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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 »
The Virginia Newspaper Project is happy to announce new additions to the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Chronicle. The number of historical newspaper pages available on Virginia Chronicle continues to grow–We’ll take a quick road trip to discover the latest titles that have been added:
Let’s start in northwestern Virginia in Middletown, located fourteen miles south of Winchester in beautiful Frederick County. The Middletown Weekly began in 1912 and was in the family of titles published by the Strasburg News Company. The last known issue, printed December 20, 1912, claimed the paper was taking a Christmas hiatus, but it may have been a permanent hiatus as there are no known copies found that were published after the yuletide. Thirty years later, in the 1940s, Patsy Cline, who was born in nearby Gore, VA, would make regular visits to Middletown.
Now we’ll hop onto route 81, or route 11 if you prefer the scenic route, and drive ninety miles south of Middletown to visit the small and bucolic town of Greenville, Virginia. From 1882-1885, Greenville had its own newspaper, the Greenville Banner. In its introductory issue it explained, “We will do the best we can to present a readable sheet and ask its patrons to make all allowance in reason and bear with its imperfections.” A motto we subscribe to ourselves! One fun fact about Greenville: It is where Kate Smith, famous for her rousing rendition of God Bless America, was born.
Let’s get back in the car and go another seventy six miles down 81 until we hit Salem, Virginia, home to Roanoke College and the Salem Red Sox. Newspaper issues from 1883-1920 of the The Salem Times Register (called the Salem Times Register and Sentinel from 1903-1920) are now available on Virginia Chronicle as well. Additional issues of … read more »
By Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern
Founded in 1882 by Captain Stephen Roszel Donohoe, the Democratically-affiliated Fairfax Herald was published weekly in Fairfax, Virginia, where it served as the area’s dominant newspaper for many years. Fairfax, located near Washington D.C., underwent significant industrialization and population growth throughout the twentieth century, with the city’s population reaching 21,970 and the county’s reaching 455,021 by 1970, around the end of the Fairfax Herald’s run. In 1880, however, just prior to the Herald’s founding, the town of Fairfax had only a population of 376, while the county had a population of 16,025. The community was largely agricultural, producing “corn, wheat, oats, butter, hay; livestock,” according to the 1890 Ayer and Son’s American Newspaper Annual.
It was in this small farming community that S. R. Donohoe founded the Fairfax Herald, bringing the town its first printing press, advertisements for which stated: “Equipped with Type Setting Machine and Steam Press. All kinds of job printing. Splendid advertising medium.” The Fairfax Herald was four pages long and 20 inches by 26 inches in size originally. It had a circulation of 1,225 in 1904, 900 in 1911, and 1,000 in 1920.
Born February 1, 1851 in Loudoun County, Donohoe was successful in multiple ventures of public service, in addition to his prolific career in newspapers. He served in the Spanish-American War as a lieutenant with the Fairfax company. He then served as Treasurer of Fairfax County between 1889 and 1891; state senator for two terms, beginning in 1900; Auditor of Public Accounts of Virginia from 1910-1912; a member of the State Tax Commission in 1914, and Federal Prohibition Director of the State, beginning in 1919. Moreover, he is listed as a director at the National Bank of Fairfax in advertisements appearing for the … read more »
Reading between the lines: the Comstock Act and ads for the treatment of “female complaints” from the Fairfax Herald.
By Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern
If you read a newspaper from the late 19th century, you’re liable to be bombarded by various medical advertisements—treatments for catarrh, scrofula, and “watery-blood;” cure-alls like sarsaparilla and cod liver oil (described in an ad found in the Fairfax Herald as “palatable as milk”); and vegetable compounds that passionately avow efficacy in curing cancer.
Amongst these medical advertisements appear a multitude of supplements for treating “female complaints.” On first glance, these treatments appear to be simply another amusing example of 19th century medical quackery; however, these were not just any pills—these were abortifacients.
Abortion was a relatively common method of limiting family size in the 19th century, an era lacking in other forms of birth control; however, women did not truly consider themselves to be pregnant prior to the “quickening” of the fetus, the point in which she could feel the fetus move, usually around the fourth month of gestation. Abortifacients, therefore, were taken to relieve “obstructed menses.” Traditionally abortions were induced by ingesting home-remedies prepared with toxic herbs, such as pennyroyal, to induce miscarriage. By the mid-19th century abortifacients were widely available commercially, appearing frequently in newspaper advertisements which described the products in vague and euphemistic terms.
Despite the commonality of abortifacients in the 19th century, the emergence of anti-abortion campaigns in the mid-19th century ultimately led to the prohibition of abortion that lasted until the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Moreover, the Comstock Act of 1873 banned the circulation of abortifacients and information about them, including advertisements, as they were deemed “obscene.”
Despite the restrictions placed on abortifacients in the late 19th century, advertisements for them continued to … 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 »
Richmond’s Style Weekly published an engaging cover story about “Children of the Streets of Richmond, 1865-1920,” a book recently published by local writer, Harry Ward.
We’ll let the article do the talking, but suffice it to say, the book covers a lot of ground about an era of Richmond history that often makes the state capital sound like a wild west boom town: 5-6-7 year old newspaper boys, a rasher of neighborhood gangs, red light districts, and other sordid stories describe a city quite different from the one we know today. Which is no surprise given that many of the tales told took place over 100 years ago.
As it relates to Fit To Print, the author appears to make good use of newspapers to support his research into an array of court cases.
The Virginia Newspaper Project recommends the Style Weekly article as the images and text provide a glimpse of Richmond history now gone but not lost thanks to thousands of stories and reports found in our local newspapers.
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
Of historical anniversaries noted large and small, what follows is of the second type and left unremarked, if not here within this very blog. Last Friday was the one hundredth birthday of the first issue of the Princess Anne Times, not a delicate imprint of royal society from a tiny office tucked within Windsor Castle, but a record of life from the southeastern corner of Virginia.
33 of the 95 counties of Virginia possess a name of royal origin, but Princess Anne is no longer among them. The county disappeared from the map in 1963, closing a 272 year history when it was incorporated into the much larger independent city of Virginia Beach. The chance observation of the newspaper’s birthday suggested an additional incentive to announce its arrival a few weeks ago to Virginia Chronicle, The Library of Virginia’s digital newspaper archive managed by the Virginia Newspaper Project.
To the person who turns his back to the Atlantic and faces west from the Virginia Beach boardwalk and wonders, “How did this happen?”, the Times offers propitious clues. The current population of Virginia Beach stands near 450,000, making it the state’s most populous city. The reader of the Times in May of 1915 shared residency with about 438,000 fewer. Here’s the complete front page for that first issue (with a stage direction to the far left column).
They assigned themselves a mission and it was propelling this county forward … read more »
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 »