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A Virginia Soldier in Mexico

Ed. note: Today we have a guest post from Brexton O’Donnell, Tour Counselor, Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission, highlighting some of the content collected during the Profiles of Honor mobile tour.

Photographs taken by, and belonging to, Clarence Pax, taken during his participation in the Poncho Villa Expedition. Courtesy of George Goodson Jr. (Pax)

The United States entered the Great War in 1917, and began deploying large forces to France near the end of that year. Even before then, American volunteers were serving in France with the French and British militaries. But France was not the only place that Americans, and Virginians, in the service were deployed before we entered World War I. In 1916, US Army forces, at the direction of President Woodrow Wilson, entered Mexico in pursuit of the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, who had raided across the border into American territory. In response to the crisis, the Virginia National Guard was federalized, and some units were deployed to the border between Texas and Mexico.

Clarence Pax was one of the Virginia National Guardsmen who was deployed to the Mexican border in 1916. Having graduated from Auburn at age sixteen, he was a rather remarkable young man. He was serving in the National Guard at the time of the Pancho Villa Expedition, and was among those sent to the border. Pax took many photos during his deployment, and 100 years later, his family brought them to the Virginia WWI and WWII … read more »

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Erin Go Bragh! Images of St Patrick’s Day in the Visual Studies Collection

The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls...,  Visual Studies Collection, Library of Virginia.

This March we are highlighting vintage St. Patrick’s Day postcards from the Visual Studies Collection at the Library of Virginia. What is the backstory behind some of the images and symbols we associate with St. Patrick’s Day? And how did Virginians in the past celebrate this most Irish of holidays?

It may surprise many Americans to learn that St. Patrick’s Day did not become an official public holiday in Ireland until 1903. As the feast day of St. Patrick, known as the “Apostle of Ireland,” the “holy day” traditionally featured religious observances. In the United States, Irish immigrants embraced the holiday as a way to celebrate their shared heritage and honor the saint. It was in New York City, not Dublin, that the first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in 1762 (see the Tenement Museum’s excellent history of St. Patrick’s Day in New York).

The dual nature of St. Patrick’s Day as a commemoration of the saint and an expression of Irish identity is evident in the iconography associated with the holiday. We see St. Patrick represented by his golden crozier (hooked staff), a bishop’s mitre, and shamrocks, which legend held he used to teach the doctrine of the Trinity. While the early history of these symbols is unclear, they were in use by the 17th century, when they were included on coinageread more »

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Ich Liebe Dich! Vintage Valentines

Happy Valentine’s Day to our Out of the Box readers! Valentine’s Day is perhaps the most critiqued of any holiday for being “made-up,” but as a celebration of romantic love it dates back to the 14th century. Mass-produced valentines became increasingly popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, coinciding with another trend—humorous postcards portraying Dutch and German immigrants. HA! Weren’t expecting that, were you?

These postcards played on turn-of-the-century stereotypes about German culture and speech, and although the valentines displayed below seem to have been created in fun, other examples were more negative, reflecting native-born Americans fears about waves of new immigrants as threats to American values and jobs.


To see more examples of Vintage Valentines, check out LOOK WHAT WE GOT, the Library of Virginia’s Tumblr page, which is frequently updated with new additions to the visual studies collection, or take a look at our Vintage Valentines Pinterest board. To learn more about immigrant experience in Virginia, check out the Library’s exhibit New Virginians: 1619-2019 & Beyond, through 7 December 2019.… read more »

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Poe, Richmond, and the Universe

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with Virginia Humanities, sponsors residential fellows during the academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. Richard Kopley, Distinguished Professor of English, Emeritus, Penn State DuBois, spent the autumn researching and writing for an upcoming biography, Thoughts on Poe. The 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth will be on 19 January 2019.

I had begun a biography of Edgar Allan Poe, covering his time with his parents, actors Elizabeth Arnold Poe and David Poe, in Boston and New York—then with Elizabeth Arnold Poe alone in Charleston, Norfolk, and Richmond—and finally with foster parents John and Frances Allan after Mrs. Poe died in Richmond. John Allan, a partner in the mercantile firm of Ellis & Allan, later took the family to London to establish a branch called Allan & Ellis. The Allans returned to Richmond when the Panic of 1819, and more particularly, tobacco mania destroyed Allan & Ellis and threatened the entire firm. My recent time at the Library of Virginia was devoted principally to that period after their return to Richmond in 1820. I can offer as a sample of my research a newspaper find of cosmic proportions.

Poe probably had access to a telescope at the Dubourg school in London, where he studied in 1816 and 1817. His foster father … read more »

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“If They Consent to Leave Them Over There”: The European Pilgrimages of World War I Mothers and Widows From Virginia

This article originally appeared in slightly altered form in the Summer 2001 issue of “Virginia Cavalcade.” The images are taken from two private papers collections acquired after the article’s original publication. Mary Derrickson and Carrie Elizabeth Alborn Perry both traveled to France in 1930 to visit the graves of their sons.

Carrie Elizabeth Alborn Perry papers, 1930. Accession 45075. Personal papers collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.


On 23 February 1920, Annie Lam of Covington, Virginia, wrote to the U.S. adjutant general about her son, Sergeant Bedford C. Lam, who had been a member of the Virginia National Guard. “Nearly one year ago you sent me a card to fill out as to what deposition I wanted made of the body, of my son who died in Camp Hospital No. 10 Aug 1st 1918… I sometimes feel like I would rather not have his body moved and am writing to ask if you think the Government will in any way aid the mothers to go to the graves of their sons if they consent to leave them ‘over there.’” Lam ultimately chose to leave Bedford’s remains in Saint-Mihiel American Cemetery, near Thiaucourt, France. On 9 July 1930, she sailed to Europe to visit her son’s grave on a pilgrimage of Gold Star Mothers and Widows, as she had foreshadowed in her letter ten years earlier.

Over a three-year period beginning in the spring of 1930, thousands … read more »

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Before the Doughboys: American Volunteers in the Great War, 1914-1918

Ed. note: In honor of Veterans Day (observed), we have a guest post from Brexton O’Donnell, Tour Counselor, Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission, highlighting some of the content collected during the Profiles of Honor mobile tour. 

The Profiles of Honor mobile tour, operated by the Virginia WWI & WWII Commemoration Commission, has spent two years traveling across the commonwealth. In that time, we have scanned and preserved documents and stories from families throughout the state that participated in the world wars. Two of the stories we have collected were about men who journeyed to Europe to serve in the Great War before the United States entered the conflict in 1917. The first story comes from the Stewart Family Collection, consisting of seven items including a diary and Alexander Stewart’s service records, shared by the family in Roanoke. The second story comes from the Watkins Family Collection, consisting of twelve items including Charles Watkins’s photograph and artwork he did during the war, collected from the family in Manassas.

While idealism drove some Americans to volunteer before the U.S. declared war, others had more personal reasons. Pvt. Alexander Joseph Stewart was born in West Virginia, but at the time of the Great War he was a resident of Covington, Virginia. His parents had been born in Nova Scotia and immigrated to … read more »

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“We Will Remember Them”: Eleven Virginians in the Great War

One hundred years ago, on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” representatives of Germany and the Allied forces met in a railway carriage in the Forest of Compiègne to sign the armistice that would end the First World War. The conflict, which lasted from 1914 to 1918, was called in its own time “the war to end all wars,” and today is often overshadowed by the Second World War that it spawned twenty years later, although its impact on the world we know today can hardly be overstated. The United States officially entered the war in 1917, and Virginians made many contributions on the battlefields and on the home front. Over 100,000 Virginians would serve in the war, and over 4,000 would die from disease or injury.

Today, in honor of the centennial of the end of World War I, we will be spotlighting eleven Virginians from the World War I History Commission Questionnaires Collection.


John Francis Barnett was born in Richmond in 1888. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in April 1917 as a Machinist’s Mate, serving on the USS Parker and the USS Melville. After the war, Barnett was unable to work, and declared on his questionnaire that “under the strain I am suffering mentally and am confined to the Western State Hospital Staunton Va.” He … read more »

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“Legislative Debutantes”: 95 Years of Women in Virginia’s House of Delegates

In 2018 a record number of women took their seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates, bringing the total number of women who have served in that body to 91. The women who inaugurated this small (but growing) group were elected 95 years ago, on 6 November 1923. On that day, Helen Moore Timmons Henderson of Buchanan County and Sarah Lee Oden’hal Fain of Norfolk became the first women to win election to the General Assembly. Women in Virginia had gained the right to vote and run for office three years earlier, when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in August 1920. Tens of thousands of women registered and voted that fall thanks to special legislation the assembly had passed in January 1920.


Virginia women were quick to jump into politics as candidates for office. In 1921 at least six women entered races for the House of Delegates. Two lost in Democratic Party primaries. Election statements in the Secretary of the Commonwealth records (available for research at the Library with a finding aid in the Manuscripts Room) show that four other women were defeated in the general election. Three women also ran for statewide office that year and lost: Maggie Lena Walker was the candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction on the “lily black” Republican ticket, Elizabeth Lewis Otey was the candidate for the … read more »

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Once Upon a Midnight Dreary…

Happy Halloween! And what would Halloween be without Virginia’s very own master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe? Check out these illustration from different editions of Poe’s works in the Library’s collections.


 … read more »

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Andy Warhol Comes to Richmond

In early 1978, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was a stop for the traveling exhibition “Athletes by Andy Warhol.” The exhibition, comprised of silk-screen paintings of Warhol’s photographs of ten professional athletes – Muhammad Ali, Pelé, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tom Seaver, O.J. Simpson, Chris Evert, Willie Shoemaker, Jack Nicklaus, Dorothy Hamill, and Rod Gilbert–was first on display at the Coe Kerr Gallery in New York before setting off on a nationwide tour.  A reception preceded the VMFA exhibition. Warhol attended, along with one of the subjects of the paintings, future Hockey Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert. Warhol’s appearance at the reception drew a crowd of over 6,500 people, who proceeded to besiege the artist with autograph requests during his appearance and accompanying press conference. The opening evening ended with a reception for Warhol and his entourage at the home of Sydney and Frances Lewis. Although few of the VMFA reception’s crowd stayed to actually tour the exhibition, after the exhibition had moved on to Columbus, VMFA Associate Curator Frederick Brant deemed the exhibition a “great success” overall.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Exhibition Files (Accessions 31633, 32958, 33041, 33160, 34679, 36342, 36957, and 37636) contain items such as correspondence, inventories, budgets, news clippings, and photographs related to past exhibitions at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The collection covers exhibitions from 1936-1992.

-Nathan Verilla, … read more »

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