Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New World War I digital collection in the Tennessee Virtual Archive

By Allison Griffey

The Tennessee State Library and Archives has launched a new digital collection, Record of Ex-Soldiers in World War I, Tennessee Counties, 1917-1919. Visit the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA) to view the records of over 130,000 soldiers and sailors from Tennessee who served in the Great War: http://bit.ly/RG36TeVA.

Graeme McGregor Smith, Governor McCord and Mary Daniel Moore, State librarian and archivist, at the signing of the bill to build the new Library and Archives, 1947.


Service record information is arranged by county and includes age, place of birth, residence, unit in which the soldier served, enlistment and discharge dates. These service abstracts fill a gap left by the 1973 National Personnel Records Center fire, which destroyed the majority of Army personnel records between 1912 and 1960.

World War I service abstract for Sgt. Alvin C. York from the Record of Ex-Soldiers in World War I, Tennessee Counties, 1917-1919.


This collection began as an American Legion Auxiliary project spearheaded by Graeme McGregor Smith, mother of two World War I veterans. She mobilized Tennessee’s women to collect the records of soldiers and sailors to ensure that every Tennessean who served in the Great War would be remembered. In 1937, the legislature granted these compiled service records status as official public records of Tennessee and allowed for certified copies to be used in all courts.

“After all the History of a State is but the history of her people and when the Records of the ninety-five Counties of Tennessee are completed, Tennessee will have available a complete survey of its industrial and military man-power.” —Graeme McGregor Smith

Visit Record of Ex-Soldiers in World War I, Tennessee Counties, 1917-1919: http://bit.ly/RG36TeVA


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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Library and Archives Hosts Free Folklife Event

In partnership with the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Tennessee State Library and Archives will host a free event about folklife Oct. 14. Folklife is a multifaceted tradition which values oral stories, songs, art and many other cultural aspects.



The Library and Archives' abundant resources assert Tennessee as a premier resource for national folk studies. This upcoming event will highlight the publication of a large digital image collection consisting of approximately 22,000 photographs, slides, and negatives. Over 300 of these images will be released on the Tennessee Virtual Archive to coincide with the event, with the rest of the images to be published over subsequent years.

Dr. Robert Cogswell will be speaking about the collection he developed over three decades during his tenure as Director of the Tennessee Arts Commission. Dr. Cogswell retired from the Commission in 2014. In addition, Thomas Maupin, winner of the National Education Association’s National Heritage Fellowship award and renowned old-time buckdancer, will be performing. Free children’s craft activities will also be available. The event will be 10 a.m. until noon CDT Oct. 14 in the Library and Archives auditorium.

The Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Ave. North, directly west of the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville. Free parking is available around the Library and Archives building. Although the workshop is free and open to the public, registration is required due to seating limitations in the auditorium.

To reserve seats, please visit: https://folklifetsla.eventbrite.com.


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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Meet the Staff - Susan Gordon

Welcome to another installment of “Meet the Staff.” Today, let’s meet Susan Gordon. She is an Archivist in Archival Technical Services (ATS).

How long have you worked here?

Since 1999.

What are some of the things you do as an archivist?

Aid in processing, evaluating, and analyzing manuscripts and preparing them for placement in the collections; I am part of a large team that summarizes court transcriptions for our Tennessee Supreme Court data project; I research historical events and participate in several of our very active committees. I identify historical context for letters, diaries, court cases, state legislation, and keep up on current events. (Nothing worse than an uninformed historian!)

What is your favorite part of your job?

It’s a hackneyed old answer, but I enjoy (nearly) all facets of my work. Processing family papers is at the top of the list. I very much enjoy the research required to assess the historical value of a collection. It’s an endless learning experience.

Another of my favorite responsibilities is editing finding aids, which our talented ATS folks write. These are guides to manuscript collections, state records, and governors’ papers. We assess their significance to Tennessee history. One has to be a little nosy to be a historian since you must summarize collection content. (Reading diaries and period correspondence--some intimate--is like reading other people’s mail.)

I serve on several committees. A committee such as Archives Review decides if donations and potential purchases will complement/widen the breadth of the collections. It keeps me aware of incoming documents. Exhibits Committee work is pretty obvious: we research, illustrate, and write copy for displays on topics as diverse as women’s suffrage, prohibition, and children. Great fun. Let me plug the upcoming exploration of Tennessee’s role in the Great War--that’s World War I.

Education Outreach gives us the chance to share our holdings with teachers and students. We have a remarkably able Outreach staff--they are a vital part of carrying out our institutional mission.

I’m biased, but I think my department (ATS) is one of the most important in our building. We take in manuscript donations, process collections and write their finding aids, and deliver documents to the Public Services Manuscripts Section for public viewing, the Digital Work Group for digitization, or to other archivists doing research. They count on ATS not only for delivery but also for helping to locate related collections. Access to manuscripts, state record collections, and governors’ papers originates in ATS.



Do you have a favorite collection?

Of course, I do! The Oliver Caswell King and Catherine Rutledge King Papers. Dozens of intimate letters tell the story of two East Tennessee lovers (yes, they get married) who get caught up in the Civil War. Their exchanges provide a social, political, and domestic framework of the times through correspondence, essays, and poetry. Anyone interested in antebellum/wartime courtship practices, college experiences, Civil War camp life, and life on the home front will find plenty here. The letters are not unlike those written in the next century: they reveal humor, sympathy, pain, jealousy, and intellect.

(View them online: http://tsla.tnsosfiles.com/digital/teva/sites/kingpapers/index.htm)

What makes libraries and archives relevant to modern society?

Libraries and archives exist to preserve and share the records that document our history. The State Library and Archives is a custodian of our state’s past, and that means preserving legislative records, governors’ papers, personal and family papers, books, atlases, and maps. Fulfilling our mission is a balancing act. May patrons handle historic documents? Or, do we strictly preserve the records of times gone by? Both. Often a researcher feels a connection to an original document. We are sensitive to that, so in certain situations and under strict supervision, a patron may work with originals. To keep us in the modern age, we are digitizing countless numbers of these documents. Making them available to the public in this way allows us to preserve them and share them at the same time.

For more than 10 years, I worked as a manuscript archivist in Public Services. I considered it important work. Soon after I moved to ATS, I realized how essential to our mission my new work was. Maybe in some small way I am helping scholars and family historians contribute to the historical literature.


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

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Remembering and Celebrating a Rural Heritage: The Tennessee Century Farms Program

By Dr. Kevin Cason

The popular 1960s television comedy Green Acres introduced viewers to New York lawyer Oliver Wendell Douglas who longed for a simpler way of life. As a result, he purchased a farm and moved there to live off the land, despite the opposition of his socialite wife Lisa. To express his appreciation of the rural life Douglas declared in the opening theme song: “Green Acres is the place to be. Farm living is the life for me. Land spreading out, so far and wide. Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside!” While the song provided a memorable tune for television viewers, the love of the countryside and farm living is something that still resonates with people. For many Tennesseans and other Americans farming has been an important part of their lives.

One program that recognizes this rural heritage is the Tennessee Century Farms program. The Tennessee Century Farms program honors farms that have remained in the same family and have had continuous agricultural production for 100 years or more. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture established the “Family Land Heritage-Century Farms” program as a way to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial in 1976. To gain recognition as a Century Farm, farmers filled out applications that told the history of their farm and provided documentation proving continuous ownership. A county agent or county historian then certified their application. After officially certifying the farms, special ceremonies were held at regional, county and state fairs to recognize the Century Farms where farm families received a certificate and a plaque. In 1979, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture loaned 637 farm files to the Tennessee State Library and Archives for microfilming. Eventually, the microfilmed files became State Record Group 62 and part of the Library and Archives microfilm collection.

Cartwright-Russell Farm, Smith County, Record Group 62, Tennessee Century Farms Microfilm Collection.


In 1984, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture asked the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University to administer the program and maintain the Tennessee Century Farms collection of applications and photographs. Under the guidance of staff at the Center for Historic Preservation, more farms have been added to the collection each year. Over the years, the Center has produced publications, exhibits, and a website to recognize the program.

Commissioner of Agriculture Edward S. Porter with Century Farms certificate and sign, October 1976. Tennessee Market Bulletin, Vol. XLIX, No. 10


Today, people can still apply to be a part of the Tennessee Century Farms program. In order to apply for the Century Farms designation, a person must fill out an application that is provided by the Center for Historic Preservation. In addition, the person must have documentation that shows the continuous ownership of the farm within their family for at least 100 years. Another requirement is the farm must be 10 acres or more of the original farm owned by the founder. The farm also has to produce at least $1,000 in revenue annually. The application then has to be certified by either the county agent or the county historian. On review of the application, the Center for Historic Preservation issues a letter and certificate officially designating the property as a Tennessee Century Farm. In addition, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture issues a yellow outdoor sign to further distinguish the family farm.

Townsend Farm Landscape Scene, Giles County, Record Group 62, Tennessee Century Farms Microfilm Collection.


Across Tennessee, the yellow metal Century Farm signs can be seen prominently displayed on many rural landscapes and historic buildings. The signs serve as a reminder of the important agricultural legacy of farm families who have continuously owned and farmed their land for at least 100 years.

For more on the Tennessee Century Farms Program see:

  • The Tennessee Century Farms website: http://www.tncenturyfarms.org/
  • “Family Land Heritage-Century Farms Collection, 1975-1978.” Record Group 62, Tennessee State Library and Archives. (Microfilm only collection).
  • Carroll Van West, Tennessee Agriculture: A Century Farms Perspective. Nashville: Department of Agriculture, 1986.
  • Caneta Skelley Hankins and Michael Thomas Gavin, Plowshares and Swords: Tennessee Farm Families Tell Civil War Stories. Murfreesboro, TN: Center for Historic Preservation, 2013.

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

Friday, August 25, 2017

James Burney McAlester: The First Native American to Play Football for Vanderbilt University

By Will Thomas

James Burney McAlester was born in North McAlester, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) June 7, 1876*. He went on to become the first Native American to play football for Vanderbilt University. His father, James J. McAlester, served as U.S. Marshal for the United States Court in the Choctaw Nation from 1893 to 1897. His mother, Rebecca Burney, was a member of the Chickasaw nation, and his uncle, Benjamin C. Burney, was Governor of the Chickasaw Nation from 1887 to 1880.

J. B. McAlester, Nashville, Tennessee, 1898. Calvert Brothers Studios Glass Plate Negatives.



J. B. McAlester studied law at the University of Missouri and then at Vanderbilt University. During his time at Vanderbilt, he played left tackle on the 1897 football team. In his book 50 Years of Vanderbilt Football, famed sports writer Fred Russell calls the 1897 team the "Greatest Eleven of the Nineties." He also notes that McAlester was the only Native American to play football for Vanderbilt (at least, as of the time of the book's publication in 1938).

1897 Vanderbilt University football team in Fred Russell's 50 Years of Vanderbilt Football. Library Holdings.


During the 1890s and early 1900s, Vanderbilt's greatest rival wasn't the University of Tennessee – it was Sewanee (now named University of the South). Between 1891 and 1944, Sewanee and Vanderbilt would battle it out on the gridiron 52 times. Vanderbilt won 40 of the games, Sewanee won 8, and there were 4 tie games.


Statements by Sewanee team captain, Oscar Wilder and Vanderbilt team manager, Lester G. Fant (misspelled in the newspaper), about the 1897 game, Nashville American, Nov. 25, 1897. Newspaper Microfilm Collection.


In 1897, the two teams met in Nashville November 25 (Thanksgiving Day). The game, which Vanderbilt won 10-0, received a great deal of coverage in the Nashville American newspaper (later renamed the Tennessean).

List of players on the Sewanee and Vanderbilt football teams with their respective weights, Nashville American, Nov. 25, 1897. Newspaper Microfilm Collection.


One article lists the offensive players for each team and gives their respective weights (although it incorrectly lists McAlester as "J. E." McAlester). Tipping the scales at 190 lbs., McAlester was the heaviest player on Vanderbilt's team. Now, of course, an offensive lineman under 200 lbs. or a 134 lb. quarterback is something you might only expect to see on a junior high school team.

Illustration depicting Vanderbilt scoring a touchdown against Sewanee, Nashville American, Nov. 26, 1897. Newspaper Microfilm Collection.



*There is some discrepancy about when McAlester was born. His World War I draft registration (which he filled out) lists his birth year as 1876. His death certificate, however, lists his birth year as 1874, and his tombstone lists it as 1875. The date he himself gave is most likely the correct one.


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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Library and Archives Hosts Free Workshop on Land Platting

UPDATE: Due to high demand, we have received the maximum number of registrations we are able to seat for our upcoming workshop, “Land Platting: State Grants and Local Deeds” by J. Mark Lowe. Registration is now closed. We look forward to seeing those who have registered for this presentation on Sept. 23rd.

If you wish to have your name added to our reserve waiting list to attend this workshop, please email workshop.tsla@tn.gov. When a registered attendee cancels in advance of this event, we will notify a waiting list member that a spot has opened up. You are also welcome to arrive on the day of the event to be on standby in case a spot opens up. Please note, however, that we cannot guarantee you a spot due to seating limitations in our Auditorium.

For those unable to attend, we plan to video record this session for publication on our website at a later date. We look forward to sharing that video with you in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, thank you for your interest in our Workshop Series. We’ll continue to keep you updated on future events. 


Locating the land of an ancestor can uncover a wealth of knowledge. On Sept. 23, the Tennessee State Library and Archives will host a free workshop about land platting. It will be a basic review of the steps in locating the description of property in Tennessee and platting that description onto a map.

Plat of Hiwassee District. Tennessee Virtual Archive.
Presenter J. Mark Lowe is a certified genealogist and fellow of the Utah Genealogical Association. He’s also a renowned author and lecturer who specializes in original records and manuscripts throughout the South. His expertise has been featured on several genealogical television series including African American Lives 2 (PBS), Who Do You Think You Are? (TLC) and The UneXplained (BIO).

Lowe will demonstrate how platting a property tract map may help identify many important features of a community, including ferries, mills, cemeteries, trails, historic homes and many other landmarks. With the aid of a few inexpensive tools, researchers can construct their own plats of land tracts as described in deeds, wills, court records or land grants.

"This workshop allows us to see and interpret history through our greatest natural resource: land. Lowe’s insight will serve as a valuable tool for Tennesseans looking to discover more about their heritage," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "I look forward to this event and encourage people to reserve their seats as soon as possible."

The workshop will be 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. CDT Saturday, Sept. 23, in the Library and Archives auditorium.

The Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Ave. North, directly west of the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville. Free parking is available around the Library and Archives building. Although the workshop is free and open to the public, registration is required due to seating limitations in the auditorium. To reserve seats, please visit loweworkshop.eventbrite.com.


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

Monday, August 21, 2017

Viewing the Eclipse through the eyes of the Rose Music Collection

By Dr. Kevin Cason

According to NASA, today’s total solar eclipse is the first to sweep across the United States in nearly a century. As the largest U.S. city in the eclipse’s path, Nashville will watch day turn to night as the moon completely blocks the sun from the sky for about two minutes. In honor of this celestial event, we highlight some sheet music from the Rose Music Collection that features the “sun” as a theme.

“Sunrise, Sunset.” Composed by C.A. White. Rose Music Collection.


Kenneth Rose was an accomplished violinist and oversaw the violin department at Ward-Belmont College. In addition to being one of Nashville’s preeminent musicians, he was a collector of sheet music.

“Sunbeam Scottisch.” Composed by Ferdinand Lellner. Rose Music Collection.


The Kenneth D. Rose Sheet Music Collection contains first editions and imprints of sheet music pertaining to a variety of subjects, including the Civil War, politics, presidents, wars, ships, sports, minstrels and comic songs.

“Sunset and Dawn” from Moods: A Series of Songs, Composed by E.L. Ashford. Rose Music Collection.



The collection has more than 20,000 pieces of music, most of which was acquired by the Tennessee State Library and Archives before 1956. The remainder of the collection was bequeathed in 1956.

For more from the Kenneth Rose Music Collection see: http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/rosemusic


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