To call Tom Solomon a “well-known artist and train enthusiast” as his 1988 obituary did is an understatement. Twenty-eight years after his passing, those who knew him and his work in the Wiregrass still talk about him, and there is an ongoing discussion about this missing paintings.
Solomon’s photographs record depots up and down the ACL line. They capture vignettes of economic and social life of the Wiregrass, like this 1963 image of the massive stack of agricultural freight awaiting transshipment from Iron City, GA.
And this March 15, 1942, photo of Grimes, AL, residents posing before their tiny depot. Ms. Julia Smith, Library Director at Troy State University Dothan until she retired in 2005, identified these folks as Chelle Vann Horne, Presley Dasinger, and Kathleen Brookins Smith (her mother). It’s unclear whether all of the Solomon photos are original (some go back to the early 20th century) of if there are many copy negatives. But no matter.
This black-and-white photo of his painting of the “Jody” taking on water at Capps Station is certainly original.
He even captured the slow fade of the railroad system as in this 1960s shot of a four-car train on a milk run. The conductor captures the mail hoop from the stationmaster. In earlier days, trains passed stations with enough speed that hand-to-hand transfers were dangerous. Station workers hung the mail ring from a steel pivot arm turned toward the track so the passing train’s own ring-catching arm could grab it.
In all, the Solomon collection contains 257 scanned images of all things train-related: depots, people, engines, more engines, wrecks, bridges, and general scenes, all black-and-white (with one exception). These are available for viewing and use by anyone by visiting the archives of following this link to our online finding aid: http://www.troy.edu/wiregrassarchives/inventories/146.html.
The Irene and J. R. Godwin Collection at The Wiregrass Archives, Troy University Dothan (AL) Campus (Record Group 090) consists of photographs, postcards, and letters about World War I. Originals remain with the donor, but the digital images are online. See the collection at http://www.troy.edu/wiregrassarchives/inventories/090.html
Irene Pierce was seventeen years old when America entered World War I. She had worked in the Tallassee, Alabama, cotton mill — a good job at the time — since she was twelve.
By early 1918, many of Tallassee’s young men had volunteered or were drafted into the US Army, and a number served in the American Expeditionary Force in France until mid-1919.
Some of the local boys were close to Irene. They sent her sentimental postcards that barely hid their intentions . . .
But two soldiers were more serious: Chester Schrum (hometown unknown), 328th IR, courted Irene by mail until April 15, 1919 . We don’t know if she answered, but the tone of his last letter to her is self-explanatory.
John R. Godwin of Tallassee was luckier. Wanting to see more of the world than Central Alabama after finishing school (Tallassee schools only went through 8th grade), Godwin went to New Orleans, where he worked aboard ship and made the trip to China at least twice.
He worked in the Tallassee mill until May 24, 1918, when he enlisted in the 81st Infantry Division. He was immediately sent to Signal Corps school (Co. C, 306 Field Signal Battalion, 81st Infantry Division). His official enrollment declaration lists his occupation as a “Telephone Lineman” at which he worked seven years for weekly wages of $21 .
He also had a number of tattoos (of which his grandson, our donor and informant, was unaware).
Godwin embarked to France on August 1, 1918, was hospitalized in Camp Hospital 64 for influenza, April 5-10, 1919, then served in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on the last two days of the war, November 9-11, 1918.
He shipped back to the States on the USS Roanoke, arriving in Charleston, SC, on June 21, 1919. He mustered out from Camp Gordon, GA, June 30, 1919. He and Irene married in May 1920 .
On Twitter, @CharlesKRoberts asked for suggestions for a cheap camera suitable for digitally photographing documents. I use my smart phone or iPad to do this, but without a stand I get shaky images and am unable to take more than 20 or 30 shots before tiring. Also, if I’m photographing pages from a book like the Code of Alabama or a House or Senate journal (my life is incredibly rich and exciting), I have to make the best of having only 2 hands. You can imagine the quality of my copied sources.
So a camera stand is the only way to go. State-of-the-art stands are really nice, but they’re expensive. Well, they’re expensive to me because I’m miserly. I’m also kind of a do-it-yourselfer and hate to see perfectly good re-purposable stuff go to waste. So off to Teh Google I went, and found a number of intriguing stands to turn your tablet or smart phone into a stable document camera.
Searching for “document camera stand diy” led me to this guy and his PVC pipe:
That seemed a bit complex, so I found this idea on Pinterest
I remembered we were discarding a gooseneck lamp, so I beheaded it and attached my smart phone to the neck with an electrical tie. Not pretty, in fact, it’s a Franken-camera. I’m considering using a giant clothes pin as a clamp (with all the problems that entails) or some other method of attaching my phone to the gooseneck, but I did this beast in less than 2 minutes with stuff near my desk. So if you visit the Wiregrass Archives and forget your document camera set up, we’ve got you covered!
Although most of our research requests come via email or telephone call, many come from visitors to our Congressman Terry Everett Reading Room, pictured above. If you plan to visit us, what should you expect to encounter?
The first thing to know is that archival materials are unique and cannot be replaced if lost. Consequently, we take great care to prevent archival items from walking out the door or getting damaged. We also want to make sure you find everything on your subject, even if it’s not in the Wiregrass Archives.
Tina Bernath, our reference archivist, lays out these steps to the on-site reference visit:
After greeting the patron, we determine what specifically they are looking for. If no material on the subject is in our holdings, we try to help locate where that information may be. In many cases, the researcher has too narrow of a search parameter and we try to assist with broader search areas.
For materials in our holdings, we ask visitors to complete a User Registration Form (or pull their form is they have completed one in the last year) and advise then of the Collection Use Policy. We then ask that any items except cell phone or camera, laptop, and/or pencils be removed from the Reading Room and placed in a locker in our processing area, a secure location.
We then find out the specific box/folder they are interested in. This may be information they obtained from the Archives website, http://www.troy.edu/wiregrassarchives , or it may be from looking at the in-house finding aid for a collection.
We pull the requested items one box at a time, and bring them to the Reading Room for the patron to work at their own pace. Pencils and blank paper are proved to take notes. Some patrons prefer to take pictures with their cell phone or camera, and others enter data directly into a laptop or notebook.
When patrons are finished with the current box, that box is taken back to the shelf and the next box is brought out, if necessary. If the patron is finished for the day, after removing the archive materials, we allow the patron to retrieve their belongings from the secure location. We answer any remaining questions, if we can, and then “Thank” them for using our archives.
We look forward to your visit. Reading Room hours are M-Th 8am – 5:30pm, Friday 8am – 12 noon, or by appointment.
Tina Bernath, archival reference assistant, is often the first person a Wiregrass Archives patron meets. She helps patrons with in-person, telephone, and email reference requests. In addition, Tina accessions and processes collections, refines processed collections, and prepares extensive inventories, builds finding aids, and maintains user and donor files. She is in charge of the quick reference (vertical) files. In addition to her work in the Archives, Tina maintains the Dothan Campus Library’s in-house budget and is the point of contact for all Dothan Library purchases.
Tina’s been with the library since January 1989 when she began at the downtown Dothan campus of then-Troy State University Dothan. She began maintaining the Wiregrass Archives in 1999 before a full-time Director was hired.
Tina attended the Georgia Archives Institute in 2001 and has taken workshops in photograph preservation and managing oversized collections.
Diane Sowell has been with the Troy University Dothan Campus Library and the Wiregrass Archives since she began as a student worker in the library’s periodicals section. After graduating in 2011 with a B.S. in English Literature, she began full-time work with the library then became the processing assistant in the Wiregrass Archives.
Diane’s responsibilities include accessioning and managing incoming collections, processing, arranging, and describing new collections. Diane ensures the tracking files are complete and writes finding aids per collection.
Besides on-the-job training, Diane has taken workshops in preserving photographs, caring for originals during digitization projects, caring for scrapbooks, managing oversized materials, and a number of others.
Dr. Marty Olliff joined the Wiregrass Archives in January 2002. He had served as the Assistant Archivist at Auburn University from 1996 to 2002 during which time he received his PhD in US History from Auburn (where he offered a breadth field in archival management).
Marty established all the founding policies and procedures for the Wiregrass Archives, and is the lead collections developer and promoter of the facility. His academic appointment is two-thirds in the archives and one-third in the History Department where he is an associate professor teaching US History surveys, public history, archival management, and historical methods classes. He edited The Great War in the Heart of Dixie: Alabama during World War 1published by the University of Alabama Press in 2008. His January 2015 article in The Alabama Review won the Alabama Historical Association’s Milo B. Howard Award for best article published in the Review for 2014-2015.
As for managing the Wiregrass Archives, he is wise enough to know to set policies and occasionally monitor implementation but to avoid closely supervising Tina and Diane.
Founded in 2002, the Wiregrass Archives at Troy University Dothan Campus “identifies, preserves, and makes available records of enduring value” in a thirty-county area of southeastern Alabama, southwestern Georgia, and northwestern Florida.
Historic Manuscripts: From non-university sources, the The Wiregrass Archives will address records and manuscripts that document the history and culture of the Wiregrass.
University Archives: The The Wiregrass Archives will address records created or received by Troy University—Dothan Campus (and its predecessors) and its employees.
Coordinate Information: Recognizing that no single repository can collect all appropriate records and manuscript, the The Wiregrass Archives will identify other such collections in other repositories and coordinate access to them.
Our collecting policy:
Historic Manuscripts: The Wiregrass Archives collects records that document the following areas throughout the Wiregrass Region:
Economic life: Includes records of entire industries and individual businesses engaged in agriculture, timber and naval stores, retail and wholesale marketing, healthcare, and manufacturing. Also includes records of trade and commerce associations.
Government and Politics: Includes records of governing bodies at all levels, individual politicians, and organizations that engage in political activities.
Non-governmental civic life: Includes records of civic clubs, fraternal organizations, service clubs, and churches.
Folkways and High Culture: Includes records that document vernacular culture (such a activities noted in Wiregrass Country by Jerrilyn McGregory) as well as high art, theater, and literature. Of particular importance are records of visual, graphic, and performing artists, and Wiregrass Writers.
Impact of the military on the region: Records not otherwise secured by law that document the presence of various military bases and personnel in the Wiregrass, and their impact on the region.
Research findings: Records scholars and researchers have compiled on history and life in the Wiregrass.
Individual lives of community leaders and ordinary citizens: Personal papers, diaries, letters, business records, memoirs, and oral histories from individuals and families who have lived in the Wiregrass.
Troy University—Dothan Campus Archives: The The Wiregrass Archives provides records management consulting to the divisions of Troy University—Dothan Campus and collects/preserves/makes accessible campus records of enduring value. It does so as guided by the State of Alabama RDA for Public Colleges and Universities.