Friday, October 30, 2015

Tennessee's Library and Archives Can Cure What Ails You...

It’s the start of flu season in Tennessee, and we are reminded by a barrage of ads and commercials to get flu shots to prevent the virus. But the vaccine was not developed until the 1930s, so how did people deal with flu symptoms before then?

Folk medicine is part of a grand cultural tradition where recipes are passed down by word of mouth, or written and kept as reference for recurring symptoms. These home remedies go in and out of style, depending on societal trends and effectiveness. Some remedies do not have medicinal properties, but offer psychological relief. For example, there's the tradition of eating chicken soup to ease a cold. Other remedies utilize spices, vegetables, and other ingredients that can alleviate ailments or mimic chemical reactions similar to modern medicine.

Remedy for chills and fever, letter to Mrs. Wynne from E. Rucker, February 7, 1844.
Wynne Family Papers (THS), 1887-1973

In Tennessee records, folk medicine is not limited to humans, but extends to animals – particularly work animals for farming. It appears in correspondence, diaries, doctors’ notes, and even on simple scraps of paper. TSLA has many records that tell of home remedies and medicinal recipes for everything from sore throats and coughs to fever, rabies and diseases like consumption. Some diseases that frequently appear in Tennessee records include: yellow fever, typhoid, malaria, smallpox, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, cholera, polio, and diphtheria.

“Pneumonia Cure,” from the Claybrooke and Overton Papers (THS), 1747-1894

We do not suggest trying these recipes at home, as some contain substances now known to be harmful, but by studying them, we can get a better picture of home life and home treatment throughout the history of our state, as well as gain a deeper appreciation for modern medicine.

“Remedy for Bite of Mad Dog,” from the Claybrooke and Overton Papers (THS), 1747-1894, includes directions to take the mixture nine days from the bite, or before the full and change of the moon. It provides dosages for humans and work animals.

“A memorandum of what will Cure the Consumption,” from the journal of J.M. Brewer (THS), 1802-1830. Brewer provides two cures.

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

Monday, October 19, 2015

Anniversary of 'Night Riders' Attack in Lake County

Night Rider Trials, 1909
From a composite photograph in Harper's Weekly
Archives Photograph Collection

West Tennessee's Reelfoot Lake is a peaceful spot for outdoor excursions, but life along the lakefront hasn't always been so tranquil. In 1908, the West Tennessee Land Company bought all the land along Reelfoot's shoreline, angering nearby residents who relied on the lake for fish. The company planned to drain part of the lake to grow cotton on it, but local residents had other ideas. 

The residents formed a mob known as the 'Night Riders,' who on this date in 1908 set out to murder two of the land company's stakeholders. The Night Riders abducted Quentin Rankin and Robert Z. Taylor from their rooms at the Walnut Log Hotel and took them into the woods. The mob shot and hung Rankin, but Taylor managed to escape by jumping into the lake and hiding under a log while the mob riddled the water with bullets. More than a day later, Taylor was found wandering in a bewildered state.

"The man seated between the two women is Judge Harris, Tiptonville, Tennessee, principal owner of the West Tennessee Land Company, which owns the major portion of Reelfoot Lake"
THS Photograph Collection

The governor called out the Tennessee National Guard to restore order in the community. The governor also offered a $10,000 reward for bringing in the people responsible for the killing, dead or alive. More than 300 people were eventually indicted in the case. However, only six were found guilty of murder - and their convictions were overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court the following year.

"Camp Nemo, Reelfoot Lake. Colonel W. C. Tatum, of Nashville, Commander First Tennessee Regiment, with staff and line officers. The troops and the prisoners get on together famously, with no ill-feeling"
Archives Photograph Collection

To learn more about other calamitous events in Tennessee's history, visit our online Disasters in Tennessee exhibit at

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

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 approximately 10,000 glass plate negatives (more than 3,000 of which have been scanned) 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