Friday, January 11, 2013

A proper introduction…

Today we launch the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) new blog, “Library & Archives News.” We’re very excited to begin this social media outreach initiative -- so excited, in fact, that we're also launching a new Facebook and Flickr account to spread the news!

In our very first blog post, we thought a proper introduction was in order, so we begin by presenting to you our “calling card.” Several of our manuscript collections here at TSLA include calling cards which were used in many aspects of 19th and early 20th century society. Calling cards have a very interesting social history worth exploring. Over the years, the calling card has served as a tool to facilitate social interaction, cultivate business, and provided a reminder to the person receiving the card of a meeting. Much like social media today, the calling card was a personal invitation to connect and share information, and continue a formal or informal relationship, depending on the social setting.

Among the many calling cards held in various manuscript collections here at TSLA is this unique item from the papers of Adam Gillespie Adams. Buried deep within a scrapbook, compiled by Mrs. Mary J. Strickler Adams, is this calling card from Sarah Childress Polk, the wife and First Lady to President James Knox Polk. The calling card is rather simplistic, with only “Mrs. Polk” and “Polk Place” embossed on the card. What makes this card unique, aside from the fact that it belonged to a former First Lady, is the hand-written inscription…

Sarah Polk's calling card, Sept. 13th, 1884. Adam Gillespie Adams Papers Addition.
Digital image, Tennessee State Library & Archives.

“Much Love and many thanks my dear Mrs. Adams for the kind remembrance,” the handwritten note says. Sarah Childress Polk was born on Sept. 4, 1803 -- so it is very likely that she used this calling card as a “thank you” note to Mrs. Adams for remembering her with a gift or card for her 81st birthday.

Mrs. Polk and Mrs. Adams were connected by more than the exchange of cards. They belonged to prominent families and were friends for many years. On September 1, 1877, a historic conversation took place between Mrs. Polk and Mrs. Adams husband, Adam G. Adams, as part of a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As the Nashville newspaper The Daily American reported the following day on September 2, 1877, “A number of ladies and gentlemen were profitably entertained, yesterday noon, at the residences of Mrs. James K. Polk and Mr. A.G. Adams by some exceedingly interesting and instructive experiments with the telephone.” This was, according to the paper, the first telephone conversation to take place in Nashville, ushering in a new era of communication in the Old South.

Today, communication has advanced well beyond the calling card and the telephone. We now communicate through a variety of means, including social media. Now that we have been properly introduced, we hope that you will come back often to our blog and other social media outlets, where we will take you on a virtual journey through the stacks to explore the treasures of Tennessee history and keep you informed about events and services offered by our professional and courteous staff.

We plan to publish blog posts twice a month, and will post updates on our Facebook page with more frequency as time permits. We also plan to share images from our collection through our forthcoming Flickr site, where you can explore our collections and interact with our content.

For those of you on Twitter, we have an outlet for you as well. We hope you will follow Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, who will share updates from time to time with his followers. Through social media, we hope to engage our audience beyond the physical confines of our building, and encourage you to visit us and make a connection with your own past.

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


  1. Welcome to the blogsphere! I shared an announcement on the TNGenWeb blog ( look forward to many great posts in the future.

  2. What a fitting first post! I love how you connected the historic calling card to modern-day social media. Looking forward to future posts!

  3. Very happy to see your new blog! Have signed up as a follower and am also a follower on your other social media venues. Looking forward to hearing more exciting things from the TSLA! Thanks for your 'calling card!' :)

  4. Calling cards, love them and welcome.

  5. Hi, I am indirectly related to Mr Adams. My great grandmothers brother was Robert Gillespie Throne. He left strabane Ireland immigrated to Nashville. He became a business partner of mr Adams ( his uncle). I recently found and visited the Throne family graves in Nashville. The family descendants resides today in the Belfast area. Amazing to read about the connection to the presidential office, the first phone call, Vanderbilt.