Sunday, March 29, 2020

Lighting Up the Countryside: The Tennessee Electric Power Company

By Dr. Kevin Cason

In 1922, the Tennessee Electric Power Company formed as a result of a merger with several regional power companies. By using hydroelectric power on the different river systems in Tennessee, the Tennessee Electric Power Company helped many rural Tennesseans begin to have electricity for the first time. As a result, a wide variety of products were developed to save people time from their housework and chores. To encourage people in rural areas to want to have electricity in their homes, the Tennessee Electric Power Company held demonstrations and offered promotional booklets that illustrated the benefits of having electricity. Over time, these promotional tactics worked, and gradually the dark Tennessee countryside was lit up by electrical lights.

At the Tennessee State Library and Archives, one of the collections that documents the electrification of rural Tennessee is the Arthur W. Crouch Tennessee Electric Power Company Collection. Most of the material in the collection covers the period from 1922 to 1939. After August 15, 1939, all of the Tennessee Electric Power Company’s properties transferred to the Tennessee Valley Authority. The Tennessee Electric Power Company was progressive, spending large sums of money promoting rural electrification and the use of electric appliances. It laid the firm foundation on which the Tennessee Valley Authority was built.

One of the notable items that reflects the history of the company is a booklet entitled "The Tennessee Electric Power Company" from 1925. It features descriptions and historic photographs of hydroelectric plants in Hales Bar on the Tennessee River, Parksville on the Ocoee River, and Great Falls on the Caney Fork River. The booklet also has information on the transmission lines to various cities and towns in Tennessee. In addition, the booklet has a map that illustrates the transmission system of the Tennessee Electric Power Company during the 1920s.

Hydroelectric Power Plant at Hales Bar at the Tennessee River.
Arthur W. Crouch Tennessee Electric Power Company Collection, Box 2, Folder 1.
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Parksville on Ocoee Hydroelectric Dam.
Arthur W. Crouch Tennessee Electric Power Company Collection, Box 2, Folder 1.
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Dam and Hydroelectric Dam at Caney Fork River.
Arthur W. Crouch Tennessee Electric Power Company Collection, Box 2, Folder 1.
Tennessee State Library and Archives

Another item in the collection, a promotional booklet entitled "Electric Service for Your Farm," was created in 1925. This booklet promoted the benefits of having electricity, including lighting the landscape at night and electrifying the farm home inside. The booklet also features promotions for refrigeration, cooking, heating water, and other types of electrical appliances.

In closing, the items in the Arthur W. Crouch Tennessee Electric Power Company collection serve as material culture evidence of the dramatic transformation that electricity brought to the lives of rural Tennesseans. While electricity and electrical appliances are often taken for granted today, the technology was something new and different for rural people in the 1920s. By having historical resources like these items, it serves as a reminder that even ordinary things like electricity have a history.

For More on the Tennessee Electric Power Company see:





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

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Library and Archives is closed to the public through April 13...

TENNESSEE STATE LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES PUBLIC CLOSURE UPDATE




Following the direction of the Secretary of State, the Tennessee State Library and Archives will be closed to the public through at least April 13th.

To safeguard the health of our patrons and staff during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Library and Archives is closed to the public and has suspended all public programming until further notice. Please postpone any planned research visits until we reopen.

During this public closure, we plan to serve our patrons remotely through a variety of ways. For researchers, our website offers many indexes and digital collections that you can access remotely. The Tennessee Electronic Library provides researchers with access to a wide array of databases and information. The Tennessee Virtual Archive has a vast storehouse of visual material for your research needs. Our Education Outreach web page has resources for educators and students including primary sources linked to social studies curriculum standards and a Student History of Tennessee. Our Public Services staff will continue to answer emails, chats, and telephone calls. You may contact our reference desk Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT, at 615-741-2764, email reference.tsla@tn.gov, or visit https://sos.tn.gov/tsla to live chat.

We regret any inconvenience that this may cause, but we are taking this proactive approach in the best interest of maintaining the public health and safety of our community.

Please check our website, https://sos.tn.gov/tsla, or social media for updates as this situation develops.

Chuck Sherrill
State Librarian and Archivist
Posted: March 16, 2020
Revised: March 26, 2020

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Tennessee State Library and Archives Provides Vital Records for REAL ID



The Library and Archives is providing documents that the public may need to obtain a REAL ID. Marriage, divorce and death records prior to 1970 records and birth records prior to 1920 from the Library and Archives could be essential to prove name changes over the years. To learn more click here: sos.tn.gov/news/tennessee-state-library-and-archives-provides-vital-records-real-id.

Anyone in need of birth records from 1920 to present, or marriage, divorce and death records from 1970 to present, should contact the Tennessee Office of Vital Records at tn.gov/health/.


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

Monday, February 10, 2020

Stories from the Sixteenth State: Cornelia Fort

By Zachary Keith and Casey Gymrek

The first episode of the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ new podcast, Stories from the Sixteenth State, shares the story of Nashville aviator, Cornelia Fort. In this episode, we hear from staff members, Zachary Keith and Casey Gymrek, who recount Fort’s remarkable life.

Cornelia Clark Fort was born on February 5, 1919, to Dr. Rufus Elijah Fort and Louise Clark Fort in Nashville, Tennessee. She attended Ross Elementary and Ward-Belmont in Nashville, before enrolling at Ogontz Junior College (the same school that Amelia Earhart attended) and finally graduated with a two-year degree from Sarah Lawrence.

Photograph of Cornelia Fort, from The Aviation History of Tennessee, by Jim Fulbright.


During the winter of 1940, Cornelia rode on an airplane for the first time. Once the plane took flight, Cornelia’s life was never the same. She immediately wanted to take flying lessons and even waited for hours that day to do so. She soon obtained her pilot’s license. In the summer of 1940, she took Tennessee Governor Prentice Cooper on an afternoon flight followed by a dinner date, which the Governor considered “only so-so”. The two repeated their date the following day, but, according to Cooper, Cornelia “was too sleepy to be good company.”

Gov. Prentice Cooper’s Diary for June 21, 1940, GP44: Governor Prentice Cooper Papers. Tennessee State Library and Archives.

On February 8, 1941, Cornelia received her commercial license and began instructing area students. Soon after, Cornelia began applying to flight schools, hoping to get a job as an instructor.

By 1941, the fighting overseas had intensified, and American involvement became more of a likelihood. Once Cornelia received her ground instructor’s certificate, the Andrew Flying Service in Honolulu, Hawaii, offered her an instructor’s position.


Cornelia Fort instructing local boy, Cornelia Fort Papers, Nashville Public Library.


On the morning of December 7, 1941, Cornelia was in the air early, instructing local student, Ernest Suomala, when she noticed a military plane flying toward her. The plane passed so closely that it violently rattled the windows of their small training plane. Cornelia, annoyed by the disrespect, looked down and noticed with disbelief the emblem of the Rising Sun on the plane’s wings.

Machine gun fire burst around their plane while Cornelia and her student raced for the hangar. They barely made it inside before a new wave of Japanese Zeroes swept in. Cornelia was the first American pilot to encounter the Japanese squadrons at Pearl Harbor. She spent much of the next year recounting her story to promote war bonds.


Cornelia Fort’s War Department identification card, Cornelia Fort Papers, Nashville Public Library.

Cornelia Fort’s flight log, Cornelia Fort Papers, Nashville Public Library.


On September 6, 1942, Cornelia received a telegram recruiting pilots to ferry planes for the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Service (WAFS). She joined WAFS, first serving in Delaware. On February 14, 1943, Cornelia transferred to the 6th Ferrying Group in Long Beach, California. Here, she was able to fly much larger planes than before, ferrying aircraft, on their way to Europe, from Long Beach to Dallas or San Antonio every couple of days.


Telegram from Jackie Cochran asking Cornelia to join the WAFS, Cornelia Fort Papers, Nashville Public Library.


On Sunday, March 21, 1943, Cornelia and a few other pilots, all-male, left for Dallas. They decided to give formation flying a try even though it was forbidden. Near Merkel, Texas, another pilot flew too close and clipped her wing. Her plane rolled and nosedived. Cornelia Clark Fort became the first female pilot to die on active duty in United States history. She was laid to rest in Nashville’s Mt. Olivet Cemetery next to her father.

Telegram from Prentice Cooper to Cornelia’s mother with condolences upon her death, Cornelia Fort Papers, Nashville Public Library.


After Cornelia’s death, the WAFS reorganized into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS). The WAFS and subsequent WASPS collectively flew over 60 million miles, delivering 12,652 aircraft of 72 different models. Cornelia clocked over 1,103 hours aloft in her brief career. She was the second woman to obtain her commercial pilot’s license in Tennessee and the first flight instructor. She was portrayed in the film Tora! Tora! Tora! by actor Jeff Donnell. Cornelia Fort Airpark, built on the former Fortland Farms in Nashville, was named in her honor but closed after sustaining irreparable damage in the 2010 flood.

Aerial photograph of Fortland, RG 82: Tennessee Department of Conservation Photograph Collection, 1937-1976. Tennessee State Library and Archives.


Hear Cornelia Fort's story in Episode 01 on the Stories from the Sixteenth State podcast.




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

Monday, February 3, 2020

Welcome to the Stories from the Sixteenth State podcast!

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is happy to announce the creation of a new podcast called Stories from the Sixteenth State. The title references Tennessee’s 1796 admission to the Union as the 16th state. The podcast will examine the people, places, and events that have shaped Tennessee’s history. Each episode will feature Library and Archives’ staff who will bring you stories about famous and everyday Tennesseans supported by archival audio, photographs, maps, and documents from the Tennessee State Library and Archives collection. Our talented personnel will research, write, and record every installment using publicly available resources found at the Library and Archives.

Archivist Zachary Keith recording the first episode of Stories from the Sixteenth State.

Education Outreach archivist Casey Gymrek recording the first episode of Stories from the Sixteenth State.

Casey Gymrek conducting research on Cornelia Fort, the subject of our forthcoming first episode.

Audio Engineer Eric Raines editing the first episode of Stories from the Sixteenth State.


For a more immersive experience, you can visit our blog, where we will showcase the primary sources used in researching each episode. Since our podcast is created in-house, it is entirely commercial-free.

Our first episode on Nashville aviator Cornelia Fort will launch next Monday, February 10. New episodes will appear every three months. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts to never miss an episode of Stories from the Sixteenth State.

Check out our podcast’s homepage at storiesfromthesixteenthstate.podbean.com or the Tennessee State Library and Archives at sos.tn.gov/tsla.


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

Monday, January 6, 2020

New Story Map: Mapping the Destruction of Tennessee's African American Neighborhoods

By Zach Keith

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is proud to present a new project using the GIS story mapping tool. Story maps allow for data, documents, and narrative to be presented along with geo-referenced maps to show the spatial evolution of a historical theme.

The "Mapping the Destruction of Tennessee's African American Neighborhoods" story map project details the often destructive impact of urban renewal and interstate projects of the mid-20th century on Tennessee's African American communities.

The mid-20th century building of the interstate highway system, public housing projects, and so-called "urban renewal" programs are commonly viewed as crucial elements in the modernization of America. The plans, however, produced unequal benefits for Tennessee's citizenry. For those whose neighborhoods were unaffected, statistically more likely to be white and wealthy, cities became more attractive and travel easier. For those who lost homes and businesses, more likely to be poor and African American, such projects entailed a severe disruption or even destruction of their communities and made it more difficult to accumulate property and wealth. The effects of these projects persist today.


Before and After: These two images show the razing of Capitol Hill from similar vantage points.


The project combines GIS software and primary sources. Overlaying historical maps onto present-day maps created an interactive exhibit whereby users can visualize the direct effects of these public works projects in cities across Tennessee, revealing how these neighborhoods looked before their erasure from the landscape.

Visit "Mapping the Destruction of Tennessee's African American Neighborhoods" to learn more.


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

Friday, January 3, 2020

Happy New Year!

As we say goodbye to 2019, we ring in the new year and welcome 2020 with this spectacular view of our new building, under construction near Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in Nashville.



We are also happy to share these images from inside the construction site, taken by architect Kem Hinton, and excited for the upcoming move later this year!






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