Mountaineer, oil painting by Martha Anderson, hangs in the Georgia
Museum of Art. (Courtesy Georgia Museum, University of Georgia.)
2005, Issue 78
Article Abstracts and Supplements
Wilde Alabama Lecture Circuit
Artistic Blend: Frank and Martha Anderson
Wooster, Birmingham's Magdalen
in Peril 2005: Alabama's Endangered Historic Landmarks
images to enlarge. Hold cursor over images to view captions.
WILDE ALABAMA LECTURE CIRCUIT
By William Warren Rogers, Dorothy McLeod MacInerney, and Robert David Ward
the winter and spring of 1882, the Irish-born poet, playwright,
and novelist Oscar Wilde conducted a lecture tour of the United
States. Wilde’s speeches coincided with performances of Gilbert
and Sullivan’s Patience—a comic opera that parodied
the excesses and eccentricities of the Aesthetic Movement. Many
American audiences viewed Wilde as the embodiment of this controversial “Art
for Art’s Sake” philosophy, and nowhere in the country
did he face more skepticism than in the post-Reconstruction
South. Despite scathing criticism from more than a few
journalists, Wilde won over his Alabamian public and left with
a special fondness
for the state and its people.
• More information about Oscar Wilde and his works can be
found online at: cmgww.com/historic/wilde/index.php
• The Official Oscar Wilde Website:
• The Oscar Wilde Collection: a selection of online prose, poetry,
Trials of Oscar Wilde: website devoted to famous trials, including
transcripts from Wilde’s 1895 trial: victorianweb.org/authors/wilde/wildeov.html
• Oscar Wilde: an overview, courtesy of: victorianweb.org
Leslie Baily, Gilbert and Sullivan and Their World (London, 1973);
Richard Ellman, Oscar Wilde (New York, 1978); Merlin Holland & Rupert
Hart-Davis, The Complete Letters Of Oscar Wilde (New York, 2000);
Lloyd Lewis and Henry Justin Smith, Oscar Wilde Discovers America (New York, 1936); Kevin O’Brien, Oscar
Wilde in Canada: An Apostle for the Arts (Toronto, 1983); Terence de Vere White, The
Parents of Oscar Wilde (London, 1967); Mary Louise Ellis, “Improbable
Visitor: Oscar Wilde in Alabama, 1882,” Alabama Review ,
39 (October, 1960), 243-60; William Warren Rogers and Robert David
Ward, “An Aesthete At Large: Oscar Wilde in Mobile,” Gulf
Coast Historical Review, 6 (Spring, 1991), 49-63; William Warren
Rogers, Dorothy McLeod MacInerney, and Robert David Ward, “Oscar
Wilde Lectures in New Orleans and Across the South in 1882,” Southern
Studies, 11 (Fall-Winter, 204), 31-65.
William Warren Rogers, Robert David Ward, and Dorothy McLeod MacInerney, “Aesthetic
Messenger: Oscar Wilde Lectures in Memphis, 1882, Tennessee
Historical Quarterly, 53 (Winter, 2004), 250-65.
About the Authors
William Warren Rogers is
a native Alabamian and a graduate of Auburn University and the
University of North Carolina where he earned his Ph.D. in history.
He has been active in teaching, researching, and writing books and articles
on the South, concentrating on the three states of Alabama, Georgia, and
Florida. He is professor emeritus of history, Florida State University. Among
his works are Alabama: The History of a Deep South State (University of Alabama
Press, 1994), which he co-authored with Robert David Ward, and The One-Gallused
Rebellion: A History of Agrarianism in Alabama, 1865–1896 (University
of Alabama Press, 2001).
Dorothy McLeod MacInerney is a native-born Texan who lives with her family
in Austin. She received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas
at Austin, and is interested in southern literary history. She is an independent
scholar and has an appointment at the University of Texas.
Robert David Ward was also born in Alabama and attended Auburn University
and the University of North Carolina where he got his doctorate in American
history. He is a professor emeritus of history at Georgia State University
at Statesboro. Ward has published many articles and books about southern
history, especially Alabama, many of them co-authored with Rogers. Among
Ward’s books are Alabama’s Response to the Penitentiary Movement,
1829–1865 (University Press of Florida, 2003), and the co-authored
Alabama: The History of a Deep South State (University of Alabama Press,
ARTISTIC BLEND: FRANK AND MARTHA ANDERSON
By Lynn Barstis Williams
During their marriage, architect Frank Hartley Anderson and artist Martha Fannin
Fort not only produced a sizable body of art (both collaborative and individual),
but also worked tirelessly to support Alabama’s artistic community.
The Andersons, whose various mediums included woodcuts, etchings, portraits,
and paintings, created artwork that toured the country, and even the world.
Participants in several New Deal Art Programs, the Andersons’ many
projects included large educational murals for schools and post offices.
By teaching art classes, producing affordable art prints, and undertaking
public art projects, the Andersons sought to bring art to all levels of society.
Founders of Anderson Galleries and the Southern Printmakers Society, the
Andersons ultimately raised national awareness of southern artists.
For further information, please see Karal Ann Marling’s Wall to Wall
America: A Cultural History of Post Office Murals and the Great Depression (University
of Minnesota Press, 1982), Designs on Birmingham: A Landscape History of a
Southern City and its Suburbs (Birmingham Historical Society), edited by Phillip A. Morris
and Marjorie Longenecker White, or visit: mountainhall.org.
About the Author
Lynn Barstis Williams is Special Collections and Art Librarian at
Auburn University. Her article on the history of Alabama’s Gulf Coast
art colonies, which Genevive Southerland organized in Mobile, Bayou la Batre,
and Coden, appeared in the May 2000 issue of Gulf South Historical Review.
She also has published an article on the Dixie Art Colony in Alabama Heritage,
issue 41, Summer 1996. Her book on southern printmakers and their images
of the South is forthcoming from the University of Alabama Press.
Photos by Birmingham
photographer Lacy Robinson.
WOOSTER, BIRMINGHAM'S MAGDALEN
By James L. Baggett
celebrated and philanthropic of Birmingham’s madams, Lou
Wooster was a kind and maternal caregiver who also possessed
the gifts of storytelling and self-promotion. Born in
Tuscaloosa and raised in Mobile, she fell on hard times after
her parents’ deaths. She became, at the hands of her gentleman
rescuers, first a ward, then a mistress, and “fell, step
by step, until at last I was beyond redemption.” Her travels,
as recorded in her autobiography, take her from the stage in
New Orleans to the brothels of Montgomery and Birmingham. She
also claimed to have had a liaison with John Wilkes Booth that
provided much fodder for the journalists of her time. Wooster
became famous not only for her high-class brothels but also for
her humanity, her charity, and her kindness.
For more information on the history of prostitution in Birmingham,
see “Prostitution in Birmingham, Alabama, 1890—1925,” by
Ellin Sterne (M.A. Thesis, Samford University, 1977). For a good
history of prostitution in the United States during Lou Wooster’s
era, see The Lost Sisterhood: Prostitution in America, 1900—1918 by Ruth Rosen (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982). Two recent
books examine the life of John Wilkes Booth and the legend that
he was not killed in 1865. These are American Brutus: John
Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies by Michael W. Kauffman (Random
House, 2004) and The Legend of John Wilkes Booth: Myth, Memory,
and a Mummy by C. Wyatt Evans (University Press of Kansas, 2004).
L. Baggett is head of the Department of Archives and Manuscripts
at the Birmingham Public Library and Archivist for the City of Birmingham.
Many people earned the author’s gratitude for their assistance
in researching Lou Wooster, especially Don Veasey, Yolanda Valentin,
Gigi Gowdy, Yvonne Crumpler, Beth Willauer, Becky Scarborough, Cheri
Todd, Jason Burks, Michelle Andrews, David Ryan, Barbara Wilson,
Jim Murray, Stuart Oates, Ricki Brunner, Norwood Kerr, Wayne Cawthon,
Christine Cramer, Sandra Bolton, Mary Rose-Taylor, Donna Cox, Regina
Ammon, Mary Beth Newbill, and Barry Vaughn. In October 2005, the
Birmingham Public Library Press will republish Lou Wooster’s
autobiography and other related material in the book A Woman of
the Town: Louise Wooster, Birmingham’s Magdalen. For more information
contact the author at (205) 226-3631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
IN PERIL 2005: ALABAMA'S ENDANGERED HISTORIC LANDMARKS
By Melanie Betz Gregory
and Ellen Mertins
collaboration between the Alabama Historical Commission and
the Alabama Preservation Alliance once again brings the state’s
threatened landmarks to the forefront. This year’s list
includes historic homes in Greenville, Selma, Tuskegee, Hartselle,
and Eufaula, along with historic gas stations statewide. Alabama’s
first public school building, Mobile’s Barton Academy,
and one of its oldest cotton gin plants, Prattville’s
Old Pratt Gin Factory, also found their way to the Places in
Peril list. Homewood’s Rosedale Park Historic District,
Ware House and Barn, Oxford’s Davis farm complex,
and Coatopa’s Christian Valley Baptist Church round out
the list of endangered historic places for 2005.
To Get Involved
Since 1994, the Alabama Historical Commission and the Alabama
Preservation Alliance have joined forces to sponsor “Places
in Peril”, a program that each year highlights some of
the state’s significant endangered properties. As awareness
yields commitment, and commitment yields action, these endangered
properties can be saved and returned to their important place
as treasured landmarks. The “Places in Peril” program
has helped to save many important landmarks that may otherwise
have been lost. These include the Forks of Cyprus ruins in
Florence (listed 1997), the John Glascock House in Tuscaloosa
(listed 2001), the Lowe Mill Village in Huntsville (listed
2002), the Coleman House in Uniontown (listed 2003), and Locust
Hill in Tuscumbia (listed 2004).
Everyone can play a role to help save those resources that
are in peril. Adopt one of the properties. Tell everybody you
know that it is important. Write letters of support. Volunteer
time or expertise to the local preservation group. If one of
the places really strikes you, go ahead and buy it! A generous
(or even modest) donation to the “Endangered Property
Trust Fund” can help statewide. For more information
on the fund or joining the Alabama Preservation Alliance, call
334-834-2727 or email email@example.com. For Additional
information on the “Places in Peril” program, visit
the Alabama Historical Commission website at preserveala.org or contact Melanie Betz at 334-242-3184.
About the Authors
Melanie Betz Gregory joined the staff
of the Alabama Historical Commission in the fall of 1989. A
native of Illinois, she holds a B.A. in art history from Western
Illinois University and a M.A. in architectural history and
historic preservation from the University of Virginia. Ms.
Gregory is currently working with the Endangered Properties
Ellen Mertins currently serves as Director of Outreach for
the Alabama Historical Commission. She joined the staff in
1970. She has a B.A. in history from Tulane University.
By Pam Jones
When a royally attired young woman arrived in
colonial Mobile claiming to be the Russian Princess Charlotte
Christina Sophia of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, who was to doubt
her? Many, as it turned out, and with good reason: The real
Princess Charlotte had reportedly died in 1715 and was buried
in a royal tomb in St. Petersburg. Charlotte’s “survival” story,
wild as it was, included a fake funeral and flight from an
abusive husband, culminating in a trans-Atlantic journey on
a ship full of German immigrants. The deception survived until 1765, when her
masquerade was exposed by Voltaire himself.
About the Author
Pam Jones is a freelance writer in Birmingham with a particular
interest in criminal cases from Alabama’s past.
Architecture and Preservation
Street Baptist Church Gets
By Aaron Welborn
Most of us know about the tragic Sixteenth-Street
Baptist Church bombing of 1963. But how many of us are aware
of the second disaster that struck the historic building? Time.
One of Birmingham’s
most important civil rights landmarks was almost lost to mould,
groundwater leakage, and the insidious spread of cracks through
the exterior masonry. However, efforts are being made to reverse
the damage. In conjunction with the feature story, Places in
Peril, Alabama Heritage brings you a story of architectural
If you wish to contribute to the capital campaign to restore and maintain the
Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, or if you have questions about the project,
feel free to contact them:
Sixteenth Street Foundation Inc.
P.O. Box 2146
Birmingham, AL 35201
About the Author
Aaron Welborn is an assistant editor at Alabama Heritage.
Brittani Tingle contributed to this article.
Birding Dauphin Island
By L. J. Davenport
Spring migration to Dauphin Island is a pilgrimage for
birdwatchers, as well as for the birds themselves. The island is one
of the most heavily trafficked bird migration sites on the continent,
bringing in more than 180 avian species during peak season, including
the rare and illustrious painted bunting. Bird fanatics gather here
in equal numbers, hoping for a glimpse of this rare, bright-feathered
For more information on Dauphin Island, or to plan your own birding trip, visit coastalbirding.org/, alaweb.com/~kenwood/saba/birdfind/dauphin.htm,
About the Author
Larry Davenport is a professor of biology at Samford University, Birmingham,
Hail to the Flag
• The caption on page 23 of “An
Artistic Blend: Frank and Martha Anderson” refers
to Lakewood School. The school was actually Lakeview School.
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