Thursday, March 29, 2018

Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Gets New Name

The Tennessee Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is now the Tennessee Library for Accessible Books and Media. The name change became official March 9.

The library often leads the nation in how it reaches patrons who sometimes need more specialized service than their local library is able to provide.

“Our commitment to reaching Tennesseans with disabilities is unparalleled. This new name focuses on our mission of serving patrons without using outdated language to define them solely by their disabilities,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “I look forward to seeing how the Library for Accessible Books and Media will continue breaking new ground.”

In 2016, library staff received national attention for developing a first-of-its-kind “Virtual Story Time” program as a way to reach people with disabilities who may never visit a public library.

"Working with the Secretary of State's office we have renamed the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. As society evolves so does the language we use and how we think and speak about people with disabilities. The antiquated language no longer reflects the citizens that utilize this wonderful community resource. I'm looking forward to seeing the new Tennessee Library of Accessible Books and Media," said sponsor Rep. Darren Jernigan (D-Old Hickory).

The library offers a collection of more than 150,000 recorded, large print and braille materials to Tennessee residents who cannot use standard print materials due to a visual or physical disability. The library partners with the National Library Service at the Library of Congress (NLS) to administer the free service.

In 2017, 350,696 items were loaned out to Tennesseans living with a visual impairment.

“I am happy to sponsor this change in the law that removes antiquated language and updates the name of the regional library for persons with disabilities,” said co-sponsor Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville). “This change not only aligns our language with the Library of Congress but is also indicative of the respect we have for persons with disabilities.”

The Library for Accessible Books and Media is part of the Tennessee State Library and Archives located at 403 Seventh Ave. N in downtown Nashville, just west of the State Capitol. Both will move to a new facility in late 2019, which is currently under construction on Bicentennial Mall. The new building will be much more accessible for patrons with disabilities.

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Sgt. Helen Gill Moon, World War II hero...

By Ellen Robison

Photograph of Sgt. Helen Gill Moon. Supplemental materials. World War II Veteran Surveys, RG 237.
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Common belief is that United States women in the military during World War II served in protected positions away from combat. In practice, however, this theory proved difficult to maintain. Sometimes the combat came to the women. The World War II Veteran Survey collection at the Tennessee State Library and Archives contains personal examples of women who were closer to combat than comfort. One of those women was Sgt. Helen Gill Moon, who served with the Women’s Army Corps in England and France.

Page 1, Helen Gill Moon veteran survey. World War II Veteran Surveys, Record Group 237.
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Helen Gill enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1943, after working in a civilian job as a Dictaphone operator and secretary. She likely had no idea at the time of enlistment that she would serve overseas by the end of World War II. When the Women’s Army Corps was created, women were originally limited to positions within the United States and its territories. As the war continued and the need for soldiers grew, many high ranking officers, including General Eisenhower, specifically requested WACs to serve overseas to fill noncombatant positions, allowing men to move to the front lines. Gill rose to the rank of Sergeant working in the Public Relations Office for the U.S. Headquarters in Europe. One of her primary duties in the P. R. O.’s newsroom was taking quotes of bomber pilots returning from their bombing runs. In her survey, Gill recalled hearing these “emotionally affecting” reports as the pilots would relay the casualties sustained as being one of the most vivid experiences of her service.

Page 2-3, Helen Gill Moon veteran survey. World War II Veteran Surveys, Record Group 237.
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Sgt. Gill came even closer to the combat in 1944 when Germany developed the V-1 guided missile, dubbed the “buzz bomb” because of the buzzing noise the bomb made before falling silently to the ground. In her survey, Gill explains that the WACs were required to stand outside in the streets for their daily formations until a buzz bomb injured several women. She recalled watching a department store in London “turn orange and crumble, and be knocked down by the blast” of a German rocket.

WACs were not the only serving women who saw combat. The veteran survey collection is full of stories about nurses who worked in field hospitals in all theaters of operation and in all climates, from deserts to jungles. Some even lived in mud floor tents and sheltered their patients with mattress from strafing gunfire. You can read about their service and many more in the World War II Veteran Survey collection:

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

Monday, March 26, 2018

"Locked Up" Workshop Explores Tracing Ancestors in Prisons and Asylums

Following the trail of an ancestor in trouble with the law or plagued with mental illness is often difficult. On April 14, the Tennessee State Library and Archives will host a free workshop entitled “Locked Up: Finding Ancestors in Prisons and Asylums.”

Using examples from actual records in Tennessee and elsewhere, State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill will discuss how to locate the records, what to glean from the information and how to deal with confidentiality restrictions.

“Learning from Chuck Sherrill, who has written and edited 21 books on Tennessee genealogical records, will be a valuable tool to anyone interested in genealogical research,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “I would encourage anyone interested to reserve their seats for this fascinating event as soon as possible.”

The workshop will be 9:30-11 a.m. CDT Saturday, April 14, in the Library and Archives auditorium. The Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Ave. N., directly west of the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville. Free parking is available around the Library and Archives building.

Although the workshop is free and open to the public, registration is required due to seating limitations in the auditorium.

To reserve seats, please visit

Chuck Sherrill has served as State Librarian and Archivist of Tennessee since 2010. He has a unique combination of skills as librarian, archivist and genealogist. His education includes master’s degrees in History and Library Science from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Sherrill has been active in genealogical research and publishing since he was a teenager. He has written and edited 21 books of Tennessee genealogical records. Among them are “Tennessee Convicts: Early Records of the State Penitentiary,” and “Tennesseans in Court.”

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Meet the (former) staff... Mrs. John Trotwood Moore

By Darla Brock

I would like to introduce you to a former staff member and a remarkable woman—Mrs. John Trotwood Moore. Mary Daniel Moore took the helm of the Tennessee State Library and Archives following the unexpected May 1929 death of her husband, the noted poet, scholar, historian, and State Librarian and Archivist John Trotwood Moore. She used the knowledge she had garnered from 10 years working alongside her husband to pick up the mantle and guide this institution through the challenging years of the Depression and the Second World War.

Tennessee State Librarian and Archivist Mrs. John Trotwood Moore (Mary Daniel Moore) pictured in 1938.

Left alone to nurture two college-age twin daughters, manage a large household, and care for elderly and ailing family members, every working day Mrs. Moore climbed the one hundred steps to the State Library’s home in the Capitol to undertake her awesome responsibility. She served patrons, historical societies and genealogical associations, the legislature, the judiciary, the governor and state government departments alike. Regardless of the stress involved or the political maneuverings she would have to endure over the course of her career, she remained a devoted state employee.

Mary Brown Daniel in 1888 at the age of thirteen.

Mrs. Moore, with the help of a small and dedicated staff, accomplished mammoth tasks. She utilized TERA (Tennessee Emergency Relief Administration) and WPA (Works Progress Administration) funds to index state records. She held a leadership position in the WPA's Historical Records Survey that preserved county records and so much more. She continued Dr. R.L.C. White's transcription of the Senate and House Journals of Tennessee for the years 1797 and 1798; she indexed them and had them published. This project and the transcribing of Tennessee militia commissions were done on her own time and did irreparable damage to her eyesight. She published scholarly articles about the history of the Tennessee State Library, the Tennessee Historical Society, and the history of libraries in Tennessee. She parlayed her social and professional connections into donations of numerous premier manuscript collections for the state. She served as the custodian of the state's Law Library in the Capitol, and in 1936 oversaw the transfer of 19,000 volumes to the Law Library in the new Supreme Court Building. She procured the first microfilm reader for the State Library and Archives through an exchange with the Genealogical Society of Utah. The Genealogy Department created by John Trotwood Moore flourished under his wife's hand. Authors and researchers from across the country were served on a previously unknown scale, and State Librarian and Archivist Mrs. John Trotwood Moore regularly welcomed busloads of school children to the Capitol and to their State Library.

Mrs. Moore working in her home away from home at the State Library in the Capitol.

But perhaps Mrs. Moore's greatest accomplishment was securing the funding in 1947 for our present State Library and Archives building. Governor Jim McCord proclaimed she “almost dreamed this building into existence.” In reality, Mrs. John Trotwood Moore had carried on the fight for new quarters for the State Library and Archives outside the Capitol Building for many years, as had her husband before her. In late 1946, Mrs. Moore galvanized Tennessee’s women’s organizations, which had long supported her and our institution, to take on this battle. These women had recently labored in support of the war effort, and they now stood shoulder-to-shoulder to fight for us. In December 1946, presidents of women’s statewide organizations came together to campaign for a new State Library and Archives building, as the State Library Building Society. When Governor McCord signed the appropriation bill March 12, 1947, the press gave these ladies credit for obtaining the initial legislative funding.

Mrs. John Trotwood Moore’s true home had been the State Library in the Capitol, a setting she likened to a Victorian parlor. She faced mandatory retirement in 1949. She maintained an emeritus status thereafter and remained a presence in the Capitol’s State Library to assist her successor, historian and Vanderbilt professor Dr. Dan Robison, as he took the reins of the institution. Mrs. Moore watched as Dr. Dan and architect H. Clinton Parrent designed our present facility, state-of-the-art for its time.

She submitted her official letter of resignation June 4, 1953. She wrote Dr. Dan, “The last load of books will be sent to the new State Library and Archives building today or tomorrow. I feel that my services should end with the closing of these doors.” A lovely little office was created for her in this building, but ill-health meant she seldom used it. Around this time, she wrote to a researcher, “I think it is time for the old lady of 79 to fade out of the picture.” But her heart remained with us until her death in August 1957. After that, not only the official papers of State Librarians and Archivists Mr. and Mrs. Moore took up residence here, but the family’s personal papers, as well.

It is hard to believe that one woman, one family, could have given so much, but their belief in the importance of the Tennessee State Library and Archives never wavered. For almost 18 years, I have searched her portrait for strength, inspiration and direction; I have researched her collections for wisdom and marveled at her legacy. Having been made an honorary member of the Moore family by her gracious descendants, I feel I can hazard a guess at her message for us today. To the staff, Mrs. John Trotwood Moore would say, “Serve this great state with all your abilities, and love your institution with all your heart.” To our patrons, she would repeat one of her favorite sayings, “The State Library is a library by the people, for the people.”

Portrait of Mrs. John Trotwood Moore painted by R. Gregory Gifford in 1946.

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

Monday, March 19, 2018

Library and Archives, Nashville Zoo Partner to Highlight Grassmere’s Unique History

The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is one of the most visited locations in Nashville, but the property’s historical significance is often overlooked. On April 5, the Tennessee State Library and Archives and Nashville Zoo will co-host a free program highlighting the history of the property and historic home through a new digital collection.

The program will show how two sisters’ love of animals led to the zoo's relocation. The collection includes photographs, letters, oral history audio excerpts, maps, memorabilia and land records.

The home, built in 1810, is one of the oldest residences in Davidson County open to the public. The property served as a family farm for 175 years. Sisters Margaret and Elise Croft willed the Grassmere property to be used as a nature preserve upon their deaths, and the Nashville Zoo began management of the site in 1997 to honor that request.

Margaret Croft (in black) with her sister Elise (in white).
Image from the Tennessee State Library and Archives Grassmere Collection.

“This program will highlight a true treasure of our state. Through this collection, we honor the legacy of two sisters who generously gifted their land, house and its contents for future generations to enjoy,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. "We are grateful for the collaboration that is making this event possible."

Tori Mason, Historic Site Manager of the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, will share some of the more than 250 items included in the new Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA) collection curated by the Library and Archives staff.

“One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from visitors is, ‘Where can I get more information about this family and the property?’ Up to this point, we have not been able to guide visitors to a site to access more information other than the zoo's website and our social media pages,” Mason said. “Thanks to the Library and Archives’ staff, we now have the ability to direct those questions to the TeVA site and all of these wonderful documents, photos and oral histories.”

Megan Spainhour and Jami Awalt from the Library and Archives will also present on how to browse the collection through TeVA, which is available at

This free program is open to the public and will take place at 7 p.m. CDT Thursday, April 5, at the zoo’s Croft Center. The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is located at 3777 Nolensville Pike in Nashville.

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

2017 Civics Essay Contest Winners Honored at the Tennessee State Capitol

The winners of our 2017 civics essay contest were recently honored in the Tennessee State Capitol. The students range from kindergarten to 12th grade representing school systems and programs across the state.

More on the winners here: 2017 Civics Essay Contest Winners Announced.

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

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Forgotten President

By Lori Lockhart

Can you identify all the presidents of the United States? You might start your list with George Washington. But, what about names like John Hanson, Elias Boudinot or Thomas Mifflin? They are often left off any presidential roll. Yet, all of them (among others) were selected to be presidents of the United States Congress under the Articles of Confederation. Take Elias Boudinot (May 2, 1740-Oct. 24, 1821) for example, he was elected to be the president of the Confederation Congress Nov. 4, 1782. This made him the presiding officer of the first formal national government in the United States when the Treaty of Paris was signed with England that effectively ended the American Revolution.

J. W. Paradise engraving of Elias Boudinot (1740-1821).
THS Picture Collection, Tennessee State Library and Archives

Functioning as the head of the United States Congress wasn’t Boudinot’s only claim to fame. He also served on the board of directors of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), was a lawyer, a U. S. Representative, an author and a supporter of Native American rights. But, perhaps his greatest achievement was founding the American Bible Society (ABS) in 1816.

American Bible Society Lifetime Member Certificate for Rev. R. C. (Robert Clopton) Hatton, 1841.
Peyton Family Papers, Tennessee State Library and Archives

The British and Foreign Bible Society was formed in 1804. Four years later, the first Bible society in the United States was established in Philadelphia. Soon, similar Bible groups were being organized all over the Northeast. By June 1816, a published list would show the existence of 128 similar groups spread out over 21 U.S. states and territories. Tennessee was even home to several Bible societies.

Franklin County Bible Society membership list, ca. 1830s.
Carrick Academy Board of Trustees Minutes, Tennessee State Library and Archives

A plan for a national Bible society was suggested in 1815 by Boudinot, who was the head of the New Jersey Bible Society at the time. He thought a national society would unify the efforts of smaller local organizations and also be more effective at getting the Bible into unsettled areas of the U.S. that were still little more than wilderness.

According to “The Manual of the American Bible Society,” a convention was held May 8, 1816, in the “Consistory Room of the Reformed Dutch Church, in Garden Street, in New York” with 60 people from many different denominations in attendance. The meeting’s mission was established with harmony: “Resolved, That it is expedient to establish, without delay, a general Bible Institution for the circulation of the Holy Scriptures without note or comment.” The gathering was a success with a constitution being adopted and “Executive Officers” as well as a “Board of Managers” being selected for the new national group. (Boudinot would serve as the first President of the society.) With this illustrious start, “the American Bible Society entered at once upon its career of benevolence and Christian usefulness.”

The constitution of the ABS stated that “the sole object of the Institution is to encourage a wider circulation of the Holy Scriptures without note or comment.” It was unsectarian and did not want remarks included in the Bibles it published to contain denominational bias. The ABS prided itself on being made up of members from many different denominations and also strove to “circulate the Scriptures among all classes impartially,” giving away Bibles to those who could not afford them and charging only what the Bible cost to manufacture to those who were more affluent.

Excerpts from the William Driver Family Bible. Driver (March 17, 1803-March 3, 1886) was a sea captain and longtime Nashville resident who coined the moniker “Old Glory” for the U.S. flag. He is buried in Nashville City Cemetery.
William Driver Family Bible, Tennessee State Library and Archives

The society worked with many different organizations to distribute scriptures, including the United States military. The ABS gave Bibles to sailors on the USS John Adams in 1817 and has supplied Bibles to soldiers in every American war since the Mexican-American War in 1846. In fact, many Civil War (both Union and Confederate) and WWI soldiers carried pocket testaments published by the ABS.

Title page of pocket New Testament (1861) given to Jasper B. Griffith, Co. E, 3rd Wisc. Inf. Regt., USA. He was from Font du Lac, Wisconsin and moved to Lawrence County, Tenn. after the war. He died at the National Soldiers Home in East Tenn. in 1915. This New Testament edition also went to World War I with one of Jasper Griffith's descendants, Pvt. Samuel F. Clifton.
Looking Back at the Civil War Digital Collection, Tennessee State Library and Archives

Inside front cover of New Testament (1917) printed by the American Bible Society and given to Pvt. Euliss Grant Hallowell, 63rd Art. Brig., Coastal Art. Brig. He was assigned to Ft. Pickens and later Ft. Barrancas near Pensacola, Florida. Hallowell ultimately served in France beginning in September 1918. He remained overseas until March 1919. Hallowell farmed in Carroll County after the war and died in 1984.
Over Here, Over There WWI Digital Collection, Tennessee State Library and Archives

Through the years, the American Bible Society has been a leading innovator in the publishing world. According to John Fea (author of “The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society”), the ABS was the “first publisher in the United States to use steam-powered presses.” The ABS also published the first braille Bible.

While the ABS’s mission/vision has changed slightly in recent years and their headquarters has moved from New York to Philadelphia, they continue to “make the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford.” This continues the legacy started long ago by a largely forgotten president.

To explore items in the Library and Archives holdings related to the American Bible Society, browse through materials here.

To view more military memorabilia from the Civil War and World War I, please visit the Looking Back: The Civil War In Tennessee and the Over Here, Over There: Tennesseans in the First World War digital collections.

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