Thursday, March 23, 2023

Alabama Book: Women in Literature in 1895

Mary Lafayette Robbins opens her introduction by noting that "The making of this book has been a labor of love." Her goal is to make known the achievements of Alabama women in intellectual development, specifically literature. By page two her agenda is clear, however. She is critical of the whole "new woman" concept then current in America that promoted the idea women could move beyond their "proper environment." Robbins then promotes the idea that literary clubs and literature are good fits for the "capacities and limitations of woman."

Developments of the day, the suffrage movement, single women working outside the home and even riding bicycles really put the fear in promoters of the status quo.

Robbins does make important observations about Alabama women and "the world of letters":

At least Robbins doesn't object to higher education for women. 

Several female authors became well-known in Alabama between the end of the Civil War and the early 1900s. These include poets Maria Howard Weeden [1846-1905], Zitella Cocke [1840-1929], and Martha Young [1862-1941]. Weeden was also an artist noted for her watercolor portraits of former slaves. Elizabeth Bellamy [1837-1900] wrote poetry, short fiction and novels that were more realistic than much of postwar Southern literature that romanticized the antebellum South. Louise Clarke Pyrnelle [1850-1907] wrote popular children's literature that did portray slavery in a positive way. 

The book has two parts, information on the clubs and some selections of literature by Alabama women. The selections include poetry, fiction, and essays; some are complete, others are excerpts. A few examples of the literary clubs and selections are below the introduction. 

I've discovered nothing about Robbins beyond this book. On page 6 she is mentioned in the entry on the Alabama Federation of Literary Clubs. On April 17, 1895, representatives of several clubs from around the state met in Birmingham "in the parlors of the Presbyterian church on the South Highlands, one of the aristocratic suburbs." They discussed forming that federation. Robbins, from Selma, "read a strong paper in favor of the movement." The association was organized that day, and Robbins elected President. 

The club listing begins with the Alabama Federation of Literary Clubs and includes many local societies.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Great Hartselle Bank Robbery of 1926

I've written about Hartselle in a previous post and covered a few of its historical highlights. Famed author William Bradford Huie was a native and is buried there. Other notable figures include John Sparkman, a U.S. congressman, senator and vice-presidential candidate in 1952, and Steve Woodward, who spent seven years as a Major League baseball pitcher. 

Hartselle is also famous for an event that took place in the town on March 15, 1926--perhaps the most spectacular bank robbery in state history. Let's investigate. 

Just after midnight on that Monday morning as many as eight men appeared in town and headed for the telephone exchange. There they cut three cables that tied Hartselle to the rest of the world via telephone and telegraph. Then they proceeded to the Bank of Hartselle. Along the way the gang kidnapped several locals who were awake at that hour and tied them up in the back of the bank. These men included J.B. Huie, the train station agent; Oscar Williams, who was waiting for a train; Les Williams, the police officer on duty, and Ernest Mittlwede, cashier of another bank heading home from a date. 

The robbers used six sticks of dynamite to open the safe, and after four hours left town with more than $14,000 in cash, gold and silver. No one was ever arrested for the crime. In its article about the robbery, the Decatur Daily reported the presence of two "high-powered" cars in Hartselle on Saturday, one driven by a woman and the other containing two men. Around 6 a.m. Monday Birmingham police found an abandoned vehicle containing empty money bags and numerous checks. The car had been stolen Sunday night from a city resident. 

Hartselle had a population of just over 2000 in 1926. Blogger Michele Jackson has written that authorities at the time in other small towns noted similarities between this robbery and one in Center, Alabama, on April 7 and another in Tennessee on April 10. Hartselle itself has kept memory of the crime alive; a reenactment took place in 2019. An historical marker can be seen at the end of this post; the building that housed the bank still stands and was a boutique called Bella Reese as of 2015. 

The article below appeared in the Tuscaloosa News on March 15, 1926. A 2020 article by Jackson can be read here. See also an Associated Press story, "Shocking, unsolved 1926 bank robbery still provokes interest" that appeared in the Birmingham News on March 18, 2000. 

According to the 1920 census via, William Bradford Huie's father was John B. Huie. That census gives John's occupation as telephone operator for the railroad. 


Source: Hartselle Enquirer

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Carolyn Shores Wright, 1929-2023

I've done several posts on this blog about my mother Carolyn Shores Wright and her activities. One item covered her high school modeling stint for Avondale Mills. Her career as a professional artist, mostly in watercolor, lasted almost fifty years. I've written about the time she heard George Washington Carver speak in Camp Hill when she was seven years old. I've also covered the 1950 Auburn football game my parents attended soon after their wedding, and a bit about the Jefferson County town where she was born, Powhatan

Mom died on January 17, so I wanted to do a tribute to her on this blog. I've included the text of her obituary, since it covers the highlights. Also in this post are some photos of her and family and some images of her art to give an idea of the variety of subjects she painted. 

More comments are below some of the photos and images. 

Carolyn Shores Wright December 28, 1929-January 17, 2023 

Carolyn Shores Wright, 93, of Huntsville, AL passed away peacefully at home Tuesday, January 17. She was born in Powhatan, a west Jefferson County coal mining town that no longer exists. Carolyn and her siblings were the children of  long-time Methodist minister John Miller Shores, and they lived in various towns including Camp Hill, Florence, Sylacauga, Alex City, and Montevallo. One of her vivid memories from childhood was hearing George Washington Carver speak in Camp Hill when she was about 7 years old. During high school, Carolyn was a model for Avondale Mills. She attended college at Montevallo and Auburn, where she met her husband  of 52 years, A.J. The passions of her adult life were family, her church and her painting. She and A.J. were founding members of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Huntsville. For about fifty years Carolyn was a very prolific artist, first in oils, then acrylics, and finally “her medium” as she described it, watercolors. During those years she created hundreds of works that featured hummingbirds and many other birds, flowers, still lifes, landscapes, people and a series of humorous and whimsical bird paintings she called “Bird Life.” Carolyn was preceded in death by husband Amos Jasper Wright, Jr.; her mother Tempe Flowers Shores and father John Miller Shores; step-mother Edith Shores; sister Hethie Shores Kuehlthau; sister Marjorie Shores Pike; and brother John Miller Shores, Jr. She is survived by her sons Amos Jasper Wright III [Dianne] and Richard Ashley Wright [Lucy]; brother Max Shores [Cindy]; grandchildren Amos Jasper Wright IV [Kim], Ashley T. Wright [Jessica], Becca Wright; and Miller S. Wright [Kathyrn]; and great-grandchildren Ann Collins Wright, Ashley McDonald Wright, and Ezra Jasper Leon. Also surviving are two special nieces Charlotte Shores Ryder [Curtis] and Cindi Shores Sherrill, as well as many other nieces and nephews. Visitation will be held Saturday, February 4, at 11 A.M. at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Huntsville, with service to follow at noon. Internment will be in Maple Hill Cemetery in a private family service. In lieu of flowers memorials to Aldersgate United Methodist Church (Honduran Mission) or the Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches would be appreciated.

Mom is between sisters Marjorie and Hethie and with brother John.

Mom again in the middle between Marjorie and Hethie many years earlier. 

My grandmother Tempe Flowers Shores and her children. Hethie is standing, then Marjorie, mom and John. 

Mom and dad are flanking my paternal grandparents at their house on Chandler Street in Gadsden. Richard and I are on the floor. I'm really excited over the white socks I'm wearing. The occasion was the fiftieth wedding anniversary of Rosa Mae and Amos Wright; they were married on Halloween 1915. 

Dad and mom on a Christmas trip to Gatlinburg. 

Mom's parents and siblings are in this photo; mom wasn't around yet. Her father John Miller Shores was a minister in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church for several decades. 

Dad and mom and the wedding cake at the First Methodist Church in Haleyville, 10 September 1950. 

Mom and my children, Becca and Amos

Mom with my younger brother Richard and his sons Ashley and Miller. Mom was in her red hair phase; the red hat phase came later. 

A formal family portrait in the late 1950's. Mom always wanted me to digitize this photo and take her out; she was not fond of the hairdo. 

Yours truly, mom and brother Richard on the steps of our house on Cloverdale Drive in Huntsville in the mid-1950s. The three of us revisited the house in July 2018. 

Richard and mom walking toward dad's grave in Maple Hill Cemetery. That spring 2022 visit was the last time we took her there. 

"Spring Fantasy"

"Fancy Flight"

"A Brother's Trick"
Mom said this painting was suggested by her brother John--he would roller skate really fast up to his sisters and turn away just in time...

"Holiday Cruise"

Mom did a number of paintings in what she called her "Bird Life" series that featured birds in human situations. You can see more of them here.

You can see many more of her paintings at her Etsy and Fine Art America shops. 

Thursday, March 2, 2023

The Library at Troy State Teachers College Before 1937

The downsizing of my book collection has accelerated in recent months, and here's another departing tome that's coughed up something interesting. 

The book this time is Edward M. Shackelford's The First Fifty Years of the State Teachers College at Troy, Alabama, 1887 to 1937. The volume is a detailed history of that institution up to the year of publication. What caught my attention is the extensive material in the book on the college library. Have worked in Alabama libraries for many years, I'm naturally interested in their history and have posted a number of pieces related to the topic. Some of them--but not all--can be found at Alabama Library History: A List. I really need to update that list...but I digress. I've also attempted a very incomplete chronology of state libraries up to about 1920.

Shackelford wrote this history from experience. He taught at the college for 12 years [1887-1899] and served as President for 37 [1899-1937]. At the time of publication he had been named President Emeritus in 1937. Shackelford Hall,  named in his honor, was built in 1930; it's now a coed dorm

As you can tell from the table of contents below, this book covers a lot of topics in the history of what is now Troy University prior to 1937. Two chapters cover the library. In the first one the author gives an overview based on a report written by Charlotte Smith, librarian at the time of publication. Then her report appears in full in the Appendix. 

When Shackelford became President in 1899, the library had some 5000 volumes. By the time this history was written, there were some 16,000 books, 1000 government reports and about 150 magazine subscriptions. The library had been located in several different places, and the current one is shown in the first two photos below. One large room on the second floor of Graves Hall provided a reading and collection area, supplemented by workrooms.

The longer chapter by Charlotte Smith adds many details, including the names of  librarians and the various sources of books in the early days. In 1909 an agreement among the Carnegie Foundation, the city of Troy and the college led to the construction of a Carnegie Library to be used by both townspeople and college students. Two librarians spent the summer of that year cataloging the 5000 books before the facility opened. Unfortunately, this relationship between the city and college only lasted a decade, as Smith details. 

Shackelford's book is a a rich history of Troy in its first half century. In addition to the narrative, he  has included such important lists as faculty by department, school physicians and nurses, librarians, etc. The book includes numerous photographs. 

This card of the Troy library is postmarked February 26, 1911. This Carnegie library served both the city of Troy and the college until 1930, when the college moved to a new location.