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

Archives as art


A group of customer orders for goods from Easley, Holt and Company, a general store in Halifax County, Virginia. The orders are seen as they were originally kept by the store, attached to a piece of wire roughly in the order they were received and filled.  Easley, Holt and Company Records (LVA Accession 50951)

Discovered in a box of election records from the Secretary of the Commonwealth by a member of the Library of Virginia’s State Records staff, this distinctive-looking work of art came to us just as it had hung in Easley, Holt and Company, a general store in Halifax County, Virginia, operated by James Stone Easley (1802-1879). How and when it arrived is not clear, and it is a mystery how it ended up in a box of state records.  Since being transferred to the Library’s Private Papers collection, it forms part of the Easley, Holt and Company Records, Accession 50951.

The composition, now only preserved in the photograph on the right, consisted of customer orders for goods, created from 1837 to 1844.  The orders, of various shapes and sizes, were attached to a simple piece of wire, roughly in chronological order as they were received and filled.  The result, although dating from the 19th century, is a hanging paper sculpture that the viewer could imagine seeing today in a contemporary art gallery.

The hanging store orders are for clothing and material, dry goods, liquor, medicine, and other items. Some of the orders for cloth have a swatch of material attached, with instructions that it be matched by cloth that is in stock. Easley was also postmaster, so customers frequently added a request that their mail … read more »

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All’s Fair in…


Detail shot of blue ribbons won at the Virginia State Fair in 1914 and 1928 (see photo gallery in body of article to see ribbons in their entirety). Records of the State Fair of Virginia, Library of Virginia Accession 42808.

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 »

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A Child is Waiting


An advertisement touting the success of WRVA's A CHILD IS WAITING documentary, produced on behalf  of the Children's Home Society of Virginia.

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 »

Feed your family on the cheap!


A suggested means of saving ration points--using rabbit for the meat dish.  From a HELPS FOR HOMEMAKERS booklet produced by Kelvinator circa 1943-1945. (Jessee Family Papers, Library of Virginia Accession 50402).

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 »

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Everything I know about the Constitution, I learned from Chester the Crab (and Star Trek)


A page from the CONSTITUTION CONSTRUCTION comic book, part of the Chester the Crab series created by Bentley Boyd (Bentley Boyd Papers, LVA Accession 41945). Copyright Chester Comix, LLC.

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 »

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From the files of a funeral home



Detail shot of the oversize sketch provided by family members for the tombstone of Hugh C. Tucker (1857-1956). LT Christian Funeral Home Records, 1912-1986 (Acc. 34483).

Editor’s Note: This blog post originally appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of
The Delimiter, an in-house Library newsletter, and has been edited slightly.

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 »

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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