“Go West, Young Man”

Jacob Lee at his curatorial station.

That famous advice dispensed by 19th century newspaperman Horace Greeley for young Americans to head west as the tide of Manifest Destiny swept across the Great Plains to the Pacific is being followed today by one of our own. After five years and eight months at The Filson, today is Jacob Lee’s last day. Jacob first came to The Filson as an undergraduate intern from the University of Louisville for the spring 2005 semester. Working on his degree in history, with an emphasis on American history, Jacob was a natural researcher and cataloger from the outset. His inquisitive and intuitive nature for the work and history made him an excellent addition to the Special Collections Department staff. When that internship ended and he entered graduate school, working on a master’s degree in American history, he received a year-long internship. When that ended he was awarded a Boehl Internship. We clearly wanted to keep the young man around! With an opening in the department looming on the horizon, we hired Jacob part-time, positioned to join the department full-time. On September 1, 2006, Jacob joined the staff as a special collections assistant; later being named an associate curator.

Jacob and Col. Reuben Durrett.

Jacob has worn a number of hats in fulfilling departmental and Filson duties. From monitoring researchers and answering research queries to all aspects of cataloging and supervising interns – even hanging the occasional portrait – he has handled his responsibilities with ability and professionalism. A list of the collections he’s cataloged would be lengthy, but some of the largest and most historically important are those from the 19th century. The Speed Family Papers and the Beatty-Quisenberry Family Papers are two wonderful and frequently used collections that bear the Jacob Lee stamp of excellence. Those who read The Filson newsmagazine, our quarterly journal Ohio Valley History, The Filson’s blog, or attend Filson staff lectures know him well. His work has always been thorough, accurate, and well-written. It has been a pleasure to see him develop into a first-rate curator and promising historian.

Jacob and his cousin, Philip Lightfoot Lee.

Jacob will be missed by his Filson colleagues and many others as he heads west to the University of California at Davis to pursue a PhD in American history, but we certainly wish him happiness and great success. We send him off with thanks and best wishes and even though Thomas Wolfe opined that “You can never go home again,” Jacob can rest assured that he’ll always have friends here at The Filson who would indeed be happy to see him return home to Kentucky, and maybe to The Filson, some day.

Jacob with fellow interns Brandon Winford and Kelly Williams in the summer of 2006.

Jacob and fellow curator Sarah-Jane Poindexter.

A mustachioed Jacob pursuing his off-duty musical career.

And, to complete the many - and usually bewhiskered - faces of Jacob Lee, a clean-shaven Jacob visiting the Alamo.

James J. Holmberg

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