Wade Hall Guide

The Guide to the Wade Hall Collection at The University of Alabama Libraries, written by librarian Dr. Amy Hildreth Chen, documents the prolific career of professor, literary critic, creative writer, poetry editor, and collector Wade Hall. An Alabama native who spent most of his career in Kentucky, Dr. Hall published widely in the fields of Southern literature, culture, and history to illuminate what he called the “miracle and mystery” of everyday life in the Deep South and Appalachia. His extensive collection of books, music, manuscripts, photographs, and quilts, as well as his academic and creative work, show how he found his ultimate home among the words and voices of the people whose lives he studied and whose papers and artifacts he collected.

Hall’s collections and his collecting style are broad and eclectic because his materials encompass the widest possible range of available sources on Southern folk cultures. This approach resulted in a collection noteworthy for its range and diversity. In order to capture fully the range of Hall’s holdings, each of the six chapters in this guide is organized by headings that pertain to the various kinds of materials in his collection.

Hall’s book collections are split into two chapters with Chapter 1 focusing on Southern literature and Chapter 2 discussing other published materials, including early travel narratives, government documents, presidential biographies, abolitionist texts, children’s literature, cookbooks, and hymnals. Sheet music, sound recordings, and recording technology from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are the subject of Chapter 3.
Hall’s collection of manuscripts are surveyed in Chapter 4, including letters of ordinary people, diaries, scrapbooks, logs, and printed ephemera. Photographs are the focus of Hall’s collection in Chapter 5, including daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, albumens, cartes de visite, stereocards, lantern cards, gelatin developing-out images, and Polaroids. Items from all these Wade Hall collections are under the stewardship of The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections which has cataloged, processed, and preserved them to make them available for research and scholarship.

The more than 400 coverlets and quilts that comprise the Wade Hall and Gregg Swem American Quilt Collection are discussed in Chapter 6. The coverlets document the industry of home and professional weaving in the United States during the middle and late nineteenth century, and the quilts represent the variety of styles adopted by quilt makers in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The coverlets and quilts are housed at the College of Human Environmental Sciences Carolyn Thomas Stewart Costume and Textile Collection at The University of Alabama, which has undertaken responsibility for their curation and preservation.

The University of Alabama Libraries acknowledges Dr. Amy Hildreth Chen for her research on and authorship of Miracle and Mystery: A Guide to the Wade Hall Collection and Gregg Swem, Wade Hall’s longtime partner, for his editing of the manuscript for publication.