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This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2020/21 Issue of the Tennessee State Museum Quarterly newsletter.
Robert Churchwell Collection, 1950s to 2000s
Born in 1917 in Clifton, Wayne County, Tennessee, Robert Churchwell graduated from Pearl Senior High School and Fisk University in Nashville. In 1950, he became the first African American journalist hired by a major southern daily newspaper — The Nashville Banner. Due to segregation, The Nashville Banner forced Churchwell to work from home for the first five years of his employment. He used this typewriter table in his home office. Complaints about this practice from other journalists at the paper led to Churchwell eventually getting his own office at the paper’s downtown building. The collection, donated by the Churchwell family, also contains clothing, images, artwork, and the journalist’s Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, awarded posthumously in 2009.
Rolling Typewriter Table, 1950-1955 (2020.42.1)
Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, 2009 (2020.42.8)
Tennessee Postcard Collection, 1980s to 2000s
In early 2020, a generous donor who had been collecting postcards from Tennessee cities and local sites for about 30 years, donated 1,404 of those postcards to the Museum. These postcards, representing 30 counties in Tennessee, focus on museums, historical sites, and various tourist attractions, but also represent parks and natural spaces, as well as small downtowns across the state. With some of the postcards, you can watch the development of a space or a structure over time. This pictorial history of Tennessee is a valuable addition to the Museum’s collection, and in the future, when they are on public view, they will remind visitors of happy memories while visiting sites throughout Tennessee.
Postcard, showing Nashville’s Centennial Park, 1980s, (2020.53.250)
Lace Bridal Cap, about 1799
This 18th century lace bridal cap came to the Museum as part of a larger collection of items relevant to Tennessee history. Inside the box an old note read, “this cap belonged to Mrs. Jane Alston, Triune, Tennessee. The cap is near 200 years old.” It was also mentioned that Alston was buried in “Sumner’s Knob Cemetery.” That short note gave Museum curatorial staff invaluable clues to begin research. Through genealogical records we determined that Jane Hardaway Davis Alston was born in 1782, married John Alston in 1799, and with their small children moved to Williamson County, Tennessee in 1810. The forethought to leave a short note about the object helped bring Alston’s story to life and established this artifact as one of the oldest textiles in the Museum’s collection.
Lace Bridal Cap, (2020.68.1)
Tricycle Velocipede, 1875 to 1885
This early type of self-propelled cycle developed during the 1860s was called a velocipede by its manufacturers. Its wooden frame and wood-spoked wheels appear more akin to horse-drawn carts of this era than the metal bikes that became popular during the 1890s. Also, the iron tread of the wheels made for a rough ride, leading users to call them “boneshakers.” This velocipede tricycle belonged to Albert Garrett, born about 1875, of Livingston, Tennessee in Overton County. The tricycle was donated in his memory by his granddaughters Kathleen C. Johnson and Pamela J. Garrison.
Tricycle Velocipede, (2020.30)
The Dancer, by Charles Cagle, 1932
This summer, the Museum was gifted a group of paintings by Tennessee artist Charles Cagle, including this painting of The Dancer. Born in 1907 in Beersheba Springs, he studied art in Nashville at the Watkins Institute and Peabody College. He continued his studies at prestigious Pennsylvania art academies as well as in Europe. One of Tennessee’s early modernist painters, he had a lasting impact on his contemporaries until his death in 1968. Cagle painted his friend Barbour Howe as The Dancer in 1932. Howe was active in many Nashville civic organizations throughout her lifetime. These paintings by Cagle were generously donated by Mrs. Ada Rasmussen Almering in honor of her parents Wallace and Grace Rasmussen, and in memory of her friend and Howe’s daughter Mary Dudley Pilcher.
"The Dancer," by Charles Cagle, (2020.38.2)