Monthly Archives: April 2016

“A great deal to answer for”

Letter to Hitler from Fort Knox, Kentucky

Letter to Hitler from Fort Knox, Kentucky

Early in the morning of April 29, 1945, Adolf Hitler married his mistress, Eva Braun.  The next day, with Soviet troops only blocks away from his bunker at the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, he and his bride committed suicide.

Among the millions who received the news without a flicker of mourning was Martha (Woods) Potter.  The 76-year-old lifelong resident of Bowling Green had followed Hitler’s rise to power with outrage.  “Isn’t Hitler the last word in audacity or is it Mussolini?” she asked as early as March 1936.  “That pair could come over here and take America away from us if they took a notion.”  In September 1938, as British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain negotiated with the Nazi leader over the fate of Czechoslovakia, she observed to her daughter that “Hitler will have a great deal to answer for if he lets the world go to war.”  After the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, she understood the Fuhrer’s grip on his people, declaring “We all hate Hitler and blame him instead of the Germans.”  In June 1940, with France about to fall and England in the crosshairs, Martha was in favor of America sending the British “all the armaments they want,” and deplored Congressional reluctance to do so.  “They are all afraid of what Hitler will think,” she complained.  “Who cares what the Hun thinks?  He needs a rope around his neck and while they are tying they might get Mussolini’s neck caught in the same noose.”  At news of the Fuhrer’s ignominious death, Martha was triumphant.  “Now if we can give Hitler’s dead body a few kicks it will be to suit me,” she wrote her children.

Martha’s animosity was nothing, however, compared to that of an unknown soldier at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  In “A Letter to Hitler,” he laid out in explicit verse the indignities awaiting the dictator–specifically, the fate of certain of his body parts and the pristine splendor of his “palace”–once American GIs caught up with him.

Click on the links for finding aids to these letters, part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Former Fulbright Scholar Paul Griner awarded 2016 Kentucky Literary Award

The Southern Kentucky Book Fest partnership announced Paul Griner as the winner of this year’s Kentucky Literary Award for his book Hurry Please, I Want to Know, published by Sarabande Books (Louisville, KY). First awarded in 2003 and reintroduced in 2012 after a brief hiatus, the Kentucky Literary Award is a celebration of Kentucky Literature. Eligible books include those written by Kentuckians or books with a substantial Kentucky theme. Fiction and non-fiction books are recognized in alternating years, this year being the year for fiction.

2016 KY Literary Award

Griner’s book is a collection of short stories. Publishers Weekly says “Griner overlays tales of family, artistry, and parent-child relationships with elements of the surreal, in order to create, in the words of one character, ‘an undercurrent of mournfulness.’ The collection’s best stories…offer just enough detail to produce strong emotions while remaining cryptically open-ended.”

Paul Griner, a former Fulbright Scholar and current English professor at the University of Louisville, is the author of the short story collection Follow Me (Random House), a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, and the novels Collectors (Random House) and The German Woman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). His works have been published in numerous magazines, journals and anthologies, and have been translated into a half-dozen languages. He is the recipient of U of L’s Outstanding Teaching Award as well as the Graduate School’s Outstanding Mentor Award. He has a BA in History from the University of New Hampshire, an MA in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard, and an MA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University.


“Paul Griner has created an inventive array of characters found in amazingly varied circumstances in his short story collection Hurry Please, I Want to Know,” said Jonathan Jeffrey, department head of WKU Library Special Collections and member of the selection committee for the award. “His creativity is so pervasive that no one story even vaguely resembles the other and each one is enhanced by his tight, crisp writing.

The award announcement was made at the Knicely Conference Center at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest Meet the Authors Reception on Friday, April 22–the night before the main Book Fest event. Griner was recognized with a commemorative certificate and a monetary gift.

The Southern Kentucky Book Fest partners include Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Warren County Public Library, and the Western Kentucky University Libraries. The award was made possible with the generous support of Friends of WKU Libraries. For more information about the award, please visit

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Tracing the Unexplored: Carlos de la Torre’s “Assessing Left Wing Populism in Latin America”

lat_20160330111015507On Monday, April 11 WKU Libraries, in collaboration with the Depts. of Modern Languages, Political Science, Sociology, the School of Journalism and Broadcasting, and the Office of International Programs, hosted Carlos de la Torre, Professor at the University of Kentucky, as part of the Tracing the Unexplored speaker series. A native of Quito, Ecuador, de la Torre moved to the United States in 1979, earned his BA in Sociology in 1983 from the University of Florida, and ultimately earned his PhD in 1993 from the New School for Social Research in New York for his study of Ecuadorean Populism in the 1930s and 40s, focusing on the early career of Jose Maria Velasco.

Before coming to UK in 2011 he previously taught at Drew University and Northeastern University, was a professor in the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Sede (FLASCO) in Ecuador, was a Fulbright Scholar, a Woodrow Wilson International Center Fellow, and a Guggenheim Fellow. He now serves as International Studies Program Director and Professor of Sociology at UK and teaches courses on topics like Global Racism, Global Populism, and Media and Politics in Latin America. He has authored twelve books, most recently Latin American Populism of the Twenty-First Century in 2013 and Promises and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives in 2015, as well as contributing occasionally to Spain’s leading newspaper El Pais and maintaining a weekly column in Dario Hoy, Quito’s leading newspaper.

De la Torre’s talk focused on “Assessing Left Wing Populism in Latin America: The Examples of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador”, examing why Hugo chavez Evo Morales and Rafael Correa were elected, the similarities and differences among their regimes, and the challenges to their populismand was held at 4:30 p.m. at the Faculty House.

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“Eat, Drink, and Be Merry” at the SOKY Book Festival

On Saturday, April 23 at 11 a.m. Brian Coutts moderated a panel forum at the 2016 Southern Kentucky Book Festival titled “Eat, Drink, & Be Merry”, featuring  Kentucky authors with their books about wine, whiskey, and dining in Kentucky.


Coutts with authors

From left to right: Kathy Woodhouse, Becky Kelley, Brian Coutts, Carol Peachee, and Gary West

Bullitt County, KY native Becky Kelley has been a freelance writer since 2003 with her first book A Tail of Christmas written for children, and her other work has been published in many venues. In 2012 she collaborated with photographer Kathy Woodhouse, also of Bullitt County, in their 2015 book Wineing Your Way Across Kentucky: Recipes, History, and Scenery. The book includes their visits to over seventy Kentucky wineries, talking to vintners and asking them for their favored recipes using their wines, and includes beautiful photographs of vineyards, wine, and food. Woodhouse is currently undertaking a project photographing lighthouses in America, and the two authors plan on publishing another book about “wineing” across Indiana.

Wineing Your Way Across Kentucky

Wineing Your Way Across Kentucky: Recipes, History, and Scenery by Becky Kelley, photography by Kathy Woodhouse

Carol Peachee is a graduate of Hollins University, attended graduate school in psychology at Goddard College, and now lives and works in Lexington, KY as a Professional Clinical Counselor and Fine Art Photographer. Her 2015 book The Birth of Bourbon: A Photographic Tour of Early Distilleries traces Kentucky’s centuries old industry through 220 color images of Kentucky’s “lost” distilleries around Lexington that have been abandoned, altered for other industries, or are undergoing renewal through continued operation. Peachee says her next project will be to research and photograph other lost distilleries in Kentucky outside of the Lexington area.

The Birth of Bourbon

The Birth of Bourbon: A Photographic Tour of Early Distilleries by Carol Peachee

Gary West of Elizabethtown, KY has lived in Bowling Green since 1971 and has previously been the Executive Director for the Hilltopper Athletic Foundation and the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Since 2006 he has been a full-time writer and is now Kentucky’s leading travel writer a syndicated column in Kentucky newspapers and nine books, including Eating Your Way Across Kentucky and Shopping Your Way Across Kentucky. His newest book, published in 2015, is Road Trip Eats: 101 Places Across Kentucky where “Ya Gotta Eat”. West is now researching for his next book on a local professional wrestler.

Road Trip Eats

Road Trip Eats: 101 Ya Gotta Eat Here Places Across Kentucky by Gary P. West

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The power of a ‘trusty friend’

Part of John Denny's power of attorney

Part of John Denny’s power of attorney

When six of his slaves were spirited away from his Mercer County, Kentucky plantation in 1824, John Denny (1750-1834) gave his “trusty friend” John Guthrie power of attorney to track down, regain possession of the fugitives, and “dispose of them in whatever way he may think proper.”  This grant of agency is part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.

According to the power of attorney, the slaves were stolen by James Hall Denny, John’s own 21-year-old son, and James’s brother-in-law Asher Labertew.  The younger Denny had become strongly opposed to slavery and, perhaps in defiance of his father, may have tried to escort the slaves to freedom in Indiana, where both he and Labertew settled soon after.

A testament to this family drama, the power of attorney was also evidence of the curious intimacy between slaveholders and the African Americans whose bodies they owned and controlled.  In order to assist and support Guthrie’s authority to repossess the runaway slaves, Denny shared his knowledge of their physical characteristics.  The group consisted of a woman, her children and grandchild.  There was Nelly, a “heavy woman” with “foreteeth somewhat [in] decay” and a forefinger broken and “lyed down in her hand she cannot straiten it out,” a daughter, a “bright mollato [mulatto] named Mariah” with “a little man child at her breast,” and another, Milly, who was “middling Chunky.”  Eliza was six or seven, and the youngest, three-year-old Mary, was “somewhat inclined to a yallow coulor.”

Whether John Guthrie recaptured the six is not known, but an ominous clue appears in the fact that the power of attorney was recorded in Mississippi ten months later.  Perhaps Guthrie found his quarry and, in accordance with the authority granted him, “disposed” of the family by selling them down the river.

Click here to access a finding aid for John Denny’s power of attorney.  For more of our collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century

Chinese-Marshal-Art (3)
The final speaker for the WKU Libraries’ 2015-2016 season of “Far Away Places” was Peter Lorge, who is an Assistant Professor of History and Asian Studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN specializing in the history of 10th and 11th century China, war history and military thought, guns and gunpowder, Chinese martial arts, and Chinese film. Lorge spoke about his book Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century on the evening of April 22, 2016 at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Bowling Green, Ky, a co-sponsor of the event.

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3,000 and Counting

Charles Nourse letter; SC list

Charles Nourse letter; SC list

What do a Chinese laundryman’s account book, a receipt signed by Daniel Boone, a diary describing an 1847 visit to Mammoth Cave, letters from a repatriated slave to her former owner, and a handwritten Shaker hymn book have in common?

They are all collections in the Manuscripts and Folklife Archives holdings of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections, and they share classification as Small Collections (SCs), that is, manuscript collections that are small enough to fit into a single file folder.  Although we hold even vaster quantities of manuscript collections (MSS) ranging in size from one to dozens of boxes, our SCs collectively comprise more than 66 linear feet.

We recently achieved a milestone when we catalogued our 3,000th small collection.  We wanted the designation of SC 3000 to go to a significant acquisition, and found one in the papers of Charles Ewing Nourse (1826-1866) of Bardstown, Kentucky.  The highlight of the ten items in this collection are three highly descriptive letters written by Nourse during his service in the Mexican War, a conflict in which Kentuckians fought but which is far less well-documented than, say, the Civil War or World War II.

From the oldest (SC 1419), a 1781 letter of Revolutionary War soldier Nathaniel Lucas to his sweetheart just before the decisive Battle of Yorktown, to the newest (SC 2994), a 2016 guide to walking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park co-authored by retired Bowling Green attorney Ray Buckberry, our small collections, in terms of their variety, historical significance, and educational value, are much bigger than they appear.  Click on the links above to download finding aids, and search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat for finding aids to the other 2,995 or so!

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150 authors and illustrators expected at the 2016 SOKY Book Fest

SOKYBF_Flier2016_FinalMore than 150 authors and illustrators are expected to be in attendance for the Southern Kentucky Book Fest weekend of April 22-23, including New York Times bestselling authors J.A. Jance, Garth Stein, and Jay Asher, well-known for his young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why.

“We are incredibly excited to be able to host this line-up of quality authors and illustrators this year,” said Sara Volpi, Literary Outreach Coordinator for WKU Libraries and Book Fest organizer. “There are authors for audiences of all ages and reading levels, and the event is free and open to the public.”

Held at the Knicely Conference Center, SOKY Book Fest weekend is full of author presentations, panel discussions, and book signings as well as the Kentucky Writers Conference featuring writing workshops on Friday, April 22 presented by several authors who will be at the main event on Saturday. Friday also includes Children’s Day, with hundreds of school-aged children and teens visiting presentations and getting books signed by favorite and newly discovered authors. Our Teen Writers Conference, now in its second year, is geared toward youth in grades 9 through 12, and each session is taught by a SOKY Book Fest author. For more information or to register, go to and click on Children’s Day/Teen Writers Conference under the Events tab.

Michael Morris, V.E. Schwab, and Michael Hingson are a few well-known authors who will be on hand at SOKY Book Fest. Bestselling picture book author Adam Rex, whose book The True Meaning of Smekday was adapted into the Dreamworks film Home, will be attending both days along with illustrator Lauren Castillo, whose latest work, Twenty Yawns, was written along with Pulitzer Prize winning author Jane Smiley.

SOKY Book Fest is a partnership of Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Warren County Public Library, and WKU Libraries. For more information, visit the website at or contact Book Fest organizer Sara Volpi at WKU Libraries at (270) 745-4502.

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The Bowling Green Press (1846)

Bowling Green PressWhat was happening in Bowling Green, KY on July 1, 1846 almost 170 years ago? Well, now we know! A wonderful, recent donation lets us learn more about Bowling Green’s early history. This very rare newspaper, with the masthead, The Bowling Green Press, is the only one our Special Collections Library staff have seen, and although it is in poor condition; it is definitely preferable to having no specimen at all. The survival of any periodical is a triumph against many odds. We think of our culture as a throw-away culture but newspapers have always be seen as expendable–meant to be read, passed around and then thrown away, or even used for wrapping paper or other household purposes.
The newspaper noted under its masthead, that it was devoted to “Politics, Agriculture, Literature, Morality and General Intelligence.” Headlines in the issue focus on the Mormon conflict and controversy at Nauvoo, IL, President James K. Polk and his declaration of war with Mexico and the “Awful Calamity” in Quebec as the Theatre Royal burns killing 50 people. “The Theatre Royal, Saint Lewis [street], took fire from the overturning of a camphene lamp, at the close of the exhibition of Mr. Harlean’s Chemical Dioramas, and the whole interior of the building was almost instantly in a blaze. Local news highlights include the deaths of Mrs. Sarah Cox, 87 of this county and Mrs. George (Adelaide) Milliken of Simpson County, KY in her 30th year. There are a few handsomely illustrated advertisements of products or services offered and they portray many aspects of daily life. Butter was selling for 10 cents per pound, coffee at 9 cents and sugar, 7 cents. Books and “tationary” were for sale at Townsend’s store and the most “fashionable style” hats could be had at William Whiteman’s store. The Louisville Steamer packet, “General Warren,” left regularly at 10:00 every Saturday. Also, if you did not feel well, Dr. S. A. Withrs (sic) requests that you stop by the Green River Hotel or his office across the street from the Market House for treatment.
We are so pleased to have this early Bowling Green, KY newspaper and will preserve it for future historians. You may see this and other items in the WKU Department of Library Special Collections by visiting or by searching TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Mrs. Moore Goes to War

It was courtship of a different kind.  From September to December 1943, the War Department conducted a 10-week nationwide drive to attract 70,000 recruits to the Women’s Army Corps (WACs).  In order to free up more men for combat, women were urged to sign up for military duty as clerks, mechanics, electricians, parachute riggers, weather observers, truck drivers, radio operators, hospital technicians, and much more.  Kentucky’s goal for the campaign was 1,512 recruits, equal to the number of casualties the state had suffered in the war.

Mary Leiper Moore; publicity for WAC recruiting drive

Mary Leiper Moore; publicity for WAC recruiting drive

In Bowling Green and Warren County, where the goal was 27 recruits, citizens assembled in committees to organize the drive.  Among them was Mary Leiper Moore, WKU’s Kentucky Librarian, who was named chairman of the publicity committee.  Across her desk came draft press releases and other literature from the War Department to be used in the recruiting effort.  The Park City Daily News published articles based on these materials, touting the service opportunities awaiting women who became WACs.  Appealing to pride and patriotism, local businesses subsidized ads urging them to join.  “You Can’t Top Kentucky Women,” read one.  “They make the best WACs in the World!”

Not all, unfortunately, went as Mrs. Moore had hoped.  One of the major recruiting events was a stage show and dance at WKU on November 12, 1943, featuring a troupe of Army Air Force players and musicians from Louisville’s Bowman Field.  Coordination with the military brass, however, had broken down in the days leading up to the event (the appropriate military acronym for the consequences of such misfortune can be inserted here).  Confusion reigned regarding travel and accommodation for the performers, changes in venue (from an “unheated tobacco warehouse” to WKU’s Van Meter Hall, and then to the gymnasium in the Physical Education Building), and the timing of the show, which finally took place at the late hour of 10 p.m.

Afterward, Mrs. Moore write a stinging letter to the commander at Bowman Field.  The best efforts of local organizers, she complained, had been frustrated by the Army’s poor communication.  “Result, utter confusion and dismay of the public and auxiliary forces!”  The blame, she charged, lay not with “the women and the WACs” but with “the men and the Army”. . . specifically, its upper ranks: “If a Captain, Majors and several other officers can’t plan and successfully execute, over a few obstacles, a small show in a small town,” she asked, “what are they going to do when they get into combat?”

Click here for a finding to Mary Leiper Moore’s papers relating to the Warren County WAC recruiting drive, part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  For more collections on World War II and the WACs, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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