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Charles P. Farnsley papers

Identifier: 1980_078-UA

The Charles R. P. Farnsley collection documents his personal and business activities, especially involvement with community arts programs. The collection spans the years 1945 to 1980 with the bulk primarily covering the activities of the Louisville Philharmonic Society and the Louisville Orchestra from 1947 to 1960.

Included in the collection is personal and business correspondence, publications, articles pertaining to Farnsley's various businesses, Roper and other public opinion survey materials, and an autographed copy of Louis Harris's book The Anguish of Change. The Louisville Philharmonic Society is documented by correspondence (1946 - 1960), minutes of board meetings (1947 - 1948), and financial reports (1955 - 1957). Louisville Orchestra correspondence (1951 - 1963), financial material (1950 - 1957), including the Rockefeller Foundation Grant, and concert programs (1948 - 1957) are also found. Files pertaining to the Louisville Fund (1949 to 1960), and articles about tourism in Louisville are included.

There is some information regarding Farnsley's political activities, mostly his tenure as Louisville mayor (1948 - 1954). Box 6 contains some material relating to his term as a Representative in the United States Congress, while Box 10 (accession 1988-104) provides a more comprehensive collection of correspondence and other materials regarding that term in the 89th Congress.

In addition to miscellaneous items, the collection contains material from Nancy Farnsley's involvement with the Kentucky Heritage Commission.

This collection also includes six scrapbooks documenting Charles P. Farnsley's mayoral years from 1948 to 1953. There are also two personal scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings and family memorabilia created from 1947 to 1976. The latter also contain material relating to Farnsley's service in Congress and as a delegate to the 1964 Kentucky Constitutional Revision Convention. These have been microfilmed.

For additional information, see also Farnsley Family Scrapbooks at the University Archives, and the Douglas and Thurman Family papers at the Filson Club.


  • 1945-1980


Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers. Microfilm of scrapbooks will be provided in place of originals.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in the Charles P. Farnsley Papers have been transferred to the University of Louisville. Some restrictions may apply.


6.75 linear feet

Biographical / Historical

Charles Farnsley was born on 28 March 1907, the son of Judge Burrell Farnsley and Anna May Peaslee Farnsley. He received his LL.B in 1930, his A.B. in 1942, and an honorary LL.D in 1950 all from the University of Louisville. He also did graduate work in Political Science at the University of Kentucky, University of Chicago, and Columbia University. In 1937 he married Nancy Hall Carter and they had five children.

Farnsley had a varied professional career, interupted by his participation in government. Between the years 1930 and 1948, he practiced law in Louisville. During that time, he created and marketed a low-proof Kentucky whiskey under the trade name "Rebel Yell." He sold these business interests when he became mayor of Louisville, but resumed his law practice in 1954 after the mayoral term expired. For a brief period of time, he also marketed two new brands of whiskey. He and Nancy formed a micropublishing company in 1954 celled the Lost Cause Press. The business specialized in the micrographic reproduction of rare books and documents and sold internationally. Farnsley retired from his law practice in 1964 and in 1986, he and Nancy sold the Lost Cause Press.

From 1936 to 1940, Charles Farnsley served in the Kentucky House of Representatives, and then became a lobbyist at the General Assembly for brewery and whiskey interests. In 1948, on the death of Mayor E. Leland Taylor, the Louisville Board of Aldermen named Farnsley mayor pro tem. The colorful mayor gained national attention for his black string tie and unconventional political style. He was influential in the desegregation of the main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library and the University of Louisville, he halted the city's economic decline by attracting new industry and encouraging old industry to remain, and he rebuilt and expanded public facilities, especially parks. He organized the "Louisville Fund," an annual fund drive to benefit arts programs in the city. The Louisville Orchestra and Free Public Library reached unprecedented heights during his tenure. Some of mayor Farnsley's more controversial moves included hiring a professional consultant to run the daily affairs of government so that he could devote his time to solving broader city problems. He based management decisions, in part, on polls conducted by Elmo Roper, his friend, and by holding "beef sessions" in which constituents sat face to face with him to tell him their complaints. By ordering that only driving lanes should be paved, Farnsley managed to double the mileage of road repairs. Raising taxes is often considered political suicide, but Charles Farnsley introduced a one percent occupational tax just before the general election. To his credit, he was reelected. Farnsley also served in the United States Congress in the House of Representatives for the Third District from 1964 to 1966.

Farnsley was also active in many social and civic activities. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Louisville Free Public Library, president of the University of Louisville Alumni Association and a member of the University's Board of Trustees. He was a member of the Masons, Sigma Chi Sigma social fraternity, the Pendennis, Wynn Stay, and Louisville Country Clubs, the Filson Club, the National Democratic Club, and director of the Bank of St. Helens. His support of the arts was continuous. He was a long time member of both the Louisville Philharmonic Association and the American Symphony Orchestra League. He presented papers and participated in debates pertaining to his idols, Thomas Jefferson and Confucious, and their political philosophies.

Charles P. Farnsley Papers
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Script of description
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Finding aid is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections Repository

Ekstrom Library, Lower Level Room 17
Louisville KY 40292
502 852-6752