Collections in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections offer a variety of materials on the history and traditions of the Kentucky Derby. For example:
Our folklife collections include a project focusing on the Derby’s great tradition of distinctive headwear. In “Dynamics of a Kentucky Derby Hat,” WKU folk studies student Becky Proctor explored the search for the perfect hat at Dee’s Craft Store in Louisville. In their customers’ choice of ornament, color scheme and accompanying wardrobe, the proprietors of Dee’s have long known that the Derby hat combines personal expression, social statement, performance art and, perhaps, setting the trend for next year.
For guests of the Ashland Oil & Refining Company, the 1969 Derby highlighted a packed weekend of tours, receptions and parties. VIPs from U.S. Steel, Getty Oil, B.F. Goodrich, Texaco, du Pont and other companies received a kit that included an event schedule, name badges, taxicab vouchers, and invitations to cocktails, country club breakfasts, champagne dinner parties and a Derby Ball. “If the weather pays any attention to our instructions, you’ll be enchanted with Kentucky in the spring,” wrote a representative, providing some helpful hints for appropriate dress at the opening dinner, bluegrass farms tour, and farewell banquet. Derby Day itself was to begin with brunch on board the Belle of Louisville–but, she warned, “a little food ahead of time might be a good idea, as mint juleps on an empty stomach can be devastating.”
Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections. For more historical materials on the Kentucky Derby, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.