Friday, December 2, 2016

The Squirrel Fund

By Ed Byrne

People visiting the Tennessee State Capitol grounds in Nashville can see an abundance of gray squirrels. Visitors to Centennial Park, a couple of miles west of the Capitol, would also be impressed by the health and fertility of the park’s gray squirrel population. Among the most common “wild” animals in Tennessee’s urban environments, squirrels are almost certainly the boldest, most visible and most active.

Modern day visitors might be surprised to learn that a little more than 100 years ago, squirrels were absent from both these public areas. Indeed, the dearth of squirrels in Centennial Park gave rise to one of Tennessee’s oddest charitable endowments: the “Squirrel Fund.”

Contemporary photographs might explain the relative absence of squirrels in both locales. An 1887 photograph of the Capitol (image #3444) shows a Capitol Hill virtually denuded of native trees and shrubbery.

State Capitol of Tennessee, ca. 1887.
Library Collection


A 1905 photo (image #4646) reveals a growing stand of trees fit for squirrel inhabitation, but the housing would still – to a squirrel’s eye -- qualify as distinctly low-rise.

A view of the State Capitol from Charlotte Ave., ca. 1905.
Library Collection


Photographs of Centennial Park during the 1897 Centennial Exposition reveal an even more inhospitable environment. The daylight view (image #4577) from the west across the giant See-Saw, the Exposition’s answer to the great Ferris Wheel of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, shows an unbroken expanse of roofs, turrets, towers and even a pyramid.

Centennial grounds, showing Giant Seesaw. Other buildings: W.S. Spain's Palace of Illusions & Mirror Maze (left); Old Vienna Restaurant (right) behind two East Tennessee log cabins containing a working still; State Capitol is visible in background.
Library Collection


The night view (image #4578), celebrating the intensity of the Exposition’s cutting-edge electric light technology, reveals an even harsher atmosphere. The squirrel that had not already fled the Exposition grounds would surely be afflicted with chronic sleep deprivation.

Centennial Park and lake at night. The Tennessee Centennial Exposition was held in Nashville in 1897 to celebrate Tennessee's 100th anniversary of statehood. This industrial exposition featured exhibits on agriculture, commerce, transportation, culture, machinery, education, and more.
Library Collection


By the early 1900s, the Exposition grounds were being converted into the park Nashvillians know today (image #13408, THS collection). But it appears that the squirrel population still required some incentives.

Centennial Park, showing the bridge over Lake Watauga and a gazebo.
THS Picture Collection


In 1907 private philanthropy intervened. Mrs. Thomas W. Wrenne, wife of one of Nashville’s most successful financiers, donated the sum of $50 to the park commission for use in the care, feeding and housing of immigrant squirrels. (The sum donated was not inconsequential at a time when the weekly wage of a skilled worker averaged about $7.) The newspaper accounts christened the gift as the Squirrel Fund.

At first the repopulation initiative stumbled, as prospective squirrel donors worried about possible legal troubles from capturing and relocating the animals out of season.

Major F. P. McWhirter, head of the park commission, appealed to State Game Warden J. H. Acklen for reassurance. Acklen provided it, saying that providing good homes for squirrels in the park was entirely “laudable… and in nowise a violation of the game law.”

Excerpt from the Nashville American, May 22, 1907.


As the Squirrel Fund had already financed the construction of nest boxes in the park, the resettlement effort proceeded without further delay. It appears to have met with prompt success. By July 1909, a Nashville American article on “Some Beauty Spots in Centennial Park” identified one of the park’s principal natural charms as the "chattering squirrels that nimbly leap to safety after watching your approach..."

Lacking the philanthropic endowment created by the Squirrel Fund, a state Capitol squirrel re-population project advanced at a slower pace. A 1901 article in the Nashville American had published an appeal from the Capitol superintendent soliciting donations of tame and orphaned squirrels to repopulate the grounds. In 1908, a new Capitol superintendent was again appealing for squirrel donations to repopulate the newly enhanced grounds.

Tennesseans must have responded favorably to this second appeal. By 1917 squirrels were numerous enough to serve as weather predictors for Capitol Hill employees. In that year an Aug. 17 article headlined “News and Gossip of State Capitol” in The Nashville Tennessean and the Nashville American reported: “As squirrels are hulling walnuts and storing them in their homes in the trees these days, employees of the hill say it is a sure sign winter will soon be along.”

How much the Squirrel Fund contributed to the squirrel resurgence is difficult to determine. Given the reestablishment of adequate food plants and tree cover, squirrels would have certainly repopulated Centennial Park without further human intervention. Anyone with squirrels nesting in the attic or raiding the bird feeder will testify that squirrels are not easily discouraged. Still, the desire to reestablish a population of a native species seems admirable in retrospect. Na├»ve as it may seem to us today, the Squirrel Fund prefigured efforts to conserve Tennessee game bird and wildlife populations - and these in turn evolved into our contemporary network of state parks, nature reserves and wildlife management areas. This modest and almost forgotten act of philanthropy deserves to be protected in Tennessee’s historical memory.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Beyond State Borders: Preserving the story of a Holocaust survivor

By Ellen Robison

Our collections at the Tennessee State Library and Archives are a treasure trove of unexpected finds. The Library and Archives houses documents from all corners of the world that have found a home within our walls. These items are a reminder of Tennessee’s presence in the world and how the influence of her people can stretch beyond state borders. One example comes from a seemingly simple letter by Kurt Anspacher dated Nov. 10, 1945, found in the Sadie Warner Frazer Papers. This unassuming letter recounts a detailed story of trauma and adversity in the life of a 20-year-old German Jew who survived 10 different Nazi concentration camps during World War II.



Transportation map of Germany. 1938, Sadie Warner Frazer Papers. Tennessee State Library and Archives.


Anspacher was born on May 1, 1925, in the small village of Achim, near Bremen, Germany. He and 12 family members were arrested on Nov. 17, 1941 and taken to a ghetto in Minsk, Russia (present-day Belarus). By July of 1942, only five people in his family remained alive. On Sept. 1943, Anspacher was taken to the first of 10 concentration camps and separated from his last living relative. He would never see any of his family again. Over the next 20 months, Anspacher was forced to work in the factories and mines at camps across Russia, Poland, Austria and Germany. His final imprisonment was at the dreaded Dachau concentration camp.




Pages 1 and 2 of letter from Kurt Anspacher regarding his Holocaust experience. Nov. 10, 1945, Sadie Warner Frazer Papers. Tennessee State Library and Archives.


After his arrival at Dachau on March 16, 1945, Anspacher fell deathly ill with typhus, which was running rampant through the camp. In his letter he states, “On March 18 I collapsed and was with high fever and unconscious…. After four Days the fever subsided without medication. The Russian Nurse, a great anti-semite, had geiven [sic] me no tablets… because he saw marked on my plate-name “Jew” with a question mark.” One month later, Anspacher was among the 17,000 Dachau prisoners forced to march more than 40 miles across the snowy countryside of Germany. Thousands died during the journey. They marched for three days before the German guards abandoned the remaining 800 prisoners in the mountains near Tegernsee. In his letter, Anspacher states: “I must have slpet [sic] there almost four days until May 3... The Americans had occupied the village on May 1. Thus I was liberated on May 1, my birthday.”


Pages 3 of letter from Kurt Anspacher regarding his Holocaust experience. November 10, 1945, Sadie Warner Frazer Papers. Tennessee State Library and Archives.


Five days after Anspacher awoke to his liberation by the American troops, Germany surrendered and the war in Europe was officially over, but the challenges in his life would continue. He was one of thousands of people who had lost their homes and families. He spent several weeks in two displaced persons camps before returning to Achim. Even after the war in Germany had ended, Nazi followers were still causing havoc in the village. He wrote: “The Nazis are still carrying on as they will…. Had twenty Nazis in Achim arrested by the F.S.S. but the Military Government released them immediately.”


Page 4 of letter from Kurt Anspacher regarding his Holocaust experience. November 10, 1945, Sadie Warner Frazer Papers. Tennessee State Library and Archives.
 

How did a letter from a Holocaust survivor find its way to the Library and Archives? It is not exactly clear, but Anspacher may have been connected to the family of George Preston Frazer, who served as an officer in the 2nd Armored Division. The 2nd Armored Division participated in battles across Germany and his unit remained for some time as occupation troops after war’s end. Frazer wrote to his family: “…they have told us that there are between 7 and 8 million people in Germany who don’t belong there and we are to help get them into camps and homes as soon as possible.” Or maybe Anspacher's connection was through Jean Anderson, a close friend of the Frazer family who served in the Red Cross’s Civilian War Relief, often within combat zones in western Europe. In one letter to the Frazer family, she states, “We work… on the problems of the many thousands of ‘displaced persons,’ refugees of every nationality under the sun...”

Through research of immigration records, the Library and Archives staff discovered the Anspacher family attempted to leave Germany in 1941. A woman in New York, who had already emigrated from Germany earlier in the war, provided money as a depositor for the family’s travel expenses in March of that year. However, one year later she was refunded the deposit because it had not been used. Naturalization records show Anspacher immigrated to the United States only a few years after writing his letter. He spent time in New York City and Nashville before settling in Chicago under the name of Curt Parker. In 1996 he was interviewed by the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, an organization founded by Steven Spielberg to preserve the stories of Holocaust survivors. Anspacher died in 2011, but the unique story of his life and perseverance lives on halfway around the world here at the Library and Archives.

For more information on interviews conducted by the Shoah Foundation, visit http://sfi.usc.edu/.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Library and Archives Debuts David Franklin Brock Korean War Photograph Collection

As Veterans Day approaches, the Tennessee State Library and Archives has launched a new digital collection featuring the Korean War images of David Franklin Brock. Brock was a 20-year-old Van Buren County farm boy when he reported for the draft in Nashville in January 1952. He was soon deployed to Korea, where he used photographs to chronicle adventures during his military experience. To view the new collection, go to: http://bit.ly/BrockKoreanWar

David Franklin Brock pictured in 1953 with other soldiers in the 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion.


The new online exhibit is part of the Tennessee Virtual Archives (TeVA). It features 120 images and an interactive story map, tracking Brock’s progress from combat engineer training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, to his time with the famed Second “Indianhead” Infantry Division in the vicinity of the Iron Triangle and the 38th parallel in Korea.

“This digital collection donated by Mr. Brock will help the Library and Archives highlight a war often described as ‘forgotten,’” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “I hope that veterans of the Korean War, like so many other veterans, experience the gratitude and honor owed to them for their service to our country and to all Americans.”

Brock’s photos capture the heartbreak of leaving behind a sweetheart and the challenge of mastering military engineer techniques and infantry weaponry. The photos document the camaraderie of soldiers during the first American war with racially integrated units and their interactions with Republic of Korea soldiers in the squad tents of the Second Division.

Brock’s pride in serving as a “tomahawk warrior” is evident in these photos as well. His unit built roads, bridges and bunkers near the front while often under enemy fire. As a demolitions specialist, Brock detonated explosives and laid and cleared mines. He also served as an infantry soldier when needed.

Also a part of this online collection is a transcript of an oral history recording Brock’s Korean War experiences that he contributed to the Library and Archives’ ongoing commemoration project “Tennessee Remembers,” which honors the men and women who served in Korea and Vietnam by preserving the history of their wartime experiences. The goal of this project is to collect original documents, photographs and memorabilia related to the in-country experiences of these veterans to be preserved for future generations and made accessible for research and educational purposes. As a part of “Tennessee Remembers,” the Library and Archives has developed questionnaires for Korean War and Vietnam War veterans that give them the opportunity to document and preserve their war experiences for future generations.

To view more collections available on the Tennessee Virtual Archive, go to: http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Friday, November 11, 2016

Library and Archives Restores Alvin C. York Map in Time for Veterans Day

Alvin C. York became Tennessee's most decorated World War I veteran for his heroism fighting the Germans in France's Argonne Forest. Now a map of the forest apparently used by York will be on display this weekend after a stop at the Tennessee State Library and Archives for some restoration work.

After returning from the war, York briefly lived in a house on his family's property while he built a bigger home in what is now Sgt. Alvin C. York State Park in Pall Mall. When a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency employee bought the smaller house, he discovered the map among a bunch of papers inside that belonged to York.



Travis Stover, the park's manager, said the map had been forgotten by York's descendants.

"No one had ever mentioned that document to me," Stover said. "The York family may not have even known it was there."

The map appears similar to the type issued to soldiers in the field. While it's not possible to say for certain that York had the map with him while he was in combat, it seems likely that he did.

"All the signs point to that," said Hobart Akin, cultural resources and exhibits specialist for Tennessee State Parks. "All the signs point to it being overseas with the guys who were in the fight."

The map is dated just a couple of months before the battle where York earned acclaim for taking out a German machine gun nest.

Park officials sent the map to the Library and Archives for some conservation work. That was recently completed and a digital copy of the map was made for the Library and Archives' collection.

The map was returned to Sgt. Alvin C. York State Park, where it will be on display this weekend as part of the park's Veterans Day celebration. Akin said it will be displayed on special occasions. The rest of the time, it will be stored in a climate-controlled environment. A copy of the map will be on permanent display at the park, Akin said.

"It's very fitting that Alvin C. York is being honored this Veterans Day," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "I'm proud that our staff at the Library and Archives was able to assist in conserving this important document so people can see it when they visit the park. Rare finds like this map help bring our state's history to life."

The park will be open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Other activities planned to commemorate Veterans Day will include flyovers by World War I vintage aircraft, a re-enactment of trench warfare and a game of football played with World War I era rules.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Workshop to Provide Tips on Writing a Family History

The Thanksgiving holidays are a time when many people focus on spending time with family. Beyond bonding around the dinner table, there's another way to strengthen those ties - by writing a family history book.

At the next Tennessee State Library and Archives' "Workshop Series" presentation, personal historian Deborah Wilbrink will give participants a primer on how to get started with that. She'll describe how to assemble family tree information, family tales and photographs into bound volumes that can be shared for generations.

Wilbrink is encouraging each attendee to bring a photograph or family heirloom as a starting point.

The workshop, titled "Time to Tell: Write Your Family History," will be held Nov. 26 from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. in the Library and Archives auditorium. After the workshop, staff will be on hand to help participants trace their families through research. The Library and Archives building is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, just west of the Tennessee State Capitol building in downtown Nashville. Free parking is available around the building.

"There are so many Tennesseans who devote their time and energy to genealogical research," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "Producing a book is a great way to share the findings of that research with family members and non-family members alike. I encourage people to put those Thanksgiving leftovers back in the fridge long enough to visit us for this informative workshop."

Although the workshop is free and open to the public, reservations are required because of the auditorium's limited seating capacity. To make a reservation, please go to: https://familyhistorydaytsla.eventbrite.com

Wilbrink is a professional personal historian who has published more than 20 books for families and individuals through her company, Perfect Memoirs. Her career highlights include working with CNN, ghostwriting for a U.S. senator, commercial video scripting and managing four historic cemeteries. Teaching and writing have kept Wilbrink busy since moving to Nashville in 2003. She is a member of the National Association of Personal Historians, the Tennessee and Middle Tennessee genealogical societies, and the Sarah Polk chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution. Now she focuses on helping others across the country save their life stories for families and publication and teaches memoir-writing classes.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thomas Scott Marr and the Evolution of Nashville’s Urban Landscape

By Trent Hanner

If you’ve been in Nashville recently, you probably noticed the proliferation of construction cranes piercing the Music City skyline. Shiny glass towers like SkyHouse, 1212 Laurel, and The SoBro rise as evidence of a robust economy. Density has increased in residential areas as modern homes replace vintage housing stock. While many progressive projects advance, a number of structures both important and mundane have fallen to the wrecking ball. The story of Nashville’s accelerated development can be explored through the fates of several buildings designed by one noteworthy early 20th century architect.

Inspiration: The U.S. Customs House on Broadway instilled an admiration for architecture in young Thomas Scott Marr.
Library Collection



Born in Nashville 150 years ago this month, Thomas Scott Marr was reportedly inspired to become an architect as he watched the city’s Customs House being built in the 1870s. He was educated at the Tennessee School for the Deaf, Gallaudet University and, briefly, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The architectural firm of Marr & Holman first appears in the Nashville City Directory in 1913. Marr’s eye for design, coupled with his partner Joseph Holman’s talent for networking with the city’s elite, resulted in dozens of high profile commissions.

Demolition: Marr & Holman’s Sam Davis Hotel falls in 1985.


In 1927, The Tennessean newspaper reported that “Nashville’s skyline promises to experience an interesting addition within the year.” Marr & Holman’s 12-story Sam Davis Hotel served the city until 1985, when it fell to make way for a much larger hotel and parking garage complex at 7th Avenue North and Commerce Street. The parking garage behind the Nashville Public Library (which is itself undergoing an addition) occupies the site today.

Nearby, on 7th Avenue North between Church and Commerce Streets, a non-descript, 7-story parking garage sits. The structure was designed by Marr & Holman in 1929. In terms which sound familiar today, The Tennessean described the developer’s rationale for undertaking the project:

"The decision to build the half-million dollar parking garage was the result of a careful study of the parking situation in Nashville, the city’s staple [sic] and continuous business advance, and the demand for a downtown parking garage. The prosperity of the city and its surrounding rich area were deemed sufficient reason to make a permanent investment profitable." (Tennessean, June 21, 1929)

Indeed, the parking garage must have been a wise investment for the Pritchett-Thomas Company to have stood for nearly 90 years. But its days are numbered. The United States Congress recently approved funding for a new federal courthouse to be built on the block. Nashville will benefit from its modern new federal building, but another piece of the Marr & Holman legacy will disappear from the urban fabric.

Adaptive reuse: The Tennessean heralded the opening of Marr & Holman’s James Robertson Hotel on July 7, 1929.



Sometimes a building is fortunate enough to be reimagined so it can continue to welcome guests through its doors. This was the case of Nashville’s main U.S. Post Office (1933-34) on Broadway. In 2001, far-sighted Nashvillians reopened the Art Deco-style building as the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. The cavernous interiors of the former post office lend themselves well to traveling art exhibitions.

In other cases, buildings are renovated or repurposed in ways that increasingly lead to the use of the term “gentrification.” This may be exemplified by another of Marr & Holman’s 7th Avenue North designs, the James Robertson Apartments. For nearly 40 years, the 1929 mid-rise operated as a subsidized housing option for low-income Nashvillians. Soon, however, the building will reopen as a 191-room luxury hotel.

Endurance: The Tennessee State Supreme Court Building (1937) in Nashville.
Department of Conservation Photograph Collection


The Tennessee State Supreme Court Building on Capitol Hill is perhaps Marr & Holman’s finest structure. This 1937 Depression-era Public Works Administration project has not only survived but continues to serve its original function. The Library and Archives is proud to have it and its tenants as a next-door neighbor.

Marr and his partner left a rich architectural legacy for their hometown of Nashville. But Marr also left a monetary gift to his alma mater, Gallaudet University. That college recognizes its “deaf outstanding architect” alumnus with a page on its website and a silent film in which Marr can be seen standing before many of his Middle Tennessee designs. The video was produced in 1934 and is available at http://videocatalog.gallaudet.edu/?video=5698. The 30-minute film is a delightful opportunity to reflect on the change Nashville has seen since the firm of Marr & Holman left its impression on the city.




The Tennessee State Library and Archives holds the Marr and Holman Architectural Firm Records, 1910-1965, a Tennessee Historical Society collection. More views of Marr’s architectural work can be seen in his designs for Knoxville’s Tennessee School for the Deaf in the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA).



The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Shape of Music

By Lori Lockhart

Music has long been a part of Tennessee’s cultural heritage. Whether your tastes favor blues, gospel, country, folk, rock ‘n roll or some other genre, Tennesseans have long embodied musicologist George Pullen Jackson’s advice to “live your own song life and be proud of it.” But long before Nashville became known as “Music City” and Bristol gave birth to country music, shape note singing was the way of the future.

“Old Harp” singing convention, Mount Pleasant, Jefferson County, circa 1905.
Looking Back at Tennessee Photograph Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives


The shape note musical system was introduced in 1798 by William Little and William Smith of the New York-New Jersey area. Little and Smith’s music book, The Easy Instructor; or A New Method of Teaching Sacred Harmony, initiated the idea of using a shape to represent each of four notes on a scale. At this time, most musicians used the solmization system common in the British Isles. Therefore, the major scale was sung as fa, sol, la, fa, sol, la, mi, fa. A triangular note-head was assigned to fa; sol was given a round shape; la was square; and mi was diamond shaped. The shapes made it easier for musicians to “sight sing” songs that were unfamiliar to them.

Musical scales from a handwritten book by a Mr. Little for Robert Wilson of the Williamsburg District, South Carolina, dated 1775.
Manuscripts Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives


In the wake of Little and Smith’s work, shape note tunebooks began to be published in mass. What started in the northern states quickly began to move south. In 1815, Ananias Davisson compiled Kentucky Harmony (which is considered to be the first shape note songbook printed in the South) and others quickly followed suit, with several books being produced in Tennessee.

Title page of Johnson’s Tennessee Harmony by Alexander Johnson, published in Nashville, 1824.
Library Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives


Title page of United States Harmony by Allen D. Carden, published in Nashville, 1829.
Library Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives


Title page of The Harp of Columbia by W. H. & M. L. Swan, published in Knoxville, 1848.
Library Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives


This new method of sight singing music knew no geographical or religious bounds as men from various denominations quickly began to assemble their own works. The preface to the 1968 reprint of The Sacred Harp details the diverse affiliations represented:

“Ananias Davisson of Virginia, compiler of The Kentucky Harmony, 1815, was a Presbyterian elder. Joseph Funk of Virginia, compiler of Choral-Music 1816, and Genuine Church Music, 1832, was a Mennonite. James P. Carrell of Virginia, compiler of Songs of Zion, 1820, and Virginia Harmony, 1831, was a Methodist preacher. William Hauser of Georgia, compiler of Hesperian Harp, 1848, was a Methodist preacher.”

Arguably, the most famous authors of shape note songbooks were William Walker and his brother-in-law, Benjamin Franklin White, who were Baptists.

Title page of The Southern Harmony, and Musical Companion by William Walker, 1847.
Library Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives


The first edition of William Walker’s Southern Harmony was published in 1835. Walker was a music teacher and, according to the 1939 reprint of Southern Harmony, he primarily wrote the manuscript to “provide his singing schools with a book of his own composition.” As with most songbooks of the time, Walker began his tome with “The Gamut, or Rudiments of Music.” In the preface to the first edition, Walker states: “In treating upon the rudiments of Music, I have endeavored to lead the pupil on step by step, from A, B, C, in the gamut, to the more abstruse parts of this delightful science, having inserted the gamut as it should be learned, in a pleasing conversation between the pupil and his teacher.” The introductory remarks in Southern Harmony were borrowed from the Columbian Harmony, published in 1825 by William Moore of Wilson County. Southern Harmony was a huge success with 600,000 copies sold over a period of 25 years. The last Walker edition of Southern Harmony was produced in 1854.

Page of the gamut from a handwritten book by a Mr. Little for Robert Wilson of the Williamsburg District, South Carolina, dated 1775.
Manuscripts Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives


Walker didn’t stop after his last publication of Southern Harmony though. In 1867, he released the first edition of Christian Harmony. Where Southern Harmony was based on the four shape note system described above, Christian Harmony went over to the seven shape note system that is more familiar to us today.

Page from The Sacred Harp or Beauties of Church Music by Lowell Mason, 1850.
Library Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives


In 1844, Benjamin Franklin White (Walker’s brother-in-law), along with E. J. King, compiled a book called The Sacred Harp. According to the 1968 reprint of The Sacred Harp, next to “the Holy Bible, the book found oftenest in the homes of rural southern people is without doubt the big oblong volume of song called The Sacred Harp.” From the very beginning, The Sacred Harp had a large following with many southern musical and singing conventions adopting it as their official songbook. And over the years, the term “Sacred Harp” has come to represent shape note singing as a whole.

“Tennessee” from The Southern Harmony, and Musical Companion by William Walker, 1847.
Library Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives


To explore books in the Library & Archives holdings related to shape note music, browse through titles HERE.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State