Dunbar Rowland Becomes Director

On March 8, 2011, in Photographs, by Amanda
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This series explores the life of Dunbar Rowland (1864-1937), first director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. He served from 1902 to 1937.

Capitol Street as Rowland would have seen it, c. 1900. Call Number: PI/CI/1981.0041 Item 24 (MDAH Collection)

Capitol Street as Rowland would have seen it, c. 1900. Call Number: PI/CI/1981.0041 Item 24 (MDAH Collection)1

The act establishing the Mississippi Department of Archives and History provided for a nine-member board of trustees, which met for the first time on March 14, 1902, to organize the department. The board included every member of the Mississippi Historical Society executive committee, except Charles H. Brough, who was replaced by G. H. Brunson, presumably because Brough was under consideration for the directorship. The board set the length of its members’ terms and passed resolutions commending the work of Franklin L. Riley, authorizing the copying of Confederate veteran records, and the filing of all newspapers published in the state. They also authorized the director to solicit donations of archival material, portraits, and artifacts to the department.2

Perhaps the board’s most important task was that of electing the first director of the department. Names submitted for the position were Charles H. Brough of Clinton, W. F. Hamilton of Carrollton, and Dunbar Rowland of Coffeeville.

Rowland’s main competition for the directorship was Charles Hillman Brough (1876-1935), chair of the history department at Mississippi College in Clinton. Brough certainly seemed like a more qualified candidate for the position. In 1898, he received his Ph.D. in economics, history, and jurisprudence from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and subsequently was elected as the chair of Philosophy, History, and Economics at Mississippi College. He had published articles on the economic history of Mississippi in the Publications series and also served on the executive committee of the Mississippi Historical Society.3

Brough was the requisite academic, whereas Rowland was a lawyer who dabbled in history in his spare time. What was the deciding factor in their candidacies? Historian Patricia Galloway suggests that it was Rowland’s rhetoric and support of the agenda of Mississippi’s elite and the MDAH board of trustees: to validate the Confederate cause in the Civil War and the resulting policies of segregation and Jim Crow. The preservation of historical records by MDAH was intended to support this view of history (and indeed it did, with contemporaries describing Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist as Rowland’s most important publication). Comparing Rowland’s stirring “Plantation Life in Mississippi before the War” and Brough’s more innocuous historical articles, Galloway demonstrates that Rowland better fit the mold of Lost Cause apologist.4

It also seems that Rowland had the blessing of board president Stephen D. Lee, who had served as the first president of Mississippi A&M, where Rowland received his B. S. degree in 1886. Rowland later said that “it was at his suggestion that I undertook the duties of this work.”5 Another factor in the election of thirty-seven-year-old Rowland may have been that Brough, who was only twenty-five, may have been considered by some of the trustees to be too young for the directorship.

Rowland received five votes to Brough’s four and thus became the first director of MDAH.


1 For a map of Jackson streetcar routes in 1912, see this post on the Preservation in Mississippi blog: http://misspreservation.com/2011/01/05/found-a-streetcar-map/

2 Information on the first board meeting from Dunbar Rowland, First Annual Report of the Director of the Department of Archives and History of the State of Mississippi from March 14, 1902, to October 1st, 1902, 2nd ed. (Jackson, Miss: MDAH, 1911), 6-8 (MDAH).

3 Franklin L. Riley, ed., Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, vol. III, (Oxford, Mississippi: Mississippi Historical Society, 1900), 317.

4 Patricia Galloway, “Archives, Power, and History: Dunbar Rowland and the Beginning of the State Archives of Mississippi (1902–1936),” American Archivist 69, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2006): 87-91. https://courses.ischool.utexas.edu/INF_180J/files/Galloway.pdf (accessed December 8, 2010).

5 Dunbar Rowland, “Seventh Annual Report” in Seventh and Eighth Annual Reports of the Director of the Department of Archives and History of the State of Mississippi 1908-1909 (Nashville, Tennessee: Press of Brandon Printing Company, 1909), 6 (MDAH).

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This program is Friday, January 7, 2011 from 10 a.m.-noon in the House of Representatives Chamber at the Old Capitol Museum. It will feature the following speakers:

  • Reenactment of the speech of John Wood, delegate to the Secession Convention from Kosciusko, by Ray McFarland
  • “Into the Abyss: Secession and Confederate Revolution” by George Rable
  • “Observations on the Mississippi Secession Convention” by Timothy Smith

January 7 is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Secession Convention, which convened in Jackson (at the Old Capitol, of course) to discuss Mississippi’s exit from the Union in 1861. The Ordinance of Secession document, signed by members of the convention, will be on display in the Chancery Court at the Old Capitol for the program and for the rest of 2011.

For more information, please call 601-576-6920.

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Today’s post comes from guest blogger Clay Williams, director of the Old Capitol Museum.

Statehood Day, House Chamber, Old Capitol Museum, 2009

MDAH Director H.T. Holmes and featured speaker Governor Haley Barbour. Statehood Day, Old Capitol Museum, 2009.

On December 10, 1817, President James Monroe signed the joint resolution from Congress admitting Mississippi as the twentieth state. Mississippi’s road from a federal territory to statehood was a turbulent one, but after nearly twenty years, Mississippi had become a part of the Union.

The Old Capitol Museum proudly celebrates Mississippi’s 193rd birthday by hosting the second annual Statehood Day. On December 10 at noon in the historic House of Representatives Chamber, former governor William F. Winter will speak on this momentous occasion.  Governor Winter is the perfect choice for this presentation due to his perspective as a former governor and his tenure as the longtime president of the MDAH Board of Trustees. 

The Old Capitol’s over 170 years of history also provides the perfect setting to discuss Mississippi’s past, present, and future. The Old Capitol Museum looks forward to hosting this event and joining its citizens in wishing Mississippi a happy birthday!

Located on State Street at Capitol, the Old Capitol Museum’s regular hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, free of charge. For more information, please call 601-576-6920 or email the Old Capitol.

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Decorating at the Winter Building, November 30, 2010

Museum division staff decorate the historic Christmas trees in the lobby

The holiday season has arrived at the William F. Winter Archives and History Building! Here’s a look at the decorations sprouting up all over the place.

Christmas decorations in library, 2010

The Reference Library has extra security for the holidays!

Library Christmas decorations, 2010

Decorations in the library

Come by tonight for the Old Jackson Christmas by Candlelight tour and see the decorations, as well as holiday decor at the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion, Mississippi State Capitol, and Old Capitol Museum. Tours are tonight only from 4:30-8:30 p.m.
Musical entertainment is scheduled at the Governor’s Mansion, State Capitol, Old Capitol Museum, and Winter Building. Historic holiday film footage will be shown at the Winter Building. Refreshments will be available at the Governor’s Mansion and the Old Capitol Museum.

Shuttle buses will run between sites approximately every 5 minutes. Visitors may begin the tour at whichever site they choose and take the shuttle to the various sites. Parking is available at all sites, except the Governor’s Mansion. For more information, please call 601-576-6800.

Possum Ridge train exhibit

Possum Ridge train exhibit detail

For more images of decorations at the Winter Building and other MDAH museums and sites, check out the department facebook page and the Old Capitol Museum facebook page!

Mississippi Governor's Mansion 2009

Mississippi Governor's Mansion, 2009

Don’t miss the Old Jackson Christmas by Candlelight tour this Friday, December 3 from 4:30-8:30 p.m. See the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion, Mississippi State Capitol, and Old Capitol Musuem in all their holiday splendor! The William F. Winter Archives and History Building will also be host to the village of Possum Ridge and its famous trains, as well as the historic Christmas tree exhibit.

Experience the magic of the holiday season as you visit Jackson’s most historic buildings! These images show the popular event in past years. Read more details about the tour below.

Mississippi State Capitol, 2005

Old Capitol Museum, 2009

Refreshments will be available at the Governor’s Mansion and the Old Capitol Museum. Musical entertainment, including choirs and instrumental ensembles, is scheduled at the Governor’s Mansion, State Capitol, Old Capitol Museum, and Winter Building. Historic holiday film footage will be shown at the Winter Building. 

Shuttle buses will run between sites approximately every 5 minutes. Visitors may begin the tour at whichever site they choose and take the shuttle to the various sites. Parking is available at all sites, except the Governor’s Mansion. For more information, please call 601-576-6800 or email the Museum division.