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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 … read more »

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Over The Top and at “em”: 100 Years at Fort Lee

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This is the latest entry in a series of blog posts spotlighting stories and records of Virginia’s involvement in World War I.

Soon after the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the War Department acquired land between Petersburg and Hopewell to construct a new military cantonment. The camp, named for Confederate general Robert E. Lee, was soon designated as a division training center. Construction began on Camp Lee in June 1917, and by September the facility had more than 1,500 buildings and was ready to begin receiving members of the 80th Division for training. At its peak, the camp was the third-largest population center in Virginia behind Richmond and Norfolk, with some 60,000 doughboys passing through its training facilities on their way “Over There.”

 

The camp hosted a number of Army organizations, including an auxiliary remount depot, an office of the judge advocate, an infantry officers’ training school, a base hospital and later a convalescent center. As the area worked to accommodate the needs of this sudden influx of young men, a number of  social organizations also had a presence on the camp, including the YMCA, Jewish Welfare Board, and Knights of Columbus. The American Libraries Association, which had established a Library War Service headquartered at the Library of Congress, created a camp library with the assistance of Dr. Henry McIlwaine … read more »

“I Could Not Tell Who Was Shooting”: The Death of Lump Moore

When Petersburg’s coroner filled out the death certificate for farmer Lump Moore, he wrote a simple “no” in answer to the question, “Was disease or injury in any way related to occupation of deceased?”  And it was true – farming had nothing to do with how Moore died. It was his other, less than legal, occupation that led to his death in early March 1931.

Lump Moore was a bootlegger and had been convicted twice of violating prohibition law. He was known to local law enforcement in Brunswick County as “a very bad man” who carried a shotgun. Moore had his gun with him the night of 27 February [1] when five Special Police Officers found him and fellow moonshiners dismantling a still. After a bootlegger discovered the officers lying in ambush and raised the alarm, a firefight broke out. When it ended, Moore had shot Officer Leslie Daniel and Officer Norman Daniel had shot Moore.

It was not a clean wound. Norman Daniel’s gun was loaded with buckshot, and the coroner’s postmortem examination noted that both bones in Moore’s left leg had been shattered. Moore did not die immediately, but the officers, in their haste to get Leslie Daniel to a doctor, left the injured bootlegger, covered “with some bags and blankets,” by the still site. They did not return for … read more »

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The Temperance Movement and The Road to Prohibition

From the earliest days of European settlement, Americans drank prodigious amounts of alcohol. Almost every aspect of early American economic and social life involved alcohol. Far from being seen as evil, alcohol was an essential element of the table, a stimulant for work, and a social lubricant for good fellowship—especially in a world where water purity was always in question. One estimate puts annual per capita consumption of alcohol at almost 4 gallons in 1830.

The temperance movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries grew as a reaction to the perceived overconsumption of alcohol. It was one of the longest lasting social reform movements in the United States and sought to radically change the way Americans consumed alcohol. Public support of the temperance movement was a major impetus for the 18th Amendment establishing national Prohibition. Followers of the temperance movement believed alcohol was to blame for societal problems like unemployment, crime, poverty, and domestic abuse.

Many women recognized the damaging effects of drinking on the family and worked through anti-liquor organizations and moral persuasion to regulate alcohol consumption. They supported the power of the state to curb drinking and alcohol, even as the state denied women an essential political right—voting. Instead, women who supported the temperance movement sponsored parades, established rooms stacked with prohibition literature, and canvassed for the prohibition vote. Involvement in the … read more »

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Pardon Me

Within the records of Governor E. Lee Trinkle (1922-1926) are several boxes relating to extraditions and pardons of prisoners. I came across one letter from Leroy Kittrell to the Governor, dated 12 December 1923, asking for a pardon after his conviction for running a still. In his letter, he appealed to the Governor for a pardon, stating that his son had recently been murdered , his wife had injured herself and could not work, and he was needed to support the family. I found an article from the Richmond Times Dispatch, 26 November 1923, regarding the shooting of Eddie Kittrell, a nine-year-old African American boy who is presumably Mr. Kittrell’s son.

I found this letter so interesting not only because of the sad story but mostly because of the beautiful hand-drawn images of Santa Claus, horse, carriage and snowy scenery. It is unclear if Governor Trinkle pardoned the gentleman, since the only thing in the files for Mr. Kittrell is this letter. It is highly doubtful that Governor Trinkle issued a pardon because he supported Prohibition and rejected most, if not all, applications for pardons that dealt with the illegal production of alcohol. Mr. Kittrell must have been a talented artist though. This is one of the prettiest drawings I’ve seen and thought others should get to enjoy it too.

-Renee Savits, State records … read more »

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Drying Out Dixieland: The Confederacy and Prohibition

What do prohibition and the American Civil War have in common? More than you may think. The debate over prohibition in Virginia, which culminated in Virginia going “dry” on 1 November 1916, occurred during a period of sectional reconciliation between the North and the South. In November 1912, Woodrow Wilson became the first southern Democrat elected President of the United States since the Civil War; Union and Confederate troops held a reunion in Gettysburg in July 1913; and in 1916, a Confederate Memorial was created at Arlington National Cemetery. However, as the country was becoming less divided over the war, new divisions arose over prohibition. Over the course of state and later national prohibition, both opponents and proponents used the memory of the Civil War and especially the Confederacy to support their positions.

A 1914 anti-prohibition tract from the Virginia Association for Local Self-Government proclaimed that “a large majority of Virginians are free and independent and will not bend to the lash of the invader’s whip.” The Anti-Saloon League (derisively referred to by opponents as the Ohio Anti-Saloon League) faced problems in much of the former Confederacy due to its northern origins, as well as the strong antebellum links between the temperance and abolitionist movements. Although organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) flourished in Virginia starting in the 1880s, the Virginia Anti-Saloon … read more »

Over There and Over Here: Virginia, World War I, and the Records of the War History Commission

Editor’s note: This post was adapted from a talk given by Roger Christman, state records archivist.


Virginia in the War: Topical Outline for a City or County War History - Publication No. 3, Virginia War History Commission, Series IX Office Files, box 233, folder 3, Accession 37219, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

A hundred years ago, on 6 April 1917, the United States officially entered World War I, declaring war on Germany almost three years after the conflict began in Europe. Virginia was a major participant in the United States’ war effort. Just over 100,000 Virginians served in World War I, with over 4,000 dying from disease, combat, and training accidents, and many more injured or disabled. Several areas in Virginia became essential centers for the war effort; these included Hampton Roads as a supply and deployment center, the naval base at Norfolk, the horse remount station in Front Royal, and the mobilization base now known as Fort Lee.

Virginia will commemorate the World War I centennial with a number of events and projects. The Virginia World War I and World War II Profiles of Honor Mobile Tour will provide an interactive exhibit to museums, libraries, and historic sites throughout Virginia. Visitors will be invited to bring their own World War I and II-related photographs to be scanned for inclusion in the Virginia Profiles of Honor project. The Library of Virginia will catalog these materials, and some will be featured on Transcribe along with materials from our other collections.


Photograph of Arthur Kyle Davis, Virginia War History Commission, Series XI. Office Files, 1917-1927, box 160, folder 1, Accession 37219, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Efforts to document Virginia’s involvement in WWI are far from new, however.  In … read more »

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