Tag Archives: Library of Virginia

Portraits of a Prophet: 100 Years of Nat Turner in Print

GoL Sept. 3, 1831“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 talethe 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.

On Aug. 12, 1867 the Richmond Dispatch published a long editorial titled “Nat Turner’s Massacre.” The Dispatch, Richmond’s daily newspaper … read more »

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Old Time Religion: Virginia’s First Freedom and LVA’s Religious Press Collection


The First Freedom Exhibit in the Library of Virginia’s Exhibit Hall

The current exhibit at the Library of Virginia, First Freedom: Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom, explores the meaning and evolution of this significant legislation. Written by Thomas Jefferson in 1777, it was not enacted into law until January 16, 1786, when it was passed by the Virginia General Assembly. The statute disestablished the Church of England, allowed citizens the freedom to practice any religion and assured the separation of church and state–innovative precepts later incorporated into the US Constitution’s First Amendment.

By showing episodes from Virginia’s past which involved questions of religious tolerance and practice, the exhibit raises important and often difficult questions, such as what actually constitutes the separation of church and state? How is “establishment of religion” defined? And how have perceptions of “religious freedom” changed since the statute was written?

In recognition of First Freedom, the Virginia Newspaper Project spotlights the Library of Virginia’s large collection of religiously affiliated newspapers which offer insight into religion’s role in local culture, morality and life. The papers also show how the understanding of religious tolerance and separation of church and state have changed over the past 200 years. For example, this article from the Lutheran weekly Our Church Paper of Feb. 16, 1904, fully endorsed church involvement in the development of the public educational system. “What part shall she play in the education of the youth of this country,” it asked, “and how shall she play it?” It warned that without the church’s intervention, public education might become “completely secularized.”

OCP 16 Feb 1904OCP (2) 16 Feb 1904Virginia has a long and rich tradition of religious press with Episcopalian, Baptist, Jewish, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Catholic publications, dating back well over one hundred years. Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s digital newspaper repository, contains … read more »

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more dreadful than the most gruesome of tales: Newspaper Coverage of The East Orange Bathtub Mystery

Ocey Snead George Grantham Bain collection of glass negatives

Photograph of Ocey Snead, taken December 21, 1907. From the Grantham Bain collection of glass negatives

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.”

Image from the 1880 catalog for the Montgomery Female Institute, from the Digital Collections of Duke University Libraries.

Image from the 1880 catalog for the Montgomery Female Institute, from the Digital Collections of Duke University Libraries.

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 »


The Planet and Beyond: an update on African American Newspapers at the Library of Virginia

A single extant issue of the Reformer, an African American newspaper published in Richmond from 1895-1931, was recently added to Virginia Chronicle, the Library’s free and searchable digital newspaper database. Described by Lester Cappon as “an organ of Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers,” the issue, dated January 16, 1897, is yet another title from the collection of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California to be added to Virginia Chronicle.

ReformerUntil now, the Reformer was not in the Library of Virginia’s catalog–because nineteenth century African American newspapers are so rare, the Virginia Newspaper Project is thrilled to have it as part of its digitized newspaper collection.

In addition to the Reformer, Virginia Chronicle also includes 1889-1910 issues of John Mitchell, Jr.’s Richmond Planet, 1886-1890 issues of Afro American Churchman, published in Petersburg, and 1892-1893 issues of the Church Advocate from Baltimore.

Planet Afro American Church AdvocateIn the coming weeks, two editions of the Staunton Tribune will also be added to the digital database. One of the editions was published during the late 1920s/early 1930s. The other, with only one known copy from 1894, was published by Willis Carter, newspaper publisher and civil rights crusader. Thanks to Jennifer Vickers of Staunton, Virginia, the Library now houses this historically treasured newspaper.

Like John Mitchell, Jr., another early civil rights pioneer and newspaper man, Carter does not hold the place in Virginia history he rightly deserves. Fortunately, many years of careful research have led to From Slave to Statesman, The Life of Educator, Editor and Civil Rights Activist Willis M. Carter of Virginia, a new biography by Robert Heinrich and Deborah Harding.

Former Virginia Newspaper Project colleague and longtime research assistant to Harding, Margaret Rhett, has written an Out of the Box blog about Carter’s … read more »

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Our Back Pages: The VNP Adds Three Current Newspapers to Virginia Chronicle

Given copyright restrictions, the majority of the text searchable issues of newspapers found on Virginia Chronicle were published prior to 1923.

However, thanks to two forward thinking publishers, three Virginia newspapers are now available online from the earliest extant issues right up to the beginning of the 21st century.

This is exciting stuff. The titles that have been digitized and added to Virginia Chronicle are:

The Recorder (formerly the Highland Recorder. Monterey),

Highland RecorderThe Rappahannock Record (Kilmarnock), and

Rapp RecordThe Southside Sentinel (Urbanna)


The three titles represent over 300 combined years of newspaper publishing. That means newspaper issues from the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, right up to the early 2000’s can be searched using the time saving features found at Virginia Chronicle.

The three papers mentioned above have publishing offices that span the Commonwealth, from a few miles from the WV border to publishing offices located in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.

These new additions to the Library’s online newspaper database provide readers with free access to the news and stories that helped shape this state over the past 100+ years.… read more »


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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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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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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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


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 »


A Genius, A Recorder, and a Growler walk into an archive: What’s New on Virginia Chronicle

The Virginia Newspaper Project is thrilled to announce the latest additions to the Library of Virginia’s free, searchable online newspaper resource, Virginia Chronicle.

The recent additions to Virginia Chronicle are especially exciting as they include both early nineteenth century newspapers and newspapers published well into the twentieth century.Genius of LibertyWe’ll start with the earliest issues added to Virginia Chronicle. A collection of The Genius of Liberty, published in Leesburg from 1817-1839, was  originally borrowed from a private lender and filmed by the Library in 2009.  Now, 1817-1826 issues are available online–more will be added in the coming months until the run is complete. This is an important addition, since, before now, very little early nineteenth century material was available on Virginia Chronicle.

Next, we’ll look at the more recently published newspapers to be added to Virginia Chronicle. The Recorder, published in Monterey since 1877, is the newspaper of record for both Bath and Highland counties and can boast of being the oldest, continuously published weekly newspaper in Virginia.HRThanks to LSTA (Library Services and Technical Act) funds and an agreement with the publisher of The Recorder, the Library has digitized in-copyright issues–that is, issues published after 1923–for inclusion in Virginia Chronicle. Currently, 1921-1949 of this fantastic title can be searched–much more will be added in the coming months, as the Project plans to digitize issues up to 2007. Issues from August 2007 to the present can be found online at www.therecorderonline.com.GrowlerFinally, the Growler and the Free Lance have also been added to Virginia Chronicle. With the motto, “If it happens you can wager we’ll print it,” the tabloid sized Growler reported on local government and public utilities with a biting criticism. Though the newspaper  claimed it would be “breezy without being offensive, and … read more »

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