Monthly Archives: January 2012

Where’s W. H. Smith?


Letter of W. H. Smith, 1840

Letter of W. H. Smith, 1840

Bowling Green has many unique aspects, but its name is not one of them.  In addition to the Kentucky city, there are “Bowling Greens” in Ohio, Virginia, Missouri, Florida, Indiana and South Carolina, as well as the famous park in Lower Manhattan.  Accordingly, when the Special Collections Library acquired an 1840 letter written from “Bowling Green,” our first task was to confirm that it was indeed a local product.

Finding clues in the letter was made more difficult by the fact that it was written in the crosshatch method–filling a page, then turning it 90 degrees and writing over the completed text, in order to save paper and postage.  The author, W. H. Smith, was writing to his brother Joseph in Warrenton, Virginia.  His main topic was the illness of several family members.  One was “taken with a severe chill and burning fever” so extreme, he reported, that she became deranged and begged their slaves to throw water on her.  Others succumbed to similar symptoms, requiring the application of “heated salt red pepper & whiskey” on their arms and legs, as well as repeated doses of quinine, to break their chills.  Turning to other matters, Smith discussed his efforts to “buy a negro boy” at a reasonable price, and his mother’s distress at the prospect of unruly slaves being whipped.

Interesting, but not indicative of any particular location.  But then there was this: “We are to have a large & grand whig festival here on 5 Oct[obe]r to celebrate the Battle of the Thames,” wrote Smith, referring to a political event commemorating an American victory in the War of 1812.  Did Bowling Green, Kentucky host such a festival?  An internet search revealed a broadside in the collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio, announcing the very same event, sponsored by the “Whigs of Warren.”  This could have referred to Warren County, Ohio, were it not for the fact that among the individual sponsors of the event were men named Grider, Quigley, Covington, and Wilkins–easily recognizable as prominent citizens of Warren County, Kentucky.  Mystery solved!

Click here to download a finding aid and typescript of W. H. Smith’s letter.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Connie Foster’s Decade Service as Editor Celebrated at ALA


Connie Foster (center) outgoing editor of Serials Review, 2002-2011; left: Maria Collins, incoming editor-in-chief; right: Vicki Wetherell, Social Sciences publisher for Elsevier, England. Reception at Fairmont Hotel Jan. 21, 2012.

Maria Collins (NCSU) Serials Review editor and Vicki Wetherell (Elsevier Social Sciences publisher) celebrated WKU Libraries Interim Dean Connie Foster’s ten years of service as editor of Serials Review during ALA Midwinter on January 21, 2012 in Dallas, Texas. Serials Review, issued quarterly, is Elsevier’s peer-reviewed scholarly journal for the international serials community.

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“I do solemnly swear…”

Inaugural materials from the Pearl Carter Pace Collection

Inaugural materials from the Pearl Carter Pace Collection

Every fourth year, January 20 assumes special significance as Inauguration Day in the United States.  Not only does it signal the beginning of a new presidential term, it marks the culmination of months of planning for countless parties, receptions, dinners, balls, teas, concerts, luncheons and other assorted schmoozes as well as the inaugural ceremony itself, all of which the political elite flock to attend.

Monroe County native Pearl Carter Pace (1896-1970) participated in and helped to plan many such functions.  Before becoming the first woman in Kentucky elected to the office of sheriff for a 4-year term, she had taught school, worked in several family businesses, married and had 3 children.  After her husband died in 1940, Pace threw her energies into state Republican politics.  In 1953, she became a member of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s War Claims Commission, and her chairmanship of that body in 1959 made her the second-highest ranking woman in the Administration.  She worked tirelessly for many other political and civic causes in both Kentucky and Washington.

Preserved in the Pearl Carter Pace Collection at WKU’s Special Collections Library are invitations, programs and correspondence relating to presidential inaugurations from 1949-1969, but principally for Eisenhower in 1953 and 1957.  These materials provide a close-up view of the scramble to reserve accommodation and transportation to the inaugural events, create lists of invitees, arrange seating, and secure admission to the most-coveted Washington functions.  As Republican National Committee chairwoman for Kentucky at the time of Eisenhower’s first inauguration, Pace obtained tickets for a Middlesborough constituent, who responded with elation at the prospect of attending this historic event.  “It was the most wonderful Christmas gift a Kentucky woman could have been afforded,” she declared, and hoped that on the appointed day she would be near enough “to see our great President take his solemn oath of office.”

Download a finding aid for the Pearl Carter Pace Collection by clicking here.  For more of our political collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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“The Earth Yawned”

John E. Younglove; Joseph R. Underwood

John E. Younglove; Joseph R. Underwood

The earthquake that struck Haiti two years ago today reminds us that generations throughout history have experienced the physical and psychological destruction accompanying this violent act of nature.  For example, from December 1811 to February 1812, four major quakes originating along the New Madrid fault in what is now Missouri caused extensive property damage, landslides, and geographic upheavals so extraordinary that for several hours the Mississippi River appeared to reverse course.  Some of the responses of Kentuckians to the New Madrid earthquake can be found in the collections of WKU’s Special Collections Library.

In Bowling Green, druggist John E. Younglove preserved the comments of old-timers who had experienced the disaster.  The earthquake “was felt here for several days,” they remembered, “the houses shaking so much that the dishes in the cupboards and shelves rattled and caus[ed] great consternation among the inhabitants of this region.”  Many citizens were so terrified “that they met in the churches for Prayer and supplication.”

In February 1812, Joseph Underwood wrote to his uncle in Barren County from Lexington where, he reported, “the repeated shocks of earthquakes have alarmed the timorous inhabitants of this place.”  A man told Underwood that his wife had not eaten anything for days.  “I suppose she was under the dreadful apprehension of being swallowed up by the opening of the earth.”  Stories circulated of night watchmen hearing “aerial songs,” voices from above “which seemed to portend an awful desolation,” but Underwood suspected only “a base attempt to impose on the credulity of the people, who are now ready to believe in and wonder at miracles.”

Twenty-five years after the quakes, Betsy Taliaferro passed by the town of New Madrid on her steamboat journey from Louisiana to Versailles, Kentucky.  She feared coming near “that awful place” where “the earth yawned,” and found it “scarcely improved” since the disaster.  The real tragedy, however, was not property damage but damage to the human psyche.  “What must the inhabitants have experienced during that awful period!” Betsy wrote in her journal.  “That the inhabitants were horror stricken is not to be wondered at, but that they were anything but lunatics afterwards is.”

Click on the names to download finding aids for the above collections.  For more about our collections, search TopScholar and KenCat.

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Online Exhibits

A new section has been added to TopScholar:  Kentucky Museum / Library Special Collections Online Exhibits.  The site features images of objects, photographs and documents used in exhibits with more background information than is inclued in a typical museum label.  The site includes a blog widgets for user comments which will enhance our knowledge of objects and photographs.  The Google maps / Google Earth widget allows us place objects and photographs in geographical relation to others.

Currently there are two completed online exhibits.  The first is Get on the Bus: 40 Years of Political Activism.  Originally created in 2008 as a traveling exhibit to commemorate the Civil Rights movement, this online exhibit focuses on WKU students’ involvement in political causes through the years.

The second is Playing Our Song: Southern Kentucky Notes which highlights the Kentucky Library’s Southern Kentucky Music Collection as well as WKU faculty, staff, student and alumni musicians. 

Come and learn more about the Kentucky Museum and Library Special Collections collections.

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January Reference Area Display

This month, the reference area turns its attention skyward for an astronomy display. Stop by the reference area to find books and atlases on the heavenly bodies.

Books on Display

  1. Great atlas of the universe / L. Benacchio. QB982 .B45 2007
  2. Norton’s star atlas and reference handbook (epoch 2000.0).  QB65 .N7 1998x
  3. Handy astronomy answer book / Charles Liu.  QB52 .L58 2008
  4. Observer’s sky atlas : with 50 star charts covering the entire sky / E. Karkoschka.  QB65 .K3713x 2007
  5. Concise catalog of deep-sky objects : astrophysical information for 500 galaxies, clusters, and nebulae / W.H. Finlay.  QB856 .F56 2003
  6. Firefly encyclopedia of astronomy / edited by Paul Murdin & Margaret Penston.  QB14 .F57x 2004
  7. Cambridge dictionary of astronomy / Jacqueline Mitton.  QB14 .M55 2001
  8. Atlas of the Galilean satellites / Paul Schenk.   QB404 .S43 2010
  9. Atlas of the night sky / Storm Dunlop ; illustrated by Wil Tirion and Antonín Rükl.  QB65 .D86x 2005
  10. Encyclopedia of planetary sciences / edited by James H. Shirley and Rhodes W. Fairbridge.   QB600.2 .E53 1997
  11. National Geographic Map of the Heavens (2 charts.)

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“May I learn many valuable lessons this year”

New Year's postcards, early 20th century

New Year’s postcards, early 20th century

Like all Americans, Kentuckians throughout history have responded to the arrival of each new year with a range of activities and emotions.  Their varied expressions of hope, excitement or trepidation can be found in some of the collections of WKU’s Special Collections Library.

On January 1, 1861, 20-year-old Bowling Green native Josie Underwood wrote in her diary of the splendid New Year’s ball she had attended in Memphis, Tennessee.  The spell of the evening was broken only once when, “like Banquo’s ghost,” the spectre of Southern secession entered the conversation–then, wrote pro-Union Josie, “we were all off like horses in a race.”  A year later, with the Civil War raging, Josie’s entry for December 31, 1861 mourned “the last night of this sad and trying most eventful year of my life–and our country’s life.  God grant us Peace before another shall end!”

After the war, hope returned.  While staying with relatives in Indiana, 14-year-old Mary Elizabeth Cosby wrote to her father in Muhlenberg County of the commotion surrounding the 1866 New Year’s celebrations.  “I never in all of my life heard such rin[g]ing of bells and firing of guns as there was at twelve o’clock that night,” she reported; even the local waterworks blew its whistle.

Much later, in Bowling Green, Mackie Smith had two reasons to celebrate the dawn of the year 1900: January 1 marked both a new century and her 20th birthday.  To commemorate this fresh beginning, she set out her lofty aims in the pages of her new journal.  “Little book,” she inscribed, “into thy pages shall I pour my joys and griefs for this coming year.  Keep thou the secrets I shall impart to thee. . . . Oh may I learn many valuable lessons this year. . . . Oh may the resolves and resolutions I make ever form a bright picture oh may it not fade and grow dim, but live and shed its undying lustre with matchless splendor.”

Click on the names to download finding aids for these collections.  For more collections relating to Christmas, New Year’s and other holidays, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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