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.
Recorded in … read more »
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.
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 in … read more »
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 Gazette… read more »
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 »
One of the benefits of studying more recent history is the opportunity to see and hear historical figures on film, providing information about speech, mannerisms, and personality that can be difficult to capture in words. For students of 20th-century Virginia history, a series of public television programs taped in the mid-1970s to late 1980s gives just this sort of glimpse at key state leaders.
Hosted by Richmond Times-Dispatch (RT-D) political reporter James Latimer (1913–2000), and jointly produced by Central Virginia Educational Television and the RT-D, the Living History Makers series featured lengthy interviews of influential Virginia politicians. While the details of each man’s career have been hashed out in print many times, these extensive on-camera interviews breathe life into the story of Virginia’s leadership during times of exceptional stress, including World War II and the battle over school desegregation.
In 1975, Colgate W. Darden (1897–1981, governor 1942–1946) and William M. Tuck (1896–1983, governor 1946–1950) sat down with Latimer for the first Living History Makers program. As public personas, the two men were strikingly different. While the dignified Darden was once hailed by a political opponent as “the noblest Roman of them all,” Tuck was a brash good-timer described by the Richmond News Leader as having “the comfortable appearance of a man who has just dined on a dozen pork chops.” Yet the two … read more »
Fraternal orders. Military regiments. Agricultural societies. Women’s organizations. Religious associations. Political parties. Schools. The Library of Virginia houses more than 650 collections of organization records from a variety of groups. Ranging in size from one leaf of paper to over 70 cubic feet of material, these collections contain accounts, agendas, architectural drawings, correspondence, financial records, minutes, photographs, programs, reports, schedules, and other papers that detail the goals and histories of these groups. Organization records include other types of media, including audio recordings in reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes, and CDs; video recordings in cassettes and DVDs; and even archived websites. Now, information about all of these collections is gathered in the Organization Records Guide, an on-line resource located on the Library of Virginia’s website.
The guide is organized alphabetically by organization name and includes a letter index at its top to facilitate searching. Each entry contains the name of the organization, the title of the collection (whether records, account book, etc.), date range and size, accession number, a description of the material, and whether the materials are originals or copies. Entries link to catalog records and, where applicable, to on-line finding aids and databases created for the collections, or to archived websites. The Organization Records Guide will be updated on a regular basis as new collections are added to the Library and catalogued. Jason Roma … read more »
The fate of the Richmond Coliseum has been in question recently, with the city soliciting input from business leaders, local officials, and a consulting firm to determine what comes next for the much-maligned structure. Should the city continue to keep it limping along with costly repairs as needed, do a large-scale renovation, or demolish it in hopes of building a flashier replacement? Which of these options is best for Richmond, and where will the money come from? Alas, the Out of the Box bloggers can’t answer these questions for you. We can only lament on behalf of the near-40-year-old Coliseum, “What a drag it is getting old!”
Here at the Library of Virginia, however, there are reminders of how it all began, when the 13,500-capacity arena was the pride and joy of Richmond native and architect Ben R. Johns, Jr. (1922-2006). In 1968, Johns was tapped as the primary architect to work with the Philadelphia firm of Vincent G. Kling and Associates on the Coliseum project. While today the building has its share of detractors, back then it had at least a few admirers. As a result of the Coliseum design, Johns was recognized by the Virginia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1974 and the Richmond Planning Commission in 1975.
In 2007, the year after Johns’ death, a collection of his business records was donated to the LVA. Chiefly … read more »