About: Errol

Errol is the Director of the Virginia Newspaper Project at the Library of Virginia. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and a graduate degree from Columbia University.

Author Archives Errol

Mighty Casey Has Been Edited

April is a special time of year: the first full month of Spring; the beginning of baseball season (Hallelujah!) and the month designated as Poetry Month. So in honor of these two important points on the country’s cultural calendar, and combining the two art forms – poetry and baseball – Team Newspaper Project thought it would be of interest for readers to visit one of the great short yet epic poems of the late 19th century: “Casey at the Bat.”

Courier May 5 1894 page 15

Courier, 5 May 1894

Newspapers around the country published the poem by Ernest L. Thayer many times over the years. It is interesting to note that the poem, while steeped in the details and lore of baseball, was written in 1888, a time that might be described as the game’s childhood. While the Harvard educated Thayer might have been satisfied with his paean to the American pastime, it is hard to say if he was happy with the fact that he never wrote anything that made close to the same impact on the American psyche as the story of the great slugger for the Mudville Nine.

Newspapers had a habit of playing fast and loose with a poem’s content, especially if it was considered boilerplate or something that was not specifically local but possibly of interest to readers. Proof of that revealed itself in my first search of “Casey at the Bat:”

R_Dispatch_21 March 1897

Richmond Dispatch, 21 March 1897

The version that appears in the Courier notes that the poem was recited by the actor/ comedian, DeWolf Hopper. Like Thayer, Hopper’s greatest claim to fame may lie in his estimated 10,000 plus recitations of “Casey at the Bat” during his career – though that distinction could be nudged out by his nine-year marriage to Hedda Hopper, legendary Los Angeles read more »

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Titanic Web Exhibit Updated

Titanic, Titanic, Titanic. One would think we’ve heard enough about a ship that sank over 100 years ago.

Well, the fact you’re reading this tells me there is still more compelling reports to convey, more theories to consider, more heart rending stories to spool out, because the sinking of the Titanic, for whatever reason, is one of the most compelling and dissected tragedies of the early 20th century. The fate of the ship now somehow has worked its way into our collective psyche and it won’t let go.

The Library of Virginia’s original Titanic web site went up before the 1997 release of the box office smash movie starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio; so the site was definitely due for an update. And we’re happy to announce that if you go to https://www.lva.virginia.gov/exhibits/titanic/index.php, you will find the new site with a new name:

Titanic in Black and White.


Updated Titanic home page.

The Titanic has a seemingly endless archive of stories and many of the tales certainly qualify as out of the ordinary. Take Arthur John Priest, who served as a fireman and stoker on the Titanic. He survived but that’s nothing new for Priest as he was on the Olympic in 1911 when it collided with HMS Hawke. Priest was on other ships that managed to sink and yet he managed each time to cheat death, like the time he was serving on the Donegal when it too was sunk by a German torpedo in 1917.

Needless to say, many on the Titanic were not so lucky.

But Virginia born Robert Williams Daniel was one of the fortunate ones as he reportedly jumped from the Titanic, swam away from the ship and was pulled from the sub 40 degree Atlantic Ocean onto a lifeboat.RNL

Daniel’s … read more »

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LVA Presents at 14th Annual Virginia Forum

Virginia Untold:
African American Narratives at the Library of Virginia

Earlier this month, the 14th annual Virginia Forum convened at Longwood University in Farmville, VA. The three-day event was packed with presentations, learned papers, and lively discussions related to Virginia history.

The theme of this year’s Forum was “Crossroads,” which, as the program notes, is both a figurative and literal term as it relates to Farmville, the town where Longwood University is located.

Three colleagues from the Library of VA, Tracy Harter, Errol Somay, and Greg Crawford, teamed up to create an engaging session titled, VA Untold: African American Narratives at the Library of Virginia.  In the photograph below you will see, from left to right, Greg Crawford, Tracy Harter, Errol Somay, and our moderator, John Deal (Also from the Library of Virginia).

Group Reduced Size

The Journey of the Sixty-Six from Prince Edward County to Liberia,
Tracy Harter, Senior Local Records Archivist

Researchers use a variety of resources to get to the truth of a matter, or to gain a better understanding of a story’s complexities. Manuscript collections, newspapers, maps, census records, military records, and other more familiar sources come to mind for this purpose, but the Circuit Court Records at the Library of Virginia provide invaluable detail that cannot be found in other sources—or detail that can help corroborate (or dispute) other sources. The Circuit Court Records Preservation Program at the Library of Virginia strives to provide researchers access to these records.

To demonstrate the value of Circuit Court Records, Tracy’s talk drew from two Prince Edward County chancery causes[i] and from the Dupuy Family Papers 1810-1866, a collection of private papers housed at the Library of Virginia. The individual sources seemed to tell three different stories; however, when Tracy studied them together, she was able to reveal the … read more »

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A Titanic Love Affair

And we’re not talking about Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio!

In advance of our soon to be released new and improved Titanic web site and in honor of Valentine’s Day, the Virginia Newspaper Project offers a unique story, a heady combination of Tragedy and Romance.

Must reading as you prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

7.Richmond Times Dispatch_Richmond VA_November 29 1914

The male suitor, Robert Williams Daniel, a Virginian, managed to survive the sinking of the Titanic. To read more about this compelling story, click on the image above.

5.Richmond Man Escapes Death_The News Leader April 16 1912


 … read more »

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Seeds of Resistance: The Richmond Streetcar Boycotts

A graduate student in Public History and two film students have created a short but excellent documentary for The National Museum of African American History and Culture. Titled  Seeds of Resistance,  the film is described as, “An untold story of community activism centered around the African American community in Richmond, Virginia during the 1904 streetcar boycotts.”

The documentary focuses on Richmond in the early 20th century, local activism, and the crushing impact of Jim Crow laws on the African American community.

Errol Somay, Director of the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Newspaper Project, contributed to the narration. Also included, from the Library of Virginia’s collection, are stunning images from the Richmond Planet.

Anyone interested in the Richmond streetcar boycotts will benefit from viewing Seeds of Resistance.

Produced by: Bethany Nagle
Associate Producer: Chelsey Cartwright
Cinematography and Editing: Elizabeth Herzfeldt-Kamprath… read more »

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Yes, The Titanic

The Virginia Newspaper Project cannot resist the compelling story that is the Titanic. On April 16, 1912, the Richmond Times Dispatch issued its Tuesday morning paper with a full report about a tragedy at sea. The newspaper’s staff could not possibly know that 100 plus years later, the story would continue to fascinate and be studied in minute detail.

Fit to Print offers just one image, the front page of the Times Dispatch, April 16, 1912. While reporting a story of disaster, hubris, and loss of life, the staff at the RTD also managed to assemble one of the most beautifully designed front pages that the Newspaper Project colleagues have seen, given that we have scanned literally hundreds of front pages over the years.

Times Dispatch April 16, 1912read more »

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Researching African American Newspapers

The Virginia Newspaper Project loves promoting the Virginia Chronicle newspaper database, but if you need to expand your research from Virginia to other U.S. states, then Chronicling America is the place to visit.

One example of the breadth and depth of the Chron Am database is the 55 African American newspapers from across the US, available online in Chronicling America, (Twitter, #ChronAm).

From the District of Columbia and Virginia to Utah, Idaho, and Louisiana, you can search a wide array of African American titles, with issues dating back to 1850 (The National Era) and up to 1922 (The Richmond Planet, The Appeal, and others).

AATitlesread more »

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Nat Turner Re-examined

Professor Patrick H. Breen, author of The Land Shall be Deluged in Blood: A New History of the Nat Turner Revolt, spoke at the Virginia Historical Society on Thursday, November 10, 2016.

Here is a video of the talk which includes the question and answer segment:

Bloodread more »

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The Virginia Newspaper Project on TV, Live, and in Print

On October 28, 2016, a WTVR story aired about the Virginia Newspaper Project’s very own, Errol Somay. Greg McQuade, investigative reporter and history buff, visited the Library of Virginia to interview Errol about the Library’s extensive newspaper collection, as well as to learn a bit about Mr. Somay’s library career and his stint as a rock music critic.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Virginia Newspaper Project and Mr. Somay’s path to becoming Director of the Newspaper Project, check out the video by visiting: http://wtvr.com/2016/10/28/errol-somay-story/.


Errol Somay (left), director of the Virginia Newspaper Project, pictured with Greg McQuade looking at an old newspaper from the Library’s collection.

The work of the Newspaper Project was also featured in the Rappahannock Record‘s 100th Anniversary Edition. Big thanks must go to those at the Record for their full cooperation with the Project over the years. It is because of rewarding partnerships like this, that the Rappahannock Record is now available on Virginia Chronicle.

Click here see the entire edition which provides in depth local history and photographs from a century of newspaper publishing in Kilmarnock, Virginia:

Errol 2

Finally, at 7:00 pm on Monday, November 21, Errol will offer a brief presentation about John Mitchell, Jr. and the preservation of the Richmond Planet at Richmond’s Gallery 5 as part of, Headlines: Behind the Bylines of Richmond Journalism. Journalists will talk about their careers, the process and challenges of getting a story in print, and examples of their favorite reporting.… read more »

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ThroTTle is Here.

Throttle 3

It is said that companies from Apple, Amazon, and Google to Disney and Harley Davidson began in a garage. For the alternative journal, ThroTTle, it wasn’t even a garage but a local  sub sandwich shop in Richmond, Virginia where the idea for the publication was born.

The Library of Virginia and the VNP are very excited to announce that ThroTTle has been added to the burgeoning list of titles that make up Virginia Chronicle, the Library’s online database of newspapers spanning 200 years.

Throttle 2

We at Fit to Print will take every opportunity to encourage the dedicated use of Virginia Chronicle and to try out the many user friendly features that many researchers say allows them to make the best and most efficient use of their time.

But getting back to ThroTTle, you can get a quick feel for the style and contents just by breezing through one of the issues. You would learn that it was printed in a tabloid format, that it was published in Richmond, Virginia from the 1981 to 1999, and, that the magazine offered “an eclectic mix of fiction, news, humor, art and photography.” That is how Dale M. Brumfield – one of the founding members of ThroTTle – described the initial issue in his informative book, Richmond Independent Press. It seems that is a pretty good description of Throttle for issues to come.

But decide for yourself. Check out the wide array of topics and writings that ThroTTle offered in its near two decade run. Virginia Chronicle’s publication calendar reveals the life cycle of an alternative publication that was forever in search of financial solid ground. But today, in 2016, we can offer the reader a digitized version of what we think is a landmark publication in the world of the … read more »

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