1 album, 16 x 11 inches, 111 pages, 310 photographs, typed narrative
More than a picture album, this carefully composed narrative history of the Petersburg Federal Reformatory (now the low-security Federal Corrections Institute outside Hopewell, Virginia) describes and photographically documents the institution’s first eighteen years. Founded in 1930 as a makeshift camp on former farm properties along the Appomattox, the reformatory quickly achieved “an atmosphere of permanency” through the efforts of a relatively small inmate population the narrative characterizes as enthusiastic, industrious, and dignified.
Indeed, with its stately administrative building and quadrangle of formal hedges, the reformatory, in these photos, looks more like an English country estate than a Depression-era prison. According to the narrative, the inmates took great pride in beautifying the reformatory, which they essentially built from the ground up with local materials and resources, including dogwood, mimosa, redbud, and rambler roses. An ornamental fish pond was even created by flooding the cellar of a vanished farmhouse. A beautiful Arts and Crafts house, built by inmates for the warden, featured a fireplace of petrified wood. The reformatory was from its earliest days almost completely self-sustaining, with vast fields of alfalfa, squash, and potatoes; horse and mule barns; a dairy herd and modern milking machines; a piggery and slaughterhouse; a cinderblock-making facility; a power plant; and even its own fire station with homemade firefighting vehicles. The changing demographics of the prison … more
1 album, 11 x 14 inches, containing 78 prints; 32 glass-plate negatives with corresponding contact prints
Willoughby Reade (1865–1952), author of several books, including When Hearts Were True (1907), a set of short stories set in Virginia, was born in London, England, educated at Howard College in Alabama, and served for most of his life as a professor of English at Episcopal High School in Alexandria. His first wife was Mary Wheeler Robinson, of Abingdon, Virginia, whose childhood home, the Meadows, became the Reades’ annual summer place, the site of the first national camp for girls (Camp Glenrochie, officially founded by the Reades in 1910), and one of the main subject locales for this collection.
Reade’s original platinum prints are mounted in the album with handwritten captions. The dramatic natural landmarks of White Top, Red Rock Cove, Pinnacle Rock, Backbone Rock, Watauga River, and South Holston River—environs that would have been familiar to the sporting girls of Camp Glenrochie in its heyday—appear in shots with a dreamy, almost Proustian quality. Sunlight seems to drip onto the ferny forest floors. Toward the end of the album, nature studies give way to photos of white-frocked campers at the Meadows, the great white house smothered in trees.
Arrangement and access:
The album prints are numbered sequentially, 1 through 78. Those glass plate negatives and contact prints corresponding to the album prints share those numerical designations.… more
Mixed materials—including vintage prints, color snapshots, oil studies, finished drawings, process drawings, ink-jet printouts, flyers, and posters—ranging in size from 2 x 3 to 26 x 36 inches
Richmond-based painter J. Bohannan was born in New York City in 1950 and moved with his family at age two to Hilton Village, Newport News, and later, as a teenager, to Hopewell. After studying art at the Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University) in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bohannan worked as a salesman in his father’s art supply store, selling his own original artwork on the side. By his own admission, his paintings of the time were derivative of the European high art and contemporary abstraction he had studied at RPI. Then one day he picked up a copy of Matthew Baigell’s The American Scene: American Painting of the 1930s (1974) from a discount book bin. Until then, Bohannan says, he had never really seen, much less studied, modern American painting, despite four years of formal art education.
Working alongside street artists in Verona and Munich, copying famous Caravaggios and Bouchers in pastel on public sidewalks, Bohannan developed a passion for “plastic realism,” embedding human forms in visual space in a way that is, as Bohannan puts it, “more there than right”—that is, more materially present than technically correct. After his return to Virginia from Europe, Bohannan began developing … more
Four scrapbook albums, two photograph albums with 200+ photos, mixed ephemera
Unlike many of our Prints and Photographs Collections holdings, which derive from individual artists, photographers, and agencies, the Carney Christie Collection derives from many sources—family photos, postcards, handwritten correspondence (on hotel stationary), theater programs, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera—which dovetail into a mixed media portrait of an individual man.
A graduate of Staunton Military Academy, the actor Carney Pitcher Christie (1887–1932) gained early and enduring professional success on Broadway, perfecting the role of Pietro in Edward Locke’s comedy The Climax. Christie was the son of a prominent West Virginia druggist and brother to Mary Christie, a music teacher and sought-after pianist (and presumed assembler of the materials in our collection) with whom he often collaborated on popular “interpretive recitals” of Shakespeare, Sheridan, and Thomas Nelson Page. The family maintained residences in Richmond and Brooklyn, and a summer home in the resort town of Palmer Lake, Colorado, and Christie corresponded with them, especially Mary, during his theatrical tours all over the United States. According to one theater reviewer, he was “the very incarnation of buoyant youth.” About 1928, however, a “nervous collapse” forced Christie to quit touring and instead teach acting at the Leland Powers School in Boston. He later moved to Richmond to live with his sister’s family, where he died of a heart attack in 1932 at age 45. … more
252 posters, 8.5 x 11 inches
“Safety is better than compensation.” This sentiment echoes—both explicitly and implicitly—through the world of these safety posters. Here cartoon workers are eaten by machines and lose limbs and eyes, all to the “music” of morbid puns and innocuous slogans (“You can’t be silly safely!”) reminiscent in style and sentiment to Heinrich Hoffmann’s 1844 children’s book, Struwwelpeter, in which violent punishments are merrily delivered to disobedient or imprudent children. The posters give a sense of a workplace ethos before the advent of political correctness. A notable softening of the posters’ visual style corresponds to a transition from artist Dick Poythress to Boyd Leffler of Salem, Virginia. As they progress through time they begin to suggest a subtle “holistic” interest in the lives of state employees. They conflate the professional and the personal, caution against overwork at home, emphasize the need for weekend rest and recreation, and even veer into sentimental and emotional territory quite out of character with the posters’ early comic approach.
Arrangement and access:
The posters are arranged chronologically.
1 album, 12 x 17 inches, 40 pages, 130 photographs, mixed ephemera
While the identities … more
Among our most unique holdings, this small and unassuming piece, assembled by Dr. J. H. Breazeale (1889–1966), a veterinarian who served in the Army Medical Corps, reflects the striking public-private dichotomies of life in wartime, serving apparently as both a family photo album and work journal. Approximately half of Breazeale’s forty-eight amateur photos endearingly capture his wife and young sons at home, with handwritten captions such as “Branson’s first trousers” and “Calling kitty.” The rest of the images document the grim duties of a wartime veterinarian, with sobering captions such as “These pens contain 1300 Missouri Mules,” “Shot for losing foot,” “Burial at sea,” and “Loading the dead wagon, Newport News, Va.” At the outset of World War I, the mule was indispensible for moving artillery, ammunition, and other supplies. It’s estimated that during the war more than 500,000 horses and mules were processed for use in Europe, with more than 68,000 killed in the course of action.
211 albums, many in duplicate and some in triplicate, 3,031 unique images
Touted as the largest and most magnificent exposition of all time, the New York World’s Fair opened at Flushing Meadow in April 1939. In the Court of States, one exhibition was strikingly different from the rest: the Virginia Room, “an island of quiet” amid the fair’s raucous and more sensational attractions. Leslie Cheek, Jr., designer of the Virginia Room, and his team of artists developed a plan for a spacious circular lounge with the visitor’s focus drawn to an ornamental fountain theatrically lit from above and below. Around the fountain’s statue—an allegorical representation of the “Spirit of Virginia” drawing water from the clouds—were clipped boxwoods and a series of deep cushioned seats and low tables. Cheek remarked that a visitor to the Virginia Room should find “an intelligently arranged display, free of ballyhoo and high pressure salesmanship.” The design offered tired fairgoers a place to sit, a chance to enjoy a complimentary glass of ice water served by a white-jacketed waiter, and an array of large photograph albums prepared by the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce.
Taken together, the Virginia Room albums can be thought of as a sprawling infomercial for the state, promoting it as a place not just of historic shrines and natural beauty, but as one of scientific, artistic, and intellectual sophistication, a modern state of … more
62 photographic images
These photographs give a detailed visual account of Suffolk-area service stations in the early automotive age, including station personnel, oil-delivery vehicles and drivers, off-site oil storage facilities, and other elements of oil-related infrastructure. Architecturally, the service stations range from pagoda-like roadside huts to urban brick produce market/gas station all-in-ones, most displaying the distinctive “Sinclair Gasoline” sign. Gas can be seen for sale at 25 cents a gallon.
The original purpose of this series is unknown. While some of the images smack of promotional photography, especially those in which drivers pose with their vehicles, others seem more documentary or photojournalistic, particularly a handful of images showing the aftermath of a dramatic rollover car wreck. Most of the drivers and many of the station owners are named.
Electronic copies donated, 2009.
Vintage prints retained by donor.
Related resources and collections:
C1: 162 Hamblin Studio Photograph Collection
approx. 19,300 reports, approx. 6,200 photographs, 103 maps
The Virginia Historical Inventory is a massive and rambling collection of photographs, annotated maps, and written reports on the architectural, cultural, and family histories of thousands of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings, mostly private homes, in rural communities throughout the commonwealth. Commissioned by the Works Progress Administration, the inventory has been part of the Library’s permanent collection since its completion in 1938. The original field reporters were mostly women, non-experts recruited locally and given crash-course training in identifying and describing the architectural motifs of the so-called vernacular (homey) architectures the inventory sought to document, as opposed to the ornate, “high style” houses of major cities—the usual fare of the better known Historic American Buildings Survey. During on-site investigations and interviews with residents and locals, inventory reporters captured a wealth of technical and narrative information, giving family sagas, local folklore, and ghost stories equal time with descriptions of chimneys, catalogs of books and antiques, the locations of wells, and transcriptions of epitaphs, diaries, letters, deeds, and wills. Many of the houses surveyed have not survived to the present day.
Arrangement and access:
The entire collection is searchable by location or keyword through the Library’s online photo collections.