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100 Years Ago, Latonia Jockey Reached Horse Racing’s Pinnacle

The Kentucky Post headline the evening Matt won the Epsom Derby. The win marked a first for anyone from the Cincinnati area in the race and one of the few times to that point an American owner and jockey took the event. On May 27, 1914 a record crowd gathered at the historic Epsom Downs in England for the annual running of the world’s greatest horse race, the English Derby.  The dramatic death of suffragette Emily Davison on the track the year prior and the nearly unprecedented 30 horse field drew a large crowd who knew that quite anything could happen at the annual event. [1]  The tension mounted precipitously at the post line as the horses waited for the starter’s signal.  Matt McGee, an American jockey born and raised in Covington sitting atop of his fine colt Durbar II, stared down the track towards the outside rail and saw the crowd favorite Kennymore growing anxious for the start.  At 9-4 odds, and with Europe’s top jockey and future racing Hall of Famer Frank O’Neill aboard, the horse was thought to be shoo-in for victory, even with the crowded field.   The other rival for the title, Brakespear, owned by none other than the King of England himself, waited patiently close to the inside rail.  The 20 minutes standing at the line must have seemed like an eternity for the horse, however, as he frequently backed away from the starting tape.  The signal to go caught Brakespear off-guard and led to a poor start while the anxious Kennymore took off perpendicular to the rest of the field, racing directly towards the inside rail. Matt aboard the winning Durbar II, with H.B. Duryea leading [...]

Anti-German Hysteria in Greater Cincinnati

Newspaper article found on microfilm in the Local History and Genealogy Department at Covington. Appeared in the Kentucky Post on September 25th, 1918 on page 1. My ancestor, Louis Lang, then going by the name Ludwig, emigrated from his home in Alsace-Lorraine in 1895 when he was 15 years old. On the passenger list for the ship traveling from Antwerp, Belgium to New York City, his family listed that they were headed directly for Cynthiana, Kentucky, where Louis’s eldest brother was a farmer. Louis lived a normal life: he got married and had two daughters, subsequently divorced his wife, and spent the rest of his life as a farming bachelor before dying at the age of 47. This all seems pretty straightforward, but Louis caused some confusion for me when I started to research him I first read Louis’s name when I found my great-grandmother, at the age of 14 months, with her family on the 1910 census. It was there that I saw Louis was listed as a naturalized American, born in Germany. Since both of his parents were listed as also being born in Germany, I simply assumed that that side of my family was German. But, I noticed on the 1920 census that my great-great-grandfather Louis was no longer claiming his German heritage. This time around, he listed his birthplace as France despite his native tongue still being listed as German. The 1920 census also listed Louis’s parents as being French instead of the previously stated German. Some may argue that the reason Louis changed his country of origin was due to Alsace-Lorraine reverting from German back to French terrain. After all, in 1870, only ten years before the Langs [...]

Baseball and Beer: A Look at the Wiedemann Baseball Club

Summer is almost here and with it comes a lot of baseball and fine beer. After all the two go hand and hand. So lets visit a local baseball team from the past, that was closely related to the beer industry. During the early 1900s baseball was played everywhere and by everybody even women! There were often police ordinances established to prevent youngsters from playing ball in the streets in towns and cities across the area. Many businesses had their own teams, sometimes comprised of employees while others had experienced players on their teams. Several Breweries in the Northern Kentucky area aside from being in the beer making business also dabbled in the world of baseball. Breweries such as the Bavarian Brewing Company, Heidelberg Brewery and the George Wiedemann Brewing Company all at one point in time fielded baseball clubs. The Wiedemann Club and Heidelberg club played around the same time and even faced each other on several occasions. The most prominent though was the Wiedemann Baseball Club also known as the ‘Brewers’ They were a Semi-Pro team that played baseball in Newport, Kentucky. According to team letterhead from 1909 the club was organized sometime in 1903. Photograph Courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum @ www.baseballhall.org   The above letterhead from the August “Garry” Hermann papers obtained from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Hermann owned the Cincinnati Reds from 1902 to 1927. He also had a stint as the president of the National Baseball Commission. This particular letterhead was part of a note sent to Hermann from Wiedemann manager Arthur Nieman. Notice how the letter head proclaims the club as being leaders in Semi-Professional Baseball. While [...]

Bygone Buildings: Covington’s Changing Cityscape

D. H. Holmes' grand home was located where Holmes High School now stands, near Wallace Woods and Levassor Park. Have you ever driven past an empty lot and wondered what was there before the asphalt and crabgrass? A surface lot, or even a new building in the heart of Covington, was likely erected upon the spot where another building once stood. Covington’s built environment has many intact and preserved buildings dating back as far as the early 1800s, but you might find a photo of a building in Faces and Places that you don’t recognize that was lost to development, fire, or perceived obsolescence. Here are a few examples of buildings of historic and stylistic distinction that once stood in Covington, but are now gone. Holmes’ Castle is likely the most well-known example of lost architecture in Covington. This palatial home was the second location of Covington Public High School. The high school was originally located on Russell Street, near 12th Street, and was also torn down. Holmes’ Castle was built by Daniel Henry Holmes, a wealthy retailer. It was designed in the Gothic Revival style, which can be identified by its pointed arch windows and church-like details. With its sprawling grounds and lavishly appointed interior, Holmesdale was not D. H. Holmes’ only residence, and in 1915 (seventeen years after his death), his surviving family sold the property to the Covington School Board. The high school was moved into the residence until 1936, when it was razed and a new building constructed in its place. The décor and furnishings that remained were auctioned, and what didn’t sell was unceremoniously burned in the football field. Covington does not have many residential Gothic Revival [...]

Celebrate Your Heritage During Family History Month – October 2014

October is Family History Month, and what better time to celebrate your family’s heritage! Tracing the heritage of your family can produce so many insights into the struggles and the accomplishments of one’s ancestors – the story of why your family came to live in a certain place, how family members learned a trade, what religious, fraternal or civic organizations your ancestors belonged to, what sort of awards and recognitions your ancestors received, who might be your distant cousins. With the ever-increasing amount of information available in print and online, researching the lives of your predecessors has never been easier – and more complicated at the same time! So, where to begin? The best way to begin a family history project is to start in the present and work backwards in time – from the known to the unknown. Gather up any family documents, talk to older relatives, and peruse family photographs. Look for birth, marriage, and death information on your family members, as these are the “building blocks” of a family tree. As you work your way backwards in time, also take note of family friends, neighbors and associates. Knowing about them can sometimes provide clues to your own family’s stories. But what do you do when you finally hit that “brick wall” in your research? What steps can you take to discover more about your ancestors’ lives? To help you with your research and in honor of Family History Month, the Local History and Genealogy department is offering a variety of programs in October to enhance your family heritage sleuthing. The month begins with a program titled, “Did He Say Regiment, Squadron, Battalion, Destroyer or Attack Transport?” presented by Bill Stolz on Thursday, [...]

City Directories: The Phone Book Before the Telephone

Want to buy a book in 1900? Head to Carrie Mendenhall or Mrs. Wm. Metzger! Researching the history of your house and curious about the former occupants? Or possibly searching for an ancestor that lived and worked in Covington from 1880-1889? A city directory, think phone book before the telephone, is a wonderful resource for genealogy and local history research. The directories, beginning in 1834 for Covington, contain an alphabetical listing of local residents and businesses. Later directories include separate sections for business, advertisements, and streets. City directories are particularly useful for genealogists and other researchers because not only do they list the head of household and home address, but often the first name of the spouse, other members of the household, occupation, and place of employment. In many cases, the directories note when an individual has been widowed and the first name of the deceased spouse. Want to know who lives in Jones Flats apartments? The criss-cross directory was a great way to look up your neighbors. A very useful section, which first appears in the 1931-1932 Covington City Directory, is the Directory of Householders or Street and Avenue Guide.  This is a reverse directory that lists the streets alphabetically along with the location, intersecting streets, and the address and name of each resident. This is an excellent resource when researching a building without knowing the name of the former resident or business. Residents of Covington in 1886 had a wide variety of jobs for instance Jane B. Walter was a book sewer. The business directory, later titled the “Yellow Pages,” is another great tool for researchers. The entries are classified by type of business rather than name. [...]

Cooking with the Library Month – Kentucky Inspired Cooking

July is Cooking Month at the Kenton County Public Library and today’s blog focuses on what’s available from the Local History and Genealogy Department in Covington. Kenton County South 4-H Cookbook In Honor of Kentucky's Bicentennial. We really love the Heritage recipe section with recipes by grandparents. This cookbook can be checked out at the Kenton County Public Library. Do you know how to make jellied chicken? How about hominy puffs? Have you ever had Bouilli soup? You can find recipes for these and other unusual and delicious regional dishes in our cookbook collection located in the local history and genealogy department. Many of our books can serve as historical sketches of the region. It’s interesting to see some of the older recipes like one for Kentucky burgout from The Blue Grass Cook Book that calls for “6 squirrels and 6 birds” or what was included in the book’s recipe for a “very fine omelet.” But, while many of our cookbooks are a glimpse into kitchens of the past, there’s no reason you shouldn’t try to make some of these delicious concoctions in your own home. If you’re looking for a challenge, you might want to try a recipe from The Kentucky Housewife by Lettice Bryan. This compilation uses a paragraph format for each dish instead of the list presentation that is commonly used in today’s cookbooks. It also calls for measurements and techniques that are atypical in today’s modern kitchen, but don’t let that scare you. In fact, we highly recommend the “plain potato soup” on page 24. Why not give one of the books below a try (or another from our four shelves of cookbooks in the local history department)? The Blue Grass Cook Book – K 641.5975 [...]

Covington Renovation Celebration

Excitement is building in Covington!  The newly expanded and remodeled Covington Branch of the Kenton County Library is nearly completed.  This project is the culmination of a decades-long plan.  Phase one was to replace the overcrowded and very busy Erlanger Branch.  This was done in 2001.  Phase two consisted of building the new William E. Durr Branch, just south of Independence, to serve the quickly growing central part of the county (opened in 2007).  Phase three is the Covington Branch. Covington is the flagship branch of the system with roots going back to the late 1800s.  The current building, constructed in 1973-74, needed major upgrades and enhancements.  As an example, the stairwells and fire alarm system were not up-to-code, the heating and cooling system was original, the building had no sprinkler system and the roof needed replacing.  The building also lacked many of the amenities our patrons have grown accustomed at the other two branches. So what’s new at the Covington Branch?  First of all, you will encounter a new three-story entry pavilion.  This space is flooded with natural light and houses our new Circulation Department.  The Children’s Department has tripled in size and has its own activity room and reading garden.  This colorful area also includes a new piece of public art specifically designed for the space:   A large mosaic featuring a river scene with a child fishing surrounded by native flora and fauna.  The mosaic includes pieces of pottery and other elements donated to the library by our patrons.  The children’s area has also been decked out in kid appropriate furniture and comfortable seating for their parents. The building now also has a separate computer lab to assist the staff in teaching technology [...]

Covington Walking Tours Available During #92daysofSummer

The Covington Bicentennial is in full swing and the Local History and Genealogy Department is ready with a new FREE walking tour! Join a member of the Local History and Genealogy Department each Wednesday at 10 a.m. for a tour of the neighborhood around the library. The tour highlights and explores the people who lived in the neighborhoods around the Library 100 years ago in 1915. You'll learn about Covington's northern and southern heritage, architecture, and diverse commercial history. We'll also explore some of the forgotten and lost buildings that once proudly stood in the neighborhood. The tour is roughly a mile long, and comfortable clothing and shoes are recommended. Large groups, and anyone requiring special accommodations should contact the Local History and Genealogy Department a week in advance of the program at 859-962-4070. Here is a sneak peak into one of the stories you'll discover during the tour. The Lovell-Graziani house at 326 E 2nd Street, formerly 174 E 2nd Street Lovell-Graziani House 2015   Benjamin F. Graziani occupied 174 E 2nd Street in 1915. The house dates to the late 1870s, built in French Victorian style by Howell Lewis Lovell, of the tobacco business. Graziani was born in 1858 in Cold Spring, KY, the youngest of nine children to Italian immigrants. His father died in a steamboat explosion when Graziani was only eight years old. He attended Cincinnati Law School and graduated in 1882. In time, Graziani grew to be one of the most prominent attorneys in Covington during the late 19th and early 20th century, often appearing in the newspapers as a “promising young lawyer” at the start of his career. He worked as a criminal attorney, keeping an office building [...]

Craig Street Burying Ground: Gone But Not Forgotten

From the City Atlas of Covington, Kentucky 1877 on page 22. Atlas is available in the Local History and Genealogy Department. “The cemetery is a memorial and a record. It is not a mere field in which the dead are stowed away unknown; it is a touching and beautiful history, written in family burial photos, in mounded graves, in sculptured and inscribed monuments. It tells the story of the past- not of its institutions, or its wars, or its ideas, but of its individual lives, of its men and women and children, and of its household. It is silent, but eloquent; it is common, but it is unique. We find no such history elsewhere; there are no records in all the wide world in which we can discover so much that is suggestive, so much that is pathetic and impressive.” –Joseph Anderson Autumn is here, and while we listen close for the things that go bump in the night, there is no better way to spend the bright hours of a crisp fall day than a stroll through a cemetery in the fresh October air. If you missed our Linden Grove Cemetery Tour in September, the cemetery is always open until five for a self-guided experience. While it holds great historical significance, Linden Grove is not the oldest cemetery in Covington. Few remember the town’s first graveyard: The Craig Street Burying Ground.  Now an unassuming plot of land, anchored into the background by the 6th Street underpass and zipped shut by the old C&O Railroad Bridge approach, it was once the final resting place of those first to call Covington home. Let us then relate these distant memories, lest we forget something so [...]

Expanded Local History & Genealogy Dpt at Covington Library

The Local History and Genealogy Department has opened in its new space at the Covington location of the Kenton County Public Library. The department is now located on the top floor, and is staffed all hours when the library is open. The department’s collection includes Kentucky Biographies, Kentucky Fiction, Kentucky Non-Fiction, Kentucky Reference (containing numerous books on many Kentucky counties), city and business directories dating back to the 1830s, maps, and many more resources for doing genealogy and history research. Come enjoy the quiet workspace and dig deeper into your family history!                     Looking south in the Local History and Genealogy Department. The chairs and tabletops from the Carnegie library were refurbished and used in the new space. Beth uses one of the microfilm machines to look up newspaper articles. Need a map? The department has city, county, regional and state maps of Kentucky. If you’re interested in accessing online databases such as Ancestry.com, geNKY, or Faces and Places, we have eight new computers dedicated to this purpose. Staff members are readily available to assist you with using these resources. Check out our video of the new department! Have you visited the new department yet? Let us know what you think!

Faces and Places of Kenton County

My name is Cierra and I work in the Local History and Genealogy Department at the Kenton County Public Library. I assist patrons with finding answers about their ancestors and researching our vibrant history of Northern Kentucky. One of the parts of my job that I enjoy is assisting in the scanning, indexing, and uploading  of photographs to the database Faces and Places Northern Kentucky Photographic Archive (commonly known as Faces and Places).  There are so many great stories that have been uncovered and told from photographs in Faces and Places.  This photograph database contains a wide range of topics covering schools, businesses, buildings, people and events.  I enjoy reading the comments that are left by all of you explaining the people, places and meanings behind photographs that are unknown or unidentified. I would like to encourage everyone to leave a comment or two on the photographs in the collection.  You never know—you may find a picture of yourself in our archive! You can search the Faces and Places photographs and leave comments. Amy Whittlesey (5), Brigette Rambo (5), Donald Powell (5), Brian Hibbler (4), at Beechwood Elementary Thanksgiving on November 24, 1977. In honor of Thanksgiving I thought I would share one of my favorite Thanksgiving related photographs from Faces and Places. You can leave a comment on the photograph. Are you friends with the Local History and Genealogy Department on Facebook? Post your favorite Faces & Places photo there. Written by Cierra Earl, Library Associate, Local History and Genealogy Department - Covington

The Fort Ancient Mound Builders of Northern Kentucky

If you grew up on a farm in rural Northern Kentucky, you may have seen prehistoric stone artifacts that were churned up out of the earth by a plow prior to planting. We are fascinated with prehistoric peoples and their ways of life, and burial mounds are no exception. Mounds are quite common in the region and can be found throughout many Northern Kentucky and Southeast Ohio counties. With the help of archaeology, we have gotten to take a peek back in time into the daily life of the peoples who inhabited the region prior to European settlement. One of the many cultural groups that had a prehistoric presence in the Ohio Valley region was the Fort Ancient, believed to be an offshoot of the widespread Mississippian culture that dominated the Midwest and Southeast United States. The Fort Ancients lived in the region during the Late Prehistoric Period between 1000-1750 CE. Fort Ancient habitation sites are divided into three temporal spans (3): Fort Ancient prior to 1200 CE Middle Fort Ancient 1200-1400 CE Fort Ancient after 1400 CE They lived in small villages and relied on farming to cultivate most of their food, but also engaged in hunting, fishing, and gathering of wild plants (3). Fort Ancients organized their societies differently than the Mississippians, which is why we find fewer mounds of Fort Ancient origin (3) than Mississippian. Though the Fort Ancient were not the only ones, they were the most recent to build mounds in this region. Most notably, the Fort Ancients are known for their construction of the Alligator Mound in Licking County, Ohio and their modification of the Serpent Mound in Adams County, Ohio. Mound building may have served a number of functions for the Native Americans, including protection, observation, shelter, in addition ceremonial or sacrificial purposes and [...]

Genealogy and Local History Events This Winter and Spring

Winter is a great excuse to stay inside and research your roots! The Local History and Genealogy Department, located on the 2nd Floor of the Covington branch, is sponsoring a variety of family history events in the upcoming months. The fourth Monday of each month, with the exception of December, is our Congenealogy meeting held at 6:30pm in Meeting Room 3. The meeting is open to everyone interested in local history and genealogy. Each month we have a speaker from the area presenting on a topic related to family and/or local history. Upcoming topics for February-April include using online resources to locate your ancestors, information on the Boone County Barn Quilt Tour, and a presentation on separating fact from fiction when it comes to family myths. For further information on Congenealogy, please visit the web page: https://www.kentonlibrary.org/genealogy/congenealogy. For those of you interested in the architecture of Northern Kentucky, be sure to “tune in” for the “Grand Facades: 19th Century Architectural Styles in Northern Kentucky” Webinar on February 26 from 10am-11am. Kaira Simmons, Local History Associate, will help you identify architectural features and historic building styles of Northern Kentucky. The link to the webinar will be available through the events calendar on the day of the event. Craig Scott, nationally known genealogist and military records expert. If you are interested in Military History, you will certainly want to attend our Military Research Workshop on Saturday, March 21st, from 9am-4pm, in Meeting Room 1 of the Covington branch.  Nationally-known genealogist and military records expert Craig Scott will provide information on how to research ancestors who served in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. Registration is required, so visit our web [...]

Historical Online Photo Database Celebrates a Decade of Service

This March 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of Faces and Places (www.kentonlibrary.org/genphotos) , a unique online historical photo album that highlights the people, places and events of Kentucky (and some Cincinnati).  Since its inception a decade ago, the Faces and Places website has received over 9.2 million views. There are nearly 85,000 photos, 6,435 subject headings and nearly 2,000 comments.   This online album was created when the history staff at the Kenton County Public Library started digitizing some of its resources. They were digitizing documents and family files so that genealogy researchers around the world could obtain the information they needed without having to incur the cost of travel expenses. The staff then added photos to the mix, therefore creating Faces and Places.   The popularity of the photograph collection easily lent itself to a digital format. As such, staff scanned and the photos and staff and volunteers did the indexing. When the Kentucky Post, a daily newspaper, ceased publication they donated over 60,000 photographs to the Kenton County Public Library. Staff and volunteers began adding those to the database, using keywords and subject headings to make searching easier.   Faces and Places is searchable by surname, address, city, or subject. As the database became more well-known in the community, other area residents began donating photos to the library. One of the more significant collections was a local photography studio who donated over 1,000 photographs of greater Cincinnati scenes from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. Because of the accessibility of the photographs through the database, many have been used by local authors, in local history books, by the media, by teachers and students and by museums and local businesses.   With images of Riverfront [...]

Licking Riverside Historic Walking Tour

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP3aw2E0r2Q An eclectically-styled multifamily home on Garrard. Look for the two decorative panels with owls on the facade. Perhaps you’ve driven through Covington’s Licking Riverside neighborhood many times, but have you ever taken the time to stroll along tree-lined Garrard Street or admired the slate shingles and ironwork on the homes of Greenup Street? This summer, the Local History and Genealogy department is presenting weekly tours that highlight the structures and stories of this historic neighborhood. The Licking Riverside Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The district has many examples of different types of historic architecture that date from the mid-1800s to the early 20th century. The tour passes homes of the Greek Revival, Italianate, Bungalow, and eclectic Victorian Vernacular styles. Over a hundred years of architectural history often mingle on a single picturesque block. This victorian vernacular home on Greenup has Queen Anne inspired detailing such as the fish scale wall cladding and asymmetrical profile. Licking Riverside has been home many of Covington’s elite, including legislators, local political figures, doctors, and mayors. Many of the beautiful homes were also built as multifamily residences, apartments, and duplexes. It is also the home of the historic Covington Ladies Home at 702 Garrard, which was built in that location in 1894. Education and the arts are also prominent in the neighborhoods’ history. The Rugby at 622 Sanford Street began as Reverend William Orr’s Covington Female Seminary. Founded after 1856, the current building at 702 Greenup that was once La Salette Academy. Down the street, the Baker Hunt campus includes the former Covington Arts Club building and still continues the tradition of art instruction today. Along [...]

Local Music Legend Series: Adrian Belew

Over the years, Greater Cincinnati has quietly been a boundless source of musical talent.  Whether it has been from the birth of contemporary rock and roll from King Records, underground hip hop from the acclaimed Scribble Jam festival, or indie rock mainstays the Afghan Whigs, Cincinnati has maintained an important role in a wide variety of musical genres in the US.  This is the first installment of blogs exploring the local talent from the area. Adrian Belew, most famously of the prog-rock band King Crimson, is a Northern Kentucky native and Boone County High School graduate.  After picking up the guitar as a child, Belew became one of rock’s most critically acclaimed singer/songwriters and guitar virtuosos.  Besides being the longest member of King Crimson alongside founder Robert Fripp, he has recorded and toured with Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Paul Simon, Talking Heads, and Nine Inch Nails.  He is also a founding member of the Tom Tom Club (with members from the Talking Heads), the Bears, GaGa, as well as a successful solo musician.  Belew is known for a distinct guitar sound, often making his guitar mimic the sounds of animals and machines.  His art direction and guitar work have proved invaluable to dozens of records over the years. Belew, born in Covington in 1949, spent his childhood performing in Ludlow’s Marching Band and formed his first band with friends while attending Boone County High School.  During a short time in his teens when he was unable to perform in the marching band due to illness Belew taught himself to play guitar.  A natural talent, Belew understood the complexity of the guitar and immediately picked up playing the instrument.  Belew’s first band was called the Denims, [...]

Love in Faces and Places

There is plenty of love in our Faces and Places Photograph Archive. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I thought I would share some of the love and Valentine’s Day inspired photographs in our online archive. Anniversaries –Faces and Places contains many Silver, and Golden Wedding Anniversary photographs like this one of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Smith of Park Hills on May 5th, 1974. Engagements- It was very popular in the 1960s and 70s for women to publish an engagement photograph in the local newspaper. Pictured is Judith Ann Stephens of Union, on June 3, 1965 who was engaged to Richard Lee Hammitt. You can search for engagement announcements in our Northern Kentucky Newspaper Index. Weddings- A lot of happy couples on their wedding day can be found by searching Faces and Places. I especially enjoy this August 2, 1981 wedding of Helen Buschard 75, to Charlie Williams, 81. Buschard is wheeled down the aisle by Robert Williams (Lakeside Place Administrator) who gave her away at the ceremony. Sweet Shops- Chocolates, candy, cakes and pies are all popular tokens of love on Valentine's Day. Faces and Places has photographs of local sweet and candy shops, like this picture of Katherine Hartmann. Hartmann was the owner of Lily's Candies at 9th and Madison, and she is ready for for the Valentine's Day rush on February 12, 1982. Also, we've added local sweet shops to our Historypin account!  These are just a few of the images of love and Valentine's Day we found in Faces and Places. What is your favorite love inspired picture in the Faces and Places collection? Have you found a relatives engagement, anniversary or wedding photograph? Tell us in the comments below! Written by Cierra Earl - Library Associate in the Local [...]

Made in Covington: The Aqua-Cycle

The Aquacycle was covered in a 1949 issue of Popular Science. Via: http://goo.gl/X3nseR Twenty-five year old Phyllis Brawley was installed as a living window display at Cincinnati’s Hotel Sinton on the day of Aquacycle’s debut. Clad in a “beach costume,” the blonde model peddled the newly-patented marine invention that allowed users to propel boats and canoes by foot power. Spectators congregated around the window in such numbers that Cincinnati patrolman, Charles Ray, ordered that the live window display to cease--a proclamation that was met with jeers. Ultimately, the authorities demanded that manager of the Aquacycle Company, Earl Metcalfe, either stop the demonstration or be cited for interfering with pedestrian traffic. Metcalfe, a self-employed business consultant and manager of the Aquacycle Company of Covington, stated that he intended to defy police orders to meet public demand for the demonstration continue the next day. Arguably, their interest was likely inspired more by the visible shins and shoulders of Miss Brawley than the newfangled contraption upon which she was perched. Metcalfe, who lived on a farm in Morning View in southern Kenton County, was not the inventor of the Aquacycle, but was assignor to the company when the trademark was registered in 1948. He was involved with the contraption as early as 1947, when the Aquacycle Company of Covington was chartered and valued at an eyebrow-raising $100,000 (over $1,300,000 today). The design for the “pedal or mechanically propelling and steering mechanism for boats” was the work of Dr. Byrel Billman, a physician of physiotherapy and proctology, educated at the Eclectic Medical Institute of Cincinnati. Billman created the Aquacycle as a device to propel and steer boats in places where motorized watercraft were either outlawed or impossible operate. Sportsmen [...]

Northern Kentucky All-Stars

The region is at the eve of the Mid-Summer Classic or to the casual baseball fan the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Cincinnati and the region are set to take center stage as baseball’s best converge to face off on the diamond. What ties does Northern Kentucky have to the All-Star Game? Since the All-Star Game was first played in 1933 Northern Kentucky has had a handful of native sons break into the majors. A larger portion played before the inception of the All-Star Game. Thus we cannot really discuss them in the terms of being all-stars; many of them had fine careers that may have been all-star worthy. However a small number have stood out since then and were selected to the All-Star Game. We will talk about four individuals in this article. Two were from Northern Kentucky; well one was from Fleming County which is a neighbor of Mason County which is part of Northern Kentucky but it is close enough and we could argue all sorts of technicalities but he counts, the other was from Campbell County. The third player was born and raised in Cincinnati but played baseball in high school and college here in Northern Kentucky. The fourth was an umpire from Kenton County. So who were they? Jim Bunning, Woodie Fryman and David Justice were the players selected more than once in their careers to the All-Star Game. The umpire selected as an All-Star was Randy Marsh also a Northern Kentucky native. Jim Bunning from Southgate, Kentucky played professionally from 1955-1971. He was a 9 time All-Star. While playing for the Detroit Tigers Jim was selected to the American League squad 7 times (1957, 1959 and 1961, [...]

Professional Baseball in Covington: They built it but they did not come.

Remember the film Field of Dreams? Kevin Costner's character builds a baseball field in the middle of his corn field because a voice told him to do it. In 1913 here in Covington, KY baseball enthusiasts and businessmen wanted to bring a professional baseball team to the city. Baseball was viewed as a great way to advertise the city. Those working to bring a club here believed the city would be placed on the map after they landed a team. Can you imagine having two different teams to root for like they have in Chicago and New York, it almost happened but it did not last long. At the end of the 1912 season the Blue Grass League lost two teams. The Blue Grass League was a Class D Minor League which had teams in cities throughout Kentucky. In order to fill the two vacant spots the organization set its sights on the river towns of Covington and Newport in Northern Kentucky. The attempt to establish teams in Newport and Covington by the Blue Grass league was blocked by the Cincinnati Reds. As a member of a major league (the National League) the Reds had jurisdiction covering a five mile radius that forced smaller leagues like the Blue Grass League to seek permission from establishing clubs in their surrounding area. Newport and Covington both fell under this five mile radius and Garry Herrman of the Reds refused to let the teams establish on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River.   Covington almost missed out on bringing a professional baseball club to the city, but the Federal League was forming in Indianapolis and was looking to establish a team in Cincinnati or Covington. The Reds had [...]

Researching the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire

The Salvation Army Emergency Canteen was a mobile kitchen sent to aid relief workers after the fire. Photograph available in Faces and Places. The Beverly Hills Supper Club fire occurred 40 years ago on Saturday, May 28, 1977. The tragic fire claimed over 160 people, making it one of the deadliest nightclub fires in the history of the United States. Many families in Northern Kentucky were affected by the fire, whether they lost loved ones, survived the fire, or assisted in the recovery efforts. If you are interested in researching more about your own families' connections to the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, the Kenton County Public Library can help you with your search. First, Faces and Places includes images of individuals who were at the Beverly Hill Supper Club the night of the fire, as well as firemen, emergency responders, doctors, and clergy. There are also images of the Beverly Hills Supper Club before and after the fire, and other locations connected to the fire, including the temporary morgue at the Fort Thomas Armory, and Saint Luke Hospital in Fort Thomas. The Northern Kentucky Newspaper Index contains indexed entries for May 30, 1977 in the Cincinnati Post. The paper was devoted to the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire. Included in the indexing are a list of names of those who perished, and those who were still missing. If you are looking for an obituary of a family member, there is a special three-page section of indexing for Beverly Hills Supper Club obituaries in List of Deaths from the Kentucky Post 1977-1978 by Wanda Blackburn Beiser. Boy scouts searched the area around the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire. Photograph available in Faces and Places. The Local History [...]

Researching Your Family History

Looking to restart your genealogy research in the New Year? The library has many resources for your family history quest. If you just getting started on your research the best way to start a family history project is to fill out a family tree. You can fill out a tree yourself or recruit your parents, grandparents and other family members to help. It may be helpful to ask your relatives where they were born, where they were married and other life events. Remember to take legible notes and keep good records of all the information you collect.  Having legible well documented notes will be helpful later in your research. Now that you have collected information for your family tree it is time to research. Start by going to Local History and Genealogy  and exploring all the resources available to genealogists. You will find links to commonly used research sites including Ancestry.com, and Familysearch.org. For more localized research check out the Northern Kentucky Newspaper Index, Faces and Places Northern Kentucky Photograph Archives and geNKY. Looking for additional resources that may not be available online? Head to the Covington branch and utilize the collection of local history and genealogy books. We have books that cover vital records, county histories, cemetery internments and much more! You may also want to look through our Family Files and Local History Files to assist with your research. For more tips, and suggestions on genealogy or local history check out our Pinterest page and watch this video. What family history tips do you have to share? This post was written by Cierra Earl This blog was updated December 2013.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps: The Earliest “Street View”

The map key for the 1909 Sanborn Map of Covington. Notice the level of detail in the building material and types of windows. Have you wondered what your town or neighborhood looked like 100 years ago? Want to know what that large building at the end of your block was originally used for? If you answered yes, you will want to check out the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. In 1867, the Sanborn Map Company, which is still in business today, began making detailed fire insurance maps to help “insurance agents determine the degree of hazard associated with a particular property.” [i] The Sanborn Company estimates they created maps for 12,000 cities and towns in the United States[ii]. The maps are very intricate and detail the size, shape, placement and number of windows and doors, property boundaries, and type of business or industry located within a structure. They are also coded to reflect the various types of building material used and to distinguish residential from commercial property. While the maps are no longer used for insurance purposes, they are now a wonderful way to supplement your historical and genealogical research. They are also essential tools for anyone interested in the history of their home or a particular structure. The maps can be used in conjunction with city directories and newspapers to locate the homes of individuals or businesses in a town and even on a specific street. Because the maps were constantly updated, researchers can track changes that took place in towns, business districts, and neighborhoods. Street addresses and street names have also changed over time, and sometimes more than once, so the maps are an excellent way to find the original address for [...]

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Courting of Ginny Hilton

  Valentine, sent in February of 1929. Hail February, the month of roses and lace and stamps on Valentine cards; a prime time for a story of Northern Kentucky Love! Here’s one: Bernard Wright Southgate Jr., son of Bernard Wright Southgate Sr. and Lallie Kennedy, married Virginia D. Hilton on the 17th of September in 1929. Romantic, I suppose, if a bit dry. One can sit at any of our computers and find that information on Ancestry.com for free, like I just did.   However, what Ancestry doesn’t have is much more interesting. Now available on geNKY, the Southgate courtship letters tell a much more relatable tale. Virginia Southgate (at the time, a Hilton) kept all the letters Bernard sent her through their extensive five-year courtship, even as they both attended school and changed residences. Even though we can only hear his half of the conversation, we have a unique look into the fancies and follies between postmarks and biographical milestones. The first letter is dated the 11th of May, in 1924, from Buffalo, West Virginia, and in it, he writes that he was surprised to receive her letter. It is quite possible (and in fact, likely, from the way he describes her personality in his future notes) that Virginia wrote first.  He does tell us she even illustrated her letters! Unfortunately, we do not possess any of those, though there are a few doodles to be seen at the bottom corner of some pages, like a Tokyo sunrise, and a black cat in a dark cellar at midnight. Bernard is modest about his artistic talents. Virginia, or, as he refers to her, “Ginny”,  starts out in her family home at 15 Calhoun St., [...]