Tag Archives: Philip J. Noel Jr.

Straight Shooter

Philip J. Noel’s Pocket Pistol Holster

Philip J. Noel (1874-1950) was a man of many interests.  After Noel was appointed a manager for the Kentucky Central Life and Accident Insurance Company in 1903, he and wife Blanche had settled in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Here, Noel indulged several passions, including photography, philanthropy, poetry, disreputable women (not all of his interests were savory) and strike-it-rich investment schemes courtesy of the many fly-by-night real estate, oil and mining companies that spread across the country in the early 20th century. 

A Spanish-American War veteran, Noel was also a hunter and inventor, pursuits that merged well with two more interests: dogs and firearms.  He kept up a correspondence with an Illinois kennel operator to whom he sent pups for training as bird dogs.  When one of them died of distemper, Noel was irate and demanded a photograph of its body.  The death of a second left the hapless trainer defending himself against charges of “murder” in a “diseased kennel.”

Noel tinkered around with various inventions, including a type of toothbrush, and even secured patents for some of them.  One patent was for a “pocket pistol holster,” a side draw holster that fit in a hip or overcoat pocket.  Made without straps or belts, it was designed to accommodate a revolver “with hammer cocked or safety catch off, if desired.”  Noel promoted it as the ideal accessory not just for sportsmen but for “Secret Service and Army men” and anyone else who needed to draw a gun from any position, “without the movement of the body, within a fraction of a second.”

Even before he was born, Noel’s first (and, as it turned out, only child) was nicknamed “Tumps.”  When Tumps grew to manhood and entered World War II service, one of his father’s requests was to procure two Luger pistols for his collection.  But Tumps was a mere nine years old when his father first introduced him to gun ownership.  At Christmas 1923, the boy received greetings from none other than Santa Claus, but Saint Nick’s letter brooked no arguments about the responsibilities that came with the accompanying gift.  Dear Tumpie, it read:

I have left you this little shot gun with the understanding that you shall never point it loaded or unloaded at any person or persons and that you will not let other boys handle or play with it, or snap the triggers and you must not make a practice of snapping the triggers yourself unless you are with your Daddy and he is learning you how to shoot.  After Christmas week you must put it in your gun case and put it away so that other boys will not bother you about it.

If you disobey these orders about this I have instructed your Daddy to put your gun away and keep it for you until you become 16 years of age.  Please follow these instructions and if you do you can handle the gun all you want to.

Philip J. Noel’s papers are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  A finding aid can be downloaded here.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Planning in Uncertain Times

The year 1946 marked the beginning of the “baby boom,” a dramatic increase in the U.S. birth rate following the Depression and World War II.  Signs of what was to come, however, had appeared at the outbreak of war, when many couples hastily married and conceived their first child before the husband shipped out for military duty.  Afterward, there was always the opportunity for “furlough babies” to enter the world. 

During the war, the question of pregnancy was challenging and complicated, as shown in two collections in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  In 1943, Philip J. Noel, Jr. and his wife Mary Katherine of Bowling Green, Kentucky were newly married and living with their baby daughter in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  Training to serve as a medical officer with the U.S. Army, Dr. Noel received an invitation from the Pennsylvania Federation for Planned Parenthood to acquaint himself with its mission and services.  The country’s war against the Axis, stated its brochure, included “a war against a way of life in which human freedom is consistently violated.  In America, we believe in the right of children to be wanted and well-born, and in the right of parents to plan their own families.”  With young men overseas, and healthy women needed to work in war industries and support their families at home, “competent medical advice on the spacing of pregnancies” was an “essential part of the war health program.”  Equally important was the “treatment of involuntary sterility” in order to support a mother’s well being and build “the world of the future.”  Only 16 years old, the organization had established 30 “child-spacing centers” for teaching, demonstration and treatment, and boasted a board of sponsors that included citizens, doctors and clergymen.

Family planning was also on the mind of James C. Browning, an Edmonson County, Kentucky teacher who joined the Army in 1941.  A year earlier, “J.C.” had married his wife Lila and they had recently become the parents of a daughter.  Lila, however, had suffered health problems after the birth and was anxious about another pregnancy. In letters from training camp in Arkansas, J.C. was equally anxious to reassure her, for among the many dreams he shared with his much-loved wife—of paying off their debts, buying a small farm and building a life for themselves after the war—was the prospect of “a good time” with her when he made his scheduled return to Fort Knox.  If she didn’t want more children, he assured her, “we will try our best and use the best remedies available.”  She should go to the doctor and arrange to be fitted with a diaphragm, he instructed; then “[m]aybe you won’t be scared all the time.”  Inquiring about her progress in successive letters, he even offered to “get the diaphragm for you if you don’t want to get it.”  He finally advocated a “double preventative”—diaphragm plus condom—as the solution to their problem: then “surely there won’t be anything wrong.”  The young husband trying to avoid “anything wrong,” however, couldn’t plan for the attack on his ship off the coast of North Africa that took his life in 1942.

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections. For more, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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