Tag Archives: Kentucky Library Research Collections

It’s A Small World!

Primary source for family of Robert and Rhoda (Long) Ground

Primary source for family of Robert and Rhoda (Long) Ground










On Monday, October 19th, WKU Library Special Collections finding aids on KenCat and TopScholar provided access to a researcher accessing the Ground Family Tree http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/dlsc_kl_non_mat/1/ from Italy. Although we had numerous hits in the past from all over the United States as the tree begins with Robert Ground, born 1767 in Thorney, Cambridgeshire, England, migrating to the United States around 1784.KL005

On Thursday, October 21st, we had a researcher interested in our Dorothy Grider Collection which was located via TopScholar.  We were able to meet the primary source request by sending the digital image above.

These are just two examples of how Library Special Collections now has a worldwide research population thanks to KenCat.wku.edu and TopScholar.  Our faculty are delighted to be making primary sources accessible around the globe!

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Tell Us About Your Discoveries

Library Special Collections has created a new website where our users can give us feedback on the cool things they are finding in our collections.

Library Special Collections is made up of three units:

All our units acquire and preserve materials primarily related to Kentucky and Kentuckians.  Here it may be possible for you to find your ancestors’ marriage record, family and community photographs, oral histories and everything you ever wanted to know about Western Kentucky University.

Come visit us in the Kentucky Building, Monday – Friday 9 – 4 and Saturdays during the semester 10 – 3. And tell us what you discover or have already discovered here.

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Filed under University Archives

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 kencat.wku.edu


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Panama Canal LogoAmericans were fascinated by the Big Dig going on in Panama in the early-1910s. The Latin American isthmus project was a sterling example of American ingenuity, Big Stick diplomacy, and cooperation. A Kentuckian with keen interest in the project was Earl Palmer of Paducah. He was co-founder of the Ferguson & Palmer Lumber Company of Paducah in 1898 and a man of adventure and florid words.  The industrialist decided to satisfy his curiosity about the canal project by visiting Panama in 1913 and preserving his observations for posterity in print form.  This first paragraph from the resulting book, titled The Panamaniacs, gives you an impression for Palmer’s prose and sense of humor:

“When one packs a steamer trunk and fares forth to foreign parts in search of new experiences, fresh ideas and palpitating thrills, he is under no particular obligation to any one [sic] to reduce said experiences, fresh ideas and palpitating thrills to writing. Indeed he is more highly esteemed if he does nothing of the kind.  But as the attempt is not yet actually prohibited by law, which possibly is due to oversight on the part of our dilatory legislators, I shall hasten to get into the game before our law-makers are awakened to a proper sense of duty.”

Title page from “Panamaniacs”

Palmer never mentions the names of his traveling companions; he simply refers to the other Paduchans as a Banker, a Lawyer, a Merchant, and himself. He calls himself “the first person singular personal pronoun,” in other words “I.”  The Paducah party left by rail on the morning of 17 January 1913 accompanied by their “four loving and lovable wives, each fair, fat and forty.”  Upon reaching Jacksonville, they added to their party the Human Encyclopedia, the Entertainer, and the Altruist and then proceeded to Key West where they added the Pessimist and the Boy, “bringing the total up to the fateful and ominous number of thirteen, which doubtless accounts for much which befell the party.”

Besides his brief descriptions of the canal construction, which he observed on a four-hour train ride from Colon to Panama City, Palmer discusses his views on Panamanian history, culture, geography.  The party also stopped in Cuba and enjoyed the nightlife in Havana which Palmer faithfully records.

Panamaniacs 1

Autographed and dated frontispiece photograph of Earl Palmer.

This small book is not listed on WorldCat, meaning that the Kentucky Library Research Collections in the Department of Library Special Collections at WKU may be the only repository worldwide to own this title. It was purchased, by chance, at a small antique store in Paris, Kentucky.  The book features a bookplate indicating that it once belonged to Margaret Yopp.  For decades the Yopps ran a seed cleaning and seed selling operation in Paducah.  From the description of the Palmer party, it is unlikely that Margaret participated in the Panamanian jaunt.  The small monograph features only one photograph and that is of the author which he signed “Very Truly Yours Earl Palmer Mch. 22, 1913.” The Young Printing Company of Paducah published the “Limited Edition” travel account for Palmer, and it undoubtedly was a small printing run.

For those receiving this small book as a token of affection or friendship, Palmer noted in the a foreword: “This modest booklet does not pose as an object lesson of perfection in orthography, etomology [sic], syntax or prosody…Therefore, should anyone upon whom this book is bestowed be too greatly annoyed by the many obvious errors in construction…may return the book to the donor, and his thanks will be cheerfully refunded.”


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