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- “My place of residence is Camp Lee, Virginia”: World War I Military Naturalizations

Beginning in 1795, the United States required individuals who wished to become United States citizens to file a declaration of intent, followed by a petition for naturalization a few years later. In the midst of World War I, Congress decided on 9 May 1918 that “any alien serving in the military or naval service of the United States during the time this country is engaged in the present war may file his petition for naturalization without making the preliminary declaration of intention and without proof of the required five years’ residence within the United States.” The Library of Virginia holds 29 volumes of federal naturalization records from courts in Prince George County, Petersburg, and Hopewell, most of which document the naturalizations of soldiers stationed at Camp Lee (now Fort Lee) in Petersburg during World War I. Most volumes contain indices.

The petitions are the same form used for federal naturalizations beginning in 1906 and contain information on the petitioner’s birth, residence, occupation, military unit, immigration, spouse, and children, as well as the date that the individual became a citizen. But in this case, there was usually no supplemental paperwork, such as a declaration of intent.

As with all naturalization records of this era, an individual’s movements may be traced. Friedel Rosenquist was born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, but immigrated … read more »

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- Election Time: Poll Books of the 1867 Election

On 22 October 1867, African American men cast votes for the first time in Virginia; this significant event was recorded in poll books in counties and cities across the state. After the Civil War, Congress passed the 14th Amendment which, among other things, provided citizenship for freedmen and women born in the United States, guaranteed them equal protection under the law, and included provisions protecting the right to vote for male citizens over the age of twenty-one. The Virginia General Assembly failed to ratify this amendment, and as a result, Virginia was placed under federal military rule. Under the provisions of the Reconstruction Acts of 1867, it was necessary for the states of the old Confederacy to call conventions to draft new state constitutions. The commander of the Military District No. 1, to which Virginia belonged, registered male citizens twenty-one years of age or older and supervised the election that asked voters to vote for or against a convention to draft a new constitution and also to elect delegates to the convention, if held. The call for convention was approved and twenty-four African American men were elected as delegates to the constitutional convention. Over 93,000 African American men participated in this election and as each voter arrived at his polling place, his name was dutifully recorded in the poll book for that district.

 

The … read more »

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- It Came From YouTube!: the State Records Film Collection


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Have you ever been curious about the birds who call Virginia home? Or wanted to explore the history of Richmond? Or maybe take a closer look at the administration of Governor Linwood Holton? Or perhaps catch a view of the early years of Pony Penning Day in Chincoteague? If so, check out the State Government Records Collection Playlist on the Library of Virginia’s YouTube channel.

The Library of Virginia has a small collection of motion picture films that were created for K-12 classroom education or for other documentary purposes. These films were originally part of a circulating collection managed by the Library, providing libraries, public schools, and the general public with educational film resources. Some of the films are informative, some are entertaining, and some are just plain outdated, but all provide a glimpse into what students may have been learning in classrooms across the state before filmstrips went the way of the typewriter and the mimeograph machine. The following films have been digitized and are now available online:

See the collection’s finding aid for more … read more »

- “Of Liquid Death, To Which Men Flee:” Temperance Reform Efforts in Antebellum Norfolk

Restricting the use of alcohol was not a novel idea in the Roaring Twenties when Prohibition banned illicit spirits nationwide. Inspired by the reforming impulses of the Second Great Awakening, civic leaders across the country prior to the Civil War worked to curb alcohol consumption, which they viewed as a threat to the individual and society. One temperance advocate wrote, in the 18 March 1847 issue of the American Beacon and Norfolk and Portsmouth Daily Advertiser, that great efforts were needed for the “extermination of the ruinous flood which belches forth from the distillery, the extinguishment of the liquid fire, which has so long been the devil’s chief instrument in peopling jails, alms houses, hospitals, jails, grave-yards, and the bottomless pit.” By eliminating one of the root causes of society’s ills—drunkenness—businessmen, religious leaders, and reformers sought to help the intemperate become productive members of society and by extension elevate the community.

 

Norfolk’s stagnant economy during the 1840s and 1850s pushed local boosters to embrace temperance organizations to help revive the city’s fortunes. By November 1841 teetotalers could attend a meeting of the Norfolk Total Abstinence Society and five years later the Young Men’s Temperance Society was organized. Reformers aimed their efforts at males arriving in the seaport who might be open to temptation and vice; during this period it would be unthinkable that … read more »

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- A Few of Our Favorite Things: Letterhead in the Archive, Prohibition Edition

As promised in a previous post, here’s another look at some of the plethora of letterheads and stationery found in our archives. In honor of our current exhibition, the letterheads in this post are all related to Prohibition. The original text by Vince Brooks is included here for context.

Commercial stationery can offer a fascinating snapshot of a place or time. Scholars of this subject point out that the rich illustrations and elaborate printing of commercial letterheads, billheads, and envelopes correspond with the dramatic rise in industrialization in America. According to one expert, the period 1860 to 1920 represents the heyday of commercial stationery, when Americans could see their growing nation reflected in the artwork on their bills and correspondence. As commercial artists influenced the job printing profession, the illustrations became more detailed and creative.

Robert Biggert, an authority on commercial stationery, wrote an extensive study of letterhead design for the Ephemera Society of America entitled “Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery” and donated his personal collection of stationery, now known as the Biggert Collection, to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.

The primary role of these illustrations at the time of their use was publicity. The images showed bustling factories, busy street corners, and sturdy bank buildings–all portraying ideas of solidity, activity, and progress. Other types of symbolism … read more »

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- The Temperance Movement and The Road to Prohibition

From the earliest days of European settlement, Americans drank prodigious amounts of alcohol. Almost every aspect of early American economic and social life involved alcohol. Far from being seen as evil, alcohol was an essential element of the table, a stimulant for work, and a social lubricant for good fellowship—especially in a world where water purity was always in question. One estimate puts annual per capita consumption of alcohol at almost 4 gallons in 1830.

The temperance movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries grew as a reaction to the perceived overconsumption of alcohol. It was one of the longest lasting social reform movements in the United States and sought to radically change the way Americans consumed alcohol. Public support of the temperance movement was a major impetus for the 18th Amendment establishing national Prohibition. Followers of the temperance movement believed alcohol was to blame for societal problems like unemployment, crime, poverty, and domestic abuse.

Many women recognized the damaging effects of drinking on the family and worked through anti-liquor organizations and moral persuasion to regulate alcohol consumption. They supported the power of the state to curb drinking and alcohol, even as the state denied women an essential political right—voting. Instead, women who supported the temperance movement sponsored parades, established rooms stacked with prohibition literature, and canvassed for the prohibition vote. Involvement in the … read more »

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- A Few of Our Favorite Things: Even More Letterhead in the Archive

As promised in a previous post, here’s another look at some of the plethora of letterheads and stationery found in our archives.  The original text by Vince Brooks is included here for context.

Commercial stationery can offer a fascinating snapshot of a place or time. Scholars of this subject point out that the rich illustrations and elaborate printing of commercial letterheads, billheads, and envelopes correspond with the dramatic rise in industrialization in America. According to one expert, the period 1860 to 1920 represents the heyday of commercial stationery, when Americans could see their growing nation reflected in the artwork on their bills and correspondence. As commercial artists influenced the job printing profession, the illustrations became more detailed and creative.

Robert Biggert, an authority on commercial stationery, wrote an extensive study of letterhead design for the Ephemera Society of America entitled “Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery” and donated his personal collection of stationery, now known as the Biggert Collection, to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.

The primary role of these illustrations at the time of their use was publicity. The images showed bustling factories, busy street corners, and sturdy bank buildings–all portraying ideas of solidity, activity, and progress. Other types of symbolism can be found in commercial stationery, the most ubiquitous being “man’s best friend.” Dogs … read more »

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- Here We Go A-Caroling

The Out of the Box bloggers will be taking a break for the holidays, but we’ll be back in the new year! In the meantime, enjoy this sheet music produced by the Hotel Richmond in the early twentieth century, part of the Library’s Special Collections. It and many other items can be found in our digital collections.

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- Three Elections That Remade Virginia

Editor’s note: Tomorrow is Election Day! Get out and vote!

For well over half of the 20th century, Virginia state politics was dominated by a conservative Democratic machine, which was perfected by the organization of Governor and U.S. Senator Harry Byrd. The Byrd Organization drew its strength from rural counties, benefitting from a state constitution and laws that depressed voter turnout by effectively disenfranchising African Americans and poor whites. By the end of the 1960s, this changed. Laws restricting voting based on race were lifting, the urban and suburban populations were rapidly increasing, and the state’s Republican Party was expanding. In 1969, the GOP broke the Democratic monopoly on state office by electing Linwood Holton governor.

 

The 1973 gubernatorial race highlighted these changes. Lieutenant Governor Henry Howell ran as an independent candidate by choice, receiving the commendation of the state Democratic Party. The party’s nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general remained neutral in the campaign, not endorsing Howell. The state Republican Party was in more disarray. Constitutionally unable to renominate sitting Republican Governor Holton, the party had no candidate to oppose the popular yet liberal Howell. Desperate, Republican leaders turned to Mills Godwin, last of the Byrd Organization governors, hoping that he would secure conservative Democratic voters dismayed by the state Democratic Party’s liberal shift. Godwin reluctantly accepted the Republican … read more »

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- Dry Voters, Wet Drinkers: The Anniversary of Virginia’s Prohibition

Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the first day of Virginia’s state-wide prohibition. To see more about the build-up to the referendum that dried up Virginia, see yesterday’s blog post.

The drys won out on 22 September 1914. The Temperance cause heralded this as a “mighty victory.” And indeed, state-wide prohibition won out by almost 60% of the vote, with 94,251 votes in favor and 63,086 opposed. Interestingly, the total voter turnout of 158,000 was significantly higher than the total for the 1912 Presidential election, which had a turnout of 136,900. Out of 100 counties, 71 voted dry, as well as every city except for Alexandria, Norfolk, Williamsburg, and Richmond.

State-wide prohibition went into effect on 1 November 1916, heralded by church rallies where parishioners rang bells and shouted out “Hallelujah!” at midnight. Despite the new law, alcohol didn’t completely disappear from the Commonwealth. Of the six major breweries in Virginia at the time, only one—Portner’s of Alexandria—closed down immediately. Brewers and distillers were temporarily allowed to remain in business as long as they sold their products out of state. Several breweries attempted to establish themselves as sellers of soda or other non-alcoholic beverages, with limited success. In contrast, the Garret and Company winery, located near Norfolk since 1903, immediately closed down operations and relocated to New York and California.

Home … read more »