Tag Archives: Chronicling America
By Kyle Rogers, LVA Newspaper Project volunteer
As the start of the K-12 school year looms, and college students gear up for their fall semester, the Library of Virginia peers back at how the back-to-school frenzy used to look in America’s historical newspapers. Make sure to check next week on Chronicling America’s #ChronAmParty twitter page to see how newspapers from around the country announced back to school time.
First thing’s first, kids: you have to have the right outfit. As Burk & Co. said, going back to school isn’t easy after summer vacation, but “It’s easier on the boys if they go back wearing stylish new clothes.” Buy Burk & Co. for “quality that saves money.” Oh, and don’t forget to buy some new dresses “That’ll truly please [even] the most critical young school miss of six to fourteen years.”
And don’t forget the importance of a nutritious breakfast! Mrs. M. A. Wilson of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reminded parents, “Chilly mornings and evenings mean that from now on the body will require additional heat and energy foods,” and she provides her own recipes for preparing calorie-packed breakfast cereals. Kettle not included.
Students needed just as many supplies for the classroom during the 1910s as they do now in the 2010s, but how did their parents get them in the era before Amazon…or any online shopping? They shopped at the Cohen Company, of course! Don’t forget your writing ink and gum for art class!
I can testify from personal experience about the importance of being able to see well in the classroom. Students with poor vision need prescription glasses, so that they can see the board and complete their homework assignments without struggling to read the questions. Luckily, famous optician Charles Lincoln Smith is here to help. The Times-Dispatch reported … read more »
By Kyle Rogers, LVA Newspaper Project volunteer
In recognition of the centennial anniversary of the Allies’ victory in World War I, the Newspaper Project remembers the “Queens of the Spy World Whose Intrigues Sway the Fate of Nations.” As this melodramatic article published in 1918 by The Sun (New York, NY) demonstrates, women spies not only were instrumental in the gathering of military secrets but also made for sensational headlines on the homefront. In “Queens of the Spy World,” The Sun compared the often tragic and short-lived espionage careers of Germany’s female agents during The Great War.
Germany’s extensive Wilhelmstrasse spy service included such femmes fatales as Felice Schmidt, Mlle. Sumey Depsy, Mata Hari, and Mme. Despina Storch. The article describes how these women spies infiltrated the governments of the Allies by posing as teachers, courtiers, dancers, courtesans, and even the occasional fruit vendor. Schmidt, for example, had herself exiled from Germany as a “suspicious character” in 1915, so that she could establish herself in London in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to seduce Britain’s Secretary of State for War, Horatio Herbert Kitchener. In The New York Evening World’s “Stories of Spies” section, Felice Schmidt – The German Spy Sent to Tempt Kitchener, reporter Albert Terhune elaborated on Schmidt’s story. After realizing that it was impossible to pry military secrets out of Kitchener, Schmidt instead insinuated herself in Marseilles as an apple seller, so that she could study the French artillery. After being caught by the French police while making a sketch of their guns, she was tried as a spy and put to death.
One of the Allies’ most famous female spies was British nurse Edith Cavell, who was executed by the German military for helping some 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium. Her death by firing … read more »
If you read this blog, you might know that the Virginia Newspaper Project (VNP) contributes digitized newspapers to two websites, Chronicling America and Virginia Chronicle. These sites are both wonderful repositories of historic newspapers from Virginia, but they aren’t the same, and don’t have exactly the same content.
Chronicling America hosts newspapers digitized through the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. Newspaper Projects across the country apply for two-year grants that allow each project to digitize about 100,000 pages per grant cycle. Until 2016, the newspapers digitized through NDNP grants were published between 1836-1922, but that window has been expanded to newspapers published between 1690 and 1963. Currently, Chronicling America has over 13 million pages from newspapers across the country!
The Virginia Newspaper Project has completed four grant cycles, and has been funded for its fifth. As a result, Chronicling America has 489,994 pages of Virginia newspapers.
Virginia Chronicle, which hosts the pages digitized through the NDNP, also contains additional digitization projects undertaken by the VNP. The Virginia Chronicle database currently has 977,408 pages of digitized newspapers–more pages will be added soon, which will put it at or near the one million page mark!
The nearly 500,000 pages on Virginia Chronicle not found on Chronicling America were funded by various sources, including publishers, donors, the Virginia Farm Bureau and the Library of Virginia itself.
Some of the newspapers on Virginia Chronicle do not fall under the scope of the NDNP, like those that are more current and non-traditional newspapers, like those published by high schools or the Civilian Conservation Corps. Virginia Chronicle has 598 issues of The Monocle, John Marshall High School’s newspaper, spanning from 1929-1973. These offer a fun, fascinating … read more »
By Claire Johnson, Newspaper Project Intern
For young women at the turn of the century, Halloween presented an opportunity to glimpse into the future and see the face of their husband-to-be by completing one of several complex rituals. The Richmond Dispatch on October 31, 1897 described one such ritual, performed at or near midnight on Halloween. Wearing her hair loose down her back and barefoot, the curious young woman must light a candle, and descend down her basement stairs backwards. As she walks, she repeats a stanza from Robert Burns’ 1743 poem, “Green Grow the Rashes:” “Auld Nature swears the lovely dears, Her noblest work she classes, O: Her ‘prentice han’ she tried on man, And then she made the lasses, O!”At the bottom of the steps, after turning around twice and taking ten steps, she looks over her shoulder into a mirror. If she is going to be married, she will see the reflection of her husband in the mirror.
The same article explained the soothsaying powers of “ducking for apples.” The instructions begin in a familiar way for those of us who bobbed for apples at harvest festivals or Halloween parties as children: fill a vessel with water and add apples, then close your eyes, lean in, and try to get one. Here, 19th century ducking for apples diverges from the modern incarnation of the game. According to the superstition, those who successfully picked up an apple with their teeth three times in five minutes would dream of their future spouse that night.
“I have a horrible and heart-rending tale to relate,” read a letter from the editor of the Norfolk Herald and printed in the Sept.3, 1831 issue of the Genius of Liberty, “and lest even its worst features might be distorted by rumor and exaggeration, I have thought it proper to give you all and the worst information that has reached us through the best sources of intelligence which the nature of the case will admit.”
The “horrible and heart-rending tale” the letter described was a violent slave rebellion which had taken place about sixty miles west of Norfolk in Southampton County, Virginia. “A fanatic preacher by the name of Nat Turner (Gen. Nat Turner),” reported the Richmond Enquirer, “was at the bottom of this infernal brigandage. (Aug. 30, 1831)”
By the time the revolt was over, sixty men, women and children had been killed. But as Scot French’s book, The Rebellious Slave: Nat Turner in American Memory, explains, “First the white people fell. . . Then the black people fell.” The Richmond Constitutional Whig of Sept. 3, 1831 reported that many slaves were slaughtered by retaliating mobs “without trial and under circumstances of great barbarity.” The death toll among the enslaved, many of whom played no part in the revolt, was in the hundreds.
Rather than describe the events of “Nat’s War”, the Newspaper Project hopes to show how newspapers talked about Nat Turner and how they variously portrayed him in the decades following his life and death. With a myriad of descriptions over the years, from “distinguished immortal spirit” to “wild fanatical,” Turner’s legacy was appropriated by different groups to both frighten and inspire.
more dreadful than the most gruesome of tales: Newspaper Coverage of The East Orange Bathtub Mystery
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.”
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 »
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
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
That Was A Good Idea, Keeping Count. The Library Of Congress Achieves Ten Million Pages In Chronicling America-The Nation’s Newspaper Archive
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:
There is also this from Time:
Read ‘em and cheer.… read more »
On May 31, 1889 unusually heavy rainfall washed out the South Fork dam in western Pennsylvania and released twenty million tons of water from a reservoir known as Lake Conemaugh. A monstrous flood swept through the Little Conemaugh River Valley and made its way towards Johnstown, 14 miles downstream from the dam, destroying everything in its path.
As the water rushed through the valley, it accumulated an enormous amount of debris which caught fire once it reached Johnstown. Many drowned in the flood as it swept through town while others were killed by the resulting blaze–a staggering 2,209 men, women and children died.
“With railroad tracks washed away and telegraph lines down, contact with the city was completely cut off,” explains one source, “so most early newspaper editions carried stories based on rumor, conjecture, and the accounts of a few overwrought survivors.” Reports started coming on June 1 and one example of conjecture was the estimated death toll—some reports were low while others were as high as 10,000.
In the days and weeks following the Johnstown flood, newspapers covered the story obsessively. They published details of the moments before, during and after the flood, included sketches of makeshift morgues, destroyed buildings and railroad lines and maps of the water’s course, and provided numerous personal stories of loss and survival. The devastating circumstances of the event made it a national news story with newspapers from as far as California providing reportage.
Because it had so much local and national coverage, Chronicling America is an excellent resource for newspaper accounts of the flood and its aftermath. The articles and images below are just fraction of what can be found on Chronicling America and they tell the story of the Great Johnstown Flood of 1889.
Coverage from nearby Pittsburgh, Lancaster and Somerset:
Reports … read more »
The 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 historical 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 »