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In recent years, Greg McQuade, morning anchor of WTVR in Richmond, Virginia, has produced award winning news segments on local Richmond history. Some of the stories have focused on people who are now all but forgotten, but who were, during their lives, groundbreaking members of the community. John Mitchell, Jr., “fighting editor” of the Richmond Planet is a perfect example.
Often, McQuade uses historic newspapers to accompany his reports and the Newspaper Project is always happy to assist him when he visits the Library of Virginia. Recently, he highlighted another pivotal, and, sadly, largely forgotten figure of Richmond’s past, Elizabeth Van Lew.
Van Lew, abolitionist and fierce opponent of succession, risked her life as a spy for the Union during the Civil War. Surrounded by Confederate sympathizers, she lived in Richmond’s Church Hill district and carried out activities that would have been considered treasonous had they been discovered. None of her neighbors, though, ever suspected her of any wrongdoing during the conflict.
Because of Van Lew’s daring and heroic deeds (which included helping prisoners escape Libby Prison), she was appointed Postmistress of Richmond by the US government after the war’s end. As her wartime activities came to light, she was maligned by many in the community as a traitor.
“The most hated woman in Virginia changed state’s course” tells the tale of a heroine who risked her life, her wealth and her social status to assist the cause of the Union. Historians elaborate on why she has been forgotten and if she will re-emerge with the recognition she is due for her role in shaping the course of the war.
To learn more about Elizabeth Van Lew, check out Elizabeth R. Varon’s comprehensive history, Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, A … read more »
St. Patrick’s Day News from the March 17, 1911 issue of the Times Dispatch. . .All images are from Chronicling America.
St. Patrick’s Day news from other newspapers around the state. . .
Earlier this month, WTVR Channel 6 news reporter Greg McQuade visited the Library of Virginia to assist in his research of Colonel J. M. Winstead, a North Carolina banker who committed suicide in Richmond, Virginia in August of 1894. The Richmond newspaper images that appear in this story are from the Library’s newspaper collection. We invite you to watch the story and check out related articles below. But be ready for the sad and grisly details.
For the full article from The Times (Richmond, VA), August 24, 1894: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85034438/1894-08-24/ed-1/seq-5/
For the full article from the Alexandria Gazette, August 24, 1894: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85025007/1894-08-24/ed-1/seq-2/
To see the full page from the Roanoke Times, August 24, 1894: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86071868/1894-08-24/ed-1/seq-1/
The News Leader was formed in 1903 by a merger of Richmond News and Evening Leader. It became the Richmond News Leader in 1925 and was published until 1992.
The most recent Ebay acquisition for the Library of Virginia’s newspaper collection is the Safety News of Omar, West Virginia. Published “monthly for employees of the West Virginia Coal and Coke Corporation,” it focused on topics related to company and employee news. The Library purchased three issues from March-June 1953, but the full publication span of the paper is unknown as there are no cataloged issues outside of these precious few.
Safety was of the utmost concern to the Safety News, hence its motto, “Wise men learn by other men’s mistakes—fools by their own.” The first page of Safety News sometimes included the feature “Safety Pays Everyone” describing recent accidents, injuries and deaths in mines. The brief accounts give a good deal of specific information related to each incident: “Arnold E. Lee, American Machine helper, Omar No. 15 Mine” included one report, “Injured February 4, 1953, at 3:30 a.m. Victim was caught between cutting machine and timber, resulting in fracture of seventh rib on left side. Disability undetermined. Foreman: Billy Bishop.”
Keeping things light, the following joke was printed just below the accident reports of the same issue:
The medical officer at the front was discussing the drinking water supply with the platoon sergeant:
“What precautions do you take against germs?”
“First, we boil it, sir.”
“Then we filter it.”
“And then, just to play it safe, we drink beer.”
Each month the Safety News also included the front page column “Our Board of Directors,” providing a detailed biography of a board member with accompanying photo. The March issue featured Charles R. Stevens, president of the consulting management firm Stevenson, Jordan & Harrison, Inc. “Mr. Stevenson’s firm,” the article explained, “consults to a number of important industrial companies, among which might be mentioned Pittsburgh Plate Glass … read more »
Recently, while visiting the Halifax County Public Library as part of a cooperative digitizing effort, Carl Childs, Local Records Services Director at LVA, was given a donation of historical newspapers by the library’s director, Joseph Zappacosta. The generous gift, comprised of thirty eight unique in state and out of state newspaper titles, turned up more than a few surprises. With newspapers from locales as near as South Boston, Virginia and as far as Laramie, Wyoming, it also contained two extremely rare finds, the Petalumian (Petaluma, CA) and the Investigator (Wilson, NC), which, until now, had never been cataloged. The newspapers, in fragile condition when they arrived, were lovingly mended and repaired by the Virginia Newspaper Project’s own Silver Persinger. With repairs completed, the newspapers will be microfilmed and then housed with LVA’s boxed newspaper collection. The preservation of this wonderful gift ensures its content will be studied for years to come without damage to the originals.
Published every Friday between 1891 and 1913, the Virginia Citizen (Check digitized issues at Chronicling America.) was the first paper to serve Lancaster County, part of the Northern Neck region of Tidewater Virginia. The paper’s office in Irvington—located on an inlet from the Rappahannock River and Chesapeake Bay—was just across the street from a landing for the Rappahannock River Line, one of several steamer services linking the region’s many villages and transporting farm produce and seafood between eastern Virginia and processing plants in Baltimore. From 1897 until 1913, the newspaper proudly stated its mission: “A Weekly Journal Devoted to the interests of Lancaster County in particular, the Northern Neck and Rappahannock Valley in general, and the world at large.” By the early 1900s, circulation totaled 1,827, a heady number considering that Irvington had but 750 residents and the county 8,949. In hard times, though, the editor was not above accepting vegetables or a load of hay—almost anything other than soft-shell crabs, strawberries, or peas—in lieu of cash.
Editor since 1892, W. McDonald Lee brought considerable prestige to the paper. Lee had served as county Commissioner of Revenue and president of the Virginia Press Association in the late 1890s and during the early 1900s served as a commissioner for Virginia fisheries and president of the National Association of Fisheries Commissioners. He was particularly interested in promoting the county’s oyster (“the succulent bivalve”) industry and the welfare of “the toiling masses of Virginia oystermen.”
Lee also brought a strong, sometimes sensational, editorial fervor to the Virginia Citizen—favoring the Democratic Party, the total abstinence of alcohol, and evangelical Christianity. His mastheads mirrored these positions. An 1897 banner-line declared that the paper was “Conservative in All Things, Neutral in Nothing.” He also vigorously prodded the paper’s readers never to be “mealy-mouthed or … read more »
The Tennessee State Library and Archives donated to the Virginia Newspaper Project some rare finds never held by the Library of Virginia until now. One of the titles, of special historical import, is called Anti-Liquor. As the name implies, Anti-Liquor was just that: a monthly newspaper committed to the prohibition of alcohol. Established in 1890 by John R. Moffet, Reverend of Memorial Baptist Church in Danville, Virginia, the paper was “issued for the sole purpose of educating the people upon the evils of the drink habit, and especially to turn light upon the question of Legal Prohibition.”
According to Lester Cappon’s essential work, Virginia Newspapers 1821-1935, a Lynchburg temperance monthly, the Truth, was absorbed by Anti-Liquor in 1891. Moffet continued editing the paper after the merger until he was assassinated in Danville on November 11, 1892. The history of the Reverend Moffet’s church explained, “John R. Moffett died a martyr’s death at the hand of an assassin’s bullet for the cause of temperance.” Anti-Liquor ceased publication shortly after his death.
The Tennessee State Library and Archives also gave the Library a May, 15, 1869 issue of The Collegian published by Washington College, what is today Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Published semi-monthly by literary societies of the college, The Collegian focused on various aspects of academia and student news. The entire front page of this particular issue is taken up by one article titled, “Claims of the German Language” proposing the utility of learning German, as opposed to French. “Thus the study of German is not only interesting in itself and affords vigorous intellectual exercise,” the article concluded, “but … read more »
In 1902 Louisiana became the first to pass a statewide statute requiring mandatory segregation of streetcars, followed by Mississippi in 1904. That same year, Virginia authorized, but did not require, segregated streetcars in all of its cities, leaving it up to companies to decide whether or not they would segregate their services. On April 17, 1904, the Times Dispatch printed the article “Separate the Races” on page seventeen of its Sunday edition, in which the Virginia Passenger and Power Company outlined a new set of rules. The Company surely hoped its new policy to enforce racial segregation on its cars would go unnoticed by Richmond’s populace. Instead, the company’s new regulations led to a citywide boycott of its services, and ultimately to its financial ruin.
“This company has determined to avail itself of the authority given by a recent state law to separate white and colored passengers,” read its statement in the Times Dispatch, “and to set apart and designate in each car certain portions of the car or certain seats for white passengers and certain other portions or certain seats for colored passengers. . .The conductors have the right to require passengers to change their seats as often as may be necessary for the comfort and convenience of the passengers and satisfactory separation of the races.” White riders were to sit in the front of cars, while black riders were to sit in the back, but because there were no permanent partitions on the cars, conductors had the authority to assign seats as the ebb and flow of black and white riders shifted. This gave conductors the power to play a “bizarre game of musical chairs with passengers.” The company’s new regulations also gave conductors the authority to arrest or forcibly remove anyone who did not comply with … read more »