Author Archives: Louisa Trott

John Seigenthaler, 1927 – 2014

John Seigenthaler, one of Tennessee’s great newspapermen, passed away today.

Seigenthaler’s career in journalism and newspapering began when he was in high school. He devoted the rest of his life to the profession. Below is a very brief timeline of his career. For a detailed account of Seigenthaler’s achievements, see this piece in the Tennessean.

The Tennessee Newspaper Digitization Project is especially appreciative of the support Mr Seigenthaler gave the project in its early stages. Mr Seigenthaler provided a letter of support for the initial NEH award application, which helped get the project under way.

1940s – Editor-in-chief of the Panther, school newspaper at Father Ryan High School in Nashville

1949 – Hired as a reporter at the Tennessean

Late1950s/early 1960s – Seigenthaler became friends with Robert F. Kennedy, and later served in the Kennedy administration as chief negotiator with the Alabama governor. He was also US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s administrative assistant in the US Justice Department.

1962 – At the age of 34, Seigenthaler returned to the Tennessean as editor. Under his editorship, the paper won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting of the coal industry and the United Mine Workers.

1973 -  Seigenthaler became publisher of the Tennessean

1982 – Became the inaugural editorial director of the new national, USA Today.

1989 – Named chairman, publisher and CEOof the Tennessean.

1991 – Retired from the Tennessean and USA Today. Founded the First Amendment Center.

2005 – Wikipedia court case.



National History Day Contest

Congratulations to all the students and teachers who took part in this year’s

National History Day Contest!

NHD logo

National History Day is a nationwide contest in which over half a million students participate throughout the year. “Students choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research through libraries, archives, museums, oral history interviews and historic sites. After analyzing and interpreting their sources and drawing conclusions about their topics’ significance in history, students present their work in original papers, websites, exhibits, performances and documentaries.” (source:

Extra special congratulations to our Tennessee representatives! The awards ceremony took place this morning (June 19, 2014) and I’m pleased to announce that Tennessee won two medals and a special award.

Ibtihal Malley from Pleasant View School, Memphis, won second place for her paper, Palestine: Refugee Rights and International Responsibilities (Category: Junior Individual). Her teacher is Andre Clarke.

Emma Grace Thompson from Berean Christian School Independent Study Program, Knoxville, won first place for her documentary Rough in the Bunch: Appalachia’s Rayon Girls Fight for the Right to Strike (Category: Senior Individual). Her teacher is Sharron Thompson. Emma Grace also received a special “Legacy” award for her documentary.

The standard of work the students produce for this contest is outstanding. I have been a judge for the East Tennessee contest for the last few years and each time I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the quality of research and presentation.

Congratulations again to all participants – –  and to the organizers too!

UPDATE: Humanities Tennessee has a wonderfully in-depth story about NHD 2014 on its website here.



Chronicling America Update

Another batch of Tennessee newspapers has been added to Chronicling America. This batch includes Bolivar Bulletin 1882-1889; Camden Chronicle 1895-1903; Lawrence Democrat 1906-1913; Morristown Gazette 1879-1884; Sequachee News and Sequachee Valley News 1895-1909.

There will be two more batches under TNDP’s current NEH award. Earlier this year we applied for a third (and final) award to continue digitizing Tennessee’s historical newspapers. We will hear in July if our application was successful.

Sequachee [Sequatchie] Valley News front page

Sequachee [Sequatchie] Valley News. January 3, 1901.

Historical Newspapers and Genealogy

Historical newspapers are a great resource for genealogists. In addition to the birth, marriage, and death announcements, other useful items include legal and court notices, advertisements, community and social events, and local news. The minutiae of everyday life take on greater significance 100 or so years after publication. Newspapers often published lists of names, whether for letters left at the post office, passenger lists, hotel registrations, or military lists. These small threads of information may seem trivial or incidental to the casual reader, but for the genealogist they enrich the fabric of family histories.

List of letters at post office

Southern Standard [McMinnville, TN]. August 13, 1887.

The local news section can often provide family historians with intriguing anecdotes about their forebears. I was recently invited to write a short piece for the Warren County Genealogical Association Bulletin. Editor Chris Keathley shared an interesting piece about a WCGA member’s ancestor:

Nashville Union and American. July 1, 1873.

Nashville Union and American. July 11, 1873.

TNGenWeb Coordinator (and TNDP Advisory Board member!), Taneya Koonce, has created the Historical News Portal specifically for sharing and indexing historical news about individuals in Tennessee. “Items on this site are selectively chosen from various newspapers with focus on items of genealogical & family history relevance such as births, marriages, and deaths and interesting stories.” Articles such as the one below give a wonderful glimpse into the social life of our early 20th century ancestors:

Surprise Party article

Nashville Globe. January 18, 1907.

The TNGenWeb’s Historical News Portal provides a transcription of the article, along with a link to the item in Chronicling America, and a list of names appearing in the article (which can be cross-referenced, if they appear in other articles). The site also allows for comments, so genealogists can leave useful information for others. Check out the portal, and its parent site TNGenWeb.


Chronicling America Update

The Rugbeian. Gardneing illustration.

The Rugbeian. June 1881.

Another two batches of Tennessee newspapers have been added to Chronicling America. Titles include the Lawrence Democrat (1890-1906), Savannah Courier (1885-1901), Maryville Times (1885-1899), the Rugbeian (1881-1891), Morristown Gazette (1868-1878), and the Johnson City Comet (1884-1909).

Explore some of the interesting illustrations in the Rugbeian, and take a look at the Comet’s ornamental masthead:

Johnson City Comet

Johnson City Comet. June 26, 1890.


Notable Newsies Series – No. 3

Adolph Ochs

Today – March 12 – is the anniversary of Adolph Ochs’ birth in 1858.

Adolph Ochs (1858-1935). Painting by Philip de László (1869-1937)  National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Adolph Ochs (1858-1935). Painting by Philip de László (1869-1937)
National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Before becoming the renowned publisher of the New York Times, Ochs’ newspapering journey began right here in Tennessee. I came across this (recently acquired) portrait of Mr Ochs on a visit to the National Portrait Gallery in DC last year. I was thrilled that they chose to mention his start as a newsboy in Knoxville. Here is the portrait’s caption:

Adolph Ochs caption

National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

The story goes that, later, when Ochs worked as a printer’s devil for the Knoxville Chronicle, he gained invaluable printing experience by putting in extra hours after his shift ended at 11:30pm. It was not just his enthusiasm for the job that kept the young Ochs from leaving, but a morbid fear of passing the graveyard of the First Presbyterian Church at midnight.* The extra work paid off and, at the age of just 19, Ochs purchased a majority share of the Chattanooga Times, and in 1896, purchased the New York Times.

Note about the portrait: a portrait–by the same artist–of “Effie” Ochs, Adolph’s wife, was also acquired by the NPG and hangs on the wall alongside Mr Ochs. See it on the NPG website here.

* Faber, D. (1996). Printer’s devil to publisher : Adolph S. Ochs of the New York Times. Hensonville, N.Y. : Black Dome.

“12 Years a Slave” in Chronicling America

Our friends at the Vermont Digital Newspaper Project shared this link to today’s blog post:

“Fresh from Oscar fever & “12 Years a Slave” winning Best Film 2014, Pruedence Doherty (our Special Collections Librarian) dug into our digitized content and found accounts of Solomon Northup kidnapping, subsequent rescue, and persecutions of his kidnappers. Read more about it!”

Vermont Watchman and State Journal. February 10, 1853.

Further references to Solomon Northup’s narrative can be found by using Chronicling America’s Advanced Search option. However, note that his last name is spelled both as Northup and Northrop.

Thanks to Erenst, Prudence, and all at VDNP for sharing this.

Library of Congress update

The Library of Congress announced an update to the Chronicling America upload process this week. In the past, after data had been checked and accepted by the NDNP staff, it was held until periodic updates were made to the site. Now, data will be ingested as soon as it has been accepted, making the turnaround time from digitization to upload a lot quicker.

You can see, in real time, which batches are currently being uploaded:  Tennessee batches start with “batch_tu_”. batch_tu_dottie and batch_tu_frank were uploaded earlier this week (batch_tu_ernie must still be in the queue). Titles in these batches include the Camden Chronicle, Columbia Herald, Pulaski Citizen, Bolivar Bulletin, Memphis Appeal, Winchester Home Journal, and the Nashville Globe.

Nashville Globe. March 2, 1917.

Nashville Globe. March 2, 1917.

Ernest E. Burtt, cartoonist

I found a fascinating little publication in UT’s Special Collections a few weeks ago. I was doing some research for the next phase of TNDP (NEH grant application pending), when I came across this 1903 booklet, The Journal and Tribune’s Book of Cartoons. The Knoxville-based cartoonist was Ernest E. Burtt. A quick search online led me to a website rich in information about cartoons and cartoonists: the International Team of Comic Historians, aka ITCH. The website contained a page scanned from the May 1913 issue of Cartoons Magazine (see below), featuring many cartoonists, and amongst them – Ernest E. Burtt. The page gives a short bio and even a photo of the artist. The piece also solved the mystery of who the little creature was that kept popping up in the Journal and Tribune‘s editorial cartoons – Rad the dog!

Cartoons Magazine. May 1913. Source: ITCH website,

Cartoons Magazine. May 1913.
Source: ITCH website,

From the publication, the [Knoxville] Journal and Tribune Cartoons, 1909. Source: University of Tennessee Special Collections, Hodges Library

From the publication, the [Knoxville] Journal and Tribune Cartoons, 1903. Source: University of Tennessee Special Collections, Hodges Library

For more of Burtt’s cartoons, see the ITCH website.