Category Archives: Private Papers Blog Posts

- 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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- 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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- 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 »

- Latest Issue of Broadside is Now Available

The spring 2012 issue of Broadside, the Library of Virginia’s quarterly magazine, is now available.  Discover fascinating items from the collections as well as events, exhibitions, educational programs, and opportunities to become more involved. The current issue includes an article by Jessica Tyree describing how her September 2011 blog post, New Friends in Wartime, An Ocean Apart, reunited a Library donor to the son of her World War II-era pen pal in England.

Click here to subscribe to Broadside or view past issues.… read more »

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- 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 »

- 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 »

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