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Author Archives Kelley
The Library of Virginia’s current exhibit, “To Be Sold,” open through 30 May 2015, examines the slave trade in Richmond. Viewed through the lens of primary source material–broadsides, court records, city directories, business receipts, census records, artifacts, books and paintings–the exhibit provides the visitor with vital information from which the stories of Richmond’s past emerge.
Newspapers, of course, are another critical resource for historical study in this area–free, online digital resources, like Virginia Chronicle and Chronicling America, provide easy access to hundreds of thousands of newspaper issues and the history therein.
Together, the documents of the time create a more complete, deeply layered account of those directly involved in and affected by Richmond’s slave trade: Like Robert Lumpkin, one of the city’s most active slave dealers from the 1840s until 1865. And Anthony Burns, a slave who escaped to Boston, only to be captured and returned to Virginia under the Fugitive Slave Law.
The storied land that was home to Lumpkin’s Jail, aptly called the Devil’s Half Acre is, today, mostly covered by a sprawling parking lot and interstate 95. But from 1844 until the end of the Civil War, it was “a human clearinghouse and. . .purgatory for the rebellious.”[i]
In 1844 Robert Lumpkin purchased three lots on Richmond’s Wall Street, a commercial district and home to several of the city’s profitable slave auction houses. The lots, previously owned by Lewis Collier, contained a brick dwelling house, outbuildings and a jail when Lumpkin bought them. Under his ownership, the jail became known as “Lumpkin’s Jail” and established itself as Richmond’s most notorious compound for runaway slaves and slaves … read more »
Last year, The Augusta County Genealogical Society generously donated rare African American newspapers to the Library of Virginia.
While the collection is comprised of a mere five issues, three issues of the Staunton Tribune from 1928-1931 and two of the Staunton Reporter from 1916, as historical resources these items are priceless, invaluable for the study of African American and Virginia history.
Historical newspapers such as these are especially rare and often in deteriorating condition when they are discovered–when this collection arrived at the Library, the papers were torn, brittle and extremely fragile. It is often the case that newspapers from the early twentieth century are in worse condition than papers published 100 years earlier due to the evolving methods of mass paper production.
The Library’s talented conservator, Leslie Courtois, de-acidified, mended and encapsulated the newspapers so they may be handled safely and studied for generations to come. After conservation, the originals were able to be microfilmed, making them even more accessible to researchers, students, historians, authors and genealogists.
Below are the photographs of the newspapers before and after conservation. The pictures speak for themselves:
AFTER CONSERVATIONBEFORE AFTERBEFOREAFTER… read more »
On 17 September 1908, five years after the first successful flight at Kitty Hawk, Orville Wright and Thomas E. Selfridge test flew the Wright Flyer in a demonstration for the U.S. Army at Fort Myer, in Arlington, Virginia. The Army was considering contracting Wright’s aircraft to use as a military airplane, but, in order to win the contract, he needed to demonstrate the plane’s ability to carry a passenger.
The flight began without incident. As the Wright Flyer ascended to an altitude of 150 feet, it circled over Fort Myer. Three to four minutes into the flight, however, the plane’s propeller blade broke. With some 2000 spectators watching from below, Wright attempted to glide to a landing, but the plane went into a nose dive from seventy-five feet and crashed.
Wright was seriously injured, breaking several bones, but Selfridge, only twenty-six years old, suffered a fatal skull fracture. The death of the San Francisco native was the first recorded passenger death in a powered airplane crash.
In the days following the dramatic event, newspapers across the country reported with details of the crash and photos of the wreckage and its victims. From Washington DC to Los Angeles, the nation’s fascination with the relatively new phenomenon of flight and the potential danger that came with it was satiated by the stories printed in newspapers.
The headlines and articles below are from Virginia and national newspapers. They are just a fraction of what can be found on Chronicling America and Virginia Chronicle, free and searchable digital newspaper repositories–both are excellent … read more »
As Richmond International Raceway gears up to host late season NASCAR races, it seems a perfect opportunity to celebrate the recent donation to the Library of Virginia of a complete collection of Inside Motorsports (IMS), which began as a weekly newspaper devoted to all forms of auto racing, from NASCAR and dirt track to IndyCar and drag racing.
Thanks to its former editor, Jon Paulette, who generously donated his own collection, the Library of Virginia is the only library with a complete run of this unique title.
Inside Motorsports, published in Wytheville from 1993-2001, started as the popularity of auto racing was skyrocketing. “More, perhaps, than in another sport,” publisher Scott Sparrow wrote in the introductory issue of IMS, “fans have access to the competitors. They mingle and talk with both the obscure and the famous. Their bond is the American’s love affair with the automobile.”
Fan accessibility to the drivers and crews and this common bond between them, the love affair with the automobile, created a large and fiercely devoted fan base and IMS was there to serve. On the front page of its premier issue, dated March 31, 1993, NASCAR driver Alan Kulwicki is pictured with the caption “Kulwicki Eyes Repeat at Food City 500.” It was a sad coincidence that Kulwicki, the 1992 NASCAR champion, would die in a plane crash the very next day, April 1, on his way to the Food City 500 in Bristol, Tennessee.
While IMS began as a weekly covering a variety of motorsports, it eventually became a monthly dedicated solely to drag racing. “As a weekly,” Paulette explained, “the pub was a solid regional paper that eventually grew into something much larger. Was it a competitor for National … read more »
The Library of Virginia recently came into the possession of a rare Powhatan newspaper–while it’s not an original copy, the photocopied edition of the Weekly Progress contains valuable local history of Powhatan county and towns nearby.
The big news in the 14 July 1899 issue, featured on its front page with large illustrations of those involved, was the murder of Senator William M. Flanagan by the young lawyer William Garland Pilkinton, both of Powhatan. On page four, the Progress informed its readers that it would provide a full account of the Pilkinton-Flanagan murder trial–”Be sure that you do not miss the chance to read all of it,” it reminded.
It must be noted, considering it is such a curious feature of the paper, that whomever was writing for the Weekly Progress was an ardent fan of alliteration as evidenced by all of the column headings throughout the paper–”Belona Brevities,” Tobaccoville Talk,” “Othma Occurances,” and “Home Happenings” are just a few among many other alliterated column headings–most of which offered tidbits on local residents like “Miss Lee Lewis visited her aunt, Miss Marian Carter, Sunday” and “Miss Addie has returned home after a pleasant stay in Richmond.”
As a perk for existing subscribers, the Weekly Progress had the “Progress Premium Offer” which awarded fabulous prizes to anyone who could obtain new subscriptions for the paper. Prizes ranged from a top buggy for securing 100 subscribers to a breach-loading double-barrel shotgun for 30 subscribers.
And since the Progress was published in rural Powhatan county, it wouldn’t have been complete without husbandry advice. This issue included a review of the Biggle Horse Book whose motto was, “Always speak to a horse as you would to a gentleman.” Good advice, we think.… read more »
Below, what looks like an elaborate ransom note is actually a list of different mottoes taken from newspapers in the Library of Virginia’s collection.
Mottoes were once a common feature of newspapers and although they still crop up from time to time, they aren’t as commonplace as they used to be. The motto is printed near, usually below, the newspaper’s title and can be a succinct description of the kind of news it aspires to report, or directed at the audience it hopes to reach. It might be a political, philosophical or ethical statement, a Bible verse, a famous quote, a Latin phrase, or even an irreverent poke at itself. Can you match the motto with its title (titles are below the mottoes)? The answers will be revealed in the next blog post:
Here are the mottoes. . . .
And here are the titles. . .
On May 31, 1889 unusually heavy rainfall washed out the South Fork dam in western Pennsylvania and released twenty million tons of water from a reservoir known as Lake Conemaugh. A monstrous flood swept through the Little Conemaugh River Valley and made its way towards Johnstown, 14 miles downstream from the dam, destroying everything in its path.
As the water rushed through the valley, it accumulated an enormous amount of debris which caught fire once it reached Johnstown. Many drowned in the flood as it swept through town while others were killed by the resulting blaze–a staggering 2,209 men, women and children died.
“With railroad tracks washed away and telegraph lines down, contact with the city was completely cut off,” explains one source, “so most early newspaper editions carried stories based on rumor, conjecture, and the accounts of a few overwrought survivors.” Reports started coming on June 1 and one example of conjecture was the estimated death toll—some reports were low while others were as high as 10,000.
In the days and weeks following the Johnstown flood, newspapers covered the story obsessively. They published details of the moments before, during and after the flood, included sketches of makeshift morgues, destroyed buildings and railroad lines and maps of the water’s course, and provided numerous personal stories of loss and survival. The devastating circumstances of the event made it a national news story with newspapers from as far as California providing reportage.
Because it had so much local and national coverage, Chronicling America is an excellent resource for newspaper accounts of the flood and its aftermath. The articles and images below are just fraction of what can be found on Chronicling America and they tell the story of the Great Johnstown Flood of 1889.
Coverage from nearby Pittsburgh, Lancaster and Somerset:
Reports … read more »
Located in Suffolk, Virginia and chartered in 1881, the Suffolk Female Institute was run by Misses Sallie Finney in what had once been the Central Hotel and offered a “thorough education. . .correct moral training and proper social cultivation” to “young ladies and little girls” for $160.00 per year. “The Corps of teachers is efficient and experienced,” an 1886 ad for the school explained, “The home training, moral and attractive. Fine advantages in music, art and languages, at moderate rates.”
Like many schools, the Suffolk Female Institute, in operation from 1869-1908, published its own newspaper, the Casket. Where the title came from is anyone’s guess, but the content of the paper was not so macabre (actually, “Casket” had a not so macabre meaning in the 1800s–for an explanation, see Bill Bynum’s comment below). Poetry, personals, jokes, student news, alumni updates, homilies, the latest fashion trends and advertisements made up a typical issue, which was free to students and five cents for everyone else. Of course, sometimes the news could be melancholy: “A sudden death,” announced one headline, “Died at Suffolk Female Institute, Dec. 3d., 1877, little Frank, Miss Mattie’s darling little bird. We will all miss little Frank very much. We will no more be awakened from our slumbers by his sweet singing. He has sung his last song, and left us to mourn his loss.”
Thanks to generous patron Joe Neagle, the Library of Virginia now has four issues of the Casket on microfilm and one original copy. The papers, dating from 1878-1879, were originally collected by his great-grandmother while she attended the school. Mr. Neagle saved the papers and brought them to the Library of Virginia where they were microfilmed by the Virginia Newspaper Project.
The Casket is a rare gem of women’s history and offers insight … read more »
In Memory of Dave Brockie (1963 – 2014)
Perhaps the earliest newspaper photo of Oderus Urungus (A.K.A Dave Brockie) of GWAR? From VCU’s student newspaper The Commonwealth Times, 4 November 1986.
List of Richmond’s best local bands chosen by The Richmond Music Journal, 1993.
Excerpt from the article “We Tried Everything There is to do in Richmond in 24 Hours” written by John Sarvay. At 4:30, a visit to the Slave Pit. From Caffeine, August 1993.
Column “Ramblings” announces GWAR’s upcoming tour. From Throttle, April/May 1994.
RAWG (GWAR without costumes) playing at Twisters. From The Richmond Music Journal, February 1999.
Excerpt from the piece “Spawned and Spurned” by Landis Wine. From RVA Magazine vol. 5, issue 4, 2009.
GWAR’s Oderus Urungus (A.K.A. Dave Brockie) on the cover of Style, 28 March 2012.
The Original Scumdogs. From Style 28 March 2012.