Monday, June 30, 2014

Weeding My Alabama Book Collection

Recently we had one of those Basement Events That Shall Remain Nameless, and as a result I am now going through my collection of several thousand books and weeding many out. "Weeding" is a term we librarians liked to use back in the day when print collections were actually a major aspect of libraries and not something that gets in the way of public computers, social media space and backroom server farms. 

Weeding was done regularly, and books were removed as a result. Many public libraries weeded out damaged copies, multiple copies of past bestsellers no longer circulating as much and books not checked out in years. Larger public and academic libraries might actually keep titles even if showing no use just in case some strange future readers might want to check them out. But they too had to weed damaged books not worth repair, excess multiple copies, etc.

I'm now doing something similar with my books. Not all are related to Alabama; I have many medical history books, novels galore by non-state authors and many other miscellaneous titles. Some of that stuff is going too. The books on Marilyn Monroe are safe, however.

Product Details

Any books with this woman on the cover will not be purged. 
This particular photo graces the one by Norman Mailer. 

Over the years I have collected many books with some kind of connection to the state and even some of those are headed out the door. I had picked up inexpensive copies of several novels by Gadsden's popular author Linda Howard, for instance, but never read one. Bye bye Linda, sorry, but I'll probably never read them.

One thing should be noted. Many people who have seen my collection over the years will ask, "Have you read all these books?" How silly. I have read many, of course and will read many more, but that's not the point of collecting books. I'm surrounded by books I want to read if I live long enough, or if I go to prison, and someone can smuggle them in to me.  

But now, downsizing will be done. Just boxing them all up and moving them a few dozen feet to the PODS on the driveway was enough to convince me to lighten the load. That, and loving suggestions by wife Dianne as to what I could do with all these books. I tell her that I've read about collectors who have bought the house next door to contain their growing collections, but she seemed unimpressed. Besides, the houses on either side of us are not for sale.

So now we come to other titles related to Alabama that may be harder to weed. Here are some samples of what I'm considering.

This paperback is signed by the Alabama senator, Rear Admiral and Vietnam POW Jeremiah Denton who died earlier this year. 

This books collects quotes from the many-time Alabama governor and was published in 1968 ahead of one of his presidential runs. 

This 1967 memoir no doubt covers the 1965 Alabama national championship team on which he and Kenny Stabler shared quarterbacking duties. Since I'm an Auburn fan, this one can be weeded with no guilt.

This 1962 book profiles the colorful Alabama governor who served two non-consecutive terms beginnning in 1947 and 1955.

So these are a few of the items I've selected for possible weeding from my collection. Many others will be considered. Feel free to offer your take on any of these titles in the comment section.

I must state again, for the record, that books with this woman on the cover will NOT be purged.

Product Details

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Birmingham Photo of the Day (16): Union Station [Terminal Station] in 1908

Source: Views of Birmingham [1908]

OK, ok, I guess it's technically a drawing, but it's a photograph of a drawing, so here goes. The railroad station opened in 1909 and was known as the Birmingham Terminal Station after the company that operated it. Located on two blocks of what is now Carraway Boulevard, the station was demolished in 1969. 

Birmingham's first real train station opened in 1887 and was known as Union Station until the Terminal Station was built. Then Union Station became the L&N Station since that company did not join the other railroads building Terminal Station. 

More recent history of the city's railroads can be found in Marvin Clemons and Lyle Key's 2007 book Birmingham Rails: The Last Golden Era from World War II to Amtrak. More information on the Terminal Station can be found in Birmingham Public Library's Digital Collections

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mines, Mills & Moonshine: Silent Filmmaking in the Birmingham Area, Part 1

Part two of this series is here, part three here, part four here and part five here.

            The spring 2012 filming at Rickwood Field of 42, a feature film about baseball giant Jackie Robinson, brings to mind other movies shot in the Birmingham area over the years.  The original home of the Barons was also used extensively in Cobb [1994], a portrait of another baseball great, Ty Cobb. In the mid-1970s filming of Stay Hungry [1976] brought Jeff Bridges, Sally Fields, and a body builder named Arnold Schwarzenegger to the city as Bob Rafelson directed the film version of Alabama author Charles Gaines’ novel. In recent years numerous features have been filmed in the area. Birmingham’s place in feature films goes much further back however; three of the earliest Hollywood movies made in the state were filmed here in the days when films were silent.

            Silent filmmaking arrived in the South very early in the twentieth century. Beginning in 1908, the Kalem Company operated in Jacksonville, Florida, each winter. At least eight films were made between 1916 and 1926 at Norman Studios, also in Jacksonville; all featured totally black casts. For about a decade until 1919, when most filming had moved from the northeast to California, Florida was known as the “Winter Film Capitol of the World.” In addition, the very first Tarzan film, Tarzan of the Apes staring Elmo Lincoln, was shot in Louisiana in 1918.

            If Marilyn Davis Barefield is correct, the Kalem Company filmed one of its titles in the region. In her book History of Mountain Brook, Alabama and Incidentally of Shades Valley [1989; p. 88] she writes, “Old Kalem Company filmed “Moonshiner’s Daughter” in a cave near Bluff Park Hotel and Hales Springs. Dr. J.E. Dedman played the moonshiner and Irene Boyle his daughter. Stuart Holmes and Charlie Armstrong played a moonshiner and a revenuer.” Since the Kalem Company was founded in New York City in 1907 and was purchased by Vitagraph Studios in 1917, Moonshiner’s Daughter was presumably made during that decade.
Stuart Holmes
The Movie Card Website

George Kleine founded the Kalem Company in 1907 with Samuel Long & Frank Marion.
The company was named for their initials K, L and M.
Source: Wikipedia

Irene Boyle

Dr. James Edwin Dedman 
Source: Notable Men of Alabama by Joel Campbell DuBose

            During its existence Kalem released almost 1500 films; and because it owned no studio, early filming was done on location in New York City or New Jersey. Kalem was among the first companies to film year round and thus set up its Florida operations. In 1910 Kalem became the first U.S. company to film outside the country when A Lad from Old Ireland was made in Ireland. After making several more films there, Kalem moved a crew and actors to Palestine in 1912 for From the Manger to the Cross, the first five-reel film.

            Did Kalem really come to the Birmingham area to make a silent movie? Irene Boyle and Stuart Holmes were indeed film actors. According to the Internet Movie Database, Boyle appeared in over three dozen movies between 1913 and 1923, although Moonshiner’s Daughter is not included. Holmes appeared in over 400 films between 1909 and 1964; the Birmingham film is not included in his list either. This absence may just be a reflection of the IMDB’s weak documentation of silent films, however; copies of most silent films have not survived and secondary information is often the only evidence. Holmes and Boyle are known to have made at least two films together, both in 1913 and both Kalem films: The Face at the Window and Open Switch.

            The “Dr. J.E. Dedman” mentioned by Barefield was Birmingham physician James Edwin Dedman.  He was born in Selma in 1870 and graduated from the University of Alabama. After medical school in Nashville and further training and practice in New York City and Indianapolis, he settled in Birmingham in 1898. By 1904 he was married to Madge Whitney and they had one daughter. What drew him to film acting is unknown. His profile in Dubose’s Notable Men of Alabama [volume 2, 1904, pp 166-168] indicates no thespian interests. Dedman died in March 1953.  “Charlie Armstrong” has not been identified and may have been either a professional actor or a local like Dedman. 

            The Bluff Park Hotel and Hale Springs are discussed in James F. Sulzby, Jr.’s wonderful Historic Alabama Hotels and Resorts [1960, pp 74-77]. The Springs were named after Gardner Hale, who owned the property from 1858 until his death in 1885. The hotel was constructed in 1907 and operated until 1923; it burned in 1925.

            According to J. W. Williamson’s Southern Mountaineers in Silent Films [1994, pp 5-6, 23-25], Kalem did indeed release a film called The Moonshiner’s Daughter in April, 1908. His book reprints the studio’s detailed plot synopsis printed in The Moving Picture World’s April 4 issue. Unfortunately, nothing is mentioned about either the cast or filming location.

            Kalem also released Peggy, the Moonshiner’s Daughter in 1911. That film starred Alice Joyce and Carlyle Blackwell, however. Three other films entitled The Moonshiner’s Daughter were released by other studios between 1910 and 1914. The topic was apparently a popular one at the time. In 1898 a play by Bernard Frances Moore called “The Moonshiner’s Daughter: A Play of Mountain Life in Three Acts” was published in Boston and may have achieved some success in vaudeville and other venues. How or whether the play is related to any of these films is unknown. A search of several years’ worth of Birmingham newspapers and other sources will probably be needed to determine more details about Kalem in Alabama.

[To be continued]
This piece appeared on the Birmingham History Center's blog in November 2012.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The First Certified, Practicing Female Physician in Alabama

The First Female Physician in Alabama

With women currently comprising half of all medical students nationwide, it is strange to think of a time in Alabama with no female doctors. Yet, in the late 1800s the idea of women physicians was controversial in Alabama. In 1872 and 1880, several speakers expressed opposition to women physicians in speeches at the state medical association's annual meeting.

However, by 1890 things were changing. The number of female physicians had grown nationwide, and the stage was set for women to enter the profession in Alabama. At that time, Booker T. Washington needed a resident physician at Tuskegee Institute. Halle Tanner Dillon had just graduated with honors from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania as the only African-American in her class. Washington wrote

Twenty-four year old Dillon had been born Halle Tanner, the daughter of Benjamin Tanner, a prominent African Methodist Episcopal Church minister. Her brother Henry O. Tanner would become a well-known artist. She had married Charles Dillon of Trenton, New Jersey in 1886, and had given birth to a daughter the following year. Her husband Charles died soon after the daughter's birth.

Booker T. Washington accepted Dillion for the resident physician position. She was to begin on September 1, 1891, but she had to pass the Alabama certification exam first. Washington knew the exam would be difficult for Dillon. She would have to spend several days answering hundreds of questions from the white male members of the board of examiners. So Washington arranged for her to study with his old friend Montgomery physician Cornelius Nathaniel Dorsette, one of the earliest certified black physicians in Alabama.

Born in North Carolina in the early 1850s, Dorsette had been a classmate of Washington's at Hampton Institute and graduated from the University of Buffalo Medical School in 1882. After Dorsett's graduation, Washington had persuaded him to come south and set up practice as the first licensed African-American physician in Montgomery and one of the first in the state.

After her period of study with Dorsette, Dillon sat for the medical licensure examination. The test began in Montgomery on August 17, 1891, and concluded on August 25. During those days she was examined on ten subjects by ten different examiners. Among those examiners were some of the most prominent physicians in Alabama.

Dr. Peter Bryce, superintendent of Alabama Hospital for the Insane since 1860, tested her on medical jurisprudence. Dr. Jerome Cochran, state health officer and the primary force behind the Medical Licensure Act of 1877, examined Dr. Dillon in chemistry. Her examiner in natural history and diagnosis of diseases was Dr. George A. Ketchum, Dean of the Medical College of Alabama from 1885 until his death in 1906; he was also involved in creating the Medical Association of the State of Alabama in 1847. Dr. James T. Searcy, her examiner in hygiene, became superintendent of the state's hospital for the insane the following year after Dr. Bryce's death. Dillon was examined in obstetrical operations by Dr. J.B. Gaston, who had served as president of the state medical association in 1882.

Dillon passed the examinations and went on to serve at Tuskegee from September 1, 1891 until sometime in 1894. During her tenure she was responsible for the medical care of 450 students, as well as for 30 officers and teachers along with their families. Johnson was expected to make her own medicines, while teaching one or two classes each term. She was paid six hundred dollars per year plus room and board and was allowed one one-month vacation per year.

In 1894 Dillon married Reverend John Quincy Johnson, a mathematics teacher at Tuskegee. The following year Reverend Johnson was named President of Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina. In 1900 he became pastor of an AME church in Nashville. The Johnsons had three sons. Dr. Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson died on April 26, 1901, of dysentery and childbirth complications; she was 37. Apparently she had ceased the practice of medicine after her second marriage.

The state medical society's transactions had noted that Dillon was the first African-American woman examined in Alabama. Does that phrasing imply that the board had previously examined a white woman? At some point between April 1891 and April 1892, Dr. Anna M. Longshore took the certification examination, but did not pass. One source claims that Dr. Longshore remained in Alabama to practice without a license, but that has not been confirmed. What is known is that Dr. Longshore came to Alabama to take that examination after a long career in medicine elsewhere.

Anna M. Longshore Potts, M.D.
[from her book Love, Courtship and Marriage published in 1891]

Longshore was a member of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania's first graduating class in 1851. After marrying Lambert Potts and establishing a lucrative practice in Pennsylvania, and then in Adrian, Michigan, she began to give talks on health topics to private groups of her patients. By 1876 Dr. Longshore-Potts had moved her talks to public venues. These efforts were so successful that she took her lectures on women's health topics on the road, appearing to great acclaim in San Francisco in 1881, followed by other west coast cities.

Thus when she came to Alabama in 1891 or 1892 to take the physician certification exam, Dr. Longshore-Potts had already established a successful career as a doctor, followed by another career as medical lecturer that had made her both famous and wealthy. We can only speculate as to why this successful woman, in her early 60s, took this arduous test under her maiden name. Perhaps Dr. Longshore-Potts saw herself as some sort of pioneer in this situation; yet what is known about her activities elsewhere does not give us a portrait of a radical reformer.

A few other women physicians appeared in Alabama before 1900, including Annie Louise Farrington, Justina Lorena Ford, and Ella Elizabeth Barnes. Several more were practicing by World War I. See the links below for more information.

Dr. Dillon was not the first female physician in Alabama, but the first to be certified by the state examination process under a law passed in 1877. In the 1850s Louisa Shepard graduated from her father's medical school in Dadeville, the Graefenberg Medical Institute. The school closed in 1861 after graduating some 50 students, including two of Louisa's brothers. She never practiced medicine; she married William Presley and they moved to Texas. Louisa died in 1901.

Early Black Physicians in Alabama

Early Female Physicians in Alabama

An earlier version of this post appeared in the Birmingham Medical News in 2012.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Early Anesthesia in Alabama

Anesthesia is one of America's great contributions to medical care. Ironically, some of the earliest users of ether were often medical students, doctors or dentists who inhaled it recreationally. Crawford Long, a doctor in Georgia, after such use in his community realized the practical potential for ether, and he used it on several surgical patients in 1842. In October 1846 dentist William Morton demonstrated ether inhalation at Boston's Massachusetts Hospital, and the news spread quickly. By 1847 ether anesthesia had reached Alabama.

Dr. Albert A. Cary, a dentist in Huntsville made the first known use of anesthesia in Alabama. In a May 12, 1847, advertisement in the Huntsville Weekly Democrat, Dr. Cary proclaimed that he could extract teeth "without pain!" That ad listed a local attorney, C.C. Clay, Jr., as a satisfied patient. Clay also served as a judge, state representative, U.S. Senator, and diplomatic agent for the Confederacy. He died in 1882 and is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville. 

Thomas Hubbard Hobbs, a student at LaGrange College in 1845, wrote in his journal (which is now at the University of Alabama's Gorgas Library) that they discussed the effects of nitrous oxide inhalation in Professor Tutwiler's chemistry class. "It is commonly known as Exhilarating Gas, from its effects when inhaled. After evening prayers, we went down to see it tried upon some of the students." Although its effects were known since the late 18th century, nitrous oxide was not used for surgical pain until about the same time as ether. 

After a long search for an anesthetic without ether's smell and side effects and effects lasting longer than those of nitrous oxide, Dr. James Young Simpson and colleagues in Edinburgh, Scotland, discovered chloroform in November, 1847. The following May, Dr. Andrews of Montevallo reported that he had used chloroform to amputate "a negro boy's leg, immediately below the knee, while under the influence of this powerful agent. He declared he did not feel or know anything of the operation."

In an 1850 publication, Dr. Hardy V. Wooten of Lowndesboro noted that "I have made more or less use of chloroform in those cases [obstetric], pretty constantly, for the last two years." In 1848, S.B. North, a "Surgeon Dentist," placed an ad in the Mobile newspaper, noting that "Chloroform...This chemical preparation has satisfactory [sic] proven itself in several surgical operations in Mobile." North went on to claim that the urging of "many friends" had induced him to offer his services in painless teeth extraction. By the end of 1853, the use of ether and chloroform in the state had been reported in cases ranging from tooth extraction to tumor removals, amputation, and Cesarean section.

A decade later, during the Civil War, the North's naval blockade made drug supplies a constant worry within the Confederate States. Three drugs were in high demand: morphine, quinine, and chloroform. Some evidence of chloroform use in Alabama during the war has survived. Most examples are related to the numerous temporary hospitals and supply depots that operated in the state during the conflict. For instance, a surgeon, Dr. E.H.C. Bailey, reported in October 1864 that his supply of chloroform at the depot in Demopolis was adequate. Chemist Charles T. Mohr is also known to have produced ether in his laboratories in Mobile and Montgomery.

A fascinating case was published in the September 1864 issue of the Confederate States Medical and Surgical Journal. A surgeon in Demopolis, Dr. Hargrove Hinkley, described an arm amputation he performed on August 26, 1863, on J. Cope, a sergeant in the 18th Mississippi Volunteers. Cope was anesthetized with chloroform. Wounded at Gettysburg the previous year, Cope had walked 200 miles to the hospital at Richmond. The arm wound healed, and Cope was sent home to Mississippi on furlough. On that trip he developed a terrible fever since gangrene had developed and ended up in Demopolis in the care of Hinkley. The surgeon noted after the amputation that "Patient recovered from the influence of chloroform without any bad result and with much moral courage, and expressed hope and confidence in the attendants." Hinckley finished his case report by declaring Cope had "entirely recovered by the first week in November."

After the war, twenty years passed before significant changes in anesthesia appeared in Alabama. In September 1884 Carl Koller's use of topical cocaine for eye surgery was reported in Germany. The use of cocaine for local anesthesia reached America before the end of the year, and by April 1885, Dr. William Sanders of Mobile reported at the state medical meeting 19 cases of eye surgery using cocaine. 

The first deliberate spinal anesthetic was performed by August Bier in Germany in August, 1898. At the 1901 state medical meeting, Drs. Samuel Billing of Montgomery and Samuel Gay of Selma reported using spinal anesthesia for toe amputation and labor and gynecological surgeries. Both men were skeptical of the technique because of complications and side effects.

Dr. Barney Rogan, also of Selma, reported yet another anesthesia advance at that same 1901 meeting. "I have recently adopted the ether chart, devised by Dr. Cushing of Johns Hopkins Hospital," he wrote. "I believe that nothing so trains a person to become skilled in the administration of anaesthetics as the routine employment of the charts." How Rogan, a physician in a small Alabama town learned of this as yet unpublished development by Drs. Harvey Cushing and E.A. Codman in Baltimore remains something of a mystery.

In the early 1900s most general anesthetics in the United States were administered by nurses or medical students. Physicians who devoted some of their practice to anesthesia were rare and had to supplement that income with other duties. Yet for several years in Birmingham Dr. James Robertson Dawson [1876-1973] spent many hours administering nitrous oxide/oxygen anesthesia for surgeries performed by Dr. Edward Mortimer Prince. One of the co-founders of South Highlands Hospital in 1910, Prince published numerous articles before World War I about his cases, and in at least one of them acknowledges Dawson's role "at the head of the table." 

James Robertson Dawson, M.D. [Courtesy of Dr. Dawson's family]

Robertson published at least one article as illustrated above. Near the end of that 1906  article he wrote, "My earnest plea is for a greater appreciation and recognition of the anesthetist, and as a result this branch of surgery will soon mount to the height it so justly deserves..." Dr. Robertson was probably the earliest physician-anesthetist in Alabama, but even his practice in that area was not full-time; he was also a general practitioner. He is buried in Birmingham's Elmwood Cemetery.  

Other Alabama physicians known to have administered anesthesia before the Great War include Robert G. McGahey in Birmingham, James Chisolm in Selma, and Edward Sledge in Mobile.

An early nurse anesthetist in Alabama was Selma native Mary Morgan Keipp. She did her medical training in the Northeast, where she developed a second career as a photographer. Keipp returned to Selma in 1904 and worked as an anesthetist at King Memorial and Baptist hospitals as she continued her photography.

Amy Baldwin was another early nurse anesthetist in the state. In 1924 the medical director of TCI Hospital in Fairfield sent this registered nurse to a four-month training course in anesthesia. Verna Rice, a nurse anesthetist at Providence Hospital in Mobile from 1925 until 1957, was involved in the early organization of both the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists and its state component in Alabama.

Surgery and anesthesia were performed under rather primitive conditions in Alabama even into the 1930s. In his 1996 memoir Life of a Country Doctor James Edwards Cameron noted a surgery he performed near Alexander City in the 1930s. "Out in the yard, under the shade of an oak tree, in daylight, I took out the child's appendix while Dr. Nolen gave the anesthetic and shooed the flies away." 

The first male full-time anesthesiologist in Alabama was Dr. Alfred Habeeb, who practiced for many years in Birmingham beginning in the late 1930s. In the early 1950s he and several colleagues founded what became Anesthesia Services of Birmingham, the first private anesthesia practice in Alabama and one of the largest in the South. 

He and several others founded the Alabama State Society of Anesthesiologists in 1948. He was also the first physician in the state to be certified by the American Board of Anesthesiologists and one of the earliest state members of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Dr. Habeeb died in 2009 at the age of 98.

Alfred Habeeb, M.D. 

The first female full-time anesthesiologist in Alabama was Illinois native Dr. Alice McNeal, who arrived in Birmingham in 1946 after a long career in Chicago and served as Chair of the University of Alabama School of Medicine's Anesthesiology Department from 1948 until 1961. 

                                Alice McNeal, M.D.

She was also one of the founding members of the Alabama State Society of Anesthesiologists in 1948. Dr. McNeal, who died in 1964, was inducted into the Alabama HealthCare Hall of Fame in 2010.

For more information about medicine and anesthesia in Alabama, see

Holley HL. History of Medicine in Alabama. University of Alabama Press, 1982

Wright AJ. Early Use of General Anesthesia in Alabama, 1847-1853. Ala J Med Sci 1986 July; 23(3):333-335

Wright AJ. Regional and Local Anesthesia in Alabama Before World War I. Ala J Med Sci 1988 April; 25(2):204-209

An earlier version of this post appeared in the Birmingham Medical News in December 2011.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Birmingham Photo of the Day (15): Tornado of March 1901

On Monday morning, March 25, 1901, a tornado passed through Birmingham and Irondale and other areas. Sixteen people were killed in those two towns. 

A 26-page pamphlet was soon published documenting the event; the items below are from a third edition available in the Birmingham Public Library's Digital Collections. The work contains more photos and eyewitness accounts. An entry on the storm is also available on the BhamWiki site

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Some Unexpected Libraries in Birmingham

            I recently read an article on by Kimberly Turner about “The 10 Weirdest and Most Wonderful Libraries in the World.” There is the Biblioburro, a donkey used to bring books to villages in rural Columbia. An outdoor library in a Tel Aviv park has books in 15 languages to serve Israeli migrant workers and refugees. There are vending machine libraries, a floating library, a library-by-camel in Kenya, and numerous Little Free Libraries in small wooden boxes on poles around the U.S. or in recycled phone booths in Britain.

               Birmingham, Alabama, doesn’t seem to have anything quite so striking yet. But there are several libraries around the area that you might not expect. One of my favorites is UAB’s Reynolds Historical Library. Located in the Lister Hill Library building, the Reynolds is devoted to the history of medicine and currently houses more than 13,000 rare books and manuscripts. In 1958 Lawrence Reynolds, a physician and Alabama native who had amassed about 5000 items, donated them to the UA School of Medicine, and the collection has continued to grow. 

               The library has strong collections in a number of subjects, including surgery and Civil War medicine, and also has a number of medical classics, such as first editions of William Harvey's De motu cordis (1628) on the circulation of blood and Andreas Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica (1543) on human anatomy. Although currently closed for renovations, the Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences is also located in the Lister Hill Library building.

            Another specialized library at UAB is the Patient Resource Library located on the second floor of the Kirklin Clinic. Staff at the PRL assist patients and families with finding information from in-house materials including reference books, pamphlets and videos, as well as appropriate material from the Internet.

            The Clarence B. Hanson, Jr., Library, on the first floor of the Birmingham Museum of Art, is named after the publisher of the Birmingham News who died in 1983. He was also a museum board member for more than 20 years. The collection includes over 35,000 items mostly related to the museum’s collections and travelling exhibitions. Materials are used by both staff and visitors.

Birmingham Museum of Art

            Another well-known local institution with an extensive library is the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This library holds over 8000 books, DVDs, gardening magazines, a children’s section and rare and archival material. The “Thyme to Read” book club meets monthly at what is the only public horticultural library in the United States.

            Perhaps one of the most unexpected of these “unusual” libraries in our area is the Research Library at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. This collection of 6000 books, 700 videos, magazines and numerous parts catalogs and service manuals has become one of the largest devoted to motorcycles in the world. The facility is intended for use by in-house restoration personnel and not open to the public, but inquiries from outside researchers are welcome.

            The Birmingham Family History Center is one of many branches of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Genealogical research is a focus of all the centers, and they are open to anyone and free to use. The Birmingham Center has print, microfilm and online resources and offers free workshops and classes throughout the year.

            Many libraries in the area have what might be considered “libraries within libraries” that are devoted to a particular subject or resource type. Libraries at Samford University and Wallace State have renowned genealogical collections. Extensive printed and archival material related to local history is available at the Birmingham Public Library downtown. 

We may not have a floating library or a library on a donkey just yet, but we do have some fascinating and useful collections!

This item appeared on the site in May 2014.

Monday, June 9, 2014

My Grandmother & the Manlys' 1850 Baptist Psalmody

           Several years before her death in 1997, my paternal grandmother Rosa Mae Wright of Gadsden, Alabama, gave me a small bound book measuring 4.75 inches high, 3 inches across, and 1.5 inches thick. This little gem is The Baptist Psalmody: A Selection of Hymns for the Worship of God. The book has 772 pages and contains the words of 1295 hymns in a very small font. An index of first lines is also included at the beginning of the book. The book is in fairly good condition, although the front cover has begun trying to free itself from the rest of the binding.

Title page of an 1870 printing of the book from the Hathi Trust 

            My copy has an inscription written in pencil on the inside of the first blank page. “Mrs. Anna Wright’s Book Presented by Owen Swindall Jan. the 16th, 1883,” it says. The woman is Anna Swindall Wright (1856-1949), who along with her husband Thomas C. Wright are my paternal great-grandparents who had married just the previous November. Owen is no doubt a relative of Anna’s, but I have yet to identify him despite what our family knows about Swindall genealogy.

            This Baptist Psalmody was published in 1850 and compiled by Basil Manly and his son Basil Jr. The father was 52 years old and the son just 25 at the time. The book was the Southern Baptist Convention’s first collection of hymnals. In his 2004 dissertation on Manly Jr.’s hymnological contributions, Nathan Platt notes that it “remains the most comprehensive collection of hymns ever produced by Southern Baptists.” The Southern Baptists had formed only five years earlier; Manly Sr. was heavily involved in that effort.

Basil Manly (1798-1868) was a Baptist preacher and educator. He was the second president of
Basil Manly, Sr. (1798-1868)
[Source: Encyclopedia of Alabama]

            The father served as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, from 1826 until 1837. During that period he helped start Furman University. In 1837 he became the second president of the University of Alabama, and the family moved to Tuscaloosa. Manly Jr. graduated valedictorian from that institution in 1843 when he was 18. He began theological studies in Boston at the same time the American Baptist Publication Society issued a brand new hymnal, The Psalmist. That publication met with little success in the South because of its changes, abbreviations and omissions of many familiar hymns.

            Despite the existence of earlier regional hymnals, The Alabama Baptist newspaper called for a new one in 1844; and a few years later the Manlys were approached about compiling such a hymnal. They agreed, and in October 1849 advertised in The Alabama Baptist their intention to publish a collection for Southern Baptists that would restore the old hymns.

            Manly Jr. had finished his studies in the North and returned to Tuscaloosa in 1847 to become a circuit riding preacher at several churches in west Alabama. He did most of the actual work on the new hymnal and made final revisions in the summer of 1850.  The eclectic selections include 318 hymns by Isaac Watts, 58 by John or Charles Wesley and others by Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Independents, Lutherans, and Presbyterians. Their compilation included 472 hymns not included in The Psalmist. The work also contains hymns written by Manly Jr.

Basil Manly, Jr. (1825-1892)
Image is from Our Home Field newspaper February 1892
My source is the Furman University Library 

 The Baptist Psalmody was generally well-received in the South, and in 1877 Manly Jr. estimated that more than 50,000 copies had been sold. The work seems to have been issued by both the Southern Baptist Publication Society in Charleston, South Carolina; and Sheldon and Company in New York City. The copy I have indicates the latter publisher. Manly Sr. died in 1868. His son continued to contribute to Baptist hymnology with several other publications until his death in 1892.

The legacy of Manly Sr. is problematic. He was an important figure in both religion and education in the South. In addition to the achievements already mentioned, he pastored several churches in South Carolina and Alabama, helped found Judson Female Institute in Alabama [which still exists as Judson College, one of the oldest women’s colleges in the U.S.] and the Alabama Historical Society. Manly also owned many slaves on his Alabama plantation and passionately supported the Confederacy; he delivered the opening prayer at the inauguration of Jefferson Davis. Manly Hall was built on the UA campus in 1885 in his honor; today it houses the Department of Religious Studies and the Department of Gender and Race Studies.

            I don’t really remember seeing this book in my grandparents’ house during the many times I visited from the 1950s until the mid-1990s. My grandmother may have kept it in a drawer of precious things from her husband’s side of the family. I’m not sure now why she gave it to me, and I have no memory of that event. She did know of my love for old books. Maybe she thought it would put me on the path to right thinking after being raised as a Methodist.

            My grandmother and grandfather Amos J. Wright, Sr., were people born at a time—1900 and 1894 respectively—when the world of The Baptist Psalmody was about to undergo great cultural change. The hymns sing of “Great God, how infinite thou art” and “How shall I praise the eternal God”—issues raised for millennia. My southern grandparents would see the coming of the automobile, the telephone, motion pictures silent and sound, computers, many wars and many wrenching social changes. By giving me that book my grandmother really handed me a little piece of the good and bad from a much older world.

Further Reading

Basil Manly, Sr., at Wikipedia 

Basil Manly, Sr., at Encyclopedia of Alabama 

Basil Manly, Jr., at Wikipedia

Platt, Nathan Harold. The Hymnological Contributions of Basil Manly, Jr. to the Congregational Song of Southern Baptists. Ph. D. dissertation. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2004

Smallwood, William Edward. "The Most Versatile Man": The Life, Ministry, and Piety of Basil Manly, Jr. Ph.D. dissertation. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2015

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Birmingham Photo of the Day (14): Lyric Theatre in 1953

Here's a photo of the Lyric Theatre from the Birmingham Public Library's Digital Collections. People are coming to see Woman They Almost Lynched, a B-western released in March 1953. The four stars listed on the marquee were B-movie stalwarts of the day. In smaller roles the film also featured Ellen Corby, who would go on to greater fame in the TV show The Waltons; and veteran character actor Jim Davis who also did a prominent stint on TV as Jock Ewing on the original Dallas.

I hope when the restored Lyric reopens they show some classics like this one!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Keystone Then and Now

If you asked people in northern Shelby County “What do you know about Keystone?” most who could answer at all would probably mention Keystone Plaza, the shopping strip along U.S. 31/Pelham Parkway at the Pelham-Alabaster line. Yet Keystone was once a thriving little community between those two towns.

 In the late 1890s Fred Hardy constructed kilns for a lime plant and named it Keystone Lime Plant. The operation grew and soon enough men were employed that a small community developed around the plant. The place, known originally as Hardyville, included grocery and dry goods stores, a barber shop and the plant’s offices. A post office opened in 1898 and Hardy served as first postmaster.

Hardy soon sold the plant, and by 1904 the post office served a community called Keystone. The plant burned in 1923, but reopened on a limited basis. Mortar was made there during World War II and the entire plant 1965. The community remained but the post office closed in 1972.

The Alabama Almanac and Book of Facts 1955-56 gave a few more details about Keystone. A telegraph office operated in the community at that time. E.L. Purdy was Superintendent of the Keystone Lime Works, Inc., plant; and G.W. Bentley was Foreman. Lime works also operated in the nearby communities of Landmark, Saginaw, Roberta and Pelham.

A 1937 state highway map show communities named Keystone and Hardy between Pelham and Alabaster. I wonder what the story is for Wilmay, south of Alabaster and probably another Shelby County community absorbed by growth. Neither Foscue's Place Names in Alabama or Harris' Dead Towns of Alabama tell us about Wilmay. 

The Alabama Official and Statistical Register for 1943 includes a list of U.S. Post Offices in the state as of July 1940. Keystone is one of the offices listed in Shelby County. 

Do you know anything? If so, leave a comment below.

15 August 2014: Since this item was originally posted, I've come across another remnant of Keystone. On August 6 the Alabaster Reporter published an article entitled "Keystone Mobile Home Park now fully in Alabaster." Thus the community of Keystone currently survives in the name of a trailer park and a strip mall at least!                                                                         
3 September 2014: And here's yet another remanant of Keystone on the right as you head south on U.S. 31/Pelham Parkway near the Pelham-Alabaster line:

20 July 2016: I've recently been contacted by a member of the Hammond family, who has graciously provided the photographs below from various family members. Thanks to all of you!

18 February 2018: The Shelby County Historical Society Quarterly Newsletter in its November 2017 issue [Volum19, Number 4, pp. 1-2] reprinted an article from the September 7, 1908, issue of the Columbiana Sentinel, "Keystone Lime Company's Plant One of the Greatest of its Kind in all the Southern States Keystone, Alabama". The article includes a photograph of what appears to be the company's office building. The article notes the company employs 155 people and has "a private telephone line to Siluria, Saginaw and Maylene."

This Google Earth view is from 2016.