- Hidden Treasures and Lost History: Murphy’s Hotel in Richmond

Working with state records often means finding the most interesting things in the most unexpected places. For example, I never thought that going through Land Office records would lead me to a piece of Richmond’s lost history.

The records in question were among the papers of the Superintendent of Weights and Measures, whose duties were transferred to the register of the Land office by a legislative act in 1867. The superintendent retained a series of advertising circulars, printed materials sent by various companies promoting their products—including various hotels advertising their amenities and rates. Although most of the hotels that sent their pamphlets to the superintendent were located in Washington, D. C., one local hotel was also represented—Murphy’s Hotel, which stood directly across from the Library of Virginia’s current location, at the corner of 8th & Broad St. The building, which shares the block with St. Peter’s Church and the former Hotel Richmond, was torn down in 2007. The original plan was to replace the hotel with a modern high-rise that would house offices for the Commonwealth of Virginia; however, this has not yet occurred.

Murphy’s Hotel began life as oyster shack owned by John Murphy, who immigrated to Virginia from Ireland at the age of six. Murphy joined the Confederate Army when he was 20, serving at different times in both the artillery and … read more »

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- Love Letters in the Archives

Postcard image, undated.

While working on a project involving the Middlesex County Chancery Causes, I noticed a case that was filled with scandal and intrigue.  Middlesex Chancery Cause, 1907-033, Andrew Courtney vs. Mary Courtney is a divorce suit in which both parties accuse the other of adultery. Andrew claimed his wife ran off to Connecticut with a married man named Beverly Smith, and Mary responded by claiming that Andrew was guilty of adultery himself.

As evidence, Mary produced several letters written to her husband by various women, one of which included a lock of hair.  That letter, dated 30 August 1906 from a Miss Ginny Davis, proclaimed “Here is a peice [sic] of my hair look at it and think of me.”

While it is sad to think that some of the love letters that end up in the archives are the result of divorce suits and romance gone wrong in one way or another, it also proves the quest for love is something that is surely timeless.

The Middlesex Chancery Causes, 1754-1912, are available online through the Chancery Records Index on the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Memory site.  The lock of hair reference above has also been scanned.


–Mary Dean Carter, Local Records Archival Assistant… read more »

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- Ten Years Burning Down the Road: Web Archiving at LVA

Gov. Mark R. Warner (left) and U.S. Sen. John Warner (second from left) tour an intake center and temporary shelter for Gulf Coast hurricane evacuees at Fort Pickett Army National Guard Base near Blackstone, Virginia, on Friday, Sept. 9, 2005. Governor Warner says Fort Pickett and the nearby Virginia United Methodist Assembly Center are ready to house up to 1,400 evacuees, offering them medical, educational and social services at the base before dispatching them to longer term housing at the church center and other locations. From the archived version of www.governor.virginia.gov, captured Sept. 19, 2005.

September 2015 marks the ten year anniversary of web archiving at the Library of Virginia. In the fall of 2005, the Library partnered with the Internet Archive for a pilot program using their new web archiving tool, Archive-It (AI). The pilot program ran from September to November 2005 and captured the websites of Governor Mark Warner’s administration, campaign web sites for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and selected Virginia political blogs. After the successful completion of the pilot program, the Library used funding provided by Congress for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) to subscribe to Archive-It. Over the past ten years, the Library has created 21 collections containing over 3000 URLS and has crawled over 89 million documents and 5.1 terabytes of data. Following the Library’s web archiving collection guidelines, the Virginia Web Archive includes the web content of Virginia State Government and Virginia’s political leaders.

Some notable collections include:

This collection preserves the web sites that document Virginia’s November 2005 state-wide election. Included are former Governor Mark Warner’s website, the first lady’s website, the Virginia Democratic and Republican Party websites, as well as sites for the candidates for the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. Also included are blogs related to the election, websites of cabinet secretaries, and sites for Warner

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- Have You Seen The Vigilante Man?: Reconstruction Era Violence

Thomas Nast.

Life for African Americans in Virginia following the end of the Civil War can be described as uncertain at best. As the social balance between white and black Virginians was virtually turned on its head, Virginia’s African American population expected to be governed by the same system of law and order as their white neighbors. Unfortunately, this was usually not the case, and stories of mob violence directed towards African Americans permeate the historical record immediately following Emancipation. These stories are being uncovered daily by the Library of Virginia’s African American Narrative project and made public by the Library’s new exhibit, Remaking Virginia: Transformation Through Emancipation. These acts often erupted out of allegations of crimes committed by African Americans and usually ended in an illegal execution of the alleged criminals, bypassing the standard presumption of “innocent until proven guilty.”

Two instances of such violence were recently discovered in the Library’s collection of Coroners’ Inquisitions. Coroners’ inquisitions are investigations into the deaths of individuals who died in a sudden, violent, unnatural or suspicious manner, or died without medical attendance. They are a revealing and sometimes gruesome source of historical information. In Accomack County, sometime in early April 1866, a coroner and his jury were sent to examine the body of an African American man found hanging from a tree. He was named James Holden, but little … read more »

- Ask A Curator Day – September 16!

What will you #AskACurator?

On September 16, the Library will be taking your questions for our third year of Ask a Curator Day. You’ll be able ask curators from cultural institutions around the world questions on Twitter using the hashtag #AskACurator. These can be about collections, processes, personal favorites, or the field as a whole. Direct your questions to specific institutions, or just use the hashtag and see who responds from around the world! There are already 868 museums from 47 different countries signed up to participate.

Our LVA specialists will be ready to field questions throughout the day. We’re here to open a window onto our process and the brains behind what the public sees. Check out our schedule of experts below, and get those questions ready!

9 am: Audrey McElhinney, Senior Rare Book Librarian

10 am: Barbara Batson, Exhibitions Coordinator

11 am: Adrienne Robertson, Education and Programs Coordinator

12 pm: Vince Brooks, Senior Local Records Archivist and Blog Editor

1 pm: Meghan Townes, Visual Studies Collection Registrar

2 pm: Cassandra Farrell, Map Specialist & Senior Reference Archivist

3 pm: Leslie Courtois, Conservator

4 pm: Dana Puga, Prints & Photographs Collection Specialist


Tweet your questions @LibraryofVA with #AskACurator on Sept. 16th!

 … read more »

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- Are You Ready for Some Football?

Photo of Carl Hairston, NFL Historical Imagery

This week marks the start of the NFL’s regular season. In honor of the return of football, this week’s Out of the Box spotlights an unusual discovery from the state records collection:  two NFL contracts from a former member of the Philadelphia Eagles.

In Virginia, unclaimed property is remitted to the state if it has been abandoned, meaning it has been held for an extended period of time with no owner contact and there has been a “good faith” effort to locate the owner. This includes safe deposit boxes, which are presumed abandoned after five years. The Department of the Treasury, Division of Unclaimed Property, then sends any papers or records from those lots to the Library of Virginia.  State records archivists appraise these records to identify papers with historical, legal, informational, or intrinsic value. For more information, check out this blog post on unclaimed property.

Lot number 13019 contains two contracts between Carl Hairston and the Philadelphia Eagles Football Club, the first beginning on 1 April 1981 and the second on 1 April 1982, although both were signed 8 July 1980. The contracts stipulate the expectations of the club for Hairston’s participation in training, practice, and publicity, as well as the details of compensation, conduct, and cases of injury.

The contract makes other expectations clear as well; for instance, it states that “Without read more »

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- Kaine Email Project @ LVA: Tim Butcher’s Hurricane Katrina Story

Kaine Email Project @ LVA:  Tim Butcher’s Hurricane Katrina Story

This is the eleventh in a series of posts spotlighting recently released email from Governor Tim Kaine’s administration.  These posts are not meant to be comprehensive but to encourage further exploration in the Kaine administration records (electronic and paper).

Photograph of Tim Butcher, undated, from the 11 January 2008 issue of This Week, the LSU Hospitals newsletter.

Last week’s post focused on Bill Leighty’s first-hand account of the earliest days of the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. This post will focus on the experience of Thomas “Tim” Patrick Butcher as shared in an email forwarded to Leighty. Butcher, a registered nurse, was the University Hospital Emergency Preparedness Director for the Medical Center of Louisiana in New Orleans (MCLNO) during Katrina. Flooding stranded Butcher and his staff at University Hospital for five days without power and low supplies.

In a 19 September 2005 email to Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Director of Emergency Preparedness Erin Downey, Butcher thanked Downey for her assistance. “There were some glitches in how things played out after landfall (to put it MILDLY),” Butcher wrote, “but all of our staff got out along with patients on [F]riday after the storm. I hope to be at as many of the after action meetings (assuming they will let me in, ha ha….for at a number of higher levels, those charged with making decisions failed miserably in their responsibilities to do so).”… read more »

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- Kaine Email Project @LVA: 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

This is the tenth in a series of posts spotlighting recently released email from Governor Tim Kaine’s administration.  These posts are not meant to be comprehensive but to encourage further exploration in the Kaine administration records (electronic and paper).

William H. Leighty, Chief of Staff to Governor Mark Warner (2002-2006) and Governor Tim Kaine (2006-2007)

This week marks the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in Louisiana. The costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States, Katrina caused widespread damage from Texas to Florida. The storm surge breached the levee system surrounding New Orleans, flooding most of the city and the surrounding parishes.  The Kaine email collection would be the last place one would expect to find records related to the aftermath of the destruction in Louisiana, given that Tim Kaine was not governor in 2005.  However, the Kaine email collection includes the email of William H. Leighty,  who served as chief of staff to Governor Mark Warner (2002-2006) and held the same position under Governor Kaine (2006-2007). On 1 September 2005, Governor Warner dispatched Leighty and Policy Aide Ryan Childress to Louisiana for two weeks to coordinate state-to-state assistance and supplementing the relief operations of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Leighty’s email dispatches document their travel to Louisiana, Leighty’s responsibilities, clashes with the federal government, and their work assisting fire fighters.

Leighty traveled to Baton Rouge at the suggestion of Governor Warner and at … read more »

- A Few of Our Favorite Things: Letterhead in the Archive Part 4

Governor Pollard Executive Papers, 1930

It’s been a while, but as promised in a previous post, here’s another look at some of the plethora of letterheads and stationery found in our archives.  The original text by Vince Brooks is included here for context.


Commercial stationery can offer a fascinating snapshot of a place or time. Scholars of this subject point out that the rich illustrations and elaborate printing of commercial letterheads, billheads, and envelopes correspond with the dramatic rise in industrialization in America. According to one expert, the period 1860 to 1920 represents the heyday of commercial stationery, when Americans could see their growing nation reflected in the artwork on their bills and correspondence. As commercial artists influenced the job printing profession, the illustrations became more detailed and creative.

Robert Biggert, an authority on commercial stationery, wrote an extensive study of letterhead design for the Ephemera Society of America entitled “Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery” and donated his personal collection of stationery, now known as the Biggert Collection, to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.

The primary role of these illustrations at the time of their use was publicity. The images showed bustling factories, busy street corners, and sturdy bank buildings–all portraying ideas of solidity, activity, and progress. Other types of symbolism can be found in commercial stationery, the most … read more »

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- Howdy!: The Letters of John R. Morris

Recently I was approving some transcriptions done by our virtual Library volunteers on the Making History: Transcribe website and came across a collection of letters written by the Morris family of Louisa County, Virginia. This one letter caught my attention because it was written in July 1863 and I’ve always found the Battle of Gettysburg to be fascinating. The author, John R. Morris (1835-1905), served with the 57th Virginia Infantry Regiment which was a part of General Lewis A. Armistead’s Brigade and participated in Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Morris wrote to his father Richard A. Morris (1805-1881) on 10 July 1863 recounting the news that several Colonels were killed during the battle, stating, “Pickets Division got cut all to peases [pieces]. Our regiment went in with 500 and 20 men and come out with 200 and 70 men. Tha [there] was half of our company kill [killed] and wounded and missing.”  Morris also writes about family members that were in battle noting that “John W. Morris has not bin [been] seean [seen] sence [since] the fight.”

While I find it interesting to read a letter written by someone who participated in Pickett’s Charge, what I also found so endearing about this letter, and over fifty others written, were the simple things that Morris wrote in his letters. Almost every other … read more »


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