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Tag Archives: Virginia Newspaper Project
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.
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 railroad also made it perfect for supply shipments.
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.”
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, its demographics changed—many of its citizens … read more »
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.
Seventy-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: At the prices listed below, you would have been the exception if you enjoyed a radio in a room of your own:A blow up of your exclusive features. Number six will put your mind at ease:You’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:
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.
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.
The 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 »
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.Though 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.John O‘Brien, born in 1836, became … read more »
By Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern
Founded in 1882 by Captain Stephen Roszel Donohoe, the Democratically-affiliated Fairfax Herald was published weekly in Fairfax, Virginia, where it served as the area’s dominant newspaper for many years. Fairfax, located near Washington D.C., underwent significant industrialization and population growth throughout the twentieth century, with the city’s population reaching 21,970 and the county’s reaching 455,021 by 1970, around the end of the Fairfax Herald’s run. In 1880, however, just prior to the Herald’s founding, the town of Fairfax had only a population of 376, while the county had a population of 16,025. The community was largely agricultural, producing “corn, wheat, oats, butter, hay; livestock,” according to the 1890 Ayer and Son’s American Newspaper Annual.
It was in this small farming community that S. R. Donohoe founded the Fairfax Herald, bringing the town its first printing press, advertisements for which stated: “Equipped with Type Setting Machine and Steam Press. All kinds of job printing. Splendid advertising medium.” The Fairfax Herald was four pages long and 20 inches by 26 inches in size originally. It had a circulation of 1,225 in 1904, 900 in 1911, and 1,000 in 1920.
Born February 1, 1851 in Loudoun County, Donohoe was successful in multiple ventures of public service, in addition to his prolific career in newspapers. He served in the Spanish-American War as a lieutenant with the Fairfax company. He then served as Treasurer of Fairfax County between 1889 and 1891; state senator for two terms, beginning in 1900; Auditor of Public Accounts of Virginia from 1910-1912; a member of the State Tax Commission in 1914, and Federal Prohibition Director of the State, beginning in 1919. Moreover, he is listed as a director at the National Bank of Fairfax in advertisements appearing for the … read more »
Reading between the lines: the Comstock Act and ads for the treatment of “female complaints” from the Fairfax Herald.
By Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern
If you read a newspaper from the late 19th century, you’re liable to be bombarded by various medical advertisements—treatments for catarrh, scrofula, and “watery-blood;” cure-alls like sarsaparilla and cod liver oil (described in an ad found in the Fairfax Herald as “palatable as milk”); and vegetable compounds that passionately avow efficacy in curing cancer.
Amongst these medical advertisements appear a multitude of supplements for treating “female complaints.” On first glance, these treatments appear to be simply another amusing example of 19th century medical quackery; however, these were not just any pills—these were abortifacients.
Abortion was a relatively common method of limiting family size in the 19th century, an era lacking in other forms of birth control; however, women did not truly consider themselves to be pregnant prior to the “quickening” of the fetus, the point in which she could feel the fetus move, usually around the fourth month of gestation. Abortifacients, therefore, were taken to relieve “obstructed menses.” Traditionally abortions were induced by ingesting home-remedies prepared with toxic herbs, such as pennyroyal, to induce miscarriage. By the mid-19th century abortifacients were widely available commercially, appearing frequently in newspaper advertisements which described the products in vague and euphemistic terms.
Despite the commonality of abortifacients in the 19th century, the emergence of anti-abortion campaigns in the mid-19th century ultimately led to the prohibition of abortion that lasted until the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Moreover, the Comstock Act of 1873 banned the circulation of abortifacients and information about them, including advertisements, as they were deemed “obscene.”
Despite the restrictions placed on abortifacients in the late 19th century, advertisements for them continued to … read more »
The last of the Triple Crown’s three stakes races will be run at Belmont Park tomorrow. In the history of the Triple Crown, its winners number only eleven–will there be a twelfth added to this illustrious group of thoroughbreds on Saturday? If American Pharoah wins the Belmont Stakes, he’ll be the first to take the crown since 1978. As you’ll read below, it was not until War Admiral’s win in 1937 that the term “Triple Crown” was used to describe the “great turf stakes of the season.” Here’s a look back at the eleven horses who managed the exceptional feat as seen through the Richmond Times Dispatch:
Sir Barton, 1919
Gallant Fox, 1930
War Admiral, 1937
Count Fleet, 1943
Of historical anniversaries noted large and small, what follows is of the second type and left unremarked, if not here within this very blog. Last Friday was the one hundredth birthday of the first issue of the Princess Anne Times, not a delicate imprint of royal society from a tiny office tucked within Windsor Castle, but a record of life from the southeastern corner of Virginia.
33 of the 95 counties of Virginia possess a name of royal origin, but Princess Anne is no longer among them. The county disappeared from the map in 1963, closing a 272 year history when it was incorporated into the much larger independent city of Virginia Beach. The chance observation of the newspaper’s birthday suggested an additional incentive to announce its arrival a few weeks ago to Virginia Chronicle, The Library of Virginia’s digital newspaper archive managed by the Virginia Newspaper Project.
To the person who turns his back to the Atlantic and faces west from the Virginia Beach boardwalk and wonders, “How did this happen?”, the Times offers propitious clues. The current population of Virginia Beach stands near 450,000, making it the state’s most populous city. The reader of the Times in May of 1915 shared residency with about 438,000 fewer. Here’s the complete front page for that first issue (with a stage direction to the far left column).
They assigned themselves a mission and it was propelling this county forward … read more »
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 »