Tag Archives: heritage protocol

Heritage Protocol & University Archives 101

Heritage Protocol & University Archives (HPUA), housed in Special Collections & Archives at Florida State University Libraries, maintains the official repository of university historical records. The archive holds publications, records, photographs, audio-visual, and other material in physical or digital form created by or about Florida State University. We also archive the student experience through the acquisition and preservation of materials created or acquired by alumni while they were students at the university.

Greetings from Florida State College for Women, see full description here.
Greetings from Florida State College for Women, see full description here.

Our staff consists of Heritage Protocol & University Archivist Sandra Varry and Archives Assistant Hannah Davis. We are also fortunate to have Graduate Assistant Britt Boler with us for the fall.

Our mission is to preserve and share the history of FSU with everyone – our FSU community and the public at large. We have a great time posting photos and interesting tidbits on our Facebook page and interacting with our fans as well as attending events on and off campus to promote HPUA. We provide images and information to news and media outlets as well as to researchers. On campus an important job we have is to provide not only historical records preservation for official records, but to provide that material to the university for everything from reports or events, or to help staff do research for projects. Factual data for administrative purposes is important, but we also get to do things like help celebrate the 100th birthday of an alumnus and participate in campus events.

1927 Faculty Baseball Team. See full description here.
1927 Faculty Baseball Team. See full description here.

We receive photographs, scrapbooks, and everything you can imagine from loyal fans, alumni, and their families from all over the world. The actual items come from all periods of time across our 164 year history. The combined knowledge base of student and university created records plus our professional archival staff makes us the place to come for Florida State History! All HPUA digital collections can be seen in the FSU Digital Library.

FSU Heritage Museum, Dodd Hall.
FSU Heritage Museum, Dodd Hall.

HPUA also oversees the Heritage Museum in Dodd Hall. The museum is open Monday – Thursday, 11AM – 4PM during the fall semester for both quiet study and museum visitors. Please visit our site for more information and to plan a visit.

A Century of Seasons: Early FSU Sports History

Florida State University’s Special Collections presents A Century of Seasons: The History of Florida State Athletics.  Visitors are invited to explore the history of Florida State athletics, which spans over ten decades, from the turn of the century to the modern day.  Beginning in 1905 and ending in 1947 Tallahassee’s campus was a women’s college, then known as Florida State Women’s College (F.S.C.W.).  These forty-years were marked by energetic school spirit, enthusiastic intramural rivalries and vibrant traditions.   A Century of Seasons highlights this age of intramural competition between Odd and Even classes with images, documents and artifacts.

F.S.C.W. intramural teams compete in a basketball game as fans watch from the sidelines.
F.S.C.W.’s 1914 intramural basketball teams compete as fans watch from the sidelines.

Basketball was phenomenally popular during the F.S.W.C years and, arguably, the most anticipated event of the year was the Thanksgiving Day competition.  Photographs of the game and the athletes tell the story of this highly anticipated event and the women who competed in it.  The exhibit also includes photographs and artifacts documenting minor and non-traditional sports played on campus over this period, including archery and an aquatic sport known as prelo.  Wooden dumbbells from the early twentieth century have survived and are displayed next to an image of the tumbling class putting them to use.

A collection of student scrapbooks, which contain unique photographs and ephemera from sporting events and provide a fascinating look at the way athletics, affected the daily lives of students.  Each of the scrapbooks displayed portrays the personality of its owner and the collected photographs, newspaper clippings and ephemera with the scrapbooks shows a unique perspective on the athletes and fans who attended the university when it was yet young.

A Century of Seasons: The History of Florida State Athletics is open from 10am-6pm in the Strozier Exhibit Room until February 2014.

A Century of Seasons: Modern FSU Sports History

ImageAthletics at Florida State College and Florida State College for Women had always been popular, but after the inception of FSU, sports exploded. Now able to have varsity teams because of the addition of men to the student body, the Tallahassee past time of Seminole fanaticism began. In the exhibit A Century of Seasons: The History of Florida State Athletics, photos, artifacts and ephemera from FSU’s favorite sports teams are on display, as well as forgotten athletic groups like Tarpon Club, the women’s synchronized swimming club, and Gymkana, FSU’s premier gymnastics show troupe.

A Century of Seasons traces the history of FSU athletics, like the incredible growth of FSU football. The excitement was palpable in 1947 when after a 40 year hiatus, FSU hosted its first football game against the Stetson Hatters. While the first season was a dismal bust (the Seminole squad lost all five of their games), the love for football had been instilled in FSU students and Tallahassee citizens alike. It didn’t take long for Florida State football to develop into a powerhouse team: winning the Cigar Bowl in 1950, their first undefeated season in 1950, starting in the top 20 in 1971, and the decades of winning teams under the coaching of Bobby Bowden.

ImageA Century of Seasons also highlights the illustrious career of the Tarpon Club, FSU’s oldest club. The synchronized swimming team was created in the 1920s, originally with the name Life Saving Corps. The club hosted exhibitions that would demonstrate form swimming, figure swimming, speed swimming, lifesaving techniques, diving, and canoe handling. The group adopted the name Tarpon Club in 1937, and developed into a highly-regarded club that garnered awards from national organizations, featured in Hollywood films, and eagerly anticipated water pageants. Tarpon Club disbanded in 1994 and left Florida State with a unique and well-loved history.

A Century of Seasons: The History of Florida State Athletics is open from 10am-6pm in the Strozier Exhibit Room until February 2014.

Smokey Hollow: Recovering Lost History

Colin and poster 1

My name is Colin Behrens, a freshman here at FSU.  I am a work study student working for Eddie Woodward in Heritage Protocol, a part of Special Collections and Archives. The reason why I pursued this job is because of my love for historical research: more experience in an archival setting can only help me in my ambition to become a historical scholar.

Today, I have met the first milestone in my goal to be a historian. Strozier Library hosted the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, a symposium dedicated to undergraduates at FSU who are pursuing either independent research or are aiding faculty members in their own research. I am, in addition to being an assistant at the Heritage Protocol, the research assistant to Dr. Jennifer Koslow in the History Department. Dr. Koslow is working on reconstructing data from the lost community of Smokey Hollow, located here in Tallahassee.

Smokey Hollow was an African-American Community located in what is now Cascades Park. It was founded in 1893 and was eventually wiped off the map in the 1960s. During the 1960s, a movement called ‘urban renewal’, which aimed to replace poorer areas of urban settings with more affluent commercial and residential zones, spread to cities all across the country. This movement spread to Tallahassee and led to the death of Smokey Hollow.

We do know some things about life in Smokey Hollow. The federal government has recognized Smokey Hollow as a historical heritage site due to its unique architecture. One of the most famous residents of Smokey Hollow was “Famous” Amos, of Famous Amos cookies. In addition, we know that the community valued education and that it was an extremely tight-knit community. Everyone was either related to each other or was at least treated as family if no blood-ties between two members actually existed. One of the more prevalent stories tells of how if a poor member of the community was jailed, whether rightfully or wrongly, an affluent member of Smokey Hollow would bail that poorer member out, no questions asked. This kind of loyalty was prevalent throughout the community and was one of its signature qualities.

Despite this knowledge, there’s quite a lot that is unknown about Smokey Hollow. We don’t have numbers on things like employment, education level, and ages. In order to solve this problem, Dr. Koslow aims to use the 1940 census to gain the data and then use statistics to glean insights into Smokey Hollow’s demographic makeup. My role in the project is first to transcribe the census records into Excel spreadsheets and then to begin the statistical analysis of the census data. It should be noted that white people lived in Smokey Hollow’s boundaries and are therefore included in the census, but because Smokey Hollow is by definition an African-American community, they will not be included in the study.

I have not yet finished transcription; it will be completed this weekend. I have, however, been able to eyeball the data available to us and make some general observations. Despite the fact that, in 1940, the Great Depression still plagued the country and that Smokey Hollow was an African-American community (which typically have lower employment than comparable white neighborhoods), employment was high. This can be ascribed to a myriad of factors.  First is the fact that there was a coal plant nearby, which would have hired the workers (and indeed, did). Secondly are New Deal programs, such as the PWA, the WPA, and the CCC, that employed a significant number of workers (though not near a majority by any means). Finally are the bonds of kinship and solidarity that the community held dear to their hearts. With such a vibrant community, with every member loyal to the others, it can easily be seen how the community would pull together in order to help everyone keep themselves employed in order to keep food on the table.

As a freshman at FSU, it is an odd thing for me to involved in a project of such high caliber. The reason why I am involved at all is due to my luck at being accepted into the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), which is in its pilot run this year. UROP aims to teach undergraduates how to perform academic research, and part of that process is assigning each and every student to a research assistantship, so that we may learn from successful members of our fields. That’s how I met Dr. Koslow and how I got the chance to work on such a wonderful project.

It’s important to note that research is one of the fundamental goals of FSU, and one that Special Collections fulfills very well. While my assistantship has not required the use of Special Collections, I have frequently seen my friend John Handel in the Special Collections room, performing research on his own. It is my hope that other undergraduates will follow our examples and participate in FSU’s undergraduate research community, as well as using Special Collections to the maximum benefit.

West Florida Seminary Cadets at the Battle of Natural Bridge

Almost from its inception, there had been a military and cadet component at West Florida Seminary (1851-1901), predecessor to Florida State University. With the commencement of the Civil War in 1861, this aspect of the school’s curriculum increased in importance, so much so that the State Legislature proposed changing the name of the institution to the Florida Collegiate and Military Institute. Throughout the War, the students served as something of a home guard, occasionally guarding Union prisoners of war and always on call in the event of a Federal threat to the capitol. In early March 1865, that threat was realized when word came that a Union fleet had landed troops on the Gulf coast at the St. Marks lighthouse with the probable intention of capturing the capitol in Tallahassee.

West Florida Seminary Cadet Corps, circa 1880s
West Florida Seminary Cadet Corps, circa 1880s

The invading forces, commanded by Brigadier General John Newton, moved northward from the coast, hoping to cross the St. Marks River at Newport and attack St. Marks from the rear. Local militia was called out to delay the Union advance, and among those were cadets from West Florida Seminary. At noon on March 5, the cadet corps assembled at the school and marched to the state capitol where they were enlisted and sworn into Confederate service. The cadet’s principal, Captain Valentine M. Johnson then led them to the Tallahassee train station for their journey southward to meet the invaders. Johnson was a veteran and had served honorably in the Confederate Army until 1863 when he was forced to resign for health reasons. It is nearly impossible to accurately determine the number of cadets that participated in the campaign. However, reasonable estimates put the number at around twenty-five, with their known ages ranging from eleven to eighteen. At the train station, Johnson filtered out those cadets, mostly the youngest of the corps, that would not participate. Others were left behind to continue their home guard duties and to man fortifications as a last line of the capitol’s defense.

VMI Cadet Photograph of Valentine Mason Johnson, circa 1860
VMI Cadet Photograph of Valentine Mason Johnson, circa 1860

The cadets and other Confederate troops boarded a train in Tallahassee which carried them south to Wakulla Station on the St. Marks Railroad. From there, they marched six miles to the small village of Newport. There, in the late afternoon on March 5, they joined forces with a portion of Lieutenant Colonel George Washington Scott’s 5th Florida Cavalry Battalion and a small contingent of Confederate marines and militia. Scott’s men had skirmished with the Federal troops the previous day, gradually falling back from the East River Bridge toward Newport. It was at that bridge that the Union forces hoped to cross the St. Marks River, enabling them to move against St. Marks and perhaps Tallahassee. At Newport, the cadets occupied a line of breastworks running parallel to the river along its west bank. From there, they commanded the approaches to the East River Bridge, which Scott’s men had partially burned. Federal troops on the opposite side of the river still hoped to force their way across and a skirmish soon developed. By nightfall, the firing diminished, and everyone waited in their positions to see if the Federals would resume the conflict the next morning. It was in those trenches on the banks of the St. Marks River that the young cadets from the West Florida Seminary received their baptism of fire.

Map of Natural Bridge from the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion. (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/143922)
Map of Natural Bridge from the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/143922)

Newton, frustrated in his efforts to cross the St. Marks River at Newport, learned of another crossing upriver at Natural Bridge. At that location, the St. Marks River ran underground for a short distance, creating a natural crossing point. In anticipation of such a move, the Confederate General William Miller positioned Scott’s cavalry at Natural Bridge with orders to delay a crossing until reinforcements could arrive. At dawn on March 6, a battle erupted with the Federal forces unable to force their way across the span. The cadets were soon ordered out of their entrenchments at the East River Bridge and marched along the Old Plank Road to reinforce Scott’s men at Natural Bridge. One mile from the battlefield, two cadets peeled off to aid the wounded at a field hospital. The rest continued on, all the while the sounds of cannon and musket fire growing louder.

When they reached the battlefield, the cadets were positioned near the center of the Confederate line, a giant crescent enveloping the Natural Bridge. There they immediately dug trenches to protect them from enemy fire and were instructed not to fire unless a charge was made on an adjoining Confederate battery. In these early stages, the battle was primarily an artillery engagement and the cadets could do little more than wait it out with the rest of the defenders. All attempts by the Federal troops to cross at Natural Bridge were stymied with heavy losses. The worst fighting occurred in front of the Confederate line in a dense hammock that covered the crossing. The cadets were not heavily involved in this action but remained under constant artillery and musket fire. Cadet Lieutenant Byrd Coles credits the Seminary’s teachers on the battlefield with the safety of the cadets: “no doubt many of the cadets would have been struck if our teachers had not watched us constantly and made us keep behind cover.”

With the arrival of reinforcements, the Confederate troops counterattacked, charging across the bridge and driving the Federal troops a short distance. At this instance, the Union General Newton, realizing that Natural Bridge, like the East River Bridge at Newport, was too heavily defended to cross, ordered a retreat back to the St. Marks lighthouse and the protection of the Federal fleet. The cadets were then ordered to return to Newport to guard against another attempted crossing there. However, the Federal forces had had enough, and the cadets’ active duty had come to an end.

Confederate General William Miller. (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/28524)
Confederate General William Miller (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/28524)

The Confederate victory against the Federal invasion was complete. Confederate casualties numbered three killed and twenty-three wounded (three mortally), with Federal losses totaling 148. The cadets from West Florida Seminary suffered no casualties. With the battle won, some of the cadets returned to Tallahassee, while others remained at Newport where they guarded two Confederate deserters that had crossed over to the Federal army and had been captured during the campaign. After the cadets witnessed their trial and execution, they escorted a group of around twenty-five Federal prisoners of war back to Tallahassee. On their return to Tallahassee, the cadets were welcomed as conquering heroes. A ceremony was held in the State House of Representatives chamber of the state capitol, where the cadets were presented with a company flag. Cadet Hunter Pope accepted the flag in the name of his comrades. It is uncertain what became of the flag, and it is thought that it returned with the cadets to the Seminary and was probably taken by Federal troops when they occupied Tallahassee after the War.

The Confederate victory at the Battle of Natural Bridge had no effect on the outcome of the War, and in less than a month, Robert E. Lee would surrender the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The terms of Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender of the Army of Tennessee seventeen days later, included the surrender of Confederate troops in Florida as well. On May 10, Federal troops under the command of Brigadier General Edward McCook took possession of Tallahassee. The Federal army captured and paroled approximately 8,000 Confederate soldiers, including twenty-four cadets. It is thought that some of the cadets simply returned home after the surrender and before being formally paroled.

Natural Bridge Battlefield State Monument. (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/29939)
Natural Bridge Battlefield State Monument (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/29939)

Tallahasseeans fondly remembered the service provided by the West Florida Seminary cadets. Beginning in 1885, the state of Florida granted pensions to Confederate veterans, and two years later, they were also extended to home guard units, which included the cadets. Sixteen former cadets applied for pensions, while several others endorsed the applications of their comrades. The Tallahassee chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy issued Southern Crosses of Honor to the former cadets who applied for the award, and they received tributes as “The Youngest of the Young Who Wore the Gray.” That phrase, forever associated with their participation in the battle, is inscribed on a monument at Natural Bridge Battlefield, which is today a state park.

As a result of the cadet/students participation in the engagement, on February 28, 1957, the FSU Army and Air Force ROTC units were officially presented with battle streamers by Governor LeRoy Collins in a ceremony at Doak Campbell stadium. Today the Florida State University Reserve Officers’ Training Corps detachment is permitted to fly a battle streamer as a result of the School’s participation in the action at Natural Bridge. It is one of only three colleges and universities in the United States which is permitted to do so. In the 1990s, the campus ROTC Building was renamed the Harper-Johnson Building in honor of Captain Valentine M. Johnson and a twentieth century Air Force ROTC graduate who rose to the rank of general.

For a fuller account of the battle, see David J. Coles,  “Florida’s Seed Corn: The History of the West Florida Seminary During the Civil War,” Florida Historical Quarterly 77, no. 3 (Winter 1999): 283-319.

FSCW Traditions – Color Rush

Bryan Hall decorated with Odd Team colors, circa 1917-1921. (Marion Laura Stine Collection, 1917-1921.)
Bryan Hall decorated with Odd Team colors, circa 1917-1921. (Marion Laura Stine Collection, 1917-1921.)

Held on the morning preceding the annual Florida State College for Women’s Thanksgiving Day basketball game, Color Rush first made its campus appearance around 1917. Color Rush was a series of races, by Odd and Even members, in which each team attempted to “capture” campus buildings by affixing their team’s colors to the highest point. The two squads tried to one-up the other, so much so that poles with red, white, and purple or green and gold ribbons extended beyond the rooftops. Later, for safety reasons, the colors were attached to the front doors of major campus buildings and other landmarks. Color Rush officially began with the morning bell, signaling the runners to race out of their dormitory rooms to tag the Administration Building, the Education Building, the dormitories, and other designated target points.

In 1919, it was decreed that the fountain, a gift from the classes of 1915 and 1917, was “forever Odd,” and from then on, only Odd colors of red, purple, and white would adorn it. The entrance arch and brick piers, or main gates, presented to the college by the classes of 1916 and 1918, were declared “forever Even” and reserved for only green and gold from then on. Evens decorated the Dining Hall in even numbered years, and Odds in odd numbered years. As for the other buildings, the possession of the structure was determined by the runner from the side that first touched it.

In 1921, the rules were changed again: from then on, each team selected a runner that lined up in front of Business Manager, John G. Kellum’s house at the corner of Copeland Street and College Avenue, just outside the main gates. From there, the runners raced to the campus buildings where official judges determined the winner. After the objectives were secured for the team, other members helped with the decorating of the buildings. Traditionally, Dr. Ralph Bellamy was the official starter for the Color Rush race for the Administration Building. Instead of using a whistle to start the race, he used his shotgun, with “On your mark, get set.” BOOM! After the event, the campus was said to be radiant with color.

Color Rush, November 25, 1925. (Carolyne Doyle Richardson Scrapbook, circa 1926.)
Color Rush, November 25, 1925. (Carolyne Doyle Richardson Scrapbook, circa 1925-1926.)

Annie Gertrude Gilliam: Reflections of a Student’s Life in the 1920s

Gertrude Gilliam at the Florida State College for Women campus.

Annie Gertrude Gilliam was a Florida State College for Women student, Class of 1929.  She earned her BS in education, was a member of the Young Women’s Christian Association, and a sister in Phi Mu sorority.  Heritage Protocol recently acquired her scrapbook, which documents her time as a student at FSCW, from her freshman year in 1925 through to her graduation four years later.  Gertrude, as she was known to her friends, annotated the scrapbook with her day to day thoughts and opinions, capturing both her fun-loving personality and her experiences at FSCW.

As a student, Gertrude and her friends frequently hiked in and around Tallahassee.  Those “little strolls” sometimes took her and her friends as far as nine miles!  While traversing the area, they often enjoyed chewing gum, which was strictly forbidden by the FSCW administration.  She claimed to have no idea how the gum fell into her hands.

Gertrude, always fashionable, on one of her “little strolls.”

Gertrude loved entertainment and frequently caught the latest and most popular plays, movies, and musical performances.  Her tongue-in-cheek wit was occasionally revealed in her reviews, such as after one disappointing comedy performance when she proclaimed that “no one was responsible for laughing.”  While it was customary for FSCW students to be accompanied by a chaperone when leaving campus, she and her friends sometimes attended shows without one.

Gertrude’s close friend and sophomore roommate, Dorothy Brown, had her own car that she brought to school, which was affectionately known as “the pet.”  Dorothy would take Gertrude and their other friends out on “Sunday drives,” in and around town.  The notion of the car breaking down and leaving them stranded was of some concern to Gertrude, but she never let those fears hinder their mini adventures.

Gertrude and “the gang” traveled in style thanks to Vogue, the Tallahassee shop where a girl went when she was in the mood for a new dress or shoes.  Gertrude, a fashion enthusiast, praised Vogue’s payment plan for its shoppers.  Her desirable wardrobe sometimes led to issues with roommates.  On one occasion, her friend left her a note explaining that she had borrowed her brown and red dress.  If Gertrude was upset that she had taken it and wanted it back, the note continued, her friend would be at the dentist.

Gertrude Gilliam (center) and the “Gang” getting ready for one of their Sunday drives.

Gertrude sometimes struggled with her classes and, during her freshman year, failed biology.  She always seemed to be called upon in class to provide some “unheard of date.”  Despite these setbacks, she strove for excellence and worked toward improvement in all aspects of her education.  Her college experience included organized extracurricular activities, such as YWCA and Phi Mu sorority.  She attended campus parties, where her classmates and she would dance the Charleston and eat Baby Ruth candy bars.

Annie Gertrude Gilliam’s scrapbook helps us to understand that while so much has changed since then, many similarities remain between students at Florida State University today and students 80 years ago at the Florida State College for Women.  Although the times appear so much different, Gertrude faced many of the same issues that modern day students do, such as adherence to rules and regulations and roommate problems.  As today, Gertrude pushed the edge of the envelope with the latest trends and established lifelong friendships.

Florida State College for Women Scrapbooks in the Archives

Mary Cobb Nelson.

Compiling scrapbooks was a popular pastime for those who attended the Florida State College for Women.    These students filled their scrapbooks with the miscellaneous items that they thought significant and representative of their day to day lives. Working in the archives, we specifically look for these ephemeral objects that people often threw away. These items, when compiled together in the form of a scrapbook, paint a historic picture of what life was like in previous years.

One of my favorites that I have had the opportunity to process was created by Mary Cobb Nelson during the mid to late 1920s. Filled with photographs, newspaper clippings, invitations, and even bridge game score cards, she kept a detailed record of what it was like to participate in groups and student events at the college. Most of the students at FSCW led active social lives and were very involved in athletics, sororities, and other types of extracurricular activities.

KD page from the 1926 Flastacowo.

Mary Cobb Nelson took great pride in being a sister in Kappa Delta sorority, and that aspect of her college life defined her more than anything else and is reflected throughout her collection. She and her sorority sisters frequently traveled to Camp Flastacowo and attended bridge games, luncheons, and even fraternity events and football games at the University of Florida.

The collection also includes photographs from her college years.  Some of her classmates had their own cameras which resulted in numerous candid photographs. These are some of the best items we can receive because they give life to the people who we are studying while processing their collections. It is, in fact, much like getting to know them personally.

Another interesting item in her collection is her 1926 Flastocowo yearbook, generously signed to her by sorority sisters on the Kappa Delta page. Affectionate inscriptions from her friends wish her “loads of love” and exemplify the type of sisterhood that surrounded Mary during her college years.

Mary Cobb Nelson and her friends at FSCW.

While this scrapbook and other items that we have provide valuable insight into her life at FSCW, Mary Cobb Nelson still remains a mysterious figure to us at the archives.  Although she was popular among her fellow students and sorority sisters and obviously made her mark on the college, we are still unable to determine if or when she graduated. We believe she had a twin sister, Rebekah, and a best friend, Winnifred Neeld, but information beyond her social involvement at the college in the 1920s is still missing from our records. Through donations and contributions, we can often recover missing pieces regarding the people who make up our archives.  It is hoped that, in time, we will learn more about the popular — but mysterious — Mary Cobb Nelson.

Inez Abernethy: Florida Female College Heroine

Born in Summerville, Arkansas in 1873, Inez Abernethy (or Abernathy) was the head of the Art Department at Florida Female College and Florida State College for Women from 1905 to 1914.  She received her training at the Art Academy in Cincinnati, Ohio and then studied in Europe from 1896 to 1898.  Between 1900 and 1903, she exhibited twice at the Salon Des Artiste Francais, and by invitation at the Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia, and at the National Academy of Design in New York City.  At various times she taught, and the year before taking her post at Florida Female College, she was an instructor in drawing and painting at the Summer School of the South in Knoxville, Tennessee.

When she accepted the position as instructor in painting and drawing at Florida Female College in August 1905, she was informed by President Albert A. Murphree that the art equipment at the College was meager and inadequate.  As a result, Abernethy brought her own collection of casts, models, drawings and oil paintings, which were used freely by her students.

On December 22, 1906, when West Hall caught fire, Abernethy was serving as the faculty resident or matron on the second floor.  When she learned of the fire, she sounded the alarm and worked tirelessly to wake the girls and get them to safety.  Unfortunately, West Hall burned to the ground, and with it, her collection of materials in the Art Studio was also lost.

In the years after the fire, Abernethy and Murphree petitioned the State Legislature to compensate her for her losses.  In 1909, the State reimbursed Abernethy for the amount of $2,500, half of the amount that she had requested for her lost art materials.  In the same act that granted her these funds, she was recognized for her heroism during the disaster: “there being no man on the campus at the time,” because of “her efforts to save the lives of the girls sleeping in that building, [she] deliberately sacrificed her collection, which she otherwise could have saved.”

Florida State College for Women Art Class, circa 1910-1911

During her tenure at FFC and FSCW, she also served on the the Pan-Hellenic Council and as faculty sponsor for Kappa Delta Sorority.  She left the school in 1914 and moved to New York City where she went on to a successful career as an internationally acclaimed painter.  From October 1935 to January 1939, she was employed in the Easel Division of the Federal Art Project, the visual arts department of the New Deal WPA.  According to an article in a 1941 Flambeau, Abernethy was responsible for the two companion paintings, “May” and “October”, which were then on display in Reynolds Hall.  She died in New York City on January 8, 1956 and is buried at Oakland Cemetery in Warren, Arkansas.

Women for FSU event

Text provided by Gina Woodward
Photographs by Burt Altman, Liz Johnson, Gina Woodward, and Kat Bell

Women For FSU Logo
Florida State University Libraries Welcomes The Women for Florida State University

On Saturday, March 19, 2011, Florida State University Libraries Special Collections and Archives and Heritage Protocol hosted the Back-Stage Pass event for the Women for Florida State University (FSU).

The Women for FSU is an organization for women who share a passion for Florida State University.  The members span multiple generations and diverse backgrounds, but they are united by the desire to support the university in whatever way they can.  Members choose their level of involvement and join in activities as their schedules permit.

Over 85 women participated in the Back-Stage Pass event. As they arrived, they were greeted by Julia Zimmerman, Dean of the University Libraries. The groups were then divided up, with half of the participants visiting Heritage Protocol while the other half visited Special Collections, then switching between locations.

Sammie Morris, Associate Dean for Special Collections and Digital Initiatives, spoke to the participants about the wide variety of rare books and manuscripts available for research in Special Collections.  Several examples from the collection were on display, including a signed copy of The Chimney Corner by Harriet Beecher Stowe, books on women’s rights, women in Southern literature, women’s efforts during World War I and World War II, and women’s education. The display included a 15th century handwritten and illuminated manuscript created by nuns in Venice, Italy.  Additional manuscripts included letters from Helen Keller and Harriet Beecher Stowe; scrapbooks of Betty Wood McNabb, a 1930 Florida State College for Women (FSCW) alumna and pilot; and a lengthy handwritten oration on poetry delivered by Lucile Gregory at FSCW in 1911.

Dr. Christie Koontz, a faculty member in FSU’s College of Information and an expert on marketing and storytelling, served as a guest speaker at the event. Dr. Koontz read an excerpt from Lucile Gregory’s 1911 oration and talked about the serendipity of archival research, in particular how connections can be made with archival material that lead to the creation of new knowledge. The audience shared Dr. Koontz’s awe that Lucile Gregory gave her award-winning 11-page oration entirely by memory, as was the custom at FSCW at the time.

Dick Puckett, who along with Ed Franklin made up the famous Florida State University Flying Seminoles, also served as a guest speaker.  The Flying Seminoles performed in Native American costumes, and had unusual baton twirling dance routines with the Marching Chiefs and at other events.  He spoke about his memories of FSU and the personal items he has donated to Heritage Protocol, a university-wide organization dedicated to collecting and preserving FSU history.  Visitors to Heritage Protocol were able to view historical photographs of FSU and FSCW, as well as yearbooks, documents, and memorabilia.

Continue reading Women for FSU event