#ThrowbackThursday: Firestone Tire Ash Tray

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

In an archive, you never know what you will find in one. Two words you will never hear in the same sentence is “fire” and “archive”. The two do not jive together. Located in the John Payne collection is a Firestone Tire ashtray.

Left to right: Yellow and Red box for Firestone Tire Ashtray and the Firestone ashtray, n.d.

Top shot of a Firestone ashtray and box, n.d. (Photograph Credit: James Wethington)

The business begun under the leadership of their namesake, Harvey Firestone. Firestone Tire started in 1896 in Chicago until they moved the business to Akron, Ohio in 1900. They supplied tires for buggies, wagons, and other vehicles. (Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, 2017). Firestone became the first global and American tire business for automobiles. Firestone became the first original supplier for Ford Motor Company (Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, 2017).

Top shot of a Firestone ashtray, n.d.

Overhead shot of a Firestone ashtray, n.d. (Photograph Credit: James Wethington)

In Firestone’s time, he stood up and promoted innovative in business and commercial practices. For instance, he “… promoted the use of trucks for hauling freight and lobbied for the construction of vast highway systems. In protest over the British-held monopoly over the production of raw rubber in Southeast Asia, he established his own large rubber plantations in Liberia” (Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, 2017). The next time you are on the road driving and you see car tires or a truck driver, remember Harvey Firestone.


Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (2017). Harvey S. Firestone. Retrieved May 18, 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Harvey-S-Firestone

Firestone Tire and Rubber Company (2017). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firestone_Tire_and_Rubber_Company

A Nation Divided: Confederate States of America War Bonds

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

The Confederate States of America was a group of eleven Southern states who seceded the Union following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 because of his anti-slavery platform (Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, n.d.).

Secession started in 1860 until mid-1861 as the following (University of Georgia, 2016):

  • South Carolina: December 20, 1860
  • Mississippi: January 9, 1861
  • Florida: January 10, 1861
  • Alabama: January 11, 1861
  • Georgia: January 19, 1861
  • Louisiana: January 26, 1861
  • Texas: February 1, 1861
  • Virginia: April 17, 1861
  • Arkansas: May 6, 1861
  • North Carolina: May 20, 1861
  • Tennessee: June 8, 1861

The creation of government of the Confederacy began in February 1861 until the Confederate Army’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia on April 9, 1865 (Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, n.d.). Rick Winters, an Evansville-native who served in the Vietnam War, donated this piece, donated this rare piece of American history.

One thousand dollars. No. 28123 Eight per cent, July 1, 1868. The Confederate States of America Loan. Authorized act of Congress. C.S.A. February 20, 1863 On the 1st day of July 1868, the Confederate States of America will pay to the Bearer of the Bond, at the seat of government or at such place of deposit as may be appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury, the sum of ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS with interest there on from date, at the rate of eight per cent per annum payable sum annually on the surrender of the annexed Coupons. This contract is authorized by an act of Congress approved February 20, 1863 entitled [and set to] authorize the issue of BONDS for funding Treasury notes and is upon the [express] conditions that said Confederate States may from time to time extend the time of payment for any period not exceeding thirty years from this date at the rate of interest, upon the surrender of the Bond. In Witness whereat the Register of the Treasury in pursuance of said act of Congress hath here unto ser his hand and affixed the seal of the Treasury at Richmond, this 2nd day of March 1863.

Confederate States of America bond, March 

Numerous novels such as North and South trilogy by John Jakes, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, Gone with the Wind by Margeret Mitchell, The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, and so many more have used the American Civil War as a background for their stories. If you are interested in viewing this artifact, you may schedule an appointment or come in during normal operating hours.



Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (n.d.). Confederate States of America. Retrieved May 03, 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Confederate-States-of-America

University of Georgia. (2016, April 6). Dates of secession. Retrieved May 03, 2017, from http://www.libs.uga.edu/hargrett/selections/confed/dates.html

Celebrating Black History Month: W.C. Handy

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

Did you know the Tri-State area played a huge part in the history of blues music? Considered “The Father of the American Blues”, W.C. Hardy came to Evansville after the Lauzetta Quartet disbanded around the 1890’s (“W. C. Handy,” n.d.). Handy performed at a barbecue in Henderson, Kentucky in 1896 and met his future wife, Elizabeth (“W. C. Handy,” n.d.). Shortly after, Handy and his family moved to other states until his death in 1958 (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, 2012).

Below, the University Archives and Special Collections have some W.C. Handy letters. His letter is to Karl Kae Knecht, cartoonist of the Evansville Courier.  Handy speaks about autobiography, “Father of the Blues”.  He speaks about living in Evansville and his experiences here before his music career started.



The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (2012, July 2). W.C. Handy. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/W-C-Handy

W. C. Handy. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._C._Handy

Somebody’s Watching Me: Prosthetic Eye

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

This prosthetic eye is from Harry Thompson’s collection.  He is a former Indiana State Representative and State Senator, from 1969 to 1976.  It is unknown why Thompson had this prosthetic eye; however, it was from the American Optical Company.

American Optical began in 1826 with William Beecher, who was trying to become an apprenticeship as a jeweler in Rhode Island and returned back to Southbridge, Massachusetts; however, it was not until after Beecher needed to glasses that he realized he could make a better quality and local (“History of AO Eyewear, Inc.,” 2016). American Optical grew tremendously and it set an international office in London, United Kingdom in 1905; however, the Southbridge office had been employed two thousand and brought in one million dollars (“History of AO Eyewear, Inc.,” 2016).

As their name became prominent in the industry, they created the earliest form sunglasses, sunwear, and goggles. For instances, American Optical obtained the rights to the Crookes glasses; moreover, they updated them by studying ultraviolet protection and make their glasses usable for outdoor use (“History of AO Eyewear, Inc.,” 2016). During the 1930’s to 1940’s, American Optical supplied the United States Air Force “… with aviator goggles” and “… prescription-polarized sunglasses” (“History of AO Eyewear, Inc.,” 2016).

American Optical played a major part in the World War efforts. For example, during the First World War, they “… designed and built eight mobile optical units to support U.S. troops and Allied Forces in Europe during WWI”; the same happened during the Second World War (“History of AO Eyewear, Inc.,” 2016). They were developing new products, which supplied ” … the US Government with new products including gun sights, bombsights, AR glass, aviation goggles, sunglasses and precision optics for military and instrument applications” (“History of AO Eyewear, Inc.,” 2016).

American Optical continues to work and remain an icon in the optical industry, as well as Americana. Their product have been seen in cinema, such as Top Gun and Easy Rider, and their Original Pilot Sunglass hold the honor as “… the first ever sunglass to land on the moon worn by Commander Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 11 in 1969” (“History of AO Eyewear, Inc.,” 2016).

The prothesic eye can be viewed with your own two eyes this wonderful piece at the University Archives on the 3rd floor of Rice Library.


History of AO Eyewear, Inc. (2016). Retrieved January 9, 2017, from http://aoeyewear.com/history/

Spotlight: Avant Garde Magazines

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

During their tenure from January 1968 to July 1971, Avant Garde went against the grain of American society (“A Complete Digitization,” 2016). Its’ creative imagery criticized various parts of American society and United States government with an edgy twist. Avant Garde incorporated erotic content, such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s erotic lithographs and a semi-nude spread of Marilyn Monroe (“A Complete Digitization,” 2016). Avant Garde was published in New York City and there were only fourteen issues published (“Avant-Garde (magazine),” n.d.). The University Archives possesses four of the fourteen magazine issues published and can be viewed by the public.


Avant-Garde (magazine). (n.d.). Retrieved January 5, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avant-Garde_(magazine)

A complete digitization of the 1960s magazine Avant Garde: From John Lennon’s erotic lithographs to Marilyn Monroe’s last photos. (2016, June 6). Retrieved January 5, 2017, from http://www.openculture.com/2016/06/a-complete-digitization-of-the-1960s-magazine-avant-garde.html

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

In honor of Rogue One, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi came out in May 1983.  The original title of Episode VI was Revenge of the Jedi.  Star Wars creator, George Lucas, changed the title in December 1982 because he believed the Jedi should not seek revenge.  This rare piece of American culture is available for everyone to view if they stop by the Archives.

Americana Part 2: On the Road Again

                                           The People Who Stayed

Having left the northern and western parts of our country, I’ve arrived down south. Now, I really hope I don’t have to tell you that Europeans were not the first people in this country. And that many of the people who were originally here were eventually driven out of their homes and forced out west. It’s a long, unhappy story that I don’t have much time to get into right now. But what I want to talk about are the Native Americans who stayed in their own lands in the southeast. Aptly titled The People Who Stayed, this book is a collection of legends, writings, and oral history of the southern Native Americans who had to navigate the complicated racial landscape of the South. The book not only has a lot of history, but some interesting personal stories of Native Americans who joined either white or black communities, and how, like many ethnic groups they tried to keep their identities, while deciding how much they wanted to assimilate into the main stream. If you want to learn more about this, check the book out! It’s a very interesting and little-known important part of our cultural history.  

                         Camino del Sol : Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing

How about we stay in the south (or the southwest) and look at another notable ethnic group in the U.S., the ever growing Hispanic population. Unlike the last two books, this one is more contemporary, dealing with issues in the Latino community, like migration, cultural assimilation, and gender. As the most rapidly growing minority in the U.S., Hispanic culture has become a major part of mainstream America. This book has a nice combination of writing, with poetry, short stories, and essays. It’s also a good mix of different nationalities and backgrounds (Latinos/Hispanics being a pretty diverse group) as well as a mix of time periods, with poetry from Hispanics serving in WWI, to modern day Latina women navigating cultural traditions and the desire to join the professional world. I know that some people are touchy about certain Hispanic issues, like illegal immigration and Spanish being such a prominent language, but this book isn’t about that. It’s about the importance of Hispanic writing, and its cultural impact on America.

Product DetailsAmerica is, as we’ve discussed already, a pretty unique place. Lots of different people and places, and a whole host of experiences, especially for a relatively young country. Due to this background, Americans have created several of their own genres, each with their own unique flavor. Take Southern Gothic, a genre set in the American South, often taking realistic southern issues and using strange, grotesque situations and characters to get the point across, sometimes with the supernatural. And no, I don’t think Larry the Cable Guy movies count (although he is pretty grotesque).  One of the most famous is A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, king of this type of work. It’s the well-known story of a faded southern belle and her relationships with her timid, working class sister and her sister’s brutish but steamy hot husband (Google young Marlon Brando- dang, could he work a white shirt), who becomes way more of a creep as the play goes on. There’s also an equally famous movie which is quite close to the original play. Streetcar is an archetypal Southern Gothic tale of the death of the old south, with creepy characters, strange situations, madness, and decay. It’s an interesting and twisted genre, one that continues to this day, its influence in TV shows like True Blood, or movies like recent Oscar nominee Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Interested in another American subgenre? You could fight me on this, but I would count the work of John Steinbeck (and others of his era) as a genre of its own. His depression era stories, such as The Grapes of Wrath, marked a time when artists, musicians, and writers looked around their country struggling in the Great Depression, and wrote about the awful things they saw, with no sugarcoating. Steinbeck’s most famous book, the tale of an Oklahoma farm family migrating to California in a desperate attempt to find work, is an American classic. It’s a story less about individual characters, and more about the country as a whole, whose people desperately struggled, persevering despite the odds against them. This book also has a famous movie, which I like a lot, but beware- there’s so much dust and grime onscreen that you just want to take a shower. America does love its outdoors.

So, have we gotten any closer to figuring out Americana? Is it wild tales? The outdoors? The struggles of the American people? Diversity? Super Bowl Commercials? I still have trouble describing it but, I can feel  it. It’s the way America feels, its odd, confusing history, its love of independence and kitsch. A country that loves roadside attractions and endearing weirdos. Bits and pieces of Americana seep into each other, creating one large, ever changing culture. U.S. history has a lot of darkness, but it’s always prided itself on looking towards the future. My road trip may not have given me all the answers, but it did give me a lot of great stories about trying to find them! So check out these books, and try to see if you can figure it out better than I can. I mean, I haven’t even talked about the World’s Biggest Ball of Twine