- A Morbid Memento: The Trial of Kit Leftwich


Detail from Aero view of Bristol, Va.-Tenn. 1912. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

In September 1895, Kit Leftwich (also known as Kit Leftridge) was indicted for the rape of Annie Fogarty, the 12-year-old daughter of his supervisor. The jury found the former slave not guilty of the charged rape, decreasing the indictment to attempted rape. Even so, the punishment was set at death by hanging. Kit Leftwich has the distinction of being the first person legally hanged in Bristol, Virginia, since its founding.

Lynching, a common form of ‘people’s justice’ at the time, had led to several public hangings. The case of Kit Leftwich was different because it ensured the public could not execute vigilante justice in place of law and order. When it became clear that the population of Bristol was too biased, a motion was passed for the jury summons to be sent to neighboring Washington County. The assumption was that the people farther from the case would be less aware of it. Even so, one of the jurors selected shared the surname of the presiding judge, so the impartiality may have been less than initially intended. Judge William F. Rhea had retired from the Virginia Senate in 1888, and would later serve in the United States House of Representative from 1899-1903.

With jurors selected and the charges set, the trial began on 10 September 1895. By the end of the next day, the evidence had … read more »

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- Last Call: Women and the Repeal of Prohibition

National prohibition was officially repealed with the ratification of the 21st Amendment on 5 December 1933. Prohibition of the production and sale of alcoholic beverages had been the law of the land since the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919, although Virginia instituted a state-wide prohibition in 1916. The temperance movement had created widespread demand for prohibition during its rise in the late 19th century. By the early 1930s, however, many Americans regarded prohibition as a failure and were instead calling for its repeal.

Although women and particularly organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) were essential to the adoption of prohibition and to the temperance movement that preceded it, national suffrage was not granted to women until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920, over a year after the ratification of the 18th amendment. However, women were not a monolithic political block, either before or after gaining the right to vote. Although many women supported and remained supportive of prohibition, there were also a number of women who were vocally opposed to the 18th Amendment and worked hard to repeal it. Pauline Sabin founded the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR) in 1929, and by 1933 the organization had an estimated 1.5 million members. Other organizations included the Women’s National Committee for Law Enforcement, the Women’s Committee for Repeal of … read more »

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- Taking Office: Inaugurations of Virginia’s Governors, 1942-2010


Lt. Governor-elect Ralph S. Northam and former President Bill Clinton, Inauguration Day, 11 January 2014. Photo taken by Michaele White, Visual Arts Coordinator, Office of the Governor.

Every four years, on the Saturday after the second Wednesday in January, Virginia’s three highest elected officials ­- the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the attorney general – are inaugurated. On Saturday 13 January 2018 at noon, Ralph S. Northam will be inaugurated as Virginia’s 73rd Governor. The oath of office also will be administered to Justin E. Fairfax as Lieutenant Governor, and Mark R. Herring as Attorney General. Witnessing the event will be both houses of the General Assembly, a large company of invited guests, and members of the news media. In a ceremony that has not changed significantly since the 1930s, the new governor and his colleagues will take an oath of office to support and defend the state’s constitution and execute the laws of the Commonwealth. To spotlight inaugural records in the collections of the Library of Virginia, we created a new Google Arts & Culture exhibit: Taking Office: Inaugurations of Virginia’s Governors, 1942-2010.

Based on a 2001-2002 exhibit in the Library’s lobby, Taking Office includes inaugural ephemera (tickets, passes, invitations, souvenirs) and photographs. Also included are some videos and WRVA radio broadcasts not included in the original exhibit. For an additional photographic sampling of past inaugurations, visit the small exhibition in the lobby of the Library of Virginia through the end of January 2018.  Inauguration day marks the … read more »

- The Murder of John R. Moffett: Race, Politics, and Local Control


J. R. Moffett portrait, Thompson, S. H., The Life of John R. Moffett. Salem, Virginia: Mrs. Pearl Bruce Moffett, 1895.

On the evening of 11 November 1892, attorney and Democratic Party operative John T. Clark shot and fatally wounded Reverend John R. Moffett on the streets of Danville. Moffett, minister of North Danville’s Missionary Baptist Church, had feuded with Clark previously. Religious people and churchmen claimed that he was targeted for loudly proclaiming his intense anti-liquor views. In their minds, Moffett was “the first martyr to the Temperance cause,” a heroic figure battling the bottle and its terrible social consequences. In reality, as historian Richard F. Hamm has persuasively argued, Moffett’s murder reflected deep divisions in Danville—and Virginia—of race, politics, and issues of local control. As a closing chapter of our blog posts related to the exhibition “Teetotalers and Moonshiners,” we will take a look at Library sources related to the events leading to the murder and the trial and its aftermath to tease out these themes.

Rev. Moffett published a newspaper dedicated to the Prohibitionist cause. The Tennessee State Library and Archives recently donated a rare issue of Anti-Liquor to the Library. The masthead proclaimed that “Anti-Liquor is a temperance and prohibition monthly, issued for the sole purpose of educating the people upon the evils of the drink habit, and especially to turn light upon the question of Legal Prohibition.” Moffett’s powerful words, delivered in speeches and in the pages of Anti-Liquor and the … read more »

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- “My place of residence is Camp Lee, Virginia”: World War I Military Naturalizations

Beginning in 1795, the United States required individuals who wished to become United States citizens to file a declaration of intent, followed by a petition for naturalization a few years later. In the midst of World War I, Congress decided on 9 May 1918 that “any alien serving in the military or naval service of the United States during the time this country is engaged in the present war may file his petition for naturalization without making the preliminary declaration of intention and without proof of the required five years’ residence within the United States.” The Library of Virginia holds 29 volumes of federal naturalization records from courts in Prince George County, Petersburg, and Hopewell, most of which document the naturalizations of soldiers stationed at Camp Lee (now Fort Lee) in Petersburg during World War I. Most volumes contain indices.

The petitions are the same form used for federal naturalizations beginning in 1906 and contain information on the petitioner’s birth, residence, occupation, military unit, immigration, spouse, and children, as well as the date that the individual became a citizen. But in this case, there was usually no supplemental paperwork, such as a declaration of intent.

As with all naturalization records of this era, an individual’s movements may be traced. Friedel Rosenquist was born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, but immigrated … read more »

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- Vote For Me! Governor’s Election Records at the Library of Virginia

As everyone should be aware, it’s almost time to vote for a new governor of Virginia. Election Day is next Tuesday, 7 November, but going to the polls today can be rather boring compared to elections of the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition to casting a vote, early elections were an occasion to gather at the courthouse, socialize, have drinks, and catch up on the latest news. Over time, laws and regulations imposed a more serious and sober atmosphere on the elections: an act was passed in 1838 prohibiting betting, and another to prevent drunkenness and disorder was passed in 1866.

The Library of Virginia contains a variety of resources on elections, including election returns in both published and manuscripts sources. The website for the Virginia Department of Elections (formerly called the State Board of Elections) shows a variety of returns. The Library has also developed research guides and bibliographies for Presidential and Congressional Election Returns, Gubernatorial and State Office Elections Results, and Published Returns. A collection of materials related to the electoral college has also been digitized.

 

In addition to the two laws mentioned above, Virginia’s electoral processes have seen a number of changes over the past four hundred years.

Starting in colonial times and well into the 19th century, voters stated their vote publicly to the … read more »

- Statue Stories: Thomas J. Jackson and Civil War Remembrance


Statue of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (1874). John H. Foley (1818-1874). State Art Collection of Virginia

 This is the first in a series of blog posts about the statues of Virginia’s Capitol Square, which are a part of the State Art Collection. The State Art Collection includes around 450 works of art exhibited in the Capitol, the Executive Mansion, and state agency buildings. Pieces have entered the collection through donation, purchase, and state commission.

Virginia’s Capitol Square, which houses the State Capitol building and the Executive Mansion, is dotted with statues. While they may fade into the background for many, each of these statues has its own history, arising not only from the story of its subject but from the circumstances of its creation. This post will create an object biography for one of those Capitol Square statues, the piece created by John Henry Foley in 1875 to depict Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. The current debates over Confederate statuary focus mainly on the subject of the statue, while the process by which the statues were conceived, commissioned, created, and erected is overlooked.

Stonewall Jackson, who earned his famous nickname during the First Battle of Manassas in 1861, was one of the Confederacy’s most lauded generals. Jackson died on 10 May 1863 due to an injury sustained at the Battle of Chancellorsville, and the news spread quickly through the United States and abroad. By early … read more »

- Election Time: Poll Books of the 1867 Election

On 22 October 1867, African American men cast votes for the first time in Virginia; this significant event was recorded in poll books in counties and cities across the state. After the Civil War, Congress passed the 14th Amendment which, among other things, provided citizenship for freedmen and women born in the United States, guaranteed them equal protection under the law, and included provisions protecting the right to vote for male citizens over the age of twenty-one. The Virginia General Assembly failed to ratify this amendment, and as a result, Virginia was placed under federal military rule. Under the provisions of the Reconstruction Acts of 1867, it was necessary for the states of the old Confederacy to call conventions to draft new state constitutions. The commander of the Military District No. 1, to which Virginia belonged, registered male citizens twenty-one years of age or older and supervised the election that asked voters to vote for or against a convention to draft a new constitution and also to elect delegates to the convention, if held. The call for convention was approved and twenty-four African American men were elected as delegates to the constitutional convention. Over 93,000 African American men participated in this election and as each voter arrived at his polling place, his name was dutifully recorded in the poll book for that district.

 

The … read more »

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- Ghosts in the Archives: Communing with the Virginia Historical Inventory


Photograph of the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, 1936. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In recent years, tourists and locals alike have flocked to Virginia’s many old downtown areas to attend ghost tours. These events have quickly become popular ways to learn about the ways that the past lingers in the present day, but the relationship between Virginia’s history and its ghosts is much older than the tours. The Virginia Historical Inventory (VHI) records held at The Library of Virginia illustrate that historical ghost-lore is not a new trend; Virginians in the 1930s and 1940s saw hauntings as appropriate and desirable elements of historical properties as well.

The VHI was part of the Federal Writers Project (FWP), a leg of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. The FWP program hired authors to write, and researchers to find and document, iconic American stories and locations. In Virginia, researchers spanned out across the commonwealth documenting the location, status, and history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings. This brought them to familiar cities like Williamsburg and Alexandria, and to smaller, more rural places that were best described by the nearest highway. They collected the information they needed from archives, newspapers, and interviews with homeowners and neighbors. Written sources gave them the names of previous owners, construction dates, and famous events. The oral interviews filled in the stories not present in the archives. In many cases, when the researchers spoke with locals they used ghost … read more »

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- Opportunity Time: The Records of Virginia Governor Linwood Holton


Inauguration of Governor Linwood Holton, 17 January 1970, A. Linwood Holton Papers, 1943-1970. Accession 31535, Personal papers collection, Library of Virginia.

On Monday, 16 October 2017, the City of Roanoke will dedicate Holton Plaza, a new park named in honor of former Virginia Governor A. Linwood Holton (1970-1974). Out of the Box thought this would be a good time to spotlight some of the Library’s collections related to Holton.

Abner Linwood Holton Jr. was born 21 September 1923 in Roanoke, Virginia, to Abner Linwood Holton and Edith Van Gorder Holton. He attended local schools, before receiving his B.A. from Washington and Lee University in 1944. Holton served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946. He then attended Harvard Law School, receiving his LL.B. in 1949. Admitted to the Virginia bar that same year, Holton commenced practicing in Roanoke and became active in the Virginia Republican Party. Following an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1965, Holton then won election in 1969, serving as governor of Virginia from 1970 to 1974. After his term ended, he served as assistant secretary of state for congressional relations in 1974. Holton resigned that position and practiced law in Washington D.C. He married Virginia “Jinx” Harrison Rogers on 10 January 1953, and had four children with her: Anne, Tayloe, Woody, and Dwight.



Opportunity Time: A Memoir by Governor Linwood Holton, The University of Virginia Press, 2008.

Gubernatorial Records

  • The records of the Holton administration (1970-1974) are one of the largest 20th century gubernatorial collections held by the Library. Housed in
  • read more »