August 22, 2008
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v2.1 Reference

Taking the Town

Collegiate and Community Culture in the Bluegrass, 1880-1917

The relationship between a town and its local institutions of higher education is often fraught with turmoil. The complicated tensions between the identity of a city and the character of a university can challenge both communities. Lexington, Kentucky, displays these characteristic conflicts, with two historic educational institutions within its city limits: Transylvania University, the first college west of the Allegheny Mountains, and the University of Kentucky, formerly "State College." An investigative cultural history of the town that called itself "The Athens of the West," Taking the Town: Collegiate and Community Culture in Lexington, Kentucky, 1880–1917 depicts the origins and development of this relationship at the turn of the twentieth century. Lexington's location in the upper South makes it a rich region for examination. Despite a history of turmoil and violence, Lexington's universities serve as catalysts for change. Until the publication of this book, Lexington was still characterized by academic interpretations that largely consider Southern intellectual life an oxymoron. Kolan Thomas Morelock illuminates how intellectual life flourished in Lexington from the period following Reconstruction to the nation's entry into the First World War. Drawing from local newspapers and other primary sources from around the region, Morelock offers a comprehensive look at early town-gown dynamics in a city of contradictions. He illuminates Lexington's identity by investigating the lives of some influential personalities from the era, including Margaret Preston and Joseph Tanner. Focusing on literary societies and dramatic clubs, the author inspects the impact of social and educational university organizations on the town's popular culture from the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era. Morelock's work is an enlightening analysis of the intersection between student and citizen intellectual life in the Bluegrass city during an era of profound change and progress. Taking the Town explores an overlooked aspect of Lexington's history during a time in which the city was establishing its cultural and intellectual identity.

About the Author

Kolan Thomas Morelock is director of programs at the Men's Hope Center in Lexington, Kentucky. He received a Ph.D. in Studies in Higher Education from the University of Kentucky. He served as an instructor at the University of Kentucky and has over 30 years of experience as a social worker.


"This is an excellent historical research, bringing fresh and unexpected discoveries to an under-studied and under-appreciated era and place. Morelock is effective in persuading one to get on board this unexpected magical mystery tour of an often overlooked Southern city."—John R. Thelin, author of A History of American Higher Education"

"This study not only informs us about a particular time and place but also reminds the reader of a university's relevance in a community prior to the onslaught of big time college athletics, 24/7 broadcast media, and the constant effort to link development with the university's mission."—Terry L. Birdwhistell, co-general editor of Kentucky Remembered: An Oral History Series"

"Taking the Town focuses on the interplay between town and gown to paint a fascinating picture of the development of southern cultural life from the Gilded Age to Progressive Era. Morelock reveals how the academic extracurriculum of debating societies and drama clubs shaped urban life. Thanks to Morelock, readers will see in richer terms the meaning of the 'and' in the phrase town and gown. This thorough, well-written history will draw readers with a variety of interests, including urban history, the history of higher education, and Kentucky history."—Louise L. Stevenson, author of The Victorian Homefront: American Thought and Culture, 1860-1880"

"Hats off to Kolan Thomas Morelock! Taking the Town gives historians a gift in the shape of a remarkably detailed analysis of the relationships between a university and its larger community, especially between student life and public life. I can't think of any comparable study of these topics."—Joseph F. Kett, author of The Pursuit of Knowledge Under Difficulties: From Self-Improvement to Adult Education in America, 1750-1990"

"[Morelock] . . . has written an outstanding intellectual-cultural history of central Kentucky. Morelock's writing is sprightly and fun to read." —Bill Ellis, Kentucky Monthly"

"Morelock . . . gives readers an in-depth look at the social and cultural organizations that have nearly faded from history, illustrating the close ties between the town once known as the "Athens of the West" and its institutions of higher education." —www.newswise.com"

"Based on Kolan Thomas Morelock's meticulous research in a rich array of primary sources, Taking the Town is the story of the rise and decline of campus literary societies and their replacement by dramatic clubs in post-Civil War Lexington, Kentucky." —David E. Alsobrook, Journal of American History"

"Dr. Morelock has done his homework in telling of this transformation. This is a well-researched work, with excellent use of newspapers and college records. . . . This is an informative and instructional look at an era and a place in change, and the process of that transformation." —James C. Klotter, Teachers College Record"

"Morelock demonstrates that Lexington's public culture fused regional New South qualities with trends affecting most smaller American cities." —The Journal of Southern History"—

9780813125046 : taking-the-town-morelock
434 Pages
$60.00 USD

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