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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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The Return of Virginia’s Lost History

UPDATE: The Charles City County Record Book is now available online and in Transcribe.


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If you live in the Richmond area or are connected to the Library of Virginia through social media, you may have seen the recent announcement of the return of the Charles City County Record Book, 1694-1700. This volume, taken from the Charles City courthouse in 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign of the Civil War, was returned by a Pennsylvania family who had cared for it for over three decades. In anticipation of the record book’s return, I had occasion to review other replevined records from Charles City County—a saga with its own century-long history.

First, a bit about replevin. No, it doesn’t mean to plevin again. Officially, it’s a common law action that allows a person or entity to recover wrongly or unlawfully taken personal property. In the archives and records profession, it refers more specifically to the recovery of public records (with or without legal action) by an agency or organization. The Virginia Public Records Act (§ 42.1-89) vests the power to petition a local circuit court for the return of public records held by an unauthorized custodian in the Librarian of Virginia or designee. Public records never cease being public records; so, unless lawfully and properly destroyed, they should remain with the appropriate custodian.

Thankfully, in … read more »

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Miami Beach Florida is Calling You

In November 1924, Governor E. Lee Trinkle traveled to Florida to attend the annual Governors’ Conference. The Governors’ Conference was held in Jacksonville, Florida, on 17-18 November 1924, after which Conference members traveled to other cities including Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach, Cocoa, and Miami. Governor Trinkle must have obtained this travel brochure while in Miami, and it was kept with his notes and travel expense records for the Governors’ Conference. The travel brochure has some beautiful brightly colored images of the wonders of Miami—from its beaches and polo matches, to swimming and golf. There is also a page with suggestions on how to get to Miami, advertising its accessibility by rail, boat, and auto. The travel brochure contains such beautiful imagery that we thought it would be fun to share this iconic 1920s artwork with you. To read more about travel brochures in the LVA’s collections, check out the latest edition of the Broadside or the recently posted digital collection.

-Renee Savits, State Records Archivist… read more »

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New Digital Collections @ The LVA

Can’t make it to Richmond to check out the Library of Virginia in person? Take a look at our digital collections! You’ll find six of the most recent additions to our online portfolio below, and keep an eye on the “What’s New” page on Virginia Memory for future releases.

Accessible through our digital asset management system, DigiTool, these collections are searchable by keywords, creator, and title. We also now have thumbnails, making these collections more browseable. We include born digital content, such as publications from state agencies, as well as photographic, art, manuscript, and print collections. We’d love to have your feedback on our new offerings and encourage you to come back often to see What’s New!

 

Travel Brochures Digital Collection icon

Travel Brochures Digital Collection

For more than a century, Virginia tourism brochures have enticed potential travelers with handsome graphics and tantalizing text. Generally consisting of a single large sheet, printed on both sides, and folded into a pocket-sized format, travel brochures were created not only to advertise the attractions but also to provide information on how to get there, nearby accommodations, seasonal events, and more. The Library of Virginia’s collections are rich in travel-related ephemera from the 1930s through the 1950s, a period that saw a substantial increase in both the number of visitors and in the number and type of tourist destinations promoted throughout the

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Ten Paces! Fire!

On 28 November 1818, John McCarty of Loudoun County wrote a short letter to the Speaker of the House of Delegates of Virginia, declining the seat he had recently been elected to in that body. The reason? Since his election, he had accepted a challenge from his cousin, U. S. Senator Armistead T. Mason, and would therefore be unable to take the required oath against dueling.

 

Arising from the practices of European nobility, for many years dueling was a surprisingly frequent occurrence in American life—and politics. In a society pervaded by ideas of honor and reputation, disputes that started in the political realm quickly turned personal, and it was far from rare for politicians to engage in so-called “affairs of honor;” the Hamilton-Burr duel is only one of the most famous examples.

Politics were also at the root of the disagreement between John Mason McCarty and his cousin, Armistead Thompson Mason. The two men already had an acrimonious political relationship, stemming from a contentious election where McCarty supported Federalist Charles Fenton Mercer over the Democratic-Republican Mason for a seat in the House of Representatives. Although Mason was selected to serve in the U. S. Senate, McCarty and Mason continued to take potshots at each other in the press, publishing numerous letters in the Leesburg newspaper The Genius of Liberty. In May 1818, the … read more »

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Painting the Town “Light Drab”


Image /WF/12/02/023 from the 1939 World's Fair Virginia Room Photograph Collection

While processing Governor E. Lee Trinkle’s Executive Papers, 1922-1926, I came across several folders relating to the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond, Virginia. One folder held several paint samples that were likely used to decorate the mansion. One sample of cream paint is marked “Entrance all,” while another color, light drab, is marked “State reception room.” It is worth noting that on 4 January 1926, Governor E. Lee Trinkle’s 5 year old son, Billy, accidently set a Christmas tree alight with a sparkler and caused a fire at the mansion. It is unknown if these color samples were used to repaint the Mansion after the fire or if they were used to repaint the mansion when the family first moved in after Trinkle’s inauguration in 1922. Either way it is interesting to see what colors were chosen to paint the mansion during Governor Trinkle’s term.

-Renee Savits, State Records Archivist… read more »

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May the 4th Be With You

Even government officials have to let loose sometimes. Happy Star Wars Day from your Out of the Box editors and the Kaine email project!

 

FW: Presidential Ask, 2008-10-30 18:25, KaineLibjcorbin.pst, Email Records from the Office of the Governor (Kaine: 2006-2010), State Records Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va. (cropped)

FW: Presidential Ask, 2008-10-30 19:06, KaineLibjcorbin.pst, Email Records from the Office of the Governor (Kaine: 2006-2010), State Records Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va. (cropped) read more »

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A Few of Our Favorite Things: 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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Studies of Economy and Efficiency in Government Are Not New

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in The Library of Virginia Official Newsletter, May/June 2001.  It has been edited slightly.

Efficiency in government. Responsible spending. Eliminate waste in government. These phrases are often tossed about, especially during political campaigns. Calls for responsible government spending and efficiency are not new, and probably will remain a constant theme in our political process.

One early attempt at governmental reform was the State Commission on Economy and Efficiency, which functioned from 1916 until 1918. The papers of this Commission were part of an accession of miscellaneous papers from the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office. The General Assembly created the Commission in 1916 to make a “careful and detailed study of the organization and methods of the State and local governments” within Virginia. The five members of the Commission—P. H. Drewry, George L. Browning, J. Calvin Moss, Richard Evelyn Byrd, and LeRoy Hodges—made a detailed study of state government, presented their findings, and made recommendations to the General Assembly in 1918. Many of these recommendations were implemented and still influence the way state government operates today.

The creation of Virginia’s Commission on Economy and Efficiency was in part due to a national trend in budget reform. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, concerns about the integrity and accountability of political leaders was read more »

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