Digital images of Legislative Petitions to the Virginia General Assembly, 1776 to 1865, from Bath County through Essex County are now available on Virginia Memory, the Library of Virginia’s digital collections website. The list of localities added includes present-day West Virginia counties such as Barbour, Berkeley, Boone, Braxton, Brooke, Cabell, Calhoun, and Doddridge Counties. It also includes numerous localities classified as Lost Records Localities such as Bland, Buckingham, Caroline, Charles City, Dinwiddie, and Elizabeth City Counties. With this addition, the number of legislative petitions available for viewing online currently number over 5000.
For researchers of African-American history and genealogy, the legislative petitions are an invaluable primary source on the topics of slavery, free African-Americans, and race relations prior to the Civil War. One will find petitions from slave owners seeking approval to import their slaves into the Commonwealth from another state; free African-Americans seeking permission to remain in the Commonwealth; heirs of slave owners seeking to prevent the emancipation of slaves freed by their parent’s will; free African-Americans seeking divorce from their spouse. The following are specific examples of the research potential on African-American history and genealogy that can be found in the collection.
John S. Harrison of Berkeley County petitioned the General Assembly in 1810 asking for permission to import three slaves, named Paris, Letty, and Daniel, from Maryland to Virginia. Harrison … read more »
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. Frank Perry, the subject of this week’s post, was a twice convicted felon who killed himself in front of a courtyard filled with guards.
In December 1899 Frank Perry, a North Carolina native using the name Frank Swann, was sentenced to three years in the Penitentiary for stealing and housebreaking. He was discharged on 15 July 1902. Perry didn’t stay out of trouble for long. The Newport News Corporation Court in September 1904 sentenced Perry to two years in the Penitentiary for felonious cutting. An additional five years were added to Perry’s sentence since this was his second conviction.
Monday, 6 July 1908, began as any other day at the Penitentiary. At 6 a.m. the guards issued the call for the prisoners to form the breakfast line. As the cell doors opened, Frank Perry began to fight with this cellmate, Upshur Lewis. One of the guards separated the men and ordered Perry to the courtyard. According to the Richmond Time-Dispatch, Perry appeared to comply with the guard’s order when he suddenly “placed his hand on the railing and dived over twenty-five feet to the stone floor.” His head hit the floor violently, knocking Perry unconscious; he also … read more »
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. Walter E. Stiars, the subject of this week’s post, is in essence the father of Mug Shot Monday. His daring 1906 escape from the Virginia Penitentiary, eerily similar to Andy Dufresne’s in the film The Shawshank Redemption, was the catalyst for requiring that prisoners be photographed.
On 28 February 1905, the Manchester Corporation Court sentenced Walter E. Stiars, age 30, to eight years in the Virginia Penitentiary on two counts of breaking and entering. Penitentiary officials considered Stiars dangerous. They assigned him to work in the office of the Davis Boot and Shoe Company in order to keep him under constant surveillance and away from any tools. The noon dinner bell rang as usual on Saturday, 16 June 1906. During roll call, Stiars did not answer “adsum” when his name was called. A search of the prison revealed he was not on the premises and Penitentiary officials presumed he escaped sometime on the evening of 15 June. Or had he? As a precaution, extra guards were posted along the outer walls. Penitentiary Superintendent Captain Evan F. Morgan was confident Stiars would be captured. “We expect to land him,” Morgan told the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 17 June, “and … read more »
As public schools across Virginia open this week, Out of the Box would like to spotlight the records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, a state agency created in 1956 in reaction to the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) United States Supreme Court decision. The Pupil Placement Board, as one arm of Virginia’s policy of Massive Resistance, was charged with assigning, enrolling, or placing students to and in public schools, a task formerly under the control of local school boards and divisions of superintendents. The board operated from 1957 to 1966, but its power diminished with the end of Massive Resistance in 1959. The collection, now available to researchers, contains 746 boxes of paper records. Included are correspondence and subject files, personnel files, board minutes, legal files, maps, publications and newspaper clippings, and applications for student placement.
The board’s authorizing legislation required members to take several factors into consideration when placing a pupil in a school. Factors included but were not limited to the health of the pupil, his or her aptitudes, the availability of transportation, and, “such other relevant matters as may be pertinent to the efficient operation of the schools or indicate a clear and present danger to the public peace and tranquility affecting the safety or welfare of the citizens of such school district.” Students who were already in … read more »
Craig Moore, State Records Appraisal Archivist, died on August 13 after a lengthy battle with cancer. While long time readers of Out of the Box will know Craig from his many posts, he was anonymous to most researchers conducting archival research at the Library of Virginia. For most of Craig’s 15 years at the Library, he worked behind the scenes in the State Records section making some of the Library’s most significant collections accessible. His work will contribute greatly to understanding the state’s history for generations.
I met Craig in 1998 when he joined the Library’s Archives Reference staff. A year later we both started new positions in the State Records section and became “office mates.” Craig and I shared an office which was unusual in our (then) new building. Sharing a workspace can be a minefield of personality quirks. For us, it worked and we became good friends. We had similar interests (baseball, football, South Park, listening to Howard Stern, fantasy football, the music of Genesis, etc.), the same sense of humor (potty jokes made us giggle like school girls), and a love of history and our work as archivists. We laughed at the names he would see in the records such as: Bittle C. Keister, Reekes & Goode, Attorneys at Law, Garland P. Peed, M.I. Snoody, and many others that are … read more »
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in The Delimiter, the Library’s in-house on-line newsletter. It has been shortened and edited slightly.
This week Out of the Box would like to spotlight the records of the Virginia Prohibition Commission, 1916-1934 (Accession 42740). The collection contains 203 boxes of paper and two volumes spanning nearly 20 years. The records provide valuable insight into enforcement of Prohibition laws in Virginia, as well as a glimpse into significant societal changes occurring at that time. Yet, this valuable resource was nearly lost to generations of researchers. In 1938, a bill was submitted to the House of Delegates seeking to destroy the records; however, the editors of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and citizens of the community strongly protested that these records should be preserved. A bill was eventually passed transferring custody of the records of the Prohibition Commission to the State Librarian “to preserve such of the records and papers as he may be of the opinion should be preserved for historical or other interest.” The Library of Virginia processed this collection in 2010.
The Virginia Prohibition Commission was created in 1916 by an act of the General Assembly to enforce the Virginia Prohibition Act, which went into effect on 1 November 1916. This law did not restrict individuals’ ability to manufacture alcoholic beverages, or “ardent spirits,” for their own … read more »
The Executive Papers of Governor Henry C. Stuart, 1914-1918 (LVA accession 28722) are now available to researchers as part of an ongoing project to arrange and describe the papers of Virginia’s governors that have been lost thus far in the archival backlog. Once housed in acidic boxes with some metal pins and staples, Stuart’s papers now have been reboxed and refoldered. More importantly, the papers have received detailed archival processing in order to unearth some of the gems below. Though not the most important administration of the 20th century, it is clear Stuart’s was eventful and the records illustrate the significant moments of his term in office. From the unveiling of a statue to Virginia’s dead at Gettysburg to the country’s initial involvement in World War I, Stuart’s papers are a valuable resource for early 20th century Virginia researchers.
-Craig S. Moore, State Records Appraisal Archivist
Public improvements, military claims, divorce, manumission of slaves, division of counties, incorporation of towns, religious freedom, and taxation are just some of the concerns expressed in the Library of Virginia’s collection of Legislative Petitions to the Virginia General Assembly, 1776 to 1865. In late 2012, the Library partnered with Backstage Library Works in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to digitize the collection straight from the microfilm which was created in-house in 2002. Work has now begun to take the 150,000 digital images, unite them with the database entries constructed on the Library’s searchable website (Legislative Petition Online Database), and make them accessible through Digitool – the Library’s digital asset management system. Thus far, the counties from Accomack through Amelia and Appomattox through Barbour are available (Legislative Petitions on Digitool). Besides the images, these entries in Digitool provide the same information previously available on the Legislative Petition Online Database including the petitioner, date, description, and subjects. The petitions often contain hundreds of signatures and are a useful tool in genealogical research. Frequently, the petitions contain supplementary support documents useful in research including maps, wills, naturalizations, deeds, resolutions, affidavits, judgments, and other items.
There are many noteworthy and valuable documents among the over 1,000 petitions currently digitized. Accomack County alone includes several appeals of freed slaves for permission to remain in the state following their emancipation as required … read more »
On 16 March 2013, Virginia’s Executive Mansion celebrated its 200th anniversary with a birthday party at the Library of Virginia. The highlight of the event was a public screening of a new Mansion documentary, First House, produced by Blue Ridge PBS in partnership with Appeal Productions. The Library of Virginia and Citizens’ Advisory Council for Interpreting and Furnishing the Executive Mansion also published a commemorative book, First House: Two Centuries with Virginia’s First Families, written by Mary Miley Theobald. Out of the Box decided to jump on the bandwagon with a post highlighting some of the archival records about the Executive Mansion at the Library.
The history of the Executive Mansion (also called Governor’s House or Governor’s Mansion) is well represented in the Library’s archival collections. The Auditor of Public Accounts, Capital Square Data Records, 1779-1971, document the construction, furnishing, and repair of the 1813 Executive Mansion and the various buildings used by the governor prior to the Mansion’s construction. The Drawing and Plans Collection includes a photographic copy of a page from Alexander Parris’ sketchbook depicting the floor plan for the Virginia Governor’s Mansion. Parris designed the mansion in 1811-1812. An Executive Communication to the Speaker of the House of Delegates, dated 17 February 1813, includes photocopy of a report from David Bullock, William McKim, and Robert Greenhow, … read more »
In 1923 the Virginia General Assembly accepted a gift which would lead to an international investigation and administrative embarrassment 15 years later. The gift was a 300-year-old portrait of none other than “first Captain and practical founder of the State of Virginia” Captain John Smith. Or was it? The painting depicts a bearded man wearing a fur-trimmed hat and elaborately embroidered coat, flanked above by putti (chubby male children) holding pelts and below by snarling lions. The portrait was presented to the General Assembly by 15 prominent Virginians including John Stewart Bryan, Fairfax Harrison, and Eppa Hunton Jr.
The portrait was purchased for $1,000 in 1923 through the London-based firm of B.F. Stevens and Brown, “experts in Americana.” The painting subsequently hung in the Governor’s Office, where it remained until the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, Alexander W. Weddell, studied the painting while editing the book A Memorial Volume of Virginia Historical Portraiture, 1585-1830. Weddell believed the portrait to be that of “the half-mad son of Lady Mary Wortley Montague, who was known to have walked about London in Oriental garb.” Weddell discussed the portrait with the director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, H. M. Hake, who found the original engraving which the Commonwealth’s portrait was modeled after–and it is of little surprise that it was not of John Smith.… read more »