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“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 »
Most of us know John Mitchell, Jr. as the tireless “fighting” editor of the Richmond Planet, a newspaper he ran for 40 plus years beginning in the mid-1880′s. But Mitchell was a complex, multi-faceted person whose varied interests included a fascination for the Stanley Steamer, an automobile of the early 20th century that ran on steam produced by a vertical fire-tube boiler.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch has a great article that focuses specifically on John Mitchell, Jr. and the Stanley Steamers he owned during his lifetime.
The automobile’s steam boiler mechanism was based on technologies that had existed for decades, so it’s no surprise that someone would develop a personal vehicle based on the same concepts that drove railroad locomotives and factory motors. For an informative master class on the workings of a classic Stanley Steamer, check out Jay Leno’s Garage where he shows you all the necessary steps to getting the vehicle steamed up and ready to roll: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Me8b0ed59s
To-date, thousands of pages (1889-1910) of the Richmond Planet have been made available online at Chronicling America and well over 300,000 pages of Virginia imprint newspapers which makes up the Newspaper Project and the Library’s contribution to the National Digital Newspaper Program.
Earlier this month, WTVR Channel 6 news reporter Greg McQuade visited the Library of Virginia to assist in his research of Colonel J. M. Winstead, a North Carolina banker who committed suicide in Richmond, Virginia in August of 1894. The Richmond newspaper images that appear in this story are from the Library’s newspaper collection. We invite you to watch the story and check out related articles below. But be ready for the sad and grisly details.
For the full article from The Times (Richmond, VA), August 24, 1894: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85034438/1894-08-24/ed-1/seq-5/
For the full article from the Alexandria Gazette, August 24, 1894: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85025007/1894-08-24/ed-1/seq-2/
To see the full page from the Roanoke Times, August 24, 1894: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86071868/1894-08-24/ed-1/seq-1/
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 »
Readers of Fit To Print know of the Newspaper Project’s growing enthusiasm for preservation microfilming and archiving college as well as some high school student papers. See, for example, the blog entry of last September 10, describing John Marshall High School’s The Monocle. Our latest filming initiative in this category is also, like The Monocle, from Richmond. This time however, the paper originates not from a public, but a private institution-St. Catherine’s School, the longest standing all girls school in the city and a school of equally long-standing high reputation.
Here are some sample images from this new holding:
The Scrap Basket appeared in 1927, some six years after St. Catherine’s relocated to its current site just shy of Three Chopt and Grove, to what was then the city’s far West End and now the very near West End. Our first microfilmed issue (above, click to expand) dates from the Fall semester of the 1930 school year.
Odds ‘n’ Ends addressed the interests of those younger students in the Middle School and published for about ten years beginning in 1932. The copy pictured above is from the close of the school year 1933 and the first we had available to microfilm.
In 1940 it was decided that the title The Scrap Basket on the masthead was a little too divorced from the pride and aspirations of the students responsible for the paper’s content. A poll was conducted of the upper students and the resulting choice, The Arcadian, was inspired by an architectural feature of the campus-its two distinctive arcades. An article from the second page of the May, 1940 issue shown above speaks to the increased ambitions of the student staff.
Cost considerations during the war years shifted The Arcadian from the print shop … read more »
The News Leader was formed in 1903 by a merger of Richmond News and Evening Leader. It became the Richmond News Leader in 1925 and was published until 1992.
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 »
The most recent Ebay acquisition for the Library of Virginia’s newspaper collection is the Safety News of Omar, West Virginia. Published “monthly for employees of the West Virginia Coal and Coke Corporation,” it focused on topics related to company and employee news. The Library purchased three issues from March-June 1953, but the full publication span of the paper is unknown as there are no cataloged issues outside of these precious few.
Safety was of the utmost concern to the Safety News, hence its motto, “Wise men learn by other men’s mistakes—fools by their own.” The first page of Safety News sometimes included the feature “Safety Pays Everyone” describing recent accidents, injuries and deaths in mines. The brief accounts give a good deal of specific information related to each incident: “Arnold E. Lee, American Machine helper, Omar No. 15 Mine” included one report, “Injured February 4, 1953, at 3:30 a.m. Victim was caught between cutting machine and timber, resulting in fracture of seventh rib on left side. Disability undetermined. Foreman: Billy Bishop.”
Keeping things light, the following joke was printed just below the accident reports of the same issue:
The medical officer at the front was discussing the drinking water supply with the platoon sergeant:
“What precautions do you take against germs?”
“First, we boil it, sir.”
“Then we filter it.”
“And then, just to play it safe, we drink beer.”
Each month the Safety News also included the front page column “Our Board of Directors,” providing a detailed biography of a board member with accompanying photo. The March issue featured Charles R. Stevens, president of the consulting management firm Stevenson, Jordan & Harrison, Inc. “Mr. Stevenson’s firm,” the article explained, “consults to a number of important industrial companies, among which might be mentioned Pittsburgh Plate Glass … read more »
Similar to our friends at the Mecklenburg Times in 1941, above, the Virginia Newspaper Project is taking some time off for the holidays. Best wishes to you and yours! We’ll see you next year!… read more »