Lexington Public Library

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The Lexington Public Library has made an effort to ensure that all of our digital collections are public domain, or that we have gotten approval from the copyright holders to display their work. Most - but not all - of these collections, to the best of our knowledge, have no known US copyright restrictions. Some items in the collection are under copyright but qualify for online display by libraries under Section 108(h) of United States Copyright Law. Some of the collections provided in the Library's Digital Archives are made available under an assertion of fair use, which does not necessarily apply to an individual's use of them.

Digital Archives - Collection - Group
group of children in Grade 5B at Constitution School
The Community Collections consist of objects shared from local community residents and organizations. Individuals have lent items of local significance to the library to give the larger community awareness and access. The original objects are not owned by the Lexington Public Library. 
Submissions for the Community Collections are open. If you are an individual or organization interested in possibly lending items to be digitized by the library, please contact elibrarian@lexpublib.org. We consider item age, location, content, relevance, privacy considerations, and item condition when determining items to add. Content donors must be the legal copyright holders if the item is not in the public domain.
Kentucky History Awards Icon noting this collection received the award in 2019.


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The Lexington Public Library’s Digital Archives provide open access to researchers and students to learn more about the rich history of Lexington and Fayette County. It contains a fraction of the Library’s physical holdings, which are housed and available for reference in the Kentucky Room at the Central Library. New material is being digitized and added constantly, so there's always something new to find.

The archives have a simple keyword search, and it is possible to browse the collections by subject, area, or decade. The Lexington Public Library actively reviews and labels materials in our archives with statements that indicate how you may reuse the images, and what sort of permission, if any, you need to do so. Please check the information for each image to determine its legal status.


Find out what's happening at our locations.  Browse upcoming events and discover our dedicated learning spaces.  Reserve a meeting room.  Explore our galleries and special collections.

741.5 is written and designed by Lexington Public Library staff member Bill Widener. The inaugural issue came out in January 2017. Sub-titled The Comics & Graphic Novel Bulletin of the Lexington Public Library, its intent is to promote new arrivals to the Library's comics collections. 741.5 takes its name from the numeral designation within the Dewey Decimal System that covers comics and cartooning.

Digital Archives - Collection - Group
Sample directory page

The library has a variety of directories and yearbooks with local information. In the library's current digital collection, there is a selection of residential and street directories, yearbooks, school directories, and organizational directories. These are all fully word-searchable.


Digital Archives - Collection - Group
Kentucky Progress magazine

The Publications Collection contains runs of historical Kentucky newspapers, almanacs, and magazines. 

Digital Archives - Collection
The Bath County Memorial Library was founded in 1949 by the Owingsville Women’s Club, and opened in January, 1950. It expanded into a bookmobile in 1953, and in 1963 moved into the old Farmer’s Bank Building at 24 W. Main St. Community response was high; a 1965 survey showed resident usage at 70%, and the library expanded again in 1996. 
Both of those collections are owned by the Bath County Memorial Library, and held in their local history collection.

This is your gateway to our most popular resources.  Search for books and eBooks, access tools for research and learning, and discover our unique collection of genealogy and local history materials.

Are you just starting your family tree, or have you run into a brick wall tracing a distant ancestor? Join us to share tips and learn new research strategies. All levels of experience are welcome!

The Materials Selection Policy was initially adopted February 25, 1987 by the Lexington Public Library Board of Trustees and was revised March 24, 1993. The Materials Selection Policy was updated and renamed the Collection Development Policy which was approved by the Board on January 14, 2009. The Board of Trustees assumes full responsibility for all legal actions which may result from the implementation of any policies stated herein.

Digital Archives - Collection
St. Paul Catholic Church is one of the oldest existing churches in Lexington. The records for the parish go back to 1854. The ledgers are part of the church's historical archive, and contain unique records for Lexington's history. Bishop Stowe, the bishop of the Lexington diocese, has given permission for ledger records 100+ years old to be made public.
Digital Archives - Collection
Johnston Albert Young III, was born on May 25, 1924, to Johnston and Lillian Shrout Young. Johnston Young’s father died on November 30, 1938, when he was 14. He served in the US Army from April 1943 to January 1946. During that time, he was deployed to the Pacific Ocean theater. He married Carolyn M. Cameron in 1949. Johnston Young died on September 26, 1986, and is buried in Owingsville at the Owingsville Cemetery, along with his wife and parents.
This letter collection is a part of the Bath County Memorial Library Community Collection, and was donated to the library by Tatonya Brock for their local history collection. 

The Knights of Columbus is a fraternal Catholic service organization begun in the 1880s. In 1903, the local Bluegrass Council 762 became the third chapter in Kentucky, and it acquired its 4th degree status in 1920. One of the organization's earliest missions dealt with local unemployment before WWI and assisting with families in its parishes, and it also supported local veterans.

Information from Knights of Columbus, Kentucky State Council

Digital Archives - Collection

St. Paul the Apostle Roman Catholic Church was formally created in the Covington Diocese in 1868, by Father John Bekkers. Still an active parish, the church has celebrated its 150th anniversary and is still in its original building in downtown Lexington.



Digital Archives - Collection
Etta Evans Gilmore was born in Fleming County, Kentucky, on February 4, 1885, to Robert Evans and Matilda Fawns. She married Henry Steele Gilmore, a Bath County physician, around 1906. Their son Robert was born in 1906 and daughter Lorena in 1910. She died on December 2, 1959, in Owingsville, Bath County, Kentucky, and was buried in the Hillsboro Cemetery in Fleming County.
She lived in Bath County for the last 51 years of her life, and was active in her churches and in her role as a doctor’s wife. The diaries that she wrote touched on the many people and activities in her life. After her death in 1959 and her husband’s death in 1973, the family donated the diaries to the Bath County Memorial Library’s local history collection.
Digital Archives - Collection

The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department had its earliest form almost as long as the city itself has existed, when the newly formed city of Lexington would appoint a local physician to investigate reports of certain diseases for quarantine. As early as 1794, Lexington's citizens were getting smallpox inoculations. The city created a Board of Health possibly as early as the 1820s, as a young Lexington experienced cholera outbreaks, typhus, smallpox, and the various growing pains created by more people living and working closer together. In 1938, the Lexington city Board of Health merged with the county’s Board to become the Fayette County Health Department.  

The board minutes for January 1904 – April 1922 provided by the Health Department show the broad range of topics impacting local citizens, and the Health Department’s role in keeping its citizens healthier. Through the decades, the Health Department has tested the local milk supply for tuberculosis, led education and vaccination programs, inspected restaurants, set quarantines to prevent the spread of disease, improved sanitation, and at one point ran the local crematory and eruptive hospital.

Digital Archives - Collection

The Lexington History Museum began in 1999, and opened its doors in the Old Courthouse in 2003. Its purpose is to educate Fayette County about its rich history, and preserve pieces of that history for future generations. The Old Courthouse closed in 2012 for extensive renovations. The History Museum still creates exhibits and works on school and film collaborations to create an understanding and appreciation of local history.

The History Museum's Community Collections currently contains part of the exhibit "Our Fair City: The 1999 Lexington Fairness Ordinance," which was displayed in the summer of 2019 at the Lexington Public Library, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ordinance's passage.

Digital Archives - Collection
David Franklin “Frank” Milam (1918-2000) was born on January 9, 1918 in Charleston, West Virginia.  He married Zelda Bias in September of 1937.    
When the United States entered the war, Frank Milam was married with two preschool-aged children.  Since drafting was almost inevitable, he signed up in order to choose his preferred branch, the Navy. After the war, Frank farmed, and later worked for over 20 years for the Monsanto company in Nitro, WV, as an electrician. Frank and Zelda had six children together, five surviving to adulthood. Like many veterans of World War II, Frank rarely talked about his time on the Yorktown. After his death on June 25, 2000, he was buried in Cunningham Memorial Park, in Saint Albans, WV. His remaining family lives in West Virginia, Kentucky, and scattered through the U.S.
The Milam family has given permission for open viewing of the diary, but these images are not in the public domain. For Milam family permission to use images from the Milam diary, contact georgia111 at twc dot com.
Learn more about Fayette County and our rich history with the Kentucky Room's Digital Archives. Search photo collections, historical newspapers and publications, and community collections with a simple search. New material is continually being scanned and added.
Digital Archives - Collection
Founded in 1982 by Gigi Galore (Greg Butler) and Blanche Pink (Marlon Austin), the Imperial Court of Kentucky, Inc., is a nonprofit charity that supports the LGBTQ+ community of Kentucky “one dollar at a time” through drag shows, social programs, and fundraisers. The Court uses the modus of English peerage to establish male and female lines of descent, with the female line comprising of drag queens (i.e. performers in drag), with each year an empress and emperor being elected. These “royals” represent the court throughout the upcoming year. The Court is a charter member of the International Court System with kingdoms in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Member courts are autonomous organizations bound together in a shared structure, policies, and goals, fundraising for HIV/AIDS services, human rights advocacy, and other LBGTQ+ stakeholders.
Digital Archives - Collection

Tina Belle Green Winters Simpler Young (1880-1930), was born in Elmville, Kentucky. Known as Tiny, she was believed to be a sex worker in the 1920s and 30s, and sent $5.00 a week home to support her sister. For a time she worked in the Crawl section of Frankfort, then she moved to Lexington, and finally lived the rest of her life in Cincinnati. The queerness of sex work, a marginalized woman using sex to support family, provides context both to this collection bearing her name and to the LGBTQ+ community that has historically formed families on the sexual margins.



Digital Archives - Collection
The Brown-Hocker Collection is a community collection of photos and realia from African American events and people in Lexington and Kentucky history. 
The objects in the collection are primarily for events in African American schools and churches. However, there are several items pertaining to civil rights activism in Kentucky. The 1964 March on Frankfort, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jackie Robinson, attracted over 10,000 marchers. The two volumes of “The Kentucky Club Woman” were published by the Kentucky Association of Colored Woman’s Clubs, which represented over 100 Kentucky clubs. There are also several objects honoring the life and legacy of Whitney M. Young, Jr.
The Constitution School and Booker T. Washington Elementary School were both segregated schools for African American children in Lexington. Constitution closed in 1972. 
Digital Archives - Collection
The League of Women Voters of Lexington, Kentucky, was established in 1920. It is the local chapter of a national nonpartisan nonprofit organization that encourages informed and active participation of citizens in local, state, and national government. 
In January 1920, Lexington’s Leader reported, “The Fayette County Equal Rights Association will become the Fayette County League of Women Voters when thirty-six states have ratified the Federal suffrage amendment or the Kentucky Legislature grants presidential suffrage to women.”  The 19th amendment to legalize women’s voting rights had been approved by both the House and Senate in July, 1919, and was submitted to the states for ratification, requiring 36 for adoption. Tennessee became the 36th state on August 18, 1920. On August 26, 1920, the nineteenth amendment was signed into law. 
Kentucky was the 24th state to ratify on January 6, 1920, and the local chapter of the League of Women Voters was formed, seven months before national ratification. In addition, on March 29, 1920, Kentucky passed and signed a separate bill ensuring that Kentucky women would have the right to vote, in case ratification was not reached. 
At the time, Madeline McDowell Breckinridge of Ashland was the president of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, and Mabel Sawyer McVey was the president of the Fayette County chapter. These and many other organizations had lobbied for national suffrage, and women were able to vote for the first time in the 1920 election between Warren G. Harding and James M. Cox.
Since its creation, the League of Women Voters has played an active role in encouraging voter registration and civic engagement in the community.
Digital Archives - Collection

The Take Back Cheapside Collection is a community collection from DeBraun Thomas. The featured postcard of the historic Fayette County Courthouse at was used as a part of the Take Back Cheapside movement in Lexington in 2017. The old courthouse was originally built in 1898. The photo was undated but taken circa 1905. 

Digital Archives - Collection
The Junior League of Lexington (JLL) is a local nonprofit organization of women committed to improving community through volunteerism. The first Junior League was established in 1901 in New York, and Lexington followed in 1924. Lexington’s chapter began with ten women, whose numbers grew to build the foundation of community service for which today's League is known. Its first years established the Junior League as a founding contributor for Baby Health Services in 1938 and the Lexington Children's Theatre in 1939, nonprofits which both still exist today. In the 1960’s, the JLL also founded the Opportunity Workshop of Lexington (OWL) and the Living Arts and Science Center, which are also both still in operation serving the Lexington community. The also contributed support to many local organizations, with everything from community revitalization to crisis intervention.
The event most closely associated with the Junior League is the annual Junior League Horse Show each July, which began in 1937 and was the organization’s only fundraiser for 70 years. It is the first leg of the Saddlebred Triple Crown, and attracts international attention. The event is still volunteer run and generates enormous local impact. In 2007, the JLL began its annual Holly Day Market as well, which runs in November as another fundraiser.
JLL currently resides in the historic Bodley-Bullock House downtown, and continues its tradition of community support and engagement.  

Our commitment to listening, learning and changing is ongoing and our work is never complete. We affirm that we achieve more together because of our differences, not despite them. When all voices are heard, we are stronger. 

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Digital Archives - Collection

Dunbar High School opened in 1923 at 545 North Upper Street as the only all-black high school in Lexington’s city school system. The school was named after African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906­), whose parents had been enslaved in Kentucky. Dunbar was a source of immense pride for many in Lexington; it was ambitious in academics, formidable in athletics, a meeting place for community organizations, and the first of only eight black high schools to ever be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

In 1967, after federal pressure to racially integrate schools, the Fayette County board of education decided to close Dunbar High School. This elicted a substantial outcry from many black Lexingtonians, who saw Dunbar as a community cornerstone, and whose children would be bused longer distances to school. In 1968, the school board promised that the next high school opened in Fayette County would also be Dunbar, which then opened in 1990. After the original closed in 1967, the old Dunbar building remained in use for several years as a junior high school. Most of the building was razed in 1974; what remains of it has been converted into the Dunbar Community Center.

The Dunbar Echo became the student publication, coming out a few times each year. The Lexington Public Library holdings contain the yearbook editions of the publication, which contains information about students, alumni, faculty and teachers, sports, essays, student activities, attendance, budget, and Echo sponsors. There are also black and white photos of some of the students and faculty.

Available yearbooks

Information from:

  • Carpenter, Siona. “New Era Dawns at Dunbar.” Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, KY), Dec. 18, 1989.
  • Carpenter, Siona. “New Dunbar: Honoring Poet or Avoiding Past?” Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, KY), Jan. 24, 1990.
  • “Dunbar (Paul Lawrence) High School.” Lexington History Museum. Accessed February 26, 2018. http://lexhistory.org/wikilex/dunbar-paul-lawrence-high-school.
  • Marx, Jeffrey. “Alumni of Dunbar Want Name Revived in New High School.” Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, KY), Sept. 2, 1987.
  • “Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Lexington, KY).” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database. Accessed February 26, 2018. http://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/1358.​


Digital Archives - Collection

Major Henry Clay McDowell purchased the Ashland Estate from Kentucky University in 1882 with his wife, Anne Smith Clay McDowell, who was a granddaughter of Henry Clay.  The McDowells took great care to revive the grounds to their former glory and made several lasting improvements, including the construction of a glass conservatory adjoining the terrace, which is visible in several of the collection's images. During the period that Ashland was owned by Kentucky University, a large Mechanical Hall was erected on the grounds, which the McDowells converted to a stable and used to reestablish Ashland as a thoroughbred stock farm.  The tenure of the McDowells at Ashland was marked by numerous celebrations and social events on the grounds.  

This photo collection shows one of many gatherings of friends and family, taken circa 1894, which included a parade of the estate’s horses.  Thoroughbreds Impetuous, King Reine, Oratorio, Argentina, and Bracegirdle are all being proudly shown at this event.   Photos also show members of the McDowell family in attendance, including Major McDowell and his wife, and their daughters Nanette, Julia, and Madeline.  The author John Fox Jr. was a frequent guest of the McDowells at Ashland and can be seen in one image playing a banjo on the lawn.

Information on the history of Ashland from Ashland: the Henry Clay Estate by Eric Brooks, 2007.

Digital Archives - Collection

The Lexington Musicians' Association is the local chapter of the American Federation of Musicians (Local 554-635) and was chartered in 1910. At the time of its creation it raised some controversy as the first musician labor union in the city. The LMA was affiliated with Lexington's Central Labor Union. 

The directory contains information on Kentucky member musicians, the union rates, and instruments played.


Information from "Musicians' Union a Controversy." Lexington Leader 7 November 1910: 2. Microfilm.

Digital Archives - Collection

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill has existed outside of Harrodsburg for over 200 years, and is a popular site to visit today. The library's collection contains a considerable amount of information on the community's origins and history. 

The "Shakertown" pamphlet was written in 1921, and gives a very brief overview of the history and purpose of the original Shaker settlement outside of Harrodsburg in 1805. Old Shakertown and the Shakers by Daniel Mac-Hir Hutton was published in 1936, and contains illustrations, photos, and history of Shaker Village from 1805-1936. Both items are in the public domain.

Digital Archives - Collection

In 1768, Lewis Craig and other members of the Spotsylvania Baptist Church were arrested for preaching without a license issued by the Church of England. Their case was later defended by Patrick Henry. 

To free his congregation from what he felt was religious persecution, and to capitalize on the opportunities of available land in the area, Craig formed the Traveling Church and brought his entire congregation through the frontier to Kentucky and established Bryan's Station Baptist Church.  As the church grew too large for one meeting space, it formed David's Fork Baptist Church in Fayette County in 1801. The church built a new space in 1857, where they still hold services. 

The pamphlet is part of the library's collection in the Kentucky Room.

Information from At the Meetinghouse on David's Fork: a History of David's Fork, 1891-2001 by Randy Smith, 2001.

Digital Archives - Collection

The Fayette County Postcard collection contains images of well-known sites in Central Kentucky, such as Keeneland, Transylvania University, Ashland, and many others. The 80 images provide an interesting perspective of Lexington architecture, industry, and culture in the early 20th Century.