While walking last week in Germantown with Teddy, her medium-sized Terrier mix, UofL Libraries Assessment Librarian Anita Hall saw a poster that looked familiar. It was a larger version of historic lapel “badges” issued to citizens during another difficult era: Louisville’s great flood of 1937.
The badges contained an upbeat pledge that ended with the catchphrase “I Dare You To Catch Me Not Smiling,” and were widely distributed after the historic 1937 flood to boost morale. Now posters are reappearing locally during the COVID-19 era in a variety of colors that differ from the badges’ original orange. An enterprising individual must have recognized a similar mood arising in our current reality and thought we could use the boost.
“It made me quite emotional to think about other times that people in the city have come together to weather a crisis,” Hall said. “Seeing these makes me feel very connected to the whole city.”
The Ohio River’s over-spill engulfed 70% of Louisville and 90% of Jeffersonville, Indiana, and devastated other communities along the river from Pennsylvania to Illinois. Getting back to normal life after the waters receded was a shared public challenge. During this time, Louisville Mayor Neville Miller created the Committee on Morale to prevent panic and encourage cooperation, service and determination. Notices, broadsides and posters were posted throughout the city to offer ways to cope and recover from the extensive damage.
In 2017, UofL’s Archives and Special Collections held an exhibit showcasing these artifacts and archival photography from its collections chronicling the flood’s impact. A part of the exhibit was Mayor Miller’s scrapbook kept during the era and now housed in ASC’s Rare Books collection – it includes the original orange flyers. Also part of the exhibit was a quarantine pass allowing individuals to leave their homes for a period of time; it is collected in ASC’s C.H. Burkholder Papers.
“Even though I burst into tears when I first saw the poster, I’m smiling now!” Hall said.