A recent summer afternoon in the 4th floor offices of Archives and Special Collections in Ekstrom Library, Archivist Tom Owen dug into two large boxes filled with photos, scrapbooks, legal files, news clippings and other items belonging to one of Louisville’s most important African American leaders of the 20th Century.
The brimming boxes were donated to the UofL Archives by the children of Charles W. Anderson, Jr., the first African American to serve in the Kentucky Legislature, and the first in the South since the Reconstruction era in the late 1800s. A lawyer educated at Kentucky State College and Wilberforce and Howard universities, Anderson was elected as a Republican representative from Louisville in November 1935 at age 28 and served six terms until 1946. He died in a train-car accident in 1960 at the age of 53.
While in office he achieved a number of legislative milestones, including the Anderson-Mayer State Aid Act, which offered $7,500 annually to African American students to attend out-of-state colleges. The fund was necessitated by Kentucky’s Day Law, which mandated separate white and black educational facilities, meaning that only one college in the state, Kentucky State College in Frankfort, could accept African American applicants. Because Kentucky State’s curriculum was limited, many African Americans seeking graduate degrees and specialized programs were forced to go out-of-state.
Anderson passed additional legislation aimed at expanding educational opportunities for Kentucky African Americans, including one for improving public school facilities and another providing a $100 education and travel stipend for each black student forced to travel outside his or her county to attend segregated schools. Most famously, he fought to combat lynching in Kentucky and worked vigorously to successfully repeal the state’s public hanging law.
Anderson passed legislation . . . providing a $100 education and travel stipend for each black student forced to travel outside his or her county to attend segregated schools.
Owen said his expectations for the Anderson papers were far exceeded by the items he discovered in the boxes.
“Often with papers from political leaders we find mostly Who’s Who type publications that can be obtained elsewhere, but here we found mostly one-of-a-kind files, brochures, and photos unique to Anderson. So that’s great.”
His children, Victoria Anderson Pinderhughes, who lives in New York City, and Charles W. Anderson, III, of Detroit, sought a home for preserving their father’s important legacy and memorabilia. Happily, Victoria had maintained contact with childhood friends in Louisville who recommended UofL as the most trusted repository.
What’s next for the Charles W. Anderson Jr. Papers? Owen noted that before the public can access the collection he will organize the files into “series” such as clipping scrapbooks (eight), manuscripts, photos (dozens), legislative issues, legal records, and condolences sent at the time of Anderson’s death. Then he’ll rebox and refile them in acid-free containers and prepare a finding aide to guide users of the collection. Eventually, the papers will be exhibited in ASC’s galleries in the lower level of Ekstrom Library.
The latest exhibit in the Photographic Archives highlights new additions to the fine print collection.
The Photographic Archives works to collect, preserve, and make available for research photographs primarily documenting Louisville and the surrounding region. These locally related photographs uphold the visual history of our city and hold tremendous research value, and as a result they are our most heavily used photographs by visitors to the Archives. But in addition to the expansive collection of local images, the archive also holds a significant collection of fine print photographs.
The definition of a fine print photograph is fluid, though generally fine prints are distinguished from the local historical photographs in our collection in that they were created as art works by photographers who identified as artists, or photographs that have since been recognized as works of art regardless of their original context. Factors including the photographer’s creative vision and evident choices in framing, exposure and presentation often differentiate fine prints from representational images such as documentary and snapshot photographs. Fine print photographs are collected and displayed in museums and galleries around the world, with some being sold at auction for millions of dollars. Held within the Photographic Archives fine print collection are thousands of works — many by masters of the medium such as Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Margaret Bourke-White, Ansel Adams, and Berenice Abbott.
In addition to being displayed in exhibitions, the fine print collection is regularly accessed for teaching purposes with prints being selected and presented to university Art History and Photography classes. The archive adds regularly to the fine print collection through donations and purchases from local galleries and national photography dealers. When choosing prints to add to the collection, we often consider opportunities for teaching by seeking out prints that will help us represent the entire history of photography and its major movements. We also look to collect a wide range of photographic processes as well works by noteworthy photographers.
The exhibit “New Fine Prints: Recent Additions to the Collection” is on display now in the Photographic Archives gallery on the Lower Level of Ekstrom Library until March 6, 2015.
Our latest exhibit, Famous Faces: Picturing Celebrity in the Photographic Archives, highlights over 40 photographs of nineteenth and twentieth-century celebrated personalities and historical icons held in the University of Louisville collections. From gathering and researching these images I have learned a number of interesting facts about a few celebrities related to Louisville.
Elvis Presley (1935–1977) is one of the most iconic American celebrities of the twentieth century, having been a hugely popular singer and actor for over twenty years, earning the nickname “The King of Rock and Roll.” But the photos held in the archives of Elvis Presley, performing in Louisville at a special employee party put on by tobacco company Philip Morris, don’t tell the whole story. A little research revealed that this show, held on December 8, 1955, was a mere month before Elvis’ very first record was released – “Heartbreak Hotel” in January of 1956. He was an unknown! In fact, it has since been reported that the president of Philip Morris, in the audience during the performance, tried to get Elvis kicked off the stage because he considered the singer’s hip gyrations obscene.
The Modjeska, the delectable caramel covered marshmallow candy is an original Louisville creation that is continued to this day by confectioners like Muth’s Candies on East Market Street. It sounded like a strange name for a candy until I learned that it was named after a famous stage actress of the late nineteenth century. Helena Modjeska (1840–1909) was a Polish-born Shakespearean actress who was hugely popular in the United States after she emigrated here in 1876. In 1883, the year she received her American citizenship, she starred in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in Louisville, Kentucky, the first Ibsen play staged in the United States. As a testament to her appeal, Anton Busath, a candy maker who immigrated to Louisville from France, was so infatuated with the actress that after her visit to Louisville he decided to give the “caramel biscuit” confection he had spent years perfecting her name: the Modjeska.
Colonel Sander’s in his coffin? It’s not often that we see photographs of celebrities taken after they have died. Sure, post-mortem photography was popular in the Victorian era when families would have a professional photograph their recently departed child or other loved-one to memorialize them; often the post-mortem photograph would be the only image the family had. But this practice went out of style as handheld cameras and snapshot photography proliferated, and as medicine advanced and death became more removed from everyday lives in Western society. It turns out that photographer John Ranard snuck a camera with him while visiting Sanders’ body as it lay in the Taylor-Hall Funeral Home. Shooting from the hip allowed Ranard to remain undetected and as a result, we get to see Colonel Harland Sanders (1890–1980), founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, as he was buried – with his trademark mustache and goatee, white suit, and string tie.
Come see the entire exhibit, Famous Faces, up now through September 27th, located in the Photographic Archives Gallery in Ekstrom Library, lower level, Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
Do you like roadside attractions? Have you ever planned the route of a road trip based solely on stopping to see a bizarre site or oddball statue proclaiming “The World’s Largest (fill-in-the-blank)”? Well I certainly have, and that’s partly why I love the current exhibition up in the Photographic Archives Gallery. All Over the Map: Photographs Across America, 2006-2012 by Steve Plattner includes wonderful photos of some of the most beautiful oddities found along our country’s highways: a tractor-trailer perched high in the air, unique monuments built by dedicated outsiders, giant dinosaurs, a castle constructed of junk, mysterious billboards and other puzzling views. Plattner explains that he is “drawn toward unusual people, places, or things” that he feels “are exceptional, that stand out in some way, that often disappear without a trace.” During a gallery talk, Plattner explained how many of these unique American sites are vanishing and that he is compelled to document them.
Once long distance road travel became popular in the 1930s, businesses sprang up along the stretches of highways to attract the numerous tourists. Many of the businesses added unique attractions such as novelty architecture, colorful monuments, and other features meant to draw in customers. But as air travel surpassed family road trips and many of America’s popular highways, such as Route 66, were passed over for the new Interstate Highway System, the unique mom-and-pop businesses and roadside attractions waned in popularity. Plattner commented that many of the sites in his photographs have changed or even disappeared in the years since he shot them. So… come visit the exhibit before both the photographs and the attractions disappear!
All Over the Map: Photographs Across America, 2006-2012 by Steve Plattner will be on exhibit through June 29, 2012. The University of Louisville Photographic Archives Gallery is located in Ekstrom Library, Lower Level. We are open Monday – Friday, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.