51 4 x 5-inch photographic cards
These photographs conform to the Kodak 1 camera’s distinctive 2.5-inch circular iris, and often capture those in the unidentified photographer’s entourage from a considerable distance, reducing them to delicate miniatures on hillsides or in sylvan glades. Tighter shots reveal happy-looking men and women in comfortably rumbled Victorian traveling clothes—apparently early enthusiasts of historic tourism. Other photos show an oxcart on the road to Petersburg, Grant’s headquarters at City Point (present-day Hopewell), Gen. William “Baldy” Smith’s headquarters during the Siege of Petersburg (referred to in the photo’s handwritten caption as “The Old Friend House”), a group luncheon on the grass of Petersburg’s famous “Crater,” St. John’s churchyard in Richmond, the State Capitol building, the bell tower and statues of Washington and Henry Clay (since removed) on the Capitol grounds. Also shown is a mothballed monitor-class gunship on the James, which, given the time and place the photo were taken, would have to be the Manhattan, Mahopac, or Tippecanoe.
Most of the photos have handwritten captions and are dated, with most taken on October 9, 1889.
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.
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.
approx. 30,000 8 x 10 inch photographic prints
One of the Library’s most important image collections, the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce Photograph Collection is one of the most organized and comprehensive visual resources for twentieth-century Virginia history and culture. Think of it as the official photo album of the commonwealth of Virginia, documenting activity associated with cotton, peanut, textile, tobacco, and fishing industries; farming and harvesting; government; public and higher education; the arts; recreation and entertainment; and countless local festivals for the fifty years between 1922 and 1972. In its subjects the collection resembles (and is indeed the source for) many of the images in our 1939 World’s Fair Photograph Collection (C1:001), also produced by the Chamber of Commerce. Highlights include, but are by no means limited to, photographic coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s 1957 visit to Jamestown, the restoration/re-creation of Colonial Williamsburg, historical reenactments, and areal photos. Images are generally of high quality and upbeat in mood and tone—not at all photojournalistic, but nevertheless capturing fascinating details of locale, transportation, décor, and clothing. The item numbers by which the collection is arranged also reflect the images’ chronology.
Arrangement and access:
A significant portion of the collection is available through the Library’s online collections searchable by keyword and date. The photographs are also searchable by subject using the collection’s original card index.
Related resources and collections:
1939 World’s Fair … more
average size 11 x 15 inches
The state’s bicameral legislature, consisting of the House of Delegates and the Senate, was confirmed in the Virginia Constitution of 1776, but can trace its lineage directly to the 1619 Jamestown House of Burgesses, making it effectively the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere. The present Virginia Constitution requires that the House consist of 90–100 members and the Senate of 33–40 members. Arranged chronologically, the Virginia Legislature Photograph Collection contains annual composite portraits of the General Assembly, beginning near the advent of photography in 1857, which are primarily the work of Richmond’s Foster Studio, and later Dementi Studio. The rosters witness the emergence of women, and the re-emergence of black Virginians, in the realm of state policymaking. Although not every year is represented in the collection, in many cases the rosters feature the only known photographs of early Virginia lawmakers.
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