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Joseph Bruce Mathews papers, 1890-1932

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Author

Finding aid prepared by Sarah K. Piester

Title

Joseph Bruce Mathews papers

Date

1890-1932

Repository

University of Kentucky Special Collections

Arrangement

Collection is arranged by form.

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to researchers by appointment.

Preferred Citation Note

62M98: [identification of item], Joseph B. Mathews papers, 1890-1932, University of Kentucky Special Collections.

Extent

0.73 Cubic feet

2 boxes, 1 wrapped item

Abstract

The Joseph B. Mathews papers (dated 1890-1932; 0.73 cubic feet; 2 boxes, 1 wrapped item) of civil service files, a letter copying book, a letter, and two scrapbooks of newspaper clippings. The collection document Mathews work for the U.S. government, including his work as a railroad detective and a prohibition agent in New Orleans.

Biography/History

Joseph Bruce Mathews was born in Nicholas County in 1862. During his life he worked as a soldier, a railroad detective, a deputy United Sates marshal, and a Prohibition administrator during the Volstead Act. In 1883 Mathews joined the U.S. Seventh Cavalry Regiment as a sergeant. He was discharged in 1888 after five years of service. He then worked as a special agent for several railroads, guarding cargoes and investigating robberies and other crimes. He became the Kentucky assistant secretary of state under Caleb Powers in 1900, during the administration of Kentucky Governor W.S. Taylor. Caleb Powers was convicted in 1900 as an accessory to the assassination of Governor William Goebel.

Following his tenure as assistant secretary of state, Mathews became a deputy U.S. Marshal with the New Orleans office of the Bureau of Investigation. In 1926 he was assistant administrator in charge of enforcing Prohibition laws in New Orleans. Mathews was fired from the Bureau in 1927, accused of conducting unauthorized investigations into the conduct of fellow officers. In his retirement he lived in the community of Laurel County near London, Kentucky farming with his wife Daisy. He died in Louisville, Kentucky on May 9, 1959.

Scope and Content

The Joseph B. Mathews papers (dated 1890-1932; 0.73 cubic feet; 2 boxes, 1 wrapped item) of civil service files, a letter copying book, a letter, photographs, and two scrapbooks of newspaper clippings. The collection document Mathews work for the U.S. government, including his work as a railroad detective and a prohibition agent in New Orleans. The bulk of the papers consists of Mathews' civil service files. The photographs consist of nine gelatin silver prints taken in Frankfort, KY following the assassination of Gov. William Goebel in 1900. Additionally, the collection contains one of his letter books, a single handwritten letter, and two scrapbooks, one of which details his work and controversial dismissal in the Prohibition Department in New Orleans.

Subjects

  • Alabama Great Southern Railroad Company..
  • United States. Bureau of Prohibition.
  • Goebel, William, 1856-1900
  • Mathews, Joseph Bruce, 1862-1959
  • Powers, Caleb, 1869-1932
  • Youtsey, Henry Eckert, 1873-1942
  • Assassination--Kentucky.
  • Civil service
  • Law enforcement.
  • Prohibition--United States.
  • Railroad companies--United States.

Collection Inventory

Series I. Civil Service files, 1890-1932
Scope and Content Note:

The Civil Service files series consists of files compiled by or on Joseph Bruce Mathews regarding his service with the United States Civil Service. Mathews seems to have compiled the files in response to his controversial dismissal from the Prohibition Department in New Orleans.

The first bound file titled United States Civil Service File contains letter copies to/from Joseph B. Mathews regarding United States Civil Service, Bureau of Investigation, Southern Railway Company Law Department, Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railway Company, Illinois National Guard, Attorney General, and Department of Justice, Prohibition Department. Additionally the file contains letters of recommendations for Joseph B. Mathews, and blank and completed applications for positions within the United States Civil Service.

The second bound file titled Examination for prohibition service contains letters and information regarding his time as a railroad detective as well as files relating to Mathews' years with the Bureau of Prohibition in New Orleans.

The third bound file titled Department of Justice File For Copying contains letter copies to and from Joseph B. Mathews to/from numerous individuals of varying ranks in the Department of Justice.

The fourth and fifth bound files are titled Hon. George W. Wickersham, Chairman, National Law Enforcement Commission, Washington, D.C. From J.B. Mathews, New Orleans, LA Subject Conditions in Connection with the Federal Prohibition Bureau at New Orleans, LA. Originals contains letters to and from Joseph B. Mathews regarding Mathews and other Prohibition agents, telegram wires, Exhibits, reports, and glued down newspaper clippings about Prohibition.

United States Civil Service file, 1890-1929
[Box: 1, Folder: 1]
Examination for prohibition service, 1890-1932
[Box: 1, Folder: 2]
Department of Justice file for copying, 1920-1921
[Box: 1, Folder: 3]
Hon. George W. Wickersham, Chairman #4, 1925-1930
[Box: 1, Folder: 4]
Hon. George W. Wickersham, Chairman #6, 1927
[Box: 1, Folder: 5]
Series II. Letters, 1893-1927
Scope and Content Note:

The Letter series consists of a letter copying book and a letter from O.D. Howe from 1927. The copying book concerns his work as a railroad detective from 1891-1896. The letter from O.D. Howe thanks Mathews for his service during Prohibition.

Letter copying book, circa 1893-1911
[Box: 1, Folder: 6]
O. D. Howe letter, 1927 February 8
[Box: 1, Folder: 7]
Series III. Photographs, circa 1900
Scope and Content Note:

The Photographs series contains nine silver gelatin prints showing Frankfort, Kentucky, shortly after the assassination of Governor William Goebel. The photographs show the capitol building and trace the route that Henry Youtsey, one of the conspirators, took when he fled. Many of the photographs have extensive handwritten notations. Additionally, the photographs include two unlabeled prints, one showing a military review and the other three men in an office.

Front view of Ky. Capitol Building after shooting of Wm Goebel, circa 1900
[Box: 2, Item: 1]
Rear view of East part of Ky. State building after shooting of Wm Goebel, circa 1900
[Box: 2, Item: 2]
Hallway of Ky State Executive building - west end [cross] shows entrance through private door into private office of Secty of State - [pound sign] shows stairway leading to uper offices - and at back of which is steps leading into basement down which steps Henry Youtsey ran after Wm Goebel was shot, circa 1900
[Box: 2, Item: 3]
Steps under stairway, heading to basement down which Youtsey ran - [cross] shows where Youtsey told Geo Hemphill he was when he heard the shooting, circa 1900
[Box: 2, Item: 4-5]
First basement room at bottom of steps and to right of them, coming down [cross] shows bottom of steps - [pound sign] shows entrance to 2nd room leading to barber shop - Youtsey exits, circa 1900
[Box: 2, Item: 6]
[pound sign] shows section basement room, Youtsey route [cross] shows door entering barber shop rear of building and through which Youtsey ran, circa 1900
[Box: 2, Item: 7]
Three men sitting in an office with a potbelly stove, undated
[Box: 2, Item: 8]
Review of troops all dressed in white with flag marked Whittier, undated
[Box: 2, Item: 9]
Series IV. Scrapbooks, 1921-1927
Scope and Content Note:

The Scrapbook series contains two scrapbooks. The first scrapbook consists of articles about Mathews' New Orleans years, including the controversy over his departure in 1927. The second scrapbook includes newspaper clippings, lithograph images, and poems.

Prohibition scrapbook, 1921-1927
[Box: 1, Folder: 8]
Scrapbook, undated
[Item: 1]