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To-night is Halloween!

By Claire Johnson, Newspaper Project Intern

Halloween Header ImageHappy Halloween From the VNP! In honor of the spookiest of holidays, here’s a look back at how Richmonders of the past celebrated Halloween.

Richmond Dispatch 10:30:1897

For young women at the turn of the century, Halloween presented an opportunity to glimpse into the future and see the face of their husband-to-be by completing one of several complex rituals. The Richmond Dispatch on October 31, 1897 described one such ritual, performed at or near midnight on Halloween. Wearing her hair loose down her back and barefoot, the curious young woman must light a candle, and descend down her basement stairs backwards. As she walks, she repeats a stanza from Robert Burns’ 1743 poem, “Green Grow the Rashes:” “Auld Nature swears the lovely dears, Her noblest work she classes, O: Her ‘prentice han’ she tried on man, And then she made the lasses, O!”At the bottom of the steps, after turning around twice and taking ten steps, she looks over her shoulder into a mirror. If she is going to be married, she will see the reflection of her husband in the mirror.To-night is Halloween! Throughout the city, in the house of rich and poor alike, its joyful customs will be observed.

The same article explained the soothsaying powers of “ducking for apples.” The instructions begin in a familiar way for those of us who bobbed for apples at harvest festivals or Halloween parties as children: fill a vessel with water and add apples, then close your eyes, lean in, and try to get one. Here, 19th century ducking for apples diverges from the modern incarnation of the game. According to the superstition, those who successfully picked up an apple with their teeth three times in five minutes would dream of their future spouse that night.

On November 1, 1896, the Richmond Dispatch published a poem titled “Girls on Halloween,” which detailed more of the practices girls … read more »

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There Be Great Witches Among Them: Witchcraft and the Devil in Colonial Virginia

Daemonologie

Salem witch trials are among the most well-known instances of witchcraft in colonial America, but belief in witches was not limited to New England. The colonists who settled in the lower colonies, like Virginia, came from England at a time when witch trials were a fact of life and had been for centuries. Beliefs such as these were bolstered by King James I’s 1597 text Daemonologie, which wrote that witchcraft and possession by the devil was, “most common in such wild partes of the worlde,” because there, “the Devill findes greatest ignorance and barbaritie.” (1) As Edward Bond wrote in his article “Source of Knowledge, Source of Power,” this led to English colonists who were “predisposed…to see evidence of malevolent supernatural forces in North America,” which they did, nearly immediately. (2)

Detail of Smith's 1612 Map of Virginia. The caption reads: Powhatan held this state and fashion when Capt. Smith was delivered to him prisoner, 1607.

Detail of Smith’s 1612 Map of Virginia. The caption reads: Powhatan held this state and fashion when Capt. Smith was delivered to him prisoner, 1607

Map of Ould Virginia, from Smith's Generall Historie

Map of Ould Virginia, from Smith’s Generall Historie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon arrival, colonists recorded the signs of witchcraft and the devil they saw in the new world. When describing the native people of Virginia, John Smith wrote, “their chiefe God they worship is the Devill,” (3) and Powhatan, the chief, was “more devill than man.” (4) Reverend Alexander Whitaker, in a letter to a fellow priest in England, wrote that the behavior of the native people, “make me think that there be great witches among them, and that they are very familiar with the devil.” (5)

In his article “The Devil in Virginia in the Seventeenth Century”, Richard Beale Davis wrote that the few instances of witchcraft in colonial Virginia “had more to do with folklore than theology,” and Virginia avoided anything nearing the scale of the … read more »

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Complicated History: The Memorial to Robert E. Lee in Richmond

By Claire Johnson, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern

People have always been complex, making history a complicated topic. When history is distilled down to be straightforward, the reality of human failings and flaws are bypassed in favor of a clear-cut narrative. When national and regional pride are added to the mix, historical facts often become controversial. Citizens of the American South know this well; modern debate over the history of the Confederacy, and its monuments, easily becomes heated.

Though the Civil War ended in 1865, the war continued throughout the South, rearing its head in acts of violence and terror against black communities, now ostensibly free citizens of the United States. While some efforts to sow fear were overt, such as those of racist groups Knights of the White Camellia, the Red Shirts, or the Ku Klux Klan, others were unspoken. In addition to vigilante terrorism, the lives of black Southerners were made worse through legal means. In Virginia, poll taxes were enshrined in the constitution in 1876, shrinking the black electorate. black men were further disenfranchised after the Virginia constitution was rewritten in 1902.

It is a matter of much contention today whether these monuments to Confederate leaders were one such message to the black communities of the South or simply monuments built to honor the Civil War dead and Southern history.

Confederate monuments began going up in Richmond not long after the end of the Civil War. In 1875, a statue to Stonewall Jackson was erected on the Capitol grounds. However, the statues that now line Monument Avenue went up later, beginning 25 years after the end of the war, in 1890, with Robert E. Lee. The other Confederate statues on Monument Avenue came later: J.E.B. Stuart and Jefferson Davis’ statues were added in 1907, 42 … read more »

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Virginia Suffrage News

IVirginia Suffrage News was a monthly newspaper published by the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. Beginning with its first issue in October 1914, the paper aimed to link the many suffrage leagues throughout the Commonwealth in their common mission of acquiring the right to vote for women.

This goal Iwas summed up in a foreword to the first issue by Lila Meade Valentine: “For this is pre-eminently a cooperative movement- one in which good teamwork is required- one in which we must all pull together with a right good will. To do this effectively, we need the stimulus of the exchange of ideas, we need to inform ourselves of the activities of our local leagues, as well of the larger movement outside. [The Virginia Suffrage News] should bind us together in one harmonious whole.”1

 

Mrs. Mary Pollard (G. Harvey) Clarke was the editor-in-chief of the paper, with Alice Overbey Taylor managing publication.

Imaged at the Library of VirginiaMay 2017

In January 1915, just three issues into publication of Virginia Suffrage News, the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote, “The Virginia Suffrage News, the official organ of the State organization, which she [the editor] says is ‘suffering from suspended animation’ just now, but will resume publication in the near future.”2

The Library of Virginia holds originals of issues 1-3, published in October, November, and December 1914. While it is unsure if publication ever resumed, and how many issues were published in total, it seems likely that the only issues published are the three in the Library of Virginia’s collection. These issues are now digitized and can be read on Virginia Chronicle.

The paper followed a consistent format. Each issue contained editorials, dispatches from the various Virginia suffrage leagues, national news items relating to women’s suffrage, and information regarding both past and upcoming suffrage … read more »

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Mary Johnston: A Suffragist of, and Ahead of, Her Time

This gallery contains 9 photos.

By Claire Johnson, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern

Mary Johnston, circa 1908Mary Johnston, born 1870 in Buchanan, Virginia, was a prolific author of 23 books, outspoken suffragist, and founding member of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. Her most critically successful books were historical romantic fiction, though her writing also focused on her personal beliefs, including women’s rights, and later, race and lynching.

In 1909, Mary Johnston, Ellen Glasgow, and Lily Meade Valentine founded the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. On November 20, 1909, the inaugural meeting was held at Anne Clay Crenshaw’s home at 919 West Franklin. At the meeting, Valentine was chosen as president by the group of women in attendance.1

Fittingly, the site of this first meeting, purchased by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in the 1960s, is now Crenshaw House, the home of the department of Gender,
Sexuality, and Women’s Studies.

Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, The News Leader, November 23, 1909

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not long after this first meeting, on December 12, 1909, the Times-Dispatch published Johnston’s essay, “The Status of Women.” Johnston believed women should gain the vote for multiple reasons, but a common thread in her writing was the idea that throughout human history, men placed an undue burden on women. Johnston expands her theory, writing that long before men had gained social power over women, cavemen had seen the advantages of selecting a mate “not so physically strong as himself, upon whom, therefore, he could impose his will.” In her article, she detailed at length what this “stone” placed on women entailed:

[An] enormous top-heavy mass of conventions, senseless restrictions, superstitions, sentimentalities, mock modesties, rules of conduct dating from nowhere on earth, but her seraglio experience, sequestration from healthful activities, premiums on mental indolence, a vast incubus of bric-a-brac and filigree teachings, of discriminating laws, taboos, taxes, vetoes, and

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His pistols within his reach: the volatile history of the Examiner

Written by Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project volunteer

The Examiner, published semi-weekly in Richmond, Virginia from 1798 to 1804, held a prominent place in the incendiary world of early American politics. An organ for Thomas Jefferson’s administration and edited by Meriwether Jones and his brother, Skelton Jones, the Examiner committed itself to the Republican cause, boasting in its masthead, “truth, its guide, and liberty, its object.”Examiner mastheadPassionately dedicated to their cause, the Jones brothers constantly found themselves in hostile conflict with Jefferson’s critics, filling the Examiner’s pages with vehement editorials.

These enmities were especially fiery, as Meriwether and Skelton Jones were quick to employ vitriolic personal attacks, in contrast to editors like Thomas Ritchie, their successor, who, after purchasing the Examiner in 1804 and changing its name to the Enquirer, asserted, “this paper will not condescend to become the vehicle of personal abuse; much less of dishonorable slander. Private character is too delicate a subject for any public print.”

The most infamously volatile of these conflicts occurred between the Jones brothers and James T. Callender, editor of the Recorder (Richmond) and their former friend and employee. The feud began when Callender revealed that Thomas Jefferson had fathered children by his slave, Sally Hemmings, launching a scandal that remains contentious even today. Calling Callender’s paper “the Recorder of Lies,” the Examiner frequently published attacks on Callender’s character, calling him a liar, a drunk, and an adulterer, and accusing him of causing his wife’s death by giving her a venereal disease:

September 18, 1802In an article addressed “To JAMES T. CALLENDER” in the Examiner, Meriwether Jones states, “The world hates you. Wherever your name travels, it carries with it that repulsive chill, which hurries our retreat from a vault of putrid human mortality!” Jones continues to lambast Callender’s character even after his … read more »

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An “Arena of a Spirited Intellectual Tournament.” Herbert Ezekiel’s Jewish South

Jewish SouthPublished weekly in Richmond, Virginia, from 1893 through at least 1899, save for a five-month period in 1896, the Jewish South professed itself “a journal devoted to the interests of Judaism.” Being one of few publications concerning the Jewish community in the South, it reported on events in Richmond and on those of neighboring counties in Virginia including Norfolk, Staunton, and Petersburg. Published every Friday, the Jewish South returned in January 1897 in “new dress” with updated printing and improved layout features. In its latter years the newspaper expanded reporting to include news of interest from around the world including Siberia, Tunis, France, Germany, Italy, and Mexico.

During its first year, the Jewish South gained recognition and praise from prominent figures and more established newspapers. It was edited by Herbert T. Ezekiel, supervisor of printing for the city of Richmond for 19 years. Ezekiel began his newspaper career in 1886, writing for the Richmond Dispatch and the Richmond State. He reported on trials, witnessed hangings, and was sent to write articles about the old cemeteries in the city. Ezekiel also authored several books on local Jewish history including, The Recollections of a Virginia Newspaper Man, World War One Section of the History of the Jews, The History of the Jews of Richmond from 1769 to 1917, and The Jews of Richmond During the Civil War all of four of which can be found in the book collection of the Library of Virginia.

Herbert T. Ezekiel's The Recollections of a Virginia Newspaper Man. From the book collection of the Library of Virginia.

Herbert T. Ezekiel’s The Recollections of a Virginia Newspaper Man. From the book collection of the Library of Virginia.

JSEzekiel recognized Richmond as a literary and publishing center that included the talents of Edgar Allan Poe, Samuel Pleasants, Thomas Ritchie, and John M. Daniel. He requested contributions from readers so the Jewish read more »

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Horrible Butcheries at Wilmington—The Richmond Planet’s coverage of the 1898 insurrection in Wilmington, North Carolina

By Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project Volunteer

On November 10, 1898, in response to the election of a biracial Fusionist government, a group of white Democrats in Wilmington, North Carolina organized a mob, attacking the city’s African American community and ultimately overthrowing the city’s government. Within a couple of days, the mob had killed between 15 to 60 African Americans, destroyed the office of the Daily Record, Wilmington’s black newspaper, and run its editor out of town.

It had also succeeded in enacting the only coup d’etat in American history. Despite the mob’s complete chaotic defiance of the law, little was done by governmental authorities to quell the violence, with President McKinley ignoring pleas for assistance. Unsurprisingly, the Richmond Planet covered the events in Wilmington extensively. With headlines such as “Horrible Butcheries at Wilmington–the Turks out done,” the Planet decried the racialized violence of the mob and lambasted the government for its failure to respond.RP1 RP2The Richmond Planet, as an African American newspaper, offers a unique and valuable perspective on the 1898 Wilmington insurrections, as much of the mob’s animosity was directed toward Wilmington’s black newspaper, the Daily Record. Prior to the 1898 elections, significant tension had been building between the Daily Record and the white media of North Carolina, particularly the Raleigh News & Observer, over the issue of sexual relationships between black men and white women. The white media had engaged in a propogandic panic that black men were sexually predatory toward white women, a common assertion by white supremacists that had dangerous repercussions for black men, who were frequently lynched due to false accusations of sexual assault.

Alex Manly, the editor of the Daily Record, responded to these inflammatory assertions by stating that when sexual relationships between white women and black men did exist, they were consensual. … read more »

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A History of the Fairfax Herald

By Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern

Founded in 1882 by Captain Stephen Roszel Donohoe, the Democratically-affiliated Fairfax Herald was published weekly in Fairfax, Virginia, where it served as the area’s dominant newspaper for many years. Fairfax, located near Washington D.C., underwent significant industrialization and population growth throughout the twentieth century, with the city’s population reaching 21,970 and the county’s reaching 455,021 by 1970, around the end of the Fairfax Herald’s run. In 1880, however, just prior to the Herald’s founding, the town of Fairfax had only a population of 376, while the county had a population of 16,025. The community was largely agricultural, producing “corn, wheat, oats, butter, hay; livestock,” according to the 1890 Ayer and Son’s American Newspaper Annual.

It was in this small farming community that S. R. Donohoe founded the Fairfax Herald, bringing the town its first printing press, advertisements for which stated: “Equipped with Type Setting Machine and Steam Press. All kinds of job printing. Splendid advertising medium.” The Fairfax Herald was four pages long and 20 inches by 26 inches in size originally. It had a circulation of 1,225 in 1904, 900 in 1911, and 1,000 in 1920.

FH 1886Born February 1, 1851 in Loudoun County, Donohoe was successful in multiple ventures of public service, in addition to his prolific career in newspapers. He served in the Spanish-American War as a lieutenant with the Fairfax company. He then served as Treasurer of Fairfax County between 1889 and 1891; state senator for two terms, beginning in 1900; Auditor of Public Accounts of Virginia from 1910-1912; a member of the State Tax Commission in 1914, and Federal Prohibition Director of the State, beginning in 1919. Moreover, he is listed as a director at the National Bank of Fairfax in advertisements appearing for the … read more »

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Seeing the light of capitalism–Virginia Electric and Power Company ads in the McCarthy era.

By Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern

Emblematic of Cold War era America, these anti-socialist advertisements for the Virginia Electric and Power Company appear in issues of the Fairfax Herald from the 1950s. These ads emblematically reflect America’s fears over the internal threat of communism, driven by McCarthy’s anti-communist efforts, such as the formation of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. One ad reflects the fears created by this political climate, urging people to “help your friends and neighbors see the danger.”

They also seek to assert American superiority, with one ad saying, “forbidden would be a frequently used word if you had the unhappy task of teaching young Russians…you couldn’t tell them that in America opportunity is unlimited…”

In many respects, an electric company advertisement seems a strange place for fear-mongering propaganda; however, during this time technologies that served to make life more convenient and comfortable were lauded as symbols of capitalism’s success and America’s superiority. This would later become epitomized in the 1959 “Kitchen Debate” between Richard Nixon and Nikita Krushchev, wherein Nixon presented a model American kitchen, adorned with modern appliances, and argued that the conveniences it offered were evidence of capitalism’s superiority over communism.

April 25, 1952.

April 25, 1952.

September 7, 1951.

September 7, 1951.

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