Monthly Archives: October 2012

- Mug Shot Monday: Elmer Raines, No. 8824


Photograph of Elmer Raines, #8824, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 694, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot MondayArchives Month Edition.  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting early parole information in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  Elmer Raines, the subject of this week’s post, was paroled in July 1911.  His freedom was shortlived.  Raines was back in the Penitentiary by November 1911 under a new name, Charles H. Kimball, one of many aliases “Raines” used.

Thirty-five-year-old Pennsylvania native Elmer Raines arrived at the Virginia Penitentiary on 14 July 1909.  Raines was convicted of forgery in the Roanoke Corporation Court and sentenced to four years in prison.  At the time of his incarceration, Raines had two known aliases:  Henry Fairfax and Frank Fairfax.  Penitentiary officials also learned of a new one:  William H. Reynolds.  On 2 February 1911, Penitentiary Superintendent J.B. Wood received a letter from a Mrs. William H. Reynolds of Macon, Georgia, inquiring if her husband, Elmer Raines, would be paroled in July.  “I have tried to be patient,” Mrs. Reynolds wrote, “and sometimes think I can not get along alone and make a living[,] however I have been very successful so far.”  By June 1911, Mrs. Reynolds’ fortunes had changed.  “[K]indly do all you can to get [Raines] pardoned in July,” she wrote Wood, “for I need his protection more than I can tell you.”  The Virginia Penitentiary … read more »

- “And the piano, it sounds like a carnival”


Schomacker Piano-Forte Manufacturing Co. Piano Catalog, H. W. Gray vs. Bettie L. Payne, 1884, Frederick County Circuit Court Ended Causes (Barcode 1141828).

In May of 1883, H. W. Gray, president of the Schomacker Piano-Forte Manufacturing Company, brought suit against Bettie L. Payne in the Frederick County Circuit Court for a debt of $500.  Bettie had purchased a piano from the company via one of its agents, William H. Manby.  After delivery, she refused to pay based on her belief that the piano was not of the quality that she had been promised.  She claimed to have purchased the Schomacker in part due to statements made in promotional materials about honors and prizes that the pianos had received at the International Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876—claims she now believed to be false and misleading.  In particular, she objected to the Schomacker being much inferior in tone and touch than she had been led to believe by the advertising. 

The Schomacker Piano-Forte Manufacturing Company was established in Philadelphia in 1838 by John Henry Schomacker of Vienna, Austria.  In 1855, he built a large piano factory at the corner of Catherine and Eleventh streets thanks in part to his success after his pianos won big prizes at various fairs and exhibitions in the United States.  The factory made upright, grand, and “square” grand pianos of high quality woods that were heavily carved in a Germanic style.  A big selling point was that the wires of the pianos were electroplated … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Joe Perry, No. 6733


Photograph of Joe Perry, #6733, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 21, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot MondayArchives Month Edition.  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting early parole records in the Virginia Penitentiary.  Joe Perry, the subject of this week’s post, was paroled in December 1910.  After his release, he exchanged several warm letters with Superintendent J.B. Wood.

Forty-two-year-old Joe Perry of Buchanan County arrived at the Virginia Penitentiary on 30 August 1906 to begin serving a ten-year sentence for second degree murder.  He was a model prisoner and did not violate any rules during his incarceration.  In May 1909, Perry found a repeating shotgun which one of the guards had left in a common area of the penitentiary and returned it to prison officials.  On 14 December 1910, this incident, along with Perry’s good conduct and clemency petitions submitted by Buchanan County citizens, led Governor William Hodges Mann to commute his sentence to eight years.  This made Perry parole eligible.  Five days later the Virginia Penitentiary Board of Directors granted it without requiring Perry to secure employment.

Upon his return home to Council, Virginia, Perry wrote Superintendent J.B. Wood on 14 January 1911 to thank him.  “I feel that I owe you so many thanks for the kind treatment I received from you and your officials during my time there,” wrote Perry.  “I can’t find words … read more »

- Dueling potters


Image scanned from THE BOOK OF TRADES, published by Jacob Johnson, 1807.  (Library of Virginia Special Collections call number T47 .B72 1807).

Benjamin DuVal’s pottery in Richmond, Virginia is one of the best-documented early Virginia pottery manufactories, with articles about it appearing in at least two scholarly journals.[1] Still, other than DuVal’s advertisement for a potter in the 23 February 1791 issue of the Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser and an 1808 notice for DuVal’s Richmond Tile Manufactory, there has been no known manuscript information for the period 1791-1808. However, three judgments in the Richmond City Hustings Court provide new insight into the early operations of the pottery.

As revealed in the 1795 case of Allinson v. DuVal, Benjamin DuVal got a response to his 1791 advertisement for a potter–and perhaps more than he had bargained for. The suit papers contain a broadside dated 1 July 1791 in which DuVal warns the public that the Richmond Earthen-Ware Manufactory is his property and that accounts should not be paid to Samuel Allinson, potter. Within a couple of weeks, a reconciliation seems to have occurred. On 16 July 1791, articles of agreement were signed between DuVal and Allinson for the Richmond Earthen-Ware Manufactory. The agreement was signed by the manufactory’s two journeymen, Richard Esdall and John Carty.  

Allinson had paid for Carty’s passage from New York to Richmond in April 179[1/2?].[2] This is the earliest documentation of northern influence on the pottery. Litigation between DuVal and … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Edmonia M. Peebles, No. 7803


Photograph of Edmonia M. Peebles, #7803, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 98, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot MondayArchives Month Edition!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting early parole records in the Virginia Penitentiary. Edmonia M. Peebles, the subject of this week’s post, brutally killed her husband.  Her subsequent manslaughter conviction as well as the decision to grant her parole was controversial.

On the afternoon of 31 August 1907, David C. Peebles and his 11-year-old daughter Mary Sue arrived at their home in Bedford County, having spent several days in Lynchburg.  His wife, Edmonia, was working in their detached kitchen.  David was drunk and argumentative.  David cursed her and accused her of neglecting her responsibilities.  Edmonia responded that “if I were a man I’d give you a good thrashing, but I can’t beat you.”  Enraged, David attempted to choke her; Edmonia grabbed a stove-lifter and stuck him several times on the head.  Peebles grabbed an axe handle and beat her with it.  Edmonia got away from him, ran into the house, grabbed a shotgun and returned to the kitchen.  Peebles was washing the blood off his face. “You see that don’t you?” he shouted.  “You made me do it,” Edmonia replied, “but I want to know if you are going to beat me anymore.”  Peebles grabbed the axe and started towards her.  “I am not going to let you beat me … read more »

- Halifax Tax Ledger Turned Child’s Scrapbook


Halifax County (Va.) Capitation and Personal Property Tax Ledger, 1861 (Barcode 1103291).

During a recent cataloging project, what at first seemed like a standard exercise revealed a nice surprise.  From its exterior, the Halifax County (Va.) Capitation and Personal Property Tax Ledger, 1861, had all of the makings of an ordinary volume of county taxes.  This was certainly true in 1861 when it was originally created.  Each page lists the names of individuals along with details of how much capitation tax (a head or poll tax levied on individuals at a fixed rate) and personal property tax was owed, along with details about what kind of personal property was being taxed (for example–furniture, watches, plate, carriages, money, livestock, and slaves).

At some point, however, someone, or more likely several someones, used a little more than half of the volume as a scrapbook.  Pasted over the original document pages are a wide variety of clippings from magazines and newspapers.  The clippings are primarily images; although some poems are included as well as short articles about artists and writers and a biography of British Prime Minister William E. Gladstone written on the occasion of his death in 1898.  The subjects of the scrapbook are related to Biblical scenes, European royalty, Napoleon, American founding families such as the Jeffersons and Washingtons, travel, pets, artists and writers, poetry, and reproductions of paintings, drawings, and photographs with artistic themes.

A note … read more »

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- Mug Shot Monday: Ben Parker, No. 8432


Photograph of Ben Parker, #8432, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 110, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday–Archives Month Edition!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  This month’s entries will spotlight early parole records.  An 1898 Act of the Virginia General Assembly (amended several times) granted the Virginia Penitentiary Board of Directors power to parole prisoners if they met certain conditions. To be eligible the inmate must have served half his term, have not broken any prison rules for the two years preceding the date of one-half his term and the prisoner must have assurance of employment upon his discharge. In 1915, the Virginia Attorney General issued an opinion stating that any legislation limiting the power of the governor to grant clemency was unconstitutional.

On 30 January 1909, Ben F. Parker, a 30-year-old African American from Nansemond County, arrived at the Virginia Penitentiary to begin serving a three-year sentence for forgery.  Parker was sent to work on the Bedford County road force operated by W.H. McMillan.  He was a model prisoner.  After serving half his sentence, Parker applied for a conditional pardon (parole) in August 1910.  C.T. Allen, a farmer in Good View, Virginia, agreed to employ Parker on his farm for $6 a month for seventeen months.  Allen also promised to “take a friendly interest” in Parker, “to counsel and advise him in which … read more »

- When Disaster Struck the Commonwealth: The 1933 Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane


American Red Cross Promotional Poster, circa 1930s.

With good reason, hurricanes are both a familiar and forbidden subject in the state of Virginia. The Atlantic hurricane season is officially from 1 June to 30 November, with the season’s peak occurring between August-October. During the very active hurricane season of 1933, the Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane hit coastal Virginia on 23 August 1933, causing catastrophic damage.  The storm was first noticed when it was east of the Windward Islands.  By 18 August, the tropical storm was 900 miles east of Puerto Rico and within 150 miles of Bermuda, and on 21 August it became a hurricane.  On 23 August at 9:20 A.M., the storm changed track and the eye passed over Norfolk, Virginia, and moved north.  Some of the lowest pressures ever measured in Virginia occurred with this hurricane.  A second hurricane would hit the mid-Atlantic a few weeks later. 

The stricken area covered large parts of Norfolk, Princess Anne, Northampton, Accomack, Elizabeth City, York, Gloucester, Mathews, and Lancaster counties.  To a lesser extent, Northumberland, Richmond, and Westmoreland counties were also affected.  In all, the hurricane caused $27.2 million in damage and fewer than 18 fatalities in Virginia.  The 1933 hurricane season left a destructive path all the way into Pennsylvania and remained the worst series of storms on record in the area until Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

In January 1983, on the eve of … read more »

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- Archives Month 2012: Boxes to Bandwidth


Boxes to Bandwidth: Reconstructing the Past for the Future, Virginia Archives Month 2012 Offical Poster.

October brings back falling leaves, cooler weather, football, and most importantly Archives Month! Governor Bob McDonnell has officially proclaimed October as Virginia Archives Month. And the theme of this year’s celebration in the commonwealth is “Boxes to Bandwidth: Reconstructing the Past for the Future.” Archives Month celebrates the institutions and people responsible for preserving and making accessible records that play a critical role in preserving our documentary heritage. The work of archivists gives us a sense of being part of a larger picture and helps us begin to see ourselves connected to others – family, community, nation, or a group defined by ethnicity, religion, work, or play. For more information and to view images submitted by participating Virginia institutions, check out the Virginia Archives Month 2012 website. This year’s theme “Boxes to Bandwidth” is reflected in the 2012 Virginia Archives Month poster with images chosen to highlight Virginia’s rich history of service, innovation, creativity, and artistry.

Archives Month is a great time to attend a book talk, program, or workshop and to explore your local archives repository. The Library of Virginia is celebrating Archives Month with behind-the-scenes tours at 10:00 A.M. on October 10th and 24th. David Howard will present a talk on his work Lost Rights: The Misadventures of a Lost American Relic on Wednesday, October 10th, at 12:00. … read more »

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