Failed insurance salesman Dugald Stewart Walker (1883–1937), a native Richmonder and self-styled eccentric very much in artistic and cultural sympathy with the British aesthetes of a generation before, studied drawing at the University of Virginia and the New York School of Art, and was by the late 1920s internationally renowned as both a fine artist and popular illustrator of children’s books. While his gallery work was praised in the museums of London, Paris, and Rome, Walker’s elegant grotesqueries fared poorly back home in Depression-era Richmond—though he was keenly sought after as a bookplate designer by the Richmond and New York elite.
With striking black-and-white prints reminiscent of the work of Aubrey Beardsley but distinctly his own, Walker created a whimsical, slightly sinister, and technically precise “Once Upon a Time” world of pleasure gardens, peacocks, satyrs, clowns, archers, and mounted knights. Often in his bookplates the highly personalized iconography of client preference is brought to bear on quaint themes and high modernist design. In the plate for the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, for example, delicately rendered chemistry beakers positioned above a “window” become, in their self-mirroring symmetry, a kind of ornamental pediment. In another plate, otherwise naturalistic boxers, poised for battle, become pilaster-like ornaments on either side of a monumental baroque doorway through which lovers can be glimpsed embracing in a glade. Perhaps the strangest item in this collection … more
74 chromolithographs in original bound volume, 6.5 x 10 inches
With the extraordinary popularity of cigars in late-nineteenth century America, and the consequent birth of the cigar-box-label salesman, came colorful catalogs and sample books, of which ours is an intact example, “showcasing” the variety of label designs available to cigar manufacturers and merchants. By the early 1880s most label production had shifted from small towns to large specialty printing firms on the east coast, among these the Manhattan-based O. L. Schwencke, begun in 1884 and absorbed by Moehle Lithographic Co. in 1900. Done in luxurious chromolithography, the embossed labels in our Schwencke sample book contrast scenes of leisure, privilege, and high sophistication, such as operagoing and pleasure-boating, with a dizzying array of images to appeal to all manner of disposition and fantasy: sentimental courtships and family tableaux, patriotic allegories, scenes of foreign travel, sportsmanship, war, adventure, and industry, elaborate and indecipherable insignia, exotic animals and cherubs, caricatures of Arabs and Native Americans, mildly sexualized women, and American playboys and tycoons. These scenes usually appear under very broad legends such as “Leader,” “Beauty,” and “Peerless,” with more specific-sounding legends such as “Santiago,” “La Rosa Especial,” and “La Amenidad” posing as exotic brand names but in fact easily mapped over whatever generic cigar the merchant or manufacturer might have had on hand or been eager to push on customers. One label, “Life Saver,” … more
194 glass-plate negatives, 21 film negatives
Architects William Leigh Carneal Jr. (1881–1958) and James Markam Ambler Johnston (1885–1974) founded their firm about 1908, after a year working independently but sharing office space in Richmond. Carneal & Johnston went on to become one of the most prolific and long-lived architectural practices in the state, by 1950 having shaped the distinctive architectural character of central Virginia, especially Richmond, with the completion of more than 1,300 buildings. The architects worked on a wide range of project types, from the mundane to the monumental, suburban bungalows to a proposed but never realized Ninth Street Victory Arch.
Amassed by the firm for documentary and promotional purposes, the Carneal & Johnston Collection photographically captures interior and exterior views of many commercial and municipal buildings, bridges, factories, apartments, and private residences, and includes a number of concept drawings entered into architectural competitions. Some of the most notable and easily recognizable structures represented in the collection include the First Virginia Regiment Armory (1913), the Richmond Dairy (1914) with its colossal milk bottles, the Colonial Theater (1919–1920), the Virginia State Office Building (1922–1923), and many collegiate gothic structures on the campuses of Richmond College (now the University of Richmond) and the Virginia Military Institute.
ca. 1900–1990s, bulk 1930s-1960s
What makes this collection unique is its focus on the depots of smaller cities, towns, and whistle-stops of rural Virginia, rather than the palatial rail hubs of major cities, such as Richmond’s Main Street Station, of which there is already an abundant visual account. The images date from the very early twentieth century to the mid-1970s, with some images from as late as the 1990s. Almost all the images were daytime shots and practically none document human activity or presence. Instead they focus on the architectural qualities of the depots themselves, significantly without regard to any depot’s ostensible architectural importance. Indeed, the passenger shelter in Ashcake, Virginia, looks to be a tiny shack overtaken by shrubbery. Williamsburg’s looks more like a faux-colonial bank than a depot, and Danville’s is an aluminum modular building. Most of the depots featured, however, are in the more familiar “cottage” style.
Arrangement and access:
Alphabetically by location
Related resources and collections:
Prince Railroad Collection
2 albums, 7 x 11 and 9 x 11 inches, 200 photographs, along with 66 modern copy photographs from albums belonging to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources
In the early twentieth century, the Appalachian Power Company built a series of hydroelectric dams on the New River in Wythe County, Virginia. Completed in 1912, the Byllesby Dam took its name from H. M. Byllesby and Company, a Chicago investment firm that helped start Appalachian Power, and it created the serene 335-acre Byllesby Reservoir still popular with local fishermen and recreational boaters.
The photographs in this collection document the phases of the dam’s construction and the building methods of the period, with interior shots of the transformer house and its giant turbines and wide-angle exterior views of the dam and cement-mixing plant with its and volute casing and draft tube forms, like abstract sculptures in the wilderness, awaiting cement. As significantly, the photographs capture the daily lives of the workers who made their home in the camp, with images of black-papered dormitories for engineers and office staff, tidy vegetable gardens growing beneath power lines, a pair of well-dressed women on horseback (on the same horse), candid shots of “natives” (locals), and various shots of workers at rest and play and gathered around a campfire at night. The collection also includes two commercially produced scenic postcards of the completed dam and an original … more
36 posters, 5 house-finding guides, and related ephemera. Posters range in size from 11 x 17 to 22 x 27 inches.
Known for its architecturally eclectic early-twentieth-century townhomes and picturesque shady streets, Richmond’s Fan District is an 85-block residential neighborhood immediately west of the downtown commercial area. The Fan District Association Poster and Ephemera Collection includes many of the creative and memorable marketing campaigns for the Holiday House Tour and a variety of similar community events. Included among the posters are designs by Perrine, Kennedy & Green Advertising; Reed Advertising & Marketing; the King Agency; and the Martin Agency. Also included in the collection are house-finding guides and ticket stubs from the Holiday House Tour.
Arrangement and access: Chronological
Provenance: Gift of Fan District Association, 2009
approx. 270 Kodak prints with negatives
Receiving its first prisoners in 1800, the Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond had by the 1980s, through a series of radical redesigns, grown from architect Benjamin Latrobe’s elegant horseshoe-shaped loggia on the banks of the James to an enormous modern complex of cellblocks and administrative buildings, mostly constructed with inmate labor, and partly from the brick and stone of Latrobe’s original horseshoe, itself fallen into disuse and razed in 1928.
In 1991, with the inmate population decentralized and relocated to various facilities throughout the state, and the penitentiary buildings themselves doomed to obsolescence, the Virginia Film Office sent photographers to survey the complex as a potential movie location. While ultimately no movies were filmed in “the Pen,” the photographers did gather the most comprehensive and intimate visual account of the penitentiary made near the end of its long life cycle, a year before its demolition by the state. The exterior and interior photos are rich in detail and include views of the dining hall, the chapel, and the infirmary with its distinctive green-and-white checkered floor, as well as glimpses along the inner lengths of the tiered cellblocks, various furniture, lamps, and other unexpected details of life behind bars, such as houseplants and an umbrella casually hung by its handle on an open door. One long panorama, composed of five separate snapshots, captures the penitentiary’s high-walled athletic … more
1 volume, 10 pages
The collectible cigarette card, as a cultural phenomenon, originated in Richmond in 1875, created as a marketing tool by the Richmond-based tobacco manufacturer Allen & Ginter. Cigarette cards were among the first items of ephemera produced specifically for collecting and trading, to be used as proof of purchase for promotional giveaways and, in the long term, to cultivate brand loyalty. Premium albums of this type are much rarer than the individual tobacco cards and were available from the tobacco company issuing the cards in exchange for a complete set of the individual cards or in exchange for coupons issued with the cigarettes. While the tobacco cards were free in packs of cigarettes or tobacco, these albums had to be purchased (or stamps had to be sent in for postage charges). By late in the nineteenth century, the production of cigarette cards had become an industry in itself, practically independent of its tobacco-based origins.
The album, featuring lithography by Lindner, Eddy & Clauss and published by Allen & Ginter, seems to have educational aspirations, though it has a sometimes whimsical sense of geography, suggesting that kangaroos can be found in India, and it mischaracterizes primates as quadrupeds. The album is also, to a modern sensibility, startlingly violent. The cover illustration, for starters, shows a desert with Bedouins on camel and horseback violently stealing lion cubs and slaughtering their … more
John Shaw (1942–2010) was a prolific wildlife photographer and painter strongly associated with Virginia, where he was born and made his home. Quitting his day job as a military satellite tracker in 1982, Shaw, largely self-taught, committed himself to his art, which appeared in countless incarnations—as paintings in private homes, in wildlife magazines and illustrated calendars, on postage stamps and birdseed packages.
The 35mm images in our collection demonstrate a technical sophistication and commitment to realism and detail for which Shaw’s later work was so widely admired. Striking shots of songbirds taking wing, casting shadows on what are apparently artificial backdrops, intermingle with more casual photos of Copper and Butch, the family spaniels, and colorful domestic interiors featuring a reserved older couple, probably Shaw’s parents. Other images include opossum and deer, skunks and flying squirrels, a dozen species of songbird, as many national and state parks, and locales such as California wine country and the covered bridges of Pennsylvania. Of special interest to Virginians may be Shaw’s photos of Monticello, Shenandoah National Park in autumn, and the Blue Ridge Parkway—with images of Mabry Mill and the Puckett Cabin, home of “Aunt” Orelena, the famous midwife. While most of the slides themselves are undated, images of the Seattle World’s Fair place their creation in the early 1960s.
Arrangement and access:
The 1,288 Kodachrome slides are arranged as received, labeled by … more
ca. 1940–1975, bulk 1947–1957
3,888 negatives, photographs
Spanning nearly three decades, this collection includes candid images documenting the growth of an industrial city. In 1912, the DuPont Company selected the Hopewell area as the site of its explosive powder production operations. Completion of the factory coincided with the start of World War I. DuPont built a company town around the factory, providing housing for the workers. As with other industrial planned communities of the early twentieth century, DuPont also provided for the physical, intellectual, and social lives of its workers by building schools, churches, gymnasiums, libraries, clinics and hunt clubs. By the 1930s, several local and national industries recognized Hopewell’s pool of workers and established factories alongside DuPont.
In an effort to preserve individual employee rights in a town largely controlled by industry, Hopewell plant workers joined labor unions such as District 50 of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). The UMWA industrial union was formed in 1890 by the amalgamation of the National Progressive Union (organized 1888) and the mine locals under the Knights of Labor. The UMWA’s stated purpose was to address the lack of continuity of employment, limited access and ownership in company-owned towns, and the extreme occupational hazards that led to regular strikes and constant efforts to improve conditions through collective bargaining. At the time of the construction of Union Hall in 1952, five local chapters were represented within … more