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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
”No people can be deemed masters of their own history until their public records, gathered, cared for, and rendered accessible to the investigator, have been systematically studied and the importance of their contents determined.” — Charles M. Andrews, Historian
Saturday, October 1, marked the official beginning of Archives Month, a nationwide celebration recognizing the critical role that archives and archivists play in preserving the documentary history of the nation.
Since 2002, Virginia has celebrated those institutions and individuals in the commonwealth that help preserve and make accessible the important records of our actions as citizens, businesses, religious groups, government, and society. The work of these repositories and individuals give 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. The result is a sense of belonging, direction and meaning. Far from focusing only on past accomplishments, those who care for our archives and special collections help provide us with a foundation for discussing the things that matter most in our communities today.
Archives Month is a collaborative project of the Library of Virginia, in conjunction with the Virginia State Historical Records Advisory Board, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference.
This year’s Archives … read more »
Guest contributor Tricia Noel joins us to share an interesting disovery left by an anonymous artist on some New Kent County church records.
Although they can provide valuable genealogical and historical information to researchers, poring over church records can be dull and tedious work. The records of Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in New Kent County (Accessions 30117, 19729, and 19740), however, are anything but boring. The vestry books and register, which cover 1685-1801, are heavily adorned with drawings and sketches. These drawings, which occupy many of the records’ margins and blank spaces, are mostly amusing depictions of horses, dogs, people, and a building or two. Some drawings of most interest to the historian include several of people with clear depictions of contemporary clothing, including a man in a knee-length, cut away coat, and another in a long, curly wig. The faces were drawn with an attention to expression, and many, with their large noses, huge feet and messy hair, are not flattering. There are a few depictions of symmetical, Colonial style houses. There are several dogs, one of them labelled “Rover,” many horses and deer, and one unknown creature, covered with bristles and with a mouth full of dangerous-looking teeth. Several of the images include odd captions, such as “Give me an apple.” It is not known who the anonymous artist was, but one can … read more »