On 28 November 1818, John McCarty of Loudoun County wrote a short letter to the Speaker of the House of Delegates of Virginia, declining the seat he had recently been elected to in that body. The reason? Since his election, he had accepted a challenge from his cousin, U. S. Senator Armistead T. Mason, and would therefore be unable to take the required oath against dueling.
Arising from the practices of European nobility, for many years dueling was a surprisingly frequent occurrence in American life—and politics. In a society pervaded by ideas of honor and reputation, disputes that started in the political realm quickly turned personal, and it was far from rare for politicians to engage in so-called “affairs of honor;” the Hamilton-Burr duel is only one of the most famous examples.
Politics were also at the root of the disagreement between John Mason McCarty and his cousin, Armistead Thompson Mason. The two men already had an acrimonious political relationship, stemming from a contentious election where McCarty supported Federalist Charles Fenton Mercer over the Democratic-Republican Mason for a seat in the House of Representatives. Although Mason was selected to serve in the U. S. Senate, McCarty and Mason continued to take potshots at each other in the press, publishing numerous letters in the Leesburg newspaper The Genius of Liberty. In May 1818, the … read more »
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in The Delimiter, the Library’s in-house on-line newsletter. It has been slightly edited for clarity.
To commemorate the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights, Philip Morris wanted to finance a major tour of an original copy of the document– the basis for many of our basic freedoms and rights. As the repository of Virginia’s copy of the Bill of Rights, The Virginia State Library and Archives (now the Library of Virginia) was approached and agreed to its use.
Philip Morris funded restoration work on the document and financed the fabrication of both an elaborate traveling case, as well as a display case. Both cases had advanced climatic control and were designed to protect this precious document from any potential harm. In addition to the immediate housing for the document, the design of the display system guaranteed crowd control, as well as allowing adequate viewing of the document by visitors wishing to see the Bill of Rights.
The tour consisted of a 52 city, 50 state tour, commencing in Barre, VT, on 10 October 1990 and winding up with the document’s return home to Richmond on 11 December 1991 (with a grand total of 26,000 miles traveled), culminating in a fundraising dinner and closing of the exhibition on 15 December. The tour was planned to ensure that weather conditions … read more »
While processing Governor E. Lee Trinkle’s Executive Papers, 1922-1926, I came across several folders relating to the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond, Virginia. One folder held several paint samples that were likely used to decorate the mansion. One sample of cream paint is marked “Entrance all,” while another color, light drab, is marked “State reception room.” It is worth noting that on 4 January 1926, Governor E. Lee Trinkle’s 5 year old son, Billy, accidently set a Christmas tree alight with a sparkler and caused a fire at the mansion. It is unknown if these color samples were used to repaint the Mansion after the fire or if they were used to repaint the mansion when the family first moved in after Trinkle’s inauguration in 1922. Either way it is interesting to see what colors were chosen to paint the mansion during Governor Trinkle’s term.
-Renee Savits, State Records Archivist… read more »
The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the release of 6,745 emails from the administration of Governor Timothy M. Kaine (2006-2010). This latest batch comprises emails from individuals in Kaine’s Secretary of Public Safety office. Included are the email boxes of John Marshall, Clyde Cristman, Marilyn Harris, Dawn Smith and Erin Bryant. Since January 2014, the Library has made 145,605 emails from the Kaine administration freely available online to the public.
The Office of the Secretary of Public Safety focused on a variety of subjects including: tracking legislation; stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009; the 16 April 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech; the creation of a public safety memorial; minority procurement; the work of the Governor’s Office for Substance Abuse Prevention (GOSAP); and planning for Queen Elizabeth II’s 2007 visit to Virginia. For the complete picture, you will need to jump into the collection and start digging.
The Library of Virginia’s Kaine Email Project makes the email records from the administration of Governor Timothy M. Kaine, Virginia’s 70th governor (2006–2010), accessible online. Users can search and view email records from the Governor’s Office and his cabinet secretaries; learn about other public records from the Kaine Administration; go behind the scenes to see how the Library of Virginia made the email records available; and read what … read more »
Even government officials have to let loose sometimes. Happy Star Wars Day from your Out of the Box editors and the Kaine email project!
… read more »
The passage of the Statute for Religious Freedom by the General Assembly in 1786 guaranteed religious freedom to people of all faiths. However, Quakers, Mennonites, Jews, and other religious minorities continued to have concerns about worshiping freely. Their religious beliefs and practices did not conform to the mainstream Protestant beliefs and cultural customs of the day. They felt it necessary to file petitions with the General Assembly in an attempt to safeguard their religious practices.
The topic of the petitions could be something seemingly mundane as with one filed by Quakers from Surry County seeking permission to keep their hats on when greeting another person. They believed the custom of removing one’s hat to greet someone “originated in pride and superstition and that it [hat removal] is a mark of honor due only to the Supreme Being.” Other petitions were more controversial such as ones filed by a group of Quakers, Mennonites, Dunkards, and Tunkers asking to be exempted from military duty on religious grounds.
Some petitions filed by religious minorities were more easily accommodated than others. One religious tenet that proved difficult to accommodate was observance of the Sabbath. On 26 December 1792, the General Assembly passed a law entitled “An act for the effectual suppression of vice, and punishing the disturbers of religious worship, and Sabbath Breakers.” The portion of the act related … read more »
In his debut novel, Forsaken, Ross Howell Jr. tells the story of an uneducated African American servant, Virginia Christian, who was tried for killing her white employer in 1912. She died in the electric chair one day after her 17th birthday, the only female juvenile executed in Virginia since 1908. Howell researched the case using a variety of documents and images related to Christian’s execution found in the Library of Virginia’s collections.
The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce a new digital exhibition, Forsaken: The Digital Bibliography, which spotlights the court records and newspaper stories used and referenced in the novel. Included are: the coroner’s inquest for Ida V. Belote; Virginia Christian’s trial, appeal, and clemency records; and newspaper coverage of these events from the Newport News Times-Herald and Daily Press.
As noted at the beginning of the novel, Forsaken is a work of fiction, but many of the characters were real people. Forsaken: The Digital Bibliography includes brief biographical sketches and documents related to these individuals. Also included is additional background material on other historic events referenced in the text, such as Nat Turner’s Rebellion and the “Allen Gang.” The epilogue focuses on what happened to the real-life main characters: Charles Mears, Harriet and Sadie Belote, Charles Pace, and others.
While by no means comprehensive (and very much … read more »
Also posted in What's New in the Archives
Tags: African Americans, capital punishment, Charles Mears, Charles Pace, Charlotte Christian, coroners' inquisitions, E.E. Montague, execution files, George Fields, Hampton (City), Harriet Christian, Henry Christian, Ida Belote, J. Thomas Newsome, J.B. Wood, Lewter F. Hobbs, murder, state records, Virginia Christian
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in The Library of Virginia Official Newsletter, May/June 2001. It has been edited slightly.
Efficiency in government. Responsible spending. Eliminate waste in government. These phrases are often tossed about, especially during political campaigns. Calls for responsible government spending and efficiency are not new, and probably will remain a constant theme in our political process.
One early attempt at governmental reform was the State Commission on Economy and Efficiency, which functioned from 1916 until 1918. The papers of this Commission were part of an accession of miscellaneous papers from the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office. The General Assembly created the Commission in 1916 to make a “careful and detailed study of the organization and methods of the State and local governments” within Virginia. The five members of the Commission—P. H. Drewry, George L. Browning, J. Calvin Moss, Richard Evelyn Byrd, and LeRoy Hodges—made a detailed study of state government, presented their findings, and made recommendations to the General Assembly in 1918. Many of these recommendations were implemented and still influence the way state government operates today.
The creation of Virginia’s Commission on Economy and Efficiency was in part due to a national trend in budget reform. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, concerns about the integrity and accountability of political leaders was … read more »
As a holiday, Thanksgiving has a long history in Virginia. Arguably the first Day of Thanksgiving intended to serve as an annual holiday was celebrated at the Berkeley Hundred plantation on 4 December 1619, although thanksgiving services were a commonality in all areas settled by Europeans. George Washington issued the first proclamation of a day of Thanksgiving under the new national government in 1789, following up with a second Thanksgiving proclamation in 1795. It was under President Abraham Lincoln that the day became a true federal holiday; Lincoln was prompted by a series of editorials and letters written by Sarah Josepha Hale to proclaim the final Thursday in November 1863 as the national Thanksgiving Day.
In the years following 1863, presidents followed Lincoln’s example and proclaimed the final Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day. State governors would also issue Thanksgiving proclamations for their individual states. The Library of Virginia has several examples of proclamation issued by Governors McKinney, O’Ferrall, and Tyler between 1893 and 1898. In these proclamations, governors encouraged citizens to gather with their friends and families, do “some good deed,” and to help those less fortunate by “brining comfort and happiness to homes and hearts that have been darkened by adversity.” The governors reference national events such as the Spanish-American War and the Panic of 1896, praising the “wonderful courage and firmness” of … read more »
In observance of Veteran’s Day, Out of the Box would like to spotlight the Virginia World War II Separation Notices (accession 23573). Part of the records of the Virginia World War II History Commission, the collection contains approximately 250,000 notices for World War II veterans discharged between 1942 and 1950 (with the bulk between 1944 and 1946) who sought employment in Virginia. Most of the notices are for military personnel who were born or raised in Virginia prior to the war and returned to Virginia after their discharge from service. While not a complete military service record, the separation notices provide a glimpse into the combat and wartime experiences, background, and post-war lives of Virginia World War II veterans.
The one page separation notice packs in a wealth of information including date and place of birth, physical description, race, marital status, and civilian occupation for each individual. Also included is rank, military organization, date of induction or enlistment, place of entry into service, military occupation, battles and campaigns, decorations and citations, wounds received in action, service outside the continental United States, prior service, total lengthy of service, and reason for separation. Naval records also list training schools attended and places of service (ships and naval stations). In addition to the separation notice, many of the army records also contain a qualification record documenting the … read more »