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Author Archives Kelley
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.
New titles have been added to the Library of Virginia’s digital newspaper repository Virginia Chronicle, including issues of the “Monthly Journal of Mountain Life” the Mountain Laurel. As it describes itself in the first issue, “The ‘Mountain Laurel’ will not keep you informed of world events. It will not be a substitute for your local newspaper. What it will be is a journey each month into ‘the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.’”
Also new to Virginia Chronicle, the Church Advocate, an African American newspaper published out of Baltimore from 1892-1893, the earliest issues of the Peninsula Enterprise of Accomac, Virginia and a precious few issues of the Staunton Eagle and the Republican Farmer of Staunton from 1809-1811. Check out Virginia Chronicle and stay tuned for more to come!
The Virginia Farm Bureau News has been the go-to publication for farming news since it first appeared in 1941. With articles like “Should Grades be ‘Beefed’ Up” and “Choose Tobacco Varieties to Suit Soil and Climate” anything and everything related to agriculture has been printed on its pages. With its focus on agricultural news, it’s no wonder that the Virginia Farm Bureau News has, over the years, reported on annual festivals which celebrate the regional crops of Virginia, from peanuts and soybeans to apples and tobacco. These festivals have become important cultural events, not only for the excitement they generate, but also in shaping a town’s identity and creating a sense of local pride.
An important feature of local festivals, which often include food, music, dancing, a parade, and other general merriment, has been the crowning of a queen to represent the town’s respective main crop or agricultural product. “Be it pecans, asparagus or watermelons,” as the NPR story “All Hail the Asparagus Queen! How Ag Pageants Lure New Contestants,” recently explained, “many farming communities have also had a tradition of granting their prized commodity crops their very own monarchs.” The Queen Arachis Hypogea (a.k.a Queen Peanut) once garnered as much attention as the illustrious queen of state, Miss Virginia. Here are a few queens of the crops the Farm Bureau News has celebrated over the decades:
Not only has the Farm Bureau News provided faithful coverage of festival beauties, but the Farm Bureau organization has also chosen its own representative annually since the 1950s. The conditions for competing for Miss VFBF (Virginia Farm Bureau Federation) in 1970 were that the contestant “must be a daughter of a producer member of the Farm Bureau. She must … read more »
Come on down to the Library of Virginia tomorrow night for what promises to be a fascinating discussion of the life and legacy of John Mitchell, Jr. For details, read the description below, taken from the Library’s calendar of events:
Early in the 20th century, the term “race man” described a public figure who promoted the interests of African Americans on every front. John Mitchell published the Richmond Planet from 1884 to 1929 and made it one of the most influential black newspapers of its time. Greg McQuade of Richmond news station WTVR moderates a conversation on this important figure with historian Roice Luke, biographer Ann Field Alexander, and journalist Brenda Andrews.
A reception follows the program and rarely seen editions of the Planet will be on display.
The February 4 Out of the Box blog, Fancy Skating, focused on John J. Christian Jr., champion “fancy skater of Virginia.” The first clues about Christian’s life came with the discovery of a broadside (to see the broadside, visit the Out of the Box blog) found in a Rockingham County chancery case. The broadside announced that Christian would give a roller skating exhibition at Mozart Hall on 5 May 1888.
Not long after the Out of the Box blog was published, alert reader Hank Trent notified the Archives of some newspaper articles he discovered in the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America database which provided additional information about the obscure – now a little less obscure – John J. Christian. One article Mr. Trent found, from the 21 April 1905 issue of the Iowa State Bystander, detailed Christian’s marriage to Julia C. Wilkes of Boston, Massachusetts. “The bride wore a beautiful gown of silk voile trimmed in crepe de chiene, with hat to match,” the Bystander recounted, “She carried a very pretty bouquet of Bride’s roses.”
The article not only gives more clues to Christian’s life, but also raises some interesting questions, such as what were the circumstances that brought Christian to marry a woman from Massachusetts in Iowa, so far from their home states? Another article Mr. Trent found from the 8 March 1890 Richmond Planet revealed that Christian was from Staunton and, because he was a “Jr.,” was most likely the son of John J. Christian, Staunton confectioner and bartender.
This unfolding of information once again proves the astonishing value of using digital materials for historical research, especially when those resources are cross referenced. The discovery of the broadside, a researcher’s curiosity and the accessibility to digital resources shed the first rays of light on the, … read more »
The Virginia Newspaper Project wishes you and yours a very happy New Year!
Letters to Santa Claus printed in the Richmond Evening Leader, December 23, 1902. A copy of the full page is now on display on the second floor of the Library of Virginia near the microfilm readers. If you find yourself in the building, take a look. . .Rosa was kind enough to think of her father’s horse:
The Virginia Newspaper Project wishes you a very festive and super spooky Halloween. Enjoy some ghoulish tales, get helpful Halloween party tips and learn about some Halloween traditions of yesteryear in these articles from the Times-Dispatch, Free Lance and Our Church Paper. If you dare, read about the “Chain of Horrors” that haunted the site of Washington DC’s Commercial Club, and then savor the tale of Harry Brown and Frank Gray, who went into a haunted house to visit its ghostly inhabitants, and never came out. In “A True Ghost Story” learn how Mildred Edwards’s declaration that there are “no such things as ghosts” is challenged when she visits “the Old Walton Place.” For more tales of terror, visit Chronicling America and Virginia Chronicle and search “haunted house.” And, if you’re not sure how to decorate for a successful Halloween party, you can find creative ideas from the Woman’s Page of the October 27, 1912 issue of the Times Dispatch.