Author Archives: Sue Lynn McDaniel

The Little Colonel & Pewee Valley, subject of additional study

Two Little Colonel fans pose at the gate to The Locust, July 2, 2015

Two Little Colonel fans pose at the gate to The Locust, July 2, 2015

On July 2, 2015, I was delighted to share my research on Annie Fellows Johnston with Dawn Sardella-Ayres, a Ph.D. candidate in Children’s Literature from Homerton College of the University of Cambridge. Mrs. Sardella-Ayres’ thesis will focus on the role of place in the novels. Many Little Colonel fans (of the 1935 Shirley Temple movie as well as the set of children’s novels) will envy the day we spent guided by Donna Russell, owner of Edgewood in Pewee Valley, Kentucky. Our tour included the interior of The Beeches, the interior of Bemersyde, the Presbyterian Church, the interior of Edgewood and so many sites made real to Annie Fellows Johnston’s faithful readers.  The Little Colonel books were wildly popular with children as early as 1895 and are still being reprinted today.  Asked by the American Library Association to defend her novels as having “too much heart interest,” Johnston explained that boys with apples are hardly recognizable as suitors to young girls who have only had adult fiction and fairy tales from which to draw their impressions of courtship.

To learn more about Kentucky author Annie Fellows Johnston’s influence on children and adults worldwide, read “The Little Colonel: A Phenomenon in Popular Literary Culture” at  If you are a Little Colonel fan, please contact me at as my research is ongoing.

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Memorial Civil War Sheet Music

U. S. Park Ranger explains that this is the true grave of the boy honored by the song.

U. S. Park Ranger explains that this is the true grave of the boy honored by the song, Memorial Day 2015.

By Associate Professor Sue Lynn McDaniel, Library Special Collections

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the Shiloh National Cemetery located on the Shiloh Battlefield within our national park. Our ranger took us to the grave of the young boy commemorated in a rare piece of sheet music which we hold in Library Special Collections. The title is “The Drummer Boy of Shiloh.”  She told us that immediately following the Civil War, another boy was mistakenly named as the soldier about whom the song had been written and he did not correct the general public, but instead enjoyed the publicity. The lyrics tell that the drummer boy died on the battlefield.  Later, historians researching Shiloh identified J. D. Holmes to be its true soldier hero.

WKU’s Library Special Collections has over one hundred war songs in its 4228 pieces of sheet music.  In our collection of Civil War ballads, WKU has nine titles by Will S. Hays of Louisville, Kentucky, including “The Drummer Boy of Shiloh.”  Although a Unionist who was publishing titles like “The Union forever, for me!” and “Sherman and his gallant boys in blue” through a Louisville publishing house during the Civil War, Hays wrote many lyrics between 1861 and 1865 which stirred the heart strings of Yankees and Rebels.  A good example is “I am dying, Mother, dying.”  During the two day battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, more Americans died in combat than the total of all wars to that date.  It was the first of many Civil War battles with unthinkable numbers of casualties.

J. D. Holmes, the Drummer Boy of Shiloh

J. D. Holmes, the Drummer Boy of Shiloh

This beautiful ballad, dedicated to Miss Annie Cannon of Louisville, reads:

“On Shiloh’s dark and bloody ground, The dead and wounded lay;  Amongst them was a drummer boy, Who beat the drum that day.  A wounded soldier held him up His drum was by his side; He clasp’d his hands,  then rais’d his eyes, And prayed before he died.

Look down upon the battle field, ‘Oh, Thou our Heavenly Friend!  Have mercy on our sinful souls!’ The soldier’s cried ‘Amen!’ For gathered ’round a little group, Each brave man knelt and cried; They listened to the drummer boy, Who prayed before he died.

‘Oh, mother,” said the dying boy, ‘Look down from heavn on me, Receive me to thy fond embrace — Oh, take me home to thee.  I’ve loved my country as my God; To serve them both I’ve tried.’ He smiled, shook hands — death seized the boy Who prayed before he died.

Each solder wept, then, like a child —

Kentuckian Will S. Hays wrote numerous Civil War songs.

Kentuckian Will S. Hays wrote numerous Civil War songs.

Stout hearts were they, and brave; The flag his winding — sheet — God’s Book The key unto his grave.  They wrote upon a simple board These words; ‘This is a guide To thoses who’d mourn the drummer boy Who prayed before he died.’

Ye angels ’round the Throne of Grace, Look down upon the braves, Who fought and died on Shiloh’s plain, Now slumb’ring in their graves!  How many homes made desolate — How many hearts have sighed — How many, like that drummer boy Who prayer before they died!

Our sheet music collection includes more than 118 pieces of music published by composer & lyricist William Shakespeare Hays; many of them from Louisville, Kentucky publishing companies.  To learn more about historic sheet music at WKU, please visit


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2015 Wendell Ford exhibit 2015Ford case WFord0002     In honor of Wendell Ford’s years of service to Kentucky and the United States, WKU Library Special Collections opens a case exhibit on President’s Day (February 16, 2015) which will be available to visitors until May 15, 2015 in the Harrison-Baird Reading Room of the Kentucky Building. The exhibit includes bumper stickers, campaign pins, a license plate, an emery board, photographs, invitations, a necktie, a toy shovel, a Christmas card, a campaign poster, and a Louisville Stoneware saucer.
Wendell Hampton Ford served as chief assistant to the Kentucky Governor from 1959-61; thus beginning, his forty-year fight for Kentuckians that included years in the state senate (1965-67), as lieutenant governor (1967-71), as Kentucky governor (1971-74), and as United States senator (1978-93). A Democrat, Ford was the first person to be elected successively lieutenant governor, governor and U. S. senator from Kentucky. He was only the second 20th century lieutenant governor who, as a Democrat, served under a Republican governor.
In his state of the commonwealth address, Governor Ford stressed the need for government to be reorganized, more responsible and more representative. No Kentucky legislative bill Governor Ford supported failed to pass and he vetoed several measures. As United States Senator, he served as Democratic Whip (1991-99), chairman, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences (1977-78), Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (1977-82), Select Committee to Study the Committee System (1983-84), Committee on Rules and Administration (1987-94), Joint Committee on Printing (1989-1994).

Wendell Ford fought for Kentuckians.


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Dr. Lowell H. Harrison exhibit and painting unveiling

Courtesy of WKU Archives.

Courtesy of WKU Archives.

The career of Dr. Lowell H. Harrison, faculty emeritus, Department of History, WKU, is being celebrated with an exhibit which opened on Wednesday, February 3, 2015, in the Harrison-Baird Reading Room of Library Special Collections at the Kentucky Building. Utilizing artifacts, photographs, and manuscripts, the case highlights his national reputation as a scholar, educator, WKU faculty member, and public speaker.
On Monday, February 9th at 3:30 p.m., a portrait of Dr. Harrison will be unveiled which will hang permanently in the Harrison-Baird Reading Room. Artist Nancy Disher Baird, faculty emeritus, Department of Library Special Collections, will make brief remarks. The public is invited to celebrate with us.
The case exhibit will close on February 11, 2015.

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Ephemera item adds diversity to Kentucky Library Research Collections

John Finzer & BrothersThe Kentucky Library Research Collections recently added a piece of ephemera which reflects the historic diversity of tobacco customers. Louisville, Kentucky, in particular, was settled by significant numbers of immigrants from northern and western Europe in the decades prior to the Civil War. Five brothers from Canton Berne, Switzerland immigrated to Louisville as boys and learned the trade of manufacturing plug tobacco by working in local factories. In 1866, they began a small factory known as the Five Brothers Tobacco works. As the company grew to become the largest tobacco factory in Louisville and achieved the rank of fifth in importance in the United States, it was renamed J. Finzer and Brothers. By 1887, it employed up to twelve traveling salesmen, who were responsible for making its trade in the Eastern states greater than any other tobacco factory in the West.
Previously the Kentucky Library Research Collections included a February 1886 issue of Retail Tobacconist, J. Finzer and Brothers’ trade paper. Now we are pleased to add an advertising card printed in English, German and Italian marketing Wild Rose Cut Plug Tobacco. This acquisition demonstrates our commitment to building an International collection which reflects the diverse communities that have long made up Kentucky.

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Major General William L. Sibert

Panama Canal LogoA native of Alabama, William L. Sibert was born on October 12, 1860. Studying at the University of Alabama and the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, he graduated as one of the top cadets in his class in 1884. Prior to his work on the Panama Canal, Second Lt. Sibert was assigned to oversee improvements as the lock and dam system on the Green and Barren Rivers near Bowling Green, Kentucky was transferred from private ownership to the Federal government. In a letter currently housed in WKU’s Manuscripts Collection dated April 9, 1889, Sibert notified Mr. Morgan of Green Castle, Kentucky, that the United States was taking “possession of the fifteen acres of land at Lock No. 1 Barren River, for which it holds the deed.” Sibert’s next assignment was to construct a new lock in a lock-and-dam system which would enable ships to travel between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes.

On March 16, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Major Sibert as a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission. As the head engineer of the Atlantic Division, Sibert was in charge of building the Gatun Locks and Gatun Dam. Gatum Dam is one and one-half miles long, built across two deep gorges which were formerly soft sea muddy beds of the Chagres River. Sibert knew that water pressure would exist under the floor of the upper flight of locks at Gatun and under the floor of the spillway channel below the dam. Thus, the Gatun Locks were built to resist upward water pressure induced by the huge lake which the dam created.

SibeMajor General William L. Sibertrt’s superiors expected his assignment to take two years longer than any other part of the Panama Canal construction. Determined to prove them wrong, Sibert had to pour concrete at a faster rate than had ever been done. He doubled the world’s maximum rate despite the fact that it was necessary to tow the required stone and sand from Porto Bello across an arm of the Carribean Sea to the job site. The Gatun Locks were operational on September 26, 1913, before Culebra Cut and the Pacific Locks at Miraflores and Pedro Miguel were finished. Sibert also built the wet breakwater, Colon Harbor, and excavated the channel from Gatun to the Atlantic Ocean. He was relieved from duty with the Canal when the commission was abolished on March 31, 1914.

At the outbreak of World War I, Sibert became the first commanding general of the First Infantry Division, known as “the Big Red One,” supervising their combat training and leading them to France in 1917. Soon thereafter, advancing to the rank of Major General, Sibert was named commander of the newly formed Chemical Warfare Service. For his war service, he received the Distinguished Service Medal and the French Legion of Honor.

In December 1918, Sibert accepted membership in Bowling Green’s XV Club, stating “This act makes me feel sure that when I come back to Bowling Green to live I will be among friends . . . . There is nothing that brings the same satisfaction in life as the good will of those whom you know and who know you.” When asked why he chose to retire to Bowling Green, he replied, “….in Bowling Green there are more men than anywhere else who will stop whatever they’re doing, no matter how busy they are, to go fishin’ or fox-huntin’ with me. (New York Times Magazine, Nov. 2, 1924) On the centennial of Sibert’s birth, a Bowling Green newspaper man wrote: “If the late Maj. Gen. William L. Sibert loved anything better than his slide rule and the thrill of getting big tough jobs done in jig time — perhaps it was his foxhounds and the stir the pack brought deep within him as it closed on quarry at full cry.” Sibert died at his country home near Bowling Green on October 16, 1935 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

This biographical sketch was researched using Kentucky Library Research Collections in the Kentucky Building.

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Party Animals

Come visit an exhibit of political ephemera in the Jackson Gallery at the Kentucky Building. Bumper stickers, campaign mailings, former Lt. Governor Stephen L. Henry’s emergency kit for survival of the a 1996 Presidential Election, a Democratic cookie cutter, Republican place cards and other artifacts show a glimpse into the Julius Rather Political Ephemera Collection assessible for research via KenCat, the Special Collections Library & Kentucky Museum OPAC ( The WKU exhibit closes December 15th.
Also of interest to citizens and political scientists is the Kentucky political ephemera exhibit at the Georgetown-Scott County Museum. This exhibit includes numerous artifacts and ephemera on loan from our campus and closes on November 30th.

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Bachelors Beware: It’s Leap Year!


Library Special Collections has numerous leap year postcards.

In the Jackson Gallery at the Kentucky Building, an exhibit of leap year postcards, comic valentines, dance cards, photographs, correspondence and ephemera focuses on American interpretation of leap year customs between 1850 and 1950. Invitations and newspaper accounts depict the concept’s use in 1888 as a focal point for social events.  Curator Sue Lynn McDaniel’s interest in American courtship customs first prompted her to collect and then donate many of the early-twentieth century postcards which evince the humorous way single females and males enjoyed the suggestion that usual courtship etiquette was suspended during leap years.  The exhibit runs through June 2012. For more information on Library Special Collections’ holdings, see:;keyword=leap%20year;dtype=d

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KenCat Access to Scrapbooks at Kentucky Library

Imagine seeing your grandparent’s calling card for the first time, or finding an obituary of a long lost relative. Visualize a world event through the eyes of an adolescent. Over 280 scrapbooks in the Kentucky Library and Museum allow such opportunities. Sue Lynn McDaniel, Special Collections Librarian, with the assistance of volunteer Ekaterina Myakshina, are creating KenCat records for scrapbooks on school memories, travels, genealogy, and simple scraps. Just yesterday, researchers came to our Harrison-Baird Reading Room in search of a scrapbook that KenCat taught them about. Check out our scrapbooks via the University Libraries homepage by clicking on the KenCat navigation tab and searching the word “scrapbooks”.


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Playing Our Song: Southern Kentucky Notes

Southern Kentuckians love music! From the amateur playing his Hawaiian steel guitar to the singers and bands that have put WKU on the map, this region’s musical heritage is rich. Whether you like Country, Classical, Rap or Rock, you will find that Southern Kentuckians are indeed playing your song. Over the years, the Kentucky Library and Museum has collected a significant sheet music collection, photographs, sound recordings, posters, and ephemera illustrating the importance of music to this region.



Including Mary Clyde Huntsman’s Merry Makers, Duke Allen and the Kentucky Ramblers, WKU faculty musicians, Hawaiian steel guitar instructor Freddie Joe Lewis, local DJ Tommy Starr, New Grass Revival, and Kentucky Headhunters, a selection of treasures given by numerous musicians and collectors are displayed. Gospel musicians, including Hillvue Heights Music Group and John Edmonds’ Gospel Truth, and Country musicians, including Jordan Pendley, Cousin Emmy, and the Mighty Jerimiahs, provide evidence of the enduring popularity of all forms of music. Nappy Roots, Government Cheese and the Hilltoppers show the Hill’s influence on our song. Enjoy the exhibit in the Harry Jackson Gallery of the Kentucky Library and Museum during the Spring and Summer of 2010 and search “Southern Kentucky Music” on KenCat to explore the rest of our song.


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