Tag Archives: Newspapers

Elizabeth Van Lew: Portrait of a Union Spy, From Print to Video

Liz Van Lew portraitIn recent years, Greg McQuade, morning anchor of WTVR in Richmond, Virginia, has produced award winning news segments on local Richmond history. Some of the stories have focused on people who are now all but forgotten, but who were, during their lives, groundbreaking members of the community. John Mitchell, Jr., “fighting editor” of the Richmond Planet is a perfect example.

Often, McQuade uses historic newspapers to accompany his reports and the Newspaper Project is always happy to assist him when he visits the Library of Virginia. Recently, he highlighted another pivotal, and, sadly, largely forgotten figure of Richmond’s past, Elizabeth Van Lew

Van Lew, abolitionist and fierce opponent of succession, risked her life as a spy for the Union during the Civil War. Surrounded by Confederate sympathizers, she lived in Richmond’s Church Hill district and carried out activities that would have been considered treasonous had they been discovered.  None of her neighbors, though, ever suspected her of any wrongdoing during the conflict.

Because of Van Lew’s daring and heroic deeds (which included helping prisoners escape Libby Prison), she was appointed Postmistress of Richmond by the US government after the war’s end. As her wartime activities came to light, she was maligned by many in the community as a traitor.

“The most hated woman in Virginia changed state’s course” tells the tale of a heroine who risked her life, her wealth and her social status to assist the cause of the Union. Historians elaborate on why she has been forgotten and if she will re-emerge with the recognition she is due for her role in shaping the course of the war.

To learn more about Elizabeth Van Lew, check out Elizabeth R. Varon’s comprehensive history, Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, A read more »

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The Short Happy Life of The Chickahominy Sun

Masthead

The Short Happy Life of The Chickahominy Sun

The above stands as a slight upgrade, it is hoped, to the first headline of this small town weekly’s blog  introduction, the simply descriptive-Now On Microfilm, The Chickahominy SunThe Sun’s three year plus nine month duration is certainly not as short as many other newspapers nor is it possible to accurately attest to its comparable happiness.  Yet sometimes, even a minor coincidence cannot be resisted.  The Sun shares a year of origin, 1938, with the hardback publication of Hemingway’s short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”.  So there you are.  Let’s add one more word of description which could be applied to Macomber’s last moments (at least from his perspective) and to The Sun-perplexing.  Perplexing, that is, to imagine how an eight page, six column paper found itself a home in Providence Forge.  For in the time consumed reading  to this point, a driver (at 45 mph, assuming a green light at the intersection of route 60 and state road 155) might have successfully traversed the town and turned back to relive it all over again.

Before reproducing the front page of the first issue, let’s take a closer look (necessary since the scale is so curiously small) at the unusual design work beneath the arched Chickahominy in the masthead.

Map

Is this the sun?  One supposes.   As perhaps referenced via ancient Egypt and the eye of Horus? One supposes with a little less confidence.  Turning to firmer ground, the paper takes its name not from the town but the Chickahominy River that acts as border to the two counties of principal coverage, New Kent and Charles City.  The river is unidentified in this charmingly peculiar depiction but the residents know their own river and besides there’s … read more »

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The Beauty of Hand Lettering in Newsprint

There is a growing interest in the lost art of hand-lettering as evidenced by the recent premier of Sign Painters at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. in March.

At a time, when many young people have spent their entire lives with a computer in their home and Photoshop has become a verb, there is a renewed appreciation for the unique look that hand lettering produces.  Here is a collection of random photos I have taken over the years, while I have worked with original newspapers here at the Library of Virginia.

These pieces are most likely from newspapers ranging from the 1900′s into the 1940′s, though hand lettering continued to be seen well into the 1970′s. Even before computers came along and completely decimated the craft there were other methods of photo-mechanical reproduction of type that severely limited the need for hand lettering.

Enjoy the lettering.

Don’t miss this second gallery of images.

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The Critic, Facebook for the 1880s

MastheadThe Critic was a weekly society paper bringing “news, society, drama, and history” to Richmond from September 1887 to December 1890. The paper entertained its readers with articles and jokes, household advice, etiquette, and a gossip column called “Society Chat”, while serving as a vehicle for advertisements directed toward women.  Columns such as “The Stage”, a theatrical review, and a weekly column dedicated to ladies’ fashion, as well as advertisements for bicycles and sewing machines, and features about bathing and other leisure activities at the seashore, provide a window to the culture of Richmond society during the Gilded Age.

In March of 1890, proprietor and editor William Cabell Trueman transformed the paper into a weekly periodical offering more satire, fiction, and artwork with the intent to appeal to the whole family while still publishing a popular genealogy column and the familiar society, fashion, and household content. Under Trueman, The Critic aspired to rival Life magazine, promising to be a “startling innovation not only in Richmond, not only in Virginia, but in the South!”

While preparing the title history for The Critic, I was amused by similarities in social networking sites of today, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, to the paper.  At one point, as I scrolled through the reel of microfilm, I exclaimed to no one in particular, “It’s the printernet!” Thank goodness nobody heard me.

A stroll through your typical Facebook news feed of 1888 might go something like this:

Your friend William Cabell Trueman has shared an article, “Animals that Laugh”.

"Animals that laugh" The Critic, January 16, 1888

As you may already know, even as far back as the 1870s humans were obsessed with ridiculous photos of cats. Maybe The Critic didn’t invent LOLcats, but it certainly supplied a demand. Right now … read more »

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Playing it Safe With The Safety News

The most recent Ebay acquisition for the Library of Virginia’s newspaper collection is the Safety News of Omar, West Virginia. Published “monthly for employees of the West Virginia Coal and Coke Corporation,” it focused on topics related to company and employee news. The Library purchased three issues from March-June 1953, but the full publication span of the paper is unknown as there are no cataloged issues outside of these precious few.

Safety was of the utmost concern to the Safety News, hence its motto, “Wise men learn by other men’s mistakes—fools by their own.” The first page of Safety News sometimes included the feature “Safety Pays Everyone” describing recent accidents, injuries and deaths in mines. The brief accounts give a good deal of specific information related to each incident: “Arnold E. Lee, American Machine helper, Omar No. 15 Mine” included one report, “Injured February 4, 1953, at 3:30 a.m. Victim was caught between cutting machine and timber, resulting in fracture of seventh rib on left side. Disability undetermined. Foreman: Billy Bishop.”

Keeping things light, the following joke was printed just below the accident reports of the same issue:

The medical officer at the front was discussing the drinking water supply with the platoon sergeant:

“What precautions do you take against germs?”

“First, we boil it, sir.”

“Good.”

“Then we filter it.”

“Excellent.”

“And then, just to play it safe, we drink beer.”

Each month the Safety News also included the front page column “Our Board of Directors,” providing a detailed biography of a board member with accompanying photo. The March issue featured Charles R. Stevens, president of the consulting management firm Stevenson, Jordan & Harrison, Inc. “Mr. Stevenson’s firm,” the article explained, “consults to a number of important industrial companies, among which might be mentioned Pittsburgh Plate Glass … read more »

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Happy Holidays from the Virginia Newspaper Project

Holiday themed images from the Bristol Herald Courier, 1935.

Holiday themed images from the Basset Journal, 1946.

Holiday images from Amherst Journal, 1977.

Similar to our friends at the Mecklenburg Times in 1941, above, the Virginia Newspaper Project is taking some time off for the holidays. Best wishes to you and yours! We’ll see you next year!… read more »

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Virginia Farm Bureau News Goes Digital

The article below was published in the Fall 2012 issue of the Library of Virginia’s Broadside. Check out Broadside for all things LVA related. . .

Voice of Virginia Agriculture: Back issues of Virginia Farm Bureau News are now online

In a welcome public-private partnership, the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Farm Bureau have combined resources to present an online version of the Virginia Farm Bureau News, providing images and full-text searching capability for issues dating back to 1941, the first year of the title’s publication. The current edition of the database offers access to issues through 1999. To quote from the bureau’s website, “With more than 150,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a nongovernmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to protecting Virginia’s farms and ensuring a safe, fresh, and locally grown food supply. The VFB is the chief advocacy group representing the farming community in Virginia.” The Library had significant holdings of the Virginia Farm Bureau News and filled in gaps with the help of the Farm Bureau. The title was microfilmed. While one might describe microfilming as being on the cutting edge of yesterday’s technology, preservation microfilming offers two important and very desirable advantages: it provides a stable preservation medium that can be archived for hundreds of years and it serves as the perfect cost-effective foundation for digital transfer. You can see for yourself by visiting digitalvirginianewspapers.com or virginiachronicle.com to browse through almost 60 years of Virginia farming news.

 … read more »

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Newly Established Union Newspaper in Richmond on the Assassination of Lincoln

The Library of Virginia does have the Saturday, April 15, 1865 issue of The Richmond Whig, but the paper made no mention of the assassination attempt from the previous night. In the April 15 issue, the first item on page one is an account of a speech given by President Lincoln on April 11 from a window at the White House on the subject of Reconstruction. Here is one interesting bit from the President’s speech, “The colored man, too, in seeing all united for him, is inspired with vigilance, energy and daring to the same end. Granting that he desires the elective franchise, will he not attain it sooner by saving the already advanced steps toward it than by running backward over them? Concede that the new government of Louisiana is only to what it should be as the egg is to to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it. [Laughter.]”

Richmond has a long history of Whig newspapers, but similarly to The Richmond Times mentioned in the previous post, this edition of The Richmond Whig was a new newspaper, starting up in the days following the conclusion of the war.

Lester J. Cappon wrote about The Richmond Whig in his book Virginia Newspapers 1821-1935: “Publication suspended M[arch] 31, 1865, because of war conditions and ‘resumed this afternoon Ap[ril] 4–new ser., v.1, no. 1] with the consent of the military authorities. The editor, and all who heretofore controlled its columns, have taken their departure. The proprietor [William Ira Smith, April 4 - June 22, 1865] . . . has had a conference with Gen. Shepley, the Military Governor. . . . The Whig will therefore be issued hereafter as a Union paper,’ (cf. issue of Ap 4) the first … read more »

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Newspaper Accounts on the Death of Lincoln

With the renewed interest in President Abraham Lincoln due to Steven Spielberg’s latest movie, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at newspaper coverage of the assassination and the ensuing manhunt. In the spirit of full disclosure, much of Lincoln was filmed in Richmond, Virginia and I was an extra in the film, playing a Radical Republican. See photo below.

Photo of Silver Persinger in costume as a 19th Century Congressman.

I played Republican #17 in Spielberg's "Lincoln."

To my surprise, our collection has very few Virginia newspapers from the period just after the war. Many newspapers we have from that time seemed to have stopped publishing in March 1865 as a result of worsening conditions in wartime Virginia. It is helpful to know a few dates concerning the end of the war: Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865; Lincoln was assassinated on Friday evening of April 14, 1865 and died the following day at 7:22 AM.

I was able to find several papers from the days following the assassination that have interesting information I have never come across before. I thought it would be beneficial to simply transcribe some of these accounts to satisfy public curiosity.

Over the next several days, we will feature extracts of articles from the newspapers published shortly after Lincoln’s assassination.

Masthead of The Alexandria Gazette

From The Alexandria Gazette, April 21, 1865

On page 1, appeared the following:

OFFICIAL
WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON CITY, April 20, 1865,

One Hundred Thousand Dollars Reward.
The murderer of our late beloved President, Abraham Lincoln, is still at large !!!
FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS REWARD will be paid by the Department for his apprehension, in addition to any reward offered by Municipal authorities or State Executives.
TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS REWARD will be paid for the apprehension of G. A. ATZEROT, sometimes called “Port Tobacco,” one of Booth’s accomplices!
TWENTY-FIVE … read more »

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Big Thanks to the Halifax Public Library

Recently, while visiting the Halifax County Public Library as part of a cooperative digitizing effort, Carl Childs, Local Records Services Director at LVA, was given a donation of historical newspapers by the library’s director, Joseph Zappacosta. The generous gift, comprised of thirty eight unique in state and out of state newspaper titles, turned up more than a few surprises. With newspapers from locales as near as South Boston, Virginia and as far as Laramie, Wyoming, it also contained two extremely rare finds, the Petalumian (Petaluma, CA) and the Investigator (Wilson, NC), which, until now, had never been cataloged. The newspapers, in fragile condition when they arrived, were lovingly mended and repaired by the Virginia Newspaper Project’s own Silver Persinger. With repairs completed, the newspapers will be microfilmed and then housed with LVA’s boxed newspaper collection. The preservation of this wonderful gift ensures its content will be studied for years to come without damage to the originals.

 … read more »

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