An Introduction to 19th Century American Newspapers

The University of Illinois has recently posted a couple videos that discuss the history and evolution of newspapers in the US.  They are well done and informative.

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Lucky Number 13

The Virginia Newspaper Project has just added thirteen titles to Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s newspaper repository and database.  Jeffersonian Republican Critic Campaign

The titles are:

The Commercial Bulletin (Richmond)
Jeffersonian Republican (Charlottesville)
The Amherst Progress (Amherst)
The Campaign (Richmond)
Afro-American Churchman (Petersburg)
The Critic (Richmond)
The Evening News (Harrisonburg)
Evening Truth (Richmond)
The Baptist Union (Danville)
The Missionary Weekly (Richmond)
The Roanoke Baptist Union (Danville)
The Children’s Friend (Richmond)
Virginia Farmer (Emporia)

Just click on the link for Virginia Chronicle and you’re on your way to hours of fascinating reading and research with over 300,000 Virginia imprint newspaper pages to choose from.

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A VNP Rescue Report: New On Microfilm

In the last month the Project has transitioned a number of newspapers, granting an allowance of alliteration, from danger and decay to safety and stability.

As, for example, the following:

Strasburg News Feb. 1, 1926Front Royal Record May 3, 1927

Maybe our most challenging, and time consuming, restoration task in the Project’s history and so quite satisfying  to at last advance into film this very large, three pallet sized early 20th century archive kindly loaned to us by the Northern Virginia Daily (“The Best Small Daily Newspaper in Virginia!”, http://www.nvdaily.com/).  Owner and publisher E. E. Keister consolidated his quartet of newspapers (see Fit To Print August, 2012) to create the NVD (the local shorthand) in September of 1932 and, as is evident above, possessed a tight, seven columned and copy rich, illustration free sense of design.  Here’s a contrast between the Woodstock Times and the Edinburg Sentinel before Keister purchased it and folded the smaller town’s paper into the Times four miles north.

Woodstock Times March 8, 1927ESaVA May 11, 1916

Edinburg lost its paper decades ago but it will, at least, be the claimant of this microfilm collection headed for storage soon within the Shenandoah County Library (http://shenandoah.co.lib.va.us/) as well as, of course, here at the Library of Virginia.

Tidewater Review May 2, 1929Tidewater Review July 25, 1929

Prolonging the repair time of the Valley papers was the continuing arrival of additional papers in need of microfilm preservation forcing an additional press on the time of our restorer Silver Persinger and his two assistants Silver Persinger and Silver Persinger who, what makes you ask?, is not at all overburdened.  The completed filming of the Review and its predecessor, The West Point News, marks the last of a trio of loans by the present day Tidewater Review (http://www.tidewaterreview.com/) that addressed significant gaps in the Project’s microfilm holding.  The previously uncataloged Chickahominy Sun profiled last May in Fit To Print was … read more »

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Happy Birthday John Mitchell, Jr.

John Mitchell, Jr., fighting editor of the Richmond Planet, was born 150 years ago today.

Mitchell2

Celebrate Mitchell’s birthday by checking out digitized copies of the Richmond Planet on Virginia Chronicle and Chronicling America.

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Virginia Chronicle

manExciting News.

The Virginia Newspaper Project and the Library of Virginia invite you to visit Virginia Chronicle, the Library’s online newspaper database and repository. We have added close to 300,000 pages to Virginia Chronicle that the Newspaper Project originally contributed to Chronicling America as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program.

But there’s more. Virginia Chronicle will include titles that are either outside the scope of the NDNP or that have particular interest for those doing Virginia related research. For example, the Library partnered with the Virginia Farm Bureau, an advocacy group for the farming industry, to include issues from the 1940’s to 1999 of the Farm Bureau News on Virginia Chronicle.

Our Church Paper (New Market, 1875-1904) will be added in the next few days.

Look for the following titles to be added to Virginia Chronicle in the coming weeks:

Amherst Progress 1904-1922

Campaign 1884-1888 Richmond

Afro-American Churchman 1886-1890 Petersburg

Missionary Weekly 1889-1890 Richmond

Jeffersonian Republican 1859-1889 Charlottesville

Children’s Friend 1865-1884 Richmond

Critic 1887-1889 Richmond

Evening News 1868-1873 Harrisonburg

Roanoke Baptist Union/Baptist Union 1888-1914

Evening Truth 1887 Richmond

Virginia Farmer 1908-1909 Emporia

Virginia Chronicle also offers patrons a text correcting option, a great new feature that we’re excited to have added to the database. By simply registering, users can assist in correcting text that may have been missed or “misread” by optical character recognition (OCR) software. OCR is impressive technology but it’s not perfect and through user participation, text correcting will improve search results while making a very good database even better.… read more »

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Cooking today with Our Church Paper

Eggs!?

Eggs!?

New Market, established 1796 in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and settled largely by German Lutherans and Mennonites, was home to Our Church Paper, a Lutheran weekly published from 1873-1905 by Henkel & CO.’s Steam Printing House. Founded in 1806 by the Reverend Ambrose Henkel who, according to A History of Shenandoah County, got his start in the printing business when in 1802, at the age of 16, he walked to Hagerstown, Maryland from New Market to apprentice with a printer by the name of Gruber, who was known for almanacs.  Shortly thereafter he purchased his own press and “hauled it up the valley to New Market” where he set up and began printing a German newspaper called The Virginia and New Market Popular Instructor and Weekly News.  From 1806 to 1925 the press was operated by various members of the Henkel family, printing works in the interests of the Lutheran church.

Our Church Paper was perhaps the most well-known publication by the Henkel press. The paper was “devoted to the interests of the Evangelical Lutheran Church” and offered ”articles of faith and doctrine, it will contain much of admonition, besides matter of general interest to the family.” The first page was always a printed sermon, followed by local and national news of particular interest to Lutherans on pages two and three, and then a bounty of recipes, home remedies, household wisdom and light humor on page four.

From that last page today’s reader can get a sense of how it was to run a household around the turn of the last century. It certainly wasn’t easy; take for example the article on achieving the perfect cup of coffee at the top of the page. We can take for granted modern food processing and household improvements such as precise … read more »

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Elizabeth Van Lew: Portrait of a Union Spy, From Print to Video

Liz Van Lew portraitIn recent years, Greg McQuade, morning anchor of WTVR in Richmond, Virginia, has produced award winning news segments on local Richmond history. Some of the stories have focused on people who are now all but forgotten, but who were, during their lives, groundbreaking members of the community. John Mitchell, Jr., “fighting editor” of the Richmond Planet is a perfect example.

Often, McQuade uses historic newspapers to accompany his reports and the Newspaper Project is always happy to assist him when he visits the Library of Virginia. Recently, he highlighted another pivotal, and, sadly, largely forgotten figure of Richmond’s past, Elizabeth Van Lew

Van Lew, abolitionist and fierce opponent of succession, risked her life as a spy for the Union during the Civil War. Surrounded by Confederate sympathizers, she lived in Richmond’s Church Hill district and carried out activities that would have been considered treasonous had they been discovered.  None of her neighbors, though, ever suspected her of any wrongdoing during the conflict.

Because of Van Lew’s daring and heroic deeds (which included helping prisoners escape Libby Prison), she was appointed Postmistress of Richmond by the US government after the war’s end. As her wartime activities came to light, she was maligned by many in the community as a traitor.

“The most hated woman in Virginia changed state’s course” tells the tale of a heroine who risked her life, her wealth and her social status to assist the cause of the Union. Historians elaborate on why she has been forgotten and if she will re-emerge with the recognition she is due for her role in shaping the course of the war.

To learn more about Elizabeth Van Lew, check out Elizabeth R. Varon’s comprehensive history, Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, A read more »

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The Short Happy Life of The Chickahominy Sun

Masthead

The Short Happy Life of The Chickahominy Sun

The above stands as a slight upgrade, it is hoped, to the first headline of this small town weekly’s blog  introduction, the simply descriptive-Now On Microfilm, The Chickahominy SunThe Sun’s three year plus nine month duration is certainly not as short as many other newspapers nor is it possible to accurately attest to its comparable happiness.  Yet sometimes, even a minor coincidence cannot be resisted.  The Sun shares a year of origin, 1938, with the hardback publication of Hemingway’s short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”.  So there you are.  Let’s add one more word of description which could be applied to Macomber’s last moments (at least from his perspective) and to The Sun-perplexing.  Perplexing, that is, to imagine how an eight page, six column paper found itself a home in Providence Forge.  For in the time consumed reading  to this point, a driver (at 45 mph, assuming a green light at the intersection of route 60 and state road 155) might have successfully traversed the town and turned back to relive it all over again.

Before reproducing the front page of the first issue, let’s take a closer look (necessary since the scale is so curiously small) at the unusual design work beneath the arched Chickahominy in the masthead.

Map

Is this the sun?  One supposes.   As perhaps referenced via ancient Egypt and the eye of Horus? One supposes with a little less confidence.  Turning to firmer ground, the paper takes its name not from the town but the Chickahominy River that acts as border to the two counties of principal coverage, New Kent and Charles City.  The river is unidentified in this charmingly peculiar depiction but the residents know their own river and besides there’s … read more »

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Courage Undaunted: Project staff brave the elements to help preserve and provide access to the Southwest Virginia Enterprise.

Thanks to the many alert colleagues throughout the Commonwealth, the Virginia Newspaper Project continues to receive tips from the field about original ink press newspaper files in need of preservation and cataloging. And if the title meets certain criteria, the Newspaper Project will place the title in the queue for digitization for inclusion in both the NDNP database (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov) and the Library of Virginia’s digital repository at http://virginiachronicle.com

A recent example of a great find comes from the western regions, in Wytheville, Virginia. Cathy Reynolds, Archivist at the Wytheville Community College has put together a fantastic run of the Southwest Virginia Enterprise from the earlier years in the 1880’s right up to 1923.

There’s actually more, but we wanted to make sure we were able to get the job done on this initial batch before moving forward with the post-1923 issues.

As many of you know it can be a bit of an adventure traveling from Richmond to Wytheville and back again. This time around, members of team VNP were caught in a flash snow storm that, as if on cue, produced heavy downpours and a thick fog on Afton Mountain.

However, despite the slow going, we made it back to the Library of Virginia and the handsome 11 volumes are safe and sound at VNP Headquarters.

According to Lester Cappon’s Virginia Newspapers 1821-1935, the Southwest Virginia Enterprise began in 1870 as a weekly and then moved to semi-weekly later that year. From 1870 to 1900, the Enterprise appears to have moved through a number of changes in publishers including J. A. Whitman, who, in 1908, merged the SWVE with the Wytheville Dispatch, a venerable newspaper that began publishing in 1862.

We include a few images happy to have the opportunity to preserve and provide better … read more »

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The Beauty of Hand Lettering in Newsprint

There is a growing interest in the lost art of hand-lettering as evidenced by the recent premier of Sign Painters at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. in March.

At a time, when many young people have spent their entire lives with a computer in their home and Photoshop has become a verb, there is a renewed appreciation for the unique look that hand lettering produces.  Here is a collection of random photos I have taken over the years, while I have worked with original newspapers here at the Library of Virginia.

These pieces are most likely from newspapers ranging from the 1900′s into the 1940′s, though hand lettering continued to be seen well into the 1970′s. Even before computers came along and completely decimated the craft there were other methods of photo-mechanical reproduction of type that severely limited the need for hand lettering.

Enjoy the lettering.

Don’t miss this second gallery of images.

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