MANUSCRIPTS

The Filson Historical Society Manuscript Collection

daniel-boone-certificateThere are approximately 2.1 million items in The Filson’s manuscript collection. The Filson began collecting historical material soon after its founding, when few other Kentucky institutions were doing so. With many of its early members belonging to Kentucky’s oldest and most prominent families, The Filson was able to begin assembling an important collection of original letters, diaries, business records, and other primary sources. Its holdings for the late eighteenth through mid nineteenth centuries are unrivaled in Kentucky. The collection focuses on Kentucky, the Ohio Valley, and the Upper South, but is national and even international in scope, with researchers from across the nation and abroad visiting each year. Our unique holdings are an essential primary source for scholars. Highlights include the Pleasant Hill Shaker records, Lewis and Clark Expedition letters, Henry Clay letters, George Rogers Clark’s Mason letter, and the two earliest known documents written and signed by Daniel Boone. To these must be added hundreds of other collections documenting America’s economic, military, political, and social history which give The Filson Historical Society the finest collection of pioneer, antebellum, and Civil War manuscripts in Kentucky. In addition, excellent collections containing information on women’s studies, African-Americans, and Louisville journalism dating up to the present day are also available to the research community.

Anyone wishing additional information about our collections should contact the department between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Queries by phone, letter, or e-mail are accepted, but the latter two are preferred.

If contacting the Special Collections department by email, please submit all questions and research queries to research@filsonhistorical.org

We want to preserve your history!

The Filson has collected photographs since its founding in 1884. We continue to add to the collections, mainly through gifts from our members, friends, and people who are interested in preserving important visual images for the future.

If you have material that you would like to donate to The Filson, we want to hear from you. Please contact Curator of Collections James Holmberg by email or at (502) 634-8846 for more information on how to donate to The Filson’s collections.


PHOTOGRAPHS

The Filson Historical Society Photograph Collection

spinningwheels_400x289Our photograph collection contains approximately 50,000 photographic prints, negatives, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, slides and films. The photograph collection dates from the 1840s to the present and documents agriculture, architecture, commerce and industry, river history, transportation, and other aspects of social history. There are photographs from all areas of Kentucky as well as from other states and foreign countries.

Highlights from our collection include:

The Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston Collection: Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston, 1858-1946, was a photographer, historian and long-time president of The Filson Historical Society. This collection contains over 20,000 photographs dating from 1880 to 1942 and includes scenes from Louisville, Kentucky, the United States, and foreign countries. Of special interest are scenes and people of the eastern Kentucky mountains.

The Louisville Railway Company Collection:The Louisville Railway Company (later the Louisville Transit Company) was a privately owned company which operated the trolley and interurban lines in Louisville and adjacent suburban areas. The collection contains photographs of early mule cars, electric streetcars, buses, and interurban rail cars. Also included are photographs of car barns, power houses, shops, work cars, maintenance equipment, and street scenes of tracks and cars.

The Paul Gunter Collection: Paul Gunter, 1857-1936, was a Louisville photographer in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. An immigrant from Hanover, Germany, Gunter initially worked for photographer Daniel Stuber before opening his own studio. The collection illustrates Gunter’s interest in photography as an artistic medium rather than his work as a commercial photographer. Photographs taken in Cherokee Park, on Harrod’s Creek, and at Fern Grove, Ind., focus on Gunter’s interest in the natural world and include images of wooded terrains, water courses, and landscapes. Also included are various Louisville scenes and the Gunter family.

Our finding aids for photographs include:

PastPerfect, an in-house, keyword searchable computer database which includes subject photographs, individuals, family collections, institutional collections, business collections, collections by a particular photographer, prints, and films.  A portion of this database is now available online; more images will be added regularly!  Please visit: http://filson.pastperfectonline.com/ 

normal school class 1902_400x330The General Subject File, a set of photocopy files arranged by subject. Access to the General Subject File is gained through files of photocopied photographs, postcards and prints divided into approximately 200 subject headings and subheadings. Some of the subjects included are agriculture, boats and steamboats, bridges, bridge construction, churches, floods, historic buildings, industry, individuals, Kentucky houses, Kentucky counties, mining, parks, politics, railroads, rivers, schools, sports, streetcars and interurbans, and street scenes. A guide to the photocopy files is available online and in the department.

The Filson Online Catalog: a selection of items from the photograph collection have been cataloged in the Filson online catalog.

Guide to Selected Manuscript and Photograph Collections of the Filson Historical Society: a selection of collections up to 1996, available in print and online.

If you have a research question pertaining to photographs, please contact Heather Potter, Curator of Photographs and Prints.

For image reproductions, please consult our Image Order Guidelines.

 


PHOTOGRAPHY HIGHLIGHTS

Highlights from The Filson’s Photograph Collection

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PRINTS

The Filson Historical Society Print Collection

color print of aud cardinal_300x280Our print collection includes over 1,000 engravings, lithographs, chromolithographs, and posters. Highlights from the print collection include John James Audubon lithographs of birds and animals, engravings and lithographs of many well-known Kentuckians, and a rare poster created for the Satellites of Mercury Fall Commercial Celebration in 1890.

Our finding aids for prints include:

PastPerfect, an in-house, keyword searchable computer database that includes subject photographs, individuals, family collections, institutional collections, business collections, collections by a particular photographer, prints, and films.

The General Subject File, a set of photocopy files arranged by subject. Access to the General Subject File is gained through files of photocopied photographs, postcards and prints divided into approximately 200 subject headings and subheadings. Some of the subjects included are agriculture, boats and steamboats, bridges, bridge construction, churches, floods, historic buildings, industry, individuals, Kentucky houses, Kentucky counties, mining, parks, politics, railroads, rivers, schools, sports, streetcars and interurbans, and street scenes. A guide to the photocopy files is available online and in the department.

southern expo_350x208The Filson Online Catalog: a selection of items from the print collection is listed in the Filson online catalog.

If you have a research question pertaining to prints, please contact Heather Potter, Curator of Photographs and Prints.

For image reproductions, please consult our Image Order Guidelines.


POSTCARDS

The Filson Historical Society Postcard Collection

Our postcard collection contains over 500 postcards depicting scenes from Louisville, Kentucky, and the Ohio Valley Region, and is contained within the photograph collection.

Our finding aids for postcards include:

PastPerfect, an in-house, keyword searchable computer database which includes subject photographs, individuals, family collections, institutional collections, business collections, collections by a particular photographer, prints, and films.

The General Subject File, a set of photocopy files arranged by subject. Access to the General Subject File is gained through files of photocopied photographs, postcards and prints divided into approximately 200 subject headings and subheadings. Some of the subjects included are agriculture, boats and steamboats, bridges, bridge construction, churches, floods, historic buildings, industry, individuals, Kentucky houses, Kentucky counties, mining, parks, politics, railroads, rivers, schools, sports, streetcars and interurbans, and street scenes. A guide to the photocopy files is available online and in the department.

The Filson Online Catalog: a selection of items from the photograph collection have been cataloged in the Filson online catalog.

If you have a research question pertaining to photographs, prints, or postcards, please contact Heather Potter, Curator of Photographs and Prints.

For image reproductions, please consult our Image Order Guidelines.


ARCHITECTURAL COLLECTIONS

Architectural and landscape drawings, records, and photographs

KYLV_1889_C397cRepresenting more than fifty unique architectural firms, architects, landscape architects, and/or projects, The Filson’s architectural holdings illustrate Ohio River Valley’s built environment from the mid-19th century through present day. Project types vary from residential to commercial, industrial design and landscape, as well as educational, cemetery and park design, railroad, and religious—to name only a few.
The architectural collections can be searched through various portals on our website and in-house; useful finding aids are as follows:

For a full listing of processed collections and finding aids, see the Architectural Collections page.

For collection level descriptions of drawings and records, researchers should utilize the manuscript catalog and online catalog.

Photographs and prints are best searched in PastPerfect, an in-house, keyword searchable computer database which includes subject photographs, individuals, family collections, institutional collections, business collections, collections by a particular photographer, prints, and films.  A portion of this database is now available online; more images will be added regularly!  Please visit: http://filson.pastperfectonline.com/ 

The subject photo index is also useful and includes approximately 200 subject headings and subheads that guide users through the topics available within our in-house photocopied subject files.

If you have a research question pertaining to architectural records, please contact Johna Picco, Associate Curator of Special Collections.

This collection continues to grow, so check back regularly for updates.


THEATER PROGRAMS

Theater Programs and Other Ephemera

The Filson Historical Society’s theater holdings offer a fascinating look at Louisville’s past via the footlights and curtain calls of the stage. From humble high school productions to the elegant venue of Macauley’s Theatre, The Filson’s collection preserves the performances of local amateurs and revered stars, such as the famed Madame Modjeska and Louisville’s own Mary Anderson.

The theater program collection encompasses over ninety boxes of loose programs and scrapbooks housed in Special Collections. A guide to the collection is available online and in the department. If you need assistance in researching the theater program collection, please consult our research tools. Queries should be directed to research@filsonhistorical.org.

The theater collection also includes many fine broadsides of coming attractions, theater records, accounts of performances in the personal papers of local residents, and photographs and prints of venues and actors. One such gem is the Heineman Theatrical Collection from the early-twentieth century. This eighty-six item collection contains photographs from various plays, and portraits of actors and actresses, many of whom appeared at Macauley’s Theatre, such as Maud Adams, George Arliss, Billie Burke, and Fay Templeton.

In addition to the materials in Special Collections, the Library also houses a series of books by John Jacob Weisert, the Louisville theater historian and German language teacher, which are invaluable to anyone researching Louisville theater history. Weisert has provided checklists of performances for Samuel Drake’s City Theatre, Macauley’s Theater, the Louisville Theatre, and Mozart Hall. The Library also maintains historical files on Louisville theaters, actors, and actresses.


SCRAPBOOKS

The Filson Historical Society Scrapbook Collection

Scrapbooks are an invaluable source of historical information. Filled with newspaper clippings, programs, tickets, and letters and often embelished with photos or drawings, the medium is a rich source for nineteenth and twentieth-century history.

To find scrapbooks in The Filson’s collection search both the online catalog as well as the traditional card catalog located on the third floor in the Special Collections Department. When searching the online catalog, select a ‘General Keyword’ search from the drop down menu, then type “scrapbook” plus your topic in the search bar. If you have specific questions regarding scrapbooks, contact research@filsonhistorical.org.

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