Category Archives: State Records Blog Posts

- I’m A Sap: The WWI Letters of David J. Castleman


Good-Bye Kiss, ca. 1917.

My name is Chloe Staples, and I am from Richmond, Virginia. I am a rising senior at Lynchburg College with a major in United States history and a minor in Spanish. This summer, I am interning at the Library of Virginia (LVA) in the Information Security & Technology Services department.

My first month at the LVA has been so great. I have learned new skills that will help me down the road, worked with incredible people, and done work of which I can be proud. As one of my first assignments, I went through boxes of World War I-era documents from soldiers born in Virginia to determine which ones would be interesting for the public on Transcribe. The first few boxes were mostly boring—I read about a guy’s car sale for about ten letters! Things started to get more interesting as I went through the war correspondence files in the Executive Papers of Governor Westmoreland Davis, 1911-1922. The most interesting cache was definitely the letters from David J. Castleman—a Greensboro, Alabama native– fighting in the war abroad. His letters are some of the sweetest things I have had the pleasure to read in my, admittedly short, 21 years of life. It is both fascinating and moving to learn about someone through their letters and sort of put yourself in their position.

Castleman wrote … read more »

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- Drink Wet and Vote Dry

One of the hallmarks of the age of Prohibition is a certain level of contradiction. After all, the country was supposed to be entirely dry; the 18th amendment, passed in 1920, prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcoholic beverages. And yet the 1920s are best remembered for the culture of speakeasies and flappers, flasks hidden in garters or walking sticks, and bootleggers, mobsters, and moonshiners. The prohibition movement had always been dogged by the hypocritical beliefs of political leaders who supported the general outlawing of alcohol but saw no reason to restrict their own consumption. Even Governor Harry F. Byrd, who was personally a “dry,” knew how to procure a supply of brandy for Winston Churchill’s visit to the Executive Mansion in October 1929.

 

This disparity was publicly called out in April 1930, when Vivian L. Page, a member of the House of Delegates from Norfolk, claimed that the House of Delegates would be overwhelmingly wet if a secret ballot were taken, and that he had personally “drunk with 95 per cent of the delegates.” The statement was reported in the Richmond Times-Dispatch the next day and caused something of an uproar. Reverend David Hepburn, the superintendent of the Anti-Saloon League of Virginia, wrote an angry letter to Governor John Garland Pollard, complaining both about the flagrant violations of the Prohibition Law … read more »

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- The Library of Virginia Releases Virginia Tech Review Panel Records


Handwritten notes from Second Public Meeting of Virginia Tech Review Panel, dated 21 May 2007, by Phil Schaenman, Virginia Tech Review Panel staff director, Records of the Virginia Tech Review Panel, Series II. Files of TriData, Subseries C.1. Files of Phil Schaenman, Box 16, Folder 4, Accession 51144, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

The Library of Virginia has completed processing the records of the Virginia Tech Review Panel, 2007-2009 (bulk 2007) (accession 51144) and they are open to researchers. This collection documents Virginia’s official investigation into the 16 April 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech. Included are the records of individual panel members, Seung Hui Cho’s educational records from Fairfax County and Virginia Tech as well as his Virginia Tech medical records, interview notes, chapter drafts of Mass Shootings at Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007: Report of the Virginia Tech Review Panel presented to Governor Kaine, August 2007, and addendums to the report compiled in November and December 2009. This is a hybrid collection with paper records available in the Library’s Archives Research Room during normal business hours. The Virginia Tech Review Panel emails are accessible online via Digitool under State Archives Collections. Researchers are strongly encouraged to read the email Tip Sheets before using the collection.

On 16 April 2007, Seung Hui Cho killed 32 people and injured at least 17 others before turning the gun on himself. The massacre at Virginia Tech is one of the deadliest shooting incidents by a single gunman in United States history. On 19 April 2007, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine commissioned the Virginia Tech Review Panel “to conduct an independent, thorough, and objective incident review of the tragedy at Virginia … read more »

- “Fit to Fight”: The Second Virginia Council of Defense

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


Camp A. A. Humphreys (now Fort Belvoir), ca. 1918, Box 279, Folder 9. Virginia War History Commission, Series XIV: Second Virginia Council of Defense, 1917-1921, 1923-1924. Accession 37219, State Records Collection, The Library of Virginia.

In 1915, as the guns thundered in Europe, America found itself at a crossroads. A small but vocal group, including Teddy Roosevelt and General Leonard Wood, called for preparedness– the immediate build-up of naval and land forces to make the nation ready for war. President Wilson and the Democrats, more inclined toward localism and the state-based National Guard, found these notions suspicious and did little to grow the existing military. Consequently, prior to the National Defense Act (June 1916), the U. S. Army consisted of about 100,000 men. Even combined with 100,000 National Guardsmen, it fell well short of the Imperial German Army by a factor of 20.

When United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, there immediately arose a critical need for able-bodied men to fight. Congress had created the Council of National Defense nearly a year earlier to coordinate all national resources relevant to efficient mobilization and maintenance of the armed forces. Each state created its own Council of Defense to carry out the directives of the national body. After a disorganized start in April 1917 by Governor Henry Stuart, Governor Westmoreland Davis established the Commonwealth’s Second Virginia Council of Defense (SVCD) in February 1918.

The Council’s activities … read more »

Also posted in World War I Centennial
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- Over The Top and at “em”: 100 Years at Fort Lee

B44_postcard007

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

Soon after the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the War Department acquired land between Petersburg and Hopewell to construct a new military cantonment. The camp, named for Confederate general Robert E. Lee, was soon designated as a division training center. Construction began on Camp Lee in June 1917, and by September the facility had more than 1,500 buildings and was ready to begin receiving members of the 80th Division for training. At its peak, the camp was the third-largest population center in Virginia behind Richmond and Norfolk, with some 60,000 doughboys passing through its training facilities on their way “Over There.”

 

The camp hosted a number of Army organizations, including an auxiliary remount depot, an office of the judge advocate, an infantry officers’ training school, a base hospital and later a convalescent center. As the area worked to accommodate the needs of this sudden influx of young men, a number of  social organizations also had a presence on the camp, including the YMCA, Jewish Welfare Board, and Knights of Columbus. The American Libraries Association, which had established a Library War Service headquartered at the Library of Congress, created a camp library with the assistance of Dr. Henry McIlwaine … read more »

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- Virginians in the Great War: Harry Anderson Matthews (1894-1918)


Photograph of Harry Anderson Matthews (1894-1918), Questionnaire, Virginia War History Commission, Series I. Individual Service Records (Questionnaires), box 17, Accession 37219, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

This is the latest entry in a series of blog posts spotlighting stories and records of Virginia’s involvement in World War I. Corporal Harry A. Matthews, the subject of this week’s post, died on 5 December 1918 from wounds he received during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on 11 November. Matthews’s sparse World War I Questionnaire tells a sad story of love and loss.


Harry Anderson Matthews (1894-1918), Questionnaire, Virginia War History Commission, Series I. Individual Service Records (Questionnaires), box 17, Accession 37219, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Harry Anderson Matthews was born on 8 December 1894 in Richmond, Virginia, to Harry Lee Matthews (1868-1925), a general contractor, and Minnie Pohle (1870-1951). The Matthews family had at least eight children: Hudson W. Matthews (1893-1924), Henry A. Matthews (1894-1918), Irving Lee Matthews (1898-1967), Linwood C. Matthews (1901-1965), Marie Matthews (1905-1969), Herbert T. Matthews (1906-1967), Audrey L. Matthews (1906-1994), and William A. Matthews (1909-1910). When the United States entered the war in April 1917, Matthews worked for his father as a building foreman. On 19 January 1918, Matthews married Adelia Charlotte Howland (1899-1982). He was inducted into the army on 27 May 1918 and left for Europe on 6 August 1918. His daughter, Marjorie, was born thirteen days later.

Matthews served in the 164th Machine Gun Company, 26th Infantry Division. His unit fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a 47 day (26 September to 11 November 1918) American offensive along a twenty-four mile front from the Argonne Forest to the Meuse River. … read more »

- “A Frolicsome Freak of Boyhood”



Jacket of Application for Pardon of James Gibson, Charles Tosh, John Lyle, James Allen, Rufus Percival, and David Austin. Secretary of the Commonwealth, Executive Papers, 1876, June 20-September 1876, Box 48, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with the
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, sponsored four residential fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. Catherine Jones, associate professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, spent the fall semester researching and writing, Child Prisoners and the Limits of Citizenship in the New South.

On 22 September 1876, Governor James L. Kemper issued a conditional pardon to six inmates housed at the Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond. He explained his action by noting that all but one was “under seventeen years of age.” Further, he characterized the boys’ actions—stealing and consuming food from a hotel dining room—as an “impulsive and frolicsome freak of boyhood.”  Kemper’s pardon and the appeals that prompted it, shed light on a tricky question— what did age mean to Virginians in the nineteenth century, particularly as it related to criminal responsibility?


Entry for James Gibson, John Lyle, Rufus Percival, James Allen, and David Austin, 11 May 1876, Prisoner Register No. 5, 1876-1884, page 59, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Subseries A. Registers, Miscellaneous Reel 5990, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, LIbrary of Virginia (part one).

The Virginians pardoned by the Governor—James Gibson, Charles Tosh, John Lyle, Rufus Percival, James Allen, and David Austin—were committed to the penitentiary on 11 May 1876. The Wythe County Court had sentenced the youths to five years in the penitentiary for burglary and theft of food valued at under $9. These six young prisoners became part of a penitentiary population that grew rapidly between the end of the … read more »

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- Time in a Box: the Kaine Administration “Time Capsule”


Contents of Time Capsule

Every box of records that arrives at the Library of Virginia is full of possibilities. We never know what we are going to find in the most seemingly mundane records series. I was reminded of this recently when I discovered a mini time capsule in a box of records from the Kaine administration (2006-2010).


kaine001

I was processing a box of Secretary of the Commonwealth Kate Hanley’s (2006-2010) correspondence when I found a bundle of papers with the following note:

“Please Read! We decided to fill the empty space in this box with some time capsule items from here in the SOC. Enjoy! Governor Kaine’s SOC 2006-2009

The “time capsule” contains:

  • A Virginia is for Lovers bumper sticker
  • A paper plate
  • The wrapper from a Dr. Pepper bottle
  • Coupons for Papa John’s Pizza
  • The Wall Street Deli takeout menu
  • Road map of Virginia
  • Chicken Box menu
  • Bojangle’s menu
  • A copy of Museum Movement Techniques: How to Craft a Moving Museum Experience by Shelley Kruger Weisberg

What can we learn about the staff of the Secretary of the Commonwealth from this anthropological find? Food, especially chicken and pizza, was very important them. And, judging by a photocopy of this image,

Image from: http://www.aaanything.net/40695/pictorial/funny/demotivate-july/attachment/survival-when-you-are-in-deep-trouble-say-nothing-and-try-to-look-like-you-know-what-youre-doing/ accessed on 2 May 2017

they had a sense of humor. As to the meaning of the Museum Movement Techniques book, I’ve got nothing.

This time capsule also spotlights the human … read more »

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- Pardon Me

Within the records of Governor E. Lee Trinkle (1922-1926) are several boxes relating to extraditions and pardons of prisoners. I came across one letter from Leroy Kittrell to the Governor, dated 12 December 1923, asking for a pardon after his conviction for running a still. In his letter, he appealed to the Governor for a pardon, stating that his son had recently been murdered , his wife had injured herself and could not work, and he was needed to support the family. I found an article from the Richmond Times Dispatch, 26 November 1923, regarding the shooting of Eddie Kittrell, a nine-year-old African American boy who is presumably Mr. Kittrell’s son.

I found this letter so interesting not only because of the sad story but mostly because of the beautiful hand-drawn images of Santa Claus, horse, carriage and snowy scenery. It is unclear if Governor Trinkle pardoned the gentleman, since the only thing in the files for Mr. Kittrell is this letter. It is highly doubtful that Governor Trinkle issued a pardon because he supported Prohibition and rejected most, if not all, applications for pardons that dealt with the illegal production of alcohol. Mr. Kittrell must have been a talented artist though. This is one of the prettiest drawings I’ve seen and thought others should get to enjoy it too.

-Renee Savits, State records … read more »

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- Drying Out Dixieland: The Confederacy and Prohibition

What do prohibition and the American Civil War have in common? More than you may think. The debate over prohibition in Virginia, which culminated in Virginia going “dry” on 1 November 1916, occurred during a period of sectional reconciliation between the North and the South. In November 1912, Woodrow Wilson became the first southern Democrat elected President of the United States since the Civil War; Union and Confederate troops held a reunion in Gettysburg in July 1913; and in 1916, a Confederate Memorial was created at Arlington National Cemetery. However, as the country was becoming less divided over the war, new divisions arose over prohibition. Over the course of state and later national prohibition, both opponents and proponents used the memory of the Civil War and especially the Confederacy to support their positions.

A 1914 anti-prohibition tract from the Virginia Association for Local Self-Government proclaimed that “a large majority of Virginians are free and independent and will not bend to the lash of the invader’s whip.” The Anti-Saloon League (derisively referred to by opponents as the Ohio Anti-Saloon League) faced problems in much of the former Confederacy due to its northern origins, as well as the strong antebellum links between the temperance and abolitionist movements. Although organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) flourished in Virginia starting in the 1880s, the Virginia Anti-Saloon … read more »