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Author Archives Kelley Ewing
more dreadful than the most gruesome of tales: Newspaper Coverage of The East Orange Bathtub Mystery
In 1909, a mystery unfolded that was so shocking, it’s nearly too strange to believe today.
Shows like Dateline and Forensic Files continuously reveal the depths of human depravity and the bizarre story of Oceania (Ocey) Snead and the events leading up to her death could have easily found their way into an episode of true crime TV had the murder happened today. But Ocey Snead’s strange story happened long before television, at a time when murder mysteries were played out, in vivid detail, on the pages of newspapers.
To tell Ocey Snead’s story, we should start seven years before her death. . .
In 1902 Virginia Wardlaw arrived in Christiansburg, Virginia to run Montgomery Female College, a well-respected boarding school for young women and girls. Her aunt, Mrs. O. S. Pollock, had run the school for several years and asked Virginia, who had experience in teaching and academia, to take it over. The college offered students room and board and course study in English language, literature, ancient and modern history, natural science, mental and moral science, math, music and ancient and modern languages. “The remarkable purity and healthfulness of the atmosphere,” explained its 1880 catalog, “render the location peculiarly eligible for a seat of learning.”
Virginia Wardlaw’s sister, Mary Snead, later joined her in Christiansburg to help run the school. All went smoothly until a third sister, Caroline Martin, joined them, taking over the college’s administrative duties. Caroline acted erratically, suddenly changing the school’s curriculum, shifting students to different classes, padlocking doors for no reason and concocting a scheme to turn the institution into … read more »
A single extant issue of the Reformer, an African American newspaper published in Richmond from 1895-1931, was recently added to Virginia Chronicle, the Library’s free and searchable digital newspaper database. Described by Lester Cappon as “an organ of Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers,” the issue, dated January 16, 1897, is yet another title from the collection of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California to be added to Virginia Chronicle.
Until now, the Reformer was not in the Library of Virginia’s catalog–because nineteenth century African American newspapers are so rare, the Virginia Newspaper Project is thrilled to have it as part of its digitized newspaper collection.
In addition to the Reformer, Virginia Chronicle also includes 1889-1910 issues of John Mitchell, Jr.’s Richmond Planet, 1886-1890 issues of Afro American Churchman, published in Petersburg, and 1892-1893 issues of the Church Advocate from Baltimore.
In the coming weeks, two editions of the Staunton Tribune will also be added to the digital database. One of the editions was published during the late 1920s/early 1930s. The other, with only one known copy from 1894, was published by Willis Carter, newspaper publisher and civil rights crusader. Thanks to Jennifer Vickers of Staunton, Virginia, the Library now houses this historically treasured newspaper.
Like John Mitchell, Jr., another early civil rights pioneer and newspaper man, Carter does not hold the place in Virginia history he rightly deserves. Fortunately, many years of careful research have led to From Slave to Statesman, The Life of Educator, Editor and Civil Rights Activist Willis M. Carter of Virginia, a new biography by Robert Heinrich and Deborah Harding.
The Virginia Newspaper Project has a few new additions to Virginia Chronicle, but before we get to that, we’d like to direct you to an interesting article, “The Battle For Martha Washington’s Will,” by Caitlin Conley, which effectively demonstrates how Virginia Chronicle can be used for historical research.
Now onto the new stuff. . .
The Huntington Library in lovely San Marino, California has a strong collection of early Virginia newspapers. In a moment you will see why this is good news for Virginia newspaper researchers.
The Huntington collection not only contains substantial runs of papers that fill gaps in preexisting holdings here at the Library, for example the Petersburg Republican published from 1819-1820, but it also has titles with no known copies in Virginia, such as Church Bells, a religious weekly published in Richmond in 1893.
Many of the titles in Huntington’s collection are “specimen” newspapers, meaning there is only a single copy, or a handful of copies, that the Huntington holds for any number of reasons. And as mentioned above, many of these specimen papers are not held in the collections of any Virginia institution, making access to them all the more important.
Thanks to a great cooperative project with the Huntington, many of these newspapers are available on Virginia Chronicle and will continue to be added in the coming months. Here are some of the latest Huntington titles added to Virginia Chronicle:Look for these next week. . .
Also, as part of a different project, look for new issues of the Rappahannock Record and the Highland Recorder on Virginia Chronicle. Newspapers are being added all the time, so visit often to see what’s new!
Alexandria was a lively town during the Civil War, so it’s no wonder PBS draws from the city’s history for its new drama Mercy Street. The series, inspired by real people and events, turns the lens from the battlefield and focuses instead on the Mansion House, a luxury hotel turned Union hospital. It follows the life of Mary Phinney Von Olnhausen, an inexperienced but capable nurse who is constantly faced with the challenges of working in an overburdened, chaotic war hospital.
So, what are the reasons Civil War era Alexandria is such an interesting setting? When Virginia officially left the Union on May 23, 1861, it was a city at once in Confederate territory and adjacent to the Union Capital. President Lincoln, needing Alexandria to shield Washington DC from Confederate forces, immediately sent Federal troops to occupy it—its proximity to the Potomac River and the railroad line also made it perfect for supply shipments.
The influx of thousands of Union soldiers only a day after Virginia’s secession vote may not have come as a total surprise to Alexandria’s inhabitants, but it wasn’t greeted with unanimous enthusiasm either. Henry B. Whittington, a Confederate sympathizer, wrote in his diary, “This is a sad day for Alexandria, and whatever may be the issue of this contest, this unprecedented move upon the part of a Republican President will ever linger in the minds of citizens while memory lasts.”
Alexandria quickly morphed from a quaint mercantile town into a “labyrinth of wharves, quartermaster storehouses, commissaries, marshalling yards, and railroad shops. . .Churches, public buildings and abandoned mansions were converted into hospitals, prisons and headquarters.” (George Kundahl, Alexandria Goes to War) And as the war progressed, … read more »
The Virginia Newspaper Project is excited to announce that digitized issues of the Rappahannock Record from 1925-1958 are now available on Virginia Chronicle. Published in Kilmarnock, Virginia from 1917 to the present day, the Rappahannock Record is a wonderful example of a quality local weekly that is quickly approaching a notable milestone: its 100th year of publication.
And speaking of milestones, with the most recent additions to Virginia Chronicle, it too has reached a landmark of note: the half million page mark! There are now well over 500,000 Virginia (as well as a small selection of West Virginia and Maryland) newspaper pages available online through this resource.
To celebrate the holidays and the arrival of new issues to Virginia Chronicle, here are a few Christmas announcements and advertisements from the Rappahannock Record of the 1940s and 1950s.
The Virginia Newspaper Project is happy to announce additions to the growing list of newspapers available on Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s free, searchable digital newspaper database. Now, 1839-1853 of the Richmond Enquirer can be browsed, searched and text corrected along with the other 87 titles in Virginia Chronicle. And just a reminder: anyone can use Virginia Chronicle, but to join the list of text correctors, becoming a registered user is required.
Additional issues of the Genius of Liberty have also been added to Virginia Chronicle–in the coming weeks look for much, much more, including antebellum and Civil War era West Virginia publications. A really unique addition to Virginia Chronicle is coming soon, but we don’t want to give that one away just yet!The Richmond Enquirer can also be found on Chronicling America, America’s historic digital newspaper collection, sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In October, Chronicling America surpassed the 10,000,000 page mark, with newspapers from 39 states and Puerto Rico. For national newspaper research that is free to use and text searchable, it’s an invaluable historical resource.… read more »
Hello Virginia Chroniclers:
Here’s a reminder that as a registered user of Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s digital newspaper collection, you can assist in improving search results by correcting inaccurately translated newspaper text.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR), the software which reads a scanned newspaper page to create a searchable text file, is not 100 percent accurate. Many things can affect OCR accuracy, including broken or blurry type, text that is too dark or too light, mixed fonts, etc. Therefore, we need users to correct words the human eye can read that OCR cannot.
To become a registered user, go to the Virginia Chronicle page and click “Register” in the upper right corner of the home screen and enter the necessary information. Once you are registered, you will need to log in with your email and password whenever you would like to correct text in Virginia Chronicle.
Next, go to the newspaper page you would like to correct, right click on the page and choose “Correct page text” from the three options. There is also a “correct this text” option on the left side of the screen under “Why may this text contain mistakes?”
A “Correct Text” column appears on the left with text that has been read by Optical Character Recognition software while the newspaper image displays on the right. You can place your cursor anywhere under the “Correct text” column on the left and begin text corrections–a corresponding red box will appear over the newspaper image to show you where you are on the page. Before leaving each section–usually pages are sectioned by column indicated by a blue block–click the “save” button to save any changes you’ve made.
And that’s all there is to it! You’ll see that the it’s a fairly easy process once you actually … read more »
The Virginia Newspaper Project is thrilled to announce the latest additions to the Library of Virginia’s free, searchable online newspaper resource, Virginia Chronicle.
The recent additions to Virginia Chronicle are especially exciting as they include both early nineteenth century newspapers and newspapers published well into the twentieth century.We’ll start with the earliest issues added to Virginia Chronicle. A collection of The Genius of Liberty, published in Leesburg from 1817-1839, was originally borrowed from a private lender and filmed by the Library in 2009. Now, 1817-1826 issues are available online–more will be added in the coming months until the run is complete. This is an important addition, since, before now, very little early nineteenth century material was available on Virginia Chronicle.
Next, we’ll look at the more recently published newspapers to be added to Virginia Chronicle. The Recorder, published in Monterey since 1877, is the newspaper of record for both Bath and Highland counties and can boast of being the oldest, continuously published weekly newspaper in Virginia.Thanks to LSTA (Library Services and Technical Act) funds and an agreement with the publisher of The Recorder, the Library has digitized in-copyright issues–that is, issues published after 1923–for inclusion in Virginia Chronicle. Currently, 1921-1949 of this fantastic title can be searched–much more will be added in the coming months, as the Project plans to digitize issues up to 2007. Issues from August 2007 to the present can be found online at www.therecorderonline.com.Finally, the Growler and the Free Lance have also been added to Virginia Chronicle. With the motto, “If it happens you can wager we’ll print it,” the tabloid sized Growler reported on local government and public utilities with a biting criticism. Though the newspaper claimed it would be “breezy without being offensive, and … read more »
As the UCI World Bike Championships unfold and professional road bikers from all over the map pedal by LVA down Richmond’s Broad Street, the Virginia Newspaper Project thought it a pertinent time to explore the search term “bicycle” in the Library’s free, online digital newspaper resource, Virginia Chronicle.
With nearly 500,000 newspaper pages, and more being added all the time, Virginia Chronicle is a fantastic tool for historical research. Among its features is an easy to use keyword search box, which we used for our “bicycle” search. “Cycling,” “wheeling” and “wheelmen” are a few alternate search terms for locating bike related articles.
While there is an advanced search feature on Virginia Chronicle, we did a simple search of the word “bicycle” which brought up an impressive 23,355 results. Each article in which bicycle was found is listed with title, date and page information. To the left of the results list, there is another column which breaks down search results by the different publications and decades in which our search term was found.
Interestingly, the first and only result for “bicycle” during the decade of 1860-1869 came from the Staunton Spectator of May 11, 1869. Bikes were novel at that time and the article, which claims that the “citizens of Staunton had their curiosity in reference to bicycles gratified,” is very brief.
The search results get higher with each succeeding decade, with the highest result number, 11,615 to be exact, appearing during the decade of 1890 to 1899. This decade saw the rise of the “Safety” bicycle, a bike with front and back wheels of equal size and a chain drive that transferred power from the pedals to the real wheel, making riding easier and opening up the sport to men and … read more »