From 1922 to 1966, the Virginia Division of Motion Picture Censorship was responsible for reviewing all motion picture films and their associated advertising materials– banners, posters, newspaper and magazine ads– to determine if the content was obscene or bereft of good morals. First established as the Board of Censors, but later reorganized as a division within the Office of the Attorney General, Department of Law, the body licensed those films that passed review and collected fees for those licenses.
One movie that came under the division’s scrutiny was Baby Face. Produced by Warner Brothers in 1933, the film featured Barbara Stanwyck and George Brent. The plot followed Stanwyck as Lily “Baby Face” Powers, a young woman whose early life included a stint as a barmaid in her father’s saloon. In this decidedly sordid atmosphere, Lily constantly fights off the advances of much older men. Upon her father’s death, she takes the opportunity to leave the small mining community and head to the big city via boxcar. As a way to better her station in life, she pursues nearly every man she meets in an effort to climb the social ladder. She finds employment at a bank and seduces a young bank clerk (played by John Wayne), then moves on to his supervisor. He is followed by a bank vice president and, finally, she marries … read more »
Tags: Attorney General, Baby Face, Barbara Stanwyck, Board of Censors, censorship, Controversial films, Film, George Brent, indecency, movies, Obscenity, Regulation
One of my Sunday pleasures is reading David Segal’s bi-weekly “The Haggler” column in the New York Times. “The Haggler” tries to resolve reader-submitted 21st century horror stories of bad customer service. Virginia’s War History Commission could have used “The Haggler” in 1920 as they battled the Hooven Automatic Typewriter Company to repair their machine.
Created in 1919 by Governor Westmoreland Davis, the Virginia War History Commission’s goal was “to complete an accurate and complete history of Virginia’s military, economic and political participation in the World War.” The Commission consisted of sixteen leading citizens appointed by the governor including: Reverend Collins Denny; Brigadier General Jo Lane Stern, Adjutant General of Virginia; Douglas Southall Freeman, editor of the Richmond News-Leader; State Librarian Henry R. McIlwaine; and Colonel Charles R. Keiley, Executive Secretary of the Second Virginia Council of Defense. Arthur Kyle Davis, president of Southern Female College in Petersburg, was named chairman of the commission. Local branches were created to collect records of their community’s military and civilian activities. The commission needed a machine to create form letters for all of their correspondence with branch members. However, they wanted each letter to appear to be an “original” – not a mimeograph or carbon. After witnessing a demonstration of such a machine, Keiley purchased a Hooven Automatic Typewriter in February 1920 for … read more »
These are some examples of how soldiers at Camp Lee, Virginia, celebrated Christmas in 1918. The records of the Virginia War History Commission have been processed and are open to researchers.
-Roger Christman, Senior State Records Archivist… read more »
Dr. Paul Parker, medical examiner of Elizabeth City County, Virginia, wrapped up a 19 April 1935 coroner’s inquest by ruling that “Dorothy McGaha Reeves came to her death on April 15th, 1935, of general peritonitis and perforated uterus as a direct result of a criminal abortion performed by Dr. N[elson]. F[rederick]. McNorton, of York County (Yorktown), Virginia, on the 9thday of April, 1935. Death occurred at the Dixie Hospital, Hampton, Virginia, on April 15th, 1935, about 12:20, A. M.”
Dr. McNorton was arrested on 15 April but charges were not disclosed. Authorities were led to him based on a deathbed statement given by Reeves, as well as Dr. Parker’s inquest findings. The Danville Bee reported that Reeves purportedly went to Dr. McNorton’s office for the illegal operation on the evening of 9 April in the company of Nellie Frye. Five days later, without ever having returned to work, Reeves was taken to the hospital where she died the following morning. In addition to Dr. McNorton’s arrest, later revealed to be on charges of second-degree murder and performing an illegal operation, Frye was also arrested. She was held as a material witness and also on the charge of being an accessory to the illegal operation.
Dr. McNorton belonged to a noted and influential African American family in Yorktown. His father, … read more »
Here on Out of the Box we like to take the occasional Friday to let patrons of the Library of Virginia tell our readers of their research success stories. We call it Big Find Friday, and today we bring you the latest installment.
James and Andra Krehbiel made the long journey all the way from Arizona to Richmond to research the descendants of Jacob Wees (1733-1826) of Muddy Creek, Pennsylvania, and Elkins, (West) Virginia. Their visit yielded valuable information on some ten generations of the family (variations of the surname include Weese, Wease, and Wiess).
“While we had names and dates for most, we were in need of a great deal of assistance to locate ‘the story’ of each,” the Krehbiels wrote in their “My Big Find” submission. “This could never have been done without the amount of help your staff provided and which we never expected.”
The couple specifically thanked Bill Luebke, Dave Grabarek, Ginny Dunn, and Lisa Werhmann for their help, adding that “As both of us have doctorates and have done our share of research, we can attest that the staff of the Library of Virginia is outstanding.”
If you want to “get to know” your ancestors a little better, we would love for you to take advantage of our unique and impressive resources – including our dedicated reference staff. For those just getting … read more »
2014 has been a special year filled with special events for Stafford County. Celebrating its 350th anniversary, the county held numerous community-based historical celebrations to mark the occasion. On January 4, some 4,300 people kicked off the commemoration with an inaugural event—complete with an interactive history tent and a “live history timeline” enacted by elementary students. Founders Day festivities, held May 3-4, gathered together 59 groups with 655 participants to showcase different aspects of the county’s history—with a parade, history square, and county-wide school fine arts program. Close to 13,000 people turned out for this unique sesquarcentennial jubilee. The Local Records Services branch of the Library of Virginia was selected to participate and staff a table displaying mounted reproductions of county documents found in its archival collections.
Individuals researching Stafford County history know that it is a locality that has experienced a massive loss of its loose records and volumes. Helping provide a context for earlier surviving documents (see the Lost Localities Digital Collection) as well as adding to the county’s ongoing story, the digital images for the Stafford County (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1866-1912, are now available online through the Chancery Records Index on the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Memory site. Because these documents rely so heavily on the testimony of witnesses, chancery causes contain a wealth of historical and genealogical information … read more »
In 1883, the year when Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solved the case of the Speckled Band, an equally baffling real-life killing drew another noted team of detectives to the Western Lunatic Asylum (later renamed the Western State Hospital) in Staunton, Virginia.
On the morning of 24 February 1883, just after receiving their regular liquid medications, seven male patients lost consciousness. Four died almost immediately, two died in the next three days, and one recovered. An eighth patient vomited and experienced other ill effects, but recovered in a few days. A coroner’s inquest concluded that the victims’ cups of medicine must have been poisoned while sitting in an unlocked hall cabinet the previous evening. Other patients, taking the same medicine which had not been left in the cabinet, had no problems. Dr. W.W.S. Butler, head pharmacist at the asylum, testified that no poisons were missing from the dispensary. Autopsies were performed, and University of Virginia chemistry professor John W. Mallet used the latest forensic techniques to analyze three of the victims’ stomachs and their contents. Mallet concluded that the poison used was aconitia (also known as aconitine), an extremely toxic extract of the aconite or monkshood plant, and the coroner’s jury agreed. The asylum pharmacy had a bottle of highly diluted “tincture of aconite,” but Mallet thought it was not strong enough to … read more »
This summer’s announcement that Mayo’s Island is again for sale prompted a look back at the history of of the most well-known of the James River islands.
Mayo’s Island is located at degrees 37˚31’45.47”N, 77˚25’59.14”W and can easily be viewed through Google Earth. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names officially registered “Mayo’s Island” as a feature name in 1979. The name also appears on earlier maps and atlases of Richmond, including the Beers (1877) and Baist (1889) atlases. Going back even further, the land mass was unnamed on the Young (1809) and Baist (1835) maps of Richmond, identified only as number “314.” An untitled manuscript map of the city drawn circa 1838 merely labels the island as “Toll Gate,” and an 1873 office map of Richmond identifies present-day Mayo’s Island as two islands: Long Island and Confluence Island.
Plats and certificates from the late 18th and early 19th centuries are extant and they reveal that the islands were commonly known as Long and Confluence Islands; parcels of land were granted by the Virginia Land Office to John Mayo (Long Island) in 1792 and to Thomas Burfoot and Milton Clarke (Confluence Island) in 1830. Mayo had petitioned the General Assembly in November 1784 to build a bridge at his own expense and desired to levy a toll to recoup his costs. While John Mayo never saw his … read more »
The papers of Earl Hamner, Jr., creator and writer of the popular television series The Waltons, are now available for research at the Library of Virginia. One might wonder what the papers of a famous Hollywood figure are doing in Richmond. Granted, Hamner was born in Schuyler, a small town in Nelson County, but he left Virginia in 1949. His many accomplishments in film and television took place outside of his home state. But when Hamner left 65 years ago, it wasn’t as though he didn’t look back.
Much of Hamner’s inspiration and ideas grew out of the first 25 years of his life growing up in Nelson County and attending college at the University of Richmond. Delivering the commencement address at his alma mater the University of Cincinnati in 2008, Hamner said, “What has inspired me has been the family and neighbors I grew up with in rural Virginia during the Great Depression. They were a decent, God-fearing, patriotic people. Like most Appalachian folk, they were frugal, proud, and self-reliant. They were story tellers and I listened.”
While a student at the University of Richmond just prior to World War II, Hamner was working on a short story which described the feelings of a boy when he joined his father for his first deer hunt. As the story grew, Hamner realized the … read more »