The earliest radio station on the air was WIAR, with broadcasting equipment installed by the Evening Sun. It began operations on November 27, 1922, and remained in service one year. WPAD was founded in 1930 by Pierce Lackey and Houston McNutt. It began its operations in the Ritz Hotel and an FM station began in 1946. The station WKYB also came on the air in 1946. Later, WKYQ and WKYX became household names in Paducah broadcasting.
John Lawson, railroad engineer extraordinaire, was born in 1805. He emigrated to America in 1829. He became the very first Railroad Engineer in the United States at the age of twenty nine! Lawson arrived in Paducah about 1840. He owned steamboats and went by the name of Captain Jack. He was later a Confederate soldier during the Civil War with the 3rd Kentucky CSA...at the advanced age of 56! Years later, President Grover Cleveland honored him with a political appointment; that of the acting engineer for the erection of the Federal Building in Paducah, located on Broadway! A lifelong Democrat, Lawson's first presidential vote was for Andrew Jackson, and his last, for William McKinley. Lawson died in 1901.
Movie houses and theatres were located in Paducah. Citizens of our fair city have always loved entertainment. In the early 1920's, three movie theatres were to be found within one block! The Arcade was started in 1905; it boasted an open air theatre on its rooftop for hot summertime, and an indoor theatre for inclement or winter weather. The Little Theatre was on the North Side of Broadway, and the Kozy, which was smaller yet, was just a stone's throw away. There was the Orpheum, and the Star. The massive Columbia Theatre opened with a dazzling 5000 lights in the marquee, and a huge Barton Console organ which entertained the patrons with massive volume. Clara Bow, starring in 'The It Girl" was the feature of opening night, 1927.
Paducah's Riverside Hospital was located at 600 North Third Street. Before that hospital was built, The Marine Hospital had stood on the site. It had been built between 1848 and 1852. It was later destroyed by fire. The Riverside hospital was initiated in 1905 by Dr John Brooks at a cost of $30,000. Built of flemish bond brickwork to three stories, the hospital had an elongated central section flanked by two protruding end wings, that jutted out to the forefront. There were two Egyptian style columns near the entrance; and stone lintels over the windows added another design enhancement. In 1907, Mayor James Smith (who owned Whitehaven) authorized the construction of a driveway, fire escapes, a contagion wing, and a nurse's home at the facility. The next Mayor, Mayor Bailey, who was also a local physician, effected the addition of a new operating room, bacteriology laboratory, and obstetrical ward. As a result, in 1927, Riverside Hospital was recognized as a fully equipped community facility. In 1959, the Catholic Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky bought the facility and renamed it Lourdes Hospital. In 1973, Lourdes moved to a new building on Lone Oak Road. The old Riverside Hospital building was used as a nursing home for a number of years before it was razed in very recent years.
A valuable signed set of Irvin S. Cobb books has been donated to the Museum. The books were 'rescued' from a Chicago yard sale, and brought to the Market House Museum in the 1980s. Irvin S. Cobb, who was born in Paducah in 1876 to parents Joshua and Manie Saunders Cobb, was a favorite with many readers because of his home town humor. In his literary career, besides writing over 600 articles and books, he wrote a hilarious, weekly column called "Sour Mash." in 1898 he was associated with the Louisville Evening Post. He then went to the Evening Sun in New York, graduating to the Saturday Evening Post in 1911. He covered the Russian-Japanese Peace Conference, in which Teddy Roosevelt was the mediator. He also covered the scandalous Stanford White murder trial. In 1914, he was the first 'on the scene' reporter for the frontlines of WWI. Cobb died in New York City of dropsy, in 1944. The set of signed first edition books were donated by Robert and Shirley Knight, of Dover, Tennessee. Robert had been born in Mayfield, but later lived in Paducah, Kentucky. Mr Knight had always spoken of Paducah's famous Cobb to his family, and the couple thought the set of signed books would be a nice addition to the Museum's collections. Mr Knight has since passed away, and his widow has asked that the books be inscribed with a frontspiece denoting their origin.
In 1937, Paducah experienced the wettest weather on record; from January 21 through February 15, the city suffered more than a half year's rainfall. The all time high mark of the Ohio River at 60.8 feet was registered Febuary 2. Business was suspended, townspeople were evacuated to other towns, with up to 30 persons living in a home, sometimes sleeping on the floor. Feeding the masses, providing fresh water for consumption and bathing, and simply getting 'to and fro' was an ordeal. The city was grappling with the worst disaster in its history. Sixty billion tons of water, rushed past Paducah. The mighty Ohio River was whipped to a frenzy by other, smaller tributaries and streams that flowed into it. The town began an admirable plan of action; carpenters built 2,000 johnboats in a single day. Canoes, rafts, and motor boats were called into action. All told, fewer than half a dozen lives were lost, many as a result of pnuemonia. The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Red Cross leapt to assist in the disaster; The American Legion and other entities were much in evidence. A common bond was formed; helping one's neighbor was literally the 'call of the day.' Coast Guard cutters dashed here and there, night and day, rescuing the elderly, and those still stranded. More than 700 people jammed the McCracken County Court House. The churches were full to capacity with the homeless.Ice floated in the water, cars were submerged, with only their rooftops visible. A 300 foot dock was built to offload refugees at 28th and Broadway. Paducah's people faced the rising waters with calm, they did what had to be done to survive the onslaught. Up to ten feet of water innundated Paducah. Only thirty telephones worked in the whole city. Plate glass losses were set at $125,000, with $20,000,000 worth of other damage done to businesses. Private homes suffered damage to the tune of $12,000,000. When the flood waters receded, clean up was a massive task; and many a pair of hipboots were to be seen as trash and debris was carted out of buildings.Early in the 1940's Paducah's concrete and earthenwork floodwall was built, providing the town protection from an unpredictable river. Today, the floodwall has been adorned with beautiful paintings depicting Paducah's historic past, and one of the images contain illustrations of the numerous floods the town has suffered up to the 1937 disaster. The Market House Museum shows a 5 minute vintage film of the Flood to its vistors daily.
Woolworth's is a pleasant memory for many Paducahans. Selling everything from 'Evening in Paris' perfume, to crochet afghan kits and hairpins, Woolworth's was a mecca for the thrifty shopper. The lunch counter offered delicious cheeseburgers and fries. Later, in the 1950's, it was a popular hangout for teenagers on Saturday afternoons. Valentine's Day candy and Christmas decorations could be reasonably purchased. The store was located at 319-320 Broadway, and sadly, closed in the 1980's.
'The Dollar Times' was one of Paducah's first newspapers. It was published by W. L. Gary. During the Civil War, Paducah's newspaper, the 'Paducah Daily News', was confiscated by the Federals and renamed 'The Union Picket Guard.' Under Paducah's supervision, the newspaper's byline had been 'Weekdays, one cent, Sundays, two cents.' When the paper was confiscated by the Federals, the byline was changed to 'Treason will not be permitted, Traitors will be shot.' There was no need to have any hesitation when subscribing to the newspaper....but it was best to keep one's thoughts to oneself, after having read it. The first story that was printed by the Federals? The September 6, 1861 Federal Invasion of Paducah, of course!
The sprawling Paducah Pottery Company was formerly located at the corner of 7th and Trimble Streets and was owned by J A Bauer. It was also identified as Bauer Pottery Company. Bauer made jugs, flower pots, and all kinds of hand thrown and molded pottery, highly collectible today. Bauer moved his business to California and created a new style of pottery, becoming a millionaire in the process.
Luther Carson was known as Paducah's 'Coca Cola King.' Luther was born near Kirksey, in Calloway County, Kentucky on Feb 11, 1873. At age 26, he left the farm and took the path to his future fame. He and his brother became franchise owners in Coca Cola for a modest $2200 in 1902. The first Coca Cola they produced was sold to a Paducah grocery store owner, Mr George Wolf. Luther told Wolf he wanted him to have the distinction of buying the first case of the product bottled in town. The whole case sold for just 70 cents! Luther became a benevolent millionaire, and was active in the community. In 1918 Luther married Miss Lola Bass, and had one daughter, Margaret Jane. Carson built the impressive Paducah Coca Cola Bottling Plant in a time when the nation's economics were at a low ebb, instilling confidence in his product as well as in the community. Luther is remembered by many Depression era children for his purchasing Coca Colas for area students at report card time. He would meet a crowd of kids in a local grocery store after school, and pass out Coca Colas, but woe to the child who requested another brand of soft drink! Paducah's Luther F Carson Four Rivers Center is named in his honor.
Paducahan George Theobald was just your ordinary twelve year old. But he did a very extraordinary thing. He carved a masterpiece of a statue from a yellow poplar tree...a likeness of Kentucky's Henry Clay...that was so realistic you would expect the 'great compromiser' to speak to you when you stand in front of the life size carving. Every vein in his temple, the cleft in his chin, the wave of his hair, and the pull of the fabric across the body (in the tight fitting style of the 1850's) is unbelievably correct in its presentation. George had never carved anything before he began his tribute to Clay, who had passed away in 1852. George's siblings held candles so he could see to carve at night, there being no electric lights in that era. It took him three years to perfect the likeness of Clay. George won a $500 prize, survived the Civil War alongside his brother, as quartermasters, and came back to Paducah, only to die in an epidemic in his twenties. The statue is one of the signature pieces of the Market House Museum, astounding visitors who come through its portals each day.
American presidents have always been prone to be danger, even with today's Secret Service hovering around. There are plenty of disgruntled persons that loiter about with grievances against the country's top executive. A house painter named Richard Lawrence was a crazy person; he believed he was part of the Bristish Royal Family. But he wasn't; still he had an issue with President Andrew Jackson, who he said to any and all who listened that the President was preventing him from claiming his rightful legacy. On a gray Friday, Jackson attended a funeral at the US Capitol. Lawrence was waiting behind a column of the building, and emerging, shot a loaded pistol at the President. It misfired. He pulled another pistol out and fired. It misfired, too! A Navy officer knocked Lawrence to the ground and he was hauled off to stand trial for attempted murder. The odds of two correctly loaded pistols misfiring was 125,000 to one. Jackson was considered to be an extremely lucky man. Richard Lawrence was prosecuted by Francis Scott Key, author of "the Star Spangled Banner." His trial took only one day, and he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He spent the final 26 years of his life in an asylum, and Jackson lived to a ripe old age. It was the first assassination attempt on a United States President, but luckily, it didn't succeed!
The Nagel and Meyer Jewelry Store was located at 301 Broadway, and family quarters were located above the store, in the form of a sumptious apartment. The two gilded gas chandeliers from the Minnie Nagel apartment, made by Cornelius and Baker of Philadelphia, are part of the Market House Museum's permanent collections. They are in the company's unusual 'Armorial' design and date to 1858. Similar chandeliers can be found in the Teddy Roosevelt childhood home in New York, and in the fine plantation homes of Natchez, Mississippi.
On display at the Market House Museum is a genuine section of the superstructure of the USS Arizona, which was sunk by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7th, 1941. Paducah native Allard Vessels survived the tragic sinking, coming home to marry and raise a family. The Museum has in its permanent exhibits the Vessels collection of Arizona artifacts and items relating to the fated vessel, which is now a memorial to those lost aboard her on that Sunday morning long ago.
For the best in downtown sandwiches, one couldn't beat Heine and Tyler's. The facility was located at 119 North Fourth Street in 1928. It was an all male establishment; no women were allowed to trepass past its portals. They were famous for their Oyster Poorboy. A long counter ran the length of the eatery and bar. Fine tobaccos, fountain specialties, draft beer, and German food was to be had in plenty. In later years, a walk up window was installed for the convenience of ladies wanting a sandwich of their own.
A wonderful 1858 flag is on display at the Market House Museum. The flag was originally hand stitched in 1858, with two appliqued stars added to represent Oregon and Kansas, in 1861. When the Civil War broke out, the pro-union Kentucky woman who treasured the flag sewed it up in white cotton, and secreted it within a bed to hide it from Confederates who might roam into her home, see it, and claim it as a trophy. The flag was not discovered until a 1943 WWII scrap metal drive was conducted in the 1940s, and the bedsprings were brought down from the attic to be given to the drive as a patriotic gesture. The covering of the springs was removed and the flag was discovered. Restored and mounted in a frame, the flag shows the round wear marks of the springs. It is a reminder of a bitter time of adjustment in Kentucky.
The P E Stutz Candy Company and Factory was located at at 201-205 Jefferson Street, and had been established in 1901. Later, the Gilliam Candy Company became prominent and took precedence over Paducah's collective sweet tooth, supplying Cracker Barrel retail stores with old fashioned candies like BB Bats and Kits, as well as Sophie Mae Peanut Brittle, before going out of business during the current decade. Wagonner Candy Company had also been located in Paducah.
Colonel W W Faulkner organized a company of Partisan Rangers in Kentucky in May 1862. After capture in the Island No 10 campaign and later exchanged, he was promoted to Lt Colonel in the spring of 1863. Later that year, he organized a regiment in west Tennessee and Kentucky, which he brought out with Nathan Bedford Forrest in December 1863. On January 28, 1864, his regiment was formally mustered into Confederate service as the 12th Kentucky. He was promoted to Colonel at this time. He participated in all of Forrest's subsequent campaigns until wounded in the Battle of Harrisburg. Late in 1864 he was killed by a band of deserters near Dresden, Tennessee. Faulkner was one of the most successful Partisan Rangers, and is buried north of County Road 1105 at mile marker #10.
Elizabeth Boswell Fisher Dodds was a gifted and graceful Prima Ballerina whose hometown was Paducah. She studied under Krystal Smith and later, Laurent Novikoff, a world renowned Russian danseur, who had toured with Anna Pavlovna for a number of years. At the age of twenty, Elizabeth founded the Elizabeth Fisher School of Dance in Chicago. She was later the ballet instructor in the Astaire School. She later went back to college, and then began a second career in teaching and audiology. The Elizabeth Dodds Scholarship at Northwestern University is named in her honor. She was married to the great love of her life, Dr Ralph E Dodds, professor emeritus of Chicago Music College of Roosevelt University in Chicago. Elizabeth's great grandfather was a mayor of Paducah, another relative, an aunt, was Librarian at the Carnegie Library for 35 years, and an uncle was Paducah Postmaster Frank Fisher, whose home is today known as the Fisher Mansion. An exhibit at the Market House Museum illustrates her story.
Hop Sing's Chinese Laundry was located in the 100 block of Broadway in the late 1800's. It was one of the nicest, cleanest laundries at the time. When picking up your starched, ironed shirts, one was given a Lichee nut as a thank you.
Paducah's Dime Store Dagwood has come home to rest at the Market House Museum. The wooden, professionally painted life size sign once stood on the sidewalk outside of Kresge's. He was depicted carrying a tempting plate of bacon and eggs, and a steaming cup of coffee, with a slogan that read, "We Serve Breakfast Fast Enough for Dagwood." Dagwood was painted with the blue suit, baggy at the knees, and the red bow tie he was known for in the comic strips. He was recently purchased at auction for the Museum with a bequest from the Museum's Memorial Fund.
In the collections of the Market House Museum is the 1850 Vose square grand piano, used to entertain General Grant upon his visit to Paducah on Sept 6, 1861. The massive piano is the original instrument that stood within the Woolfolk/Tilghman home at 7th and Ky Avenue. The piano had been given to a Woolfolk daughter on her 16th birthday, and the Museum also has her portfolio of music dating back to the pre Civil War era. The piano came to rest at the Museum in the early 1960s. The facility also contains a four piece rosewood parlor set, used by General US Grant and General Lew Wallace, on the evening of their occupation of Paducah (Wallace later wrote 'Ben Hur'.) All of the above named pieces are on permanent display within the Museum walls.
Several early vegetable vendors of the 1905 Market House have been identified in a recently found document. There was no chart given identifying the location of the individual booths, but the names given were as follows, August Legeay and Sons (stalls 41 and 42,) Adcock Bros, George Beyer, Mrs John Beyer, Champion and Dunaway, Mabron Clark, August Cornillaud, Edward DuFlot, T F Houseman, Arthur Jones, Frank Jones, Joseph Limbach, W T McCutchen, Stephen Menard, Elizabeth Metzler, Samuel Miller, Muneer and Muneer, Robert Overstreet, Perdue and Cornillaud, Gus Ruoff, Andrew Schmitt, Katie Smith, Smith and Snyder, N M Stanley, Margareth Theilman, Ida Thompson, and Annie Tumor. The Market House was open 6 days a week; and opened each day at 4:30 am!
Construction on the historic Weil house, located at 403 North Sixth Street, was begun in the late 1880's, continuing on into the early 1890's. The home is an asymmetrical design by Louisville's Brinton Davis. It features a two story layout with an upper corner cupola porch, which originally had a witches hat roof over it. A verandahed porch encircles two sides of the first floor. Weil was born in Hohenzollern, Germany in 1830. He immigrated to the United States when he was 17. In 1863, he moved to Paducah, and engaged in the whiskey and tobacco business. Meyer Weil was a prominent businessman in Paducah. He was Paducah's mayor from 1871-1881. He is credited with bringing Paducah back into a normal mode after the tension following the Civil War. He represented McCracken County in the Kentucky State Legislature from 1897 to 1890. Weil died in 1891, before his impressive home was finished.
Early laws in Paducah were a little strange by today's standards. In 1902, it was unlawful for any woman to enter any bar or saloon that sold intoxicating liquor. It was unlawful to lease a building for use as a bawdy house. Flying kites from a city street was also illegal. Riding a velocipide (big wheeled bicycle) on city streets was forbidden. It was also unlawful for any person to remove his clothes and expose his person and go into the river in front of Paducahans. (That is still illegal today!)
The well known tune 'Happy Birthday' was written by a Kentuckian named Mildred J. Hill, who was born in Louisville in 1859. The words we all learned as children were penned by her sister, Dr Patty Smith Hill, Professor Emeritus of Education at Columbia University. And as an added bonus, may we add that Duncan Hines was also a Kentuckian? Seems like Kentuckians have the birthday cakes and songs covered at your next birthday celebration!
Washington was a very great man, but today, he is worth only a dollar at the bank. Lincoln will get you five dollars and Grant will get you fifty, but the real money is with some of the less famous American presidents. The $100 bill is currently the largest bill being printed and circulated, but there used to be much larger bills. The US Treasury stopped production of them, but if you can still find one of these bills, they can be used as legal tender, though they may be worth more as a museum piece or an artifact to a currency collector! William McKinley, an assasinated president, is worth $500. You'll find heavy set Grover Cleveland on the $1000 bill. James Madison, Dolley's sweetheart, is on the $5000 bill. But towering above all, in his lofty position, is Woodrow Wilson, whose orange $100,000 bill is a real collector's prize. These bills were printed in 1934 and 1935. They were not circulated among the public. In fact, they were illegal for individuals to own! Instead, they were used by the Federal Reserve Bank, and discontinued after WWII. Only 42,000 of the bills were ever printed, and today, there are no known examples outside of museums. But be watching, lest one be found in Great Grandma's dresser drawer!
During the 1937 flood, when the river was seven miles wide at Paducah, many folks had to flee for their lives, being evacuated by boat or train. One Paducah resident who stayed put was Bossie, a cow, who was led up through a two story house to the second floor porch balcony. Bossie balefully stared at all the flood activities from her lofty vantage point. The National Guard milked her twice a day by climbing a ladder tacked onto the front posts of the porch. She made the front page of the National Geographic magazine, looking her bovine best.
Tasty country hams were sold at Paducah's 1850 Market House for just nine cents a pound. Coffee beans were freshly ground for customers at just 10 cents a pound, while you waited. The aroma of the coffee being ground was heavenly. Paducah was the site of many a coffee roasting and grinding enterprise. Bockman's coffee was a Paducah favorite!
Businesses in Paducah, in the year 1969, had competively priced services. Goodyear Service Store, at 600 Jefferson Street, would perform a brake job for 4 wheels for $1.19. Kreskge's sold hard candy by the pound, for 37 cents! Friday was Lobster night at Stacey's Restaurant, at 13th and Broadway, by reservation only; Oysters Rockefeller was featured as an appetizer, and Jewel Lamb entertained diners at the organ and piano. Parker Dodge at 605 South 6th advertised a new Dodge Super Bee, sharp red exterior and black leather interior, for just $2165. And the fondly remembered Farmer's Market, located on Paducah's Southside, (owned by Wayne Sullivan) had groceries for everyone; frozen pizzas were 59 cents, a one pound slab of bacon was 39 cents, Fab Laundry detergent was 15 cents for a one pound box, a can of Del Monte Albacore tuna was just 29 cents, and an eight pound bag of Red Delicious apples was only 79 cents! One's shopping dollars went much farther forty years ago!
Mrs Elna Morris Sandefur strove to make a good education a reality for her two sons, Ronald and Richard. She learned the ropes of the antiques business and was able to provide the opportunity for her boys that she herself had lacked. The endeavor had two purposes in Mrs. Sandefur's mind: it gave the sons a strong sense of history, and two, it provided financial support to underwrite their educations. That she was successful in her efforts is evidenced by both sons becoming the first on either side of their family to have graduated from high school, college, graduate school, and post graduate school. Mrs Sandefur's favorite collectible was carnival glass. Her wonderful collection was donated to the Museum by her sons in 2001, and is currently on display at the Market House Museum.
Hawk Cave, a Paducah WWII veteran, was born in 1918. He joined the Army Air Corps in his last year of college, and won his wings just five days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He flew a B 24 Liberator, and had to make a forced landing in Turkey. He was interviewed by Life magazine in 1942. He then went into real estate and appraisals, and later served as President of the Market House Museum board before he passed away.
The Paducah Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) were responsible for the installation of several drinking fountains in the downtown area. Cool drinking water was a life saver in the days before air conditioning. In October 1907, four fountains were put into place by contractor Ed Hannan, paid for by the Paducah DAR. They were located at 3rd and Broadway, 7th and Washington, 19th and Jackson, and 12th and Broadway. Some of the fountains had lower level water troughs for the animals who might also need a cool drink of water. It was Irvin S. Cobb who once said, "Any town that cares enough for a stray dog to provide him cool water to drink is my kind of town." We tend to agree with Mr Cobb!
Watch out for strange fruit that may smell enticing! Johnnie Martin, an aged Italian, died Thursday afternoon in a room over Abe Marcoffsky's Saloon, at Second and Kentucky Avenue, Feb 17, 1905. The old gentleman died of the grippe (flu). He was best known for a flourishing produce booth at the old Market, where he sold 'spiced pineapples.' The recipe of his success? Let's get the answer straight from an interview conducted with Johnnie, before his death. "I sold a da whiskey inna da pineapples and know one ever know it."
A beautiful two story home is located in Lovelaceville, Ky, a short distance from Paducah, called the Andrew Lovelace Jr house. The Greek Revival home had been built during the Civil War by Lovelace. According to local tradition, the bricks for the home were made by the family slaves from clay, and fired on the site. Andrew Lovelace Sr was a Captain in the Confederate Army. The home is on the National Register. The town of Lovelaceville was named after the Lovelace family.
Prices in December 1969 were unbelievably low. A Paducah Sun Democrat newspaper advertisement for Allan Rhodes Ford, located at 937 Jefferson Street, proclaimed a Ford Maverick cost only $1995, and was the best car value in the world. In another ad, Barkley Airport touted that air fare to Indianapolis from Paducah was a mere $23, when you flew with Delta. Nagel and Meyer Jewelers on Broadway featured their best Wallace Sterling Silver package; 18 piece service for four, in the Grand Baroque pattern, for only $290! (Today the same set would be thousands of dollars.) M.Manus and Company Jewelers offered a two carat Kentucky Cluster diamond ring for only $99.95. Paducah's favorite discount store, Kresge's, advertised holiday brooches at $1.15, a seven piece Teflon cookware set at $10.88, and GE Steroe record player at $45.96, and a quilted winter robe for Mom at just $3.98! Don't we wish we could shop that economically today?
McCracken County was organized on January 17th, 1825. It was named for Captain Virgil McCracken, who was a native of Woodford County, Kentucky. He was the son of Cyrus McCracken, who fell while serving under General George Rogers Clark, in an expedition to avenge the Battle of Blue Licks.
The Market House Museum is seen regularly on cable television. It has been featured on several programs, including the Travel Channel, exploring the facts behind the ghostly story of the Cohen family. The tale of Speedie, who drowned in 1927 and was the recipient of a special embalming process, ending up as a mummified cadaver kept in the closet as the local black funeral home, was also featured on the same channel. The Museum is also seen on The History Channel. The program 'Little People Big World' visited the Museum and that episode was aired on the Learning Channel. The facility has also been featured in Southern Living magazine, Kentucky's Civil War Heritage magazine, Back Home in Kentucky magazine, and the Reader's Digest publication, 'Off the Beaten Path.' The Museum has been called by many of its visitors as the 'Ripley's Believe it or Not' of Paducah.
The life and death of Kentuckian Floyd Collins, a famous "caver" in the early 1900s, is exhibited in a museum display at the Market House Museum. Floyd had already discovered Crystal Cave, and was searching for a second cave, in order to augment his slender income. In 1925, he descended into the Sand Cave abyss, which was not really a cave but a slender chute leading down into the darkness. Floyd accidentally kicked a large rock hanging from the ceiling. The rock fell, pinning Floyd's foot in a V-shaped crevice. Two weeks of attempted rescue efforts culminated in Floyd's agonizing death in the wet, dripping cave. The event was exhaustively covered by the media and resulted in the largest news story between the two World Wars. The Market House Museum has photos of the catastrophe which took place 2 miles from Mammoth Cave, a 78 recording made by Vernon Dalhart of "The Death of Floyd Collins", and other memorabilia concerning the sad tragedy.
Do you remember these childhood toys from the 1960s? A popular toy was the Viewmaster, which with the slide of your index finger on a button tab, enabled you to see in full color, three dimension images! The circular cards were inserted in the top of the Viewmaster, and the small film images would rotate from one to the next. Kenner's Spirograph allowed you to draw a million patterns with the greatest of ease, by the insertion of paper into the board, and putting a pen into a small pivot hole in a rotating, racheted stencil of plastic. Every kid wanted one! Kenner also designed a winner for little girls with the Easy Bake Oven, which baked cakes and cookies with the assistance of a 60 watt light bulb. (The cakes were only 1 inch thick, and about 6 inches in diameter!) Rockin' Sockin' Robots was a favorite with the youngsters. They were a blue and red mechanical set of 7 inch robots which fought in a plastic arena; you would manipulate the toy to 'knock the opponent's block off.' All these toys were available at Shoppers Fair, on Joe Clifton Drive, Paducah.
Many shoppers remember the Finkel's Fair Store of Paducah, at the corner of 2nd and Kentucky Avenue. It was the store that everyone flocked to for a thrifty price on good, reasonably priced merchandise. There were large, utilitarian, square wooden tables, built to hold the neatly folded clothing the store bought in volume, and was famous for; blue jeans, bib overalls, cotton nightgowns, men's work shirts, and more. Ladie's cotton housedresses, aprons, and robes were in plentiful supply; as were shoes of every description. Work boots, tennis shoes, and slippers were arranged in boxes in all sizes. Presiding over the premises was the smiling face of Mr Sam Finkel, a quiet but and active merchant who enjoyed his profession and was devoted to the community as well as his family and faith. Mr Finkel was always involved in the day to day activities within the store. Born in Russia, he came to America at about the age of ten, and settled in the St Louis area with his parents, Morris and Rebecca. He married wife Eva Fixman, and served in WWI. In 1919, he came to Paducah, and entered the dry goods business. Soon other stores opened in Mayfield, Princeton, and Metropolis, Illinois. One day when Sam was an older man, he was rushing up the stairs to the 'warehouse,' when a younger employee called out in consternation, "Mr Finkel, wait, let me do that for you!" Sam only paused long enough to say, "When I can't run up the stairs I'll be ready to die." On his final day at the store, Mr Finkel walked up the two steps to his office, sat down, and passed away.
Thomas Jefferson couldn't balance his checkbook. Perhaps that's why he could never afford to visit his sister who lived near Paducah! He was a man of amazing brilliance and achievement. He was the author of the Declaration of Independence, and a foreign envoy for the newly created United States. Some say he was the most brilliant man ever to reside in the White House. But this genius could not balance his checkbook... and he not could keep any money in his accounts. His whole life, Jefferson spent more than he took in. Even while making a rather generous presidential salary and earning an income from his plantation, Jefferson didn't have enough to pay his bills. It got him into very deep trouble, too. After he served as President, and returned to Monticello, he could not pay for household items; yet he bought silk dresses and gilded hand mirrors for his granddaughters. At the end of his life, he owed so much that he sold his library to the United States at a price of $23,950, and that was the beginning of what would become the Library of Congress. A lottery was held to raise money to help him, but in the end, he died broke on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. His debts exceeded $1 million in today's currency. His only survivng child, a daughter, Martha, was left penniless. Sadly, Monticello was sold to the highest bidders at a public auction.
Noble Park Funland was the happiest place for Paducah children to visit for almost 40 years. Located in Noble Park, Funland was operated by Carlton Watkins and his family. The rides might change over the years, but there was always 15 or 20 rides at any one time to enjoy. Probably the longest lasting were the Spook House, the Swinger, the Boat Ride, the Tilt a Whirl, the Merry Mixer, the Helicopters, the Wild Mouse Roller Coaster, and of course, the Merry Go Round and the Train. The ticket house was built of wood, painted like a clown's face. The refreshment stand sold popcorn, soft drinks, and cotton candy. Funland closed in the 1980's. Wholesome summertime fun beacame a victim of rental movies, video games, and air conditioning. A video of Funland in its heyday is available for purchase in the Museum's gift shop.
Paducah had many early doctors. One of the better remembered was Dr John G. Brooks, who practiced till a ripe old age. He was born in 1840 in Montgomery County, Tennessee, served with the 3rd Ky CSA as an orderly sergeant, and was the Federal Pension Examiner in 1875. He was also Physician under the Hawaiian Crown (1872-1873) before moving back to Paducah. Brooks started the movement to build Paducah's old Riverside Hospital, fondly remembered by many Paducahans, and which stood close to the riverfront in the downtown area.
Paducah's own Sunshine Dairy, located on the Blandville Road, was famous for its sunshine logo. Their slogan was " The quality goes in before the cap goes on." Many small fry in the Paducah area who grew up in the 1960's remember fondly the miniature milk truck from Sunshine Dairy that appeared on the syndicated children's program, "Romper Room," on WSPD TV weekday mornings.
Did you know Paducah was home to several admirals in WWII? William Burch was the son of William O. and Elizabeth Metzler Burch. He was born June 27, 1904, and attended public schools, entering Annapolis in 1923. Burch was involved with raids on the Marshall and Gilbert Islands, Salamaua Lae and in the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. He and his squadron were deadly in carrying out direct hits upon Japanese ships. He later served on the USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) as its Executive Officer. There he earned his third gold star by directing the fire detail when the ship suffered the effects of a suicide bomber striking the vessel. His clothing caught fire twice during this episode, and he was wounded by shrapnel. He refused to go to sickbay. Pieces of the shrapnel continued to give him discomfort until his death at his home, which occurred January 21, 1989. The Market House Museum has been given the uniform and insignia of Burch by a family member, to be featured in a military exhibit at the new Museum.
The Von Barons was a fraternity club for young men in Paducah. They weren't German, but they sure loved to have fun! The young and exuberant boys just enjoyed good clean fun with a few highjinks thrown in the mix for good measure. One such occurrance involved a cow that was coaxed into the elevator and up onto the Irvin Cobb Hotel's rooftop ballroom during a very formal evening dance. The elevator door opened, the cow walked out, and consternation began. The cow was finally taken back to street level, but no Von Barons were to be seen. Members of the club sponsored their own dances, paid their dues, hosted Saturday night dinners, and had a clubhouse, one of which was located behind Dunbar's Drug Store at 17th and Broadway. The club continued to meet right up until the start of WWII, when its members were called up for a higher purpose. Many years afterward, impromptu meetings were held. The men who were once Von Barons, might then have noticed grey streaks in their hair, but the twinkle in their eyes showed there was still a bit of the boy left in them. The Museum has an original blue corduroy Von Baron jacket in its collections.
You might wonder, who in the world was Ottmar Merganthaler? He was a man who loved to read, and adored books. The problem was, books and newspapers were hard to come by in the old days. They were very expensive when purchased, due to the labor involved in their printing. Ottmar moved to America in 1872 and dreamed of inventing something more useful to printers and publishers. In 1883 he conceived the idea of assembling type and casting molten lead into printed words. A company was formed in 1885, with syndicated newspapers fronting the money to pursue Ottmar's vision. The first Linotype machine was designed as a result. Ottmar died in 1899. Many people may not remember his name, but the printed word was made more available through his efforts. The Market House Museum has on display, a unusual Linotype machine, which was used at the Paducah Sun Democrat for years.
Paducah had an 1956 Centennial Celebration, in which women wore styles from the 1856 time period, and men wore goatees and beards, stovepipe hats and string neckties. A parade and week long celebration was conducted. A Centennial Committee was selected from leading business persons and civic leaders, and a Centennial program book was published reflecting the event and Paducah's historical past. If you have 1950's vintage photos in your family album, and the men are wearing string ties, sporting beards and tophats....chances are, they participated in Paducah's Centennial celebration!
Paducah's Carnegie Library, located at 9th and Broadway, was built as a result of a clergyman writing a letter to the great philantropist, Andrew Carnegie. A $35,000 donation was granted for the erection of the establishment, if the City agreed to spend $3500 a year in support and upkeep of the facility. The beautiful Classical Revival Structure was designed by A.L. Lassiter. A monumental flight of stone steps led up to the front door. Four ionic columns supported a heavy pediment on which the words, 'Carnegie Public Library' were displayed prominently. The Library was built in 1904, and demolished after a fire damaged the structure in 1964. All that is left is a formal garden at the site.
Unless you worked at the Market House Museum during the 1980's, you might not have known a very quiet, dignified Volunteer who had travelled all over the United States before finding Paducah, falling in love with the town, making it his home. A retired employee of Douglas Aircraft Corporation in California, Dodge came to Paducah with the help of AAA maps. He liked what he saw, and decided to stay. He became a Volunteer at the Market House Museum, becoming good friends with other helpers, and joined the board and helped make decisions that would enable the museum to grow and prosper. He became a very dependable and efficient worker. "His incredible smile simply encompassed one," said Museum founder, Golda Beaman. Donald didn't have a big family, so when he became sick several years later, Museum friends came to his aid. He died at the age of 70, surrounded by his coworkers and friends that had 'adopted' him as their own. Shortly after his untimely death, it was discovered that Don had picked eleven organizations to share in his will. The Market House Museum was one of those chosen. Unbelievingly, each entity received an estimated $40,000 to $45,000. One of the Museum's founders said, "He was such a nice man. We never dreamed he would do such a wonderful thing for the Museum. He helped to clean and fix things, help with the questions of visitors, and then to be so modest about such a thing...I wish we could have thanked him." Today, the Museum awards the Donald Dodge Volunteer in Action Award to one recipient each year. Penny Baucum Fields, Market House Museum Director, said "It is altogether appropriate that we remember Donald Dodge with the presentation of this award each year. He was a very special person, and the award is a very fitting tribute to his memory."
The historic Yopp House, built in 1926 for Martin J Yopp, is a beautiful Colonial Revival structure on Lone Oak Road just past Whitehaven, on Hwy 45. The two story brick structure with soaring white porch columns was designed by Paducah architect Tandy Smith. Smith also remodeled Kenmil Place, a neighboring home, at about the same time. Yopp was founder of the Yopp Seed Company of Paducah. Many people living in Paducah remember being fascinated by Mr Yopp's pet parrot, which was housed at the Yopp Seed Company. (The parrot wasn't always child-friendly. It stayed in Mr Yopp's pocket many hours of the day, peeping out to the delight of the small fry.) Yopp introduced many new and innovative practices to the region regarding agriculture. He was the first to plant legume lepedeza amongst his fruit trees in his own orchard. He also hosted a "national seed dealers convention' at the home. The Yopps were well respected in Paducah as businessmen and in national and statewide agricultural circles.
Spirits abounded in early Paducah. Friedman, Keiler, and Company, established in 1890, were the wholesalers of Bottled in Bond Whiskeys. Their famous brands were "Brook Hill" and "Early Times" whiskeys. The distilling took place in Nelson County, Ky, near Bardstown (because of the special waters found there.) Paducah, however, was the location of the company's main distributor. And just for fun, did you know Bourbon was first created in Bourbon County, Kenrtucky? Another strange but true Kentucky fact is that Bourbon County is a dry county, while Christian County is wet!
Clarence 'Big House' Gaines was the head coach of Winston-Salem State University from 1946-1993. He had 828 victories to his credit! Gaines was born in Paducah on May 21, 1921 He attended Morgan State University on a football scholarship. He stood six foot 5 inches tall, and made All American twice. He was named NCAA Coach of the Year. Gaines died in 2005.
Rudy's Department Store was established in 1883. It was known by many as 'The Macy's of Paducah.' It grew into a state of the art retail establishment at 319-321 Broadway. The store boasted two front entrances, as well as a side one, by 1919. The store carried all kinds of quality and luxury merchandise. The services for shoppers were extraordinary. The store had a nursery with an English nanny for fretful babies, ice water in silver pitchers for thirsty shoppers, and a marble bathroom for patrons. Rudy's survived the crash of the Great Depression, but suffered horrendous losses in the 1937 flood, closing their impressive doors forever.
The Market House Museum Photograph Collection houses approximately 5000 catalogued images of Paducah from the Civil War to the 1950's. The museum has been active in promoting its conservation and preservation program, whereby the images in our keeping, plus new images that are found, are being recorded with a high definition resolution onto disc format, for ease of retrieval and publication purposes. This is also a way of enabling the images to be safely housed in a vault to protect them from fire or flood. The Museum is happy to assist historians in locating photographs of certain subjects for examination, but by appointment only, please.
The Paducah Woman's Club was organized in 1906, and formerly incorporated in 1907. The first clubhouse was located at 608 Kentucky Avenue, in 1908. It had formerly been the home of Mrs Anna Grief, widow of Martin Grief, who had been a dealer in picture frames and wallpaper in Paducah. In 1925, the clubhouse was remodeled, and a nice garden was added at the rear of the building. In 1937, the club met frequently at the Hotel Irvin Cobb. Later, the Woman's Club moved to its present location on Jefferson.
Many Civil War sites are located in or near Paducah! At Smithland, one can see the remains of Fort Smith, which consisted of two star shaped forts overlooking the river. Water Valley, Kentucky is the site of Camp Beauregard, where 3000 Confederates died of disease in the early part of the war. An impressive monument, which honors the fallen, stands at Camp Beauregard Cemetery. At Columbus Belmont State Park, one may walk upon the earthenwork fortifications. It was known as 'the Gibraltar of the West." Paducah itself has a rich civil war history, shared with visitors daily at the Market House Museum, where Civil War exhibits are on display. Chairs used by the Lincolns in the White House, a velvet parlour set used by Generals U S Grant and Lew Wallace while in Paducah, an 1858 American flag that was secreted inside a bed (and not found for 80 years) as well as a quilt made by Mrs Robert E Lee are within the Museum walls. A large selection of Confederate reunion ribbon insignia, photographs and information about the Kentucky Orphan Brigade, infantry and cavalry sabers, a rare cavalry valise, as well as other accoutrements are on display. Information about Western Kentucky's participation in the Civil War, and a timeline is available at the Museum upon request.
Paducah had a lot of entertainment in the old days; and one was Buckskin Bill's Wild West Show! At the turn of the last century, Fletcher Terrell of Paducah (1866-1944) operated the Wild West Show, which was second only to Buffalo Bill's version. In the off season, the equipment was stored on the Terrell farm in Ballard County, Kentucky. The company experienced numerous setbacks during its existance. Four members of the show were arrested in 1900 on charges of complicity in the killing of a Mr Wheeler at Marion, Kentucky.The show continued on, playing to large crowds. The last show was in Knoxville, where a surprised roster of emploees found out that the show was bust...throwing over 150 performers and support crew into a penniless state, dependent upon charity for food and shelter. Some had not been paid their salaries for five weeks. Others were left stranded in Knoxville. Upon their return to Paducah, suspicious fires followed. The barn of E C Terrell was followed two days later by Morton's Opera House, LB Ogilvie and Company, and Van Culen's Bookstore. Word got out; the newspaper printed a story whereby a plot was discovered. It seems that the disgruntled and stranded employees of the circus had planned to fire the property of Fletcher Terrell and then kill him while he was returning from a performance at the Opera House.Luckily he evaded their clutches! The show was sold in 1902 to Allott, O'Brien, and Herman of Chicago, who invested $200,000 in the endeavor. There were twenty two new railroad cars, highly ornamented and decorated with the advertising of the show, painted by Paducah artist Robert McCune. The show also featured a 'steam calliope' played by Colonel Bud Horn of Nashville. But the bad luck followed; and the show finally died an ambiguous death.
Benjamin 'Whitey' Francis Ford was known to many radio listeners of the Grand Ole Opry as 'The Duke of Paducah.' He was a comedian of particular reknown, with a spicy wit and a wicked, sometimes off key sense of humor. One of his famous stories was that he met his wife when they were both in the third grade; he was eighteen, and she was eight! He was well known for his silly suits, often loud, checked, or badly cut, and two tone 'spectator' shoes. His famous one liner was, "I'm going back to the wagon, boys, these shoes are killing me!" Seeing his size twelve shoes on display makes one realize the saying was probably true! He reached the peak of comedic popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. His nickname, 'The Duke of Paducah' was given him by a radio announcer early in his career. Whitey was not from Paducah, but DeSoto, Missouri. He was made an honorary citizen for a day by a mayor of Paducah. An exhibit at the museum outlines Whitey's rise to popularity, contains his original joke book, and discusses the limelight shared with the city of Paducah through a lifetime of laughs.
Paducah United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) Chapter #341 was chartered on November 7, 1899 with twelve original members. Members are descendants of an honorably serving Confederate soldier. Paducah's Chapter #341 is the second oldest in the state. At one time there were over 70 Chapters in the state, now there are just six. Paducah Chapter currently has 33 members and 5 Associates.
Paducah has always had its share of treats to eat. Gilliam's Candy Company supplied many persons with cures for their 'sweet tooth.' Gilliam Candy Company started out in 1902, founded by Cleve and Nannie Gilliam of Graves County, Kentucky. Starting out on Second Street, the company moved several times until it built a new factory on Paducah's southside. Famous for the production of sweets such as 'Cattails,' 'Peppermint Barber Poles,' 'Kits,' and 'B B Bats,' and later associated with Sophie Mae peanut brittle, the manufacturer supplied Cracker Barrel Country Stores across America. Many folks remember getting Gilliam Candies in their Christmas stockings, or in their Easter baskets. Gilliam's famous striped sticks of hard candy were offered in over thirty flavors. They were particularly known for their 'sugar sanded candy drops' sold in brown paper bags. Gilliams was joined by other candy manufacturers, and at one time was producing over eight million pounds of candy in a single year! The local Gilliam Candy Company is now a memory of the past; but an exhibit at the Market House Museum shares many pieces of ephemera and photographs of the employees, and several vintage candy boxes, now depleted of the candies once enjoyed. Newspaper clippings and production facts make for an interesting trek through Paducah's sweet past.
Of all the 1856 landmarks of Paducah, the St Francis DeSales Catholic Church is the only church to still occupy its original site. The current day St Francis DeSales Church, located at 6th and Broadway, has lovely altar paintings and gilding, stained glass and statuary, making it one of the most beautiful edifices in the downtown area. Its tall, twin rounded cap towers, topped by crosses, are a familiar silhouette on the Paducah skyline.
Paducah's Palmer House Hotel was the finest establishment in Paducah at the time it was built. Costing $135,000 to erect and an additional $35,000 to furnish in the 1890's, it was considered the ultimate destination for weary travelers. It boasted 25 guest rooms, 6 staircases, 9 bathrooms, central steam heat, and electric elevators. Bay windows on the upper floors caught the evening breezes and cooled the rooms for comfort. Local investor Elbridge Palmer pledged $7,000 of personal funding, and in return, saw his name above the front door. Rooms cost $2.00, $2.50 and $3.00 when the establishment opened. A four course dinner, complete with white linen tablecloth, Haviland China, and silver cutlery was available for 60 cents! The hotel was located on Broadway.
Weille's, a downtown Paducah landmark at 409-413 Broadway, had previously been located in Smithland, Kentucky. It soon became one of Paducah's finest stores and was well known for its smart ladie's fashions. Its millinery section was second to none. The store was plush and very elegant in its presentation.
W B Kennedy was born in Todd County, Kentucky, and grew up a hard working young man. He learned the difficult tobacco business in Hopkinsville, where the leaf was packed into hogsheads, hauled to water by wagon, and shipped by river to Paducah. Kennedy moved up the business ladder fast and came to Paducah to build his own future, in 1897. He married a Miss Elgin and built a beautiful home with soaring white columns, 'Kenmil Place', on the Blandville Road, which still stands today, a Paducah landmark.
Paducah's first automobile appeared in 1901. Dr J D Robertson bought an Oldsmobile to use in meeting the needs of his practice.
The impressive Legeay-Lowry house, located on Hwy 305 (Old Cairo Road) in Paducah, is a Colonial Revival style dwelling that for many years was the residential center of Gus Legeay's produce farm. The Legeays were well known for having abundant acreage in the area northwest of Paducah, but the expanding city later claimed most of the farm for recent residential and commercial development, particularly along the road frontage. Legeay's crops of fruits and vegetables found ready buyers among the residents of the town. He and his forbears had a stall for years at the 1905 Market House in downtown Paducah. Truck produce was also shipped from the farm to other points throughout the South and the Midwest. Legeay built the house about 1910; constructed of textured red brick, it has a wrap-around porch which features Corinthian columns to the second floor; and a porte-cochere on one corner, to be used as an overhead shelter for wagons and automobiles that would pull up to allow guests to enter the home away from the elements. It has a steeply pitched hipped roof and an asymmetrical floor plan. The home was sold to the Lowry family in 1939. Today, it is a destination for special occasions; and the grounds have been restored to the original beauty. The lawn, which overlooks the highway, puts forth an abundant floral display each spring and summer.
Paducah had an orphanage called the Home of the Friendless. The name wasn't exactly 'user friendly" so they remaned it, "the Friendly Home." It was located at 1335 Burnett Street. The two story brick building was constructed in 1903. Within a few years of having been built, additions were made to the structure; two rear ells and an extended east wing, to be known as the Lizzie Keiler Friedman Memorial Center. This addition was paid for by Joseph L. Friedman in memory of his first wife. Friedman was born of German Jewish parents and was an astute businessman in Paducah, along with John Keiler. Both moved to Paducah as young men and started the Friedman Keiler Distillery. The Friendly Home was a warm and caring place for the children who lived under its roof. It featured shady, verdant lawns and a large and airy front porch. It was supported by private donations for many years. The youth attended a fine school and ate in a large and attractive dining room, at round oak tables, one of which is found in the Market House Museum today. There are no complete or existing records of the home's residents located as of this writing.The home was torn down recently, much to the dismay of those who remember it so fondly.
The gingerbread woodwork of the beautiful List Drugstore of Paducah is a real showstopper to visitors of the Market House Museum. The two story woodwork interior was built in 1877, for the original DuBois-Robertson Drug Store, located at 412-414 Broadway. It was constructed by German immigrant carpenters who knew their trade well. The drug store was leased in 1905 by the List family, who practiced as pharmacists there until the early 1960s. When the drugstore was closing, the Market House Museum, which was still in the process of becoming organized, was given the opportunity to relocate the drugstore's interior to the Museum facility by Mrs Ethel DuBois Smith, granddaughter of the original builder. The relocation was accomplished in less than a year. The Museum opened to the public in 1968. In 1974 a horrendous fire occurred at the Museum, destroying a large section of the lacy woodwork. Local master woodworker Dick Baucum restored the woodwork to its former glory, at no charge, as a gift to the Museum. The restoration took many months, and was quite meticulous in scope. Mr Baucum saved every piece of salvageable woodwork, adding new wood where needed to restore the original design. Today the 1974 restoration is almost undetectable. The List drugstore is said to be the most complete surviving example of Eastlake drugstore architecture in the United States.
Ladies Clothing Stores were a delight to shop at in December 1969, in downtown Paducah. Minnen's had three piece ladies suits, double knit, at $19.99! Wool pants were $7.00; Dresses were just $11.00 each! Paducah Dry had ladies mink hats at $7.90. Perry's had holiday evening dresses and cullotte pant sets starting at $29.99. The Brumley's, at 522 Broadway, had gorgeous evening wear for ladies from $49.99 to $90.00, in satin, crepe de chine, or organza with velvet and rhinestone trim. Driver's offered ladie's tricot pajamas at $13.00; a large selection of ladies robes at $6.98 to $23.98; and Bright's offered fun 'fake furs' at $26.00 to $90.00...in long shaggy fur, short spotted furs, or rabbit or fox look alikes.
Train service was inaugurated in Paducah on July 4th, 1854, over seven miles of the New Orleans and Ohio Railroad. The line was extended to Hickory, Kentucky by the fall of 1854, and to Mayfield the next year, and ran through Feliciana, in Graves County (which is no longer on the map) and was completed to Gibbs, Tennessee, the only railroad out of Paducah for the next eighteen years. Control of the railroad was desired by both Federal and Confederate forces during the Civil War; as a result, Camp Beauregard, near Water Valley, Ky was a strong fortification of Southern troops in the early months of the war.
The Oxford Hotel, now long gone, had verandas and striped canopy awnings surrounding its tree shaded entrance. It had formerly been identified as the Hotel Craig.
Robert Stroud, alias 'The Birdman of Alcatraz,' called Metropolis, Illinois home in his childhood. (Metropolis is right across the river from Paducah.) Stroud ran away from home at the tender age of thirteen, and ended up in Alaska before starting his life of crime, resulting in his lifelong incarceration. Oddly, he kept sparrows at Leavenworth, but never Alcatraz. Burt Lancaster played the benevolent Birdman in the popular movie. It has been stated that the real Birdman was nicer to the sparrows in his care than to his fellow man. He became a recognized expert on ornitholigical diseases, however, and was buried in Metropolis after his death.
The Rising Sun Hotel was built at the northwest corner of First and Broadway, in 1856. It cost the builders all of $40 to purchase the lot. So it might be said by some, that Paducah had a House of the Rising Sun!
Paducah's Civil War Mayor Sauner found himself an unhappy leader when Federals came to occupy the town on September 6, 1861. At first, matters were conducted in a very civil manner, between the two gentlemen most involved, namely himself and US General Grant. But later in the day, after a heated discussion with the hot tempered and irrascible US General Eleazar A. Paine, Sauner decided to make himself scarce. He hightailed it out of town and laid low for several weeks before returning. His wife stayed put, as she couldn't...(or wouldn't...) leave the family heirlooms behind. The Federals had paid daily visits to his home, irritating Sauner's firebrand wife, and threatening to place a fine upon her husband, if he didn't show up soon. "They said that they would confiscate my property. But my wife said she'd see everything burn, first!" Sauner later said. Payne was removed from his Paducah post due to atrocities reported by the populace to the Federal authorities. Sauner then returned to Paducah. "But I never paid that fine, and they didn't take my personal property. And don't you forget it, either!" Sauner gloated in the Paducah newspaper, after the conflict had been over for more than 15 years. The Market House Museum has many artifacts relating to Paducah's federal Occupation, 1861-1865.
Benjamin Francis "Whitey" Ford, better known as the 'Duke of Paducah', was born on May 12, 1901 in DeSoto, Missouri. He was quite a character. While in school, he was always 'mixed up' in acting in the school he attended. The teacher once was very mad at Whitey because he spoke during a part of the play where silence would have drawn a laugh, and ruined the scene. He swore he'd never speak again. It was the worst thirty seconds he ever spent. He would later go on to take banjo lessons. The teacher refunded his mother's money after two lessons. Whitey just seemed to have that effect on people. He became a comedian on the radio, and the title 'Duke of Paducah' was given him by the radio announcer. He became a regular on the Grand Old Opry in 1944, and his famous one liner was, "I'm going back to the wagon, boys, these shoes are killing me!" Paducah's mayor Seaton created Whitey an honorary citizen for a day later in his career. Whitey carried that honorary card in his wallet till he passed away. The Market House Museum has a pair of his shoes on display, as well as an original Joke Book published by Whitey.
John 'Daddy' Hessian was a long time member of the Paducah Police Department, assigned to traffic duty in later years. He also served as a surrogate father figure to many Paducah boys who played in the downtown area, and many Boy Scouts, at Pakentuck Boy Scout Camp. His benevolent, spectacled gaze is still remembered by many of Paducah's older citizens, as part their childhood memories.
John T. Scopes was from Paducah, and is best remembered as the focus of the 'Scopes Monkey Trial.' Evolution was a hot topic in the early part of the last century, and Scopes was caught up in the Trial of the Century, in tiny Dayton, Tennessee. The case opened in 1925, with Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan pitting their best lawyer rhetoric for both arguments. Scopes was convicted and paid a $100 fine. In 1960, the story was retold in a movie, "Inherit the Wind." Scopes is buried at Oak Grove Cemetery.
Alben Barkley was an adept politician. Of that most of us are aware. But he may have more than one claim to fame, that being an unusual childhood occurance. Barkley's father was visiting with family and neighbors inside their home, which sat upon a raised foundation, in the early 1890's. The family's free range chickens were underneath the house, making such a racket that the elder Barkley sent his son under the structure to run the fowls out. Barkley was bitten by a Copperhead snake as a result of this foray. He of course, survived, but later commented that if there is a lot of squawking going on, there is probably a good reason why! Barkley was born at Wheel (near Lowes) Kentucky, in 1877, and served as Vice President of the United States under Harry S. Truman. The Market House Museum has an extensive exhibit of Barkley currently on display, including memorabilia and his Inaugural tophat. Many more Barkley family mementoes have been entrusted into the care of the Market House Museum, and will be exhibited in the future, at the new museum to be built within the next few years. One such treasure is Barkley's 1890 'surrey with the fringe on top,' used to court his first wife, Dorothy. After having survived a fire many years ago, the surrey has been restored to its original glory by local Amish.
Many Paducah 'firsts' make for interesting reading! The first brick house was built in 1826. The first general store opened the same year, on the northeast corner of 1st and Broadway. The first board of health came along in 1833, the first theatre in 1834, and the first hospital in 1849. It was the Marine Hospital. The first mayor was elected in 1856, and his name was Jesse Gardner. And the first motorized firetruck, a 1913 LaFrance, was bought second hand from the City of St Louis in 1920, and is on display at the Market House Museum.
Here are a few stores in Paducah in the 1960's. How many do you remember? PicWay Shoes was on the South Beltline; Cardinal Rexall Drugs was situated at Cardinal Point Shopping Center and offered free delivery! Rosenfields, a clothing store, was on Broadway; Woolworths was located next to Sears. Furniture City was on the South Beltline; Brights and Drivers were top of the line women's stores on Broadway. The Camera Shop was located at Broadway and Seventh. Barrett Handbags was at 410 Broadway; Penney's and Perry's were fine fashion emporiums on Broadway, open Friday nights till 8 pm! M. Manus and Company offered jewelry and fine luggage at 227 Broadway, The Remnant House offered all kinds of sewing notions and yardage goods; Minnens had all the junior styles a teenager could want. Swift Shoe Store, at 108 South Third, and Runge's Shoes on Broadway carried the most popular shoe styles in town. Shackleton's Music and Gatlin and Cohr's could supply your music needs, accoustical or electronic. What a neat shopping trip down memory lane!
On display at the Market House Museum is a beautiful silver service given to the gunboat, the USS Paducah. Consisting of an underplate, the punch bowl, 18 footed cups, and a ladle, the service contains 700 ounces of pure silver and features a 22 karat gold wash on the interior of the bowl and cups. Around the base of the bowl and on the underplate are engravings of Paducah historic scenes from 1907. The service was presented to the gunboat by the citizens of the town. Schoolchildren raised the money for the commissioning of the service by collecting dimes and nickles, door to door. The ship was commissioned in 1905, and a formal presentation of the service took place in 1907, with the daughter of Mayor Yeiser being the presentee and ship's sponsor. The designs for the ladle and cups was executed by a Paducah jeweler, Mr Wolff. The underplate and bowl were created by a Northern jeweler. The ship's rudder wheel, its fog bell (inscribed 1905) and a light from the ship's deck are also on display.
Auto dealers were numerous in Paducah in the 1960s. Some of them and their locations were as follows: Jack Wilson Chevrolet Cadillac, 1231 Broadway; Purchase Chrysler Plymouth, at 2035 South Beltline; Farrington Motors at 1101 Broadway; Hurt Pontiac-GMC at 3100 South Beltline; Parker Dodge at 605 South 6th Street; Allan Rhodes Ford, at 937 Jefferson; Allen Auto Sales, 1225 Jefferson; Harris Motors, Kaiser & Jeep, 401 South 6th; Dalton-Woodall at 1127 Broadway; Reid Auto Sales at 501 South 6th Street; Pugh Auto Sales was located at 1101 South 6th Street, Dick Smiley Volkswagen was at 2101 South Beltline; Barton Reid was on South 6th Street; Harrison Auto Sales was on Bridge Street; Woodrow Hook Auto Sales was also on Ky Avenue; and Baker Oldsmobile was to be found at 600 Ky Avenue.
Did you know, Paducah Brewery Company became City Consumers Company right after the Prohibition became law? It's true! In 1900, a large brick building was constructed at 921 Monroe Street, and was situated along a rail line as well at the intersection at Tenth and Madison Streets, for the purpose of operating as a brewery! It was a strikingly unusual building, with corbels and brick castellations at its corners; and had an imposing smokestack at the rear. Paducah Brewery was organized by brothers Harry and Abraham Livingston, John Keiler, and F W Katterjohn. In 1909, master brewer Charles Vahlkamp, a St Louis Native of German descent, joined the team of businessmen. They were famous for Paduka Brand Beer, and Paducah Pilsner Beer. But in 1919, Prohibition caused the company consternation. Liquor was no longer allowed to be sold in the United States! So in the course of less than 2 weeks, Paducah Brewery changed its focus, and became City Consumers Company, and sold dairy products for the consumer. Charles Vahlkamp was the first president of the new company! Their dairy products were sold throughout western Kentucky, Tennessee, and southern Illinois.
Tamales were once a lunchtime staple for many folks in downtown Paducah! All in the days before Federal sanitation laws were passed, many ethnic foods were made and sold from private sources, without business or food handling licenses! Several tamale makers produced a handmade product, from freshly ground meats, spices, and cornmeal, wrapped in the traditional corn husks. Charles Burns and his wife Mary sold their snacks from their home on North Sixth Street in 1918. Other vendors included Robert Claxton and his wife, Emma, who made the tamales on North Thirteenth Street. Jim and Lottie Fritts served tamales from their abode on North Fourth Street. Breezie Helwig was a WWI veteran who had been gassed during the conflict, and came back to Paducah.He arose at 3 am, (daily except Sunday)and proceeded to the Market House produce stalls to buy corn and husks, and to buy neck meat from Metzger Brothers at stall 5 of the Market House meat market. Tamales were always sold in pairs, tied with a string. Some tamale vendors sold their scrumptious delights from a improvised "box" that hung at their waist, with a sling around their arms, similar to a harness. They would walk up and down Broadway at noontime yelling "Tamales!" Some pulled theirs behind them in a homemade cart, with a sign attached to their chest, which read "Homemade Tamales, 2 for 5 cents." Any way you acquired your lunch, it was always a tasty treat, and neat to eat, wrapped in its own "green" packaging!
Thomas Jefferson's sister, Lucy, lived near Smithland, Kentucky at Birdsville. Lucy Jefferson Lewis and her family always hoped that the President would be able to manage time for a visit; but the best that could be managed were numerous letters which flew back and forth between them. "I have never ceased to wish to descend the river to visit you," Jefferson wrote Lucy. Lucy was born in Virginia in 1752, and died in Smithland, in 1811.
Dolly the Mule was purchased by the City of Paducah after the Civil War and served with the Paducah Fire Department pulling the hose carriage. She made her home in a nearby stable where she could eagerly await the sound of the nearby fire bell. When the City tried the retire Dolly, she became unhappy. They tried to switch her to the service of Oak Grove Cemetery, pulling the cemetery carts. But Dolly's heart was just not 'in it.' When she heard the fire bells, it took a massive amount of manpower to restrain her. She was over twenty years old at the time. She passed away on Feb 25, 1897. With City Council permission, Dolly was interred at Oak Grove Cemetery as a mark of honor. Recently, Paducah schoolchildren conducted a "Pennies for Dolly" drive and a granite marker has been erected at her final resting place.
Many persons have discovered small jugs, made of brownish pottery, inscribed with Wallace and Gregory Pure Vinegar. These jugs were used by a firm in Paducah, both as utilitarian pieces and as a means of advertising. Here's a little piece of connecting history to those collector jugs! Paducah's one time restaurant, 'Ninth Street House', located at 323 North Ninth Street, was home to George C. Wallace. He married Mary Wisdom (daughter of Paducah's first millionaire) and began his employ with the Joseph Friedman firm, and later, headed the Gregory Vinegar Works. in 1897, Wallace sold his interest in that comapny to become vice president of the Paducah Railway and Light Company. But in 1911, he organized the Wallace Vinegar Company of Paducah. Wallace commissioned Brinton Davis to design the three story Victorian mansion, complete with oriel window and bracketed cornice, on North Ninth Street. The building was almost lost through lack of interest, when it fell into disrepair, but luckily it was acquired and successfully renovated and used as a popular restaurant by Curtis and Norma Grace. In recent years, it became a private residence once again, standing proud among its peers.
Voor's Nightclub, located on Eighth Street, once boasted the largest dance floor in Paducah, in 1956. Local legend Jack Staulcup, a gifted clarinetist, called the posh club 'home' for many years, playing dreamy big band music for patron's listening, dining, and dancing pleasure. Staulcup's clarinet is housed within the Market House Museum.
McFadden Photography Studio of Paducah was respected by its customers for its high class and artistic photography. Mr W G McFadden was a supporter of the most modern techniques of the photographic arts. In 1894, his work bore the mark of total excellence. His 333 Broadway studio was set up as an art gallery, with framed portraits of Paducah's best lining the walls. Tassled, embroidered shawls were draped tastefully over walnut easels in the Victorian mode. Baby and wedding photos were his forte. His studio portraits were always signed, and have become collectible today.
On Sept 30th, 1991, Paducah was shocked when the body of a young man was found at the end of the airport runway. No identification was found upon the body, which was severely traumatized. It seemed that he had tried to hang on to a departing plane and lost his hold, and fell to his death. No one knew who he was, but the investigation never ceased. Paducah's coroner left no stone unturned to discover the unfortunate man's identity. Local donations provided a funeral, a burial plot, and flowers for the unfortunate individual. Each year on the anniversary of the discovery, flowers would be found on the grave, left by caring people who did not know the name of the young man resting beneath the sod. The search for his identity was broadcast on NBCs 'Unsolved Mysteries'. In the meantime, Paducahans treated the death of the young man as if he were one of their own children. Finally, in 1999, his name was discovered to be Brain Duecker, a 28 year old missing person. His stepmother said he was a passionate runner, but also suffered from schizophrenia, and had lived in Cincinnati. Paducahans to this day still treat his grave with the utmost respect, and flowers are regularly found there, from a thoughtful town who cared enough to make him one of our own.
Paducah was the site of many disasters. On August 9, 1851, a tornado ripped through the downtown area, destroying two steamboats that were tied up at the riverfront, and severely damaging six others. The roof and belfry of the Methodist Church was completely torn off, as well as the roof of the Richmond House Hotel. A town fire began on April 2, 1852, which started at J G Coles Livery Stable. A whole block went up in flames as the result of that conflagration.
The Gleaves Furniture Company, located 420 Broadway, had been in business for 75 years at the time of the Paducah 1950 Centennial Celebration, having been founded in 1881. They sold fine furnishings and household goods.
A few Paducah businesses from the mid 1960s are listed here for your nostalgic enjoyment. Do you remember getting a 'new do' at Tossie's Beauty Salon, at 313 Broadway? Discount Jewelers sold sparkling bling bling at 315 Broadway. Joe Speakes Jewelry was at 29th and Jackson. The Trad Shop was located at 311 Broadway, and was open Friday nights till 8:30. Rosenfields was a classy clothing store, situated at 207 Broadway; Runges Shoes was to be found at 310 Broadway. West Ky Furniture and Mattress Company would make a mattress to fit any bed, and was located at 1136 South 3rd Street. Hawkin's Jewelry was at 327 Broadway, and Youngblood's Appliances was located at 1746 Broadway. Michael Hardware was conducting business at 203 Broadway, Wilson's Office Supply was located at 306 Broadway, and Roger's Jewelers was pleasing patrons at 304 Broadway. Cut-Rate Drugs was experiencing brisk sales in a building at 319 Broadway, Gatlin and Cohrs electronics store was at 415 Kentucky Avenue. Sears, with everything for the home and family, plus the best candy counter in the world (oh, those delicious, hot roasted cashews!) was at 1500 Broadway. Rasche Cycle was selling Snapper mowers at 713 Kentucky Avenue, while Read Piano and Music Company, a Baldwin dealer, were selling pianos... located at 619 Broadway.
Krispy Kreme Donuts got their start in Paducah! It's true! The sweet-to-eat treat has its origins in our own town. Vernon Carver Rudolph was born on a farm in Marshall County, Kentucky, the eldest of five children. Vernon came to Paducah in 1933, after graduating from high school. His uncle, Ismael Armstrong, had purchased a doughnut shop on Broad Street in Paducah. It had been owned previously by Joseph LeBeouf, and the sale included all the fixtures and LeBoeuf's secret recipe. Vernon's job was to make deliveries for his uncle with his trusty bicycle, which was conveniently equipped with baskets on the front and back. An older Vernon later acquired the recipe and separated from the family business, and moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. There the donut recipe was finally given its now popular and well known name, Krispy Kreme. In his old age, Vernon said the donut's name came to him, while driving his old car through a rainstorm, travelling to North Carolina for the frest start. The wipers kept squeaking "Kris-py Kreme, Kris-py Kreme" while trying to clear the glass of the rain.