Tag Archives: Virginia History

Before & After: The Staunton Tribune and Staunton Reporter

Last year, The Augusta County Genealogical Society generously donated rare African American newspapers to the Library of Virginia.

While the collection is comprised of a mere five issues, three issues of the Staunton Tribune from 1928-1931 and two of the Staunton Reporter from 1916, as historical resources these items are priceless, invaluable for the study of African American and Virginia history.

Historical newspapers such as these are especially rare and often in deteriorating condition when they are discovered–when this collection arrived at the Library, the papers were torn, brittle and extremely fragile. It is often the case that newspapers from the early twentieth century are in worse condition than papers published 100 years earlier due to the evolving methods of mass paper production.

The Library’s talented conservator, Leslie Courtois, de-acidified, mended and encapsulated the newspapers so they may be handled safely and studied for generations to come. After conservation, the originals were able to be microfilmed, making them even more accessible to researchers, students, historians, authors and genealogists.

Below are the photographs of the newspapers before and after conservation. The pictures speak for themselves:

BEFORE CONSERVATION14_0407_01

AFTER CONSERVATION15_0256_002BEFORE 14_0407_06Before 1AFTER15_0256_001After 1BEFORE14_0407_07AFTER15_0256_006read more »

3 Comments

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 »

Leave a comment

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 »

Leave a comment

Snow Dazed

Front page of the Richmond Times Dispatch, Feb. 8, 1936

Front page of the Richmond Times Dispatch, Feb. 8, 1936

A perennial subject for newspapers is snow storms. In Richmond, forecasters are calling for 4 – 8 inches on Wednesday and Thursday. The debilitating effects of snow are much the same today as they were 75 years ago. Here are a couple of samples from historic snowfalls in Richmond, Virginia from January 24, 1940 and February 8, 1936.

Snow related articles from Richmond Times Dispatch, Feb. 8, 1936

Snow related articles from page 1 of Richmond Times Dispatch, Feb. 8, 1936

Page 2 from Richmond Times-Dispatch of Feb. 8, 1936

Page 2 from Richmond Times-Dispatch of Feb. 8, 1936

Article about snowstorm from Jan. 24, 1940.

Article about snowstorm from Jan. 24, 1940 Richmond Times-Dispatch.

As we all know, today’s storms are nothing compared with the blizzards of yesteryear. That’s as true today as it was in 1936 and here’s proof.

From Feb. 8, 1936 Richmond Times-Dispatch

From Feb. 8, 1936 Richmond Times-Dispatch

read more »

Leave a comment

University President Ed Ayers Boosts Digital Scholarship

In September 2013, the National Digital Newspaper Program held its annual meeting in Washington, DC. Over 30 participating states attended. Included in the varied agenda were a series of presentations, beginning with a captivating talk by Ed Ayers, President of the University of Richmond and former professor of history at the University of Virginia. While at UVA, Ayers became one of the creators of a landmark digital history project titled, The Valley of the Shadow, a digital repository concentrating its scanned content on two localities on opposite sides of the Civil War.

Following Ayers on the video is a fascinating talk by Ryan Cordell and David Smith from Northeastern University on the old newspaper tradition of re-publishing items from one newspaper to another. Republished content included news items, poems, short stories, and the like, while often being edited or “improved” upon as it moved from newspaper to newspaper. Talk about digging into data!

The final presentation by Ahmed Johnson from the Library of Congress provides a concise and informative overview to doing genealogy at the Library of Congress.… read more »

Leave a comment

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 »

Leave a comment