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Author Archives Kelley Ewing
“Who hath despised the day of small things?” read the motto of the Riverside, a company newspaper published in Shenandoah Iron Works (SIW), located in Page County, Virginia. To be sure, even the small things were important in what was then a remote and rustic company town, including a simple, little newspaper printed monthly for the people who lived in and worked for Shenandoah Iron Works.
Thanks to a cooperative partnership with the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California, the Library of Virginia has one issue of the very rare Riverside available in its Virginia Chronicle database, which now contains over 900,000 digitized newspaper pages.
Shenandoah Furnace was built in 1836, though what ultimately became the Shenandoah Iron Works was conceived after brothers Daniel and Henry Forrer purchased 34,483 acres of land from Samuel Gibbens in 1837. Soon after acquiring the land, the Brothers established a post office and named the town Shenandoah Iron Works. Two more furnaces, Catherine and No. 2, as well as a forge, were added to the iron works where pig iron and tools were produced.
After the Civil War, the Forrer brothers, financially scarred by the devaluation of Confederate currency, sold the operation to a group of Pennsylvania industrialists. “The scale of its operations as measured in the production of pig iron, blooms, iron manufacturers and numbers of employees made Shenandoah one of the foremost industrial establishments in the northern and central Shenandoah Valley,” wrote Charles Ballard in his history of the SIW, “This industry and the community clustered around it evolved from an antebellum iron plantation into a postbellum company town.(The Shenandoah Iron Works, 1836-1907, p.1)”
SIW reached … read more »
The end of January 2017 marks the beginning of the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese Zodiac. To celebrate, we searched Virginia Chronicle for rooster-related stories and images–below is a sampling of what we found. It includes how a rooster saved the day for one little boy.
We often talk about Virginia Chronicle and Chronicling America here at the Newspaper Project, but the library subscribes to a number of other excellent online newspaper and periodical databases you can access from home with a Library of Virginia library card.
Among the numerous databases that can accessed from home with your library card are: American Periodicals, Daily Press Digital Microfilm (2010-present), Gale Databases, HarpWeek (1857-1912), JSTOR, LexisNexis Library Express, Newspaper Archive, American Periodicals, Newspaper Source Plus, Proquest Civil War Era (1840-1865), Norfolk Journal and Guide (1921-2003), Washington Post (1877-1996), Richmond Times Dispatch (1985-present), Richmond Times Dispatch Historical (1903-1986), US History and the Washington Post Digital Microfilm (2008-present).
To access any of these databases from home, go to the LVA Homepage, click on “Using the Collections,” click on “Databases and EBooks,” choose “Newspapers and Magazines” (though there are several other categories to choose from as well), click on a database you’d like to use (for example, Norfolk Journal and Guide, 1921-2003) and enter your Library of Virginia library card number when prompted to do so. Then you’re ready to go.
Try it out today–a world of information awaits!
The Virginia Newspaper Project is delighted to announce the newest title, The Smithfield Times, available on Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s online digital newspaper database. With its first issue published in 1920, the Smithfield Times was known as the ”Official paper of Isle of Wight County” and the earliest issue on Virginia Chronicle, dated Jan. 28, 1928, is chock full of colorful local news.
Making the front page of this issue were the details of Mary Hatchell’s divorce, newsworthy for divorce’s near nonexistence at the time.”The sadness of the situation,” the Times reported, “was brought forcefully before the court when the 14 year old daughter of the couple, Jacqueline, bared unrelentlessly the conditions which had existed in their home.” On the front page of the same issue, an article outlining a bill to protect Smithfield Hams from what amounted to counterfeiting. The bill hoped to limit the “fattening territory” for hogs labeled “Smithfield” from Virginia and North Carolina to exclusively the peanut growing territory of Eastern Virginia.
With nearly a century of local news stories like the ones mentioned above, plus its birth and marriage announcements, social columns, editorials, obituaries, classifieds, cartoons, photographs, and advertisements, the now digitized Smithfield Times offers a rich and detailed look at the history, the people and the places of southeastern Virginia. Issues from 1928-1984 of the Times are currently accessible on Virginia Chronicle and 1985-2013 will be available soon.
And today, nearly 100 years after its inaugural issue, the Smithfield Times is still going strong, serving the Isle of Wight and Surry counties.
From the Highland Recorder, November 28, 1947
The Virginia Newspaper Project would like to give a big thank you to those who transcribed the Petersburg Classical Institute manuscript newspapers on the Library of Virginia’s Transcribe page–It happened faster than we could have imagined!
We encourage those who have not yet visited Transcribe to do so to see the many other documents awaiting transcription. The image below shows some of the varied collections on Transcribe:
Another way history lovers can help make historical information more accessible is to become a registered member of Virginia Chronicle and correct OCR text. To learn how, simply go to the Virginia Chronicle site, click the “help” tab and choose “how to correct OCR text.” If you have questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. So far, volunteers have corrected over 615,000 lines of newspaper text in the Virginia Chronicle database. Huge thanks to them too!
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software does the amazing work of converting newspaper type into searchable text, but the task of making hand written documents searchable requires human intervention.
Transcribe, the Library of Virginia’s crowdsourcing transcription tool, gives volunteers the opportunity to transcribe digitized primary source materials from the LVA’s collections, thus making the documents searchable and much more accessible. Letters, diaries, legislative petitions, court records, receipts, coroners’ inquisitions, WPA life histories and, now, newspapers, can all be found on Transcribe.
While manuscript, or hand-written, newspapers are exceedingly rare, the Library has a notable collection (part of the Petersburg Classical Institute records, 1838-1847 Accession 23479) dating from 1842-1843 done by the students of the Petersburg Classical Institute. Because OCR will not work on these pages, we thought they’d be a perfect addition to the Transcribe catalog where they can now be transcribed by dedicated volunteers.
The Petersburg Classical Institute, originally known as Petersburg Academy, was incorporated in 1838 under the guidance of Rev. Ephraim D. Saunders. Its aim was to teach the “higher branches of liberal education” to boys ages ten to eighteen and it generally taught 140-150 pupils per year. Richard McIlwaine, eleventh president of Hampden-Sydney College, attended in 1844 and described it as “one of the finest, if not by all odds ahead, of all schools of its grade in the Commonwealth.” Many of its students went on to prominent careers as clergymen, educators, lawyers, and businessmen.
The Tattler, Hit Him Again, Dies Festus Tempora and The Democrat, beautiful examples of manuscript newspapers, were written with humor and sarcasm by the Institute’s students–it is not a stretch to imagine K-12 aged boys creating something similar today. Typical content consisted of student gossip, political news, poetry and advertisements–columns also contained cut out etchings, … read more »
“I have a horrible and heart-rending tale to relate,” read a letter from the editor of the Norfolk Herald and printed in the Sept.3, 1831 issue of the Genius of Liberty, “and lest even its worst features might be distorted by rumor and exaggeration, I have thought it proper to give you all and the worst information that has reached us through the best sources of intelligence which the nature of the case will admit.”
The “horrible and heart-rending tale” the letter described was a violent slave rebellion which had taken place about sixty miles west of Norfolk in Southampton County, Virginia. “A fanatic preacher by the name of Nat Turner (Gen. Nat Turner),” reported the Richmond Enquirer, “was at the bottom of this infernal brigandage. (Aug. 30, 1831)”
By the time the revolt was over, sixty men, women and children had been killed. But as Scot French’s book, The Rebellious Slave: Nat Turner in American Memory, explains, “First the white people fell. . . Then the black people fell.” The Richmond Constitutional Whig of Sept. 3, 1831 reported that many slaves were slaughtered by retaliating mobs “without trial and under circumstances of great barbarity.” The death toll among the enslaved, many of whom played no part in the revolt, was in the hundreds.
Rather than describe the events of “Nat’s War”, the Newspaper Project hopes to show how newspapers talked about Nat Turner and how they variously portrayed him in the decades following his life and death. With a myriad of descriptions over the years, from “distinguished immortal spirit” to “wild fanatical,” Turner’s legacy was appropriated by different groups to both frighten and inspire.
The Virginia Newspaper Project is always eager to spread the word about historical crowd-sourcing projects that focus on newspapers as a source for information. Recently, a colleague notified us of one such project, sponsored by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, called History Unfolded: US Newspapers and the Holocaust.
In its own words, the project seeks to “uncover what ordinary people around the country could have known about the Holocaust from reading their local newspapers in the years 1933–1945.” It asks “citizen historians” to find articles, op-eds, letters, and political cartoons from local newspapers about key topics such as Kristallnacht, Germany’s Annexation of Austria and FDR’s fourth Inaugural Address. As the project progresses it may add more topics, but for now, it is limited to twenty.
In its nationwide effort, History Unfolded hopes to offer a new understanding of how key events of the Holocaust were portrayed in contemporary small town newspapers. It also wants to show how newspapers discussed the debate over entry into the war and how the American press, as times grew more tumultuous, portrayed immigration and the refugee situation. With the assistance of citizen historians, the History Unfolded database is quickly becoming a comprehensive resource which will be invaluable for scholars, historians, authors, and students.
One quick side note: while searching for content for History Unfolded, we here at the Newspaper Project discovered something interesting. The high school publication the Monocle was as pointed in its criticism of Hitler as any of its contemporary local weeklies. As early as 1933, the Monocle published insightful and scathing articles about Hitler’s treatment of the Jews in Germany. It makes sense that as war progressed, the students of John Marshall High watched world events unfold with … read more »
The current exhibit at the Library of Virginia, First Freedom: Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom, explores the meaning and evolution of this significant legislation. Written by Thomas Jefferson in 1777, it was not enacted into law until January 16, 1786, when it was passed by the Virginia General Assembly. The statute disestablished the Church of England, allowed citizens the freedom to practice any religion and assured the separation of church and state–innovative precepts later incorporated into the US Constitution’s First Amendment.
By showing episodes from Virginia’s past which involved questions of religious tolerance and practice, the exhibit raises important and often difficult questions, such as what actually constitutes the separation of church and state? How is “establishment of religion” defined? And how have perceptions of “religious freedom” changed since the statute was written?
In recognition of First Freedom, the Virginia Newspaper Project spotlights the Library of Virginia’s large collection of religiously affiliated newspapers which offer insight into religion’s role in local culture, morality and life. The papers also show how the understanding of religious tolerance and separation of church and state have changed over the past 200 years. For example, this article from the Lutheran weekly Our Church Paper of Feb. 16, 1904, fully endorsed church involvement in the development of the public educational system. “What part shall she play in the education of the youth of this country,” it asked, “and how shall she play it?” It warned that without the church’s intervention, public education might become “completely secularized.”
Virginia has a long and rich tradition of religious press with Episcopalian, Baptist, Jewish, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Catholic publications, dating back well over one hundred years. Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s digital newspaper repository, contains … read more »