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The Virginia Newspaper Project recently purchased two issues of an eight page newspaper entitled The Richmond Progress from a historic newspaper dealer. The issues are not dated but believed to be from 1884 and 1886 and they are printed as Volume I, numbers 4 and 6 respectively. The Library of Virginia previously had just one issue in our collection, Volume 1, Issue 1 which is only 4 pages and appears to be from 1882.
The paper was published in Richmond, Virginia by J. Thompson Brown & Co., Real Estate Agents and Auctioneer with offices at 1113 Main Street. The papers are largely made up of listings for houses, buildings, and land for sale.
The later issues are interesting for their feature articles. In the 1884 issue, one article references the illustrations that had been prepared for the publication. Three etchings depict the growth of the city in 1800, 1830, and 1870. Brief historical sketches are drawn for each period. I enjoyed hearing the population numbers for Richmond; 5,730 in 1800, 16,000 in 1830, and 65,000 by 1870.
There are brief articles about the value of owning real estate, a short history of City Directories in Richmond, articles advocating a bridge between Church Hill and Shockoe Hill and a street railway line to Manchester, largely to promote business and increase real estate values. In recent years, there has been discussion about the City purchasing Mayo Island and developing it as a park. So it is humorous to see on page 5 proposals to develop the same lands. “By opening up pleasure resorts along the route, which is most peculiarly adapted by nature for these purposes, such as boat houses, dancing pavilions, mercantile and mechanics’ pleasure clubs of every variety–that something, in which our city is woefully deficient, to attract business like … read more »
What follows is a listing of some recent additions to the Project microfilm archive, each from Northern Virginia and each resulting from a generous loan by the Thomas Balch Library of Leesburg.
The Times-Mirror publishing history begins in 1924 and continues today in a decentralized form, with separate bureaus and editions spread across Northern Virginia. Our holdings are strong from the mid century on but there are gaps especially in the late 1920’s and into the early years of the Depression. It is most gratifying then, for this addition from the Balch which addresses one year, 1934, in a complete January to December run.
The image above (click to enlarge) is the front page of February 22. The paper, a weekly, with its seven column width and assortment of staggered, vertically stacked headlines suggests the vitality of a more metropolitan base than its actual home in Leesburg. The use of the Cheltenham font in three headlines (“Racing Bills Pass Today In House”, for example) and, for that matter, the design of the masthead, lend a curiously contemporary quality to the Times-Mirror by mirroring (sorry) today’s New York Times (print edition, for readers of only the internet).
That drawn depiction of George Washington on this same front page provides a segue to the next paper from Leesburg,
With a lifetime five years shy of a hundred (1808-1903) perhaps no other Virginia newspaper crosses the breadth of the 19th century with so continuous an identity. You’ll see below examples here of The Washingtonian early and late from its history.
The roughly 300 hundred copies loaned to us by the Balch Library filled numerous gaps in our microfilm archive and replaced earlier images with improved versions. Restoration prior to filming was no minor undertaking, so credit here to Silver Persinger … read more »
Located in Spotsylvania County, 61 miles north of Richmond and 60 miles south of Washington, D.C., between the Tidewater and Piedmont regions of Virginia, Fredericksburg was a major port on the Rappahannock River, a significant crossroads during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and an important center of trade and commerce. The town was also the scene of fierce fighting and considerable destruction during the Civil War.
In an attempt to offer an alternative voice in postwar Virginia and to help boost the slowly recovering regional economy, the Free Lance was established in Fredericksburg in 1885 under the leadership of William E. Bradley and John W. Woltz, a former chairman of Virginia’s Republican delegation. Thirty-four stockholders also contributed to the operations of the paper as investors in the Free Lance Newspaper and Job Printing Company. It was apparent from the earliest issues of the Free Lance that the war was deeply imprinted on people’s minds and that political divisions in the South were still bitterly contentious. The Free Lance characterized itself as an “Independent” paper “devoted to Agricultural, Commercial and Manufacturing Interests of Fredericksburg and its Vicinity.” Its chief competitors, the Fredericksburg Star and the News, were decidedly Democratic. The Star immediately questioned the political leanings of Woltz and the paper’s stockholders, prompting the Free Lance in its second issue to reply: “We repeat, we see enough already to convince us that the Star is disposed ‘to pick a quarrel’ with the Lance, which we shall be slow to enter, and which we now proclaim will be unprofitable, unwise and which, we shall avoid if possible and permitted.”
In fact, the Free Lance defended its mission–and its stockholders–with vigor. “Republicans, (even though they be unnatural human beings from the standpoint of the Star), don’t feel like … read more »
As the date of execution of Floyd and Claude Allen approached, public support for the doomed men grew. Many people believed Floyd and Claude were no guiltier than the other Allens involved in the courthouse shooting and thought execution an unfair punishment. It was also brought to light that other people in the courtroom, like Dexter Goad, were probably just as responsible for the five deaths as any of the Allen men. Petitions pleading for executive clemency were submitted to the governor with tens of thousands of signatures. Richard Byrd, Reverend George W. McDaniel and US Senator Claude A. Swanson joined the fight to stop the executions, but Governor Mann, a steadfast supporter of capital punishment, was unsympathetic to the condemned men.
The date of execution was set for March 28, 1913; however on March 27, 1913 a strange turn of events occurred that almost prevented it. While Governor Mann was traveling to New Jersey, the Allen defense team asked Lieutenant Governor J. Ellyson to act as chief executive in Mann’s absence to commute the sentences. Ellyson conferred with Attorney General Samuel Williams and postponed the execution in order to settle the question on the constitutionality of commutation in Mann’s absence. When Mann heard the news of what was going on back in Virginia, he headed back on the first train and ordered the execution be carried out that afternoon. On March 28, 1913 at around 1:30 p.m. Floyd was executed in Virginia’s electric chair. According to the Rice Belt Journal, Floyd Allen “still limping from the wounds he received in the Hillsville court house battle, said the last tearful farewell to his boy and went with the prison guards to the death chamber. A groan escaped him while … read more »
Evergreen Cemetery is located a few miles from downtown Richmond and even farther from Monument Avenue. Much of the cemetery is overgrown by junk trees, ivy, brambles and kudzu. In a small clearing is a tallish grave stone in the form of a cross and this is where Maggie Walker is buried.
And nearby is the newly placed gravestone to John Mitchell, Jr., one of the towering figures in Virginia’s African American history.
Until recently the cemetery had been overrun by creeping nature and the inexorable effects of time and human neglect.
But if you read any one issue of the Richmond Planet, it becomes clear that John Mitchell, Jr. should not be neglected or forgotten. As editor and publisher of the Planet from 1885 to 1925, Mitchell carried out a life story that is the stuff of fiction. As one colleague put it, if you summarized his life in a couple of pages, one would swear it was mostly made up.
And so, on a blustery Saturday, February 25, 2012, a few family members and interested onlookers attended a simple, yet heartfelt ceremony to commemorate the unveiling of a new grave marker for John Mitchell, Jr., a ceremony that serves in a humble way to give the “fighting editor” his due, 83 years after his death in 1929.
To browse through hundreds of issues of the Richmond Planet and other historical newspapers, visit Chronicling America, a searchable online database with nearly 5 million pages and more than 725 titles from around the country. And visit the Library of Virginia’s web exhibit about Mitchell, “Born in the Wake of Freedom.“… read more »
The dramatic courtroom incident, coined variously the “Hillsville Massacre” and the “Courthouse Tragedy,” immediately became a huge news story and newspapers nationwide covered it in colorful, and often inaccurate, detail. For several weeks after the courthouse shooting, front pages in Virginia dailies like the Times Dispatch and the Rockingham Daily Record obsessively covered events surrounding the Allen clan with large photos and in depth articles on their front pages.
A story like the “Hillsville Massacre” was perfect fodder for contemporary newspapers, as the early twentieth century papers were undergoing a dramatic transformation from their staid precursors. As the nineteenth century came to a close, advanced industrialization and better public education created an exponentially growing audience of newspaper readers. Publishers realized newspapers could be a lucrative medium not only to inform, but also to entertain. At this time two important newspaper men, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, catered to this ever growing audience through new journalistic techniques still used in newspapers today. The fierce competition between Pulitzer’s World and Hearst‘s New York Journal led to innovations to attract readers such as the heavy use of photographs and illustrations, bold headlines and dramatic coverage of often gruesome and spectacular events. In many cases, facts were altered to make stories more sensational.
The Floyd Allen story was perfectly suited for the newspapers of 1912, both for how it read and for its abundant visual offerings so it is no surprise that the court room shoot out was heavily publicized in newspapers across the nation. The nature of the crime, the story’s setting, its aftermath and the men involved offered a tantalizing ongoing saga to curious newspaper readers. Undeniably, it was attention-grabbing that such a … read more »
While the events of March 14, 1912 produced many villains, a notable heroine stands out. Jezebel Goad, the daughter of Deputy Dexter Goad, was in her father’s office the day of the Allen hearing. When she heard gunshots, she ran to the courtroom to see what was going on. Without a thought, she fought her way through the gunfire to help her father and aid the wounded.
Goad’s heroics were covered extensively in newspapers. The Lexington Gazette‘s account of August 7, 1912 read:
“Instead of fainting or leaving the scene when the firing began, Miss Goad sought to enter the courtroom to go to her father. To gain entrance she was obliged to pull from the doorway a man who barred the way. Then she reached her father, and seeing that he was not badly hurt, she helped the wounded and dying.”
According to Jerry Leonard’s Travesty of Justice, the Mount Airy News ran the following account of Jezebel Goad: “Of all the heroes you have read about in story and song none will measure up with Miss Jezebel Goad, the beautiful daughter who stood bravely by her father last Thursday. Talk about your women melting up pewter plates and carrying water from springs, when the men dared not go, all such stories took little by the side of what the Hillsville beauty did last Thursday when she saw her father in danger. She was in the clerk’s office when the fight started and she rushed into the bullet ridden room as if she had not one thought for her own safety. . .of all the heroes who were that day brought to light none … read more »
This month marks the 100th anniversary of events surrounding the Allen family and the infamous “Hillsville Massacre.” The sensational coverage and gripping photos of the characters and events surrounding the courtroom shooting captured America’s imagination in 1912 and until the sinking of the Titanic a month later, the “Hillsville Massacre” took up a good deal of front page copy in newspapers across the country. In the coming days, to mark the anniversary, the Virginia Newspaper Project will feature entries on the events and people involved accompanied by front pages, articles and photos from newspapers in the collection of the Library of Virginia and from the digital newspaper resource, Chronicling America.
To find out more about the “Hillsville Massacre,” please visit Out of the Box, the official blog of the Archives Division at the Library of Virginia.
The front pages shown below represent only a small sample of the newspapers that covered the story across the nation, many of them reporting on the massacre the same day it happened. These pages can be found at Chronicling America.
In 1912, Carroll County, Virginia was a sparsely populated Appalachian farming region with few modern conveniences. Located in the southwestern part of the state and bordering North Carolina, it had no paved roads and only a single phone line connecting Hillsville, its county seat, to nearby Galax, Virginia. Its remote location and lack of modern convenience made it a world unto itself. On March 14, 1912, however, tragedy propelled this small farming community into the national spotlight when Carroll County native Floyd Allen, a prominent businessman and large land owner, became the central character in a controversial courtroom shooting that left five dead and seven wounded.
Events leading up to the courtroom shooting had taken place more … read more »