The Tennessee Historical Society is proud to present the new on-line version of The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture,the first comprehensive reference work of its kind produced for the great state of Tennessee. We thank the University of Tennessee Press for the opportunity to offer this reference work with their partnership.

The work before you is based upon the original print version of the encyclopedia, which was published by the Tennessee Historical Society in 1998, after more than five years of planning and production. In the past two years spent preparing this electronic edition, original entries were updated, new entries researched and written, and many additional illustration materials were added. We will also add fresh information and new entries to this on-line version on a regular basis.

The Tennessee Encyclopedia’s official genesis occurred on January 25, 1993, at the first working session of the Tennessee Bicentennial Commission. The education committee of the commission encouraged the Tennessee Historical Society to undertake an encyclopedia project as a bicentennial legacy, and we are especially grateful to chairman Martha Ingram and commission members Wilma Dykeman Stokely, John M. Jones, Virginia Clarke Vaughan, and Secretary of State Riley C. Darnell for their early moral support. Following this meeting in early 1993, the board of directors and staff of the Tennessee Historical Society began planning for production of The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, conducting a feasibility study, consulting with the few other state encyclopedia projects then underway, and projecting costs and time tables.

The board of directors of the Tennessee Historical Society fully committed to the project in 1994, and the first major partner to join our effort was the State of Tennessee. A generous matching grant provided by the Tennessee General Assembly through the Tennessee Historical Commission (THC) for fiscal years 1995 through 1998 enabled the Tennessee Historical Society to proceed with financial arrangements for the encyclopedia. THC chairmen Robert E. Corlew and Ward Dewitt, Jr., and other members of the commission served among the reviewers of our plans; THC executive director Herbert L. Harper and his staff were also of great help. Another important partner to the project came on board when Rutledge Hill Press and its president Lawrence M. Stone lent their publishing and distribution expertise to the project. A third major piece fell in place when Middle Tennessee State University and its Center for Historic Preservation agreed to provide us assistance with editorial staff and office support for the print edition at their campus in Murfeesboro. The Tennessee Historical Society is especially appreciative of the support of James K. Huhta and Robert B. Jones in making this possible. Tennessee Historical Society presidents John Hardcastle and Dan E. Pomeroy provided vision and led funding efforts for the first edition of The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture with the assistance of vice presidents Ophelia T. Paine and Patricia Brake Howard and board members Douglas Henry, Elizabeth Queener, Walter T. Durham, and Mary Anne Harwell, among others. The generous donors to the encyclopedia are listed elsewhere, but we wish to thank here the Frist Foundations and the Dantzler Bond Ansley Foundation for their sponsorships. We are grateful too for the early commitment of the Pilot Corporation, the Maclellan Foundation, and Benwood Foundation, who shared the Society’s vision for this work from its earliest days. Through the help of our partners, sponsors, and contributors, the Tennessee Historical Society has been able to provide free copies of the print version of the encyclopedia to each of the 2,000 libraries and public schools in Tennessee.

There are many aspects of the first edition of The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture that could not have succeeded without a dedicated staff. Carroll Van West, as Editor-in-Chief, has given boundless energy, knowledge, and direction to the project. Only others who have undertaken such work will understand what an extraordinary accomplishment he and his editorial staff achieved between September 1995 and January 1998 — producing from scratch a 3,200 page manuscript with more than 1,500 entrees and over 550 authors in twenty-nine months. The Tennessee Historical Society also thanks the editorial staff members of the print edition, Connie L. Lester, Susan L. Gordon, Margaret Duncan Binnicker, and Anne-Leslie Owens for their heroic adherence to our ambitious timetable. And at the bedrock of the project –financial management and record-keeping — Melinda P. Clary kept everything related to the encyclopedia in good order in addition to her other duties, for which we are very grateful. During the course of the project which produced the print version, approximately 1,000 individuals provided their time, knowledge, expertise, talent, and money to make The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture possible. They served on planning committees, used an ocean of publications for research, reviewed entry lists, wrote essays, searched for images, and kept the project rolling to publication.

The print version of The Tennessee Encyclopedia appeared in 1998, only the third state encyclopedia to appear in the nation. Scholarly reviewers gave the book high marks for the quality of its research and the breadth of its topics, while the popular press provided kudos for a highly readable, fascinating reference work on the Volunteer State. Then in 2000, Jennifer Siler, director of the University of Tennessee Press, asked the Tennessee Historical Society if we would be interested in providing an on-line version of the work.

The board and staff of the society, under the leadership of presidents Jack May and Bill Morelli, leapt at the opportunity to place so much information on Tennessee at the fingertips of Internet users. Although a fee-based site was originally discussed, the Tennessee Historical Society and the University of Tennessee Press both thought a free site, open to all, would best fulfill our missions to broaden the public’s knowledge on our state’s history and culture. We are pleased that we are indeed able to offer this site as a free service to you, the user.

The staff of the society and press spent 2000-2002 planning the functions and uses of this site, incorporating the original 1,500 plus entries and adding new topics. Original editor-in-chief Van West continued in that role, again heroically updating older entries and selecting new ones. Tennessee Historical Society staff member Kelly Wilkerson spent hundreds of hours searching out new illustration material, including video and audio selections, for the on-line version. At launch, approximately 500 entries include illustrations, and additional illustrations will be added in regular updates in the future. As of September 2002, illustrations from over 125 collections and individuals are represented in the on-line edition.

On the electronic side, the staff of the University of Tennessee Press shared with us the steep learning curve of creating an on-line encyclopedia. Robb Clevenger, along with Brian Waller and Cheryl Carrington, performed digital magic in converting the print edition to a cyberspace tool. Stan Ivester and Hugh Davis worked for months to prepare the text for conversion to a database format. Shara Johnson handled much of the editorial clean-up as the manuscript was updated. And Jennifer Siler, director of the University of Tennessee Press, has been involved in so many aspects, she definitely earned the “on-line editor” title on the staff page.

We at the Tennessee Historical Society, and the folks at the University of Tennessee Press, are proud to now present the first illustrated, comprehensive, on-line state encyclopedia in the country. Without exaggerating the matter, The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, in both print and on-line versions, has been written by and for the people of Tennessee and those who love her. This work encapsulates how we see ourselves at the end of the twentieth century, and we trust it will provide useful guideposts for our course into the twenty-first century.

Ann Toplovich
Executive Director
Tennessee Historical Society