Wednesday, June 29, 2011

29 June 1912: Swat the Fly!

On this day in 1912, the city-wide "anti-fly crusade" came to a close. The "hand to hand conflict with the fly" began at the East Athens Night School at the end of May, during a program on sanitation that included student essays on "the Fly, the Mosquito, and other insects which act cheerfully as living and moving vehicles for disease-germs."

In attendance at the program was Miss Mildred Rutherford, of the Lucy Cobb Institute. She offered the students cash prizes for whomever killed the most flies over the next week. The first day, students delivered 17,000 dead flies to their principal, Miss Louise Lane.  The Banner lauded the contest and covered it during the week, including dead fly totals and how the students had made their own fly swatters with "pieces of screen wire and stick handles." The winning student, Omer Williams, brought in a total of 32,000 dead flies by the contest's end on June 7th. 

The Banner called for more such contests,  and mentioned that Savannah and Augusta, among other cities, had already started such contests to help stop the spread of disease in their city. On June 12th, the Banner announced that a city-wide contest would begin on Monday, June 17th and last for 12 days. The contest was sponsored by the Civic Club of Athens and the Chamber of Commerce, with a cash prize of $5.00 for the largest number of flies delivered. 

Area children were encouraged to sign up at their closest fire station, and plan to bring in their flies every evening between 5pm and 6pm to have their killings counted. Area adults were encouraged to do what they could to rid the city of flies through cleaning up potential breeding places and installing screens on their doors and windows to keep flies out of the house.

Over the next twelve days, updates appeared in the local papers. The day before the end of the contest, the lead fly-killers for Athens were Wesley Newsome with 59,600 flies and Howard Eppes with 25,600 flies. It was also noted that Emily Palmer had, in just six days of killing flies, brought in 14,400 to her local fire department.

Alas, we do not know who was the ultimate winner of the contest, as the Athens Banner for this day did not survive. Wesley Newsome's total would have been hard to beat, however, and the city of Athens felt it was facing a healthier summer and fall.

(This Day in Athens would like to thank Connie Epps Bond for bringing this wonderful story to our attention!) 

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Our Newsletters Are Always Open!

On this day, we'd like to remind you that our Heritage Room Newsletters are a great way to keep up with all the resources and programming available every month, and unlike the Heritage Room, are entirely unaffected by the construction schedule here at the library!

Our Genealogy News and Tips newsletter deposits into your email Inbox new records available online, tips for getting the most of newspaper searches, newly offered services from existing archives, and expansions to a variety of collections already in existence. Genealogy is a growing area, and our newsletter helps you keep up with new developments so you can make the most of your own research time.

And you'll need the extra time! Because our  Genealogy Events and History newsletter lets you know about Civil War Sesquicentennial programs, Oakland Cemetery twilight tours covering everything from African-American history and Leo Frank to fraternal organizations and Gone with the Wind, opportunities to experience butter churning, and a variety of genealogy classes and research seminars you don't want to miss this summer. 

(Our current newsletter also includes information about our upcoming program, An Evening with Your Ancestors on July 15, 2011. The program is free, but registration is required, so please email us at or call us at (706)613-3650, ext. 350 to register by July 14th!)

Simply click here (or on the title of either newsletter above) to subscribe. You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

25 June 1889: Paper Predicts Horses May Become One of "Our Rared Monsters"

On this day in 1889, the Weekly Banner published the following editorial:

The decline of the horse as transportation was not as rapid as it may have seemed in 1889. Though automobiles gained in popularity, liveries still did a good business in Athens into the 1910s, and the Athens police used mounted patrols for downtown for more than 100 years after this editorial was published.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Don't Miss An Evening with Your Ancestors!

On this day, we'd like to tell you about our program, An Evening with Your Ancestors, on Friday, July 15th, from 6:00 pm until 10:30 pm, here at the Athens-Clarke County Library. 

We will be offering a special opportunity to have the 2nd floor of the building to ourselves to do a little extra research, enjoy dinner and conversation, see the plans for the renovated Heritage Room, and learn about the online resources available to further your genealogy study.

Just because the Heritage Room itself will be temporarily closed for renovation, doesn't mean you have to put your research on hold. Our goal is to show you how much you can still accomplish even while the Heritage Room and library are being expanded, in a fun, friendly atmosphere. 

Heritage Room librarians will offer classes about online books and database resources that you can access from home, such as Footnote and HeritageQuest, with plenty of time for questions and answers. You can also skip the classes and just take the time to do some extra research and socialize with others in the genealogy research community. It's going to be an informative and enjoyable evening that you don't want to miss!

An Evening with Your Ancestors is free, but pre-registration by the time Heritage Room closes at 6pm on Thursday, July 14th, 2011, is required. To register, call (706) 613-3650, ext. 350, or email the Heritage Room ( with your name, phone number, and email address. 

This event is co-sponsored by the Athens-Clarke County Heritage Room, the Clarke-Oconee Genealogical Society, and the Friends of the Athens-Clarke County Library

We can't wait to see you here!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

21 June 1834: A Whirlwind of Activities for Commencement Week

On this day, and several others, the University of Georgia gave notice about Commencement Exercises at the college to the Southern Banner:

Commencement Exercises typically lasted several days, with students from all levels demonstrating their acquired knowledge from the previous year, often with speeches and oral examinations. Until class size made the tradition untenable, all graduating seniors would be expected to exhibit their skills through oratory as part of exercises at the recently constructed Chapel.  

Total student enrollment in 1834 was 97 students, all white males, and primarily from surrounding counties and the "plantation belt" of central Georgia. Among the graduates of the 1834 class was future United States Senator and Georgia Governor from 1853-1857, Herschel Vespasian Johnson, and among those Juniors scheduled to exhibit his oratory skills was future doctor and discoverer of ether anesthetic , Crawford W. Long.

The 1830s were a time of academic growth at the University of Georgia, despite the state legislature balking at spending state funds on higher education. New to the curriculum was calculus, then called "fluxations," and modern languages, such as French. Juniors and Seniors studied a total of 13 subjects, including navigation, engineering, natural philosophy, astronomy, and physics.

Commencement week brought alumni, influential Georgians, and even visitors from other states, especially South Carolina, to Athens. Over the years, "as the number of graduates of the institution grew ... the week of graduation at the university became a focus for discussion of political issues of the day and a forum in which political bargaining and deal making could flourish." 

This 1834 commencement week also saw the formation of the first Alumni Society at the University, initiated by the school's first graduating class of 1804. Their goal was "to encourage education, promote the cause of science and literature, call the public attention to our State University, and annually renew the friendships of early life."

Commencement was also a busy social period in Athens, with dances, dinners, picnics, and other festivities scheduled throughout the week. "At these affairs, no small amount of matchmaking and courting occurred with liaisons established and family mergers struck that would affect the course of Georgia society for years."

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Friday, June 17, 2011

17 June 1906: Trustees Vote to Abolish Football at UGA

On this day in 1906, the following alarming headline and story ran on page 1 of the Sunday Athens Banner:

Trustees Pass Resolution Declaring That After This Year Football Must Cease at That Institution. 
This Action of the Board Will No Doubt Cause Considerable Discussion.

The wearers of the long hair and kickers of the pigskin will soon have to give up the fight in the University of Georgia. 
After this year there will be no more football played by the University students, unless the rules of the game are decidedly modified. 
That is the decision of the Board of Trustees and what they have to say on the subject is final.
The matter was brought up in the meeting of the board yesterday by Judge George F. Gober, and the resolution introduced by him was passed after very little debate.
The trustees will not interfere with the game this year, as the team has already contracts covering a number of games, but after this year all these games will cease. 
This action of the board is sure to cause discussion among those who favor the game but the sentiment of the board on the subject is quite pronounced.

News of such a decision would not have been a surprise in 1906. Earlier that year, trustees at Harvard and the University of South Carolina had made similar votes, banning the sport because of its "brutality" and tendency to be a distraction from intellectual endeavors. Though injuries and player deaths were the primary focus of criticism, the loudest voice against the new sport of football was more concerned by the moral hazards posed by the game.

Leading the charge against football was Harvard president Charles Eliot, who felt the game taught students to be dishonorable, such as when a running back exploited the weakest point on the opposing team's line in order to advance the ball. He felt the passion around the game by spectators in the stands was divisive, as people tended to cheer for only their own team.  It should be noted that President Eliot also considered baseball "a game of trickery," citing the deception of the curve ball, and believed true sportsmen did not require umpires or referees for their activities.

Among the more ardent defenders of football on the national level was President Theodore Roosevelt, who believed that the "rough play and occasional injuries" built moral character in America's young men. Princeton professor Woodrow Wilson also defended the game, believing it "encouraged valuable qualities such as precision, decision, presence of mind and endurance." In a debate with a Cornell professor on the subject, Wilson said, "I believe it develops more moral qualities than any other game of athletics." 

On a more local level, newly elected University of Georgia chancellor David C. Barrow was a supporter of the game of football. Several weeks after his appointment by the same trustees who had originally voted to abolish the game if changes were not made to the rules, he told the Athens Banner that football was "a rough game" but that "more men are saved by the training than injured by the game," that there was far less fighting amongst the student population since football had been introduced in 1894, that it was "the best training in self control I know of, certainly for a young man," and that even those who don't play on the field "get behind the team" and learn lessons in loyalty that would be equally applicable to community, state, and country in their adult lives. 

Within a week after the initial vote, the trustees decided to leave any decisions in the hands of the faculty, provided certain changes were made to the rules of the game. Since these rules were already being adopted by the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association, of which the University of Georgia and most schools they regularly played were members, the threat of losing football at UGA was never seen as inexorable. 

On a national level, more than a dozen new rules were enacted, including shortening the game to two 30-minute halves, defining "tripping" and "hurdling" and making both actions illegal, and introducing the forward pass as an acceptable form of ball advancementHowever, for some, football reform was irrelevant. Football critic and University of California president Benjamin Wheeler told the New York Times in September, 1906, that game of football would soon die out, and be rightly replaced by the more established and honorable game of rugby

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Learn about Using Military Records from the National Archives on June 18th!

On this day, we'd like to invite you to the library Auditorium on Saturday, June 18th, 2011, at 2pm to learn about the
military records available from the National Archives and how you can use them in your family research.

Athens resident Dr. Wally Eberhard will share his research experiences, and discuss the many types of military records that can shed light on your family's history. There American military has kept all types of documentation over the centuries: service records, draft cards and enlistment sheets, pension applications, prisoner of war registers, medical claims, and soldier's home registers. These records can be a boon to tracking members of your family. 

After the presentation, there will be a meet-and-greet reception with light refreshments in the Small Conference Room. This program is free and open to the public, and co-sponsored by the Clarke-Oconee Genealogical Society and the Athens-Clarke County Library Heritage Room. We hope to see you there!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

12 June 1913: Benefit for the Model Training School at the Morton Theatre

On this day in 1913, the Athens Banner ran an unusual notice for a benefit at the Morton Theatre for the Model Training School on Danielsville Road:

The Model Training School was founded in 1903 by Judia C. Jackson, a native of Clarke county; she married another well-known local African-American educator, Samuel F. Harris, in 1912.  She donated her own land for the school, which was across the road from her home. Funds from the General Education Board of New York for the building and Clarke county paid for the building and school furnishings. 

The curriculum was grammar, algebra, Latin, black history, art, music, and drama. The students would occasionally perform in pageants or plays written by Ms. Jackson Harris, and hold the performances at the Morton Theatre or Colonial Theatre. Displays of student projects were sometimes given a window at Michael Brothers department store downtown to show examples of the work accomplished at the school. Many of her students went on to college and became educators and community leaders themselves.

The Model Training School also acted as a county community center. Ms. Jackson Harris helped organize Land Owner Clubs, where local African-American farmers would pool their money to buy land that they could then divide amongst themselves to cultivate. The school hosted agricultural fairs for the community, featuring prizes for canned goods, cakes, livestock, pickles, and other farm products. In the summer, Ms. Jackson "operated a summer cannery for the local farmers and their families." By 1915, the clubs owned 440 acres, a community saw mill, a cotton gin, and a thresher. 

Unfortunately, there was no review of the benefit concert in the Athens Banner the next day, nor is there any record of how much money was raised for the school. The school was later renamed the Judia Jackson Harris Model and Industrial School. Ms. Jackson Harris remained principal of the school until 1950, when she retired. In 1956, the Athens city schools merged with the Clarke county schools, and the Model Training School was finally closed.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Come Peruse the New Books in the Heritage Room

On this day we'd like to let you know a few of the new additions to the Heritage collection, and hope you'll come in to take a look before our collection downsizes during construction.

We  hope to see you soon!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

7 June 1908: "For June Weddings"

On this day in 1908, the following ad was the front page of the Sunday Athens Banner:

(click to enlarge image)

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

5 June 1894: Runaway Carriage into Town

On this day in 1894, the Weekly Banner reported this harrowing story:

(click to enlarge image)
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Friday, June 3, 2011

3 June 1917: An "Astonishing" 37.4 Miles per Gallon!

On this day in 1917, Talmage Hardware Company ran the following ad in the Athens Banner:

Talmage Hardware was located at 131 East Clayton Street downtown, where Lamar Lewis Shoe Store is today.

In 1917, the cost of a gallon of gasoline in the United States 20 cents per gallon, approximately $3.22 in today's dollars. The Fuel Administration established during World War I was primarily focused on the nation's coal supplies, and urged citizens to conserve electricity and order their coal early in the winter. Gasoline rationing came in the autumn of 1918, through a voluntary action of "gasolineless Sundays." The war ended before stricter constraints were deemed necessary.

According to a story run on the same page as the ad, demand for automobiles was high in Clarke County thanks to "premium prices" for food crops brought on by the war. All the dealers interviewed had sold out of their stock and had waiting lists for a variety of models. According to Mr. Griffeth, the local Ford agent, "Farmers are buying these handy little machines to haul their produce into town and carry their supplies out." 

The article noted that "with the products of the farm soaring there is no reason why the farmer for once in his life should not ride and ride comfortably," and asserted that such purchases were patriotic support of American industry during a time of war. 

The automobile was also touted as a modern way to improve well-being, with the author quoting famous New York Evening Journal editor Arthur Brisbane, who likened riding in a car to indoor plumbing: "you pay for running water as a matter of course. Just as health is the running air that fills your lungs and clears your blood as your car rushes through it. To call a car a 'luxury' trivial nonsense. As well call running water and a bathtub in your house luxury."

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

1 June 1911: Knox Institute Graduation Exercises Attract Diverse Crowd

On this day in 1911, the schedule for graduation exercises at the private Knox Institute were published in the Athens Banner:

The Knox Institute began as the Knox School in late 1867, established by the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, also known as the Freedman's Bureau. The land for the school was purchased in 1867 by three local African-Americans, Mr. Courtney Beal, a property owner who would later be noted by the Southern Watchman newspaper as the "wealthiest negro in the state;" Reverend Floyd Hill, who established the first African-American Baptist Church in 1867 across from the school property; and Madison Davis, who would elected to the Georgia House of Representatives the following year and continue to be active in Republican politics. 

The three men donated the land specifically to be used to "to educate freedmen's children or children of any race." However, no white children attended the school, and it was sometimes used as a meeting place for political rallies for Republican and African-American candidates.

The school was named for Major John J. Knox, the Freedman's Bureau Assistant Commissioner for a 10-county subdistrict around Athens. He oversaw the building of the two-story building located on the southeast corner of Reese and Pope Streets, across from Hill First Baptist church. Knox also saw the benefit of moving ownership of the school to the African-American community and the American Missionary Association, which was active in establishing schools and colleges for African-Americans all over the country. 

Initially, the teachers at Freedmen schools were AMA members from the North, mostly white women who were often unable to find places to live in the Georgia communities where they taught, and faced personal threats for doing their work.  By the time of these graduation exercises in 1911, most of the teachers were African-Americans who had trained in Atlanta or at the AMA-founded Fisk University in Tennessee. In 1912, teachers were paid $35 per month, $25 in cash and $10 in their room and board on campus.

Tuition for Knox Institute was 50 cents per month for primary grade education, and up to $1.50 per month for upper level coursework including special music classes. The school attracted students from all over Georgia and other states as well, with a curriculum of academics as well as domestic science, industrial training (such as carpentry and typesetting), and music. Composer Hall Johnson was one the school's 20th century alumni, graduating in 1902 at the age of 14. 

Over the next 15 years, the Knox Institute expanded its campus and enrollment, peaking in the 1924-1925 school year with 339 students from five states, and became the first African-American school to receive accreditation from the University of Georgia's Accreditation Committee. However, in 1928, financial difficulties caused the school to close. From 1933 to 1936, the city of Athens leased one of the buildings for the Athens High and Industrial School, but it was torn down in the 1950s, and remains an empty lot. In 2010, the Georgia Historical Society put up a marker commemorating the Athens High and Industrial School and Knox Institute in the location.

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