Long white ears, killer coffee, and cardboard cartons

For many travelers, the first step of a journey involves navigating a busy airport.  During World War II, passengers faced additional stress when civilian air travel took a back seat to military priorities.  This was doubly true for airline employees, who coped with challenges that went far beyond the ordinary joys of dealing with the public.

One such employee was 25-year-old Kate Hopkins, an American Airlines ticket agent in 1943 at Detroit’s City Airport.  Her letters to boyfriend Thomas Tichenor, a Kentuckian serving in the Navy, give us a unique perspective on wartime air travel through the eyes of a clever and observant young woman.

Kate often found herself on the overnight shift–an assignment that, while wearying, gave her an opportunity to use her people-watching skills.  After one such night, she wrote poignantly to Thomas about “the little sailor and his girl who sat locked in each others arms for a full forty minutes before his flight left, while his mother very quietly sat beside him, waiting to bid him good-by; about the little girl–she couldn’t have been much more than nineteen–who was going out alone to meet her husband, a Ferry pilot, in Spokane–and her family who came to see her off.”  When the flight was announced, “her Father said ‘Well Ruthie–’ with all the pride and eloquence and love that only a Father could put into those two words, because what else could he say?” 

Ferry pilots–members of the Air Transport Command, largely made up of civilians who flew aircraft from manufacturing plants to training facilities and ports for shipment overseas–were frequent airport patrons.  Some of them, Kate observed, “are nice–others tough–some, surprisingly young and all very interesting.”  One of them “came in last nite with an enormous plush Easter bunny–its long white ears protruding from a paper sack–He’d brought it back from Wilmington for his little girl.” 

Kate grew accustomed to watching irritated Ferry pilots call the nearby base to complain when their ground transportation was not waiting.  On other occasions, she became the object of customer ire.  Determining that a passenger was too drunk to fly, she feared “he was going to hit me” when she declined to ticket him.  She “finally eased him away from the counter” by inviting him to spend his unscheduled six-hour layover trying “some black coffee at the airport restaurant–that I knew was vile enough to cure or kill him.” 

On still other occasions, the drama escalated.  In the middle of one night, Kate received a message asking to have a cab waiting for an incoming flight “to take a Lieutenant and his eleven day old premature baby to Ann Arbor.”  To her disgust, she could find no driver interested in the life-and-death mission unless they could also find a paying fare for the 40-mile return trip.  As negotiations continued, the plane landed and “the captain himself escorted the Lieutenant and the baby, which he was carrying in a cardboard carton not much larger than a shoe box, to the cab.”  The captain also grew furious with the cab driver, “especially when he’d flown at 2,000 feet all the way from Buffalo because every time he went higher the baby turned blue. . . . We finally got things arranged,” Kate reported, “to no one’s satisfaction.”

More often than not, however, Kate maintained her equilibrium.  After checking in a line of difficult customers, she ticketed a young corporal who “was on an emergency furlough trying to get to San Francisco to see his six months old son who he’d never seen.”  The baby was sick, as was his wife, exhausted from trying to run their ranch and summer camp by herself.  But the soldier never lost his smile, and “was such a big person about it all,” wrote Kate, “that I felt awfully silly after all the minor irritations I’d had that day.” 

Kate’s letters are part of the Tichenor Collection, housed in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Travel through our other collections (and have mercy on the person “behind the counter”) by searching TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

“Passed by censor”

“Incoming mail censored shall be opened by clipping with scissors on the shorter side of the envelope.”

Every special collections library that holds war materials has them: soldiers’ letters vaguely addressed from “somewhere in France” or “somewhere in the Pacific.”  They might also show more revealing words or lines deftly excised with a sharp blade, and their envelopes may bear a stamp indicating that the contents have been inspected prior to delivery to waiting parents, wives or sweethearts.  The reason, of course, was that the letters were censored to keep potentially valuable intelligence from falling into the hands of the enemy.

During World War II, the task of censor fell to Calhoun, Kentucky’s Thomas Tichenor after he entered the Navy and received his officer’s commission in 1942.  As a convoy communications officer, he was handed the censor’s stamp and a lengthy booklet of regulations governing both outgoing and incoming military mail. 

Tom Tichenor, Navy censor

Under the regulations, Navy personnel were permitted to send mail in six ways: by letter; “urgent letter” (an expedited communication arising out of an emergency); V-mail (short for “Victory mail,” in which specially designed letter sheets were microfilmed to save space and the reduced images printed out and delivered to the recipient); post cards; Navy post cards (with preprinted, pre-authorized text and fill-in-the-blanks options); and Parcel Post.  Most of the censorship rules were easily justified: no photographs of a military character; no writing in a foreign language; no details of ship locations or strength of forces, munitions and equipment; no disclosure of casualties ahead of the official publication of same; no detailed meteorological data; and no criticisms of the “morale of the collective or individual armed forces of the United States or her allies.”  Other communication restrictions barred the keeping of diaries and the transmittal of personal recordings to or from Navy personnel.

The regulations also provided detailed instructions to censors tasked with inspection of the mail.  Outgoing mail came to the censor unsealed, but incoming mail was to be “opened by clipping with scissors on the shorter side of the envelope.”  All mail was to be read with an eye to prohibited content, with additional attention paid to the possibility of “secret writing”—even to a message written underneath the stamp—or “any unusual sign which might be a prearranged signal for a secret message.”  Other things to watch for: differing ink colors; seemingly “pointless” content; traces of liquids or pastes to be harvested for invisible ink; and code in the form of letters, numbers, drawings, indentations or pinpricks above, below or through the writing.  Photographs, of course, came in for the same scrutiny; nevertheless, the regulations advised, “Censors should use care in suppressing private prints, particularly in view of their value as keepsakes to personnel.”  In addition to shears and razor blades, the weapons available to the censor included ink, prepared according to a special formula, for obliterating unacceptable content.  Censoring ink, however, was to be used “only where deemed particularly advisable for casual indiscretions” in letters home.  

Thomas Tichenor’s copy of the U.S. Navy’s censorship regulations is part of the Tichenor Collection in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  For more World War II collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

A Fair Dinner

The Warren County Fair has always been a great time to gather for fun, competition and education. Despite being in the throes of war in 1918, the Fair Board decided to continue the tradition in the first full week of September that year. To take advantage of the large number of visitors to the fair, the local Red Cross chapter petitioned the Fair Association for permission to serve meals to the crowds. The money raised would benefit the Red Cross’ war efforts, and the ladies were determined to raise $10,000 via this effort. The patriotic rhetoric was thick: “When we stop and think that all the money that is made in this way goes to the aid of wounded boys who are fighting for us, we will not do out bit , but our VERY BEST for them.”

A World War I poster advertising the Red Cross.

Bettie (Robertson) Hagerman assumed chairmanship of the endeavor. In order to provide the food necessary for the four-day event, Hagerman divided the city proportionately by major streets and appointed a street chairman for each area. Although we don’t have the aggregate figures for each type of food item, we do have several forms filled out by the street chairmen. The image below shows the contributions recorded by street chairman Mrs. B.S. White from Woodford Street: 8 fried chickens, 14 dozen tomatoes, 10.5 dozen eggs, five bowls of salads (tuna fish or pimento and cheese), 2 pounds of ham, $8.20 in cash to buy bread, 5 dozen lemons, 4 pans of potatoes, and 1 pound of sugar. It’s pretty obvious that the canteen was going to serve lemonade as the meal’s beverage.

The reply sheet from the Woodford Street Chairman which indicated what they would provide for the effort.

Each of the twenty-five street chairmen was encouraged to get everyone on the street to donate “whether they are Red Cross members or not. Remember, if we give till it hurts, that is small, for the boys “Over There” are giving their all.” We don’t know if the ladies were successful in their effort to raise $10,000, but these preparation documents certainly indicate that they were determined. To see other collections containing information about the Red Cross or World War I search KenCat or TopSCHOLAR.

Comments Off on A Fair Dinner

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Learning by Doing

My name is Hannah Hudson, and this fall, I have had the privilege of being the fourth Dr. Delroy and Patricia Hire intern in the Department of Library Special Collections. I am a sophomore at WKU, majoring in Cultural Anthropology and minoring in Folk Studies. I have always enjoyed learning about local history and the importance of rural communities in the development of the southeastern United States. When the head of my department mentioned this internship to me, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to develop my professional skills. Throughout my time as an intern in Special Collections, I have worked on projects from Monroe County, Kentucky, Allen County, Kentucky and Macon County, Tennessee.

Kentucky Governor Louie B. Nunn presents the Commonwealth’s first personalized congressional license plate to Congressman Tim Lee Carter, March 1969.

One project I have worked on this semester involves sorting, scanning, and categorizing photographs from the Tim Lee Carter Collection. Dr. Tim Lee Carter was from Monroe County, Kentucky, and he served eight terms (1965-1981) as a U.S. Representative for Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District. Due to my interest in visual anthropology, it has been very interesting for me to see how Carter’s work as a public servant was documented through these photos. I also gained practical experience while working with this collection as I learned about the process of cataloging in Past Perfect, a widely-used collections archiving database. The work that I have done on this collection will aid in the curation of an exhibit celebrating Monroe County’s Bicentennial in 2020.

Another project I completed was transcribing the 1850 and 1860 slave censuses from Monroe County, Kentucky to make them accessible on TopScholar. This was a particularly significant project to me because I feel that a lot of valuable information is contained in these records. The slave census gives insight into the early history of Monroe County and the significance of enslaved people in its development. I learned a great deal from this project, and it sparked many questions that led me to look deeper into the county’s history. Not only do the records give information on slave owners, but they also give information on the age-sex distribution of slaves and the ways in which they were classified in that time period.

I also researched my hometown of Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee and wrote a historical overview that is available on TopScholar. Red Boiling Springs borders the Tennessee-Kentucky line and is known for the several types of mineral waters that flow throughout the city. The medicinal properties of the springs once attracted visitors from all over the country and created a booming resort industry in the small town. I am passionate about preserving the history of Red Boiling Springs, and I have done independent research on it for over a year now. I am grateful that I had the opportunity and support from Library Special Collections to publish information on this small but significant community.

Dr. Delroy Hire, WKU Alumni from Pensacola, FL, visiting with Hannah Hudson, 2019 Hire Intern.

Throughout my time as an intern with Special Collections, I have gained experiences that will be valuable in my future such as scanning, writing, and cataloging in Past Perfect. Most importantly, I have learned how to use library and archival resources for research. I also learned so much about myself and the Kentucky and Tennessee counties that have influenced my life. I am grateful for the sponsorship of Dr. Delroy Hire and the opportunities that this internship has opened up for me. Any student who is interested in the Hire Internship can contact Department Head Jonathan Jeffrey by phone at (270) 745-5265 or by email at jonathan.jeffrey@wku.edu.

Written by Hannah Hudson

Comments Off on Learning by Doing

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

“I’d rather have the wisdom than the bliss”

“Someone sent me ‘Beauchampe,’” wrote Sallie McElroy in her journal on October 26, 1857.  The anonymous gift she was referring to was a book by William Gilmore Simms—a reboot, actually, of his 1842 work Beauchampe; or the Kentucky Tragedy: A Tale of Passion.  

Ann Cook

The volume was a novelized version of a true story that began on November 7, 1825, with the fatal stabbing of a man in Frankfort, Kentucky.  The victim, former state attorney general Solomon P. Sharp, had allegedly fathered a stillborn child whose mother, Ann Cook, was now living in seclusion near Bowling Green.  Sharp, however, had not only denied paternity but had shockingly claimed that the child had been of mixed race.  The disgraced Ann then fell in with Jeroboam O. Beauchamp, a young law student 15 years her junior, married him, and convinced him to kill Sharp to avenge her honor.  Just before Beauchamp was to hang for the crime on July 7, 1826, he and Ann attempted a double suicide in the jailhouse, but only she succeeded.  They were buried together in an “eternal embrace,” as they had requested. 

Beauchampe was a rather unusual gift for 23-year-old Sallie, then teaching at a female academy in Bowling Green and boarding under the rather Puritanical eye of its headmistress.  As Sallie knew, tradition demanded that women be shielded from such scandal lest it send them to the fainting couch, or worse, to a life corrupted by the taste of forbidden knowledge.  One of her male friends, in fact, seems to have had her debating the wisdom of opening the book’s cover.

Sallie McElroy

But she did not hesitate for long.  Well-read, wryly observant, and Bible-literate enough to slice and dice the sermons of local clergymen, Sallie understood the double standard behind such male hand-wringing.  “Yes, I will read it!” she wrote in her journal.  “Men are extremely anxious to preserve us pure as saints—we must know nothing of the stream of pollution which ‘flows down our streets like a river’ for fear we shall be spattered a little by the spray as it dashes on in its headlong course!”  True, there was the old saying, “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise,” but a “man wrote that,” she observed, “& I’m suspicious of the whole of ‘em!  At least in this instance, I had rather have the wisdom than the bliss, as dear old mother Eve chose before me!”

So read she did, and emerged unscathed.  Disappointed in the style of the book and its divergence from generally accepted versions of the incident, Sallie nevertheless found it “a most thrilling tale.”  She was somewhat forgiving of Ann Cook—“a most extraordinary woman” who fell victim to “pride & ambition” and whose relatives still lived in the area.  But Beauchamp was “a ninny of a fellow,” his reason captive to his passion.  Sharp, too, was “a monster.”  The bottom line, she concluded, was that “All three met only a just fate.”

Sallie McElroy’s journal is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid, and here to read about a more recent book on the famous Beauchamp-Sharp Tragedy, written with the aid of our collections.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Comments Off on “I’d rather have the wisdom than the bliss”

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

“O how horrible”

The town of Perryville, Kentucky, from Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 1, 1862

Everyone seems to agree that the most haunted town in Kentucky is Perryville, especially the Civil War field where, on October 8, 1862, some 7,600 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed or wounded in a battle that ranked as the second bloodiest in the Western theater up to that date.

While some 36,000 troops actually fought each other, twice that number were in the area at the time.  One of the soldiers who narrowly missed the fighting was John H. Gray of the 101st Indiana Infantry, but his impressions of the battle’s gruesome aftermath can indeed make us think about the paranormal byproducts of such carnage.

Gray had arrived in Perryville exhausted and hungry, having subsisted for several days on virtually no rations.  He and his comrades had lived off handfuls of wet cornmeal fried in a skillet (“corn kake”) some “fat meat” of undetermined origin, and a “coffee pot full of honey,” said to have been bought but more likely stolen.  Gray’s constitution was not the only one to collapse on such a diet.  He found the road from Springfield to Perryville “well perfumed,” as many of the men “had the ‘quick step.’”  Gray himself, weak with diarrhea and vomiting, rode the last few miles in an ambulance.

As his regiment straggled into Perryville and collapsed to recuperate, Gray described the scene in two letters to his parents and siblings.  “The horrors of War are apparent everywhere,” he wrote.  He was particularly shaken at the sight of a “dead rebel this morning lying on the ground,” his face blackened with decay.  “O how horrible,” Gray exclaimed, “a man left upon the field to rot unknown & uncared for.”  Gray was “in a comfortable house attended by a good Doctor,” but all around him were other houses filled with wounded and dying men.  He visited two hospitals, one treating Confederates and the other Federals, and was appalled by the “awful agony the intense suffering and the inexpressible pain of the occupants.”  Those able to rise from their beds were “lame & wounded hobbling about as though this was a world of cripples.” 

Accompanying the men’s physical pain was mental anguish.  Gray spoke with Confederates who cried that they were tired of war, and were ready to vote to “lay down their arms and be as they were.”  Some of these men, no doubt, died with Gray’s sarcastic observation—lovely war—on their lips.  They may or may not haunt Perryville today, but they surely haunted the memories of the men, like Gray, who survived.

John Gray’s two letters written in the aftermath of the Battle of Perryville are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here and here for finding aids. For more Civil War collections, click here or search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Comments Off on “O how horrible”

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

A Haunted Hollow

Don’t go down that road at night. . . .

In 1899, his work as a surveyor took Lee Fisher away from his wife and young children in Iowa and into the backwoods of eastern Kentucky.  In a series of letters, he shared with wife Adah his impressions of the area’s agriculture, living conditions and people.  Fisher found much of interest in the environs of Floyd County’s Calf Creek, including the prosperous farm of a local fruit grower and beekeeper.  Even more noteworthy, however, were the tales the farmer told him of a nearby gulch—“Bugger Holler”—that was said to be haunted. 

Among the spooky stories:

A man walking through the hollow one night encountered a dog that “turned its head towards him and its eyes began to shine like two balls of fire then it opened its mouth and a light blue flame came out of its mouth,” allowing the man to see “at least 20 feet [!] down the throat of the dog.”

A man riding through the hollow one evening “saw what appeared to be a horse but instead of having a head like a horse it had a head and body like a centaur.”  The man’s own horse “turned around with a snort and trembling in every muscle it ran several hundred yards before he could be stopped.”

A man coming up the road toward the hollow one night “saw a woman standing by the side of the road wrapped in a cloak but without any head on and no matter which way he went she always followed him and it was sometime before he could shake her.”  The experience left him so rattled that he did not “know enough to speak when spoken to.”

An elderly woman passing through the hollow late one night “saw two women standing by the road neither one of them having any head.”

All of these nocturnal travelers seemed to have ignored the conventional wisdom since, Fisher wrote, “it is very rare anybody will pass there at night if they can avoid it.”  He and some of his curious coworkers, however, decided to try some ghosthunting themselves.  They ventured into the hollow after nightfall, “when it was so dark you could not see the road,” but had no luck seeing or hearing anything supernatural. 

The farmer who told Fisher these stories was himself skeptical about their veracity, but hastened to claim that his own house was haunted.  Neighbors had warned him that constructing such a large house for his small family would invite a paranormal presence, but everything remained quiet—at least for a few years.  Then, one night “he heard the most awful noise as if someone had rubbed a stick hard upon a dry goods box and then something like a cannon ball had fallen upon the upstairs floor.”  The pattern repeated itself, and no amount of investigation could reveal its source.  Frustrated, the farmer called for a curse upon whomever or whatever was causing the ruckus, a response that seemed to shame the poltergeist into silence.  But every once in a while it would reassert itself—for example, by causing a bedroom door to spring open and thump against the bed of the unfortunate occupant.

Lee Fisher’s letters and ghost stories are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For other collections about ghosts, spirits and hauntings, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Comments Off on A Haunted Hollow

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Bring out the women!

It was the presidential election year of 1920, and Kentucky Governor Edwin P. Morrow had a woman problem. 

Sworn into office on December 9, 1919, Morrow, a Republican, had thumped his Democratic rival James D. Black by running on a progressive platform that included woman suffrage.  His party made good on its promise: on January 6, 1920, the Kentucky General Assembly ratified the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing women the vote.  Two days later, Morrow invited a delegation of women, including representatives of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, to a ceremony to witness his official signing of the ratification bill. 

Governor Edwin P. Morrow signs Kentucky’s ratification of the 19th Amendment.

But the Nineteenth Amendment was not the law of the land, as it had not yet achieved ratification by the required 36 states.  Accordingly, Morrow signed another bill on March 29 giving Kentucky women presidential suffrage, in order to guarantee their right to participate in the November 1920 election.

But Morrow knew that the next crucial step would be to get this newly empowered bloc of voters to the polls to put Republican Warren G. Harding into the White House.  His letter to supporters in October betrayed a hint of desperation as he outlined the challenges they faced.  “The election in Kentucky hangs by a thread,” he wrote.  In order to counter the Democratic strongholds in the Bluegrass, the “mountain women” had to turn out to vote.  But the hoped-for stampede, it seemed, was to be driven by the sterner sex.  “For God’s sake,” Morrow begged, “put every effort forth.  Do everything!  See that organization is made with wagons and teams and, above all, fire every man so that he will bring his [sic] women out. . . . For the future of the Party and success at the polls, bring out the women!

Did the whip-cracking work?  Yes and no.  Harding won the presidency, but his Democratic opponent James Cox edged him out in Kentucky by less than a percentage point.

Governor Morrow’s letter is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For more political collections, search TopScholar and KenCat.

Comments Off on Bring out the women!

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

A Clutch Performance

Sallie McElroy

In fall 1860, Sallie McElroy Knott enjoyed recording in her journal her impressions of the young Prince of Wales when he visited the St. Louis Fair.  Newly married, Sallie was living with her husband, future Kentucky governor J. Proctor Knott, in Jefferson City, where he was serving as attorney general.  But Sallie had other fair experiences, including one in Bowling Green, Kentucky, when she was still Miss Sallie McElroy, a teacher at the local female academy. 

It was late September, 1857, the school was closed “on account of the Fair,” and her students “were crazy” to go.  Sallie herself was somewhat indifferent, but had resolved to attend in order to root for some of the young people in their first public displays of horsemanship.  The next day, however, she had to confess to her journal of the “dire catastrophe my poor self met with yesterday!  Where to find a corner dark enough to hide my blushes or a washing tub big enough to contain the floods of tears issuing from my eyes!” 

Sallie had dressed quickly to meet her escort at the fair—as quickly as possible, given that these were not the days of shorts, tank tops and flip-flops—but in her rush she had neglected to notice that “my unmentionables were about to burst out at the buttonhole.”  Upon her arrival, “horrors!” Sallie wrote.  “The 1st step I took I felt a loosening around my waist.”  She tried to “clutch desperately” at her “most nether garment through crinoline, flannel etc. with both hands,” but then she met a flight of steps and her escort insisted on taking one of her hands.  Making it to the top “with the aforesaid garment dangling around my feet,” she found a place to sit down, then managed somehow to shed the rogue undies and stuff them in a crack under the seat. 

Sallie’s hope that no one would discover her cast-offs was disappointed in the worst way.  Some young boys not only found them, she wrote, but “twisted my poor lost trousers on a pole & perambulated with them round the Fairgrounds.”  A patron at the fair, one “Dr. Vanmeter,” gallantly intervened “& rescued my poor unfortunates,” but instead of attempting to reunite them with their owner’s “longing legs,” he carefully put them in his pocket!  “I’m afraid he’ll wear ‘em clean out,” Sallie concluded in a comic coda to this bizarre episode, “& I shan’t ever get a last fond look at ‘em.” 

Sallie (McElroy) Knott’s journals (we’ll hear from her yet again) are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For more collections, search TopScholar and KenCat.

Comments Off on A Clutch Performance

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Sallie and the Prince

It was the 1860 fall fair season, and St. Louis, Missouri was abuzz over a royal visit to the Fifth Annual Fair of the city’s Agricultural and Mechanical Association.  Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) was just eighteen when he arrived on September 27 with the Duke of Newcastle as part of a tour of Canada and the United States.  He had drawn large and appreciative crowds everywhere he went, and newspapers gushed over the young prince’s appearance and demeanor.  It was left to individual Americans, at once dazzled by and suspicious of this embodiment of inherited privilege, to offer more realistic impressions.

Sallie (McElroy) Knott

One such onlooker in St. Louis was Sarah “Sallie” (McElroy) Knott.  Married for two years to Missouri’s attorney general J. Proctor Knott, 26-year-old Sallie was still having difficulty adjusting to life away from her family in Bowling Green, Kentucky and being the wife of a “public man” (Knott would later become Governor of Kentucky).  But she found a confidante in her journal, in which she recorded her earnest thoughts and sometimes acid takes on the people and events around her.

When a procession of carriages carrying the Prince of Wales and his retinue arrived at the St. Louis Fair, Sallie was there.  Like so many of her countrymen and women, she had written in her journal, “I anticipate the pleasure of feasting my Republican eyes with a sight of royalty!”  Afterward, she described her experience with the requisite amount of Republican snark.  “He sat in a carriage,” she wrote, “with the Duke of New Castle beside him, & drove round the circuit of the grounds, for the gratification of the plebeian crowd of a hundred thousand or more, all eager to see a future King.  I stood within three feet of him, & gave him a specimen of American manners in the shape of my best tuck & bob curtsey! of which he was ill-bred enough to take no manner of notice!!”  The massed spectators did not prevent Sallie from getting a close look at what Queen Victoria’s genes had wrought: “He was a gawky Dutch-English stripling, sitting with head tucked down like any awkward boy, & picking to pieces a bouquet he held in his hands.  He is the possessor of an immense nose – huge feet & hands – bandy legs – blue eyes & quantity of light hair – ruddy complexion, almost fair as a girl’s – upon the whole rather a good face, but nothing uncommon.” She also found the “old Duke” to be nothing special beyond “a portly, good natured looking Englishman.”  It was an age before paparazzi, when the strobe of camera flashes was yet to annoy the royal retinas, but Sallie also found the Prince spared of another hazard: the halitosis of over-adoring commoners.  “The multitude had sense enough to keep quiet,” she observed, “& so the cortege swept by, undisturbed by sniffing the air, tainted by the huzzahing breath of the ‘great-unwashed’”!

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales

Sallie (McElroy) Knott’s journals (there will be more of her wisdom to come) are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For more collections, search TopScholar and KenCat.

Comments Off on Sallie and the Prince

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives