Category Archives: State Records Blog Posts

- 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 »

- Virginians in the Great War: Clarence A. Bryce, Jr. (1889-1918)


Photograph of Clarence A. Bryce, Jr. (1889-1918), Bryce Questionnaire.

This is the first entry in a series of blog posts spotlighting stories and records of Virginia’s involvement in World War I. United States Marine Private Clarence A. Bryce, Jr., the subject of this week’s post, died on 2 November 1918 after being hit by a German artillery shell during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.


Clarence A. Bryce (1889-1918) Questionnaire, Virginia War History Commission, Series I. Individual Service Records (Questionnaires), box 16, folder 15, Accession 37219, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Clarence Archibald Bryce, Jr. was born on 17 August 1889 in Richmond, Virginia, to Clarence Archibald Bryce, Sr. (1849-1928), a physician, and Virginia Keene (1861-1935), an artist. Dr. Bryce was a prominent Richmond physician for over 50 years and a prolific writer on medical topics. Virginia Bryce studied art in Paris and ran an art school in Richmond. They had five children: Mildred Bryce (1886-1955), Virginia Bryce (1888-1974), Clarence Bryce, Jr. (1889-1918), Jeannette Bryce Staton (1892-1975), and Louise Bryce Pavay (1898-1985). When the United States entered the war in April 1917, Bryce was a self-employed auto mechanic in Richmond. He attempted to enlist in the Army but was rejected because of his low weight. Bryce successfully enlisted in the United States Marine Corp on 7 April 1918 at Paris Island, South Carolina.

After training at Fort Crockett, Texas and Quantico, Virginia, Bryce and his unit, Company B, 1st Training Battalion, left for France, arriving in Brest on 26 August 1918. After additional training for the front, Bryce joined 82nd Company, 6th … read more »

Also posted in World War I Centennial
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- Over There and Over Here: Virginia, World War I, and the Records of the War History Commission

Editor’s note: This post was adapted from a talk given by Roger Christman, state records archivist.


Virginia in the War: Topical Outline for a City or County War History - Publication No. 3, Virginia War History Commission, Series IX Office Files, box 233, folder 3, Accession 37219, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

A hundred years ago, on 6 April 1917, the United States officially entered World War I, declaring war on Germany almost three years after the conflict began in Europe. Virginia was a major participant in the United States’ war effort. Just over 100,000 Virginians served in World War I, with over 4,000 dying from disease, combat, and training accidents, and many more injured or disabled. Several areas in Virginia became essential centers for the war effort; these included Hampton Roads as a supply and deployment center, the naval base at Norfolk, the horse remount station in Front Royal, and the mobilization base now known as Fort Lee.

Virginia will commemorate the World War I centennial with a number of events and projects. The Virginia World War I and World War II Profiles of Honor Mobile Tour will provide an interactive exhibit to museums, libraries, and historic sites throughout Virginia. Visitors will be invited to bring their own World War I and II-related photographs to be scanned for inclusion in the Virginia Profiles of Honor project. The Library of Virginia will catalog these materials, and some will be featured on Transcribe along with materials from our other collections.


Photograph of Arthur Kyle Davis, Virginia War History Commission, Series XI. Office Files, 1917-1927, box 160, folder 1, Accession 37219, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Efforts to document Virginia’s involvement in WWI are far from new, however.  In … read more »

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- “To the land of their fathers”: Emancipation and the Virginia Colonization Board

The American Colonization Society was founded in 1817 to promote the voluntary return of free African Americans in the United States to Africa. In 1822, the Society founded a colony on the west coast of Africa that would become the independent nation of Liberia in 1847. In total, over 3,700 Virginians left for Africa between 1820 and 1865. Many emigrated voluntary, hoping to create better lives for themselves and their families in a colony where they could live as free citizens with full rights; others left only as a requirement of their emancipation. Such was the case with the enslaved persons owned by Elizabeth Gordon of Orange County. In her will, recorded on 22 November 1852, she freed her slaves with instructions that they be sent to Liberia with assistance from Rev. John Royal, who worked with the Virginia Colonization Society.

The General Assembly created the Virginia Colonization Board in April 1853, replacing several earlier incarnations of the Board, in order to help fund the transportation, removal, and settlement of Virginia free persons of color to Liberia. The Virginia Colonization Society, a branch of the American Colonization Society, arranged for the actual passage to Africa and presented the required affidavits to the Colonization Board, proving that individuals were free as of 6 April 1853 and were residents of the state. The Colonization Board reimbursed the … read more »

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- “Down in the shadow of the penitentiary:” the Closing of the Virginia Penitentiary


Photograph of Virginia Penitentiary, ca. 1991, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series IV. Office of the Superintendent, Subseries B. General Correspondence, Warden Raymond M. Muncy, Box 481, Folder 2, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

On Friday, 24 February, a new historical highway marker will be unveiled at the site of the former Virginia Penitentiary at the intersection of Belvidere and Spring Streets in Richmond. The marker, sponsored by Richmond author Dale Brumfield, was approved by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources on 30 June 2016. The Penitentiary closed on 14 December 1990. The Ethyl Corporation, which purchased the 16-acre property for $5 million in December 1987, demolished the Penitentiary in 1991-1992 to build their corporate headquarters on the site. The records of the Virginia Penitentiary at the Library of Virginia document the closing and demolition of the buildings.


Photograph of Cell Block,  Virginia Penitentiary, ca. 1991, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series IV. Office of the Superintendent, Subseries B. General Correspondence, Warden Raymond M. Muncy, Box 481, Folder 2, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

After the state sold the site to Ethyl, the plan was to close the Penitentiary on 1 July 1990. By that time, two new correctional facilities being built in Buchanan and Greensville counties would be finished and operational. Construction delays pushed back the openings of these new prisons and the closing of the Penitentiary was rescheduled for December 1990. In April 1990, A Building, the oldest prison building built in 1904, was closed and the prisoners relocated to B Building. A Building was in terrible condition: rusted cells, peeling paint, and pigeon droppings on the floor. B Building, built in 1939 and opened in 1942, wasn’t much better. A July 1990 inspection by the American Civil Liberties Union … read more »

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- Mug Shot Monday: Michael Bertone, No. 18654 and No. 21579


Photograph of Michael Bertone, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series IV. Office of the Superintendent, Subseries B. General Correspondence, Superintendent Rice M. Youell, Box 419, Folder 5, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday! This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary. Michael Bertone, the subject of this week’s post, was a member of a gang of yeggmen who robbed the Sussex and Surry Bank in Wakefield in 1921.


Virginian Pilot, 8 February 1921, page 15.

Early on Sunday, 6 February 1921, four men entered the Sussex and Surry Bank in Wakefield through a window. At about 2 AM, an explosion blew off the door to the vault. The bank robbers looted approximately $30,000 worth of Liberty Bonds and War Savings Stamps from the safety deposit boxes. They left by the back door and drove off in a stolen car. The vehicle, along with $1,800 of Liberty Bonds, was recovered in Petersburg the next day. The police had no witnesses or suspects.

The first break in the case occurred in July 1921. Harry Young, James Powers, alias “Hooligan Joe,” John Hall alias “Jingle Jerry,” and Mike Benton alias Michael Bertone, were arrested near Clarksburg, West Virginia. The four were charged with attempted train robbery. The thieves had removed the switch lights in an attempt to wreck the train and rob the express car. In November 1921, United States Post Office inspectors connected the four to the Wakefield Bank robbery. During their January 1922 term, the Sussex County grand jury … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Willie Williams, No. 17280


Photograph of Willie Williams, No. 17280, Escaped Inmate Card, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 42, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary. Willie Williams’, the subject of this week’s post, unruly behavior led a State Convict Road Force (SCRF) officer to shoot him in 1934.

Willie Williams was only 16 years old in August 1921 when he was convicted of housebreaking and sentenced to three years in the Virginia Penitentiary by the Richmond Circuit Court. Williams was then assigned to State Convict Road Force Camp 21. He was not a model prisoner. He was punished three times prior to his escape on 20 June 1923.


Letter from Sgt. M.C. Russell, dated 1 January 1934, to Superintendent R.M. Youell, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Box 527, Folder 6.

Williams was on the run for over nine years. After his recapture on 1 August 1932, Williams was assigned to SCRF Camp 15 in Wythe County where he continued to be disruptive. In 1933 alone he was disciplined three times for fighting with other prisoners and once for talking back to one of the guards. For each infraction his punishment was standing in cuffs for several hours. By the end of the year, SCRF Sgt. M.C. Russell had had enough. On 30 December 1933, Williams claimed he was sick and refused to work. A doctor’s examination found Williams fit and able to work. When informed of the doctor’s findings, Williams said “this was a hell of a … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: William H. Oehlert, No. 11708 and 17831


Photograph of William Oehlert, No. 17831, Escaped Inmate Card, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 43, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday! This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary. William Oehlert had a lengthy criminal record, a history of escapes, a love of shooting guns, and was one of the worst behaved prisoners in the Virginia Penitentiary – until his incarceration finally broke him and he became a model prisoner.

William H. Oehlert, the son of German immigrants, was born on 21 July 1884 in Alexandria, Virginia. His father, August Oehlert (1851-1914) was a cigar maker and Alexandria’s police commissioner. Oehlert’s first known brush with the law occurred in January 1905, when he was arrested in Alexandria on suspicion of robbery. The case was dismissed but other arrests in Alexandria soon followed:

  • March 1905 – arrested on suspicion of robbing freight cars. Case dismissed due to lack of evidence.
  • January 1910 – arrested on suspicion of robbery. Case dismissed due to lack of evidence.
  • September 1911 – arrested for assault and fined $10 for creating a disturbance.
  • August 1912 – arrested for transporting stole goods. Charges dropped.
  • August 1912 – charged with stealing a spark coil from a Southern Railway Company freight car. Acquitted.
  • January 1913 – arrested for assaulting his brother-in-law A.E. Smoot and shooting a pistol in the street. Fined $10 for assault.

In October 1912, … read more »