Category Archives: Uncategorized

- Everybody’s Doing What? The Turkey Trot!: Irving Berlin’s Song and Latest Dance Craze Too Much For Newport News.

Watch the full episode. See more Masterpiece.

(Editor’s Note: The short scene above from Downton Abbey, part of PBS’s Masterpiece, though an English period drama, is set only weeks after the trial in Newport News and is a great example of a couple dancing the Grizzly Bear to “Everybody’s Doing It Now.”)

If you’ve ever heard “America The Beautiful” or “White Christmas” then you know the music of Irving Berlin. Considered by many critics to be the country’s greatest songwriter, many of his songs are American classics. It was very strange indeed then when one of our archivists discovered the sheet music to one of Berlin’s songs entered as evidence in an obscenity trial in Virginia.

On the evening of 3 April 1912, Newport News police arrested Olympic Theater owner E. T. Crall, song-and-dance troupe leader Palmer Hines, and his six dancing girls. That night’s act, judged too hot for the public good by police, combined Palmer singing the suggestively titled Berlin song “Everybody’s Doing It Now” with the girls dancing the Turkey Trot, the racy and very latest “animal” dance to sweep the nation.

The animal dances which emerged around 1909 and later, such as the Turkey Trot, Grizzly Bear, and Bunny Hug, were the dances of ragtime music, the popular music of its day. The Turkey Trot was the first … read more »

- A Few Of Our Favorite Things: Letterheads In The Archive Part 1

 Letterhead of Layman Brothers farm supply company in New Castle.

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 on all sorts of stationery, especially that of banks or other financial companies. Often seen is the illustration of the dog lying in front of a vault or safe, the “watch … read more »

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- LVA and CCRP Assist Hampton Circuit Court Clerk.

 LVA archivists in the Hampton Courthouse records room.

On Tuesday June 14, a team of archivists were in Hampton to assist circuit court clerk Linda Batchelor Smith in completing a records inventory of the court’s record room and to transfer selected archival records to the Library of Virginia (LVA) Archive. This visit is but one part of the Circuit Court Records Preservation Program’s (CCRP) effort to assist clerks and records officers statewide in managing their records more efficiently.

 A records inventory is a tool employed by archivists and records managers to gain intellectual control over a group of records and to help institute more efficient records-keeping practices. Once an inventory is completed, a records analyst will apply relevant records retention and disposition schedules – documents that inform record keepers how long they must keep and maintain certain types of records.

The LVA is charged by the Virginia Public Records Act (PRA) with publishing these records retention and disposition schedules .  The PRA also authorizes the LVA’s role in ensuring that public records are maintained and available throughout their life cycle. The Library presents workshops, monitors the disposal of non-permanent records, and assists with the transfer of permanent records to the Archives.

Besides helping to better identify hundreds of years of records, the consultation in Hampton also resulted in the transfer of approximately 120 drawers of pre-1913 law and chancery case files to the … read more »

- Fowl Play.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia/Katie Brady photo.

Death records provide familial information to genealogists, statistical information for researchers, and an occasional chuckle for archivists.  My morbid fascination with death registers paid off one day when I found the 1876 death record of one John Smith of Fairfax County.  The person who recorded his death couldn’t resist adding:

 ”Killed by trap gun set to shoot thieves.  It got Mr. S. on the first fire – It is feared there are no chickens where John has gone.”

 Naturally, this made my whole week.  Hope you enjoy it too!

 -Kelly Gilbert Sizemore, Senior Reference Archivist 

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- CSI: OLD VIRGINIA: SCENES OF MURDER AND MAYHEM IN THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT RECORDS COLLECTION

Chesterfield County, County Court, Criminal Causes, and Grand Jury Presentments, Commonwealth v. Willis and Whitehead, 1870.

Editors Note: This post originally appeared in the Virginiana section of Virginia Memory.

The beautiful maps in the Voorhees collection and those that reside in Special Collections are well known to Library of Virginia researchers. Yet thousands of rough but informative maps exist in the Library’s local government records collection. Often classified as “plats,” these detailed property maps were created and filed as part of county land records, chancery records, or other legal proceedings.

Some of the most interesting local plats are found within criminal papers. Murder trials occasionally required jurors to consider a particular crime scene, and the resulting sketches created for this purpose offer fascinating glimpses into landscapes and violent episodes. One is featured on the Library’s 1997 web exhibit The Common Wealth: Treasures from the Collections of the Library of Virginia. This drawing shows a portion of Manchester, Virginia, in 1869, at the time of a barroom-related shooting, complete with building facades and streets. And in her 2003 book A Murder in Virginia, based on three Commonwealth Causes against Pokey Barnes, Solomon Marable, and Mary Abernathy, historian Suzanne Lebsock drew upon a court-directed plat from Prince Edward County to illustrate the scene of an infamous 1895 crime involving four black defendants.

While processing Henry County’s criminal causes, I came across a number of particularly gruesome plats. The most remarkable one … read more »

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- New Look, New Blog

We here at Out of the Box are so excited about our one-year anniversary that we decided to throw a new coat of paint on the old blog. One year and more than 80 posts later we are still happy to share with our readers what we discover as we work in Virginia’s archive. Many thanks to our IT department and graphic design for helping us create a new look. Also, we are very happy to announce a new blog from LVA Special Collections. Multiple Exposure is a catablog (a cross between a blog and catalog) that will draw from the 500,000 item LVA Prints and Photographs Collection.

Find the link to Multiple Exposure in this post or on our blogroll. It’s sure to become a favorite. Congratulations to LVA’s Special Collections department for this worthwhile project!

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- See Montgomery County’s Cohabitation Register Conserved!

The staff at Montgomery County’s Circuit Court Clerk’s Office recently rediscovered the county’s cohabitation register, one of the most valuable records used for African American genealogical research. Its official title is The Register of Colored Persons of Montgomery County, Virginia, Cohabiting Together as Husband and Wife on February 27, 1866. Watch as this video tells the story of this register and its preservation at The Library of Virginia. Montgomery County is one of only 19 Virginia localities known to have a surviving cohabitation register. The video script was co-written and narrated by our own Sarah Nerney, Local Records Senior Archivist. Thanks also to Audrey Johnson of Special Collections, Leslie Courtois of Etherington Conservation, and videographer Pierre Courtois for their invaluable contributions to this video production. See a previous blog post about the Smyth County cohabitation register.

-Dale Dulaney, Local Records Archival Assistant… read more »

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- Treasure in the Attic: Accomack County Colonial Era Records

 These two Accomack County deeds, circa 1814, display serious insect damage. The oldest record found in the attic was a deed or land grant from 1686. These are some of the oldest records in the LVA's collection.

In 1996, Samuel Cooper, circuit court clerk of Accomack County, contacted the Library of Virginia about a large amount of county records he found in the attic of the clerk’s office.  He requested assistance from LVA to determine their value, with the possibility of transferring them to LVA.  A team of archivists travelled to Accomack County expecting to examine only a few boxes of old court papers.  After climbing through the narrow opening of the office ceiling, they discovered a treasure trove of court records dating from the late 1600s to the early 1700s.  Unfortunately, due to the poor environmental and storage conditions the records were in extremely fragile condition. Approximately 50 cubic feet of county records were transferred to the Library of Virginia where they were stabilized.

During the course of several years we examined these records to determine what they were and whether they could be recovered through conservation.  The examination revealed that the records were primarily wills, deeds, fiduciary records, judgments, and chancery suits dated from the colonial era of Accomack County.  Regrettably, the vast majority of these records are unsalvageable.  Victims of heat, humidity, and insects, they can never be recovered. (images above)  Fortunately we were able to identify a few gems that could be restored.  They include tobacco plant censuses, 1728-1729, tithable lists, 1738-1769, and oaths of allegianceread more »

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- Join Us as We Celebrate Preservation Week

In recognition of Preservation Week, April 24–30, the Library of Virginia is offering a special event highlighting the Library’s ongoing commitment to preserving Virginia’s history for future generations through its professional conservation programs. Join us to see preservation demonstrations showing proper document repair techniques, examples of conserved materials from around the Library, and also for tours of our in-house conservation lab Wednesday, April 27th at 11:45 AM and 12:30 PM. All events and parking are free and open to the public.  Light refreshments and coffee will be provided.… read more »

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- Antique License Plates

The tin wagon license plate submitted by J. H. Gallagher as part of his bid for a contract to make the plates of the City of Manchester.

At the 24 February 1910, meeting of the Manchester Ordinance Committee, committee member W. W. Workman moved that the city auditor be requested to advertise for bids for tin wagon license plates.  J. H. Gallagher, house and sign painter, submitted his bid for the job by letter declaring he would do the job at 5 cents per license for the year 1910.  Included with his letter were two identical samples of his work.  Measuring 2 x 7 inches, the tin signs are painted a dark yellow with black numbers and red letters.  The initials l.H.W. possibly mean licensed hack wagon, while C.M. surely stands for the City of Manchester.

 The following meeting of the Ordinance Committee was held on 23 March 1910, when Mr. Broaddus moved that the bids for the license plates be laid on the table until the next meeting.  Unfortunately for Mr. Gallagher and any other bidders, no one was to receive the job.  The City of Manchester was annexed to the City of Richmond in April 1910.

 The original licenses and the Ordinance Committee Minute Book, 1904-1910, are available on microfilm.

-Sarah Nerney, Senior Local Records Archivist

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