Monthly Archives: June 2012

July Reference Book Display

This month, the reference area is celebrating Claire Donahue, the WKU alumna who qualified for the 2012 US Olympic swim team. Please stop by the reference area for books on swimming, sports, and the Olympics, as well as the 2010 Talisman, featuring an article on Ms. Donahue from her junior year at Western, entitled “Olympic Bound.”

Books on Display

1.         Historical dictionary of the modern Olympic movement / edited by John E. Findling and Kimberly D. Pelle. GV721.5.H546

2.         Great athletes / edited by the editors of Salem Press ; special consultant Rafer Johnson.  GV697.A1 G68 2010

3.         Encyclopedia of women and sports / Victoria Sherrow. GV709 .S44 1996

4.         Encyclopedia of international games / Daniel Bell. GV721 .B45 2003

5.         United States Olympic Book/ United States Olympic Committee. V721.5 .U6

6.         Historical dictionary of competitive swimming / John Lohn. GV836.3 .L65 2010

7.         The women’s sports encyclopedia / Robert Markel, executive editor. GV709 .W589 1997

8.         The Olympic record book / Bill Mallon. GV721.8 .M34 1988

9.         2010 Talisman

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“My chin was sticking in my nose”

Herman & Mary Volkerding

Herman & Mary Volkerding

On June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of the Latter Day Saints and translator of the Book of Mormon, was killed by a mob for his controversial beliefs.  A little over a half-century later, 31-year-old Kentucky businessman Herman Volkerding witnessed Smith’s legacy in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Volkerding was on a 3,000-mile marketing trip through the western United States on behalf of his employer, a distillery headquartered in Louisville.  Although he was unlikely to have any sales success with the Mormons, while in Salt Lake City Volkerding did not miss a visit to the magnificent tabernacle where they worshipped.  Writing his wife Mary in July 1901, he “could not help but wonder at the ingenuity of the Mormon people.”  He described standing in a gallery at one end of the 200-foot-long, 8,000-seat temple as a Mormon elder at the other end “dropped a pin held not higher than 10 inches and it could be plainly heard.”

The next day, Volkerding attended a special musical service at the tabernacle and called it “the grandest thing by far that I have ever seen.”  He admitted to Mary “that I had to fight to keep from crying and to save me I could not keep some tears back.”  He listened with rapture to “the sweetest tenor you ever heard” and exclaimed of the 5,500-pipe organ that “you would hardly believe it but a human voice at any pitch can be reproduced so naturally and sweetly.”  Volkerding left his wife with an image of her husband, his lip quivering, overcome by the power of music.  “It was too much and I know my chin was sticking in my nose a good part of the time.”

Herman Volkerding’s travels and his affectionate letters to his wife can be found in the Volkerding Family Papers at WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Click here to download a finding aid.  Find out about other collections by searching TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Charles Smith on Alfred Russel Wallace


Click to enlarge.

Dr. Charles Smith has just published a short article in the Journal of Biosciences, a publication venue of the Indian Academy of Sciences.  In the article he discusses an aspect of the views of the English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace on natural selection.  Smith is currently readying two books on Wallace for publication in 2013:  one dealing with his 1886-1887 lecture tour in North America, and another on aspects of his thought for a French publisher (it will be published in French).


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War of 1812 Bicentennial

Volunteer roll, 25th Regiment, Kentucky militia, Sept. 1813

Volunteer roll, 25th Regiment, Kentucky militia, Sept. 1813

For the United States, the War of 1812 was a “second war of independence” against the British.  For Canada, the war was an important step on the road to Confederation, as the British provinces of Upper Canada (Ontario) and Lower Canada (Quebec) turned back numerous attempts at invasion, and possibly annexation, by the Americans.  Who came out the winner?  The answer largely depends on which side of the border you’re on.  One thing is certain: Kentuckians played a significant role in the war, volunteering in disproportionately large numbers and accounting for more than 60% of the troops killed in battle.

However it may be remembered this bicentennial year (heads up: the Canadians are spending $28 million to celebrate), the War of 1812, like all U. S. conflicts, is represented in the holdings of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  For example, the Lewis-Starling Collection contains a letter relating news of the disastrous defeat of American troops (including 900 Kentucky militiamen) by British and Indian forces at the Battle of the River Raisin.  The Dickerson-Venable Collection includes a copy of William Dickerson’s commission as a lieutenant in the Kentucky militia, and a furlough authorization issued from a camp at Moraviantown (near Chatham, Ontario) on October 7, 1813.  Two days earlier, sitting Kentucky governor Isaac Shelby had led troops there in a key American victory at what would become known as the Battle of the Thames.

In the Hines Collection are letters from James Hines of Warren County, written to his wife in 1814-15 while stationed at Camp Holly near Richmond, Virginia.  Though struggling with illness, Hines was not optimistic about obtaining a furlough.  Rumors were swirling that the Duke of Wellington’s trusted officer, Lieutenant-General Rowland Hill, was sailing to America with fresh troops.  While this proved untrue, it caused “considerable agitation” and the cancellation of all leaves of absence until the enemy’s movements along the east coast could be ascertained.

Click on the links to download finding aids for the collections containing these materials.  For more on our extensive war collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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The Thousand-Dollar-A-Year Man

Michael Rodgers, Princeton, Kentucky printer

Michael Rodgers, Princeton, Kentucky printer

“I cannot say that I like the place all together.  It appears to be almost out of the world, but after I become better acquainted with the people I hope I will be better satisfied.”

Like many young men starting a new job in a strange town, Michael Rodgers wondered if he had made the right move.  In May 1846, the Pennsylvania native arrived in Princeton, Kentucky to take over a struggling newspaper.  He found five investors with no printing experience, some broken-down equipment, and an office in “wretched condition.”

For the next year, Rodgers worked hard and pinched pennies, upgrading the equipment and saving $350 out of his $600 salary.  But he could not overcome the tough economic times, and his employers decided to close the paper.  Some of Princeton’s 300 citizens, however, urged him to take the business over on his own account, and after issuing a prospectus he set an ambitious goal of 500 subscriptions.  Between the paper and other printing jobs, he hoped to make $1,000 a year (about $24,000 worth of purchasing power today).

During the next few years, Rodgers stayed afloat but remained conscious of his economic vulnerability.  One thousand dollars a year was still within reach, but he was spending $500 for room and board, which included responsibility for two young printer’s apprentices and the occasional journeyman.  True, he could save money by trading in his bachelor’s life and setting up housekeeping with a good woman, but Rodgers found his longings for a wife thwarted.  “Kentucky girls has not got the right sort of raising for me,” he wrote his mother.  “They have all been raised among slaves, and know nothing about taking care of a house.”

Michael Rodgers’ letters to his family in Pennsylvania are available in WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Click here to download a finding aid.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Spectrum Quilt on View at Shelburne Museum

Quilts on exhibit at the Shelburne Museum

George Yarrall Spectrum Quilt (L) and quilts by Albert Small (R) and Charles Pratt (B.) Photo courtesy of the Shelburne Museum.



Composed of more than 66,000 pieces, the unique Spectrum Quilt can be seen through October 28 as part of an exhibit, Man-Made Quilts: the Civil War to the Present, at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. Its maker, George Yarrall, was an immigrant from New Zealand who worked as an engraver at Morris Jewelry in Bowling Green, KY.  Yarrall not only kept the colored paper template used in designing the textile, he also recorded in a handwritten note that the quilt was started on July 2, 1933 and finished two years later on December 30, 1935. The Spectrum Quilt is one of four quilts in the Kentucky Museum collection of nearly 200 quilts that are attributed to men.


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Delta Theta Pledge Diary

In February 1943 Leone Brewer was a student at the Bowling Green Business University. She was pledging the Delta Theta sorority and as part of those activities, she kept a diary. This diary is now in the WKU Archives. It records the rules which pledges had to observe such as carrying books and running errands for other students. Ms. Brewer gives details about the clothes she wore, going on a date, assemblies and a survey of neighborhood cats and dogs.  Check out the entire diary at:

Do you have similar experiences of pledging a fraternity or sorority?  Were there top secret initiation rites?  Share your memories of WKU and BGBU with us.

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The Path to Citizenship

Warren County naturalization papers

Warren County naturalization papers

As Warren County becomes more diverse in ethnicity and language, a collection of naturalization papers in WKU’s Special Collections Library reminds us that for more than a century and a half, immigrants have sought homes in southcentral Kentucky.

Taken from county court records and processed by manuscripts technician Taryn Rice, the papers date from 1837-1907.  Sometimes issued in other states, the documents were required to be deposited at the courthouse in the individual’s county of residence.  Most contain full details of the immigrant’s name, country and city of origin, and length of residence in the United States.

The countries of western Europe–England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Germany–as well as Russia, Poland, Italy, Austria and Scandinavia–are well represented by 125 immigrants with names such as O’Sullivan, Blumm, Rausher, Unkleman, Maguire and Duff.  Each declares his or her intention to “renounce and forever abjure all allegiance to any foreign prince or potentate” on the way to becoming an American citizen.  For good measure, the most recent claimant on the immigrant’s loyalty–whether Queen Victoria, Emperor Napoleon, Nicholas of Russia, the King of Bavaria or the Grand Duke of Oldenburg–is also named.

A finding aid for Warren County Court Records–Naturalization Papers can be downloaded by clicking here.  For more on our collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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June Reference Book Display

Come in to the reference area at Helm Library for all things British! This month’s book display features a variety of books on jolly old England, both from its present and its past. This month, Britain celebrates the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, marking 60 years of Elizabeth II’s reign. Please visit for more information on the event. In addition, June is also the month of the Royal Ascot, and Wimbledon.


Books on Display

  1. Atlas of medieval Britain / Christopher Daniell. G1812.21.S1 D3 2008
  2. Tudor England : an encyclopedia / Arthur F. Kinney and David W. Swain, general editors. DA315 .T73x 2001
  3. The Oxford handbook of Anglo-Saxon archaeology / edited by Helena Hamerow, David A. Hinton, and Sally Crawford. DA152 .O94 2011
  4. Great Britain/ David Else. DA650 .G74x 2007
  5. The Cambridge companion to modern British culture / edited by Michael Higgins, Clarissa Smith and John Storey. DA110 .C253 2010
  6. Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture / edited by Peter Childs and Mike Storry. DA589.4 .E53 1999
  7. The Oxford companion to British history / edited by John Cannon. DA34 .O93 2002
  8. Frommer’s best day trips from London : 25 great escapes by train, bus or car / by Stephen Brewer & Donald Olson. DA650 .B74x 2010
  9. The Cambridge companion to Victorian culture / edited by Francis O’Gorman. DA533 .C36 2010
  10. Routledge atlas of British history / Martin Gilbert. G1812.21.S1 G5 2007x

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Peggy Wright Celebrates 87th Birthday


On June 3rd WKU Library faculty and staff threw a surprise party for Peggy Wright on the occasion of her 87th birthday. Peggy has been full and part-time faculty at the library since the 1970s.



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