Heading out of your front door, down the street, and just around the corner to work can bring lots of surprises. On our last trip to Ailey, we found a box containing some belongings of Edward Gaston Russell (1869-1962), the brother of Judge Richard B. Russell, Sr., and uncle of Senator Richard B. Russell, Jr. The box was a simple cardboard one tied with thick rope and unopened since it was packed in 1962. The contents within revealed some cool surprises about Athens that just happen to coincide with an annual Classic City event that’s just around the corner, the Twilight Criterium.
Around the turn of the 19th century, the Russell Brothers – Richard, Edward, Lewis, Robert, and William - owned several businesses together in the Athens area, including a printing press, various law practices, a peach-growing operation, and a bicycle shop. The photograph (right) and letter (below) show the Russell Bicycle Shop and some employees showing off their wares. According to the letterhead, the shop was located at 225 East Washington Street. While the address is shown as what is now First American Bank and Trust (or actually the entrance to park below it), Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps from the 1890s (a stunning collection in the Digital Library of Georgia) show that the original location was actually at the corner of Washington and Foundry Street – where the Classic Center is now.
So, Athenians, watch the Criterium and the cyclists on those corners this weekend with a new-found piece of Athens trivia in your pocket. And don’t forget that the move to the Special Collections Library is just around the corner for us, which means many more surprises are waiting to be found when we pack!
Post by Renna Tuten, Processing Archivist, Russell Library