Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thomas Scott Marr and the Evolution of Nashville’s Urban Landscape

By Trent Hanner

If you’ve been in Nashville recently, you probably noticed the proliferation of construction cranes piercing the Music City skyline. Shiny glass towers like SkyHouse, 1212 Laurel, and The SoBro rise as evidence of a robust economy. Density has increased in residential areas as modern homes replace vintage housing stock. While many progressive projects advance, a number of structures both important and mundane have fallen to the wrecking ball. The story of Nashville’s accelerated development can be explored through the fates of several buildings designed by one noteworthy early 20th century architect.

Inspiration: The U.S. Customs House on Broadway instilled an admiration for architecture in young Thomas Scott Marr.
Library Collection

Born in Nashville 150 years ago this month, Thomas Scott Marr was reportedly inspired to become an architect as he watched the city’s Customs House being built in the 1870s. He was educated at the Tennessee School for the Deaf, Gallaudet University and, briefly, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The architectural firm of Marr & Holman first appears in the Nashville City Directory in 1913. Marr’s eye for design, coupled with his partner Joseph Holman’s talent for networking with the city’s elite, resulted in dozens of high profile commissions.

Demolition: Marr & Holman’s Sam Davis Hotel falls in 1985.

In 1927, The Tennessean newspaper reported that “Nashville’s skyline promises to experience an interesting addition within the year.” Marr & Holman’s 12-story Sam Davis Hotel served the city until 1985, when it fell to make way for a much larger hotel and parking garage complex at 7th Avenue North and Commerce Street. The parking garage behind the Nashville Public Library (which is itself undergoing an addition) occupies the site today.

Nearby, on 7th Avenue North between Church and Commerce Streets, a non-descript, 7-story parking garage sits. The structure was designed by Marr & Holman in 1929. In terms which sound familiar today, The Tennessean described the developer’s rationale for undertaking the project:

"The decision to build the half-million dollar parking garage was the result of a careful study of the parking situation in Nashville, the city’s staple [sic] and continuous business advance, and the demand for a downtown parking garage. The prosperity of the city and its surrounding rich area were deemed sufficient reason to make a permanent investment profitable." (Tennessean, June 21, 1929)

Indeed, the parking garage must have been a wise investment for the Pritchett-Thomas Company to have stood for nearly 90 years. But its days are numbered. The United States Congress recently approved funding for a new federal courthouse to be built on the block. Nashville will benefit from its modern new federal building, but another piece of the Marr & Holman legacy will disappear from the urban fabric.

Adaptive reuse: The Tennessean heralded the opening of Marr & Holman’s James Robertson Hotel on July 7, 1929.

Sometimes a building is fortunate enough to be reimagined so it can continue to welcome guests through its doors. This was the case of Nashville’s main U.S. Post Office (1933-34) on Broadway. In 2001, far-sighted Nashvillians reopened the Art Deco-style building as the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. The cavernous interiors of the former post office lend themselves well to traveling art exhibitions.

In other cases, buildings are renovated or repurposed in ways that increasingly lead to the use of the term “gentrification.” This may be exemplified by another of Marr & Holman’s 7th Avenue North designs, the James Robertson Apartments. For nearly 40 years, the 1929 mid-rise operated as a subsidized housing option for low-income Nashvillians. Soon, however, the building will reopen as a 191-room luxury hotel.

Endurance: The Tennessee State Supreme Court Building (1937) in Nashville.
Department of Conservation Photograph Collection

The Tennessee State Supreme Court Building on Capitol Hill is perhaps Marr & Holman’s finest structure. This 1937 Depression-era Public Works Administration project has not only survived but continues to serve its original function. The Library and Archives is proud to have it and its tenants as a next-door neighbor.

Marr and his partner left a rich architectural legacy for their hometown of Nashville. But Marr also left a monetary gift to his alma mater, Gallaudet University. That college recognizes its “deaf outstanding architect” alumnus with a page on its website and a silent film in which Marr can be seen standing before many of his Middle Tennessee designs. The video was produced in 1934 and is available at The 30-minute film is a delightful opportunity to reflect on the change Nashville has seen since the firm of Marr & Holman left its impression on the city.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives holds the Marr and Holman Architectural Firm Records, 1910-1965, a Tennessee Historical Society collection. More views of Marr’s architectural work can be seen in his designs for Knoxville’s Tennessee School for the Deaf in the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA).

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

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Shape of Music

By Lori Lockhart

Music has long been a part of Tennessee’s cultural heritage. Whether your tastes favor blues, gospel, country, folk, rock ‘n roll or some other genre, Tennesseans have long embodied musicologist George Pullen Jackson’s advice to “live your own song life and be proud of it.” But long before Nashville became known as “Music City” and Bristol gave birth to country music, shape note singing was the way of the future.

“Old Harp” singing convention, Mount Pleasant, Jefferson County, circa 1905.
Looking Back at Tennessee Photograph Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives

The shape note musical system was introduced in 1798 by William Little and William Smith of the New York-New Jersey area. Little and Smith’s music book, The Easy Instructor; or A New Method of Teaching Sacred Harmony, initiated the idea of using a shape to represent each of four notes on a scale. At this time, most musicians used the solmization system common in the British Isles. Therefore, the major scale was sung as fa, sol, la, fa, sol, la, mi, fa. A triangular note-head was assigned to fa; sol was given a round shape; la was square; and mi was diamond shaped. The shapes made it easier for musicians to “sight sing” songs that were unfamiliar to them.

Musical scales from a handwritten book by a Mr. Little for Robert Wilson of the Williamsburg District, South Carolina, dated 1775.
Manuscripts Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives

In the wake of Little and Smith’s work, shape note tunebooks began to be published in mass. What started in the northern states quickly began to move south. In 1815, Ananias Davisson compiled Kentucky Harmony (which is considered to be the first shape note songbook printed in the South) and others quickly followed suit, with several books being produced in Tennessee.

Title page of Johnson’s Tennessee Harmony by Alexander Johnson, published in Nashville, 1824.
Library Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives

Title page of United States Harmony by Allen D. Carden, published in Nashville, 1829.
Library Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives

Title page of The Harp of Columbia by W. H. & M. L. Swan, published in Knoxville, 1848.
Library Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives

This new method of sight singing music knew no geographical or religious bounds as men from various denominations quickly began to assemble their own works. The preface to the 1968 reprint of The Sacred Harp details the diverse affiliations represented:

“Ananias Davisson of Virginia, compiler of The Kentucky Harmony, 1815, was a Presbyterian elder. Joseph Funk of Virginia, compiler of Choral-Music 1816, and Genuine Church Music, 1832, was a Mennonite. James P. Carrell of Virginia, compiler of Songs of Zion, 1820, and Virginia Harmony, 1831, was a Methodist preacher. William Hauser of Georgia, compiler of Hesperian Harp, 1848, was a Methodist preacher.”

Arguably, the most famous authors of shape note songbooks were William Walker and his brother-in-law, Benjamin Franklin White, who were Baptists.

Title page of The Southern Harmony, and Musical Companion by William Walker, 1847.
Library Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives

The first edition of William Walker’s Southern Harmony was published in 1835. Walker was a music teacher and, according to the 1939 reprint of Southern Harmony, he primarily wrote the manuscript to “provide his singing schools with a book of his own composition.” As with most songbooks of the time, Walker began his tome with “The Gamut, or Rudiments of Music.” In the preface to the first edition, Walker states: “In treating upon the rudiments of Music, I have endeavored to lead the pupil on step by step, from A, B, C, in the gamut, to the more abstruse parts of this delightful science, having inserted the gamut as it should be learned, in a pleasing conversation between the pupil and his teacher.” The introductory remarks in Southern Harmony were borrowed from the Columbian Harmony, published in 1825 by William Moore of Wilson County. Southern Harmony was a huge success with 600,000 copies sold over a period of 25 years. The last Walker edition of Southern Harmony was produced in 1854.

Page of the gamut from a handwritten book by a Mr. Little for Robert Wilson of the Williamsburg District, South Carolina, dated 1775.
Manuscripts Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives

Walker didn’t stop after his last publication of Southern Harmony though. In 1867, he released the first edition of Christian Harmony. Where Southern Harmony was based on the four shape note system described above, Christian Harmony went over to the seven shape note system that is more familiar to us today.

Page from The Sacred Harp or Beauties of Church Music by Lowell Mason, 1850.
Library Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives

In 1844, Benjamin Franklin White (Walker’s brother-in-law), along with E. J. King, compiled a book called The Sacred Harp. According to the 1968 reprint of The Sacred Harp, next to “the Holy Bible, the book found oftenest in the homes of rural southern people is without doubt the big oblong volume of song called The Sacred Harp.” From the very beginning, The Sacred Harp had a large following with many southern musical and singing conventions adopting it as their official songbook. And over the years, the term “Sacred Harp” has come to represent shape note singing as a whole.

“Tennessee” from The Southern Harmony, and Musical Companion by William Walker, 1847.
Library Collection, Tennessee State Library & Archives

To explore books in the Library & Archives holdings related to shape note music, browse through titles HERE.

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

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Archivists from the Library & Archives Will Be in Jackson to Digitize World War I Documents and Photographs

Over a five-year period, World War I ravaged Europe, the Middle East and parts of north Africa, overturning governments and costing millions of lives. The United States joined the battle in 1917, eventually mobilizing 130,000 soldiers from Tennessee. Countless other Tennesseans helped relief organizations like the Red Cross, organized scrap metal drives, manufactured war materials and provided other support for the war effort on the home front.

The Tennessee State Library & Archives has launched a major effort to collect digital records of how World War I affected Tennesseans. Archivists will be traveling throughout the state to digitally scan and photograph documents, maps, photographs, uniforms, and other artifacts related to World War I that are owned by private citizens.

“We were overwhelmed by the response to our request for Civil War items, so we hope this project will help us create a rich record of World War I history as well,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “Creating digital records of historical artifacts makes them easily available to anyone with internet access. It’s important that we do this now, before more of these century-old items are lost or damaged beyond repair.”

The next event will be held at the Jackson-Madison County Public Library, located at 433 East Lafayette Street in Jackson. Items will be digitally recorded from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. Nov. 3 and from 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. Nov. 4. The archivists will not actually take possession of the items from the owners, but will provide tips on how to care for these rare treasures.

People living in West Tennessee are encouraged to bring in letters, photographs, diaries, military records, maps, sketches, weapons, uniforms and other items related to the war. All items must be original – no photocopies or reproductions – and owned by the person bringing them to the event.

To reserve time with an archivist on one of those dates, email or call (615) 741-1883.

Similar events will be scheduled for other parts of the state. The project, called “Over Here, Over There: Tennesseans in the First World War,” is similar to one the Library & Archives has been conducting to digitally record Civil War memorabilia. The schedule of upcoming digitization events and other information about the project will be available at

This event is part of the Fall 2016 Great War Commemoration, “The Home Front in Tennessee”

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

Friday, October 7, 2016

Butter or Margarine? A 147-Year Old Question

By Heather Adkins

Advertisement for Swift’s Premium Oleomargarine, The Nashville Tennessean and the Nashville American, Sept. 24, 1916.

In an era fraught with diet fads, fitness programs, and the constant search for the next best way to get healthy, it may come as no surprise that food can sometimes be subject of great debate. A common one is whether butter or margarine is healthier. While this may seem like a modern dispute, the discourse is actually more than a century old.

Description telling how to differentiate between butter and margarine, The Daily American, Nashville, Feb. 28, 1880.

Margarine was invented by French chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès. He patented it as “oleomargarine” in 1869. He created the substance for a contest that was the brainchild of Emperor Napoleon III. The French emperor sought a butter alternative that could be used by the armed forces and lower classes. In 1871, a margarine-making process (combining vegetable oils with animal fats) was patented in the United States by Henry W. Bradley.

Impression that oleomargarine is for lower economic classes, The Daily American, Nashville, May 11, 1880.

Impression that oleomargarine is bad for consumers, The Daily American, Nashville, May 8, 1880.

Despite its popularity in Europe and the U.S., public opinion of margarine was polarized in the late 1800s. Margarine was cheaper than butter, meaning it could be considered a money-saver or an indicator of low economic class. It was also more sustainable than butter, which could become rancid in transit between manufacturers and vendors. As a processed substance, margarine was seen by some as complete adulteration of food. The combination of oils and fats rendered a white, lard-like appearance that was unappealing to many. When margarine manufacturers began adding yellow coloring for a more visual appeal, the dairy community started arguing that margarine was unhealthy and unnatural. Negativity towards margarine reversed during World War I when butter was rationed. Food preparedness programs advocated the “patriotic” use of margarine. The cheaper margarine was also invaluable during the Great Depression. After World War II, the use of butter or margarine became more a matter of preference.

Examples and weight conversions of fat alternatives during wartime butter rationing, The Nashville Tennessean and the Nashville American, Oct. 12, 1917.

The lower price for margarine, combined with the relative ease of creating a product similar-looking to butter, made the marketplace susceptible to fraud. In one example, F. Giardina, a grocer in Greenville, Mississippi bought 6,000 pounds of “dairy butter” from A.H. Kortrecht & Co, general produce dealers in Memphis. During a routine checkup by a U.S. Revenue inspector, four tubs of what Giardina supposed was butter were seized and revealed to be oleomargarine. The inspector reported Giardina to the Internal Revenue Service for having sold oleomargarine without paying the special tax on margarine required by law. Giardina was forced to take out a license as a retail dealer under threat of arrest. When the fraud became apparent, Giardina claimed financial loss because his customers did not want to buy margarine. He took Kortrecht to court for fraud, eventually getting a large payout for damages and fees.

RG 170 – Supreme Court trial case files, Giardina v. Kortrecht (1896, WT 441), pages 3-4.

The outcry from the dairy and vendor communities prompted federal and state legislation regulating the manufacture and sale of oleomargarine and all other “imitation butter.” The first law in Tennessee appeared in 1895 – Public Act 101 provided “for labeling, stamping or marking oleomargarine, butterine and imitation butter, and [provided] against coloring of the same, and [affixed] the punishment for violation of this Act.” Grand juries were empowered to investigate fraud cases.

The dairy community publicly denounced the production and consuming of oleomargarine. The Daily American, Nashville, Jan. 5, 1878.

In 1931, Tennessee enacted its first large-scale “oleomargarine law” which described regulations in great detail (Public Act 19). Under the law, manufacturers and vendors were required to buy licenses for making and selling margarine. A 10-cent tax stamp was required for sale. The act specifically required that no state, county, municipal or other institution supported by public funds could use margarine, and establishments not supported by public funds were required to display state-regulated signs (that they had to buy) notifying the public that they were using margarine. The act even described the labeling on margarine packaging, so as not to be confused with butter. Labeling was required on top, bottom, and sides of the containers in no less than 20-point type plain Gothic letters, in conspicuous colors contrasting the colors of the containers.

"Special Tax on the for Business of Retail Dealer in Oleomargarine," RG 170 – Supreme Court trial case files, Giardina v. Kortrecht, (1896, WT 441)

The law was amended in 1941 (Public Act 6) to provide for inclusion of vitamins and nutritional content in margarine and restrict the comparison of margarine and butter in advertisements. One revision repealed previous provisions restricting the coloring of margarine, allowing that coloring “shall be held to be yellow in color when it has a tint or shade containing more than 1.6 degrees of yellow, or of yellow and red collectively, but with an excess of yellow over red, measured in the term of Lovibon tintometer scale or equivalent.” Acts since then have continued to adjust nutritional content, fees and other regulations.

Newspapers frequently reported the decisions made by the General Assembly to control the manufacture and sale of margarine. The Daily American, Nashville, March 27, 1883.

The Tennessee General Assembly continues to influence food production and packaging today. Recently, bills have come before the legislature proposing the regulation of plants and seeds sold in Tennessee. Even the labeling of Tennessee honey has become standardized, with a push to require labeling for “100% pure honey” or “not pure honey.” Bills such as these help regulate what is sold to the public, deter fraud and promote honesty and integrity in the food industry.

Advertisement for Swift’s Premium Oleomargarine, The Nashville Tennessean and the Nashville American, March 8, 1918.

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

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Library & Archives Exhibit Offers Historical View of Children’s Lives

Here’s the thing about being a kid: We’ve all been there. Yet what it’s like to be a child has changed a lot throughout history. Now a new exhibit at the Tennessee State Library & Archives chronicles some of those changes.

The exhibit, called “Growing Up Tennessee,” traces the evolution of children’s lives through the 19th and 20th centuries. At one time, children were viewed as “mini-adults” expected to go to work on the farm or in mines or factories to support their families. In the 20th century, however, new laws freed them from lives of hard labor and eventually required that they receive an education.

The exhibit touches on how family life in Tennessee has changed, with children now being brought up with games, toys and family vacations.

William Harding Jackson, Jr. in a child-size carriage with miniature horse figures, in front of Belle Meade Mansion.
Library Collection Photo

“As Tennesseans, we love our children,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “This exhibit documents how much children’s lives have improved over the last two centuries. I encourage Tennesseans to come experience this exhibit for themselves.”

The exhibit, located in the lobby of the Library & Archives building, is free and open to the public. The Library & Archives building is at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol in downtown Nashville.

The Library & Archives is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, with the exception of state holidays. A limited amount of free parking is available around the building.

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Before Sully, There Was Hatch

By Ed Byrne

On Jan. 15, 2009, US Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger saved the lives of all 155 people on Flight 1549 when he crash-landed his Airbus 320 on the Hudson River. Sullenberger and his crew successfully evacuated the flight’s 149 passengers before the airplane sank. His courage and resourcefulness in performing a “dead stick” landing on a liquid runway have been justly celebrated, and the Clint Eastwood film based on his feat is currently leading the nation in box office returns.

It was not the first time that a determined and courageous pilot successfully crash-landed an unpowered airliner after takeoff, saving the lives of all his passenger and crew. American Airlines pilot Ed Hatch had performed a similar feat 60 years earlier, on June 23, 1949, in Memphis.

SIGHT FROM AIR -- Hundreds flocked to the scene after the "Convair" crash-landed in a field beside Getwell Road, less than a mile from Kennedy General Hospital. Note skid marks across field. At the controls were the pilots shown in insets [Capt. Ed Hatch and Officer N. E. Lundeen]. they said right engine quit on takeoff.
Memphis Commercial Appeal, June 23, 1949.

On a hot Wednesday afternoon (it had to be hot in Memphis in late June), Hatch was captain of an American Airlines Convair CV-240 airliner, the “City of San Antonio,” taking off from Memphis on a flight to Nashville “and points east.” None of the contemporary accounts give the number of the flight, but several note that the twin-engined, 40-passenger aircraft was considered “big” or even “huge” in its time.

An illustrated flight path map published in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, June 23, 1949.

Hatch reported that his engines performed normally as he warmed them up for the flight and started down the runway. As soon as the aircraft became airborne, one engine failed. While the Convair was designed to stay airborne with only one of its two 2,400-horsepower engines, the remaining engine immediately began to overheat. Fearing his second engine would explode and burn, Hatch shut it down. His aircraft had gained just enough altitude to clear a nearby power line “by 10 or 20 feet,” but lost airspeed in the process. Hatch was flying at an altitude of about 100 feet with absolutely no power.

He spotted a small open field ahead and set the aircraft down in it. According to contemporary news accounts, the plane slid more than 100 yards across the field, skipped across a road, and plowed under a 12,000-volt power line before stopping with its nose against a tree. The flight had lasted about 90 seconds and ended three and a half miles from the end of the runway. Providentially, the crash landing site was only one mile south of Kennedy Veterans Hospital, where some of the injured passengers were taken.

Thirty-four of the 43 people on board suffered injuries, and 17 were hospitalized. But everyone survived. Hatch and his flight officer walked away with minor injuries and the single flight attendant was unhurt.

A photograph of the wreckage published in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, June 23, 1949.

Judging from the grainy newspaper photos of the time, the lack of fatalities seems miraculous. The photos show the front end of the aircraft smashed and the fuselage broken open. One engine burned, but a fire crew reached the site within four minutes and extinguished the blaze before it reached the fuel supply. The piston-powered aircraft was fueled with 115 octane aviation gasoline so a fuel tank explosion would have been catastrophic.

Front page headline, Memphis Press-Scimitar, June 22, 1949.

It was a simpler age. Today Captain Sully Sullenberger has a film named for him, and his own website promoting his consulting practice. Hatch, by contrast, seems to have disappeared from the media almost immediately. A search of the Internet produced a few articles from contemporary newspapers, complimenting his skill in saving his passengers and crew. But there is no evidence that fame and fortune followed Hatch in later life.

It may be that a nation so recently embroiled in the greatest war in history had grown accustomed to aviation heroics. The Berlin airlift had ended successfully less than six weeks before the Memphis crash and Americans in 1949 were still celebrating the wartime contributions of their Navy and Army Air Forces pilots. Most Americans of the time probably saw Hatch’s feat as one more example of an American doing his duty in the face of life-threatening circumstances, as countless Americans had done over the preceding decade. People today crave heroes; Americans of the late 1940s had them by the millions.

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