Tag Archives: History

The Mythification of Abraham Lincoln

A common feature in old newspapers was the short article. The sort of thing that was likely passed around from newspaper to newspaper in order to fill their columns — often unattributed, undocumented, and possibly not even true but this is the stuff of legends. A common subject of these short articles was the humor of Abraham Lincoln. The articles were usually singular stories of an incident and Lincoln’s response to the situation. Here is a collection of such articles to entertain and enlighten you to the character and humor of our 16th President.

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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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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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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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Real Estate Newspaper Sheds Light on Role Played by Developers


richmondprogress1886-1

The Virginia Newspaper Project recently purchased two issues of an eight page newspaper entitled The Richmond Progress from a historic newspaper dealer. The issues are not dated but believed to be from 1884 and 1886 and they are printed as Volume I, numbers 4 and 6 respectively. The Library of Virginia previously had just one issue in our collection, Volume 1, Issue 1 which is only 4 pages and appears to be from 1882.

The paper was published in Richmond, Virginia by J. Thompson Brown & Co., Real Estate Agents and Auctioneer with offices at 1113 Main Street. The papers are largely made up of listings for houses, buildings, and land for sale.

The later issues are interesting for their feature articles. In the 1884 issue, one article references the illustrations that had been prepared for the publication. Three etchings depict the growth of the city in 1800, 1830, and 1870. Brief historical sketches are drawn for each period. I enjoyed hearing the population numbers for Richmond; 5,730 in 1800, 16,000 in 1830, and 65,000 by 1870.

There are brief articles about the value of owning real estate, a short history of City Directories in Richmond, articles advocating a bridge between Church Hill and Shockoe Hill and a street railway line to Manchester, largely to promote business and increase real estate values. In recent years, there has been discussion about the City purchasing Mayo Island and developing it as a park. So it is humorous to see on page 5 proposals to develop the same lands. “By opening up pleasure resorts along the route, which is most peculiarly adapted by nature for these purposes, such as boat houses, dancing pavilions, mercantile and mechanics’ pleasure clubs of every variety–that something, in which our city is woefully deficient, to attract business like … read more »

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