Alexandria in a time of war: From Mansion House to Camp Distribution

Alexandria was a lively town during the Civil War, so it’s no wonder PBS draws from the city’s history for its new drama Mercy Street. The series, inspired by real people and events, turns the lens from the battlefield and focuses instead on the Mansion House, a luxury hotel turned Union hospital. It follows the life of Mary Phinney Von Olnhausen, an inexperienced but capable nurse who is constantly faced with the challenges of working in an overburdened, chaotic war hospital.

Mercy Street

http://www.pbs.org/mercy-street/home/ August 29, 2016

So, what are the reasons Civil War era Alexandria is such an interesting setting? When Virginia officially left the Union on May 23, 1861, it was a city at once in Confederate territory and adjacent to the Union Capital. President Lincoln, needing Alexandria to shield Washington DC from Confederate forces, immediately sent Federal troops to occupy it—its proximity to the Potomac River and the railroad line also made it perfect for supply shipments.

View from Potomac 1863

View of Alexandria from Potomac 1863

The influx of thousands of Union soldiers only a day after Virginia’s secession vote may not have come as a total surprise to Alexandria’s inhabitants, but it wasn’t greeted with unanimous enthusiasm either. Henry B. Whittington, a Confederate sympathizer, wrote in his diary, “This is a sad day for Alexandria, and whatever may be the issue of this contest, this unprecedented move upon the part of a Republican President will ever linger in the minds of citizens while memory lasts.”

From the Alexandria Gazette, May 13, 1862

Alexandria quickly morphed from a quaint mercantile town into a “labyrinth of wharves, quartermaster storehouses, commissaries, marshalling yards, and railroad shops. . .Churches, public buildings and abandoned mansions were converted into hospitals, prisons and headquarters.” (George Kundahl, Alexandria Goes to War) And as the war progressed, … read more »

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Journey to the Center of the State: Appomattox and Buckingham Times enters Virginia Chronicle

Those who are members of the smart set like to think they are at the center of things.  But Appomattox, a small town in Piedmont Virginia, literally is at the center of Virginia. If you don’t believe us, see the image below. If you’re like me and believe everything you read, then here’s the proof:

Road MarkerDespite the important geographical distinction, few newspapers remain from Appomattox and the Buckingham County region. In fact, it seems they are as rare as hen’s teeth.

But the Library has cleverly managed to pull together a collection of the Appomattox and Buckingham Times (1892-1909) and has made them available online, thanks in large part to a private donation which helped give wings to this initiative. Herein is one recipe for success: a generous donation to the Library of Virginia’s Foundation coupled with Team VNP’s seasoned technical know-how to process in a few short months the pages now present on Virginia Chronicle.  As with just about every title found on the database, the titles are fully text searchable and available for text correcting by enthusiastic volunteers.

We cannot thank enough those who participate in what we like to call citizen history.

When you get a chance, please visit Virginia Chronicle to view our select but important collection of issues of the Appomattox and Buckingham Times. And while you’re at it, check out Slate River Ramblings, an engaging blog about life in Buckingham County. Actually life and death. You’ll see what we mean as you fall into engrossing stories involving murder and lawless gangs terrorizing the countryside at the turn of the 20th century.Appomattoxread more »

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Happy Holidays from the VNP and the Rappahannock Record

Ad Dec. 21, 1944 (3)The Virginia Newspaper Project is excited to announce that digitized issues of the Rappahannock Record from 1925-1958 are now available on Virginia Chronicle. Published in Kilmarnock, Virginia from 1917 to the present day, the Rappahannock Record is a wonderful example of a quality local weekly that is quickly approaching a notable milestone: its 100th year of publication.

And speaking of milestones, with the most recent additions to Virginia Chronicle, it too has reached a landmark of note: the half million page mark! There are now well over 500,000 Virginia (as well as a small selection of West Virginia and Maryland) newspaper pages available online through this resource.

To celebrate the holidays and the arrival of new issues to Virginia Chronicle, here are a few Christmas announcements and advertisements from the Rappahannock Record of the 1940s and 1950s.

Rappahannock Record, Dec. 21, 1944

Rappahannock Record, Dec. 21, 1944

Rappahannock Record, Dec. 21, 1944

Rappahannock Record, Dec. 21, 1944

Rappahannock Record, Dec. 21, 1944

Rappahannock Record, Dec. 21, 1950

Rappahannock Record, Dec. 15, 1955

Rappahannock Record, Dec. 22, 1955

Rappahannock Record, Dec. 15, 1955

Rappahannock Record, Dec. 21, 1944

Rappahannock Record, Dec. 21, 1944

Rappahannock Record, Dec. 21, 1944

Wishesread more »

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An “Arena of a Spirited Intellectual Tournament.” Herbert Ezekiel’s Jewish South

Jewish SouthPublished weekly in Richmond, Virginia, from 1893 through at least 1899, save for a five-month period in 1896, the Jewish South professed itself “a journal devoted to the interests of Judaism.” Being one of few publications concerning the Jewish community in the South, it reported on events in Richmond and on those of neighboring counties in Virginia including Norfolk, Staunton, and Petersburg. Published every Friday, the Jewish South returned in January 1897 in “new dress” with updated printing and improved layout features. In its latter years the newspaper expanded reporting to include news of interest from around the world including Siberia, Tunis, France, Germany, Italy, and Mexico.

During its first year, the Jewish South gained recognition and praise from prominent figures and more established newspapers. It was edited by Herbert T. Ezekiel, supervisor of printing for the city of Richmond for 19 years. Ezekiel began his newspaper career in 1886, writing for the Richmond Dispatch and the Richmond State. He reported on trials, witnessed hangings, and was sent to write articles about the old cemeteries in the city. Ezekiel also authored several books on local Jewish history including, The Recollections of a Virginia Newspaper Man, World War One Section of the History of the Jews, The History of the Jews of Richmond from 1769 to 1917, and The Jews of Richmond During the Civil War all of four of which can be found in the book collection of the Library of Virginia.

Herbert T. Ezekiel's The Recollections of a Virginia Newspaper Man. From the book collection of the Library of Virginia.

Herbert T. Ezekiel’s The Recollections of a Virginia Newspaper Man. From the book collection of the Library of Virginia.

JSEzekiel recognized Richmond as a literary and publishing center that included the talents of Edgar Allan Poe, Samuel Pleasants, Thomas Ritchie, and John M. Daniel. He requested contributions from readers so the Jewish read more »

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Radio Days: The Norfolk News Index and A Posting From the Electric Front, 1939-1940

Index-MastheadSeventy-five years ago, the media landscape was not nearly so vast, not nearly so individualized. An electronic device was not on your person, it was likely in your living room and the listening experience was shared. No headphones. No earbuds.

Courtesy of the Index (Film 2516, LVA microfilm collection), the Virginia Newspaper Project delivers a much less cluttered media landscape, then ruled by the newspaper and the radio, the latter still discovering its potential.

To appreciate the division of a typical radio day in 1940, click on the table for a closer look:Index WRVA schedule At the prices listed below, you would have been the exception if you enjoyed a radio in a room of your own:Index-Radio adA blow up of your exclusive features. Number six will put your mind at ease:Index-ad highlightYou’ll notice radios being sold at a furniture store. Here, an especially high end listening device, with the combination of Victrola (record player) and radio:Index-Zenith Radio ad 10-3-40

True portability arrived only with the advent of the transistor in the mid-1950s.

Please take note in the Sears ad below (remember, this is 1939) and the calling card of the coming leviathan stamped to its side.

Index-Sears Radio ad-tvread more »

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Attention Enquiring Minds! Richmond Enquirer now available on Virginia Chronicle

Richmond EnquirerThe Virginia Newspaper Project is happy to announce additions to the growing list of newspapers available on Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s free, searchable digital newspaper database. Now, 1839-1853 of the Richmond Enquirer can be browsed, searched and text corrected along with the other 87 titles in Virginia Chronicle. And just a reminder: anyone can use Virginia Chronicle, but to join the list of text correctors, becoming a registered user is required.

Additional issues of the Genius of Liberty have also been added to Virginia Chronicle–in the coming weeks look for much, much more, including antebellum and Civil War era West Virginia publications. A really unique addition to Virginia Chronicle is coming soon, but we don’t want to give that one away just yet!Genius of LibertyThe Richmond Enquirer can also be found on Chronicling America, America’s historic digital newspaper collection, sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In October, Chronicling America surpassed the 10,000,000 page mark, with newspapers from 39 states and Puerto Rico. For national newspaper research that is free to use and text searchable, it’s an invaluable historical resource.ChronAmread more »

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Horrible Butcheries at Wilmington—The Richmond Planet’s coverage of the 1898 insurrection in Wilmington, North Carolina

By Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project Volunteer

On November 10, 1898, in response to the election of a biracial Fusionist government, a group of white Democrats in Wilmington, North Carolina organized a mob, attacking the city’s African American community and ultimately overthrowing the city’s government. Within a couple of days, the mob had killed between 15 to 60 African Americans, destroyed the office of the Daily Record, Wilmington’s black newspaper, and run its editor out of town.

It had also succeeded in enacting the only coup d’etat in American history. Despite the mob’s complete chaotic defiance of the law, little was done by governmental authorities to quell the violence, with President McKinley ignoring pleas for assistance. Unsurprisingly, the Richmond Planet covered the events in Wilmington extensively. With headlines such as “Horrible Butcheries at Wilmington–the Turks out done,” the Planet decried the racialized violence of the mob and lambasted the government for its failure to respond.RP1 RP2The Richmond Planet, as an African American newspaper, offers a unique and valuable perspective on the 1898 Wilmington insurrections, as much of the mob’s animosity was directed toward Wilmington’s black newspaper, the Daily Record. Prior to the 1898 elections, significant tension had been building between the Daily Record and the white media of North Carolina, particularly the Raleigh News & Observer, over the issue of sexual relationships between black men and white women. The white media had engaged in a propogandic panic that black men were sexually predatory toward white women, a common assertion by white supremacists that had dangerous repercussions for black men, who were frequently lynched due to false accusations of sexual assault.

Alex Manly, the editor of the Daily Record, responded to these inflammatory assertions by stating that when sexual relationships between white women and black men did exist, they were consensual. … read more »

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A High Altitude Halloween: Searching Monterey’s Highland Recorder, 1920-1929

This photo was peeled off and expanded from Monterey’s Wiki page and presents to the eye a view likely little changed since the decade of our interest here, the 1920’s.  In fact, the town’s population was twice then was it is today which the latest census reports as 147 and projected to be even less in the next.  Somewhat surprising, then, the Recorder takes the honor of claiming status as Virginia’s longest consecutive published newspaper. It’s maybe a little less surprising when its geographical isolation is considered, yet still impressive, just the same.

That firm handhold half way up on the state’s western border is the high edge of Highland County and the solitude therein might be reconsidered as you imagine this community before the arrival of outside voices vibrating from a strange, boxed device of irresistible magnetic intimacy, the radio.

And a special link persists still, despite the lure of television and internet, between subscriber and paper. Thanks to that connection, as announced in a Fit To Print blog of earlier this month, the Project was granted permission by the current publisher to digitize beyond 1922, where copyright fencing begins.  Within our digital archive of the The Highland Recorder, a pursuit into the past is aided by finer search tools—as demonstrated here in a search entry of simply the word “Halloween” specific to the decade of the 1920’s.

searchAs noted in the margin, the result:  39 discoveries.

Are you thinking, only 39?  Bear in mind, commercial America has not yet come to borrow the Halloween imagery so familiar to later generations.  You’ll find no ads embracing the occasion to their product. Nearly all references are found in the social columns contributed by correspondents scattered about the county.

And now a collection of social events, comings and goings, pulled … read more »

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Text Correcting with Virginia Chronicle

Hello Virginia Chroniclers:

Here’s a reminder that as a registered user of Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s digital newspaper collection, you can assist in improving search results by correcting inaccurately translated newspaper text.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR), the software which reads a scanned newspaper page to create a searchable text file, is not 100 percent accurate. Many things can affect OCR accuracy, including broken or blurry type, text that is too dark or too light, mixed fonts, etc. Therefore, we need users to correct words the human eye can read that OCR cannot.

To become a registered user, go to the Virginia Chronicle page and click “Register” in the upper right corner of the home screen and enter the necessary information. Once you are registered, you will need to log in with your email and password whenever you would like to correct text in Virginia Chronicle.

Home page

Register

LoginNext, go to the newspaper page you would like to correct, right click on the page and choose “Correct page text” from the three options. There is also a “correct this text” option on the left side of the screen under “Why may this text contain mistakes?”

CorrectA “Correct Text” column appears on the left with text that has been read by Optical Character Recognition software while the newspaper image displays on the right. You can place your cursor anywhere under the “Correct text” column on the left and begin text corrections–a corresponding red box will appear over the newspaper image to show you where you are on the page. Before leaving each section–usually pages are sectioned by column indicated by a blue block–click the “save” button to save any changes you’ve made.

And that’s all there is to it! You’ll see that the it’s a fairly easy process once you actually … read more »

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That Was A Good Idea, Keeping Count. The Library Of Congress Achieves Ten Million Pages In Chronicling America-The Nation’s Newspaper Archive

could be no. 6,568,116

could be no. 6,568,116      

possibly no. 8,745,522

possibly no. 8,745,522

And the Virginia Newspaper Project was there.  At Chronicling America‘s start in 2007 as well as today in continuing to provide digitized Virginia imprint newspapers and in a recently renewed cooperative grant providing tech support to West Virginia University.  Here’s the ten million page mark announcement from the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2015/15-171.html.

A newspaper enthusiast on the staff of The Atlantic Monthly was quick to post on the occasion:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/10/old-newspaper-gems/409270/

There is also this from Time:

http://time.com/4062999/historic-newspapers

Read ‘em and cheer.… read more »

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