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History Mystery: Have You Seen Me?

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By: Wes Cunningham, University of Louisville Graduate Student and KHS Winter Intern

While researching one of our lantern slide collections for digitization we stumbled across this monument. This image was mixed in with pictures of some of Kentucky’s most famous individuals and sites, including portraits of Daniel Boone and a snapshot of the Henry Clay monument, and yet no one here at KHS can identify where this monument stands or what it represents. First, it might be necessary to outline the collection it belongs to; The Colonial Dames Lantern Slide Collection. The Colonial Dames of America (CDA) is an international society of women whose direct ancestors held positions of leadership in the Thirteen Colonies. Their goals include preserving and educating others about American history. Between 1910 and 1930, the CDA collected lantern slides of significant historic people and historically relevant locations for the purpose of education. Participating states then created collections which could be loaned to various public schools to instruct children on the colonial history of their state. This particular collection consists of eighty-three hand colored lantern slides, ca. 1910s-1920s. The slides depict portraits of prominent people and places throughout Kentucky. There are pictures of unidentified forts, structures that are no longer in existence, and buildings that have since been modified, along with portraits of some of the most famous Kentuckians, such as Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln and Isaac Shelby. Many of the slides show the houses of prominent people of the time and monuments that have been erected to honor others. With images of some of the most recognizable sites in the Commonwealth it was a shock when we came across a monument that is unidentifiable. The monument appears to be made of white marble with a bronze plaque depicting a man. When we zoomed in on the image many of us thought that the man bore a likeness to Henry Clay but this is only speculation. Can anyone out there help us? Has anyone seen this monument? Does anyone have information to help us solve this history mystery?

To view this item in the Digital Collections Catalog, visit: Graphic 19_Box1_40

P2044805cAbout the Author: Wes Cunningham is a graduate student at the University of Louisville, currently studying Public History. During our Winter Hours, December-March, he served as an intern in the library, assisting with processing photographic collections. To read more about his adventures while working as an intern at KHS, be sure to check out his blog post on the main site: http://history.ky.gov/the-life-of-a-library-wintern/

free sample just need to mind that the that nothing want betray.

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  1. wrote on April 13th, 2015 at 6:21 pm


    John Fitch Monument on the court square in Bardstown. Fitch is the inventor of the steamboat.

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    wrote on April 16th, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Louise Jones

    Thanks! This information was very helpful and we have updated the record to show that. Mystery solved!

  3. wrote on July 26th, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    Juanita Young

    I know the mystery has been solved already. As someone who just came across this page- I thought it was interesting, but then saw the answer, but I couldn’t see how that statue looked like a steam boat. and what does that have to do with my neighboring town Bardstown?? I could see his hands were inside some kind of box..so was curious and “googled” it. most of the pics and info I saw at first didn’t seem to match what this man on the monument looked like, then the last link from PBS I looked at has a picture that looks like it matches the statue and clear explanation. Thought it might be nice to have this info posted for the next curious person that finds it.
    John Fitch
    Born: 1743, Windsor, CT
    Died: 1798, Bardstown, KY

    First Steamboat

    An unsung jack-of-all-trades built America’s first steam-powered boat, envisioning open access to the new nation’s natural resources. Did You Know?
    After he was captured and released by Delaware Indians, Fitch was haunted by dreams of canoes chasing him. These dreams inspired his first steamboat design, which didn’t have a paddle wheel but a moving rail that lifted a series of paddles much like those on the Indian canoes.

    Photos: (left) Architect of the Capital; (right) Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, NMAH/Transportation
    This link has a picture that looks like it matches the monument.


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