Jessica is the Senior Accessioning Archivist at the Library of Virginia. She holds degrees from the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The smell of deep-fried pickles and cotton candy. The sounds of music and laughter. The sights of the midway. For well over a century and a half, the State Fair of Virginia has been one of the sure signs that autumn has arrived, and this year is no exception. Beginning last Friday and running through October 6, rides, exhibitions, and entertainment are drawing thousands to the fairgrounds for a good time. Here at the Library of Virginia, the long history of the fair is documented in the State Fair of Virginia Records, 1927-2005 (Accession 42808).
Founded by the Virginia Agricultural Society to promote Virginia’s agriculture, the fair was established in 1854 near a horse race track at what is now Monroe Park in downtown Richmond. The fair prospered during the 1850s, but, like much else, its annual observance was halted by the Civil War
After the Civil War, the fair relocated to a new site near the current home of the Science Museum of Virginia and continued to grow, but over-expansion led to debt which closed the fair in 1896. Ten years later, the Virginia State Fair Association restarted the fair, this time at the present home of the Diamond baseball park. In 1920, the fair expanded its schedule to ten days. In 1942, the Association purchased Strawberry Hill just outside Richmond, but World … read more »
In 1964, the Children’s Home Society of Virginia (CHS) sought to make use of the power of radio, requesting some air time from WRVA to let the public know of a problem it faced. Taking this request several steps beyond the agency’s expectations, WRVA co-producers Harry Monroe and Brick Rider crafted a comprehensive documentary designed to illuminate “the problem of the unwanted child.” As the program explained, the number of children available for adoption was greater than the number of families stepping forward to parent them. The CHS hoped to alleviate this imbalance by detailing their services, debunking misconceptions about adoption, and making the public aware of the need for adoptive parents. A transcript of “A Child Is Waiting,” the resulting documentary, is found in the Records of the Children’s Home Society of Virginia (Accession 44227).
Airing 23-27 November 1964, first individually as nine five-minute segments and then as one complete program, the documentary included interviews with CHS staff, boarding mothers (the women in whose care children were placed while awaiting placement), adoptive parents, and perhaps most poignantly, an unwed mother who had given her child up for adoption. The issue was examined from all angles in a way that CHS Executive Director Lois Benedict described in a 9 March 1966 letter as “a deeply understanding presentation…avoiding the clichés and inaccurate dramatics that are … read more »
Having trouble stretching that dime in tough economic times? Need some inspiration figuring out how to feed hungry mouths on a budget? For advice you need look no further than the “Greatest Generation,” which made it through the Great Depression only to be faced with the sacrifices made necessary by World War II. Among the papers of the Jessee family (Accession 50402) of Russell County, Virginia, relief arrives in the form of Helps for Homemakers, a series of booklets produced by the Kelvinator appliance company as part of a “wartime idea exchange for home economists.”
Two of these booklets were saved by Martha Viers Jessee (1892-1968), wife of Ora Stanford Jessee (1884-1954) and mother to Ralph Stanford Jessee (1918-1999), Carroll Lee Jessee (1921-1978), and Arthur Dance Jessee (1922-2006). While her three sons were serving overseas in various capacities, she was feeling the pinch back home. The good folks at Kelvinator came to the country’s rescue, holding a national contest for home economists and publishing the top 40 prize-winning suggestions in their “Helping the Homemaker Make the Most Out of the Food She Can Get” issue (#3).
Opening with a side-by-side “Peacetime Menu” and “Wartime Menu” for Thanksgiving dinner, one sees that by substituting fruit cocktail for crab cocktail, mashed sweet potatoes for mashed potatoes, and roast pork for roast turkey one could have a … read more »
Look at these three words written larger than the rest, with a special pride never written before, or since, tall words proudly saying “We the People.” That which you call Ee’d Plebnista was not written for the chiefs or the kings or the warriors or the rich and powerful, but for ALL the people! These words and the words that follow…[t]hey must apply to everyone or they mean nothing!”
-James T. Kirk, Star Trek, “The Omega Glory”
Not long ago, I caught ”The Omega Glory” episode of Star Trek on television. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are trapped on a planet very similar to Earth and they discover that it had a parallel history in which the United States (Yangs) and its Communist opponents (Kohms) had fought a devastating nuclear war in that planet’s mid-20th century with the U.S. being on the losing side and the country taken over. The descendants of that U.S. had held on to their documents as sacred relics, and it is Kirk who shows them that the Constitution, which they’ve locked away, is a living document for all people.
Oddly enough, this show reminded me of one of the most entertaining collections in Private Papers at the Library of Virginia—the Bentley Boyd Papers (Accession 41945), which center on the artist’s Chester the Crab comic series. Boyd began drawing Chester … read more »
Among the vast array of resources available for genealogical research at the Library of Virginia, it may be easy to overlook one potential treasure trove of information – funeral home records. One such collection, the L. T. Christian Funeral Home Records, 1912-1986 (Acc. 34483) holds a wealth of information on generations of Richmonders, making it potentially useful to genealogists, scholars of local history and Richmond personalities, and perhaps even students of race relations.
Langdon Taylor Christian (1853–1935) began life as the son of a Charles City County farmer who emphasized field work and not education. Christian had acquired only an elementary education when he decided to leave his family at the age of 18 to seek work in Richmond. After laboring for a time in a tobacco factory, Christian entered employment with John A. Belvin in 1872 in the leading furniture and undertaking establishment in Richmond. Christian applied himself in this endeavor as a fine finisher, varnisher, and cabinet and casket maker. When Belvin died in 1880, Christian succeeded him, reorganizing the business under his own name.
The files kept by the L. T. Christian Funeral Home contain a mass of biographical data relative to nearly every client of the … read more »
We are now into the month of March, and winter continues to drag on. For those of you suffering from seasonal affective disorder, the Library of Virginia brings you the sights and sounds of paradise in Bermuda at the Belmont Manor Golf and Country Club, courtesy of the Burnett Family Papers, 1881-1998 (LVA Accession 44300).
Located in Bermuda’s Warwick Parish, the club boasted 106 acres overlooking Hamilton Harbor, and accommodated 225 guests, who enjoyed the club’s own 18-hole championship golf course, tennis, and heated swimming pool.
The club’s president was Charles Ryland Burnett, Jr. of Richmond, Virginia. Born on 7 October 1918, he attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria, and then graduated from the University of Virginia. Burnett married Toronto native Miriam Louise Weston (1922-2008), in Richmond on 17 April 1954.
Weston’s father, Willard Garfield Weston (1898-1978), was a Canadian businessman and philanthropist who owned George Weston, Ltd. and its various subsidiaries and associated entities, including Associated British Foods. He also served in the British House of Commons during World War II.
George Weston, Ltd. purchased the Belmont Manor Golf and Country Club in 1956, and soon Weston’s son-in-law Charles Burnett was on the island and serving as the resort’s president. “This is a real paradise,” he wrote to his brother Griffin on 16 January 1957, “and I don’t know why they pay me a … read more »
If you’ve been an Out of the Box reader for a while, you may remember this September 2011 article about a Norfolk, Virginia, girl and her World War II-era Norfolk, England, penpals, and the story of a 21st-century correspondence that came out of it (see Broadside’s spring 2012 issue, page 6). Jan Godfrey of Norfolk, England, is one of the people I’ve been privileged to “meet” online through this correspondence. She contacted me after reading about the Leona Robbins Fitchett Collection (Acc. 50068) on the blog. I took another look at the collection and was excited to discover letters from Jan’s sister, her sister-in-law, and even her 5-year-old self (even though she was not a member of the class that was corresponding with Leona Robbins, young Jan had stuffed a short note in with a letter sent by her elder sister).
Jan, who is very active in the study and promotion of the history of the Wayland area of Norfolk, England, recently gave a talk to the Wayland Heritage Group. She shared the story of the original letters, the memories they brought up, and the new trans-Atlantic friendships forged thanks to archives and the Internet. You can see her talk by clicking the link in this Wayland News article.
-Jessica Tyree, Senior Accessioning Archivist… read more »
With 2011 marking the 70th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War II, the Library of Virginia undertook a concerted effort to collect the papers of the war’s veterans. Members of the “Greatest Generation” or their families donated a wealth of extraordinary materials consisting of letters, diaries, photographs, reminiscences, military records, and other items. These collections document the contribution of Virginians to the war effort both at the front and at home. One of the most interesting items was lent to the library for copying by Clinton Davis of Staunton—a yearbook of one of World War II’s most legendary outfits, the Tuskegee Airmen. His father, Ralph H. Davis, served at the Tuskegee Airfield throughout World War II as a mechanic.
The senior Davis, born 5 February 1915 in Providence, Rhode Island, often did odd jobs and ran errands for pilots and airport personnel at the original Providence airport near his uncle’s farm. Payment or reward for his work would often come in the form of airplane rides, which Davis would turn into lessons. He soon earned his private pilot’s license, and on a list issued by the Commerce Department in January 1939, Davis was the only African American pilot from Rhode Island. World War II began in Europe later that year, and in 1940 the United States began preparing for involvement by … read more »