Every year, seemingly on cue, nature gets the message that we’ve had enough heat and humidity. October dawns and the mornings get crisper, the leaves begin their brilliantly-hued demise, and everything is suddenly pumpkin-spice flavored. October also ushers in the celebration of all things archival with the nationwide American Archives Month.
This year, the Virginia Caucus of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) adopted the theme of “Art in the Archives” to highlight the fine art, folk art, literature, poetry, sketches, and other artistic expressions that can be found in archives and special collections throughout the Commonwealth. Such materials can be housed in distinct art collections such as those in the archives of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, James Madison University, or the LVA’s own state art collection. Other examples can be found in non-art collections such as illustrated WWII-era letters from William & Mary or Virginia Union University’s model of the Liberty Ship SS Robert L. Vann.
Twenty institutions from around Virginia submitted images for use on the Virginia Archives Month 2016 poster. The handsome poster will be mailed to institutions, libraries, officials, and MARAC members around the state. Perhaps you’ll see a copy in your travels! If you would like you own copy, a downloadable PDF is found here.
In an effort to encourage a more participatory Archives Month, the … read more »
The Battle of Hampton Roads was one of the most important naval battles in the American Civil War. It was fought over two days, 8-9 March 1862, in Hampton Roads, Virginia. During the CW150 Legacy Project we uncovered a letter from a Union soldier who was at the battle and wrote home about what he had witnessed. The letter was written on 15 March 1862 by John “Johnnie” Torrance while he served with the 2nd New York Infantry Regiment, Company H and was stationed at Camp Butler, Newport News, Virginia.
In the letter written to “Libbie,” Torrance describes the naval battle he witnessed stating “I suppose you have heard of [it] before this time. I though[t] you would have saw something about it in the paper.” Torrance mostly describes the first day of the battle – detailing the attack by the CSS Virginia and CSS Patrick Henry and CSS Jamestown on the USS Cumberland and USS Congress. The Virginia rammed the Cumberland causing it to sink and taking nearly 150 lives. The captain of the Congress ran his ship aground in shallow waters and after some combat the ship surrendered. While the crew was being ferried off the ship a Union battery on the north shore opened fire on the Virginia. In response the Virginia fired with hot shot (cannonballs heated red-hot) … read more »
Editor’s note: This piece was originally published as an artifact spotlight for Discover Richmond, a magazine published by the Richmond-Times Dispatch. It is posted here with additional images of the Fredericksburg Dog Mart, which are part of the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce Photograph Collection.
These photographs from the Fredericksburg Dog Mart capture the heyday of an event that traces its roots to 1698.
At that time, one day a year was set aside by law to accommodate trade between the Manahoac Tribe (and later, the Pamunkey and Mattaponi) and English settlers in the area that later became Fredericksburg. The Native Americans would provide furs and produce in exchange for English hunting dogs. This practice occurred annually until the start of the Revolutionary War.
An annual dog mart resumed in 1927, known then as the Dog Curb Market, and coincided with the start of hunting season — the event gave hunters an opportunity to purchase hunting dogs. The dog mart also drew wider attention: it was featured in a Pathé Newsreel in 1928, and Time magazine wrote an article about it in 1937. By the following year, the dog mart drew a crowd of 7,000 people and 641 dogs.
The event was suspended during World War II but was restored in 1948 by the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce. In 1949, the dog mart … read more »
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 »
Season’s Greetings from all of us at Out of the Box. We’re taking a holiday break, but enjoy the photos below from the U.S. Army Signal Corps Photograph Collection, part of the Print, Photograph & Original Art Collections. These and other Digital Collections from the Library of Virginia can be found here. You can also check out this holiday post from Fit to Print, the blog of the Virginia Newspaper Project. We’ll see you in the new year!
As a non-librarian at the Library of Virginia, I am constantly grateful for both the depth of our collections and the knowledge of our archival and reference staff. My job is to help look after Virginia’s State Art Collection, which consists of artworks owned by the Commonwealth on display in public buildings in the Capitol Square area. As part of my job, I do research on state art objects in response to inquiries from the public and in order to flesh out catalog files.
The works in the State Art Collection are mostly what you would expect – portraits of public officials, statues and busts of presidents, and the occasional scenic Virginia landscape. Paintings of private individuals have also become part of the collection over the years, either through association with a notable Virginian, or as a gift to the state. In some instances, as with this portrait of a World War I era soldier, the identity of the subject and the way the piece was acquired have been forgotten, and we are left with a mystery.
As with any piece of material culture, the best place to start is the object itself. There are a few clues in the painting: the signature indicates that it was painted in 1920 by local artist John Pleasants Walker (1855-1932), and the uniform insignia shows that our … read more »
It’s that glorious time of year again when the air is cooler, leaves are donning their autumnal colors, and archives and special collections are on everyone’s mind. That’s right, friends, it’s Archives Month in Virginia. Though we’re a bit late sharing archival greetings from the Out of the Box blog, that in no way indicates a diminished enthusiasm!
This year’s theme is “Archival Treasures: Find Your Hidden Gem.” Nineteen institutions from around Virginia submitted images for handsomely designed 2015 poster. A downloadable poster image, information about Archives Month events, and other relevant information can be found on the Virginia Archives Month web page.
So as you go hunt for you hidden gem, give a thought to the devoted men and women who make archival materials available for public access and the institutions that collect tomorrow’s history today. And before October ends, hug an archivist (but ask permission first)!… read more »
Working with state records often means finding the most interesting things in the most unexpected places. For example, I never thought that going through Land Office records would lead me to a piece of Richmond’s lost history.
The records in question were among the papers of the Superintendent of Weights and Measures, whose duties were transferred to the register of the Land office by a legislative act in 1867. The superintendent retained a series of advertising circulars, printed materials sent by various companies promoting their products—including various hotels advertising their amenities and rates. Although most of the hotels that sent their pamphlets to the superintendent were located in Washington, D. C., one local hotel was also represented—Murphy’s Hotel, which stood directly across from the Library of Virginia’s current location, at the corner of 8th & Broad St. The building, which shares the block with St. Peter’s Church and the former Hotel Richmond, was torn down in 2007. The original plan was to replace the hotel with a modern high-rise that would house offices for the Commonwealth of Virginia; however, this has not yet occurred.
Murphy’s Hotel began life as oyster shack owned by John Murphy, who immigrated to Virginia from Ireland at the age of six. Murphy joined the Confederate Army when he was 20, serving at different times in both the artillery and … read more »