Monday, December 20, 2010

This day in History

From our favorite historian, Mary Koegel, comes this exquisite niblet:

Today in KY newspaper history, in 1837, it's the birthday of everybody's favorite (alleged) atheist, Charles Chilton Moore, editor & founder of Bluegrass Blade. Ironically, he was the grandson of Barton W. Stone (co-founder of Disciples of Christ, Christian Church, & Church of Christ).

Read more about Charles Chilton Moore at the Kentuckiana Digital Library, or if you'd like something longer, John Sparks recently released Kentucky's Most Hated Man chronicling Moore's exploits.

Monday, July 19, 2010

R.I.P. David Dick

(Photo by: Ron Garrison)

Kentuckian and journalist extraordinaire, David Dick, died July 16, 2010 at his home in Bourbon County, KY. he was 80. Though he was born in Cincinnati, Dick's mother moved the family to her native Kentucky home when David was only 18 months old. the rest, as they say, is history.

David Dick was a writer and journalist best known for his long-running writing and reporting with CBS News as well as his many bestselling books such as Rivers of Kentucky (2001).

Funeral services were July 19 in Paris, Kentucky.

Dick's oldest son, Sam, has followed in his father's footsteps as anchor of the local Lexington CBS affiliate WKYT, 27 Newsfirst.

A fitting tribute about David Dick can be found with our friends at The Rural Blog

Friday, May 7, 2010

Remembering Mother

The long-standing tradition of Mother's Day goes longer back than perhaps many of us realize - riding a somewhat difficult road before it was established as a national holiday in the US (among other countries) by President Woodrow Wilson, in 1914.

Back in the Civil War, and during Reconstruction, Julia Ward Howe led an anti-war movement focusing on honoring mothers, even composing a "Mother's Day Proclamation" in 1872. However, the contemporary holiday is founded in a movement by West Virginia's Anna Jarvis, who continued her mother's efforts.

The first successful efforts came in 1908, through national promotion. After 4 years of success, Jarvis declared a stable "date" of the "second Sunday in May" for Mother's Day (Note: the punctuation is VERY important - possessive of the singular!). She initially intended the holiday to be commercial. But, ultimately, resented its overcommercialization - even being thrown in jail, 1948, for protesting the very day she founded!

White flowers are worn, or given, to honor mothers. Most notably carnations.
Apparently, according to these articles from the Bourbon News & Mountain Advocate, it doesn't REALLY matter; the flowers can be snowdrops, as long as they are white. (Personally, I remember giving my mother marigolds potted in detergent covers, when I was in elementary school. But what do I know?)

Of course, it didn't take long to call out for a day honoring the family patriarch!

(Sidebar: A movement had already begun in Washington at the time of this publication - Hartford Herald, 22 May 1912. However, Father's Day also saw trials & tribulations - including failed presidential recommendations & suggested "dates," before President Nixon proclaimed it a national holiday in 1972.)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Controlling the Dog Population - April Fools?

Today, humane societies and shelters help control stray dog populations in American towns and cities. But, in 1904, when the World's Fair came to St. Louis, so did Filipino headhunter tribes who simply LOVED dog meat! When they came down with pneumonia (traced to the missing dietary supplement of dog) and threatened to strike, St. Louis authorities offered them all the stray dogs they could ever want. The Filipino tribesmen could also use the hides in their costume, as they "refused to dress in American conventional style." ("For Breakfast at World's Fair Colony---Igorrotes Want Dog Meat." Hartford Republican 8 April 1904, p. 3)

It MUST be true, right? After all, two Kentucky newspapers - the Breathitt County News and Hartford Republican - and surely many others, printed the story! Of course, this generous offer DID begin on April Fools Day, as cited by both articles.

Can we chalk it up to cultural differences, or was it all an elaborate April Fools prank on the readers? What do you think?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

RIP "Duke of Paducah"

Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb was born in 1876 Paducah. At sixteen, he took his first newspaper job as an apprentice reporter with the Paducah Evening News to help support the family, and he never looked back!

As his career progressed, Cobb became well-known as an editor, reporter, columnist, and humorist in papers all over the state and nation. He hob-nobbed with the best of them through the years: politicians, actors and actresses, writers, and so on. But he never forgot his home state and seemingly retained a sense of morality. Early on (1900), he married Laura Spencer Baker - a marriage that lasted a lifetime.

Hopkinsville Kentuckian, 17 April 1900, p 5

Cobb was a larger-than-life figure. One of his early columns, as paraphrased here in the 1900 Earlington Bee, humorously commented on "Fads of Kentucky Statesmen." It included observations on Goebel, who would be assassinated only weeks later! Cobb went on to report in Europe in World War I. He saw the potential in film, and sold several scripts to Hollywood, not to mention appearing in a few or hosting the 1935 Academy Awards! But that was only the beginning.

Politics was not far from Cobb's thoughts. He vehemently wrote about and fought for what he believed in, including African-American rights and composing anti-Prohibition press releases.

In the first half of the twentieth century, Cobb was easily one of the most recognizable (and quotable!) American celebrities directly connected to Kentucky. He died on March 10, 1944, and now rests in Paducah, quite appropriately under a tombstone reading "Back Home."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Signs of the Times - Part 1

It probably goes without saying that most, if not all of us are familiar with the basic layout of a contemporary newspaper. We know what to expect on any given day from any given section or page. The same could be said 100 years ago, even though many publications were significantly shorter (perhaps only the front and back of a single sheet of paper!).

What was included differed somewhat from today's publications a little too. Local papers had local news - but it might be a bit more intimate, especially in rural areas, where everyone knew everybody's business! Ads were not necessarily as vivid, and bylines (the author's name) may or may not exist on every article.

A seemingly popular trend were unattributed columns and snippets throughout publications that delivered news and commentary in a quick shot - one or two sentences. They might include anything from:

health and weather, to current events.

Or the economy and politics

These are common threads still followed today, though thrown together in tidbits on pages 3 and 4 of the February 17, 1910 edition of the Clay City Times. In their own ways, they reflect patterns from 100 years ago. Can you tell how and why? What makes these "reports" different from reports you might see in a modern-day newspaper?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

Today we celebrate the birth of one of Kentucky's best-known native sons, President Abraham Lincoln! Though he is sometimes more closely accredited to Illinois, he was born in 1809, near Hodgenville. The Lincolns didn't even leave the state until little "Honest Abe" was 7 years old!

He went on from the humble log cabin to achieve great things, as we all well know, but remembered his birth state connections through friendships and political contacts with such Kentuckians as Joshua Speed - a close confidante and contact during the Civil War. Soon after which, of course, he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

There are as many dark stories as there are bright ones regarding Lincoln's life and activities. But today, as his bicentennial birth celebration comes to a close, we merely memorialize and celebrate the man and his life, as did the Earlington Bee, in 1897, and the Winchester News, in 1909, for the centennial of his birth.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


William Goebel - Kentucky governor for but a few days, all of which spent, quite literally, on his deathbed, died today, in 1900, of an assassin's bullet. But who was the killer? This remains one of the unsolved mystery's in the Commonwealth's past.

Goebel was born to German immigrants in 1856 Pennsylvania. The family moved to Covington after his father returned from the Civil War. William went on to law school and an on-again, off-again practice with eventual US Senator John Carlisle. But he also had quite the hand in political wheelings & dealings at the end of the 19th century, including through the state Senate.

When Kentuckians were in an uproar about toll roads & turnpikes, Goebel successfully campaigned to remove tolls. He was a delegate in the 1890-91 Constitutional Convention. He advocated to further civil rights for women and African-Americans. Possibly one of his most notable measures is the Goebel election law, which gave power to a 3-member Board of Election Commissioners to appoint county election commissioners, as opposed to the previous system, which he felt had been unjust.

But Goebel was no angel! Many were opposed to his methods, and believed he sought only to raise his own political power. Goebel even broke Kentucky Constitutional law when he fought an 1895 duel against John Sanford (Goebel won, killing Sanford, but was acquitted of charges). His gubernatorial election was also tainted with scandal. Although he won, accusations flew regarding corruption & stuffing of ballot boxes. The General Assembly ultimately decided Goebel had fairly won on January 30 - the same day he was shot.

As Goebel walked to the Capitol in Frankfort, an assassin shot him with a rifle (accounts claim it was likely from a window next door). He lay dying for nearly 5 days, until he passed on February 3rd. Before that, however, the GA had him sworn in as KY Governor on January 31, 1900. Sixteen men were accused of conspiracy in his murder; 5 went to trial; 3 were convicted; all maintained their innocence throughout!

To this day, no solid answer has been offered as to "Who killed Goebel?" He remains the only state governor killed while in office, even though he was technically shot before even being sworn in, and remained "Governor" on his death bed, for only a few short days.

Semi-Weekly Interior Journal. 6 February 1900. p 1.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Only the Shadow Knows...

A long-standing tradition, today marks Groundhog Day! People rush to Gobbler's Knob, in Pennsylvania, to learn from Punxsutawney Phil whether or not winter will sustain another 6 weeks. He and his shadow have been forecasting the weather for Americans since 1887, in secret, and then publicly since 1966. But there's much more to this tradition than many of us realize or even consider!

With debatable origins, this yearly celebration traces its roots further back than the last 125 years or so to the European Candlemas Day (also celebrated today). A poem regarding the holiday reads "If Candlemas be fair and bright,/May Winter have another flight." Hence, the shadow knows all!

Speaking of lights, Phil is not the only forecaster! Canada has their very own famous groundhog - Wiarton Willie! Similarly, there are other groundhogs around the US that share Phil's spotlight, at least to some extent - and other animals too! Texas has Bee Cave Bob, an armadillo, to forecast their spring every February 2nd, or "Armadillo Day." Just last year, Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, declared Feb. 2 "Marmot Day;" but there were no forecasting duties assigned.

Over the years, even Kentucky has shared in Groundhog Day festivities, as you can see in these 1910 Paducah Evening Sun articles. Though not official, Captain Mason Smith adopted a groundhog, dug a burrow for him the previous October (for hibernation, of course), and brought him out to predict the weather. It paid off - the unnamed adoptee's shadow predicted Spring! And then there's the Dickson, TN club who ran around all day searching out groundhog burrows and digging them up just to offer a weather report that evening! So which method is better?

Oh, and as for this year's prediction? Nothing from Bee Cave Bob or Wiarton Billie as of yet, but Punxsutawney Phil is calling for 6 more weeks of winter. And the shadow always knows... (or at least he does 39% of the time, according to the National Climatic Data Center)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Something to Chew On

Many quintessential American foods & treats have their roots, or at least some links to the state of Kentucky, whether its well-known, acknowledged, or not. This includes chewing gum, believe it or not!

Pharmacist John Colgan, born in Louisville, in 1840, went through the public school system there, and to college in Somerset, OH. He returned to Louisville and opened a drug store at the corner of 1oth & Walnut Streets. While Colgan didn't INVENT chewing gum (in fact, some form has arguably been around since Greek civilization, if not longer), he had a strong hand in developing its popularity.

Legend has it he saw children peeling the bark off trees & chewing on it, so he ordered the main ingredient for chewing gum (again, this product already existed in the US), which is from a South American tree, and improved upon the existing product by sweetening it with powdered sugar. This resulted in a sticky substance he called "Colgan's Taffy Tolu Chewing Gum." Fortunately, the ingredients & manufacturing process remained "pure" enough that they were not affected by the 1906 Pure Food & Drug Act.

He sold his drugstore, went into business with James A. McAfee, & advertised all over - including a presentation by his son, William, of Colgan's Taffy Tolu at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Check out these other advertising campaigns:

His version of the gum became SO successful, it was sold internationally in Canada & Australia! Thomas Adams (a huge NY manufacturer & distributer of chewing gum at the time) even took inspiration from Colgan's development when he created Tutti-Frutti, the first gum sold in vending machines!

John Colgan died today (February 1) in 1916. He is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery, in Louisville. But his legacy lives on in the modern treat many of us still love to chew on today, first made sweet by Colgan's addition of powdered sugar!

Monday, January 25, 2010

This just in...

From our friends at the Rural Blog on the Kentucky Press Association's 2009 awards:

"The best small newspaper in Kentucky last year was again theTodd County Standard of Elkton, according to the results of the 2009 Excellence in Kentucky Newspapers Contest of theKentucky Press Association. The winner of the medium-circulation class for weeklies was The Springfield Sun, and the best large weekly was The Oldham Eraof LaGrange. The top multi-weekly was the Sentinel-News of Shelbyville, and the best small daily was Hopkinsville's Kentucky New Era. It and the Standard, published in an adjoining county, are independently owned; the other three are part of Landmark Community Newspapers, based in Shelbyville.

None of these were surprises. The Standard, edited and published by Ryan Craig, right, has a circulation of about 2,500 but has stories, editorials, pages and sections that look like those in a daily with circulation 10 times as large, or more. And it won the categories that we watch most closely: enterprise/analysis story (third place too), investigative story and editorial page, and second and third in ongoing/extended coverage. (Craig is shown speaking at the 2009 Society of Professional Journalists convention.) The Trimble Banner, a Landmark paper in the tiny town of Bedford, won second place in the small-weekly class, and the Adair County Community Voice, a relatively new paper started by Sharon Burton, was third.

Runner-up to the Sun, edited by Jeff Moreland, was another Landmark paper, the Spencer Magnet. Third in the medium-circulation weekly class was the McCreary County Voice, a locally owned paper competing against a more established, chain-owned weekly. In the large-weekly class, the runner-up was the Jessamine Journal of Nicholasville, a Schurz Communications paper, followed by The Lebanon Enterprise, a Landmark stalwart.

Landmark's Kentucky Standard, of Bardstown, was runner-up in the class for non-dailies published more than once a week. It was followed by The Sentinel-Echo of London, which for two years in a row has been judged the best weekly of Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.These papers regularly wrestle for the title of Kentucky's best weekly.

In the small-daily class, the New Era was followed by The Richmond Register, a CNHI paper, and The Messenger of Madisonville, published by Paxton Media LLC of Paducah. The winner among medium-circulation dailies was the Bowling Green Daily News, the state's only other independently owned daily. It was followed by The Gleaner of Henderson, a Scripps-Howard paper, and The Advocate-Messenger of Danville, Schurz's Kentucky flagship. Paxton's hometown paper, The Paducah Sun, placed second in the large-circulation class, which was won by the much larger Lexington Herald-Leader, a metropolitan paper and the state's second largest. The biggest paper,The Courier-Journal, is a KPA member but doesn't enter the contest."

Monday, January 11, 2010

RIP John G. Fee (1816-1901)

Even before the Civil War, there were those who dared dream of a world where African-Americans and whites (and even men and women) might learn together in the same classroom. Reverend John Gregg Fee, the co-founder of Berea College, was one of these men.

Born in Bracken County, KY, in September 1816 to slaveholders, he dedicated his life to fighting against the institution in print & in his preaching. This attracted the attention of well-known KY emancipationist Cassius M. Clay. In the late 1850s, Clay put up the land & money for a coed, integrated mission school in Berea. Due to harrassment, this was not to be, at least prior to the Civil War. Fee did not stand still. He formed a missionary at Camp Nelson, a haven for African-American refugees during the war.

Ultimately, Fee & Clay parted ways, but Fee carried on the dream. Berea College lived on - and still lives on. Though Fee died (today, in 1901) before the 1904 Day Laws & never saw national integration of schools, his progressive school continues to survive, supporting the dreams of students from throughout Appalachia.

Berea's Citizen published an elaborate obituary for him a few days after his death. For a better view, click on the image, or go directly to the original page from January 17, 1901.