Thursday, March 28, 2013

A tip of the hat to the spring season

Spring is finally upon us. It is a season that brings with it the promise of renewal. The Christian holiday of Easter is right around the corner, and with it comes the tradition of celebrating new life and rebirth with new clothing. For ladies, the Easter bonnet, often elaborate and adorned with flowers and leaves, has come to symbolize the cycle of the seasons and the coming of spring.

Although Easter bonnets are not seen as frequently as they once were, here at the Tennessee State Library and Archives there are several portraits held in our collections that bring back those fond memories. In this blog post we not only wanted to pay tribute to those spring days gone by, but also recognize the work of one of Nashville’s most well-known photography studios.

Amber Barfield Gilmer, a former conservator for the Tennessee State Library and Archives, wrote about the Calvert Brothers & Taylor photography studio in an article published in the June 2006 edition of the Nashville Historical Newsletter. In it she wrote, “During their era, the Calvert brothers helped shape the way many Nashvillians would remember their children, their weddings, their homes, and their friends. In addition, the Calverts were often commissioned to copy pre-existing photographs, and many of the resulting copy negatives are today among the most historically valuable negatives at the Tennessee State Library and Archives.”

So as our minds turn to spring and all things new, we take a fond look to the past in this photo tribute to the Easter bonnet, and the Calvert Brothers’ Photo Collection…

Miss Ruth Boice is wearing a white formal dress with a large hat, possibly bridal attire, in this 1899 photo.
Library Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

In this image, dated 1900, Margaret Kercheval is wearing a hat with feathers protruding in a curious manner. A hat with feathers that resemble horns is perhaps not the best attire for an Easter Sunday.
Library Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Martha Armstrong strikes a beautiful pose wearing a large feather hat and an off-the-shoulder dress in this 1898 photo.
Library Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Mayme Conditt flashes a Mona Lisa smile while wearing this interesting hat and fur capelet in this 1899 photo.
Library Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

In what may be the winner for most unique nickname in this group of photos, Miss "Toots" Fitzhugh is wearing an elaborate floral and feather hat for this 1899 photo.
Library Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Mary C. Harris poses in a white dress with an elaborate flowered hat and flower sash across one shoulder in this 1900 photo.
Library Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Ladies were not the only ones wearing hats at this time of the year. Gentlemen were also expected to dress for the occasion, as witnessed by this image of a young couple. Mr. J.G. Martin is standing holding a straw boater hat, and his wife is seated in front of him wearing a large picture hat with flowers in this 1898 photo.
Library Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

In this 1899 photo, Ruth McAllister is wearing a dark dress and very large hat trimmed in ostrich feathers and a jeweled pin. Dark clothing was not typical of Easter attire, but this dress and accompanying hat still make for a striking picture.
Library Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Miss Annie O'Connor gazes into the distance wearing a light-colored dress and beautiful multi-layered hat in this 1900 photo.
Library Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Jessie Gribble is the picture of spring, wearing a white dress and lace hat in this 1900 photo.
Library Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Another lady and her gent posing for a portrait in this 1898 photo. This young man and woman are posed in formal attire, he holding his hat, she wearing an elaborate hat and holding a parasol.
Library Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Nannie Yates is wearing an ornate feathered hat and a light colored dress in this 1898 photo.
Library Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

In 1898, Miss Kate Ransom wore a hat of roses for this photo.
Library Collection. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

You can view more images like these by browsing the Tennessee State Library and Archives Photo Database, located on the TSLA website.

Please note that reproduction of these images should include the credit line: "Reproduced courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives."

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tennessee’s State Capitol has a unique history

Here at TSLA, we recently embarked on a fascinating research project. In close coordination with others in the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, TSLA staff members have pulled together vast amounts of material in preparation for the production of a new video featuring the history of our State Capitol Building. We’re very excited to have a role in this important project because it allows us to help the public learn more about our state’s history, and gives us one more opportunity to showcase our rich and diverse collection.

Tennessee’s premier historic building and architectural jewel, the State Capitol Building is located on the highest point in the city of Nashville, on a hill once known as Cedar Knob. The cornerstone for the building was laid on July 4, 1845, and construction was completed in 1859. Designed by renowned architect William Strickland, the Tennessee State Capitol’s Greek Revival style embodies Strickland’s vision for a building that reflected Tennessee’s virtues. William Strickland died five years prior to the completion of his work, and was entombed in its northeast wall. British architect Harvey Ackroyd was hired to supervise the final stages of Capitol construction, from 1858 to 1859. Strickland’s son, Francis W. Strickland, completed work on the tower and lantern feature of the structure, which now stands as a testament to Tennessee’s prominence and historic importance as our nation’s sixteenth state.

There are so many stories to be told about the Capitol Building that one blog post would simply not do this building justice. Yet, it has been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so we offer you a few images from TSLA’s collections that help tell the story of our State Capitol.

This image depicts the Tennessee State Capitol Building as it appeared during Union occupation of the city of Nashville during the Civil War. Tennessee’s State Capitol became the first in the Confederacy to fall to the Union Army in February 1862. The building was pressed into service as a hospital following the Battle of Stones River, a barracks and, later, as a fortress. In December 1864, military governor Andrew Johnson watched the Battle of Nashville from the Capitol’s tower. Johnson actually had a plan to dynamite the Capitol if the Confederates threatened the city.

In the Tennessee State Capitol’s House Chamber, this illustration depicts the beautiful and ornate chandelier as it appeared after its first Illumination in 1855. On October 10, 1855, The Nashville True Whig newspaper reported, “The illuminating apparatus throughout elicited unbounded admiration,” and was “said to be the largest in diameter in the United States” gilded with “ornaments, Indian figures, Buffalos, Corn, Tobacco, and Cotton.”

Tennessee’s Capitol Building provides us with a prism through which to tell Tennessee’s history. The Capitol has been the site of historic occasions, and unique events. The event depicted in this photograph certainly qualifies as unique. In a display of driving skill and endurance, this 1911 image shows a stuntman driving a Ford Model T up the Capitol steps. A huge crowd gathered for this impressive exhibition. The driver would eventually take the Model T to the top of the steps, into the Capitol, and through to the other side of the building.

Here at TSLA, our favorite space in the State Capitol is this beautifully ornate room with book cases and a spiral staircase, which was once home to the Tennessee State Library for 100 years until 1953 when the library was moved to our current location right next door, immediately west of the State Capitol Building. This room now serves as a lounge and meeting area for legislators, but members of TSLA’s staff still roam the halls of state government as part of our legislative history and recording program. In 1955, Tennessee became the first state in the country to record the proceedings of both chambers of its General Assembly. The legislative recording staff has the sole responsibility of audio recording meetings and creating a log sheet guide to the recordings of Tennessee’s legislature.

Production on the video tour of the State Capitol is underway, so look for an update on this project in the weeks to come. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about our State Capitol and its unique history, we invite you to visit us in person, and also browse our online resources for further information.

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

Friday, March 8, 2013

March is Women's History Month

The month of March is recognized annually as “Women’s History Month.” At the Tennessee State Library and Archives, women’s papers — diaries, journals, and letters — comprise a significant part of our collections. Here one can find a myriad of documents relevant to Women’s Studies at the local, state and national level: the Civil War, slavery, suffrage, journalism, politics, world wars, and social life are well represented in the holdings.

In 1981, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution establishing National Women’s History Week. The week was chosen to coincide with the annual International Women’s Day, March 8. In 1987, Congress expanded the week to a month; it has issued a resolution every year since then proclaiming March to be Women’s History Month. While recognition of “Women’s History Month” is a fairly recent phenomenon, important historical contributions made by women have been chronicled for many years.

One significant collection among our many holdings chronicling women’s history is the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers. Carrie Chapman Catt was a field organizer with Susan B. Anthony, and founded the League of Women Voters. Catt’s leadership was a key factor in Tennessee becoming “The Perfect 36,” the last state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. The Catt Papers represents TSLA’s principal collection of pro-suffrage materials. They contain correspondence (especially telegrams) from women’s clubs and national figures, newspaper clippings, and a major selection of political cartoons. Students of women’s history will find these papers essential for their studies.

Votes for Women, no date, Carrie Chapman Catt Photographs. Reproduction of image from the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, PA. Used by permission.

Providing balance to the Catt Papers are the Josephine A. Pearson Papers. Miss Pearson, a Tennessee native, lobbied vigorously against the amendment that would give American women the right to vote. Miss Pearson’s leadership was critical to the cause, and the Tennessee General Assembly ratified the 19th Amendment by only one vote. For the anti-suffrage point of view these papers are invaluable.

Women’s suffrage was not the only national movement in which women played a significant role. Women were heavily involved in the Temperance Movement and Prohibition in the late-19th and early 20th century. At first, the women’s suffrage and Prohibition movements attracted many of the same people, though by the 1910s they had split over philosophical outlooks. This image of Martin College students rallying in Pulaski, Tennessee from TSLA’s Looking Back At Tennessee Collection is a perfect visual illustration of this combination of protest movements. 

Boys, Decide between us and booze, ca. 1910, Looking Back At Tennessee Collection.

We hope you’ll take this opportunity to visit TSLA’s Public Services Resource Guide #07, “Women’s Studies at the Tennessee State Library and Archives,” on our website for a complete list of collections relevant to this subject. You can also learn more by visiting TSLA’s online exhibit, “’Remember the Ladies!’: Women Struggle for an Equal Voice,” which will provide you with a better understanding of Tennessee’s significant role during the campaign to ratify the 19th Amendment. Also, look for news about an upcoming exhibit at TSLA about Prohibition and the Temperance Movement in the coming weeks.

These are just a few samples from the collections of the Tennessee State Library and Archives that describe the important role that women have had in our state’s history. We encourage you to visit us in person or online to learn more, and stay in touch with us through our Facebook, blog, and Flickr sites for more information and updates.

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