Old Time Religion: Virginia’s First Freedom and LVA’s Religious Press Collection

Exhibit

The First Freedom Exhibit in the Library of Virginia’s Exhibit Hall

The current exhibit at the Library of Virginia, First Freedom: Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom, explores the meaning and evolution of this significant legislation. Written by Thomas Jefferson in 1777, it was not enacted into law until January 16, 1786, when it was passed by the Virginia General Assembly. The statute disestablished the Church of England, allowed citizens the freedom to practice any religion and assured the separation of church and state–innovative precepts later incorporated into the US Constitution’s First Amendment.

By showing episodes from Virginia’s past which involved questions of religious tolerance and practice, the exhibit raises important and often difficult questions, such as what actually constitutes the separation of church and state? How is “establishment of religion” defined? And how have perceptions of “religious freedom” changed since the statute was written?

In recognition of First Freedom, the Virginia Newspaper Project spotlights the Library of Virginia’s large collection of religiously affiliated newspapers which offer insight into religion’s role in local culture, morality and life. The papers also show how the understanding of religious tolerance and separation of church and state have changed over the past 200 years. For example, this article from the Lutheran weekly Our Church Paper of Feb. 16, 1904, fully endorsed church involvement in the development of the public educational system. “What part shall she play in the education of the youth of this country,” it asked, “and how shall she play it?” It warned that without the church’s intervention, public education might become “completely secularized.”

OCP 16 Feb 1904OCP (2) 16 Feb 1904Virginia has a long and rich tradition of religious press with Episcopalian, Baptist, Jewish, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Catholic publications, dating back well over one hundred years. Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s digital newspaper repository, contains … read more »

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more dreadful than the most gruesome of tales: Newspaper Coverage of The East Orange Bathtub Mystery

Ocey Snead George Grantham Bain collection of glass negatives

Photograph of Ocey Snead, taken December 21, 1907. From the Grantham Bain collection of glass negatives

In 1909, a mystery unfolded that was so shocking, it’s nearly too strange to believe today.

Shows like Dateline and Forensic Files continuously reveal the depths of human depravity and the bizarre story of Oceania (Ocey) Snead and the events leading up to her death could have easily found their way into an episode of true crime TV had the murder happened today. But Ocey Snead’s strange story happened long before television, at a time when murder mysteries were played out, in vivid detail, on the pages of newspapers.

To tell Ocey Snead’s story, we should start seven years before her death. . .

In 1902 Virginia Wardlaw arrived in Christiansburg, Virginia to run Montgomery Female College, a well-respected boarding school for young women and girls. Her aunt, Mrs. O. S. Pollock, had run the school for several years and asked Virginia, who had experience in teaching and academia, to take it over. The college offered students room and board and course study in English language, literature, ancient and modern history, natural science, mental and moral science, math, music and ancient and modern languages. “The remarkable purity and healthfulness of the atmosphere,” explained its 1880 catalog, “render the location peculiarly eligible for a seat of learning.”

Image from the 1880 catalog for the Montgomery Female Institute, from the Digital Collections of Duke University Libraries.

Image from the 1880 catalog for the Montgomery Female Institute, from the Digital Collections of Duke University Libraries.

Virginia Wardlaw’s sister, Mary Snead, later joined her in Christiansburg to help run the school.  All went smoothly until a third sister, Caroline Martin, joined them, taking over the college’s administrative duties. Caroline acted erratically, suddenly changing the school’s curriculum, shifting students to different classes, padlocking doors for no reason and concocting a scheme to turn the institution into … read more »

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Soldier Newspapers in the Civil War

The Virginia Newspaper Project, ever in search of timely blog entries, encourages you to read the excellent article by Ralph Canevali of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Mr. Canevali writes about several soldier newspapers that cropped up throughout the South during the Civil War: How they were created and how they often just as quickly disappeared. The titles Mr. Canevali writes about can be found at Chronicling America, the online newspaper database maintained by the Library of Congress.

Soldiers2

It is a timely article, given that the horrors of the Civil War led eventually to what was called Decoration Day and Memorial Day.

Near the end of the piece, we learn about the Soldier’s Journal, a title published, “Every Wednesday Morning, at Rendezvous of Distribution, Virginia.” The title can also be found at Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s online newspaper resource.

Mr. Canevali’s article offers a series of images, including a few by such Civil War-era artists as Edwin Forbes and Arthur Lumley.

 … read more »

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The Planet and Beyond: an update on African American Newspapers at the Library of Virginia

A single extant issue of the Reformer, an African American newspaper published in Richmond from 1895-1931, was recently added to Virginia Chronicle, the Library’s free and searchable digital newspaper database. Described by Lester Cappon as “an organ of Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers,” the issue, dated January 16, 1897, is yet another title from the collection of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California to be added to Virginia Chronicle.

ReformerUntil now, the Reformer was not in the Library of Virginia’s catalog–because nineteenth century African American newspapers are so rare, the Virginia Newspaper Project is thrilled to have it as part of its digitized newspaper collection.

In addition to the Reformer, Virginia Chronicle also includes 1889-1910 issues of John Mitchell, Jr.’s Richmond Planet, 1886-1890 issues of Afro American Churchman, published in Petersburg, and 1892-1893 issues of the Church Advocate from Baltimore.

Planet Afro American Church AdvocateIn the coming weeks, two editions of the Staunton Tribune will also be added to the digital database. One of the editions was published during the late 1920s/early 1930s. The other, with only one known copy from 1894, was published by Willis Carter, newspaper publisher and civil rights crusader. Thanks to Jennifer Vickers of Staunton, Virginia, the Library now houses this historically treasured newspaper.

Like John Mitchell, Jr., another early civil rights pioneer and newspaper man, Carter does not hold the place in Virginia history he rightly deserves. Fortunately, many years of careful research have led to From Slave to Statesman, The Life of Educator, Editor and Civil Rights Activist Willis M. Carter of Virginia, a new biography by Robert Heinrich and Deborah Harding.

Former Virginia Newspaper Project colleague and longtime research assistant to Harding, Margaret Rhett, has written an Out of the Box blog about Carter’s … read more »

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Our Back Pages: The VNP Adds Three Current Newspapers to Virginia Chronicle

Given copyright restrictions, the majority of the text searchable issues of newspapers found on Virginia Chronicle were published prior to 1923.

However, thanks to two forward thinking publishers, three Virginia newspapers are now available online from the earliest extant issues right up to the beginning of the 21st century.

This is exciting stuff. The titles that have been digitized and added to Virginia Chronicle are:

The Recorder (formerly the Highland Recorder. Monterey),

Highland RecorderThe Rappahannock Record (Kilmarnock), and

Rapp RecordThe Southside Sentinel (Urbanna)

SS

The three titles represent over 300 combined years of newspaper publishing. That means newspaper issues from the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, right up to the early 2000’s can be searched using the time saving features found at Virginia Chronicle.

The three papers mentioned above have publishing offices that span the Commonwealth, from a few miles from the WV border to publishing offices located in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.

These new additions to the Library’s online newspaper database provide readers with free access to the news and stories that helped shape this state over the past 100+ years.… read more »

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US News Map: Newspaper Coverage over Space and Time

This will be quick because we want you to drop what you’re doing and try out the latest newspaper resource.

When alert colleagues at the Virginia Newspaper Project find a research tool or web site that we think might be useful and cool, we want to pass it along to our faithful readers.

So check out USNewsMap.com

map

Brought to you by a joint effort from Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia, the US News Map database allows you to search words or terms and then to track how coverage traveled over time and geographically throughout the U.S.  The smart folks at Georgia Tech use Chronicling America as its source database, which currently holds over 10 million pages and nearly 2,000 newspapers, not to mention hundreds of millions of words.

From John Toon’s article about the initiative, he writes, “With U.S. News Map, it is easy to trace the evolution of a term – to see where it originated and how it spread – something that linguists are deeply interested in…Historians will be able to see how news stories moved across the continent, and rose and fell over time.”

To read more, please go to, http://www.news.gatech.edu/2016/03/06/what-going-viral-looked-120-years-ago

And for the total Youtube experience, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrL-eZWNRiMread more »

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His pistols within his reach: the volatile history of the Examiner

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.”Examiner mastheadPassionately 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:

September 18, 1802In 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 »

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A Tradition Of Disguise From Print To Pixels & A Motto For All Newspapers And All Time

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:Clarke Courier 1The 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:

Times #1How about we move one of those ad rectangles just a little closer to the others? Yes, lets:

nyt-1With 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:Banner mottoOur 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 »

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An Irish Tango: A Musical Marriage for St. Patrick’s Day

When Mollie Durango Does the Irish Tango from the March 7, 1915 issue of the Richmond Times Dispatch RTD Mar 1916music p 1music 2 and 3The Last Tango in Dublin. . .

 … read more »

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Random Notes: Martha Washington, The Huntington, and 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 Library in San Marino, California

The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

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:Daily ExpressVirginia IndexVirginia CourierPetersburg RepublicanRepublican and PetersburgChurch BellsLook for these next week. . .

RCADaily AdvancePeople's Free PressThe RiversideNorfolk PhenixOld DominionAlso, 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!

 

 

 … read more »

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