Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Secretary of State's Offices to Close for Christmas and New Year's Holidays

The Tennessee Secretary of State's office and all of its divisions, including the Tennessee State Library and Archives, will be closed in observance of Christmas and New Year’s.

A frozen stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 1940. Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.
Online at:

Offices will close from Saturday, Dec. 24, through Tuesday, Dec. 27, for Christmas.

All divisions will also close from Saturday, Dec. 31, through Tuesday, Jan. 3, for New Year's.

Please note that in between the Christmas and New Year's holidays, the Library & Archives will reopen at 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Dec. 28 through Friday, Dec. 30.
We wish health and happiness to all this holiday weekend.

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

Library and Archives Recognizes Recent Tennessee Archives Institute Graduates

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is proud to recognize eight recent graduates of the Tennessee Archives Institute. The Library and Archives annually hosts the institute, a 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. The institute provides participants with opportunities to interact and exchange ideas with other archivists and records keepers from across the state.

Archivists receive hands-on training from the Tennessee Archives Institute.

This year's program graduates are:

  • Anna Laura Bledsoe – Hardeman County Archives
  • Michael Boniol – Cumberland County Archives
  • Donna Cox Briggs – Washington County Archives
  • Angie Georgeff – Unicoi County Public Records Commission
  • Charmaine Jamieson – Cheatham County Historical & Genealogical Association
  • David Martin – Tennessee Conference, United Methodist Archives
  • Wayne Roberts – Jefferson County Archives
  • Debbie Shaw – Tennessee Association of Museums

This year, the program had 28 participants from archives, libraries and museums from around the state. The institute included sessions on digitization; databases; the Library and Archives map collection; basic care and conservation of historic photographs; and collection access and security.

"The Tennessee Archives Institute is an excellent resource for local government archivists who want to learn new professional skills that can help them better serve the people in their communities," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "I am pleased that the Library and Archives is able to offer this program, and I congratulate this year's graduates."

The participating archivists learned about document care and preservation from Library and Archives conservators and put their instruction to use in hands-on document cleaning. Participants also benefited from behind-the-scenes tours of the Library and Archives, the McKendree Methodist Archives and the Metro Davidson County Circuit Court Clerk’s records management facility.

“This program provides archivists not only with practical training tips, but also opportunities to compare notes with their counterparts in other communities throughout the state. This allows them to develop a system of best practices that will help them better preserve and maintain the valuable archival records under their care,” said Assistant State Archivist Wayne Moore

The Tennessee Archives Institute is funded by the Secretary of State’s office and a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, which is a division of the National Archives.

For more information about the archives development program at the Library and Archives, visit: For specific information about the institute, visit:

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

Thursday, December 8, 2016

TLBPH recommends titles for the holiday season...

December is a month filled with celebrations for people all over the world.

The Tennessee Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (TLBPH) has books related to several holiday celebrations, available in audio, braille and large print formats.

Buddhists celebrated Bodhi Day today. It's a commemoration of the day when the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, is said to have achieved enlightenment. The holiday is observed with meditation and performance of kind acts for others. Some Buddhists celebrate with tea, cake and special readings as well.

Mawlid, the birthday of Muhammed, prophet of the Islamic religion, is celebrated in 2016 on Dec. 12 by the Sunni sect, and on Dec. 17 by the Shia sect. Other Islamic sects, most notably the Wahhabi and Salafi sects, do not approve of Mawlid celebrations.

Hanukkah (or Chanukah, a more traditional spelling), the eight-day Jewish festival of lights commemorating the rededication of the second Holy Temple in Jerusalem, starts at sundown on Dec. 24 and ends at sundown on Jan. 1.

Christmas, the most well-known of the holidays, commemorates the birth of Christ for Christians all over the world. It is celebrated on Dec. 25 by most Christians, although, in some areas, people of Orthodox faith still follow the Gregorian calendar and celebrate Christ's birth on Jan. 7. While this holiday has also become secular holiday with Santa bringing gifts, many people of Orthodox faith practice several days of fasting before the holiday.

Kwanzaa, a celebration of African heritage, unity and culture is held each year from Dec, 26 through Jan. 1. The word "Kwanzaa" comes from the Swahili phrase, matuna ya kwanza, meaning “first fruits.” Central to the celebration is a candelabra with seven candles dedicated to the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity; self-determination; collective work and responsibility; cooperative economics and purpose; creativity; and faith.

Whichever holidays you choose to celebrate in December, the Tennessee Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (TLBPH) has books related to these celebrations in audio, braille and large print formats. Here are a few selections:

  • The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, by the Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler, available in braille and audio formats
  • Islam: A Short History, by Karen Armstrong, available in audio, braille and large print formats
  • Hanukkah in America: A History, by Dianne Ashton, available in audio format
  • Once Upon a Christmas, by Pearl S. Buck, available in audio format
  • Kwanzaa: An African-American Holiday That is Progressive and Uplifting, by Haki R. Madhubuti, available in braille and audio formats.

TLBPH is a division of the Tennessee State Library and Archives, which is part of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett. For more information on eligibility to borrow books from TLBPH and what is available, please visit:

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

Monday, December 5, 2016

Early Tennessee Land Records Available at the Library and Archives

In Tennessee's pioneer days, settlers often had access to one form of currency: land. With the scarcity of cash money, land was the most important form of wealth, commerce and entrepreneurial activity in early Tennessee, as well as the chief magnet that drew people to this area.

First as a territory and then as a state, virtually all of Tennessee's land passed from various governmental jurisdictions to private owners through grants of one sort or another. Politics and land speculation were closely intertwined and land issues were a leading concern of early government.

Now the Tennessee State Library and Archives has made the entire collection of these early land records available to help people better understand the interactions between settlers, citizens, speculators and the public land system. This newly-processed collection of records, titled "Early Tennessee Land Records, Record Group 50," contains a huge volume of the early land records of Tennessee, many of them with the names of pioneer settlers who obtained land from North Carolina Revolutionary War veterans and their heirs.

Land grant #5825, dated May 14, 1818 granting 200 acres of land in Washington County to Nathan Shipley. Signed by Governor Joseph McMinn.
Early Tennessee Land Records, Record Group 50
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Other Tennessee settlers purchased public lands from the State of Tennessee during the early decades of the 1800s. The different types of records — warrants, entries, survey documents, plats and the grants themselves — contain valuable clues as to when early Tennesseans came to this country, where they may have settled and how and from whom they obtained land.

"We are proud to finally make these important historical records from the dawn of our great state available," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "Tennessee was a major destination of many immigrants on the Southern frontier during the late 1700s and early 1800s. These original handwritten records reveal the complex workings of the system our ancestors used to obtain the land where they built their homes and communities."

Archival work on this collection has been ongoing for the past 20 years. Staff members Ann Alley, now retired, and David Sowell conducted the bulk of the work.

"The volumes and papers in this large collection have been in disorder for many years. Ann Alley once speculated that they had been dumped in the floor and stirred with a stick! We are pleased to open the full collection to the public at long last. I anticipate many research and publication projects will result from the rich historical information they contain," said State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill.

To learn more, you may visit our finding aid to the collection: Early Tennessee Land Records, 1773-1922:

And our Resource Guide to Early Land Grants:

We also have a helpful page entitled, "How Do I Find Land Grants?"

The collection is available to people visiting the Library and Archives, which is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, just west of the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville. The Library and Archives is open from 8 a.m. until 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

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Squirrel Fund

By Ed Byrne

People visiting the Tennessee State Capitol grounds in Nashville can see an abundance of gray squirrels. Visitors to Centennial Park, a couple of miles west of the Capitol, would also be impressed by the health and fertility of the park’s gray squirrel population. Among the most common “wild” animals in Tennessee’s urban environments, squirrels are almost certainly the boldest, most visible and most active.

Modern day visitors might be surprised to learn that a little more than 100 years ago, squirrels were absent from both these public areas. Indeed, the dearth of squirrels in Centennial Park gave rise to one of Tennessee’s oddest charitable endowments: the “Squirrel Fund.”

Contemporary photographs might explain the relative absence of squirrels in both locales. An 1887 photograph of the Capitol (image #3444) shows a Capitol Hill virtually denuded of native trees and shrubbery.

State Capitol of Tennessee, ca. 1887.
Library Collection

A 1905 photo (image #4646) reveals a growing stand of trees fit for squirrel inhabitation, but the housing would still – to a squirrel’s eye -- qualify as distinctly low-rise.

A view of the State Capitol from Charlotte Ave., ca. 1905.
Library Collection

Photographs of Centennial Park during the 1897 Centennial Exposition reveal an even more inhospitable environment. The daylight view (image #4577) from the west across the giant See-Saw, the Exposition’s answer to the great Ferris Wheel of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, shows an unbroken expanse of roofs, turrets, towers and even a pyramid.

Centennial grounds, showing Giant Seesaw. Other buildings: W.S. Spain's Palace of Illusions & Mirror Maze (left); Old Vienna Restaurant (right) behind two East Tennessee log cabins containing a working still; State Capitol is visible in background.
Library Collection

The night view (image #4578), celebrating the intensity of the Exposition’s cutting-edge electric light technology, reveals an even harsher atmosphere. The squirrel that had not already fled the Exposition grounds would surely be afflicted with chronic sleep deprivation.

Centennial Park and lake at night. The Tennessee Centennial Exposition was held in Nashville in 1897 to celebrate Tennessee's 100th anniversary of statehood. This industrial exposition featured exhibits on agriculture, commerce, transportation, culture, machinery, education, and more.
Library Collection

By the early 1900s, the Exposition grounds were being converted into the park Nashvillians know today (image #13408, THS collection). But it appears that the squirrel population still required some incentives.

Centennial Park, showing the bridge over Lake Watauga and a gazebo.
THS Picture Collection

In 1907 private philanthropy intervened. Mrs. Thomas W. Wrenne, wife of one of Nashville’s most successful financiers, donated the sum of $50 to the park commission for use in the care, feeding and housing of immigrant squirrels. (The sum donated was not inconsequential at a time when the weekly wage of a skilled worker averaged about $7.) The newspaper accounts christened the gift as the Squirrel Fund.

At first the repopulation initiative stumbled, as prospective squirrel donors worried about possible legal troubles from capturing and relocating the animals out of season.

Major F. P. McWhirter, head of the park commission, appealed to State Game Warden J. H. Acklen for reassurance. Acklen provided it, saying that providing good homes for squirrels in the park was entirely “laudable… and in nowise a violation of the game law.”

Excerpt from the Nashville American, May 22, 1907.

As the Squirrel Fund had already financed the construction of nest boxes in the park, the resettlement effort proceeded without further delay. It appears to have met with prompt success. By July 1909, a Nashville American article on “Some Beauty Spots in Centennial Park” identified one of the park’s principal natural charms as the "chattering squirrels that nimbly leap to safety after watching your approach..."

Lacking the philanthropic endowment created by the Squirrel Fund, a state Capitol squirrel re-population project advanced at a slower pace. A 1901 article in the Nashville American had published an appeal from the Capitol superintendent soliciting donations of tame and orphaned squirrels to repopulate the grounds. In 1908, a new Capitol superintendent was again appealing for squirrel donations to repopulate the newly enhanced grounds.

Tennesseans must have responded favorably to this second appeal. By 1917 squirrels were numerous enough to serve as weather predictors for Capitol Hill employees. In that year an Aug. 17 article headlined “News and Gossip of State Capitol” in The Nashville Tennessean and the Nashville American reported: “As squirrels are hulling walnuts and storing them in their homes in the trees these days, employees of the hill say it is a sure sign winter will soon be along.”

How much the Squirrel Fund contributed to the squirrel resurgence is difficult to determine. Given the reestablishment of adequate food plants and tree cover, squirrels would have certainly repopulated Centennial Park without further human intervention. Anyone with squirrels nesting in the attic or raiding the bird feeder will testify that squirrels are not easily discouraged. Still, the desire to reestablish a population of a native species seems admirable in retrospect. Na├»ve as it may seem to us today, the Squirrel Fund prefigured efforts to conserve Tennessee game bird and wildlife populations - and these in turn evolved into our contemporary network of state parks, nature reserves and wildlife management areas. This modest and almost forgotten act of philanthropy deserves to be protected in Tennessee’s historical memory.

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