Wade Hall Collection of American Letters: Mack D. Ferguson papers

Abstract

The Mack D. Ferguson papers (dated 1905-1939, undated; 0.39 cubic feet; 1 flat box and 2 folders) comprises one scrapbook and twenty-three letters primarily documenting the career of Mack D. Ferguson, vaudeville singer, actor, comedian, and manager.

Descriptive Summary

Title
Wade Hall Collection of American Letters: Mack D. Ferguson papers
Creator
Ferguson, Mack D, b. 1901
Extent
0.39 Cubic Feet
Subjects
Performing arts.
Vaudeville
Letters.
Correspondence.
Love-letters
Long-distance relationships.
Man-woman relationships -- United States -- 20th century
Divorce -- United States
Arrangement
The collection is arranged by format. The Wade Hall Collection of American Letters has been processed into discrete collections based on provenance.
Finding Aid Author
Jeffrey Witt; Ruth E. Bryan; Sarah Coblentz
Preferred Citation
2003ms132.0007: [identification of item], Wade Hall Collection of American Letters: Mack D. Ferguson papers, 1905-1939, undated, University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.
Repository
University of Kentucky

Collection Overview

Biography / History
Mack D. Ferguson was a vaudeville singer, actor, comedian, and manager. Born in 1901 in La Center, Ballard County, Kentucky, his birth name was most likely McDougal Ferguson. He was also known as Mc. D. Ferguson. His parents were McDougal Ferguson (an insurance salesman) and Inez K. Ferguson. In the 1910 census, the family also included Ferguson's older brother, Garth K. Ferguson, and his wife Rose, along with their two children; and sisters Lillian (20), Elizabeth (16), and Jula [Zula] Inez (12). Zula Inez Ferguson is listed in the 1928 U.S. Women of the West. On June 10, 1927, Ferguson married fellow stage performer Peggy Smith in Olean, New York and in July 1929, they shared top billing in a Stearns, Kentucky, production of the Peggy Smith Players, with Ferguson listed as a comedian. However, Smith is not referenced in later scrapbook items. Although Mack Ferguson may have been performing on the vaudeville stage as early as 1925 at the age of 23, touring with the Honeymoon Limited Company/Players, Ferguson appears to have been most active during the early- to mid-1930s, performing as a singer and a straight man. This period of his career began in 1933, when Ferguson joined a new vaudevillian production out of Louisville, Kentucky, in which he was tenor vocalist, a comedian, a straight man, The Kentucky Gentleman, and the juvenile lead. He was primarily associated with vaudevillian troupes under the direction of owner/operators Harry Hirsch and John R. Van Arnam, touring the Atlantic states, Ohio Valley, and the Midwest. He often performed in a rolling stock company with other actors, especially Charles Dome Williams and Uncle Ezra Jones, as well as various quartette groups, most notably The Four Harmonizers, but also with the Broadway Comedy Four and Quartette, Comedy Four, the Kentucky Melody Lads, and the Old Homestead Four. After 1938, Ferguson's career appears to slow down. He held positions as a stage manager and master of ceremonies and also gave one-time engagements, rather than playing with the rolling stock companies. He also performed a one-man sketch of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and wrote a political stump speech for Senator Alben Barkley of Kentucky (approximately early 1937). This period coincides with the date that Van Arnam ceased operation. His death date and location are unknown.
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 Mack D. Ferguson papers (dated 1905-1939, undated; 0.39 cubic feet; 1 flat box and 2 folders) comprises one scrapbook and twenty-three letters primarily documenting the career of Mack D. Ferguson, vaudeville singer, actor, comedian, and manager. Items include programs, production playbills, newspaper reviews, and advertisements. There are also personal items, including photographs and notes. Performing groups represented in the collection include the Four Harmonizers and other vaudevillian troupes under the direction of owner/operators Harry Hirsch and John R. Van Arnam. This management company toured the Atlantic states, the Ohio Valley, and the Midwest, and items document theaters and performances particularly in Atlanta, Ga.; Cincinnati, Oh.; Chicago, Ill.; Columbus, Oh.; Dayton, Oh.; Detroit, Mich.; Huntsville, Al.; Louisville, Ky.; Memphis, Tenn.; Minneapolis, Minn.; and St. Louis, Mo. One letter is from his ex-wife, discussing how she got their divorce decree done quickly, the majority of the rest are from a new girlfriend. The girlfriend's letters discuss her daily life, working in her family's drug store, visiting with friends, the death of her father, he desires to see him again, and her disinterest in getting married a second time.
The Mack D. Ferguson scrapbook 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
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

Scrapbook, 1905-1936

Eloise Hamill to Mack D. Ferguson, 1932-1939, undated

  • Box WH-37, folder 21
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Mack D. Ferguson letters, 1930-1937

  • Box WH-37, folder 22
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If you are visiting the Breckinridge Research Room, please request materials at least 48 business hours in advance of your arrival.

For all other questions, contact us at: https://libraries.uky.edu/ContactSCRC.

Researchers are required to have an SCRC Researcher Account in order to request or order digital copies of materials. Research Account set-up and use instructions can be found at: http://libguides.uky.edu/SCRCaccount

If you are visiting the Breckinridge Research Room, please request materials at least 48 business hours in advance of your arrival.

For all other questions, contact us at: https://libraries.uky.edu/ContactSCRC.

Requests

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