Entries - Entry Category: Arts

Alderson-Coston House

The Alderson-Coston House is a one-and-a-half-story Craftsman-style home located on Pine Bluff Street in Malvern (Hot Spring County). Constructed in 1923, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 26, 1995. The house is also located in the Pine Bluff Street National Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. James Alderson was a businessman in Hot Spring County in the early twentieth century. The owner of the Malvern Meteor newspaper, he later served as postmaster of Malvern from 1934 to 1954. He was married to Lethe Alderson, who was active in a number of community organizations and served on the board of the Hot Spring County Library. The …

Alexander, Larry Dell

Larry Dell Alexander is a visual artist, writer, and Bible teacher best known for his elaborate pen-and-ink drawings and crosshatching technique. He painted Clinton Family Portrait, an oil painting that he gave to President Bill Clinton in 1995. He has also written several Bible study commentary books on the New Testament. Larry D. Alexander was born on May 30, 1953, in Dermott (Chicot County), the second son of Robert and Janie Alexander. His father was a truck driver and his mother a hairdresser. He has eight siblings. Alexander began drawing at age four and never received any formal art training while growing up. After graduating from Dermott High School in May 1971, Alexander moved to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where …

Allen, Al

aka: Alvin Lee Allen Jr.
Alvin Lee (Al) Allen Jr. was a painter whose contributions to Arkansas culture were his artwork, his teaching, his development of the Department of Art at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), and two autobiographical books. His mature work was of idealized man-made structures, often with windows, bathed in bright light. His style presents realistic subjects in a classical and abstract way. Al Allen was born on November 29, 1925, the only child of Carrie Allen and Alvin Lee Allen in Steele, Missouri. His father was an automobile dealer in nearby Caruthersville; his mother was a seamstress who later worked for Goldsmith’s department store in Memphis, Tennessee. The Missouri Bootheel landscape was an environment of vast space, emptiness, …

Allison, Luther

Blues guitarist and singer Luther Allison was born in Arkansas, but like many of his contemporaries in the rural South, he rose to fame in cities far from his original home. His style exemplified the soulful blues of the west side of Chicago, Illinois, where he moved with his family as a child. Later, in 1977, when the popularity of the blues faded in the United States, he began touring Europe extensively and became an international star. Born in Widener (St. Francis County) on August 17, 1939, Luther Allison was the fourteenth of fifteen children, all of whom were musically inclined, born to parents who were cotton farmers. He was exposed to gospel music as a young child, although he …

Almand, John Parks

John Parks Almand worked as an architect in Arkansas for fifty years, beginning in 1912. Ten of his commissions have been recognized for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, including Central High School, First Church of Christ Scientist, and First Presbyterian Church, all in Little Rock (Pulaski County). First United Methodist Church in Fordyce (Dallas County) is also included, as well as Couchwood, the country home of Arkansas Power & Light founder Harvey Couch, and the Medical Arts Building, both in Hot Springs (Garland County). John Almand was born on May 8, 1885, in Lithonia, Georgia. He was the third of eight children of Alexander J. and Clara Bond Almand. Almand attended Emory College in Georgia and graduated …

Altheimer, Joshua

Joshua Altheimer was one of the Delta’s most prolific blues pianists. Altheimer mastered the emerging boogie-woogie style of the 1930s as he accompanied some of the legendary blues musicians of his era. Joshua Altheimer was born on May 17, 1911, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) to Silas Altheimer and Verdis Pruitt Barnes Altheimer. He played his first years in Arkansas, performing during the late 1920s. It is not clear whether Altheimer knew blues legend “Big Bill” Broonzy during this period, who was from his home county and who was raised just a few miles from where he was born. By the 1930s, Altheimer had moved to Chicago, Illinois, and was playing with the likes of John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson, Washboard Sam, …

Altvater, Catherine Tharp

Catherine Tharp Altvater was a nationally known watercolorist whose works were shown in numerous museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Today, her paintings are found in many private collections and museums in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan. Catherine Tharp was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on July 26, 1907, to William J. Tharp and Catherine Collins Tharp. Her maternal grandparents were early settlers of Little Rock, and her paternal grandfather, originally from Tennessee, had a private academy in Little Rock with R. C. Hall. Altvater’s interest in art began at an early age and continued throughout her school years, when she spent many hours in art classes. At the age of eighteen, …

Anderson, Bruce Roy

Bruce Roy Anderson was a prominent Arkansas architect and watercolorist in the mid-twentieth century. Bruce Anderson was born on October 7, 1907, in Newport (Jackson County), the son of George Roy Anderson and Amelia Frei Anderson. He had an older brother, Maxwell, and sister, Bernice. Anderson attended Little Rock (Pulaski County) public schools and graduated from Castle Heights Military Academy in Tennessee. He received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Auburn University in Alabama in 1929. In 1936, Anderson earned a Master of Architecture degree from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Anderson married Helen Venus McClain on December 25, 1931. They had one son, Bruce R. Anderson Jr. Anderson began his architectural career in …

Anderson, Frederick Tanqueray

Frederick Tanqueray Anderson was an early twentieth-century Arkansas watercolorist. Categorized as a romantic American Landscape artist, Anderson is known for his steamboat and landscape paintings. Anderson’s paintings were inspired by his boyhood memories of traveling down the Mississippi River with his grandfather on steamboats to New Orleans, Louisiana. According to a Memphis Commercial Appeal article dated May 20, 1945, many regarded Anderson as the leading river scenes painter in America. Frederick T. Anderson was born on July 1, 1846, on his grandfather’s Arkansas River plantation near New Gascony (Jefferson County). His parents were Richard Cuthbert Anderson, who was a physician, and Hortense Barraque Anderson. Anderson had one older sister, Julia. His grandfather, Antoine Barraque, was one of Arkansas’s more prominent …

Anthony House

From 1830 until 1875, a premier hotel stood on the southwest corner of Markham and Scott streets in Little Rock (Pulaski County). It was known by different names throughout its existence, but it is best remembered as the Anthony House. The location in the heart of downtown Little Rock with frontage on Markham Street put the hotel in an excellent location for travelers, and for many years it also served as stagecoach offices. Major Nicholas Peay arrived in Little Rock in 1825. He rented a house and opened a tavern. In 1829, he purchased lots on the southwest corner of Markham and Scott streets. In 1830, he built a one-story frame building on Markham Street that he opened as a …

Architectural Styles

A region’s architecture “speaks volumes about the culture of the inhabitants and their level of technology,” notes the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. Over time and space, several styles have developed to reflect cultural changes and moods. James Curtis, in the Journal of Cultural Geography, writes that a “distinctive architectural style…is often the most enduring and expressive manifestation of the spirit of an age.” Architecture fits into two broad categories—traditional (folk) houses and high style houses designed by architects who try to set or follow trends. From early settlers’ simple log structures to the elaborate Victorian styles of the nineteenth century to today’s Modern styles, Arkansas’s architecture reflects the trends of the rest of the country. From the early to mid-1800s, …

Arkadelphia Boy Scout Hut

The Arkadelphia Boy Scout Hut is a log building located in Central Park in Arkadelphia (Clark County). Constructed by local boys and members of the National Youth Administration (NYA) in 1938–39, the Rustic-style building is owned by the city and used by various Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 28, 2002. The NYA was a New Deal agency created to offer employment opportunities for youth between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five. Construction of the hut was supervised by Edwin Dean, the district supervisor from Camden (Ouachita County), and Edward Wyate, the supervisor from Hope (Hempstead County). The local foreman was A. F. Bishop of Arkadelphia, who supervised …

Arkadelphia Commercial Historic District

The Arkadelphia Commercial Historic District consists of twenty-nine contributing buildings located in the heart of downtown Arkadelphia (Clark County). A total of forty-eight buildings and a park are in the district boundaries. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 20, 2011. The borders of the district are roughly Main Street between 5th and 7th streets and Clinton Street between 6th and 9th streets. The city of Arkadelphia grew westward, away from the Ouachita River, which is located about a half mile away from the district. The buildings in the district evolved over the years. The earliest buildings in the district are free standing or in a row and are frame or brick constructed on …

Arkansas [Album]

Arkansas is an album written and recorded by John Oates, a New York–born inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who was half of the duo Hall and Oates. He was accompanied by a group of legendary Americana musicians collectively known as the Good Road Band. Oates called the album the “sum total” of his many musical influences, including rock, folk, blues, and country. Released in 2018, the ten-song album began as a tribute to blues musician Mississippi John Hurt but soon grew to “represent the dawn of American popular music,” as Oates said. The title track “Arkansas” was inspired by Oates’s experiences visiting the former company town of Wilson (Mississippi County). John Oates was born in New …

Arkansas Art Educators

Arkansas Art Educators (AAE) is a statewide organization of art teachers. The organization’s focus is to advocate for art education through supporting legislation and providing quality professional development for all art instructors in the state. AAE began as the art section of the Arkansas State Teachers Association (ASTA), which later became the Arkansas Education Association (AEA). The art group met as early as November 1922 for the ASTA fall conference. Classroom teachers from across the state gathered to discuss how to incorporate picture study and art history into the classroom curriculum. The group continued to meet yearly to hold elections and to discuss ways to further art education in the Arkansas school system. Members supported art education by writing articles …

Arkansas Arts Center

The Arkansas Arts Center in the MacArthur Park Historic District of Little Rock (Pulaski County) is an art museum with a children’s theater and a studio school. Its mission is to facilitate learning, inspiration, and creative expression for all ages and backgrounds. The seed for the Arkansas Arts Center was planted in 1914, when the Fine Arts Club of Arkansas was formed. In 1937, its core supporters and volunteers contributed to the creation of the Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock’s MacArthur Park. In 1959, in cooperation with the museum’s Fine Arts Club, the Little Rock Junior League, and the city of Little Rock, the future governor and first lady—Winthrop and Jeannette Rockefeller—agreed to help launch a statewide capital campaign …

Arkansas Bluebird of Happiness

aka: Bluebird of Happiness
The original Arkansas Bluebird of Happiness was created by Leo Ward at Terra Studios near Durham (Washington County). Since their introduction in 1982, over nine million bluebirds have been sold. Each bird is individually crafted from molten glass by artisans at Terra Studios and is signed and dated. Though Terra Studios creates glass birds in many colors, the bluebird has always been the most popular choice. While living in San Diego, California, in the early 1970s, Leo Ward discovered a passion for glass blowing. Along with his wife, Rita, Ward opened a gift shop and constructed a glass furnace on the premises. When a city inspector discovered this furnace, the shop was closed, and the Wards moved to Arkansas, where …

Arkansas Chamber Singers

The Arkansas Chamber Singers (ACS) is vocal ensemble dedicated to performing and promoting classical and contemporary choral repertoire. Membership in the nonprofit group is by audition. The ACS began when Bill Clinton, elected as the state’s governor in 1978, appointed Massachusetts resident Paul Levy to head the Arkansas Department of Energy. Levy’s wife was Barbara Abramoff Levy, director of the Newton Choral Society and the conducting assistant to the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, an adjunct to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She wanted to continue her involvement in music, and in 1979, with the support of the Bill and Hillary Clinton, she joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) and organized a new chamber ensemble named the …

Arkansas Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts

The Arkansas Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts is composed of a group of well-connected Arkansas women who work to support female Arkansas artists. The committee focuses upon primarily visual art done by noted female artists in the state, though it also sponsors writers, poets, and songwriters. Learning about the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) while on a visit to Washington DC, Ed Dell Wortz, a member of the Wortz family, and Helen Walton of the Arkansas Walton family called together a group of Arkansas women interested in the arts on February 1, 1989, to develop plans for a state committee. The Arkansas Committee of the NMWA was organized in Little Rock (Pulaski …

Arkansas County Courthouse, Northern District

  The Arkansas County Courthouse in Stuttgart (Arkansas County) is a Classical Revival–style, brick building designed by J. B. Barrett and constructed by the Barrett and Ogletree firm in 1928. The courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 20, 1992. Arkansas Post was the original Arkansas County seat after statehood, but, as Arkansas Post’s population waned, citizens wanted a more central location for the seat. DeWitt was chosen and served as the sole county seat until the early 1920s, when Stuttgart’s rapid growth, due to the railroad and the increase in rice and soybean production, brought additional civic and legislative responsibilities to the community. After several court hearings, it was decided that Stuttgart would be a secondary county seat, …

Arkansas County Courthouse, Southern District

The Arkansas County Courthouse for the Southern District in DeWitt (Arkansas County) was designed by Little Rock (Pulaski County) architect H. Ray Burks and constructed by E. V. Bird Construction Company. Built in 1931, this three-story building is a prime example of the Art Deco style used in many Arkansas buildings constructed during this time period. Located at 101 Court Square, the current Arkansas County Courthouse is the fourth courthouse built in DeWitt. First, three log courthouse buildings were built in 1855 by Colonel Charles W. Belknap, approximately one block from the current site. One building was for a courtroom, another for the clerk’s and sheriff’s offices, and the third for a jury room. This set of buildings was replaced …

Arkansas Craft Guild

The Arkansas Craft Guild, a cooperative of Arkansas craft artisans, seeks to promote excellence in both traditional and contemporary handmade crafts. Since its incorporation in 1962, the guild has been widely recognized as one of the most significant forces in the revival and preservation of pioneer crafts practiced by Arkansans. Originally incorporated under the name Ozark Foothills Handicraft Guild, the organization’s initial aim was to provide supplemental income for the people in the north-central Arkansas foothills. In 1960, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service representative, Leo Rainey, along with officials in Stone County, began exploring ways to bring cottage industry into the area. Soliciting crafters to exhibit at local craft fairs, they found the members for the proposed guild. …

Arkansas Humanities Council (AHC)

aka: Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities
The Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities, known since its early days as the Arkansas Humanities Council (AHC), was formed in 1974 for the purpose of supporting and promoting the humanities in the state. The AHC and humanities councils for fifty-five other states and territories were established by Congress and operate under the guidelines of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), an independent agency of the United States government. While state councils were formed under NEH legislation, they are separate, independent entities. The AHC is a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Arkansas. In its legislation creating the NEH, Congress gave the term “humanities” a wide-ranging definition. In brief, it may include history, literature, languages, philosophy, archaeology, jurisprudence, comparative …

Arkansas Repertory Theatre

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre (commonly called “the Rep”) was founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County) by Cliff Baker in 1976 and is the state’s largest nonprofit and professional theater company. The Rep’s mission is to “create a diverse body of theatrical work of the highest artistic standards. With a focus on dramatic storytelling that illuminates the human journey, the Rep entertains, engages, and enriches local and regional audiences of all ages and backgrounds.” The Rep first opened in the former Hunter Memorial Methodist Church at East 11thand McAlmont Streets. Its first play, The Threepenny Opera, was performed in November 1976. Approximately ten years after its founding, a major fundraising campaign was initiated in order to secure an almost $2 million loan …

Arkansas River Blues Society

The Arkansas River Blues Society (ARBS), based in Little Rock (Pulaski County), began its life as the Arkansas Blues Connection (ABC) in June 1984 as Arkansas’s first chapter of the National Blues Foundation. Based in Memphis, Tennessee, the National Blues Foundation seeks to “preserve blues heritage, celebrate blues recording and performance, expand worldwide awareness of the blues, and ensure the future of the uniquely American art form.” The Arkansas River Blues Society seeks to preserve the legacy of Arkansas blues and to provide a place for budding musicians to keep the blues alive. What became the Arkansas River Blues Society began in a Little Rock blues club. A group of local blues enthusiasts—including John Craig, Steve Logan, Jeff Weeden, and …

Arkansas State Capitol Building

The Arkansas Capitol building is the seat of the state’s government, housing its legislature as well as the staffs of six out of Arkansas’s seven constitutional officers. The monumental neo-classical structure gave rise to political controversy during its construction but has generally been praised since its completion in 1915. The current building is the second capitol built in Little Rock (Pulaski County). It replaced the State House (today’s Old State House Museum) erected in the 1830s between Markham Street and the banks of the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock. During the 1890s, calls were raised for a new capitol, but sentiment and financial considerations, coupled with the lack of a suitable site, effectively blocked the project. By 1899, the …

Arkansas Symphony Orchestra

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, based in Little Rock (Pulaski County), provides opportunities for the residents of the state to hear and to perform quality instrumental music. The current orchestra, which incorporated in 1966, is the successor of several previous and shorter-lived attempts to create a sustainable performing group. Most reports of musical performances in early Arkansas history are of vocal performances, brass ensembles, concerts by amateur groups, recitals by pupils of individual teachers, or church-sponsored events. No regularly performing instrumental groups available for public enjoyment appear in reports until after the turn of the twentieth century. During the early years of 1900s, music clubs over the state, as well as individual music lovers, became vocal about the desirability of musical education for …

Arkansas Waltz

In 1917, the Arkansas General Assembly designated “Arkansas,” a patriotic anthem composed by Eva Ware Barnett, as the state’s first official song. It remained as such until the late 1940s, when a copyright dispute led to the state’s adoption of “The Arkansas Traveler” as the state’s musical symbol. In 1963, the dispute was settled amicably, and “Arkansas” resumed its former place as the state song—a title it would hold until the late 1980s. “Arkansas” was not, however, without its challengers during this second tenure. One challenger managed to garner a degree of legislative recognition: in 1971, the Arkansas State Senate voted to designate “Arkansas Waltz” by Bill Urfer of Heber Springs (Cleburne County) and Cletus “Slim” Jones of Benton (Saline …

Armstrong III, Ralph Waldo

Ralph Waldo Armstrong III photographed the African-American community of Little Rock (Pulaski County) for more than fifty years. Between 1951 and 2006, a period of dramatic social change, he accumulated an invaluable archive of thousands of photographs of Little Rock’s black citizenry, houses, churches, schools, and professional and civic organizations. Ralph Armstrong was born on February 23, 1925, in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Ralph W. Armstrong II and Callie Armstrong; he had one older half-brother and two younger sisters. His father worked in a Little Rock furniture factory, and his mother took in washing to help the family meet expenses during the Great Depression. Later, she, too, worked in the factory. Armstrong developed an early love for classical music …

Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas

The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM), is the hub for fine arts, performing arts, arts and science classes, and hands-on children’s science exhibits for the ten-county area of southeastern Arkansas. The mission of the Arts & Science Center is to “provide opportunities for the practice, teaching, performance, enjoyment and understanding of the arts and sciences.” The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas traces its history to March 4, 1968, when two local community arts groups merged by ordinance of the Pine Bluff City Council and assumed the name of Civic Center Arts Museum. Soon afterward, the center grew to include performing arts, science exhibits, …

Arts, Culture, and Entertainment

Arkansas’s cultural record may begin on the state’s eastern edge, with a painted buffalo skin made by the Quapaw, nine figures in a line, the one at the left with a rattle. Or perhaps it begins still earlier, with fragments of cane flutes and whistles from ancient Ozark Indians. These offer only the briefest of hints, a mere glimpse of Arkansas’s earliest peoples, but enough to make it clear that they entertained themselves, that there were dancers, musicians, and artists among them. A millennium later, Arkansans entertain themselves at Riverfest in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County), or maybe the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. They celebrate the successes of home-grown authors, …

Ashley, Hubert Carl (Hugh)

Hubert Carl (Hugh) Ashley lived a life revolving around country and western music and public service. He wrote and recorded some of the earliest known recordings of Ozark folk music, was one of radio’s original “Beverly Hill Billies,” and wrote songs for five members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Hugh Ashley was born on September 27, 1915, near Wiley’s Cove (Searcy County). He was the first of four boys born to Hobart Ashley and Lillie Holsted Ashley. Music was a part of Ashley’s life from an early age. At seven, he rode a mule five miles from Sulphur Springs (Searcy County) to Leslie (Searcy County) for his first piano lesson, and at thirteen, he joined his father’s musical …

Audubon, John James

John James Audubon, a frontier naturalist and artist, is famous for illustrating and writing The Birds of America. He visited Arkansas Territory in 1820 and 1822 and documented Arkansas’s birds, including the Traill’s flycatcher, also known as the willow flycatcher, which is the only bird originally discovered in Arkansas. John Audubon was born Jean Rabin on April 26, 1785, in Saint-Domingue (Haiti). He was the illegitimate child of Jean Audubon, a ship’s captain, and Jeanne Rabin, a French chambermaid. His mother died in 1785 or 1786, and Jean Audubon and his children returned to France after a slave revolt. Along with his sister, he was adopted by his father and stepmother in 1794. Audubon stayed with his father and stepmother …

Babcock, Lucille (Lucy)

Lucille (Lucy) Babcock was a noted actress in theater and television who established the first community theater in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She also fostered the literary organizations her grandmother, writer Bernie Babcock, founded. Lucy Babcock was born Lucille Thornburg on September 30, 1921, to Frances Babcock Thornburg and John Thornburg. She had one sibling. While she was still an infant, her father deserted the family. Her grandmother had purchased Broadview, a wooded acreage that overlooked Little Rock, and the family moved into her barn-cum-house. At school, she was often in trouble for defending the underdog, recalling, “No one ever told me fighting was wrong.” Her circumstances and the area where she lived branded her as “white trash.” She attended …

Baker House

Located at 109 5th Street in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), the Queen Anne–style Baker House was constructed in 1897 by A. E. Colburn. The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the last surviving Victorian houses in North Little Rock. This Victorian home was constructed in 1897 (completed by 1898), according to Arkansas Gazette articles in late 1896 and early 1897, by A. E. Colburn and Henry Glenn. The home is approximately 4,156 square feet in the twenty-first century, having undergone renovations and had a cottage added. Henry Glenn was a native of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and a contractor. Colburn was a native of Little Rock as well. Some sources incorrectly claim …

Ballet Arkansas

As Arkansas’s only professional ballet company, Ballet Arkansas has enjoyed much success in bringing professional dance to the region. While classical ballet serves as the core of the curriculum of the professional company, other forms such as contemporary, modern, and jazz are explored as well. Ballet Arkansas began with the work of Little Rock (Pulaski County) native Donald Cater Cranford, who moved back to Little Rock from Dallas, Texas, in the mid-1960s. In 1957, he and his wife Lorraine Albert Cranford had founded the Cranford House of Ballet, which developed dancers for the Dallas Civic Ballet. The Dallas Civic Ballet was anchored by an annual performance of the Christmas standard ballet, The Nutcracker. D. Cater Cranford founded the Little Rock Civic …

Band Museum

The Band Museum in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) housed an extensive collection of wind instruments and offered a history of the American band movement. Beginning as the personal collection of its founder, the museum grew to approximately 1,500 antique instruments and was, before its closure, the only museum in the United States devoted entirely to the history of band music and instruments. Jerry Horne, founder of the Band Museum and a member of the American Musical Instrument Society, began collecting unusual instruments when he purchased the Wallick Music Company in 1970. His first was an old helicon (similar to a sousaphone), made by the C. G. CONN Company in 1925, which he found in the Wallick family’s garage. Soon, he began scouring …

Bank of Malvern Building

The Bank of Malvern building is a historic structure located at 212 South Main Street in Malvern (Hot Spring County). Constructed in 1889, the building was renovated in 1896 after a fire. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 13, 1987. The Bank of Malvern was founded on June 4, 1889, and received a charter from the state on June 24. The bank prospered in the growing town and survived multiple so-called panics and economic downturns, leaving it the oldest chartered bank in the state by the mid-twentieth century. Founded by O. M. Nilsen and F. M. Smith, the bank was housed in a two-story building on the site of the present structure. The second …

Barnes, Bruce “Sunpie”

Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes is a musician, writer, naturalist, park ranger, ethnographic photographer, and actor from Saline County. He also played for National Football League (NFL) for a time. Along with his band, the Louisiana Sunspots, Barnes pioneered a unique mixture of zydeco (a créole musical style originating in Louisiana), blues, gospel, jazz, and African and Afro-Caribbean music into a musical gumbo that he dubbed “Afro-Louisiana” music. Barnes plays accordion, harmonica, piano, trombone, rub board, and various other instruments. Bruce Barnes was born on May 18, 1963, in Benton (Saline County). The tenth of eleventh children, (five whole and five half siblings), Barnes grew up in what is now Benton’s Ralph Bunche community. Barnes’s parents were sharecroppers who worked on various …

Bartlett, E. M.

aka: Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr.
With the exception of his protégé, Albert E. Brumley, no other Arkansas figure contributed more to the development of the Southern gospel music genre than singer, songwriter, and publisher Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr. E. M. Bartlett was born on December 24, 1883, in the small community of Waynesville, Missouri, according to Barlett’s World War I draft card, though historians have variously placed his year of birth in 1884 and 1885. He and his parents eventually relocated to Sebastian County, Arkansas. Educated at the Hall-Moody Institute in Martin, Tennessee, and William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, Bartlett received training as a music teacher. In 1917, Bartlett married Joan Tatum; they had two children. As an aspiring songwriter, Bartlett became an employee …

Basketry

Basket making is the process of interlacing short flexible fibers to form a container using a process of coiling, knotting, plaiting, or weaving. Early inhabitants of Arkansas such as the Caddo and Quapaw made and used baskets. Basket making has continued in modern times in Arkansas but for different reasons. At first, baskets were made for agricultural purposes; they later became objects of beauty—a fine craft acknowledged throughout the country and created for contemplation and decoration for museums and homes. Prehistoric baskets have been found in dry bluff shelters in the Ozark Mountains. Because traditional baskets are made of natural materials such as vines, grass, reeds, bark, or split wood, they are fragile and perishable and have not held up …

Bathhouse Row

Bathhouse Row Historic District extends along the foot of the mountain that gives rise to the thermal springs in Hot Springs National Park. Located in downtown Hot Springs (Garland County), the scene is dominated by the most recent of a succession of bathing buildings dating back to 1830. Bathhouse Row includes eight surviving bathhouses: the Hale, Maurice, Buckstaff, Fordyce, Superior, Quapaw, Ozark, and Lamar. The landscape features sculptured fountains, water displays, and the Grand Promenade. Bathhouse Row has become the architectural core for downtown Hot Springs. History The first structures in the area to take advantage of the thermal springs were likely the sweat lodges of local Native Americans, which were followed by an unplanned conglomeration of buildings subject to …

Baxter County Courthouse

The Baxter County Courthouse was opened the week of August 13, 1943. Designed by Fayetteville (Washington County) architect T. Ewing Shelton, who used a Plain Traditional style with minimal Art Deco influences, the building is minimalistic in nature, reflecting the “functional emphasis common to Depression-era projects.” The Baxter County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 26, 1995. Located at 1 East 7th Street in Mountain Home (Baxter County), the Baxter County Courthouse was constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) between 1941 and 1943. The exterior is cut stone with buff brick veneer, with the only decoration being marble panels in a variety of patterns resting between the basement and first floor, between the first …

Bazooka [Musical Instrument]

Although today it is more commonly applied to the anti-tank weapon widely used during World War II, or to a product of Topps Chewing Gum, the name “bazooka” was originally given to a novelty wind instrument created by native Arkansan radio and film personality Bob Burns. Spanning the musical gap between a trombone and a slide whistle, the bazooka produces a narrow range of notes with a tone that is more comical than dulcet. Burns developed the bazooka one evening, as early as 1905, during band practice at Hayman’s Plumbing Shop in Van Buren (Crawford County). Burns blew into a gas pipe that made a noise described as sounding like a “wounded moose.” Inspired by this, he developed a new …

Beatles, Stopover of the

In 1964, the world’s most popular music group, the Beatles, visited the Lawrence County town of Walnut Ridge. Though brief, their visit left a lasting impact on the community and has recently been the subject of a documentary movie. That year, the popularity of the Beatles was without rival. George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr were mobbed by teenage fans at each public appearance. The Fab Four, as they were dubbed, had five singles in the top five slots on the Billboard charts. Their first film, A Hard Day’s Night, appeared in 500 U.S. theaters. The group’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show drew an estimated seventy-three million viewers. In their legendary 1964 concert tour, they …

Beely-Johnson Post 139 American Legion Hut

Located in downtown Springdale (Washington and Benton counties), the Beely-Johnson Post 139 American Legion Hut was built in 1934 by American Legion members and local citizens. A kitchen was added to the building’s interior in 1937 by the Legion Auxiliary. The one-story building is constructed of rough-cut native stone quarried from a mountain east of Springdale. There have been no major changes to the building over the years. The Beely-Johnson Post 139 American Legion Hut was organized as the Clarence E. Beely Post in 1921, named in honor of Springdale’s first World War I casualty. An American Legion Auxiliary was established in 1922. In 1962, the post’s name was changed to include the name of Elmer Johnson Jr., the city’s …

Bell, Al

aka: Alvertis Isbell
Al Bell is considered the driving force behind Stax Records as a producer, songwriter, and executive during the company’s most productive period, from 1965 to 1975. He was responsible for promoting the careers of such talent as the Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes, and Otis Redding, among many others. Al Bell was born Alvertis Isbell on March 15, 1940, in Brinkley (Monroe County). One of his earliest musical memories was that of listening to his father’s Louis Jordan records. In an interview published in 2001, Bell claimed Jordan, also a Brinkley native, as a distant relative. Bell’s family moved to North Little Rock (Pulaski County) when he was five years old. After attending Catholic and Seventh-Day Adventist private schools, Bell attended Scipio A. …

Bellingrath House

The Bellingrath House, located in White Hall (Jefferson County), was listed on the National Register of Historic Properties in 1994 as an excellent and singular example of the English-Revival architectural style within White Hall. The house was commissioned by Ferdinand McMillan Bellingrath and his wife, Catherine Oudin Bellingrath, and it remains in the hands of the Bellingrath/Oudin family in the twenty-first century. Ferdinand Bellingrath was the son of Leonard Ferdinand Bellingrath and Mary Jane Castleberry Bellingrath, who originally resided in Georgia before relocating to the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) area in 1916 to expand their Coca-Cola bottling operation. Ferdinand Bellingrath eventually began helping his father operate the Pine Bluff bottling plant, started by his uncles in 1911, before finally taking over …

Bennett, Alvin Silas (Al)

Alvin Silas (Al) Bennett was a recording industry executive best known for his tenure as president and director of Liberty Records from 1958 to 1968. Known as a “music business wizard,” Bennett is largely credited with the transformation of Liberty Records from a struggling start-up operation to a dominant force in the recording trade. “Alvin” of Alvin and the Chipmunks was named after Bennett. Al Bennett was born in Joiner (Mississippi County) on September 21, 1926, to the farming family of Silas S. Bennett and Jessie Starling Bennett. The oldest of four children, he spent his early years working on the farm while attending Shawnee School, graduating in 1943. Bennett enlisted in the U.S. Army on November 5, 1945, for …

Bennett, Fran

Fran Bennett is an actress who has worked in theater, television, and films. She appeared on stage across the nation and in Europe, and she has played roles on television from the 1960s onward in such hit shows as Guiding Light, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Scandal. Bennett was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2005. Fran Bennett was born on August 14, 1937, in Malvern (Hot Spring County). Bennett earned a BS and an MA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and went on to earn credit toward a PhD there before leaving the program. She studied voice under Kristin Linklater, a Scottish actress who relocated to the United States in 1963 to work …