The University Press of Kentucky

Topics in Kentucky History

James C. Klotter

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

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Topics in Kentucky History

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Alben Barkley

A Life in Politics

James K. Libbey

Born to poor tenant farmers in a log cabin in Graves County, Kentucky, Alben Barkley (1877--1956) rose to achieve a national political stature equaled by few of his contemporaries. His memorable public career ranged from the Progressive era to the early years of the Cold War, and he witnessed or influenced many of the key events of the twentieth century. Eventually elected vice president of the United States on the ticket with Harry S. Truman in 1949, Barkley possessed a candid demeanor and social skills that helped him become one of the most popular politicians of his day.

In Alben Barkley: A Life in Politics, James K. Libbey offers the first full-length biography of this larger-than-life personality, following Barkley in his transition from local politician to congressman, then senator, senate majority leader, vice president, and senator once again. A loyal Democrat, Barkley was instrumental in guiding Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs through Congress. He later took on a key role in managing domestic policy as the president became more and more immersed in World War II.

Libbey also reveals Barkley's human side, from his extremely humble beginnings to his dramatic and chilling final speech at Washington and Lee University in 1956, when he said, "I would rather be a servant in the house of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty," delivering the legendary quote moments before succumbing to a massive heart attack. A significant contribution to American history, this definitive biography offers a long overdue look at the "Iron Man" of politics.

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Committed to Victory

The Kentucky Home Front During World War II

Richard E. Holl

When World War II broke out in Europe in September 1939, Kentucky was still plagued by the Great Depression. Even though the inevitably of war had become increasingly apparent earlier that year, the citizens of the Commonwealth continued to view foreign affairs as a lesser concern compared to issues such as the lingering economic depression, the approaching planting season, and the upcoming gubernatorial race. It was only the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that destroyed any lingering illusions of peace.

In Committed to Victory: The Kentucky Home Front During World War II, author Richard Holl offers the first comprehensive examination of the Commonwealth's civilian sector during this pivotal era in the state's history. National mobilization efforts rapidly created centers of war production and activity in Louisville, Paducah, and Richmond, producing new economic prosperity in the struggling region. The war effort also spurred significant societal changes, including the emergence of female and minority workforces in the state. In the Bluegrass, this trend found its face in Pulaski County native Rose Will Monroe, who was discovered as she assembled B-24 and B-29 bombers and was cast as Rosie the Riveter in films supporting the war effort.

Revealing the struggles and triumphs of civilians during World War II, Holl illuminates the personal costs of the war, the black market for rationed foods and products, and even the inspiration that coach Adolph Rupp and the University of Kentucky basketball team offered to a struggling state. Committed to Victory is a timely and engaging account that fills a significant gap in the literature on a crucial period of American history.

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The Family Legacy of Henry Clay

In the Shadow of a Kentucky Patriarch

Lindsey Apple

Known as the Great Compromiser, Henry Clay earned his title by addressing sectional tensions over slavery and forestalling civil war in the United States. Today he is still regarded as one of the most important political figures in American history. As Speaker of the House of Representatives and secretary of state, Clay left an indelible mark on American politics at a time when the country’s solidarity was threatened by inner turmoil, and scholars have thoroughly chronicled his political achievements. However, little attention has been paid to his extensive family legacy. In The Family Legacy of Henry Clay: In the Shadow of a Kentucky Patriarch, Lindsey Apple explores the personal history of this famed American and examines the impact of his legacy on future generations of Clays. Apple’s study delves into the family’s struggles with physical and emotional problems such as depression and alcoholism. The book also analyzes the role of financial stress as the family fought to reestablish its fortune in the years after the Civil War. Apple’s extensively researched volume illuminates a little-discussed aspect of Clay’s life and heritage, and highlights the achievements and contributions of one of Kentucky’s most distinguished families.

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George Keats of Kentucky

A Life

Lawrence M. Crutcher. foreword by John E. Kleber

John Keats's biographers have rarely been fair to George Keats (1797--1841) -- pushing him to the background as the younger brother, painting him as a prodigal son, or labeling him as the "business brother." Some have even condemned him as a heartless villain who took more than his fair share of an inheritance and abandoned the ailing poet to pursue his own interests. In this authoritative biography, author Lawrence M. Crutcher demonstrates that George Keats deserves better. Crutcher traces his subject from Regency London to the American frontier, correcting the misconceptions surrounding the Keats brothers' relationship and revealing the details of George's remarkable life in Louisville, Kentucky.

Brilliantly illustrated with more than ninety color photographs, this engaging book reveals how George Keats embraced new business opportunities to become an important member of the developing urban community. In addition, George Keats of Kentucky offers a rare and fascinating glimpse into nineteenth-century life, commerce, and entrepreneurship in Louisville and the Bluegrass.

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Henry Watterson and the New South

The Politics of Empire, Free Trade, and Globalization

Daniel S. Margolies

Henry Watterson, editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal during the tumultuous decades between the Civil War and World War I, was one of the most influential and widely read journalists in American history. At the height of his fame in the early twentieth century, Watterson was so well known that his name and image were used to sell cigars and whiskey. A major player in American politics for more than fifty years, Watterson personally knew nearly every president from Andrew Jackson to Woodrow Wilson. Though he always refused to run, the renowned editor was frequently touted as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, the Kentucky governor’s office, and even the White House. Shortly after his arrival in Louisville in 1868, Watterson merged competing interests and formed the Courier-Journal, quickly establishing it as the paper of record in Kentucky, a central promoter of economic development in the New South, and a prominent voice on the national political stage. An avowed Democrat in an era when newspapers were openly aligned with political parties, Watterson adopted a defiant independence within the Democratic Party and challenged the Democrats’ consensus opinions as much as he reinforced them. In the first new study of Watterson’s historical significance in more than fifty years, Daniel S. Margolies traces the development of Watterson’s political and economic positions and his transformation from a strident Confederate newspaper editor into an admirer of Lincoln, a powerful voice of sectional reconciliation, and the nation’s premier advocate of free trade. Henry Watterson and the New South provides the first study of Watterson’s unique attempt to guide regional and national discussions of foreign affairs. Margolies details Watterson’s quest to solve the sovereignty problems of the 1870s and to quell the economic and social upheavals of the 1890s through an expansive empire of free trade. Watterson’s political and editorial contemporaries variously advocated free silverism, protectionism, and isolationism, but he rejected their narrow focus and maintained that the best way to improve the South’s fortunes was to expand its economic activities to a truly global scale. Watterson’s New Departure in foreign affairs was an often contradictory program of decentralized home rule and overseas imperialism, but he remained steadfast in his vision of a prosperous and independent South within an American economic empire of unfettered free trade. Watterson thus helped to bring about the eventual bipartisan embrace of globalization that came to define America’s relationship with the rest of the world in the twentieth century. Margolies’ groundbreaking analysis shows how Watterson’s authoritative command of the nation’s most divisive issues, his rhetorical zeal, and his willingness to stand against the tide of conventional wisdom made him a national icon.

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A History of Education in Kentucky

William E. Ellis

Kentucky is nationally renowned for horses, bourbon, rich natural resources, and unfortunately, hindered by a deficient educational system. Though its reputation is not always justified, in national rankings for grades K-12 and higher education, Kentucky consistently ranks among the lowest states in education funding, literacy, and student achievement. In A History of Education in Kentucky, William E. Ellis illuminates the successes and failures of public and private education in the commonwealth since its settlement. Ellis demonstrates how political leaders in the nineteenth century created a culture that devalued public education and refused to adequately fund it. He also analyzes efforts by teachers and policy makers to enact vital reforms and establish adequate, equal education, and discusses ongoing battles related to religious instruction, integration, and the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA). A History of Education in Kentucky is the only up-to-date, single-volume history of education in the commonwealth. Offering more than mere policy analysis, this comprehensive work tells the story of passionate students, teachers, and leaders who have worked for progress from the 1770s to the present day. Despite the prevailing pessimism about education in Kentucky, Ellis acknowledges signs of a vibrant educational atmosphere in the state. By advocating a better understanding of the past, Ellis looks to the future and challenges Kentuckians to avoid historic failures and build on their successes.

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How Kentucky Became Southern

A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders

Maryjean Wall

The conflicts of the Civil War continued long after the conclusion of the war: jockeys and Thoroughbreds took up the fight on the racetrack. A border state with a shifting identity, Kentucky was scorned for its violence and lawlessness and struggled to keep up with competition from horse breeders and businessmen from New York and New Jersey. As part of this struggle, from 1865 to 1910, the social and physical landscape of Kentucky underwent a remarkable metamorphosis, resulting in the gentile, beautiful, and quintessentially southern Bluegrass region of today. In her debut book, How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders, former turf writer Maryjean Wall explores the post–Civil War world of Thoroughbred racing, before the Bluegrass region reigned supreme as the unofficial Horse Capital of the World. Wall uses her insider knowledge of horse racing as a foundation for an unprecedented examination of the efforts to establish a Thoroughbred industry in late-nineteenth-century Kentucky. Key events include a challenge between Asteroid, the best horse in Kentucky, and Kentucky, the best horse in New York; a mysterious and deadly horse disease that threatened to wipe out the foal crops for several years; and the disappearance of African American jockeys such as Isaac Murphy. Wall demonstrates how the Bluegrass could have slipped into irrelevance and how these events define the history of the state. How Kentucky Became Southern offers an accessible inside look at the Thoroughbred industry and its place in Kentucky history.

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Kentucky and the Great War

World War I on the Home Front

David J. Bettez

From five thousand children marching in a parade, singing, "Johnnie get your hoe.... Mary dig your row," to communities banding together to observe Meatless Tuesdays and Wheatless Wednesdays, Kentuckians were loyal supporters of their country during the First World War. Kentucky had one of the lowest rates of draft dodging in the nation, and the state increased its coal production by 50 percent during the war years. Overwhelmingly, the people of the Commonwealth set aside partisan interests and worked together to help the nation achieve victory in Europe.

David J. Bettez provides the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of the Great War on Bluegrass society, politics, economy, and culture, contextualizing the state's involvement within the national experience. His exhaustively researched study examines the Kentucky Council of Defense -- which sponsored local war-effort activities -- military mobilization and preparation, opposition and dissent, and the role of religion and higher education in shaping the state's response to the war. It also describes the efforts of Kentuckians who served abroad in military and civilian capacities, and postwar memorialization of their contributions. Kentucky and the Great War explores the impact of the conflict on women's suffrage, child labor, and African American life. In particular, Bettez investigates how black citizens were urged to support a war to make the world "safe for democracy" even as their civil rights and freedoms were violated in the Jim Crow South. This engaging and timely social history offers new perspectives on an overlooked aspect of World War I.

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Madam Belle

Sex, Money, and Influence in a Southern Brothel

Maryjean Wall

Belle Brezing made a major career move when she stepped off the streets of Lexington, Kentucky, and into Jennie Hill's bawdy house -- an upscale brothel run out of a former residence of Mary Todd Lincoln. At nineteen, Brezing was already infamous as a youth steeped in death, sex, drugs, and scandal. But it was in Miss Hill's "respectable" establishment that she began to acquire the skills, manners, and business contacts that allowed her to ascend to power and influence as an internationally known madam.

In this revealing book, Maryjean Wall offers a tantalizing true story of vice and power in the Gilded Age South, as told through the life and times of the notorious Miss Belle. After years on the streets and working for Hill, Belle Brezing borrowed enough money to set up her own establishment -- her wealth and fame growing alongside the booming popularity of horse racing. Soon, her houses were known internationally, and powerful patrons from the industrial cities of the Northeast courted her in the lavish parlors of her gilt-and-mirror mansion.

Secrecy was a moral code in the sequestered demimonde of prostitution in Victorian America, so little has been written about the Southern madam credited with inspiring the character Belle Watling in Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. Following Brezing from her birth amid the ruins of the Civil War to the height of her scarlet fame and beyond, Wall uses her story to explore a wider world of sex, business, politics, and power. The result is a scintillating tale that is as enthralling as any fiction.

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Madeline McDowell Breckinridge and the Battle for a New South

Melba Porter Hay. foreword by Marjorie J. Spruill

Preeminent Kentucky reformer and women’s rights advocate Madeline McDowell Breckinridge (1872–1920) was at the forefront of social change during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A descendant of Henry Clay and the daughter of two of Kentucky’s most prominent families, Breckinridge had a remarkably varied activist career that included roles in the promotion of public health, education, women’s rights, and charity. Founder of the Lexington Civic League and Associated Charities, Breckinridge successfully lobbied to create parks and playgrounds and to establish a juvenile court system in Kentucky. She also became president of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, served as vice president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and even campaigned across the country for the League of Nations. In the first biography of Breckinridge since 1921, Madeline McDowell Breckinridge and the Battle for a New South, Melba Porter Hay draws on newly discovered correspondence and rich personal interviews with her female associates to illuminate the fascinating life of this important Kentucky activist. Deftly balancing Breckinridge’s public reform efforts with her private concerns, Hay tells the story of Madeline’s marriage to Desha Breckinridge, editor of the Lexington Herald, and how she used the match to her advantage by promoting social causes in the newspaper. Hay also chronicles Breckinridge’s ordeals with tuberculosis and amputation, and emotionally trying episodes of family betrayal and sex scandals. Hay describes how Breckinridge’s physical struggles and personal losses transformed her from a privileged socialite into a selfless advocate for the disadvantaged. Later as vice president of the National American Women Suffrage Association, Breckinridge lobbied for Kentucky’s ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in 1920. While devoting much of her life to the woman suffrage movement on the local and national levels, she also supported the antituberculosis movement, social programs for the poor, compulsory school attendance, and laws regulating child labor. In bringing to life this extraordinary reformer, Hay shows how Breckinridge championed Kentucky’s social development during the Progressive Era.

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