Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection

The Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection (McClung Collection) is the local history and genealogy department of Knox County Public Library. 

Established in 1921 at the bequest of Calvin M. and Barbara A. McClung, the collection has developed into a regionally important one, holding materials not only on East Tennessee but also on bordering states. As a reference and research library, the McClung Collection’s materials do not circulate nor are they available for interlibrary loan. However, you are invited to explore the reference collection during regular operating hours without an appointment. 

Your search of the McClung Collection begins on the third floor of the East Tennessee History Center, whereupon exiting the elevators you will be greeted by helpful librarians who can orient you to the collection. You may also submit reference inquiries by postal service, email, or phone. Replies will be given by librarians who are well-versed in East Tennessee history and adept at genealogical inquiry.

Whether you are a historian, genealogist, student, or a local enthusiast, here are some examples of what you can discover at the McClung Collection: 

Since the 1920s, biography files, comprised of obituaries and biographical articles from local newspapers, have been maintained. The biography files, while not exhaustive, are an excellent starting point for genealogical and biographical research. The biography files index is available as a card catalog near the John Z.C. Thomas Reading Room.

The McClung Collection holds more than 87,000 books from recently published genealogy and history books to rare books published prior to 1800. Most of the books are available without special request. Some, however, are housed in closed storage. If so noted in the catalog, please ask a librarian about retrieving the title for review in the Rare Book Reading Room. 

Published histories of Tennessee’s 95 counties are available in the John Z.C. Thomas Reading Room. They are organized alphabetically from Anderson County to Wilson County.

A rare, complete set of Knoxville city directories (1859 to the present) is available for research without special request. The McClung Collection also holds the only set of Knoxville telephone directories (1898 to present). Telephone directories are available by request at any reference desk.

The McClung Collection preserves the genealogical research of a number of notable researchers, including Hugh Allen, Penelope Johnson Allen, Rhea Alexander, Lucy Ball, Elsie Carr, Olga Jones Edwards, Laura Luttrell, Robert Tipton Nave, Ruth Moore Paine, Will E. Parham, Prentiss Price, Thomas E. Roach, Joseph A. Sharp, and Carl York. 

Access to genealogical manuscript collections is via an index of surnames and request forms in the John Z.C. Thomas Reading Room.  

More than 16,500 folders of First Families of Tennessee (FFT) applications and proof of lineage are available for research at the McClung Collection. These records comprise the largest collection of information on the state's early settlers and their families. Access to FFT folders is via an index of surnames and request forms in the John Z.C. Thomas Reading Room. FFT is a heritage program established by the East Tennessee Historical Society in 1993. Membership is open to anyone who can prove direct descent from a person or persons living in any part of what is now Tennessee prior to statehood in 1796. For more information about joining FFT, please visit

The McClung Collection houses approximately 4,000 historic, aerial, and topographic maps, many of which are old and rare. Please ask a librarian to view a card catalog of our map holdings or to assist in retrieving a map from closed storage.

The McClung Collection’s microfilm holdings are catalog searchable and consist of more than 25,000 rolls of census records, state and local government records, newspapers, and other valuable primary source materials. Microfilm readers are available in the Booker-Neely Microfilm Reading Room. Copies from microfilm are available by request for a fee of $0.25 per page.

The McClung Collection has over 2000 rolls of publicly accessible microfilmed newspapers, including issues from two of Knoxville's long-running newspapers, The Knoxville Journal and The Knoxville News-Sentinel, as well as the Metro Pulse, Halls Shopper, and the Knoxville Press Enterprise/Farragut Press. In addition, a number of historic newspapers from Tennessee counties were microfilmed by the Tennessee State Library and Archives; a selection of these microfilms is available in the McClung Collection.

Online access to historical newspapers via and to The Knoxville News-Sentinel (1929–present) is available. Visit the History resources page for access to these keyword-searchable collections.

The McClung Collection also holds a number of original historical newspapers in its special collections. A searchable database of newspaper holdings in Tennessee is provided by the Tennessee Newspaper Project. To browse the McClung Collectiion’s newspaper holdings, search by “Holding Library.”

The McClung Collection holds more than 15,000 bound periodical volumes and currently subscribes to 70 active publications, the subjects of which pertain to the history of the region. In addition, the McClung Collection receives a number of gift or trade subscriptions. Periodical holdings are catalog searchable.

McClung Collection librarians maintain subject files comprised of local newspaper clippings (primarily 1950s to present) and organized by local history topics. Assistance with subject files is provided at any reference desk.

Special Collections

A highlight of the McClung Collection is its special collections, containing more than 10,000 linear feet of primary and secondary source materials that document the history and development of East Tennessee. Here you will find manuscripts, letters, diaries, business records, newspapers, photographs, postcards, ephemera, and much more. Examples of notable collections include:

  • The papers of prominent Tennesseans, such as William Blount, John Sevier, T.A.R. Nelson, Charles McClung McGhee, Leonidas and John C. Houk, WIlliam Rule, Lawrence D. Tyson, Mary U. Rothrock, Harry T. Burn, and Harvey Broome;
  • The photographs of early Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains by James E. “Jim” Thompson, Bill Tracy, and Roger H. Howell; and
  • The paintings of influential artists Samuel M. Shaver, Lloyd Branson, Charles Krutch, and Catherine Wiley.

To search these and other materials online, please visit the Calvin M. McClung Special Collections Catalog. Additionally, selected materials are available for viewing online in the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection.

In-person use of special collections materials is available by appointment only. Please call (865) 215-8814 or email to schedule an appointment in advance of your visit to the McClung Collection.

History Resources

African American Historical Series Collection

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Covers religious life and culture between 1829 and 1922.
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Detailed descriptions of archival materials held by thousands of libraries and cultural institutions.
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Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

The Newberry
What county holds the records for your research?
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Genealogy Resources

American Ancestors

American Ancestors by New England Historic Genealogical Society
Available only at the East Tennessee History Center. Extensive collections of early American genealogical records from New England.
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ProQuest Ancestry Library Edition
Available only in the library. An enhanced library version of the number one source for online family history research.
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Biography and Genealogy Master Index

Gale Biography and Genealogy Master Index
Citations to published information about a person; index only, does not include full text.
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Use of the Collection

The Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection takes seriously its charge to preserve, protect, and make available historical materials entrusted to its care. To that end, the following guidelines have been put in place to protect the use of the collection:

Upon entering the McClung Collection, please sign in at the patron registry.

Backpacks, bags, briefcases, laptop bags/sleeves, purses, and totes must be stored in a locker before entering the McClung Collection. Laptops, notebooks, and papers are subject to physical examination by a team member when leaving the McClung Collection.

Knox County Public Library is not responsible for any personal items that are left unattended, nor is it responsible for damage to electronic devices arising from the use of the facility’s power.

Food and drink are not allowed in the McClung Collection.

Please do not reshelve books, microfilm, or other materials. Place used items in designated reshelving areas. 

Computer use in the McClung Collection is restricted to historical and genealogical use only. A valid Knox County Public Library card if required for computer access; a temporary card will be issued to patrons with valid identification.

Scanners and other forms of imaging equipment are not allowed in the McClung Collection. With prior permission, cameras may be used in the public stacks.

Please see the McClung Collection fee schedule for costs related to copies, research requests, and imaging orders.

The United States copyright law (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted materials. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. The McClung Collection reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying or imaging order if in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.

While the McClung Collection houses an item, it does not necessarily hold the item’s copyright, nor may it be able to determine if the item is still protected under current copyright law. Patrons are solely responsible for determining the existence of a copyright, for obtaining any permissions, and paying associated fees that may be required for the intended use.

Documents, images, and other media in the McClung Collection are generally open and available for use by individuals for personal research projects. However, the McClung Collection would like to be apprised of any other use/reproduction (e.g., commercial or scholarly publication, exhibition, online use, film or television broadcast, promotional products, etc.).

The McClung Collection requires that the following credit line be used to identify a document, an image, or another medium from its holdings when it is reproduced:

Courtesy of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library, Tennessee

Specific citation of the item’s location (e.g., collection, box, folder) should be made in a footnote, the bibliography, or the acknowledgements.

The McClung Collection expects that its items are used/reproduced faithfully–that is, without substantial digital alteration and in the form and context inherent in the original. Adding material or color, deleting material, superimposing or manipulating text, or any other form of alteration is prohibited without an express notation that the “Item has been altered from the original.”