140 drawings in pen-and-ink, pencil, and watercolors, ranging in size from 25 x 35 cm to 40 x 45 cm
The WPA Historic Houses Drawings Collection includes 140 images of houses, courthouses, churches, mill houses, and taverns, representing 39 Virginia counties. In the early- to mid-1930s, the Virginia State Commission on Conservation and Development’s Division of History and Archaeology received funds from the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) Federal Art Project to commission five artists to create drawings for a publication on historic Virginia shrines. Like other WPA-funded projects, the artists applied for work through local emergency relief offices before being assigned to the Federal Art Project. Several of the artists also contributed to other New Deal projects at the time, including stamp designs for the National Recovery Act and illustrations for the Index of American Design, a nationwide Federal Art Project.
Under the direction of Hamilton J. Eckenrode, the commission’s Division of History and Archaeology began making a record of historic buildings in Virginia in 1932. Field assistant (and artist) Rex M. Allyn took photographs of buildings while on assignment to the Division’s Historic Highway Marker project. From 1932 to 1937, Allyn and four other artists—Edward A. Darby, Dorothea A. Farrington, E. Neville Harnsberger, and Elsie J. Mistie—each created numerous pen-and-ink and pencil drawings from the photographs. In some cases, the artists were asked to make adjustments to the architectural details to … more
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.
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
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
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