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

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 former “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 … 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 »

“…we all have tiers in our eyes and our hearts are in the pit of our stomacks”


Doug Raymond, shown in an undated photo taken during his service with the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II.

It is rare for anyone to be directly involved in an event that can be labeled, without exaggeration, a turning point in world history.  The recollections of those who have done so take on a special significance for the rest of us as we try to imagine how it must have felt to be part of an extraordinary moment in time.  As archivists, we can only hope that these recollections are recorded and preserved before memories fade and entire generations pass away.

Today, on the 68thanniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, one of those voices speaks through the June 1944 diary of Douglas J. Raymond (1921-1994), an acting petty officer in the Royal Canadian Navy.  A native of Rosemont-LaPetite-Patrie, Quebec, Canada, Raymond became a United States citizen and resident of Virginia after the war.  While keeping this diary, he was serving aboard the destroyer HMCS Saskatchewan providing anti-submarine protection for the landing forces.

Raymond’s widow, Mary, donated the diary to the Library of Virginia last July.  In a note she tucked in with the little book, she apologized for her late husband’s spelling, saying that it was more phonetic than technically correct.  No apologies are needed, as the diary is an honest, sensitive, and exciting account of what a 23-year-old man saw, thought, and felt in the midst of intensely stressful circumstances.… read more »

A troubled slave makes his escape


Woodcut illustration of a cabinetmaker at work, taken from THE BOOK OF TRADES, published in 1807 and found in Special Collections at the Library of Virginia (T47 .B72 1807).

In the fall of 1805, John Alcock, a Fredericksburg, Virginia, cabinetmaker, relocated to Richmond and opened a cabinetmaking shop. By 1807 he had expanded his business to include the making of Windsor chairs. In that same year, Alcock purchased James Harris, a “mulatto” chair painter, from Alexander Walker, also a Fredericksburg cabinetmaker, for $450. Alcock would later attest that Harris was agreeable to the sale because he could be nearer his mother, who lived in Richmond and from whom he had been separated at some previous time.

Very soon Alcock became dissatisfied with Harris’ work and described him as “idle,” a “thief,” and a “drunkard.” By 1808 the situation had worsened, and Alcock, who had business in Georgia, took Harris with him in the hopes of selling him. Unable to accomplish a sale in Georgia, Alcock sold Harris in Charleston for $375. He claimed he spent $90 to $100 in trying to sell Harris. Alcock, believing Alexander Walker had knowingly deceived him, demanded restitution. In an attempt to get to the truth, depositions were taken from the men who worked for Alcock and Walker. The information from the depositions, part of Henrico County Chancery Cause 1811-001, John Alcock vs. John Brockenbrough, provide a detailed description of Walker’s shop, who worked there, and Harris’ role in the shop.

James Harris, born circa 1790, had been … read more »

Bouldin and Crowder, together again

Crowder Brothers letterhead, 1917.  (Crowder Family Papers, Accession 44451)

A reunion of sorts recently took place when the Library of Virginia received a generous gift of the papers of William D. Bouldin (1839-1917) from his granddaughter Frances McGowan of Hopkinsville, Kentucky (Accession 50231). Bouldin, originally from Charlotte County, Virginia, served with the 18th Virginia Infantry during the Civil War and was held prisoner at Point Lookout, Maryland, until the end of the war.  He later moved to Kentucky.

Bouldin’s sister was Alma May Bouldin (1862-1920).  Alma never married, and lived much of her life in Drake’s Branch in Charlotte County.  In a letter she wrote in 1919 to her brother’s wife, Clara Bouldin (1845-1933), she mentions nephews John Nelson and Bouldin Crowder.  The two operated Crowder Brothers, a general store in Clarksville, in neighboring Mecklenburg County. “I am now at Bouldin Crowder’s in Clarksville,” Alma wrote. “Bouldin and Nelson Crowder have a dry goods store here in Clarksville and carry on a splendid stock for a country town.” 

The papers of three generations of the Crowder family, including records of the Crowder Brothers store, were acquired a little over two years ago by the Library of Virginia (Accession 44451) through a gift from the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford, where a Crowder descendant had settled. Now two collections from these related families have made their way from other states and are held together … read more »

We’ll trade you Fairfax County for Mercer…Just kidding.

Bob Clay is shown seated at his desk in the old Virginia State Library and Archives (now the Library of Virginia) in this undated photo.

Many of the staff and researchers at the Library of Virginia remember our colleague and friend Robert Young Clay for his vast knowledge of the records in our collections.  Bob, who died last year, left his papers to the Library, and I recently completed processing them.  I knew Bob for about eight years before his retirement in 2001.  I recall how he assisted me with answers to some of my most puzzling questions, and seeing him helping patrons with their genealogical research.

I also remember his biting humor, lack of patience at times, the slamming of the phone receiver, and banging of a book against the reference desk.

But for those who never saw it, there was another side to Bob, and that comes across in some of the items contained in his papers. While much of the collection is made up of his research on the Clay family and its allied lines, there are also materials which demonstrate the personal side of Bob, a “kinder and gentler” side that not all staff or patrons may have seen.

Back in 1984, a certain reference archivist did not endear himself to officials in Fairfax County.  Business owners in Mercer County, West Virginia, were growing increasingly frustrated with state officials in Charleston.  There was even talk of the county rejoining the Commonwealth of Virginia.  “The way I … read more »

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Building Furniture, Building Up the South

Image from Green & Brother catalog, 1871. Ephraim Baker Records, 1857-1910. Accession 50152. Business records collection, The Library of Virginia.

The Library of Virginia recently acquired business records of Ephraim Baker (1836-1919) of Mount Olive, Virginia (Accession 51052).  Baker, born on 13 December 1836 in Topnot, Shenandoah County, Virginia, was the son of Lewis Baker (1808-1889) and Anna Dellinger (1811-1879). He operated a general store in Mount Olive for most of his life. The store was used as a hospital during the Civil War. Ephraim Baker was married twice, and died on 19 June 1919. He is buried in St. Stephen’s Cemetery in Strasburg.

The majority of the collection consists of correspondence, accounts, and accounts of sales to Baker from commission merchants in Alexandria and Baltimore. The correspondence includes information on market conditions and current prices of goods being sold. There are also circulars, advertisements, and price lists from various merchants. Baker was an agent for the Davis Sewing Machine Company of Watertown, New York, and the collection contains correspondence and invoices from the company’s headquarters. Also included are customer orders from local residents requesting goods from Baker’s store.

Among the records is an 1871 Green & Brother catalog with annotated prices. Nineteenth century furniture catalogs or price lists are fairly unusual to find, and this one has particular importance for the furniture making business in Virginia. As early as 1820, English born cabinetmaker William Green was advertising his furniture in the Alexandria read more »

New friends in wartime, an ocean apart


Photo, 22 December 1945, taken at a party given for the children of Carbrooke School by American soldiers stationed in Norfolk, England.  One of the dolls given to the students by Leona Robbins (and given the name

In late 1943, Leona Robbins was 12 years old and living in Norfolk, Virginia.  Her neighbor and close family friend, Army Lieutenant Charles Field, was headed overseas, where he would be stationed in Norfolk, England.  Field suggested that Leona and her friends pull together some toys to distribute to the children there.  England had been at war for over four years at that point, and the deprivation and danger faced by its citizens was considerable.  Leona responded sympathetically, gathering some dolls and toy cars for the children.

Lt. Field delivered the package to the junior school in the village of Carbrooke, Thetford, Norfolk, in March 1944.  Headmistress Mary Norton and each of the children in her class wrote Leona letters of thanks and introduction.  Miss Norton spoke highly of the American soldiers, who had thrown two separate Christmas parties for the children the previous December: “They spoilt our children, and consequently are very popular!  I honestly think this last was the best Christmas our children have had since 1939.”  The students also drew pictures, including some of a christening ceremony they had for the dolls (naming one of them Leona Mary).

The correspondence continued for a little over a year, with each side sending letters and small gifts. The letters show typically curious children, wanting to compare ages, schools, recreational activities, and vacation schedules with … read more »

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A much-deserved “thanks,” and a reluctant “farewell”

If only the Young Ladies of the Wesleyan Female Institute were here to sing their "Parting Song" for Dale. But alas, all we can offer is a blog post. Image from the cover of sheet music in the collection of the Library of Virginia, call number M1621 .H42 1868.

Archivists and others in history-related careers aren’t always known for being overly interested in embracing emerging technologies.  A good many of us regard social media only as a fun diversion in our personal lives, with no obvious application to our professional goals. With that narrow mindset, we might as well cede the point to the chorus of naysayers proclaiming that the internet will eventually make libraries and archives irrelevant.

And yet somehow, Dale Dulaney, one of those “I refuse to ever join Facebook” guys, knew that social media could be the perfect tool to ignite an interest in and respect for archives and the work of archivists.  He knew that the Library of Virginia (like so many other cultural institutions) had to make its relevance obvious in a time when crippling funding cuts are always a possibility.  He knew that archives are often misunderstood or completely overlooked by the public at large.  He also knew that the LVA’s archives housed all kinds of unique research treasures, records ranging from poignant to hilarious, to just plain useful.  And he knew that we had at our fingertips a fast and low-cost way to show an often oblivious world that archives and archivists – what we have and what we do – matter.

I’ll spare you the details of the exhaustive work Dale invested to get this blog … read more »

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