Tag Archives: Library of Virginia

Air of Gloom: Orville Wright’s Ill-Fated Test Flight at Fort Myer, 106 Years Ago Today

On 17 September 1908, five years after the first successful flight at Kitty Hawk, Orville Wright and Thomas E. Selfridge test flew the Wright Flyer in a demonstration for the U.S. Army at Fort Myer, in Arlington, Virginia. The Army was considering contracting Wright’s aircraft to use as a military airplane, but, in order to win the contract, he needed to demonstrate the plane’s ability to carry a passenger.

Wright FlyerThe first two passenger trial flights, done earlier that week, proved successful. The third test flight, however, took a terrible turn.

The flight began without incident. As the Wright Flyer ascended to an altitude of 150 feet, it circled over Fort Myer. Three to four minutes into the flight, however, the plane’s propeller blade broke. With some 2000 spectators watching from below, Wright attempted to glide to a landing, but the plane went into a nose dive from seventy-five feet and crashed.

Wright was seriously injured, breaking several bones, but Selfridge, only twenty-six years old, suffered a fatal skull fracture. The death of the San Francisco native was the first recorded passenger death in a powered airplane crash.

In the days following the dramatic event, newspapers across the country reported with details of the crash and photos of the wreckage and its victims. From Washington DC to Los Angeles, the nation’s fascination with the relatively new phenomenon of flight and the potential danger that came with it was satiated by the stories printed in newspapers.

Photos of the victims, from the Washington Times, 18 Sept 1908

Photos of the victims, from the Washington Times, 18 Sept. 1908.

LA Herald Sept 18, 1908

Photos from the Los Angeles Herald, 18 Sept. 1908.

The headlines and articles below are from Virginia and national newspapers. They are just a fraction of what can be found on Chronicling America and Virginia Chronicle, free and searchable digital newspaper repositories–both are excellent … read more »

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Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Reading: Inside Motorsports

As Richmond International Raceway gears up to host late season NASCAR races, it seems a perfect opportunity to celebrate the recent donation to the Library of Virginia of a complete collection of Inside Motorsports (IMS), which began as a weekly newspaper devoted to all forms of auto racing, from NASCAR and dirt track to IndyCar and drag racing.

IMS

The last issue of IMS, February 2001.

Hell Freezes Over: The last issue of IMS, February 2001.

Thanks to its former editor, Jon Paulette, who generously donated his own collection, the Library of Virginia is the only library with a complete run of this unique title.

Inside Motorsports, published in Wytheville from 1993-2001, started as the popularity of auto racing was skyrocketing. “More, perhaps, than in another sport,” publisher Scott Sparrow wrote in the introductory issue of IMS, “fans have access to the competitors. They mingle and talk with both the obscure and the famous. Their bond is the American’s love affair with the automobile.”

Fan accessibility to the drivers and crews and this common bond between them, the love affair with the automobile, created a large and fiercely devoted fan base and IMS was there to serve. On the front page of its premier issue, dated March 31, 1993, NASCAR driver Alan Kulwicki is pictured with the caption “Kulwicki Eyes Repeat at Food City 500.” It was a sad coincidence that Kulwicki, the 1992 NASCAR champion, would die in a plane crash the very next day, April 1, on his way to the Food City 500 in Bristol, Tennessee.

Drag ReviewWhile IMS began as a weekly covering a variety of motorsports, it eventually became a monthly dedicated solely to drag racing. “As a weekly,” Paulette explained, “the pub was a solid regional paper that eventually grew into something much larger. Was it a competitor for … read more »

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George Wythe: FFDWR (Founding Father Deserving Wider Recognition)

Wythe“No man ever left behind him a character more venerated than George Wythe.  His virtue was of the purest tint; his integrity inflexible, and his justice exact; of warm patriotism, and, devoted as he was to liberty, and the natural and equal rights of man, he might truly be called the Cato of his country.”

That’s Thomas Jefferson, not only a former student but trusted friend, and the statement most often quoted in biographical accounts, long or short, of Wythe’s life.

The following observation speaks to the maintenance of the body in support of that spirit so deservedly praised and is from William Munford, one of the last students Wythe (pronounced “with”) would mentor.  It provides a better caption for the image above, 5th and Grace in downtown Richmond, as it fits the person into a space, bland though it may appear here in the historical present.

“”Old as he is, his habit is, every morning, winter and summer, to rise before the sun, go to the well in the yard, draw several buckets of water, and fill the reservoir for his shower bath, and then, drawing the cord, let the water fall over him in a glorious shower. Many a time have I heard him catching his breath and almost shouting with the shock. When he entered the breakfast room his face would be in a glow, and all his nerves were fully braced.”

No one’s nerves, however, could be braced for what would follow Wythe’s daily ritual the morning of May 25, 1806, almost 15 years after Wythe’s departure from Williamsburg to Richmond to preside over the Capital’s Chancery Court. That an 81 year old revered Founding Father (participant in the Second Continental Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence, the country’s first law professor, classics scholar-a … read more »

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The Weekly Progress — The People’s Progressive Paper of Powhatan

The Library of Virginia recently came into the possession of a rare Powhatan newspaper–while it’s not an original copy, the photocopied edition of the Weekly Progress contains valuable local history of Powhatan county and towns nearby.

Weekly Progress Front PageThe big news in the 14 July 1899 issue, featured on its front page with large illustrations of those involved, was the murder of Senator William M. Flanagan  by the young lawyer William Premium offer 1Garland Pilkinton, both of Powhatan. On page four, the Progress informed its readers that it would provide a full account of the Pilkinton-Flanagan murder trial–”Be sure that you do not miss the chance to read all of it,” it reminded.

It must be noted, considering it is such a curious feature of the paper, that whomever was writing for the Weekly Progress was an ardent fan of alliteration as evidenced by all of the column headings throughout the paper–”Belona Brevities,” Tobaccoville Talk,” “Othma Occurances,” and “Home Happenings” are just a few among many other alliterated column headings–most of which offered tidbits on local residents like “Miss Lee Lewis visited her aunt, Miss Marian Carter, Sunday” and “Miss Addie has returned home after a pleasant stay in Richmond.”

As a perk for existing subscribers, the Weekly Progress had the “Progress Premium Offer” which awarded fabulous prizes to anyone who could obtain new subscriptions for the paper. Prizes ranged from a top buggy for securing 100 subscribers to a breach-loading double-barrel shotgun for 30 subscribers.

And since the Progress was published in rural Powhatan county, it wouldn’t have been complete without husbandry advice. This issue included a review of the Biggle Horse Book whose motto was, “Always speak to a horse as you would to a gentleman.” Good advice, we think.… read more »

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“Not A Hideous Dream” 125 Years Ago — Newspaper Coverage of the Johnstown Flood

Pittsburg Dispatch June 2, 1889 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.

Somerset Herald June 3, 1889

In the days and weeks following the Johnstown flood, newspapers covered the story PD June 9, 1889 Fourth Ward Schoolobsessively. 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 »

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The Casket and Institute Jewel

Located in Suffolk, Virginia and chartered in 1881, the Suffolk Female Institute was run by Misses Sallie Finney in what had once been the Central Hotel and offered a “thorough education. . .correct moral training and proper social cultivation” to “young ladies and little girls” for $160.00 per year. “The Corps of teachers is efficient and experienced,” an 1886 ad for the school explained, “The home training, moral and attractive. Fine advantages in music, art and languages, at moderate rates.”

An etching of the Suffolk Female Institute from the Sketch Book of Suffolk, Virginia written by Edward Pollock and published in 1886.

Advertisement for the Suffolk Female Institute from the Sketch Book of Suffolk, Virginia.

Like many schools, the Suffolk Female Institute, in operation from 1869-1908, published its own newspaper, the Casket. Where the title came from is anyone’s guess, but the content of the paper was not so macabre (actually, “Casket” had a not so macabre meaning in the 1800s–for an explanation, see Bill Bynum’s comment below). Poetry, personals, jokes, student news, alumni updates, homilies, the latest fashion trends and advertisements made up a typical issue, which was free to students and five cents for everyone else. Of course, sometimes the news could be melancholy: “A sudden death,” announced one headline, “Died at Suffolk Female Institute, Dec. 3d., 1877, little Frank, Miss Mattie’s darling little bird. We will all miss little Frank very much. We will no more be awakened from our slumbers by his sweet singing. He has sung his last song, and left us to mourn his loss.”

Thanks to generous patron Joe Neagle, the Library of Virginia now has four issues of the Casket on microfilm and one original copy. The papers, dating from 1878-1879, were originally collected by his great-grandmother while she attended the school. Mr. Neagle saved the papers and brought them to the Library of Virginia where they were microfilmed by the Virginia Newspaper Project.

December 1879 front page of the Casket, published by the students of the Suffolk Female Institute.The Casket is a rare gem of women’s history and offers insight … read more »

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Set The Way-Back Machine!

The Library of Virginia is the home of the Virginia Newspaper Project. In 1997, the Library of Virginia moved to a new building at 800 East Broad Street in Richmond, Va. The building takes up the entire block between 9th and 8th street going east and west and between Marshall and Broad Street looking north and south.

The Library of Virginia.

The Library of Virginia.

When a Project colleague mused that he remembers taking a bus from a station he thought was near the Library’s current location, we scrambled to do a bit of research. And sure enough, on the north-west corner of 9th and Broad Street sat the local Trailways bus station.

It stood there for decades until the late 1980′s when Greyhound established a centralized depot at a new location in Richmond. The colleague reminisced about catching a bus at the old Trailways station at 9th Street, which got him to Staunton, Virginia where he often cooled his heels for hours waiting for a connection to take him north toward Winchester and Woodstock. Here is a photo from the late 1950′s. The local Trailways bus station stood at the same location as where the Library of Virginia stands today.

    Broad Street looking west. But what does this have to do with newspapers? We're just making a momentary stop as we travel back to around 1888.

Broad Street looking west. But what does this have to do with newspapers? We’re just making a momentary stop as we travel back to around 1888.

We’ve talked about the 1950s, now let’s go back 125 years ago. Back then, the Swan Tavern occupied the East 800 block of Broad Street. Built in the late 1780′s, the Swan Tavern managed a remarkably long life until it was demolished in 1904. And, yes, notable people such as Thomas Jefferson and Edgar Allan Poe were known to have slept there and most likely to have enjoyed an evening cordial or two.

But more to … read more »

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“Your Attention Residents, Now Arriving at Gates H and C, Dulles International Airport.” The Herndon-Chantilly Times (1958-1962).

I didn’t anticipate opening today’s “Fit To Print” blog entry in quite this manner but I stumbled on it mainly by chance and, for someone with an already strong fondness for maps, the opportunity proved irresistible.  Below, the center two pages of the November 9, 1944 issue of the Herndon News-Observer:

Fairfax Map“Poor Fairfax County, it didn’t know what was coming”, remarked a colleague.  I imagined Til Hazel (if unfamiliar, google away) replying, “Poor?”   In 1950 the county knew a major airport in its borders was a real possibility; Congress had green lighted appropriation.  By 1955, it was determined that Burke (just east of the city of Fairfax on the map) would not be the site.  Organized resistance prevailed.  For planners now, the priorities were less resistance, a warmer welcome, and much more space-an important consideration for an airport with jets foremost in mind.  The decision was made to move west, to Loudoun County, leaving a trailing foot in Fairfax.  Here’s the Loudoun Times-Mirror, January 16, 1958.

LTM Jan 16 1958Then after the jump, this map:

Map2This was without question an economic life-changer and, for the local press, a huge story with multiple angles and it was forming directly in the front yard of the Leesburg based Times-Mirror.  But for Herndon (a historic town, incorporated in 1879) and Chantilly  (an intersection) it was on their front porch pressing against the door and promising a revenue wind velocity not previously reckoned.  The News-Observer was long gone, having departed later in the 1940’s.  An opportunity beckoned to establish a presence in boomtown, west Fairfax County.  The first issue of the Herndon-Chantilly Times (like the Times-Mirror, a weekly) appears on May 15 with the masthead describing it as an “edition of the Loudoun Times-Mirror”. By this issue the following July it reads … read more »

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What a Long, Oderus Trip It’s Been: Four Decades of GWAR in Richmond’s Weekly and Alternative Press

In Memory of Dave Brockie (1963 – 2014)

Perhaps the earliest newspaper photo of Oderus Urungus (A.K.A Dave Brockie) of GWAR?  From VCU’s student newspaper The Commonwealth Times, 4 November 1986.

Halloween 3Announcement for GWAR’s “Phallus in Wonderland” a “Completely unique mini-musical movie.” From Throttle, Jan/Feb 1992.

Announcement for GWAR's "Phallus in Wonderland" a "Completely unique mini-musical movie." From Throttle, Jan/Feb 1992.

List of Richmond’s best local bands chosen by The Richmond Music Journal, 1993.

Excerpt from the article “We Tried Everything There is to do in Richmond in 24 Hours” written by John Sarvay. At 4:30, a visit to the Slave Pit. From Caffeine, August 1993.

Column “Ramblings” announces GWAR’s upcoming tour. From Throttle, April/May 1994.

RAWG (GWAR without costumes) playing at Twisters. From The Richmond Music Journal, February 1999.

Excerpt and photo from “Time and Money: GWAR’s Biggest Enemies,” RVA Magazine, vol. 4, issue 2, 2008.

Excerpt from the piece “Spawned and Spurned” by Landis Wine. From RVA Magazine vol. 5, issue 4, 2009.

 GWAR’s Oderus Urungus (A.K.A. Dave Brockie) on the cover of Style, 28 March 2012.

The Original Scumdogs. From Style 28 March 2012.

 … read more »

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Extra! Titles Added to Virginia Chronicle

New titles have been added to the Library of Virginia’s digital newspaper repository Virginia Chronicle, including issues of the “Monthly Journal of Mountain Life” the Mountain Laurel. As it describes itself in the first issue, “The ‘Mountain Laurel’ will not keep you informed of world events. It will not be a substitute for your local newspaper. What it will be is a journey each month into ‘the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.’”

Also new to Virginia Chronicle, the Church Advocate, an African American newspaper published out of Baltimore from 1892-1893, the earliest issues of the Peninsula Enterprise of Accomac, Virginia and a precious few issues of the Staunton Eagle and the Republican Farmer of Staunton from 1809-1811. Check out Virginia Chronicle and stay tuned for more to come!

Mountain LaurelChurch AdvocatePeninsula EnterpriseStaunton EagleRepublican Farmerread more »

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