Category Archives: Uncategorized

- Archives Month 2012: Boxes to Bandwidth


Boxes to Bandwidth: Reconstructing the Past for the Future, Virginia Archives Month 2012 Offical Poster.

October brings back falling leaves, cooler weather, football, and most importantly Archives Month! Governor Bob McDonnell has officially proclaimed October as Virginia Archives Month. And the theme of this year’s celebration in the commonwealth is “Boxes to Bandwidth: Reconstructing the Past for the Future.” Archives Month celebrates the institutions and people responsible for preserving and making accessible records that play a critical role in preserving our documentary heritage. The work of archivists gives us a sense of being part of a larger picture and helps us begin to see ourselves connected to others – family, community, nation, or a group defined by ethnicity, religion, work, or play. For more information and to view images submitted by participating Virginia institutions, check out the Virginia Archives Month 2012 website. This year’s theme “Boxes to Bandwidth” is reflected in the 2012 Virginia Archives Month poster with images chosen to highlight Virginia’s rich history of service, innovation, creativity, and artistry.

Archives Month is a great time to attend a book talk, program, or workshop and to explore your local archives repository. The Library of Virginia is celebrating Archives Month with behind-the-scenes tours at 10:00 A.M. on October 10th and 24th. David Howard will present a talk on his work Lost Rights: The Misadventures of a Lost American Relic on Wednesday, October 10th, at 12:00. … read more »

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- “hundreds of the descendants of Indians have obtained their freedom:” Freedom Suits in 18th & 19th Century Virginia

 

Thomas Nast's celebration of the emancipation of Southern slaves with the end of the Civil War, circa 1865.

A small slip of paper on display in the Library of Virginia’s latest exhibition You Have No Right: Law and Justice in Virginia, running 24 September 2012-18 May 2013, was of immense importance to twelve people. It discloses, even though it does not state the fact in so many words, that on 2 May 1772 they gained their freedom after being held in slavery since each of them was born. The piece of paper and the fates of those Virginians illuminates a disturbing and little-known part of Virginia’s history, the enslavement of American Indians.

The paper came into the possession of the Library of Virginia in 1988 when it acquired a copy of volume two of John Tracy Atkyns, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the High Court of Chancery in the Time of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke . . . (London, 1765–1768) that had once been in the library of the colonial government in Williamsburg. One of the librarians in the cataloguing section showed it to me, knowing of my interest in that library. When she lifted it from her desk to hand it to me, a piece of paper that had been slipped between leaves in the middle of the volume fell out and fluttered to the floor. We were surprised, and I was even more surprised when I saw what it … read more »

- Souls of the Departed: Ida V. Belote


Richmond Times-Dispatch, 20 March 1912 (enlargement).

16 August 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the execution of Virginia Christian for the brutal murder of Ida V. Belote in Hampton, Virginia, on 18 March 1912.  Out of the Box featured select documents from the Christian case in September 2010.  The 23 September 2010 execution of Teresa Lewis for her role in the murder of her husband, Julian Lewis, sparked new interest in Virginia Christian, who up to that time was the only woman to be executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia since the General Assembly centralized executions at the Virginia State Penitentiary in 1908.

Often in high-profile criminal cases, the victim and victim’s family are an afterthought.  To mark this infamous anniversary, I decided to write a post on Ida V. Belote.  Who was she?  What happened to her eight children?  Two of her young daughters discovered their mother’s body and testified at the coroner’s inquisition.  What became of them?  My search for answers led me to the Belote coroner’s inquisition, newspaper articles, and Ancestry.com.  What follows is a fragmentary picture of Ida Belote and her family.

Ida Virginia Hobbs, the daughter of James and Harriette Hobbs, was born in March 1861 in North Carolina.  Hobbs married James Edward Wadsworth Belote (17 February 1846-6 June 1911) on 5 November 1879 in Northampton County, North Carolina.  By 1880 the … read more »

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- A Few of Our Favorite Things: Letterhead in the Archive Part 3



Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Co. letterhead found in Cumberland County Military and Pension Records, Civil War Issues, Barcode number 1156174.

As promised in a previous post, here’s another look at 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 show up … read more »

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- This is the house that Jack built

"This Is The House That Jack Built," political cartoon by John Childs, 1840. See individual scans of each panel included later in article. (LVA Accession 28192)

Another presidential election year is upon us, and we are already bombarded with television ads touting the two candidates and proclaiming their positions on every issue from A to Z.  Will 2012 be an election for the history books or will it be relegated along with other campaigns to the dustbin of history?  You may remember the elections of 1800 (Jefferson’s “Revolution of 1800”), 1860 (the election that sparked the Civil War), 1932 (FDR, Hoover, and the Great Depression), and 1984 (Reagan’s “Morning in America”).  But what about others?  Quick, without Googling it—who ran against Teddy Roosevelt in 1904?

The election of 1840 mostly falls into the dustbin file.  It is usually remembered only because of a catchy campaign slogan (“Tippecanoe and Tyler too!”) and the fact that the winner, second-rate military hero William Henry Harrison, served only one month before becoming the first president to die in office.  Yet 1840 was a key election year, and a broadside found in the Library of Virginia’s collection reveals some of the issues at play.  Entitled “This Is The House that Jack Built” (LVA accession 28192), this 1840 political cartoon by John Childs utilizes the nursery rhyme of the same name to illustrate the views of Harrison’s Whig Party. 

Four years earlier, the Whig Party had formed in opposition to President Andrew Jackson, coalescing around Henry Clay’s … read more »

- Titanic: 100 Years Later


Richmond Times-Dispatch, 16 April 1912, page one (above the fold), Chronicling America.

Are you ready for a sneak preview of Titanic !

No, not the 3-D version of the 1997 mega-hit movie, Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, but the viewing of a stunning array of newspaper images taken from Chronicling America, a featured online resource of the National Digital Newspaper Program, a cooperative initiative to digitize historical newspapers from around the United States.  No special effects are needed to be drawn in and riveted by the press coverage of one of the greatest peacetime maritime disasters.

15 April 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  The mighty White Star Liner on its maiden voyage hit an iceberg and within a few hours sunk to the bottom of the cold North Atlantic Ocean, killing over 1,800 men, women, children, and crew members.

Stories of bravery, sacrifice, cowardice, and tragic negligence fill column after column of papers beginning with the late editions of 15 April 1912 and for many days following.  Early dispatches were filled with conflicting information, rumor, and wild conjecture, but over time the sad facts revealed the tragic scope of the disaster.

The pages you see here will be added to the Virginia Newspaper Project’s long-standing web exhibit, Titanic:  100 Years Later, a web exhibit, believe it or not, that predates the release of … read more »

- Who Do You Think You Are?

Dusty documents and grimy ledgers get a dose of Hollywood glamour as the third season of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? continues tonight, February 24, at 8 P.M. with Petersburg native Blair Underwood. The Event and In Treatment actor embarks on a personal journey of self-discovery as experts trace his family tree uncovering hidden stories and family secrets. During tonight’s episode, Underwood uncovers a branch of his family tree that shows a line of free African Americans in Virginia stretching back to the 1860s, and he even discovers that one ancestor was a slave owner. Underwood traveled here to the Library of Virginia, where part of the episode was filmed, to view the Campbell County Free Negro and Slave Records and the Amherst Free Negro Register.

If watching Blair Underwood uncover his roots inspires you to start researching your own family tree, the Library of Virginia is a great place to start. In addition to our collections that contain a wealth of Virginia records, we offer a guide on how to begin your genealogical research and one on the genealogical resources available here at the library. If you’re not in the mood to leave your couch, you can get started on your research tonight by tuning in to NBC WWBT channel 12 from 5:00 to 6:30. Library staff will be on air … read more »

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- Bouldin and Crowder, together again

Crowder Brothers letterhead, 1917.  (Crowder Family Papers, Accession 44451)

A reunion of sorts recently took place when the Library of Virginia received a generous gift of the papers of William D. Bouldin (1839-1917) from his granddaughter Frances McGowan of Hopkinsville, Kentucky (Accession 50231). Bouldin, originally from Charlotte County, Virginia, served with the 18th Virginia Infantry during the Civil War and was held prisoner at Point Lookout, Maryland, until the end of the war.  He later moved to Kentucky.

Bouldin’s sister was Alma May Bouldin (1862-1920).  Alma never married, and lived much of her life in Drake’s Branch in Charlotte County.  In a letter she wrote in 1919 to her brother’s wife, Clara Bouldin (1845-1933), she mentions nephews John Nelson and Bouldin Crowder.  The two operated Crowder Brothers, a general store in Clarksville, in neighboring Mecklenburg County. “I am now at Bouldin Crowder’s in Clarksville,” Alma wrote. “Bouldin and Nelson Crowder have a dry goods store here in Clarksville and carry on a splendid stock for a country town.” 

The papers of three generations of the Crowder family, including records of the Crowder Brothers store, were acquired a little over two years ago by the Library of Virginia (Accession 44451) through a gift from the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford, where a Crowder descendant had settled. Now two collections from these related families have made their way from other states and are held together … read more »

- We’ll trade you Fairfax County for Mercer…Just kidding.

Bob Clay is shown seated at his desk in the old Virginia State Library and Archives (now the Library of Virginia) in this undated photo.

Many of the staff and researchers at the Library of Virginia remember our colleague and friend Robert Young Clay for his vast knowledge of the records in our collections.  Bob, who died last year, left his papers to the Library, and I recently completed processing them.  I knew Bob for about eight years before his retirement in 2001.  I recall how he assisted me with answers to some of my most puzzling questions, and seeing him helping patrons with their genealogical research.

I also remember his biting humor, lack of patience at times, the slamming of the phone receiver, and banging of a book against the reference desk.

But for those who never saw it, there was another side to Bob, and that comes across in some of the items contained in his papers. While much of the collection is made up of his research on the Clay family and its allied lines, there are also materials which demonstrate the personal side of Bob, a “kinder and gentler” side that not all staff or patrons may have seen.

Back in 1984, a certain reference archivist did not endear himself to officials in Fairfax County.  Business owners in Mercer County, West Virginia, were growing increasingly frustrated with state officials in Charleston.  There was even talk of the county rejoining the Commonwealth of Virginia.  “The way I … read more »

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- See Jefferson’s Papers Conserved!

 

The Executive Papers of Governor Thomas Jefferson, 1779-1781, have been named one of Virginia’s top ten endangered artifacts by the Virginia Association of Museums. The letters and manuscripts documenting Jefferson’s service as the second governor of Virginia address the challenges he faced during the Revolutionary War, the drafting of the Articles of Confederation, the negotiation of the boundaries of Virginia and her neighbors, and the dangers of the frontier. The papers are currently undergoing conservation treatments thanks in part to a $110, 000 grant received from Save America’s Treasures.  Watch as the video shows Leslie Courtois, Senior Conservator with Etherington Conservation Services, as she works to restore these valuable records in the Library of Virginia’s conservation labs. Thanks to Paige Neal for her script writing and narrating, to videographer Pierre Courtois, and to Audrey Johnson and Dale Neighbors of Special Collections for providing images. For more information on the collection and grant see the earlier blog post “Grant Allows Jefferson’s Papers to be Preserved.”read more »

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