About: Jessica

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.

Author Archives Jessica

My dear and most affectionate lover


Letter, 16 July 1861, from George Ward to Mary Jane Ratliff. Scanned as part of the CW150 Legacy Project.

Laura Drake Davis and I spent most of 2010-2012 on the road scanning and collecting images for the CW150 Legacy Project. It was not until recently that I have had much time to study and catalog the images that we scanned. I just came across this lovely letter that was scanned in Tazewell County, Virginia, in September 2010.

What grabbed my attention was the first line: “My dear and most affectionate lover…”  What a way to start a letter–doesn’t it sound racy? But actually many letters written during the 19th century were as full of love and feelings as modern letters are. The difference is that the 19th-century term “lover” does not necessarily carry the same connotations as it does today. This was a letter written by George Ward (1837-1927) of Tazewell County on 16 July 1861, while serving with 21st Virginia Infantry Regiment, Company H, to his love interest, Mary Jane Ratliff. Ratliff (1842-1905) was the daughter of Abednego and Louisa Vicey Matney Ratliff, also of Tazewell County. George writes of his feelings for [Mary] Jane (“dear Jinnia”), his hopes to marry her, and how he hated parting from her. George mentions the possibility of his death numerous times in the letter, ending it with his hopes that they meet in heaven should he not survive the war.

Transcript of George Ward letterread more »

“At the Belmont Manor, oh yes”


The bar area at the Belmont Manor Golf and Country Club, overlooking the state-of-the-art pool with 7-foot windows. Burnett Family Papers, LVA Accession 44300.

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 »

LVA in the UK

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 »

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Yearbook marks one chapter in a pioneering life


Page from a 1943 yearbook for the Tuskegee Airmen. Ralph H. Davis is seen on the left-hand page, second row, third from right. Ralph Hickman Davis Papers, Accession 50284, Private Papers Collection, Library of Virginia.

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 »

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New resource for Civil War research at the Library of Virginia


John Augustine Washington, the last Washington to own Mount Vernon.  He was killed early in the war, 13 September 1861, near Rich Mountain, Virginia. (LVA Accession 39697).

The Civil War experiences of Virginians from all walks of life and all corners of the state can be found at the Library of Virginia. The papers of Governors John Letcher, William “Extra Billy” Smith, and Francis H. Pierpont; military rosters, reports, and orders; diaries, letters, and photographs of soldiers blue and gray; county reports on indigent soldiers’ families and minutes of Boards of Exemption; records of state agencies; and both Confederate and Union documents—all detail the Civil War in Virginia.  The Library of Virginia houses nearly 2,000 (and growing) collections of state records, local records, and private papers chronicling life in Virginia during the conflict of 1861-1865.  Military life, politics, business, and the homefront are all documented in collections ranging in size from one leaf of paper to almost 600 cubic feet (Tredegar Iron Works records).  Now, information about all of these collections is gathered in the Civil War Records in the Archives Guide, an online resource located on the Library of Virginia’s website.

The guide is organized alphabetically by name of the individual, organization, business, or political entity that created the record and includes a letter index at its top to facilitate searching.  Each entry contains name, title of the collection (whether a private papers collection or a public record), date range and size, accession number, a description of the material, and … read more »

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“I really love you in my funny selfish way”



Undated newspaper clipping featuring a portrait of Virginia Minor, and photograph of Robert B. Roosevelt Jr., inscribed by him to Minor.

You have no idea how awfully much I hated to leave you…Even if I can’t hear from you just now I feel sure you are thinking of me a little, aren’t you darling?  Because you must know that you are dearer, and sweeter to me than life itself and I do love you.

So wrote Robert B. Roosevelt, Jr., to his sweetheart, Virginia Lee Minor, on 18 March 1919.  The letter is the first in a collection of correspondence kept by Virginia that now forms the better part of the Virginia Minor Roosevelt Jones Papers (Acc. 45319) at the Library of Virginia.  Almost all of the letters were written by “Bob” to his “Miney,” and reveal a man consumed with love for his eventual wife.  Sadly, they also show him struggling against an addiction that threatened his marriage before it even began, and ultimately contributed to his death.

Roosevelt was the first cousin once removed of President Theodore Roosevelt, the son of Robert B. Roosevelt (1866-1929) and Lilie Hamersley Roosevelt (b. 1882).  It is unclear how he met Virginia, but by the time this correspondence commenced, the two had entered into a seemingly new but already intense long-distance romance (he was living in New York City, she in Washington, D.C.).

The above quote is typical of the frequent declarations of devotion found throughout Bob’s letters.  … read more »

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Dueling potters


Image scanned from THE BOOK OF TRADES, published by Jacob Johnson, 1807.  (Library of Virginia Special Collections call number T47 .B72 1807).

Benjamin DuVal’s pottery in Richmond, Virginia is one of the best-documented early Virginia pottery manufactories, with articles about it appearing in at least two scholarly journals.[1] Still, other than DuVal’s advertisement for a potter in the 23 February 1791 issue of the Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser and an 1808 notice for DuVal’s Richmond Tile Manufactory, there has been no known manuscript information for the period 1791-1808. However, three judgments in the Richmond City Hustings Court provide new insight into the early operations of the pottery.

As revealed in the 1795 case of Allinson v. DuVal, Benjamin DuVal got a response to his 1791 advertisement for a potter–and perhaps more than he had bargained for. The suit papers contain a broadside dated 1 July 1791 in which DuVal warns the public that the Richmond Earthen-Ware Manufactory is his property and that accounts should not be paid to Samuel Allinson, potter. Within a couple of weeks, a reconciliation seems to have occurred. On 16 July 1791, articles of agreement were signed between DuVal and Allinson for the Richmond Earthen-Ware Manufactory. The agreement was signed by the manufactory’s two journeymen, Richard Esdall and John Carty.  

Allinson had paid for Carty’s passage from New York to Richmond in April 179[1/2?].[2] This is the earliest documentation of northern influence on the pottery. Litigation between DuVal and … read more »

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Spinnin’ on top of the world


Architect Haigh Jamgochian poses among models of his designs, including the revolving hotel.  Haigh Jamgochian Papers, 1930-2006. LVA Accession 41492.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Virginiana section of Virginia Memory.

Ever been on vacation and experienced weather so bad that it traps you in your hotel room? Know that feeling of a desperate urge for a change of scenery? If Richmond architect Haigh Jamgochian (1924- ) had had his way, visitors to one proposed hotel in Virginia Beach would have enjoyed a new view every hour. No, he didn’t plan to organize a huge game of “musical rooms” by having guests periodically change their accommodations. Rather, he planned for the hotel buildings to revolve. The rationale was simple even if the engineering was not. The hotels, like the dock of a departing ocean liner, would themselves become a destination. Tourists would visit the area just to see these wonders, thus benefiting the entire local economy rather than just the specific hotel.

The Library of Virginia had the great fortune to receive Mr. Jamgochian’s architectural records in August 2004 (Accession 41492). Included are a number of models designed and built by the architect for various projects in the region. One of the more intriguing is the motorized model for the unbuilt Virginia Beach revolving hotel.

Insanity, you say? Not necessarily. While there was definitely madness to Jamgochian’s method, this project was fully in the realm of the possible. The building’s … read more »

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“The people here seem very fond of musick”


Image in the public domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LBoccherini.jpg

At first glance a chair maker, a musician, and a dancing master make a very strange trio. The June 1790 judgment papers for Capus vs. Kullin, found in the Richmond (City) Hustings Court records (barcode 1007251), show how a concert brought the three together and eventually brought two of them to blows.

Mr. A.  Kullin, musician, wrote on 5 May 1790 from Fredericksburg, Virginia, to Mr. John Capus, a French dancing master in Richmond, Virginia, asking that he join him in a concert to take place in Fredericksburg a few days later.  “The people here seem very fond of musick,” Kullin noted, also stating that “here is an excellent violoncello in Town, but no player.”  This statement may indicate that Capus was a string player. In preparation for the concert, Kullin had Andrew McKim, a Richmond-based Windsor chair maker, make “2 musick Stands and 1 rail.”  A receipt in the judgment papers indicates that Kullin paid McKim for his services.  Capus was not so fortunate, in spite of Kullin’s promise in the letter that “your expenses here as well as travelling shall be paid you immediately on your arrival, and whatever gratification you think proper to demand you shall have.”

What was promised and what occurred were two different matters. In his bill of expenses Capus wrote to Kullin, “The need for money obliges … read more »

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This is the house that Jack built

"This Is The House That Jack Built," political cartoon by John Childs, 1840. See individual scans of each panel included later in article. (LVA Accession 28192)

Another presidential election year is upon us, and we are already bombarded with television ads touting the two candidates and proclaiming their positions on every issue from A to Z.  Will 2012 be an election for the history books or will it be relegated along with other campaigns to the dustbin of history?  You may remember the elections of 1800 (Jefferson’s “Revolution of 1800”), 1860 (the election that sparked the Civil War), 1932 (FDR, Hoover, and the Great Depression), and 1984 (Reagan’s “Morning in America”).  But what about others?  Quick, without Googling it—who ran against Teddy Roosevelt in 1904?

The election of 1840 mostly falls into the dustbin file.  It is usually remembered only because of a catchy campaign slogan (“Tippecanoe and Tyler too!”) and the fact that the winner, second-rate military hero William Henry Harrison, served only one month before becoming the first president to die in office.  Yet 1840 was a key election year, and a broadside found in the Library of Virginia’s collection reveals some of the issues at play.  Entitled “This Is The House that Jack Built” (LVA accession 28192), this 1840 political cartoon by John Childs utilizes the nursery rhyme of the same name to illustrate the views of Harrison’s Whig Party. 

Four years earlier, the Whig Party had formed in opposition to President Andrew Jackson, coalescing around Henry Clay’s … read more »