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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A Look Back at the Richmond Downtown Expressway

Front page of the Progressive Richmonder from June 1950, a pro-Downtown Expressway specialty newspaper.

Front page of the Progressive Richmonder from June 1950, a pro-Downtown Expressway specialty newspaper.

In our collection we have an unusual one-off edition of The Progressive Richmonder from June, 1950 that was circulated to promote support for the construction of a downtown expressway. The paper was produced by a group identified as the Forward Richmond Highway Committee.

The object of the paper was to convince readers to support a referendum to be held at a Special Election on Tuesday June 13, 1950. The referendum did not propose a specific route for an expressway but was used as a gauge of the public’s support for the idea. The project’s total estimated cost was $29 million. Richmond’s contribution would be about $8 million dollars, with the Commonwealth contributing another $8 million and the Federal Government contributing $13 million.

The reasons given to support the expressway included that it would relieve existing traffic congestion, increase safety, faster travel for Richmonders, economic development (though the phrase did not yet exist, a proponent explained, “Everyone, motorists and all, stands to benefit financially in the long-range expressway planning.”), and scenery, “Landscaping that accompanies the construction of expressways and the building of parkways will add to the city’s beauty.”

Another argument used was that other cities had expressways in their downtown areas. An article cited examples in Detroit, Michigan, Sacramento, California, Houston and Dallas, Texas, and Hartford, Connecticut. It also stated a number of other localities were presently in the process of building expressways, the cities included Boston, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.

Alternative solutions and complaints by the opposition are briefly mentioned and dismissed. “We are told that the expressway would be an unsightly ditch. But the engineers say that it will be a handsome roadway, mostly at natural ground level, but if below ground … read more »

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“Your Attention Residents, Now Arriving at Gates H and C, Dulles International Airport.” The Herndon-Chantilly Times (1958-1962).

I didn’t anticipate opening today’s “Fit To Print” blog entry in quite this manner but I stumbled on it mainly by chance and, for someone with an already strong fondness for maps, the opportunity proved irresistible.  Below, the center two pages of the November 9, 1944 issue of the Herndon News-Observer:

Fairfax Map“Poor Fairfax County, it didn’t know what was coming”, remarked a colleague.  I imagined Til Hazel (if unfamiliar, google away) replying, “Poor?”   In 1950 the county knew a major airport in its borders was a real possibility; Congress had green lighted appropriation.  By 1955, it was determined that Burke (just east of the city of Fairfax on the map) would not be the site.  Organized resistance prevailed.  For planners now, the priorities were less resistance, a warmer welcome, and much more space-an important consideration for an airport with jets foremost in mind.  The decision was made to move west, to Loudoun County, leaving a trailing foot in Fairfax.  Here’s the Loudoun Times-Mirror, January 16, 1958.

LTM Jan 16 1958Then after the jump, this map:

Map2This was without question an economic life-changer and, for the local press, a huge story with multiple angles and it was forming directly in the front yard of the Leesburg based Times-Mirror.  But for Herndon (a historic town, incorporated in 1879) and Chantilly  (an intersection) it was on their front porch pressing against the door and promising a revenue wind velocity not previously reckoned.  The News-Observer was long gone, having departed later in the 1940’s.  An opportunity beckoned to establish a presence in boomtown, west Fairfax County.  The first issue of the Herndon-Chantilly Times (like the Times-Mirror, a weekly) appears on May 15 with the masthead describing it as an “edition of the Loudoun Times-Mirror”. By this issue the following July it reads … read more »

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What a Long, Oderus Trip It’s Been: Four Decades of GWAR in Richmond’s Weekly and Alternative Press

In Memory of Dave Brockie (1963 – 2014)

Perhaps the earliest newspaper photo of Oderus Urungus (A.K.A Dave Brockie) of GWAR?  From VCU’s student newspaper The Commonwealth Times, 4 November 1986.

Halloween 3Announcement for GWAR’s “Phallus in Wonderland” a “Completely unique mini-musical movie.” From Throttle, Jan/Feb 1992.

Announcement for GWAR's "Phallus in Wonderland" a "Completely unique mini-musical movie." From Throttle, Jan/Feb 1992.

List of Richmond’s best local bands chosen by The Richmond Music Journal, 1993.

Excerpt from the article “We Tried Everything There is to do in Richmond in 24 Hours” written by John Sarvay. At 4:30, a visit to the Slave Pit. From Caffeine, August 1993.

Column “Ramblings” announces GWAR’s upcoming tour. From Throttle, April/May 1994.

RAWG (GWAR without costumes) playing at Twisters. From The Richmond Music Journal, February 1999.

Excerpt and photo from “Time and Money: GWAR’s Biggest Enemies,” RVA Magazine, vol. 4, issue 2, 2008.

Excerpt from the piece “Spawned and Spurned” by Landis Wine. From RVA Magazine vol. 5, issue 4, 2009.

 GWAR’s Oderus Urungus (A.K.A. Dave Brockie) on the cover of Style, 28 March 2012.

The Original Scumdogs. From Style 28 March 2012.

 … read more »

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Extra! Titles Added to Virginia Chronicle

New titles have been added to the Library of Virginia’s digital newspaper repository Virginia Chronicle, including issues of the “Monthly Journal of Mountain Life” the Mountain Laurel. As it describes itself in the first issue, “The ‘Mountain Laurel’ will not keep you informed of world events. It will not be a substitute for your local newspaper. What it will be is a journey each month into ‘the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.’”

Also new to Virginia Chronicle, the Church Advocate, an African American newspaper published out of Baltimore from 1892-1893, the earliest issues of the Peninsula Enterprise of Accomac, Virginia and a precious few issues of the Staunton Eagle and the Republican Farmer of Staunton from 1809-1811. Check out Virginia Chronicle and stay tuned for more to come!

Mountain LaurelChurch AdvocatePeninsula EnterpriseStaunton EagleRepublican Farmerread more »

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Soybeans and Beauty Queens: Newspaper Coverage of the Queens of the Crop

Apple Queen 1 Sept 1982

The Virginia Farm Bureau News, September 1982

The Virginia Farm Bureau News has been the go-to publication for farming news since it first appeared in 1941. With articles like “Should Grades be ‘Beefed’ Up” and “Choose Tobacco Varieties to Suit Soil and Climate” anything and everything related to agriculture has been printed on its pages. With its focus on agricultural news, it’s no wonder that the Virginia Farm Bureau News has, over the years, reported on annual festivals which celebrate the regional crops of Virginia, from peanuts and soybeans to apples and tobacco. These festivals have become important cultural events, not only for the excitement they generate, but also in shaping a town’s identity and creating a sense of local pride.

An important feature of local festivals, which often include food, music, dancing, a parade, and other general merriment, has been the crowning of a queen to represent the town’s respective main crop or agricultural product. “Be it pecans, asparagus or watermelons,” as the NPR story “All Hail the Asparagus Queen! How Ag Pageants Lure New Contestants,” recently explained, “many farming communities have also had a tradition of granting their prized commodity crops their very own monarchs.”  The Queen Arachis Hypogea (a.k.a Queen Peanut) once garnered as much attention as the illustrious queen of state, Miss Virginia. Here are a few queens of the crops the Farm Bureau News has celebrated over the decades:

Miss VFBF Jan 1976

Virginia Farm Bureau News, January 1976

Not only has the Farm Bureau News provided faithful coverage of festival beauties, but the Farm Bureau organization has also chosen its own representative annually since the 1950s.  The conditions for competing for Miss VFBF (Virginia Farm Bureau Federation) in 1970 were that the contestant “must be a daughter of a producer member of the Farm Bureau. She must be read more »

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John Mitchell, Jr. Strong Men & Women Panel Discussion at LVA

Come on down to the Library of Virginia tomorrow night for what promises to be a fascinating discussion of the life and legacy of John Mitchell, Jr. For details, read the description below, taken from the Library’s calendar of events:

STRONG MEN & WOMEN PANEL DISCUSSION John Mitchell: Life and Legacy of Richmond’s “Race Man”
Planet's ForceWednesday, February 19, 2014
Time: 7:00 PM–8:30 PM
Place: Lecture Hall,  Free

Early in the 20th century, the term “race man” described a public figure who promoted the interests of African Americans on every front. John Mitchell published the Richmond Planet from 1884 to 1929 and made it one of the most influential black newspapers of its time. Greg McQuade of Richmond news station WTVR moderates a conversation on this important figure with historian Roice Luke, biographer Ann Field Alexander, and journalist Brenda Andrews.

 

A reception follows the program and rarely seen editions of the Planet will be on display.

This program, part of the Strong Men & Women in Virginia History project, is free and open to the public. It is underwritten by a generous gift from Dominion.… read more »

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Snow Dazed

Front page of the Richmond Times Dispatch, Feb. 8, 1936

Front page of the Richmond Times Dispatch, Feb. 8, 1936

A perennial subject for newspapers is snow storms. In Richmond, forecasters are calling for 4 – 8 inches on Wednesday and Thursday. The debilitating effects of snow are much the same today as they were 75 years ago. Here are a couple of samples from historic snowfalls in Richmond, Virginia from January 24, 1940 and February 8, 1936.

Snow related articles from Richmond Times Dispatch, Feb. 8, 1936

Snow related articles from page 1 of Richmond Times Dispatch, Feb. 8, 1936

Page 2 from Richmond Times-Dispatch of Feb. 8, 1936

Page 2 from Richmond Times-Dispatch of Feb. 8, 1936

Article about snowstorm from Jan. 24, 1940.

Article about snowstorm from Jan. 24, 1940 Richmond Times-Dispatch.

As we all know, today’s storms are nothing compared with the blizzards of yesteryear. That’s as true today as it was in 1936 and here’s proof.

From Feb. 8, 1936 Richmond Times-Dispatch

From Feb. 8, 1936 Richmond Times-Dispatch

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Chronicling America: The Key to Roller Skate Research

Marriage Iowa State Bystander 21 April 1905The February 4 Out of the Box blog, Fancy Skating, focused on John J. Christian Jr., champion “fancy skater of Virginia.” The first clues about Christian’s life came with the discovery of a broadside (to see the broadside, visit the Out of the Box blog) found in a Rockingham County chancery case. The broadside announced that Christian would give a roller skating exhibition at Mozart Hall on 5 May 1888.

Not long after the Out of the Box blog was published, alert reader Hank Trent notified the Archives of some newspaper articles he discovered in the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America database which provided additional information about the obscure – now a little less obscure – John J. Christian. One article Mr. Trent found, from the 21 April 1905 issue of the Iowa State Bystander, detailed Christian’s marriage to Julia C. Wilkes of Boston, Massachusetts. “The bride wore a beautiful gown of silk voile trimmed in crepe de chiene, with hat to match,” the Bystander recounted, “She carried a very pretty bouquet of Bride’s roses.”

The article not only gives more clues to Christian’s life, but also raises some interesting questions, such as what were the circumstances that brought Christian to marry a woman from Massachusetts in Iowa, so far from their home states? Another article Mr. Trent found from the 8 March 1890 Richmond Planet revealed that Christian was from Staunton and, because he was a “Jr.,” was most likely the son of John J. Christian, Staunton confectioner and bartender.

This unfolding of information once again proves the astonishing value of using digital materials for NewspaperStackhistorical research, especially when those resources are cross referenced. The discovery of the broadside, a researcher’s curiosity and the accessibility to digital resources shed the first rays of light on the, … read more »

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University President Ed Ayers Boosts Digital Scholarship

In September 2013, the National Digital Newspaper Program held its annual meeting in Washington, DC. Over 30 participating states attended. Included in the varied agenda were a series of presentations, beginning with a captivating talk by Ed Ayers, President of the University of Richmond and former professor of history at the University of Virginia. While at UVA, Ayers became one of the creators of a landmark digital history project titled, The Valley of the Shadow, a digital repository concentrating its scanned content on two localities on opposite sides of the Civil War.

Following Ayers on the video is a fascinating talk by Ryan Cordell and David Smith from Northeastern University on the old newspaper tradition of re-publishing items from one newspaper to another. Republished content included news items, poems, short stories, and the like, while often being edited or “improved” upon as it moved from newspaper to newspaper. Talk about digging into data!

The final presentation by Ahmed Johnson from the Library of Congress provides a concise and informative overview to doing genealogy at the Library of Congress.… read more »

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