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Author Archives Kelley Ewing
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 »
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.