- The Murder of John R. Moffett: Race, Politics, and Local Control


J. R. Moffett portrait, Thompson, S. H., The Life of John R. Moffett. Salem, Virginia: Mrs. Pearl Bruce Moffett, 1895.

On the evening of 11 November 1892, attorney and Democratic Party operative John T. Clark shot and fatally wounded Reverend John R. Moffett on the streets of Danville. Moffett, minister of North Danville’s Missionary Baptist Church, had feuded with Clark previously. Religious people and churchmen claimed that he was targeted for loudly proclaiming his intense anti-liquor views. In their minds, Moffett was “the first martyr to the Temperance cause,” a heroic figure battling the bottle and its terrible social consequences. In reality, as historian Richard F. Hamm has persuasively argued, Moffett’s murder reflected deep divisions in Danville—and Virginia—of race, politics, and issues of local control. As a closing chapter of our blog posts related to the exhibition “Teetotalers and Moonshiners,” we will take a look at Library sources related to the events leading to the murder and the trial and its aftermath to tease out these themes.

Rev. Moffett published a newspaper dedicated to the Prohibitionist cause. The Tennessee State Library and Archives recently donated a rare issue of Anti-Liquor to the Library. The masthead proclaimed that “Anti-Liquor is a temperance and prohibition monthly, issued for the sole purpose of educating the people upon the evils of the drink habit, and especially to turn light upon the question of Legal Prohibition.” Moffett’s powerful words, delivered in speeches and in the pages of Anti-Liquor and the … read more »

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- “My place of residence is Camp Lee, Virginia”: World War I Military Naturalizations

Beginning in 1795, the United States required individuals who wished to become United States citizens to file a declaration of intent, followed by a petition for naturalization a few years later. In the midst of World War I, Congress decided on 9 May 1918 that “any alien serving in the military or naval service of the United States during the time this country is engaged in the present war may file his petition for naturalization without making the preliminary declaration of intention and without proof of the required five years’ residence within the United States.” The Library of Virginia holds 29 volumes of federal naturalization records from courts in Prince George County, Petersburg, and Hopewell, most of which document the naturalizations of soldiers stationed at Camp Lee (now Fort Lee) in Petersburg during World War I. Most volumes contain indices.

The petitions are the same form used for federal naturalizations beginning in 1906 and contain information on the petitioner’s birth, residence, occupation, military unit, immigration, spouse, and children, as well as the date that the individual became a citizen. But in this case, there was usually no supplemental paperwork, such as a declaration of intent.

As with all naturalization records of this era, an individual’s movements may be traced. Friedel Rosenquist was born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, but immigrated … read more »

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- Vote For Me! Governor’s Election Records at the Library of Virginia

As everyone should be aware, it’s almost time to vote for a new governor of Virginia. Election Day is next Tuesday, 7 November, but going to the polls today can be rather boring compared to elections of the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition to casting a vote, early elections were an occasion to gather at the courthouse, socialize, have drinks, and catch up on the latest news. Over time, laws and regulations imposed a more serious and sober atmosphere on the elections: an act was passed in 1838 prohibiting betting, and another to prevent drunkenness and disorder was passed in 1866.

The Library of Virginia contains a variety of resources on elections, including election returns in both published and manuscripts sources. The website for the Virginia Department of Elections (formerly called the State Board of Elections) shows a variety of returns. The Library has also developed research guides and bibliographies for Presidential and Congressional Election Returns, Gubernatorial and State Office Elections Results, and Published Returns. A collection of materials related to the electoral college has also been digitized.

 

In addition to the two laws mentioned above, Virginia’s electoral processes have seen a number of changes over the past four hundred years.

Starting in colonial times and well into the 19th century, voters stated their vote publicly to the … read more »

- Statue Stories: Thomas J. Jackson and Civil War Remembrance


Statue of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (1874). John H. Foley (1818-1874). State Art Collection of Virginia

 This is the first in a series of blog posts about the statues of Virginia’s Capitol Square, which are a part of the State Art Collection. The State Art Collection includes around 450 works of art exhibited in the Capitol, the Executive Mansion, and state agency buildings. Pieces have entered the collection through donation, purchase, and state commission.

Virginia’s Capitol Square, which houses the State Capitol building and the Executive Mansion, is dotted with statues. While they may fade into the background for many, each of these statues has its own history, arising not only from the story of its subject but from the circumstances of its creation. This post will create an object biography for one of those Capitol Square statues, the piece created by John Henry Foley in 1875 to depict Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. The current debates over Confederate statuary focus mainly on the subject of the statue, while the process by which the statues were conceived, commissioned, created, and erected is overlooked.

Stonewall Jackson, who earned his famous nickname during the First Battle of Manassas in 1861, was one of the Confederacy’s most lauded generals. Jackson died on 10 May 1863 due to an injury sustained at the Battle of Chancellorsville, and the news spread quickly through the United States and abroad. By early … read more »

- Election Time: Poll Books of the 1867 Election

On 22 October 1867, African American men cast votes for the first time in Virginia; this significant event was recorded in poll books in counties and cities across the state. After the Civil War, Congress passed the 14th Amendment which, among other things, provided citizenship for freedmen and women born in the United States, guaranteed them equal protection under the law, and included provisions protecting the right to vote for male citizens over the age of twenty-one. The Virginia General Assembly failed to ratify this amendment, and as a result, Virginia was placed under federal military rule. Under the provisions of the Reconstruction Acts of 1867, it was necessary for the states of the old Confederacy to call conventions to draft new state constitutions. The commander of the Military District No. 1, to which Virginia belonged, registered male citizens twenty-one years of age or older and supervised the election that asked voters to vote for or against a convention to draft a new constitution and also to elect delegates to the convention, if held. The call for convention was approved and twenty-four African American men were elected as delegates to the constitutional convention. Over 93,000 African American men participated in this election and as each voter arrived at his polling place, his name was dutifully recorded in the poll book for that district.

 

The … read more »

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- Ghosts in the Archives: Communing with the Virginia Historical Inventory


Photograph of the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, 1936. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In recent years, tourists and locals alike have flocked to Virginia’s many old downtown areas to attend ghost tours. These events have quickly become popular ways to learn about the ways that the past lingers in the present day, but the relationship between Virginia’s history and its ghosts is much older than the tours. The Virginia Historical Inventory (VHI) records held at The Library of Virginia illustrate that historical ghost-lore is not a new trend; Virginians in the 1930s and 1940s saw hauntings as appropriate and desirable elements of historical properties as well.

The VHI was part of the Federal Writers Project (FWP), a leg of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. The FWP program hired authors to write, and researchers to find and document, iconic American stories and locations. In Virginia, researchers spanned out across the commonwealth documenting the location, status, and history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings. This brought them to familiar cities like Williamsburg and Alexandria, and to smaller, more rural places that were best described by the nearest highway. They collected the information they needed from archives, newspapers, and interviews with homeowners and neighbors. Written sources gave them the names of previous owners, construction dates, and famous events. The oral interviews filled in the stories not present in the archives. In many cases, when the researchers spoke with locals they used ghost … read more »

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- Opportunity Time: The Records of Virginia Governor Linwood Holton


Inauguration of Governor Linwood Holton, 17 January 1970, A. Linwood Holton Papers, 1943-1970. Accession 31535, Personal papers collection, Library of Virginia.

On Monday, 16 October 2017, the City of Roanoke will dedicate Holton Plaza, a new park named in honor of former Virginia Governor A. Linwood Holton (1970-1974). Out of the Box thought this would be a good time to spotlight some of the Library’s collections related to Holton.

Abner Linwood Holton Jr. was born 21 September 1923 in Roanoke, Virginia, to Abner Linwood Holton and Edith Van Gorder Holton. He attended local schools, before receiving his B.A. from Washington and Lee University in 1944. Holton served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946. He then attended Harvard Law School, receiving his LL.B. in 1949. Admitted to the Virginia bar that same year, Holton commenced practicing in Roanoke and became active in the Virginia Republican Party. Following an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1965, Holton then won election in 1969, serving as governor of Virginia from 1970 to 1974. After his term ended, he served as assistant secretary of state for congressional relations in 1974. Holton resigned that position and practiced law in Washington D.C. He married Virginia “Jinx” Harrison Rogers on 10 January 1953, and had four children with her: Anne, Tayloe, Woody, and Dwight.



Opportunity Time: A Memoir by Governor Linwood Holton, The University of Virginia Press, 2008.

Gubernatorial Records

  • The records of the Holton administration (1970-1974) are one of the largest 20th century gubernatorial collections held by the Library. Housed in
  • read more »

- It Came From YouTube!: the State Records Film Collection


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Have you ever been curious about the birds who call Virginia home? Or wanted to explore the history of Richmond? Or maybe take a closer look at the administration of Governor Linwood Holton? Or perhaps catch a view of the early years of Pony Penning Day in Chincoteague? If so, check out the State Government Records Collection Playlist on the Library of Virginia’s YouTube channel.

The Library of Virginia has a small collection of motion picture films that were created for K-12 classroom education or for other documentary purposes. These films were originally part of a circulating collection managed by the Library, providing libraries, public schools, and the general public with educational film resources. Some of the films are informative, some are entertaining, and some are just plain outdated, but all provide a glimpse into what students may have been learning in classrooms across the state before filmstrips went the way of the typewriter and the mimeograph machine. The following films have been digitized and are now available online:

See the collection’s finding aid for more … read more »

- Not If You Were The Last Man On Earth!: Virginia’s Board of Censors


Movie poser, The Last Man On Earth. Source: imdb.com/

The Virginia Board of Censors (1922–1966), later the Division of Motion Picture Censorship, was tasked with identifying obscene, indecent, and immoral scenes in motion pictures. The purpose of the body was to regulate motion pictures and provide a system of examination, approval, and regulation of banners, posters, and other advertising material related to films. The board also leveled penalties for violation of its requirements. The law establishing the board made it essentially illegal to sell or exhibit any commercial film that had not been officially approved and licensed by the board.

In 1924, a silent film, The Last Man on Earth presented challenges for the Board of Censors in several areas. The movie takes place in the future; a young man believes he has met the love of his life only to be rejected by the young lady.  He is so devastated by her rejection that he moves to the mountains, determined to live his life as a hermit. While he is away from civilization a devastating worldwide plague kills every fertile man on Earth over the age of 14.  The plague called “masculitis” results in an overpopulation of women. The disease manages to become a de facto women’s rights movement. In the United States, positions in Congress, the courts, and the presidency are all held by females.

A female aviator on a flight across the … read more »

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- “Of Liquid Death, To Which Men Flee:” Temperance Reform Efforts in Antebellum Norfolk

Restricting the use of alcohol was not a novel idea in the Roaring Twenties when Prohibition banned illicit spirits nationwide. Inspired by the reforming impulses of the Second Great Awakening, civic leaders across the country prior to the Civil War worked to curb alcohol consumption, which they viewed as a threat to the individual and society. One temperance advocate wrote, in the 18 March 1847 issue of the American Beacon and Norfolk and Portsmouth Daily Advertiser, that great efforts were needed for the “extermination of the ruinous flood which belches forth from the distillery, the extinguishment of the liquid fire, which has so long been the devil’s chief instrument in peopling jails, alms houses, hospitals, jails, grave-yards, and the bottomless pit.” By eliminating one of the root causes of society’s ills—drunkenness—businessmen, religious leaders, and reformers sought to help the intemperate become productive members of society and by extension elevate the community.

 

Norfolk’s stagnant economy during the 1840s and 1850s pushed local boosters to embrace temperance organizations to help revive the city’s fortunes. By November 1841 teetotalers could attend a meeting of the Norfolk Total Abstinence Society and five years later the Young Men’s Temperance Society was organized. Reformers aimed their efforts at males arriving in the seaport who might be open to temptation and vice; during this period it would be unthinkable that … read more »

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