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Written by Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project volunteer
The Examiner, published semi-weekly in Richmond, Virginia from 1798 to 1804, held a prominent place in the incendiary world of early American politics. An organ for Thomas Jefferson’s administration and edited by Meriwether Jones and his brother, Skelton Jones, the Examiner committed itself to the Republican cause, boasting in its masthead, “truth, its guide, and liberty, its object.”Passionately dedicated to their cause, the Jones brothers constantly found themselves in hostile conflict with Jefferson’s critics, filling the Examiner’s pages with vehement editorials.
These enmities were especially fiery, as Meriwether and Skelton Jones were quick to employ vitriolic personal attacks, in contrast to editors like Thomas Ritchie, their successor, who, after purchasing the Examiner in 1804 and changing its name to the Enquirer, asserted, “this paper will not condescend to become the vehicle of personal abuse; much less of dishonorable slander. Private character is too delicate a subject for any public print.”
The most infamously volatile of these conflicts occurred between the Jones brothers and James T. Callender, editor of the Recorder (Richmond) and their former friend and employee. The feud began when Callender revealed that Thomas Jefferson had fathered children by his slave, Sally Hemmings, launching a scandal that remains contentious even today. Calling Callender’s paper “the Recorder of Lies,” the Examiner frequently published attacks on Callender’s character, calling him a liar, a drunk, and an adulterer, and accusing him of causing his wife’s death by giving her a venereal disease:
In an article addressed “To JAMES T. CALLENDER” in the Examiner, Meriwether Jones states, “The world hates you. Wherever your name travels, it carries with it that repulsive chill, which hurries our retreat from a vault of putrid human mortality!” Jones continues to lambast Callender’s character even after his … read more »
The iron law of journalism: you can’t pursue civic virtues if you don’t make money. From our digital archive Virginia Chronicle (now at almost 700,000 pages!) a front page selected almost at random from 1905, Berryville’s Clark Courier, March 8. Advertisements are marked:The intent is to blend in with the prevailing graphics of the page. The eye drifts easily from Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration to a guaranteed cure for constipation and biliousness (happily we were unable to verify or falsify such claims).
For the following, don’t think “old school” vs. “new school” but rather instead “same school.” A screen shot from today’s New York Times web page:
With the print versions of newspapers and magazines under a continual financial siege and their online editions still searching for a solid profit foundation, questions of news to ad ratio, design and general rules of cohabitation will persist and be debated internally with increasing intensity.
Entry into the Toyota ad posted on the Times reveals webpages resembling a kind of Mobius strip of information and embedded advertising messages. All this trouble just for a little…attention, the first welcome port of any passage to profit.
Now, please direct your attention to a newspaper out of the Valley of Virginia, 14 miles south of Staunton, the Greenville Banner of a small town of the same name, population 162, 250, 832 in 1810, 1928 and 2010, respectively.
Special distinction, we believe, is due for a motto delightful for its bluntness and freedom from the usual 19th century pieties:Our gratitude to owner, editor J. B. Burwell for surfacing expressing a sentiment suppressed by most others. He was not rewarded. In July of 1884, the Banner went up … read more »
The Virginia Newspaper Project has a few new additions to Virginia Chronicle, but before we get to that, we’d like to direct you to an interesting article, “The Battle For Martha Washington’s Will,” by Caitlin Conley, which effectively demonstrates how Virginia Chronicle can be used for historical research.
Now onto the new stuff. . .
The Huntington Library in lovely San Marino, California has a strong collection of early Virginia newspapers. In a moment you will see why this is good news for Virginia newspaper researchers.
The Huntington collection not only contains substantial runs of papers that fill gaps in preexisting holdings here at the Library, for example the Petersburg Republican published from 1819-1820, but it also has titles with no known copies in Virginia, such as Church Bells, a religious weekly published in Richmond in 1893.
Many of the titles in Huntington’s collection are “specimen” newspapers, meaning there is only a single copy, or a handful of copies, that the Huntington holds for any number of reasons. And as mentioned above, many of these specimen papers are not held in the collections of any Virginia institution, making access to them all the more important.
Thanks to a great cooperative project with the Huntington, many of these newspapers are available on Virginia Chronicle and will continue to be added in the coming months. Here are some of the latest Huntington titles added to Virginia Chronicle:Look for these next week. . .
Also, as part of a different project, look for new issues of the Rappahannock Record and the Highland Recorder on Virginia Chronicle. Newspapers are being added all the time, so visit often to see what’s new!
Alexandria was a lively town during the Civil War, so it’s no wonder PBS draws from the city’s history for its new drama Mercy Street. The series, inspired by real people and events, turns the lens from the battlefield and focuses instead on the Mansion House, a luxury hotel turned Union hospital. It follows the life of Mary Phinney Von Olnhausen, an inexperienced but capable nurse who is constantly faced with the challenges of working in an overburdened, chaotic war hospital.
So, what are the reasons Civil War era Alexandria is such an interesting setting? When Virginia officially left the Union on May 23, 1861, it was a city at once in Confederate territory and adjacent to the Union Capital. President Lincoln, needing Alexandria to shield Washington DC from Confederate forces, immediately sent Federal troops to occupy it—its proximity to the Potomac River and the railroad line also made it perfect for supply shipments.
The influx of thousands of Union soldiers only a day after Virginia’s secession vote may not have come as a total surprise to Alexandria’s inhabitants, but it wasn’t greeted with unanimous enthusiasm either. Henry B. Whittington, a Confederate sympathizer, wrote in his diary, “This is a sad day for Alexandria, and whatever may be the issue of this contest, this unprecedented move upon the part of a Republican President will ever linger in the minds of citizens while memory lasts.”
Alexandria quickly morphed from a quaint mercantile town into a “labyrinth of wharves, quartermaster storehouses, commissaries, marshalling yards, and railroad shops. . .Churches, public buildings and abandoned mansions were converted into hospitals, prisons and headquarters.” (George Kundahl, Alexandria Goes to War) And as the war progressed, … read more »
Those who are members of the smart set like to think they are at the center of things. But Appomattox, a small town in Piedmont Virginia, literally is at the center of Virginia. If you don’t believe us, see the image below. If you’re like me and believe everything you read, then here’s the proof:
But the Library has cleverly managed to pull together a collection of the Appomattox and Buckingham Times (1892-1909) and has made them available online, thanks in large part to a private donation which helped give wings to this initiative. Herein is one recipe for success: a generous donation to the Library of Virginia’s Foundation coupled with Team VNP’s seasoned technical know-how to process in a few short months the pages now present on Virginia Chronicle. As with just about every title found on the database, the titles are fully text searchable and available for text correcting by enthusiastic volunteers.
We cannot thank enough those who participate in what we like to call citizen history.
When you get a chance, please visit Virginia Chronicle to view our select but important collection of issues of the Appomattox and Buckingham Times. And while you’re at it, check out Slate River Ramblings, an engaging blog about life in Buckingham County. Actually life and death. You’ll see what we mean as you fall into engrossing stories involving murder and lawless gangs terrorizing the countryside at the turn of the 20th century.… read more »
The Virginia Newspaper Project is excited to announce that digitized issues of the Rappahannock Record from 1925-1958 are now available on Virginia Chronicle. Published in Kilmarnock, Virginia from 1917 to the present day, the Rappahannock Record is a wonderful example of a quality local weekly that is quickly approaching a notable milestone: its 100th year of publication.
And speaking of milestones, with the most recent additions to Virginia Chronicle, it too has reached a landmark of note: the half million page mark! There are now well over 500,000 Virginia (as well as a small selection of West Virginia and Maryland) newspaper pages available online through this resource.
To celebrate the holidays and the arrival of new issues to Virginia Chronicle, here are a few Christmas announcements and advertisements from the Rappahannock Record of the 1940s and 1950s.
Published weekly in Richmond, Virginia, from 1893 through at least 1899, save for a five-month period in 1896, the Jewish South professed itself “a journal devoted to the interests of Judaism.” Being one of few publications concerning the Jewish community in the South, it reported on events in Richmond and on those of neighboring counties in Virginia including Norfolk, Staunton, and Petersburg. Published every Friday, the Jewish South returned in January 1897 in “new dress” with updated printing and improved layout features. In its latter years the newspaper expanded reporting to include news of interest from around the world including Siberia, Tunis, France, Germany, Italy, and Mexico.
During its first year, the Jewish South gained recognition and praise from prominent figures and more established newspapers. It was edited by Herbert T. Ezekiel, supervisor of printing for the city of Richmond for 19 years. Ezekiel began his newspaper career in 1886, writing for the Richmond Dispatch and the Richmond State. He reported on trials, witnessed hangings, and was sent to write articles about the old cemeteries in the city. Ezekiel also authored several books on local Jewish history including, The Recollections of a Virginia Newspaper Man, World War One Section of the History of the Jews, The History of the Jews of Richmond from 1769 to 1917, and The Jews of Richmond During the Civil War, all of four of which can be found in the book collection of the Library of Virginia.
Ezekiel recognized Richmond as a literary and publishing center that included the talents of Edgar Allan Poe, Samuel Pleasants, Thomas Ritchie, and John M. Daniel. He requested contributions from readers so the Jewish … read more »
Seventy-five years ago, the media landscape was not nearly so vast, not nearly so individualized. An electronic device was not on your person, it was likely in your living room and the listening experience was shared. No headphones. No earbuds.
Courtesy of the Index (Film 2516, LVA microfilm collection), the Virginia Newspaper Project delivers a much less cluttered media landscape, then ruled by the newspaper and the radio, the latter still discovering its potential.
To appreciate the division of a typical radio day in 1940, click on the table for a closer look: At the prices listed below, you would have been the exception if you enjoyed a radio in a room of your own:A blow up of your exclusive features. Number six will put your mind at ease:You’ll notice radios being sold at a furniture store. Here, an especially high end listening device, with the combination of Victrola (record player) and radio:
True portability arrived only with the advent of the transistor in the mid-1950s.
Please take note in the Sears ad below (remember, this is 1939) and the calling card of the coming leviathan stamped to its side.
The Virginia Newspaper Project is happy to announce additions to the growing list of newspapers available on Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s free, searchable digital newspaper database. Now, 1839-1853 of the Richmond Enquirer can be browsed, searched and text corrected along with the other 87 titles in Virginia Chronicle. And just a reminder: anyone can use Virginia Chronicle, but to join the list of text correctors, becoming a registered user is required.
Additional issues of the Genius of Liberty have also been added to Virginia Chronicle–in the coming weeks look for much, much more, including antebellum and Civil War era West Virginia publications. A really unique addition to Virginia Chronicle is coming soon, but we don’t want to give that one away just yet!The Richmond Enquirer can also be found on Chronicling America, America’s historic digital newspaper collection, sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In October, Chronicling America surpassed the 10,000,000 page mark, with newspapers from 39 states and Puerto Rico. For national newspaper research that is free to use and text searchable, it’s an invaluable historical resource.… read more »