auction broadside

1973 Antique Auction broadside

The paper itself (FA 1167), located within WKU’s Manuscripts and Folklife Archives, contains newspaper clippings, brief biographical sketches, and a reel-to-reel audio tape of the auctioneers’ chants.

For more information on folk songs, 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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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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Southern Normal School

Southern Normal School Catalog 1884-85WKU Archives’ newest acquisition is this 1884-85 catalog for the Southern Normal School & Business College.  The front cover looks a bit waterlogged, but the interior is in excellent condition.

The Southern Normal School was created when A.W. Mell and Tom Williams left the Glasgow Normal School and moved to Bowling Green. It was originally called the Southern Normal School & Business College, but in the 1886 charter the name was changed to Southern Normal School. From 1890-1892 the school went through a succession of management changes being overseen by H.A. Evans, W.J. Davis, J.R. Alexander and H. McD. Fletcher.  It came into the hands of Henry Cherry and his brother Thomas in 1892 with yet another name change. Continue reading

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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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Owensboro Student Completes Internship in Special Collections

Hello, my name is Noah Hancock, and I am a history major here at WKU. I have had the opportunity to experience, learn, and work with historical materials through a

Noah Hancock, a WKU senior from Owensboro, has just completed an internship in Manuscripts, a unit of Library Special Collections.

summer internship in the Department of Library Special Collections in the Kentucky Building. This program allowed me to acquire skills and knowledge necessary to carry out tasks, such as organizing documents, reading and transcribing holographic letters, digitizing information, and entering data into TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Jonathan Jeffrey was very helpful, and he taught me the general processes of how the collections are acquired, accessioned, cataloged, and made accessible to the public both in person and online. For instance, one of the first things I learned was that the items in a collection are arranged in chronological order, which helped me to file and sort documents easier. One of the projects I worked on throughout the summer was a large collection of photocopied Civil War letters, diaries, roll calls, statistics, and records from both the Union and Confederate Armies. There were over twenty boxes filled with vast, indispensable information for research relating to the Civil War.  Dr. Kenneth Hafendorfer, Louisville, Kentucky, collected this material when writing his Civil War books.

While sorting these documents, I came across some original, personal letters written by certain Civil War soldiers to their respective family members. These letters were dated and had names and locations of where they were stationed. Some letters were short, others were long, with details regarding camp life, troop movements, combat actions, health conditions, and some even requested that items be sent from home. The letters contain information on a variety of subjects that were important many years ago. I found this intriguing, because they provide insight into historic topics, such as the controversy regarding slavery.

Moreover, I was assigned the task of reading and typescripting some of the letters, and creating finding aids with summarized descriptions. With Jonathan’s assistance, I uploaded the transcribed documents to TopSCHOLAR. Lastly, I cataloged them into a system called KenCat, the Department’s collection management system. This program allows, the Library to keep track of all documents and materials within the collection.

I greatly appreciate Jonathan’s help and mentorship throughout the summer! The internship opened doors for me to experience and explore new possibilities; it also enabled me to use my knowledge and skills. It will no doubt be beneficial in my future career endeavors.

If you would be interested in an internship in the Department of Library Special Collections, contact Department Head, Jonathan Jeffrey, at 270-745-5265 or jonathan.jeffrey@wku.edu

Blog post written by DLSC intern Noah Hancock.

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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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