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New Civil War Sesquicentennial Website!

Sesquicentennial website screen shot
Screen shot of the new website (click the image to go to the site).

Check out the new website from the Mississippi Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission! It was recently unveiled and will serve as a clearing house for the various statewide events commemorating the 150 anniversary of the Civil War. Other fun stuff on the website: a timeline of Civil War action, photos, videos, reading lists, visitor information, related collections at various institutions (including MDAH) and more!

The website was developed by the Mississippi State University Libraries Web Services Department.

Digital Archives Paper Archives Photographs Portraits

Jefferson Davis Died Today in 1889

The Jefferson Davis Estate Papers, Oath of J.U. Payne, image id #6-1 (MDAH Collection)
"Oath of J.U. Payne," The Jefferson Davis Estate Papers Online: Harrison County Chancery Court Case 463A, Jefferson Davis Will and Probate File, Series 1818, County Court Cases/Harrison County, image id #6-1 (MDAH Collection)

Portrait photograph of Jefferson and Varina Howell Davis, 1867, taken in Montreal by W. Notman. Governor's Mansion Collection, PI/HH/1983.0019/No. 12, MDAH
Portrait photograph of Jefferson and Varina Howell Davis, 1867, taken in Montreal by W. Notman. Governor's Mansion Collection, PI/HH/1983.0019/No. 12, MDAH

On December 6, 1889 Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate States of America, died in New Orleans. His estate papers are available to view online in the Digital Archives. They include his will and probate file from the Harrison County Chancery Court.

Collection Description – The Jefferson Davis Estate Papers

Harrison County Court Case # 463-A is the file for the settlement of the estate of Jefferson Davis. It includes documents filed between December 1889 and February 1893. In addition, an inquiry was made in February 1930, which concerned the settlement of his estate, and this letter with its reply from the Chancery Clerk is also included in the file. The online collection consists of the digitized estate papers that are described and made available within the MDAH Electronic Archives User Interface.

Paper Archives Photographs

Origins of the Teddy Bear

Theodore Roosevelt
Call Number: Z/1813 James Ventress Papers (MDAH Collection)

On November 14, 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) was hunting in the Mississippi Delta, and because he wasn’t having much success, his companions captured a small bear and brought it to him to shoot. Roosevelt refused and once the newspapers (and toymakers) got a hold of the story, the “Teddy Bear” was born, to the delight of children everywhere.

Here, Roosevelt is pictured second from left on one of his trips to Mississippi at the Galloway House in Jackson. The photograph is from the James Alexander Ventress papers, one of the many manuscript holdings in the MDAH collection.

Source: John K. Bettersworth, Mississippi Yesterday and Today (Austin, Texas: The Steck Company, Publishers, 1964), 276.

Maps Paper Archives Photographs

Personal Treasures Going to Columbus

If you enjoy Antiques Roadshow on PBS, come by and check out Personal Treasures!

This popular program will be held at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library on Thursday, October 7 from noon-4 p.m. in conjunction with the quarterly Board of Trustees meeting. Categories are books and maps, paper items, and photographs. MDAH staff will help identify objects

Paper Archives Photographs Portraits

MDAH & Dunbar Rowland, 1902

Call Number: Series 843 (MDAH Collection)

Created in 1902, MDAH is the second oldest state department of archives and history in the U.S. (The Alabama Department of Archives and History, founded in 1901, is the oldest.*) This letter, from the records of Governor Andrew Longino’s administration (1900-1904), informs the Secretary of State that Dunbar Rowland was elected as the first department director. Rowland, a lawyer from Yalobusha County, acquired the daunting task of organizing Mississippi’s government records, which had accumulated for years. The dire state of these records was one of the main reasons the legislature created the department.

In Mississippi’s Old Capitol: Biography of a Building, John Ray Skates summarizes the exciting history of Mississippi’s records to 1902 and the monumental task facing Rowland as he began sorting through them:

After working for six months, Rowland submitted his first report on the records that had traveled with Mississippi’s itinerant government during the Civil War, that had lain mouldering in piles on the third floor of the Old Capitol for three decades after the war, that in 1896 had been unceremoniously dumped from the third floor windows into open wagons below for transport to the penitentiary where they had remained untended for four years before being returned to the corridors of the Old Capitol. Not surpisingly, Rowland found them in deplorable condition.

Rowland made surprisingly fast progress, because he presented a substantial list of the holdings that he had already organized in his annual report. He also located the “lost” Confederate war records, which were hidden in the Jackson Masonic Lodge before the city was occupied by Union troops in 1863 and remained there for 39 years.

Dunbar Rowland. Call Number: PI/PER/1982.0099 (MDAH Collection)

In addition to his work on the archives, Rowland presided over the beginning of the department’s museum collection and Hall of Fame portrait gallery, and successfully advocated for the preservation of the Old Capitol, which was converted to a state office building in 1916-17. Rowland was director of MDAH until his death in 1937.

*Interesting tangent on this point: You may ask–what about Virginia or Massachusetts? Surely one of the original 13 colonies has the oldest department of archives and history? It’s true that these states founded archival/historical agencies before 1901, but none were comprehensive historical agencies as a department of archives and history is intended to be. Take MDAH for example, our department administers the state archives and library, historic preservation office, records management offices for state agencies and local governments, and museums and historic sites throughout the state. Other states spread these functions through several different agencies or divisions within state government. For example, Virginia has the Library of Virginia (founded 1823 and now state archives & records management office) and the Department of Historic Resources (historic preservation office). Thus the concept of a unified historical agency is a relatively modern one.

Sources: John Ray Skates, Mississippi’s Old Capitol: Biography of a Building (Jackson, Mississippi: Mississippi Department of Archives and History, 1990), 120-22.

Dunbar Rowland, First Annual Report of the Director of the Department of Archives and History of the State of Mississippi (Jackson, Mississippi, 1902; 2nd ed. published 1911). Copies of both editions are in the MDAH Collection at the Winter Building.