Thursday, March 31, 2016

Crestwood Medical Center in Huntsville

Back in February my mother, artist Carolyn Shores Wright, had a brief stay at Crestwood Medical Center in Huntsville. My brother and I made several trips to the free coffee stand outside the cafeteria while she was there, and we passed this plaque each time. 

Dr. Bernie Moore is honored here, perhaps because he served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for two decades. He was actually one of three physicians who founded the hospital. The other two were Drs. Ellis Sparks and James Earl Robertson. According to the Wikipedia stub on Crestwood, businessman Archie Hill was also involved. The facility opened as a nursing home in 1964, and became a hospital the following year. 

That Wikipedia piece says the hospital was named after the "district" of Huntsville in which it's located; I have yet to find any more information on the claim. My mother has lived in Huntsville since the early 1950's, and she's told me she doesn't remember Crestwood as a neighborhood or area of the city.

Oddly, the hospital's web site linked above has no historical background that I could find. You never know when a little history will pop up somewhere, though.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Augustus Thomas' 1891 Play "Alabama"

Today he is known only to theatrical historians, but in his lifetime Augustus Thomas was one of America's most successful playwrights. He's also considered among the first dramatists whose work addressed American topics and themes. In the late 19th century American theater was dominated by British and European drama. And his first great success was a play called "Alabama."

Thomas was born in St. Louis and after several other jobs he became a journalist in Kansas City. He had long had an interest in theater and wrote several plays as a teenager. Thomas was soon hired as an assistant at a theater in St. Louis and then produced "The Burglar", an adaptation of a short story by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The play toured successfully, and Thomas went to work at the Madison Square Theatre in New York City adapting foreign plays.

Six years after the Alabama visit described below, Thomas wrote a one-act play called "Talladega." He was then working for the A.M. Palmer Company, and Palmer urged him to expand the work to include parts for all the stars of the troupe. Thomas did so, and the four-act play opened at the Madison Square on April 1, 1891, to great acclaim. Over the next few years the company toured the country, including stops in Mobile, Montgomery and Birmingham.

William Stanley Hoole discusses Thomas, the play and its early U.S. tours in his article, "'Alabama': Drama of Reconciliation" Alabama Review 19(2): 83-108, April 1966. He describes the play's importance as not only one featuring an American theme, but also an attempt to reunite the nation less than thirty years after the Civil War.  

"Alabama's" story includes a widow and her son threatened by another relative desiring their property, the coming of the railroad, hidden identities, a challenge to a duel, and a happy ending that features three weddings. As Hoole writes, ...the railroad land sale benefits the true owners, and Southerners and Northerners alike rejoice."

Augustus Thomas [1857-1934]

Source: Wikipedia

Just over three weeks after the New York premier of "Alabama", this note appeared in the Philadelphia Record. The reprint was found in the April 25, 1891, issue of the Pullman Herald, published in the Washington Territory. Thomas' success had already spanned the country. 

On page 187 of his 1922 memoir The Print of My Remembrance, Thomas gives this account of the 1885 genesis of the play. As you can see in the Cast of Characters listed below, the town is spelled "Taladega" in the final version of the play--unless that's a printing error. On pages 328 and 329 of his autobiography Thomas describes the dream he had of that gateway in 1891.

I'm not sure why this "Cast of Characters" from the 1900 publication lists the opening year of the play as 1890; it was 1891.

Frontispiece to the 1900 publication of "Alabama". The book has several other photographs, all presumably from the original production in April 1890.

Maurice Barrymore in a production of "Alabama" in Chicago. Barrymore began the acting family dynasty; his children were John, Lionel and Ethel. He was the grandfather of John Drew Barrymore and the great-grandfather of Drew Barrymore

Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections

Scene with Ed M. Bell and Agnes Miller from a New York production of "Alabama" by the A.M. Palmer Company.

Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections

Another photo of Maurice Barrymore in an 1891 production of "Alabama" by the A.M. Palmer Company at the Madison Square Theatre in NYC

Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections 

Scene from a production of Alabama

Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections

Scene from a production of Alabama at the Haymarket Theatre in Chicago, apparently in the 1895-6 season. 

Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections 

Scene from a production of Alabama

Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections 

This advertisement for a local production of "Alabama" appeared in a June 1905 issue of a Honolulu newspaper

The ad above appeared in an issue of a Salt Lake City, Utah, newspaper on June 2 1906. The commentary below appeared on the same page.

"Alabama" was produced at the O'Brien Opera House in downtown Birmingham in 1891.

Source: BhamWiki

Thomas wrote many more successful plays after "Alabama." Many of those dramas ran on Broadway and were adapted for the movies

Source: U.S. Library of Congress Digital Collections

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cabin in the Woods

Well, sort of. 

On a recent Sunday Dianne and I were making one of our usual trips to Jemison for lunch at the Smokey Hollow Restaurant followed by a visit to the Petals from the Past nursery. We also did a bit of driving around on some back roads and came upon the former domicile below at the intersection of Chilton County highways 42 and 1070. I wonder when this structure was built? It seems to be surviving nicely as a ruin indicative of days long past in rural Alabama.

With apologies to Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon and their hilarious 2012 film of the same name as this blog post.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Old Alabama Stuff (11): Education from 1890 to 1921

The full title of this 1922 pamphlet of 60 pages is A Statistical Study of Education in Alabama from 1890 to 1921. The item was issued by the Alabama Department of Education and "authorized" by the State Board of Education. You can find the document at the Internet Archive. 

This publication brings together a mass of material related to education in Alabama, noting that improvements in the 1918 to 1921 period surpass those between 1890 and the end of World War I. The paragraph below the title page highlights legislative and other actions responsible for such changes in just a few years.

Of course, this report also highlights many problems, from attendance issues to the difference in training for city and rural teachers. The table included below lists the measures Alabama must take to reach national averages. Note the differences in numbers 2 and 3 especially.

Many issues don't seem to have changed much in Alabama education in the past century: funding, teacher training, student participation, etc. The tone of this report is upbeat, but it makes for depressing reading. 

An article on public education in the early 20th century in the state is available at the Encyclopedia of Alabama site. Articles on public education in other periods are linked from that one. 

The "Ayres' index" mentioned in the paragraph above refers to a method of comparing state school systems devised by Col. Leonard P. Ayres and published in 1920.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Alabama Medical Ads in 1911

Recently I was perusing the June 1911 issue of the Southern Medical Journal. In the front is a large section of advertisements and up popped several for Alabama institutions among all the others from around the South and a number in New York, Chicago and so forth. Let's take a closer look; some comments are below each ad. 

You can find the entire issue at the Internet Archive. The Southern Medical Association, organized in 1906, still publishes the SMJ in Birmingham. Dr. Seale Harris [1870-1957], a prominent physician in Mobile and Birmingham, was founding editor of the journal. 

According to the advertisement, this clinic and nursing school was operated by the older of two Davis physician brothers who were sons of a doctor. The younger brother, William E.B. Davis, became prominent not only in Alabama, but in the South and beyond. The two brothers were among the founders of the Birmingham Medical College. The BhamWiki entry on William notes they opened the infirmary in 1894. A statue of William stands in front of the Hillman Building on the UAB campus.  

Harry Tutwiler Inge, M.D. [1861-1921]

Source: Alabama Dept. of Archives & History Digital Collections


Eugene DuBose Bondurant, M.D. [1863-1950]

Source: Find-A-Grave 

These two men both graduated from medical school in 1883, Inge in New York and Bondurant in Virginia. Both were certified to practice in Alabama in that same year. Inge began practice in Mobile in 1883. Bondurant received his certification in Hale County; when he moved to Mobile is currently unknown. I found them both listed in the 1913 Transactions of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. In addition to "normal" medical and surgical problems, this private hospital also accepted patients with nervous and mental diseases and alcohol and drug addictions. As befits their ad in a medical journal, a detailed listing of the hospital's equipment is given.  

This early twentieth-century postcard showing the sanatorium is taken from the Alabama Dept of Archives & History Digital Collections

The Southern Infirmary in Mobile was operated by Drs. T.H. Frazer and W.R. Jackson. This ad touts the facility's modern private rooms, steam heat, ventilation and lighting. Surgical, gynecological and obstetrical cases were welcome, but not the insane or tubercular ones. 

I found Tucker Henderson Frazer and William Richard Jackson in the same 1913 issue of the Transactions of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama linked above. The two men graduated from the Medical College of Alabama, then located in Mobile, in the same year, 1888. 

Frazer was born in Auburn in 1859 and died in Mobile in 1919. He became the fifth dean of the Medical College of Alabama in 1915. His son Mel Frazer was an attorney and in 1907 published Early History of Steamboats in Alabama. 

Jackson, a Texas native, did further medical study in New York City, Berlin, Vienna, and Paris. Such extensive study beyond medical school was common at that time among American students who could afford it. 

The Southern Infirmary also operated a nursing school. A ca. 1900 photograph showing the nursing staff and students posing at the front entrance on St. Stephens Road can be found in the University of South Alabama McCall Library Digital Archives.

This postcard has the same view of the Southern Infirmary, with rows of palms  added. 

The University of Alabama School of Medicine has a long and complicated history. Chartered in Mobile before the Civil War as the Medical College of Alabama, the school became affiliated with the University in 1897 but remained in Mobile. In 1920 the medical department moved to the Tuscaloosa campus and then to its current Birmingham location in the mid-1940's. 

Dr. Rhett Goode, third dean of the medical school, served in that post from 1906 until 1911. 

This laboratory was "conducted" by Drs. J.P. Long and Charles Edward Dowman, Jr. I did not find Long in the 1913 Transactions, but Dowman was listed. He had graduated from the prestigious Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore in 1905. Their lab was located in the Empire Building seen below, which had opened in 1909. 

Empire Building

Source: BhamWiki

Monday, March 14, 2016

Some Old Alabama Postcards (1)

Over the years I've collected Alabama postcards and want to share a few in this post. I've gathered together some old ones that were actually mailed and have scanned both sides. I have some comments below. I think several of these cards were purchased at Ackley's Rocks in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The shop features mostly minerals, crystals, etc., but has a section devoted to stamps, postcards and such. 

In a future post I'll look at some of the unused postcards in my collection.

According to Wikipedia, the first postcard was sent in 1840 in England. Collecting and studying postcards is called deltiology.

You can see many more old Alabama postcards at AU's Alabama Postcard Collection and UA's Historic Postcards of Alabama

This card postmarked 1943 [1948?] features Mr. Vulcan himself and a simple message to Mrs. Carter in Georgia. I wonder where Fizzy or Fuzzy was standing when he [she?] wrote his message--a drugstore, perhaps? 

The card was made by the E.C. Kropp Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You can see a postcard of the company's plant hereFounded in 1898, the firm operated under the Kropp name until sold in 1956. Several other cards below are also products of the company. 

That George Washington one cent stamp was first issued in 1938. 

This "Phototint card made only by Detroit Publishing Co." is declared along the left margin of the message side. The card features Old Shell Road in Mobile and is copyrighted 1906. The card was mailed at 4:30 P.M. on September 1, but the last two digits of the year didn't print very well; it may be 1928. 

The author of the message told mother in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, of a safe arrival in Mobile and plans to leave the next morning. "The author notes "It [sic] pretty hot over here." The one cent Benjamin Franklin stamp was first issued in 1927. 

This one is another E.C. Kropp card postmarked on January 3, 1940 at 8:30 P.M. and mailed with one of those same one-cent George Washington stamps. The author of the message declares "Birmingham is a very pretty city."

The Masonic temple pictured was torn down in September 1970 and used as a parking lot until the construction of the AmSouth-Harbert Plaza. The theatre had opened in 1925 as part of the Loew's chain and seated 3100. Vaudeville, plays and films appeared there. Actors such as Bela Lugosi and Tallulah Bankhead performed on the stage.

The town of Lanett was first known as Bluffton, but the name was changed after the Lanett Cotton Mills opened in 1894. The town has had a long relationship with West Point across the Georgia line. Mill owners Lafayette Lanier and Thomas Bennett developed the entire area in the late nineteenth century, providing employment to many people. The name "Lanett" was created from their last names. By 2009 the last cotton mill in Lanett had closed.  

The anonymous author of the note on this card was obviously close to the married couple in Nebraska and a busy person as well. The date on the postmark from the West Point post office appears to be April 1948. The author seems proud of that 1946 Chevy--wonder what model it was. That one-cent George Washington stamp makes another appearance.

Running up the middle of the card is the designation "Genuine Curteich". Curt Teich was a German immigrant who opened his business in 1898 in Chicago. The company became the largest manufacturer of postcards in the world and operated until 1978, four years after his death. 

This building opened in late 1939 as the Jefferson-Hillman Hospital; I have explored its history and place at the UAB School of Medicine in a couple of previous blog posts here and here

The original version of The Price is Right game show ran from 1956 until 1965, first on NBC-TV and for the final couple of years on ABC-TV. Often featured was a "Showcase" of multiple prizes in which home viewers were invited to submit bids on a postcard. This card must be one of those bids. I wonder if Miss Parrish won.

This card is another one from the Curt-Teich company. This particular four-cent Abraham Lincoln stamp was first issued in 1954. The card was apparently distributed at least locally by the Moore News Company of Birmingham.

This card features St. Vincent's, one of the "finest and best equipped" of Birmingham's "ten excellent hospitals" circa 1942. There is no stamp or postmark; we can assume the card was never mailed. I wonder if Celia was the sender or intended recipient?

The Boston company of Tichnor Brothers, Inc., produced this card. 

A 1908 photograph and another postcard of St. Vincent's can be seen in one of my earlier blog posts here.

This card was mailed by someone just passing through Alabama on their way to Florida. Apparently the recipient's parents lived in Birmingham. The "Bankhead" mentioned is the Bankhead Hotel [now the Bankhead Towers] which opened with 350 rooms in 1926. The hotel was named after Senator John H. Bankhead, Tallulah Bankhead's grandfather. 

This E.C. Kropp card has that one-cent George Washington stamp and was postmarked at 12 noon on December 13, 1947. As the card notes about the Birmingham-Southern College Library, it "contains many volumes of interesting reading material and is greatly used by the students."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Alabama Book Covers (9): William March

Novelist and short story writer William March is probably best remembered for one novel published in 1954, The Bad Seed. Actually, adaptations in other media are probably better known than the book and author. That same year Maxwell Anderson wrote a two-act play from the book that ran for 334 performances on Broadway before closing in September 1955. In 1956 a film starring Patty McCormick in the title role was released and was a hit for Warner Brothers in both the U.S. and Great Britain. The ABC network premiered a version for television in 1985. The story is a classic evil-child tale that still resonates today despite the use of the idea by endless horror movies.

March was a Mobile native born in September 1893 as William Edward Campbell. A highly decorated U.S. Marine in World War I, March built a career in business after the war. Before his death in New Orleans in May 1954, March published several novels and many short stories. Most were set in Alabama. 

March wrote about his war experiences in his first novel, Company K. A film adaptation by Robert Clem appeared in 2004. Clem has filmed several other works related to Alabama. March's short story "The Little Wife" was adapted for television three times by 1955. 

March's papers are in the Hoole Special Collections at the University of Alabama. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Tuscaloosa. The Encyclopedia of Alabama and Wikipedia entries offer good introductions to his life and work. Roy Simmonds' book The Two Worlds of William March was published in 1984.

William March ca. 1933

Source: Wikipedia