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Rufus L. Buchanan Papers

 Collection
Identifier: MS-3660

This collection consists of over 4,000 documents from the different careers of Rufus L. Buchanan before and during the Great Depression. The bulk of the collection is correspondence concerning his general store, auto dealership, and efforts as a traveling salesman, with additional letters regarding land speculation and the Democratic Party, and a few from his friends and family. In addition to correspondence, papers include information sent to him from automobile companies and the LeGear Medicine Company, and his sales records from both the Foley and LeGear companies. The collection also includes three volumes of selected correspondence that Buchanan's children self-published.

Letters of complaint feature issues such as inferior products, including syrup bottles that exploded; late or non-existing payments from both customers and suppliers; and poor service from the Post Office and various companies. In one letter, Buchanan let the recipient know that if satisfaction was not forthcoming, he would soon feel "about as sweet as an alligator with a sore nose." Other interesting topics include a diet to slow hair loss, instructions for pickling a fish for mail-in identification, a variety of sales techniques and pitches, and the saga of the bank teller who embezzled funds. WeeklyBulletins from the LeGear Company are a trove of information about contemporary veterinary treatments, including one about Rat Nip for rodent control. In addition to the various topics in these papers, the collection as a whole gives insight to the daily details involved in running a business in the 1920s and working as a traveling salesman in the 1930s.

Series I: Personal Papers includes correspondence with family, his work with the local Democratic party, and his efforts to sell or develop the land that he and his brothers had bought.

Series II: General Store Papers includes correspondence with various suppliers about products, orders, transportation difficulties, and finances.

Series III: Auto Dealerships Papers includes dealer publications, correspondence with manufacturers and suppliers, and information about customer loans.

Series IV: Foley and Company Papers includes correspondence and publications about selling their products.

Series V: Dr. L.D. LeGear Company Papers includes correspondence and publications about his sales career, correspondence about men he was asked to train, and some of the paraphernalia he used on his sales calls.

Series VI: Published Materials includes the three books his children self-published.

Series VII: Oversize includes oversized letters and advertisements.

Dates

  • 1920 September 15-1958 August 9, 2008-2010, undated

Conditions Governing Access

Manuscript and University Archives collections are stored offsite, and a minimum of 24 hours is needed to retrieve these items for use. Researchers interested in consulting any of the collections are advised to contact Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in this collection remain with the creator. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library.

Extent

3.2 Linear Feet

Abstract

This collection consists of over 4,000 documents from the different careers of Rufus L. Buchanan before and during the Great Depression. The bulk of the collection is correspondence concerning his general store, auto dealership, and efforts as a traveling salesman, with additional letters regarding land speculation and the Democratic Party, and a few from his friends and family. In addition to correspondence, the papers include information sent to him from automobile companies and the LeGear Medicine Company, and his sales records from both the Foley and LeGear companies. The collection also includes three volumes of selected correspondence that Buchanan's children self-published.

Biographical/Historical Note

Rufus Lafayette Buchanan, Sr. was born on November 11, 1886 to Silas P. and Martha (Keel) Buchanan in Dickenson County, Virginia. His brothers were Steve, Noah, Henry, Jasper Newton, and Harmon, and his sister became Mrs. Sam Strouth. Buchanan married Grace Keel Honaker on June 30, 1913 and they had two sons, Rufus, Jr. on May 27, 1914 and Joel Raymond on November 19, 1928.

In the mid-1920s, Rufus Buchanan and his brothers, Noah and Henry, opened Buchanan Brothers General Merchandise in Darwin, Virginia. Rufus served as the general manager for this enterprise, as well as for the automobile dealerships they later opened in Darwin and Clintwood, Virginia. He also served as Precinct Chair for the Democratic Party until he resigned in July, 1926. In the late 1920s, Buchanan Brothers went bankrupt as a result of the Great Depression, embezzlement of funds by William P. Raines, and failure of land speculations.

In August of 1929, Buchanan moved his family to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to become a sales representative for the Foley Medicine Company of Chicago. When the Foley Company stopped using salesmen in 1934, he accepted an offer to represent the Dr. L.D. LeGear Medicine Company. He remained on their force until January, 1942 when cancer advanced to his abdomen and he was unable to continue. Rufus L. Buchanan died on June 20, 1942 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

His son, Joel Raymond Buchanan, married Jane Anderson Gray on March 21, 1953. Together, they organized and published the correspondence of Rufus L. Buchanan, along with additional genealogical information and photos, in 2008, 2009, and 2010. They donated these papers and the three volumes of letters to the University of Tennessee Library Special Collection in 2012.

Arrangement

This collection consists of seven series, housed in three record boxes and one flat box. The first series includes personal papers, the next four series include papers from Buchanan's four primary careers, the sixth includes the books his son self-published, and the last includes papers too large to fit into a record box.

Series I: Personal Papers includes correspondence with family, his work with the local Democratic party, and his efforts to sell or develop the land that he and his brothers had bought.

Series II: General Store Papers includes correspondence with various suppliers about products, orders, transportation difficulties, and finances.

Series III: Auto Dealerships Papers includes dealer publications, correspondence with manufacturers and suppliers, and information about customer loans.

Series IV: Foley and Company Papers includes correspondence and publications about selling their products.

Series V: Dr. L.D. LeGear Company Papers includes correspondence and publications about his sales career, correspondence about men he was asked to train, and some of the paraphernalia he used on his sales calls.

Series VI: Published Materials includes the three books his children self-published.

Series VII: Oversize includes oversized letters and advertisements.

Personal Papers

  1. General Store Papers
  2. Auto Dealership Papers
  3. Foley and Company Papers
  4. Dr. L.D. LeGear Medicine Company Papers
  5. Published Material
  6. Oversize

Acquisition Note

The bulk of this collection was donated by Joel and Jane Buchanan in 2012, with the remainder purchased by Special Collections at the same time.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

Contact:
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA
865-974-4480