Thursday, May 28, 2015

Photos from TSLA Decorate New Bass Pro Superstore in Memphis

Since its grand opening last month, the Bass Pro Shops superstore in downtown Memphis has earned high praise from those who have toured the facility. The New York Times used the word "stunning" twice in the first six paragraphs of its article describing the 32-story-high building on the Mississippi River's shoreline.

Bass Pro Shops' new location is more than just a place where people can buy hunting and fishing gear. Located in The Pyramid, once the city's main venue for sports and entertainment events, the store is part of a complex that includes a restaurant, a bowling alley, an archery range, a man-made cypress swamp and a hunting lodge-themed hotel.

What visitors might not realize as they browse through 535,000-square-foot building is that many of the striking photographs of nature scenes that they see along the walls come from the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

A man fishing from his boat at Cove Lake State Park near Caryville (1938).
Tennessee Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.

Jeff Harper, a graphic designer for Bass Pro Shops, said details like interior decorations are so important to store development that they are discussed in a planning process that sometimes begins a year or two prior to the opening of new locations.

Harper said it's important that imagery accurately depicts the natural features and plant and animal life found in the areas where the stores are located.

"We like to regionalize our stores as much as possible," Harper said. "That way, they are uniqure and tie into their communities a little bit better."

A man fishing at Bald River Falls in the Cherokee National Forest (1947).
Tennessee Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.

Harper said Bass Pro officials looked at hundreds of images on the Tennessee State Library and Archives' website. Many of those photos were selected for the store and the hotel. They depict scenes showcasing Tennessee's natural beauty as well as people enjoying outdoor activities.

"The photos we selected and ultimately used were perfect for what we were looking for," Harper said.

Bass Pro maintains its own photo archives, which produced some of the decorative images found in the Memphis store. However, Harper said it's been a common practice to search state and local libraries to find location-specific photos for Bass Pro locations across the country.

Harper credited the Tennessee State Library and Archives for its assistance on the project, particularly in meeting some of the tight deadlines required to get the location open on schedule.

"I know they bent over backwards to help me," Harper said.

"It's great that Bass Pro Shops chooses to customize its stores with scenes that are familiar to its customers," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "I'm thankful that the State Library and Archives was able to make a significant contribution to a project that's going to be so important to the future of downtown Memphis."

Hikers on the trail near the top of Mt. LeConte, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (1950).
Tennessee Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.

To find photos at the State Library and Archives, search online at: or contact the public services division staff at (615) 741-2764.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"Oll and Toad" - A Civil War Love Story

A newly digitized collection of Civil War love letters is now available online through the Tennessee State Library and Archives' Tennessee Virtual Archive website.

The Oliver Caswell King and Katherine Rebecca Rutledge King Papers document the intimate correspondence of two Sullivan County youths prior to and during the Civil War. About 150 letters are included in the collection as well as political essays, college compositions, and original poetry. Olivia King Inman and Judge Dennis Hisey Inman of Morristown donated these family treasures to the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The collection can be viewed online at:

Oliver Caswell King and Katherine Rebecca Rutledge King Digital Collection website
Tennessee State Library and Archives

"I want to thank Olivia King Inman and Judge Dennis Hisey Inman for their generous donation of their family papers," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "These papers will provide researchers with an interesting glimpse at life before, during and after the Civil War. These papers contain a great deal of information about what everyday life was like for soldiers and civilians during a traumatic period in our country's history."

The collection is extraordinary in its content and breadth. It offers valuable social, political, and domestic context for researchers interested in period courtship practices, college experiences, Civil War camp life, and family dynamics. The letters between Oliver King and Katherine Rutledge are peppered with humor, playfulness, gossip, political commentaries, and advice.

Both were well-educated, he at Tusculum College in Greenville and she at the Masonic Female Institute in Blountville. Both enjoyed active social lives, which are richly documented in their letters. Researchers examining antebellum curricula will find the collection particularly useful.

Embossed greeting card displaying a gold-leafed ship’s anchor,
lace and an image of an open book, with red text reading,
"Affections Offering."

King lovingly called Rutledge 'Toad,' and she addressed him as 'Oll.' Most of the letters were written between 1861 and 1863 while King was serving in the Confederate army. King and Rutledge were Southern sympathizers in East Tennessee, a region that was overwhelmingly Unionist in sentiment. (Sullivan County was one of the few exceptions.) King enlisted in the 19th Tennessee Infantry two days before Tennessee voted to secede in June 1861. The correspondence between the couple tapers off in 1863 after King was severely wounded at the Battle of Piedmont in Virginia. For weeks, the chances of his recovery looked gloomy.

Letter from Oliver Caswell King to Katherine Rebecca Rutledge King, May 10, 1858.
Oliver Caswell King and Katherine Rebecca Rutledge King Papers, 1856-1893
Tennessee State Library and Archives

King and Rutledge eventually married. The papers in the online collection include Katherine King’s Confederate widow’s pension application found in the massive number of state pension board records on file at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The application contains approximately 25 letters supporting her claim.

Oliver King died in 1893, then Katherine King died in 1925.

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day and "The Volunteer State"

On this Memorial Day, we remember our fellow Tennesseans who gave their lives in service to our country. Tennesseans have served our nation’s armed forces with a long tradition of selfless volunteerism that earned our state the nickname, “The Volunteer State.”

Most Tennessee historians now agree that the nickname “Volunteer State” is derived from the War of 1812, although the phrase was never actually used during that conflict. Tennesseans exhibited a strong voluntary spirit during the War of 1812, incorporating the word “volunteer” into many of their military unit designations (“Tennessee Volunteers” or “Mounted Volunteers,” for example).

"The Battle of New Orleans," ca. 1861
Tennessee Historical Society Picture Collection

This reputation for volunteering was strengthened during the Mexican War of 1846-1848 and it had been generally thought by some that the expression “Volunteer State” originated at that time. But, in fact, Tennessee had been referred to as the “Volunteer State” at least a decade before the Mexican-American conflict.

1st Tennessee Infantry, USV
The Presidio, San Francisco, CA, 1898
Library Photograph Collection

You can learn more about the beginning of this tradition of service at our newest online exhibit, “Answering the Call: Tennesseans in the War of 1812.” An acknowledgement of Tennessee’s wartime contributions is also chronicled in another online exhibit entitled, “The Volunteer State Goes to War: A Salute to Tennessee Veterans.”

Visit both exhibits at the following links on our website:

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

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pedaling Through History: May Is National Bike Month

The month of May is recognized as National Bike Month. For the occasion, we take you back in time to the 19th Century.

In 1883, Thuss, Koellein & Giers, a German-American team of photographers, took these photographs capturing members of the Nashville Bicycle Club in rather dandy poses, preparing to ride the streets of Nashville.

The Nashville Bicycle Club first organized in 1880 at a gymnasium located in the rear of a saloon on Deaderick Street. Members were charged a small initiation fee and monthly dues. The club's advent was later described in Nashville's Daily American newspaper as "the turning point of the athletic history of the city."

Four years after establishing the Nashville Bicycle Club, members organized the "First Annual Races of the Nashville Club at the Fair Grounds." On July 12, 1884, the Daily American reported on "a grand parade of wheelmen" who displayed the "marvelous skill some of the bicyclists had acquired over their flying wheels" before a crowd estimated at "about twelve or fifteen hundred, fully repaid for the investment they had made" in attending the race.

These digital photos, and their source citations, can be viewed by searching "Nashville Bicycle Club" in the State Library and Archives Photograph Database:

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

Monday, May 18, 2015

Sixty Years of Legislative Recording

On April 29, the 109th Tennessee General Assembly adjourned sine die for the year. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the legislative audio recording program in Tennessee. In 1955, TSLA began the program to lend greater accountability and access to our legislative body, as well as provide an avenue of research for those interested in Tennessee law.

That year, Senate Joint Resolution 6 addressed the concern of the Tennessee General Assembly "that an official record of the proceedings of the Senate and House be made for the protection of its members and the benefit of the students and other persons interested in the field of history and government." The resolution called for a system of recording official records of the legislature and established that the responsibility for creating and maintaining those records belongs to the State Library and Archives.

In the same year, House Joint Resolution 24 established the "rules governing the availability and release of the recorded proceedings of sessions of the General Assembly by the State Archivist." Tennessee was the first state in the nation to regularly record its state legislature. These records serve as a major primary resource for Tennessee’s legal community and they provide a window into the legislative process of our state.

Early correspondence from Dr. Dan M. Robison to Aubrey L. Epps of the Aubrey Epps Calculating and Office Service describing the need for an audio recording system. Epps provided a year of experimental service in 1953; however, the service was discontinued after that year.
Record Group 34 Box 1 Folder 12. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Recording was not easy in the early days. The first recording system, the Gray Audograph, used more energy than the electrical wiring in the state capitol could produce. The wiring on many occasions became overloaded and with no control of the voltage, the Audograph’s discs would sometimes turn at abnormally low speeds. Purchasing voltage regulating equipment solved this problem and allowed the discs to turn at a normal pace. William T. Alderson, the state librarian from 1961 to 1964, wrote in a report that the low speed “did not make the recording unintelligible, but did cause a rather humorous change of sonorous bass voices into Donald Duckish tenors when the disk was played back at normal speed.” To further correct the problem, independent wires were led directly into the Audograph units in 1957. The state used the Gray Audograph from 1955 to 1974 to record House and Senate sessions, as well as Democratic and Republican conventions and special hearings. The recordings were used mostly by legal staff and legislators looking for political intent.

An early Gray Audograph still in occasional use by staff of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

TSLA began recording on cassette tapes in the mid-1970s and transitioned to digital recording in 2008. In 2006, the legislature mandated that all committees and subcommittees be recorded on a regular basis in addition to the full sessions of the House and Senate. Through the 1980s and 1990s, legal staff and legislators still represented the majority of researchers; however, there was a steady increase in officials from other government departments and private practice lawyers who utilized the recordings. Today, the legislative records are used widely by students, historians, genealogists, and anyone interested in the history of law-making in Tennessee.

If you would like to learn more about TSLA’s recording program or have a Legislative History research request, please visit our website:

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Free Exhibit Highlights State Library and Archives' Vast Collection of Maps

In the movies, explorers consult well-weathered maps to aid them in their pursuit of hidden treasures. In historical research, though, the maps themselves often are the treasures. Maps provide clues not only about political boundaries and geographic features at various points in history, but also how people actually lived.

Now through Sept. 12, a free exhibit showcasing some of the maps available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) is open in the lobby of TSLA's building in downtown Nashville.

TSLA has thousands of maps in its holdings, many of which are featured in the Tennessee Virtual Archives (TeVA) section of its web pages.To view the TeVA maps online, go to:

"Map of British American Plantations, 1754," possibly TSLA's earliest map of the area that would become Tennessee.
TSLA Map Collection.

TSLA has postal delivery maps so detailed that they include individual homes, churches, schools, stores, mills and cemeteries. TSLA's collections also include soil survey maps that denote minor topographical features such as streams, ridges and hollows.

Just as political boundaries have changed through the years, so, too, have some geographic features. For example, one of the maps on exhibit in TSLA's lobby shows Tennessee in 1822 - just a few years after the New Madrid earthquakes created West Tennessee's Reelfoot Lake.

TSLA also has numerous military maps, including an entire online section dedicated to those from the Civil War. Those maps can be viewed online at:
The lobby exhibit includes oversized replicas of maps on display boards, actual maps in display cases and an interactive touchscreen kiosk that allows patrons to explore Civil War sites mapped using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.

"Sketch of the Battle of Little [Big] Horn, June 25, 1876."
TSLA Map Collection.

"This new exhibit will give visitors to TSLA a small sampling of the vast number of maps that are available there," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "I encourage people to check out the exhibit while they're visiting TSLA. Those who can't make it to TSLA's building in downtown Nashville can inspect many of the maps on our website."

The exhibit is available for public viewing during TSLA's normal operating hours, which are from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

TSLA's building is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol in downtown Nashville. A limited amount of free parking is available around the building.

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