Author Archives Henry
What’s true of most conferences was true of ours last week in Washington: An opportunity to share a common language with people of the same mission in the same space. The space was provided by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the co-administrators and grant source for our Project and others across the country. The mission, no longer young, now entering its thirteenth year, seeks to rescue from an unstable environment to a manageable digital home as many historical newspapers as possible.The circled total of pages on the screen shot above from the Chronicling America homepage is a number to which we’ve made a significant contribution already. It’s always increasing and at least two hundred thousand of that increase a year from now will come from the Virginia Newspaper Project (VNP). One half of that contribution will be additional Virginia newspapers prepared by VNP and the other from an ongoing partnership with West Virginia University in which we split responsibility-research and selection on their side, digitizing on ours.
The annual NDNP conference is proper reminder to its participants of the considerable effort the IT staff of the Library of Congress devotes to not merely the website’s current … read more »
“We Are Passing Through A Metamorphosis From The Old To The New.” Ashland, Bowling Green & Hopewell: A Virginia Newspaper Vanishing Act
The above quote is from the inaugural issue of the newly merged, freshly hyphenated Ashland Herald-Progress of 1919. The editor requests the reader’s forbearance as the paper negotiates the challenges of combining and reorganizing two staffs into one.
A happy and manageable transformation, and one, like so many other similar mergers of the early 20th century, that spoke to the promising business prospects of newspaper ownership in cities both large and small. A hundred years later however, media of more compelling and seductive charisma than the printed page have introduced an environment of less metamorphosis, more (apologies) metanophosis, as print newspapers are getting a quick nudge off the media bluff.
Last month Lakeway Publishers of Tennessee announced the closure of the Herald-Progress and the neighboring Caroline Progress of Caroline County. Prince George County’s Hopewell News, about the same distance from Richmond to the south, heard their exit music from Lancaster Management of Alabama back in January. That totals nearly three hundred years of publishing history brought to a conclusive finish.
While the Project’s purpose understandably keeps us fixed on the past, events of the present merit some attention as they suggest an acceleration to the demise of a business model of always anxious (the corporate word of choice) “viability”–the tandem of a double life, print and internet. If they haven’t yet faded, you may observe in these links a pair of web spirits confused and unhinged from time, the weather forecast still updating like a lone humming appliance in an abandoned house: http://www.carolineprogress.com/ http://www.herald-progress.com/
It’s not news that newsprint is on the clock. What may be new is the feeling that you can now see the second-hand moving. As events of interest occur, we’ll keep you updated with an emphasis on alterations in the Virginia print landscape. For now, it seems a proper … read more »
First, a pre-blog promotional announcement! The Library of Virginia has a booth of its own, 627 in the Farm Bureau Center building, at the Virginia State Fair. In your wanderings through the fair, don’t pass this opportunity to visit and learn something new about your state library. Virginia Newspaper Project cataloger Kelley Ewing will be manning the booth on Sunday from 9:45 to 4, so come on out and say hello!
Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President, was, like his predecessor Ulysses Grant, a Republican. Hayes kept a diary. The entry for November 3, 1877 was brief:
“Our trip to Richmond & return Oct 30, 31 & Nov 1. was altogether a happy and successful one. There are thousands of intelligent people who are not Democrats, & who would like to unite with the Conservative Republicans of the North.” That expectation would be postponed until well into the next century. As for the visit itself, his impression was quite accurate.
Hayes was greeted at the Virginia State Fair (at this time located on N. Boulevard near what’s now the Diamond) and in passage downtown to the Exchange Hotel with great warmth by enormous crowds. This despite the majority of Virginians voting a year ago for his Democratic opponent, Governor Tilden of New York, by a margin that was well beyond dispute. Final returns were not so decisive in three other southern states and on this question the election turned.
How Tilden won the popular vote and seemingly the Electoral College but still lost the election is a story of no small interest to anyone fascinated by human corruption and guile. How mollifying the sound in history texts of “The “Compromise of 1877” compared to, say, “Backroom Deal of the Century”, for not just the presidency, but the political autonomy and … read more »
On a Monday, in late May, 1900, a corner of Virginia, under clear skies, experienced not the partial eclipse we’ll experience here in the Commonwealth, but a total eclipse of the sun.
Norfolk was one of the few major population sites in the United States situated in the path of totality. The eclipse path moved from the Gulf of Mexico into southeast America and then into the Atlantic Ocean.
We have selected images from the Newspaper Project’s digital archive, Virginia Chronicle, previewing a story of a celestial nature that previously had not been described in such detail by newspapers.
And consider that in-depth reporting of the eclipse belonged almost solely to the newspaper medium – before the advent of radio, television, and Instagram. It is difficult to conceive, given our 21st century media landscape, that newspapers served as the primary source, and for many, the sole source, of information; hence the graphs, charts, and the heady mix of scientific facts and romantic conjecture.
The first front page coverage appeared on the preceding Thursday. It notes that teams of scientists and dozens of members of the Geographical Society, as well as President William McKinley, will arrive to observe the phenomenon.
Of the papers in the Tidewater region, only the Virginian-Pilot published illustrations like the following from Friday’s edition:
Operating on the same principle that if you drain the Atlantic Ocean you’ll find the lost city of Atlantis, there was hope that the planet Vulcan would reveal itself during the solar eclipse. Alas, it remained undiscovered. For the curious, Wikipedia outlines the 19th century origins of the pursuit for the mystery planet.
More detail for the curious shows up, page 2, on Saturday:
The Sunday edition featured the zodiac framed graphic shown at the top of this page, plus, … read more »
Prelude to Prohibition: The State Referendum Vote September 22, 1914: The Recorder, Post & Enterprise
It was Wet vs. Dry and City vs. Country and Dry Country won. It wasn’t even close. The advocates for Prohibition themselves might have been surprised by the disparity of the result–a win for Virginia prohibition by over thirty thousand votes–94,251 to 63,086. City drinkers likely peered into their empty glasses the evening of September 22, 1914, surer in the knowledge that legislation to ban liquor in the state would soon follow. And it did.
For more detail and the broader context of this debate–more votes were cast in the prohibition referendum vote than in the presidential election that November!–I refer you to two articles by our LVA sister blog “Out Of The Box.”
The Mapp Act passed and went into effect November 1, 1916. Virginia, then, had a head start of four years to the arrival of national prohibition.
The specific purpose of this blog entry is the encouragement of your physical presence at the Library of Virginia’s exhibit “Teetotalers & Moonshiners: Prohibition in Virginia, Distilled,” now open to the public. A hundred years after prohibition, we’re confidant you’ll depart with a different awareness of an unusual episode in the state’s history.Each state in the Union took its own particular route to prohibition until the constitutional amendment of 1920. A key date in Virginia’s path was the approval of local option in 1886, allowing for a community or county’s voters to determine their stance on the sale and distribution of alcohol. The map above illustrates the camps and lines of the liquor divide. Note, for example, in a concentration of ink, Fort Norfolk, a seaside stronghold hostile to the dry life.
There was no shortage of political contentiousness in the run-up to the referendum. The very organized, determined drys, abetted by grassroots religious fervor, drove the … read more »
A Valentine’s Day Search Uncovers a West Virginia Love Grump: The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, February 1856-1859
The Newspaper Project observes Valentine’s Day with a reminder of the search capacity within Virginia Chronicle and the felicities of discovery (spend a morning reading mid 19th century editorials and you’ll write like this too) therein.
From the 136 total titles digitized (that’s over 900,000 pages, a million is in sight. . .when we cross that threshold, be assured you’ll be advised) we chose a West Virginia Daily whose digitization resulted from our ongoing partnership with West Virginia University:Virginia Chronicle’s pre-Civil War holdings start in 1852 and conclude seven years later, leaving seven Februarys to explore. If you select the word “Valentine” and narrow the search to the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, here’s how the results appear:Most of these hits are of proper names or modestly scaled advertisements typical of the time, like the following of 1856:Eight days later, the anti-Cupid appears:
If there’s any hostility in the subterranean heart of Valentine’s Day, our writer is sensitive to it. Though this unsigned Wheeling editorialist is unroused to rancor in 1857, he resurfaces the following year. Can we be sure it’s the same writer? Oh, I think so:
Reading this, one’s curiosity is powered to know more of the cultural context of Valentine’s Day in mid-19th century America. And also, what’s with this guy? Here he (I think we can assume this is not a Miss Angry Hearts) is again, twice more, February 1859:
One tender Valentine to our anonymous writer might have prevented all of the above.… read more »
The Wawaset Disaster, August 9, 1873: An “Extra” Alexandria Gazette, Over The Transom And Into The Archive
Each year the Newspaper Project receives papers from private collections which are generously offered as archival candidates. Many are duplicates of papers already cataloged. But some aren’t. Some are added to our select collection of singular editions with headlines announcing moon landings, assassinations, the end of wars, and dramatic presidential elections. Then there is the unexpected item that provokes the response, “Wait…what is…that?” Most recently, the following:
Curious, the masthead’s absence of a year and its resemblance to the precursor of the “extra” edition — the single page, single-sided broadside of early newspaper history. Much like below (which I wish was in our collection, but is taken from a volume from the Library main stacks):
But do we already have this in our possession? Is this Gazette upstairs in the archive in original or on film? Or both? Our hard copy archive of bound editions of the Alexandria Gazette is as extensive and space consuming (and heavy, not to be dropped on a foot) as any on the shelf. But there is a gap of some years after the Civil War and among the years in that gap, yes, 1873.
What about the microfilm? The film, shot by the Library of Congress, includes a complete run of 1873, and is the source of the digital images on both Chronicling America and Virginia Chronicle. While it does contain the standard edition of the Gazette for the 9th, there is no indication of the earlier extra edition. In short, while we can’t conclusively speak to its rarity, so far our research points to a genuine find.
In the links I’ll provide to the press coverage of the Wawaset’s demise you’ll see references … read more »
The iron law of journalism: you can’t pursue civic virtues if you don’t make money. From our digital archive Virginia Chronicle (now at almost 700,000 pages!) a front page selected almost at random from 1905, Berryville’s Clark Courier, March 8. Advertisements are marked:The intent is to blend in with the prevailing graphics of the page. The eye drifts easily from Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration to a guaranteed cure for constipation and biliousness (happily we were unable to verify or falsify such claims).
For the following, don’t think “old school” vs. “new school” but rather instead “same school.” A screen shot from today’s New York Times web page:
With the print versions of newspapers and magazines under a continual financial siege and their online editions still searching for a solid profit foundation, questions of news to ad ratio, design and general rules of cohabitation will persist and be debated internally with increasing intensity.
Entry into the Toyota ad posted on the Times reveals webpages resembling a kind of Mobius strip of information and embedded advertising messages. All this trouble just for a little…attention, the first welcome port of any passage to profit.
Now, please direct your attention to a newspaper out of the Valley of Virginia, 14 miles south of Staunton, the Greenville Banner of a small town of the same name, population 162, 250, 832 in 1810, 1928 and 2010, respectively.
Special distinction, we believe, is due for a motto delightful for its bluntness and freedom from the usual 19th century pieties:Our gratitude to owner, editor J. B. Burwell for surfacing expressing a sentiment suppressed by most others. He was not rewarded. In July of 1884, the Banner went up … read more »
Seventy-five years ago, the media landscape was not nearly so vast, not nearly so individualized. An electronic device was not on your person, it was likely in your living room and the listening experience was shared. No headphones. No earbuds.
Courtesy of the Index (Film 2516, LVA microfilm collection), the Virginia Newspaper Project delivers a much less cluttered media landscape, then ruled by the newspaper and the radio, the latter still discovering its potential.
To appreciate the division of a typical radio day in 1940, click on the table for a closer look: At the prices listed below, you would have been the exception if you enjoyed a radio in a room of your own:A blow up of your exclusive features. Number six will put your mind at ease:You’ll notice radios being sold at a furniture store. Here, an especially high end listening device, with the combination of Victrola (record player) and radio:
True portability arrived only with the advent of the transistor in the mid-1950s.
Please take note in the Sears ad below (remember, this is 1939) and the calling card of the coming leviathan stamped to its side.
This photo was peeled off and expanded from Monterey’s Wiki page and presents to the eye a view likely little changed since the decade of our interest here, the 1920’s. In fact, the town’s population was twice then was it is today which the latest census reports as 147 and projected to be even less in the next. Somewhat surprising, then, the Recorder takes the honor of claiming status as Virginia’s longest consecutive published newspaper. It’s maybe a little less surprising when its geographical isolation is considered, yet still impressive, just the same.
That firm handhold half way up on the state’s western border is the high edge of Highland County and the solitude therein might be reconsidered as you imagine this community before the arrival of outside voices vibrating from a strange, boxed device of irresistible magnetic intimacy, the radio.
And a special link persists still, despite the lure of television and internet, between subscriber and paper. Thanks to that connection, as announced in a Fit To Print blog of earlier this month, the Project was granted permission by the current publisher to digitize beyond 1922, where copyright fencing begins. Within our digital archive of the The Highland Recorder, a pursuit into the past is aided by finer search tools—as demonstrated here in a search entry of simply the word “Halloween” specific to the decade of the 1920’s.
Are you thinking, only 39? Bear in mind, commercial America has not yet come to borrow the Halloween imagery so familiar to later generations. You’ll find no ads embracing the occasion to their product. Nearly all references are found in the social columns contributed by correspondents scattered about the county.
And now a collection of social events, comings and goings, pulled … read more »