Remembering Veterans: War of 1812

On May 18, 2011, in Artifacts, Portraits, by Amanda
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In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, we will be highlighting collections related to the military history of Mississippi and veterans who served the state beginning with the territorial militia in 1797 through World War II (the most recent engagement for which we have collections). Special thanks to Jim Pitts, of the MDAH Government Records section, for compiling the military records and their descriptions and to Nan Prince, Museum Division, for compiling the artifacts.

Andrew Jackson. Accession Number: 1969.4 (Museum of Mississippi History Collection)

Andrew Jackson. Accession Number: 1969.4 (Museum of Mississippi History Collection)

The War of 1812 began on June 12, 1812 when the United States declared war on Great Britain. The Americans disputed the British practice of impressing American sailors into the Royal Navy and other trade and border issues. The Mississippi Territorial Militia was called into action in 1813 against the British-allied Creeks and later against the British themselves.

Compiled service record of War of 1812 soldier. Call Number:   (MDAH Collection)

Compiled service record of War of 1812 soldier. From: National Archives microfilm; compiled service records of Mississippi Territorial units.

This image is a compiled service record card of a soldier in Major Thomas Hinds’ battalion of mounted riflemen (Mississippi Territory Militia) who fought with Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815. It is from the National Archives microfilm of the service records of Mississippi territorial units, which is available to view on microfilm at MDAH.

George Ohr Pottery

On May 9, 2011, in Artifacts, by Amanda
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1978.73

George Ohr pottery. Accession Number: 1978.73 (Museum of Mississippi History Collection)

This pinch pot from the collection of the Museum of Mississippi History was made by George Ohr (1857-1918).  Ohr, sometimes referred to as the “mad potter of Biloxi,” built his first pottery in the 1880s and made delicate and unique pots filled with twists, dents, and folds.  Although he received little popular acclaim in his lifetime, Ohr is now regarded as one of the United States’ finest artist-potters, and his pieces can be found in many world-class museums.  The Mississippi State Historical Museum (now called the Museum of Mississippi History) was the first museum to hold an exhibit of Ohr’s work in 1978.

Artifacts in the collection of the Museum of Mississippi History are available for viewing by appointment only. Please contact Cindy Gardner, Director of Collections or Nan Prince, Asst. Director of Collections by email to schedule an appointment.

1798 Territorial Seal of Mississippi

On April 5, 2011, in Artifacts, by Amanda
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1981.33.1

Accession Number: 1981.33.1 (Museum of Mississippi History Collection)

This official seal from the collection of the Museum of Mississippi History was cast in 1798 when Congress established the territory of Mississippi.  It was made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, then the nation’s capital, and brought to the Mississippi Territory by Judge Daniel Tilton, a New Hampshire lawyer who was commissioned as one of the first judges of the Mississippi Territory on May 17, 1798.

Note the misspelling of Mississippi on the seal. This error caused something of a furor when an image of the seal was used for a 1948 commemorative stamp in honor of the sesquicentennial of the Mississippi Territory. An article in the State-Times says:

Dixie-baiters were pleased to observe that Mississippians couldn’t spell, not even the name of their own state. To the rescue came Dr. William D. McCain of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Dr. McCain determined that the great seal, made in Philadelphia in 1798 by Yankees and brought down the river by Judge Daniel Tilton of New Hampshire, was mispelled [sic] by the United States Department of State — in the educated North!1

The seal appears earlier in the state’s documentary history in 1871 in The Semi-Weekly Clarion newspaper:

We were yesterday shown by Mr. H. F. Hewson, of the Governor’s office the “Territorial seal of Mississippi, 1798.” Mr. H. discovered it in overhauling some old property about the capitol.2

Apparently the territorial seal, obsolete when Mississippi achieved statehood in 1817, had gotten lost in the office clutter!

Artifacts in the collection of the Museum of Mississippi History are available for viewing by appointment only. Please contact Cindy Gardner, Director of Collections or Nan Prince, Asst. Director of Collections by email to schedule an appointment.


1 “Error Found In Old Seal,” State Times, March 27, 1955. Microfilm roll #34201 (MDAH).

2 “Brevities,” page 3, The Semi-Weekly Clarion, June 2, 1871. Microfilm roll #29157 (MDAH).

See also the “Seal-Territorial” subject file (MDAH).

Women in Mississippi

On March 22, 2011, in Paper Archives, Photographs, Portraits, by Amanda
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March is Women’s History Month and we are recognizing Mississippi women here on the blog! Read on to find out more about some of Mississippi’s notable women and their records at MDAH.

Governor William F. Winter, Eudora Welty, Leontyne Price, and Mrs. William Winter at Governor Winter's inauguration in 1980. Call Number: PI/PER/1981.0024 Item 2 (MDAH Collection)

Governor William F. Winter, Eudora Welty, Leontyne Price, and Mrs. William Winter at Governor Winter's inauguration in 1980. Call Number: PI/PER/1981.0024 Item 2 (MDAH Collection)

Eudora Welty (1909-2001) was a major American writer who published novels (including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Optimist’s Daughter), short stories, a memoir, and photographs, and wrote all of her fiction in her family home at 1119 Pinehurst Street in Jackson. She left her home and collection of books to the state of Mississippi and the home is now open to the public as the Eudora Welty House. The house was restored by MDAH to its mid-1980s appearance, the last period when Welty was still writing daily. Her papers are cataloged in the MDAH collection as the Welty (Eudora) Collection, Z/0301.000/S

Soprano Leontyne Price (1927-) was born in Laurel, Mississippi. As a young woman, she moved to New York City to study at Juilliard and there began a singing career that eventually won her eighteen Grammy awards. In 1955 Price was engaged to sing the lead for the National Broadcasting Company’s production of Puccini’s Tosca. There were strenuous objections, and some cancellations, from local affiliates; nonetheless, her performance was a critical success. By the mid 1960s, Price was considered one of the world’s great divas. Price retired from the opera stage at the Met in 1985 with her signature role, Aida. The live telecast was viewed by millions. There are many photographs, books, and subject files about Price in the MDAH collection.

Burnita Sheldon Matthews. Accession Number: 1993.14.1 (Museum of Mississippi History Collection)

Burnita Sheldon Matthews. Accession Number: 1993.14.1 (Museum of Mississippi History Collection)

Burnita Shelton Matthews (1894-1988) was the first woman to be appointed and confirmed as a federal trial judge in the United States. Born in Copiah County, she received her law degree from the National University Law School in Washington, D. C., and was admitted to the bar in 1920. Unable to find a private firm or government agency that would hire a woman, Matthews opened her own practice. She became an ardent suffragist and feminist. In 1949 President Harry Truman appointed Matthews to the United States District Court in Washington, D. C., where she served until taking senior status in 1968. During this time Matthews served by designation on the United States Court of Appeals as well as on the U.S. District Court. She retired from the bench in September 1983 and died in 1988.

During her distinguished career Matthews presided over several noteworthy legal actions including the bribery trial of Jimmy Hoffa and the passport denial of singer and communist activist Paul Robeson. Her papers are cataloged in the MDAH collection as the “Matthews (Burnita Shelton) Papers,” Z/1965.000/S.

Charlotte Capers

Charlotte Capers

Charlotte Capers (1913-1996) was the first female head of a state agency in Mississippi. She began working at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in 1938 under director Dr. William D. McCain (1907-1993). When Dr. McCain was called to active military service from 1943-45 and 1951-53, Capers was acting director of MDAH. After McCain stepped down to become president of Mississippi Southern College, Capers became director, serving from 1955-69. Her major projects included the restoration of the Old Capitol from 1959-61, the construction of a new archives building (completed in 1971 and named the Charlotte Capers Building in 1983), and the restoration of the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion from 1972-75. After resigning as department director Capers became Special Projects Assistant and continued working for MDAH, editing the Mississippi History Newsletter until 1987.  MDAH has many of her publications, including The Capers Papers, in the collection. Her papers are cataloged as Capers (Charlotte) Papers, Z/0958.001 and Capers (Charlotte) Scrapbook, Z/0958.000.

For more on Women’s History Month, check out these pieces from the blog-o-sphere:

Civil War Uniform Coat

On January 26, 2011, in Artifacts, by Amanda
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1960.265.2c

Accession Number: 1960.265.2c (Museum of Mississippi History Collection)

T. Otis Baker wore this frock coat when he served as a Second Lieutenant with the 10th MS Infantry during the Civil War. This uniform was made of butternut homespun wool. Although the official color of Confederate uniforms was gray, many western armies used butternut fabric because it was locally made and easier to obtain. Baker meticulously preserved his uniforms which are now in the collection of the Museum of Mississippi History.

Artifacts in the collection of the Museum of Mississippi History are available for viewing by appointment only. Please contact Cindy Gardner, Director of Collections or Nan Prince, Asst. Director of Collections by email to schedule an appointment.