Tag: Paducah


Drinking Fountain from 1910

Drinking Fountain from 1910

It’s still there.

Likely you pass by it all the time and hardly notice.

You may have even seen a rendering of it on Paducah’s flood wall.

What are we talking about?

A drinking fountain…for a horse.

Of course, of course.


Next time you drive down Broadway toward the river, glance to your right as you pass 10th St./Walter Jetton Blvd, and you’ll see the horse fountain still standing, only 15 feet from its original spot.  Note, too, that it probably has just as much water in it now as when it was first installed in 1908…



The idea for a horse drinking fountain was first proposed for the city of Paducah by Frederick Tilghman, son of General Lloyd Tilghman, on September 18, 1907. Though born in Paducah, Frederick hadn’t visited the city since he was a boy, and was in town to make arrangements for an eight foot tall bronze statue of his father to be erected in Lang Park. Enamored of the city he’d left long ago, Mr. Tilghman proposed the procurement of a second monument: a drinking fountain that would provide clean water to horses, and dogs.  It was an issue close to Mr. Tilghman’s heart for he also happened to be vice president of the National Humane Alliance in New York, a precursor to the Humane Society.


Because Tilghman offered to foot the $1000 bill, the city accepted the proposed fountain and decided to place it at the intersection of 10th and Broadway.


Details of the fountain reached the Paducah Evening Sun on October 11 of that year. Under the headline “Humane Society Fountain Will Be Shipped At Once,” the article stated, “The fountain will be six feet, six inches high from the ground to the top. The large bowl for the use of horses will be six feet in diameter and carved from a single piece of granite. At the base will be four cups or basins to contain water for dogs.”  One side of the fountain held a plaque in honor of the National Humane Alliance’s president, Herman Lee Ensign. The other three sides held large lion heads with streams of water flowing from their mouths into the bowl below.


Drinking Fountain as pictured on the Flood Wall

Drinking Fountain as pictured on the Flood Wall

Despite the statement that the fountain would be “shipped at once,” miscommunication with the National Humane Alliance’s secretary delayed the delivery significantly. The Evening Sun reported on December 2, 1907 that the fountain wouldn’t be shipped for another couple weeks, and since it was coming from Maine, that likely put the arrival of the sizable granite structure sometime at the beginning of the new year.


While the fountain eventually arrived virtually assembled and ready be placed, we must flash forward another eight months to August 5, 1908, for it was then that newspaper ran a front page article that the fountain had finally reached its home at 10th and Broadway. With that, one might think the story would end there, that the horses and dogs of the city had finally received their long awaited oasis.


But, no.


Skip forward yet another year to July 21, 1909. Buried in a long column of city news on page 3, the Evening Sun reported that “City Engineer Washington said he would connect the fountain at Tenth Street and Broadway soon with the water mains, and start the water to running. The fountain has been completed about a year, but has never been put to use.”


That’s right. The fountain was installed but never hooked up.


Two weeks later, the paper reported that the fountain was in need of a reducing valve which was “expected any day.”


And then, after nearly two years , news of the fountain finally ran dry.


We don’t know exactly when the first drop dripped out of the lions’ mouths, but we do know it was sometime before or during  1910 as we do have a photo from that year (pictured below) of the fountain in operation. And don’t feel too bad for our animal friends either. While the fountain may have been a beautiful addition to the city, it wasn’t their only source of refreshment. Troughs were located throughout town, creeks were much more prevalent, and there’s a pretty sizable river nearby, as well.


To learn more about your favorite watering hole, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.


–Matt Jaeger

Drinking Fountain Today

Drinking Fountain Today

A CRACK IN THE CONE: The Great Paducah Ice Cream Probe of 1910

ice cream 4

We’ve been blessed by a relatively mild spring and summer to this point, but Paducah has finally begun to swelter in true Ohio Valley fashion. Temperatures in the 90’s are expected all week, and with the arrival of a such a hot spell, one’s mind can’t help but wander toward things cooler—swimming pools, gentle breezes, frosty beverages, and, of course…




We approached today’s post with the hope of finding out a little bit about the history of ice cream in Paducah. The popularity of ice cream, like the settlement of Paducah, rose in prominence throughout the 1800’s, so we thought for sure that we’d find an amusing anecdote or two about the frozen confection  in some of the early editions of The Paducah Sun.


Soules Ice Cream, Paducah

Soules Ice Cream, Paducah

But we found a scant few, however. For instance, as early as 1897, a drug store in Paducah called Soules took out a daily ad in The Sun to advertise their ice cream flavors: chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, and orange. Brief notices of ice cream socials and ice cream suppers dotted the community listings, particularly among women’s groups and church functions. There are even a couple references at the turn of the 20th century to “diplomatic ice cream” being served at fancy dinner parties, a dessert made of layers of ice cream, rum-soaked ladyfingers, and diced fruit.


While these mentions of ice cream are pleasant enough, they are only mildly interesting and hardly worthy of a whole story. But then we ran across a headline from an August 1, 1910 Paducah Sun which read, “Ice Cream Cone To Be Analyzed.”


Our interest immediately peaked.


The article went further to state, “At a meeting of the board of health this afternoon…Dr. S.Z. Holland, city health officer, was authorized to procure an ice cream cone, against which a national fight is now being made, and have it analyzed to ascertain the ingredients. The analysis will probably be made by Dr. G.C. McKinney at the Illinois Central Railroad Hospital and should it result in improper materials being used the board will prohibit their future sale here.”


This sounds a bit like a kneejerk reaction by city officials. To ban a beloved food based on the testing of a single cone seems a little extreme. Yet, when the Paducah Sun article said that the ice cream cone was in the midst of a “national fight,” they weren’t kidding.


Throughout the U.S., the ice cream cone was under attack.


For all intents and purposes, the ice cream cone in America was only 6 years in 1910, having been introduced to a wide audience at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. With over 50 vendors at the Fair and millions of visitors trying them out, the popularity of the ice cream cone skyrocketed. As such, many tried to cash in the cone’s immediate success, and with federal food regulation in its infancy, the cone was a prime target for some shady practices.


Between the years of 1905 and 1910, illnesses and deaths attributed to contaminated ice cream cones were reported in newspapers throughout the country. Finally, in 1910, the federal government stepped in. Under the authority of Bureau of Chemistry in the Department of Agriculture and the new laws enabled by the recent passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act (the predecessor to the FDA), ice cream cones started to be tested and regulated, and if they were found to be faulty, they were seized. On July 9, 1910, regulators apprehended 4.5 million ice cream cones from a New York harbor. Affected cones were found to contain sawdust, clay, shavings, wrapping paper, and boric acid.


No wonder then that Paducah officials got a little leery.


Surely when the announcement came on August 1, 1910 that ice cream cones were to be analyzed and possibly discontinued in Paducah, the entire citizenry waited with sugary-bated breath to know whether they’d still be able to consume their delectable cylinders. They had to wait exactly 9 days for the results. On August 10, 1910, The Paducah Sun published the findings. According to Dr. G.C. McKinney, the cones “contained a mixture of sugar and a combination of protein and starch—probably wheat flour cooked. No clay or other foreign substances were found. The cones are not adulterated as chemists have found the cones sold in the large cities.”


The ice cream cones were safe to eat! And all of Paducah must have sighed with relief until they read the article a little further. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) Dr. McKinney had not only tested the cones, he had also tested their contents…the ice cream itself. Said the article, “The ice cream with which they [the cones] are filled is of the cheapest quality. The contents of the cones is not ice cream at all, but a mixture of water, gelatin, and starch sweetened and flavored. The stuff is about equal in nutrition to a mixture of one-tenth milk and nine-tenths water.”


While the cone was fine, the cream left much to be desired, so much so that the examiner stated that the ingredients were “not recommended as food for children.” Thus, the exonerated cone ended up losing after all for the paper speculated that steps would be taken to stop the sale of all cones in the city unless better ingredients were used in the cream.


To learn more about sweet treats and bitter defeats, visit us in the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.


–Matt Jaeger


Do It Yourself

Do It Yourself

BETWEEN THE BUNS: A Short History of the Hamburger in Paducah

Photo is not of a Paducah hamburger stand, but one similar to those found at the turn of the 20th century.

Photo is not of a Paducah hamburger stand, but one similar to those found at the turn of the 20th century.

March 28 was National Hamburger Day.

Let the rejoicing begin.

We who work in the Local and Family History Department are quite fond of our hamburgers (so much so that they are often times a matter of debate and salivation behind the desk). Thus, it only stands to reason that on this glorious holiday we should spend a little time researching Paducah’s history with this beacon of foods.

Hamburger steaks have likely been around as long as people figured out how to mince beef. The emergence of the hamburger steak between two slices of bread, however, looks to be an invention of the late 19th or early 20th century. Several lay claim to the creation of the sandwich from a county fair in Wisconsin to a street vendor in Texas to a German cook in New York who was trying to recreate a popular sailors’ lunch from his homeland. Though we may not be able to figure out exactly who invented the hamburger as we know it today, all the early claims fall between the years of 1895 and 1904.

There are a few references to hamburger steaks in editions of The Paducah Sun from the late 1800’s, but the earliest mention of a proprietor serving something just called “a hamburger” was in 1902. Sam Gott, a saloon owner and restaurateur, owned a few businesses in Paducah yet his flagship establishment was located on North Fourth Street. He advertised his lunch specials daily in The Sun, and his early fare included Pork & Turnips, Rabbit, Veal, Barbecued Spring Lamb, and Turtle Soup. Long about 1902, and several times a week thereafter Mr. Gott started advertising “the best lunch the market affords…go there tonight for a nice hamburger.” As there was no description or recipe, it’s unclear as to whether this meal was the hamburger sandwich as we think of it, though not once did Sam Gott’s advertising ever use the word steak.

Following Mr. Gott’s plate lunch specials in 1902, Paducah seemed to burgeon with street food vendors for the next few years. “Hamburgers and Hot Tamales? Go to Shorty’s on 117 S. Third.” Lem Parker had his hamburger stand on the corner of Broadway and Jefferson at Fourth Street. There were stands all over the city it seems. Next to Weille’s Department Store sat one such stand. It was a prime and well-trafficked area of Broadway, yet that small stand was the victim of an inexplicable Christmas-time crime on December 23, 1904. According to The Sun, at 7:00 that evening, the “hamburger man” was in his small house cooking up his wares when a “drunken farmer” stopped, pulled a large canon cracker from his pants pocket, lit the fuse with his cigar, and threw it under the stand. The hamburger man was unhurt and his stand only suffered a little broken glass. The drunken farmer got away.

Hamburger stands were so popular in this time that the Chief of Police James Collins ordered the vendors to take their food off the streets at night, as the scent of so many hamburgers was driving people indoors while the “plaintive cries of ‘red hot’ almost made many candidates for the asylum.”

While none of the of these stands advertised hamburger steaks, there is still no mention of bread, so it is unclear to this point whether Paducah had yet discovered the joys of the real hamburger. It wasn’t until 1906 that The Paducah Sun first used the phrase hamburger sandwich. Unfortunately the hamburger sandwich wasn’t celebrated in the article. In fact, it was listed as a cause of a shooting. On July 23, 1906, John Mix got into a scuffle with Cicero Anderson at Graham’s Saloon on 9th and Kentucky. Anderson ended up fatally shooting Mix in the abdomen. Said an eyewitness, “The shooting is the result of a quarrel over a pint of whiskey and half a hamburger sandwich.”

A shooting at a saloon.

What a horrible place to stake our hamburger heritage!

However, the mere mention of a “hamburger sandwich” in a police blotter does not establish a precedent. By 1906 we may have had bread included with our hamburgers, but where are the toppings? True hamburgers—note-worthy, historically relevant burgers—must have toppings as well. For that we flash forward to February 1909 and a much more pleasing anecdote again published in the Paducah Sun.

A farmer of meager means approached Lem Parker’s hamburger stand on Fourth and Jefferson. Seeing that hamburgers were only a nickel, he ordered one. Lem, the proprietor, asked the farmer if he wanted onions or pickles. Not knowing any better or thinking he was being misled by a city boy, the farmer said, “Neither. I want a meat hamburger.” Lem then proceeded to construct the sandwich for the naïve farmer—onions, pickles, and meat between slices of bread. In the words of The Sun, “The farmer devoured it with relish.”

That was that farmer’s introduction to the hamburger, and, as far as we know, Paducah’s introduction as well. Our history with the hamburger may be a little sketchy, falling somewhere between 1902 and 1909, but what we do know for absolute sure is that we have a lot of fine burgers in this town now. Just ask us in Local and Family History. We’ve tried them all.

For more about “Food, Glorious Food” or inane, arbitrary holidays, visit us in the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.

–Matt Jaeger

4000 EASTER EGGS !?!


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.



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.”


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.


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



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. 



So, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a pretty big basketball game tomorrow. While the thought of a Kentucky/Louisville matchup may bristle your tail and ruffle your feathers, surely it can’t compare to the excitement of Paducah’s Original March Madness…in 1909.

Under the prophetic headline, “Basketball May Become Popular,” the Paducah Evening Sun reported in December 1908 of the possible institution of the city’s first basketball league. After the turn of the new year, that prospect became a reality and the Paducah Basketball League began playing games. Six teams made up the league, compiled of players from local clubs and societies: Paducah High School; the Elks; Knights of Columbus; the Chess, Checker, and Whist Club; D.A.D.; and Paducah Light and Power.

Basketball was such a new sport, that in 1909 the newspaper dedicated nearly a full page to describing for its readership the rules of the game and why they should be interested in it. Said the Evening Sun, “Basketball, if played by the rules is a most exceedingly interesting game, both to the payers and to spectators, but if the rules are not respected, the game resembles more a wholesale wrestling, boxing, and free-for-all contest. If gymnasiums had padded floors and walls, it would be interesting to see a game termed basketball or indoor football, where players could be thrown, tripped, given a half nelson every now and then, and at the same time stand no chance of injury, but the rules of basketball, as given by the official guide of 1909, define every point of the game so clearly that the game if refereed properly, should not even be termed rough.”

Held at the gymnasium in the Eagle building, the six teams played double-headers twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, during the first three months of 1909, and in keeping with modern tradition, the season culminated (in madness) at the end of March with the crowning of a champion. Unlike modern tradition, no championship game was played, rather the champion was determined by the team’s percentage of wins throughout the season.

And who was crowned champion of Paducah’s very first basketball league?

The Chess, Checkers, and Whist Club reigned supreme and were presented with a beautiful loving cup for their efforts ( a loving cup, by the way, is a silver, multi-handled, over-sized, wine vessel). According to the Evening Sun, the cup cost $20 and was “engraved appropriately.”

For more information about vintage sporting events in Paducah, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.