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Whittlers of by-gone eras, and the museum that wasn't


Ninety-five year ago this week -- on Tuesday, March 9, 1926 -- the Adair County News carried a front page article about the artwork of an Adair Countian:

"More work from the skilled artist, Mr. Sam Judd, is now on exhibition at Wyatt Conover's York Trail Cafe [on the square].

"It is attracting the attention of all passers. 'The Vanishing American, who is seated upon a horse, the rider's head bent low, shows that only sorrow is passing through the heart of the rider who has been banished from his beloved country. The picture, as Mr. Judd has whittled it, is perfect...

"This picture will exhibit here April 8th and 9th. See it when it comes."

From the description, Mr. Judd's work may have been similar to James Earle Fraser's well known "End of the Trail" sculpture. "This picture," referenced in the last paragraph, was the recently-released Paramount Pictures photoplay, "The Vanishing American," another story of Native American oppression, wending its way to Columbia.

The previous September, Mr. Judd had "knocked the plum" and won the premium in the whittling contest at the Kentucky State Fair. Said The News, "The piece of work presented by him was a wheelbarrow rolled by a teddy bear and in the wheelbarrow was a watermelon, all whittled by Mr. Judd with his pocket knife."

A few weeks after the "Vanishing American," Mr. Conover display in his cafe's show window Mr. Judd's latest work, "a bust of Abraham Lincoln and it looks very much like the one-time President of the United States. This piece of art is attracting a great deal of attention, and Mr. Judd is receiving many compliments on his artistic skill."

Fast forward then to fifty years ago today -- Tuesday, March 9, 1971 -- when political news dominated the front page of The News.

However, the article that undoubtedly generated the most interest, a front piece by Naomi Landrum with accompanying photos, dealt with local whittlers whose works were on display at the local library. These folk artists by avocation were Mr. Ellis Pickett, spoon and fork; Demaree Richards, knives, forks, and various other objects; Dr. W.R. Murphy, over a dozen kitchen and table utensils, including what appears to be a spatula; Dr. James Salato, an assortment of forks, knives and spoons of different sizes; and Mr. Sylvester Cole, a nifty dinner set.

Wrote Ms. Landrum, "It occurs to us with all this talent around and all these good knives, Columbia should have a whittlers museum with each carver donating a favorite piece that people can see years after the carver is gone."

Oh, that the proposed museum had come to pass and these and so many other marvelous works preserved!

This story was posted on 2021-03-10 08:14:18
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The whittling artistry of Dr. W.R. Murphy

2021-03-10 - Columbia, KY - Photo by Naomi Landrum, courtesy JIM.
The whittling artistry of Dr. W.R. Murphy, as seen in the March 9, 1971 Adair County News.

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