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Category Archives: Private Papers Blog Posts

- “If They Consent to Leave Them Over There”: The European Pilgrimages of World War I Mothers and Widows From Virginia

This article originally appeared in slightly altered form in the Summer 2001 issue of “Virginia Cavalcade.” The images are taken from two private papers collections acquired after the article’s original publication. Mary Derrickson and Carrie Elizabeth Alborn Perry both traveled to France in 1930 to visit the graves of their sons.


Carrie Elizabeth Alborn Perry papers, 1930. Accession 45075. Personal papers collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

 

On 23 February 1920, Annie Lam of Covington, Virginia, wrote to the U.S. adjutant general about her son, Sergeant Bedford C. Lam, who had been a member of the Virginia National Guard. “Nearly one year ago you sent me a card to fill out as to what deposition I wanted made of the body, of my son who died in Camp Hospital No. 10 Aug 1st 1918… I sometimes feel like I would rather not have his body moved and am writing to ask if you think the Government will in any way aid the mothers to go to the graves of their sons if they consent to leave them ‘over there.’” Lam ultimately chose to leave Bedford’s remains in Saint-Mihiel American Cemetery, near Thiaucourt, France. On 9 July 1930, she sailed to Europe to visit her son’s grave on a pilgrimage of Gold Star Mothers and Widows, as she had foreshadowed in her letter ten years earlier.

Over a three-year period beginning in the spring of 1930, thousands … read more »

Also posted in World War I Centennial
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- “View from the Hospital”: The Blanton World War I Scrapbook

This is the latest entry in a series of blog posts spotlighting stories and records of Virginia’s involvement in World War I


Postcard showing Lycee Pastur (American Hospital).

Many collections in the Library of Virginia’s holdings document Virginians serving in World War I. One of the earliest and most interesting of these is Wyndham Bolling Blanton’s 1915 scrapbook (Acc. 42104). Blanton, born in Richmond in 1890, graduated from Hampden-Sydney (B.A. 1910) and the University of Virginia (M.A. 1912). The scrapbook documents his time as a volunteer in the American Ambulance Corps, also known as the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps, at a hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

The book begins with photographs and programs from the cruise to and from France and images of French cities and the war front. Later pages include photographs of surgeries and injured soldiers in the hospital, many quite graphic. Blanton may have documented these procedures in anticipation of his career in medicine. The photographs note period medical advances such as the Blake splint (a modification of the still-used Thomas splint) and other emerging techniques. Also included is Blanton’s passport and correspondence in French, possibly from patients he had helped.

The Blanton scrapbook is a fascinating look at the early days of the “war to end all wars,” long before American soldiers were called to serve “over there.” While somewhat jarring initially, upon second view, … read more »

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- Then You Owe Me a Drink!: W. W. Poland’s WWII Short Snorter


W. W. Poland (right) and companion.

Recently Susan Chiarello brought in a very unusual item to be scanned for the Virginia World War I/World War II Commission—her grandfather’s short snorter. Measuring about 80 inches (6 feet 8 inches) long, it is a series of currencies from different locales taped together, with each individual bill containing signatures of various people.

The tradition of creating a short snorter began around 1925, probably invented either by Alaskan bush pilots or by Jack Ashcraft, a flyer with the Gates Flying Circus. As pilots flew from airfield to airfield, they exchanged bills with other pilots, crew members, and passengers. The next time two pilots met, they would be called upon to show their bills. If one did not have his short snorter, he was required to buy a snort (or drink) for whomever did. Since many participants were pilots and ostensibly needed to remain sober to fly, the snort needed to be a short one—hence the term “short snorter.”

During World War II, short snorters became popular among pilots, flight crews, and others traveling by air. The actress Marlene Dietrich, who entertained troops for the USO, had a short snorter that recently sold at auction for over $5000. Captain John Gillen, a stenographer in the U.S. Army Air Corps, had one that was 100 feet long.

Susan Chiarello’s grandfather, Winfred Wilson Poland (known as W. … read more »

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- Tin Can Tell-All: Revealing Virginia’s Role in the Canning Trade


Goode Canning Company, Bedford County, VA, circa 1900-1915. “Virginia’s Forgotten Canneries” exhibition.

Canned foods have become an everyday part of our lives. Most people have at least a few cans in their kitchen pantry, but far fewer know the critical role Virginia played in the commercial canning industry in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. For the past few months, the Library of Virginia’s Second Floor Reading Rooms have played host to the traveling exhibit Virginia’s Forgotten Canneries. Created by the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum, located in Ferrum, Virginia, this installation looks at the visual and material impact of the Virginia canning trade.

Following the Civil War, American cities grew increasingly urbanized and industrialized, with many families moving away from the self-sufficient agricultural traditions seen in centuries past. Because of this, “convenience cooking” and the demand for canned commodities rose rapidly, and canning developed into a successful national industry. Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Virginia led the canning trade, with nearly half of the nation’s canneries operating within their bounds. In Virginia, canneries began to pop up wherever there was steamboat or railway access to transport their finished products. This created two major canning regions in Virginia—the coastal area around Northern Neck and the Eastern Shore and the mountainous Blue Ridge region, centering on Bedford and Botetourt counties.

Tomatoes became the major canning “vegetable” for Virginia packers, with hundreds of canneries focused on … read more »

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- Ghosts in the Archives: Communing with the Virginia Historical Inventory


Photograph of the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, 1936. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In recent years, tourists and locals alike have flocked to Virginia’s many old downtown areas to attend ghost tours. These events have quickly become popular ways to learn about the ways that the past lingers in the present day, but the relationship between Virginia’s history and its ghosts is much older than the tours. The Virginia Historical Inventory (VHI) records held at The Library of Virginia illustrate that historical ghost-lore is not a new trend; Virginians in the 1930s and 1940s saw hauntings as appropriate and desirable elements of historical properties as well.

The VHI was part of the Federal Writers Project (FWP), a leg of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. The FWP program hired authors to write, and researchers to find and document, iconic American stories and locations. In Virginia, researchers spanned out across the commonwealth documenting the location, status, and history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings. This brought them to familiar cities like Williamsburg and Alexandria, and to smaller, more rural places that were best described by the nearest highway. They collected the information they needed from archives, newspapers, and interviews with homeowners and neighbors. Written sources gave them the names of previous owners, construction dates, and famous events. The oral interviews filled in the stories not present in the archives. In many cases, when the researchers spoke with locals they used ghost … read more »

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- Opportunity Time: The Records of Virginia Governor Linwood Holton


Inauguration of Governor Linwood Holton, 17 January 1970, A. Linwood Holton Papers, 1943-1970. Accession 31535, Personal papers collection, Library of Virginia.

On Monday, 16 October 2017, the City of Roanoke will dedicate Holton Plaza, a new park named in honor of former Virginia Governor A. Linwood Holton (1970-1974). Out of the Box thought this would be a good time to spotlight some of the Library’s collections related to Holton.

Abner Linwood Holton Jr. was born 21 September 1923 in Roanoke, Virginia, to Abner Linwood Holton and Edith Van Gorder Holton. He attended local schools, before receiving his B.A. from Washington and Lee University in 1944. Holton served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946. He then attended Harvard Law School, receiving his LL.B. in 1949. Admitted to the Virginia bar that same year, Holton commenced practicing in Roanoke and became active in the Virginia Republican Party. Following an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1965, Holton then won election in 1969, serving as governor of Virginia from 1970 to 1974. After his term ended, he served as assistant secretary of state for congressional relations in 1974. Holton resigned that position and practiced law in Washington D.C. He married Virginia “Jinx” Harrison Rogers on 10 January 1953, and had four children with her: Anne, Tayloe, Woody, and Dwight.



Opportunity Time: A Memoir by Governor Linwood Holton, The University of Virginia Press, 2008.

Gubernatorial Records

  • The records of the Holton administration (1970-1974) are one of the largest 20th century gubernatorial collections held by the Library. Housed in
  • read more »

- Looney Tunes: the World War I Cartoons of M.A. Dunning

This is the latest entry in a series of blog posts spotlighting stories and records of Virginia’s involvement in World War I. The M.A. Dunning cartoons are part of the World at War: Library of Virginia WWI Collections.

               Heads Up takes pleasure in presenting to its readers the maiden effort at this post
of Private Dunning.  He has considerable previous experience in this line in both
civilian and army life.  His work will appear regularly each day.

                                                                                                                        Heads Up, vol. II, no. 4, 4 January 1919


Cartoon, Heads Up, 18 January 1919, U.S. Army Debarkation Hospital no. 52, Richmond College, Margaret Ethel Kelley Kern Papers, 1895-1949, Accession 23481, Personal papers collection, Library of Virginia.

During World War I, military camps, regiments, ships, and military hospitals often printed their own newspapers for military personnel stationed there, keeping them informed on both internal and external news. Heads Up (film 1670) served as the newspaper for Debarkation Hospital 52 located on the Richmond College (now University of Richmond) campus in Richmond, Virginia, and provided news about the hospital, the Richmond area, and the end of the war.  One of the regular features of Heads Up was the cartoons of M. A. Dunning. Twenty-three of Dunning’s original drawings are located in the Margaret Ethel Kelley Kern papers (LVA acc. 23481).

By the time his work began appearing in Heads Up, M. A. (Marshall Alston) Dunning already had a successful career in cartooning. Born 28 July 1894 in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, Dunning … read more »

- A morning not unlike any other morning

December 7th marked a “day that will live in infamy” for many Virginians. However, for one Richmond family, the crucial day fell not in 1941, but in 1955. On that day, at approximately 9:23 am, the three small children of Benjamin Dennis III and his wife Jean were upstairs in their Windsor Farms home watching Captain Kangaroo, a children’s program that had debuted two months earlier. Minutes later, flames shot out the windows of their home. A U.S. Navy McDonnell F2H Banshee fighter jet had crashed outside their house, twenty-five feet from where the children were happily watching television.

 

Coverage of the immediate aftermath of this alarming event can be heard on recordings made by Richmond radio station WRVA. The newscasts have been migrated and saved on compact disc at The Library of Virginia, through funding from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The recordings capture the accounts of WRVA reporter Alden Aaroe on the scene minutes after the crash, as well as those of eyewitnesses. Coverage can also be found in newspaper accounts in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Richmond News-Leader.

Ensign Robert Ammann of Dallas, Texas, was on training maneuvers in his jet based at Oceana Naval Air Station, near Norfolk, with a fellow pilot in another aircraft. Traveling at 300 miles an hour, the two jets were flying about … read more »

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- Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941


USS Arizona, FDR Presidential Library and Museum, Pearl Harbor Historic Materials, Pearl Harbor Photographs, https://fdrlibrary.org/ph-historic-materials

“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” With those words, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. Millions of Americans learned about the attack and heard the president’s speech on radio. For most people in central Virginia, they learned the news from listening to Richmond’s WRVA.

Listen to a clip of WRVA’s coverage of the Pearl Harbor attack and “Day of Infamy” speech.

This recording is part of WRVA 50th Anniversary Vignettes program which aired in 1975. To learn more about the WRVA collection at the Library, please consult the finding aid. Further information about the history of Radio in Virginia can be found in this on-line exhibition.

According to the Library’s Virginia Military Dead Database, at least 40 Virginians died on 7 December 1941. The primary purpose of the Virginia Military Dead Database is to honor those Virginians that have given their lives in defense of freedom. It pulls together information from a wide variety of sources and makes that information more accessible. For more information consult the Introduction to the Virginia Military Dead Database and the Source Guides.

 … read more »

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- Three Elections That Remade Virginia

Editor’s note: Tomorrow is Election Day! Get out and vote!

For well over half of the 20th century, Virginia state politics was dominated by a conservative Democratic machine, which was perfected by the organization of Governor and U.S. Senator Harry Byrd. The Byrd Organization drew its strength from rural counties, benefitting from a state constitution and laws that depressed voter turnout by effectively disenfranchising African Americans and poor whites. By the end of the 1960s, this changed. Laws restricting voting based on race were lifting, the urban and suburban populations were rapidly increasing, and the state’s Republican Party was expanding. In 1969, the GOP broke the Democratic monopoly on state office by electing Linwood Holton governor.

 

The 1973 gubernatorial race highlighted these changes. Lieutenant Governor Henry Howell ran as an independent candidate by choice, receiving the commendation of the state Democratic Party. The party’s nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general remained neutral in the campaign, not endorsing Howell. The state Republican Party was in more disarray. Constitutionally unable to renominate sitting Republican Governor Holton, the party had no candidate to oppose the popular yet liberal Howell. Desperate, Republican leaders turned to Mills Godwin, last of the Byrd Organization governors, hoping that he would secure conservative Democratic voters dismayed by the state Democratic Party’s liberal shift. Godwin reluctantly accepted the Republican … read more »

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