Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Lucky Birthday for Alabama's Eddie Floyd -- Knock on Wood!

Happy Birthday to Alabama-born soul singer and songwriter Eddie Floyd. Eddie Floyd was born Eddie Lee Floyd on June 25, 1935 in Montgomery, Alabama and though he has an album coming out next month -- his first in six years-- he is probably best known for his work on the Memphis-based Stax Records label in the 1960s and 1970s - first as a songwriter, then as a surprise mega-hit singer!

Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, Floyd founded the the group The Falcons, which was a forerunner to future Detroit vocal groups such as one of the most famous Detroit bands (who got their start in their native Birmingham, Alabama!), The Temptations.

The 1959 hit by the Falcons, You're So Fine has been said by some to have been the first true Soul song. Wilson Pickett (yet another Alabamian -- he hailed from Prattville) was later recruited into the group and sang lead on the group's next success, I Found a Love. Pickett left shortly after to begin a a solo career, and The Falcons disbanded.

Floyd signed on with Stax Records as a songwriter in 1965. He wrote some hit songs including Comfort me, and also worked as a songwriting team with guitarist Steve Cropper to write songs for Wilson Pickett, who by now was signed to Atlantic Records (Atlantic distributed Stax). The Pickett recording sessions were a great success and yielded several hit songs, including the Floyd co-written Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won't Do) and 634-5789 (Soulsville USA).

In 1966, Floyd wrote the song Knock on Wood, and recorded it himself though it had been intended for Otis Redding. Music producer Jerry Wexler convinced Stax president Jim Stewart to release Eddie Floyd's recording of the song and Knock On Wood launched a solo career that has spanned over four decades.

Knock on Wood is one of those remarkable songs that has a life of its own -- having been recorded by over one hundred different artists including David Bowie, Count Basie, Cher, and Ike and Tina Turner. The song became a #1 Disco hit for the recording artist Amii Stewart in 1979. Here are a few versions - including Eddie Floyd's, Amii Stewart's version and a couple of others for your entertainment. And be sure to visit the Hoole Library to learn more about Alabama's incredibly diverse and rich musical history -- the images featured here are from items the Wade Hall Collection of Southern History and Culture and the Ed Hall Sound Recordings Collection. Here's to a very cool birthday, Mr. Floyd -- and good luck with your new album!
Please enjoy this mega-hit's legacy with versions by Mr. Floyd, two by Amii Stewart, Buddy Guy, Cher, James Last and David Bowie! (Note that while I can't embed the best one - which is from 1966 and probably from the television show, Hulabaloo, you can access it here:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Great News! and Great Letterhead from Loving Son W.C. to his Doting Mother, Amelia

Letter from W.C. to his mother Amelia, June 5, 1908

The item featured above is part of the UA Libraries' contribution to AlabamaMosaic -- an online repository of digital materials on Alabama's history, culture, places, and people that was developed to make unique historical treasures from Alabama's archives, libraries, museums, and other repositories electronically accessible to Alabama residents and to students, researchers, and the general public in other states and countries. AlabamaMosaic was initiated under a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and is now administered by the Network of Alabama Academic Libraries (NAAL), with several repositories contributing.

The letter featured here -- written one hundred years ago this month, in June of 1908 was to Amelia Gayle Gorgas from her son, Willie, or William Crawford Gorgas. His great opening line -- "Dear Mother: You have a son now who is the President of the American Medical Association" just about says it all. The letter sends regrets for not being there for his mother's birthday, but that he will arrive around "the 16th".

This letter, while of huge sentimental and historical significance is also a great example of the elaborate letterhead designs found in our collections. Cool@Hoole will be featuring some interesting letterhead as an occasional series -- the letterhead designs themselves are of great interest to those interested in commercial printing, printing history, and business and institutional histories. Stay tuned for many more intriguing (and cool!) letterhead designs!

Amelia Gayle Gorgas and her son, William Crawford Gorgas, undated.

Selected materials from the William Crawford Gorgas Papers are featured in AlabamaMosaic, and are part of UA Libraries' Digital Collections. This important collection provides great insight into the life this "Enemy of Disease" -- the man who is credited for eradicating Yellow Fever.

William Crawford Gorgas was born October 3, 1854, in Toulminville, Alabama, near Mobile. His father, Josiah Gorgas, was a native Pennsylvanian and an 1841 graduate of the United States Military Academy. Josiah Gorgas was an ordnance officer in the U.S. Army and commanded the Mount Vernon Arsenal, north of Mobile, Alabama, where he met and married Amelia Gayle in 1853. Amelia Gayle Gorgas was the daughter of former U.S. congressman and Alabama governor John Gayle. During the Civil War Josiah Gorgas joined the Confederate Army and rose to the rank of brigadier general and Chief of Ordnance. (The Josiah and Amelia Gorgas Papers are also part of the holdings of the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library -- but that's a whole other story....)

General Josiah Gorgas

In 1875 William Gorgas graduated from the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee, where his father Josiah served as vice chancellor. He then entered Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York, graduating in 1879. The same year his father was named president of The University of Alabama, a position he held for only one year due to illness.

William Crawford Gorgas joined the U.S. Army in 1880 as an assistant surgeon. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s Gorgas served in various posts around the United States, including North Dakota, Texas, and Florida. He married Marie Cook Doughty of Columbus, Ohio, on September 3, 1885. They had one child, Aileen.

Having survived yellow fever while stationed in Texas, Gorgas was often ordered to work in areas where yellow fever was a known hazard. Consequently he was stationed at Fort Barrancas, on Pensacola Bay, Florida learning more about yellow fever. During the Spanish-American War the Army gave Gorgas the command of a hospital in Cuba, where there was a yellow fever outbreak. A year later, in 1899, Gorgas was appointed chief sanitary officer of Havana, Cuba, where he eradicated yellow fever by controlling the mosquito population.

Cover of article on eradication of yellow fever in Cuba by W.C. Gorgas

As a result of his success in Cuba, Gorgas was reassigned to Washington, D.C., in 1902 to develop sanitation plans for the proposed work on the Panama Canal. Gorgas arrived in Panama in 1904 and began efforts to eradicate disease in the Canal Zone. Despite internal opposition to his work, Gorgas managed to eradicate yellow fever from the Canal Zone and created a sanitary environment for workers and residents. By this time, Gorgas received international recognition for his skills and knowledge of sanitation and disease prevention, acting as consultant to other countries including South Africa.

He was appointed Surgeon General of the Army on January 16, 1914, and promoted to the rank of major general. Gorgas served in this capacity during World War I and retired on October 3, 1918. He continued his work on disease prevention and served on the International Health Board, which took him to England in 1920. While there he suffered a stroke and died on July 3, 1920. After a funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Gorgas’s body was returned to the United States and buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

His legacy persists, most noteably in areas relating to his work as a groundbreaking public health official and expert in tropical medicine. The Gorgas Memorial Institute of Tropical and Preventive Medicine, Incorporated, which operated the Gorgas Laboratories in Panama, was founded in 1921 and was named after Dr. Gorgas. The Institute was moved to the University of Alabama Birmingham in 1992 and carries on the tradition of research, service and training in tropical medicine. The Gorgas Course in Clinical Tropical Medicine is sponsored by the University of Alabama School of Medicine in conjunction with Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru.

Additionally, Gorgas Hospital was a U.S. Army hospital in Panama named for Dr. Gorgas from 1928. Now in Panamanian hands, it is home to the Instituto Oncologico Nacional, Panama's Ministry of Health and its Supreme Court.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bicycles, Babies, and Circus Parades: A Glimpse at Life and Leisure in Late Victorian Tuscaloosa

We have just added a new digital collection to the UA Libraries' Digital Collections -- selections from the Perkins Family Papers (Perkins Family Papers, 1813-1928, mss no. 1127). The Perkins digital collection consists of 294 incredible photographs of a broad array of subjects, including intimate family photographs, photographs of rivers, people, buildings, activities, and much more -- including images the circus coming to town! The image above captures the Jim Robinson Circus Parade in downtown Tuscaloosa.

A Picnic in the Park

The Perkins online collection offers a unique glimpse into leisure life and activities in late Victorian America. The Perkins Family Papers spans the period from 1813 to 1928, with the bulk of the collection being from the 1840s to the 1910s.

The Perkins Family Papers as a whole consists mainly of photographs and correspondence between family members. Within the collection, there are diaries, ledgers, a scrapbook, an unpublished novel, printed invitations, death notices, receipts, legal documents and other financial papers, and memorabilia. The Perkins collection relates to Stephen C. and Carolina A. Perkins; their son Julian C. and his wife Mamie Kennedy Perkins, and their children: Edwin, Brook, Julian H., and Maud. The majority of the correspondence and papers were generated by Caroline A. Perkins and Mamie Kennedy Perkins and concern mainly family matters.

The finding aid for the entire collection is available at

The digitization of this collection was made possible by EBSCO Industries.

"Mrs. Perkins & her Wheel"

The family life of Julian and Mamie Perkins and their children are well documented in pictures compiled by their son, Edwin. Here are a few fun highlights Edwin captured that are part of the nearly 300 photographs now available online.

"Fancy Bicycle Rider"

"Baby Dan" and the family dog -- with someone behind them camera shy!

Brook K. and Julian Herbert Perkins in their HMS Pinafore costumes

Brook K. Perkins and his cat, Wang

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sinking Ships and (Relative) Ancient History

One hundred and forty-four years ago, on June 19, 1864, the CSS Alabama was sunk at the end of a fierce naval engagement with the USS Kearsarge off the coast of Cherbourg in France. The Alabama had docked in Cherbourg for maintenance and repairs after over two years on the high seas during the Civil War. The ship was captained by Maryland native Raphael Semmes. Captain Semmes is deeply revered as a local hero in Alabama, especially in Mobile, where a large statue was erected and the town of Semmes, Alabama was named in his honor.

The CSS Alabama was built for the Confederate States in 1862 in Birkenhead, England by the shipbuilders John Laird Sons and Company --- and these very facts are part of the famous sea shanty, Roll, Alabama Roll.

When the Alabama's Keel was Laid,
(Roll Alabama, roll!),
'Twas laid in the yard of Jonathan Laird
(Roll, roll Alabama, roll!)
'Twas Laid in the yard of Jonathan Laird,
twas laid in the town of Birkenhead.
Down the Mersey way she rolled then,
and Liverpool fitted her with guns and men.
From the western isle she sailed forth,
to destroy the commerce of the north.
To Cherbourg port she sailed one day,
for to take her count of prize money.
Many a sailor laddie saw his doom,
when the Kearsarge it hove in view.
When a ball from the forward pivot that day,
shot the Alabama's stern away.
Off the three-mile limit in '64 the Alabama was seen no more.

It was also the subject of a a folk song sung in Afrikans, Daar Kom die Alibama, which commemorates the Alabama's voyage to Cape Town harbor in 1863.
Daar kom die Alibama,
Die Alibama die kom oor die see,
Daar kom die Alibama,
Die Alibama die kom oor die see...
(There comes the Alabama,
The Alabama that comes oer the sea,
There comes the Alabama,
The Alabama that comes oer the sea...)
The CSS Alabama is a topic of great interest to many people from everywhere and for many reasons. The Hoole Library has received reference questions about the CSS Alabama from all over the United States, as well as places like South Africa, Portugal, France, and England -- all places where the Alabama sailed, clocking over 75,000 miles and capturing sixty Union vessels in her short two years.
International interest in the ship continues to this day. Her wreckage was discovered by the French Navy in the 1980s, and over the course of nearly two decades of cooperation between the French and American governments, major joint underwater archeological investigations took place and many artifacts were recovered in the early part of the 21st century at the wreckage site off the coast of France.
We receive reference questions of course because people are interested and because we do have physical holdings on the CSS Alabama, including a photo album kept by an officer of the ship, Edward M. Anderson.
Lt. Edward Maffit Anderson from the Album of E.M. Anderson,
William Stanley Hoole Special Collections Library, The University of Alabama

Dr. W.S. Hoole, namesake of the Hoole Library, wrote about and studied the Alabama, as did former UA History professor, Dr. Charles Summersell. Both men have materials in their own personal collections on the CSS Alabama.

And it was in 1996, relative ancient history in the world of online exhibits and digital collections, a then doctoral student, along with two UA Libraries faculty members, developed and authored the CSS Alabama Digital Collection, a resource of documents, images, maps, and other materials to help those who are interested in CSS Alabama learn more. That young doctoral student is now Dr. Toby Graham, head of the Digital Library of Georgia -- a trailblazer in digital collection development and digital programs. And while the CSS Alabama Digital Collection may look a little dated, it still is used regularly by people all over the world. A twelve year old digital collection is practically a stone tablet in the grand scheme of the evolution of web development technology since that time.

Some of the images were taken from the book, Two Years on the Alabama by Fourth Lt. Arthur Sinclair, published by Lee and Shepard in Boston in 1895. This book is featured in the Publishers' Bindings Online project.

Fourth Lieutenant Arthur Sinclair, from the Album of E.M. Anderson,
William Stanley Hoole Special Collections Library, The University of Alabama

Visit the CSS Alabama Digital Collection to learn more about the confederate raider and to experience what was once a cutting edge digital collection. It shows both how far we have come, as well as just how innovative this project was for its time. Additional materials such as sheet music for the song, The Alabama are accessible as part of our digital collections.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Shazam! Happy Birthday UA Alum Jim Nabors

Jim Nabors, UA Homecoming 1968

University of Alabama alum Jim Nabors (class of 1952) was born on June 12, 1930 in Sylacauga, Alabama. Best known for his beloved character, Gomer Pyle on both the Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pile, U.S.M.C., Nabors has had a long and successful career as both an actor and singer.

Nabors with a young fan in Alabama, 1966

Jim Nabors' earliest acting experience was on the UA campus, as part of the Jason's Jamboree, where he wrote skits and performed with his Delta Tau Delta fraternity brothers. After graduating, he did head off to New York, but not for a career in show biz -- he started out as a typist for the United Nations. He then moved and took a job working in the film industry -- not in Hollywood, but rather in Chattanooga, Tennessee as a film cutter.

It was asthma that brought him west, and he started his career in Los Angeles as an apprentice film cutter, and began performing cabaret in the evenings, in a club called The Horn, which showcased new talent. His singing style and "hillbilly" monologues brought him an audition to the Steve Allen show, where he became a regular.

When Allen's show was cancelled, Nabors tried his luck in San Francisco, but in six months he was back in Los Angeles. Soon after, he auditioned for Andy Griffith -- and from there, a career was born.

Nabors has recorded over two dozen albums, has stared on TV, film, hosted his own talk show, his own variety show, and and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Jim Nabors album cover from Hoole Special Collections Library
Featured in Hear Hair Here Exhibit

Nabors is also a well-known face to racing fans -- performing the song "Back Home in Indiana" 30 times since 1972 at the Indianapolis 500, most recently this year. And back home in Alabama, U.S. Highway 280 in Talladega, Alabama is named the "Jim Nabors Highway" in his honor. He was also recently honored at University of Alabama/University of Hawaii fooball game in 2006. Though he has lived in Hawaii for many, many years, he still follows The University of Alabama football team.

Here is an example of Jim Nabors' acting -- capturing the moment when Gomer Pyle leaves Andy Griffith to join the Marines:

Here is a great example from his variety show which showcases his rich singing voice! Olé!

A very happy birthday to you, Mr. Nabors!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Remembering Robert F. Kennedy

This photograph of Senator (and Presidential Candidate) Robert F. Kennedy and University of Alabama president, Frank Rose was taken when Kennedy visited UA in March of 1968 as part of the Emphasis program.

Robert F. Kennedy not only visited campus as part of Emphasis, but he is to be remembered as the Attorney General of the United States who oversaw the successful and peaceful integration of The University of Alabama in June of 1963. Working with his future successor, Nicholas Katzenbach, Kennedy brought about this important step forward and is forever part of UA's place in American Civil Rights history.

When Senator Kennedy visited campus in 1968, just three months before his assassination, he gave the keynote address for Emphasis '68 -- a talk entitled "America at the Crossroads". To listen to the audio file of his speech, visit here. To view the program for Emphasis '68, visit here. You can also read his speech and view it as it was given to us here. All of this material is part of the Emphasis collection, part of the UA Libraries' Digital Collections.

In his address to the students of The University of Alabama, he said the following -- words which ring true today as they did some forty years ago.

"It is the fate of this generation to live with a struggle we did not start in a world we did not make. But the pressures of life are not always distributed by choice. And while no nation has ever faced such a challenge, no nation has ever been so ready to seize the burden and the glory of freedom."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Archer, the Thief and UA's 1938 Rose Bowl Team

This very cool picture from our collections features The University of Alabama's football team in 1938 -- after their defeat in the Rose Bowl. In the photograph are two men who stand out a little bit -- with elaborate costumes. Who are they? Well, they are Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone, stars of the 1938 film, The Adventures of Robin Hood.

The University of Alabama football team were no slouches -- but it was never clear (to me, anyway) exactly why they ended up on this particular movie set, with these particular actors -- until just this week when the connection came in the form of a television show on sharp shooters on the History Channel. The probable connection? Howard Hill!

Who? While he may not be a household name in every household, Howard Hill certainly was a man who had his share of the limelight. Hill, known by many as the "World's Greatest Archer" (and "Ol' One Shot") was born November 13, 1899 in Wilsonville, Alabama. He won 196 consecutive field archery tournaments between 1926 and 1942, and also won the International field meet in 1942.

Hill was a Hollywood stuntman and consultant, working with actors and on movie sets from the late 1930s through the 1950s. Among his many credits include that of archery instructor and stuntman for The Adventures of Robin Hood!

In fact, Hill and Robin Hood title character star Errol Flynn were longtime friends -- here they are fishing together aboard Flynn's yacht.

According to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, (he was inducted in 1971) Howard Hill "took more than 2,000 game animals and 1,000 reptiles and fish in 12 countries.... and was the first man to kill a bull elephant with a bow and arrow." Cover details featured here are from books from the Hoole Alabama Collection, Hunting the Hard Way, and Wild Adventure. Both recount Hill's encounters with wild animals around the world as well as a broad range of advise and information for the budding archer or archery enthusiast-- he not only was an archery superstar, but also designed and made all of his own equipment. 

Hill's legacy lives on in fiction through DC Comics' Green Arrow series. In the comic, Oliver Queen (aka "The Emerald Archer") refers to Howard Hill as his childhood hero, and it eventually ends up that Hill bestows upon Queen the legendary bow that he used on the set of The Adventures of Robin Hood. When Queen dies, his son Conner Hawke takes over the family business -- fighting crime with Hill's legendary Robin Hood bow -- it's fiction meets fact meets fiction!

So it seems -- the Archer (Hill) and the Thief (Robin Hood/Errol Flynn) and the 1938 Rose Bowl team come together here - connected through Hill and with all probability someone knowing someone from back home in Alabama -- but not from school. Howard Hill not only was a heck of an archer, but he also played baseball for that other big school on the other side of the state -- Auburn University.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Jefferson Davis' 200th/Biographer Hudson Strode

Jefferson Davis, the first and only president of the Confederacy was born 200 years ago today in Kentucky -- on June 3, 1808.

A definitive Jefferson Davis biography was written by Hudson Strode and published by Harcourt Brace in 1955.

Strode was a University of Alabama graduate and legendary professor at UA. He was a fascinating man who left an incredible legacy to The University of Alabama, including an endowed program, his beautiful home, and a residence for a graduate student in the department of English. Hudson Strode is pictured here, gun at his side, pipe in hand, a dashing and mysterious figure.

Hudson Strode's papers are housed at the Hoole Library and consist of correspondence, typed manuscripts, proof sheets photographs, and other interesting materials.

Letter from Varina Davis to Jefferson Davis, 25 April 1880. 
The Jefferson Davis materials in the Hoole Library
come from Hudson Strode's papers orginally.

Strode corresponded with some of the best known political and literary minds of the day including Aldous Huxley, H.L. Mencken, Sigrid Unsdset, Pearl S. Buck, Hugo Black, George Wallace, Clifton Fadiman and Alfred A. Knopf. The collection also contains research materials for his biography of Davis like the image of the letter featured here. You can view the finding aid for this collection at