Monday, November 30, 2015

J. E. Raht and the Union Consolidated Mining Company - A Case History from the Tennessee Supreme Court Case Files

As the project manager of the Tennessee Supreme Court Records Project, Kim Wires performs daily quality control and spell checks on the Supreme Court database. In the last year, Kim had noticed a recurrence of cases involving J. E. Raht and the Union Consolidated Mining Company. There were multiple entries, with each entry representing only a tiny fraction of a seemingly much larger one. The body of Raht case files consisted of exhibits, correspondence, briefs, and other court maneuvers - but the actual trial transcript hadn't been located. This led Kim on a mission to pull all the disparate pieces of evidence together into one case file, to make researching the case much easier for our patrons.

Supreme Court Records Project case file J. E. Raht v. The Union Consolidated Mining Company. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

First, a bit of historical context: Julius Eckhardt Raht was born in 1826 in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1850, where he made his fortune in the mining industry. In 1854, Raht decided to seek his fortune wealth in copper mining near Cleveland, in an area known as Ducktown. After six successful years, he became the chief of operations for all mines and smelting works in the area.

Julius Eckhardt Raht (1826-1879) from Ducktown Back in Raht's Time by R. E. Barclay, 1945.

Shortly after the Civil War began, the Confederates confiscated all the mines in Ducktown, bringing hardships to Raht and the mining community. In a letter to the managing director of the company, Raht wrote “I have written Cap’t. Tonkin to engage teams to haul the copper to Cleveland as soon as the Rebels & robbers have left that section of the country.” Soon thereafter, Raht’s communication with the mine owners, who lived in the North, was cut off. Raht continued to try and operate the company until the war made that task impossible. Raht decided to leave Tennessee for Cincinnati until the war ended.

The Isabella Smelting Works in 1875, from Ducktown Back in Raht’s Time by R. E. Barclay, 1945.

After the war, Raht returned to Ducktown mines and began to personally finance much of the recovery work. He made good progress until 1875 when things turned sour between Raht and the Union Consolidated Mining Company. Raht claimed that the company had become financially indebted to him to the sum of $84,711.61 - equivalent to $1.7 million in today's dollars! However, the mining company claimed that Raht had built an illegal personal fortune by converting the company’s assets to his own. John Baxter, a lawyer for the Union Consolidated Mining Company, stated: “This record is an interesting one. It displays a capacity for original, intricate and far reaching fraud, beyond anything that has hitherto come under the judicial observation of this court . . . He never neglected an opportunity to drain any and every one that came within his reach…”

And so a long trial began. One of Raht’s lawyers later commented: “The pleadings and proof make a transcript in the Supreme Court of 6,000 pages, and, together with exhibits, make a record which surpasses in size any record ever seen in the Supreme Court of Tennessee.” Raht passed away in 1879 before the case was decided. Ultimately, the Tennessee Supreme Court decided in Raht’s favor and the mining company went bankrupt.

Receipt book used as an exhibit in the court case, J. E. Raht v. The Union Consolidated Mining Company. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

After learning about the case history, Kim's next step involved locating the actual case file with the hope of uniting it with all the other pieces that archivists had already discovered. She decided to start with the State Library and Archives' card catalog, which contains a rudimentary inventory of most unprocessed Tennessee Supreme Court cases. Kim found a card that identified the case in a box that had more random exhibit pieces and only volume - No. 8 - of the actual case file. She still needed the first seven volumes and possibly additional volumes after the eighth one.

As luck would have it, one of our processors came across the case in its entirety while shifting boxes soon thereafter. We were able to confirm Kim's research with the actual case file, and combine and house everything together. The processed case now resides in five boxes totaling more than 7,000 pages.

A page from Supreme Court Records Project case file J. E. Raht v. The Union Consolidated Mining Company. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

The case files of the Tennessee Supreme Court, like this one, represent an especially valuable resource for historical and genealogical research at the State Library and Archives. To learn more and to search our database, please visit our Tennessee Supreme Court Cases web page at:

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

LBPH Partners with Art Students to Recognize Veterans

The Tennessee Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (LBPH) has teamed up with art students at the Tennessee School for the Blind to honor LBPH patrons who served our country in the U. S. military. LBPH sent cards to each of the 458 veterans who are registered with the library, thanking them for their service. The artwork for the cards was designed by students at the school who are blind or have low vision.

The national “talking book program” has prioritized service to veterans since World War I and continues to do so today. Veterans receive new formats and best-selling books before other patrons. When the service converted from books on tape to digital books, LBPH received an initial shipment of 25 digital book players. There were more than 200 patrons on the waiting list for the players, but the first digital players and books were first sent to veterans. LBPH now has plenty of digital players and books available for any eligible person who registers with the library, including Tennesseans of all ages, not just veterans.

Since sending the cards, LBPH has received several telephone calls and letters of thanks from veterans! For more information on the history of this popular publicly-funded program and its association with veterans, see That All May Read: Library Service for Blind and Physically Handicapped People, a government publication available from federal document depository libraries, including the Tennessee State Library & Archives. This publication is also available in audio and braille formats from LBPH, which is a division of the State Library and Archives.

To find out more about who is eligible to borrow books from LBPH and what books are available, go to:

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Facial Hair and Fashion Can Help You Identify Photographs

Do you have a photograph at home but just can’t tell when it was taken? Have you looked at the clothes people in the photo were wearing and determined that they are too indistinct to nail down a specific decade? Is the only distinguishing feature on your male ancestor one glorious beard? Well, you’re in luck because you can narrow down time frame based on facial hair!

Example of a full beard and mustache. Wickliffe Weakley, c. 1890s, Cabinet Card Photograph Collection.

Facial hair, like fashion, goes in and out of style depending on social, economic, and religious trends. For instance, in the colonial period of American history through the early 1800s, men were most often clean-shaven. A clean, hairless face was associated with Puritan values, trustworthiness, and enlightenment (a beard hid the face and therefore did not promote an image of openness). However, by the mid-1800s beards were back! The Victorian era saw British military wearing mustaches, and men began to imitate the hair style for its military, masculine associations. Additionally, facial hair made a comeback among men who were exploring the wilderness and did not shave. Imitation of these frontiersmen meant linking yourself to concepts of rugged masculinity.

Perkins wears a chin curtain beard. Ray Perkins, 1899, Library Collection.

This is an example of a goatee with connecting mustache. Unidentified, c. 1870s, Carte de Visite Collection.

Several facial hair trends began during the U.S. Civil War. In the 1860s, Abraham Lincoln sported both the “chin curtain” (full beard, no mustache) and the goatee (beard only on chin, mustache optional). Many men began wearing of these beards to imitate the president. During the same time, Union Army general Ambrose Burnside popularized what became known as sideburns (hair on the sides of the face extending from the hairline to below the ears), which led to variation such as “muttonchops” (wide sideburns) and “side whiskers” (sideburns that hang below the jawline).

The officer wears “friendly muttonchops” that have extended into whiskers. “Friendly” because the muttonchops connect through a mustache. Unidentified army officer, c. 1872, Robert J. Gasper Collection.

The late 1800s and early 1900s saw the popularization of the handlebar mustache (the ends grown longer and often flared out). Beards became less desirable during the First World War, when soldiers needed to shave in order to have tight fitting gas masks. The masks, however, did not affect the wearing of mustaches. During the 1920s and 1930s, the “toothbrush” or “bottlebrush” mustache (narrow but tall, not exceeding the width of the nose) hit its peak popularity, but after World War II it fell out of style because of its association with Adolf Hitler. In the 1930s and 1940s, the “pencil” mustache (very thin, usually just above the upper lip) became popular because of its association with Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind. The goatee was re-popularized in the 1950s with the beatnik culture, and jazz and soul musicians.

This is an example of a handlebar mustache. Dr. George H. Price, 1890, Cabinet Card Photograph Collection.

Sgt. York wears a “toothbrush” or “bottlebrush” mustache. Sgt. Alvin C. York, 29 November, 1939, Dept. of Conservation Photograph Collection.

Mr. Strange wears a pencil mustache. Mr. Strange, bass singer with the concert singers of the TN Agricultural & Industrial Normal School in Nashville, 7 July 1939, Dept. of Conservation Photograph Collection.

As you date your ancestors’ photographs, keep in mind that facial hair trends were often cyclical: they were popular for a couple decades, fell out of fashion, and would often reappear at a later time. There were also individuals who kept one style most of their life, and others still who did not pay attention to trends, rather staying clean shaven or maintaining a full beard and mustache. Trends also depended on geography – a mountain man and a city slicker often favored different aspects of facial hair. Hopefully, this guide will help you figure out how your ancestor looked and when!

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

TSLA Recognizes Six Graduates of the Tennessee Archives Institute

The Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) is proud to recognize six new graduates of the Tennessee Archives Institute. The archives development program at TSLA annually hosts this two-and-a-half day series of workshops on the principles and practices of archival management and records preservation. In order to graduate from the program with a certificate of archival management, archivists must complete three years of training.

This year's program graduates are:

  • Chad Fred Bailey of the Washington County Archives in Jonesborough
  • Paul Frank of the Sevier County Records Management and Archives Department in Sevierville
  • Cindy Grimmitt of the Maury County Archives in Columbia
  • Marilyn Holmes of the Dyer County Archives in Dyersburg
  • Aimee Saunders of the Williamson County Archives in Franklin
  • Randy Tatum of the Sumner County Archives in Gallatin

This year, TSLA welcomed 28 participants from archives, libraries and museums from around the state. The institute included sessions on the arrangement and description of records, collection policies, records retention schedules, public records commissions, creation of clear indexes and finding aids, as well as behind-the-scenes tours of the Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives. The archivists also learned about document care and preservation from TSLA conservators, and put their instruction to use in hands-on document cleaning.

The institute provides participants with opportunities to interact and exchange ideas with other archivists and records keepers from across the state.

"The Tennessee Archives Institute provides an excellent venue for archivists to hone their skills," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "I congratulate this year's graduates for their hard work and the initiative they showed in participating in this program."

Assistant State Archivist Wayne Moore said: “Not only do participants in the Archives Institute learn valuable tricks of the trade, but they also get opportunities to network with colleagues during their training. It's very helpful for archivists throughout our state to be communicating about best practices within their profession.”

For more information about the archives development program, please visit: For information about the institute, click the Archival Training link:

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Video That Explains Who We Are and What We Do

The origins of the Tennessee State Library and Archives date all the way back to 1854, yet even today, some people don’t know much about its operations or the valuable resources it holds. From its humble beginnings as a reading room for people who worked at the State Capitol, the State Library and Archives has been transformed over the years into a priceless treasure trove with millions of documents, photographs, maps, and other records related to Tennessee history. The following 18-minute video provides a brief summary of what the staff of the State Library and Archives does and how the records stored there benefit Tennesseans.

You can see this video in the embedded link below, or watch it at the following link: Held in Trust: Tennessee's Library and Archives.

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Night the Stars Fell

“It seemed as if all the stars in heaven were being hurled from their places and cast unto the earth.” -- unknown newspaper clipping in the Shankland Nashville History Scrapbook

Every year in mid-November, the Earth bears witness to the Leonid meteor shower. This phenomenon occurs when the Earth moves through debris left by the Tempel-Tuttle comet. The first recorded instance of this marvel occurred on Nov. 12 and Nov. 13, 1833, when the world was dazzled by the appearance of the Leonids.

In 1833, the meteor shower was most visible in the Deep South; particularly in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana. Many people, having witnessed nothing so sensational before, began to say the sky was falling and dubbed the night of Nov. 12 “the night the stars fell.”

“Many persons believed that the world was coming to an end, as thousands of visible meteors passed through the skies.” -- unknown newspaper clipping [believed to be an 1899 edition of The Nashville American] in the Shankland Nashville History Scrapbook

At the time, the world was in the midst of the Second Great Awakening. A lot of people believed that the falling of the stars indicated that the second coming of Christ was drawing near. Describing the public reaction in the Aug. 24, 1917 edition of The Camden Chronicle, a Mrs. Kee reported that “when the ‘stars fell’ the people fell to their knees praying and that for a period they lived free from sin.” Another newspaper account (from the Shankland Nashville History Scrapbook) stated that “The vulgar, as usual, were much affrighted, and some thought the last great day of accounts was ushering in.”

Eyewitness reports stated that the meteor shower looked like “a rain of fire, not stars.” In a newspaper article discussing the event, one gentleman from Blackshear, Georgia compared it to working in foundries and blacksmith shops. “The only stars I saw were just as one sees when molten iron is running into or from a ladle, or when iron with a welding heat is withdrawn from the forge.”

Shankland Scrapbook images - Mrs. E. S. Shankland Nashville History Scrapbook, ca. 1800-1932

Witnessing something so spectacular wasn't quickly forgotten. The May 2, 1919 edition of The (Memphis) News Scimitar includes an obituary for Emanuel Anderson. Anderson was reported to be 108 years old when he died. A former slave brought from Virginia to Mississippi in 1823, he recollected the meteor shower for the rest of his long life. “He remembered distictinctly [sic] the year of the meteoric shower of 1833, which is commonly known as the year that the stars fell.”

Mr. Anderson was not alone in his remembrances. In the slave narratives (compiled by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s), many former slaves recalled the event that was not only celestial but also terrestrial because, when the “stars fell,” great cracks were left in the earth. The narrative of Abraham Jones describes big cracks being left in the ground. He said it was dangerous for people to walk around at night because they might fall into a crack. Mr. Jones describes one crack as being “two feet across” and so deep they could not touch the bottom with a long pole. The October 25, 1866 edition of The (Memphis) Public Ledger reported that the “meteoric displays” were “characterized by the fall of meteorites, which, rushing towards the surface of the earth with a loud noise, penetrated beneath it several feet.”

Since that first November night in 1833, the falling of the stars has captivated many generations. In a 1947 letter to Samuel C. Williams, Charles N. Kimball writes about his fascination with this event. Mr. Kimball states that he has heard his “Grandfather relate that when this occurred his grandparents opened the door of the cabin so that he could look out and see the ‘stars falling.''” Kimball goes on to say that he is “greatly interested in the accounts of the unusual display of the Leonid meteors of Nov. 12, 1833” and he has “assembled some reference concerning it.” He sent his research sources to Williams with the wish that Williams “will obtain some entertainment and pleasure from perusing them.”

Time has not diminished mankind’s enthrallment with this experience. In the years since the event, numerous songs, books, poems and artworks have been produced to commemorate it. The song, “Stars Fell on Alabama,” has become an anthem to Southerners and, from 2002 to 2009, the state of Alabama added the slogan to their license plates.

Shooting Star Quilt, undated, Quilts of Tennessee Collection

This year, scientists predict that the Leonids will peak on Nov. 17 and Nov.18. So, get outside, look toward Leo, and see if you can catch a falling star.

To read more about this and other strange occurrences (like the so-called "Rain of Blood") in Tennessee, check out the “Myth-cellaneous” section of the “Tennessee Myths and Legends” exhibit on TSLA’s website:

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

Monday, November 2, 2015

State Library and Archives Hosts Genealogy Workshop the Saturday after Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving weekend is a time when many of us reconnect with family members and share family stories. At the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA), families can also explore stories of their relatives who lived many years ago.

For the fifth consecutive year, the staff at TSLA is encouraging Tennesseans to visit the library and celebrate 'Family History Day' by learning more about genealogical research on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Heather Adkins, manuscripts archivist for TSLA’s public services section, will present a genealogy workshop for beginners that will provide an overview of resources available at the library and how to navigate through various databases. The workshop will also include advice on researching TSLA's manuscripts collections, which can offer a wealth of information for those researching their ancestry. After the workshop, TSLA staff members will be on hand to help visitors with their research.

The session will be held from 9:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 28 at the TSLA auditorium, and research assistance will be available until 4:30 p.m. TSLA is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville.

While the workshop is free, reservations are required due to limited seating. To make a reservation, visit the following website:

Please note that TSLA will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 26 and Friday, Nov. 27 for the Thanksgiving holiday, so it's important to make reservations before then.

Parking is available around the TSLA building.

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