Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

On Memorial Day, our nation remembers the men and women who died while serving our nation in the United States military. Tennesseans have served our nation’s armed forces with a long tradition of selfless volunteerism that earned our state the nickname, “The Volunteer State.”

A view from the roof of the War Memorial Building, looking north, of the Memorial Day Parade in Nashville, Tennessee. 1946.

Read more about Memorial Day and the collections and exhibits at the Tennessee State Library & Archives that honor our veterans:

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Library & Archives Launches Digital Collection Honoring World War I Soldiers

As Memorial Day approaches, the Tennessee State Library and Archives is commemorating the 100-year anniversary of World War I by launching a new digital collection on TeVA (Tennessee Virtual Archive). The Tennessee World War I Gold Star Records, 1918-1924 is a memorial collection honoring Tennessee servicemen who died during the Great War. Soldiers' records offer insights into early 20th century life and the loss experienced by servicemen and their families.

The gold star tradition began after the United States entered World War I in 1917. While men boarded trains and ships bound for military camps or foreign shores, their families proudly hung small flags with blue stars in windows to announce that they had loved ones who were in the service. In less than two years, around 4,000 Tennesseans’ blue stars were exchanged for gold ones as families received notice of their loved ones' deaths.

World War I Army identification tag of Sgt. Horace Leroy Alexander of Nashville.
Tennessee State Library & Archives, Tennessee Virtual Archive

After the war ended, Americans incorporated the gold stars in their commemorative efforts at home and abroad. As a part of these efforts, more than 1,000 records of “gold star boys” were collected by the Tennessee Historical Committee, the Library & Archives, and county “mother-chairmen.” The records collected include a broad range of materials, such as soldier portraits, family histories, and battlefield correspondence.

"Thanks to the work of the historical committee, the volunteers in each county and the staff of the Library & Archives, we have a strong record of Tennesseans who sacrificed their lives in World War I," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "We owe a debt of gratitude to those who had the foresight years ago to preserve those records. The material contained within Tennessee's gold star collection gives us so much insight into one of the bloodiest conflicts in our country's history."

People who access the new online collection can search for information in a number of ways - by soldier names, cities, counties or service information. One notable feature is the "browse by military branch option," which allows users to easily find records of servicemen in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy or Air Service (a precursor to the Air Force).

Genealogical researchers will find information such as the names of soldiers’ parents and next-of-kin useful in reconstructing information from the 1890 Census, the records of which were almost completely lost in a 1921 fire. Historians will discover valuable primary source material in correspondence from the homefront and the battlefront.

The digital collection currently provides access to 601 soldiers’ records with surnames 'A' through 'H,' which represents about half of the total collection. Files can be downloaded directly from the site for research purposes. The collection is projected to be completed by Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day in honor of the ceasefire that ended World War I.

Access TeVA at:

Access TeVA's Gold Star Collection at:

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Footnote to the Whiskey Menace

As most of our readers will be aware, the temperance reformers of the late 1800s and early 1900s were unsparing in their denunciation of the menace that they felt whiskey posed to society. They focused their attacks almost exclusively on the dangers posed by the contents of whiskey barrels. In the process, they overlooked another danger - posed by the barrels themselves. Even when emptied of their contents, whiskeys barrel could wreak disaster on the unwary, as a quick search of the ProQuest Historical Newspapers database at the Tennessee State Library and Archives can attest.

Cooperage, barrel making, at Southern States and Lime Corporation, circa 1910.
Looking Back at Tennessee Collection. Tennessee State Library & Archives.

On April 5, 1888, Nashville’s Daily American reported “A Whisky* Explosion” in Lebanon. This “very singular occurrence” took place in front of Ligon’s Saloon on South Cumberland Street. For reasons that were not reported, the proprietor of Ligon’s laid a “parlor match” beside a hole in an empty whiskey barrel and “struck the match with his knife.” The barrel, the article noted, had been full of “Lincoln County whisky,” although it had been emptied some three weeks previously. Unfortunately, the three weeks were not sufficient to clear the volatile whiskey fumes from the barrel. The resulting explosion blew Ligon 10 feet through the front door of his saloon, inflicting serious and painful injuries.

The commotion associated with an exploding whiskey barrel did not escape the attention of the small boys of the era. On August 22, 1883, a Daily American story, headlined “The Small Boy’s Work,” described an experiment two youngsters undertook with an empty whiskey barrel between Cooney & Co. and Freeman & Co. on Nashville’s Broad Street. Perhaps in response to a dare, one stood on top of the barrel while the other pushed a burning match into the bung-hole. The boy standing on the barrel was thrown into the street by the resulting explosion, but apparently escaped serious injury.

This miscreant was somewhat luckier than young Herbert Nicholson of Clarksville, who tossed a lighted match into an empty whiskey barrel behind Pulley Bros. Saloon on Strawberry Street and then leaned over the barrel to see if the match was still lit. According to the report in the June 2, 1906 edition of the Nashville American, Herbert’s face was badly burned when the head of the barrel blew out. Herbert was arrested and tried in City Court, but escaped a fine when a lenient magistrate judged his injuries constituted sufficient punishment.

Three men, one sitting on a barrel that notes, "Mune Shine Wisky." Another sign notes, "The Mugs We Met in Hot Springs."
Looking Back at Tennessee Collection. Tennessee State Library & Archives.

Matches and mischief were not the only hazards. Whiskey barrels apparently were sometimes repurposed to store other commodities, but attempts to modify them for reuse could spell disaster. On July 4, 1884, the Daily American reported that Robert Davis of Franklin, the 18-year old son of a prominent family, had decided to use an empty whiskey barrel to haul water to a threshing machine. When he attempted to enlarge the bung-hole of the barrel by burning it out with a hot iron rod, the resulting explosion inflicted near-fatal injuries. The article explained that “exactly a similar occurrence” had happened a few miles away in the previous year, when an exploding barrel inflicted “painful wounds” on a man named George Hughes.

The Nashville American reported yet another such accident in its “Out of the Ordinary” column of August 22, 1900. A farmer named Herizler, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, reportedly “sat astride” an empty whiskey barrel while he attempted to enlarge the bung-hole with a white-hot iron. “The explosion was heard a mile away,” the item reported, and it was not certain that the farmer would recover.

The Infotrac database of 19th century newspapers yielded similar accounts of fatal or near-fatal whiskey barrel explosions in Waco, Texas (in 1875 and 1883), St. Louis, Missouri (in 1884), and Galveston, Texas (in 1892).

"A Whisky Explosion," (Nashville) Daily American, April 5, 1888.

In the early 1900s, some years before national prohibition, Tennessee passed a series of laws forbidding the manufacture, possession, and transportation of liquor within the state. The advent of prohibition in Tennessee appears to have reduced the incidence of whiskey barrel explosions, as reports of these events appear to fade out of the newspapers after the 1906 account mentioned above.

Today, like the makers of soft drinks, Tennessee distillers ship their whiskey in bottles. The exploding whiskey barrel, like the exploding soda fountain, has disappeared from the newspaper headlines.

*EDITOR'S NOTE: The difference between whiskey and whisky is simple but important: whisky usually denotes Scotch whisky and Scotch-inspired liquors, and whiskey denotes the Irish and American liquors. Source material located in our research of this topic cites the spelling of the word “whisky” without an "e" in several sources. Tennessee whiskey, however, is spelled with the letter "e." In publishing this article, we chose to remain true to the original source material, so we left intact the word "whisky" cited within quotes. In all other places, we made note of the proper spelling of whiskey, with an "e."

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Getting Fit Is For Everybody

If we're being honest, most of us would admit that we could be in better shape. However, people with visual disabilities are even more likely to be inactive and/or obese than the general population. According to the Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes’ website (, people with blindness have one of the highest rates of obesity of all minority groups. Only 17 to 20 percent of blind and visually impaired students in public schools are included in modified adaptive physical education classes or extracurricular sports and recreation activities. Once students graduate from school, the percentage of exercisers drops to 10 to 14 percent.

Adults with visual impairments are 1.5 times more likely to be obese or morbidly obese when compared to the general population. But, studies have shown that adults with visual disabilities who participate in recreation activities have a higher likelihood of achieving gainful employment.

Long distance running is obviously one way to stay in shape, as a couple of marathoners from our staff can attest.

Image courtesy, Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes.

Image courtesy, Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes.

Image courtesy, Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes.

People with low vision or no vision can check out the Achilles International website ( These wonderful people make it possible for people to participate in marathons no matter their physical status. Achilles International Nashville meets from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Wednesday night at McCabe Community Center in Nashville for runs along a nearby greenway.

At the Tennessee Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (TLBPH), we also carry a broad selection of fitness-related books. These include:

  • No Excuse Fitness: The 30-Day Plan to Tone Your Body and Supercharge Your Health, by Donovan Green, which is available in audio format.
  • Another overall fitness book is Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from The National Institute on Aging, available in audio and braille formats.
  • Move a Little, Lose a Lot, by James A. Levine, discusses the effects of our sedentary work and social networking environment. It is available in large print.
  • There's also The South Beach Heart Program: The Four-Step Plan That Can Save Your Life! Written by Arthur Agatston, it is available in audio, braille and large print formats.
  • A book to help people start to prepare for those marathons is The Complete Book of Exercise Walking, by Gary Yanker. It is available in audio formats.

TLBPH is a section of the Tennessee State Library & Archives, which is part of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office. For more information about TLBPH, visit:

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

Monday, May 9, 2016

Free Exhibit Showcasing Historic Photographs Opens at Library & Archives

As the saying goes, a picture can be worth a thousand words. That's especially true in historical research, where old portrait photographs can tell us about the mannerisms, clothing, hairstyles and even cultural norms of people who lived decades ago. That's one of the reasons why the Tennessee State Library & Archives has opened a new exhibit showcasing some of the thousands of photographic portraits it has collected on behalf of the state's residents.

The free exhibit, titled "Tennesseans Through the Lens: Portrait Photography in Tennessee," opens this week in the lobby of the Library & Archives building. The exhibit will be available for viewing anytime during the Library & Archives' normal operating hours, which are from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.

The exhibit offers insights into the history of studio photography in Tennessee and how changes in that technology affected the lives of the state's residents. Some of the images date back to the 1860s, when daguerreotype was the cutting edge technology in photography. Daguerreotype captured images on silver-plated copper surfaces.

Henry Allen Boyd and family posing for a portrait at Nashville's Calvert Brothers Studio.
Image credit: Tennessee State Library & Archives

"This is an exciting new exhibit for the Library & Archives," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "Many people think of the Library & Archives only as a place to study documents and maps, but we also have a stunning collection of more than one million photographs, many of them portraits of famous and not-so-famous Tennesseans. I encourage people to visit the Library & Archives to see the portraits we have available."

The exhibit features photos from several of the Library & Archives' collections, including the Calvert Brothers Studio Glass Plate Negatives, the Library Photograph Collection, Looking Back at Tennessee, the Tennessee Historical Society Picture Collection, the Carte de Visite Collection and the Cabinet Card Collection.

The Library & Archives building is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, just west of the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville. A limited amount of free parking is available around the building.

The exhibit will remain on display until August.

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

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day! We love you and thank you for taking care of us, letting us have pets, and teaching us to swim . . . among other things. Enjoy your day!

Mrs. W. C. Burton and her two sons, Dan Ray & Joe Mack, with their dogs and their pet deer in Lake City, 1952.
Image online:

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