Tag Archives: Virginia Newspaper Project

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Virginia Newspaper Project

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Virginia’s “last” duel

Hocking Sentinel, Logan, Ohio, 10-14-1897

Dueling, a trend that emerged in the middle ages as a way to settle disputes among European nobility, persisted among members of the American press, particularly in the South, long after the practice came to be regarded as barbaric to most Americans.  The rules for dueling were laid out in 1777, in an Irish document called the “Code Duello”. In 1838, South Carolina Governor John Lyde Wilson wrote  The Southern Code of Honor, which was very similar to the Irish code although Wilson claimed not to have seen a copy until after writing his own code. In the North, dueling was already out of fashion around the time of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr’s famous meeting in 1804.  This was not the case in the South, where the practice would not see a decline in popularity until the Civil War. To refuse a duel in the South meant suffering a “posting”, a public notice accusing the refuser of cowardice and other shaming offenses.

Joke from the Staunton Spectator, 1-17-1860. It is hard to imagine that dueling could have been so commonplace as to be the source of light humor such as this. Actually, this joke is quite similar to the result of the duel between Henry Clay and John Randolph in 1826.

19th century newspapers were often aligned with a particular political party, sometimes naming themselves for the party such as the Richmond Whig, the paper edited by William Elam which found itself the target of editorial attacks lobbed by Richard Beirne. Beirne, stalwart Funder and vitriolic editor of the State, was embarrassed by a dueling blunder and determined to prove his courage on the “field of honor”.  He aimed an editorial loaded with a racial epithet and charges of corruption … read more »

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The Arcadian: Prep School Paper Prepped For Preservation

Readers of Fit To Print know of the Newspaper Project’s growing enthusiasm for preservation microfilming and archiving college as well as some high school student papers.  See, for example, the blog entry of last September 10, describing John Marshall High School’s The Monocle.  Our latest filming initiative in this category is also, like The Monocle, from Richmond.  This time however, the paper originates not from a public, but a private institution-St. Catherine’s School, the longest standing all girls school in the city and a school of equally long-standing high reputation.

Here are some sample images from this new holding:

The Scrap Basket appeared in 1927, some six years after St. Catherine’s relocated to its current site just shy of Three Chopt and Grove, to what was then the city’s far West End and now the very near West End.  Our first microfilmed issue (above, click to expand) dates from the Fall semester of the 1930 school year.

Odds ‘n’ Ends addressed the interests of those younger students in the Middle School and published for about ten years beginning in 1932.  The copy pictured above is from the close of the school year 1933 and the first we had available to microfilm.

In 1940 it was decided that the title The Scrap Basket on the masthead was a little too divorced from the pride and aspirations of the students responsible for the paper’s content.  A poll was conducted of the upper students and the resulting choice, The Arcadian, was inspired by an architectural feature of the campus-its two distinctive arcades.  An article from the second page of the May, 1940 issue shown above speaks to the increased ambitions of the student staff.

Cost considerations during the war years shifted The Arcadian from the print shop … read more »

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100 Years Ago Today

100 Years Ago Today. . .News and advertisements from the News Leader of January 25, 1913.

The News Leader was formed in 1903 by a merger of Richmond News and Evening Leader. It became the Richmond News Leader in 1925 and was published until 1992.

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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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The more things change, well, the more things change.

If you need proof, simply compare today’s copy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch to an issue of The North American, a newspaper published in Philadelphia in the late 19th century.

We bring to your attention what we believe to be the largest broadside newspaper in the vast newspaper collections at the Library of Virginia, measuring a whopping 30” x 24.5,” which means opened flat the paper spreads out to almost 50 inches in width!

The adjoining photo provides evidence that the paper was large and in truth pretty unwieldy. As Newspaper Project colleague, Silver Persinger, shows, it’s a wonder the average citizen could stand on a street corner and read the publication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It recalls the great Buster Keaton site gag involving a newspaper in his classic short film, The High Sign. Check out Keaton’s comic hijinks in this excerpt from the movie:

 

 

Back to The North American. While the Library generally does not focus its newspaper collecting on out of state papers, it has acquired a select number of papers that provide some depth and texture to the LVA’s strong holdings of original Virginia imprint newspapers.

 

The North American out of Philadelphia, PA is such an example. The title had a healthy publishing run from 1839 to 1925, with strong Republican tendencies, and it wasn’t shy about announcing boldly on the banner that it is “The Oldest Daily Newspaper in America.”

The issue in hand was published April 14, 1877 and while it contains articles that may interest our patrons, the newspaper’s sheer size is probably one of its most noteworthy features.

The North American came to the Library as part of a larger gift of newspapers with issues spanning many decades and U.S. states, … read more »

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Eye Witness Account of Lincoln’s Assassination and Funeral Preparations

From the Richmond Times dated April 21, 1865, Volume 1, Number 1.

The first edition of this newly established newspaper was published a full week after the assassination of President Lincoln. It is the predecessor of Richmond’s only remaining daily newspaper, The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Page one of the newspaper has a thorough account of the evacuation of Richmond which began on the morning of April 3, 1865.

Image of masthead from April 21, 1865 issue of The Richmond Times.

From Page 2:

THE GREAT TRAGEDY!
Paticulars of the Assassination!
The President’s Death-Bed Scene!
FUNERAL CEREMONIES!

Statement of an Eye-Witness.

Mr. James P. Ferguson, who was present at the theatre on the night of the assassination, makes the following statement:

When the second scene of the third act of the play was reached, Mr. Ferguson saw (and recognized) John Wilkes Booth making his way along the dress circle to the President’s box. Mr. Ferguson and Booth had met in the afternoon and conversed, and were well acquainted with each other, so that the former immediately recognized him. Booth stopping two steps from the door, took off his hat, and holding it in his left hand, leaned against the wall behind him. In this attitude he remained for half a minute; then he stepped down one step, put his hands on the door of the little corridor leading to the box, bent his knee against it, the door opened, Booth entered, and was for the time hidden from Mr. Ferguson’s sight.

The shot was the next Mr. F. remembers. He saw the smoke, then perceived Booth standing upright, with both hands raised, but at the moment saw no weapon or anything else in either. Booth then sprang to the front of the box, laid his left hand on the railing in front, was checked an instant evidently by his coat or pants being … 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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