Herschel Gower Papers

Identifier: MSS.0176

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

This collection is primarily comprised of 20 linear feet of manuscript materials, which include drafts of an unpublished novel with its title and text changes in various versions. The papers also include manuscripts of his novel Faces in a Nashville Arcade and of his biography of Charles Dahlgren, Charles Dahlgren of Natchez: The Civil War and Dynastic Decline.

Professor Gower was a friend of writer Mildred Haun and her literary executor. His work as an editor of her stories is represented in these papers.

In addition there are articles and research notes and materials concerning Randal McGavock and his descendants, the Howell family and their descendants, and articles and books he wrote on the historic community of Beersheba Springs, Tennessee. There are subject files for his research on folklore, the D. Shelby Williams Trial which was used as background for his unpublished novel, and materials relating to poet John Crowe Ransom and author Peter Taylor.

A collection of correspondence and newspaper articles on the Yeatman and Polk families and their family ties with Gustave Eiffel, builder of the Eiffel Tower are included with these papers. There are fourteen reel to reel and cassette tape recordings, many of them songs recorded by the Scottish singer Jeannie Robertson.


  • 1954 - 2019

Biographical Note - Herschel Gower

Herschel Gower, a native of Nashville, was born on December 11, 1919. He received his B.A. from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee and his master and doctorate degrees from Vanderbilt University. He spent 1954 - 1956 at the University of Edinburgh on a Fulbright Scholarship and maintained a lifelong interest in Scottish culture and history.

He began his teaching career at Vanderbilt in 1956 in the English department and was awarded the title Professor Emeritus before his retirement from Vanderbilt in 1985. He taught courses in the ballad, the lyric, and American literature.

During his academic career he was a lecturer in the Vanderbilt in France study abroad program and at the University of Leeds for the Vanderbilt in England program.

Professor Gower is the author and editor of a number of books including:

Pen and Sword: The Life and Journals of Randal W. McGavock (1959)

The Sense of Fiction (1966)

The Hawk’s Done Gone and Other Stories by Mildred Haun (ed. 1968)

Beersheba Springs: A History and a Celebration (1983)

Faces in a Nashville Arcade (1983)

Jeannie Robertson: Emergent Singer, Transformative Voice (1995)

Charles Dahlgren of Natchez: The Civil War and Dynastic Decline (2002)

He also contributed articles and poems to scholarly publications, magazines, and newspapers, many with a focus on Tennessee history.

After retirement from Vanderbilt he was a free-lance writer and lectured at the Athena Foundation, a non-profit organization, started by his wife Dona. They lived in Dallas, Texas and had a home in Beersheba Springs, Tennessee. Gower died December 20, 2012 in Dallas.


18.38 Linear Feet (10 Hollinger, 1 half-hollinger, 14 Paige box)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Offsite Storage, Special Collections & Archives


An addition to this collection was previously designated MSS.0851. That addition has since been incorporated into MSS.0176.

Finding Aid for the Herschel Gower Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Library
1101 19th Ave. S.
Nashville TN 37212 United States


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