Friday, May 31, 2013

We pause to remember our State Historian...

An Appreciation of Walter T. Durham, Tennessee State Historian
 From the Tennessee State Library and Archives
By Dr. Wayne Moore

The State Library and Archives, and all who value the history of the State of Tennessee, lost a great friend on Friday, May 24th with the passing of Walter Thomas Durham. Anyone who has worked in Tennessee history during the last forty years knew of Mr. Durham’s love of our state’s past and his tireless energy on behalf of those institutions which preserve and make accessible this heritage.

Walter had high standards as an historian of Tennessee and his scholarship did much to raise the level of professionalism and accuracy in the field. He was truly a public historian, in that he believed a key element of any democracy was an informed citizenry that understood something about its own history. A public man, too, in the sense that he was deeply involved in politics and gave much of his time to people in the community. Never one to sentimentalize or “live in” the past, Walter was a keen observer of and participant in current affairs.

The variety of historical organizations which he led or advocated for runs the gamut. He was part of every significant statewide historical group or commission, and a guiding force in most of them. He raised the office of State Historian to a new level of activity, leadership, and commitment. I never knew him to turn down a request to speak to a county historical society—large or small. Mr. Durham was a fine storyteller with a sharp and mischievous sense of humor. His speeches were never dull.

History was important to Mr. Durham, but his accomplishments as a family man, veteran, a son of Gallatin and Sumner County, a businessman, and civic leader were equally a part of who he was. Most importantly, perhaps, Walter Durham was a true gentleman—gracious and sharing of his gifts with all who knew him. He never failed to give a kind or encouraging word. We at the State Library and Archives will miss working with him.

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

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Rivers and Rails" documentary set to air May 30th

“Rivers and Rails: Daggers of the Civil War”, the latest installment in Nashville Public Television's documentary series, "Tennessee Civil War 150," is scheduled to broadcast on Thursday, May 30th, at 8 p.m.

Rivers and Rails: Daggers of the Civil War” explores how transportation by water and steel brought great prosperity to the state just before the Civil War, only to give the invading Union Army a highway directly into the Deep South, eventually helping force the Confederacy to its knees.

TSLA's Assistant State Archivist, Dr. Wayne Moore, was interviewed for a segment in this documentary, and several historical items from TSLA's collections were featured in the production.

"The Great Naval Battle Before Memphis, June 6, 1862." TSLA Collection.

TSLA is honored to have a role in this program, and we hope you will make plans to watch NPT on Thursday, May 30th, at 8 p.m. for "Rivers and Rails."

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

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A day of remembrance

On the final Monday of May, our nation remembers the men and women who died while serving our nation in the United States military. Formerly known as Decoration Day, the Memorial Day holiday originated after the Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in that great conflict. Since that time, Memorial Day has been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.

One way in which we honor and remember our fallen veterans is to preserve the records that they left behind. Here at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, we have the distinct honor and privilege of caring for those records, and sharing the stories of these soldiers with the public.

One area of our web site that will be of interest this Memorial Day weekend is “The Volunteer State Goes to War: A Salute to Tennessee Veterans.” This online exhibit displays records from the veterans of the Revolutionary War who helped found our state to Tennessee men and women serving in the military today. Featured items include the World War I photographs of Luke Lea, a former U.S. Senator and founder of the Tennessean newspaper; a letter from George Washington to future Tennessean Colonel Meigs; and a resolution commemorating the firing of the first shot in the Spanish-American War by the USS Nashville. The exhibit showcases the experiences of the state’s veterans and tells the stories of how ordinary men and women made America a better place through their courage and perseverance.

A view from the roof of the War Memorial Building, looking north, of the Memorial Day Parade in Nashville, Tennessee. 1946 photo from the Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.

Another area on our web site that will be of interest is a recently updated section dedicated to documenting “Tennessee Confederate Soldiers' Home Applications and Ledgers.” In 1890, the Tennessee Confederate Soldiers' Home opened on the grounds of the Hermitage Plantation, former residence of Andrew Jackson. The Soldiers' Home provided care and housing for aging Confederate veterans who resided in Tennessee. Prior to admission into the facility, these veterans submitted applications to a review board. The applications contain questions designed to determine the applicants’ need and legitimacy for state-funded care. In some cases, no application is available, but names and details are listed in one of two ledgers kept by the home. These records are now indexed and available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, providing researchers with one more avenue of information about Civil War ancestry.

The Confederate Soldiers Home pictured in this 1908 photo was constructed in 1894 on land originally belonging to Andrew Jackson. The soldiers were removed in 1916 and later moved to the Tennessee Industrial School. The building was eventually destroyed in 1935.

These are just two sources of military records that you can find on our web site. Visit our “Research and Collections” section and click on the “Military Records” link to view more content on our web site. We also encourage you to visit us in person, where you can access these records through the Public Services Section of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

As we pause to remember our fallen heroes this Memorial Day, we also honor them by preserving and protecting their legacy found within these military records. We hope that by sharing these stories with the public, we continue a tradition of remembrance that began following the Civil War and continues to this day.

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"Placing Leaves, Flowers, and a Few Nuts on Your Family Tree"

Many families have great stories to tell -- which can often be unearthed by searching through family videos, photo albums, or journals passed down from generation to generation. However, for some people, the idea of starting such a project is daunting. The Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) has just the event to ease the stress of beginning family research.

The free workshop, called "Placing Leaves, Flowers, and a Few Nuts on Your Family Tree," will be held Saturday, June 1 from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. in the TSLA Auditorium. Author Jim Taulman will discuss the process of gathering and recording information for a family history.

Taulman has 35 years of writing and editorial experience and has written and published five books, more than 1,000 articles, and has edited numerous periodicals, historical journals, and other materials. He is also a member of the Association of Personal Historians.

The session is free and open to the public, but reservations are required due to limited seating in the auditorium. To make reservations, please e-mail or call (615) 741-2764. TSLA's building is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, just west of the state Capitol in downtown Nashville. Limited parking is available in front, beside and behind the building.

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

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Prohibition Exhibit on display at State Library and Archives and Online

It was the constitutional amendment that tried – often unsuccessfully – to put Americans on the path to sobriety and in the process created a booming market for Tennessee’s providers of illegal moonshine whiskey.

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which launched the Prohibition era in 1920, was called the country’s “noble experiment.” That experiment ended 13 years later with the ratification of the 21st Amendment – the only amendment to repeal another amendment - which halted Prohibition and brought imbibing back out of the shadows.

These facts, and the societal results of Prohibition and its subsequent repeal are the focus of a new exhibit on display in the lobby of the Tennessee State Library and Archives building which chronicles the history surrounding the passage of both amendments.

This exhibit, entitled "The Saloon and Anarchy: Prohibition in Tennessee," surveys the brewing and distilling industries in Tennessee prior to Prohibition, chronicles the rise of the Temperance Movement in the state and the impact it had on the passage of the 18th Amendment, examines the effect that the 18th Amendment had on moonshining in the state, and recounts the passage of the 21st Amendment.

Drawing on the wealth of material in the Tennessee State Library and Archives' rich collections, this exhibit features items such as: 19th and 20th Century temperance literature (such as the 1902 temperance tract: The Saloon and Anarchy, the Two Worst Things in the World, Versus the United States of America), temperance songs from the Kenneth D. Rose Sheet Music Collection, the 1908 trademark registration by Lem Motlow (Jack Daniel's nephew and business partner) for the phrase "Old No. 7," and various pieces of Prohibition-related legislation from the records of the Tennessee General Assembly.

A group of men in front of the Silver Dollar Saloon on Broadway and 2nd Avenue.
Nashville, Tenn., ca. 1900.
Library Photograph Collection

The exhibit is free and open to the public during regular library hours. The Tennessee State Library and Archives is open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. The exhibit will remain available for viewing until the end of September.

Read more about this exhibit at

The online version of the exhibit is available at

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