18 pen-and-ink drawings, ranging in size from 5-1/8 x 6-5/8 inches to 14-5/8 x 7-3/8 inches
This collection of original illustrations and chapter head- and end-pieces was created by Edward A. Darby for Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion. Compiled by workers of the Work Projects Administration’s state-sponsored Virginia Writers’ Project (1940), the book was initiated as one in a series of state guides begun in 1935 under the Federal Writers Project and was designed to give work to writers, editors, historians, and researchers.
All thirteen of the drawings used in Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion can be found in this collection of lighthearted, optimistic, and idealized images. The detailed artwork depicts iconic landmarks, historic sites, and symbols of the early-20th-century countryside that would be recognizable to many Virginians today. Also included in the collection are five additional drawings that do not appear in the guide. They represent an imagined Virginia, where tidewater monuments stand at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and where oxcarts and buggies share the landscape with speeding trains, automobiles, and airplanes.
Arrangement and access:
The collection is arranged in a single series, corresponding to the order in which the illustrations appear in Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion, followed by the five remaining drawings.
1 album, 10 x 7 inches; 43 images
This album bears a handwritten inscription by Charles T. Cobb, dated March 1935: “The photographs in this album are of my deceased father and his Wolf Pitt Copper Mines, which he once owned and operated at Virgilina, Virginia, in the early 1900s, during the time we lived in the South. He sold the mine holdings in 1907 to the owners of the Blue Wing Copper Mines Co. for a very large amount.”
In addition to its photo-documentation of Virginia copper-mining practices of the turn of the century, this album contains rare visual information about Virgilina itself in its “boom days”—a busy little town of mining and moonshining, muddy roads and newly built hotels, houses and storefronts in a rugged landscape stripped of trees. Included are photos of the Jones Distillery, where corn whisky was manufactured (“by U.S. permit,” the handwritten caption assures us), local mining bosses William Battershill and George B. Cobb, and even the Hungarian “Count Carachristy” [sic], an expert in coal distillation.
27 posters, 10 x 28 inches to 29 x 45 inches
Billed as “the South’s most beautiful ballroom, cooled by nature’s breezes,” the whimsically named Tantilla Garden opened in the 3800 block of Richmond’s West Broad Street in 1931. On the ground level was a miniature golf range (at some point converted to Tiny Town Bowling Alley). The dance hall opened later on the upper level. Ironically, the inclusive dates of Virginia’s prohibition of “liquor by the drink” (1933–1968) coincide almost precisely with Tantilla’s dates of operation. Patrons of “the Garden” were required to “brown bag” it, arriving with their own liquor and mixing cocktails at the table under the gaze of cooperative management. The bar supplied soda and fruit juices.
Tantilla Garden was a destination on the Big Band circuit, hosting nationally popular performers such as Duke Ellington and Tommy Dorsey in addition to beloved local bands and performers, some of whose names have become pop-cultural footnotes. Among those featured on the posters in our collection are Spyder Turner, Jan Garber, Pat Patton, Charlie Wakefield, Earl Mellen and his Melodies, Benny Benson and the Texas Cyclone, Ron Moody and the Centaurs, the Continentals, the Coquettes, the Dynamic Blazers, Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, Red Nichols and His Pennies, Johnny Mack, Sammy Kaye, Lang Thompson, Jokers Wild, the Escorts, the Mind Expansion Club, Skeets Morris, Jelly Leftwich, and Viola Smith, … more
884 slides and approx. 500 electronic images
This collection contains the photographer’s 35mm Ektachrome color slides and digital scans of original prints. The images capture architectural, environmental, commercial, and cultural subjects in Virginia, including private homes, schools, restaurants, hotels, bridges, theaters, barns, churches, cemeteries, courthouses, post offices, fire and railway stations, drug stores, barber shops, banks, and service stations.
Pete Calos, an engineer at Allied Chemical for most of his professional life, made the images between 1977 and 2005 for local and architectural historians. In retirement, Calos began to write and illustrate his own travelogue presentations, with titles such as “Back Roads of Virginia,” “All 100 County Courthouses,” “Virginia Diners,” “Historic Route 1,” “Where Are You in Richmond?,” “Where Are You in Danville?,” and “McDonald’s Symphony.” Though a recreational photographer, Calos proved to have a sharp eye for the transience of the modern, and the foresight and technical ability to capture it, finding beauty in the open girder work of rural bridges and uncanny precision in typical bacon-and-eggs breakfasts. His “Diner Series,” focusing on River City, Tastee 29, Surrey House, and Virginia Diners, and the now-vanished Skull and Bones Restaurant on Virginia Commonwealth University’s medical campus, a haunt of medical students for decades, captures not only the restaurant buildings themselves but the staff, interior décor and fixtures, menus, and food. Similarly, his photographs of Virginia’s monumental Works Progress Administration murals in post offices … more
approx. 3,000 vintage glass-plate negatives
Harry Cowles Mann (1866–1926) was a vastly prolific commercial photographer based in Norfolk, Virginia, specializing in industrial views, portraits, and landscapes, particularly artful Cape Henry beach scenes. Though he hailed from the large and socially prominent Mann family of Virginia (his uncle was Gov. William Hodges Mann and his father was Edwin Mann, a judge on Petersburg’s Hustings Court), little is known of his personal life other than that he was a confirmed bachelor, of fragile health for the second half of his life, and died—for reasons that remain unclear—at the State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded in Lynchburg. Sometime after being commissioned to photograph the 1907 Jamestown Exposition, Mann rented a studio space at 286 Main Street in downtown Norfolk, where he specialized in commercial photography, including “Buildings, Machinery, Landscapes and All Photographic Work for Half-Tone Reproduction.” Mann’s work was featured in National Geographic and his “nature portraits” of Craney Island and the Dismal Swamp won awards in photo competitions in Paris, London, and New York.
The Library’s collection of more than 3,000 prints and glass-plate negatives—more than half of which are available online—show Norfolk during and immediately after World War I. These include images of plantation houses; historic churches; public schools; department store display windows; architectural interiors of every description, including formal parlors, bedrooms, factory work spaces, restaurant dining rooms, and retail spaces; and even some technically … more
approx. 1,600 3.5 x 5 inch negatives, approx. 450 “116″ (2 x 4 inch) negatives, 49 5 x 7 inch silver emulsion glass-plate negatives
A native of Norfolk, Virginia, mechanical engineer Richard E. Prince Jr. (1920–2002) was an authority on the cultural, historical, and technical dimensions of the American railway, publishing extensively on the subject in the 1960s and 1970s. Almost all of the film negatives in our collection were created by Prince, while the glass plates were created by E. F. Horn, who worked at the South Louisville yards of the Louisville-Nashville line. The original negative envelopes, which have been preserved, are inscribed with various technical designations and codes that may be understood by railway aficionados but will mean little to the layperson. Prince also includes notes on the photographs’ location, date, history, and subject. The vast majority of these black-and-white photos are of steam locomotives, with occasional images of diesel engines, yard scenes, railcars, and cabooses.
Arrangement and access:
The collection is arranged in three series. Series A represents numerical index 1 through 642, and are arranged in order of engine number, lowest to highest, subcategorized under the proper name of each railroad line. Almost all images in Series A predate 1940. Series B is similarly arranged, containing approximately 1,600 images dated between 1937 and 1948, and contains copy film of existing photographs not taken by Prince. The glass-plate … more
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, 7.5 x 9 inches; 360 cards
With the invention of wrapping machines in the 19th century, pieces of plain card were used as protective stiffeners to protect the contents of paper packages. By the late 1870s in the United States, Allen & Ginter were embellishing these inserts with advertisements and illustrations. This quickly became an efficient and creative means of cultivating brand loyalty, and the practice spread rapidly to Great Britain and other foreign manufacturers. By the 1890s, many of the larger British tobacco companies were issuing cards, and they soon progressed to series on particular themes: actresses, soldiers, ships, kings and queens, etc.
The outbreak of war in 1914 inspired many patriotic card issues. Multiple influences were at work: the spontaneous expression of national pride; a desire to help the war effort; an insatiable public craving for news, particularly good news and information; a wish to glorify the heroism of British forces; and a determination to demonstrate the supporting role of civilians on the home front. Three of the seven sets in the British Cigarette Card Collection represent this time period: Army Life (October 1910), Regimental Uniforms (July 1912 and July 1914), and Military Motors (October 1916).
The popularity of cigarette cards grew during the 1920s and 1930s. Many of the sets issued during this time were reissues of earlier series with a timeless appeal. Drum Banners & … 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