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Tag Archives: Virginia Chronicle
The Virginia Newspaper Project cannot resist the compelling story that is the Titanic. On April 16, 1912, the Richmond Times Dispatch issued its Tuesday morning paper with a full report about a tragedy at sea. The newspaper’s staff could not possibly know that 100 plus years later, the story would continue to fascinate and be studied in minute detail.
Fit to Print offers just one image, the front page of the Times Dispatch, April 16, 1912. While reporting a story of disaster, hubris, and loss of life, the staff at the RTD also managed to assemble one of the most beautifully designed front pages that the Newspaper Project colleagues have seen, given that we have scanned literally hundreds of front pages over the years.
Prelude to Prohibition: The State Referendum Vote September 22, 1914: The Recorder, Post & Enterprise
It was Wet vs. Dry and City vs. Country and Dry Country won. It wasn’t even close. The advocates for Prohibition themselves might have been surprised by the disparity of the result–a win for Virginia prohibition by over thirty thousand votes–94,251 to 63,086. City drinkers likely peered into their empty glasses the evening of September 22, 1914, surer in the knowledge that legislation to ban liquor in the state would soon follow. And it did.
For more detail and the broader context of this debate–more votes were cast in the prohibition referendum vote than in the presidential election that November!–I refer you to two articles by our LVA sister blog “Out Of The Box.”
The Mapp Act passed and went into effect November 1, 1916. Virginia, then, had a head start of four years to the arrival of national prohibition.
The specific purpose of this blog entry is the encouragement of your physical presence at the Library of Virginia’s exhibit “Teetotalers & Moonshiners: Prohibition in Virginia, Distilled,” now open to the public. A hundred years after prohibition, we’re confidant you’ll depart with a different awareness of an unusual episode in the state’s history.Each state in the Union took its own particular route to prohibition until the constitutional amendment of 1920. A key date in Virginia’s path was the approval of local option in 1886, allowing for a community or county’s voters to determine their stance on the sale and distribution of alcohol. The map above illustrates the camps and lines of the liquor divide. Note, for example, in a concentration of ink, Fort Norfolk, a seaside stronghold hostile to the dry life.
There was no shortage of political contentiousness in the run-up to the referendum. The very organized, determined drys, abetted by grassroots religious fervor, drove the … read more »
A Valentine’s Day Search Uncovers a West Virginia Love Grump: The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, February 1856-1859
The Newspaper Project observes Valentine’s Day with a reminder of the search capacity within Virginia Chronicle and the felicities of discovery (spend a morning reading mid 19th century editorials and you’ll write like this too) therein.
From the 136 total titles digitized (that’s over 900,000 pages, a million is in sight. . .when we cross that threshold, be assured you’ll be advised) we chose a West Virginia Daily whose digitization resulted from our ongoing partnership with West Virginia University:Virginia Chronicle’s pre-Civil War holdings start in 1852 and conclude seven years later, leaving seven Februarys to explore. If you select the word “Valentine” and narrow the search to the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, here’s how the results appear:Most of these hits are of proper names or modestly scaled advertisements typical of the time, like the following of 1856:Eight days later, the anti-Cupid appears:
If there’s any hostility in the subterranean heart of Valentine’s Day, our writer is sensitive to it. Though this unsigned Wheeling editorialist is unroused to rancor in 1857, he resurfaces the following year. Can we be sure it’s the same writer? Oh, I think so:
Reading this, one’s curiosity is powered to know more of the cultural context of Valentine’s Day in mid-19th century America. And also, what’s with this guy? Here he (I think we can assume this is not a Miss Angry Hearts) is again, twice more, February 1859:
One tender Valentine to our anonymous writer might have prevented all of the above.… read more »
The Virginia Newspaper Project is delighted to announce the newest title, The Smithfield Times, available on Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s online digital newspaper database. With its first issue published in 1920, the Smithfield Times was known as the ”Official paper of Isle of Wight County” and the earliest issue on Virginia Chronicle, dated Jan. 28, 1928, is chock full of colorful local news.
Making the front page of this issue were the details of Mary Hatchell’s divorce, newsworthy for divorce’s near nonexistence at the time.”The sadness of the situation,” the Times reported, “was brought forcefully before the court when the 14 year old daughter of the couple, Jacqueline, bared unrelentlessly the conditions which had existed in their home.” On the front page of the same issue, an article outlining a bill to protect Smithfield Hams from what amounted to counterfeiting. The bill hoped to limit the “fattening territory” for hogs labeled “Smithfield” from Virginia and North Carolina to exclusively the peanut growing territory of Eastern Virginia.
With nearly a century of local news stories like the ones mentioned above, plus its birth and marriage announcements, social columns, editorials, obituaries, classifieds, cartoons, photographs, and advertisements, the now digitized Smithfield Times offers a rich and detailed look at the history, the people and the places of southeastern Virginia. Issues from 1928-1984 of the Times are currently accessible on Virginia Chronicle and 1985-2013 will be available soon.
And today, nearly 100 years after its inaugural issue, the Smithfield Times is still going strong, serving the Isle of Wight and Surry counties.
On October 28, 2016, a WTVR story aired about the Virginia Newspaper Project’s very own, Errol Somay. Greg McQuade, investigative reporter and history buff, visited the Library of Virginia to interview Errol about the Library’s extensive newspaper collection, as well as to learn a bit about Mr. Somay’s library career and his stint as a rock music critic.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Virginia Newspaper Project and Mr. Somay’s path to becoming Director of the Newspaper Project, check out the video by visiting: http://wtvr.com/2016/10/28/errol-somay-story/.
The work of the Newspaper Project was also featured in the Rappahannock Record‘s 100th Anniversary Edition. Big thanks must go to those at the Record for their full cooperation with the Project over the years. It is because of rewarding partnerships like this, that the Rappahannock Record is now available on Virginia Chronicle.
Click here see the entire edition which provides in depth local history and photographs from a century of newspaper publishing in Kilmarnock, Virginia:
Finally, at 7:00 pm on Monday, November 21, Errol will offer a brief presentation about John Mitchell, Jr. and the preservation of the Richmond Planet at Richmond’s Gallery 5 as part of, Headlines: Behind the Bylines of Richmond Journalism. Journalists will talk about their careers, the process and challenges of getting a story in print, and examples of their favorite reporting.… read more »
The Virginia Newspaper Project would like to give a big thank you to those who transcribed the Petersburg Classical Institute manuscript newspapers on the Library of Virginia’s Transcribe page–It happened faster than we could have imagined!
We encourage those who have not yet visited Transcribe to do so to see the many other documents awaiting transcription. The image below shows some of the varied collections on Transcribe:
Another way history lovers can help make historical information more accessible is to become a registered member of Virginia Chronicle and correct OCR text. To learn how, simply go to the Virginia Chronicle site, click the “help” tab and choose “how to correct OCR text.” If you have questions, please email email@example.com. So far, volunteers have corrected over 615,000 lines of newspaper text in the Virginia Chronicle database. Huge thanks to them too!
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software does the amazing work of converting newspaper type into searchable text, but the task of making hand written documents searchable requires human intervention.
Transcribe, the Library of Virginia’s crowdsourcing transcription tool, gives volunteers the opportunity to transcribe digitized primary source materials from the LVA’s collections, thus making the documents searchable and much more accessible. Letters, diaries, legislative petitions, court records, receipts, coroners’ inquisitions, WPA life histories and, now, newspapers, can all be found on Transcribe.
While manuscript, or hand-written, newspapers are exceedingly rare, the Library has a notable collection (part of the Petersburg Classical Institute records, 1838-1847 Accession 23479) dating from 1842-1843 done by the students of the Petersburg Classical Institute. Because OCR will not work on these pages, we thought they’d be a perfect addition to the Transcribe catalog where they can now be transcribed by dedicated volunteers.
The Petersburg Classical Institute, originally known as Petersburg Academy, was incorporated in 1838 under the guidance of Rev. Ephraim D. Saunders. Its aim was to teach the “higher branches of liberal education” to boys ages ten to eighteen and it generally taught 140-150 pupils per year. Richard McIlwaine, eleventh president of Hampden-Sydney College, attended in 1844 and described it as “one of the finest, if not by all odds ahead, of all schools of its grade in the Commonwealth.” Many of its students went on to prominent careers as clergymen, educators, lawyers, and businessmen.
The Tattler, Hit Him Again, Dies Festus Tempora and The Democrat, beautiful examples of manuscript newspapers, were written with humor and sarcasm by the Institute’s students–it is not a stretch to imagine K-12 aged boys creating something similar today. Typical content consisted of student gossip, political news, poetry and advertisements–columns also contained cut out etchings, … read more »
“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 tale” the 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.
The Virginia Newspaper Project is always eager to spread the word about historical crowd-sourcing projects that focus on newspapers as a source for information. Recently, a colleague notified us of one such project, sponsored by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, called History Unfolded: US Newspapers and the Holocaust.
In its own words, the project seeks to “uncover what ordinary people around the country could have known about the Holocaust from reading their local newspapers in the years 1933–1945.” It asks “citizen historians” to find articles, op-eds, letters, and political cartoons from local newspapers about key topics such as Kristallnacht, Germany’s Annexation of Austria and FDR’s fourth Inaugural Address. As the project progresses it may add more topics, but for now, it is limited to twenty.
In its nationwide effort, History Unfolded hopes to offer a new understanding of how key events of the Holocaust were portrayed in contemporary small town newspapers. It also wants to show how newspapers discussed the debate over entry into the war and how the American press, as times grew more tumultuous, portrayed immigration and the refugee situation. With the assistance of citizen historians, the History Unfolded database is quickly becoming a comprehensive resource which will be invaluable for scholars, historians, authors, and students.
One quick side note: while searching for content for History Unfolded, we here at the Newspaper Project discovered something interesting. The high school publication the Monocle was as pointed in its criticism of Hitler as any of its contemporary local weeklies. As early as 1933, the Monocle published insightful and scathing articles about Hitler’s treatment of the Jews in Germany. It makes sense that as war progressed, the students of John Marshall High watched world events unfold with … read more »
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.”
Virginia 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 »