Thirty-eight bound volumes and twenty-two folders of manuscripts, documents, and letters, 1885, 1882-1999, of August Kohn (1868-1930) and his daughter Helen Kohn Hennig (1896-1961) augment the materials already in the Library’s collections from this eminent South Carolina journalist and his writer/historian daughter.
Among the bound volumes are the manuscript notebooks that August Kohn used while a student at the University of South Carolina (1885-1889), including class notes from courses in Political Economy; Geology, offered by Dr. James Woodrow; Chemistry, taught by Dr. William Burney; Rhetoric; History, taught by Professor R. Means Davis; Pedagogical Psychology; and English Literature.
After graduating from the University, where as a senior he edited the school’s newspaper, Kohn went to work for the Charleston News & Courier as a reporter and, beginning in 1892, was also the manager of the paper’s Columbia, S.C., bureau. From that early period in his career, a letter copybook survives and provides a snapshot of his activities for a few months in 1892. In response to a letter from a Mr. Ward who had apparently asked about Kohn’s relationship with Governor Benjamin R. Tillman, Kohn wrote on 16 March, “How do I & the Governor get along? Very well indeed. We chat considerably every day and at times quite freely. I tell him jokes, news and guy him whenever possible and visit the mansion occasionally where I am on good [terms] with Mrs. Tillman, who is a very nice lady, and her family.”
Two other volumes, one labeled “Special Articles,” and the other “S. Carolina Historical Clippings,” contain clippings related to South Carolina history and politics beginning in 1904 and continuing into the 1920s. Another volume of clippings contains articles by August Kohn recounting a trip to Europe that he and Mrs. Kohn made during the summer of 1912. The editorial note to the articles which were published in 1912 and 1913 explained: “[Mr. Kohn] has allowed The News and Courier to make up from his diary a number of articles....His keen observation and his clarity of statement make his narrative a delight.” Other scrapbooks of newspaper articles collected by Kohn relate to the South Carolina State Penitentiary Scandal that came to light in 1899, the Seminole Security Company failure in 1908, and a collection of articles from the special U.D.C. Confederate Reunion edition of The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, 10 May 1924.
August Kohn served as a member of the board of trustees for the University of South Carolina from 1900 until he was defeated for reelection in 1924. As a member of the board, Mr. Kohn was involved in the investigation of a charge of fraud and corruption in maintenance work on university buildings. A copy of the testimony taken in 1921 and 1922 during the investigation is included in the collection.
Kohn collected the correspondence related to the election by the General Assembly in 1924 of members of the board of trustees of the university when he was defeated and placed those items, along with related newspaper clippings, in a scrapbook. Ambrose Gonzales, president of The State Company, wrote to “Dear August,” on 1 February 1924, “I have just heard the result of today’s vote in the General Assembly and I am surprised and disappointed. Your tireless work for the University has been the best and most unselfish service of your life, I think, and I want to tell you so.”
Kohn was also involved in many efforts to improve the economic and financial status of his hometown and state. In 1924 he served on a committee representing the Columbia Chamber of Commerce in the effort to secure for Columbia, S.C., a branch Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. A copy of a Brief in support of that effort, along with the minutes of a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Richmond bank held on 23 October 1924 where Kohn and two others from Columbia presented their case, are in the collection.
Other items in the collection associated with August Kohn include a forty-five-page essay titled “The Sensatious” and written for Professor E.E. Sheib, South Carolina University, 15 January 1889; letters from David R. Coker and J.C. Hemphill; correspondence with textile leaders in 1926 when Kohn was preparing a sketch of the state’s textile industry along with a fifty-four-page draft of the article titled “South Carolina’s Cotton Mills;” a proof of August Kohn’s bookplate designed by Alexander N. McDonald in 1923; and a file of obituaries and editorials published at the time of Kohn’s death in 1930.
The collection also documents the life and writings of Helen Kohn Hennig. After her graduation from Chicora College for Women, she married, in 1920, Julian Henry Hennig and together they lived in her father’s house for several years. She earned a Master of Arts degree in English at the University of South Carolina in May 1928 where she wrote her thesis on Edwin DeLeon (1828-1891), a copy of which is in the collection.
Other items included reflect Helen’s interest in writing and travel. In 1935, she spent the summer traveling through Western Europe and a two-volume diary documents that journey. Another trip to Europe during the summer of 1951 produced two more volumes of daily entries. In 1953, Helen visited England, Belgium, Germany, and Spain and recorded her travels in one diary.
A 1955 trip took Helen to Panama, Peru, Chile, Brazil, and Venezuela, and again she recorded her adventures in a diary. In the collection, there is a typescript titled “What to See - What to Do - What to Buy - What to Eat - in Europe Summer, 1953.” Apparently this was a guide to Europe based on Helen’s experiences that she prepared for a group of relatives who planned a 1953 trip, and may have been the basis for a travel guide, European Travel is such Fun!, that Helen wrote and published in 1954. She called the book “a personal, chatty, intimate guide book written by a housewife who, after many trips, still finds travel to Europe thrilling and exciting.”
Two scrapbooks of articles clipped from newspapers contain a number of historical sketches written by Mrs. Hennig. One of the scrapbooks preserves a series of articles that Helen wrote on “Some Notable Columbians.” These were published in The State in 1935 and 1936. Other items in the collection include a folder of Helen’s material on state capitols she collected while she worked with the Columbia Sesqui-Centennial Celebration in 1936; notes on the Kohn family; notes on the three Wade Hamptons; and correspondence with Henry Alexander, Mrs. Albert D. Oliphant, and Col. Richard H. McMaster. There is also present a transcript of an interview that Helen conducted in October 1952 with Dr. John Selby concerning Blondelle Malone (1877-1951), after she had been asked by the editor of the University of South Carolina Press to consider writing a biography of the artist.
An undated typescript of a play by Clifton W. Tayleure titled “Horseshoe Robinson: The Battle of King’s Mountain” is also present. A folder of correspondence and notes concerning William Harrison Scarborough (1812-1871), the subject of Helen’s book William Harrison Scarborough, Portraitist and Miniaturist (Columbia: R. L. Bryan, 1937), also includes a paper, “The Life and Paintings of William Harrison Scarborough, Portraitist and Miniaturist,” that Helen prepared in 1947. One item in the collection, an album owned by Frances C. Hodges, contains sentiments and poems written by her friends in the years 1836-37.