Friday, February 28, 2014

Geek the Library event this weekend!

This weekend, libraries in East Tennessee will join together to promote their libraries and create awareness about public library services and funding at a home game of the Knoxville Ice Bears.

Public libraries across the state – more than 170 so far – are participating in Geek the Library, a national campaign to raise awareness about the importance of properly funding libraries. The campaign highlights what people are passionate about and how libraries can provide resources to support their pursuits.

Geek the Library features local educational material that introduces 'geek' as a verb, and encourages the public to talk about what they 'geek'- whether it's engineering, superheroes, art or other subjects. The public awareness campaign illustrates the fact that everyone is passionate about something (i.e., everyone 'geeks' something) and that the public library has books and other materials about all of those different interests.

The campaign features advertising, social networking elements, a website and grassroots community initiatives to draw attention to the need for increased library support. The website,, provides information about how people can get active and support their local libraries.

If you’d like to know more about the Knoxville Ice Bears Geek the Library event, check out their Facebook page. They’ve also started a Thunderclap and need noisemakers. You can join the Thunderclap here. Even the Knoxville Ice Bears are featuring the event.

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

TSLA's Teaching Institute focuses on War of 1812

The Tennessee State Library and Archives has two opportunities for teachers to participate in learning more about the War of 1812 during the bicentennial commemorations for the War of 1812 in Tennessee this year.

"General Jackson Addressing the Soldiers of Tennessee."
1) “The Road to New Orleans: Teaching the War of 1812”- First up is a co-sponsored workshop with the Middle Tennessee State University Teaching with Primary Sources from the Library of Congress project. This workshop will be held on Friday, March 21st as part of the Tennessee in the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission’s symposium event being held in Fayetteville. The teacher workshop will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To register, email

2) “The Forgotten Conflict: Teaching the War of 1812 in Tennessee”- The next opportunity is TSLA’s first annual summer teacher institute. To be held on June 11th & 12th in Nashville, participants in this intensive, two-day workshop will work with original primary sources at TSLA related to the War of 1812, participate in living history activities, tour the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol, explore the creation of the Star-Spangled Banner, and more! Teacher participants receive curriculum resources on the War of 1812, $50 payment for mileage and parking, lodging, and breakfast and lunch each day. To register, email or call 615-253-3469.

Spots are limited so contact TSLA's Education Outreach Program today to register.

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

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Exploring cave history at TSLA

Tennessee is home to the most caves in the United States, so naturally, no pun intended, the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) has a wealth of material about Tennessee caves. Just last year, Library Technical Services purchased three books from author and expert caver Marion O. Smith. Smith has been an avid caver for many years, and his adventures have been featured in National Geographic and Sports Illustrated.

Smith’s books describe Confederate saltpeter mining operations in Tennessee, Northwest Georgia, and Alabama during the Civil War. Saltpeter, or potassium nitrate, occurs in the dirt of some dry caves and when mixed in proper proportions with sulfur and charcoal, saltpeter forms gunpowder. Caves within the mountains of Tennessee were a significant source of saltpeter for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Opening of Saltpeter Cave, also known as Nickajack Cave, circa 1860s. Engraving. Library Collection, TSLA.

As the federal army secured Confederate ground within Tennessee, Union Private Bliss Morse of the 105th Ohio Volunteer Infantry recorded his journey through the caves of Tennessee in his dairy, Civil War Diaries & Letters of Bliss Morse, which is also among TSLA’s collection. In the entries below, dated September 2nd, 1863, Morse writes to his mother, telling her about his travels:

I have been today in one of the salt petre caves – which has been worked by the rebel gov’t. The mouth of is fifty feet high and near an hundered long, and it extends in to the mountain several miles. The walls and roof are quite smooth and regular. There is a stream of water which runs through it or in it and the boys sailed a mile or more in it. We had to take torches to light the way. It was very smoky with so many torches burning. We followed the path made with planks over deep chasms to where the salt petre is dug.

Another entry:

I have seen since I left Murfreesboro that which would well pay to make a journey. I have passed over some of the finest mountain scenery in the state, its coal, petre and nitre mines, beside may of its noted springs and caves. Yet we might have looked at them with more pleasure if we had seen them under other circumstances.

The Department of Conservation Photograph Collection also has a wide variety of great photographs of Tennessee caves. For instance, one will find a photograph of Hazard Cave in Pickett State Park taken in 1967, a 1955 Alum Cave Trail photo taken in the Great Smoky Mountains, and a photo of Jewel Cave near Dickson, Tennessee from 1938. This collection even has fascinating pictures of cave blind fish.

In Wayne County, Tenn. this group of individuals poses for a photo in the Court House Cave. Library Collection, TSLA.

Caving is more than a passing interest to many folks. In the words of Mr. Smith, "Even if I'm physically impossible to go in a wild cave, surely I can be put in a wheelchair and wheeled to a commercial cave…And if I can't be sitting up in a cave, surely they can put me on a stretcher and wheel me into one."

Whether you are interested in the beauty, the adventure, or the history hiding in caves, TSLA is the place to begin your own spelunking adventure.

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

Thursday, February 20, 2014

School Memories: Fisk University Scrapbook re-released on TSLA website

Recently re-released on TSLA’s website, the Fisk University Scrapbook: School Memories, William Henry Fort, Jr. (1911-1974) is available for viewing with updated image quality and watermark removal.

William Henry Fort, Jr.’s Fisk University scrapbook documents Fort’s time at the university during the 1920s, less than a decade before Fisk became the first African American institution to gain accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The portions of the scrapbook on display highlight the contributions of Fisk University, especially the historically significant role that the university played during a time of great social upheaval in the South.

Fisk University students pose for this 1928 photo. Ambrose A. Bennett Family Papers, 1918-1996, TSLA

From the establishment of the first school for free African Americans in 1833, and well beyond the opening of the Fisk School in 1866, circumstances surrounding African-American education in Nashville were volatile. Many teachers were threatened, run out of town, or dealt with in a violent manner. Students frequently confronted violence on their way to and from school. Some African-American schools were burned to the ground or simply closed by local officials.

The establishment of one educational institution that would contribute significantly to this “natural emancipation” was made possible, in great part, by three men: John Ogden, Erastus M. Cravath and Edward P. Smith. These three Northerners, among others, recognized the need for the creation of a formal education system for African Americans. Though encountering numerous obstacles along the way, Ogden, Cravath and Smith eventually acquired the former Union hospital land within the city of Nashville. This spot included approximately twenty buildings and was situated in a prime location near the African-American community. Through the efforts of these three men, and with the assistance of others, the doors of Fisk School first opened on January 9, 1866.

Fisk’s notable alumni range from poets and novelists to politicians and activists. The dedication by students seen when Fisk first opened its doors has continued on through the years. The leadership required to succeed at Fisk helped produce many notable students. W.E. B. Du Bois, civil rights activist and author, graduated from Fisk in 1888, and later furthered his education at Harvard University. Du Bois was the first African-American male awarded a Ph.D. from Harvard. John Hope Franklin, historian and educator, also graduated from Fisk and was awarded a Ph.D. from Harvard. Another notable alumnus is the well-known poet Nikki Giovanni, who graduated from Fisk in 1967 and also attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.

Included in the scrapbook are photographs of various campus buildings, numerous students and significant figures at Fisk, including a photograph of Langston Hughes and a photograph of past Fisk president, Thomas E. Jones.

Be sure to check out this amazing collection here!

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

TSLAFriends sponsor genealogical workshop Feb. 22nd

TSLAFriends and the Tennessee State Library and Archives are honored to host a genealogical workshop with John F. Baker, Jr.

John F. Baker, Jr.


Beginning with Oral Histories, Finding Records and Compiling Stories: Building a Family Genealogy & History

Saturday, February 22, 2014 - 10:00-11:30am

Baker will discuss the preservation of family stories and records through study and compilation. He will include the process of discovering records as presented in his published book, The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family’s Journey to Freedom. For more than 30 years, he has been researching, conducting interviews and collecting photographs and information about them and the hundreds of others enslaved on the plantation.

The workshop is free and open to the public. However, seating is limited. Those wishing to attend the workshop must contact TSLA to make reservations. Reservations can be made via e-mail to Patrons can also register by telephone by calling 615-741-2764.

The TSLA is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, Nashville, next to the State Capitol. Parking is available in front, on the side, and in back of the Library and Archives building.

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

Friday, February 14, 2014

George Washington's Ledger Book

In honor of Presidents' Day, the Tennessee State Library and Archives is highlighting a unique and rare item in our collection. General George Washington's account book used at Mount Vernon, August 1776 through May 1785. This account book was originally donated to the Tennessee Historical Society, and currently can be found at TSLA in the THS Collection.

General George Washington Account Book. Presented by J. K. Brown of Nashville, Tennessee, THS Collection, TSLA.

In addition to being our nation's first president, Washington was a successful planter and devoted considerable energy to his agricultural enterprise. On his Mount Vernon plantation, he farmed a variety of crops and even operated his own distillery. Washington was known for keeping meticulous records, both on the battlefield and on his plantation home at Mount Vernon. This account book provides evidence of his attention to detail, giving us a unique glimpse into Washington's life as a plantation owner and agricultural entrepreneur.

When the account book first arrived in Nashville, the June 4, 1858 edition of the Daily News enthusiastically reported that the account book was "said to be in the handwriting of General George Washington." The paper further added, "The style in which the book is arranged, evinces a systematic habit of mind, and a careful observance of the minutia of business." Researchers at Mount Vernon later confirmed that the handwriting was actually that of Washington's farm manager (and distant cousin), Lund Washington. For almost a decade Lund Washington served as the Mount Vernon plantation manager during the extended period when George Washington was away during the Revolutionary War. Nonetheless, this item represents an important piece of American history, and we're fortunate that members of the Tennessee Historical Society had the foresight to save this account book for future generations.

Poster advertising the Account Book's arrival in Nashville.
THS Collection, Tennessee State Library and Archives.

To learn more about this and other fascinating collections held at TSLA, please visit our website, or better yet, visit us in person. The Tennessee State Library and Archives is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., with the exception of state holidays. Parking is available in front, behind and beside the building.

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Beautiful Jim Key Collection now online

Available online now, the Beautiful Jim Key Collection was donated to TSLA by a relative of Dr. William Key. Dr. Key was a self-trained, African-American veterinarian (and former slave) from Bedford County, who partnered with promoter A. R. Rogers to showcase the extraordinary talents of the Arabian Hambletonian horse, Beautiful Jim Key. For nine years, Beautiful Jim Key performed around the country during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century to large crowds at expositions, world’s fairs, schools, and other venues. Using an innovative training method that emphasized patience and kindness rather than the whip, Dr. Key taught this amazing horse to perform a variety of tasks. He could read, write, spell, tell time, do simple mathematics, and even sort mail.

Despite racial tensions, Dr. Key was able to impress thousands of Americans, both Southern and Northern, with his unusual gift for working with horses. His methods involved patience and kindness rather than force; he was ahead of his time in embracing restraint and gentleness in his management of equine training and Rogers’ traveling show helped to promote the growing humane movement in the United States. The message of kindness to animals was directed to all Americans, but to children in particular.

Famous Americans, including President McKinley, Booker T. Washington, and President Roosevelt’s flamboyant daughter, Alice, all personally witnessed Jim Key’s remarkable skills. And even though scientists searched in vain for evidence of fraud, no one was ever able to prove that Dr. Key was unfairly helping his horse complete the tasks he was performing. Instead, they found Jim Key to be charming, intelligent, and highly skilled.

In addition to revealing the extraordinary life of an ex-slave who traveled around the country with his gifted horse, this collection offers a unique blend of Tennessee history and turn-of-the-century popular culture. The underlying theme of kindness to animals was a cause that had recently emerged in American society not long after the Civil War with the founding of the ASPCA in 1866 by Henry Bergh in New York City, and creation of the MSPCA in 1868 by Angell in Boston. Horses were the focus of much of the early advocacy efforts. Thousands of them were ill-treated as they served as the backbone of the nation’s transportation industry. This remained the case until the development of the automobile.

Although the Jim Key Collection was previously available online, this collection has been upgraded with higher image quality and removed watermarks.

Be sure to check out this wonderful online collection, a rare look into the early period of the humane movement. Here's the link!

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

Friday, February 7, 2014

Dr. Harry Mustard Photo Album

Recently re-released on TSLA’s website, the Dr. Harry S. Mustard Photograph Album is available for viewing without watermarks and with better quality images.

This album documents the Commonwealth Fund Child Health Demonstration (CHD) study of Rutherford County, Tennessee, children between 1924 and 1928. The CHD promoted the welfare of humanity by encouraging publicly funded child health education and care, hospital construction, and county-appointed health officers. Dr. Mustard was the onsite director based in Murfreesboro, the seat of government in Rutherford County.

The album that he compiled chronicles his study of child welfare and public health issues. The photographs depict dilapidated schools and homes, poorly dressed and diseased students, inoculated children, hygiene and nutrition classes, and sanitation advances. The CDH’s biggest challenges in this grassroots effort were convincing rural parents to overcome their mistrust of the outside world and making lifestyle changes (e.g., nutrition) would improve their children’s health. According to Dr. Mary S. Hoffschwelle, an historian and expert on the Rutherford County project, the mission of improving child health hid a more ambitious goal: convincing rural counties to financially support and staff their own public health facilities. Twenty-seven communities in Rutherford County -- including such places as Christiana, Smyrna, Walter Hill, Eagleville, and Lascassas -- participated in the child health demonstration.

Rural health experiments, a legacy of the Progressive Movement and its social reform-minded adherents, focused on safe, compassionate, and efficiently delivered care. Because of the movement’s vast industrial reform, many associate progressivism with urban environments. The Mustard Album reveals that a good portion of the reform efforts encompassed agrarian interests, traditionally the backbone of the American economy. Impoverished Tennessee, with its racial and geographical diversity, was the ideal place to test the progressive theories of the child health demonstration.

Health problems were common among the rural poor and included such diseases and conditions as diphtheria, intestinal parasites, typhoid, tuberculosis, rickets, scarlet fever, and poor dental care and diet. Such conditions can be partially explained because 31 percent of the population was illiterate, leaving rural people medically uneducated. The program was successful in combating illiteracy in great part because of the close organization between parents and teachers. The album shows the progression toward improved public health care among both white and African-American families. Public health care and knowledge of self-care were almost nonexistent before the fund began its study. As soon as families made the recommended applications, the health landscape began to improve. Schools competed with each other for awards recognizing their progress. By the time the study ended in 1928, the county had built the Rutherford Hospital and inspired the Division of Public Health to operate field units in other counties. Dr. Mustard became the county’s first public health officer.

Visitors to the State Library and Archives website are invited to come explore Dr. Mustard’s images. Check it out here!

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., with the exception of state holidays. Parking is available in front, behind and beside the building.

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

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Play Ball! "Johnny Beazley and Baseball in Tennessee"

Opening February 4th, the Tennessee State Library and Archives presents a new exhibit: “Johnny Beazley and Baseball in Tennessee.”

This exhibit offers baseball researchers and fans a rare opportunity to follow the career of a major league baseball player, local business owner, and civic leader. This new exhibit tells the story of Nashville native Johnny Beazley, major league baseball pitcher from the 1940s, and features items from the John Andrew Beazley collection.

Start your journey with Johnny’s high school days at Hume-Fogg and his time in the minor leagues. Celebrate his triumphant victory in the World Series 1942, where he earned the nickname “Yankee Killer” for his performance against the New York Yankees. Stand with him during his military service in World War II. And follow his post-war return to baseball, retirement, and civic service.

“Johnny Beazley and Baseball in Tennessee” weaves the history of Beazley’s baseball career together with other baseball topics of the era, such as Sulphur Dell baseball stadium, the Negro Leagues and integration of baseball, and the business side of professional baseball. Come explore Johnny Beazley’s story.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 8:00 am – 4:30 pm.

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