Month: April 2014

LOVE AMONG THE QUILTS

1559376_247170832137356_7452773968933728471_o

We’ve got quilts on the mind at the Local and Family History Department—fancy that—but a historical Paducah story about quilting proved elusive. In fact, after a morning of hunting, we only found a single quilting story, just a paragraph long, from an April 1905 Paducah Sun…hardly a prosaic foundation. But your librarians at MCPL are nothing if not passionate and stalwart, and the small article had enough intriguing details that we were ultimately able to follow the threads and patch together a rather sweet tale, a comforter of a tale about love, happenstance, an orphan, the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904, and one freakishly dandy of a quilt.

The World’s Fair in St. Louis, 1904, was, in a word, spectacular, for it was not only a fair for the world but a world in and of itself. The grounds of the fair covered 1200 acres and contained 1500 buildings which were connected by over 75 miles of roads and walkways. 62 foreign countries sponsored exhibits, as well as the United States Government and all of the US States. Nearly 20 million people attended the fair. Perhaps, most importantly, the World’s Fair of 1904 introduced the planet to the ice cream cone.

The state of Kentucky, like all the states, had its own building at the Fair, and among the hundreds of exhibits was one relegated for “Women’s Work and Relics,” which included arts and crafts like embroideries, hand-painted satin, rag carpets, fish scale wreaths, table covers, buckeye wood, sun-bonnets, crochet work, and pillow shams. And, naturally, there were quilts on exhibition too, which had brought Miss Louisa “Lou” Catherine Singer, aged 47, to the Fair in the first place. She’d traveled all the way from Milton, KY, a speck of a town northeast of Louisville on the Ohio, just to display her quilt.

Among all the items in the “Women’s Works and Relics” exhibition, which were among all the displays in the Kentucky Building, which sat among all the other state and country buildings, which were scattered throughout the 1200 acre grounds, you might have thought a single woman’s quilt would have gotten overlooked by the masses. Not true, for Miss Singer’s quilt was apparently something special to behold, freakish in its construct, for it contained 122,616 pieces! Granted, I don’t know a lot about quilting (in truth, I know next to nothing), but 122,616 seems an awful lot, a monumental undertaking, for sure.

This is only conjecture, but I reckon more than one person put aside their newfangled ice cream cones to gander at her epic handiwork.

Surely, Miss Singer knew she had something special, and surely she knew that her quilt would be admired by many, but perhaps she couldn’t have predicted that her massive quilt and the massive fair would also introduce her to her future husband. Enter Richard Wilson, also aged 47, from Paducah, who, in wandering through the Kentucky Building, happened upon Miss Singer and her Amazing Technicolor Dream Quilt and found himself awe struck by her talent and love struck by her personage. Miss Singer apparently returned his affections for their conversation not only lasted through the afternoon, but for the rest of the following year until Mr. Wilson finally moved to Milton, Kentucky and married her.

A tale of love, happenstance, the St. Louis World’s Fair, and one freakishly dandy quilt…no? But wait. It’s not quite over. I promised you an orphan in this tale, too, so as epilogue to our love story we flash forward to the year 1910.

Our heroes, now Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, are five years into wedded bliss, now both aged 52 and still living in Milton. Both came into the marriage childless, and because they married later in life, they probably assumed children were not a part of their future. Until Mrs. Lou Wilson found a baby on the banks of the Ohio. The baby, just a few months old, was born to a woman who worked on a river boat and she abandoned him on the Kentucky side of the river. Richard and Lou, now in their middle ages, adopted the boy, named him Forest William Wilson, and after that one can only imagine, though it’s easily figured, that this amazingly patchwork family found a way to live happily ever after, wrapped in the warmth of one ginormous quilt.

To learn more about quilts, quilting, fairs, babies, fish scale wreaths, or any other manner of things, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.

4000 EASTER EGGS !?!

1509033_245307598990346_343009500033294822_n

In the neighborhood currently across from Clark Elementary School (roughly bounded by Buckner Lane, Lone Oak Road, Maple Avenue, and Forest Circle), there once stood a park, a quite large park called Wallace Park. In the early decades of the 20th century, Wallace Park marked the outskirts of the Paducah city limits; it was quite literally the end of the line. For a nickel, you could ride the rail car from the foot of Broadway to its culmination at the park and then turn around and come back again.

Wallace Park served as a respite for Paducah folks, a bucolic escape from the hustle and bustle of big city life. Among its many features, the park boasted a lake for fishing, rental cabins, a zoo, an eagle cage, a 3000 seat baseball stadium (which served the Kitty League), tennis courts, an “opera house” called the Casino, and pavilions where big bands and vaudeville acts would perform.

The park was used year round, but interest always heightened as the weather warmed and the spring and summer holidays arrived. Easter was no exception, and one of Wallace Park’s grand annual traditions was a massive Easter Egg Hunt. How massive? Some reports from the Paducah Evening Sun claim approximately 4000 eggs. Keep in mind these weren’t store bought plastic eggs, but actual eggs, all dyed for the city’s children to find. Each year, three special eggs were hidden among the thousands which would garner the finder a prize: a bronze egg worth $1, a silver worth $2, and a gold worth $3.

The Paducah Evening Sun from March 28, 1910, reported that between 1500 and 2000 citizens showed up at Wallace Park for the egg hunt, among them 700 children who were of eligible age to participate. That year, little Lena Utterback found the bronze egg and Master Harry Smith uncovered the silver. The big prize, the $3 gold egg reward, went to Master Max Brown.

Though naturally, a couple weeks prior The Sun also published an article about an impending rise in egg prices. Because the hunt was so popular and because the dyes of the time made the eggs unsafe for consumption, they estimated that egg prices would rise from 15 cents a dozen to 18 or 19 cents.

To learn more about egg scrambles or Wallace Park, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.

NO LENT IN 1937?

1979387_243520729169033_5289503464140675351_o

Forty days and forty nights…such is the length of the Lenten season.

However, if you were Catholic in Kentucky in 1937, you really didn’t have to observe Lent…at the least not in the regular way for the normal set of Lenten laws was dispensed with all together.

Why?

Because of the 1937 flood.

The floodwaters not only threw Paducah into mayhem but much of the state as well. Thus, Bishop J.A. Floersh of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Louisville (which Paducah was a part of at the time) issued a letter to all the pastors granting a dispensation from Lent in order to relieve the stress of the flood. The letter states in part, “Irrespective, therefore, of their age, or of the work in which they are engaged, all the faithful this year may eat three full meals a day during Lent, may eat between meals, and may make use of flesh meat, the same as they do during the rest of the year. Furthermore, you will please advise them that, on account of the difficulty to get suitable substitutes for fresh meat, they are also dispensed, until further notice, from the obligation of abstaining from meat on Fridays.”

While Bishop Floersh did dispense with the normal set of laws, he noted in his letter that this didn’t give the faithful permission to go nuts. Instead, he further advised that the faithful “should be urged to increase their daily prayers…abstain from superfluous amusements…and contribute liberally towards the aid of those seriously affected by the flood. Let one and all learn from this sad experience to practice greater charity towards one another.”

To learn more about the 1937 flood, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.

FAMED PEDESTRIAN ARRIVES IN PADUCAH

2011-05-10-round-trip

On this day in Paducah history, April 9, 1910 “Colonial Jack” Krohn arrived in Paducah having just walked from Mayfield. Most of us would consider that a pretty long journey to tackle on foot , but it was just a few paltry miles for “Colonial Jack” who had started his walk from Los Angeles in October of 1909 with the goal of reaching Boston. However, this journey that brought him to Paducah in 1910 was only a preliminary trek, a leisurely stroll, to map out the route he would take the following year when he planned to break the cross-continental walking record previously established by another famed pedestrian, Edward Weston.
“Colonial Jack” Krohn, legally known as John Albert Krohn, began his walking career several years before on a dare, and ultimately found it was a pretty decent way to earn a living and garner a little fame. Donned in colonial garb (hence the nickname), he pushed his self-crafted, pyramid-shaped wheelbarrow, which he nicknamed the Sphinx, across the country selling his stories and trinkets of his journey along the way. Sometimes his wife would travel ahead of him to a particular destination to put up posters heralding his imminent arrival. And folks bought loved him for it; his gimmick was well-received and word has it that he hardly ever had to pay for anything out of his own pocket for the townspeople along the way were always willing to provide him a warm meal and warm bed.

The Paducah Evening Sun reported that “Colonial Jack” arrived on Saturday afternoon, April 9, and would also “spend Sunday in Paducah as he never walks on that day.” On the following Monday, “Colonial Jack” was scheduled to leave Paducah and head toward Louisville following the railroad tracks. He did leave, but the route of his journey becomes a little fuzzy after that. It’s unclear as to whether he ever got to Boston, and it’s fairly certain that he never tried the following year to break the record.

But don’t cry for the failure of “Colonial Jack.” This attempted cross-continental trek of 4000 miles was hardly his first and hardly his most impressive walking stunt. In 1908, also under the name “Colonial Jack,” he walked the perimeter of the United States, a journey of 9000 miles (with his trusty Sphinx), starting in Portland, Maine; walking along the northern border of the U.S. to Portland, Oregon; down the Pacific coastline; along the southern border of the U.S.; and then up the eastern coastline back to Portland, Maine. The trip took him 357 days, and he published a book about it called “The Walk of Colonial Jack.”

But if you think a 9000 mile walking journey is impressive, how about the walk he undertook in 1903? Under the name “Sailor Jean” (with a barrel-shaped wheelbarrow), John Albert Krohn started in Olympia, Washington, and walked to every state capital, zig-zagging all across the United States in a pedestrian voyage that he claimed totaled 22,000 miles.

Right around 1910/11, not far from the time he left Paducah, it appears as if “Colonial Jack” gave up the walking gig. Ultimately, he settled on a farm in Salisbury, Massachusetts where he grew strawberries and other produce.

To learn more about stuntmen who stopover in Paducah, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library. 

SCHMAUS BROTHERS FLORIST – “Biggest Floral Firm in Western Kentucky.”

10007038_243028519218254_2982364062019775692_n

Looking for a place to purchase spring flowers? If you were living in Paducah in 1909 (or anywhere else in the surrounding area, for that matter) then you would have looked no further than Schmaus Brothers Florists. William H. F. and Henry Schmaus had all the spring gardening plants you could imagine.

Schmaus Brothers Florists was located on Broadway, opposite Labelle Park (later known as Wallace Park) in Arcadia. This area had a long history of gardening and by 1904 the Schmaus brothers had established their greenhouses into a leading business in McCracken County.

According to the Paducah Evening Sun, April 8, 1909, “They produce every kind of flower including exotics, bedding plants, vines, foliage plants, shrubs, ferns and palms.” With beautiful varieties of Chrysanthemums, roses, tulips, weeping Lantana, geraniums and many others, Schmaus brothers had on hand at all times 100,000 to 125,000 potted plants and 20,000 to 25,000 geraniums. In 1909, their greenhouses included 5,000 feet of steam pipes and 50,000 square feet of glass. Possibly best known for the taking care of the beautiful landscaping around the McCracken County Court House as well as the numerous stations of the N.C. and St L. Railroad between Paducah and Memphis, TN, Schmaus Brothers were the leading landscape artist in the West Kentucky and West Tennessee.

To read more on the Schmaus Brothers, click on the following link provided by the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, or come see us at the McCracken County Public Library.

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052114/1909-04-08/ed-1/seq-2/

Photograph appears in, “‘Paducah’ The City Beautiful,” pg. 13

APRIL FOOLS’ DAY IN OLD PADUCAH

10002950_241527659368340_1438948717_n

Think April Fool’s Day is a recent holiday? Well, think again. The origins of April Fool’s can be traced back to medieval Europe and the institution of the Gregorian calendar. The new calendar moved the celebration of the new year from the last week of March to January first, and those who were slow on getting word of the date changed were subsequently called “April Fools.”

The tradition of pranking on April Fool’s Day is nothing new either, and eventually found its way to the new world and Old Paducah where in 1903 J.B. Allen, manager of the Paducah Postal Telegraph Company, decided to throw of doozy of an April Fool’s prank.

On April 1, he sent a large number of telegrams to friends and family each dated from Louisville with fake initials for a signature, and each bearing the following message: Arthur Price Reached Indianapolis Last Friday Over Our Lines.

Hysterical, right?

You get the joke, don’t you?

Don’t you?

Well, don’t feel bad if you didn’t because apparently none of J.B. Allen’s friends understood the joke either. In fact, almost all of them called J.B. to explain that they’d been delivered some faulty telegram, and after goading and cajoling them for a bit, J.B. ultimately had to reveal the joke…that the first letter of each word of the telegram spelled out ‘April Fool.’

Ha!! Good one, J.B!

For more information about lackluster April Fool’s pranks, come visit us in the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.