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

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 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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