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New Market, established 1796 in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and settled largely by German Lutherans and Mennonites, was home to Our Church Paper, a Lutheran weekly published from 1873-1905 by Henkel & CO.’s Steam Printing House. Founded in 1806 by the Reverend Ambrose Henkel who, according to A History of Shenandoah County, got his start in the printing business when in 1802, at the age of 16, he walked to Hagerstown, Maryland from New Market to apprentice with a printer by the name of Gruber, who was known for almanacs. Shortly thereafter he purchased his own press and “hauled it up the valley to New Market” where he set up and began printing a German newspaper called The Virginia and New Market Popular Instructor and Weekly News. From 1806 to 1925 the press was operated by various members of the Henkel family, printing works in the interests of the Lutheran church.
Our Church Paper was perhaps the most well-known publication by the Henkel press. The paper was “devoted to the interests of the Evangelical Lutheran Church” and offered ”articles of faith and doctrine, it will contain much of admonition, besides matter of general interest to the family.” The first page was always a printed sermon, followed by local and national news of particular interest to Lutherans on pages two and three, and then a bounty of recipes, home remedies, household wisdom and light humor on page four.
From that last page today’s reader can get a sense of how it was to run a household around the turn of the last century. It certainly wasn’t easy; take for example the article on achieving the perfect cup of coffee at the top of the page. We can take for granted modern food processing and household improvements such as precise … read more »
Richmond panned by press! — Restauranteurs “swindlers and knaves” say soldiers — One dollar twenty-five cent outrage!
The Family Budget was a hand-written camp newspaper by Edward Budget, Confederate soldier in Hampton’s Legion which was formed after South Carolina seceded. The Library of Virginia holds this issue from July of 1861 in which Budget describes camp life on a rainy day, the arrival of artillery from Tredegar Iron Works, and criticizes Richmond at length for taking advantage of soldiers, and of being too “Yankee,” among other offenses. The text is transcribed below.
July 14th, 1861
We had hoped to have been able to chronicle in this issue an account of the presentation by Pres. Davis of a flag to Hampton Legion as the Legion were informed several days ago that said presentation would take place on the afternoon of Saturday the 13th […]; this however we are unable to do, not through any fault of our reporters but simply because the presentation did not take place, owing to the fact that the Executive was on that day too unwell to come out to Camp. The presentation will probably take place tomorrow at any rate in time for us to give an account of it in our next. The [stand] of colors is a present from Carolina ladies.
Yesterday two six-pound rifle cannons arrived for the artillery and received a hearty welcome; these pieces were cast in the Tredegar Works Richmond and are beautiful specimens of workmanship.
Judging from appearances we would think that some important military movement was on foot in the neighborhood of Yorktown this morning. There were […] about fifty or sixty feet long passed here on the rail road on their way to said place yesterday, a number of gun carriages, [timber chests], etc. and the day before several heavy pieces of artillery all … read more »
I would like to introduce you to the Mountain Laurel, a unique paper from Meadows of Dan, Virginia. The Mountain Laurel warned readers that it would “not keep you informed of world events” but instead sought to “portray mountain people with honor and distinction”, hence the double-meaning in the title: a laurel is not only a native flower but also means “honor and distinction”.
Distinctly Appalachian, the paper introduced readers to Glendon Boyd, wood carver and artisan rake-maker, and it told the tale of the man who once fell out of his cornfield and broke his leg because the land there was so steep. It would keep readers up to date with a report from the Floyd County Public Library which once resided in the basement of the Floyd courthouse. Readers clamored to contribute their own stories and memories making the paper a rich and entertaining resource full of oral history. The Mountain Laurel has been collecting and printing the lore, history, culture, and happenings of their Blue Ridge Mountain community since Bob and Charlotte Heafner and Susan Thigpen set up shop with an electronic typewriter in a rented farmhouse in March 1983.
A few years ago, Bob Heafner generously lent his collection of the Mountain Laurel to the Library of Virginia so it could be preserved on microfilm. Issues for March 1983 through Winter 1995 are available on Film 2025A.
The Mountain Laurel maintains a website for the journal with many transcribed articles available and they are still accepting submissions of readers’ stories. Please visit mtnlaurel.com for more of these wonderful stories.… read more »
“Flew on wings of death to the hills”:Southwestern Virginia reports on the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic
The Fall of 1918 saw the end of World War I and hundreds of thousands in America dead from a influenza pandemic that was sweeping the globe killing millions worldwide.
More than 600,000 people died over the course of a year in what would be deemed the worst epidemic to hit America. According to the CDC, 20-50 million people worldwide died between 1918-1919 as a result of the flu. The virus spread quickly, taking an enormous toll on densely populated areas such as Philadelphia, Boston, and San Francisco.
But what about its impact on small towns?
The Big Stone Gap Post of Big Stone Gap, Virginia and the Clinch Valley News of Tazewell, Virginia published regular updates about the comings and goings of the flu. Roughly 100 miles apart in the southwestern portion of the state, both towns currently boast modest populations of around 4-5,000 residents. As the article below points out, Spanish Flu was considered a “crowd disease” but small towns in Virginia were not spared, with relative isolation making it difficult for the sick to get help.
From the Big Stone Gap Post, November 20, 1918, nine days after the end of the war:
“It is hardly likely that the general public will ever realize the extent of the suffering and anguish caused by the Spanish Influenza in some of the more remote mountain communities in Virginia where the frightful malady raged with a degree of severity which is difficult to explain.”
As the war was ending, the local and national news seemed equally dominated by reports of influenza cases. World war may have even helped spread to influenza around the globe just as the spread of the flu impacted the war effort at home and … read more »
Dueling, a trend that emerged in the middle ages as a way to settle disputes among European nobility, persisted among members of the American press, particularly in the South, long after the practice came to be regarded as barbaric to most Americans. The rules for dueling were laid out in 1777, in an Irish document called the “Code Duello”. In 1838, South Carolina Governor John Lyde Wilson wrote The Southern Code of Honor, which was very similar to the Irish code although Wilson claimed not to have seen a copy until after writing his own code. In the North, dueling was already out of fashion around the time of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr’s famous meeting in 1804. This was not the case in the South, where the practice would not see a decline in popularity until the Civil War. To refuse a duel in the South meant suffering a “posting”, a public notice accusing the refuser of cowardice and other shaming offenses.
19th century newspapers were often aligned with a particular political party, sometimes naming themselves for the party such as the Richmond Whig, the paper edited by William Elam which found itself the target of editorial attacks lobbed by Richard Beirne. Beirne, stalwart Funder and vitriolic editor of the State, was embarrassed by a dueling blunder and determined to prove his courage on the “field of honor”. He aimed an editorial loaded with a racial epithet and charges of corruption … read more »
The Critic was a weekly society paper bringing “news, society, drama, and history” to Richmond from September 1887 to December 1890. The paper entertained its readers with articles and jokes, household advice, etiquette, and a gossip column called “Society Chat”, while serving as a vehicle for advertisements directed toward women. Columns such as “The Stage”, a theatrical review, and a weekly column dedicated to ladies’ fashion, as well as advertisements for bicycles and sewing machines, and features about bathing and other leisure activities at the seashore, provide a window to the culture of Richmond society during the Gilded Age.
In March of 1890, proprietor and editor William Cabell Trueman transformed the paper into a weekly periodical offering more satire, fiction, and artwork with the intent to appeal to the whole family while still publishing a popular genealogy column and the familiar society, fashion, and household content. Under Trueman, The Critic aspired to rival Life magazine, promising to be a “startling innovation not only in Richmond, not only in Virginia, but in the South!”
While preparing the title history for The Critic, I was amused by similarities in social networking sites of today, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, to the paper. At one point, as I scrolled through the reel of microfilm, I exclaimed to no one in particular, “It’s the printernet!” Thank goodness nobody heard me.
A stroll through your typical Facebook news feed of 1888 might go something like this:
Your friend William Cabell Trueman has shared an article, “Animals that Laugh”.
As you may already know, even as far back as the 1870s humans were obsessed with ridiculous photos of cats. Maybe The Critic didn’t invent LOLcats, but it certainly supplied a demand. Right now … read more »