Howe-Salyers family Scrapbook collection series
The first post of a blog series by Deana Thomas. Check back on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month for more from this series!
I will let you in on a little secret: for me, scrapbooks are preservation nightmares.
Photographs and newspapers on the same page; all of the material is taped or glued with adhesive that will likely not last for the long term and arranged in an order that gives the scrapbook meaning. So, when I was approached by a donor who had more than 60 scrapbooks, I was conflicted. Scrapbooks, while a preservation nightmare, are also important primary sources. Whether they are about a family, an individual, or related to a specific event or organization, they often provide a large amount of information that enable readers to understand exactly what the creator wants them to understand in the exact way they want them to understand it. In my opinion, a scrapbook is often the ideal primary source; it’s a combination of a diary, photograph album, and letters. But nonetheless, 60+ scrapbooks are a lot.
So, I was conflicted. My initial thought was that maybe we should only take a small selection. But, taking the entire collection became a no-brainer when the donor showed me the website she had created based on the scrapbooks.
The donor had done an incredible job writing blog posts that contextualized much of the history found in the scrapbooks. From Salyers/Howe family history to stories about Carrollton, Kentucky, the blog made them even more valuable. The donor had done more work contextualizing the scrapbooks than any history organization could have done. As a result, KHS’s collections committee agreed to accept all of the Salyers scrapbooks into our permanent collection.
Now known as the Howe-Salyers family scrapbooks (collection number MSS 253), I will be blogging about this collection for the next few months. While the donor’s blog mainly focuses on stories related to the Salyers/Howe family or their hometown of Carrollton, I will instead suggest how researchers can use each highlighted scrapbook. But first, I want to tell you about the Salyers family, who are the main focus of this collection.
Sarah Eva Howe Salyers (1883-1955) was the creator of most of the scrapbooks. As far as I can tell, she made them to be keepsakes for her children, often documenting a year in their lives. Additionally, she made the scrapbooks to encapsulate the history she wanted to pass down to the next generation. For the most part, the scrapbooks are evidence of how Sarah Salyers understood the world around her and her family’s history.
Sarah spent most of her early life in Carrollton. In 1905, she married William Levi Salyers (1878-1944) and together they had five children (for whom most of the scrapbooks were initially created). The children were: Robert King Salyers (1907-1977), Mary Alice Salyers Hays (1910-1998), James R. Salyers (1910-1985) David Hillis Salyers II (1915-1981), and John Howe Salyers (1915-1915).
Robert King Salyers spent his early years in Carrollton, but moved with his family to Richmond, Kentucky, in 1927 so he could attend Eastern Kentucky State. In 1941, he married Loretta Smith. During World War II, Robert served in the U.S. Navy and was stationed in Iceland. After the war, he and his wife had three children: Abigail, Robert K. Jr., and Martha.
Mary Alice Salyers Hays (1910-1998) graduated from Madison High School circa 1928 before earning a degree from the University of Kentucky. After graduating, Mary Alice was the librarian at Somerset High School from about 1934 to 1939. In 1939, Mary Alice married Richard Allen Hays and moved to a farm outside of Louisville. Mary Alice was an educator and librarian at Anchorage School from the 1940s to 1975. Mary Alice continued her mother’s legacy by creating a few of the scrapbooks herself.
James R. Salyers (1910-1985) graduated from Madison High School and, like his twin sister, went on to graduate from the University of Kentucky. In 1941, James married Lee Rose Pope. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Like his younger brother, David and his wife settled in Louisville.
David Hillis Salyers II (1915-1981) graduated from Henry Clay High School in Lexington in 1933 and the University of Kentucky in 1937. Before 1942, David married Eurelia Maehew Kennedy. In 1942, he joined the U.S. Army and spent several months in Central Europe as a chaplain. After World War II, he returned to Louisville.
The Howe-Salyers family scrapbooks tell the story of the Salyers family. They also describe the family’s experience living in Kentucky from the early 1900s to the 1970s. The collection can be used for a multitude of purposes. Whether one is interested in Carrollton’s history, University of Kentucky history, family correspondence during the Great Depression and World War II, or looking at how advertisements and cartoons changed over time, this collection includes a little bit of everything.
One of the more interesting angles that this collection hits on is how Sarah Salyers used the scrapbooks to teach her children and grandchildren about the world. We often think of scrapbooks as a way to encapsulate a time, person, event, or experience, but, in this collection, you can see that scrapbooks can also be used to pass down “stories” and history.
 Since first donating the Howe-Salyers scrapbook collection, the donor has published a book based on the scrapbooks as well.
 John Howe Salyers was stillborn or died shortly after death.
 David H. Salyers was the father in law of the collection’s donor.