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Author Archives Kelley Ewing
It’s September 16, 1873 in the sleepy town of Staunton, Virginia. You can only imagine a reader’s excitement at turning to page three of the Staunton Spectator to discover an ad for Lewis Lent’s New York Circus with its illustrations and long list of spectacular attractions: For a mere seventy-five cent admission (fifty cents for children under ten), one could see grand balloon ascension, wild beasts, breathing sea monsters, ornately plumed birds, flesh eating reptiles and 5000 museum marvels!
Born in upstate New York in 1813, Lewis Lent began his circus career in 1834. Soon after, he became a partner in the Brown & Lent Circus, which moved from town to town via riverboat. Over the years, Lent joined various circus troupes, but his New York Circus, which ran from 1873 to 1874, advertised here in the Staunton Spectator, was the last show he owned and operated before retiring.Though the heyday of the traveling circus in the US might have been a bit later, the circus advertisements in newspapers of the 1860s and 1870s are evidence of its growing popularity and allure. The impetus for such elaborate newspaper advertising was the fierce competition between traveling shows. With beautiful illustrations of zebras, elephants, hippos, giraffes and tigers, acrobats standing on horse back, uniformed musicians, dancing dogs and trapeze artists, circus advertisements were an enticing and powerful promotional tool.
In the October 12, 1877 issue of the Staunton Spectator on page three, next to want ads and announcements, there is a full two column ad for John O’Brien’s circus, “The Largest Show ever in Virginia!” The ad for O’Brien’s circus promised mechanical marvels, three full military bands, palace opera chairs, 53 dens of wild beasts and six (yes, six!) stupendous shows rolled into one.John O‘Brien, born in 1836, became … read more »
Question: What do the following five quotes have in common?
“‘Pep! That’s what we want and that’s what we’ll get,’ Mr Archer H. Brown, director of Pep Club told a STAR reporter today.”
“It was in the dull grey mist of the morning that the enemy planes droned towards Pearl Harbor, and it was on that morning that the most treacherous trick ever played became known to the world. Bombs fell. Bombs from enemy planes on our base of Pearl Harbor! Treachery! This one word alone filled the air as reports came over the radio to all parts of the United States. People alone in the streets shouted to one another about it. Mothers whose sons were at the base sobbed quietly, fearing death and disaster for beloved ones. We, the American people, finally saw the light and knew that now the whole world would be at war.”
“Oh, Mama! I’ve found out where they make horses. I came by a shop where a man was finishing one; he was just nailing on his last foot.”
“Urging the working of all creeds without intolerance of each other, Rabbi Colin, Dr. Boyd, and Father O’Connell spoke to assembly on Monday. Rabbi Colin’s vivid illustration of the joined fingers making a forceful fist against hatred drove home this idea.”
“I hope my column this week will help someone who may be wrestling with a problem that always comes to light about this time of year. Of course, I am referring to the choice of Christmas presents. . .Father can always use a cigarette lighter and a carton of cigarettes, toilet articles, clothes or jewelry.”
Answer: They are all quotes taken from high school newspapers. And while academic newspapers cover topics from the silly to the serious, they provide a unique opportunity to … read more »
The last of the Triple Crown’s three stakes races will be run at Belmont Park tomorrow. In the history of the Triple Crown, its winners number only eleven–will there be a twelfth added to this illustrious group of thoroughbreds on Saturday? If American Pharoah wins the Belmont Stakes, he’ll be the first to take the crown since 1978. As you’ll read below, it was not until War Admiral’s win in 1937 that the term “Triple Crown” was used to describe the “great turf stakes of the season.” Here’s a look back at the eleven horses who managed the exceptional feat as seen through the Richmond Times Dispatch:
Sir Barton, 1919
Gallant Fox, 1930
War Admiral, 1937
Count Fleet, 1943
The Virginia Newspaper Project wishes mothers everywhere a very happy Mother’s Day.
The idea for a Mother’s Day was originally conceived by Anna Jarvis, after her own mother’s death in 1905. The work her beloved mother, Ann Jarvis of Grafton, West Virginia, had done as a peace activist, Civil War nurse, and Sunday school teacher inspired Anna to want to create a day honoring “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”
In May 1908, Senator Elmer Burkett, a Nebraska Republican, introduced a resolution to the Senate to establish a nationally recognized Mother’s Day. While many had already embraced the idea of signifying a day to honor mothers, creating an official holiday was met with resistance by some lawmakers.
By a vote of 33 to 14, the Senate referred the Burkett Resolution to a Judiciary Committee. The 9 May 1908 issue of the Alexandria Gazette reported on the proceedings of the committee and the resistance with which the resolution was met: “There are some things so sacred that they are belittled by such a movement,” said committee member Fulton, “If we are going into this thing, there should be a father’s day and a grandfather’s day and then bring in our cousins, our uncles, and our aunts.” Another committee member, Jacob Herold Gallinger, said he “never heard of this movement and he did not need to wear a flower to remind him of his mother.” Another senator called the idea “absurd” and “trifling.”
After years of persistent pressure by Jarvis to establish the holiday, West Virginia became the first state to officially celebrate Mother’s Day in 1910. By 1912, “every governor in the land [had] issued proclamations calling upon the people to spend one day. … read more »
The Virginia Newspaper Project is excited to announce several new additions to Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s digital newspaper database.
First, thanks to a generous private donation, the Evening News of Roanoke from 1903-1913 is now available. Look for more Roanoke newspapers to be added to Virginia Chronicle in the coming months, including earlier editions of the Roanoke Evening News, 1915-1922 of the Roanoke World News, 1883-1901 of the Salem Times Register, 1900-1917 of the Salem Times Register and Sentinel and the Roanoke Times from 1899-1910.
Also available now on Virginia Chronicle, antebellum, Civil War and Reconstruction era newspapers from the Huntington Library in Huntington, California. Some of the Huntington additions enhance holdings already available, while others are entirely new:
Finally, the Princess Anne Times, a newspaper published from 1915-1918 out of what is now Virginia Beach, has also been added. . .but more on that coming soon. . .
Tomorrow, March 21, 2015, the Library of Virginia is co-hosting what promises to be a fascinating two city symposium To Be Sold: The American Slave Trade from Virginia to New Orleans. Noted speakers will discuss the slave trade between Richmond and New Orleans–how it operated and its impact on families and communities. Unfortunately, all spots for the event have been taken, but don’t despair! The event will be streaming live and filmed by the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab for later viewing through the Library’s website.
Featuring distinguished scholars Maurie McInnis, Charles B. Dew, Alexandria Finley, Calvin Schermerhorn, and Phillip Troutman, the first half of the event, from 9 am to 12:45 pm, will be held at the Library of Virginia. The afternoon session will shift focus to the Crescent City, as Walter Johnson, Stephanie Jones-Rogers, Larry Powell and Adam Rothman will be telecast from the Williams Research Center in New Orleans. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage in discussions with panel members in both cities.
This highly anticipated event is in conjunction with the Library’s To Be Sold exhibit, which examines the slave trade in Richmond and the “second passage” or the forced passage of slaves from the Upper South to the Deep South. To tell the story, the exhibit relies on a wide variety of primary source materials from receipts and census records to slave inventories and newspapers—central to the exhibit, are oil paintings done by nineteenth century English artist Eyre Crowe, depicting slave markets in Richmond and Charleston, S.C. The collection of materials used in the exhibit, drawn from the Library and other institutions, powerfully conveys the devastation of slavery and the slave trade.
Because this is the Fit to Print blog, we’d like to mention newspapers and their part in telling the … read more »
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 »