Monday, June 29, 2015

Alabama on Some U.S. Postage Stamps (5): Some More People & Topics

This post completes the series on U.S. postage stamps related to Alabama.

Previous posts can be found herehere, here and here 

More about U.S. stamps and postal history can be found here.

US Stamp Gallery >> Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson has been featured on numerous stamps; this one dates from 1870. You can read about his role in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend here.

US Stamp Gallery >> Norris hydroelectric dam

Issued May 18, 1983. TVA has certainly been important in Alabama history.

Washroom and Dining Area of Floyd Burrouths' Home, Hale County Alabama, Walker Evans

Issued June 13, 2002. This stamp features a photograph taken by Walker Evans in the Floyd Burroughs' home in Hale County in the 1930's. Evans and writer James Agee documented the life of sharecroppers there in the 1941 book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Project Mercury Scotts #1193

Issued February 1962. Facilities in Huntsville were an important part of the Mercury Space Project.

The stamps celebrating streetcar transportation included one featuring Montgomery as the location of the first electric streetcar in the U.S.

Sequoyah lived much of his life in northeastern Alabama where he developed a written version of the spoken Cherokee language. This stamp was issued on December 27, 1980.


An Alabama native, Black served in the U.S. Senate and for 34 years on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Alabama Joe"

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [1859-1930] is best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes. However, Doyle wrote a vast amount of material unrelated to the great detective. His Professor Challenger tales enter the realms of fantasy and science fiction. The Lost Worldfirst published in 1912, features the discovery of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals living in South America. He wrote numerous other novels and short stories. Doyle was a physician by training and that background appears in a collection of stories, Round the Red Lamp.  

Conan doyle.jpg
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Source: Wikipedia
Scottsman Doyle used America, specifically Utah, prominently in the very first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, published in 1887. He would finally visit the United States in 1914.

ArthurConanDoyle AStudyInScarlet annual.jpg

Source: Wikipedia

Much earlier in his career Doyle wrote a short story featuring a character named after Alabama. In 1880 his second published story, "The American's Story", appeared anonymously in the journal London Society. Narrated by Jefferson Adams, the story describes the death of Joe Hawkins in Montana. "Alabama Joe as he was called thereabouts. A regular out and outer he was, 'bout the darndest Skunk as ever man clapt eyes on", Adams tells us. You can read the entire story here.

Like so many in Great Britain at that time, Doyle was probably fascinated with that brash young country across the ocean that had such close ties to his own yet appeared so different. "Alabama" may have seemed just the right nickname for his "Skunk" of a character. Note that the narrator is named after two early U.S. presidents.

Doyle wrote the story in one of the medical notebooks he used during his training in 1879 and 1880. That notebook is held by the Library and Archive of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Alabama on Some U.S. Postage Stamps (4): More People & Topics

This post continues the series on U.S. postage stamps related to Alabama. 

The previous three posts can be found here, here and here.  

More about U.S. stamps and postal history can be found here

... Vintage Postage Stamps - Helen Keller / Anne Sullivan - No. 1824

Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan were featured on this stamp, issued June 27, 1980. 

Recent Photos The Commons 20under20 Galleries World Map App Garden ...

Helen Keller has also been featured on stamps around the world. Below are ones from Liberia, Spain, Nicaragua, Japan and India.  

Spanish postage stamp with image of Helen Keller


Stamp Honoring Helen Keller

This stamp was issued to honor the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird's publication.

Raphael Semmes

Issued June 29, 1995. Semmes was both a Confederate rear admiral and brigadier general best known as captain of the CSS Alabama raider. 

Bear Bryant

Issued July 25, 1977, in honor of the storied coach's career

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Birmingham Photos of the Day (34): Some More Hospitals

In the previous post in this series I covered the Holy Family Hospital in Ensley. Here are photos of three other Birmingham that have experienced tremendous growth in the city over the years. I'll continue this series in future posts. 

You can find historical information on many hospitals in Howard L. Holley's A History of Medicine in Alabama [1982]. The Bhamwiki site also has entries on many local hospitals.

Hillman Hospital in 1908. See also my post from last year, "Hillman Hospital & How It Became UAB Hospital."

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

St. Vincent's Hospital in the Lakeview District in 1908.

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Baptist Medical Center on Montclair Road in the 1970's. The facility is now Trinity Medical Center

Source: Alabama Dept. of Archives & History Digital Collections 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Independence Days Past in Alabama

In the United States July 4, Independence Day, is a time of great patriotic celebration featuring speeches, prayers, fireworks, music, food, outdoor events--and commerce. Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776, the day has been one of vast importance in America. Below, with some comments, are a few events associated with past Independence Days here in Alabama.

Embedded image permalink

First up is this group of patriotic ladies around 1920. The photo comes courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History. I think the text behind the flags reads "Montgomery City Schools" and a bus number?

July 4 has always been a day of orations by politicians and others. Below is a portion of a published sermon given by Rabbi Oscar J. Cohen at the Jewish synagogue in Mobile in 1897. His sermon was probably given in the synagogue on Jackson Street, which had been dedicated in March 1853 and served the local Jewish community until the early 20th century. 

Los Angeles Herald July 11, 1897, Page 24

This item notes events in Montgomery and Selma in 1876, the Day's centennial. The tradition of thirteen gunshots in salute began in 1777. This July 4 was probably one of special celebration in Alabama as "Radical Reconstruction" had ended in the state the previous year.

National Republican [Washington, D.C.] July 06, 1876

Various events we might not associate with July 4 today took place in Alabama in the nineteenth century as these three items below demonstrate. 

The Crisis (Chillicothe, Livingston Co., Mo.) July 11, 1878

The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer (Wheeling, W. Va.)  July 01, 1870,

Salt Lake Tribune, July 5, 1907, p8

The Appeal was a noted African-American newspaper published in Minnesota beginning in 1885. This advertisement for Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute [now Tuskegee University] appeared in numerous issues. The school was founded on July 4, 1881. 

St Paul Minnesota Appeal., July 22, 1911

This Tuesday, July 4, 1911, storm was apparently not a tornado. Only one such storm is listed in the National Weather Service's Tornado Database for Alabama in 1911. That storm occurred in Clarke and Monroe counties in March. That year featured a fierce heat wave from Kansas to Boston with the worst temperatures yet on July 4. According to Wikpedia, temperatures reached 105 in Vermont, 106 in New Hampshire, 104 in Boston and 113 in Kansas. On that day 64 people had died in Chicago and 51 the day before.

Marshalltown, Iowa, Evening times-Republican., July 10, 1911

Here's an 1878 poetic view of the 4th of July from a newspaper in Memphis, which reprinted it from another paper, which, as was so common then, probably reprinted it from yet another paper and so forth. Poetry was frequently published in newspapers in the nineteenth century, often with the author's name left out. 

Memphis Daily Appeal July 05, 1878

Source for all items: Chronicling America digital newspapers via Library of Congress

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Alabama on U.S. Postage Stamps (3): General Topics

In two previous posts here and here I've discussed numerous U.S. postage stamps related to African-Americans associated with Alabama. Below are some examples of stamps related to specific events in state history or the state generally. In future posts I'll cover additional people and topics. 

More about U.S. stamps and postal history can be found here

New Forever Stamp Commemorating the Battle of Mobile Bay

This stamp was issued on July  30, 2014 to commemorate the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay

34 cent Alabama state stamp.

This stamp was released on April 2, 2002. All 50 states were featured in similar stamps, designed to look like tourist postcards from the 1930's and 1940's.

US Stamp Gallery >> Camellia & yellow-shafted flicker

Issued August 2, 1969 to celebrate the state's sesquicentennial, this stamp features a camellia and a yellow-shafted flicker.  

Issued April 14, 1982


Issued on February 23, 1976, as part of a sheet featuring flags of all 50 states

Alabama flag

Issued June 14, 2008 as part of the "Flags of Our Nation" series

Monday, June 8, 2015

Some Alabama Songs from the Early 20th Century

You just never know where some history will pop up. A few months ago wife Dianne and I visited our daughter Becca Leon and husband Matt in Tuscaloosa. On this trip we took in the Black Warrior Brewing Company since we have done Druid City several times. One wall downstairs near the bar features large framed sheet music covers of three old songs related to Alabama in some way. Here's what I found about those tunes and a few others after a bit of research.

Alabama has inspired many songs over the decades by natives, residents and people who have never even visited the state. In June 2014 I wrote a post on some songs related to Birmingham. I'll be returning to this rich topic at some point in the future as well. 

As noted at the end, these images come mostly from digital collections at the U.S. Library of Congress. The University of Alabama digital collections include the Wade Hall Collection of Southern History and Culture: Sheet Music which has numerous examples of songs related to Alabama.

"Alabama Lullaby" is subtitled "A Unique, Dreamy Southern Song." The piece was written by Cal DeVoll and published by the New York City firm of Leo Feist in 1919. Feist, who died in 1930, became one of the largest publishers of popular music in the world. The only other bit of information I've discovered so far about composer DeVoll is that his "The Hello Song" was used in the 1990 film Crazy People

"Alabama Moon" was published in 1917 by Jerome H. Remick's firm in Detroit. Between 1914 and 1917 George Gershwin composed many songs for the company. The lyrics for this piece were written by J. Will Callahan; he died in 1946. One of his best know songs is "Smiles". Egbert Van Alstyne was a very popular composer of music for songs until about the time this one appeared. Among his many hits were "Navajo", "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree" and "Pretty Baby." He continued composing into the 1930's and died in 1951.  

Below I'm including pages 2,3 and 4 of this song's publication to give an idea of what complete published song sheets looked like. Sorry the clarity is not better. You can find the pages here on the Library of Congress' web site if you'd like to enlarge and read the lyrics.

Another "Alabama Moon" appeared in 1920, written by George Hamilton Green. He was a xylophonist, composer and recording artist very popular in the early 20th century. Green died in 1970. The Sam Fox company was founded in Cleveland in 1906. In addition to numerous popular songs, the company was the first in the U.S. to publish film scores. According to Ryan Lewis' dissertation on Green, "Alabama Moon" became one of the most popular songs in 1920 both in print and as a recording. The song was part of a post-World War I boom in songs that depended on utopian visions of the antebellum South. Publisher Fox heavily promoted the song, using cotton fields, farmhouses, moons with smiling faces and minstrels in black face in his advertising. The waltz was recorded by several different groups featuring Green on different labels in 1920. 


This 1913 song has music composed by Rennie Cormack and lyrics by Douglas Bronston. The Joe Morris Music Company in New York published it. I have found very little on the two individuals or the music company; links give some more of Cormack's compositions and other songs published by Morris. I'm as yet unsure if this Bronston is the same one credited with writing a number of film scripts between 1915 and 1928. More info about that Bronston is here. He was born in 1887 and died in 1951.

"In Alabama" appeared in 1900. Composer Charles B. Lawlor was a vaudeville performer and composter who immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland in 1869. Perhaps his most famous song melody was "The Sidewalks of New York" from 1894. The song gained another round of popularity from its use at the 1928 Democratic National Convention in the city. I have not found much on Carroll Fleming except references to other songs for which he provided the lyrics. One of those is the 1901 "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rules the World."

I have also found very little on the Lyric Music Publishing Company. This song sheet cover gives New York City as its location; another song sheet from 1918 I saw on the net gave Seattle. Perhaps the company relocated after "In Alabama" was published.

I haven't yet found anything on Ellen Orr, one of the composers of this "novelty song" published in 1915. I did find some information about Harry DeCosta on the Internet Movie Data Base. He was born in 1885 and died in 1964. A pianist for music publishers, he also wrote and composed for radio programs. His song "Tiger Rag" has appeared in a number of films, including Memoirs of a Geisha in 2005. The song's publisher was Marcus Witmark & Sons, founded in New York City in 1886. The company was a major publisher of tunes for New York City's Tin Pan Alley until its purchase by Warner Brothers in 1929. 

"On Mobile Bay" appeared in 1910 with lyrics by Earle C. Jones and music by Charles N. Daniels. I haven't found anything on these gentlemen, but the song's publisher was the major Detroit form of Jerome H. Remick

This image is the label from a 1919 recording featuring tenors Charles Hart and Lewis James. Hart is still a mystery, but James was a very busy singer into the 1930's. Born in 1892, he died in 1959. Ballard MacDonald [1882-1935] was a lyricist associated with New York City's Tin Pan Alley. "Mary Earl" was one of several pseudonyms used by the prolific composer Robert King. The conductor of the orchestra was French-Canadian Rosario Bourdon, who spent most of his career at the Victor Talking Machine Company.

And now we come to our final example of this post, a "ragtime two step" by Scott Joplin from 1902. Born in 1867 or 1868, Joplin became famous as a ragtime pianist and composer before his death in 1917. He was living in St. Louis at the time he wrote "A Breeze from Alabama" and the other songs listed on the cover sheet demonstrate his popularity. The song was one of more than 40 he composed in addition to a ballet and two operas. 

One question to ask about all these songs is whether any of the lyricists or composers ever visited Alabama or even the South. Scott Joplin was born in Texas, so at least one of them got that close! This phenomenon of popular songs about the South written by outsiders is explored in John Bush Jones' book, Reinventing Dixie: Tin Pan Alley's Songs and the Creation of the Mythic South published by Louisiana State University Press in 2015. I've recently purchased this book and hope it will be a rich source of information about the songs and their lyricists, composers and other personnel as well as the companies involved.

In a future post I'll examine some more songs related to Alabama from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Unless otherwise noted, all sheet music covers etc. are taken from two digital sources via the U.S. Library of Congress, Historic Sheet Music Collection 1800-1922 or the Celebrates the Songs of America .