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George Wythe: FFDWR (Founding Father Deserving Wider Recognition)

Wythe“No man ever left behind him a character more venerated than George Wythe.  His virtue was of the purest tint; his integrity inflexible, and his justice exact; of warm patriotism, and, devoted as he was to liberty, and the natural and equal rights of man, he might truly be called the Cato of his country.”

That’s Thomas Jefferson, not only a former student but trusted friend, and the statement most often quoted in biographical accounts, long or short, of Wythe’s life.

The following observation speaks to the maintenance of the body in support of that spirit so deservedly praised and is from William Munford, one of the last students Wythe (pronounced “with”) would mentor.  It provides a better caption for the image above, 5th and Grace in downtown Richmond, as it fits the person into a space, bland though it may appear here in the historical present.

“”Old as he is, his habit is, every morning, winter and summer, to rise before the sun, go to the well in the yard, draw several buckets of water, and fill the reservoir for his shower bath, and then, drawing the cord, let the water fall over him in a glorious shower. Many a time have I heard him catching his breath and almost shouting with the shock. When he entered the breakfast room his face would be in a glow, and all his nerves were fully braced.”

No one’s nerves, however, could be braced for what would follow Wythe’s daily ritual the morning of May 25, 1806, almost 15 years after Wythe’s departure from Williamsburg to Richmond to preside over the Capital’s Chancery Court. That an 81 year old revered Founding Father (participant in the Second Continental Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence, the country’s first law professor, classics scholar-a … read more »

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The Weekly Progress — The People’s Progressive Paper of Powhatan

The Library of Virginia recently came into the possession of a rare Powhatan newspaper–while it’s not an original copy, the photocopied edition of the Weekly Progress contains valuable local history of Powhatan county and towns nearby.

Weekly Progress Front PageThe big news in the 14 July 1899 issue, featured on its front page with large illustrations of those involved, was the murder of Senator William M. Flanagan  by the young lawyer William Premium offer 1Garland Pilkinton, both of Powhatan. On page four, the Progress informed its readers that it would provide a full account of the Pilkinton-Flanagan murder trial–”Be sure that you do not miss the chance to read all of it,” it reminded.

It must be noted, considering it is such a curious feature of the paper, that whomever was writing for the Weekly Progress was an ardent fan of alliteration as evidenced by all of the column headings throughout the paper–”Belona Brevities,” Tobaccoville Talk,” “Othma Occurances,” and “Home Happenings” are just a few among many other alliterated column headings–most of which offered tidbits on local residents like “Miss Lee Lewis visited her aunt, Miss Marian Carter, Sunday” and “Miss Addie has returned home after a pleasant stay in Richmond.”

As a perk for existing subscribers, the Weekly Progress had the “Progress Premium Offer” which awarded fabulous prizes to anyone who could obtain new subscriptions for the paper. Prizes ranged from a top buggy for securing 100 subscribers to a breach-loading double-barrel shotgun for 30 subscribers.

And since the Progress was published in rural Powhatan county, it wouldn’t have been complete without husbandry advice. This issue included a review of the Biggle Horse Book whose motto was, “Always speak to a horse as you would to a gentleman.” Good advice, we think.… read more »

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Read About It: New Titles and Issues Added to Virginia Chronicle!

The Virginia Newspaper Project is excited to announce that we have added new titles and new issues of existing titles to the ever growing Virginia Chronicle database/repository.

We are especially happy to note that the Project has added the finishing touches to a complete run of the Richmond Times-Dispatch from its inaugural publishing year in 1903 through 1922. We’ve also added 1852 – 1859 of a related title, the Daily Dispatch (Richmond). The Newspaper Project considers the pre-Civil War era a point of focus for adding titles and issues to Virginia Chronicle.

But there’s more. A diverse group of titles, including new additions, The Casket and Institute Jewel, provide texture and depth to the Library’s growing newspaper database and repository.

We’ve also added issues of the Richmond high school newspaper, The Monocle (John Marhsall HS), and the Peninsula Enterprise, a historically significant newspaper published on the Eastern Shore.

As for the Casket and Institute Jewel, only a few issues exist but we felt it important for researchers to have access to these unique items published at private schools located in Suffolk, Virginia.

So if you love researching newspapers, please visit Virginia Chronicle. As reported on the main page this collection contains 55,858 issues comprising 385,724 pages.

CasketDaily DispatchIJMonocleread more »

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A Muted Celebration: Independence Day, July 4th, 1902–A Quartet of Friday Fourths From the Newspaper Archive of Virginia Chronicle

The Civil War ended 37 years ago.   A Republican, Theodore Roosevelt is President.  A Democrat, Andrew Jackson Montague is Governor.   A state constitutional convention, dominated by Democrats, just disbanded taking the regressive step, as the nation advanced into the Progressive Era, of drastically narrowing the voting rights of blacks.  A Virginia small city editor, like our editors here,  in sympathy with the Democratic party, perhaps now in his late fifties or early sixties and perhaps a Confederate veteran, might be inclined to more quickly recall that lost cause for independence instead of the found of 126 years ago.  From the Lexington Gazette-right column, front page, starting above the fold:

Tuttle's poem, "The Boys in Gray," published in the 4 July 1902 edition of the Lexington Gazette.

Tuttle’s poem, “The Boys in Gray,” published in the 4 July 1902 edition of the Lexington Gazette.

This irascible appeal to the responsibilities of memory is the bluntest expression among our four papers of a lack of enthusiasm over the arrival of Independence Day.  And Lexington, it deserves mention, the home of VMI and Washington and Lee University, was also the final home of Robert E. Lee whose name was attached to the school’s title upon his death in 1870,after acting as its director since the war’s close.

Further north in the valley, the Shenandoah Herald’s July 4 edition, it’s a challenge to locate anything associated with the holiday.  A brief discussion of rattlesnake imagery in early American flags on the front page could qualify, but only maybe.  Its editor, John H. Grabill, was a former captain in the Confederate cavalry.SH close up

At least the editor of the Farmville Herald delivers some assertion out his ambivalence.  As well as a request to put down the bottle:

Excerpt from 4 July 1902 Farmville Herald editorial.

Excerpt from 4 July 1902 Farmville Herald editorial.

W. McDonald Lee, editor of Irvington’s Virginia Citizen, devotes five full columns to an often diverting … read more »

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That’s Our Motto. . .Mottoes Revisited

Here are the answers to Tuesday’s motto quiz (you can enlarge the image by clicking on it):Brick

Saltville ProgressTax Reform AdvocateThe Advocate of MissionsPilotRichmond City PaperPage Valley CourierOnwardBroaddus EchoIndependent JournalMathews MagazineThe HelperBubble Today LiveBaptist UnionObserverThe DemocratThe Church MessengerInvestigatorOil Man's MagazineAmerican Unionread more »

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Our Motto Is. . .

Below, what looks like an elaborate ransom note is actually a list of different mottoes taken from newspapers in the Library of Virginia’s collection.

Mottoes were once a common feature of newspapers and although they still crop up from time to time, they aren’t as commonplace as they used to be. The motto is printed near, usually below, the newspaper’s title and can be a succinct description of the kind of news it aspires to report, or directed at the audience it hopes to reach. It might be a political, philosophical or ethical statement, a Bible verse, a famous quote, a Latin phrase, or even an irreverent poke at itself. Can you match the motto with its title (titles are below the mottoes)? The answers will be revealed in the next blog post:

Here are the mottoes. . . .

Brick Motto

Saltville Progress Motto

Tax Reform Advocate mottoThe Advocate of Missions mottoPilot B&W mottoRichmond City Paper mottoPage Valley Courier mottoOnward mottoBroaddus Echo mottoIndependent Journal mottoMathews Magazine mottoThe Helper mottoBubble Today Live mottoBaptist Union mottoObserver mottoThe Democrat mottoThe Church Messenger mottoInvestigator mottoOil Man's Magazine mottoAmerican Union motto

 

And here are the titles. . .

Investigator title

Broaddus Echo title

Saltville Progress titleOnward titleOil Man's Magazine titleBubble titleBrick TitleThe Church Messenger title

The Democrat titleTax Reform Advocate titlePilot titleAmerican Union titleMathews Magazine titlePage Valley Courier titleThe Advocate of Missions titleRichmond City Paper titleThe Helper titleBaptist Union titleIndependent Journal titleObserver titleread more »

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The Mythification of Abraham Lincoln

A common feature in old newspapers was the short article. The sort of thing that was likely passed around from newspaper to newspaper in order to fill their columns — often unattributed, undocumented, and possibly not even true but this is the stuff of legends. A common subject of these short articles was the humor of Abraham Lincoln. The articles were usually singular stories of an incident and Lincoln’s response to the situation. Here is a collection of such articles to entertain and enlighten you to the character and humor of our 16th President.

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“Not A Hideous Dream” 125 Years Ago — Newspaper Coverage of the Johnstown Flood

Pittsburg Dispatch June 2, 1889 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.

Somerset Herald June 3, 1889

In the days and weeks following the Johnstown flood, newspapers covered the story PD June 9, 1889 Fourth Ward Schoolobsessively. 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 »

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The Casket and Institute Jewel

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.”

An etching of the Suffolk Female Institute from the Sketch Book of Suffolk, Virginia written by Edward Pollock and published in 1886.

Advertisement for the Suffolk Female Institute from the Sketch Book of Suffolk, Virginia.

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.

December 1879 front page of the Casket, published by the students of the Suffolk Female Institute.The Casket is a rare gem of women’s history and offers insight … read more »

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Set The Way-Back Machine!

The Library of Virginia is the home of the Virginia Newspaper Project. In 1997, the Library of Virginia moved to a new building at 800 East Broad Street in Richmond, Va. The building takes up the entire block between 9th and 8th street going east and west and between Marshall and Broad Street looking north and south.

The Library of Virginia.

The Library of Virginia.

When a Project colleague mused that he remembers taking a bus from a station he thought was near the Library’s current location, we scrambled to do a bit of research. And sure enough, on the north-west corner of 9th and Broad Street sat the local Trailways bus station.

It stood there for decades until the late 1980′s when Greyhound established a centralized depot at a new location in Richmond. The colleague reminisced about catching a bus at the old Trailways station at 9th Street, which got him to Staunton, Virginia where he often cooled his heels for hours waiting for a connection to take him north toward Winchester and Woodstock. Here is a photo from the late 1950′s. The local Trailways bus station stood at the same location as where the Library of Virginia stands today.

    Broad Street looking west. But what does this have to do with newspapers? We're just making a momentary stop as we travel back to around 1888.

Broad Street looking west. But what does this have to do with newspapers? We’re just making a momentary stop as we travel back to around 1888.

We’ve talked about the 1950s, now let’s go back 125 years ago. Back then, the Swan Tavern occupied the East 800 block of Broad Street. Built in the late 1780′s, the Swan Tavern managed a remarkably long life until it was demolished in 1904. And, yes, notable people such as Thomas Jefferson and Edgar Allan Poe were known to have slept there and most likely to have enjoyed an evening cordial or two.

But more to … read more »

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