Large Tinted Albumen of Confederate Gen. Richard S. Ewell Donated by the Wife of Ewell’s Staff Officer Campbell Brown to the Confederate Relic Room at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897
Large Tinted Albumen of Confederate Gen. Richard S. Ewell Donated by the Wife of Ewell’s Staff Officer Campbell Brown to the Confederate Relic Room at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897 – This rare, large, tinted albumen of Gen. R.S. Ewell is housed in its original frame; written on the back of the image, in period ink, is the following:
“Loaned by Mr. Susan P. Brown Spring Hill Tenn
For Exhibit at History Building in Confederate Relic Room
Centennial Exposition May 1897”
The image of Gen. Ewell, a well-known pose, depicts the General in uniform; the general’s uniform buttons, quatrefoil and collar stars were gold-tinted; additional coloring is evident on the body of the uniform, the collar and cuffs; Ewell’s hair and beard have also been lightly colored and outlined, for emphasis. Surrounding the image proper is the original, oval matting. The image itself remains in very good condition; the matting exhibits some age foxing but remains strong. The image is housed in its original, dark gold, oval frame and covered by its original glass.
Measurements: Frame Size: Height – 12.5″; Width – 10.5″. Mat and Card Stock Mounting: Height – 9.25″‘ Width – 7″. Albumen: Height – 7.25″; Width – 5″.
Richard Ewell married his first cousin, Lizinka Campbell Brown in 1863, in Richmond. Lizinka was first married to James Percy Brown, a wealthy southerner, in 1839, he became the U.S. attache’ to France. In 1844, James P. Brown died, leaving Lizinka with several young children. When her wealthy father died, Lizinka inherited a considerable sum, as well as land holdings, all of which she capably managed. When the Civil War broke out, her son, G. Campbell Brown, joined the Confederate Army and became Gen. Ewell’s aide. In 1863, when Ewell sustained a serious wound, necessitating the amputation of his right leg, Lizinka, who, in 1862, had fled to Virginia, fearing the encroaching Union forces overtaking Tennessee, was in Richmond. She attended to Ewell, assisting in nursing him to recovery. On May 26, 1863, Gen. Ewell and Lizinka Campbell Brown married.
The Civil War writings of G. Campbell Brown―cousin, stepson, and staff officer of famed Confederate General Richard S. Ewell―provide a comprehensive account of the major campaigns in the northern Virginia theater. Terry L. Jones compiled Brown’s war period writings as a memoir that details Brown’s service under Ewell during the campaigns of First Manassas, the Shenandoah Valley, the Seven Days, Second Manassas, and Gettysburg, and under Joseph E. Johnston at Vicksburg. His correspondence and memoranda form a suspenseful recounting of the Overland Campaign, the siege of Richmond, and a harrowing retreat that ended with the capture of Brown and Ewell at Sayler’s Creek, just three days before Robert E. Lee’s surrender. Their subsequent three-month captivity in Fort Warren, Massachusetts, is documented in Brown’s letters, as well.
After the war, Ewell and Lizinka moved back to Tennessee, to a farm in Spring Hill. The two died in January of 1872. Campbell Brown, Lizinka’s son by her first marriage, would marry Susan Polk, daughter of General Lucius Polk, on September 31, 1866. The couple moved to the Spring Hill, Tennessee farm of Gen. Ewell and Lizinka.
Campbell Brown died in 1893; Susan, his wife, apparently loaned the albumen of Gen. Ewell to the Tennessee Centennial’s Exposition History Building, to be displayed in the Confederate Relic Room.
LIZINKA CAMPBELL BROWN EWELL
Wife Of Confederate General Richard Ewell
Lizinka Campbell was the daughter of a Tennessee State senator, who was also Minister to Russia under President James Monroe. She was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1820, and was named for the Russian Czarina who had become her mother’s close friend. She grew up to be a beautiful young lady. Somewhere along the way, Lizinka’s first cousin, Richard Stoddert Ewell, developed a great love for her. He was born in the District of Columbia and raised in Virginia. Though he sought Lizinka’s hand, she married another man.
On April 25, 1839, Lizinka married James Percy Brown, a lawyer who owned plantations in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. When he and Lizinka became engaged, he was an attache in the American Embassy in Paris. Through his career and family connections, he moved in the highest circles of American and French society. Lizinka’s life was much like the one that she had known when her father had been a diplomat. She gave birth to two children.
From the time of Lizinka’s wedding to Brown, Richard remained a bachelor. He idealized Lizinka and set her up as a standard. For him, no other woman could match his romanticized picture of her.
One who knew him wrote:
“He loved her when she was a young girl and being unsuccessful in his devotions, remained a soldier and bachelor on the frontier for many years, since he did not hope to find her equal in all the noble qualities of person, head and heart, which were required by his exacting ideal…”
So, Ewell spent much time in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, where he fought Apaches, escorted traders through dangerous territory and served in the Mexican War. He led a hard existence when compared to the refined lives of his distinguished relatives. His life was even further from the glamour and luxury to which the Browns were accustomed.
Lizinka’s husband died in 1844. Her children were still very young, and she decided to move into her father’s home in Nashville. When her father died, she inherited much of his great wealth. She proved to be as shrewd as she was beautiful, for she managed the assets she had inherited so well that her fortune increased even more.
When the Civil War broke out, Richard Ewell joined the Confederate Army and became a member of General Robert E. Lee‘s staff. Lizinka’s son, Campbell Brown, was Richard’s aide. With her son so near to him, Richard naturally thought of Lizinka. He was anxious for her safety, as she was still living in Nashville.
Lizinka outfitted a Rebel company formed in Maury County by some of her cousins. The group was known as the Brown Guards. Richard had good reason to fear that Lizinka’s loyalty to the Confederacy might cause trouble for her. When Union forces occupied Nashville in 1862, Lizinka fled to Virginia, and Military Governor Andrew Johnson lived in her house in Nashville.
Richard Ewell’s right knee had been shattered in battle, and his leg had to be amputated. Lizinka nursed him back to health and he finally persuaded her to marry him. By this time, he was forty-six years old, and the beating his skin and body had taken during his years as a soldier made him look even older. He became a devoted husband, but seemed unaware that their marriage had changed her name, and always proudly introduced her as My wife, Mrs. Brown.
After their wedding in Richmond on May 26, 1863, Lizinka managed General Ewell’s affairs, even down to overseeing the couriers who carried his dispatches. General Robert E. Lee’s soldiers deeply resented her attempts to manage Ewell’s military affairs, and many officers unfairly blamed her for Ewell’s poor generalship and repeated battlefield failures.
In nineteenth-century America, men believed that marriage should subordinate women to male authority, but occasionally the roles were reversed, and a husband found himself under a strong-minded wife. Evidence shows that the relationship between Lizinka Campbell Brown and General Richard Ewell was like that, largely because she had succeeded outside her appointed sphere as a single woman, ranking as one of Tennessee’s wealthiest planters.
Some even charged that officers who married during the war suddenly lost their courage in battle and their efficiency in camp. The perception that Richard was henpecked made him a popular topic of army gossip. The idle chatter tended to alienate the couple from acceptable social circles. It is also possible that it upset the chemistry of their relationship.
After his long recovery, Ewell returned to the Army of Northern Virginia for the Battle of Chancellorsville. When General Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded on May 3, 1863, he suggested that Ewell replace him. On May 23, Ewell was promoted to lieutenant general and commander of the Second Corps.
His corps took the lead in the invasion of Pennsylvania in June 1863, and almost reached the state capital of Harrisburg before being recalled by Lee to concentrate at Gettysburg. These successes led to favorable comparisons with Jackson.
But at the Battle of Gettysburg, Ewell’s military reputation started a long decline. On July 1, 1863, Ewell’s corps approached Gettysburg from the north and smashed the Union XI Corps and part of the I Corps, driving them back through the town and forcing them to take up defensive positions on Cemetery Hill south of town.
General Lee had just arrived on the field and saw the importance of this position. He sent orders to Ewell that Cemetery Hill be taken “if practicable,” but Ewell chose not to attempt the assault. Lee’s order has been criticized because it left too much discretion to Ewell. However, he never shirked responsibility for his decisions at Gettysburg, but the loss of a leg may have led him to be too cautious.
Ewell’s luck continued to be bad, and he was wounded at Kelly’s Ford, Virginia, in November. He was injured again in January 1864, when his horse fell over in the snow.
In May 1864, Ewell led his corps in the Battle of the Wilderness and performed well, enjoying the rare circumstance of a slight numerical superiority over the Union corps that attacked him. But a few days later, in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, his horse was shot out from under him, and he took a bad fall.
Ewell began hysterically berating some of his soldiers, who were retreating in the face of superior Union firepower. He beat them over the back with the flat of his sword, trying to get them to turn around and fight.
General Lee reasoned that Ewell’s lingering injuries were the cause of his problems, and relieved Ewell of corps command. Lee reassigned Ewell to command the garrison of the Department of Richmond, which was by no means an insignificant assignment, given the extreme pressure Union forces were applying to the Confederate capital.
In September 1864, Ewell managed to save Richmond from capture by some 8000 Federals with only a handful of Southern troops. Gathering about 200 stragglers, Ewell and his ragtag crew stood, without entrenchments, silhouetted against an empty woods to their rear. Union troops, thinking reinforcements were in the woods, refused to attack.
In April 1865, during the retreat toward Appomattox Court House, Ewell commanded a mixed corps of soldiers, sailors and marines. They were surrounded and forced to surrender at Sayler’s Creek, a few days before Lee’s surrender. Ewell was held as a prisoner of war at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor until July 1865.
While imprisoned, Ewell organized a group of sixteen former generals at Fort Warren, including Edward “Allegheny” Johnson and Joseph Kershaw, and sent a letter to General Ulysses S. Grant about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, for which they said no Southern man could feel anything other than ‘unqualified abhorrence and indignation,’ and insisting that the crime should not be connected to the South.
After the war, Lizinka and Richard moved to a farm that she had inherited in Spring Hill, Tennessee. They shared an interest in progressive farming, and Richard was elected president of the Maury County Agricultural Society and president of the Board of Trustees of the Columbia Institute. He doted on Lizinka’s children and grandchildren.
In January 1872, the General fell ill from a severe chill. The doctors labeled the disease typhoid-pneumonia. Again, Lizinka committed herself to nursing Richard back to health, but within a few days, she took sick.
Lizinka Campbell Brown Ewell died on January 20, 1872. The family was afraid to tell Richard that his wife was dead – they feared that in his weakened state, his grief might kill him. No one told him of her death until the day of her burial.
Richard Stoddert Ewell died of pneumonia on January 25, 1872, just five days after Lizinka succumbed to the same illness. He left instructions that he wanted nothing disrespectful to the United States inscribed on his headstone.
Richard and Lizinka Ewell were both buried in the Old City Cemetery in Nashville. An inscription in the window of the church they attended reads, “R.S.E., 1818-1872, L.C.E., 1820-1872 – In their deaths they were not divided.”
Susan P Brown in the 1870 United States Federal Census
|Name:||Susan P Brown|
|Age in 1870:||23|
|Birth Date:||abt 1847|
|Home in 1870:||District 22, Maury, Tennessee|
|Inferred Spouse:||Campbell Brown|
|Inferred Children:||Lucina P Brown George C Brown|
|BIRTH DATE:||27 Nov 1840|
|ENLISTMENT DATE:||1 Aug 1861|
|MUSTER DATE:||1 Aug 1861|
|MUSTER REGIMENT:||4th Infantry|
|MUSTER REGIMENT TYPE:||Infantry|
|SIDE OF WAR:||Confederacy|
|DEATH DATE:||30 Aug 1893|
|BURIAL PLACE:||Maury Co, Tennessee|
|CEMETERY:||St John Cemetery|
|Residence was not listed;
Enlisted on 8/1/1861 as a Captain.
On 8/1/1861 he was commissioned into “I” Co. TN 4th Infantry
(date and method of discharge not given)
(Estimated date of enlistment)
Buried: St John Cemetery, Maury Co, TN
4th TN Infantry
|Organized: Knoxville, TN on 8/5/61
Mustered Out: 4/9/65 at Smithfield, NC
|Aug ’61||Nov ’61||Dept of East Tennessee|
|Nov ’61||Mar ’62||Rains’||Dept of East Tennessee|
|Mar ’62||Jun ’62||Stevenson’s||Dept of East Tennessee|
|Jun ’62||Aug ’62||Rains’||Stevenson’s||Dept of East Tennessee|
|Aug ’62||Oct ’62||Rains’||Stevenson’s||Army of Kentucky|
|Nov ’62||Nov ’63||Maney’s||Cheatham’s||1st||Army of Tennessee|
|Nov ’63||Feb ’64||Maney’s||Walker’s||1st||Army of Tennessee|
|Feb ’64||Apr ’65||Maney’s/Carter’s||Cheatham’s/Brown’s||1st||Army of Tennessee|
|U.S. National Register of Historic Places|
|The Ewell Farm in 2009|
|Location in Tennessee
Show map of TennesseeShow map of the United StatesShow all
|Location||Depot Lane, Spring Hill, Tennessee|
|Coordinates||35.760556°N 86.943611°WCoordinates: 35.760556°N 86.943611°W|
|Area||28 acres (11 ha)|
|NRHP reference No.||76001788|
|Added to NRHP||May 24, 1976|
The Ewell Farm is a historic farmhouse in Spring Hill, Tennessee, United States.
The two-story farmhouse was built in 1867.It was the residence of General Richard S. Ewell, who served in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, and his wife, George W. Campbell‘s daughter.
The farm was used for raising cattle and sheep.
The farmhouse has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since May 24, 1976.
Spring Hill’s Ewell Farm steeped in romance, history
- By David Walsh
Mar 8, 2015 Updated Oct 15, 2019
The Ewell Farm House on Depot Street in Spring Hill is a Civil War home “so steeped in history that it’s hard to separate fact from legend,” city historian Tom Meadows said.
The Ewell Farm House on Depot Street in Spring Hill is a Civil War home “so steeped in history that it’s hard to separate fact from legend,” city historian Tom Meadows said.
“It’s a story worthy of Hollywood. But if I can I’ll go back and try to get at the true story.”
In 1865, like much of the South, Postbellum Spring Hill was searching for means of economic recovery as peace settled over the country. Having witnessed the bloody battle of Spring Hill on Nov. 29, 1864, the little town looked to move on as a community. One of the industries that blossomed quickly in the late 1860’s and into the 1870’s was the field of stud horses and harness racing.
“Spring Hill quickly became the spot where the best horses in the racing world were known to come from,” Meadows said. “And the man primarily responsible for that success and reputation was Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, along with his wife, whom he called the Widow Mrs. Brown.”
Ewell (1817-1872) settled in Spring Hill after the war along with his wife Lizinka Campbell Brown (1820-1872), a wealthy Maury County heiress with vast wealth holdings in Tennessee.
|Confederate General Richard Ewell|
“Ewell’s impact on Spring Hill’s commerce at that time [and today] is immeasurable. Both Ewell and Lizinka had progressive ideas in farming that they applied at the Ewell Farm. And the reason that the train depot, and Depot Street, exist today is because of their innovations and success. They brought in the first Jersey cattle to this area beginning in the late ’60s.”
Theirs was a romance that, at least for Ewell, began in childhood when the two met as cousins.
“To really trace their story, you have to start with the Campbell family on Lizinka’s side. She was the daughter of U.S. Senator George Campbell from Tennessee, a man with large landholdings throughout Tennessee.”
Campbell also served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Madison, and was the U.S. ambassador to Russia later under President Monroe from 1818-1821.
“While the Campbells were in Russia they had their daughter, Lizinka. She was born in St. Petersburg and was named after a high-ranking lady in the Russian aristocracy who was a close friend of Mrs. Campbell’s.”
Lizinka grew up to be “a smart beautiful woman” who was involved in her father’s American and European business dealings to a certain extent.
“She was given as free a hand as a woman could have at that time. Their primary home was in Nashville, but because of Ambassador Campbell’s position, she traveled all over Europe while he was entertaining higher-ups.”
Sometime during her childhood, she was introduced to a distant cousin, the future Lt. Gen. Ewell.
“They corresponded in childhood and became friends as Ewell was growing up in Washington, D.C. Over the years, some say he developed a love interest in Lizinka. Whether she reciprocated is unclear.”
What is clear is that by the time of the 1861 outbreak of war when he was age 44, Ewell was highly interested in his cousin, who had since married and been widowed.
“She had married a gentleman by the name of Percy Brown in France. They were another wealthy family with property in Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. But the marriage didn’t last for long because Brown wound up committing suicide. Despite that, they had three children, including eldest son, George.”
George Brown would one day play a role in bringing his mother together with his future stepfather, Ewell. When Lizinka was widowed, she moved back to Nashville to live again in her father’s home where she was rearing the children up to the time of the war.
“He always loved Lizinka as his standard for all women, the one to whom no other woman ever measured up,” Meadows said. “Nashville, of course, was under attack and later fell into Union hands in 1863. As it turned out, Ewell had Lizinka’s son, George, under his command in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in 1862.”
Ewell became attached to George and concerned about Lizinka’s family living in Nashville while it was under Union attack.
“Ewell had had several big successes in battles, but was severely wounded at the Battle of Groveton (VA.), shattering a knee and losing a leg. That’s when Lizinka fled Nashville for Richmond and ended up nursing her cousin Ewell back to health. In Maury County, she had been a known Confederate supporter, and had supplied Brown’s Guard entirely by her own means.”
While in Richmond nursing General Ewell, the long-separated correspondents fell in love and were married in the throes of war in Richmond on May 26, 1863. With Stonewall Jackson having died weeks earlier at the Battle of Chancellorsville, the newlywed Ewell soon took over Jackson’s command in the Army of Northern Virginia as a Lt. General.
“After their marriage, Ewell came under heavy criticism. It was of course a big part of the mentality at that time that an educated outspoken woman like Lizinka was not well thought of. The gossip in Ewell’s camp was that when a general gets married in the middle of a war, he loses some of his fight.”
Regardless of his military reputation to historians, Ewell had found in Lizinka an indispensable partner in matters military and financial.
“She became his war confidante, and his personal secretary, handling both his personal affairs and his military dispatches. About that time, Ewell ran into several failures in battle and as a result many of his fellow officers blamed Lizinka for what they thought was a bad change in the general’s performance.”
When George Campbell died in 1848, Lizinka inherited his properties and became one of largest landowners in Middle Tennessee.
“From that time, she had no qualms about taking care of business, and Ewell absolutely doted on her.”
Ewell was captured by Union forces during the last six months of the war, at which point his wife became an invaluable family representative.
“She ran all of his affairs while he was in prison. She, of course, petitioned to get him out. And once he was freed, she herself petitioned President U.S. Grant to secure her lands in Tennessee that had been confiscated during the Union occupation. She, of course, succeeded in that, leading to the couple’s successes in Spring Hill.”
After the war, the couple came to Spring Hill and set up their farm on what is now a portion of land along Beechcroft Road and along Depot Street. Their house is now in private hands, but sits visibly atop the knoll at Depot.
Ewell himself became the president of the Maury County Agricultural Society, and from that position influenced farming in the area for miles around and decades into the future. Ewell and Lizinka were imminently well-matched both for matrimony and business.
“After the war he had three books published covering aspects of testing farms and cattle. He was good at that. And his wife ran the business. Ewell continued to be close with her eldest son, George, and also doted on her other children as if they were his own.”
Next door to the Ewell farm was the McCoy Campbell, or Cleburne farm. The railroad track bisects the two properties.
“Ewell eventually became so successful in the cattle business, the depot was built near the property and still sits approximately where their property lay. They did very well financially raising stock. From there, they began to dabble in horses and harness racing, becoming legends in the harness racing world. Early records of harness racing in America show that the stud horses with the most wins would usually come from these two farms in Spring Hill.”
The end of the Ewell-Brown love story is a sad one. In 1872, a case of pneumonia hit the Ewell Farm, with all of the children and both spouses falling ill.
“When the general got it, once again his wife nursed him, and from that gets it herself. The children recovered, but within a few weeks of catching it, she died. They were afraid to tell the general about their mother as he was lying in bed. It was not until the day of her funeral that they kids told him.”
Historical accounts vary, but sometime within days of his wife’s death, Ewelll himself succumbed to pneumonia and heartbreak. George took over the running of the farm, the cattle business, and marshaled the booming horse business into a huge success.
Part of the land where the Ewell Farm lies is still owned by Campbell descendants in 2015.
Meadows is a lover of American history, and has a special regard for the history of his adopted hometown of Spring Hill.
“I like to look at how I got to where I’m at, and where I came from. And it’s also important for any city to do the same. Otherwise you get lost as a person. If a town loses sight of where they’re at and where they’ve come from, they become lost too. This town is just steeped in history.”
Staff writer Greg Jinkerson covers Spring Hill for Home Page Media Group. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @springhillhmpg.
Tennessee Centennial Exposition
The Tennessee Centennial Exposition, held in Nashville in 1897 to celebrate Tennessee’s one-hundredth anniversary of statehood, was one of the largest and grandest of a series of industrial expositions that became hallmarks of the New South era. Modeled in particular after the Chicago Columbian Exposition in 1893, it featured exhibitions on the industry, agriculture, commerce, and transportation of the state as well as displays on the educational and cultural achievements. Torn by jealousy among the three grand divisions and stymied by the deadening effects of the 1893 depression, the state’s centennial celebration did not begin until one year after the one-hundredth anniversary of statehood. A group of Nashville businessmen took the lead in planning the exposition, and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad provided major backing for the event, which became, in part, a public relations effort to appease widespread public discontent with the railroad monopolies. Two chief officers of the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railroad, John W. Thomas and Eugene C. Lewis, served as president and director general, respectively, of the exposition.
The exposition grounds were an important experiment in city planning and park design. They were built upon the model of the Chicago Columbian Exposition, which inspired the City Beautiful Movement. Laid out on the grounds of a former race track about three miles west of the city center on West End Avenue, the exposition featured neoclassical buildings, a man-made lake, curvilinear roads, and elaborate landscaping. Centennial City was also granted full powers as a separate city, and it became a model of Progressive era “good government” with its strict regulations of liquor and vice.
The Centennial Exposition was, above all, a celebration of technological progress brought by the machine age. Major exhibits were devoted to commerce, agriculture, machinery, and transportation. The typical exhibits included a relic of some outmoded method or contraption and the modern technology that had replaced it. Thus, an old cotton bale press powered by a plodding mule was set in “striking contrast” to the steam-powered model of the present day, and an old hand loom or spinning wheel was put beside new electric powered textile machinery. There were in addition automatic brick makers, telephones, gasoline engines, electric dynamos, electric lights strung on every building, all offered as evidence of the promise of technological progress in the New South.
The exposition also gave much attention to the social progress of the “new woman,” the “new Negro,” and the modern child. Tennessee women played a particularly prominent role in the exposition, which served to galvanize women reformers of the Progressive era. The Woman’s Building featured displays of domestic arts and home economics and sponsored visiting lectures by Jane Addams and other leaders of the emerging feminist movement. The Negro Building was filled with displays of African American products and educational achievements. Advocates of racial progress and cooperation were invited to address the exposition, and several Negro Days were set aside to honor the free, educated, aspiring “new Negro.” The celebration of black progress at the exposition, along with the strict segregation of the races, reflected the paradoxical racial politics of the New South, however. A Children’s Building put on display children’s art work and hosted lectures on school reform. Throughout the exposition there was an ever-present emphasis on improvement through science, technology, and education.
Along with the celebrations of technological and social progress were major exhibits devoted to art and history. To house the Fine Arts Building, an exact scale model of the Parthenon of ancient Greece was erected at the center of the exposition grounds. It soon became the most admired building on the grounds. Symbol of Nashville’s traditional claim as the “Athens of the South,” this plaster and wood version of the Parthenon remained standing until the 1920s, when it was rebuilt in concrete. The history of the state was also honored by the Tennessee Historical Society, which exhibited artifacts and manuscripts from the state’s early history. The Ladies’ Hermitage Association, the Colonial Dames, and the Daughters of the American Revolution joined in displaying artifacts depicting the state’s history. The Confederate Memorial Association, a women’s organization devoted to raising monuments to the Lost Cause, organized a special display on the “late war,” while the Grand Army of the Republic offered artifacts depicting the Northern side of the war. One of the chief functions of this and other southern expositions was to put on display the New South spirit of reconciliation with the North. Among the more dramatic examples of this was the Confederate Veteran’s Day, which drew sixteen thousand former rebels to Nashville to honor the Lost Cause and celebrate the South’s new place within the Union.
In addition to the exhibits displaying Tennessee’s economic, social, and cultural progress, the Centennial Exposition included a midway with exciting rides and exotic shows for the entertainment of the families attending. The Tennessee Centennial Exposition opened May 1, 1897, and closed six months later. It drew approximately 1.8 million visitors, making it the largest of any southern exposition. Afterwards the Exposition grounds were converted to Centennial Park, which became a centerpiece of Nashville’s new city park system and a major magnet to the westward growth of suburban Nashville. A number of civic organizations that sprang from the Exposition continued to meet and influence politics and reform in Nashville and the state. Women reformers joined the Centennial Club to work on municipal reform and city beautification. Others who had cooperated in the successful planning of the exposition brought a new confidence in the Progressive era’s faith in improvement through technology, education, and the expertise of business leaders.
Tennessee Centennial Exposition
In 1897, Tennessee held a six-month celebration to mark the one-hundredth anniversary of statehood. The Tennessee Centennial Exposition was held in Nashville from May 1 until October 30, 1897, although the state’s actual centennial occurred in 1896. The images in this collection primarily depict the array of buildings and individuals involved with this celebration, and are drawn from various record groups in the holdings of the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Other interesting ephemera relating to the Centennial Exposition is also displayed, including a rare cyanotype of a building at the exhibition’s Vanity Fair.
At twelve noon on May 1, 1897, President William McKinley officially opened the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in Nashville. While the president would not visit the Exposition until the next month, organizers of the event arranged for him to press an electric button in the White House that sparked equipment at the fair’s Machinery Building. Thus began a half-year of joyous opportunity for the state’s citizens to commemorate the past hundred years of Tennessee’s achievements and history.
Douglas Anderson, a Nashville lawyer, sent letters arguing for a centennial celebration to several influential Tennessee newspapers in 1892. Later, in 1895, J. B. Killebrew addressed the Tennessee General Assembly with a speech entitled “The Centennial Exposition: Its Necessity and Advantages.” Despite this early discussion of an Exposition, the Tennessee fair was held a year late. A nationwide economic recession, along with disagreements between the various divisions of the state, delayed the event until 1897.
Railroad companies enthusiastically supported plans for the Exposition. Ultimately, these companies provided essential support for the Exposition: they staged dramatic exhibits in different buildings, offered discount fares and excursion lines to the Centennial grounds, and published regional advertising in niche publications such as the Confederate Veteran. A railroad spur was constructed from downtown Nashville’s terminal to the Centennial grounds. Railroad companies’ promotion of the event undoubtedly aided its success, and most of the event’s organizers were railroad executives who realized the lucrative possibilities of a Nashville exposition. The president of the Centennial Exposition, John W. Thomas, was also president of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway.
The success of the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition established a benchmark for future fairs across the country. Chicago’s fair introduced the City Beautiful movement to the nation, which called for grand Classical buildings set in park-like environments, complete with reflecting pools and promenades. The Tennessee Centennial strove to replicate both the architecture and the success of Chicago’s fair, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale.
An array of buildings covered the grounds of the Centennial Exposition. Each edifice was constructed to serve only a temporary purpose; none of the original buildings stand today. The nearly one hundred structures ran the spectrum from the eccentric, such as those in Vanity Fair, to the splendidly ornate.