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A Few of Our Favorite Things: Even More Letterhead in the Archive

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 ubiquitous being “man’s best friend.” Dogs … read more »

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“To the land of their fathers”: Emancipation and the Virginia Colonization Board

The American Colonization Society was founded in 1817 to promote the voluntary return of free African Americans in the United States to Africa. In 1822, the Society founded a colony on the west coast of Africa that would become the independent nation of Liberia in 1847. In total, over 3,700 Virginians left for Africa between 1820 and 1865. Many emigrated voluntary, hoping to create better lives for themselves and their families in a colony where they could live as free citizens with full rights; others left only as a requirement of their emancipation. Such was the case with the enslaved persons owned by Elizabeth Gordon of Orange County. In her will, recorded on 22 November 1852, she freed her slaves with instructions that they be sent to Liberia with assistance from Rev. John Royal, who worked with the Virginia Colonization Society.

The General Assembly created the Virginia Colonization Board in April 1853, replacing several earlier incarnations of the Board, in order to help fund the transportation, removal, and settlement of Virginia free persons of color to Liberia. The Virginia Colonization Society, a branch of the American Colonization Society, arranged for the actual passage to Africa and presented the required affidavits to the Colonization Board, proving that individuals were free as of 6 April 1853 and were residents of the state. The Colonization Board reimbursed the … read more »

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A morning not unlike any other morning

December 7th marked a “day that will live in infamy” for many Virginians. However, for one Richmond family, the crucial day fell not in 1941, but in 1955. On that day, at approximately 9:23 am, the three small children of Benjamin Dennis III and his wife Jean were upstairs in their Windsor Farms home watching Captain Kangaroo, a children’s program that had debuted two months earlier. Minutes later, flames shot out the windows of their home. A U.S. Navy McDonnell F2H Banshee fighter jet had crashed outside their house, twenty-five feet from where the children were happily watching television.

 

Coverage of the immediate aftermath of this alarming event can be heard on recordings made by Richmond radio station WRVA. The newscasts have been migrated and saved on compact disc at The Library of Virginia, through funding from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The recordings capture the accounts of WRVA reporter Alden Aaroe on the scene minutes after the crash, as well as those of eyewitnesses. Coverage can also be found in newspaper accounts in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Richmond News-Leader.

Ensign Robert Ammann of Dallas, Texas, was on training maneuvers in his jet based at Oceana Naval Air Station, near Norfolk, with a fellow pilot in another aircraft. Traveling at 300 miles an hour, the two jets were flying about … read more »

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Here We Go A-Caroling

The Out of the Box bloggers will be taking a break for the holidays, but we’ll be back in the new year! In the meantime, enjoy this sheet music produced by the Hotel Richmond in the early twentieth century, part of the Library’s Special Collections. It and many other items can be found in our digital collections.

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Three Elections That Remade Virginia

Editor’s note: Tomorrow is Election Day! Get out and vote!

For well over half of the 20th century, Virginia state politics was dominated by a conservative Democratic machine, which was perfected by the organization of Governor and U.S. Senator Harry Byrd. The Byrd Organization drew its strength from rural counties, benefitting from a state constitution and laws that depressed voter turnout by effectively disenfranchising African Americans and poor whites. By the end of the 1960s, this changed. Laws restricting voting based on race were lifting, the urban and suburban populations were rapidly increasing, and the state’s Republican Party was expanding. In 1969, the GOP broke the Democratic monopoly on state office by electing Linwood Holton governor.

 

The 1973 gubernatorial race highlighted these changes. Lieutenant Governor Henry Howell ran as an independent candidate by choice, receiving the commendation of the state Democratic Party. The party’s nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general remained neutral in the campaign, not endorsing Howell. The state Republican Party was in more disarray. Constitutionally unable to renominate sitting Republican Governor Holton, the party had no candidate to oppose the popular yet liberal Howell. Desperate, Republican leaders turned to Mills Godwin, last of the Byrd Organization governors, hoping that he would secure conservative Democratic voters dismayed by the state Democratic Party’s liberal shift. Godwin reluctantly accepted the Republican … read more »

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Dry Voters, Wet Drinkers: The Anniversary of Virginia’s Prohibition

Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the first day of Virginia’s state-wide prohibition. To see more about the build-up to the referendum that dried up Virginia, see yesterday’s blog post.

The drys won out on 22 September 1914. The Temperance cause heralded this as a “mighty victory.” And indeed, state-wide prohibition won out by almost 60% of the vote, with 94,251 votes in favor and 63,086 opposed. Interestingly, the total voter turnout of 158,000 was significantly higher than the total for the 1912 Presidential election, which had a turnout of 136,900. Out of 100 counties, 71 voted dry, as well as every city except for Alexandria, Norfolk, Williamsburg, and Richmond.

State-wide prohibition went into effect on 1 November 1916, heralded by church rallies where parishioners rang bells and shouted out “Hallelujah!” at midnight. Despite the new law, alcohol didn’t completely disappear from the Commonwealth. Of the six major breweries in Virginia at the time, only one—Portner’s of Alexandria—closed down immediately. Brewers and distillers were temporarily allowed to remain in business as long as they sold their products out of state. Several breweries attempted to establish themselves as sellers of soda or other non-alcoholic beverages, with limited success. In contrast, the Garret and Company winery, located near Norfolk since 1903, immediately closed down operations and relocated to New York and California.

Home … read more »

Settling the Liquor Question: The 1914 Referendum and Prohibition in Virginia

Talk about spooky! Although the 18th Amendment didn’t institute nation-wide prohibition in the U.S. until January 1920, Virginia banned alcohol at the stroke of midnight on Halloween in 1916. Virginia went dry as the result of a 1914 state-wide referendum, setting off a legislative process that culminated in the passage of the Mapp Law, which went into effect on 1 November 1916, forbidding Virginians from producing or selling—but not consuming—alcoholic beverages.

Though alcoholic consumption was commonplace in Virginia during its earliest days—especially since it was often safer than the water!—as the 19th century progressed, more and more segments of the population began to speak out against the evils of alcohol and overindulgence. The rise of the Temperance movement brought men and women alike to advocate personal policies of temperance or abstinence. Organizations like the Sons of Temperance, the Anti-Saloon League, or the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), which opened its first Virginia chapter in 1882, sought to fill their membership rosters.

Early temperance organizations in the South initially had a hard time recruiting due to their association with abolitionist movements and the ‘northern invaders’ of the Civil War. Ongoing fears of African-American voters and their potential political power birthed fears of third parties and single-issue voters who could divide support for the existing parties that propped up white supremacy. In Virginia, the problem … read more »

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‘It’s a Southern Sun That Shines Down on This Yankee Boy’: The E. L. Molineux Collection

The Edward L. Molineux collection, 1861-1915, was scanned as part of the CW150 Legacy Project and recently added to the Library of Virginia’s Transcribe web site. Molineux served in the Union Army and his letters document his military career and his experiences throughout the South during the Civil War. You can help make these fascinating handwritten letters more accessible by volunteering to help transcribe them.

Edward L. Molineux was born in London, England on 12 October 1833, and later moved to New York. He joined the 7th New York Infantry Regiment, 2nd Company, at the start of the war and participated in organizing the 23rd Regiment, 11th Brigade of the New York National Guard. In August 1862 he organized the 159th New York Infantry Regiment and rose to the rank of Colonel. He served as military commander of the La Fourche district, Louisiana in 1864; Savannah, Georgia in 1865; and the northern Georgia district in 1865. He married Harriet D. Clark on 18 July 1861. Molineux died on 10 June 1915 and was buried at Saint James the Less Cemetery in Scarsdale, Westchester County, New York.

Throughout his career Molineux and his family gathered a large collection of papers and photographs relating to his military career and experiences during the American Civil War. The collection includes circulars, drawings, letters, memoirs, orders, photographs, reports, and reunion … read more »

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Bring On Your Wrecking Ball: The Battle of Hampton Roads

The Battle of Hampton Roads was one of the most important naval battles in the American Civil War. It was fought over two days, 8-9 March 1862, in Hampton Roads, Virginia. During the CW150 Legacy Project we uncovered a letter from a Union soldier who was at the battle and wrote home about what he had witnessed. The letter was written on 15 March 1862 by John “Johnnie” Torrance while he served with the 2nd New York Infantry Regiment, Company H and was stationed at Camp Butler, Newport News, Virginia.

In the letter written to “Libbie,” Torrance describes the naval battle he witnessed stating “I suppose you have heard of [it] before this time. I though[t] you would have saw something about it in the paper.” Torrance mostly describes the first day of the battle – detailing the attack by the CSS Virginia and CSS Patrick Henry and CSS Jamestown on the USS Cumberland and USS Congress. The Virginia rammed the Cumberland causing it to sink and taking nearly 150 lives. The captain of the Congress ran his ship aground in shallow waters and after some combat the ship surrendered. While the crew was being ferried off the ship a Union battery on the north shore opened fire on the Virginia. In response the Virginia fired with hot shot (cannonballs heated red-hot) … read more »

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Every Dog Will Have His Day

Editor’s note: This piece was originally published as an artifact spotlight for Discover Richmond, a magazine published by the Richmond-Times Dispatch. It is posted here with additional images of the Fredericksburg Dog Mart, which are part of the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce Photograph Collection.

These photographs from the Fredericksburg Dog Mart capture the heyday of an event that traces its roots to 1698.

At that time, one day a year was set aside by law to accommodate trade between the Manahoac Tribe (and later, the Pamunkey and Mattaponi) and English settlers in the area that later became Fredericksburg. The Native Americans would provide furs and produce in exchange for English hunting dogs. This practice occurred annually until the start of the Revolutionary War.

An annual dog mart resumed in 1927, known then as the Dog Curb Market, and coincided with the start of hunting season — the event gave hunters an opportunity to purchase hunting dogs. The dog mart also drew wider attention: it was featured in a Pathé Newsreel in 1928, and Time magazine wrote an article about it in 1937. By the following year, the dog mart drew a crowd of 7,000 people and 641 dogs.

The event was suspended during World War II but was restored in 1948 by the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce. In 1949, the dog mart … read more »

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