Tag Archives: Manuscripts

Goodbye, Old Friend. You served us well.

Back before the Internet, Kentucky librarians feverishly retyped newspaper stories using carbon paper so they could use filing cabinets to provide access to information and save their one newspaper during the Great Depression. Before KenCat, our online presence for the collection management software, Library Special Collections had catalog cards, typewriters and a lovely old cabinet in which to house hundreds of man hours of meticulous indexing of manuscript collections.

Six employees moved the DLSC manuscripts card cabinet to Gatton Academy yesterday.

Six employees moved the DLSC manuscripts card cabinet to Gatton Academy yesterday.

Advancements to that card catalog came with the end of “People, Place, Thing” organization of cards, the alphabetizing by word (not letters, ignoring spaces), the addition of brief title cards for locating unprocessed collections, and the purchase of the electric typewriter with memory. Each improvement decreased the manpower necessary to create the finding aid and increased access, but researchers still had  to use it on-site.  The Ghostbusters movie where the cards flew out of the cabinet truly gave librarians nightmares.
Yesterday Jonathan Jeffrey bid farewell to an old friend, the Manuscripts Card Catalog. Now researchers worldwide can access that information via KenCat.wku.edu and TopSCHOLAR.wku.edu. It is our hope that soon we can digitize our vertical files so that future generations will not have to come to our Harrison-Baird Research Room in the Kentucky Building to utilize all the precious news clippings and other data sources lovingly filed for 60 years in filing cabinets which I teach our researchers are the “internet of the 1930s.”

For those  of you who love antique furniture, you will be please know that the six men it  took to remove it (with catalog drawers already removed) from the building said it would  be re-purposed in the Gatton Academy.

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The Stamp of Creativity

One of Loraine Neff's stamp collages

One of Loraine Neff’s stamp collages

While designing for a maker of hand quilts in the 1930s, Jefferson County native Loraine Neff (1899-1994) saw two Chinese postcards depicting a man and woman dressed in clothing made of cancelled postage stamps.  Fascinated by this unique art, she put the cards in her “Retirement – To do” file, then returned to them 25 years later to take up the craft herself.

Stamp collage detail

Stamp collage detail

Five of Loraine Neff’s stamp collages are now part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Delicate and colorful, they feature a bonneted country woman churning butter, hanging laundry, airing a patchwork quilt, rocking a cradle, and taking a winter stroll.  The elements of each, of course, are carefully cut from uncancelled postage stamps, which Neff would purchase from a dealer after sketching her idea and deciding on the colors to use.  “It has given me contentment because I lose myself in the art,” Neff wrote in a magazine article about her pastime.

Click here to download a finding aid for the Loraine S. Neff Collection.  And click here to see our recent blog about another stamp artist.  For more of our collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Loraine Neff stamp collage

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Park City, Dude.

The Park City Dude mastheadThey were some of the rising young men of Bowling Green, the twenty-something sons of bankers, lawyers and merchants.  About 1883, some of these society swells decided to launch a journalistic venture “in the interest of the vast number of dudes of our city.”  The product, the Park City “Dude” (Bowling Green, Ky.: Dude Publishing Co.), sought to entertain its readers with humor, anecdotes and parody, the chief objects of which were the “dudes” themselves.

Park City Dude "published semi-occasionally"Promising regular biographical sketches of the members of its circle, the Dude first profiled Jim Roberts, a native (we are told) of Hong Kong, an escapee from P.T. Barnum’s circus and currently a “knight of the yardstick” at a local clothing establishment.  Next we hear of Solomon “Sol” Cain, a “genial, affable, whole-souled and industrious” young entrepreneur who, having contracted to furnish city businesses with hash and sausages, was in search of “500 fat dogs and 1,000 cats.”  The Dude generously offered advertising space at the rate of 75 cents per inch, but directed all complaints to its Grievance Committee, open “from midnight until daybreak.”

The Park City “Dude” can be found in the Lissauer Collection, part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  For more, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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A Scriptural Divide

Reuben Alexander

Reuben Alexander

From their roots in Henry County, Virginia, the Alexander family migrated to plantations in Kentucky, Mississippi, Texas and elsewhere.  Members kept in touch, but there were two that patriarch Reuben Alexander (1785-1864) might not have wanted to seat next to each other at Thanksgiving.  One was his nephew, Edward Fontaine, of Hinds County, Mississippi.  The other was Reuben’s own son Miller, who caused his family to drop its collective jaw when he freed his slaves and struck out for Iowa to go into business.

In a letter to his father from Keokuk in 1859, Miller acknowledged the damage he had done to his net worth, but the deeply religious man felt compelled to explain himself to his skeptical parent.  “I knew I had not your approbation in moving North–And am sorry for it, but it was my duty to obey the voice of conscience and of God,” he wrote.  Moreover, “if you were possesser of ten thousand slaves and would give them to me to return to Ky. I could not do it.”  While not an activist for abolition, Miller declared that “every feeling of my nature revolts at the idea of owning a fellow creature, when I am but a worm myself.”

Only a month earlier, Reuben had received a letter from nephew Edward, who weighed in on his cousin’s struggles.  “I regret to find from Cousin Miller’s Letter that his fanatical freak, freeing his slaves, and settling among the pious Yankees had led him into difficulties.”  Nevertheless, Edward–a pastor–hoped that Miller’s youth and energy would “enable him to extricate himself from the embarrassments into which his unscriptural views of the question of Slavery have drawn him.”  Edward prayed that Miller, whose former slaves had doubtless been rendered equally unhappy by this unholy state of affairs, might recover from his “fanatical freak” and regain his former prosperity.

Reuben Alexander’s family correspondence is part of the Alexander Family Papers in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more collections about Kentucky families, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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The Heat is On

Martha Potter

Martha Potter

Bowling Green had just endured a frigid winter.  Five months later, in a letter to her children on July 25, 1934, Martha Potter confessed again that her news would be mostly “about the weather, for that is all we talk or think about down here.”  Her description of the summer heat in Bowling Green gives a vivid picture of life in the days before air conditioning.

“People have been sleeping outdoors all night on the ground or on porches or anywhere to keep out of the house for the houses register ninety degrees at bed time,” she wrote.  “Ted [her brother-in-law] said he looked out the other night just before day and a big fat man in yellow pajamas was ‘baking’ in the moonlight on the tin roof at Mrs. Green’s.”  The sheer numbers of those seeking relief in a yard nearby had even prompted a neighbor to call the police.  “We live under the fans and the refrigerator door is open most of the time after water or ice,” reported Martha.  “But it is such a joy!” she declared of her new appliance, purchased two months earlier.  “We have always had plenty of ice even in this weather.”

Social activities had required a few concessions to the heat.  Attending a music practice for a program at WKU, Martha pronounced the hall “the hottest place I ever felt. . . . The men wore cloths around their wrists to keep the perspiration off the strings.”  Pursuing one of her favorite activities with her sister, Martha wrote that they were “golfing under umbrellas, and it is much cooler, as we do not have to wear any hats.”  Nevertheless, she was planning a trip to the beauty shop to get her hair bobbed.  “I can’t have hair in this kind of weather.”

Martha Potter’s letters chronicling daily life in Bowling Green are part of the Lissauer Collection in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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