Tag Archives: tallahassee history

Looking back at High School in Tallahassee 1957-1987

Since September of last year, FSU Libraries has partnered with Leon High School, Florida’s oldest continually accredited high school, to digitize their school yearbooks and newspaper and provide access to those materials through the FSU Digital Library. This has been a rewarding community partnership for the Digital Library Center and Special Collections & Archives here at FSU as it has allowed us to work closely with members of the Tallahassee community and also given those of us working on the project, many not Tallahassee natives, a unique view into the life of high schoolers in our city starting in the 1920s.

A page spread from the May 15, 1981, Leon High Life. View entire issue here

A new batch of Leon High School (LHS) newspapers was just loaded into the FSU Digital Library. This set spans from 1957 to 1987 during which our area, and the world, saw a massive amount of growth and change, especially technological change. The 1950s issues sport ads for film-based cameras, record shops, and lunch counter drug stores. Fast forward to the 1980s where cassette tapes, college radio, and computers all enter the high school parlance. Not to mention the cultural and social changes these issues record from the point of view of a high schooler. It is a truly fascinating way to look at the history of Tallahassee, Florida and beyond.

You can browse all the LHS newspaper issues here and look at the entire LHS collection here which includes 80 editions of their yearbook, The Lion’s Tale.

Digitizing Leon High School Newspapers

In collaboration with Leon High School, we just finished digitizing the first batch of their newspapers which date from 1920-1956. As with most collaborative efforts, this was a multi-step process involving several parties and today we’re going to briefly discuss the digitization portion of this project. The goal is to have the entire Leon High Newspaper Collection digitized, loaded into DigiNole and made accessible to the community.

The first step in the process was to take a glance at what we were working with and to prep the papers for digitization. The newspapers were picked up from Leon High and delivered to Strozier Library neatly sorted and grouped by decade, with most stored in protective mylar. Considering their age, the papers themselves were in decent condition and they arrived stored in several large archival boxes.

Sorting Leon High Newspapers

Sorting Leon High Newspapers
Sorting through the Leon High Newspapers

The plan was to efficiently digitize these objects using multiple pieces of equipment at once; larger issues would be digitized with our overhead reprographic camera set up while the smaller ones would be scanned on our Epson 11000XL flatbed scanners.

In order to get started, we sorted the newspapers by size and had them distributed to their respective scanning stations. This allowed us to save time by not having to manually refocus and position our overhead IQ180 camera each time a different-sized newspaper was encountered. Leaving the camera in one position allowed for faster capture time and guaranteed each photo would be captured at the specified resolution.

IQ180 Camera Setup
IQ180 camera aiming down at a Leon High Newspaper

When photographing this sort of material, it’s important to reduce as much depth as possible. Peaks and valleys caused by folds or creases in the objects can sometimes cause problems when trying to achieve evenly-sharp focus throughout the frame. Thankfully, most of the newspapers from this first batch laid relatively flat without too many folds or bumps.

We were able to flatten the few troublesome papers by carefully utilizing a set of custom-sized glass plates. By lowering the angles of the lights and by using low-glare glass, we were able to prevent any unwanted reflections from showing up in the final images.

These problems typically don’t occur when using flatbed scanners since closing the lid does a good job of flattening most objects. The scanners also allow for even lighting across the entire object without the risk of unwanted reflections, especially with non-glossy material such as these newspapers.

Epson 11000XL
Epson 11000XL getting ready to scan

Images from the flatbed scanner were cropped and saved to our servers directly from the VueScan software while images captured with our camera setup were edited and processed with Capture One CH.

Capture One CH Software
Typical Capture One CH session

While both pieces of software are quite powerful, they both have very different features. We primarily use VueScan as a scanning/processing software, while Capture One has the added bonus of offering file management and batch processing features as well as powerful capture tools. This allows us to quickly capture hundreds of photos consecutively and apply a set of edits/crops to the entire project at once. Capture One CH also offers specialized auto-crop and batch-crop features, which can be a massive time saver.

Once the images are all processed and saved onto our servers, they move onto final steps which include quality control, metadata creation, and loading of the images into DigiNole. Once the project has been safely uploaded, we will be ready to start all over with the second batch of newspapers! These newspapers will become part of the Leon High School Collection where we already have a full set of yearbooks for our users to browse.

We are ready to start digitizing the second batch of Leon High Newspapers after the holiday break, so keep an eye out for them to show up in Diginole later in 2019!

The Bulletins of Tallahassee’s First Baptist Church

Through an ongoing collaboration with The First Baptist Church of Tallahassee, we have been working to digitize and share all of the church’s published bulletins from the 1930s through today. This collaboration is one of several FSU Libraries’ projects aimed at bringing community collections online.

The First Baptist Church’s bulletins typically consist of community updates, upcoming events, Sunday programs, and other information centered around the congregation. Each pamphlet contains photos and unique illustrations related to the events occurring at the time.

Page from The Voice of the First Baptist Church Volume 21. Number 19, October 23rd, 1986
Page from The Voice of the First Baptist Church Volume 21. Number 19, October 23rd, 1986 [See original object]
As we continue adding more material to this collection in DigiNole, visitors can gain a better understanding of what life was like in Tallahassee from the perspective of the church. The first three batches of bulletins up to 1989 are now available while those printed in the 1990s will be uploaded next month.

The bulletins are just one phase of this collaboration with The First Baptist Church of Tallahassee, so keep an eye out for future updates to see what’s coming up next.

Clifton in the Capital: Tallahassee Civic Activist” Exhibition Opening

Guests are invited to explore the life works of Clifton Van Brunt Lewis, a local activist in the Tallahassee civil rights movement who championed for equality, pushed for historic preservation and founded many of Tallahassee’s beloved cultural institutions, including LeMoyne Center for the Arts, Tallahassee Museum, and the Spring House Institute.

Clifton_Poster

Clifton and her husband George Lewis II supported student protestors during the lunch counter sit-ins and theatre demonstrations, as well as worked on interracial committees such as the Tallahassee Association for Good Government and the Tallahassee Council on Human Relations. Clifton established “The Little Gallery” in the lobby of the Lewis State Bank, showcasing both white and black artists in a rotating display. She stayed active until the very end, pushing for equal rights, environmental protection, and art and beauty for everyone.

Their family home, the Lewis Spring House, is the only residence designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright in Florida during his lifetime. It is operated by the Spring House Institute. Visit them at PreserveSpringHouse.net.

The opening reception is Thursday, April 12 from 5-7PM  in the Mary Lou Norwood Reading Room, second floor Strozier Library. Exhibit curator Lydia Nabors will give a short talk at 6:15PM.

The exhibit will be open 10AM-6PM Monday through Friday in the Norwood throughout Summer 2018.

You can also explore the exhibit online at CliftonInTheCapital.omeka.net.

The Journals of an 19th century Tallahassee Reverend

We recently added a small new set of materials to the digital collection for theSt. John’s Episcopal Church Records. Two items detail the history of the Church further. The other three are journals kept by the Reverend Doctor W.H. Carter. They document his travels and ministry in New York, Florida, and places in-between from 1855-1907. Dr. Carter was born in Brooklyn, New York, and studied at Yale University. Before his time in Tallahassee, Carter was rector of Episcopal congregations in Warwick, New York, and Daytona Beach. After some time spent traveling as a missionary, Carter was installed at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tallahassee in June 1879. In his journal entry from June 9th, Carter noted: “wonder how I will like it.” He apparently liked it well enough, as he remained in Tallahassee until his death in 1907.

Page from Journal of W.H. Carter, 1874-1897
The page from Rev. Carter’s Journal where he notes his move to Tallahassee in 1879. [See Original Item]
During his time in Tallahassee, Carter oversaw the construction of a new church building in 1880 and continued to take his clerical work on the road to worshippers in many small towns in North Florida, asylums, and the Leon County Jail. In the 1880s he was instrumental in establishing a church building and school for the black congregation of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Tallahassee, often performing services there. Carter’s work and demeanor left a significant impression on the congregation of St. John’s; his obituary notes that “Doctor Carter’s life was an object lesson of cheerful and patient serenity. In 1950 the church annex was extensively renovated and renamed the Carter Chapel in his honor. You may see all the journals here in the digital collection as well as the other materials digitized from the St. John’s Episcopal Church Records collection.

St. John’s is the mother church of the Diocese of Florida. It was founded as a mission parish in 1829, and the church’s first building was erected in 1837. The Diocese was organized at St. John’s in 1838 and Francis Huger Rutledge, who became rector of St. John’s in 1845, was consecrated the first Bishop of Florida in 1851. The original church burned in 1879; a new church was built on the same site and consecrated in 1888, and it is still the parish’s principal place of worship.

The physical collection includes administrative records; member registries; meeting minutes of the Vestry and church circles; Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, hymnals, and other liturgical works; documentation of the history of St. John’s Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Florida; service bulletins and other periodicals; sermon transcripts; photographs; and motion pictures.

For more information about the collection, visit its finding aid.

Sources:
W.H. Carter Journal, 1874-1897, St. John’s Episcopal Church Records, Special Collections and Archives, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida. http://purl.fcla.edu/fsu/MSS_2016-006
Stauffer, Carl. (1984). God willing: A history of St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1829-1979. Tallahassee, FL. http://fsu.catalog.fcla.edu/permalink.jsp?23FS021651363

A Look into the History of a Tallahassee Church

Page from Parish Register, 1832-1923, 1940
Page from Parish Register, 1832-1923, 1940

The St. John’s Episcopal Church Records includes administrative records; member registries; meeting minutes of the Vestry and church circles; Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, hymnals, and other liturgical works; documentation of the history of St. John’s Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Florida; service bulletins and other periodicals; sermon transcripts; photographs; and motion pictures. We recently completed digitization and making available some of the registers from the collection. These materials give you a look into parish life from 1832 to 1953. In particular, these registers track baptisms, burials and marriages in the Church over that time period.

St. John’s is the mother church of the Diocese of Florida. It was founded as a mission parish in 1829, and the church’s first building was erected in 1837. The Diocese was organized at St. John’s in 1838 and Francis Huger Rutledge, who became rector of St. John’s in 1845, was consecrated the first Bishop of Florida in 1851. The original church burned in 1879; a new church was built on the same site and consecrated in 1888, and it is still the parish’s principal place of worship.

For more information about the collection, visit its finding aid and to see the digitized materials, visit its digital collection home.

Many Happy Returns to the Prince of Tallahassee

On January 21, 1801, Charles Louis Napoleon Achille Murat was born to Joachim and Caroline Bonaparte Murat, Napoleon Bonaparte’s youngest sister. Through the family’s connections with the Emperor, Joachim was eventually made King of Naples, hence the Prince Murat title. Upon the Emperor’s second defeat in 1815, Achille’s father was executed and his mother fled with her children to Vienna.

Achille would emigrate to America upon his 21st birthday in 1821 and became a naturalized citizen fairly soon after, renouncing all his titles. After roaming the country, he settled in Washington DC where he happened to become friends with Richard Keith Call, Florida’s territorial delegate to Congress who told the young man of the many opportunities in the newly acquired territory.

Murat settled first in St. Augustine but later purchased his Lipona Plantation outside Tallahassee after much prodding from the Marquis de Lafayette.  It was in Tallahassee that Murat met his future wife, Catherine Daingerfield Willis Gray, great grandniece of George Washington. Murat was also a part of Florida’s militia and would hold the rank of colonel for the rest of his life following the Seminole Wars.

Illustration of Murat and Emerson from A Prince In Their Midst
Illustration of Murat and Emerson from A Prince In Their Midst; The Adventurous Life of Achille Murat on the American Frontier

A man of many interests, Murat was a writer. He, along with his fellow countryman Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote much on American culture and lifestyle during his lifetime though Murat’s writing never became as popular as Tocqueville. He also had a close friendship with Ralph Waldo Emerson whom he met in St. Augustine in 1826.

After an attempt to regain some of his family’s fortune in the July Revolution of 1830 and several unsuccessful years in New Orleans, Murat and his wife moved back in Tallahassee in the mid 1830s and Murat would remain here the rest of his life. Murat died in 1847 and is buried  in the St. John’s Episcopal Church cemetery in Tallahassee.

Recently, through the efforts of a local group, the historic marker outside the cemetery where Murat and his wife are buried was restored after mysteriously vanishing a year ago. You can read about the new marker and those who helped get it back in place on the Tallahassee Democrat’s website.

 

Celebrating Civil Rights History in Tallahassee

With the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech today, we revisited the collections we hold regarding the Civil Rights Movement right here in Tallahassee. Among our most popular and unique is The Tallahassee Civil Rights Oral History Collection, which chronicles the experiences of nineteen individuals who were involved in the civil rights movement in Tallahassee during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

March 27, 1964, an estimated 1,500 march near the Florida State Capitol urging the passage of the Civil Rights Act
March 27, 1964, an estimated 1,500 march near the Florida State Capitol urging the passage of the Civil Rights Act

The interviews were conducted and donated to Special Collections by Dr. Jackson Lee Ice, a professor of religion here at FSU. Ice arrived in Tallahassee in 1955, nine months before the Tallahassee bus boycott. He was a witness to and a participant in the civil rights activities and social changes that affected Tallahassee during those years.

Ice came under heavy criticism from local political figures for his statements supporting the rights of African-Americans to demonstrate and perform civil disobedience for their cause. He was almost fired from his FSU teaching position. It was because of his work with the Tallahassee Council on Human Relations that he became acquainted with many local African-American leaders and participants and familiar with the issues and problems they faced.

Through this experience, Ice became convinced of the importance of the activities of the Tallahassee Civil Rights Movement in our nation’s history. Primarily, he wanted to record these events, as told by individuals who witnessed them, before they faded from memory. He also wanted to enlighten his students about what took place during this era of racial tension, courage, and sacrifice and the role that Tallahassee played nationally in the civil rights struggle.

Working for the Florida State University Center for the Study of Southern Religion and Culture with funding supplied by a Rockefeller Foundation grant, Ice taped a series of interviews with people who were residents of Tallahassee during that era. He selected a representative sample of civil rights advocates and their opponents and interviewed them during the summer of 1978.

Reverend C.K. Steele accepting a check given to him by Reverend Raymond Henderson.
Reverend C.K. Steele accepting a check given to him by Reverend Raymond Henderson.

In 2003-4, the audiocassettes were transferred to CDs with help from a National Historical and Publications Records Commission grant. Three of the interviews are currently available online: Reverend C. K. Steele, Charles U. Smith and King Solomon Dupont. Detailed descriptions of the interviewees and summaries of the interviews can be read in the full finding aid for the collection here.

Through these interviews, we discover how Tallahassee was both being affected and contributing to the civil rights movement of the early 1960s, a volatile time in the south during which Dr. King delivered his famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Photo credits: Florida State University Office of Multicultural Affairs Records, Special Collections, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida.

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.