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

Happy World Stationery Day! As promised in a previous posts, 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 … read more »

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- A Virginia Soldier in Mexico

Ed. note: Today we have a guest post from Brexton O’Donnell, Tour Counselor, Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission, highlighting some of the content collected during the Profiles of Honor mobile tour.

Photographs taken by, and belonging to, Clarence Pax, taken during his participation in the Poncho Villa Expedition. Courtesy of George Goodson Jr. (Pax)

The United States entered the Great War in 1917, and began deploying large forces to France near the end of that year. Even before then, American volunteers were serving in France with the French and British militaries. But France was not the only place that Americans, and Virginians, in the service were deployed before we entered World War I. In 1916, US Army forces, at the direction of President Woodrow Wilson, entered Mexico in pursuit of the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, who had raided across the border into American territory. In response to the crisis, the Virginia National Guard was federalized, and some units were deployed to the border between Texas and Mexico.

Clarence Pax was one of the Virginia National Guardsmen who was deployed to the Mexican border in 1916. Having graduated from Auburn at age sixteen, he was a rather remarkable young man. He was serving in the National Guard at the time of the Pancho Villa Expedition, and was among those sent to the border. Pax took many photos during his deployment, and 100 years later, his family brought them to the Virginia WWI and WWII … read more »

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- Ich Liebe Dich! Vintage Valentines

Happy Valentine’s Day to our Out of the Box readers! Valentine’s Day is perhaps the most critiqued of any holiday for being “made-up,” but as a celebration of romantic love it dates back to the 14th century. Mass-produced valentines became increasingly popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, coinciding with another trend—humorous postcards portraying Dutch and German immigrants. HA! Weren’t expecting that, were you?

These postcards played on turn-of-the-century stereotypes about German culture and speech, and although the valentines displayed below seem to have been created in fun, other examples were more negative, reflecting native-born Americans fears about waves of new immigrants as threats to American values and jobs.


To see more examples of Vintage Valentines, check out LOOK WHAT WE GOT, the Library of Virginia’s Tumblr page, which is frequently updated with new additions to the visual studies collection, or take a look at our Vintage Valentines Pinterest board. To learn more about immigrant experience in Virginia, check out the Library’s exhibit New Virginians: 1619-2019 & Beyond, through 7 December 2019.… read more »

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- Happy Holidays from Out of the Box!

The editors and contributors to Out of the Box would like to wish you all a happy and peaceful holiday season.


We’ll take a couple of weeks off and see you early in 2019.


Thank you for your readership and support this year.


We hope you get everything you want under the tree.

– The editors… read more »

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- Andy Warhol Comes to Richmond

In early 1978, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was a stop for the traveling exhibition “Athletes by Andy Warhol.” The exhibition, comprised of silk-screen paintings of Warhol’s photographs of ten professional athletes – Muhammad Ali, Pelé, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tom Seaver, O.J. Simpson, Chris Evert, Willie Shoemaker, Jack Nicklaus, Dorothy Hamill, and Rod Gilbert–was first on display at the Coe Kerr Gallery in New York before setting off on a nationwide tour.  A reception preceded the VMFA exhibition. Warhol attended, along with one of the subjects of the paintings, future Hockey Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert. Warhol’s appearance at the reception drew a crowd of over 6,500 people, who proceeded to besiege the artist with autograph requests during his appearance and accompanying press conference. The opening evening ended with a reception for Warhol and his entourage at the home of Sydney and Frances Lewis. Although few of the VMFA reception’s crowd stayed to actually tour the exhibition, after the exhibition had moved on to Columbus, VMFA Associate Curator Frederick Brant deemed the exhibition a “great success” overall.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Exhibition Files (Accessions 31633, 32958, 33041, 33160, 34679, 36342, 36957, and 37636) contain items such as correspondence, inventories, budgets, news clippings, and photographs related to past exhibitions at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The collection covers exhibitions from 1936-1992.

-Nathan Verilla, … read more »

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- Give Me That Old Time Music: WRVA’s Old Dominion Barn Dance

Since its creation in 1823, the Library of Virginia has been renowned for its vast collection of books, manuscripts, and maps. A closer look at the holdings reveals hidden gems that provide a unique window into the history and culture of Virginia. The WRVA Radio Collection includes 637 CDs containing 317 hours of sound recordings, along with 52 cubic feet of administrative and promotional materials. This historically important collection includes recordings of political speeches, interviews and news programs, but also an intriguing selection of entertainment and music programs.

One highlight is the Old Dominion Barn Dance, a program dedicated to country music that ran from 1946 to 1957. Mary Arlene Higdon Workman, better known as “Sunshine Sue,” emceed the show. In addition to being broadcast to other states, the show also aired on Armed Forces Radio. The Old Dominion Barn Dance showcased a variety of acts every Saturday night, and was so popular the musicians toured and played live shows. Gregg Kimball, the Director of Public Services & Outreach at the Library, noted that “thousands of folks across the country gathered around their radios every week to listen to WRVA’s Old Dominion Barn Dance. The show featured country icons such as Maybelle Carter and the Carter Sisters, Joe Maphis, and Grandpa Jones. Modern country music would not be the cultural force that it is today … read more »

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- “Our share in the war is no small one”: Virginia Women and World War I, Part II

This is the second of a two-part blog post adapted from an article originally written for the Summer 2001 issue of Virginia Cavalcade.

Liberty Day opening U.S. Gov't Bag Loading Plant : Seven Pines, October 12, 1918 / Frederic H. Spigel.

While nurses and female yeomen filled military roles, civilian women’s organizations of all kinds worked on the home front. In fact, such groups composed three-fourths of the wartime organizations in Virginia. The state Equal Suffrage League temporarily suspended agitation for women’s voting rights and joined with dozens of other organizations, including the Virginia Association Opposed to Women Suffrage, to support the war effort. For instance, both groups supported the Khaki and Blue Kitchen, at 210 East Grace Street in Richmond, which provided meals for servicemen visiting the city. Richmond’s suffragists (including Adele Clark, Nora Houston, and Eudora Ramsay Richardson) transformed the Equal Suffrage League headquarters and worked tirelessly for the suffrage auxiliary of the Red Cross. “We have a sewing machine,” one member reported, “and [a] pleasant work-room.” The auxiliary also purchased a knitting machine and pledged to provide mittens for the hundred nurses assigned to U.S. Base Hospital No. 45. By November 1917, the women already had produced 1,244 garments, including bedshirts, bathrobes, pajamas, pillowcases, sheets, and towels, and had knitted sweaters, mufflers, mittens, and socks. In Roanoke, the Equal Suffrage League joined with twenty local women’s groups to encourage the cultivation of home gardens. As a result, agricultural production … read more »

- “To Pass Without Delay or Hindrance”: Passports in the Unclaimed Property Collection

A passport is both a highly practical and importantly symbolic item. It provides not only identification but also identity, allowing the bearer to travel to new lands or to start a new life as an immigrant. We recently discovered a born-digital project called Let Me Get There, which contains images from passport applications from US consulates around the world, between 1914 and 1925. This project inspired us to search our own collections for passports.

While the Library does not have any specific collections of old passports, one state records collection did have a large number of passports featured. The papers of the Treasury Department’s Division of Unclaimed Property consist of lots from abandoned safe deposit boxes, whose contents have reverted to the ownership of the state. In several instances, the personal papers left unclaimed in these boxes include passports. Several examples of these appear below.


A Greek passport issued to David Lifschitz in 1913, from the Papers of Samuel P. Ratner, Lot 358.


A seaman’s passport issued to Barclay Lyon, 1942, from the Papers of Barclay Lyon, Lot 636.


A passport issued to Arline Mae Gales in 1975, showing her with an unnamed minor, from the Papers of Arline M. Gales and Cheryl L. Hales, Lot 6414.


The Korean passport of Mrs. Duk Hyun Hunt, nee Kim, issued in … read more »

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- Oh, You Classy Skirt: Valentine Cards in a Norfolk County Divorce Case

Cards sent to Iva Robinson Titzel, found in Norfolk County (Va.) Chancery Cause 1911-072, Iva Robinson Titzel vs. John A Titzel Jr., Local Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Out of the Box! Although today is meant to be a celebration of love and romance, not all valentine cards have a happy back-story. This set of cards served as evidence in the 1911 divorce case between Iva Robinson Titzel and John A. Titzel, Jr., in Norfolk County (now Chesapeake). The couple met and married in Norfolk County in 1909. They moved to Brooklyn shortly thereafter and to Boston in February 1910. Iva returned to Norfolk County with her mother in April 1910, after a stay in the hospital for surgery for blood poisoning in her foot. John returned to Norfolk County at the end of September that year, and they made a brief attempt at reconciliation. By January 1911, however, Iva had decided she “could no longer live with him in safety” and by February had asked for a divorce.

Apart from those few facts, the couple disagreed on everything else that contributed to the disintegration of their brief marriage. John, a Spanish American War veteran and petty officer in the U. S. Navy, maintained that the marriage was a happy one, and that he had to no reason “to anticipate any trouble whatsoever between himself and wife.” He claimed that Iva’s mother persuaded her to leave Boston for Norfolk County, and that she “so poisoned the mind of the … read more »

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- Wartime Christmas at Camp Lee


The holidays are an excellent time to eat, drink, and be merry. The soldiers training at Camp Lee (now Fort Lee) during World War I weren’t able to spend Christmas with their loved ones, but they did at least get an excellent meal and maybe some entertainment on the day. These menus and programs were collected by the Virginia War History Commission, who worked hard to commemorate the war and collect related resources in the following. Our Out of the Box bloggers will be taking a break until the new year, so happy holidays to all of you!

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