Category Archives: Private Papers Blog Posts

- 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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- 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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- History in Motion

Former Virginia Governors William Tuck and Colgate Darden during the filming of Living History Makers, 1976

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 »

- Introducing… the Organization Records Guide

Detail shot of the July 1843 issue of "Dies Testus Tempara" (part of LVA Accession 23479).

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 »

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- The secession crisis: A Frenchman’s view of the “whirlwind”

Report, 8 December 1860, of consul Alfred Paul in Richmond to the French government, discussing growing tensions and the threat of civil war in the United States. Page 1. (Alfred Paul Reports, Accession 22992).

“The indecision and the absence of energy in the convention of Virginia which does not dare proclaim itself either for or against secession have ended by making the situation intolerable for everyone,” wrote Alfred Paul, the French consul in Richmond, in March 1861.  “This lack of spontaneity after the inauguration of the new administration destroys the sympathies of the two sections, North and South, toward Virginia.”  Paul closed his report of 9 March thusly:  “all that the convention has done up to the present can be summed up in three words or in a single word: nothing, nothing, nothing.”

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the secession crisis and the commencement of the Civil War.  Among The Library of Virginia’s many collections concerning secession and the war is the Alfred Paul Reports, 8 December 1860-9 March 1861 (Accession 22992).  Paul proved to be a keen observer of events in Virginia during the Winter of 1860-1861, providing the French government with valuable analysis of the state’s actions during the secession crisis.  [Note: The original reports are written in French; English translations are provided by the Library.]

Southerners, Paul stated, “want secession.”  South Carolina seized on the election of Abraham Lincoln to leave the Union, even though Lincoln had been “called to the presidency of the United States…in a general election, regular, legal, constitutional, in … read more »

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- A surveyor’s view of wartime Virginia

Sketch, entitled "Fredericksburg," from B. Lewis Blackford Sketchbook (Acc. 22177c) 

In May 1863, a team of Confederate topographical engineers surveying and mapping Louisa County were surprised by Union cavalry.  All but one of the team were captured.  B. Lewis Blackford managed to escape, despite losing everything except his horse.  “Among his losses,” his brother Charles Minor Blackford later stated, “was his note book, in which he kept copies of poems and other clever things he had written to various girls, all of which were published in full subsequently in the New York Herald, to whom they were furnished by their captor.  His note book was very handsomely illustrated also, as he was a good sketcher and drew exquisite caricatures.”

Seemingly undaunted by the loss of his notebook, Blackford in June 1863 began a new sketchbook, which eventually found its way into the Personal Papers Collection at the Library of Virginia (Accession 22177c).  The small (4”x 6 ½”) book contains 20 pencil and ink sketches.  Some are outlines and rough sketches of people and landscapes, while others are more polished. The finished sketches of members of Blackford’s company catch their personalities.  Blackford also captured the poignancy of war in his sketches titled “Fredericksburg” and “Chancellorsville.”  The first simply depicts a skull and bone and the second the ruins at the tiny crossroads.

Benjamin Lewis Blackford was born 5 August 1835 in Fredericksburg, to William Mathews … read more »

- We can’t all age gracefully

 Architectural model of the Richmond Coliseum

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 … read more »

- Sulphur, scams, and sketches

 A cropped view of one of Duralde's sketches.

“My health is so very bad that I do not know whether I will ever reach New Orleans or Cuba again.”

     –  Martin Duralde, Jr., to Henry Clay Duralde, 8 August 1846

“My cards are laying with the cock-roaches on the shelf.”

     - Martin Duralde, Jr., to Allen Jones, 12 August 1846

Wracked by tuberculosis (or consumption as it was then called), 23 year-old Martin Duralde spent a month and a half during the summer of 1846 at several Virginia springs in a futile attempt to recover his health.  As Duralde, the grandson of the legendary Henry Clay of Kentucky, traveled to the Blue, Red, and White Sulphur Springs of Greenbrier and Monroe Counties, (West) Virginia, he kept a letterbook that is now part of the LVA’s collection (Accession 22281).   

Duralde’s companion for part of this trip was a man named L. H. Coulter, called “Old C.” in the letters.  Travelling up the Kanawha River towards the springs, the two men stopped in a small town where they had heard that “there was a great superfluity of money.”  While running a card game there, Old C. was caught dealing two cards off the deck and “ruined a fine prospect” of the two winning between several hundred and two thousand dollars.  Their prospects didn’t pan out at either the Blue or Red Sulphur Springs and the … read more »

- Blame It On Rio

Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Transcript of document shown above.

As I was inventorying a collection of federal records housed at the Library, I stumbled upon a box of papers that did not seem to fit with the rest of the collection. I pulled the box, searched our catalog, and found an entry for the microfilm copy of the collection (Henry A. Wise Papers, Accession 36084, Miscellaneous Reel 421). I then decided to read through the papers to see if I could enhance the existing catalog record with more complete information. What I found was a very interesting piece of United States and South American history.

Henry A. Wise (1806-1876) was born in Accomack County, Virginia, to Major John Wise (d. 1812) and Sarah Corbin Cropper Wise (d. 1813). A lawyer who trained under Henry St. George Tucker and practiced in Tennessee and Virginia, he served for 11 years in the United States House of Representatives. In 1844 he was appointed by President John Tyler as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States to Brazil. During his time in this position, his somewhat overzealous and improper dealings with Brazil offended Emperor Pedro II and led to his being recalled in 1847.

By reading the notes and letters in this collection one can trace the escalating tensions between Wise and … read more »

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