Browse Exhibits (21 total)

A Soldier's Letters Home - World War II


John David Goodin was born May 1, 1917.  He volunteered for service in the United States Army and received his acceptance letter June 28, 1941. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1942 and assigned to B Co. 3rd Armored "Spearhead" Division as tank platoon leader/commander.  He served in England, France, Germany and Belgium in some of the hardest fighting and was wounded twice, once during the Battle of the Bulge.  He earned the European Theater Ribbon with five battle stars and was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor and the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster.  A monument was dedicated in his honor August 2006 at War Memorial Plaza in Nashville.

Having graduated from UT Law School before entering service, Goodin was an eloquent writer.  He faithfully wrote letters to his mom and dad keeping them informed, as much as censoring allowed, of his general location and situation. 

This exhibit highlights selections from the 300+ letters, as well as photographs and memorabilia, in the John Goodin Papers housed in the Archives of Appalachia.

An Introduction to the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival Recordings

The Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival (originally known as the Delaware Bluegrass Festival) began on Labor Day Weekend in 1972 in Bear, Delaware. Founded by Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe, along with Carl Goldstein, Mike Hudak, and Sheldon Sandler from the newly established Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music, it was to be the first bluegrass festival in the northeastern United States. The festival remained in Bear until 1990, when it moved to the Salem County Fairgrounds near Woodstown, New Jersey. Early on, the festival's producers began incorporating old-time, country, and other roots music artists, establishing the festival as one of the most significant and distinctive folk music events in the nation.

The current exhibit provides a curated introduction to the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival Recordings (1972-2018), held by the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University, with special attention given to the festival's first decade.

The exhibit features portions of digitized recordings, provided by the Archives of Appalachia for the purposes of research and education. Any commercial uses of the materials or any uses that exceed the limits of fair use and other relevant statutory exceptions require the permission of the Archives of Appalachia and the copyright holder(s). It is the user's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials. The Archives of Appalachia makes every effort to adhere to all known copyright and rights of privacy, publicity, or trademark of these materials. If you are a rights holder of material on this site and believe that inclusion of this material violates your rights, please contact

Appalachian Outreach Program (1979-1981)


In 1979, the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University received a grant of $23,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to produce a series of nine multi-media outreach programs, based on materials held by the Archives. The programs were presented to the public for free throughout east Tennessee and its surrounding areas.

An additional NEH grant in 1981 for $41,000 enabled the program to expand throughout southern Appalachia and allowed the Archives to design study guides to accompany a selection of the programs. In 1988, the Archives converted the slideshows to Umatic and VHS tape, and in 2009 the Archives created digital surrogates of the programs.

This exhibit contains the digital surrogates of each of the nine programs, along with all available supplementary materials: scripts for all nine programs and study guides for the six programs for which such material was created. Additionally, it includes a range of press releases, program descriptions, newspaper reviews, and advertisements.

All materials in this exhibit are drawn from the Archives of Appalachia’s collection #0237, “Archives of Appalachia and University Archives Records.”

Charles F. Decker - Master Potter

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Charles F. Decker, a Master Potter, made his mark in the genre of pottery in Appalachia through a life committed to perfecting a craft that was an essential commodity in the 19th century.  A leading innovator of his day, Keystone Pottery was dominant in the industry.

Even more important than his contribution to the genre of art in Appalachia, is his acculturation into Appalachia.  German by birth, Decker discovered his sense of place, used the materials available to perfect his craft, immersed himself in the community, passed along the pottery trade to his sons, and became not only a successful potter, but a good friend and neighbor.  He was an Appalachian in the purest sense of the word; and his pottery is now considered Appalachian art.


Common Threads


In the 1960s, a time of turbulence and change in America, a group of women who had made it their life's mission to serve others, would find themselves irrevocably entwined with a people in the region of Appalachia. Little did they know, a life altering choice would have to be made in order to maintain established relationships and continue this passionate work. The Federation of Communities in Service would be the result of hard choices made by these women. 

When the Glenmary Sisters began working with the Appalachian people, first in Chicago with those who had migrated to find work, an unexpected thing happened: they discovered a common thread.  Anyone who has ever envisioned and created a work of art: made a quilt, knitted a sweater, painted a picture, sculpted clay, written a song, played an instrument, or realized an idea, understands the meaning of a common thread.  Webster defines common as belonging equally to the community at large, and thread as a fine cord composed of strands of silk, cotton or nylon.  The communities of FOCIS, and the communities of Appalachia, would discover a common thread and blend diverse backgrounds, personalities, skills and talents, to become one equal community woven together by the strong thread of common ground.

This exhibit is a "sampler" of the extensive 71 box Federation of Communities in Service (FOCIS) Records, held by the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University. The records include historical data, interview recordings, transcripts, photographs and film that highlight the valuable contributions and organizations forged by the perseverance and hard work of a dedicated group of determined women.

Depots - East Tennessee

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Depots.  According to Webster there are several meanings of the word, but for the people of Appalachia, it was the information station.  Instantly recognizable in structure, this tiny building was the means of connection with the outside world. 

It is difficult in modern times to envision the critical role played by the centrally located railroad depot in a town.  One must erase the vision of multistory brick, steel and glass towers, smoothly paved highways, traffic signals, and clearly marked passageways.  When the railroad depots were built, the surrounding area was sparsely populated with long distances between homesteads and towns, and the crudest of conveniences.  Once this picture is ingrained into the imagination, the full impact of the critical importance of the tiny building known as the depot, or the train station, may be realized.

In the mid-nineteenth century, when railroad tracks were being laid throughout East Tennessee, steam-powered locomotives were fired by wood.  This required frequent stops on the line to refurbish wood and water, hence the number of depots.

In an age when travel was somewhat rudimentary and limited at best, and problematic at worst, train travel ushered in a new era for people in isolated areas and small towns.  Trips that took many days, or several weeks by stage, were reduced to hours or a few days by train.

The depot was an exciting place to be as there was a constant hustle and bustle of travelers, businessmen, merchants and farmers, either shipping local products or receiving goods, as well as daily news and communication via mail or telegraph.  The trains brought men, mail and merchandise.  The convenience of Fedex, UPS, and Amazon did not exist.  Customers were completely dependent upon the basic stock of local merchants.  Specialty parts, tools, or commodities were ordered from Sears and Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs.  Growth of business and commerce was dependent upon the depot.  

In addition to the commercial benefit, the depot was also a place where the community gathered to welcome family and friends, or send them away. The arrival of the train at the depot was a much-anticipated event. People would come from all over to gather and socialize for a spell.  The most exciting topic of the day was who was coming and who was going.  The train depot was the nineteenth century version of Facebook and Instagram.

During wartime, many people said goodbye to their loved ones for the last time at the depot, or welcomed them home after long separations.  Parents sent their children off to college or to a new life in another town. Railroads soon became the lifeline of small-town America, creating thriving economies by providing employment, transportation, and shipping of essential goods.  The depot was the central hub of the town.

In a 1973 Johnson City Press-Chronicle article, housed in the Appalachian Vertical Files Railroads - Tennessee, East in the Archives of Appalachia, Dorothy Hamill interviewed Mrs. Lloyd Jones, a ticket agent at Johnson City's Southern Railway Station for 30 years.   Mrs. Jones exuberently shared numerous stories of her years at the depot saying, "The atmosphere was never dull."  She expressed that people would bring their lunch to the depot just to observe the activity of trains and people coming and going.  People also brought food to take on the train, and often showed her "half of a ham, fried chicken, cakes and pies."  Others would pass through the depot while walking from one side of town to the other.  There were excursions for school children, and special excursions for "places of interest."  On June 18, 1932, during the Depression, the railroad advertised a special rate of one cent per mile for that day only.  Mrs. Jones said there was a "constant stream of people from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m."  

The depot was more than just a place of business.  Mrs. Jones shared many stories of personally helping people in various ways, sometimes buying tickets for people who were sick, or who didn't have the money to get home.  She was also privileged to witness the visits of many famous people coming through the depot including Herbert Hoover, Eleanor Roosevelt and Elvis Presley!

In the beginning, many train depot structures in East Tennessee were purely functional, especially in small towns.  Built in the Gothic Style influence, many depots reflected vernacular construction and were rectangular, with a low roof featuring raking eaves, brackets, and one story.  Four walls, and enough space to conduct basic operations, was all that was required.  As the railroad industry grew, stations became larger for two reasons: to handle the ever increasing traffic flow and merchandise, but also to impress.  The realization that the depot was often the first impression for visitors fueled the desire to build more elaborate depots with many architectural styles: Greek Revival, Italianate, Romanesque and Beaux-Arts Classicism.  Some depots were a mixture of styles.

While many depots have disappeared, or transformed into other modes of commerce, East Tennessee is fortunate to have a few readily recognizable depot structures still in existence, running the gamut from the purely functional, to the more elaborate in architectural style.

Note:  To view full-size photographs hover and click on the photograph.  The citation page will load.  Click on the photograph again for the full size.

Fifty Years on the Clinchfield: "Captain Tom" Goodin


It has been said of him that he loved railroading better than his wife or life itself. 

Year after year, for 51 years, Thomas E. Goodin faithfully served as a conductor with the Clinchfield Railroad with no demerits and no personal injuries.  This record was an anomaly in railroad history. 

His superiors described his character traits as: faithful, loyal, careful, sober, dependable, persevering, alert, strictly attentive to duty, and always doing the right thing at the right time.  He was lauded for his attitude toward his work, the safe handling of the Company's property, and the safety of his fellow workers.

Letter after letter from patrons to the general managers and superintendents of the railroad praised Goodin for his kindness and consideration of the passengers. 

While Goodin acquired many nicknames in his 58 years on the railroad such as Daddy, Uncle Tom, Big Tom, and Kingfish, he was most often affectionately referred to as "Captain Tom."

This is a story of a man who lived out his passion - and his passion was the railroad.

Highlights from the Leon McIntyre Collection

This exhibit highlights live recordings of bluegrass performances from the 1970s and 1980s, featuring recordings from the Leon McIntyre Collection in the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University.

The recordings showcase important shows, venues, and performers in bluegrass history.

International Students at East Tennessee State University


International students have enrolled at East Tennessee State University since at least the 1940s, arriving from all over the world in search of a top-tier education from an American university. This exhibit focuses on the years between 1946 and 1960 in order to evaluate connections between the Cold War and the countries of origin for those international students who enrolled at East Tennessee State University (known at the time as East Tennessee State College). It examines ETSC's goals in admitting international students and the role that federal and state governments played in this process. 

Our History: Writings on Johnson City

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Since Johnson City's founding in 1869, more than a dozen authors have written valuable histories of the city. From Samuel Cole Williams's first published history of Johnson City in 1940 to the Johnson City Press's 2019 book celebrating the city's sesquicentennial, numerous writers have brought their individual perspectives to bear by highlighting significant people and events from the city's past.

This exhibit draws attention to three published histories of the city written as theses for graduate degrees in Tennessee: Ophelia Cope Daniels's 1947 thesis at Tennessee A&I State College, Harold Handy's 1980 thesis at ETSU, and Mary Alexander's 2001 thesis at ETSU provide valuable new information about Johnson City's history and civic development. Highlighting the social, economic, educational, and political history of the city, with special attention to the role of Black citizens in advancing the city's standing, these works represent valuable perspectives from community members.

This exhibit features the complete theses of Daniels, Alexander, and Handy, along with brief biographical introductions to the authors.  A bibliography of additional resources provides recommendations for further study on Johnson City's history and development.

Pragmatic Papyrus


This exhibit features the history of area and other business letterhead stationery selected from the J. G. Sterchi Furniture Company Business Records Scrapbook found at an auction in Virginia, and donated to the Archives of Appalachia.  Dated 1911-1914, a selection of 94 letters are samples of the simplest to the most technologically advanced stationery of the time.  All tell a story of the types of products and commodities that were available in the early 20th century, not only in downtown Johnson City, but in surrounding towns. Each letterhead provides insight into the history and advancement of stationery as a marketing tool to enhance and promote local businesses.

Ten business histories, including two historic hotels, are also featured. Though a few businesses are still in existence today, most have been lost to the annals of time. 

Take a walk down memory lane with this treasure trove of well-preserved letters from 110 years ago.


Presidential Ponderings: The Writings of Sidney Gilbreath


Sidney Gordon Gilbreath was the first President of East Tennessee State Normal School.  Elected by the State Board of Education, Gilbreath's term began in September, 1910, and ended after fifteen years of service in 1925.

The Archives of Appalachia houses the presidential records of Sidney Gilbreath, which include the "newspaper writings" featured in this exhibit.  A selection of writings will be posted each month.

Sidney Gilbreath's beautiful penmanship is featured in these newspaper writings written in fountain pen.  All have been transcribed.  Also featured is his wonderful sense of humor.

Regional Old-Time Music of the Timothy F. Woodbridge 78 rpm Record Collection


The Timothy F. Woodbridge 78 rpm Record Collection primarily focuses on old-time, country, and swing recordings of the 1920s and 1930s. This exhibit examines old-time or "hillbilly" recordings from musicians from the southeastern United States.  

These recordings served many purposes for those who heard them in the early part of the twentieth century: they were an old-time elixir evoking memories of home and nostalgia for a simpler time, and they were also pure entertainment.

Today, these recordings often serve as "source" material for fledgling musicians to study regional performance styles, and they are often referenced at informal jam sessions and on modern recordings.

Rich-R-Tone Recordings in the Lewis Deneumoustier Collection


This exhibit focuses primarily on RICH-R-TONE recordings found in the Lewis Deneumoustier Collection in the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University.

RICH-R-TONE recordings are regionally and historically significant in their relationship to the early beginnings of bluegrass recordings and the onset of a smaller "cottage recording industry" in Johnson City. These early pioneers of small record labels were noteworthy in their approach to recording and making available bluegrass records in the 1940s and 1950s. 

Regionally, RICH-R-TONE recordings give listeners insight into local and regional music from the early days of bluegrass. The performers who recorded were eager to record and the owner of RICH-R-TONE, Jim Stanton, provided an outlet for their ambitions.

Lewis Deneumoustier was an avid collector and fan of old-time, bluegrass, and country music. His collection spans over one hundred years of country and traditional music history and includes nearly 25,000 recordings along with photographs, posters, sheet music, magazines, and other memorabilia.

Simplicity and Sentiment: Le Roy Reeves and the Tennessee State Flag


"I enclose herewith a draft of a bill for the adoption of a State flag for Tennessee, which I would be glad to have you introduce and give your support and influence.  This design is the result of considerable thought and experiment, and is intended to combine simplicity and sentiment."
~ letter from Le Roy Reeves to Representative S.E. Miller, January 27, 1903 ~

In 1903, Johnson City’s Le Roy Reeves began a quest to accomplish his long-held dream of seeing the state of Tennessee adopt his design as its official flag.  The legislation passed two years later, on April 17, 1905, but it was more than five decades until the flag was in common use at the state Capitol.  This exhibit, drawn from the Le Roy Reeves Papers held by the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University, tells the story of Reeves’ quest.

Tennessee’s Mountain Heritage (1983 radio series)


In 1982, the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University received a matching grant from the Tennessee Committee for the Humanities to produce a series of three radio programs based in part on materials from the Archives’ holdings.  The series was intended to provide an entertaining and educational overview of various aspects of the social history and folklore of southern Appalachia.  Margaret Counts and Richard Blaustein wrote and produced the three programs, which aired on three separate Sunday evenings on the WETS radio station in May of 1983.

This exhibit contains audio of each of the three programs, along with versions of each respective approved script.  Additionally, it includes a guide for conducting oral history interviews and a bibliography for those interested in studying program topics in greater detail, both of which were created by original project staff in 1983.  Finally, the exhibit includes a number of related materials: press releases, newspaper reviews, and advertisements.

All materials in this exhibit are drawn from the Archives of Appalachia’s collection #0237, “Archives of Appalachia and University Archives Records.”

Tune In On My Memories: The Work and Play of Richard Blaustein


Richard Blaustein’s music was as open-minded as he was. He thought of himself as an “old-time” musician but avoided labeling things when he could. Traditional music was full of possibilities for Richard. In his mind, it was all interconnected, and exploring the music and the people who play it was a way to understand his own sense of identity and belonging. He often mentioned “fellowship” and “communion” when describing what kept him active and interested in music for over 60 years. Among his friends, he was known to “drop-in” unannounced, fiddle in hand, for a few tunes without much conversation. And when he was done, he might leave as abruptly as he arrived — just needed a music fix. 

On these pages are a sampling of some projects Richard was involved with over the years. As you listen, notice the way his music moves — the lilt, the forward movement, . . .the joy. To a large degree, to know someone’s music is to understand something about them personally.

Vogue Picture Discs in the Lewis Deneumoustier Collection


Between May 1946 and April 1947, the Vogue Picture Record label produced around eighty 78rpm discs.  While today the discs are best known for their colorful artwork, in the 1940s they were also respected for their innovative use of vinyl, instead of the more common shellac.  This resulted in a high quality recording with very little surface noise.  The label recorded a wide range of musical styles: from country to jazz to children’s music to Latin music.

Vogue discs sold for around one dollar each (three dollars for multi-disc albums), which was more than twice the average price of material from competing labels.  Combined with Vogue’s difficulty in signing leading popular performers of the day, this contributed to its short lifespan.

This exhibit highlights the five Vogue discs that are among the more than 25,000 recordings in the Archives of Appalachia’s Lewis Deneumoustier Collection at East Tennessee State University.  The exhibit includes scans of each disc, brief excerpts of each respective recording, and additional information including background context and suggestions for further study.

Voices of Coal


This exhibit highlights musical perspectives on life in the coalfields, featuring recordings from the Lewis Deneumoustier Collection and other collections in the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University.

Extractive industry in Appalachia began in the late 1800s when new roads gave access to untapped resources such as coal and timber. Expansion of the railway system made coal a greater commodity, bringing about the need for more and more mines. Iron mills were some of the main consumers of Appalachian coal during World War II. Once the war ended, the market was flooded with coal, and mines began closing, leaving miners without jobs.

Many of the musicians in the Deneumoustier Collection represent Appalachia. Some personally felt the effects of extractive industry on their families and throughout their childhoods.  In this way, young artists grew to become the voices of the coal communities, becoming advocates for their mountains, forests, and streams. 

Lewis Deneumoustier was an avid collector of old-time, bluegrass, and country music history. Over several decades, he acquired a significant collection of magazines, booklets, concert programs, and festival flyers. He also compiled a large amount of correspondence with fellow collectors looking to obtain recordings. The core of the Deneumoustier Collection, though, is the nearly 25,000 recordings, in a range of formats, that document the history of old-time, bluegrass, and country music. Through this extensive collection, we can see not only the history of Appalachian music but also the impact the coal industry had on the Appalachian region.

Significant Moments in Appalachian Coal Mining History

1870s – Railroads came to Appalachia

  • Established a need for more coal
  • Allowed access to previously hard to reach areas to mine resources
  • Coal production in Appalachia skyrocketed

1890s – Initial establishment of large mining companies in the mountains of Appalachia

  • Mining communities were started

1910s – Many large coal companies were established in the mountains of Appalachia

  • The market was flooded, the price of coal plummeted and caused a recession
  • Miners lost their jobs, caused out-migration to urban areas for better job opportunities

1960s – Surface mining techniques for coal extraction gained prominence

  • Nearly 7,000 miles of streams were damaged by mountaintop removal (MTR) and strip mining practices
  • Caused more out-migration

W.E.T.S. 89.5 - Studio One: Local Music throughout the Years


WETS-FM is a public radio station operated as a partnership between East Tennessee State University and the station's listeners. Operating 24-hours a day at 89.5 MHz in the Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia region, the station is also heard online.

Studio One was a weekly, live broadcast showcasing local, regional, and nationally-known musicians that aired each Saturday on WETS from 1994 through 2022.

This exhibit, drawn from materials in the WETS-FM Records at the Archives of Appalachia, features selections from the thousands of performances that took place on Studio One over the course of nearly thirty years. It highlights local musicians of upper east Tennessee and southwest Virginia.

World War II News Maps

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This exhibit highlights six specific World War II Newsmaps held by the ETSU Sherrod Library's Government Documents, Law and Maps Department, along with WWII-related materials held by ETSU's Archives of Appalachia. The newsmaps summarize weekly developments of military action abroad, while the newspaper articles, photographs, correspondence, and other materials draw attention to specific stories of the war's impact on residents of east Tennessee.

Published by the U.S. Army Information Branch, World War II Newsmaps were poster sized informational maps published weekly from 1942 until 1946 and were designed to motivate and inform American military personnel. Not intended for general distribution, the posters were distributed to military installations, government and civilian groups working on War Department projects, and federally-designated depository libraries such as East Tennessee State University's Sherrod Library, which became a federal depository in 1942.