When I was a project archivist at the Mudd Manuscript Library, we used our blog to share interesting reference questions in a regular segment titled "Ask Mr. Mudd." I've decided to start up that tradition here at The Filson, too, so here's the inaugural "Dear Mr. Filson." We received reference question via our Facebook page which asked the following:
"I'm trying to learn where Henry Watterson Hull lived in Louisville. He was a famous actor, and son of William Madison Hull. Henry Hull lived here from 1890 until 1902, I believe. Any information would be helpful. Thank you." Amy
I knew nothing about Henry Watterson Hull, so I turned to that quick but dubious source of information, Wikipedia, for some background info. I learned that Hull began his career as a Broadway actor, and then turned to film, appearing in over 70 films along with many television programs from 1917 through the 1960s. He was born 3 October 1890, so he would not have appeared in many Louisville records. Instead, I had to look to his father, William Madison Hull.
Whenever I get a reference question about where someone lived in Louisville, I utilize the Louisville City Directories. These are available here at The Filson on microfilm, via AncestryLibrary.com and Fold3, and in their original bound form. We try not to use the bound volumes, as many are in delicate condition due to age, overuse, or poor paper quality. I was able to find William M. Hull in the city directory for all of the years the patron inquired about.
The directory provides information about Hull's occupation and residence:
- 1890: editorial staff, Louisville Courier Journal, resides at 922 5th Street
- 1891: dramatic critic, Louisville Courier Journal, resides at 922 5th Street
- 1892: dramatic critic, Louisville Courier Journal, resides 215 E. Jacob Ave
- 1893: amusements editor, Louisville Courier Journal, resides 215 E. Jacob Ave.
- 1894: journalist, Louisville Courier Journal, resides 107 E. College St.
- 1895: journalist, Louisville Courier Journal, resides 308 East Oak St.
- 1896: manager, the Avenue Theatre, resides 120 W. College St.
- 1897: manager, resides 120 W. College St.
- 1898: journalist; resides 120 W. College St.
- 1899: editor, resides 120 W. College St.
- 1900: manager of Crescent Bath House (a Turkish Bath at 412 W. Walnut St.), resided at 909 Fifth Street
- 1901: trav. agent (booking agent for theatre company), resides 205 E. Broadway
- 1902: agent, resided at 205 E. Broadway
The information from the city directory is useful. Henry likely was given the name "Henry Watterson" after his father's boss, famed Courier Journal editor Henry Watterson. Also, as you can see, the Hull family moved around quite a bit, and William seems to have juggled journalism and theater managing, with the random Turkish Bath management position thrown in! I wondered about that work, and discovered in the "Bathhouses" entry by Herman Landau in The Encyclopedia of Louisville, that public bathing facilities were a regular part of the Louisville city scene from the 1830s through the 1890s, when bathrooms became more common in homes.
Amy was interested in knowing whether any of the homes the Hulls occupied were still around. This can be difficult to determine, because there was a renumbering of some Louisville city streets around 1908/1909, and street names have also changed. However, one of the residences, 120 West College Street, seems to still be extant, based on a quick search of Google Maps.
So thanks to Amy, I know more about a Hollywood actor born in Louisville, an early drama critic for the Louisville Courier Journal, and public bathhouses. I have also strengthened my skills in using the Louisville city directories, and fulfilled one of the best things about my job as an archivist - learning more about our collections every day.