A Music Legend From Florence, Alabama

 
W.C. Handy Birthplace, Florence, AL, built circa 1870 … Photo by Caroline Pugh

W.C. Handy Birthplace, Florence, AL, built circa 1870 … Photo by Caroline Pugh

 

You may have heard of the famous recording studios in North Alabama. I’ll have more on that in a later post. But there’s an older music legend from this area that left his mark on music to this day. On a recent trip to Florence, Alabama, I visited W.C. Handy’s birthplace. It’s part of the Mississippi Music Trail, also. In case you’re not familiar with the famous musician, scroll to see more about the “Father of the Blues.” Enjoy!

W.C. Handy, age 19. By uploaded to Wikipedia by Mink Butler Davenport - the English language Wikipedia (log), Public Domain

W.C. Handy, age 19. By uploaded to Wikipedia by Mink Butler Davenport - the English language Wikipedia (log), Public Domain

 
Please help support the mission of the Jazz Video Guy. Contributions of any size matter! https://www.gofundme.com/support-the-mission-of-jazz-video-guy W.C. Handy plays his composition, "St. Louis Blues," on Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town, 12/18/49
 
By W. C. Handy - from the Library of Congress, Brown University Collection of African American sheet music, Public Domain

By W. C. Handy - from the Library of Congress, Brown University Collection of African American sheet music, Public Domain

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

 
Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh


Music Mondays - American Jazz Museum

Welcome to the first installment of Music Mondays, when I feature people and places relating to music history. Today I introduce you to the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum

American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum

To learn a little about the museum and the history of jazz, I interviewed Marissa Baum, the museum’s Director of Development and Communication:

 

Marissa Baum, Director of Development and Communication … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum

Marissa Baum, Director of Development and Communication … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum

Melissa, what does your job entail?

I am the Director of Development and Communications, so my job includes everything from managing press releases and PR, social media, graphic design and ads, to web development, memberships and major gifts, annual fund campaigns, grant writing, and more! 

 

What do you wish for a visitor to gain/learn after touring the museum?

I think sometimes jazz feels a bit inaccessible, in that there's something you're supposed to "get" and if you don't, you can't appreciate it. But there is such a beauty in the history of jazz and how it developed (and continues to develop!) as an American art form, that anyone can enjoy and appreciate it. 

 

Charlie Parker’s saxophone … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum

Charlie Parker’s saxophone … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum

What is the most popular item on exhibit?

Easily the most popular item on exhibit is Charlie Parker's plastic Grafton alto saxophone. Played in the famous Jazz at Massey Hall concert in Toronto, Canada, this saxophone was a part of a monumental moment in jazz history: It was the last time that Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach played together as a quintet. And while some of these musicians had recorded with one another in small combos, Jazz at Massey Hall was the very first time that all five musicians recorded together. The performance took place only two years before Parker's death and is regarded by many as one of the final great performances of his career. 

What is YOUR favorite item on exhibit?

Personally, I adore a film from our John H. Baker Jazz Film Collection called Pie, Pie Blackbird. It's a 1932 Vitaphone pre-Code short comedy film released by Warner Brothers on June 4, 1932, starring African American musicians Nina Mae McKinney, the Nicholas Brothers, Eubie Blake, and Noble Sissle. Pie, Pie Blackbird is the Nicholas Brothers’ first film and Fayard (Nicholas) was 18 and Harold (Nicholas) was 11 at the time of release. Their acrobatic infused tap dancing is just awe inspiring, and their talent is unparalleled.

The American Jazz Museum is located at 1616 East 18th Street, Kansas City, MO 64108. For more information, visit the museum’s website at https://americanjazzmuseum.org.

Scene from “Pie Pie Blackbird” … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum

Scene from “Pie Pie Blackbird” … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum


Indiana Medical History Museum Opens Window into Mental Health History

A fascinating museum lies in the nation’s heartland that provides much more than a glimpse into 19th century medicine of the mind. In a time when mental disease was very misunderstood by the layperson, Victorian-era physicians were beginning to experiment and study every facet of this mysterious frontier of medicine, morose as some of those experiments were.

 

The Indiana Medical History Museum in Indianapolis is dedicated to the memory of the patients and doctors of the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane and to the education of the public about the struggles and triumphs of those with mental illness and their caregivers and physicians.

 
Teaching amphitheater … Courtesy of the Indiana Medical History Museum and Tom Mueller Photography

Teaching amphitheater … Courtesy of the Indiana Medical History Museum and Tom Mueller Photography

 

I interviewed Sarah Halter, executive director of the Indiana Medical History Museum, to learn a little more about this very interesting museum.

How long has the museum been open?

The labs here closed in 1968, and the building reopened just about a year later in 1969 as a museum with the original furnishings, equipment, specimens, etc. still intact. 

 

What are a few of the exhibits?

We operate like a house museum, because the building is so authentic and intact. It is very much a time capsule. But we do have small exhibits and displays in certain parts of the building and offsite at libraries, etc. Some recent exhibits covered topics like the history of lobotomies, the closure of Central State Hospital in 1994 from the perspective of the patients there who wrote newsletters, rehumanization of our specimen collection (telling the human stories of the specimens), the art and institutionalization of the artist John Zwara who spent the spring and summer of 1938 here as a patient and painted beautiful watercolors of the grounds and buildings as they were then, etc.

 

What is the most popular item on exhibit in the museum?

The Anatomical Museum room gets a lot of attention, which is one of the reasons we are working to rehumanize those specimens which were preserved from patients who were autopsied here in the building during its time as a lab. Other popular objects include the photomicrographic camera in the photography studio, a pediatric iron lung for infants and toddlers, and the hand-cranked centrifuge in the Clinical Chemistry Lab.

 

Anatomical Room … Courtesy of the Indiana Medical History Museum and Tom Mueller Photography

Anatomical Room … Courtesy of the Indiana Medical History Museum and Tom Mueller Photography

What is your favorite item on exhibit in the museum?

I don't know if I can choose just one. I love our historic library collection and am thrilled with a current project we're partnering with the Indianapolis Public Library on to fully catalog the whole collection, make it searchable through their online catalog, and later to digitize about 200 of the 6,500 or so books in that collection that will be available online for anyone who wants to use them!

 

Can you tell me a little about the Old Pathology Building?

The building was the Pathological Department of Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane, as it was called in 1896, when the building opened. The hospital itself opened in 1848 as the Indiana Hospital for the Insane and closed in 1994, then called Central State Hospital. The building was dedicated to research on physical causes of mental illnesses - tumors, lesions, inflammation, traumatic injuries, congenital defects, degenerative diseases, etc. to find cures and preventative measures so that patients' outcomes could improve and these diseases could be prevented in the future.

 

It was only the second pathology lab of its kind in the country and today is the oldest surviving freestanding path lab in the US. There is nothing else like it in this country. The building has three clinical labs - bacteriology, clinical chemistry, and histology, a library and auxiliary library, photography studio, operating theater, autopsy room, records room, and chemical storage room that are all preserved intact and on the public tour. We also have a demonstration garden of medicinal plants and an adjacent building that houses a 1950s doctor's office. This recreated office was located in Lewisville, IN, a rural area, and the doctor's practice was in the basement of his home there. We offer guided tours of the building and garden, programs like lectures, panel discussions, theatrical productions, hands-on science programs, movie screenings, etc., and soon we're starting guided tours of the former grounds of the hospital in which we're located.

 

Courtesy of the Indiana Medical History Museum and Tom Mueller Photography

Courtesy of the Indiana Medical History Museum and Tom Mueller Photography

What does your job entail?

I wear many hats, of course, but I run the organization day to day, which includes everything from fundraising, budgeting, strategic planning, community outreach, managing staff and volunteers, handling PR/media relations and HR, working with our Board of Directors on things that fall into their area of governance, coordinating preservation efforts and managing construction projects, working with developers and the City of Indianapolis as well as other property holders here on the former grounds of Central State Hospital as the area is developed to ensure that the site's history is preserved, creating partnerships and collaborations with other cultural, history, education, and community organizations for various programs and projects ... the list goes on.

 

How did you get into this business?

I started working here as a graduate intern 12 years ago and fell in love with the building and the subject matter. I was a graduate student in the Museum Studies program at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis ) here in Indianapolis with a background in history, anthropology, and archaeology. I was hired as staff when my internship ended, became the Director of Public Programs here two years later, and then in May of 2014 was chosen as the new Executive Director when my predecessor retired.

The museum is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday. Tours cost $10 for adults, $5 for university students, and $3 for children under 18.

3045 West Vermont Street, Indianapolis, IN  46222

317-635-7329

imhm.org


"Listen, my children, and you shall hear ..."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow … Courtesy of the Maine Historical Society

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow … Courtesy of the Maine Historical Society

You’ve heard the words – probably even had to memorize “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” in school. Often we learn about famous people and what they did. But do you ever dig deeper?

Dozens of events and places influence a writer, from births to deaths to illness to adventures and the people they came across in their lives. I’ve always believed, and we’ll learn below, that even the structure where one spends his time and sleeps and lives his life play a part as well.

Wadsworth-Longfellow House … Courtesy of the Maine Historical Society

Wadsworth-Longfellow House … Courtesy of the Maine Historical Society

Wadsworth-Longfellow House in Portland, Maine, did serve as inspiration for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), famed poet and national literary figure. Four generations of the family lived in the house, and all were significant contributors to New England culture and literature. According to the Maine Historical Society website, General Peleg Wadsworth built the house in 1785-1786. He and wife Elizabeth raised ten children here before retiring to the family farm in Hiram, Maine, in 1807. The last person to live in the house was Anne Longfellow Pierce, Henry's younger sister. Mrs. Pierce, widowed at an early age, lived in the house until her death in 1901. At that time, in accordance with a deed she executed in 1895, the house passed to the Maine Historical Society to be preserved as a memorial to her famous brother and their family. Virtually all of the household items and artifacts are original to the Wadsworth and Longfellow families.

Let’s take a quick look at the house and learn about it first-hand. 

My interview with John Babin, Visitor Services Manager, Wadsworth-Longfellow House

What does your job entail?

As the Visitor Services Manager at the Maine Historical Society, one of my duties is the management of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House; it includes scheduling of all the Guides and Docents who give tours in the home. Types of tours vary throughout the day, because we offer both guided and self-guided tours. For a guided tour, one tour guide will bring a group over and the group will view the house room-by-room, narrated by the guide. For a self-guided tour, a group is given an introduction and can walk through the house at their own pace with tour guides stationed in different areas to direct and answer questions. We also offer a free download for Android or Apple phones for our app. When using the app, the visitor can take an audio tour or read from the materials provided on the app. Scheduling of the guides and docents also includes daily historic walking tours of the city, all school visits which include viewing our exhibits, touring the house and historic walks through the city for the students; and scheduling of all private tours, bus groups and cruise ships. The job also includes management of the museum store staff and staff for our exhibit areas. Other duties include but are not limited to, weekly admission reports of numbers and metrics, working retail, tour guiding, opening and closing of the campus, hosting events and giving historic talks off-site to different venues throughout the state.

 

How did you get into this business?

I started as a docent giving tours of the Wadsworth- Longfellow House.

 

What do you wish for a visitor to gain/learn after touring the house?

How very close and loving both the Wadsworth and Longfellow families were. This was the place where three generations of the same family lived and where some died. It’s also the place that inspired the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to write poetry, writing his first published poem in the home at the age of 13.

 

What is the most popular item on exhibit in the museum?

The most popular item is a portable writing desk that belonged to the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

 

What is your favorite item on exhibit in the museum?

The portable writing desk, because this is one of two pieces of luggage Henry took with him on his first trip to Europe. On this desk he wrote of his travels to family members and friends, describing in detail the different towns and villages and the people he met on his quest to learn foreign languages. He met Washington Irving in Madrid, Spain. As a child, a favorite book he enjoyed reading was “The Sketch Book” by Irving.

 

What is the oldest item in the house?

A table in the parent’s bedroom next to the bed underneath a painting of the poet. The table was inspected by an antiquarian who specializes in early American objects and said it was made in New England and dates back to around 1760.

 

Wadsworth/Longfellow House hours and admission:

Open May – October 
Closed May 23, 2019, 3-5 pm for staff-wide training.
School/educational group tours available year round by reservation only

Members: Free
National Trust Members: 20% off
Adults: $15
Seniors & Students: $13
AAA members: $14
Children 6-17: $4; 5 and younger, free
Family (up to 2 supervising adults + 3 children): $35
Groups: $10 per person
Price includes admission to gallery.

For more information, please contact:
Wadsworth/Longfellow House
Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101
207-774-1822 ext. 212
hwlongfellow.org


It's Spring, and That Means Pilgrimage Time!

Aberdeen Southern Heritage Pilgrimage

Saturday, April 6, 2019

I visited my hometown of Aberdeen, Mississippi, this weekend to tour a few homes during its annual pilgrimage. I always enjoy this event, usually as a hostess at one of the homes on tour, but sometimes just to relax and enjoy the tour as a spectator. Two of the homes are new to the pilgrimage, and I was anxious to see them. My father joined me, and we visited Sunset Manor, McKinney House and Dunlee. These are by no means the only homes that were on tour; several more beautiful homes were open, but time did not allow us to tour them all. 

A note for blog readers not familiar with antebellum homes. To some, the word “antebellum” seems to mean “large,” but that’s not the case. Antebellum simply means “built before the war” – specifically, the American Civil War. An antebellum house can be a small cottage or a mansion or any size in between. Growing up in a town with these beautiful homes can either make one appreciate them all the more, or it can make one a little apathetic. I think when I was young, I was the latter. But the older I get, the more passionate I become for history and these lovely places enjoyed by families who lived here many years before I did.

When I tour any historic structure, I’m mesmerized with anything original: furniture, wallpaper, flooring, etc. I find myself slightly transformed to the 19th century, imagining the inhabitants walking the very floors I’m walking, or turning the actual doorknob I’m touching.

I hope you enjoy these photos and information on the houses we visited. Please check the website for next year’s pilgrimage dates, and plan to make a trip to Aberdeen and transport yourself back in time.

Photos are my own. Architecture and historic information on each house were taken from the Monroe Journal’s 44th Annual Aberdeen Southern Heritage Pilgrimage booklet and aberdeenpilgrimage.org.

Sunset Manor, 1836

Sunset Manor, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1836

Sunset Manor, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1836

Architecture style: Greek Revival

Sunset Manor is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Capt. Thomas Coopwood built the first variation of the home, two original rooms built circa 1836, and Charles Gates transformed it into a Southern town cottage in 1856. The house has four fluted Doric columns on the front, with four interior rooms measuring 20 x 20 x14 with a 16 x 40 division hall opening onto a loggia with bedrooms on each side.

Click thumbnails below for larger photos and captions.


McKinney House, 1902

McKinney House, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1902

McKinney House, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1902

Architecture style: Victorian cottage

McKinney House contains furnishings including period antiques from 1890 to 1900. In the master bedroom is a half-tester bedroom suite from New Orleans made between 1880 and 1890.


The Magnolias, 1850

Architecture style: Greek Revival

Dr. William Alfred Sykes built the home for his wife in 1850; she died a year later. The home was passed down through the family until Corinne Sykes Acker died. Clarence Day II purchased the home and deeded it to the City of Aberdeen. The Magnolias is open year-round from 1-4pm Wednesday-Friday or by appointment. A hostess can be reached at 369-7956 for tours and to arrange weddings and other events.

During pilgrimage, Civil War reenactors were to stage an encampment on the grounds, but because of the threat of rain, they used the kitchen building as their headquarters to showcase authentic items carried by a typical Confederate infantry soldier.

The Magnolias, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1850

The Magnolias, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1850


Dunlee, 1853

Architecture: Greek Revival

Dunlee never disappoints. Owned by friends of my parents, this house is a beautiful yet comfortable antebellum home. This one-and-a-half story cottage was built by Dr. William A. Dunkin, a local physician, planter and merchant. The front part of the house is original, but the posterior was rebuilt in the early 1900s. Paired Doric box columns support a pedimented gable set perpendicular to the main roof gable. The house rests on brick piers, and the original floor plan of a central hall flanked by a dining room and parlor is still discernible despite several alterations and additions to the back of the house.

Dunlee, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1853

Dunlee, Aberdeen, Mississippi, 1853

Cornerstone of the Weekend - Clay County (Mississippi) Agricultural School

Clay County Agricultural School in Pheba, Mississippi, was built in 1909 as Pheba High School. Click here for more information from Preservation in Mississippi

Inscription: 1909 … H.L. Miller, Mayor … Aldermen … P.B. Cliett, W.D. Washington … E.E. Petty, J.B. Champion … M.B. Pulley … R.L. McMullen, Treasurer … McClanahan & Terry, Builder

Inscription: 1909 … H.L. Miller, Mayor … Aldermen … P.B. Cliett, W.D. Washington … E.E. Petty, J.B. Champion … M.B. Pulley … R.L. McMullen, Treasurer … McClanahan & Terry, Builder

Clay County Agricultural School

Clay County Agricultural School