Today, We Remember

Memorial Day

As we take this Memorial Day to remember those who gave their lives to protect and defend our country, we wanted to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the holiday that takes the time to reflect upon and appreciate the contributions of our armed forces.

The History:

Today, Memorial Day honors all veterans, but the holiday was originally called Decoration Day, and was created in reverence to those who lost their lives in the Civil War. General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veteran’s group born out of the Cvil War, first declared the holiday in 1868, proclaiming:

The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or Memorial Day Propagandaotherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit. . . .

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from hishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

Memorial Day Propaganda5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery on the first Decoration Day in 1868. After World War I, Decoration Day was re-designated to honor the fallen American soldiers who died fighting in any U.S. wars. Memorial Day, as it came to be known, was only officially recognized as a national holiday in 1971, and is now observed on the last Monday of May each year.

The Traditions:

  • When raising the American flag on Memorial Day, it is to be raised quickly to full-mast, and then lowered slowly and solemnly to half-mast. At noon, the flag is to be raised to full staff for the remainder of the day. The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country, and the full-staff position represents the raising of their memory, and a commitment to not to let their sacrifice be in vain.

American Flag Memorial Day A young boy holds a Poppy in Montreal, Wednesday, November 7, 2012.  THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Graham Hughes.

  • Many American’s think of the British people wearing red poppies on Armistice Day (November 11, which coincides with our American Veteran’s Day), but the memorial red poppy originated in the U.S. and are a traditional decoration for Memorial Day. Inspired by the famous World War I poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael wrote a poem of her own:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

Moina was the first to wear a poppy in remembrance, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. A Frenchwoman traveling to the U.S., heard of the custom, and began selling artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. The tradition soon spread to other European countries, and in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies.

  • Many cities and towns across the U.S. hold Memorial Day parades. Ironton, Ohio, puts on the nation’s oldest continuously running Memorial Day parade. The first parade was held May 5, 1868, and the town has held it every year since.
  • In 2000, Congress passed the “National Moment of Remembrance Act,” for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or commemorating as they choose at 3 pm on Memorial Day.

As some families gather to remember a relative’s service, or others gather for Memorial Day parades, cookouts, or picnics, please take a moment today to remember those who lost their lives in service to all of us, and those who continue to sacrifice for our country every day.

Rosy Twisted Stalk

Top Ten Disappearing Flora of Kentucky

9780813124964Kentucky, known for its rich soil and temperate climate, is the perfect location for a stunning growth of diverse and beautiful flora. However, due to land use changes in the form of housing and industrial development, these flowers are quickly disappearing. In Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky, Thomas G. Barnes, Deborah White, and Marc Evans write to spread awareness and promote environmental preservation. Here is a list of the top ten endangered wildflowers in the state, with some even endangered on the national level:

  1. Large-leaf grass of Parnassus

    Large-Leaf Grass-of-Parnassus

    Rosy twisted stalk (image featured at the top of this post)— Rosy twisted stalk is known only from Black Mountain, an area of the highest elevation in the state and home to many rare plants and natural communities. The flowers of the plant hang from its stem like bells.

  1. Sweet fern—The sweet fern is a low-growing shrub, not a fern, despite what the name suggests. The fern is known for its fragrant odor. It can be found only near the Big South Fork River.

    Cumberland Rosemary

    Cumberland Rosemary

  1. Large-leaf grass-of-parnassus—This grass-of-parnassus species is found in wetland seeps and has fewer than three locations in Kentucky, all near the southern border of the state.
  1. Cumberland rosemary—Cumberland rosemary, a member of the mint family, only grows in sandy river deposits among boulders. It is endangered in Kentucky and federally threatened.
  1. Rose pogonia orchid—The rose pogonia orchid is one of nineteen endangered plants located in Bad Branch, the deepest gorge of Pine Mountain.

    Copper Iris

    Copper Iris

  1. Copper iris—The copper iris, a regal-looking perennial plant with a reddish color, can only be found in the wetlands of far western Kentucky. It attracts the insects, hummingbirds, as well as gardeners.
  1. Dwarf sundew—The dwarf sundew, exclusive to a single region of southern Kentucky, is a mere inch or two tall and wide. To obtain nutrients, the sundew captures small insects on its sticky leaves.
  1. Grass pink orchid—The grass pink orchid has disappeared from several wetland sites in the last twenty years and is now known from only one location in the eastern part of the state.

    Blue-Flower Coyote-Thistle

    Blue-Flower Coyote-Thistle

  1. Royal catchfly—A striking red flower, the royal catchfly is pollinated by hummingbirds. This plant is found in prairies, and very little of this grassland habitat remains in the state.
  1. Blue-flower coyote-thistle—The blue-flower coyote-thistle of Western Kentucky has decreased due to changes in hydrology and land use. These flowers are characterized by their tiny flowers, similar to those of thistles.

Con-GRAD-ulations Graduates!


Graduation is exciting and terrifying no matter what stage in your education. It can be as scary as knowing you’re starting high school next year, or waiting for your college acceptance letter, or applying for the first job of the career you’re hoping to build. Its also incredibly exciting to move on to a new phase, with new opportunities and possibilities you may never have expected!

Last year, we brought you #AdviceforGrads from famous Kentuckians like Hunter S. Thompson, George Clooney, Thomas Merton, and even the Backstreet Boys. This year, we bring you a few more Kentucky role models who took the leap after graduation, and did some incredible things:

Books for Inspiration: 



Discovering Kentucky’s Great Places

9780813122304We’re just hours away from the start of Memorial Day weekend and all the outdoor fun that brings. It seemed like an appropriate time to turn the spotlight on the people who are working to protect and conserve Kentucky’s natural heritage. Enjoy an excerpt and photos from the beautifully illustrated Kentucky’s Last Great Places by Thomas Barnes:

Kentucky’s natural biological wealth and beauty have drawn the attention of people for centuries. The state is home to eleven rare ecological communities, two of which are rare globally. The bluegrass savanna, unique to central Kentucky, is now functionally extinct, having succumbed to horse farms, agriculture, and urban development. All that remains are a few groves of the old bur or chinquapin oaks, blue ash, and shellbark hickory. The best remnant savanna is a two hundred acre tract in Harrison County, but it has been heavily grazed and the understory is dominated almost completely by exotic plants, that is, plants not native to Kentucky.

More than 80 percent of the state’s wetlands have been destroyed, and two wetland types—the bottomland hardwood forest and the stream-head seeps—are highly threatened. The Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission estimates that only 1 percent of our state’s bottomland hardwoods remain. Unfortunately, most of these forests have been heavily logged or adversely affected by agriculture or development that results in hydrological changes. These communities, once dominated by oaks, are now dominated by early-successional species such as red maple and tulip poplar, and their understories are usually dominated by exotic plants, including bedstraw, Japanese stilt grass, multiflora rose, and common chickweed.

Seeps occur where groundwater more or less permanently percolated through sandy or gravelly soil to the surface. Both acid and calcareous seeps are found in the state; each is characterized by the pH of the water that moves through it. There are probably fewer than two dozen high-quality seeps left in the state, mostly in the Cumberland Plateau and Mountains.

More than two million acres of tallgrass prairies and barrens have been reduced to less than twelve hundred acres (about .05 percent) in scattered remnants. Those that remain are usually found on land that is unsuitable for either agriculture or development, often on steep slopes, rock outcrops, or poor soils.

The flora and fauna of Kentucky’s forests, though diverse, are in conditions ranging from almost pristine to pitiful. Less than fifteen thousand acres of older growth or unmanaged forests remain in the state, about 0.1 percent of Kentucky’s thirteen million forested acres.

In the state’s natural areas, the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission thus far has discovered about 20,700 acres (approximately 0.08 percent of the state’s land area) of high quality land that could be classified ecologically as in a “pre-European” condition that deserves significant protection. Of this, only about 2,600 acres (or about 0.01 percent of the state) are actually protected.

Time is of the essence in protecting Kentucky’s remaining natural areas. More than one-third of the state still needs to be inventoried for rare species and communities. In the most recent inventory efforts, Nature Preserves did not find even one tract of older-growth forest in the ten counties they surveyed. Several barrens and glades were found, but most of these were too small to justify protection efforts. During this same period, two mature, diverse forest tracts on Pine Mountain and a near-old-growth tract in Jackson County became victims of the chain saw. And in the period between finding and actually purchasing Blanton Forest in Harlan County, approximately fifteen acres of the forest’s old-growth succumbed to an unethical timber company. The message is quite clear: the time to protect our remaining high-quality natural areas is now.


A Rose by Any Other Name: The Surprising Stories Behind Kentucky Weeds

Weeds of KentuckyHere at the University Press of Kentucky, we recently finished digitizing over 1000 books dating back to our founding in 1943. It’s a lot of work going through all those books, but it’s been a process full of fun surprises and astounding discoveries. Best of all, every now and then, there’s a book that we can’t put down—a book so good we just can’t resist sharing it with you again:

As Shakespeare’s Juliet once said, “[T]hat which we call a rose/
By any other name would smell as sweet,” and no book in our catalog demonstrates what’s really in a name as beautifully as Patricia Haragan’s Weeds of Kentucky and Adjacent States: A Field Guide.

In Kentucky, where commercial agriculture is so important, some of the plants that were prized by our ancestors are considered nuisances today due to the harm they inflict on crops and livestock. In this informative and surprising book, Patricia Haragan not only provides a guide for identifying these plants, but reveals the cultural and natural history behind each. Here are some of our favorites—from the poisonous weed that allegedly killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother to the ivy that was once indispensable to brewmasters. Click on the illustrations below for longer descriptions:

The next time you go out to weed your garden or yard, maybe you’ll recognize some of these plants from their mug shots. Pick up a copy of Weeds of Kentucky and Adjacent States to learn about other interesting plants you may have overlooked.

Also, while you’re out in the garden, take a photo! In case you missed it, we’ve got a giveaway on through May 22: Tag us in a photo of you enjoying the great outdoors on social media and win a free copy of Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky. Just mention @KentuckyPress with your photo this week via Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram to be eligible to receive your complimentary book.*

Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky By Thomas G. Barnes, Deborah White, and Marc Evans 204 pages, 10 x 8.5, 220 color photographs

Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky
By Thomas G. Barnes, Deborah White, and Marc Evans
204 pages, 10 x 8.5, 220 color photographs

*Limit: One free book per person. Offer ends May 22, 2015. The University Press of Kentucky reserves the right to a) deny submissions that appear to violate the terms and conditions of this promotion at its discretion, and b) discontinue or change this offer at any time.

Via Google Images

Celebrating Kentucky’s Great Places: Photo Fun and Book Giveaway

From the banks of the Mississippi River to the peaks of the Appalachian mountains, Kentucky is a beautiful and biologically diverse place. This week, we’ll be digging into the Commonwealth’s natural heritage with the help of some classic books and giving you some ideas about great places to visit as well.

In the meantime, we’d like to announce a little contest for the week—tag us in a photo of you enjoying the great outdoors on social media and win a free copy of Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky. Just mention @KentuckyPress with your photo this week (May 18–22, 2015) via Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram to be eligible to receive your complimentary book.*

Go out and snap ’em up!

Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky By Thomas G. Barnes, Deborah White, and Marc Evans 204 pages, 10 x 8.5, 220 color photographs

Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky
By Thomas G. Barnes, Deborah White, and Marc Evans
204 pages, 10 x 8.5, 220 color photographs

*Limit: One free book per person. Offer ends May 22, 2015. The University Press of Kentucky reserves the right to a) deny submissions that appear to violate the terms and conditions of this promotion at its discretion, and b) discontinue or change this offer at any time.

Remembering the RMS Lusitania and its impact on America during World War I

Lusitania 100 years University Press of Kentucky

100 years ago today, at 2:10 pm, the RMS Lusitania was about fifteen miles off the coast of Kinsale, Ireland, when the second officer called out to Captain William Turner: “There is a torpedo coming, sir.”

Two torpedoes struck the Lusitania on her starboard side, the second hitting the boiler room. Of the 1,962 passengers and crew who were aboard, 1,198 lost their lives, including 128 American passengers.

Lusitania in port, 1907

Lusitania in port, 1907.

War had broken out in Europe only a year prior to the fateful voyage, and Germany had announced a strategy of unrestricted submarine warfare in the waters around Great Britain in February 1915, deploying U-boats around the British Isles.

Two months later, adjacent to an advertisement promoting the Lusitania’s impending voyage from New York to Liverpool, the German embassy in the U.S. placed a notice in 50 American newspapers:


Lusitania Notice WWI

via the Robert Hunt Picture Library

TRAVELLERS intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies; that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles; that, in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travellers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.
Washington, D.C., April 22, 1915.

These warnings, coupled with the sinking of several merchant ships off the coast of Ireland, prompted the British Admiralty to warn the Lusitania to either avoid dangerous waters or take evasive action on the crossing. But warnings were ignored.

Woodrow Wilson had pledged U.S. neutrality from the outset of World War I in 1914, and most American’s agreed—Europe should handle European affairs. But the sinking of the Lusitania, and the deaths of 128 Americans, including Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, incited public outcry across America.

In Nothing Less than War: A New History of America’s Entry into World War I, Justus Doenecke outlines President Wilson’s diplomatic options. First, accept Germany’s “deepest sympathy at the loss of American lives,” though the message from Berlin also attempted  to excuse German actions, arguing that Americans were inclined to trust English promises rather than heed German warnings. The attempted apology was not well received by either the media or the public. Second, Wilson could protest to London that their blockade of Germany—the original inciting action for Germany’s deployment of the U-boats around Britain—led to the attack. This was an attractive option to American exporters and businessmen who objected to Britain’s blockade. Had Wilson exercised this option, however, it would have put America at odds with both sides of the war. Or Wilson could have pressed Germany to make monetary compensation for the loss of American life and property, thought it would have meant ignoring his belief that the incident constituted a breach of international law.

Woodrow WilsonUltimately, Wilson issued the first Lusitania note on May 13, 1915, declaring that Germany acted “absolutely contrary to the rules, the practices, and the spirit of modern warfare,” and demanded the immediate abandonment of U-boat warfare against American and belligerent liners and merchantmen. He called for Berlin to disown the sinking of the Lusitania and make reparation for the loss of American lives, while endorsing the right of citizens from neutral countries to travel on belligerent ships.

By early 1916, Germany still would not concede that the Lusitania’s sinking was illegal. As the 1916 president campaign for Wilson’s reelection ramped up, the president’s challenger Charles E. Hughes promised to “protect and enforce American rights on land and sea without fear and unflinchingly with respect to American rights, American property, and American commerce.” Wilson’s campaign slogan? “He kept us out of war.” Wilson narrowly won reelection by 23 electoral votes and by less than 600,000 popular votes.

Soon after the election, despite all of his efforts to maintain peace and the neutrality of the United States, Wilson conceded that “we must inevitably drift into war with Germany upon the submarine issue.”

The sinking of the Lusitania had been merely the first, largest instance of American deaths as a result of Germany’s U-boat strategy and belligerence. When, in 1917, Germany’s U-boats began to attack and sink American merchant ships, owned by American corporations, and flying American colors, former president Theodore Roosevelt scorned Wilson’s policies, stating “Germany is already at war with us. The only question for us is ether we shall make war nobly or ignobly.”

Woodrow Wilson Declaration of World War I

Woodrow Wilson’s Address to Congress Leading to a Declaration of War against Germany, delivered to a joint session of Congress on April 2, 1917

On April 2, 1917, President Wilson delivered his war message to a joint session of Congress.

After the Lusitania sinking, Wilson wanted to remain at peace and protect America’s rights. “I wish with all my heart I saw a way to carry out the double wish of our people,” he stated, “to maintain a firm front in respect of what we demand of Germany and yet do nothing that might by any possibility involve us in the war.”

As Doenecke concludes in Nothing Less than War:

In the end, it was Germany that forced the administration’s hand. . . When U-boats began sinking American vessels without rescuing their crews, Wilson had run out of options. He could only hope that the conflict would justify the required sacrifice.