Monthly Archives: October 2013

A Thinking Man Laments

Jason Wiltse and his diary

Jason Wiltse and his diary

“Another Christmas Day has come. . . .  One year ago today we were at Bowling Green Kentucky and at picket duty,” noted Jason Wiltse in his diary on December 25, 1863.  A corporal with the 23rd Michigan Infantry, 20-year-old Wiltse had spent the past year on a tour of duty that took him through Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.  On his long marches, he observed the weather, local geography, timber, crops, road conditions, and the fortunes of his fellow soldiers as they endured heat, cold and dust, and skirmished with the Confederates.

Crossing from Clinton County, Kentucky into Tennessee, Wiltse found himself marching through the Cumberland Mountains over rough roads before arriving at Jamestown, “mostly desolate & forsaken.”  Approaching London, Tennessee, his company “commenced drawing rations of green corn, 3 ears per day for a man.”  But he wrote with satisfaction in September that “East Tennessee, long considered impenetrable by any considerable force, has been penetrated by a large army, with wagon trains and artillery, and the country is now in our possession and the loyal inhabitants relieved of the tyranny of a desperate enemy.”

The enemy, of course, was not quite vanquished, and in November 1863, Wiltse wrote, “we halted to give them battle” at Campbell’s Station.  Enduring a “murderous fire,” he and his men “lay flat upon the ground for a long time,” the attack “sending some of our comrades to eternity”: one shot through the shoulder “and probably through the heart,” another through the cheek, and another wounded in the left knee, requiring an amputation the next day.  They withdrew from the field “obliged to leave the dead unburied, though not unmourned.”  Wiltse found the battle “a terrible example of the mad passions of man,” a sight to “make a thinking man lament more deeply, if possible, the terrible condition of a once happy country.”

Corporal Jason Wiltse’s diary, recently donated to the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Special Collections Library, is available to interested researchers.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more Civil War collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Comments Off on A Thinking Man Laments

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Samuel Marder, Violinist, Holocaust Survivor, Author to Speak at WKU Libraries Far Away Places series


Samuel Marder, violin virtuoso

WKU Libraries and WKU’s Departments of Music, Sociology and Philosophy & Religion will host presentations Oct. 17-18 by Samuel Marder, professional violinist, author and Holocaust survivor. Marder will discuss his new book Devils Among Angels: A Journey From Paradise And Hell To Life at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 1680 Campbell Lane. Admission is free, open to the public, and a “swipeable” event for WKU students.

Marder was born in Czernowitz (Chernivtsi) in Romania where he lived with his sister and parents. He began studying the violin at age 6 in 1936.  Three years later the Nazis invaded Poland and Romania joined the Axis.  At the age of 10 he was living in a concentration camp in Transnistria, Ukraine where he was sharing a tiny room with 50 others, only 12 of whom would survive the ordeal.  His father died of typhoid fever.

He, his sister and his mother were liberated after three and a half years’ incarceration eventually making their way to West Germany and then to New York to join his mother’s brother.  After graduating from the Manhattan School of Music he became concertmaster and Assistant Conductor of the Leonard Bernstein Gala Orchestra and has since played with many orchestras and been a soloist at Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall.  He’s toured though Europe, South America, Israel and Korea and has been playing in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular orchestra since 1968.  His arrangement of Canon in D Major by Johan Pachelbel for violin and piano is widely performed around the world.


Samuel Marder, present day

Devils Among Angels is a collection of short stories and poems inspired by memories of Marder’s childhood years before, during and after World War II and the Holocaust. He uses prose and poetry in both fiction and non-fiction to reflect on good and evil in the past and present.

Bryan Carson reviewed his book for the Sunday, October 13, 2013 Daily News.

Daily News book review


Devils among Angels

Far Away Places event flyer

Comments Off on Samuel Marder, Violinist, Holocaust Survivor, Author to Speak at WKU Libraries Far Away Places series

Filed under Events, Far Away Places, General, Latest News, New Stuff, Stuff, Uncategorized

Meet John F. Kennedy

Meet John F. Kennedy

An interesting 1965 children’s book, Meet John F. Kennedy, by Nancy Bean White has been recently donated to the WKU Special Collections Library.  The book is filled with more than fifty, real-life photographs related to John F. Kennedy, his family, and his presidency.  The book presents a realistic timeline of JFK from his childhood, the presidency, the family, and his tragic death.


The donor of this treasured book is Mary Bennett who lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Mrs. Bennett participated in the JFK Memory Project at WKU and was interviewed by the Manuscripts and Folklife Archives Librarian, Jonathan Jeffrey.  Mrs. Bennett was shopping in downtown Dallas, Texas at the time of President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade on November 22, 1963.  The Bennett family could not see the actual assassination from their location in the crowd, but Mr. Bennett and a fellow trucker friend were able to communicate with each other by “walkie talkies” to safely escape the chaotic events following the president’s assassination. President Kennedy’s traumatic assassination and the televised funeral procession prompted Mrs. Bennett to collect many memorable JFK items over the years.

The JFK Memory Project at WKU is currently collecting remembrances of Kennedy’s assassination, if anyone would like to contribute their memories of where they were on that fateful day when they first learned of President Kennedy’s death or watched the news and funeral on television.  The JFK Memory Project at WKU is still collecting information about President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Bowling Green on October 8, 1960.  If you or your family, friends, and neighbors remember President Kennedy’s visit to Kentucky or the JFK assassination events, please contact Jonathan Jeffrey at 270-745-5265 or to share your personal memories of these historical events.

Comments Off on Meet John F. Kennedy

Filed under Uncategorized

Reservoir Hill from Vinegar Hill (WKU)A recent donation of 11 stereographic cards opens up a view of early Bowling Green, KY. These images are from 1886 and show downtown Bowling Green, the Barren River, an early school, the Fairview Cemetery, Southern Normal School, Main and State Streets and two bridges. Many of these albumen images have not been seen before. Stereographs like these were a vehicle for popular education and entertainment in the latter part of the nineteenth century.  These images were mounted on cardboard with two almost identical photographs, side by side, and they had to be viewed with a stereoscope. Viewing them in this way created a three-dimensional effect. These images gave an opportunity for many to see views of far-away lands in a way that was not available to the general population. Their affordability and easy availability also made stereography a popular pastime that lasted over six decades. See other images of Bowling Green, KY by using KENCAT at

Comments Off on Seeing Bowling Green in Stereo

by | October 10, 2013 · 7:55 pm

“The Best Known Little Folks”

P. T. Barnum and Tom Thumb wedding party, 1863; Tom Thumb wedding, Bowling Green, 1905

P. T. Barnum and Tom Thumb wedding party, 1863; Tom Thumb wedding, Bowling Green, 1905

Born in 1838 in Connecticut, Charles Sherwood Stratton stopped growing at about 6 months of age.  He had what today is termed proportionate dwarfism; that is, he was normal and healthy except for his exceptionally diminutive stature.  Although he experienced minor growth spurts later in life, he was a mere 3 feet 4 inches tall at his death in 1883.

Under the tutelage of master showman P.T. Barnum, Stratton turned his natural talents into a show business career that brought him wealth and worldwide celebrity.  Beginning at age 5, he travelled the U.S., Europe and Australia as “General Tom Thumb,” delighting the public with songs, dances and impersonations.  For his 1844 tour of Europe, Barnum introduced a hugely popular accessory: a small carriage, drawn by miniature ponies.

Collections in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Special Collections Library show that, like audiences everywhere, Kentuckians were fascinated when the “fabulous midget” (a term now considered pejorative) came to their town.  In an 1850 letter to his wife, William K. Wall of Harrison County asked her to tell his son Dick that he had seen Tom Thumb and his scaled-down conveyance: “He is 18 years old, 2 feet 4 inches high & weights 15 pounds,” wrote Wall (Barnum had added several years to his star’s age).  “His carriage body is about as big as a corn basket and carriage horses the size of sheep and his driver not larger than Dick.”  In 1853, 10-year-old Lizzie Edmunds wrote her grandmother from Princeton, Kentucky about her introduction to the little General: “he is only eighteen inches high and is very pretty, he kissed me and [another] little girl; I saw his little carriage and two little black horses about the size of a dog.”

In 1863, Tom Thumb further captivated the nation when he married Lavinia Warren, a 2-foot-8-inch-tall Barnum troupe member and former schoolteacher, in a lavish ceremony capped by a reception at the Lincoln White House.  Their marriage inspired the phenomenon of “Tom Thumb weddings”–mock nuptials, often to raise money for charity, in which children played all the roles.  One such event took place in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1905, when young Margie Mitchell “wed” Jessie Sweitzer before a large crowd at the Southern Normal School’s Vanmeter Hall.  Whether or not these toddlers behaved as well as their role models, the “best known little folks of the city,” as the local paper termed them, were given a chance to experience the unique fame of General and Mrs. Tom Thumb.

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

Comments Off on “The Best Known Little Folks”

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Marc Murphy


Marc Murphy, Editorial Cartoonist for the Courier-Journal of Louisville, KY

Marc Murphy is a native of Ashland, Kentucky where he grew up in the Appalachian steel and coal country.  His father was a native of Prince Edward island, Canada while his mother’s family were of Slovenian heritage.  His father was a TV and radio personality and his mother an accordion player.  They met while both were performing at a TV station in Charleston, W.V.

Photo Album| Audio | Podcast RSS Feed

Continue reading

Comments Off on Marc Murphy

Filed under Events, General, Kentucky Live, Latest News, New Stuff, Stuff, Uncategorized

Banned Books Week


Banned Books Week display in the
Commons at Cravens

Banned Books Week is an annual event promoted by the American Library Association (ALA) celebrating the freedom to read. WKU Libraries celebrates 2013 Banned Books Week by encouraging patrons to “Jump on the Banned Wagon!” and read banned or challenged books.

Continue reading

Comments Off on Banned Books Week

Filed under Events, General, Latest News, New Stuff, Stuff, Uncategorized

The Economics of War

Henry McLean's commutation money receipt, 1864

Henry McLean’s commutation money receipt, 1864

“A rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight” was the often-heard complaint of military draftees during the Vietnam War.  But the cry was also raised during the Civil War, after the Enrollment Act, passed in March 1863, established a quota system for drafting men into the Union Army from each Congressional district.

The most unpopular parts of this unpopular law were its exemptions, and in particular the provisions allowing draftees to procure a substitute, or simply to avoid service by paying the government a $300 fee.  The logic behind “commutation” money was that it would not only raise funds for the war effort but keep the cost of hiring a substitute below what it cost to exempt oneself entirely.  Still, the fee (equivalent to about $5,500 today) was no small sum for the farmers, laborers and clerks who found themselves called to war.

Nevertheless, when Henry J. McLean was drafted on May 13, 1864, he quickly paid over his $300 at Owensboro, Kentucky and was issued a receipt which, according to section 13 of the Enrollment Act, discharged him from further liability under the draft.  He might have considered himself lucky, for in July the federal government eliminated the commutation fee option, effectively removing the ceiling on the price of a substitute to serve in a draftee’s place.

Henry J. McLean’s commutation money receipt is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For other collections relating to compulsory military service, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Comments Off on The Economics of War

Filed under Manuscripts & Folklife Archives

Two speakers featured–an editorial cartoonist and a Holocaust survivor– as part of WKU Libraries’ Kentucky Live! and Far Away Places series in October

mmurphy3Courier-Journal editorial cartoonist Marc Murphy from Louisville, Kentucky will be speaking at Barnes & Noble on Thursday, October 10 as part of WKU Libraries’ Kentucky Live! lecture series. Murphy’s cartoons are nationally distributed and are published five times per week in the Courier-Journal.

Murphy’s works are now online in digital animation through the work of Digital Graphic Artist Chris Feldmann at the Courier-Journal. Murphy describes Feldman’s process as taking his art and “combining Steven Spielberg and Walt Disney.” Murphy says, “if you liked today’s cartoon, or more particularly…if you absolutely hated it, if you want to hate it even more, go to the Courier-Journal website and see it in all its animated glory.”

devils among angels picSamuel Marder, professional violinist and Holocaust survivor, will be speaking at Barnes & Noble on Thursday, October 17, on his recent book Devils among Angels: A Journey from Paradise and Hell to Life.

Devils among Angels is a collection of short stories and poems inspired by memories of Marder’s childhood years before, during, and after World War II and the Holocaust. He uses prose and poetry in both fiction and non-fiction to reflect on good and evil in the past and present.

Distinguished Professor of History Lisa Rosner, Ph.D., from Stockton College, writes about Marder’s book. “This is a transformative book in so many ways,” says Rosner. “Sam Marder takes the harrowing images of his childhood, shattered by the Nazis, and his experiences in concentration and refugee camps, and transforms them into stories, poems, and music. The reader is transformed by Marder’s striking images of angels and devils at work in human lives—and his calm reassurance of the ultimate victory of the angels. This book is required reading for anyone interested in the resilience of children, and creative genius, in the face of the Holocaust.”

Both programs will be held at 7 pm at Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Campbell Lane in Bowling Green, Kentucky. These are free events for anyone in the community. For more information, go to

Comments Off on Two speakers featured–an editorial cartoonist and a Holocaust survivor– as part of WKU Libraries’ Kentucky Live! and Far Away Places series in October

Filed under Events, New Stuff, Uncategorized