Tag Archives: Kentucky Writers

This Halloween, Seckatary Hawkins and the Fair and Square Club Solve the Mysteries of Stoner’s Boy and The Gray Ghost

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Long before Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys took center stage in the hearts of young readers as the iconic teen detectives, Seckatary Hawkins and his gang of “Fair and Square” boys were solving mysteries and stopping crimes along the riverbanks of the Ohio River. Beginning in 1918, the members of the Fair and Square Club captured the imagination of thousands of children and adults alike, as they explore the diverse Kentucky landscape in pursuit of adventure, mystery, and doing good. For over three decades, Schulkers’ creation provided inspiration to many young readers, including Harper Lee, who references his work in her iconic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

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The tales of Seckatary Hawkins made their debut in The Cincinnati Enquirer, taking the nation by storm with weekly installments of Stoner’s Boy. The series continued with the exciting sequel, The Gray Ghost, in 1922. These tales soon spread to hundreds of newspapers seck_enquirer_cover-copyacross the country, eventually becoming the first children’s stories broadcast over the radio. By 1926, the popular serials had been turned into books, and over the next thirty-three years, the adventures of Seckatary Hawkins and the members of the Fair and Square Club would not cease to run in US newspapers, as well as inspiring the creation of comic strips, magazines, fan clubs, radio shows, and movies until 1951.

The enduring popularity of these adventure stories is based on a number of factors. Schulkers’ love of children and his realistic characterization of the boys in his stories appeals to adults and adolescents alike. Schulkers stands out for his apt depiction of Kentucky river boy dialogue, which allows the average Kentucky child to relate, as well as adults who can fondly reminisce about their childhoods. For today’s readers, the stories provide a portrait of boyhood in rural Kentucky nearly a hundred years ago, appealing to those who romanticize about a past that they couldn’t be a part of. seck-map-copy

 

Building on his own experiences, Schulkers creates an imaginative and dramatic setting for his river boys to adventure through.  Based on his childhood playgrounds on the riverbanks of the Licking, Kentucky, and Ohio rivers, the mountainous Cumberland River, and the cave country of Versailles, the Seckatary Hawkins gang brought to life for readers what it was like to live and play along those settings.

Building on wholesome values of   courage, honesty, loyalty, and common sense; patriotism, faith, friends, family, and fair play, Seckatary Hawkins and his band of friends teach valuable lessons to young readers. In these stories anyone, no matter their size, age, social status or appearance, can excel and do good things if they have faith in themselves and rely on the virtues of being “Fair and Square.” Teaching effective ways of handling bullies, the adventures of the Fair and Square Club show children a world where they can take charge of unpleasant situations and turn them fun, while still respecting themselves and others.

 

Buy the Books:

UPK_Stoner's Boy  UPK_The Gray Ghost

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A Toast to National Bourbon Heritage Month

September is a most wonderful time—when the weather starts to cool, leaves start to turn, and the world turns its attention to the Commonwealth for National Bourbon Heritage Month! We’ll be celebrating this genteel and genuinely Kentucky holiday with cocktail and food recipes, new books, and a trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

More Kentucky Bourbon Cocktails6.inddTo kick things off, enjoy a celebratory tipple of “The Rutledge Rebellion,” created by Jason Start of Martini Italian Bistro in Louisville, representing Four Roses Distillery. “The Rutledge Rebellion” took first prize at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival Mixed Drink Challenge in 2014 in the Bourbon Punch Category. Named for Four Roses master distiller emeritus, Jim Rutledge, “The Rutledge Rebellion” won the honor of being the official cocktail of the 2015 Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

Try your hand at this well-crafted recipe from Joy Perrine and Susan Reigler’s newest book, More Kentucky Bourbon Cocktails. Cheers!

The Rutledge Rebellion

Rutledge Rebellion via The Kentucky Standard

The overall winning drink, ‘The Rutledge Rebellion’ (photo by Kacie Goode. Used with permission from The Kentucky Standard.)

1 1/2 ounces Four Roses Small Batch bourbon
1/2 ounce ginger liqueur
1 ounce orange juice
1 ounce pomegranate juice
1 ounce apple pureé
(3 apples, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 cup simple syrup, 1/2               cup water, and 1/2 cup lemon juice—blended and                 strained)
or 1 ounce apple juice
2 ounces dry champagne
1 syringe Bittermens Tiki bitters

Combine ingredients in a pint glass and stir. Fill with ice, garnish with an orange slice and a mint sprig and serve with a straw.

Singing the Summer Southern Harmony

There’s something about music during the summertime—outdoor concerts, guitar-playing on the porch, festivals across the globe. One of the oldest and most popular southern singing traditions is that of “Shape Notes.”

Shape notes have been in use by classrooms and congregations for more than two centuries, and arose to simplify the notation, teaching, and arrangement of songs. Rather than traditional musical notation heads, shapes are substituted that correspond to different sounds:

Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do

William Walker’s Southern Harmony and Musical Companion was first published in 1835. During the nineteenth century, when advertising was mainly by word of mouth or relatively sedate ads in weekly and monthly papers and pamphlets, Southern Harmony sold about 600,000 copies, and is perhaps the most popular songbook ever printed.

9780813118598 As far as is known, Benton, Kentucky, is the only place where the Southern Harmony is still used regularly. The Big Singing, usually held on the fourth Sunday in May, has been an annual event since 1884. Before World War II it is said that many thousands attended; as many as four extra trains in each direction were added to bring in the crowds.

 

Preface to the 1835 edition:

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The CD included with Southern Harmony and Musical Companion contains more than 300 tunes, hymns, psalms, odes, and anthems, including “New Britain (Amazing Grace),” “Happy Land,” “O Come, Come Away,” “Wondrous Love,” and many, many more. The recordings were made at the Big Singing in Benton, Kentucky, between 1966 and 1992. We’ve included two of the more popular tunes, “New Britain” and “Newburgh” below.

John Morrissey: Rogue, U.S. Representative, Racing Icon

Though there won’t be another historic Triple Crown win at Belmont Park this year, racing history looms large in New York state. Just north of Elmont—where the Belmont Stakes are run—is Saratoga Springs, home of the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame and Saratoga Race Course.

sm_MorrisseyThe third oldest racetrack in the United States, Saratoga Springs saw its first thoroughbred race card on August 3, 1863, organized by John Morrissey, who was at the time operating a  gambling house in the resort town. An Irish immigrant, an enforcer for Tamany Hall, a professional boxer, and a prodigious gambler, John Morrissey was—if nothing else—an unlikely candidate to become one of the most important figures in the history of Thoroughbred racing. But despite being the kind of man who made a fortune in the Gold Rush, won fame as a prizefighter, found political success through Boss Tweed’s machine, and challenged William Poole (better known as “Bill the Butcher”), Morrissey’s name has escaped many history books.

Nicholson_FinalNow, James C. Nicholson (author of The Kentucky Derby and Never Say Die), finally does justice to this rags-to-riches story in The Notorious John Morrissey: How a Bare-Knuckle Brawler Became a Congressman and Founded Saratoga Race Course. Nicholson traces Morrissey’s remarkable life while also shedding light on fascinating issues of the era, such as the underground prizefighting economy, the rancorous debate over immigration, and labor laws that protected owners more than workers. He digs most deeply, however, into the business of Thoroughbred racing and Morrissey’s role as the founder of Saratoga Race Course.

In advance of this year’s Belmont Stakes, and the start of Saratoga’s racing schedule, we spoke with Nicholson about Morrissey’s improbable life and why Saratoga and its founder are instrumental to understanding of horse racing’s history.

How did you first get introduced to Saratoga Race Course and John Morrissey’s story?

I worked at the horse auctions in Saratoga for a few summers during college and grad school. Unglamorously, my most important duty was helping remove horse manure from the facility. After work, some of my fellow “muck crew” members and I would often trot over to the nearby racetrack to catch a race or two. I was fascinated by the little pieces of folklore and anecdotes about “the old days” that were casually passed around by racegoers, but it was difficult to know if someone was talking about 150 years ago or fifteen years ago. Some of those stories included vague allusions to John Morrissey, who, I learned, had operated the casino at the center of town and had been responsible for bringing Thoroughbred racing to Saratoga. He sounded like an intriguing character, and, in doing research for my first two books, I was surprised to learn that relatively little had been written about him in over a century.

What led Morrissey to begin his career as a political enforcer and his involvement with gang violence?

Morrissey came to the United States from Ireland as a small child, and he grew up quite poor in the lively little town of Troy, New York, on the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal, with seven sisters, an alcoholic mother, and an unskilled father. He was an ambitious young man and realized early on that his ability to endure a beating was perhaps his greatest personal asset. In addition to jobs in factories as a preteen, Morrissey was a bouncer in a tavern and worked on riverboats as a deckhand. He was surrounded by rough crowds throughout his adolescence, when fighting was both entertainment and a means of survival for many young men in upstate New York. After moving to New York City in his late teens, Morrissey’s toughness continued to serve him well. He worked as a political enforcer for the Tammany Hall political machine and as an immigrant runner, meeting new arrivals on the docks and helping to find them work and shelter in exchange for political allegiance to Tammany.

Morrissey had several encounters with William Poole, who was portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis in the film The Gangs of New York. Can you describe their relationship?

Poole was a butcher by trade, and he led a New York City gang called the Bowery Boys. Leonardo DiCaprio played the rival of Daniel Day-Lewis’s character. DiCaprio’s character contains elements of John Morrissey. Morrissey, an Irish-Catholic Democrat, and Poole, a “native” American Protestant Know-Nothing, were bitter rivals within the ethnically and politically charged environment of mid-nineteenth-century Manhattan. The two men had tense encounters within the saloon and sporting circles in which they operated, and Poole beat Morrissey nearly to death in a well publicized encounter months before Poole was killed by Morrissey’s associates in a Broadway tavern.

It would be a stretch to call the film historically accurate, but it does capture some of the spirit of that era. The film does a good job conveying the notion that New York’s Five Points district was a hotbed of violence, poverty, and corruption, and it effectively depicts the deadly hostility between nativists and immigrants, as well as the political power of Tammany Hall. But the film plays rather loose with historical events and historical figures. Perhaps the most glaring creative liberty taken is the fact that Poole was actually murdered in 1855 following a barroom dispute with Morrissey, while, in the film, the Poole character is killed in the New York City draft riots of 1863. But Gangs of New York does accurately portray Poole as a virulent nativist who wielded serious local power.

sm_Morrissey boxingMorrissey turned from criminal to prizefighter, eventually becoming national champion. Today boxing has various sanctioning organizations and clearly defined weight classes. That wasn’t the case in Morrissey’s time, can you elaborate on the differences?

When Morrissey entered the American boxing scene, fights were governed by the London Prize Ring rules, which were far more permissive than the Marquess of Queensbury rules (published in 1867) that modern boxing fans would recognize. In Morrissey’s era, fights were conducted without gloves (“bareknuckle”), and the rules permitted grasping and throwing, but not gouging, biting, or low blows. A round was completed when one fighter was knocked to the ground, and there were no limits as to the length of a fight—some lasted well over 100 rounds. There were no official weight classes, and prizefights had to be conducted in semi-clandestine fashion, as the sport was outlawed nearly everywhere in the United States.

There were also no formal boxing federations like the ones that would emerge in the twentieth century. Championships were largely determined by public acclaim and recognition by the sporting press. That process was less unwieldy than it might sound, however, as the sports community was relatively small and insular by modern standards, and a large percentage of the major figures in American boxing could be found in one of a handful of New York saloons that catered to the sporting crowd. In 1849, Tom Hyer was universally acknowledged as the finest fighter in the nation, earning the informal title of Champion of America following his victory over Yankee Sullivan. When Hyer retired in the early 1850s, Sullivan staked a dubious claim to Hyer’s title by virtue of having been the last fighter to lose to the champion. When Morrissey beat Sullivan, he took the title. Morrissey’s defeat of Hyer’s hand-picked challenger, John C. Heenan, in 1858, cemented his claim to the American championship, as well as his place of honor in the annals of boxing history.

How much of Morrissey’s past was brought up in his campaign, did this have a large effect on his chances? Was it unusual to have that kind of background as a politician in that era?

No one had ever seen someone with Morrissey’s checkered past and deep involvement with boxing and gambling rise so quickly in American politics. Journalists were highly critical of his candidacy for Congress, but, much like what we have recently seen with Donald Trump, the attention that newspapers paid to Morrissey only added to his status as a celebrity and ultimately helped him to appeal to voters.

Describe Morrissey’s connections to Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall? Without their backing do you think it would have been possible for him to win?

Tammany Hall was the major power broker in New York City Democratic politics from the 1850s well into the twentieth century. Morrissey had ingratiated himself to Tammany leadership by providing muscle in local elections. Those relationships facilitated his subsequent election to U.S. Congress. Morrissey eventually had a falling out with Boss Tweed and the Tammany Democrats, and he led an insurrection that contributed to Tweed’s downfall. But without Tammany’s early support there would have been no way a man with Morrissey’s past could be a congressman.

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What makes Saratoga such an important facet in the American Thoroughbred industry?

One of the most appealing aspects of horseracing, in addition to the wide variety of participants and enthusiasts it attracts, is its connection to the past. Nowhere is that connection more tangible than in Saratoga. Generations of racing fans have made Saratoga an annual destination, and the well-preserved Victorian architecture there provides a tangible link to a bygone era. The presence of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame right across the street from the racetrack serves as a reminder of the deep history of racing at Saratoga, which, for over 150 years, has attracted wealthy industrialists and financiers, itinerate gamblers, vacationing families, and vagabond horsemen. This hodgepodge of humanity was an integral part of the festive atmosphere at Saratoga race meets 150 years ago, and it remains so today.

James C. Nicholson is the author of The Kentucky Derby: How the Run for the Roses Became America’s Premier Sporting Event and Never Say Die: A Kentucky Colt, the Epsom Derby, and the Rise of the Modern Thoroughbred Industry. His newest book, The Notorious John Morrissey: How a Bare-Knuckle Brawler Became a Congressman and Founded Saratoga Race Course is available now.

Gems of the Backlist: ‘The Appalachian Photographs of Earl Palmer’

Here at the University Press of Kentucky, we recently completed an initiative to digitize all of the books that we’ve published since our founding in 1943. It was a lot of work going through more than 1300 books, but it’s been a process full of fun surprises and astounding discoveries. Best of all, every now and then, there was a book that we just couldn’t put down—a book so good we just can’t resist sharing it with you again:

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“Palmer has given us the best view we will ever have of life and work in the Southern Appalachians. . . . His magnificent collection of photographs preserves the old way of life for us to study and ponder.”—Harry Caudill, author of Night Comes to the Cumberlands

For more than fifty years, mountain-born Earl Palmer traveled the Southern Appalachians with his camera, recording his personal vision of the mountain people and their heritage. Over these year he created, in several thousand photographs, a distinctive body of work that affirms a traditional image of Appalachia—a region of great natural beauty inhabited by a self-sufficient people whose lives are notable for simplicity and harmony.

 The Appalachian Photographs of Earl Palmer collects more than 120 representative photographs from the photographer’s collection. Jean Haskell Speer, who was emerita director of the Appalachian Studies Program at Virginia Tech, conducted extensive interviews with Palmer to write a biographical and critical commentary. Palmer’s photographs, Speer argues, are significant cultural statements that depict not so much a geographical region as a particular idea of Appalachia.

from the preface by Jean Haskell Speer:

“Earl has spent a lifetime, as he puts it, “conjuring” Appalachia, creating a rich and complex Appalachian vision in pictures. He believes the highest and best vision of Appalachia is rooted in its past, made manifest in its traditional culture and in those persons who remain emblems of the past in the present. In fact, Earl’s photographs may be said to constitute a kind of mountain manifesto, a public declaration of his intention to create a particular Appalachian world.

Earl has photographed Appalachia according to his world view. He has seen the mountaineer as both historically real and eternally mythic. He has made a photographic record of what has been real, if now only remembered, and he has created a vision of Appalachia’s past as he wishes it to be remembered. Earl has understood the power of the photographic image to preserve and to persuade, especially to build a rhetorically powerful argument through repeated and consistent images.

The photographs chosen for this volume from Earl’s collection of twenty to thirty thousand negatives represent the mainstream of his work. They include some of his most critically acclaimed and popular photographs, some historically and culturally valuable photographs, and photographs that illustrate Earl’s concept of “Appalachianness.” The photographs were made over a period of more than fifty years from 1936 to 1988. Geographically, they represent the heartland of Southern Appalachia, covering portions of Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. . . .

For most of his photographs Earl writes extensive captions that are intended to be evocative more often than informational. They are narratives that mix historical fact with Earl’s imagination in short vignettes about mountain life.”

We’ve selected a few photos to share here, but many more await in The Appalachian Photographs of Earl Palmer.

click the images to view full-size.

“Tell Me, [about] Mommy Goose”

Raccoon_Car_WmkdThe 82-year-old renowned folk artist Minnie Adkins usually sits in her easy chair at her home in Elliott County and whittles. “Folk art is from the heart,” she recently told Rich Copley for The Lexington Herald-Leader. “Fine art is from the knowledge. Folk art you make from what you love and what you want to create.”

Mike Norris, former Communications director at Centre College, is a musician with a flair for rhymes.

Together they’ve created the charming new children’s book, Mommy Goose, featuring fifty original Appalachian rhymes by Norris and more than one hundred new hand-carved and -painted works by Adkins.

With colorful characters like the Speckled Hen, June Bug, and Clete, the Parakeet, the Song_Buttonnursery rhymes and carvings in Mommy Goose honor Appalachian tradition and speech. Accompanying the rhymes is a new original song and sheet music by Norris, “Tell Me, Mommy Goose.”

 

Mommy Goose_smallAbout MOMMY GOOSE

Mommy Goose is an Appalachian bird.

Like cows love corn, she loves words.

She says,

“Corn can be yellow, blue, or white,

And words change colors in different light.

To talk like your flock is no disgrace.

Just use the right word in the right place.”


Read the feature on Adkins and Norris in the latest issue of Kentucky Monthly, or buy the book.

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Join Us This Weekend at Kentucky Crafted: The Market

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Come hang with us this Saturday and Sunday at the Lexington Convention Center for Kentucky Crafted: The Market, an annual showcase of Kentucky fine arts and crafts, specialty foods, music, and, of course, BOOKS!

Stop by to say hi and check out some of our new titles:

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