Wade Hall Collection of American Letters: Bernice Rush papers

Abstract

The Bernice Rush papers (dated 1923-1945, undated; 1.04 cubic feet; 2 boxes, 4 folders, 27 photographs) comprises papers, letters, photographs and newspaper clippings that document the dramatic life of Bernice Rush in Kentucky, Mexico, and Illinois.

Descriptive Summary

Title
Wade Hall Collection of American Letters: Bernice Rush papers
Date
1923-1945, undated (inclusive)
Creator
Rush, Bernice, 1896-1975
Extent
1.04 Cubic Feet
Subjects
Letters.
Business cards.
Postcards.
Notebooks.
Transcripts
Courts -- Records and correspondence; Records of court.
Business correspondence
Prisons
Murder.
Lawyers.
Death
Spouse abuse
Marriage proposals.
Marriage -- United States
Small business -- Ownership.
Banks and banking
Testimony
Drama
Arrangement
Collection is arranged into three series: Letters, Papers, and Photographs. The Wade Hall Collection of American Letters has been processed into discrete collections based on provenance.
Finding Aid Author
Hanna Rumbarger
Preferred Citation
2009ms132.0811: [identification of item], Wade Hall Collection of American Letters: Bernice Rush papers, 1923-1945, undated, University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.
Repository
University of Kentucky

Collection Overview

Biography / History
Bernice Rush (1896-1975) was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Around 1910, Bernice moved to New York and started a dressmaking business. In 1915, she was awarded 5,000 dollars as a settlement for a trolley accident. With the money, Bernice moved to Mexico City and opened her dress business there. She was a well-known dress maker in Mexico City, Mexico and involved with a young man named Genare Benavente. On December 23rd, 1929, Bernice was attacked by Genare and his mistress, thus leading to Bernice shooting Genare five times in self-defense, leading to his death. She is arrested for his murder and incaracerated at Belen Jail in Mexico City. Her trial for murder opened on November 13th, 1930. The case drew a large following in both the United States and Mexico, as no other American woman had been tried in the capital. Bernice Rush was acquitted of murder by at 6 to 3 jury decision after only one hour of deliberation. In 1931, Bernice left Mexico and moved back to the New York and eventually re-opened her dressmaking business. By 1932, she was living in Chicago, Illinois where she met a new man, Otto A. Brinner, and within a week was engaged to him. In 1933, she sued him for Breach of Promise to Marry. At some point she moved to California as the California Death Index recorded her death on July 13th, 1975. It is unknown if she ever married or had children.
American Letters collector Wade Hall (1934-2015) was a native of Union Springs, Alabama. Starting in 1962, he lived in Louisville, where he taught English and chaired the English and Humanities/Arts programs at Kentucky Southern College and Bellarmine University. He also taught at the University of Illinois and the University of Florida. He held degrees from Troy State University (B.S.), the University of Alabama (M.A.), and the University of Illinois (Ph.D.). He served for two years in the U.S. Army in the mid-fifties. Dr. Hall was the author of books, monographs, articles, plays, and reviews relating to Kentucky, Alabama, and Southern history and literature. His most recent books include A Visit with Harlan Hubbard; High Upon a Hill: A History of Bellarmine College; A Song in Native Pastures: Randy Atcher's Life in Country Music; and Waters of Life from Conecuh Ridge.
Scope and Content
The Bernice Rush papers (dated 1923-1945, undated; 1.04 cubic feet; 2 boxes, 4 folders, 27 photographs) comprises papers, letters, photographs and newspaper clippings that document the dramatic life of Bernice Rush in Kentucky, Mexico, and Illinois. This collection contains personal and professional letters belonging to Bernice Rush. Included in the personal documents are love letters, postcards, diaries, court transcripts, photographs and a personal memoir. Bernice documents in detail all the dramatic details of her life such as; love, murder, pregnancy, jail, attempted rape, a miscarriage, abuse and scams. Transcripts from her murder trial, a memoir documenting her experience during the trial, and papers from her lawyer are included in the collection. She also writes and receives letters from friends during and after the trial, discussing her hardships, having friends hold on to her belongings, financial assistance, and requests for assistance from the United States government while incarcerated. After returning to the United States, she becomes involved with a new man and receives numerous letters from him, many cryptic and vague, and some in Spanish. Bernice writes in a diary about her time with him, detailing their unconventional relationship and his abusive action towards her. There are court documents in the collection detailing Bernice's attempts to sue him for Breach of Promise to Marry.
The last part of this collection features the various professional papers and documents belonging to Bernice. She receives letters from different banks, suppliers, and customers of her dress business. Multiple business cards and addresses were kept by Bernice. Sometime in the mid 1930s, Bernice started to sell pharmacy items such as; bandages, antiseptic spray, topical treatments and other pharmaceutical necessities. There are twenty-seven photographs included in this collection, and they are mainly of Bernice and the proceedings of her trial. Also included are photos from friends and family members. Bernice and a young named named Antonio Guerro decided to walk from Mexico City to New York City in 1930, and two of their autographed promotional postcards are stored in this collection as well.
The Bernice Rush papers collection is part of the Wade Hall Collection of American letters, which includes correspondence and diaries from all over North America covering the time period of the Civil to Korean Wars. The materials were collected by Wade Hall and document everyday men and women.

Restrictions on Access and Use

Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open to researchers by appointment.
Use Restrictions
The physical rights to the materials in this collection are held by the University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.

Contents of the Collection

Letters, 1928-1933, undated

Bernice Rush to President Hoover, 1929

  • Box 1, folder 4
To top

Federico Sodi to Bernice Rush, 1930

  • Box 1, folder 6
To top

Letters to Bernice Rush, 1929-1934, undated

  • Box 1, folder 11
To top

Mexican Officials to Bernice Rush, 1928-1930

  • Box 1, folder 2
To top

Otto A. Brinner to Bernice Rush, 1932-1933, undated

  • Box 1, folder 12
To top

Postcards, 1932-1933, undated

  • Box 2, folder 4
To top

Papers, 1923-1945, undated

Addresses, undated

  • Box 2, folder 10
To top

Belen Jail papers, 1929, undated

  • Box 1, folder 3
To top

Bernice Rush memoir, undated

  • Box 1, folder 10
To top

Bernice Rush murder case timeline article, 1929

  • Box 1, folder 5
To top

Bernice Rush newspaper clippings, 1930

  • Box WH-50, folder 8
To top

Bernice Rush versus Otto A. Brinner court case, 1933, undated

  • Box 1, folder 13
To top

Business cards, undated

  • Box 2, folder 9
To top

Composition notebooks, 1933-1934, undated

  • Box 2, folder 6
To top

Court transcripts and media coverage, 1929-1930, undated

  • Box 1, folder 8
To top

Cross country walk papers, 1930

  • Box 1, folder 9
To top

Diary, 1933

  • Box 1, folder 14
To top

El Universal newspaper clippings, 1930

  • Box WH-50, folder 6
To top

Financial papers, 1923, 1933-1934, undated

  • Box 2, folder 1
To top

Jose Antonio Reyes papers, undated

  • Box 1, folder 7
To top

Mexican newspaper clippings, 1930

  • Box WH-50, folder 5
To top

Mexican passports and license, 1925, 1930

  • Box 1, folder 1
To top

Notes, 1928, undated

  • Box 2, folder 7
To top

Pamphlets and flyers, 1934, undated

  • Box 2, folder 8
To top

Pharmacy records, 1932, undated

  • Box 2, folder 3
To top

Pocket notebooks, 1933-1934, undated

  • Box 2, folder 5
To top

Professional papers, 1930-1945, undated

  • Box 2, folder 2
To top

Sunday newspaper clipping on Bernice Rush, 1930

  • Box WH-50, folder 7
To top

Photographs, 1929-1930, undated

Promotional postcard of Bernice Rush and Antonia Guerrero's cross-country walk, 1930

  • Box WH-68, item 1
To top

Promotional postcard of Bernice Rush and Antonia Guerrero's cross-country walk, 1930

  • Box WH-68, item 2
To top

Portrait of Carolina Appel, 1930

  • Box WH-68, item 3
To top

Portrait of Bernice Rush, undated

  • Box WH-68, item 4
To top

Portrait of "Magdalenna", 1929

  • Box WH-70, item 5
To top

Portrait of unidentified man in traditional clothing, 1930

  • Box WH-70, item 6
To top

Bernice Rush laying down inside her jail cell, 1929

  • Box WH-70, item 7
To top

Friends of Bernice Rush standing outside the courthouse, 1929

  • Box WH-70, item 8
To top

Bernice Rush [seated] in front of judge and jury at her trial, 1929

  • Box WH-70, item 9
To top

Unidentified members of the jury for the trial of Bernice Rush, 1929

  • Box WH-70, item 10
To top

Female prisoners being sprayed with a water hose in the Belen jail yard, 1929

  • Box WH-70, item 11
To top

Unidentified crowd standing in the town square where Bernice Rush shot Genare Benavente, 1930

  • Box WH-70, item 12
To top

The defense, prosecution, and judge with Bernice Rush inside the courtroom, 1930

  • Box WH-70, item 13
To top

Bernice Rush being escorted out of Mexico City courtroom, 1930

  • Box WH-70, item 14
To top

Judge and two councilmen presiding over Bernice Rush's trial, undated

  • Box WH-70, item 15
To top

Bernice Rush behind bars talking with her two lawyers, Reyes and Sodi, undated

  • Box WH-70, item 16
To top

Portrait of Miss Appel, undated

  • Box WH-70, item 17
To top

Two unidentified women posing for a portrait, undated

  • Box WH-70, item 18
To top

Portrait of an unidentified woman, undated

  • Box WH-70, item 19
To top

Portrait of Bernice Rush wearing a fur wrap, undated

  • Box WH-70, item 20
To top

Window display at Bernice Rush's dress store in Mexico City, 1920

  • Box WH-75, item 21
To top

Woman in the front window of Bernice Rush's dress store in Mexico City, 1920

  • Box WH-75, item 22
To top

View of the courtroom during the trial of Bernice Rush in Mexico City, 1929

  • Box WH-75, item 23
To top

Large crowd watching the trial of Bernice Rush, 1929

  • Box WH-75, item 24
To top

Portrait of an unidentified woman, note on back written in Spanish, 1929

  • Box WH-75, item 25
To top

Portrait of Virginia Disney, undated

  • Box WH-75, item 26
To top

Portrait of an unidentified child, undated

  • Box WH-75, item 27
To top

UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center is open Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm. Appointments are encouraged but not required. Schedule an appointment here.

Researchers must have an SCRC Researcher Account to request materials. View account set-up and use instructions here.

Questions? Contact SCRC via our Contact Form.

You may come across language in UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center collections and online resources that you find harmful or offensive. SCRC collects materials from different cultures and time periods to preserve and make available the historical record. These materials document the time period when they were created and the view of their creator. As a result, some may demonstrate racist and offensive views that do not reflect the values of UK Libraries.

If you find description with problematic language that you think SCRC should review, please contact us at SCRC@uky.edu.

UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center is open Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm. Appointments are encouraged but not required. Schedule an appointment here.

Researchers must have an SCRC Researcher Account to request materials. View account set-up and use instructions here.

Questions? Contact SCRC via our Contact Form.

Requests

No items have been requested.



  1. Schedule an appointment. Face masks are required for non-vaccinated individuals.

  2. Submit a request for SCRC materials.



You may come across language in UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center collections and online resources that you find harmful or offensive. SCRC collects materials from different cultures and time periods to preserve and make available the historical record. These materials document the time period when they were created and the view of their creator. As a result, some may demonstrate racist and offensive views that do not reflect the values of UK Libraries.

If you find description with problematic language that you think SCRC should review, please contact us at SCRC@uky.edu.