Tag Archives: Newspapers

A Bicycle Search For You


From the Times (Richmond, Va.), May 9, 1897.

As the UCI World Bike Championships unfold and professional road bikers from all over the map pedal by LVA down Richmond’s Broad Street, the Virginia Newspaper Project thought it a pertinent time to explore the search term “bicycle” in the Library’s free, online digital newspaper resource, Virginia Chronicle.

With nearly 500,000 newspaper pages, and more being added all the time, Virginia Chronicle is a fantastic tool for historical research. Among its features is an easy to use keyword search box, which we used for our “bicycle” search. “Cycling,” “wheeling” and “wheelmen” are a few alternate search terms for locating bike related articles.

While there is an advanced search feature on Virginia Chronicle, we did a simple search of the word “bicycle” which brought up an impressive 23,355 results. Each article in which bicycle was found is listed with title, date and page information. To the left of the results list, there is another column which breaks down search results by the different publications and decades in which our search term was found.

Interestingly, the first and only result for “bicycle” during the decade of 1860-1869 came from the Staunton Spectator of May 11, 1869. Bikes were novel at that time and the article, which claims that the “citizens of Staunton had their curiosity in reference to bicycles gratified,” is very brief.

First appearance Staunton Spectator 11 May 1869The search results get higher with each succeeding decade, with the highest result number, 11,615 to be exact, appearing during the decade of 1890 to 1899. This decade saw the rise of the “Safety” bicycle, a bike with front and back wheels of equal size and a chain drive that transferred power from the pedals to the real wheel, making riding easier and opening up the sport to men and … read more »

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Advertising the Big Top: 1870s Circus Ads from the Staunton Spectator

SS Sept 16, 1873 (Lent)It’s September 16, 1873 in the sleepy town of Staunton, Virginia. You can only imagine a reader’s excitement at turning to page three of the Staunton Spectator to discover an ad for Lewis Lent’s New York Circus with its illustrations and long list of spectacular attractions: For a mere seventy-five cent admission (fifty cents for children under ten), one could see grand balloon ascension, wild beasts, breathing sea monsters, ornately plumed birds, flesh eating reptiles and 5000 museum marvels!

Born in upstate New York in 1813, Lewis Lent began his circus career in 1834. Soon after, he became a partner in the Brown & Lent Circus, which moved from town to town via riverboat. Over the years, Lent joined various circus troupes, but his New York Circus, which ran from 1873 to 1874, advertised here in the Staunton Spectator, was the last show he owned and operated before retiring.Staunton Spectator 16 Sept 1873 (2)SS 16 Sept 1873SS 16 Sept 1873 (2)SS 16 Sept. 1873Though the heyday of the traveling circus in the US might have been a bit later, the circus advertisements in newspapers of the 1860s and 1870s are evidence of its growing popularity and allure. The impetus for such elaborate newspaper advertising was the fierce competition between traveling shows. With beautiful illustrations of zebras, elephants, hippos, giraffes and tigers, acrobats standing on horse back, uniformed musicians, dancing dogs and trapeze artists, circus advertisements were an enticing and powerful promotional tool.

In the October 12, 1877 issue of the Staunton Spectator on page three, next to want ads and announcements, there is a full two column ad for John O’Brien’s circus, “The Largest Show ever in Virginia!” The ad for O’Brien’s circus promised mechanical marvels, three full military bands, palace opera chairs, 53 dens of wild beasts and six (yes, six!) stupendous shows rolled into one.SS O'Brien's circusJohn O‘Brien, born in 1836, became … read more »

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Seeing the light of capitalism–Virginia Electric and Power Company ads in the McCarthy era.

By Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern

Emblematic of Cold War era America, these anti-socialist advertisements for the Virginia Electric and Power Company appear in issues of the Fairfax Herald from the 1950s. These ads emblematically reflect America’s fears over the internal threat of communism, driven by McCarthy’s anti-communist efforts, such as the formation of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. One ad reflects the fears created by this political climate, urging people to “help your friends and neighbors see the danger.”

They also seek to assert American superiority, with one ad saying, “forbidden would be a frequently used word if you had the unhappy task of teaching young Russians…you couldn’t tell them that in America opportunity is unlimited…”

In many respects, an electric company advertisement seems a strange place for fear-mongering propaganda; however, during this time technologies that served to make life more convenient and comfortable were lauded as symbols of capitalism’s success and America’s superiority. This would later become epitomized in the 1959 “Kitchen Debate” between Richard Nixon and Nikita Krushchev, wherein Nixon presented a model American kitchen, adorned with modern appliances, and argued that the conveniences it offered were evidence of capitalism’s superiority over communism.

April 25, 1952.

April 25, 1952.

September 7, 1951.

September 7, 1951.

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Happy Mother’s Day from the Virginia Newspaper Project

Photo of Anna Jarvis, from the Times Dispatch (Richmond), 12 May 1912

Photo of Anna Jarvis, from the Times Dispatch (Richmond), 12 May 1912

The Virginia Newspaper Project wishes mothers everywhere a very happy Mother’s Day.

The idea for a Mother’s Day was originally conceived by Anna Jarvis, after her own mother’s death in 1905. The work her beloved mother, Ann Jarvis of Grafton, West Virginia, had done as a peace activist, Civil War nurse, and Sunday school teacher inspired Anna to want to create a day honoring “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”

In May 1908, Senator Elmer Burkett, a Nebraska Republican, introduced a resolution to the Senate to establish a nationally recognized Mother’s Day. While many had already embraced the idea of signifying a day to honor mothers, creating an official holiday was met with resistance by some lawmakers.

By a vote of 33 to 14, the Senate referred the Burkett Resolution to a Judiciary Committee. The 9 May 1908 issue of the Alexandria Gazette reported on the proceedings of the committee and the resistance with which the resolution was met: “There are some things so sacred that they are belittled by such a movement,” said committee member Fulton, “If we are going into this thing, there should be a father’s day and a grandfather’s day and then bring in our cousins, our uncles, and our aunts.” Another committee member, Jacob Herold Gallinger, said he “never heard of this movement and he did not need to wear a flower to remind him of his mother.” Another senator called the idea “absurd” and “trifling.”

After years of persistent pressure by Jarvis to establish the holiday, West Virginia became the first state to officially celebrate Mother’s Day in 1910. By 1912, “every governor in the land [had] issued proclamations calling upon the people to spend one day. … read more »

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An Unexpected Survivor of the Day: The Daily Dispatch April 3, 1865/The Puzzle of Issue No. 77

Daily Dispatch mastheadDispatch full page

To review, here’s a newspaper roll call of the five daily newspapers (there were also weekly papers – four of them religious) in Richmond in late March at the close of the Civil War: the Richmond Examiner, Enquirer, Whig, Sentinel and (leaving no doubt about its frequency) the Daily Dispatch.

They publish in the war years (the Sentinel beginning in 1863) despite a “decrease in advertising, the shortage of ink and paper, the strike of printers, the loss of skilled workman by conscription, and…a depreciation of the currency, causing prices to rise to unprecedented levels,” as Lester Cappon writes in his introduction to Virginia Newspapers 1835-1935, a ready reference at the Project.

There’s no work around or compromise with fire, however, and the destruction of much of the city center April 3 (a Monday) one hundred and fifty years ago – marked with much ceremony here in Richmond over the weekend – left only the Whig capable of printing a narrative of the chaos accompanying the city’s surrender. And only after the approval, announced in an editor’s note, of the occupying Federal commander.

Given our task as preservers of Virginia’s newspaper heritage, we’re also interested readers. This includes the present day 21st century descendent of the Daily Dispatch, The Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Especially when they reproduce the past in such compelling fashion as they did in last Saturday’s edition.

New Dispatch

Something on page 2 caught our eye:


New Dispatch 1What’s that again?  April 1, the last issue of the Daily Dispatch?  What then of the April 3rd issue we have in hand and read in preparation for the blog the Friday previous?   Bear in mind, if you’re an archivist, this advances the tingling onset of mystery and intrigue.  Already we brooded with some … read more »

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Richmond, April 1865. The History Forecast: Fateful Lightning, Terrible and Swift.


On Monday, April 3, the city burns.  The following day Lincoln walks the still smoking ruins and the capital faces occupation by the Federal Army.  April 9, about 90 miles west, Lee surrenders his force.  And on the 14th of the month, the President is assassinated.

But on March 30, the beguiling calm of routine jurisprudence prevails in city court. The Examiner reports:

court1Only four days later, as the planned warehouse fires move beyond anything resembling a plan, the “presiding” Mayor Mayo sits within a carriage heading east to the Union lines, a note of capitulation on his person.

Anarchy, a massive munitions explosion its overture, plays out in the daylight, a wretched, sour bacchanalia no court can address.

The Examiner office yields to the inferno and has a share of black space on the map above.  The Daily Dispatch and the Enquirer were consumed too.  The winds favored the Whig.  It’s their map.

ruins1read more »

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My Heart Went Right Down–The Devil’s Half Acre and the Richmond Slave Trade

The Library of Virginia’s current exhibit, “To Be Sold,” open through 30 May 2015, examines the slave trade in Richmond. Viewed through the lens of primary source material–broadsides, court records, city directories, business receipts, census records, artifacts, books and paintings–the exhibit provides the visitor with vital information from which the stories of Richmond’s past emerge.

Newspapers, of course, are another critical resource for historical study in this area–free, online digital resources, like Virginia Chronicle and Chronicling America, provide easy access to hundreds of thousands of newspaper issues and the history therein.

Together, the documents of the time create a more complete,  deeply layered account of those directly involved in and affected by Richmond’s slave trade:  Like Robert Lumpkin, one of the city’s most active slave dealers from the 1840s until 1865. And Anthony Burns, a slave who escaped to Boston, only to be captured and returned to Virginia under the Fugitive Slave Law.

Lumpkin's Jail

The small piece of open land in the middle of the photo, which sits between a parking lot and route 95, was the site of Lumpkin’s Jail.

The storied land that was home to Lumpkin’s Jail, aptly called the Devil’s Half Acre is, today, mostly covered by a sprawling parking lot and interstate 95. But from 1844 until the end of the Civil War, it was “a human clearinghouse and. . .purgatory for the rebellious.”[i]

In 1844 Robert Lumpkin purchased three lots on Richmond’s Wall Street, a commercial district and home to several of the city’s profitable slave auction houses. The lots, previously owned by Lewis Collier, contained a brick dwelling house, outbuildings and a jail when Lumpkin bought them. Under his ownership, the jail became known as “Lumpkin’s Jail” and established itself as Richmond’s most notorious compound for runaway slaves and slaves … read more »

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In Leaps of Ten: A Six Decade Tour of Seasonal Ads from The Clarke Courier, Berryville, 1928-1988

Thanksgiving 19281928 Grocery #21928 Highest Prices

Thanksgiving 19381938 Masthead1938 Norfolk & Western1938 Grocery1938 A & P1938 Phone1938 Ramsburg's Grocery1938 Shk. Grocery

Thanksgiving 1948

Mast 1948#2  1948Norfolk and Western 1948No Va Power 1948Thanksgiving 19581958 Grocery1958 Norfolk and WesternThanksgiving. Sometimes it’s work. Who needs a drink? Four of the six liquor ads from this 1958 issue.1958 Bellows Bourbon1958 Old Stagg1958 Apple Jack1958 Alcohol adThanksgiving 1968Mast 19681968 Bank of1968 Car Dealer1968 Clarke County Motors1968 SafewayThanksgiving 1978Mast 19781978 Bank of Clarke1978 Farm Credit1978 The Barn1978 Men's WearThanksgiving 19881998 Masthead1988 Food Lion1988 Bank of Clarke County1988 Black Penny1988 Chevy Turkey ShootAnd the Christmas encroachment begins…1988 Christmas Open House

p.s. One more from 1958. Something to consider when you’re deciding whether to leave your phone in your pocket or on the Thanksgiving table…1958 Phone
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A Newspaper Connection–”Slaves Waiting for Auction”–Thackeray & Crowe Check-In

Left: William M. Thackeray. Center: Crowe's illustration of Richmond 1853. Right: Eyre Crowe.

Left: William M. Thackeray. Center: Crowe’s illustration of Richmond 1853. Right: Eyre Crowe.

Daily Dispatch, March 2, 1853

Daily Dispatch, March 2, 1853

In November of 1852, William Makepeace Thackeray, still enjoying the considerable success and fame accruing from his novel of the previous decade, Vanity Fair, arrived after a two week voyage from Liverpool (on the Royal Mail ship “Canada”) in Boston harbor.  Thackeray’s purpose, besides adventure, was financial gain, a cushion for his daughters from a life he suspected might be foreshortened. In fact, it was–He died ten years later at only 52.

The lecture route, somewhat planned and somewhat improvised, would take a leisurely southern direction, with an appearance in Richmond scheduled for the following February.   Thackeray was accompanied by Erye Crowe, who acted as personal secretary, tour manager, amanuensis and, most importantly, good company during what promised to be a stimulating, but inescapably trying and lengthy journey.

Like Thackeray, Crowe was a skilled sketch artist.  Unlike Thackeray, who abandoned art studies as a young man to sketch words as a journalist, Crowe, 29 years of age and about a dozen years the author’s junior, still aspired to be an artist.  While Thackeray’s lectures and impressions of America inscribed in his letters now interest only scholars, Crowe’s oil painting, “Slaves Waiting for Auction”, derived from his drawing above, can still jab the conscience.

The work acts as centerpiece for the Library of Virginia’s exhibit opening later this month, “To Be Sold,” a close examination of Richmond as a distribution hub for the business of selling human beings.

Yet minus the intercession of a book and a newspaper, the painting might not exist at all. “I expended 25 cents”, writes Crowe in his memoir of 1893, With Thackeray in America, “in the purchase of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and was properly … 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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