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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 »
That Was A Good Idea, Keeping Count. The Library Of Congress Achieves Ten Million Pages In Chronicling America-The Nation’s Newspaper Archive
And the Virginia Newspaper Project was there. At Chronicling America‘s start in 2007 as well as today in continuing to provide digitized Virginia imprint newspapers and in a recently renewed cooperative grant providing tech support to West Virginia University. Here’s the ten million page mark announcement from the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2015/15-171.html.
A newspaper enthusiast on the staff of The Atlantic Monthly was quick to post on the occasion:
There is also this from Time:
Read ‘em and cheer.… read more »
Of historical anniversaries noted large and small, what follows is of the second type and left unremarked, if not here within this very blog. Last Friday was the one hundredth birthday of the first issue of the Princess Anne Times, not a delicate imprint of royal society from a tiny office tucked within Windsor Castle, but a record of life from the southeastern corner of Virginia.
33 of the 95 counties of Virginia possess a name of royal origin, but Princess Anne is no longer among them. The county disappeared from the map in 1963, closing a 272 year history when it was incorporated into the much larger independent city of Virginia Beach. The chance observation of the newspaper’s birthday suggested an additional incentive to announce its arrival a few weeks ago to Virginia Chronicle, The Library of Virginia’s digital newspaper archive managed by the Virginia Newspaper Project.
To the person who turns his back to the Atlantic and faces west from the Virginia Beach boardwalk and wonders, “How did this happen?”, the Times offers propitious clues. The current population of Virginia Beach stands near 450,000, making it the state’s most populous city. The reader of the Times in May of 1915 shared residency with about 438,000 fewer. Here’s the complete front page for that first issue (with a stage direction to the far left column).
They assigned themselves a mission and it was propelling this county forward … read more »
To review, here’s a newspaper roll call of the five daily newspapers (there were also weekly papers – four of them religious) in Richmond in late March at the close of the Civil War: the Richmond Examiner, Enquirer, Whig, Sentinel and (leaving no doubt about its frequency) the Daily Dispatch.
They publish in the war years (the Sentinel beginning in 1863) despite a “decrease in advertising, the shortage of ink and paper, the strike of printers, the loss of skilled workman by conscription, and…a depreciation of the currency, causing prices to rise to unprecedented levels,” as Lester Cappon writes in his introduction to Virginia Newspapers 1835-1935, a ready reference at the Project.
There’s no work around or compromise with fire, however, and the destruction of much of the city center April 3 (a Monday) one hundred and fifty years ago – marked with much ceremony here in Richmond over the weekend – left only the Whig capable of printing a narrative of the chaos accompanying the city’s surrender. And only after the approval, announced in an editor’s note, of the occupying Federal commander.
Given our task as preservers of Virginia’s newspaper heritage, we’re also interested readers. This includes the present day 21st century descendent of the Daily Dispatch, The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Especially when they reproduce the past in such compelling fashion as they did in last Saturday’s edition.
Something on page 2 caught our eye:
What’s that again? April 1, the last issue of the Daily Dispatch? What then of the April 3rd issue we have in hand and read in preparation for the blog the Friday previous? Bear in mind, if you’re an archivist, this advances the tingling onset of mystery and intrigue. Already we brooded with some … read more »