Friday, October 9, 2015

Discovered in the Archives... from the Calvert Brothers Studio

Some days as a historian and archivist are good days...and some days are not so great. I recently had one of those really great days.

TSLA has a collection of more than 3,000 glass plate negatives from one of Nashville's prominent photography studios, the Calvert Brothers Studio. The collection is in the midst of being processed and I have been compiling an inventory of the negatives in order to help organize the collection. On a recent morning, I came across a striking image of an African-American man while working on the inventory and I wanted to find out more about him.

Glass plate negative of Calvert negative # 19385, Calvert Brothers Studio Glass Plate Negative Collection

I began with the only concrete information I had: the negative number etched by the studio into the emulsion of the negative. This negative had the number 19385. TSLA has one of the studio's daybooks (its listing of negative numbers arranged alphabetically by the last name of the person making the appointment). Our staff and volunteers have been creating a database of the entries in the daybooks.

Negative # 19385 scratched into the emulsion of the negative by the studio, Calvert Brothers Studio Glass Plate Negative Collection

Searching the database for negative 19385, I found the corresponding entry with the name "B. C. Franklin" from 1901. The historical note in the database entry noted that Buck C. Franklin was enrolled at Roger Williams University (a historically black college in Nashville). Knowing that the name in the daybook is the name of the person who scheduled the appointment and not necessarily the person in the photograph, I decided to see what I could find about Buck C. Franklin on the Internet.

Buck C. Franklin, Nashville, Tennessee, 1901, Calvert Brothers Studio Glass Plate Negative Collection

Page from the studio's daybook with the entry for B. C. Franklin highlighted ("col" is short for "colored" and "cab" is the abbreviation for cabinet card, in other words, the specific type of print that was ordered), Calvert Brothers Studio Glass Plate Negative Collection

I discovered that Buck Colbert Franklin (1879-1960) went on to become a lawyer after graduating from Roger Williams University. He moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, just prior to the Tulsa race riot of 1921 and his law office was destroyed in the riot. He then represented African-American residents in lawsuits seeking compensation for the destruction of their businesses and property in the riot. I also came across this photograph [] of him taken just after the riot, which is pretty convincing evidence that the man in the negative is indeed Buck C. Franklin.

Franklin was also the father of renowned historian John Hope Franklin [], who received his bachelor's degree from Fisk University in Nashville.

Then, a further search in the Calvert daybook turned up more entries for Buck Franklin. The entry for negative number 12481, taken in 1899, was under the name "B. Franklin." Comparing that image to this image on the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian website [], it is clear that the two photographs are of the same person. Coincidentally, a year and a half ago I had selected the 1899 image of Buck Franklin to use on the introduction panel of TSLA's exhibit about Tennessee's 19th Century African-American legislators (although the image did not make it onto the final version of the panel).

Buck C. Franklin, Nashville, Tennessee, 1899, Calvert Brothers Studio Glass Plate Negatives Collection

A third entry (negative number 50906) is under the name "Buck Franklin." However, I have not been able to determine if this negative is a photograph of the same Buck Franklin. The negative, if it still exists, is in the as-yet-uninventoried portion of the collection, and trying to find it would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. And there are a couple of points that cast doubt on the possibility of that negative being of the same Buck Franklin. First, the photograph was taken in 1890, when Buck was just 11 years old. Since the names in the daybook are the names of the individuals who made the appointments, it seems highly improbable that an 11-year-old made an appointment to get his picture taken. Second, while he was named after his grandfather, he noted in his autobiography that his grandfather died before he was born, so the entry cannot be from his grandfather.

But the story of Buck Franklin is not the only one awaiting discovery among the negatives in the Calvert Brothers Studio Glass Plate Negative Collection. For example, according to the daybook, there are supposed to be a couple of negatives of John Hope. He was a classics professor at Roger Williams University, later president of Morehouse College, active in the NAACP, and the namesake of John Hope Franklin. And the hunt continues...

Will M. Thomas, Archivist for TSLA's Archival Technical Services, contributed this first-person account of his research for the TSLA Blog. Will's past processing projects include the Puryear Family Photograph Albums, James Earl Ray Inmate Records, and Colonel Harry E. Dudley Papers. Will is also a staff photographer for the State Library and Archives Looking Back: The Civil War in Tennessee digitization project.

Will would also like to acknowledge Kathy Lauder, retired archivist and volunteer for the Tennessee State Library and Archives, for her work on entering the Calvert daybook into the database. Kathy's work proved instrumental in helping Will discover the Buck Franklin photo. 

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

TSLA Honors Gold Star Mothers Day

The month of September includes a very important day for all Gold Star mothers. In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated the last Sunday in September as “Gold Star Mother’s Day." The honor and tradition of the Gold Star continues to this day to remember the sacrifice given by our men and women who lost their lives in duty.

Raymond E Barnes, Soldier from Benton County.

The Gold Star program began during World War I when military families hung service flags in the windows of their homes. The flags had a star for each family member in military service. Those living were represented by a blue star, and those who had lost their lives in action were represented by a gold star. On September 24, President Obama signed a presidential proclamation proclaiming September 27 as Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day.

Private, S.J. Banks, Soldier from Davidson County.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives has our very own Gold Star Collection. In 1922, John Trotwood Moore, Tennessee state librarian and archivist, reached out to 4,000 military families, asking for records of war heroes and Tennessee’s “Gold Star boys." In return, he received more than 1,500 replies. In 1979, the Gold Star Records were microfilmed.

Private Joseph Adams, “Gold Star boy” from Grainger County, Dec. 26, 1922.

In a letter, Moore wrote: “It is difficult for me, however, nor would I presume to attempt it, to designate which of the mothers of Tennessee made the greatest sacrifice in giving her boy to her country…..When I look at the faces of the photographs collected for our historical department, of nearly 5000 Tennessee boys who made the supreme sacrifice, I feel that every mother of these boys is entitled to the crowning glory you have designated (of making the greatest sacrifice during the war)….”

“Gold Star Boys, WWI” monument, located in Lawrence County Tennessee.

Tennessee's Gold Star collection is available for research at the Library & Archives building, and work is underway to digitize the collection for Tennessee Virtual Archive by Veterans Day 2016. In the meantime, we encourage you to learn more about these historically important records on the TSLA website at:

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tennessee Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Suggests Titles for Banned Books Week

Since 1982 the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of American Publishers, the National Council of Teachers of English and many other organizations have sponsored “Banned Books Week” during the last week of September. The purpose of Banned Books Week is to emphasize the importance of free and open access to information. Banning (or challenging) books is usually done to protect others, often children, but sometimes adults, too, from ideas and information. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the freedom of people to express their ideas and to have them heard (or read).

Libraries across America, including the Tennessee Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped, support our right to intellectual freedom, the ability to have access to thought-provoking information, whether or not the ideas are currently considered “politically correct.”

Historically, books that have been banned are as diverse as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll to All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque to Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss.

This year Banned Books Week is being observed September 27-October 3. According to ALA there were 311 attempts to ban books in the United States in 2014. Some of the titles include award-winning books such as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie; The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini; and The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison.

The Tennessee Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped has all of these titles available, most in multiple formats: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is available in audio and braille; All Quiet on the Western Front is available in audio, braille and large print; Green Eggs and Ham is available in audio (including in Spanish) and braille (including print/braille a format designed for a blind person to read aloud with sighted child); The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is available in audio format; The Kite Runner is available in audio (including in Spanish); braille and large print; The Bluest Eye is available in audio, braille and large print formats.

To find out more about who is eligible to borrow books from the Tennessee Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped, or what is available, go to:

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Exhibit Highlights New Deal's Impact on Tennessee

President Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking at the dedication ceremony for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Also present: Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, U. S. Senator Kenneth McKellar, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, Gov. Prentice Cooper.
Record Group 82, Department of Conservation Photograph Collection

It was one of the most transformative attempts at economic reform in our country's history: In response to the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched a series of programs under the New Deal banner that were aimed at jump starting the United States' faltering economy.

Critics called some of those programs ineffective, duplicative and occasionally even illegal. Yet the New Deal undeniably changed the course of U.S. history - and Tennessee's history in particular. A free exhibit now on display in the lobby of the Tennessee State Library and Archives provides an overview of the New Deal as well as details about some of the programs that had the greatest impact on the Volunteer State.

For example, the New Deal led to the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which built a network of hydroelectric dams throughout the region that provided electricity to rural communities across Tennessee, but also displaced about 82,000 people from their homes. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed the state's park system and other programs such as the Civil Works Administration, Public Works Administration and Works Progress Administration built infrastructure such as housing, roads, bridges, airports, hospitals and schools around the state.

Material for the exhibit came from the Tennessee State Library and Archives' collections of maps, newspapers, photographs, letters and other documents. These items are available to people who wish to learn more about the New Deal or other topics of historical interest.

Camp Sam Houston woodworking students, Pikeville.
Record Group 93, Civilian Conservation Corps Records

Included in the exhibit is an interactive kiosk where visitors can listen to recordings of first person accounts from people who worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps. The exhibit, which will remain on display at least through the end of the year, is open to the public during the Tennessee State Library and Archives' normal operating hours, which are from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives building is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville. A limited amount of free parking is available around the building.

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The “Troubles” with Billiard Tables in 19th Century Tennessee and America

In Meredith Willson’s popular Broadway musical The Music Man, pool tables are controversial in the small town of River City, Iowa. As con man Harold Hill takes up the false occupation of an instrument dealer, he tries to convince the citizens of River City to fund his idea for a boys’ marching band instead of a pool hall. In the memorable song, “Ya Got Trouble,” Harold retorts to the townspeople “I tell you there is trouble, right here in River City! That starts with T and it rhymes with P and that stands for pool!”

The Subway Pool Hall on Union Street at 4th Street, circa 1916, showing Dominick Petrocelli and Frank Varallo, Sr. Several other men behind the pool tables, including an African American man at right rear.
TSLA Library Collection

While the controversy over having pool tables in River City presents a memorable song and delightful plot for The Music Man, the musical in some ways reflects people’s attitudes about billiard tables in the past. For many people during the 19th Century, billiard tables were associated with vices such as gambling, idleness, and drinking alcohol. Opponents of alcohol associated drinking with crime, financial problems, and physical and emotional abuse within alcoholic families.

Negative attitudes about alcohol seem to have led to higher taxes on items at places where alcohol was sold. For example, billiard tables found in taverns and saloons during the 19th Century were often charged substantially higher fees compared to other items. For example, according to the Acts of Tennessee, a billiard table had a tax of $1,000 in 1803 while owning 100 acres of land was taxed only 12 ½ cents.

An 1803 Public Act listing various taxes imposed on Tennessee citizens, including a tax on billiard tables.

The controversy surrounding billiard tables even affected President John Quincy Adams, who purchased a table for his own use in the White House. His decision to have a billiard table ultimately became an issue during his presidential reelection campaign in 1828. Adams was attacked by his opponents for encouraging the vice of gambling.

In Tennessee, the controversy over billiard tables continued throughout the 19th Century. As the Nashville American newspaper revealed in 1896, Nashville Mayor William McCarthy was adamantly against having pool rooms in the city because he believed that they corrupted young people by encouraging them to gamble and place bets on sporting events like races. As a result of his beliefs, he urged the city council to ban pool halls in the city.

Meanwhile, billiards supporters insisted that the game was an ideal recreation for city dwellers, as it was something that could be played during all seasons, day or night. Despite the controversy over billiard tables, pool halls continued to grow in popularity during the 19 Century in Tennessee and in America.

Today, according to the Billiard Congress of America, more than 200,000 pool tables are sold annually in America. In Tennessee, pool tables are taxed at the regular sales tax rate - not $1,000 per table!

To learn more about this subject of billiards tables, we encourage you to consult the following sources, held in the Tennessee State Library and Archives:

  • Acts of Tennessee. Legislative History Collection.
  • Bergeron, Paul, et al. Tennesseans and Their History (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press,1999).
  • Miles, Edwin A. “President Adam’s Billiard Table,” The New England Quarterly Vol. 45, No. 1 (March 1972): 31-43.
  • “Pool Rooms: Mayor McCarthy Asks a City Law Against Them.” Nashville American, August 28, 1896, p. 6.
  • Wiggins, David K. ed. Sport in America, Volume II: From Colonial Leisure to Celebrity Figures and Globalization (Human Kinetics, 2nd edition, 2009).

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

Friday, September 4, 2015

An Honest Day's Work: A Photographic Tribute to Workers on Labor Day

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is our annual celebration of the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well being of our nation.

The first governmental recognition of Labor Day came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. In 1887, Oregon became the first state in the nation to enact legislation recognizing Labor Day as a state holiday. On March 11, 1891, Tennessee followed suit, as Gov. John P. Buchanan signed an act passed by the Tennessee General Assembly recognizing "that the first Monday in September of each and every year be set apart as a legal holiday, to be known as Labor Day."

By 1894, 23 other states followed the lead of Oregon, Tennessee and other states, adopting the holiday in honor of workers into state law. Soon afterward in that same year, Congress approved legislation making Labor Day a federal holiday. Today, citizens throughout the United States observe Labor Day as a well-earned day of rest from our busy work lives.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives would like to take this opportunity on Labor Day to honor workers throughout the "Volunteer State" through the following photographic tribute. This selection of images comes courtesy of the Library and Archives' Department of Conservation Photograph Collection...

Section crew on the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. J. F. Palmer, the foreman, and five other men shown in Carter County.
Department of Conservation Photograph Collection

An employee checking the spindles at the Belding-Heminway Textile Corporation located in Morristown.
Department of Conservation Photograph Collection

Workers processing strawberries at Portland in the food packing plant in Sumner County.
Department of Conservation Photograph Collection

Workers inspecting washed phosphate rock, Mount Pleasant.
Department of Conservation Photograph Collection

An assemblyman stacking vinyl recording discs at the Bullet Plastics Co., a recording and transcription company located in Nashville.
Department of Conservation Photograph Collection

The gas range assembly line at the Athens Stove Works in McMinn County.
Department of Conservation Photograph Collection

Ernest H. Peckinpaugh supervising workers at rear of fly-tying room in his Chattanooga manufacturing company. Founded in 1920 to manufacture the first commercially tied fishing lures, by 1940 the E.H. Peckinpaugh catalog listed 60 different bugs and flies with hundreds of color combinations.
Department of Conservation Photograph Collection

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Man’s Best Friend

“I am almost tempted to say that if you will show me a man’s dog I will tell you what manner of man the owner is, with particular reference to temperament and his moods.” -- The Camden [Tenn.] Chronicle, October 3, 1902

Over the years, dogs have played many different parts in the lives of humans: protector, hunter, herder, guide, etc. But perhaps the dog’s most important role is that of companion. Long before Prussia's Frederick II coined the phrase “man’s best friend,” dogs lived in harmony with humankind and provided love and camaraderie.

A "future fox hunter," (little boy) at the Crossville Fox Hound bench show, Cumberland County, Tennessee, April 3, 1948, Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.

Tennessee has a rich animal history since critters go hand in hand with agriculture. While many dogs in the state are bred to hunt, others are raised to be herding dogs that can assist in moving livestock from one place to another and keeping young animals within groups and out of trouble. Many farm dogs also serve as animated scarecrows that protect crops from creatures that might otherwise eat up a farmer’s livelihood.

William Jackson Elliston and William Harding Jackson, Jr. as children, with Pickett the dog, Nashville, Tennessee, undated, Library Photograph Collection.

Mrs. H.C. Reynolds and daughter, Corley, are making their first garden preparations for the Home Food Supply Program while their dog, Sport, looks on, DeKalb County, Tennessee, Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.

While some dogs work in the fields, others have been employed at more amusing tasks. A flyer advertising “Skipper the Wonder Dog” is included in the Phillip Van Horn Weems Papers at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. (Weems was Skipper’s owner.) Skipper had been trained by Wilson Garey and was billed as “The Dog with Human Intelligence.” According to the circular, Skipper knew more than 20 tricks and, among other things, could count, pretend to be lame, and pray. Weems is quoted as saying that Skipper was “the son of a vicious roving German Shepherd” and that he “never fails to thrill an audience.”

A Labrador Retriever, "Chief Draughon," jumping in the water, Davidson County, Tennessee, October 23, 1952, Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.

Borden C. Jones teaching his dog how to aquaplane on Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee, June 8, 1946, Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.

Entertainment and farming are not the only things dogs have notably been used for in Tennessee. The Volunteer State was also home to the first “seeing eye dog,” Buddy. Morris Frank (1908-1980) was a Nashville native who attended Montgomery Bell Academy and later Vanderbilt University. By the age of 16, Frank was totally blind as the result of two separate accidents. In 1927, Frank read an article by Dorothy Harrison Eustis and contacted her regarding the possibility of receiving a guide dog. Eustis was an American living in Switzerland who trained dogs. Most of the animals Eustis trained were employed as guides for emergency personnel, police, and military personnel. Even though Eustis had no experience training dogs to guide the blind, she invited Frank to come to Switzerland, promising to help him locate an appropriate trainer and dog. Frank was paired with a female German Shepherd (originally named “Kiss”) whom he re-named Buddy. The partnership was a success and Frank, guided by Buddy, soon became a common sight to anyone frequenting downtown Nashville.

Wanting all visually impaired individuals to be able to have the freedom and independence he had with Buddy, Frank established a nonprofit corporation, The Seeing Eye, Inc., to train guide dogs for blind men and women. While Frank started The Seeing Eye at his home in Nashville, it soon moved to New Jersey, where the organization continues to operate to this day. During his lifetime, Frank advocated that service dogs be allowed to accompany their owners in any public place and challenged many of the “no dogs allowed” policies that were common at the time.

Morris Frank returning to Nashville from Vevey, Switzerland, with his guide dog, Buddy, New York, New York, June 12, 1928, Archives Photographs Collection.

Buddy, Morris Frank's Seeing Eye dog, December 1937, Library Photograph Collection.

Dogs have even been used as a source of revenue for the state. In 1875, the Tennessee state legislature passed a bill (HB 438) to create a “dog tax.” This act required every “owner or harborer of a dog or dogs” to pay $1 per each dog owned with the exception of unspayed female dogs, which the owners paid $5 to keep. Spayed female dogs were taxed at the same rate as all other dogs ($1). Rep. Robert P. Cole (representing Henry, Carroll, Gibson, and Weakley counties) was one of the many state House of Representatives members who voted for the bill. His constituents were so outraged about the new law that Rep. Cole tried to hide his 'yes' vote. The Camden Chronicle (September 2, 1892) reported: “Mr. Cole voted for this dog law and when he went home and found how mad his constituents were about it, he tried to deny his vote, and they could not fix it down on him until the Journal containing his vote came out.” Since $1 in 1875 would be approximately $22 today, this was a fairly significant tax. Consequently, people could not afford to keep many dogs during the time that this “privilege tax” existed.

Mrs. Polk Chapleau and her champion fox hounds, March 30, 1941, Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.

Dogs have been an asset to the people of Tennessee in many ways over the years. But, no matter what other roles dogs may fill in our lives, they are first and foremost our friends. Perhaps a quote from Voltaire in his 1764 Dictionnaire philosophique sums it up best: “It seems that nature has given the dog to man for his defense and for his pleasure. Of all the animals it is the most faithful: it is the best friend man can have.”

Jack and Bill fishing in Cherokee Lake, Tennessee, May 16, 1946, Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.

To view more historic images of Tennessee dogs, please see TSLA’s online photograph database:

For more information on “Skipper the Wonder Dog,” take a look at the Phillip Van Horn Weems Papers: at TSLA.

For more information on Morris Frank and Buddy, including Braille resources, contact the Tennessee Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped ( The Tennessee Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (TLBPH) is a free library program of more than 50,000 recorded, large print, and braille materials available to residents of Tennessee who are not able to use standard print materials due to visual or physical disabilities. The TLBPH partners with the National Library Service at the Library of Congress (NLS) to administer this free library service. Check out the TLBPH link here:

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