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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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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 »

“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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A Few of Our Favorite Things: Letterhead in the Archive, Prohibition Edition

As promised in a previous post, here’s another look at some of the plethora of letterheads and stationery found in our archives. In honor of our current exhibition, the letterheads in this post are all related to Prohibition. 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 … read more »

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“Breeding Places of Drunkenness:” Prohibition Crackdowns and UVA Football

College students have never been known for their avoidance of alcohol, and it was no different in the 1930s, despite the fact that alcohol was illegal nationwide. In 1930, Virginia Attorney General John R. Saunders attempted to crack down on violations of prohibition laws at the University of Virginia, especially at football games. Before the Thanksgiving Day game between UVA and UNC, one of the oldest rivalry games in the country, Saunders announced his intention to have seven prohibition inspectors patrolling the stadium in Charlottesville.

Some members of the community protested vigorously, concerned that the action would damage the reputation of the city and the university. Members of the Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce entered an “open telegraphic protest” against the attorney general’s plan, complaining that the action was unwarranted and that the “attendant publicity [was] exceedingly unfair to [the] city of Charlottesville and university.” Noble Powell, the rector of St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Williamsburg, told Governor John Garland Pollard that although he didn’t doubt that there was some drinking at the football games at UVA, he felt “our students are every bit as well behaved as any other and better behaved than most.” In Powell’s view, for the attorney general to single out the University of Virginia, where “these men try to have their games as decent and clean as possible,” … read more »

Food for Fighting: Food Conservation During World War I

 

During WWI there was shortage of food for the people of war-torn Europe. Prior to the United States entry into the war, we were already the largest provider of wheat and meat for the Allied nations. Future president Herbert Hoover led the United States’ involvement in the food relief effort for Belgium and was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson to head the newly formed U.S. Food Administration. August 10 is the 100th anniversary of the formation of the U.S. Food Administration, and our latest Google Arts & Culture Exhibit “Food for Fighting” explores how poster art encouraged food conservation on the home front and led to lasting changes in the American diet in the century that followed.

-Dana Puga, Prints & Photographs Collection Specialist… read more »

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Drink Wet and Vote Dry

One of the hallmarks of the age of Prohibition is a certain level of contradiction. After all, the country was supposed to be entirely dry; the 18th amendment, passed in 1920, prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcoholic beverages. And yet the 1920s are best remembered for the culture of speakeasies and flappers, flasks hidden in garters or walking sticks, and bootleggers, mobsters, and moonshiners. The prohibition movement had always been dogged by the hypocritical beliefs of political leaders who supported the general outlawing of alcohol but saw no reason to restrict their own consumption. Even Governor Harry F. Byrd, who was personally a “dry,” knew how to procure a supply of brandy for Winston Churchill’s visit to the Executive Mansion in October 1929.

 

This disparity was publicly called out in April 1930, when Vivian L. Page, a member of the House of Delegates from Norfolk, claimed that the House of Delegates would be overwhelmingly wet if a secret ballot were taken, and that he had personally “drunk with 95 per cent of the delegates.” The statement was reported in the Richmond Times-Dispatch the next day and caused something of an uproar. Reverend David Hepburn, the superintendent of the Anti-Saloon League of Virginia, wrote an angry letter to Governor John Garland Pollard, complaining both about the flagrant violations of the Prohibition Law by … read more »

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