Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Downtown Lexington's ever-changing landscape

In July 2008, the building pictured here at the corner of Vine and Limestone was demolished. It was most recently the Triple Crown Lounge and the building had survived many urban changes. At the time of this photograph in 1947, the buildings surrounding it were slated for demolition to put in a new Woolworth's.

Sesquicentennial Stories: The Promise of UK #131

I had a little bird,
Its name was Enza.
I opened the window,
And in-flu-enza.
(from a jump-rope song sung by children in 1918)

As UK students returned to classes in the fall of 1918, the “Great War” (WWI) was winding down and the world was looking forward to the possibility of peace. Focused on larger issues, Americans were generally unconcerned about reports of “Spanish flu” outbreaks in military camps earlier that year, but by September the increase in cases brought it to the forefront of the country’s attention. As military men moved across the country, going to or returning from war, they carried the disease with them. October saw the most deaths from influenza at more than 200,000 in the U.S.

Although Louisville had reported thousands of cases, Lexington thought itself spared until the first week of October. At this time, troops were quartered at Camp Buell on the UK campus and the flu swept through the barracks. Classes were interrupted from October 11 until November 3 and many soldiers were granted furlough in an attempt to cut down on the number of cases. 403 cases of influenza were reported on UK’s campus, resulting in eight deaths, while the number of cases reported in Fayette County was in the thousands, with more than 51 deaths. During the epidemic, the gymnasium was converted into a hospital staffed by Red Cross nurses. Some students contracted the flu after the ban was lifted, such as Margaret Settle, who reported that she “took the flu” over Thanksgiving break and “didn’t get back to school until Jan. 4, 1919.”

The Influenza Epidemic of 1918 killed more people than died in WWI, an estimated 20-50 million in all, somewhat dulling the celebration of the Armistice on November 11, 1918.

Photos, top to bottom: Navy sailors leaving for furlough during flu epidemic, Louis Edward Nollau F series photographic print collection, University Archives

Nurses and medical officers at makeshift gymnasium hospital, Louis Edward Nollau photographic print collection, University Archives

Convalescents playing cards at gymnasium hospital, Louis Edward Nollau F series photographic print collection, University Archives

Friday, July 11, 2008

County fairs

Photos, top to bottom: Elks Fair, 1902 from the Collection of Glass Negatives (2007ua012); “a county fair”, 1947-1959 from the Shropshire collection (79PA110); Agricultural fair displays, undated from Louis Edward Nollau F Series photographic print collection (1998UA001)

Each summer, county fairs spring up around Kentucky in small-town and rural communities. County fairs began as educational events for showcasing the latest and most successful agricultural methods and provided social interaction for isolated farmers and their families. In 1857, the New York Times dispatched a correspondent to Lexington for the Eighth Annual Fair sponsored by the Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical Association after a disappointing showing by Lexington farmers at the National Agricultural Fair in Louisville. He found that the rivalry between Lexington and Louisville made many stock breeders reluctant to enter their best stock there, but their own fair was a different matter. Come “see a County Fair as is a Fair!” he encourages New Yorkers, writing about picnics under the trees and the livestock patiently curried and rubbed with cloths until they “take on a gloss that gives back the sunlight like a glass window”.

The fair wasn’t solely educational even then, as the correspondent also notes the “somewhat unwise … exhibition of fat women”, bearded ladies and giants to entertain the crowds between events. The popularity of gambling in Lexington also impressed him, as he “never saw so much betting at a horse-race as is done here upon the chances of cattle, horses, sheep, colts, calves or anything else brought in for examination.”

The midway games and rides have gradually overshadowed the agricultural events in popularity, but organizations like 4-H, FFA (Future Farmers of America), extension services, and state and university agricultural departments help maintain a significant agricultural presence at the county fair.

Fish Nailin'

"It's just a good ole' fashion fish nailin' party. I don't see what you city types seem to think is so funny. We all nail fish to our houses 'round these parts."